I felt honoured to make up the quartet of National Rusters going to Cape Town – with Daphne Colthard, Tom Hollingworth and Douglas Heath – to cover the second test and give our impressions sporting and otherwise of the rainbow nation.
This is my fifth visit to South Africa, my first being in 1995 when the country was making its transformation from the apartheid era and Dutch white Afrikaans Calvinism to a more inclusive Black African state. The debt the country owes to Nelson Mandela in achieving this can never be underestimated. South Africa is a proud sporting nation and their admission to global participation was also instrumental. The two fused when in the Rugby World Cup South Africa hosted Mandela – in the number 6 shirt of the game beloved by Afrikaans – hugged captain Francois Pienaar. If the country has a high crime rate and some of the bizarre utterings of President Zuma, such as a shower after sex will stops AIDS, attract criticism, one must always remember that many forecast a blood bath.
It’s a long flight so Daffers and I went business class of our carrier BA. You sit in an enlarged chair in your own space facing a passenger but divided by a glass barrier. A German passenger adjacent stated assertively that he wanted no service as he intended to sleep the whole journey. No one explained to me the functions of the many switches. As a compulsivee twiddler of knobs, I pushed one beside me. Imagine my surprise that this switch activated the lowering of the barrier revealing the German only in his underwear. He became rather cross so I ribbed him and, in offering my apologies, called him Herr Ober. I have always treated the Germans as a race of Non Commissoned Officers and my use of this title only antagonised him and amused me in equal measure. Otherwise Daffers and I felt that BA business class value offered poor value and creature comforts but I will leave her to say why in some future posting.
It took some 45 minutes to clear passport control at Joburg. In the USA this procedure can be a nightmare but the immigration chappie was friendly and I soon proceeded to baggage reclaim. For some absurd reason BA could not book the baggage through to Cape Town so it was something of a dash to make the internal terminal for the connecting BA flight to Cape Town. It also allowed me no time with a delightful couple I have known for some years who and come to the airport to meet me.
We proceeded on to Cape Town. The organisation of the tour operator was less than efficient. Polly, always concerned by my blood pressure, told me not to get annoyed but we could have have done with some of her brisk courteous efficiency. Previous journeys from the airport have been marred by the sprawling sight of the township Cape Flats. Cape Town is rightly renowned for its beauty but the first sight and impression of the tourist arriving at Cape Town international airport is pretty scabrous. I was pleased therefore to see clear signs of urban regeneration with new housing replacing the old shelters, rust heaps and lean to’s.
It was my first visit to the Table Bay Hotel, which has overtaken my normal hostelry of choice the Mount Nelson. The rooms are enormous and the standards high but I will leave these for Daffers to describe. Suffice to say she was mighty impressed.
Mine host of the tour is the Capetonian and distinguished ex-test batsman Allan Lamb, or Lamby as he is universally known. He and his wife Lindsay had organised a bay cruise. I wil leave Doug to tell you more about him but he represented his adopted country 201 times in all forms of cricket and any batsman that can hit six centuries against the West Indies in their pomp 0f Michael Holding and Joel Garner through to Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose deserves our respect. I was still tired by the 24 hour journey but was alert enough to be impressed as the sunset set over arguably the most beautiful harbour city of all, aspected by Table Mountian and others in the range know as the 12 Apostles. It’s a country rich in nature and we all were struck bythe colonies of penguins gathered on small rock islands. It was a delightful start to the tour and I found myself in the agreeable company of a West Country businessman in the insurance industry.
On my first visit to Cape Town, knowing no one, I went for lunch at Nandos. There the waitress told me she was a tour operator and organised one for me. We remained good friends and she joined me for a drink with a friend who worked for Old Mutual, my second exposure to the insurance world. We had a fine bottle of red, a Warwick, and beef sandwiches and salad which came to 650 rand (£30). Remember this would be one the most expensive places in South Africa. My express valet pressing of my blazer cost 50 rand, (£2-50) and Castle lager from the mini bar 30 rand (£1-80). No one wonder British tourists are flocking here in their thousands. It’s not just the cricket, weather and the natural beauty.