Hermie Adams, whom I hadn’t seen since I visited him in Pollsmoor Maximum Prison in the early 1980s, was a surprise guest at our cathedral’s Spring Dance last Friday.
He told me he was now a lorry-driver and, since he was making deliveries in the Goodwood area, he thought he would pop in at the civic and see what gives, in terms of the crowd and the band.
He was equally surprised to see me and almost didn’t recognise me.
“Boeta B, you used to have such beautiful hair,” he said, fondly tapping the vinyl-top section of my head.
One of my curates, Father Allen Goliath, observed all this, mafia consigliere-like, as accumulated material for a future sermon.
Our colleague, Father Mxolisi Sotshononda, last year’s party-over-here, belle of the cathedral dance, was away on family matters in the Eastern Cape.
For a while Hermie and I sat, comfortably quiet as old friends and married couples do, watching the few couples that glided on to the floor as The Ikey Gamba Bands struck the introductory beats signalling a waltz.
The saints from St Paul’s moved confidently into the space in front of the stage led by the three-months retired Father Matthew Esau.
His brother and Eddie our verger, sat opposite Edward George, the cathedral’s sanctuary concierge and my overall go-to-fellow, when in doubt on matters about the nuances of cathedral politics.
They were checking out the dance-floor crowd with the same casual scrutiny when assessing the number of wafers we would need for the devotees at the 9.30 Sunday Eucharist.
The Esaus and George were ex-residents of the Bloemhof Flats which, in the minds of some, was a sort of upper-District Six.
The face of the late Menisha Collins would glow when someone claiming an association with Bloemhof entered the coffee shop at the District Six Museum.
“Name and number?” she would demand. It was the exploratory query to establish how solid the credentials of the supposed ex-resident were. (The number referred to would be that of your apartment.)
A rapid paced interrogation would conclude with the no-place-to hide, jackpot winning: “Wies jou ma?”
Then the Diocese of Cape Town’s celebrated synod manager, Father Karl Groepe and his beloved - the vivacious Joan in arms - nimble-footed across the dance floor. He did so with the seasoned swagger of a Beverley Lounge operator. My homeboy, Hermie, murmured in a voice soft with respect, “Hy jezz soes ‘* Elsies outie”
Hermie, on the other hand, confided in me he doesn’t like to dance when the lights are so bright. Only when some of the sight of those in attendance had dimmed and blurred a bit (for a variety of reasons) would he break cover.
You never know when a born-again Lover Boy from Uitsig’s Ou Scheme might, on recognising an old enemy, be provoked to stray off the path of forgiveness.
In our lives “blood on the dance-floor” was real.
It was then as a vastrap-rhythmed line dance samba-swayed across the crowded floor, that a New Apostolic sista drew me with a “Ko Vader, kom dans met my”.
I told her I was not so good with langarm, but by then her arms were around me and I surrendered to the demands of history.
“Don’t worry, padre,” she told me: “After one double you’ll feel single again.” I assured her that I was at peace with my current wife.
Esau congratulated me on Sunday for doing well but said I could do better once I attended Meagan Lottering’s dance classes at the Foxtrot Academy.
The modalities of langarm found voice and soul, when people’s diva, Salome Damon-Johansen, stepped on to the stage and belted out her Cape-Flats flavoured What I do best.
In that moment, I felt the heartbeat of freedom as the children of Maasbiekers and Madras Moors, the Khoi and the Nguni - the once enslaved and the progeny of the master - raised limb and voice in the joy of the dance.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.