Monthly Archives: June 2010

Seaview Lions

Friday 25th June 2010.Published Wednesday 30th June 2010 (Kirsty’s blog)

Firstly a huge thank you to Little Henry/Sambo/Mrs Key for running around to our house, collecting post and watering Mr P’s plants, he’s been worried about them in the heat, though I did get a frantic phone call from Little Henry who couldn’t get into the house for some reason, but was bursting for the loo! She’d had a run to ours from the neighbouring village so couldn’t get back quickly…thankfully the door finally opened and disaster was averted! Thanks for watering the plants Sambo and not watering the doorstep ;o) (I’m sure she’ll love me for revealing that!)

So after nursing a hangover in Port Elizabeth we head out to Seaview Lion and Wildlife park about 40 mins outside PE as recommended by Wendy at Sir Roy’s. It’s a great place, obviously with a seaview, hence the name and we self drive through the park and spot giraffes and a variety of different looking deer like creatures (I have subsequently looked them up then promptly forgotten what they were all called!)

We then arrive at the lion part of the park whereby they send you and your car into the lion enclosure through a series of huge metal gates, very reminiscent of Jurassic Park. In order to get a good photo opp, Andy wound down his window to get the lion in the background (which we were told not to) and then turned his back on the lions. Great fun telling him that they were right behind him at the open window!

We then went to the area where they hand rear the lion cubs, they’re absolutely beautiful, after a couple of months and up until twelve months they go into an enclosure where they can still be stroked however no children are allowed in with the adolescent lions. Straight away we can see why, as we’re on a suspended wooden walkway above the enclosure, the lions were lying around lazily playing with each other and dragging unidentified hunks of meat and hoofed legs around the place, taking absolutely no notice of the people on the walkways…that is until a child came along! Suddenly all lion eyes are on the child and they start stalking. The children are oblivious to this but the Lion’s instincts are clearly to pick off the smaller prey, we watched time and time again as the lions would appear to be asleep until the appearence of a child when they would be wide awake, alert and start prowling alongside the child, at one point there was a child running along the walkway closely followed by a couple of running lions, it’s actually quite perturbing to see the way they were watching the kids, they never took their eyes off them!

The good thing about this santuary is the fact that after maturity these lions are trained to hunt (wouldn’t take much from what we saw) and then released into the wild through a series of National Parks and Game Reserves. The same happens with the tigers here, though they’re not indiginous to South Africa, projects like this can only help the seriously dwindling tiger population.

After spending a lovely afternoon with the lions we then film another piece to camera for Mike at BBC Look East for Andy’s response to England’s win, we film it from the beautiful Seaview Lion Sanctuary and it goes out that evening, where it’s spotted by Alfie Dinsey amongst others, Andy’s 15 minutes of fame continues.

We head straight to PE airport from Seaview for our flight back to Joburg, we get there ludicrously early as we want to watch the afternoon fooball. We’re greeted by the superbly, smiley and happy Joey from Europcar (pictured below) and head into the departure lounge.

Turns out our flight to Joburg is ‘delayed indefinitely’, what the bejeezus does that mean? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? No one seems to know!

After some scant information and a free burger we finally leave PE at around 10.30pm (we got to see the evening game too), so we spent around six hours at an airport that doesn’t have an awful lot of entertainment or shopping to be had…though the only thing I was worried about was poor Bonny the dog back at Joburg who was waiting patiently for us to get back and feed her, she had to wait ’til 1am for her dinner, she was ever so pleased to see us, bless her!

Bloemfontein and Germany next, should be fun!

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The Ball, Man

Tuesday 29th June 2010 published 29th June (Andy’s blog)

A quiet day for a change, given we are full on again tomorrow game driving in Madikwe we need a rest!

Caught up on some writing and then Dom, Keith, Nat returned from the Holland vs Slovakia game in Durban ( having made a 4.30am start!) complete with little Andy and Bella.

