These incidents happened early in 2003.
My eldest son David was walking through Cape Town Station with his new cell phone in its hands-free holster hanging round his neck when a knife-wielding thief cut the leather thong and ran off with it. David chased after him, and they had quite a merry run around the station until the thief realised he was the one with the knife, and swung round and started chasing David. When he figured a big enough gap had opened up the thief turned tail and started running away again and David set off after him. Eventually the thief gave up the boredom of repeatedly covering the same ground underground with David in hot pursuit, and headed onto the Parade where he managed to vanish. Not very satisfactory – but it must have been fun while it lasted.
Since then David has been trying to get arrested. He was pretty sure he would be arrested in an anti-war march to the USA consulate, but no luck. Then he was very confident about his chances at a demo in support of the Aids Action Group, but only the first 100 demonstrators were arrested (it was all seemingly arranged by telephone) and David was not one of the lucky ones. We smell corruption.
He came to fetch me in his colourful VW kombi camper recently to take me to tea at a branch of the family that lives in the boerewors belt. His 1972 hippie vehicle came in handy when he was acting as host and tour guide to a group of friends from the UK who came for a visit and liked Cape Town so much they stayed for two months. In gratitude for his services professional artists in the group painted the exterior of the kombi with murals of flowers, mountains and cartoon characters. Among the pierced and tattooed mob was Electra, a dominatrix, and she painted the interior of the kombi silver – a colour she likes, and padded the ceiling. She had plans to use the back to dominate a couple of clients, but somehow their busy program didn’t allow time for this. (I asked David to bring her round for tea but somehow it never happened. I don’t think she’s keen on tea with old men unless money changes hands.)
At Sunday afternoon tea in Bellville my niece Jessica entertained us with a tale of how her cellphone was snatched through the open window of her car as she was driving through town. She immediately leapt out of the car in the middle of the road, locked it, and set off in hot pursuit of the thief. As she ran a couple of helpers joined her, yelling lustily. Ahead of her the thief ran through a garage forecourt and the petrol jockeys saw the gesticulating pursuers, grabbed the hapless thief, and shoved him up against a wall and started punching him. Jessica arrived, snatched back her cellphone and sprinted back to her car which was still safely parked in the middle of a stream of cars meekly threading their way round it.
At this stage I could see that everyone wanted to tell their favourite mugging story, and I managed to refrain from telling the tale about how I was once mugged by six men in Wynberg, and how the matter was brought to a satisfactory conclusion through a lucky judo throw and fancy footwork on my part (I guessed that some of them had heard it before), but I was able to tell the tale of the encounter I’d had recently with a knife artist in my lounge.
It happened like this: some time ago I’d heard a radio interview with an expert on Cape Flats knife fighting, and I thought I’d like to find out a bit more for a short story I was planning to write. I was intrigued by the notes I’d made of the stages of a knife attack as enunciated by Lloyd de Jongh. They were “wait, selection, approach, interview, crime”. So I phoned him up, and he volunteered to come round and chat to me, as soon as he’d finished giving a computer lecture at City Varsity. So that’s how it was that I had a large coloured man in my lounge, wielding a formidable Okapi wooden-handled “lock-the-blade-open” clasp knife. He was a tall chap, and I was worried that he was going to get his hand chopped off by the ceiling fan whirring above his head. He spent nearly an hour showing me various moves, and making me attack him with the knife so he could show me how to counter different thrusts. I began to wonder if he would ever leave, and stopped worrying about the fan cutting off one of his arms . . .
To read more about this subject go to his website: www.urbanshield.za.net
To end on a more refined note, while all this was going on, another niece, Amanda, was out here from New York to receive the Pringle award for a South African short story she’d written for New Contrast, called “Now we are 26”. At the award ceremony a school-marmish woman took the microphone, and glared severely at Robert Kirby and 14 other guests seated meekly on white plastic chairs. She waved grandly at 4 bottles of plonk in a plastic basin, and a single plate of tired-looking snacks and said, “All this didn’t just happen, you know . . .”