Panic Room

Last evening we had another evening of load shedding. For those who are unfamiliar with that term it means that Eskom, our inept parastatal electricity company, is unable to cope with the electrical demand of the country and therefore they turn off areas of the national grid, thereby freeing up electricity for other areas on the grid. It is supposed to be done on a rotational area by zone. This just after we have an announcement that we are to be subjected to yet another price hike. We have had a staggering 22.27% increase in electricity tariffs in just one financial year. The Eskom executives were paid over R11 million in bonuses. What a load of crap. That’s one load that should be shed and many execs have been suspended pending an investigation into why things are in such a dire state.

As our village was going to be in the dark we decided to head across Chapman’s Peak to dinner as the electricity was on in Noordhoek. We went to Noordhoek Farm Village as there are several restaurants there so we hoped we could get into one of them without a booking. We were lucky to get a table in our venue of choice, The Toad in the Village. It’s a casual, noisy, vibey pub. The rugby was on and it was rammed, we got almost the only free table. I love their burgers and I ordered the popper burger which is a big juicy burger with chilli poppers, onion rings and fries. It was divine as always.

The walls are full of images of classic photos with The Toad subtly (or not so subtly) interjected. If you follow the principle that if there is photographic evidence then it is fact, then The Toad attended Charles and Di’s wedding and was at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration ceremony.

We had a lovely evening together chatting and relaxing, then headed home. We stayed up late only going to bed well after midnight.

I am a firm believer in the idea that our bodies store memories. I don’t mean in the traditional sense of being able to recall a past event at will, pull it up and relive it, that is of course true and a universal reality. I mean that when we have an event which causes us trauma or stress, that any similar experience can trigger the same physiological response in our bodies.

So last night at 2am when I was deep, deep asleep having only been in bed a few hours, I woke to the sound of our house alarm screeching, the dogs going mad and Norm shouting ‘wake up, wake up, get in the panic room. Some one rang the bell, there are 3 people at the gate and they won’t answer the intercom, and they must now be in the garden as the alarm was triggered..’ (We have beams all around the house so anyone activating these beams has violated our perimeter.) My body remembered our armed invasion and the other break in attempts we have had.

I was immediately awake and out of bed, Norm was at the window looking out to the street using our radio to call for back up from Watchcon, our local Hout Bay radio response team who are on call 24/7. They route calls to the fire and police departments or the EMTs, and rally the neighborhood watch responders and direct them when help is needed.

The house phone rang and I assumed it was our security company ringing in response to the alarm. I grabbed the phone while running across to slam the metal security gate to our bedroom. I screamed hysterically down the phone ‘we have an intruder on our premises please hurry!’ In response I heard a slurred voice saying ‘mom, mom’ and I stopped dead in my tracks. Caitlin was on the phone saying ‘it’s me!’ As she had been staying at Vic for the weekend we were not expecting her home, and as she has keys to the house there should be no reason for ringing the doorbell at 2am or setting off the alarm.

Apparently there is one reason. It’s called alcohol.

I went over to tap Norm on the shoulder as the noise in the house was incredible. When I told him it was actually Caitlin he sheepishly radioed Watchcon to tell them to call off the security companies and the police.

Caitlin found her keys and managed to get herself inside and came upstairs, she was incredibly drunk. She was acting like we were overreacting about having people ring our bell at 2am, then setting off our alarm. We reacted exactly as we should, we activated our security plan, we radioed for help and we locked ourselves up.

I am the sort of person who has a gastric response to panic. I could feel our lovely dinner rising and had to sit with my head resting on the loo for an hour before I felt the nausea die down enough to head back to bed. It took ages to get back to sleep. As Norm had to collect people at the airport early this morning I felt for him as neither of us had much sleep. On the other hand Caitlin is still asleep, so I can only hope she wakes to a horrendous hangover to temper my annoyance somewhat.

Today is a stunning sunny hot day so I intend to spend the afternoon by the pool. These vastly divergent experiences pretty much sum up what it is like living in Africa.

Live life to the fullest, enjoy the highs but be prepared for the lows.

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