We took a trip into downtown Johannesburg which has ‘changed’ down the years and hit the Carlton Centre in order to seek out ‘Ball Man’ which is an installation made by Nike constructed from 5,000 mini footballs. These balls are predictably in Brazil livery (everyone’s favourite second team, apparently). This was in the middle of this centre which is smack in the middle of the old and formerly prosperous central business district. Underneath were an array of oversized Nike boots, complete with orange heels, the ones specially launched for this World Cup and what every kid will be wanting like, now. Apparently there are four different models of boot, all grey with orange backs. There was also an impressive display of all the Nike World Cup kits – Brazil, Holland, Portugal, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Slovenia, Serbia and USA all fitted onto weird models (torso upper and lower, and legs) which were internally lit and housed in glass cases. Nike also supply Ambassadors who’s job is to talk the public through all things Nike and technical. Overall this was really impressive stuff. Add to this that I managed to pick up a Kaizer Chiefs 40th Anniversary track suit top and it turned out to be a doubly interesting day. Fabulous!

As we left, I noticed a quote by Luis Fabiano which kind of hit the spot for me. ‘In Brazil your first gift is the ball, so you always have that with you’. It’s in the blood, it’s in the breeding, it’s in the DNA of every Brazilian. 5 World Cups and counting. QED.

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We’re Not Going Home…again

Wednesday 23rd June published Tuesday 29th June (Kirsty’s blog)

Match day morning and we have a lovely breakfast whilst chatting with Wendy and Mardie (who is pictured below). We try some traditional South African chuckaluka (sorry about the estimated spelling) it was gorgeous, about as spicy as a vindaloo the spice certainly woke us up!

Dom, Keith, Simon and Chris turn up to collect Simon’s blackberry which had been left in the restaurant the night before and yet again we tried to see how many grown adults can we squeeze in one car trick! It was two in the front, three in the back and me lying across the laps in the back, poor Chris and Andy took the brunt of the weight and vuvuzela Keith rode in relative comfort.

Dom dropped us at the boardwalk where we were looking for our mate Ben Grant who we haven’t seen for a couple of years since he moved to Australia. On the way we see the bizarre sight of two English coppers with proper helmets, it looks so strange to see them out here out of their usual environment. We stop them for a photo op, very friendly they are too though when we commented on their technical mountain climbing looking gear they said the material was cheap and not as good as it looked due to cost cutting, though still miles better than the old style cotton shirt with collar scenario. How football is changing…here I am on a football trip fraternising with the rozzers and discussing fashion tips.

It’s a sea of red and white and as usual the English have marked their territory and draped flags across every bar and restaurant. Amazingly in the crowd we find Ben and his mates who have all travelled from Oz, there appears to be ten or twelve of them all wearing the Italia ’90 blue England away kit…after that throughout the whole day we keep spotting a little group of blue. It was great to see Ben and the boys and after a few pints and a catch up it’s time to head to the stadium.

En route we pick up ‘the boys’ who’ve been enjoying themselves in a bar right on the sea front and they’re all in high spirits.

As we start walking down the road towards the official FIFA fan shuttle buses which will take us the 5km to the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium we keep spotting the local minivans, they’re like a hop on, hop off transport service for the locals (the ones that FIFA have advised fans not to use), so as one of them stops at lights we all hop on and take over the minibus, I asked the guy at the front how much it would cost to take us to the stadium, his response was “whatever you want to pay mam”. The guy had the biggest smile accompanied by the biggest gold tooth I’ve ever seen! We kept taking pictures and he thought it was hilarious that we wanted a picture of his cold tooth, not only was his dentistry unique he also beat all the FIFA buses, scooted round a back street route and got us there ‘quicksticks’ (this is Andy’s favourite new phrase, he heard South Africans use it a couple of times and has taken it as his own…complete with the accent).

We bump into the boys in blue again, Ben and his mates and not the coppers and look for somewhere to drink, though there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to drink outside the stadium so we head inside for beers.

Talking of police, there are twelve British police out here, probably as a profile thing rather than assisting the South African police, however there’s been zero trouble, the atmosphere has been brilliant wherever we’ve been. Lots of singing and partying, lots of fathers and sons, husbands and wives and families, there hasn’t been a single English arrest…football really is changing, and with any luck it will be exactly the same when we play Germany and Argentina. (this bit was written before our campaign was brutally cut short in Bloemfontein, that report to follow).

