Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Downslide

Something recently came to my attention. It was a rather shocking, not because I hadn't thought about, but more because I hadn't really thought about the reality of it. I am getting older.

This realisation hit in two parts. One was that I put on a lot of weight. Not, you know, tons. But enough that I outgrew all my clothing and had to buy a whole new wardrobe. At first I thought this may be because I had settled into a life of office work, tv watching and very vigorous drinking, and had abandoned my life of running round a crazy restaurant, never eating and some slightly less vigorous drinking. I took up exercising and for a few months (in anticipation of looking fabulous on my wedding day) I was not only running 5-10km every morning, but doing aerobics every evening as well. Not one kilo shifted. Recently I took on a consultancy setting up a restaurant, so I have been working 90 hours a week, running round a crazy restaurant, barely eating and taking part in a familiar amount of vigorous drinking. Not a molecule of my butt has shifted location, and my 'sexy' jeans remain stubbornly one size too small.

Having come home after a long absense I had come face to face with a lot of my friends suddenly looking distinctly older. Yes, we all have facebook and up to the minute updates of how people look, but in photos you seldom see the slight sag of a tummy, the creases round an eye, the grey hairs peeking out from beneath the dye. Arriving home and realising that my 20-something, perky, taught, fit and muscular friends had in many cases settled into softer, rounder, balding, slightly faded shapes was a bit of a shock to the system.

Still, it was happening to others. The second part of my realisation happened today. I put on make up for the start of my evening job and discovered that if I put on eye cream BEFORE the foundation, the cover up doesn't sink into the smile lines quite so much..... and came up hard against my own mortality. My bum will never be as firm, my boobs never quite so perky, my skin never quite as smooth as it was a year ago, or even as they are today. Puts things in perspective a bit.

I thought I was done journeying for a while. Seems the downslide still has the potential for one hell of a ride.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Proposal Number 5

Its a little strange to think that after 5 marriage proposals I remain single and unmarried. Because I am. Single and unmarried, that is. Not strange. Well... maybe that too.

I recently ended a relationship, and although there is a large part of me that is sitting curled up in a corner sniveling to myself, there is also a small part of me that is indignant that I have once again ended an engagement and... wait for it... have no ring to show for it!

Personally I think an engagement lacks a little oomph if there is no jewelery involved. I mean, nothing says commitment quite like R20k of your savings. "Here you go darling, I love you enough to invest THIS much of my money in something that will never be useful for anything other than the decoration of your hand. And that's ok with me, because I get to keep that investment close for the rest of my life."

Besides, what is a good breakup without a little fight about belongings? It gives you something to focus on, really. I mean, you haven't broken up for no reason. Usually its a culmination of all the little arguments, and 'discussions' and tiffs that you have had, but when breaking up its nice to have something new to fight about. And what better than who gets to keep the ring? I mean, THAT argument can keep you full of anger and and in denial about your grief for years.

Alas, so far I have been robbed of that luxury. Five times. By now I should really have a collection of them. To be fair, the first one was a 17 year old boy who thought that because I was the first girl that liked him he should marry me, so the ring would probably have come from a Christmas cracker. That being said, number two was only 20, but he had already designed the house we were going to live in. Still no ring. He proposed to all his girlfiends though, so I imagine that had he bought a ring for all of us he would be eternally broke. I am sure he thought that a house designed 'just' for me was proof enough of commitment. He proposed to a friend of mine a year or two later, and as far as I know he showed her the plans for the house as well.  She got a ring though.

Proposal #3 was a little offhand really. I said yes to this one though, and we had planned to announce it to family and friends after we finished studying. We had a future planned and it involved traveling and he said, "well yes, I think we had better get married, it will make traveling and visas easier." Aren't you just swooning with the romance? No ring, because that would be the same as announcing it...

