If you Love, it matters not wh

If you Love, it matters not where you Live: an ex-South African decides what he loves most

Despite a chance encounter reminding South African expat Brian Keith of all he left behind 20 years ago, he observes that it matters little when compared to love

If you Love, it matters not wh

As an ex-South African (read: a British citizen and passport holder who never really got over leaving), I find it hard to resist the temptation of giving my view of what life is like in the land of lions and car-jackings.  Such was the case when I bumped into Pete earlier this week, an old friend and student, who having informed me he had just become engaged to a lovely South African, promptly asked my advice about going to live for a few years in his fiancé’s home country straight after the wedding.

As you no doubt have already gathered, in this instance, my opinion is unashamedly biased; for even though I have been gone from South Africa for over 20 years, there is no doubt that it holds a special place in my heart.  After all, have you ever met a South African who does not wax lyrical about the spectacular beauty of Cape Town; become teary-eyed with nostalgia when recalling their first leopard sighting in the Kruger National Park; or stare dreamily into space when remembering the exquisite scenery of the Garden Route? Which South African in ‘exile’ doesn’t prattle on endlessly about the disadvantages of living in a society devoid of daily access to biltong (dry, raw, salted meat – a South African’s idea of a delicacy), boerewors (don’t even ask) and a private swimming pool within 6.3 meters of any place they may happen to be standing?

Nonetheless, my affinity to the country where I was brought up didn’t completely prevent me from providing Pete with as balanced an opinion as I could muster. So typical to my usual way of dealing with such queries, I began applying my analytical mind to weigh up the pros and cons, giving due consideration to all the reasons for and against going, before offering a view based on the application of my cognitive faculties to all of these factors. Until I caught myself mid-thought that is, and shifted gear suddenly, making the following emphatic declaration to my erstwhile student: ‘If you really love this girl, if this is the person to whom who you are committing yourself for the rest of your life – then it doesn’t matter where you live. If she really is the one for you, then you’ll go to the end of the earth to be with her, no matter where that is.’

Pete still had lots of questions: how would he adjust to day to day life in Jo’burg? What is the security situation really like? Why do all South Africans call people ‘man’ irrespective of their gender? Why are Staffordshire Bull Terriers such majestic dogs over there and such gangsters in the UK? But though some of these questions (especially the penultimate one) required deep thought, the truth is that we both felt as if our conversation had already reached a natural conclusion.  Because we both knew that for a change, I’d hit the nail on the proverbial head. Pete had already made his big decision; now that he’d committed his life to another, the decision of where to live was almost irrelevant.

And it reminded me of a very deep principle that with my wife’s guidance, I have slowly come to grasp.  Applying my mind to arrive at decisions in an analytical way is rarely, if ever, the pathway to deep understanding. Yes, it may help me when deciding which washing machine to buy or whether to run clockwise or counter-clockwise around Regent’s Park Inner Circle. But when it comes to the big stuff in life, learning to tone down the credence I give to my analytical faculties and instead trust the inner voice that guides my profound feeling, is often, if not always, the more enlightening course.

So I said goodbye to Pete and wished him all the best. And when my wife called short while later, I managed not to ask her: ‘how’s it going, man?’ Instead, I reminded myself that not only was she a woman, but that she’s the only woman – the one who has filled my heart and soul for the last 20 years. And the one for whom my love is so deep, so real, so enduring, that despite my not infrequent protestations, it doesn’t matter where we live in the world.

Then again, were she to agree to a six-month sabbatical for me to write my next book from a penthouse flat with an unobstructed view of Table Mountain, I think I could probably live with that.

To see more of Brian’s blogs and his newly published book, go to www.briankeithbooks.co.uk