Once inside we’re ridiculously early as usual and have time for a few more beers in the glorious sunshine, the England fans are in fine voice and easil drown out the vuvuzelas. After kick off the singing gets louder and the atmosphere is fantastic all aided and abetted by a completely different England team to the one we saw play Algeria. After the goal, there were deafening chants of “we’re not going home, we’re not going home, we’re not going, we’re not going, we’re not going home, oi!” much to the amusement of the locals who asked me what the fans were singing.

We could see ‘the boys’ from where we were sitting an after the game we jumped back onto one of the little minivan taxis and once again took it over, there were two women already on the bus and they looked a little intimidated at first at the noise, chanting and singing filling the van, along with us banging on the windows at passing fans, though they soon started joining in and even gave us a traditional South African song.

We hit a bar back at the boardwalk and from there on in it all becomes a bit of a blur, though I do remember a couple (Hannalo & Hannes Cilliers) who were innocently on a night out for a civilised dinner when they were suddenly surrounded by drunken, singing England fans spilling beer on them and completely ruining what should have been a lovely dinner date. We got talking to them an it turns out they live right out in the country and had booked a babysitter and had decided on a romantic night out, the first for many months, so Hannalo and Hannes we apologise profusely for turning your dinner date into a raucous, messy beerfest!

I would love to tell you stories from the evening as we laughed all night long…however I can’t remember what we were laughing about, I just remember singing, dancing and laughing. Frodo/Ewok/Eva Major has pictoral evidence so as soon as we upload them, we’ll get them posted, they may shed some light on the evening…then again they might be messy ;o)

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It’s Enough to Make Yer Heart Go….

Monday 28th June published Tuesday 29th June (Andy’s blog)

We awoke in ‘my Nona’s room’ in Bloemfontein to the sound of barking dogs. Everyone has dogs seemingly in South Africa, and they all live outdoors, guarding property rather than providing company I suspect. Our host Irene was nowhere to be seen, so we had a cup of coffee, a quick shower and then away. I felt strangely positive and liberated. The focus now was not on getting to Cape Town to play Argentina, but getting an earlier flight home and looking forward to the game drive at Madikwe we had booked when we felt the quarter finals were a possibility. One always needs tasks and targets in life, doesn’t one? Always look on the bright side and keep positive!

The journey home was unremarkable but for one thing. A Piper light aircraft parked somewhat casually on the side of the road. Sadly we were going too fast to take a picture, but it was there large as life. We then heard on the radio that it had landed the day before when the pilot reported that he had encountered difficulties and decided that the N1 highway was the only place to land. Apparently some of the passengers were being treated for shock. Amazing stuff.

Radio 2000 provides much useful information not least the news about the aircraft. However, Kirsty did wonder if royalties and the payment of is an issue as there are loads of cover versions of well known songs not least a version of ‘Wonderwall’ sung by some laconic and slightly off key crooner who had clearly taken too much mescaline. The radio presenter was doing a lovely job of ‘filling’ between covers. She mused about what other event in the world would bring women together and in the spotlight in the same way as the World Cup. Outside of the Olympics, there is nothing to compare, but bless her she did suggest a ‘beauty pageant’.

The next item of discussion was centred around South African’s president Jacob Zuma’s call for the Ghana team to change their nickname from the Ghana Black Stars to the African Black Stars, such is the continental support for Ghana now. He said that they carried the hopes in the same way as ‘The Blue Samurai’ are doing for Asia. I wonder how long it will be before England get an official nickname, obviously there are plenty of unofficial ones flying about!

We arrived back in Johannesburg shortly before 2.30pm and the rest of the day looked like this.

Sort flights home.
Eat.
Watch Holland vs Slovakia.
Watch Brazil vs Chile.
Sleep.

We fell at the first hurdle. We had booked a game drive in Madikwe a park north of Johannesburg, on Wednesday through to Friday and so wanted to head home at the weekend. Not a chance. Johannesburg airport is like Dunkirk, there are thousands of English fans trying to get home and the earliest our ‘fully flexible’ Virgin flight could muster was next Tuesday evening. It will be fun hitting the office straight from the airport on Wednesday! I caught up with Steve and his team who were at the airport trying to get earlier flights – they had booked their’s for next week as well and the thought of staying on was too much for some of the boys.

