The R101 cuts through the centre of the Springbok Vlakte. Often you cannot avoid it to reach some destination in our area. Apart from its high accident rate it is also noted for its proliferation of traffic cops, especially at this time of the year.

The official reason for so many cops on the road over Christmas and New Year is to curb drunkenness. “That’s not the real reason,” Philemon explained to me. “The real reason is they are looking for Christmas presents. They also want to have a happy Christmas.”

So when he told me that we could not use my car because he had removed a certain gasket that needed replacing and we would have to use his car, I was a little concerned. His car ran perfectly, but was short of a few items that the cops thought necessary for a vehicle to be declared roadworthy. It also did not have a licence disc because of some long past misunderstanding with the authorities.  “But don’t worry, I’ve got everything covered,” he said.

We had not gone far when we hit the road block. The members of group of traffic cops were waving cars down and casting hurried eyes over those vehicles that were the most likely offenders. “Do you know why they hold the road block here?” Philemon asked me.

“No idea,” I said.

“It’s because the Ark is just around the corner. And you can get very good breakfast there, also every kind of Christmas present.”

Now, the Ark is a local institution. It is a kind of flea market where you can buy almost anything, including a variety of breakfasts, both large and modest in size, all pretty good. You can also get Christmas presents that range from pot plants to tazers with which to immobilise intruders, from slightly used probably stolen tyres to paint ball guns that leave a mark on anyone shot with one, and from tinny sounding CD players in plastic cases to pit bulls on the lookout for victims. According to Philemon the road block was positioned to make use of the Ark’s proximity.

They pulled us over. “No disc,” the cop said.

“I left it at home,” Philemon told him. It was terrible excuse by any standards.

“You take it off at night?” the cop asked.

“If my car gets stolen I lose the disc too,” Philemon said.

“If your car is stolen you don’t need the disc.”

“That’s a good point,” Philemon admitted. “How much does breakfast cost these days?”

The cop told him and Philemon handed over the money. But the defender of law and order was not through with us. “What about Christmas?” he enquired.

“That’s what I want to know,” Philemon said. “Who can afford Christmas this year?”

“Get out of here and next time have your disc on the car.”

“It’s my own fault,” Philemon said as we drove away. “You can’t come down this road so early. You’ve got to give them a chance to get their breakfast money. By eleven o’clock they are all having breakfast in the Ark and there’s no road block.”

We got the gasket and came back down the R101 just after eleven. The road block was gone. “Breakfast time,” Philemon said.

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Christmas on the R101