A Walk On The Wild Side with Ben Trovato – Trouble In JBay.
I like the Kouga area and visit fairly often. I can leave Cape Town and be inside the St Francis Brewery in three hours if I maintain a steady 220km/h. Fortunately I have one of those caps adapted to hold beer bottles with a plastic tube leading to my mouth, so it saves on stopping at pubs on the way.
I don’t like Humansdorp, though. It feels like a town occupied entirely by serial killers, drunk policemen and wife-beaters. That’s why I take the shortcut when heading out to Jeffreys Bay. First right after the cows.
I was there a few weeks ago. A stiff offshore was blowing and the waves were epic. I jumped out of the car in the Plane Street parking lot overlooking Point, staggered a few paces and fell over. A dog came over and barked at me. A mother hurried her child away. That parking lot has seen some pretty wild stuff over the years, no doubt about it, but not at 10am.
I could barely walk. My right foot felt as if I’d stood on a landmine. Other surfers were putting on their wetsuits and waxing their boards. It’s a small town. I didn’t want to be known as that freak who drives around with a board on his roof, then stops and falls down for a bit and gets back into his car and leaves.
So I went looking for drugs. For many years, drugs were easily obtainable in J-Bay. Then the orcs from the hinterland descended, with their facebrick houses, facebrick churches and facebrick mentalities and nothing was ever the same again. Now you have to get your drugs from pharmacies instead of hippies.
None of the chemists speak English. I tried explaining my symptoms but forgot the Afrikaans word for foot. “Jou voet?” she said. Foot. Voet. Hard to tell the difference. Why even bother with another language? Can’t we all just speak English and get along?
She said from the sound of it, I had gout. They speak funny in J-Bay, so I laughed and said, “For a minute there, I thought you said gout.” Ja, she said, gout. I was outraged. Gout is an ailment from which fat, old, rich men suffer. I am not rich. Could she not tell by the way I was dressed?
“How much did you last have to drink?” she asked. An odd question. I was wearing sunglasses and, for all she knew, I was a Jehovah’s Witness. It is, after all, only by the eyes that one can tell someone who is partial to the odd dram, or, in my case, fourteen beers and five tequilas two nights earlier.
I removed my sunglasses. She flinched and handed me a canister of colchicine. “Take two after…” I quickly lost interest and began scanning the shelves behind her.
Ever since I was a child, I have been astonished by the amount of drugs that are available in pharmacies. I no longer want to try them all, but I remain astonished, nevertheless.
It was vitally important that I cured my foot while I was still in J-Bay, so I began gobbling the little white pills right away. The more you take, the better you feel. Isn’t that the guiding credo for pharmaceuticals of any kind? Well, apart from acid. I overmedicated on acid once and had two-thirds of my face fall into my lap while I was sitting on a park bench in Barcelona. I had a terrible job fitting it back on.
Colchicine works on a different principle. One of the side effects of overdosing is that you swerve violently into someone’s driveway and vomit in their garden. In front of their children. On a Sunday morning.
“It’s gout,” I shouted. I didn’t want them thinking I was spreading blackwater fever through the neighbourhood. It was bad enough that my car had a Durban registration.
My organs and joints eventually calmed down enough for me to get into the water. J-Bay is to surfers what kissing the pope’s ring is to Catholics, only more hygienic. A happy ending, at last.
See you all soon.
• Ben Trovato is the author of thirteen books, although you wouldn’t think so if you had to see his living conditions. With a background in print and television journalism, Trovato’s popular newspaper columns have earned him a wicked reputation and a fatty liver. He can often be found surfing instead of meeting his deadlines. Trovato lives alone with two regrets and a hangover.