So given we have a few days on our hands, we decided to book a trip to Rourke’s Drift at the weekend. Fortunately there was one room left in the prestigious and historic lodge, ‘Fugitive’s Drift’. It has always been a lifelong ambition of mine to visit the scene of the famous enagement between a hundred and fifty British soldiers and 4,000 marauding and freshly victorious Zulu warriors who had massacred a column of 1500 men at Islandwlana the day before. So something brilliant to look forward to before we head home. The only downside is the great David Rattray who I saw a couple of times on his tour of the UK some years back, was senselessly murdered in his house by burglars about four years back. The world was robbed of a great historian and a great speaker. A man with passion for his subject who was committed to keeping the stories of the Zulu War alive. He always had the utmost respect for both the British and more importantly the Zulus. A wonderful man and a tragic loss. ThEe

We headed off to eat and watch the game. No surprise that a solid Holland beat an unimpressive Slovakia who have the worst haircuts in this tournament. I am sure that Holland are capable of upping the stakes and they will have to when they play Brazil. Later Brazil were to resemble Germany of old- physical, technically brilliant, athletic, clinical in front of goal and amazing stamina, virtually impossible to break down and solid in every position. Chile looked like Brazil of old, circa 1970 except that they could not supply the final ball. Brilliant skills, close control and wonderful use of space. You can’t really see past Brazil, Germany, Spain or Argentina winning this tournament to be fair.

In between games I sat down my co pilot and chief organiser Kirsty, variously known as Payne Lite, Number 2, vice captain and 27, to watch Zulu. If we are off to Rourke’s Drift she may as well ‘know ‘er ‘istory’ after all ‘it’s enough to make yer heart go whooa whooa whooa whooa’.

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If

Sunday 28th June 2010 published Monday 29th June (Andy’s blog)

We woke up nice and early for the 7am departure and 500km drive from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein. Anticipation and excitement in equal measure, but personally I have seen all this before. This was Keith’s first big England game and Kirsty had seen us lose in the quarter finals (or the super sixteens as they are now being referred now in the ever more brand focused world we live in) to Portugal last time round.

Dom was on his usual ‘urgent’ form from the start, driving through the suburbs of Johannesburg like Colin McRae. The roads were empty, after all it was Sunday and 7am! Dom did come across one slower driver and hung on his shoulder until he wilted and pulled over. It should be said that Kirsty and I were in Nat’s car, whilst Dom drove Keith and Nat. The others were off to Durban from Bloemfontein first thing Monday to catch the 4pm kick off for the Holland vs Slovakia game, for them the World Cup is one big road trip!

The drive to Bloemfontein was superb another dead straight road passing through the countryside in a way the Romans would have been proud. Very little traffic and virtually no visible signs of life. No towns, villages and hamlets. Nothing but fields and trees, with the odd American West style windmills which I assume must be for irrigation.

We hit Bloemfontein shortly before 11am, and I got a call from my brother Richie wishing us luck! It was 20 years ago that I had nipped back after the Cameroon game in Naples to collect him and take him to the semi final in Turin, against the Germans. We soon found the B&B that we were staying in. Well the one that Dom, Keith and Nat were staying in. Ours was ‘just a few doors along’. Esther greeted us with a cup of tea and we were asked to wait as we would be shown our B&B ‘presently’. Her son and his daughter complete with her German kit, took us to where we were staying. We were greeted by a young woman and an older man, who seemed a tad on edge. The man asked to take a seat and offered us coffee as he would ‘have a chat with us just now’. Kirsty was her usual relaxed self chatting away with all and sundry, whereas I was a little more irrittated. I just wanted to dump our overnight bag, find the others and get down to where the action was. After more diversionary talk about some cheetah park we should take time to visit (this is big game day, but not that sort of game for god’s sake), the chap came clean and said that he had over booked and we were actually staying just around the corner. He admitted he had been asked to stall us and even offered to do us a little dance. This was starting to remind me of a scene in ‘The Missionary’ or ‘Ripping Yarns’ but decided I would go with the flow.

