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Jo'Burg Days: The First Day Of My Life

Barbara Durlacher plays tricks with time.

To read more of Barbara’s words please clock on Jo’Burg Days in the menu on this page.

“How was it before? Did they behave in the same way? Did society function as efficiently as it does today? I wonder sometimes, but have no way of knowing. It’s all a blank. Shifting images appear sometimes, scraps of blue, green and pink, but when I try to snatch them they drift out of sight, fading, fading… leaving a slight fragrance of Victorian posies trimmed with trailing ribbons, or a smear of prisms against the light.

Sometimes in the darkness of a quiet night I think I remember the early days. Beautiful green meadows with great trees; flowers and birds singing. Great white clouds massed in the east, before the rain descends in a cooling downpour. But that is only for a short time. Then the clouds drift away, the sun shines brilliantly again and the people are content.

Music, music… Yes, there was music. Gushing, soaring music, in great chords of happiness, or delicate, soothing, careful melodies played on a grand piano by skilful fingers. In the background a yellow canary in a golden cage sang counterpoint. And I remember blossom. Fruit trees in blossom with huge clusters of fragrant white flowers. The bees flitted from flower to flower, so industrious and careful, so hardworking!

There was one thing impressed on everyone. To work hard. It was considered one of the ways to eternal goodness. People enjoyed working and strove to do better. Achievement gave great pleasure and a sense of purpose. But those achievers went away. Like the others who had gone before, they left too and it things grew very still after that. I remember darkness, long days of darkness, with life at a standstill while people crouched indoors fearful of the masses outside.

Lots of dancing too. Some of it lewd with sexually suggestive movements from the hips and pelvis, but the feet were marvellous. Criss-crossing, twisting, twirling, up and down, whirling in a flurry of elemental pleasure. We could have watched for ever, and it was not long before everyone wanted to be whirling and stomping like the others.

And the food! Wonderful food of all nations. French, Greek, Italian and Chinese, exciting ethnic foods in a variety of weird colours and flavours. Some spicy, some bland. Some people even ate fried insects and dried worms. The foods were washed down with a huge range of drinks, but really it’s too late to go into all that, I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Do you remember the pretty girls? Their beautiful long hair, their saucy looks, their up-thrust breasts and long, long legs. They were so lovely, so appealing in their naivety and spontaneity, their freshness and their sheer exuberance! Everybody loved them, no matter what they did.

You ask me, what do I do now? Well, I lie here in the dark, tied to this unforgiving platform waiting for them to come to me. Sometimes I remember what they’re here for, sometimes not. It does not matter, I hardly care, I’ve got all the time in the world.

Because this is the first day of my life. It all lies ahead of me. What has passed before is gone, I’ll never experience it again. You see, I can’t move. My memory’s gone as well as the rest of me. The only things that move are my eyelids. I think I’m happy now, but I can’t be sure.

I’ve been here a long, long time.

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