The Beetle flew like a rocket

Back in the 90s

My brothers reckoned they were G.I Joes or MacGyver, or some such army/gadget-guy; their favourite past time was designing and implementing booby traps that would span the breadth of the road just outside our house—gut tied from tree to tree was a favourite tactic. They also enjoyed pummelling pomegranates at pedestrians from the flat rooftop of Patty’s garage. Patty was Kate’s mom. Her house was “Patty’s house” and her garage was “Patty’s garage”. I might have thrown a few pomegranates myself—the red splat of the fruit was deliciously garish, like a head cracking open; and the pink, pulpy seeds were tangy and tasty. 

Ali fell off Patty’s wall and broke his arm. He was rushed to the Joburg Gen after Chrisie (also balancing along the front garden wall that we were all forbidden to climb) barged through the front door screaming about Alastair lying in a heap in the road and not moving. It was the pavement, actually, but any parent will know the ensuing fear perpetuated by such a description. His arm was put in a cast, which fell off in the garden one day. That was that. 

I’ve only been to The Gen once—not for me; it was my brother who needed medical attention. The other brother. Christopher. More than the invasive smell of disinfectant and playing in a children’s area whilst waiting, I remember the journey there.

It was the middle of the night (or earlier or later—in a kid’s mind any time after you’re supposed to be asleep is the middle of the night); I was woken up, my mom in a flat panic (and my mom’s panic is considerably worse than the average panic). Also, flat panic meant: call the neighbour. The number of times Patty came to the rescue; I’d need more fingers! So, mom threw me and my two bothers into “Patty’s Beetle” (like, end of the world; the apocalypse is happening, coronavirus is here and there’s no toilet paper in the shops, or flour…and definitely no eggs) alongside Kate. Patty was driving. Let me re-cap. In the yellow Beetle sat: Patty (driver’s seat), mom (passenger seat) holding a sick Christopher who was convulsing and in and out of consciousness, and then me, Ali, Kate in the back. Patty drove that stuffed car like she was Michael Schumacher. I don’t know what roads we took but that small car did things that it was not made to do; launching over hills like it was destined for supernatural take off. And when that overloaded Beetle propelled through a red light and little Kate pointed out the infraction, she was met with a hasty and uncharacteristic, “Shut up, Kate”. It was then that we knew things were serious. 

Probably the only thing that kept Patty’s Beetle from diving straight into space was the sheer will power of the driver. Got.To.Get.To.Hospital. And we got there. Patty was the hero (and we never forgot that she said “shut up”. My brother was okay after a lumber puncture in his spine.

I am sure our drive home was a bunch slower. 


Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.


  1. The only thing I remember from that drive was my mother swearing at me. Or at that age my concept of wearing.
    When I pointed out she drove through a red light and she hissed ‘shut up Kate’.
    To this day we still chuckle about her language.

    1. Ahahahaha – I am so glad you remember this! I am totally adding that to this tale 🙂 Literally – I cannot believe your mom drove that car the way she did; what a legend! <3

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