Sand and Soaps

Oh how our world has changed. Technology and the media have brought everything to our fingertips. Any time. Any place. Not like my student days when life ground to a halt at 8pm every Tuesday evening.

Yes, folks, that was when Dallas was screened on South African television. Cinemas did little business, restaurants were typically quiet on a Tuesday night, and the TV lounge in my university hall of residence was packed to overflowing with students eager to keep up to date with the goings-on in that Ewing family. Those were the days before VCRs, iPlayers, PVRs, TVOs, SkyPlus and the Internet. We watched on Tuesday nights or bust.

Although I cringe ever so slightly at the thought of it now, it was something we all did in those days. Unapologetically. It wasn’t particularly cool to watch Dallas. But it wasn’t uncool either. We just watched.

Over an Easter weekend at the beginning of my second year, a bunch of us decided to go on a camping trip.  We packed up the VW Golf and the VW Beetle and headed off along the Garden Route to a beautiful little seaside spot at the mouth of the Breede River, called Witsand.

We arrived at the campsite, set up the sound system and then pitched the tent to the sounds of Genesis’ Ripples. Two girls and four guys. We girls decided to unpack the VW Beetle and were watched by our male companions as we opened what we thought was the boot of the Beetle, only to find an engine staring us in the face. We weren’t to live that one down all weekend.

The weekend also turned out to be a hugely significant one for me, as it marked the start of a lifelong relationship with my best friend in the whole world. We laugh today when we think how coy we were to cross the line from best friends to being together, and how unsure we were of the cues.

My now husband looked up at the sky one evening and said to me, “It’s such a beautiful evening. Let’s go for a walk on the beach.”

I thought it was such a fabulous idea, I rallied everyone together and we all went and enjoyed the moonlit walk. I didn’t notice the muttering disappointment of my dear friend …

The weekend was punctuated with riotous laughter and a whole bunch of memories that we carry around with us today. If we six were to be in a room together right now, we would recount the events of that weekend as if they happened yesterday.

As the weekend progressed, we all realised we would be away from TV and Tuesday’s screening of Dallas. We happened to walk past the campsite manager’s house one evening, and saw that he had a television. No flies on us, we knocked on his door and asked if we could all come and watch Dallas with them on Tuesday night. Slightly taken aback, he agreed. We all high-fived and felt so chuffed that we wouldn’t miss our programme. Heck, we were students.

At about 7.45pm on Tuesday evening, we went to the campsite manager’s house, knocked on the door and trooped into his small and humble abode. His wife, whose first language was not English, greeted us shyly and showed us where we could sit. We overflowed from their meagre supply of furniture, and most of us sat on the floor. Cool.

The eight of us sat, rapt, through the hour-long episode. At the end of the programme, our host offered us coffee. The polite thing would have been for us to decline graciously, to thank our hosts and to beat a gentle retreat from their home. But nooooo, we were students and we jumped at the offer.  Our hostess sat shyly in her seat as her husband went to the kitchen to make a truckload of coffee.

We commented on the photos pasted on the walls. They were of their many sons and she told us, in broken and stilted English, where her sons were and what they were doing. Not only did language separate us, but she was a whole generation older than we were and we soon ran out of conversation.

After an awkward silence, she ventured this to us: “I’ve read somewhere, I fink it’s in the Huisgenoot, that JR, in his own home, is really quite a nice man.”

[Huisgenoot, the House Companion, is a weekly Afrikaans-language general interest/gossip magazine.]

We all nodded in agreement, gulped down our coffee, and, as soon as our cups were cold, politely thanked them and excused ourselves. How kind and generous of them to share their home, their coffee, Dallas and their insights with us. But really – didn’t we just have a huge nerve to do that? I still feel my cheeks burn ever so slightly when I think of that evening …

Sunshine signing off for today.