If you’re from Benoni – as I am – and you have the temerity to wander outside the parish, folk from beyond the borders will have one of three responses when they hear you’re a Benonian.
They’ll say: where?; Or: is that where you had your first Peroni? (laughing, as if they’re the first person to ever say it.); Or: the Bunny Park!
And then they’ll remember a childhood of travelling to Benoni to chase the famed bunnies for hours on end, trying to tempt carotene-weary rabbits with yet another wretched carrot, finally catching one, and then hauling it around until it wriggled away or scratched, or they had to go home.
Perhaps, when they left, they were that child who handed their exhausted rabbit to me, for I was not fleet-of-foot enough to catch a bunny of my own, so would hang around nonchalantly until someone passed on their prize. It was a fine day out. Unless you were a rabbit.
But for a while now, , they litter the surrounding gardens and local welfare groups have repeatedly asserted that they’re malnourished, diseased, and breeding beyond control.
It probably doesn’t help that, for years, it’s been where folk dump their unwanted rabbit pets. So the park duly closed “for refurbishment”, new homes were sought for rabbits and, finally, 2000 were shipped off to Joburg Zoo – as feed.
Eventually, the park will reopen, we’re told, with some sterilised rabbits in an enclosure. It’s a scandal, folk say, another lovely thing from the past swept away by the politically correct brigade.
And this got me thinking about my childhood and the hours spent clutching those trembling rabbits. And the cool drink loaded with tartrazine that made our chests whistle. And concrete playgrounds. And candy cigarettes with orange tips. And eenie-meenie-miney-mo, the one when you don’t say “tiger”. And the hidings, adults physically assaulting children as a parental right.
Perhaps everything from the rose-tinted past was not good. Just ask the black kids who weren’t allowed into the Bunny Park. Just ask the bunnies.