It allows you to stay in bed all day if it’s raining or to go fishing if the sun is shining. Then when the angry house owner confronts you two days later and demands: “Where were you yesterday? You said you’d finish painting. I waited for you for three hours and you didn’t roll up.”
That’s when the Cape artisan plays his trump card. “I’m sorry, sir. My bakkie broke down.” We are constantly reminded how tough times are. “We really need this job, sir. We’ll give you a very special rate. I’ve got four labourers sitting with no work and no income and they have families to feed.”
So money changes hands to pay for paint or plaster or petrol for the concrete mixer and everything is ready for the job to begin first thing next day. Then the bakkie breaks down. The interesting thing is that every one of those hungry labourers sitting on the back of the unreliable bakkie was speaking on his cellphone while their leader was negotiating his special rate in order to prevent their families starving. It’s strange then, that not one of those cellphones could be used to call the home owner the next day to let him know the bakkie had broken down and they wouldn’t be coming to work.
I have chatted to my friends and very seldom heard a happy story about renovating or rebuilding. The tiler can’t tile the kitchen because the plasterer hasn’t plastered the walls. The plasterer can’t plaster the walls because the electrician has not installed the wiring. The electrician can’t install the wiring because all his tools are in his bakkie. And, of course, the bakkie has broken down other side of Bellville. The mechanic promised to come and fix the electrician’s bakkie last Thursday. Unfortunately the mechanic’s bakkie broke down.
A Texan cattle rancher was visiting Israel and stopped to chat to a farmer. “Say,” said the Texan, “how many head of livestock do you have here?” “Well,” said the farmer, “I have 20 chickens, two cows and six goats.”
“How big is your property?” asked the visitor. “Five hectares,” came the reply. The Texan chuckled and said: “My ranch is so big I can get in my truck and drive for six hours and I still wouldn’t have driven all the way round it.”
“Ah, yes,” said the Israeli, “I had a truck like that once, too.”
* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.