The Masjid in Simonstown and a bougainvillea in full bloom

Wines & Spirits

We are at day 110 of lockdown South Africa and officially on level 3s, if we follow the iPhone naming convention. I might be wrong, there’s been a few changes and I’ve missed the live updates - the last one on Sunday, being in the midst of a bout of load shedding.

The not unexpected reintroduction of the Prohibition has understandably caused a bit of teeth gnashing from the entitled class. I guess this is the stick part of carrot and stick from what seems like a very long time ago — in the innocence of the initial hard lockdown to this now more realistic take on life in a global COVID-19 pandemic. The banning of alcohol sales and the reintroduction of a curfew from 9pm to 4am is supposedly because the medical experts complained that ER units and hospitals were overwhelmed with alcohol related emergencies and trauma since the ban was lifted early in June.

Having your emergency response capability tied up dealing with preventable alcohol related medical emergencies, is not ideal in the midst of a global Corona virus pandemic. Over on Twitter, there was an almost instantaneous outpouring of vitriol from the entitled class. The general sentiment being, it was a terrible thing to close down booze sales and how so many people were good responsible drinkers — not clogging up the emergency wards of public hospitals with unseemly behaviour. It was all about enjoying a very civilised G&T at the end of another tough day of dealing with the myriad failures of government and everyone who is not your class peer circle.

There was a brief moment when a fancy-pants lawyer tried to claim the high ground astride a Shetland pony (kindly lent to him by the failed Wahabi’s from the initial instalment) — with a question about whether the booze ban could be applied if regulations had not already been promulgated. After all, this was exactly the kind of inane incompetency he expected from his elected government. Fancy-pants lasted a whole two minutes before he was kindly told to shut-up and sit down. Here are the regulations you seek oh hallowed legal mind.

Some of the entitled class did quick stock counts of bottles of booze in their possession and it was settled that the average Twitter complainer had at least fifty bottles of booze stashed away. Or maybe that was just the weeks supply — either way, not everyone was caught without some booze to tide them over the few weeks or months this might take. Just take a breather to digest that fifty bottles of even average quality wine totals more than the gazetted minimum monthly wage and you get a better sense of how far removed from reality the entitled class in the holy land is.

There was the usual back to pineapples-and-yeast jibes from the holier-than-thou non drinkers, even if their choice is not itself a free one, but enforced by their culture or religion. The smallest section of the Twitter-verse tried to counter with the arguments that while the booze ban and curfew might be an inconvenience for a lot of us, the sacrifice was to ensure we all had a better chance against COVID-19. Needless to say, these calm, rational types don’t get a tenth of the RTs and likes of the entitled class baying for ‘my fellow South Africans’ resignation one moment and his blood for the altar of failed liberation politics the next. At least no one was calling for the blood of the innocent Shetland ponies. As ever in the holy land, animals win over Black lives, but that’s arguably a blog for another day.

A few people also expressed direct support for the ban on alcohol sales, citing similar reasons about the common good. A few even got nuanced enough to suggest that we might need to have a deeper conversation about the complex behavioural psychology of drinking and alcoholism in South Africa.

No doubt we should start by acknowledging that as a nation, South Africans drink a lot of booze. Following the drinking of copious quantities of booze, comes what is politely called the dubbel-Ka, middel-Aa by the truckload, for everyone in or near the site of struggle with the bottle. The dop system was probably invented here in the Western Cape (where if you believe Twitter, the entire wine industry has just imploded because of this new Prohibition) and to this day; the practice of paying farm workers in part with cheap and nasty, farm brewed, alcohol remains alive and thriving.

As an alcoholic, this bit as Max Hurrell would say — slaps hard. Allegedly I should say a recovering alcoholic but I’m not sure what I’m recovering from. On the other hand, it’s crystal clear to me what I’m missing out on. Well, to be honest, there are slivers, nuggets and fragments of deep clarity, interspersed with glaciers and avalanches and staggering ravines of darkness and the terrifying fear that comes with seeing yourself reflected in the fragments of a once-whole heart. Splintering and wheeling off to the side of a mischievous smile, becoming a darkening fragment in the distance of yourself. To know being found and lost in yourself as much as in and with another. To remember the highest highs only briefly before they are consumed by the bungee plunge into the abyss of regret, pain and oh-fuck.

So I consider myself properly not-qualified to say anything about a booze ban — I’m just reporting that it’s in place and people in the holy land are a bit fussed about having their booze taken away; again. Sterkte julle, it’s all going to be fine in the end and if it’s not fine; then it’s not the end. Right? (With apologies to Dev Patel’s, Sonny in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Writes stuff, bakes stuff, stuffs around in the garden