Caryn Gootkin is dealing with the aftermath of a burglary at her home. She is so preoccupied with security consultants and police investigations that she didn’t notice that her alter ego, the Pedantic Player, had written and submitted this column.
Dear Minister Mthethwa
I hope you don’t mind if I address you as Nathi. I wish to speak openly and I find the formality of titles somewhat inhibiting. Thanks for reading this letter. I know you’re a very busy man, what with having to deal with pesky journalists who write about everything from the great wall around your house to your lady friend’s car.
I don’t know if you enjoy music, Nathi. I see from your profile that you were only born in 1967 so you may in any event not be familiar with the lyrics of the King of Rock and Roll. I’m referring to the late great Elvis, as we called him back in the day, and not that local boykie who won Idols a few year ago.
We used to play the real Elvis’s “Home is where the heart is” over and over on our gramophone. It was so romantic. But let me not bore you with the details of my courting days. The point is that these words, which used to remind me of the first blush of young love, have now come back to haunt me.
“Home is where the heart is
And my heart is anywhere you are
Anywhere you are is home
I don’t need a mansion on a hill
That overlooks the sea
Anywhere you’re with me is home”
You see, while it is all very well to live on the smell of an oil rag in your youth, as you grow older the house (I’m not greedy) on a hill overlooking anything but the neighbour’s washing line becomes more practical and, dare I say, attractive.
And so the accumulation of things begins as you make your house a home. Shame, Dionne Warwick never had much success with her song “A house is not a home” but it has been covered more often than Richard Mdluli’s tracks. Luther Vandross is the one who really made it famous and I loved his version. Don’t get me started on those kids from Glee. I mean, they’re young enough to be your children, what can they possibly know about life, love, loss and homemaking?
(I do hope I haven’t put my foot in it. I remember you declared publicly that not one of your children or relatives was employed by SAPS. But I must admit I found that statement a bit confusing and I have no clue whether the people mentioned are members of your family who don’t work for SAPS or are SAPS employees who are not members of your family. Perhaps you could clarify this for me. Anyway, I digress. Given that I don’t know what your children do, it’s entirely possible that they are in the cast of Glee. I mean no disrespect but am genetically predisposed towards blatant honesty.)
“I’m not meant to live alone
Turn this house into a home”
In the real world, home is the place that houses not only your heart and loved ones, but also your possessions. Now, I don’t always agree with the Brits but they got it almost right when they declared that a man’s home is his castle and that nobody could enter it without his invitation. (I say almost because I’m sure that if the lady of the house issued the invitation it would be fine, but let’s not nitpick.)
Although our legal system is derived in part from English law, this particular precept appears to have fallen through our cracks. Or perhaps it is there but is being overlooked because of all the other important work your officers need to do, like making striking miners easier to control. (Incidentally, I was relieved to read that errant police officers face the full might of the law. Good for you.)
I fear I have taken a while to get to my point but I do like to set the scene before launching in. Nathi, the problem is that our houses are not our castles. Far from it. And people no longer care whether we’ve invited them in or not. Robbers, burglars and thieves invade our homes helping themselves to whatever they want. At least the Jehovah’s Witnesses have the decency to ring the doorbell rather than jumping over the wall or grabbing your kettle.
Sadly, we have moved away from the idealism in Elvis’s lyrics to the harsh reality of a different song, also called “Home is where the heart is”. You may be more familiar with the words of a song The Chameleons wrote in 1985. In fact, you may find it a useful aide memoire to download this song as your cell phone ringtone, which can you do here. (I don’t know how much it costs but I’m sure your cell phone contract is part of your package. And you can definitely justify it as a work-related call to arms on a daily basis. Not even The Citizen would criticise you for that.)
“Danger is lurking
Evil is working
Yet here we are hiding
Behind our doors”
I have to dash because Caryn’s just finished her meeting with the electric fence installation company and if she catches me writing this there’ll be hell to pay. But I have so much more to discuss with you, including which contractors you used for the security in your home, so I’ll pick up again next week while she’s distracted by the sound of the new alarm system being fitted. Also, I’m not sure I grasp every aspect of your online Home Safety tips. I trust I may address queries in this regard to you in my next letter?
The Pedantic Player (or PP, as my friends call me)