The Penguin and the Mother City


Wife: “Have you packed?”

Husband: “Yes, but I think I may have forgotten something.”

Wife: “Underpants, toothbrush, socks?”

Husband: “Yes. I travel a lot you know.”

And so we journey to the airport relaxed with time to spare. We open the boot and… no suitcase. Nothing. Not even the ghost of a suitcase. Husband responds with panic stricken shock and horror. Wife tries and fails to stifle guffaws of laughter.

Wife returns home, retrieves suitcase and gets on a flight to the Mother City, the gracious Cape Town. On boarding she is dismayed to discover a very large, very scary woman in her window seat. She contemplates the forced removal of said larger than life female and decides the aisle seat will be fine. Nonetheless she stews over the unfairness of it all the way to her destination.

This was how my romantic weekend getaway in Cape Town, just the two of us, began. In perspective, the last time we went away together without the brood was about four years ago to a wedding. This was a BIG deal. Grandparents had been co-opted to babysit. Children had been bribed to behave. I was not going to let anything ruin this.

Like many Joburgers most of the time I can’t see the point of Cape Town. Until I arrive there. Then I remember. There is something almost spiritual about being sandwiched between the majestic mountains and the vast Atlantic. There is an awareness that we are insignificant and living in this paradise only on the sufferance of Mother Nature.

The drivers are anything but spiritual. They are abysmal. I actually missed the decisive action of my hometown taxi drivers. No-one seems to care much how long it takes to get anywhere. For some reason this aggravates the Mad Max in me.

We checked in at the 4 star Strand Hotel. The room was a shoebox, the bath a cross between a bidet and a fish bowl. Various bits and pieces kept falling off the plumbing. I hastened to the swimming pool. Looked down upon by a high rise parking lot, the pool appears to be nothing more than a rather large and ineffectual bird bath. The lifts were not affected in anyway by the various buttons you could push. They went where they wanted. Slowly.  In fact hotel wise, the only outstanding feature was breakfast cooked up by the resident Ninja, a large taciturn Chinese lady named Cindy. The nights were punctuated by the abuse laden shouts of drunken Bergies. I finally fell asleep dreaming of sitting at the window with an Uzi silencing the local atmosphere. For the same price you can do better. I suggest you do. Try the Grand Daddy.

But, who cares about the accommodation, I was in Cape Town! Now Helen Zille may not be able to toyi-toyi to save her life, but she’s done something absolutely marvellous to the city of Cape Town. There was not a single piece of litter. There were dustbins on every corner. Intrinsic to every inhabitant rich or poor is an inherent and deep-seated pride in the city they call home. If Cape Town is a beautiful woman in her prime, Johannesburg is an overblown lady of the night desperately trying to pick up a quick trick.

It was with some sadness we discovered La Med, the once rustic and casual bar on the beach, has been remodelled into a Camps Bay Paris Hiltonesque gourmet bar called The Bungalow. Exceptionally beautiful decor it was packed with singletons in their late thirties poured into skin tight dresses on the prowl for husband number 2, it has somehow lost the charm of the splintery wooden benches and fish and chips of the past.

We made our obligatory pilgrimage to the Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town determined to ferret out some penguins to display proudly to some out-of-country friends. Up rocks, down rocks, crawling on hands and knees through rocks, just as we were about to give up, I turned around and ended up nose to nose with a thoroughly disgruntled looking penguin. I felt like doing a dance of joy.

Of course I missed my plane home. I was too busy Googling houses on sale in Simons Town and wondering if I could conceivably buy a bookstore in the city centre.



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