Proposal #4 was just before I left on travels of my own. I think the reason I didnt get a ring with this one was that I was leaving the country. Letting that R20k investment out of your sight is quite silly, really. Why spend all that money if she stands a chance of being swept off her feet by some half clad Adonis-like Greek on a white sandy beach somewhere? Good thing really, because I didnt make it back to the area for 4 years.

Proposal #5... well. I really should have had a ring for this one. The plan was to get one once I actually arrived in the country (I am still in South Africa and he is across the pond) but since the continental divide proved as large as always expected, I am single and ring-less. We cant even fight about who gets the frying pans, or who the house warming gift was really for, because neither of us is going to send it across the pond anyway. Handing back the others belongings isn't quite the same when its delivered by postman by necessity, rather than as an indication of vitriole and an unwillingness to deign to be in the others presence.  

I am kinda curios to know if there will be a Proposal #6. And if there will be a ring. Let this be a warning to all future prospects... I want a ring. And if you break up with me after I accept it... I am keeping it. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Safari Bliss

I will be the first to admit that as a South African I am just a little snobby about this whole idea of 'safaris'. Technically, 'safari' is just a Swahili word for journey. In Kenya one will often say, "Oh I cant wait, I am going safari this weekend" and when asked where to, one would reply "oh to the beach, soak up some sun", for example. For the rest of the world it has come to mean khaki coloured clothing and long hours sitting in the back of a game viewer truck driving past massive quantities of lions and leopards all ready to wow you with their ability to kill, and waiting to pose for your photograph.

The reality is quite different, really. Animals are hard to spot, the rainy season means long grass and low visibility and the dry season is generally at a time of year when people dont like to travel. Going to a game reserve and having high expectations of seeing leopard is somewhat like going fishing and expecting to see a shark. Just because you cant see them doesn't mean they aren't there, they are just hard to spot.

For me, game viewing was always about driving up for the weekend (or long holiday) and spending days with beer in a cooler, driving at super low speeds chilling out in the bush with friends or family, and stopping when you felt like it. I always laughed a little at the tourists piled into their guided trucks stopping to view the abundant impala, and stuck with a schedule not their own.

No more! I have been converted! My company is a tour operator and one of the occasional perks is going to a lodge or on a tour on 'business' to do a site inspection. Which is what a friend and I did this last week. Oh wow, the place was wonderful. Rustic but awesome, we stayed in tree houses! The game drives were not as terrible as I imagined, but rather gave us a wonderful insight into what was going on around us, with guides that keep you informed.

The treehouses were so cool, with separate but private bathrooms on ground level, open air. Showering naked in the bush with monkeys sitting on the branches above you watching with fascination is a rare experience! The first morning we woke up and got out of bed to head down the stairs, only to blearily open my eyes to discover that our little hideaway was surrounded by buffalo! Luckily when we started talking loudly they headed away and I was able to make my way down the stairs, maul free.

That day we spent almost 8 hours in the open  top trucks, and had the most phenomenal luck. A leopard actually just sauntered up to our car! So rare that despite the many reserves I have been to in several countries I have never seen one! And it just wandered up to us to say hi.


One of the highlights of the trip was a game walk. After days of telling you how important it is not to let a hand dangle out of the truck, or step out of the vehicle at any time that isn't prearranged by your guide, they then get you out of the car and walk you off into the bush. Although warned that we were unlikely to see any big game, you cant help but see an elephant in every rock and a hungry lion behind every tree. The idea of the walk, however, is to take in the little stuff, pick up rocks and scare the scorpions, learn about tracks and the animals in the area. The joy of walking through bush that has never been tamed and is home to so much life is just phenomenal.

Lest I gush and suddenly make myself out to have gone soft, I shall end it there. Needless to say, coming home was a little sad, but this country makes me proud to be African. Below are some highlights from my trip. Till next time...



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I apologise for Vuvuzelas

I know my wanderings have taken me many a place, and many a city, but my home town is Cape Town, South Africa. When I left the country in 2004 I never thought I would return to stay. I imagined all sorts of places I would live my life, but none of them included moving back to Cape Town.