So Esther’s son and his young daughter jumped back in our car, we followed the other chap, who we subsequently found out was Russian, and we swung by and got Dom’ team to follow us. We only drove for 2 minutes before arriving at another house and being introduced to our third host of the day, Irene who looked like Nana Mouskouri. She was frantically trying to get ou room ready, which was basically an annexe off the garage. It was basic but it was ‘home’ for the night, and we would not be there long given that we would be out all night celebrating, wouldn’t we? Irene’s daughter was a younger carbon copy of Irene, complete down to the spectacles and tied back long black hair. Anway we bid our farewells and headed for the town centre, which was Loch Logan, an artificial lake with a shopping mall attached. Think Harlow or Camberley with a lake out front.

Half the mall was about four storeys high and half of it was still being built and there must have been some sort of accident with cement as their air was thick with dust. The England fans were there in their thousands, outnumbering their German counterparts by 5:1. The atmosphere was good humoured and everyone was having a good time. But boy was it crowded!

I broke away from the others to see if I could find Alan, Dave, Swiss Jimmy, Steve and Jack. I had spotted Al’s red top, red hat and rather sassy little black camera strap across his chest from across the lake. They had had a ball the night before, staying with ‘some hillbillies’ several kms from Bloemfontein. Steve mentioned that their host had brought out the brandy and Jimmy had polished off a bottle on his own and was lagging by 8.30pm. Dave had obviously had a good night also given that he had sacrificed his ‘England expects every man to do his duty and shave each and every day’ law. Having scolded Alan and Steve for non shaving on account of them looking ‘disgracefully scruffy’, his whiskers were even more notceable. I had got word that Ledley King may replace Upson. This met with universal outrage from the assembled West Ham contingent and even Al (a Spurs fan) was admitting that the thought of King playing a half would fill him with fear. Jack went so far as to say, ‘why break up Terry and Upson, they have never lost together’. Little did Jack know how wrong he would be. I told the boys of our complex plan to get flights and board in Cape Town once we won today. Kirsty had been on the case as usual and had agreed with Nat’s brother Rich to press ‘buy’ as soon as the final whistle had been blown and we were through. We even lined up a reserve credit card, just in case..

I met up with Kirsty and the others who were queuing up to get in to a place to eat. Loch Logan had never seen am invasion like this before and I doubt they will ever see it’s like again. Those bars and restauarants probably took a month’s takings in a day. Our fish and chips never did show up, instead we had to make do with some tramenzinies (little flat breaded toasted sandwiches), as the place had run dry of what I thought the waiter referred to as ‘eggs’. When I asked increduously ‘what has eggs got to do with fish and chips?’ I was told by Keith that the waiter had actually said ‘Hake not eggs’ this Afrikaans accent can play havoc with my hearing sometimes.

The football ground was literally directly behind the shopping centre. The Free State stadium was a pretty tired old structure – think The New Den on a sunny day. Spirits were still very high and I bumped into Robbie again, last scene atop Table Mountain. Robbie’s lot were heading up to Victoria Falls after the game, potentially meeting up with Steve’s lot.

The game started and within a couple of minutes I was in Kirsty’s ear telling her we looked sluggish and that Germany were ripping us to pieces in midfield. When we went two down I wa not surprised and feared a thrashing. Poor old Upson made the mistake for the first goal by Klose who I had said before a ball was kicked ‘would score’. He atoned for it to some degree with a header to bring us back to 2-1 and we actuallly got into the game. When Lampard’s goal was ruled out, we could see it crossed the line clear enough from where we were standing. These suspicions were confirmed by dozens of texts and Facebook postings moments later. At that point we were starting to boss the game and who knows what may have happened if the goal had been rightly awarded? I very much doubt we would have suffered our worst World Cup beating ever, and we may have lived to fight another day, maybe just one though. You need some luck in tournaments, and Germany just got theirs yesterday.

Anyway, forced to chase the game we were taken apart by a ruthlessly efficient and technically superior German team. There are lessons to be learned, but who knows whether the FA or indeed anyone charged with the well being of English football will be able to buck the Premier League market. More on that later.

The rest of the evening was predictably downbeat, I tried to meet up with Steve and the boys who were in 2nd Street where the action was. There was heavy police presence, but spirits were good and I saw no trouble. I think that this was more of a precautionary measure than anything else. Sadly, communication was chaotic and I never did find the boys which was a shame.

