Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Where were you when you heard the news?

I was somewhere outside Frankfort on my way to the Clarens Craft Beer Festival when I heard the ruling. I can’t be sure exactly, but I know I was on the R26 and there were potholes, and SAFM was the only station I could pick up. 702 had kept me company from Johannesburg, onto the N3, across the Vaal and into the Free State before it finally faded into incomprehensible white noise around 50km further up the road. It was around 4.15pm or thereabouts. The sky was very blue and the sun was taking on a languid golden quality that hinted at autumn lying in wait a week or so away. Along with half of the country I was glued to the radio, listening to a long and involved monologue by Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair explaining the history of bail in South Africa.

I remember thinking: who typed this up for him? Did he dictate it? How was he able to write this so quickly? And also: our national English language radio station delayed the news for this.

For a news item that wasn’t in itself very important – whether Oscar Pistorius got bail was never going to impact materially on anyone except those involved in the case – it was getting an extraordinary amount of airtime. But such has the level of public interest in this case been that I think years from now, we will look back at this as a defining moment: one of those where-were-you-when? times, like the moon landing or 9/11. Sensitive coming of age dramas will be written about this time and turned into movies that make no money.

My mother phoned me after the ruling to find out when I was going to get to my destination. The BBC wanted to interview me again, she said. I told her to tell them I was driving and that I couldn’t, sorry. No way for me to check how my fellow South Africans were responding. Out there, alone on the road, I’d been transported back to an earlier time when we relied on radio for everything.

I was glad to get to Clarens and its fresh mountain air. It was a working weekend – I was there courtesy of SAB, the sponsors of the festival – but hey, there are worse jobs than sampling beer and cider and tweeting about it in one of South Africa’s loveliest villages, one of very few places in this country where a woman can walk around alone at night. For a brief shining moment, I was ranked number 5 in the whole of South Africa on the new MyBeer app. I heard singing and bagpipes and performers who couldn’t hold a tune. I heard yelling and cheering and laughter, but I didn’t overhear a single Oscar-related conversation. It was bliss.

There was no escaping Oscar though. Tweeting about the festival meant venturing onto Twitter, and that meant seeing that Carl Pistorius’s Twitter account was hacked (or so claimed Vuma reputation management), and that he’s up on a culpable homicide charge, and Reeva’s supporters are angry, very angry. Oh, and, just in case the level of craziness in this case threatened to abate, there’s a psychic and “Tea Party nutjob” involved too.

And so we carry on buying into the headlines in the papers, hoping for any scrap of insight into a story that has grabbed the collective imagination and run off with it into the hills. Ten years from now, will you remember where you were when Oscar Pistorius got bail?

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    • Enough Said

      “Ten years from now, will you remember where you were when Oscar Pistorius got bail?”

      NOT Normally, though I also sat glued to my computer until it was announced, and seen you asked I will now remember.

      I do remember where I was a few minutes after 9/11 though. I was passing a TV in a steak house restaurant on my way to the loo, I could not believe my eyes, I thought it was some make believe or advert or something. I had to pinch myself and watch again to make sure I was still in touch with reality.

    • Graham

      I really do not get the fuss.
      The Weekend Argus headline was ‘FREE’.

      He is most certainly not free. Its bail. He does not have to sit in prison until the trial. Thats it. Free? Really?

      Where was I? Think I was one of a few fellow South Africans actually doing something productive during the day and not sitting by the radio for 3 hours.

      When the verdict is announced to whether he is guilty of murder/manslaughter, I will watch that.

      Whether or not he made bail? I cannot understand why so many care.

    • Percipient

      Moonlanding: at junior school, circa nineteen-voetsak ; 9-11: in Hout Bay. It’s just a pity that the MSM lied so blatantly about both these major events as common sense so clearly tells us. Oscar’s bail: at home in Joburg. But who cares, it’s all just days of our lives.

    • george orwell

      Enough said… You’re not the only one pinched themselves.

      Any narrative that fails to fit empirical data and forensic facts is, by its very nature, dubious.

      Leaving aside Pistorius’s tale – with the two dogs did not bark – the three steel skyscrapers that fell vertically through the path of greatest resistance in 11 seconds flat tell their own surreal tale. Even Isaac Newton was pinching himself as he rolled in his grave.

      Two engineers from a leading SA university explained to us, over a beer that evening, that given Newton’s Third Law, there’s no way the buildings could have dismembered and pulverised so quickly, meeting no resistance, absent an extra energy force. The dudes have since signed up to Architects and Engineers for Truth which seems to be going from strength to strength in confronting people’s cognitive dissonance.

    • Gary Koekemoer

      I remember 911 very clearly, I have been to the site subsequently and been tremendously moved by what happened and the response at Ground Zero. Oscar’s bail hearing outcome, however, didn’t move anything for me. Sorry! Perhaps I needed to be on the open road with nothing else on, for it to have registered! But I cannot see it’s significance, despite the media hype and it’s reality-TV type plot, the world will not be fundamentally shaped by the fact that Oscar got bail, nor will it be moved I suspect by whether he is found guilty or not! It will be very useful in educating the consumers of media as to the proceedings of our courts. It also provides plenty of braai talk material and I imagine a number of barmen will plead IOD’s from hearing the story repeated so often. So something useful may come from it. Oscar is a fallen hero, like Lance, like Hansie, he too has proven to be human, nothing new or fundamentally significant there!

    • Mr. Direct

      You mentioned beer, the rest was just background noise.