Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Posted by Simon Halliday | Friday, March 09, 2007 | Category: |

Traveling is interesting. In any of its aspects it is. I am not particularly accustomed to getting up before 5am to get to the airport before my flight leaves, but I did that this morning in order to go to a regional land reform office to do work on the Quality of Life project on which Malcolm Keswell and I are working for the DLA. Rocking!

I arrived in Durban and it was 24 degrees at 9am. Thankfully the car that was booked for me is air-conditioned. I then drove directly to Port Shepstone. I’ve never been to ‘Sheppie’ before. I took the Northern offramp to Port Shepstone and drove down a regional road with trees overhanging the road on either side. It is so incredibly lush here, massive tracts of land covered in pale green sugar cane, dark green skinned avocadoes being sold on the road by hefty mamas, the bright greens of the banana trees. Some of the trees that overhung the road were a more sullen, deep green. KZN can give you several definitions, several ideas of what constitutes ‘green’.

I felt as though I had really come to another country, rather than just had a 2 hour plane flight to another area in South Africa. It really appeals to me that SA hosts such a multiplicity of regions with their own micro-climates.

Anyway, back to Sheppie. What I found also to be particularly interesting and somewhat strange (not having seen it before) driving down the main road here was that the beach on the left hand side as you approach the town breasts a sea that is a damp and sandy brown. It was low-ish tide and there is a river mouth in the bay which is why it is so brown, but I hadn’t seen the river yet and it looked as though the see was a churning mass of brown, rather than the customary steel and dark blue one attributes to the sea.

Sitting in the office, the electricity keeps on switching off and then on again – it messes with productivity like you wouldn’t believe. Luckily I am on a laptop and things work ok for me, but these people whose computers keep on switching off and then on again, it creates havoc for them.

* * *

Other than that, I was staying in a pokey two star place called ‘Venture Inn’ (ha ha…ha). I walked into my room and immediately started to have Simon Halliday allergic reactions to dust mite overpopulation – puffy eyes, closing chest, itchy & scratchy, etc. So, I found someone who told me where to find a pharmacy and I duly bought antihistamines. They were called Laura, I teased the lady at the dispensary asking her why she was trying to sell me the pill (Diane - Laura…?).

Got back and went for a run. That was good – reminded me how ‘nature’ (that monolithic thing that we categorise as nature at least) seems to be very different in South Coast KwaZulu Natal than it does in Cape Town. In Cape Town our nature is tamed, even at its wildest in suburban spaces, say Klaassenbosch, we still have things labeled and signposted. In Sheppie on the one side of the road you have squat, brown & red facebricked house (it goes from one colour of brick to the other, with an icing of plastered and painted wall - it seems as though that is an attempt at diverse ‘style’) and on the other you are presented with these leaves, grasses, browns, greens and wildness. It reminds me of the origins of the word savage – that which comes from the forest, is of the woods, that which is wild (hence also satyr if I recall accurately).

* * *

Something else that was oddly surprising about my pokey abode was the food. Included in the stay there are dinner and breakfast. The dinner menu was comprehensive and meaty. I had the best spare ribs I have had in a long time at this hotel (two stars, random shitty rooms with dolphin print duvets and run-all-night toilet plumbing (unless you are cunning and know the basics of how to lift the lid and organise the inner workings)). They were honey basted and MASSIVE! I couldn’t finish them. All good though.

While eating on the covered verandah of the hotel I sat at my table (in those dodgy plastic chairs that are prone to breaking if you swing on them) with its lino-base cover and watched, felt, heard, sensed the rain as it came down. I don’t think rain is ever something one just can feel the touch of, it is almost an entire bodily experience, which is why I like rain, in fact part of me would love to do the prancing-in-the-rain-naked thing. Although that requires very few people to be around and freedom to prance, but I digress. It was storming as I ate. Another couple were there for a birthday dinner (what a treat!?) others were trying to get the name of the waitress correct (“Moyi, tog so, like ‘Prrretty in Afrrrikaans? Moyo?”). It was quite futile – rather like watching a pea attempting to climb a plate in a dishwasher (peas have agency, I promise).

After drugging myself with anti-histamines and getting ever-closer to the end of Midnight’s Children (Saleem had left the Sundarbans, joined his uncle’s family, left his uncle’s family, and met Pictureji), I feel promptly asleep. Pre-5am mornings are not good things, in fact there rather like Helsinki – Who goes there?

Morning: I had the semi-hang-over of a part-doped, part-hay-fevered individual. Choleric almost. Well not quite, but fun to say. Yes, choler – in that kind of terrifying, Roman, Propertian manner (Wow, it’s sometimes so much fun to over-write things).

Breakfast was heinous.

The rest of the morning at the regional DLA was productive. I managed to change my flight, drive to Durban international and fly home. The trip was energizing, exciting and draining at the same time. I have gotten a better sense of what is required of me for this project, what is going to be required on the ground later on, and various other things. It’s all quite hectic really.

Anyway, I fly out to Durban again on Sunday. I drive to Vryheid on Monday, then Ladysmith on Wednesday and hopefully back on Thursday night (holding thumbs), nevertheless if I need to be there longer, then so be it. This project requires WAY more work than lecturing ever did, but it is far more exciting as a result.

Currently have 3 comments:

  1. Taking a flight to Durban and then not getting on an airconditioned car is crappy, especially at this time of year; not so much the heat but the humidity - Durban's like a soup bowl..

  2. Such a good story. Very interactive

  3. Imagining the scene in the chemist where Si is cracking a 'context known only to Simon' joke about the Laura pill then trying to wave away the lady's confusion (actually waving with his hand).

    Isn't the Midnight's Children delicious?