We ended up watching the Argentina vs Mexico in a restaurant and theorising on how things may change. My mood was somewhat blue but at least we were not subjected to the uber critcal English media and some of their bile. No doubt, those responsible for producing the News of The World which was everywhere that morning complete with pictures of Rooney, Gerrard and Terry with lions teeth, and headline masterpieces such as ‘Long to Wayne over us’ would be turning on the team like the girl in the Exorcist.

Much like like the English football team, Dom was so tired he fell asleep at the table, he has taken on this World Cup with the zeal of a Jesuit. For him Nat and Keith their odyssey continues!

We returned to our B&B before midnight, spirits low but not as low as in previous tournaments. The room was ready and there was a little double bar heater keeping the room, which did have an heir of my Nona’s bedroom about it, all old fashioned furniture and a whiff of moth balls. There was something familiar about this place and something familiar about the whole day really. I have plenty of theories about why this was a failure, if indeed it was, which I am currently writing up. If that goal had gone in. If – The story of England’s footballing history.

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A Team Under The Surgeon’s Knife

Sunday 27th June (Andy’s blog)

So much anticipation and so much disappointment, again. No point in dwelling on the atrocious decision by some half arsed Uruguyan ref and linesman. Had that goal been given, things may have been different, we will never know. Being in the ground, you could sense us getting back and importantly the Germans showing signs of weakness. Some good must come from it, both for our national team and every national team robbed of key decisions through lack of technology use. Sepp Blatter, why not become a Catholic Pope mate, there will be a vacancy soon enough.

Anyway loads more on these issues later. Today hats off to Germany who inflicted out worst ever defeat in a World Cup. They outplayed us and finished us in a clinical fashion. By contrast our lot could not trap a ball with a blanket. Everytime Germany took a shot it looked like it was on target and likely to test the keeper.

So, we exit the competition but not South Africa just yet. There is a bit more to see. A nice little game drive and a visit to Rorke’s Drift. At least there we went down fighting!

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Cometh the Hour….

Sunday 27th June 2010

Drove 540km to Bloemfontein from Joburg. Road straight as a die. Full report to follow but here we are, looks like the same team as Wednesday and we are in red. The old foe await, this is the World Cup and this is what we have come for. Will we win today, of that I am sure. Then bring Diego and his merry men on, time to square up the misdemeanours of 86 and 98. Happy days!

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We’re not going home….

Wednesday 23rd June – published Saturday 26th June (Andy’s blog)

Match day in Port Elizabeth, a place infamous for the death of Steve Biko in September 1977. Hopefully, today this will be the scene of our victory. The must win game versus Slovenia. As we all know we won 1-0 and won easily. But what a day. Truly amazing

To be continued..

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You Can Put Out a Candle, But You Can’t Put Out a Fire

Saturday 19th June 2010 published Saturday 26th June 2010

As I sit on the rather large twin hulled boat waiting to depart Robben Island for the mainland, I have mixed emotions. The best of people and the worst of people. The best bit is easy, having seen where the political prisoners of the 1960’s were incarcerated was shocking to the core. Those prisoners who took a stand against Apartheid and stood up for freedom. This was the reason we made the short 30 minute journey across the bay from Cape Town for a three hour tour around this sparsely populated island. The worst of people, well we will come to them later.

The departure station in Cape Town was beautifully constructed and had an air of class. Football or Soccer had played a major part in the lives of the inmates, and all the teams are listed as well as colour pictures of their shirts on the walls. There were some great team names, ‘Old Crocks’, ‘Happy Boys’, ‘Hotspurs’, ‘Blues’, ‘Gunners’, ‘Fighters’ and ‘Rangers’ and it gave a real flavour of the love of the game by the South Africans.

On the way across the bay, we chatted to a father and son from Sussex who were doing the World Cup together. The older gentleman was in his eighties and his son probably my age. They were having a ball, and we just one of many father and son teams out here, enjoying the football together, reliving earlier days no doubt, but above all doing what fathers and sons should do. More power to them all. I wonder how many of the prisoners on Robben Island could ever have enjoyed such precious times?

