10th July, 2022.  In one week, the British Prime Minister steps down and pays the price for partying while royalty is buried and covid rages, the former Japanese Prime Minister is assassinated, Sri Lankans storm the presidential palace in Columbia just after the police curfew is lifted and Malema swans it in Ischia.  Headlines in the local newspaper “ANC IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CRIME SYNDICATES IN THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICA.”

“Never mind swanning it in the sun, what about the privileged cabinet ministers enjoying a life of luxury without loadshedding,” I observed tartly to Hannali over a perfect cup of Illy coffee.  “With apologies to William Shakespeare, ‘All is rotten in the state of Denmark.’”

“For me, driving is the worst kind of obstacle race,” Hannali, ever competitive, took over the conversation, “weaving between the potholes, offering up a prayer at each intersection with robots down and a novice directing the traffic, let alone hoping to keep the hijackers at bay.  Going down south recently past the notorious Orange Farm squatter camp, I spotted four young men at the side of the road.  Suddenly they rolled a boulder towards me and you know me – always a fighter and a logical thinker – I swerved sharply but not quite in time and not enough.  At the last minute, the rock hit the left front fender, ripping away part of the underside but I kept going and luckily there was no damage to the suspension so I got away safely!

“When I arrived at the Children’s Home, the young manager became quite agitated when I told him what had happened. “You need to report to the police straightaway,” he advised.  But I refused on the grounds that by the time they got going and if ever they even chose to go to the scene of the crime, the anonymous youngsters would have long gone.  In any case, how to identify them among the amorphous mass of people?”

I tut-tutted, complimented her on her survival reflexes and then tucked into a nouvelle cuisine breakfast of poached eggs, sprouts, arugula goat cheese and avocado.  Hannali, having no pretentions to health food, ordered the full English breakfast, her plate piled high with fried eggs, crispy fried bacon, grilled tomato, pork sausage, mushrooms and toast with marmalade.

“It’s no fun driving around the suburbs anymore.” I reached over for another slice of a delicious sourdough bread.  “And the city’s definitely a no-no.  I hear they hijack you at just about every robot…”

Hannali quickly interjected with “Did I tell you about our insurance agent, a tough lady if I ever met one, aside from being very experienced in her job.  She was driving her char to the taxi stop, came through the infamous hotspot, Linksfield offramp, and stopped at the red light.  Next thing, she looked up and saw a man pointing a gun at her head.  In a spontaneous rush of indignation that he should want her car, she thrust her face forward, out of range of the gun, and at the same time accelerated violently through the traffic light, which, fortunately, turned green.  Following the incident, she was so shocked that she applied for leave from her company.  Within a few months, she flew to Melbourne.  But in the end, she turned down the inferior offer made to her for a similar position and came back here.  That was pre-Covid.  I never managed to ask her if she regrets her decision.”

We continued eating in silence.  Feeling replete, expansive and comfortably warm in the sun, which shone benignly on the patio where we sat, I remembered a moment of elation from the previous evening.  “Heard the strangest story last night.  I wasn’t quite sure if Toni was pulling my leg.” Hannali was all ears.  “Ever heard of the Ignite and Revive project in the Free State town of Kroonstad?”

“Never!  What the heaven is that?” Hannali looked puzzled.

“Well, I couldn’t believe what Toni told me.  A planned rejuvenation, no, rather a revival, a resuscitation of the place with slogans like” Let’s Make Kroonstad Great! Let’s Make South Africa Great!  I looked it up and found an organized campaign, spearheaded by the resident businessmen and women already in 2016.

“Serious,” Hannali seemed to be stunned into silence.  I’d won the news of the day.

“You should see the place now – immaculately clean streets and gutters, neat parks, traffic islands newly planted in massed groupings of geometrically arranged succulents and water-wise vegetation, new Welcome to Kroonstad signs.  The stats say it all.  They’ve got 4000 supporters, have ‘saved’ 90 public areas and some R65,000 for the projects, aside from the time, effort and money various businesses have invested in improving and cleaning up the place.

“Now there’s a Make Robertson Great Again plus good old Kimberly with the slogan Bring Back the Sparkle.   

“The Age of Miracles is here, my dear Hannali.”

Ever pragmatic, Hannali shrugged.  We left shortly afterwards and I could see she was deep in thought.

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