Friday, December 12, 2003

Manhattan Grill, Cresta

Friday, December 12, 2003

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * * *1/2
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *1/2

Bonnie Pon, boss of Starburst Pyrotechnics, fireworks display king!It's eleven o'clock at night. My shoe soles are still smouldering. I have tiny splinters in my hands and arms. My eyebrows are a tad singed.

Funnily enough, Troy Bentley's suffering something similar.

And so is Bonnie Pon. But with the addition of a pressure bandage round his ankle from when he fell in the hole.

Bonnie is the head of the Pon family, the dudes responsible for many of the night-sky fireworks spectaculars you see in South Africa. They go all over the place, and they've got state-of-the-art equipment. This year they've synchronised their explosions to the music by using an amazing computer program linked to various detonators. These people are WAY up there on the technological wizardry scale.

So lemme start at the beginning of the evening, before the burning started.

I'm in Bookdealers of Rosebank, trying to find some suitable new screenwriting books. Or sketching sourcebooks. Or anything that a compulsive book-buyer might want, really. Jacqui is off at the Hoogland Hydro for five days of pampering, and I'm killing time till tomorrow, when Damon and I will recommence work on writing our B-movie horror screenplay.

Margaret Pon, Bonnie's wife. She looks a whole lot better in real life than in my drawing. And I'm not just saying this cos they bought me supper. It's cos it's true!My phone rings. It's Troy Bentley, Damon's cousin. "Get your butt to Cresta," he says. "Fireworks starts in half an hour!" I discuss where to find him, and skedaddle, after only buying one book, something on how to structure corporate social investment programs.

The traffic is crazy. Getting to my flat just across the way from Cresta Shopping Centre is sheer mania. But hey. Fireworks! I park. Walk to Cresta and find Troy.

Every year, he helps the Pons out with setting up, monitoring, and packing up the show. Last year he also invited me, and I ended up helping load the trucks at the end. Hard, dirty work.

Tonight, I'm early, and Troy is on fire duty. He's got a team of six guys, and they've all got fire beaters. That's cos Cresta borders a nature reserve and office park, and noone wants a fire now, do they? Specially not me.

So the show starts. And it's absolutely unbelievably mindnumbingly wonderful to be allowed into the restricted zone, and see the fireworks from below. To feel the vicious thud of the big rockets as they smash out of their metre-long plastic launchers 300 metres up into the air. To smell the spent gunpowder as it pelts down like hail. Yeah! This is the life.

And all's going perfectly well, really. Until the very last minute of the 21-minute show. That's when the corkscrewy sorta sperm-like explosions happen, with the white flames showering down under power. Carried by the wind. To the ground. Into the dry grass.

So of course, no fewer than three fires start. And Troy and his men are gone, sprinting into the dark. So I figure that a bit of heroism is a good thing on a Friday night. I go sprinting after them.

Theresa Pon, one of Bonnie's daughters. Yummie.And boy, do I find out just how difficult it is to fight fires on a dark night in marshland with thorn trees? From about 8pm till 11pm when we finally get into the restaurant, we all battle the blazes manfully.

Troy and I team up, working as a pair, beating the advancing fires against the wind. Of the six fire beaters employed to do this job, only one guy is effective. The other five kinda hang back, superstitiously warding off the flames with broken branches held over their eyes.

So it's basically me, Troy, Bonnie, and the tall dude, whose name I don't know. We put out three goddamn fires all on our lonesomes.

Except Bonnie walks to some reeds and then disappears. A calm yelp from him, and he re-emerges a minute or so later. He's fallen into a human-sized hole, and his ankle is wrecked. He limps back to the real world.

There's a romance involved in firefighting. I'm sure it's one of those esoteric things that only firefighters know, and that noone can know unless they've been there. It's this... the grass sings like a billion serpents all writhing in a high-pitched orchestra-tuning pit. And the singing is tangible... it feels like there's something like razor-wire just below the surface of the grass, ready to uncoil and slice your legs off. Scary as all hell, but beautiful.

At some point, the wind changes, and starts blowing towards us. I've been going to gym, but not enough. I'm winded. I'm thirsty. I'm scared that I might be hallucinating. I hand my fire-beater to one of the five branch-wielders, and fall back. I see some torches on the horizon, and I head for them. They turn into red revolving lights. It's the firebrigade.

