AND – SO this is Christmas

And so this is Christmas – nearly.

Actually it’s been Christmas in the malls since July – both here in SA and in the UK. It’s also been Trick or Treat – Halloween – Diwali – Guy Fawkes – Bonfire Night for ever. In the UK if I see one more flaming pumpkin or someone wearing a Zuma mask saying trick or back-hander, I will put the lantern where it will be impossible to light. BUT I digress…

To avoid the excesses of a premature festive season we took a road trip- over the pretty mountains to Johannesburg. It meant an increase in our Carbon Bakkie tyre print only to discover that Jo-burg also has Christmas trees – I am told that the Christmas tree forest in Gauteng can be seen from the moon. I recently saw a cartoon showing how we Western Cape residents perceive South Africa. I share it here:         

 It reminds me of a survey of Londoners and their perception of Britain and the world.

Again I share that here:      

My supervisor and I like a ‘road trip’ it gives us a chance to share a confined space for 8 days or so and catch up on quality time. It also gives us an opportunity to experience hospitality and culture which is not within the Greyton … err Brigadoon bubble.  

We over nighted in Beauford South (I have changed the name to protect the innocent). The website for the guest house establishment implied 3 Stars. But what passes for 3 star in Beauford..err…North, would barely get a pencilled-in coronet commendation in Greyton. The website also mentioned internet access and a swimming pool. The internet access was for the benefit of the owners only and the swimming pool was a water filled hole in the space of a parking bay inside the secure razor wired fence and compound to the rear of the lodge on Donkin Straat. The pool was unusable due to the bakkies parked either side. Compound? Yes – compound. This place reminded me of the Green Zone in Baghdad – I knew it looked strangely familiar. I’m sure I saw Kate Adie in reception. The sheets were clean though and the TV, neatly chained and bolted to the wall, presented all 3 channels. The bedside table lamps were glued to the bedside tables but were bulb-free as there were no sockets available – a nice touch I thought.  

We left Baghdad West early to avoid the Full Karoo Truckers Breakfast (includes a lamb chop) and a night in the Bloemfontein General ICU.

The N1 across the Central Karoo is our favourite road trip – marred only by road-works and the wonderfully named Slabbert Burger haulage trucks. Truck and berg spotting and general appreciation of the landscape continued until the One-Stop near Colesberg. We ordered Slabbert Burgers and extra crispy chips – they were fresh out. We made do with vegetarian chicken and salad. Dave Jackson told me once that the chicken had been designated a vegetable in some parts of the Karoo.

The Christmas tree in the foyer was being craftily dressed with lanterns fashioned from the top bits of recycled plastic coke bottles. The restrooms were also tastefully decorated with the bottom bit of the 2 litre coke bottles arranged with roses from the truck park. Slabbert has over 400 vehicles – delivering Burgers to the nation? – we must have passed all of them at least twice in our time on the road. Europe boasts 2 heavy weights of road haulage, both with equally eccentric names: Eddie Stobart and Norbert Dentressangle. Names to conjure with? (Eddie has 2,800 trucks; Norbert 6,500). I have no idea what they deliver as I haven’t a clue what a Dentressangle or a Stobart could be.

Johannesburg: Despite our collective paranoia – I have to say Joey is bouncing and has a good feel. We stayed with friends in Norwood where the security gates to the streets have never been closed and are now a trellis for bindweed and wild flowers. I like Jo-burg, but could never live there again. The openness, freedom and beauty of Greyton and the Overberg spoil all of us.

We swung back via the lower Drakensberg, Dullstroom and then across the coal and power station belt back to Bloemfontein and overnighted this time in Colesberg – of which I have nothing to say other than- all you need to get a commendation star is a cokey (koki?) pen and a handy wall.

Colesberg did restore my faith in human nature. By mistake I left R100 in the Pick and Pay in-store ATM. An hour later, after my supervisor had made me account for my spending and go through my pockets a number of times, I returned to the shop to be greeted by a lady, wearing a Santa hat, and waving the R100 at me in a little plastic cash bag – with a note attached describing the person (me) and time and date: ‘Elderly white guy with novelty Christmas bok beard; 17 Nov; 8.12 am- appeared to be distracted by succulent Karoo lamb pies’. Ho, bloody, Ho.


We won’t be sending cards this year –part of austerity measures and the Sentinel’s opportune moment. Wee wish you all a merry festive season: stay well – walk like an Egyptian (why?) – talk quietly – drive lightly – believe only the best

About brian

engineer; musician; artist; plumber; vine grower; wine maker
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