There has to be a story here.
The setting is slightly quirky, somewhat smoky, and certainly noisy. We’re a group of girls sitting at a table on the upstairs balcony. The TV and the bar are on my one side, and a view of New Street is on the other. Why it’s called ‘New Street’ is beyond me – the street is riddled with potholes as deep as portals and the pavement fell for gravity a long time ago.
The characters include two sisters in matching Springbok t-shirts (“Now they must win!”), several groups of jocks huddled around their beers and and a bartender who has forgotten how to smile. I’ve already knocked over a beer bottle, but at least it was mostly empty. On the screen, retired sportsmen talk about sportsmen who haven’t retired yet. The scene fills as more characters crawl up the stairs and the clock ticks closer to kick-off time.
A little black notebook, a collection of colourful pens and an old green paintbrush are arranged between a beer bottle and a plate of pizza.
A promising spectacle enters the scene. A promotion girl. Regularly spotted in bars and rarely covering much else. The perfect character to kick-off a comic.
But I don’t like how the ink reacts with the paper – so I redraw the Klipdrift character in a different notebook. A hardcover black book. A4 and better paper.
“Their national animal is a unicorn. A fucking unicorn!”
“Thank goodness they’re just playing rugby then. Can you imagine a springbok and a unicorn playing Leapfrog?” That image would be mildly pornographic. I’m not drawing that. Besides, the horned beasts are already crawling all over each other as the fight over a ball.
The whistle blows and a branded oval flies through the air. There’s muscle, movement and madness; catching, dodging, colliding, scrambling, scuffling, sprinting and scattering. There are statistics and comparisons – apparently we’re the bigger bullies. More muscle, madness, chaos and kicking.
We’re cheering crowd watching a triumphant team as several hands are wrapped around a shared victory.
There’s the illusion of silence as a boot slams into the ball. Yay! for the team in the white shirts and So sorry for the other fellas.
Amongst the tossing, kicking and tackling, the ball is kicked through our posts again.
The TV frame is filled with the glare of a man who probably uses a comb made of bone to brush his beard.
“He looks like ‘n fokken Viking!”
Oh, a spectacular sighting! Standing beneath the TV is a real rugby oke. By no means a limited edition, and probably a retired player of sorts. He’s leaning against the wall, wearing a Springbok shirt and a khaki cap, upon which dark cycling sunglasses sit. A draught in one hand and a cigarette in the other; a beer-boep and an almost-kaal-kop. His cheeks are ‘n mooi rooi and his cigarette is smoked to a stompie. He disappears into the crowd.
The statistics change as time ticks on and the ball flies between the giant H again. A few more points are added on the screen, and the bar crowd raises their glasses to the television, their altar of entertainment.
Although we can’t hear the commentators, the commentary in the bar is eloquent and informed.
“He’s cute… as a rugby player.”
There’s a scuffle and scandal as someone is sent to the sin bin with a Yell-Ow! card.
There’s an attempted try, a magnificent moment and some more points on the board. I start to feel sorry for the blue team, but apparently we need to score of helluva lot more than them to actually win.
A new friend flips through a black notebook; pens and a paintbrush are temporarily retired to the table, and a good-looking beer joins the crew. The retired sportsmen are back on the screen and talking about sportsmen who aren’t retired yet. Their ties look like candy canes stolen from Irish leprechauns; their voices can’t be heard over the conversations that fill the bar.
The second half has hardly begun before the blue team tries to catch up, but it’s aggressive again and soon we score with some kicking.
Oh dear, I’m really feeling sorry for the blue team. It is a heavy honour to wear your country’s flag, especially in another country and against another flag. Another aggressive player is sent to the sin bin.
“This is definitely Satan’s game ‘cause there ain’t know mercy here!”
It seems kind of like when I was little, and whenever I was naughty, my mum would discipline me by saying, “Now go to your room and have a meeting with yourself!”.
Except with this sport it’s more like, “Now go to that corner of the stadium and sort your shit out.”
And then, they return to the field that’s riddled with sweat, blood, spit and snot.
“They get tackled in snot rockets! I’ve seen them doing massive snot rockets all the time when they walk around on the field – and then they roll around in the same place later on. It’s so disgusting.”
The game is drawing to a close. Faces are knotted with exhaustion, aggression, and anxiety; the scores crawls and another kick does the trick. The players wear fine veils of sweat, tempered with intensity and coloured with bruises. The clock still ticks and the teams seem savage. The glasses at each table are being emptied; beer is being swallowed; coats and bags are being gathered.
In a final moment of magic, limbs fly and a smiling man makes it over a line clutching an oval ball. It’s brilliant and everything is awesome!
The players shake hands with players they had pummelled and the coaches seem too serious as they straighten their blazers. I wonder if the referee is more excited to get the Go-Pro’s upgraded girlfriend off his chest, or see the footage that he filmed? It must feel so strange to have a camera strapped to your chest while you chase after two teams of muscle machines for some 90 minutes – but that unblinking eye certainly captures the most interesting scenes.
The retired sportsmen talk about the now tired sportsmen, and we have a reason to throw back Springbok shots. If the other team had won, would we have ordered unicorn shots? Would such shots have looked like rainbows, tasted like glitter and smelt like clouds? On second thoughts, maybe such shots aren’t for this crowd… But thinking about it has given me a craving for candy floss.
The game is finished, my page is filled and my beer glass is almost dry -but I still don’t know if I’ve found a story.
Maybe that’s why we went to the next bar. A smokier scene, a grubbier affair and an amalgamation of artists.
That’s another story entirely.