No Wonder They Found Mischief

by Allan Duff

SOON AFTER arriving in South Africa as an immigrant I was sent to the judicial capital, the city of Bloemfontein, for a week’s business. I drove there, the driving being easy as South Africa had fast, open and well surfaced roads.

Some 40 kilometres on the approach to the city the road changed from being two way traffic to a four lane motorway. This was in the latter part of the 1960s. It was at this point in my journey, late on a Sunday afternoon, I was intrigued at the sight of hundreds of cars lining the roads on the verges.

They were parked at ninety degrees to the traffic flow on both sides, facing in. These went on for a huge distance. A sense of anticipation soon joined my feeling of intrigue for surely, there was something of great spectacle and interest about to happen. There were so many people in these cars that I felt whatever I was about to witness was to be a rare treat.

My wonder increased as I began checking the skies and horizons, for surely this must be an air display, or the arrival of a foreign head of state. What was it they were out to see or greet this sunny week end?

It took me a long while to realize I was the show.

I was the spectacle they were out to see. Unbelievable. No fly-by was to happen, no head of state arriving or speed record being attempted. Nothing was to happen.

Not just was it me they were watching and presenting a guard of honour to but any car that was driving along, or truck, or bus, or anything that moved at all. You see, they had nothing to do but sit and stare.

This was Calvernistic South Afica at its’ best. There existed no TV, no theatre or cinemas, no bars were open, no sporting events of any nature were permitted. No school fetes or town parades, no exhibitions and certainly no dancing was allowed.

The one institution that remained open on a Sunday was the church. That you may attend. The country was shut for the day. It was closed down entirely and had been since midnight on Saturday.

It would stay that way until Monday opened the country again. That,then, was why I had a guard of honour into Bloemfontein. No wonder they found mischief, but that is for other tales.