Wow, where do I begin? Those of you who prefer to dive into the photos before reading what they're about will know half of my big news already but that's never a good reason not to tell a story completely.
Two weeks ago it occurred to me that I was going to be quite rich at the end of the month. I mentioned this to Noel, intimating that I might spend my surplus cash on a motor car. Anne's Golf is brilliant, don't get me wrong, but one always feels a bit funny about long-term loans.
My only requirement for my first ever car (well, one owned by me at any rate) was that it had a cavernous amount of legroom. Noel's eyes lit up. The following day I was in Bhunya, looking at a beaten-up old Mercedes 280SE, sporting a rather fetching dent across its nose and more rust than you can shake a can of undercoat at. I wondered exactly what my E6000 was going on, until the bonnet was opened and the beautifully solid engine was displayed to me. It started first turn which is something not even the Golf does reliably from cold, and didn't seem to leak anything. I willingly agreed to buy, pending a test drive (it had a flat).
What swung it, I think, was the revelation that the seller, Queenie, is a senator, and hinted that she might be able to hurry along my visa.
I made the test drive trip a few days later, after repairing the tyre on my own account (a crippling E15) and was knocked absolutely flat by the smooth, surging ride. Fuel economy? Forget it. Arriving rested and in style? Heh, heh, heh.
Two weeks later and I was sweating it out in a Kombi down to Bhunya - an hour's trip and a snip at only E8. I embarrassed myself somewhat by buying a big, fat pie from King Pie mere seconds before getting on board - I would've eaten it before boarding but it was full and I was the last one in - and had to endure hungry children looking at me all the way to the top of the Malagwane. After a while, and just as the smell of the pie started to get really thick, the lady next to me started munching on a loaf of bread she had bought, and a small child produced a well-gnawed chicken bone from its sleeve and started drooling down it, onto the seat in front of me. Oh joy. Feeling a complete tit, I was somewhat relieved to arrive at the turnoff and leaped forth.
Unfortunately, Queenie's phone was out of order, so I had to peg it up the hill on foot, after a refreshing can of something sticky from the bottle store handily built around the public telephone. How children make calls I do not know.
Queenie made every effort to find the car's papers, even driving me over to Mhlambanyati to try and find the previous owner, but to no avail. The police advised us that all I require is clearance from SA police to verify it isn't stolen, and I can register it in SD.
The drive back to Mbabane was pleasantly exciting; I had that feeling in my stomach that reminded me of rearranging my bedroom aged 10 - you know what's going on, and you arranged it, but it still feels like a surprise birthday party. I didn't even care that the instrument panel lights and indicators didn't work (internal lights filled in for the former, arms for the latter) although the wipers, which I had checked earlier, were fine.. luckily enough! Summer in SD is as unpredictable as in England, with the clever difference that it is actually the wet season here.
When I arrived in town and got out of the car, steam was pouring out of the front, in a classic Hollywood breakdown style. Oh dear.
Luckily, Queenie, pitying my water-less state at home, had furnished me with two 25-litre containers, each primed with plenty of natural mountain spring engine coolant. The first pour seemed to go on forever, and you could actually hear see water running down the side of the engine. However, in Swaziland, the AA are a size of batteries, and so I simply drove very gingerly home, topping up with about a half-gallon every 10 kms.
In the morning, I woke up full of the joys of car ownership, and drove the car into town cackling like a maniac who's found matron's medicine cabinet. I replaced.. erm.. I paid experts to replace, the defective coolant hose, a leaking brake fluid hose we also spotted, and all the electrics. Oh, and another slow puncture.
What a dream. So far, she has cost me E6374 - XE.com reckons 389 pounds sterling. Bargain? You bet your sweet.
Looks it, too.
The other big news is that I've been poached by Real Image, a company Noel registered solely to get a work permit many years ago, which has grown into the country's leading ISP. Apparently they want to send me to Pretoria for training and everything. Another life experience - I'm taking a pay cut to do a more interesting job.
Mind you, it's only E30 less a month, and at least that's net, rather than tax-dodging..
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