“Get the kids. ASAP and on the double!” I told The Shrink, my crossword comrade.
“What’s the matter? What’s going on?” she asked.
“Smurfs. I’ve seen Smurfs running around Rondebosch Common. Real live Smurfs! I’m going to invite Smurfette for supper. I wonder what she eats?”
“Ass,” said The Shrink.
“I don’t think so,” I harrumphed.
“No, you’re an ass,” said The Shrink. “Those are activists who’d planned to hold a summit on the Common. The police sprayed them with blue dye.”
It started to make sense – the Smurfs on the Common had looked pissed off and were way too big to live in an average-sized toadstool. But why did the cops paint them blue? Was it all part of an elaborate arts and crafts project – a collaborative installation between the Minister of Police and Spencer Tunick, the American artist famous for getting crowds of folk to get their kit off? This is what living in the Design Capital of the World is all about. Glad I finally figured that one out.
Of course, Smurfs generally don’t go nude (unless it’s a blue movie) and the comrades on the Common weren’t naked either. Nevertheless it all looked jolly exciting.
“I need to protest against something,” I told The Shrink. “Unfortunately, I can’t join the Occupy Rondebosch Common because I have dodgy knees and can’t run from the cops. What cause can I take up?”
“Chappies?” she suggested.
Brilliant. I didn’t always object to Chappies, but Graeme Smith turned me into a chewing gum hater.
“Chewers are as bad as stompie-littering smokers,” I told The Shrink. “They throw their gobby germballs on the floor for unsuspecting decent folk to stand in. I’m joining the anti-Chappie army. We’ll unite for a Gum-Free South Africa.”
“No, Chappies as in Chapman’s Peak,” explained The Shrink. “Residents are furious over plans to build a multimillion-rand toll plaza there. Why don’t you join their next march?” “Oh, it’s too hot to march. This heat-wave is not doing much for my activism.”
I had an idea. I’ll make global warming my cause.
“I can show my disgust at climate change by sitting with a cold beer by the aircon. That should teach global warming,” I told The Shrink.
“Do something useful,” she urged. “Get involved in something to show your kids you care about this world – and their future.” It was an impressive speech. I felt like I’d fallen into a Coca-Cola ad, I told her. She threw a dictionary at me. And then it hit me. I’ll campaign for the English language. I will fight against people who don’t know their “loose” from their “lose”, their “there” from their “their”, their “its” from their “it’s” and their “your” from their “you’re”. I will fight apostrophe abusers and concord criminals.
I decided to take my word activism to Facebook, but after reading a few hundred status updates my idealism turned into despair. The battle, you see, has been loosed.
I turned to the crosswords for inspiration. This Daily Telegraph clue sealed the deal: Two medium and extra large Cola ordered for US activist (7,1)*.
Of course, the X factor! I’ll be the X-word crusader. I’ll organise marches against newspapers that print incorrect grids, repeat puzzles or change setters without so much as a “how’s your father?” I’ll be a cross activist. And when the cops come for me with their Smurfalizer cannon, I’ll throw on a pair of thermal underwear and a white beanie and find a toadstool to hide under.
* MALCOLM X: an anagram (“ordered” is the anagram indicator) of MM (“two medium”) + XL (“extra large”) + COLA.