I stumble up to the truck, feeling as though I'm about to pass out. "Please can I have some water?" I say to the driver.

"Eva Pon, married to one of Bonnie's sons. She and Theresa definitely pushed the babe count into the four figures.Sure," he says. Climbs out of this monster truck, heads to one of the vast taps on the side of it, checks the valve number, and lets rip. I can report that I'm the only person I know who has drunk straight from the mouth of a fire engine. And the water is hot. But that doesn't stop me from drinking around two or three litres of the stuff.

Sated, I head back to the front. The fire truck can't navigate the marshes, so they're driving around to meet us at the road.

Troy and his guys are already at the fence. The fires are out. "Hey!" I shout, and he flashes his torch at me. I've got this tiny Maglite, the smallest one, but it allows him to locate me.

I see red flicking lights again as I draw closer. Troy says, "Hey! Hang on! There's two more of us here! Whoah!!!" The truck drives off without us. We walk back to Cresta, about a kilometre.

We find Bonnie overseeing the loading of the trucks. He's sitting awkwardly. He gives us two bottles of mineral water each, which we down in seconds. "How's your leg?" I say.

"Sore," he says. He drives a Merc, so I ask Margaret, his wife, to let me hunt for the first aid kit. I find it, find a pressure bandage, and draw on my three months of Boy Scout knowledge to fashion a pretty neat immobilising wrap round his ankle. He'll need help in the morning, but it's not broken, since he can voluntarily move his toes, and a light finger touch to the skin doesn't make him strike dragons or un-crouch tigers.

And then it's off to supper. With about 16 members of the Pon family. The service isn't diabolical. Just ultra slow. We've been saving the world, and it takes the kitchen staff till midnight to get our order out.

And of course, it has to happen. Bonnie orders his meat rare, and it comes out well done. Seems as though his steak got caught in the fire.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Jacqui's Flat, Fourways

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Oh, shame! Poor Jacqui! She's sick in bed with flu, and I'm upstairs in the loft playing with my iPAQ 2210 palmtop computer.

I've just taken delivery of a Stowaway XT folding keyboard that is nothing short of miraculous. The absence of the keyboard is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to actually update this site.

IJacqui lying in bed. This is drawn directly into my iPAQ, using the stylus as my pen and brush. The package I'm using saves things in BMP format, so I have to convert them to JPG on my desktop computer. As soon as I get an onboard conversion program, I'll start posting these sketches more often.n fact, one of the reasons I'm doing up in the loft -- instead of downstairs, close to Jacqui -- is that the cellphone reception is way better up here. I've sorted out my GPRS connection to the internet, so I'm able to surf to my heart's content up here. Using a bluetooth connection.

Which basically means that I'm finally happy with my Nokia 6310i, a phone which steadfastly refused to connect with my previous palmtop, my trusty Psion 5MX.

So what can I tell you? Tons really. I'll start with the food. Not great. Just a few arbitrary things in Jacqui's fridge. Such as a Tupperware container filled with long green tendrils attached to the remnants of some extra-mature cheddar. And some Primi Piatti gnocchi from a few nights ago.

Babe count is great, cos even though Jacqui's been nailed by the flu, she looks lovely lying there in her sweatsoaked white nightie.

As for the service, it HAS to be great. After all, I'm the one doing the serving! And I'm the model of a caring boyfriend. I've told her that if she's too enfeebled by the flu to call loudly enough for me to hear, she must phone me on my cell.

On the work front, I'm mightily happy to report that I'm finally leaving SABC3, after three very productive years. I've made about 900 promos, learned to edit on the Avid (I've been editing all of my promos for the last year), and logged hundreds of hours of audio post-production and sound design. I've also helped make several dubious shows into stars. Like BUDDY FARO. But that's another story.

Right now, I'm looking forward to an easy and slow start to the year. I kinda feel the need for a bit of relaxation before blasting into the bunch of things lined up. One of these might involve me running a screenwriting workshop in Nairobi. Another might see me creating educational television for Ethiopean schoolkids.

One thing I'll definitely be doing more of in 2004 is voice-over work. My showreel is ready, and I'm just waiting for a custom gimmick to arrive from an American online gadget shop and I'll be ready to carpet bomb the ad industry. Keep your ears peeled. You'll be hearing my voice a lot in the future.

