Festive cheer

Far from being a pessimist about South Africa’s ability to host the soccer World Cup next year, I am convinced it will be remembered as an event of epic proportions in which the vast majority of visitors will have experiences they will never forget. As long as they are adaptable and able to make a plan.

South Africans have become very good at ‘making a plan’ over the years for a variety of reasons, from power cuts to road works and labour strikes. But Germans are used to reliable efficiency, Spaniards expect to be able to eat in a restaurant after midnight, most visitors will expect to be able to get from A to B in a reasonable period of time and when tourists are looking for eating or drinking options, it’d be good to able to offer them some. And it would be even better if we had enough trained staff to serve people.

Three days before Christmas day, having sufficiently recovered from the excitement of the final afternoon in Centurion, we arranged a picnic lunch at the excellent Spier estate outside Stellenbosch. It’s a heck of an operation at Spier – three restaurants, a cheetah-petting enclave for kids, a lake, abundant birdlife and a fine picnic area and deli in which the unprepared and spontaneous can buy bread, cheese, sliced meat, salads and cold wine for a hazy, lazy lunch.

Given the time of the year and the perfect weather, it was no surprise to find it busy despite an early arrival at 12:30. The last remaining picnic table was covered in old birdsh*t and the remains of food from several days earlier. There was a single lady serving at the meat and salad counter and a single lady on the till. It took 45 minutes to get served while my hungry children whined outside. We still had an enjoyable afternoon once I’d whipped the table down with a handful of wet tissues and eventually fed the kids, but it could have been a lot better.

I was standing in the lobby of the Durban Hilton on the evening before the second Test next to the concierge when a middle-aged England supporter approached the man in his smart jacket with the words: “Good evening, I wonder if you can help? We are a group of seven and we really would like to have a good curry. We’ve heard all about Durban curries! Where can you recommend?”

The concierge on duty replied that he thought there was a good one in the Elangeni Hotel but that he didn’t know of any others.” WHAT?! We must be able to do better than that.

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