South Africa Tour 2009/10

"INQABA, Makhaya!"

A lot of reading required this time but please bear with me dear reader as I suspect you will find at least some of this entertaining.

Firstly, congratulations to Mr & Mrs Streetfly on the arrival of their daughter just before Xmas.

It is at times like this that you sit back and think profound thoughts like, if things had been different, she could have been born in Africa into a life of squalor, poverty, poor diet/ malnutrition and racial tension.

Thank goodness she was born in Yorkshire instead.

I understand mother and baby are both doing well and Streetfly is looking for a cheap cigar shop.

Well, after leaving lovely East London Tremers and myself went on one of our famous 3,000 kilometre drives to Kimberley and Parys - taking in yet more Consentration Camps from the Anglo-Boer War. Yes, that's how they spell it on the road signs - which to me is conclusive proof that these horrid establishments were not invented by the English.

At least we would have spelt the blessed name correctly.

In Kimberley we visited the famous "Big Hole" which is as it says on the tin, a big hole in the ground caused by greedy diamond miners (from England).

In Parys on our way to Pretoria we visited another big hole, the Vredefort Dome which is the oldest and largest meteorite crater on earth measuring 200 km in diameter. Despite the impressive description there was precious little tangible extra terrestrial material on view and I found myself instead wishing that ground zero had been centred on East London 2000 million years ago, and on the Sugar Shack Backpackers in particular.

We arrived in Pretoria tired and quite late after our efforts at the Dome and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted at our apartment by our old friend Wycombe , somewhat groggy from his exhausting 17 hour flight to South Africa via Libya . Tripoli or Gaddafi Army doesn't have the same ring to it as Addis!

We decided to drop our hire car off at Avis while Wycs followed us in his own hire car, picked up earlier that day in Johannesburg. In the dark we had difficulty finding the Avis depot, and at one point Tremers took a sharp right through a robot (traffic lights in English).

It was some seconds later that we realised Wycs had not followed us round the junction and instead we heard the heart-rending sound of metal crunching on metal.

"I think Wycs must have had a prang" observed the sharp-witted Tremers.

Unwittingly Wycs in his hired Hyundai Exocet had collided with a £50k brand new silver Mercedes driven by Dr Bisiwas and his wife, Lucky, an Indian couple heading out for a meal.

Or so they thought.

The curry would be very cold indeed before this night had been played out.

The two drivers pulled their vehicles into the Engen garage on the corner plot to swap details.

I am truly convinced that the intersection of Gordon and Church in Pretoria must have been being personally monitored by John Tracy of International Rescue in Thunderbird 5 out in space that night, for it was only a matter of seconds before a bevy of tow trucks descended on the garage jostling for an insurance job.

Either that, or the naughty people were tuning in to the Police frequency on their cab radios.

One of the tow drivers was so anxious to get close to the action, he reversed his large truck into Dr Bisiwas' Mercedes, taking off the rear end.

We watched these events in slow motion, dumbstruck with a horror bordering on stupification.

"F**k me, you cant pin that on Wycombe" I shouted. To anyone who was listening.

Dr Bisiwas evening didn't get any better when the local police arrived after being summoned by Lucky on her mobile phone. This poor lady had sat patiently in the Mercedes passenger seat suffering multiple and repeated whiplash injuries throughout these events.

After a couple of cigarettes leaning against the petrol pump the police decided that as we were not South Africans , this was a job for the Diplomatic rather than normal police. This unit was duly called for. Then, two ambulances screeched to a halt outside the garage looking for bodies. Tremers and I explained that nobody had been really hurt and they retired, disappointed. I'm sure you will have more joy during the World Cup boys.

By this time a large crowd of Africans had also gathered and I swear, there were so many people arriving on the scene I was anxiously scanning the night skies listening for a mighty roar from the landing engines of Thunderbird 2 which would deposit a green container pod onto the garage forecourt containing an AA van and a small army of patrolmen in black and yellow livery.

I remember thinking at the time that Virgil would have problems parking up, with all the tow trucks that were already there.

Anyway when the Diplomatic police arrived they asked for our Diplomats cards - as they thought we were Diplomats - and spent hours smoking more cigarettes on the forecourt and taking a load of useless information such as Wyc's address, driving licence details and UK phone number.

As you may imagine this night had all the classic hallmarks of trauma for poor Wycs and when we got back to our apartment finally at 3.30am he was too agitated to sleep and instead started filling in the Avis accident report form.

"How fast do you think I was travelling?"

