The second school term started with the stark realisation of much darker early mornings. Cooler weather too. For those suffering from winter depression, it signals tougher times ahead. I still find it hard to explain to my disbelieving friends up north that winter in Mossel Bay continues until school is out for the summer holidays.
The drive to school on Tuesday offered little inspiration about the challenges of the new school term. Also, South Africans once again have to foot the bill of a sharp fuel increase and, ironically, paying more for electricity soon.
On Wednesday, Eskom hosted a media briefing on loadshedding and their winter plan. Some two weeks ago, the country was in the midst of crippling Stage 4 loadshedding. The electricity supply being so critical that Stage 2 was implemented at night. The possibility of Stage 1 loadshedding until August, has been mentioned.
Economists' opinions on these increases have not exactly put a smile on anyone's dial. The only solution echoed seems to be cutting the cost of living.
Hearing this for the umpteenth time during my early morning school run, it prompted me to "cut" the sound of my radio.
Grumbling in the solitude of my already fuel economic car as I drove past a park with a few slides and swings that have seen better days, something in the sky caught my eye. Moody from the economic gloom, I grumbled an accusation that somebody was flying a drone illegally in a residential area. The "drone" however on closer inspection as I swung my car towards where it was floating, looked more like miniature Hindenburg. By now I was very curious. The fact that I was actually on my way to work was replaced by me winding my way through the suburb, following the UFO.
A black balloon. It was a solitary black balloon. Floating in the autumn sky.
Driving on, the 1980's hit song, 99 Red Balloons by German singer Nena popped into my head. This Cold War-era protest song, originally sung in German, made Nena famous in 1983. The song tells a story of 99 balloons floating into the air, triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by military forces.
It is said that Nena's guitarist Carlo Karges penned the lyrics after attending a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin. He noticed balloons being released and as he watched, wondered what might happen if they float over the Berlin Wall to the Soviet Sector. Nena and members of her band never had peace with the English version of the song. Over a period of 30 years, Nena gave 500 concerts and never sung the English version live – not even at rare concerts in England. They felt the translation didn't do the original message justice. My lament about the state of the world this week was met by my older, much wiser friend with the words: "My dear, life … is not einfach."
The perceived glory days of the 1980s are long gone. So seems summer and its long, luscious days. I could bellow a song of protest about the increased cost of living, but would my message get lost in translation the way Nena felt hers did?
I'd send up some colour into the sky, just for fun, but balloons have since become the skunk of the latex world. Instead, a single black balloon seems to have escaped the apocalypse. Life, indeed, is not einfach.