Saturday, 1 February 2014

An Unexpected Party

Living in the village is always an adventure.  Two years ago, we decided not to attend Alice's 80th birthday celebration, because we thought we would be a distraction. Instead we intended to celebrate yesterday, which was also Ray's 65th. We had a plan. We would celebrate both at the Steers Restuarant at the Ultra City Petrol Station, Mthatha, which was the location of Alice's jamboree, and her idea of fine dining.

Naturally, nothing went to plan.

First thing, on the big day, Alice wanted a lift to Qumbu, where it seems we spent the vast majority of our time, during our visit, waiting about for one reason or another. Alice purchased cake, coke, and two live chickens. I had inadvertently photographed them earlier in the expedition, and here they are, crumpled into a small cardboard box and bundled into the boot. They were for the pot. 

I did not record their swift dispatch with Nomvulu's knife, nor was I present at the evisceration and plucking events. I know there is a school of thought that iterates that if you cannot dispatch your meat, you shouldn't eat it - but I say, "Bollocks!",  to that, what was the Twentieth Century for, for heavens sake? 

Alice expressed a wish to present us with one of the fowl to take away with us. Ray grandly made a present of it back to  the community, as, he explained, after eight hours in the car at 32C, it would be a health hazard when we arrived back in Port Alfred. His offer was accepted with grateful thanks. 

Nomvulu, who is a niece, I believe, though my grasp of relationships are always a bit hit and miss, stewed Chicken A, and served it up with rice, butternut squash, carrots and potatoes, just three hours after our Steers experience. I had to be firm. Having lifted the lid and seen every part of the bird,, including its comb and feet, I knew there was no way I could it eat it, then, or ever. It was wrong of me, and I'm sorry, but I just couldn't.

Time passed, and Ray and I began to wonder when we were having the party. I began to make noises. "Tomorrow!" Mama insisted. Apparently, she'd some relatives afoot, who couldn't make today. 

"No', I insisted. "Today is Ray's birthday, and today we will celebrate - with everyone here..". (There were ten assorted friends and relations living here and there on the Kraal). I went out, cut one of the THREE large cakes Mama had acquired from the SuperSpar  in Qumbu opened the bottle of sparkly and started the merriment. 

It went well. Cake and coke being a special treat hereabouts.

Five-fifteen in the morning, and Mama is up. She had slept in the room next to ours in the same 'flat' and had to walk through our room to get about. Heaven's knows what she gets up to, but it's useless to try to inveigle her into a lie-in. When she's up, we are too. 

By eight o'clock she was going from kraal to kraal in the village inviting people to hers. By eight-thirty, she had summoned in excess of twenty children and about four adults to a party, which, all of a sudden, I was expected to organise! 

"I know how much you love children!" Alice smiles, innocently. "Not THIS bloody much." I mutter out of heariing. 

The complication is that the children have no grasp of English at all. I can say, "Hello" and "How are you?" In Xhosa, but twenty-odd rather bewildered and vaguely mutinous under-thirteens aren't overly impressed with that.

We got them seated, and I stuffed them into affability with cake, sweets and coca-cola, we all,sang, "Happy Birthday", and before I had to resort to "Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes (Knees and Toes)", Mama shoeed them off the premises with little ceremony, and  the party was over. 

None of us will ever forget it. 

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