There’s a little rain falling in Cape Town tonight – and, let’s hope, on some vineyards, into farm dams and the major city dam catchments. The city’s (and much of the winelands’) water prospects for the coming summer are terrifying. As too often recently, tonight’s rain is accompanied by a lot more huffing and puffing and bluster than is warranted by the volume of water being granted to us by the moody skies. It should be pouring down, rather than fitfully trickling, given all this pother!
Let me explain my title. The translation of wine into water is not, tonight, for me, a literal one – it’s happening via my glassfuls and their effects on my brain. What I’m doing (and perhaps wouldn’t be doing without the encouragement of those glassfuls) is saving what water I can from the drains – gathering what I can via gutters and downpipe into all the receptacles I can find. Buckets, of course; a big square plastic bin whose utility I have always wondered about; even the kitchen dustbin has been pressed into service (an unsupported plastic bag there, like a papsak, will do just fine for now).
It all has to be decanted from a flat oven dish (about 3 litres capacity, I suppose), which is all I have that can fit under the gurgling, generous mouth of the downpipe. Which means I must pop outside every so often to do the decanting, getting a bit wet in the process.
So I shall have – what? Something under a hundred litres of rainwater stored (how I wish I had a proper water tank, but it would be problematical getting one onto my property, though I suppose I could find space for it). Once the heat and dryness returns, it’ll be enough to keep my small garden going – or at least the pots, or some of them – for a few weeks.
Almost certainly, though, by January or February or March, as the grape harvest is taken in, much of my garden will be dying or dead; and Cape Town will be very lucky if its taps and sewage system are operating. I’m not exactly a sanguine person, and I accept the likelihood of that prospect. No people in Cape Town will die of thirst, but many plants and, I fear, some animals will. Staving off the death of my garden for as long as possible, without the use of potable water, seems the only respectably human thing to do. I hope this isn’t mere middle-class piety; it seems to me, rather, to emerge from a care for what I’ve taken responsibility for, in the context of a renewed awareness of the contingency of everything in our world, and of our reliance on a nature that we continue to abuse abominably.
A few more ventures into the rain and all my buckets will be full, and my clothes will be wet (though the rain has stopped, I see – temporarily, I hope – though the bluster persists). I’ll feel I deserve a glass of brandy as reward rather than encouragement! Though I can’t say there’s not an element of exhilaration in this bit of cooperation with the blustery skies.