The opulence had been too much for me. The conference cocktails and movie event, complete with personalised popcorn holders, and much grandstanding was more than I could handle. I had been in the land of glass and chrome for 2 full days, and I needed to do ‘normal’. So I had caught an Uber, and found a little family steak ranch type place which smelled of frying chips, with slightly greasy picnic style tables and overweight waitresses.
This felt a little better.
I was still in the city, there was no escaping that, but this was something with which I was more familiar.
I found a corner table, with a power point, plugged in my laptop, hot-spotted my phone, ordered a Zamalek, and dialled into a meeting I had scheduled. Music blared from a speaker above me. Eighties pop tunes, and the waitress assured me that there was no way they could turn the volume down. Her look suggested it would be simpler to put a man on the moon, so I didn’t pursue it.
Later, as Mike shouted down the phone from Cape Town to make himself heard above the din, I signalled to another waitress, whose look I had interpreted as sympathetic. I was wrong. The music went up a few decibels.
After the meeting I ordered a burger before the kitchen closed, and sat on the now deserted deck out front and enjoyed some good wholesome junk food. No more delicate canapes with little whisps of micro greens….no more tartlets with frilly pastry and diced strawberries. This was the real deal, and it felt good.
Later, as waiters changed to go home, I hovered out front waiting for an Uber that never arrived. Three hundred bucks did the trick, and soon I was on the back of a waiter’s bakkie, with the night air whistling through my hair. The two km walk after that was beautifully grounding, if just a little unnerving (out on the street at night in Gangster Province!), and I was temporarily restored to the point of being able to cope with more swanning waiters in bowties, presentation screens the size of the front of my house, TV cameras swinging overhead on gantries, and the social posturing of the up and coming.
But three days later, no greasy burger and open bakkie ride could save me. I was done with “The Big Smoke”. My levels of tolerance had been exceeded, and I needed to get back to … To whatever it is. What is it?
Gravel roads. Mountain vistas. Farmers. Small town innocence. Poor services.
And Trout of course.
Back in KZN, I climbed in my diesel bakkie, and headed off up the R617. I turned the sound system on, found “Telegraph Road”…the full 14 minute version by Dire Straights, put it on repeat, and turned the volume up high.
“Six lanes of traffic, 3 moving slow. “
“Then came the lawyers, then came the rules”
“A man with a sack on his back.”
I was home!
And on Saturday I was on my local river, losing flies in the logs, watching an otter below the big pool, and catching lithe little Trout.