South Africa Tour 2009/10

Zulu Dawn and other ladies

Hi all

The highlight of our trip thus far occurred in Dundee, when we were lucky enough to tour the battlefields of Rorkes Drift (Zulu) and Isandlwana ( Zulu Dawn ) with our guide , ex-Rhodesian Army officer Pat Rundgren.

As we pulled into Isandlwana, the site of a British military disaster prior to Zulu where 1300 British troops were "annihilated", Pat's questioning became intense.

"Do you know why we lost this one" he asked a bemused Tremers.

"Was it because they had 30,000 men and we only had 1,300?"

"No Simon. It was because the British were insufficiently laagered up."

" You wont have that problem during the World Cup in June" - titters all round.

What Pat meant of course was a circling of wagons similar to that seen in western films and a tactic employed frequently by the Boers, notably at the battle of Blood River. Hope Im not boering you with this slice of history.

When the Zulus had won the battle at Isandlwana they dismembered the dead troops cutting off moustaches,arms,legs and genitalia to take home as trophies. I'm not certain but this may be the reason they cast Peter O'Toole as the incompetent British commander, Lord Chelmsford in the film Zulu Dawn.

We moved on to Rorkes Drift, scene of Zulu , the film that made Michael Caine a star-not many people know that.

The site itself is a little disappointing as the location for the film was elsewhere but there was a museum offering colourful portraits of the various Victoria Cross heroes. The character played by Caine, Gonville Bromhead , was described as a thoroughly miserable, melancholy individual. If the film is ever remade, I suggest that Richard Wilson is cast in the leading role. Then, instead of "Hold them. HOLD THEM" as the 20,000 Zulus charge the barricades we would hear " I just dont believe it".

Any disappointment with Rorkes Drift was quickly forgotten as after our tour we were invited by Pat to his local " British Legion"club for a drink with his family and the other members.

Called "The Shellhole" Pat's club contains its own museum and we were made very welcome by the members who showed us their prize exhibit- a shell fired at the British during the siege of Ladysmith by the Boers on Christmas day which landed on the cricket pitch in the middle of a game.

The shell looked as if it had left the foundry yesterday and was engraved with the words "greetings of the season" as the explosive contents had been removed and replaced with Christmas pudding.

Some Boers in Durban would not prove so friendly - of which more later - but sincere thanks to Pat, his family and the members of the Shellhole for their hospitality.

And so it was we returned to rainy Durban and Tremers and myself temporarily parted company.

I am now resident in the lovely Sandringham Hotel, Umhlanga, run by Alan and Sheila ( from exotic Harpurhey and Chester respectively) and on Christmas Day morning I was joined by Herbie, arriving like a latter-day baby Jesus to inspire all mankind he meets.

I am unsure whether Wycombe is also staying in our hotel. He has been spasmodically moving luggage in between rooms, spasmodically flitting between hotels, spasmodically nipping in and out of our bathroom, and spasmodically making late night visits to the local Casino.

No apologies for the repeated use of the word "spasmodic" in this context.

On Christmas Day Herbie and myself ventured out for a meal with Tom, Tractor Wycombe and a guy called Rupert, who was staying at the classy and salubrious Banana Backpackers in downtown Durban with the Tintin family.

The meal was average , but the three pints of lager each followed by four bottles of red wine, five Jaegerbombs and several hand-grenades proved to be excellent ice-breakers.

Tractor was in an excellent position then to go for more drinks at the England team hotel and stalk Luke Wright.

As for myself....well, lets just say a very messy day and my condition at bedtime rhymed with "anchored".

On Boxing Day we experienced the full fury of a drunken stadium full of Boers and there were some truly primeval specimens sitting on the grass bank.One of these morons wrestled Jimmy Savile to the ground during his song, an act more dastardly than the attack on Pearl Harbour. This made front page news in the local paper the following day but fortunately Jimmy was relatively unscathed.

The following day when he began his routine he was accompanied by a minder down the steps to the front while Billy Cooper played the theme from "Rocky" on his trumpet. As Jimmy pranced about the crowd shouted" He's behind you" and other panto favourites. Hilarious.

Day two was also memorable for an inspired spread bet by Herbie restricting SA runs. Tom and myself cheered like lunatics as Steyn belted six after six at the end of their innings turning Herbie's £40 profit into a £50 loss.

To complete a perfect day Herbie also lost his phone, although he has about a thousand other electronic gadgets to play with-our room resembles a Dixon's superstore with miles of wire and numerous charging devices plugged in.

On day two there was also a rather good century by Alastair Cook.

On day three the tea time ticket draw took our attention. At each test, for the first three days, the owner of the winning admission ticket collects 10,000 rand, or £850. As the lucky winner ran onto the pitch she had just sixty seconds to reach the announcer to show her ticket and claim the prize.

Tractor needed only 9.5 seconds to reach the centre of the pitch narrowly beating Usain Bolt to claim her cash.

Hopefully , this windfall will allow her and PC Tintin to relocate to better class accomodation. We visited their backpacker home today for a drink.

Imagine a scene from Slumdog Millionaire with a host of Jason Lee lookalike African women working behind the bar.

Imagine that the Jason Lee lookalikes have night time jobs at the next-door establishment " Red Sonja's", a massage parlour and escort agency-in other words a knocking shop.

Imagine sixteen bed dormitories similar to those in " The Beach" that if used in prisoner of war camps would be described as "atrocities"

In fact, dont imagine any of this -- just visit the Banana Backpackers yourself.

We took pity on the Gyppo Army and invited them to a barbeque at our gaff and to my eternal delight PC Tintin was bitten severely by mosquitos , begging me for salve cream, while I remained unscathed.

I have, however, been banned from singing before Midnight by Alan, conscious that his other guests may need to sleep.

Today has been day four of the test-pretty uneventful-if the weather holds we should complete a routine win tomorrow.

Love to all

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