Many years ago, in the pub at Lords after a match between England and South Africa, a friend from Johannesburg whom I had not seen for ages presented me with a tie.
Neatly held in plastic, it was a splash of colour similar to the ‘rainbow nation’ new flag. Not something you would wear to a wedding but the pride and optimism that shone in his eyes brought tears to mine, and ensured that I would wear it many times in the years that followed.
What I felt that late afternoon was much like the emotion I felt when my brother, who lives in Durban, told me he and his wife had stood for hours in a line around the block with newly enfranchised South Africans waiting to cast their vote for the first time in their country.
In some ways One Black Ear has been a vehicle for me to go back in history and be part of those times
For someone who had moved away from the land of his birth, but left his heart behind, I felt saddened to not be there, to be involved in the hope and optimism of a reborn nation. To be part of the rebuilding process. I was left to watch the start of the rebirthing process on a TV screen.
Perhaps in some ways One Black Ear has been a vehicle for me to go back in history and be part of those times. A salve to the nostalgia that seldom leaves me. A way to jump into a ‘time machine’ and be there; feel the hope, feel the regret for times passed, offer an opinion on what I saw was going on around me through the eyes of the book’s narrator, Roger.
In many ways the new South Africa has been in catch-up mode. A burgeoning middle class has put huge demands on infrastructure, influenced in its initial design by the needs of a much smaller market during the apartheid era.