Hallo, no, I’m not dead, put the veils away, extinguish the candles and cancel the order for 400 cases of champagne. I’m appalled with myself for letting this radio silence drag on for the fat end of a week (lawks, how do you survive?) especially without any warning.. but I do have an excuse, and for once it doesn’t revolve around beer. Honest!
OK, I admit, the story does begin with beer. Last time I filled this out I was having lunch last Thursday, which, as we all know is my Friday because Sunday is my Monday. Are we keeping up at the back? After work I dodged back to the Chillage and, after sitting down with a six pack, Desmond and Noel, failed completely to do anything exciting whatsoever. I think I started to read a book and then fell asleep. Ah, well.
In the morning, Noel woke me and said that he was going round to a local 3D modelling design house (how is there demand for this in Swaziland? HOW?) who deal with Macs and might be able to fix the camera problem with my laptop. I gratefully accepted the offer and jumped into the shower. The 3D offices are amazing; just like a well-converted country house in the Thames Valley, except it’s actually sunny outside. G4 Macs were everywhere. I caused quite a stir with my pocket dinosaur, which of course worked first time. I swear, every time I ask somebody for help, that in itself solves the problem and I always end up looking like a total plonker. Ah, well, at least the photographs were pouring out thick and.. er.. not very fast, onto my hard drive. Of these 22, the best are now uploaded and in the photo album section arrival. About time! I’ve been having a million emails a day moaning about the lack of pictures. Well, maybe not, but some anyway.
I touched up the pictures and fooled around on the laptop until Khanya turned up to invite me out for a drink that evening. Having decided to begin my half-marathon training, I said I woul meet him in town after an hour or so. Before I left I had time to welcome (in Desmond’s absence, don’t know what that boy’s been up to since Ava disappeared to the farm for the weekend) an English couple to the house, put on my new trainers and take off for a brisk walk / jog up past the golf course. Now, I didn’t realise it at the time but I had indulged in a bit of a lie-in and this, combined with the early end of the Friday school day, meant that I spent the first 25 minutes walking past a seemingly endless procession of schoolchildren, all of whom, I’m sure, were laughing at my flourescent white foot apparel and pointing at the stupid foreigner who doesn’t know the correct response to “sawubona” or “kunjani?” and goes walking in running shoes.
However, bearing Noel’s wise words in mind, I persevered with my sedate progress, pausing only to hold my breath when diesel trucks fogged the road in front of me with oily clouds of cotton wool exhaust. Eventually I passed the school and was upstream of the children. Checking my watch (Ok, so I’m lying, my phone. Shut up.) I calculated that if I started back from this point in half an hour I wouldn’t have to jog back past the kids. I continued uphill, until I reached a sign for the “Golf Course Township” – surreal. Turning off the main road and downhill, I trundled down into a delightful suburban valley and suddenly noticed I had broken into a light trot. Flush with the ease of my speedy progress, I charged across the flat and into an uphill stretch.. and then remembered that hills make a vast difference. At the top of the (frankly, pathetic) rise, I passed some builders working on a wall. Feeling a wimp if I slowed down I kept up the pace and reached the next junction before pausing, this time somewhat less briefly, to wait for my blood to find its way back to my head.
After a time I noticed three schoolgirls, watching me from a bus stop. I panted and gesticulated wildly at them, inarticulate in any language, let alone theirs. They looked blankly, then started laughing. I stumbled towards them; they stopped laughing. I waved my arms in front of me.
“Mbabane?” I croaked, hoping for a hint of a roundabout return route.
I waved back the way I had come.
One of the girls, cautiously, nodded her head and pointed, saying, “Mbaban.”
Hmm. That’s my pronunciation told! I thanked her, although I’m sure she had no idea what I was saying, and set off back past the builders. I walked back up the last slope to the main road, and when I got there, saw no need to jog back to town. Checking the time, I had plenty of time in hand to avoid the kids, but now my exhaustion had overtaken my embarrassment and I staggered back down the hill in my own sweet time. When I reached the outskirts of town, I broke into a jog again. By the time I reached the Spur steak house, I was dead on my feet, which were very, very sore. I stumbled into the bar and collapsed into Khanya’s arms.
After this particularly wet display, his drinking buddies’ scorn was somewhat mollified by my sinking a pint of lemonade in (apparently) record time. Deary me, do these Swazi guys have a lot to learn. I had a little sit-down and then we wandered over to MTN to give them hell for my phone not working; they assured me it would be back online in 24 hours. Then Khanya took me over to the market to buy a t-shirt for running in; even an Englishman looks a little odd dashing about in a collared shirt. Exhausted, I then went home and had a shower, feeling drained but reasonably virtuous.
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