A friend recently got back from yet another business trip overseas. I think the last one was China. It’s hard to keep up with her.
She looked worried. Some people do not breathe real air, ever, she said. They go from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned office via air-conditioned subways or smog-riddled streets. They do not stand on real earth. They go from carpets to paving to tiles and back again. Their food is homogenised, irradiated, unblemished, uniform. Bananas don’t reach store shelves unless they have a uniform length and the differential of the banana-curve is exactly the same as every other one in the bunch and on the shelf.
No real air. No real food. I knew what she meant. I remember in the UK someone told me about a place called CenterParcs. It’s the British answer to outdoor “activity” holidays. You know, in “nature”. You can go walking, hiking, rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking. You stay in little chalets in a forest. “You’d love it,” I was told. And, from the sound of it, I thought I probably would enjoy it – more than, say, a discount cruise from the shores of England. But what turned me off CenterParcs was their TV ad, which featured a happy, healthy nuclear family (thrilled-looking mum, dozy-looking dad, two delighted-looking kids) bounding into what looked like an Ikea kitchen in a little 2-bedroom cottage, about to make breakfast. The voice-over has the parents’ voices marvelling at “when last” they … woke up so relaxed/sat down for breakfast together/rode bikes with their kids/heard actual birds singing/breathed air this fresh… you get the picture.
To use sales and marketing jargon, the USP (Unique Selling Proposition – every product needs one) was this: Your real life has had every iota of anything real or relaxing squeezed out of it. Your real life is most likely a continuous stream dull, unhealthy, disconnected daily routine in an environment that you devote much energy to ignoring. You have a few weeks leave, your kids have some school holidays coming up, and with any luck you have some disposable income. Come spend it on revisiting reality. Get some real air. Some real earth. Some real time with your family. Reconnect.
Bravo to the nice CenterParcs people for providing an alternative to the discount-resort-in-Spain-or-Greece. Bravo for the opportunity to reconnect. But, oh how sad that this is what it has come to: reality packaged and marketed at a premium.
So as my first item on my Local is Lekker list: real stuff. Piles of plums of all shapes and sizes at the supermarket, that you have to sort through to find the ones on the brink of juiciness and sweetness. Which you can tell by feel and by smell. Pineapples that smell like the Eastern Cape. Air that smells like salt on this side of the mountain and like pine and rain on the other side. Mountains you can get lost on (even if it means that people regularly do get lost on them) and beaches where you can still spot dolphins from the shore (even if it did mean that we saw fifty whales beached on Kommetjie last week). Viva real stuff.