As we docked on Robben Island, the boat gently played out the South African hymn Nkosi sikelel iAfrika which forms part of the new National Anthem of the country. This was a song sung by those who fought and resisted the apartheid system and is an amazing piece of music. Even as I write these words on a warm morning a week later in Johannesburg, I can’t stop the tears rolling down my face. To think that such inhumanity to men by fellow men could take place so recently, still makes me equally sad and angry. I have never been a massive fan of authority, and those that know me know this, but cruelty and injustice are the two things that would make me take up arms and fight. For that reason alone, the trip to Robben Island was significant.

As we passed the hundreds of Kelp birds feasting on the delights between sea and shore, we were directed to waiting buses by our guides. No such luxuries for the prisoners who arrived in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s who would have been marched off to their cells, incarcerated and forgotten.

Our guides were Tabo (MC on the mic) and Serge (driver). Tabo was laid back, gently spoken with a razor sharp wit and cheeky sense of humour. The game against Algeria the night before had been turgid in the extreme, and even I had struggled to find anything redeeming about it. Being positive, I had watched the whole miserable 94 minutes again that morning on TV and we did look better than we had done ‘live’ or allegedly live at The Green Point stadium. Tabo extolled all the English on the bus, which was 99%, indeed he asked us how many British on board, which got a howl of derision and he duly corrected himself to refer to us as English, to ‘ show some love for South Africans in the bus.’ He went on to say,’Don’t give up on England, otherwise all hell will break loose’. I think those days are largely over, one can but look on the brightside after all!

Tabo talked us through the history of the island. It had been a leper colony in 1840 and there was a cemetry containing the graves of 900 lepers alongside a church and a small hospital. Robben means seals in Dutch, and the island had become home to the notorious prison to convicted criminals. In 1960, the political prisoners joined the convicts.

Tabo showed us where Robert Sobukwe president of the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) had been kept for 9 years (1960-1969) in solitary confinement. He had actually been released in 1963, but had then been held arbitarily under a new clause in South African law called ‘the Sobukwe Clause’, such was the randomness of justice and law in that era.

Tabo then delivered us into the care of Sparks, a former inmate and member of the ANC who had served time from 1983-1990 under the Terrorism Act, Section 29.

Sparks’s number was 1981 5683. He showed us the communal cell he lived in, with no glazed windows, just holes, zero heating or proper beds. They just had two blankets one as a base for their bed, and one as a pillow or cover, their choice. Two idiots, from North West England, jumped into the solitary bunk beds, more to the astonishment and amazement of Sparks. They did not need to be told to pipe down, something about this eerie place just suggested that behaving like a pair of chumps really did not work.

We were showed the ration sheets for black political prisoners and the difference between the rations for coloured prisoners and the convicted criminals. There is a picture in this blog which show you the difference. Unbelievable.

Later we were shown the exercise and labour yard which Nelson Rolihlaha Mandela had hidden his book, The Long Walk to Freedom, behind a vine. We were told how the prisoners had passed information inside tennis balls, over the walls, and some even becoming decent players! When the younger and more radical and violent ANC members joined the penal colony, the older and wiser members, such as Mandela, often used the message passing system to calm the young ‘uns down! Furthermore, the political prisoners actually politicised the criminals much to the dismay of the authorities.

The final part of the tour saw us pass Mandela’s cell. Small, tight and depressingly stark. To think he served 27 years of his life sentence in this room was poignant. Meanwhile, the two English idiots, now joined by two fools from Brazil were gaily chatting about football whilst Sparks was telling us the detail. The Brazilian boys also could not contain their giggling everytime Sparks pronounced Mandela’s name. Perhaps nerves got the better of them. Dear oh dear.

And so our few precious hours on this eerie island came to an end. You’d think that the experience may have had a calming influence on everyone. It did, but there’s always a few. The American woman who sat behind Kirsty and droned on did not help things along, nor did the numerous idiots trying to take all measure of pictures through windows, doorways and portholes. At one point the idiot Brazilian and English from earlier had entered a beach reserved for penguins despite clear and frequent signs. They went on to to knock cameras out of each other’s hands rushing to get a picture of the confounded football stadium. Although the Green Point stadium does resemble a gigantic Bose speaker, it really does not warrant a undignified scrabble reminiscent of those god awful first day of the January sale.