However,  life being life, and mine in particular having a tendency to spit me out at random locations around the world, I ended up back in the Mother City. The idea was for my long distance relationship to stop being long distance, and for him to move here to this gorgeous city to live with me.

However, South Africa being what it is, and him being the mountain man and small town boy he is, jobs are tough, pay is bad and cities are still noisy.
So..he's back in CO, USA and we are back to limbo.


Isnt it funny though, how often our view of our country can be so dramatically altered by one event? Ok, so here I speak not of the mundane or the average, or of a small passing comment that shifts the universe as a butterfly fluttering its wings in a canyon. The Soccer World Cup is hardly inconspicuous. But it is just one event. And this one event has irrevocably shifted how I see my country.

I admit freely that I was one of the people who saw with dreading heart the unveiling of the decision to host the event here. Along with many of my countrymen, and a large portion of the world, I had images of strikes and transport problems, undeveloped infrastructure, unfinished stadiums. Crime, not so much, but only because unlike the propoganda of the international media I know the violence is generally limited to areas where the people who live there have few other options. Would you walk through the ghetto in your city late at night carrying a camera? Unfortunately, our ghettos are bigger than most countries, so the statistics are scarier.

The way the people of South Africa have risen to the challenge has amazed, delighted and impressed me. The response of visitors and the awe I have seen in their eyes as they walk round my beautiful city, stare at the cultural peculiarities of my countrymen and gape at the mountain range in the middle of our CBD has caused me many a moment of smug pride that I get to live here and they dont.

When it comes to 'feeling it', I have to say that few countries have quite thrown themselves in the way we have. First, we came up with a 'sound', that although it has probably deafened half of South Africa, and will forever outdo the most annoying sound in the world, will forever bring to mind thousands of drunk football supporters straining to outdo the person next them. And then we threw in some showmanship.

(btw, the man in the above photo is carrying that all on his head.. no straps or anything - just balanced)

Maybe it helps that our flag has so many ridiculous colours? I think the simple fact that we stand out in the crowd by default is helpful to our cause.

All in all, crime rates dropped (even the crooks were watching the games) and our spirit was maintained, most South Africans supporting one team or another after we inevitably didnt make the quarters. Never to be left out, one could even see the occasional tearful South African sobbing into their Netherlands scarf at the final, and watching with grief as our new-found foreign friends flew back to their home countries.

I dont know how to express the patriotic welling of emotion I feel when I see how well we have done. The pure love for the people here that have warmly welcomed the world and blown them away with beauty, culture and variety. We have a long way to go, but dear God, we have come so far.

I have only one apology and that is for the ongoing prevalence of the vuvuzela. Admit it though,  I bet you only hate them so much because you cant blow one yourself...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I am sure that at some point in the past I have mentioned that I am a little OCD. Like most people with mild OCD, I am not obsessively neat in all areas. My sock drawer is not perfectly aligned, I do not have special places for my pens and pencils at work. I am not even that neat, really. My clothes are draped over a chair when I take them off (and in a busy week this chair can, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist as a chair) and I will often leave stuff on the lounge table when I stumble to bed after a late night DVD watching session.

However, I am clean. I kinda have to be, because my hair gets everywhere. If I don't clean regularly I end up with hairball tumbleweeds in all corners of my house. And the place I am most concerned about when it comes to cleanliness is my kitchen. I cant cook in a dirty kitchen, and a dirty counter top is anathema to me. Just ask my long suffering lover when he has been using the counter top as a bread board instead of an actual breadboard. Carrie covered in blood doesn't come close. Ok, so maybe recently due to some stresses I let it slip a little, but I mean really, who scrubs the oven every weekend anyway?

