South Africa Tour 2015/16
The Calm after the Storm
The morning after the victory in Johannesburg was an exceedingly groggy one.
When Lofty, Simon and I had arrived back at our hotel we decided to test the bar opening hours, and it was still serving as we staggered up to bed at 1.45am.
Those familiar with my medical condition will know that this was possibly not the most sensible strategy.
So what better reviver than a morning swim in the outdoor infinity pool?
With most of the tour group Brits gathered around the pool, but no - one in it, I dipped my feet into the water.
By now, all eyes were lifted from newspapers and focused on hungover Midnight.
So, no possibility of chickening out and I gritted my teeth, dived in, and did twenty lengths.
Usually this process will warm me up, but almost immediately my hands started to go numb and when I finally clambered out, first stage frostbite and a lumpy body rash were evident. I think I now partially understand what a sex - change must feel like, as those particular organs had virtually disappeared.
The rest of the day was spent in recovery mode, although I did manage to revive the SA Rummy challenge against Lofty in the evening.
Current score: Midnight 550 Rand up : Lofty 550 Rand down.
At this rate, Lofty will end up with a higher level of debt than Greece before we return home!
To prove how caring and charitable I am, I let him pay for both our meals in the Wanderers Club and knock 150 Rand off his slop sheet.
Plenty of time to build it up again in Centurion!
Now the problem with the Test match finishing early is that activities are required to occupy the spare days, and unfortunately Johannesburg is no Cape Town.
Thus next day we found ourselves at Nelson Mandela Square along with most of the Barmy Army, window shopping the expensive outlets there. The prices were frankly ridiculous, and we ended up in the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch with Freddie and Jamo.
Higgy and Martin turned up, both looking like they had enjoyed a great night last night, and we were also joined by the ever pleasant Barmy Travel leader Andy Thompson.
Tremers, Smithy and Greavsie had all gone to play golf at Rand Park, which I gather is a rather long course which will be used for the South African Open next year.
Something snapped us out of our collective comfort zone, and we got a minibus taxi first of all up to the Griffin, a craft beer pub in Illovo. When we arrived at 3pm, technically the pub was closed until 4.30pm, but within five minutes we were sat on an outside balcony drinking strong 6% pale ale and lager.
Later we met up with the golfers and this time, we really proved what a crazy outfit the Addis Army is. After another long taxi ride, we finished up playing pool in the Attiq Chill Lounge, a black workers bar in Kempton close to Oliver Tambo airport.
Doubles teams were formed with Smithy as the undoubted pool star, showing every sign of a mis-spent youth. I was paired with young Jamo, who clearly has other things (like Tinder girls) on his mind, and has not yet had time to properly mis-spend his youth.
I hope Jamo won't mind me saying this. He is as proficient at American pool as Tom Daley is at cage - fighting, but despite this we managed to win a few games thanks to my finally remembering how to hold a cue, and with a couple of flukes of course.
Most of the locals seemed rather astonished by our incongruous presence but they eventually joined in with our messy and raucous game of 'killer'. All in all, a bloody good laugh, which got better when a bottle of 100% proof local 'Mainstay' cane rum was mysteriously produced from behind the bar! Cane rum obviously helps you sleep, as various photos were taken of Lofty in full repose on a black plastic sofa, while the 'killer' was in full swing.
My personal highlight of the evening. One of the young locals, who was dressed all in black and spoke little or no English, was wearing a trashy 'Lewis Hamilton' style baseball cap. As Tremers turn to shoot came, he swiped the cap from the young mans head, put it on his own head backwards, then hammered in a long pot and returned the cap with a high - five.
Check out from the Protea Wanderers came the following day and surprisingly when we asked them how much we owed for meals etc, they paid us a 650 Rand refund. The breakfast wasn't that bad!
On to Centurion, a suburb of Pretoria, and the Thatch Haven guest house, where a goodly number of our group will be staying.
The Thatch Haven is precisely what it says on the tin, an attractive collection of chalets and rooms with thatched rooves.
The owner, Sandra, seems very security conscious. I have a jailers ring of four keys for four separate doors, and a remote control to operate the front gate to negotiate before I can leave the premises. Could be interesting if I return in my cups.
Before we went out to explore we received a thirty minute lecture on drug abuse on the premises by previous white guests, and dire warnings about Pretoria City centre and its muggers, who I suspect are unlikely to become future black guests.
Lofty and I went into the town centre today on one of the 'local', unmarked buses - the bus driver was doing us a favour really as we had been waiting ages in vain in the sweltering heat for an official, Gautrain bus.
When the driver dropped us off outside a shopping mall, he asked for 7 Rand for our fare, and Lofty duly fished out some coins.
"Hey, that's 7 Rand each, not for both, you two!" the driver shouted as we dismounted.
It was worth a try.
Although I have been to Centurion before with Tremers, the town looked unfamiliar.
I think this is because on our last visit, Wycombe was driving us about in his hire car, and I spent most of the time as his passenger with my eyes firmly closed, gripping the safety bar.