But fortunately for us, those simpletons did not provide the final lasting memory. As we entered the bay, we saw another of the peaks to the side of Table Mountain, The Lion’s Head. It’s funny, but I could see Madiba’s head laying resting, his nose, eye lashes and a wispy cloud looking like his greying hair looking up to the sky, at peace. A truly moving and inspiring afternoon. One that the Dutch football team had given up a training session for and one which the England team had passed on that very same day. Let’s hope that is not a sign.

‘There are few misfortunes in the world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and necessary skill.’ Nelson Mandela

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Long Live Port Elizabeth

Tuesday 22nd June published Saturday 26th June (Kirsty’s blog)

On our final leg of the Garden Route towards Port Elizabeth and our World Cup destiny we decide to stop off at Knysna for those elusive oysters (Judy told us that Knysna is famous for them and recommended a restaurant on the waterfront). We park up and browse the shops on our way to the gorgeous little harbour. There are fantastic shops here selling African arts and crafts and it’s really good quality, I was trying to imagine a shop in Blackpool selling sculptures, oil on canvas, beautiful metal creations and intricate beaded jewellery…but I couldn’t. They certainly don’t do cheap tat around here, in fact they have some lovely stuff.

Ansy spotted the restaurant and we again manage to get a table right by the water, but we check this time before sitting down that they definitely have oysters and do they…hurrah!

So a dozen large wild oysters to share and a glass of wine each, is the order of the day. However, our lovely waitress Rochelle returns with bad news…they only have medium sized wild oysters! I wouldn’t call that bad news, I’d call that an opportunity to order some more oysters!

When they arrive I think there’s been some kind of mistake as the most enormous, gigantic, plump, prehistoric looking oysters turn up. If these are medium sized the table wouldn’t have been big enough for the monsters that must be large size! They are gorgeous too, and we spend a happy hour or so eating oysters followed by a bit of sushi before hitting the road again, bliss!

We set off for Port Elizabeth and I’m looking forward to meeting Wendy at Sir Roys on the Sea, who I’ve been dealing with over the past few days to try and secure a room for our three night stay. The whole of Port Elizabeth has ‘no room at the inn’ and it’s looking likely that we’ll have to sleep in the car on match night. Wendy has been doing her best but is still awaiting confirmation from FIFA on a pre-booked room. The excellent directions take us straight to Sir Roys at the Sea and we’re warmly greeted by Wendy (feel like we know each other after the last few days of emails and phone calls), she also has the brilliant news that FIFA have released a room so we’re not homeless after all :o)

The room is lovely with a sea view and it turns out that ‘the boys’ are in the room above us but have just gone down to bar ‘Finnezz’ for drinks.

We shortly join them and find that Eva Minimus has arrived safely, though from now on will be called Jam Jar Jack on account of his savings account which he used some of to fund his SA trip. Though Eva Minor (or moany as the boys are now calling him) is conspicuous in his absence. Turns out he’s been doing all the driving as he thinks Steve and Dave are blind because they can’t read a menu without holding it as far away as their arms will allow. So he’s a bit knackered, fed up of drinking and having some ‘me time’.

We are off to meet Dom, new arrival Keith and Simon at their hotel bar down the road so after a 5 minute cab (which took over an hour), we arrive to find them happily ensconsed in a really dark, loud bar, having spent the best part of the afternoon there, they were merrily working their way through a mixture of bubbly, red wine and cider! Dom was put to bed, tired and emotional after his epic football marathon and the rest of us headed to Blackbeards for dinner where Chris joined us.

We have a lovely meal apart from Keith who had to send his back but it was worth going there jut for the OTT nautical theme and the hilarious ‘Manuel’ style service.

We head back to our lovely little spot at Roys at the Sea, their tag line is ‘Where everyone’s treated like royalty’ though I certainly slept a whole lot better than the Princess and the Pea!

Match day tomorrow, can’t wait, have no idea what all this dissention in camp will do for our performance, we can only hope that they’ve got everything out in the open and bonded as a team, ready for tomorrow.

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