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Holy circus

My walk this morning takes me over Belmont bridge and up to Rondebosch common. At the crest of the bridge there’s an apartment window that you can’t help but look into. It’s a glass-enclosed balcony and today there’s a fan on the table, directed at a jumbled pile of clothes. I wonder whether this is a new take on tumble drying or whether it’s an unrelated juxtaposition of objects about which I am making meaning. But then I’m distracted: Just after the 24-hour vet, there’s a church, and this being Sunday morning, there’s a service in progress.

The doors are open to the foyer and the sound of the preacher haranguing his flock spills into the street. He’s almost hoarse with passion, firing off questions and punctuating them with stern ‘Hallelujah’s. I can hear women moaning and deeper voices rumbling, whether in agreement or dissent it’s hard to tell. Everyone in there seems to be in pain.

This church is frequented by the neighbourhood’s growing immigrant population. Drifts of French pass my bedroom window and on Sundays I often see the faithful walking up the road, on their way to have sin drummed out of them. The women from the DRC are always beautiful: they dazzle in their bright colours and death-defying shoes. Their children are scrubbed and polished, trussed for Sunday in ties and bobbles and bows.

They are all inside the church now, repenting for who knows what. But according to a large black-and-white poster displayed on the foyer wall, it’s not all fire and brimstone; there is some extraordinary entertainment on offer. ‘Holy Circus!’ it proclaims. ‘For kids and young people. Come one, come all!’

Immediately, I have irreverent images of Mary in spangles on a prancing donkey, Jesus pulling rabbits out of hats, Moses juggling the ten commandments and flocks of angels rocking the trapeze. What can this holy circus be and from what realm have the performers been hired?

I creep closer, planning to read the small print, but just then a young woman appears from a side door, almost blown out on a storm of correction. She has a large, rosy baby sleeping in her arms. She crosses the foyer to a door on which hangs a sign: baby crying room.

Carefully, she shoulders the door open, edges in and settles herself in a comfortable chair. It must be blissfully quiet in that crying room.

We exchange knowing smiles.


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