Terence is from the other side of the country, the Eastern Cape, where Nelson Mandela was born and grew up.
Many of the indigenous South Africans living in Cape Town are from the Eastern Cape, long story, too complicated for here …
Terence is his English name, his real name, Thandisizwe, translated from Xhosa is “Blessing”.
The indigenous languages are like that, names relate to Nature, to Virtue, to Appreciation, etc.
Precious is common, so is Pretty, so is Grace …
Why do white men wear short trousers, Terence asks with a grin? They look so funny!
I explain that when my parents, Italians, arrived with the immigration wave that came ashore at Umkomaas, our fathers would wear short trousers, short socks and even sandals instead of shoes … (also white vests instead of shirts by the way …).
And the other white men, the ‘English’ as English speaking South Africans of British descent were called, thought it was funny – they wore short trousers but with long socks instead!
We would never wear short trousers, he says, and that is true … they used to once, but that was when they were wearing uniforms for gardening and domestic work.
However, that is all in the past, not only did we surprise the world but we also surprised ourselves with the patient lines that snaked around the new ballot boxes a couple of decades ago.
There is a little old white man up the road, he continues. He wears short pants, but he also has teeth like a ‘vampire’.
I was surprised that he knew about vampires, that is not part of their culture!?
You mean he is like a tokoloshe, I ask?
Yes, just like a tokoloshe, he replies.
The tokoloshe is a little creature, and he is malicious, evil, even leprechauns are cuddly in comparison.
The best way to avoid him is to raise your bed on bricks, so that he cannot reach up.
Also to have no corners in the home, ideally the room should be round. Hence the rondavel, the round mud huts.
But that is not how the shacks are built in the cities and towns far away from where the cattle graze in the open veld.
So the tokoloshe is a big problem in urban areas.
I knew the man he was referring to, with his short pants and his long(ish) teeth.
It all depends on your point of view … short trousers, long teeth …
If you can find English words like Blessing, Precious, Pretty and Grace, and you are now in the urban confluence of cultures, the tokoloshe surely is a Vampire?
Copyright © 2015 G. Rigotti