But it wasn’t all roses in Cape Town. There was one event that haunts me to this day.
And it all had begun so well. It had been decided to go and spend the day visiting the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek vineyards. The group comprised Frank and me, Frank’s friend who we were staying with and her friend, Ms. C.
The four of us had a glorious day; and as I wasn’t driving I tried every glass of wine that came my way and as a result found a lovely level of inebriation in the crisp South African sun.
Come evening we headed to an astonishing outdoor restaurant on the outskirts of Stellenbosch called Moyo (admittedly I find most restaurants astonishing after a day of continued wine tasting) which had the largest BBQ–known as a braais in S.A.–I’ve ever encountered, perhaps 50-feet long and on which, unless a animal was on the endangered species list, it appeared to be getting grilled: antelope, buffalo, alligator; Noah’s Ark had apparently been massacred to populate the steaming grills.
So we ate like princes and princesses, listened to the live music beneath the awnings of the trees’ boughs, darkness descended, women in traditional dress walked around the restaurant dabbing traditional face paint on the guests’ faces; we motored back to Cape Town looking somewhat ridiculous, perhaps, but buoyed by one of those rare days where every single minute had glowed with contentment.
Back in the flat I set about laying out my sleeping bag on the couch, at which point Ms. C sauntered past and said if I wanted I could share the bed with her rather than spending the night on the couch.
I hadn’t been expecting that. What to make of it was beyond my brain power. I put the sleeping bag aside, made my way to the bedroom with uncertain steps and cautiously climbed into the bed beside her and lay rather still.
“No funny stuff,” she said, as if reading my mind. Some funny stuff wouldn’t have been beyond the realm of possibility for me; she was a classically blonde, strapping and beautiful South African enchantress.
I spent the first hour lying there trying to work out whether she was bluffing, playing hard to get, or most probably meant what she’d said. I decided on the latter and spent the rest of the night looking at the ceiling, frozen in frustration and confusion.
Having come from the monk-like existence of an operational tour in Iraq made the sting someone sharper. It felt as if my tank’s turret had followed me into the bed, sealed me inside, imprisoning me from the rest of the world and, more importantly, imprisoning me from the exquisite creature lying at my side.
I still get melancholic thinking about that long night of persecution.