Saturday. Sunlight takes its first peek into the bedroom around five in the morning, a pale golden eye lighting up the tall book case that I made nearly a quarter of a century ago, casting its rays across the bed, warming the plain white curtains and placing bands of light across the still-bare white walls. This weekend we will hang some of our pictures and artwork, here and in the living room downstairs, but first we are off to Sandton, shopping for diamonds and a wedding band for Rob, for shorts and sandals for me for our trip next weekend to the Marakele National Park, up in the Waterberg, for a Tivoli radio for Rob’s office and a few other things we need. Then to the Goodman Gallery (David Goldblatt) and Gallery MoMo to see two very different photographic exhibitions; roasted quails with balsamic vinegar for dinner tonight – and tomorrow afternoon we will head out of town for a ‘metamorphosis experience,’ the 2010 concert finale of the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra Company, where Kathy is playing and where we will enjoy an afternoon of wine, food and music in the hills at Thaba Ya Batswana.
The house is looking comfortable and inviting. Rob has been busy all week, and the week before, unpacking, sorting out the kitchen, setting out books and knick-knacks, or tchotchkes, as she calls them, planting out herbs in our empty pots: we have a home, at last, and it is ours. I thought to myself, coming home one evening after a long day out of town, this house tells a story, and it is a story of love, and care. I held Rob in my arms, quite moved, and told her so, and we had one of those moments couples have sometimes, when the world is right and everything is as it should be.
Last week I was in Cape Town and East London, visiting colleges; this week it was up at 3.30 in the morning to get ready to fly to Durban (Monday) and Kimberley (Wednesday). A team of consultants and officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training was reviewing college plans and budgets in a series of workshops across the country. The meetings took place on college campuses, and the campuses, just as our house here in Hyde Park does, each told a story. In East London and Kimberley we convened at colleges in the city centre; in Durban, we met on a campus in a poor and sprawling African township covering the rolling hills twenty or more kilometres out of town. In all three, one was obliged to use the student loos; in all three, the loos were practically unusable. Smelling of urine; broken toilet seats and locks; not a sheet of toilet paper in any of them. At one campus, another toilet behind the hall where we were working had walls that were clean to the height of a man, and beyond the arc of a human arm outstretched, the walls above, all the way to the ceiling, were a deep dark grey. They hadn’t been washed down in years; no-one had thought to bring a ladder or a long-handled mop; no-one had cared and no-one had bothered to check.
I thought to myself; what a story this tells, about how some of our colleges regard their students: just bums on seats, that’s all, not worth the simple dignity of a clean toilet and a sheet of paper to clean their arses. The colleges are under-funded, it is true, and there is a great need for training and staff development – but this was not about money or training, it was about simple supervision, basic management, ordinary accountability. More than this, it was about love and care.
If we don’t care for our students, what business do we have trying to educate them?
Home again, after a busy day out, David Goldblatt’s images, simple and monumental in their clarity of perception, timeless in the precision of their observation, stayed with us both for a long time.