I remember when I moved to Cape Town from Joburg almost three years ago, and people warned me about the flakiness of Capetonians. “They’re so noncommittal!”. “You’ll never know if they’re coming to your house or not!”. “And then they will rock up two hours late!”. Well, all of this has since been proved true, and it’s given me loads of time to decide on the main reason for Capetonians’ flakiness: and it’s the weather.
Yip, we’re pointing the finger at meteorological events here, and who can blame us? Cape Town weather swings from savage drought to the wettest winter in decades and then we must all just remain as consistent as a Highveld summer storm? Well, it doesn’t work that way. This weekend for example, I was away with a whole bunch of Joburgers who had ventured here for a special friend’s 40th – and they really spoke about Cape Town’s weather rather a lot.
“I can see now why you guys are always wearing beanies”, said one, as she clutched her coat closer to her freezing body on Saturday night as the icy wind whirled around our shoulders. And then the next morning, the weather did a complete 180: “Oh right, now I need to fetch my bikini,” she said through gritted teeth, as we woke up (mildly) hungover and squinted into the 30-degree heat.
And it’s no wonder that all these wild swings in our surroundings affect our moods. And our plans. Yes I’d love to come to your picnic on Saturday but then what if we wake up in the morning and it’s a howling gale and we actually just don’t want to leave the couch because it’s pure unpleasantness out there? Or, when you receive our latest party invitation to our housewarming, I get why not many of you respond immediately. You’re waiting until closer to the time, so you can see the weather forecast and triple check that you’re not missing out on a really really good beach day.
It’s different in Joburg of course. The winters are icy but you know to wear layers, because by midday the sun will be out and you’ll be able to dine alfresco in a t-shirt, or lounge on the lawn, or have a picnic (no wind, you see). You can commit to every invitation immediately because you know the weather will be consistent, so you can be consistent too. In summer you’ll set your watch for the 4pm thunderstorm and then 30 minutes later it will have cleared, and you’ll be going about your business and showing up for things and not being a flake.
It’s not all Capetonians of course, many of my friends are able to commit to things. But I get now why they may hunker down more in the wintery blues of July, or feel crotchety when it’s blowing a January gale, or exclaim with delight on that perfect April day on Clifton 4th. Our surroundings start to form part of us, just as we form part of them.
I’m not excusing flaky behaviour (and especially not tardiness), but now that I’ve lived in Cape Town a few years, I do understand it a bit more.
Best be off, it’s freezing once again and I left my jersey at home;).