Redemption Song


Our garden shed was broken into last week and our farm quad bike and Alex’s old bicycle were stolen. A while ago some other expensive farm equipment was stolen from the shed, so we now keep any valuable stuff in the garage adjacent to the house, but I must say it never entered our minds that someone would steal the quad bike, or the bicycle for that matter, you just don’t see people riding them here. We jacked up our security after the last break in – a rolled steel bicycle chain around our farm gate and an expensive, heavy duty lock on the door of the shed. However, the bicycle chain was cut through like butter and, although the lock on the shed door held its own, the hasp part of the hasp and staple to which it was attached was severed. It makes me wonder why we bother – perhaps we should just leave it all open and hope for the best. Bloody bastards!

I was quite devastated to lose the quad, especially since our insurance company are quibbling, saying that the quad is not covered because it should have been insured separately like our cars. Peter is arguing the case that it was as much a farm implement as our ride-on mower and tiller and was not a licensed vehicle. Still, I’m not holding my breath.

The police told me that they had received numerous reports of bicycles being stolen in this area on the same day as our break-in. But they very seldom have heard of quad bikes being stolen. Kho followed the tyre tracks of the quad into the pine forest next door, which backs onto a district road. The police went with him but the quad had disappeared into thin air. When I told our plumber, Petros, what had happened he said that in all likelihood there is a truck laden with bikes of all shapes and sizes heading for Malawi, with our bikes in it, and I think he’s got the right idea. The thief knew exactly what he was looking for and where to find it and someone must have been on hand to relieve him of the stolen goods because one can’t get very far on a bike and a quad is hard to hide.

So what does one do? I refuse to become paranoid about security and the last thing I want is electric fences, alarms etc. That is exactly what I was trying to escape from by moving to the country. In Durban we had numerous burglaries but the final straw was someone scaling up our drainpipe, climbing in an upstairs window and stealing Alex’s cell phone from his bedside table while he was sleeping. After that we raised the height of our perimeter wall, installed an electric fence on top of it, signed a contract with a security company and bought into a round-the-clock street guard scheme. Even with all this in place, it still did not deter someone from trying to climb through our small, upstairs shower window one night. I awoke to a clatter in the bathroom and when I went to investigate I saw my nail brush on the shower floor, it had fallen off the window sill. I thought that was strange because it was such a still evening. I leaned out of the window and there was a man crouched on the veranda roof a couple of meters below. I’m not sure who got more of a fright but I watched in appalled amazement as he leapt from our roof onto our neighbours’ garage roof, shimmied down a palm tree, ran across the back of our garden and disappeared into our other neighbour’s yard, leaping like an acrobat over all the walls and fences. Where there’s a will there’s a way, as they say.

Unfortunately South Africa is a country where crime is the norm.  And sometimes these crimes are so horrendous (especially violence against women and children) that when one becomes a victim of a minor crime, one’s first response is that of gratitude because, of course, it could’ve been much worse. That is followed a bit later by the “what if” stage (what if they had broken into Edna’s wee house instead always manages to send shivers up my spine) and finally a sense of despair. What an awful way to live. But live it and get over it we do. I would love to live in a place where safety is not a constant issue but I love it here, more than anywhere else so perhaps I just need to accept that there’s always a serpent in the Garden of Eden. If we want to live freely, all we can do is redeem ourselves from our fears.

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2 Responses to Redemption Song

  1. michele harpur says:

    Hi Cath – I am presently in Ireland and homesick! Missing everything about SA (except the crime, yes). Even the tv adverts are naff. Just no lines like: “I love it when you talk foreign!”. Another one along the lines of your blog’s subject: “My wife and I are in the iron and steel business – she irons and I steal!”

  2. Chris Ammann says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the break-in Cathy. The crime in SA was definitely one of the deciding factors when we moved to the UK but your situation sounds so idyllic in most other respects that I guess one just buys thicker hasps and GPS trackers for your vehicles. Over twenty years on and I still miss what you can see from your house …

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