Friday, December 3, 2010

A Famous Grouse: October 16, 2010

Another (unedited) Weekend Argus column. -- AD

THE City of Cape Town, I learnt this week, apparently has in its employ those who are familiar with the practices and customs of the dark arts and will not hesitate to make use of that expertise as it goes about stamping out merriment and fun within the boundaries of the metropole.
This is welcome news, especially for those living in Plumstead. Residents there can sleep soundly, secure in the knowledge that officials take a dim view of tourist operators larking about in the local cemetery at night.
As councillor Carol Bew has noted, some of them have loved ones buried there; they object to these tours as they feel that, far from being just a place where the dead have been buried, the graveyard is a sacred and holy place. “It is not a place for entertainment and not a place for events,” she told one newspaper. “There are historical graves, but they can be visited during the day.”
True, and Bew was probably as correct when she suggested that Mark Rose-Christie -- who is now considering that cancelling his five-hour “mystery ghost bus tour” as a result of the city’s rectitude and punctiliousness -- must follow certain processes. “There are certain fees that have to be paid depending on the event,” she said. “To do that he has to go through city structures, follow the policy, and that is that. There is no skirting around it.”
But it was Bew who, in her correspondence with Rose-Christie, raised this nonsense about satanism, suggesting that Rose-Christie’s operators “dress in black robes, come in the dead of night, make a small fire at certain graves, make soft music to create an atmosphere” and “even drive a coach into an open grave and make it disappear” and so on. She had been informed of this, she added, by City Parks, who appear to know what’s going on when it comes to such matters.
Perhaps Bew is a superstitious person, and really does believe in such rubbish. Which would be a pity, because why then should we take her seriously? For all we know, she may well believe that rubbing oneself with a toad on nights when the moon is full will get rid of warts, and that is hardly the sort of thing one expects from our elected representatives.
Perhaps she feels she must believe in such things because it serves the interests of the vaunted multiculturalism, because, hey, that’s what tolerance is all about. You know the trope: we are a diverse community, with many, many different and conflicting beliefs, and many, many of them irrational and illogical, but an offence to one faith is an offence to all, not so? If the traditions of the clergy are irrational, based in darkness and morbidity, then who are we to criticise and attack such traditions?
There is one further aspect of the city’s behaviour in its dealings with Rose-Christie that is especially troubling. He has pointed out that there are many cities around the world, with histories and folklore as rich as Cape Town’s, where such tours of graveyards and cemeteries are on offer. But, Rose-Christie has claimed, nowhere else are tour operators charged a fee for taking visitors to these places, and he was told: “We are not like other cities, or the rest of the world, we are Cape Town.”
Unique, then, in our capacity to be smug, petty and especially little, for this is truly the Cape colonic: so far up our own fundamental that we’re practically inside out. Perhaps, one day, we may just get over ourselves for long enough to realise that what really is unique here is that we continue to live, shamefully, in perhaps the most racially divided city in the country, but that is another issue altogether.
Rose-Christie has said that he will not pay what he feels is an exorbitant fee of R3 000 per group to visit Plumstead Cemetery. Fair enough. I wouldn’t be seen dead there myself. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.) But I’d urge him to reconsider scrapping his mystery tour altogether.
 If he really wanted to offer his clients a baffling experience, he should drop by Cape Town Stadium. Picture the scene: a dark night, with huddled tourists on the pitch, staring up at the empty terraces, the silence thick with the ghosts of Fifa’s empty promises and dead vuvuzelas. Very spooky.

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