Why am I telling you this? Because rental agents are from hell. Although that may seem like a completely irrelevant topic, I assure you it is not. My lease is coming to an end. This is a good thing because I am moving back to the suburbs and halving my rent, so I cant wait to get out. The commute is worth it. However, The Agent has had to come into the flat to show it to the prospective renters. She tends to give me about 2 hours notice, usually when am I at work, and almost definitely every time I forget to take my knickers off the line on the balcony. The first time this happened, my flat mate was in the process of moving out, my brother was crashing in the lounge and there was STUFF everywhere. I warned her. She said no problem.

A few hours later I get a phone call. "Hello, angel (god knows why she calls me that), dropped by the flat today. A bit messy, isnt it?"
Duh...
"Anyway, darling, I just wanted to let you know that your kitchen really needs to be deep cleaned before you move out. Its rather filthy right now. Of course, if you dont, we will just have to take it out of your deposit. But thats all daaaarling, chat to you soon, byeeeee!"

There was a brief shocked silence as I held the disconnected phone to my ear, closely followed by a blush that I swear started at my toes and ended at the tips of my hair. I was extremely embarrassed. My only conclusion was that my chef brother had decided to cook the night before and had managed to pour Bearnaise sauce into the toaster and throw roasted cherry tomatoes at the ceiling. I stormed home in a righteous fury only to see.... nothing. The kitchen was clean.

Nevertheless, I spent the whole of the next evening scrubbing. I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the stove, under the stove, I moved the fridge, I cleaned the cupboards, I took toothpicks and scraped the tiny molecules of bacteria out from between the tiles that my super-triple-strength-multi-pupose-kills-everything-alive-even-post-Chernobyl-cockroaches cleaning spray couldn't get. Eventually I was satisfied.

The next day, The Agent called to ask if she could bring a client round to view the place. Of course! By now the flatmate had moved out, overseas guests had made their way home, my brothers limited possessions were secreted away in the spare room, and frankly, the place was looking cleaner than I had ever seen it. I was confident. I left her a note apologising for the state of the place last time, made some lame excuse about lots of guests (I was still feeling a little shameful - and I apologise too much when I am embarassed) and hoped she was well.

I retuned home afer work in good spirits (nothing makes me happy quite like coming home to a clean house) and see the following note:

"Hi Miss P
I think its just best if we get the deep cleaners in after you leave. They cost about R300 but they scrub walls and they will be able to get that mould out of the grouting etc. I know it seems expensive, but at least you wont have to worry about the post-lease inspection or anything.
Thanks Angel!
The Agent"

I was absolutely stunned. Speechless. I have come to the decision that R300 is well worth my peace of mind, and that I am not going to clean ANYTHING until I move out. And every time I speak to her on the phone, I listen carefully for traces of a German accent...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

N.D.A

If you didn’t know, NDA stands for Non-Disclosure Agreement. And mine has come to an end. This warrants a huge big sigh of relief, not so much because I was burning to tell people, but more because I just don’t like having a piece of paper tell me what I can and can’t say.

On the other hand, I can now talk about a truly wonderful meeting I had in Sudan before the end of my employment with that truly awful security company (I never wrote a post specifically about the company but read through July 2008). In fact, it’s the very meeting that spelled out the end of my employment there. Could I talk about it at the time? Ah… no. NDA. Was my boss willing to cite my refusal to be immoral as a reason for firing me? Hell no! So I got a list of absolute bulls**t instead.

For those of you that aren’t aware of the terms of the peace agreement in Sudan, one of the provisos was that the SPLA (Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, formerly the rebel party- now in power of South Sudan) would receive formal training and become the military arm of the new government, rather than an untrained rowdy homicidal mass. To me this sounds a lot like training a bunch of rebels to kill better, but hey. Who am I to speak, it seems to be working.

With this is mind, one of the services that our security company was offering was Officer and Intelligence Training, which is a large part of why I was running around to VIP’s and being nice. On a fairly boring and uneventful day one of our contacts came to the office and told us that a colleague was interested in training for a large group of soldiers. Excellent! However, the boss was back in England at the time and he asked me to meet with them on his behalf. So I did.

