blimey that was a long tripWell, three cheers for Jumbo jets. Not for any particular space, engineering or financial reasons, but because, despite their ample size, they move like the proverbial hot stuff.. unlike the bloody Airbus 340 which crawled, nay, dawdled, down to SA on Thursday night. It would have been a frantically tedious ELEVEN hours but luckily (a) Virgin upgraded me to Premium because I'm over 6'2 and (b) I sat next to a South African guy who'd been working in Nottingham, called Greg, who introduced me to the fact that Premium travellers are allowed to use the First Class bar.
7th July 12:21 the times office
After we'd sampled a cocktail for each of the spirits on offer, both of us passed out in front of Bend it like Beckham which I'm sure is an excellent movie, if only one can watch it straight enough to appreciate something other than the supporting actress's extraordinarily beautiful jawline.. but there you go. I awoke four hours later with the mother of all hangovers.. and still 90 minutes to go. I refused breakfast (always a wise move) and spent the time with my head in my hands, wishing myself closer to my maker. Sadly, (or not) this was not to be and after a tortuous taxi from.. hell, I don't know, I think they landed at Buloweyo by mistake, I stumbled into passport control (always a joy) and into the sunshine.
Now, you guys in the UK are going to hate me, but it really is warmer this side of town. Ok, so it's freezing at night, but.. oh, hang on.. it's icy in the UK too! Ha ha hah ahahahaha.. sorry. I discovered, much to my displeasure, that Magic Bus no longer run to Rosebank and I had to walk a full 18" to the neighbouring kiosk, Phala Tours, who took me direct to my grandmother's for R140.
It's always fantastic to see Agnes, who despite her eighty-odd years, is sprightly and full of life. We had a good gas about her new Internet site and I drove the Beetle (always a giggle) into Rosebank to get my ticket suspended. I'm telling you, people, that place is completely different. Not only is there an entirely new mall, you can't drive within about a mile of the centre; it's all one big pedestrian precinct. In fact, part of it now resembles Bracknell. Well, except for the sunshine and the lack of 14-year-olds in miniskirts buying leather boots for their babies, that is. Yeah, well, anyway, I had a good tour after being sent to opposite ends of town by different people, all of whom were convinced that they knew where STA Travel was.. but evidently didn't.
After sorting this out I'd run out of time so I dashed into Foodies for some Playboy deodorant (damn, it's becoming a tradition) and left with Anne for a very pleasant luncheon at one of the new malls in Sandton; a very groovy East African place that specialises in jazz, curry and menus in welded copper cases that double as handy bullet-shields when you're on the way home.
I dropped in on Klaus to get the passenger seatbelt fixed (Anne's only really needed the one on her own, you see) and then swung by Wolfgang's to give him his 90th birthday present, a slab of *ahem* Waitrose cheese. Then I found myself getting lost trying to get to Pretoria (apologies to anybody who chokes on their lunch reading that, yes, I know it's like getting lost between Brighton and the sea) and finally getting to see my broe Pimane again. We burnt rubber to the Waterfront, where Ish was waiting and cackling at the prospect of a challenge steak.. hmm. Unfortunately I had to pass on this occasion, as driving after a kilo of steak is quite difficult, not to say hazardous, but a guy on the neighbouring table was equal to the task and sank a Titanic (2.1 kilos) before our disbelieving eyes. And the nasty thing was.. he wasn't even that fat.
The journey up to Sz was easy enough, after a light lunch with Paul and his family, and although we crossed the border just after dark, the screwed up road (how long have they been building that now?) meant that we were doing 40 km/h all the way into town. Tearful greetings all round, especially for Ava, who is now not only mobile, but talking and sporting some fantastic trainee dreads. Whose daughter again? We popped out for a *few* beers and then got stuck into talking some serious crap around the dinner table.. fantastic.
It's good to be back.