The sound of a truck rambling into the Deanery driveway on Upper Orange, its engine shuddering to a halt followed by the repeated slamming of a door, announced the arrival of my Elsies homeboy, Hermie Adams.
Our friendship, rekindled at the cathedral’s annual langarm dans, was at first marked by occasional visits. These intensified to mid-week drop-ins. This was, I suppose, after my kindred spirit learnt of my reserve of holy waters sourced from Scotland’s misty highlands or from distant Irish bogs.
On Wednesday evenings, Gabeba, Hermie’s third wife, attends a feminist reading circle attached to one of Cape Town’s progressive mosques. It is then that Hermie would either visit me, or frequent one of the bars along Voortrekker Road near his Goodwood home.
“It should be called Voortrekker Way,” declared Hermie on one such night, to a circle of bemused northern suburbs manne assembled in the Fantasy Lounge.
They had been debating the merits of Allister Coetzee as Springbok Rugby coach and the unpatriotic nature of All Black supporters. Daai mense from Tiervlei to Schauderville who performed the haka, lelike gevrietjies en alles, were declared “moffies” whose strength of character could no longer be established since the Cape Coloured Corps had been integrated into the SANDF.
Hermie reminded his coke n brandy congregation how their forebears trekked along this route in protest against the emancipation from slavery of his Adams forebears on December 1, 1834.
“I managed to desanctify at least one of those globally sanctified white bodies that Prof Njabulo Ndebele writes about,” smiled Hermie, as I applied an ice bag to his swollen right eye.
For reasons that would become clear later, Hermie could not at that moment seek out the sanctuary of his home. Instead, like refugees since the Middle Ages, he found his way to the doors of the church represented by the Deanery of St George’s Cathedral.
Our friendship deepened when I poured him a double of single malt, a gift from one of our many ex-minsters of finance. He then did a slowed down toyi-toyi round my coffee-table, chanting: “Fascist, and they attack, then we counter-attack, then we’ll drive them back.”
To avoid the consequences of a boere fatwah, Hermie had sought out the less overtly hostile environs of the lower slopes of the Hoerikamma.
I suspect Hermie also sought out the Deanery for our judgement-free ablution facilities. Gabeba had declared the Adams home “free of the devil’s urine!”
It was comments such as these from the local government that drew Hermie into a longing for the “struggle ghoese” of the 1980s. Daphne King topped the list because not only was she an audacious organiser with pedagogical roots in the social movements of the Catholic Church, but her skrik-vi’-niks approach allowed her right of way throughout any of the gangster-run Cape Flats.
Zelda Holtzman too held his ideological heart, although he still feels chastised when he remembers how she once asked if he’d like some coffee. This was on a social visit to Comrade Zelda’s home. When Hermie replied, “Yes”, he was directed to where the kettle, the coffee etc awaited his attention.
And of course, Zenariah Barends: he learnt all the words of Malaika after he had heard her sing it at a UDubs mass meeting. It became the lullaby he sang to his daughter, and only child, from his first wife, Marie-Louise Jose.
Hermie on his return from Voortrekker Road would habitually decant at the bougainvillea that flourished next to the Vibracrete fence that separated the Adamses from their next-door neighbours, the Vermeulens. He loved the sense of freedom he felt, unrestrained from having to focus on his aim.
But over time, he noticed how the deep-purple of the bougainvillea gradually morphed into a vague blue, an uncertain pink then a dull-white and finally it died.
That is how Hermie discovered, after visiting his GP, that he had Type 2 diabetes.
* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the current Dean of St George's Cathedral.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.