I’m in Bertrams, an inner-city suburb-slum that lies between Doornfontein and Bezhuidenhout Valley. I’m here because I’m worried about the Jukskei River.
I remember the inter-high swimming galas held at Ellis Park. Every year, we had to wear polystyrene boater hats and sing war cries in the summer heat – it was a sunstroke-inducing, barefoot-burning heat.
My high school was one of the few government schools that attended, and you could trust either a Roedean or Brescia girl to give you ‘the look’ – it involved quickly scanning you up and down, and then an ever-so-subtle eye roll. But this only gave us all the more reason to beat their well-to-do asses in the pool. By ‘us’ I mean the swimming team. I never swam, of course (those who follow the #20laps series will be aware of the great irony of me being involved in this whole project).
The backdrop of the stadium seemed enormous and, when we sang, our voices ricocheted loudly against it. Although attendance was compulsory, the war cries were never forced; what we lacked in privilege we made up for in decibels.
But, Jesus, it was hot.
Jody Viana waits for his turn to slot in with the rest of the hot rods. He’s in number 100, the car with the loudest engine and the Porra flag on the side. He grips his steering wheel a bit too tight. He’s gone through three motors this year already, R45k a pop. Plus there’s oil on the oval.