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Dear Boet

Dear Boet

Well, if it’s a letter from you, it must be September. The same thing, year in, year out. You get miserable, maudlin and generally the moer in with the prospect of another winter in Europe and start pining for South Africa’s sunny summers.

Frankly, I don’t know why on earth you don’t just come home instead of perpetuating your expatriation. Things have changed by leaps and bounds for the better here, you know. Except for the weather.

Remember the good old days when you could set your watch by those four-o’clock-in-the-afternoon thunderstorms that used to roll in over the highveld, drop their loads and disappear by half past four, leaving us brilliant, good-and-clean-and-fresh evenings in which to enjoy our sundowners?

That doesn’t happen any more, because there’s a newfangled climatic thing called tropical air that comes in from over Zambia, Zim and Zaire to produce continuous cloud cover and rain at all hours of the day. Damned inconvenient and probably caused by the demise of apartheid and the fact that all sorts of things such as contraband, illegal immigrants and rain can all happily traipse willy-nilly across our borders with complete impunity.

Sundowners have been replaced by midsummer bowls of hot soup in front of the television set.

Now, talk about change. My goodness me, how television has changed. Quite apart from having access to about 100-plus channels, we can now watch sport on a Sunday without being struck by lightning and we can even unsurreptitiously watch the BBC news without fear of the devil and/or a communist infecting us with information.

You’ll be pleased to know that unlike 30 years ago when we had a foreign white person presenting the news in impeccable Oxbridge English, we now have a foreign black person presenting the news in impeccable Oxbridge English.

And talking about the news on the telly, you must remember those days of yore when, after two solid hours of Lewe Onder die See, all we’d get to see after nine at night was that lavatory-seat SABC logo. And the only news bulletin of the day had poker-faced presenters telling us with all the solemnity usually accorded to the outbreak of a world war that South Africa had lost a cricket Test against a rebel Australian 11 and that subsequently “a bantu had been detained”.

Or: “The price of gold dropped by one dollar an ounce yesterday and as a result the petrol price will increase by 80 cents and SAA domestic air fares by a further 25%. The minister was not available for comment. A bantu has been detained.”

Well, things are very different these days, Boet. Bantus, thank God, are not being detained on principle and ministers are sometimes available for comment.

“In a cash-in-transit heist outside Boksburg today, 15 armed men in stolen bakkies forced a security vehicle off the road, shot and killed the five guards and sprayed passing motorists with AK-47 fire, causing a further 12 deaths before escaping with R80-million. No one has been arrested and the minister said that cash-in-transit heists were unacceptable and that the whole question of crime needed to be addressed.”

And remember all those years ago, Boet, when just about every second news bulletin would carry an item about a Putco bus crashing and killing all 50 passengers?

Nothing has changed. Only nowadays it’s a minibus taxi crashing and killing all 50 passengers. No one is ever detained of course, least of all a bantu.

But, to get back to the weather, Boet. Those reports at the end of the news are as inaccurate as ever. Frankly, I think that Zambian weather presenter on television all those years ago was a lot more accurate that our modern computer-and-satellite-assisted boffins when he stood confidently in front of the weather map and said with a completely straight face: “There will be weather all over the country tomorrow …”

So, Boet, nothing really changes. Oh, except for one thing. When you emigrated all those years ago, I would have done the same thing at the drop of a hat if, like you, I’d had the wherewithal and a job to go to.

Right now, I wouldn’t leave sunless, detainless and overaddressed South Africa for anything.

Fraternally yours

Chris