Monday, 28 January 2013

Elvis Blue, pickled bodies and a roving gunman

I've stayed in some fairly ropey places in my time (The Travelodge in Covent Garden springs to mind) and some fairly swanky places but only in South Africa would you get such a dichotomy  -  a lovely civilised guest house with wrap around balcony directly on the beach with a warning that a scary hooded gunman might like to leapfrog over said balcony and avail himself of you or your ipod. It doesn't make for a great night's sleep. I first spotted this sign as I went for a walk along the beach at sunset and had to shimmy up the pole to check this man was indeed sporting a balaclava and brandishing a handgun as I had been rather lulled into a false sense of security by a sign on the other side of my balcony asking me to call the local penguin police should I find a stray one on the beach.  At 4.30 am as the sun was coming up I fleetingly considered taking a look at the sunrise over the ocean - surely all good gunmen were in bed at that time or at least back home assessing the night's pickings. Then I decided against it, hid all my valuables (principally my new pair of orange Havaianas) from view and slunk back to bed for another couple of hours.

 Jeffrey's Bay - that's where I've been for the first time  - visiting my friend Louis who you may remember had a bad accident and then a massive stroke.  I tell you , there's nothing like seeing a close friend who was once a super-fit surfer but is now confined to a wheelchair to make you realise you just don't know what's around the corner.

Sorry, I can't come out tonight ,
I've got a splitting headache
Elvis Blue and Frazzled Boo
So, greedy for firsts, I notched up another couple - I met and experienced the warm embrace of the winner of South African Idol, Elvis Blue, and gawped at my first dissected human head (not his - the two events were  unconnected) at the Body Worlds exhibition in Cape Town. What a shocker - I'd always wanted to go to this and it lived up to expectations - gruesomely mesmerising, looking at this guy was like watching the initial auditions for X-factor - you can't quite believe what you're seeing and can't imagine many things worse but someone has super-glued your eyelids open and told you that if you don't look then they'll pour your last bottle of Tanqueray down the sink. Honestly, it was astonishing. You could get so close to this guy that you could see the individual hair follicles on his chin and a tiny freckle on his head. There were also preserved male and female bladders - unsurprisingly the male version was much smaller than the female - I always thought men felt duty bound to slope off to the gents every 5 minutes in the pub but it seems it's genuinely forced upon them because their bladders can only hold a quarter of a pint of lager at a time. Ours, however, has to bear the weight of twins on it for 9 months. We are superior to men in so many ways.

And so that was my fleeting weekend in my favourite country (I know I've said Denmark is my favourite but it's always been South Africa - I was just saying that to please the Danes). So how nice it was to arrive back at Heathrow to find (eventually) my car under 5 inches of snow. Uncharacteristically I had made a note of the zone and row number which was just as well given it had even snowed on both number plates. I wasn't, however, organised enough to change out of said orange Havainanas before attempting to find said car. We live and learn as they say.

From this..... this

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