I was invited to one of the nicer ‘hotels’ and I met with a very large and quite frightening man in the main cafeteria. He and his 3 HUGE ‘collegues’ invited me to their room (and when I say ‘invited’ I use the term to mean squashed in on four sides by huge men and spirited away from the public areas in haste). I think it’s quite understandable that I was a little nervous. When we got to the room, the main guy and two men escorted me inside, and the fourth stood guard outside the door. What struck me first about these men is that they looked Arab. In South Sudan the people are mostly African and in North Sudan they are mostly Arabic. It’s not often that the cultural lines mix for the same reason that seldom do you see Palestinian people in Jerusalem. Its considered unwise. I chose not to say anything about it because I needed my fingers for writing, and instead made it quite clear that I was just taking notes on requirements and structure of the training on my boss’s behalf and for the purpose of quoting. They were scarily excited to be meeting with me.

So, we began with the usual. How many people, what level of training are you interested in, do you need any basic equipment (radios, computer training, etc) and little by little I became very suspicious. Firstly they wanted training for 2000 people. Then they needed all equipment and weapons (which I chose not to point out was illegal for us to supply- thought I would leave that one to the boss) and then they started going on about basic training. Now all SPLA have had basic training…. So who the hell were these guys? I thought the best way to ask was to pose a question about uniform. Which colours will the uniforms have to be in? He laughed outrageously and said, “well, anything so long as we can tell the difference between us and the SPLA when we fight them!”

Ahem. *cough*

I was meeting with rebels from Darfur.

Yup, go right ahead and let that sink in for a moment.

Done? Good. Lets move on then. At this point I started trying to wrap up the meeting as quickly as possible. “Is there anything else you can think of right now that you would like me to hand on to my boss? “ He thinks for a second and then he says, “I think what we really need is some support from the UN. That would really get the world on our side. Please can you arrange for us to meet with them?” My jaw dropped and I was speechless for just a moment. As I regained my voice and prepared to speak he said, “oh, and we would really like to get some support from Tony Blair. I know we can’t meet with him, the man is busy, but could you arrange a phone call with him? That would be great.”

I took a sip of water, thanked him so much for coming to meet with me and said that I would pass on all the information to my boss, and he would be in touch soon. I then almost ran from the room, found the nearest bar with lots of people that I knew and downed a few whiskeys.

When my boss returned a week or so later I handed over all the information to him and prepared to have a good laugh and then a serious discussion of how we were going to tell these guys to bugger off without being killed. Instead his face was thoughtful. “Well, if we did the training in Chad then technically we wouldn’t be contravening the laws…”

I told him in no uncertain terms was not I going to be involved in an endevour that would put peace at risk for a country that had enjoyed peace for only 4 years in 40. I was fired the next day.

As far as I know, the man is currently in Chad, but I have no knowledge of his dealing, business or position there. I do wonder if he ever got that call with Tony Blair?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Year and Resignations

Before you read the following harrowing story of insanity and stupidity, you may want to familiarize yourself with New Year last year.

So, having come full circle, I seemed to think it was a good idea to go back to working for these people. Let’s put it this way… they headhunted me and offered me 30% more (net) than I was earning at the time….

So this time, I was working for their new venture, a restaurant with a private beach. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It really is a gorgeous location, but the running of the place leaves much to be desired. I will explain.

The plan for New Year was this:
Exclusive entry, bands and entertainment, with a front row view of the fireworks and use of the private beach…
2 menu options:
Seafood option (3 course meal with deluxe seafood platter – crustaceans etc) R1500
Non-seafood option (3 course meal with no seafood – mostly for our Jewish clientele) R1000
Menu price included a bottle of bubbly, entry and entertainment, but not service.
Deposit must be paid in advance (everyone pays a R500 deposit). Total and tip to be paid on the night. Non-payment by the 24th of December would release the booking and the waiting list would then be contacted.