Not much to attract the visitor here apart from the cricket ground. Centurion Lake, once a resort attraction, now contains virtually no water due to drought, and its 'shores' are comprised of empty plastic bottles and other detritus.
The shallow, stagnant pond that remains is an obvious breeding ground for biting malarial insects and as Five - O is arriving here on Friday to stay at a lakeside hotel, I shall be advising him to keep his windows shut.
Fortunately we are located some 3km outside town near Wierdapark and in the evening we found a fantastic byo pizza eatery nearby called Pizza Milan, run by new Addis members Brendon and Lara.
Wayne, if you are reading this, the abbreviation stands for 'boyo' and the pizzas here contain Welsh toppings such as leeks and lamb.
To anyone else, if you don't get the joke, you had better check out the World Cup Diaries!
The following day we returned via Gautrain to Johannesburg to look at the city and visit the Apartheid Museum. Geoffrey Boycott has been openly critical of the Gautrain service here, cracking jokes about 'being stabbed' whilst using it, but we encountered no problems at all and if anything the service standard was better than anything I have experienced in England.
On arrival at Park station in Hillbrow we caught the double decker Johannesburg tour bus.
Johannesburg is not a pretty city. We were told that all the large companies that previously inhabited the city centre had now relocated to Sandton, leaving a vacuum that seems to have been mostly filled by fried chicken shops, judging by the dazzling variety of 'KFC' counterfeits we saw. The massive Carlton Hotel, which was the tallest building in Africa when it was built and has in the past played host to Margaret Thatcher and Mick Jagger, is now a sad, boarded - up relic surrounded by dirty souvenir shops.
We managed, at Lofty's request, to fit in a visit to the James Hall transport museum. This contained a number of valuable vehicles, including a Messerschmitt bubble car, but of more interest to me was a fire pump made in 1877 by Shand, Mason of London. This vehicle was used by the British Army as a water - cart at the battle of Isandlwana and captured by the Zulus. British forces later recovered the truck and it was subsequently sold to the Johannesburg fire brigade for £114. I suspect with a provenance like that, a slightly higher bid might be expected if this vehicle ever went to auction.
Later, the Apartheid Museum was a different kettle of fish, with a number of disturbing exhibits and films depicting mans inhumanity to his fellow man.
The section covering the defunct white supremacist groups was particularly shocking and reminiscent of Nazi Germany at its worst.
It was hard to believe that the events in the newsreels we watched actually happened less than twenty - five years ago.
I would not recommend a visit to this museum for anyone suffering from depression.
Early stage senility must be setting in with me, as when we got back to our b & b there were Greavsie, Freddie and Tremers waiting to greet us - I had not expected them until Thursday.
The boys had travelled en route from Soweto, where Tremers had been tempted by the bungee jump at Orlando Towers, but fortunately for his travel insurance company this was closed when they arrived.
In the evening we all met up with Smithy and Jamo at the Pizza Milan and were also delighted to be joined by the Blade family, from Adelaide via Sun City. Mr Blade was in excellent form despite missing out on the Jo'burg victory as previously described. His good mood was only slightly dented when the Strikers lost their Big Bash semi - final the next morning.
After we had all watched the Big Bash we recreated ' The Great Trek' with a 5km walk to Supersport Park, where a particularly vindictive steward had a falling out first with Greavsie, then with us all. He threatened to call the police unless we left the stadium, so presumably our offence when charged would have been 'illegally watching cricketers netting.'
Ludicrous, and Paul Newman from the Daily Mail who watched the whole thing with a smile will no doubt be filing a story about this international incident.
I just hope this jobsworth steward is not on the turnstiles tomorrow.
Our night was improved greatly by yet another visit to Pizza Milan, where we were joined by newly - arrived Five - O and his pal , who was quickly recruited to Addis under the name of Taffy Jack.
An excellent night, in which we were aided & abetted by Brendon and Lara, finished too early for some of us, but special thanks to next door bottle shop owner Phil for taking a busman's holiday with the Addis Army, and bringing with him a bottle of quality South African brandy.
Brendon announced that he had grown some of his own specially strong chillies and this prompted a tasting challenge between Blade and Jamo. One tiny sliver of chilli apiece.
At first, not much reaction.
Mr Blade: "I thought you were giving us something hot. Call that hot? Give me something hot!"
Ten minutes later the pair were convulsed. Jamo just about imploded : Blade drank cider at double his normal pace - which is quite fast - to dampen the pain. A great jape.
Brendon, Lara and Phil, its a pleasure to have you in the Addis Army.
At the end of the evening a nice surprise. On our last visit to Centurion in 2009, I was bitten by a jump spider and needed to go to hospital. The taxi driver looking after us back then was a lovely little lady called Esmeralda. When she came to pick up Taffy Jack at 11pm to return him to his hotel, she also got a surprise and a couple of kisses.
It really is a small world.
Cricket tomorrow and Blades chance to notch that victory!