"Ramming Speed?" I suggested, bearing in mind the earlier Ben-Hur leprosy references.

"How economical with the truth should I be?"

"Remember Wycs you are dealing with a respected Indian doctor here not some brainless muppet" I said.

"Well, I'm a respected cricket writer" came back the obvious riposte from Wycs.

The situation got more amusing when Wycs returned the car to Avis in Centurion the next day. He demanded to know from the pretty receptionist how much the panel beaters' bill would be as this represented his liability.

I gently explained that unless the pretty receptionist was wearing overalls and covered in oil she might not have much idea, which in fact proved to be the case.

Tremers meanwhile was outside the Avis office coughing his internal organs out in convulsive laughter.

Finally, we discovered Wycs had contacted Herbie for solace, which I can only describe as the ultimate in desperate folly. A text message to Sauron the Dark Lord of Mordor would probably elicit more sympathy.

Eventually we got down to watching some cricket. The ground at Centurion is in fact as pretty as a picture and we were now joined on the grass bank by some old mates. Steve H. from Australia and New Zealand. Posh Margaret, who we know and love from Lords. Lindsey, of "Lager Frenzy" fame.

And of course not forgetting PC Tintin, our very own Addis "Dick of Dock Green" who demonstrated the results of his recent "crowd control training" by drinking 8 bottles of cider and 5 pints of lager in a single afternoon and spending the rest of the day verbally abusing the locals. Aided and abetted, my lud, I must add, by myself.

The locals retaliated by stripping to the waist , smearing themselves in excrement and green paint, and marching up our grass bank with a big banner proclaiming the existence of the "Vaalie Army". At the bar I heard one of these people explaining to the astonished bar staff why he was stripped, painted green and covered in sh*t.

Please feel free to use your South African translation sheet I provided in an earlier report on the following sentences.

"We are the Vaalie Army. We come from this side of the Vaal".

Well everybody needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning I suppose.

We have also met a lovely couple called Mark and Shana. Shana is American, and was asked on day two of the test whether she had been to cricket before.

"Oh yes " she said " I've been to two games now. Yesterday and today".


Mark, your next assignment is to explain the football offside rule to Shana in your spare time. Shana, thanks for letting me quote you on this classic!

On days 1 and 2 of the Test the sponsors Castle Lager had kindly issued a voucher to each crowd member to obtain a free pint of lager when Makhaya Ntini took his first wicket of the match, which would be his 100th test. I'm sure we never did this at home for Steve Harmison.

When Alastair Cook was dropped in the slips off Ntini late on day 2 we collectively despaired but for once disappointment was not to follow.

Ntini duly took his wicket at 10.31 the following morning.

PC Tintin and myself had somehow managed to embezzle 23 vouchers between us, and with the scoreboard announcing that the vouchers would be valid all day, we were clearly in for a merry time. Graham Swann joined in the fun with a fine and highly entertaining knock in the afternoon, cheered on by the grass bank full of England fans giddy on free ale.

"Swann, Swann will tear you apart again" we sang.

Well I never. Wonder where that came from??

Inqaba, Makhaya. Which, for those wondering, simply means "Cheers".

As I write this latest report on the evening of day 4 we have now been joined by our lovely Tractor girl, who is currently investigating the disappearance of 8 bottles of cider, 5 pints of lager and 12 more pints of lager on day 3.

PC Tintin is "helping her with her enquiries". We are having a tropical thunderstorm outside so day 5 may be in doubt but at worst we should hold on for a draw.

Now the latest Big Five news. Tremers has been stung by a wasp, and I have been bitten by a poisonous spider whilst sitting on the grass bank.

My wound has become infected and gone septic resulting in a visit to the local hospital today and a 2,000 rand hospital / doctors / car repair bill.

Doctor Bisiwas, who saw me at the hospital, was most sympathetic and his bedside manner reminded me of Laurence Olivier in "Marathon Man" - "Is it safe??"

He has given me lots of nice pills to swallow for the next five weeks, before, during and after meals, some with risky side-effects.

He seemed somewhat disappointed that I was not accompanied by Wycombe.

On a serious note I must express my sincere thanks to our wonderful taxi driver Esmerelda , who ferried me to and from the hospital in a storm- calling at KFC on the way back - and even offered to wait with me until I had been diagnosed / had all my teeth removed by Dr Bisiwas. We would thoroughly recommend Es to any cricket fans visiting Centurion or Pretoria , and her number is available via Tremers, Wycombe or myself.

I cant wait to get to Bangladesh. I'm sure there are no biting insects there!

Love to all Midnight. xxx

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