The restaurant seats 160 comfortably if the weather is horrible, and it being Cape Town you have to expect the worst, so we all agreed to book that many people.

Please see below the disintegration of my plans:

• Before the restaurant even officially opened we were fully booked for New Year. It was crazy. The problem being that all the ‘regulars’ who hadn’t managed to make a booking began to get all indignant that they hadn’t been ‘invited’. Now, our darling boss has never, and I mean never, even heard the word ‘no’. Heaven forbid that we don’t let the poor psychotic entitled horrible bastards in for the night. Next thing I know, I have 200 people booked for the night and nowhere to seat them.
• I chat to the boss, manage to convince her to pay for a Bedouin tent for the evening so that we can cover the deck, and to rent chairs and tables. She agrees, which means that I then had just enough for the people booked.
• Both the boss and the Head Chef (who honestly thinks he is God) decided that now that there was all this extra space, they could overbook again: and added an extra 90 (yes I did say 90, that isn’t a typo) people to the bookings.
• At this point I tell everyone that we are overbooked and that we cannot under any circumstances take any more bookings. 290 people, in a restaurant that seats 160…
• On the 16 December the boss decides that we have too many VIPs on the waiting list and that everyone must pay IN FULL by the 20th December or they lose their bookings. You can’t do that. You can’t just call someone up and say, “Hi, I know we said that you only had to pay R500 but really, we want the whole amount. No, no, not by the 24th. By the end of the week.” That’s not how it works. But that’s what she decided to do.
• At that point we started having REAL problems. I had a list of bookings that had paid a deposit, a list of bookings that hadn’t paid yet (but were also VIPs so I couldn’t hassle them for money before the 24th) and then for fun and games we had the bosses list of people who had now paid the total in full. Since she has never actually worked in a restaurant before it didn’t cross her mind that they might have to pay the service on the total paid in advance (if it isn’t paid when they pay the total, the waiter works all night for no tip. Who is going to tip on a bill they paid a month ago?), so she didn’t charge them service. To make it all really interesting, some of the people on the different lists were seated at the same table.
• On the 30th of December, the boss added another 20 people.
• I managed to call the rental company and they managed to help me out with some extra tables and chairs.
• Finally the night before the event, I sat up until 2am in the morning to write out a manual for the event. I listed every single booking, their menu choice, their seating requirements, allergies and special requests, and table number. I also created table plans (one for the floor staff with numbers of seats, one for the chef with the menu requirements, and one for the manager with the billing requirements).
• I felt I was ready
• On the day of New Years Eve, we started setting up the restaurant. The boss looked at it and decided that she didn’t like how it looked (maybe because we had 130 people more than we could actually accommodate… maybe not).
• I changed and reprinted all the table plans.
• She changed it again.
• I changed and reprinted all the table plans.
• She shouted at me for wasting my time on table plans. Then changed the table layout again.
• In secret I changed and reprinted all the table plans.
• We all agreed that everything was as it should be, most peoples requests had been accommodated, and that nothing was going to move. Mostly because we had decided that to prevent confusion we were going to settle the incredibly complicated food bills as the group sat down so that they could get drunk and just pay for drinks later.
• The Head Chef changed the menu. No kidding. 30 minutes before we opened for New Years EVE, for a fully booked restaurant full of customers who have paid in advance, he changes the menu.
• I went and got dressed up, wiped the fury from my face, convinced myself not to walk out and prepared to stand at the front entrance with the guest list.
• The very first table that walked in took one look at their table, decided it was too tight and demanded that they sit at the next table over. The Head Chef (aka: God) – who had AGREED that we must NOT move anyone, told them, “sure, no problem” and seated their group of 10 on a table set for 16.
• The table of 16 arrived, and had nowhere to sit…. From here on out I am going to just jot down the highlights because I think that you get the picture:
o No one got the table they had requested
o No one got the food they had pre-ordered
o The tables moved around so much that the waiters had no idea who they were serving or what their requests had been
o The billing was a complete disaster because the managers had no idea where the customers were. I was still processing bills at 4am.
• We ended up having approximately 400 people in the place, and maybe 60 happy customers.

