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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

impromptu holiday


Looking back now, I feel very foolish. At the time, however, I just could not see how I was going to cope with being alone for more than two weeks. In the end I decided to take five days' leave to be with The One.

Arranging the leave was no problem. Buying the plane tickets was. I had to max out my overdraft. Luckily I found a very cheap seat (R260) on a Mango flight. The only con was that I had to be at the airport at 4:45am since the flight left at 5:45. Then I also had to find a seat on the same flight as The One was returning on. And while his seat had cost R390, mine cost a whopping R570. Unexpectedly, on the day before I left, my boss gave me some money as a bonus.

Because I had to be at the airport so early, I decided that I would drive myself and then leave Donald at the airport's long term parking facility which only costs R10 per day. To be safe, I wanted to leave around 3:00am, which would give me enough time to get there without rushing. I drove to the garage the night before to put in petrol and to check all the other fluid levels. On the way back to the apartment, Donald overheated once again. When I switched the engine off, I could hear the terrible boiling noises from the radiator that I had come to hate so much. There was no way that I could drive to the airport myself.

Luckily I still had some of the money my boss gave me. And luckily my new phone has a built-in modem. So I surfed the net for a shuttle that would be able to take me to the airport at such short notice. At 21:00 I arranged for the shuttle to pick me up at 4:00.

Of course I did not sleep much and when the shuttle driver phoned at 3:50, I was ready to leave. The drive to the airport was quite entertaining. The driver had brought his son with and they were very chatty. The driver told me how he had caught a black guy (he said another word) that had tried to steal his brother-in-law's car. He described how he had been so worked up that he had not felt the cold despite being barefoot and only wearing his shorty pajamas. And he described how he had beaten up the thief.

Then the son spoke about his work. He told his father about two girls that he worked with and said how they were really friendly but that they would not hesitate to stab someone in the back if they had a chance. And then he described how the one girl had once tried a trick on the stage with benzine and had set fire to herself. And he spoke about waiters who had turned dancers. I still wonder where he works and what he does.

The trip took about thirty minutes. I had to stand in a very long queue to book in, but it was still too early to board when I had finished. The girl that did the booking in was very chatty and talked about the strike and how it affected them. While waiting for boarding to begin, I played around with my phone's wi-fi abilities and was suitably impressed.

One of the air hostesses on the plane had the most beautifully tragic face that I have ever seen. I could not take my eyes off her. She looked like a Da Vinci Madonna, only she had made up her face in sixties fashion with kohl around the eyes. I had a window seat on the 3 seat side of the Boeing 737. The seat in between was vacant and the aisle seat was taken by a large untidy woman with short sleeves and a very rushed look in her eyes. She ate a cheese and tomato sandwich and drank a cup of coffee.

Every time I fly I remember why I hate flying. The elevator up and down feeling is the stuff of nightmares. But I have to admit that it was the best flight I have ever had, especially when we flew over Cape Town at sunrise and saw the mountain as it awoke. It was beautiful.

And what made it more beautiful was that The One was there to meet me when I had fetched my luggage. He looked shorter than I remembered (but then, I had on my high heel Wehrmacht shoes). The tuft of bed-hair he has had not been flattened. He looked yummy.

Because of the medication The One has to take, he is not allowed to drive and his mother had driven, which I felt terribly guilty about since she is a very nervous driver and peek hour Cape Town traffic is no joke. But she had managed admirably. On the way back to Napier, we stopped at Hermanus for a few things and had a Wimpy burger each. The One and I drank strawberry smoothies (delicious) and The One's mother had a guava juice. We were served by a jolly fat waitress. Then we each had a Steers ice-cream which we ate while watching the ocean from the street above the old harbour which is now a museum. The colour and clarity of the water reminded me of a aquamarine sapphire. Very tame dassies sat around, baking in the weak winter sun.

Napier is a delightful little town with the most magnificent church I have ever seen outside of Europe. The region has a Mediterranean climate, which means that it has rain in winter. I had heard that everything was very green in winter and had imagined a dark forest green. Even though it did not rain while I was there, all the gently sloping canola fields was an unexpected chartreuse. It felt as though I was in rural England, the way I imagine it to be.

One day, we took the car and drove to Arniston (Waenhuiskrans). The beach was deserted and a cold, wet wind blew strongly. I have never been to the sea in winter and it was profoundly wonderful in a way that I cannot describe.

The rest of the time in Napier went quickly the way holidays do. We had glorious walks and scrumptious food. The One's sister and brother-in-law fetched us two days before we had to return to spend some time with them. They would be taking us to the airport in George. They live in Albertinia, which is another little town, though not as small as Napier. The One's brother in law is a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and they live in the parsonage right next to the church. It is also a striking church, but not as beautiful as that of Napier. The church bells chime every half hour, so you always know what time it is. It makes me very aware of every second that passes. And so we spent the last days of our holiday watching DSTV, going for short walks and playing with the two resident golden retrievers.

Our flight back was uneventful and The One's other brother-in-law fetched us from the airport. And we returned to our lives in a very cold, very noisy apartment, a life of deadlines and doctors.

Written by I

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