Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tuesday 15th June (published Monday 21st June Andy’s blog)

The day we say goodbye to Dom and Nat’s wonderful hospitality and leave Johannesburg, headed for the south and the city of Cape Town. We left some of our more extreme winter kit at Dom’s taking a chance that the horrid weather we had seen at the Italy vs Paraguay gane would pass and we would be dry, a decision that was to turn out to be a right one.

We had fortunately booked a flight, I saw ‘we’ in fact I mean Kirsty had booked a flight a day before we left England, when she checked the map and realised that Johannesburg to Cape Town is 1800kms apart. Good thinking and a good move all round, it would have taken 3 days by car. We flew from the smaller Lanseira airport which was really rather nice, sort of Stansted style but about a quarter of the size. Check in and security were quicksticks and the whole process rather civilised I have to say. We had run into a police escort on the way to the airport, which according to our driver was ‘no doubt another pile of FIFA offlcials be treated to the VIP treatment’. In fact he was by his own admission a ‘Cape Coloured from Cape Town’ andi like a lot of people we had met on this trip, increasing cynical of FIFA and it’s whole morals, approach and values. Again, like others, he did suggest some cynicism about the clean up of crime and increased police presence for this World Cup. I would like to think that a few myths about South Africa may well be exploded, time will tell, but so far we had heard very little negative news stories outside of the strikes by some of the workers over disputes about pay and conditions. There had apparently been a small riot the night of the Germany vs. Australia match by match workers and security staff, which the justice minister had decried on TV.

Anyway, we bid farewell to our driver, another man who knew tons about football in general. When he told me that ‘England are a great team on paper’, I told him football was played on grass and not paper, which he found hilarious. Hopefully he is using that one around Johannesburg now!

The flight was superb, the cabin crew announcements were littered with jokes, ironies and dryness straight out of Catch 22. Everyone from the girl on the check in, security and crew had a smile on their faces, something we could all probably learn a lot from.

We sat next to Dean Lazarus, a young South African chap on the flight, a really nice bloke who I chatted with most of the way. He was studying in Cape Town and loved the place to bits, something we were to agree with very soon. Dean was into cars, loved Top Gear and was reading Jeremy Clarkson’s latest book. Mr Clarkson, and Top Gear are incredibly popular out here. Not a totally surprising fact when you think about it. Dean’s family were involved in motor sport and car manufacturing and were launching a new spots car called the Perana. (see http://www.perana.com). He was a little worried about the Top Gear team’s eventual review of the car, so my thoughts are with him as we all know how critical critics can be sometimes, after all look at the England football fans’ critique of England’s performance against USA!

Bidding farewell to Dean, we looked for Papa G, our driver from the Cape Milner Hotel. Following precise instructions (unusual for us) we found said Papa bedecked in a England woolly hat and scarf. He whizzed us into the city centre, passing the township of Khayelitsha which apparently houses over 1 million people and looks like an awful place to live or more accurately ‘exist’. The name means ‘new home’ in Xhosa. As the township is located about one hour’s drive in a cramped bus or minivan taxi, from the city centre and industrial centres. It could just as well mean ‘early start’ given the journey time for those ‘lucky’ enough to work. From the outside, for it was only the outside we ever saw, the dwellings look like small, rusty, tin houses, uneven and unsafe. God knows what it must be like when the rains come and when the cold wind drives across their bows. I read a phrase which seemed to sum things up perfectly, ‘as the rich gets richer, the poor get Khayelitsha’. This is a place where murder and rape are eveywhere, running water scarce, plumbing non existent and electricity rare. Unemployment is 60% and life is harsh. We don’t realise how fortunate we are do we?

We met up with Steve, Alan, Dave and Jimmy later in Cape Town down at the V&A Waterfront really happy times, but more on that a little later.

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