A woman from Soweto comes on Sunday to pick up the dishwasher. Rob has done a nice little trade, putting household things up for sale, sending a flyer around our townhouse complex, listing items on Gumtree. The proceeds will go into our ‘funny money’ stash, to be used on our holiday. Elizabeth, the Soweto lady, has called several times, and now she is here, at the gate, with her husband, to collect. She is well-groomed, good looking, charming. A big smile. A little girl, grinning, clambers out of the back of her father’s car and scampers around gleefully. The father, or husband, in jeans and a Cosatu teeshirt, shakes hands formally and drives up to our garage. He reverses and turns and parks facing the entrance. The car – an old Ford Telstar – creaks and squeaks like a pair of old bedsprings, and I notice that the rear bumper is hanging off, the bodywork is full of dents and scratches, the tyres are worn.

We go inside to inspect the dishwasher. They will take it, they immediately decide. My misgiving turns to concern. Where on earth do they think they are going to put it? No matter, the husband and I pick up the dishwasher and take it outside, down the few steps and out into the driveway. We set it down, and assess the situation. It is immediately apparent the dishwasher will go neither in the boot nor in the rear seat. ‘Where are you going to put it?’ I ask. ‘Don’t you know anyone who has a bakkie?’ ‘It is too far,’ the husband answers. He opens the front passenger-side door. ‘It will go here.’

I shake my head. Still, we pick up the dishwasher, and the husband reverses in, clambering over the seat and pulling the machine in after him. We push and heave and alter the angle of approach, but it won’t go. Out it comes, and we all stand around, scratching our heads. ‘I will take out the seat,’ the husband explains. He goes round to the boot and returns with a spanner. Wrong size. He comes back with another. He hunkers down in the rear of the car, grunting and sweating, undoing the bolts. Then he comes round to the front, and loosens another. One bolt turns, the nut won’t come loose. He stares, mutters something, attacks it again. No luck. ‘I need a hammer,’ he says.

At this point his wife intervenes. ‘How are you going to fix it,’ she asks, ‘later?’ He dismisses this comment airily, but hesitates. He is stumped. We all wait. I can’t see how this is ever going to work. But the husband climbs back into the car, into the driver’s seat, and calls for us to lift the dishwasher and angle it towards him, this time on its side. We comply, and this time we gain a little ground. A few more jiggles and scrapes, the sharp edges of the machine grating against the plastic dashboard and the roof-lining, the weight and pressure of it pushing down on the reclining, half-loosened passenger seat, and after a few minutes, surprisingly, the thing is in. Only the driver cannot manoeuvre the gear lever. More jostling, pushing, more creaking and scraping, and finally it is settled.

Some money changes hands, the woman smiles, the husband shakes hands with that double-clasp, the little girls gives a toothy grin, and that is that. They are off.

So that, I thought, as I turned back, alone, to the echoing house, is how you move a dishwasher.

Most of our boxes, on Saturday, were moved into storage. Eve, Shaun and Kathy came round and helped. Later on Sunday, Eve and Shaun came by again, and we loaded up stuff for Kathy’s house – a bookshelf, the firepit, the huge bedroom mirror. Our cookery books, and our vast supply of herbs, spices, vinegars, along with the remaining pastas, risotto rices, tins of chickpeas and beans, have all been divvied up. After a long, warm, funny, affectionate braai at Kathy’s charming little home, with Eve and Rob helping out in the kitchen and Shaun slaving away over the fire, Rob and I came home again, as it was growing cooler and the light was beginning to fade.

Now we could feel, for the first time, how empty the house is. The bare walls are cold and unfriendly, the spaces echo as we move about, talking, packing, preparing. We are all but on our way, now. You can feel it.

Advertisements