The Boat Club

A few boats turned over on the grass by the lake. A single yacht on dry land. A few fishermen and women wile away the day catching small fry on the decaying pier. The wood rotting on the look-out structures. The huge club house, with its rows of tables, its lounge and bar, locked up and the swimming

pool abandoned. A shield on the wall gives the names of the chairmen back to 1938. Come 1998 and there is an empty space. A faded colour photo has the caption ‘Cape to Rio race, 1972.’
It takes little imagination to people the place. Let’s say it’s 1960. Men and boys busy about boats. Women chatting and preparing braais and children swimming in the pool or running wild all over the place. ‘These people knew how to build places of relaxation.’ Yes, they did. But they built them for themselves. Other people, who were a bit different, even if they were teachers and lawyers and wealthy bus owners, could not go there. And because there was no sharing, no open doors, no welcome, there was no continuity. Why keep up something you were never part of? So the club slips into decay. Maybe someone will rescue it but it won’t be for boats. Maybe some students will come for courses or worn out clerics will use it as a rest house.
The tragedy of our country is deep-seated. So many missed opportunities. So many wrong turnings. Those who carved out the railways and built the bridges; those who laid out the farms and game reserves and set up institutions and structures; they all did a great work. But the poison entered early; this is for us. It is only for those others insofar as they serve us. This philosophy, this fundamental world view, infected every aspect of life. It is well within living memory that the streets of the city were to be walked on only by certain people. Others walked elsewhere.
The people who practice this way of life are different now but the way of life endures. Our country still has people who say; ‘all this is for me and my people. You others, you can fend for yourselves. It is of no concern to me if you have no water, electricity cuts, pot holed roads, kwashiorkor in your children, no books in your schools.’ We are OK in our little club house. We sit and congratulate ourselves on how we are doing, the latest good deal we have made, our latest purchase.
All this is emptiness and pain. We are living just as people lived in the last century. It is just that the owners of the club are different.

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