There have been distractions. Germany dismantled Argentina this afternoon, four-nil in the soccer World Cup quarter-finals: a team master-class given to a bunch of talented but ultimately inchoate individuals. There is a lesson in there, somewhere. And yesterday’s news of the conviction of Jackie Selebi, former chief of police, is still percolating (see comment below) in my febrile brain. I have needed, too, after completing the first draft yesterday of the second chapter of my novel, to let it play in my mind – I saw, in a quick scan before the match of the opening pages, how thin they seemed, in some respects; and how much denser, I hope, the second chapter is – I need to find the pattern, the impulse and the rhythm that will take this forward into another chapter, not just the story developing but, I feel in my gut, the writing developing, with it.
None of these were the real reasons I could not write, at once, of my meeting this morning at the Mugg and Bean in Peter’s Place with Chris, the man who conducted the marriage ceremony last year of Gillian’s daughter Lisa. I met Chris at Gillian’s suggestion to discuss the possibility of his marrying Rob and me, on 21 December, the summer solstice: but I need to talk first with Rob, before I share any impressions, of Chris the man or of the ceremony he proposes. Rob and I may have met on the internet, but I do not think that means she should learn of our (possible, as-yet-undecided) wedding arrangements via the same medium.
So that is one reason I did not write, at once, about my meeting this morning. There is another, which speaks to the heart, and which has needed a little time, to touch, and taste, and to absorb. As Chris took me through the stages in the ceremony, the words we might use, the symbols and gestures – long-stemmed flowers, candles, rings – my heart brimmed and my eyes filled with tears. I was quite shocked, to tell the truth, at how deep were the feelings that were stirred – happiness, certainly, and a sense of rightness; but also a sense of yearning, of lost years and time regained, of the deep spirituality of things, and the infinite human need to love and be loved. Most of all, I think, I was moved by the feeling that here, one more and surely final time, somewhat late in my life, was the possibility of realising and consecrating all that is good in me, good in the woman I have grown to love, and good in a union between two people. Having Rob as my wife – I say again, I was shocked at how profound was the emotion.
I doubt if I shall get through this wedding without tears.
Watching the soccer this afternoon, I was thrilled by the game – but the sense of pride, that we have pulled this off, wonderfully, successfully, yeah South Africa! was every bit as great. This World Cup has done us proud. Yet, important, positive as the World Cup is, a mightier blow was struck yesterday, for the future of this country. Jackie Selebi, former Police Commissioner, a political appointee of Thabo Mbeki and hobnobber with the great, the good, and not-so-good, was convicted of corruption. Four and a half years and R40m after he was charged, a white judge of the Supreme Court of the land, speaking in English lightly accented with Afrikaans, found Jackie Selebi guilty.
I find no pleasure, in the thought of a man Selebi’s age facing 15 years’ imprisonment; I have no remotely personal or even political axe to grind. But the arrogance and mendacity of the man has lost him all sympathy; and the blow, against the arrogance and abuse of power, and the deep rot that is advancing fast through the body politic, is of profound and – one hopes, not so much with reason as with faith and commitment – lasting importance.
More important even than the conviction, was the assertion of our Constitution and our legal system, and the impartiality and independence of our courts.
The public and the private domains, the personal and the political: a warming sign in the cold winter sky today, for both.