I handed in my resignation the next day. I now work for an IT company.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Caviar

I am back! Yup, I know. Faint. If there any of you left to faint, that is….. I bet that one or two of you had me on their ‘following’ list, and for just a moment when my new post popped up you went ” Um… WTF? Oh yeah! THAT chick.”

Moving on. You know, I do keep choosing jobs that engulf my life. Luckily, I also choose jobs that have hilarious moments, or this blog would be something along the lines of ‘today I pushed paper round my desk and one of the guys in the office made a joke’. Unfortunately for you, and fortunately for my sanity, I now have EXACTLY that kind of job. What this means is this:

• I am (for the first time in about 8 years or possibly ever) working a 9-5, Monday to Friday job.
• I have my sanity back and have stopped swearing at random people in the streets.
• I no longer foam at the mouth if anyone asks me a stupid question.
• I have time to spend with my boyfriend, who has finally settled in Cape Town
• I occasionally sleep
• I have time to write blog posts.

In an effort not to bore you to certain death, I shall not discuss the ins and outs of my new wonderfully normal job, but rather I shall reminisce in bits and pieces about my jobs in the last year, and the fun and games they have brought.

And I would like to bring to your attention a story about how NOT to eat caviar. One of the quirks of having a ‘New’ South Africa is that you have a huge percentage of the population who have come into money (whether by restitution, guilt, or sudden employment) who wish to appear wealthy and worldly, but in reality have very little knowledge about how the other half lives. When people suddenly find themselves with enough free cash to afford a nice restaurant, they sometimes find themselves in confounding situations. This was one of those situations.

A table of 4 people came into the very fancy restaurant I worked in for a while. One of them was a newly appointed government minister celebrating with his wife and two friends, very clearly members of the Newly Rich. Naturally, they ordered the most expensive items on the menu, but even the minister balked when told the price of the Beluga caviar ‘on special’ for R5000. Not a problem, his wife simply waited until he had left the table for a moment, and imperiously signaled the waiter to take her order. R5000 Beluga Caviar please.

The restaurant takes pride in how it serves the caviar, because it is presented in such a way that one can either use or ignore all the extra bits that come with it. The caviar itself is served traditionally in the tin it comes in, perched on top of crushed ice, in a martini glass, with a hand carved mother of pearl spoon. A shot of premium vodka, also kept cool in crushed ice, is served on the side. The martini glass itself is served standing on a small plate which carries the standard extras of melba toast, grated egg, etc etc. Its beautiful really. Imagine something like this, but with a martini glass:




Mrs Minister, when presented with this array, and while studiously avoiding her husbands horrified expression, had a clear moment of panic. She gingerly reached for the vodka, and then changed her mind. Then picked up a piece of melba toast and hurriedly put it down. At this point she realised that if one was to appear worldly and wealthy, one must appear to be comfortable with expensive food. With a quick shrug and a sudden set of her lips, she reached confidently for the tin of caviar, grabbed the mother of pearl spoon and simply scooped it all out in one big black eggy glob onto the ice in the martini glass. At this point 3 waiters and I all stopped what we were doing and turned to stare. The restaurant was engulfed by a wave of silence as everyone turned to look at what we were all staring at. Oblivious, she snapped up the vodka in her other hand, dumped it unceremoniously into the martini glass and vigorously stirred it with the aforementioned mother of pearl spoon. I swear the whole world held its breath.

She stopped, looked at what she had created, evicted the brief look of terror from her face, set her shoulders and took a sip.

Have you ever seen a whole room full of disgusted faces? Every one of us had a notion of just how unpleasant that must have been.

I will give her this though: She finished the whole damn thing.