And before I log off to go check on my delicious love-bunny downstairs, I'll just mention that my art will be notching up to a new level next year too. I'll be paying quite a lot of attention to getting my stuff into galleries. I haven't got much to show you right now, but that's not for lack of work. My scanner's a bit on the messed side at the moment, and the artworks I'm producing on this iPAQ are in BMP format, and I don't yet have a converter. As soon as I find one, I'll pop them on for you to see my new direction. And it involves colour.

Thanks for sticking with the site and reading my stuff. I wish you an incredibly rich festive season. And a superb 2004. I'll update things more often from now on, so hopefully I'll see you before the end of this year.

Right now, I'm off to go look at Jacqui's clinging wet white nightie. Sigh. Fever can be a wonderful thing.

Blue skies, love, Roy

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

My Flat, Cresta

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Service: *
Food: *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: *

Ugh. Guess who's at home with tick bite fever? Guess who's alone at home with tick bite fever with his beloved Jacqui cavorting with Swiss mountain goats in driving snow on an Alp? Guess who's resorted to eating plain Pro-Nutro breakfast cereal with Milo for flavouring cos he's run out of stuff to eat?

If you guessed, "Roy", then you're psychic. Here... I'm thinking of my bank account details. Receive them telepathically and deposit large amounts of karmic cash into my account.

If you guessed, "Swiss Army Knife", then you need help. Urgently. Cos unless you've got your own corkscrew, you're a goner!

I've just gotten this little piece of shareware for my iPAQ. It's called MOBILE ATELIER, by a Japanese dude. And it's amazing. Still getting the hang of it. So here's a self-portrait for you.Jacqui's in Switzerland for work. She's staying at a friend's house, and we're smsing each other madly. And being in touch via ICQ too. So it's lucky I'm off work, cos my machine there doesn't allow ICQ due to network security blocks. Here at home I can surf to my heart's content. Which I'm doing tons of, cos I recently acquired a tiny HP iPAQ 2210 palmtop computer, and I'm loading it up with software.

Very soon I'm going to have to buy a 4 gig IBM microdrive for it. Right now I'm still trying to locate the STOWAWAY XT foldout keyboard on the web, since nobody here stocks it or even knows what it is. So far, only two web companies ship to South Africa, and one of them is charging USD65 for an item that costs USD80!!! The other one wants to ship for USD35, which is still quite high for something that literally fits in the palm of the hand, and weighs only an ounce or two.

But surfing with a tick bite fever headache is unbearable for large swadges of time. So I spend most of my day sleeping. And eating Vitamin-packed gunk.

I'll say this... if you have to eat Pro-Nutro, flavouring it with Milo is a pretty good plan. Stops it from being slimy, and gives it quite a delicious chocolate flavour. Yummy yummy in my tummy.

Now I'm going to sleep. Thanks for the convalescent visit. I'm feeling better already.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

The Valley Lodge, Magaliesberg

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

Hats off to Natasha for exceptional service! The only reason this place doesn't get five stars is because of an incident involving the inhouse restaurant, a waiter, a manager, and a pair of shorts. More on that later.

Back track a couple of days to when I was phoning around to book a place. Jacqui says, "Have you tried The Valley Lodge?" I hunt up their number. Get through to Natasha. Ask about rooms. Yup. They've got some space available. She quotes me a cost. Not massively expensive, but way over budget.

I explain the situation to her. "Natasha, it's not really a holiday. I'm taking a writing break. My writing partner and I are co-scripting a b-movie horror, and we're basically keen to get away from Johannesburg to do it. Is there any way at all we can get a lower rate?"

She takes down my details, promises to phone me back within fifteen minutes. Calls me back in about three minutes. "Okay," she says, "I've just spoken to our general manager, and this is what we can do for you. We'll give one of you the normal rate, and the other one will come in at the spouse rate. We're basically giving you a special married couple package."

"Wow!" I say. Cos the price she quotes is exactly right. "But," I say, "can you make sure there are two beds? Cos Damon and I aren't actually married! And we just writing partners!"

"I'll see what I can do about upgrading the room. But I'll only know closer to Wednesday."

So, it's Wednesday, just after lunchtime. Our room is actually a suite. Two bedrooms, a huge bathroom. And Damon and I have rearranged everything so that his bedroom is the working room. The beds are big enough for four people each. If Damon and I were typical Hollywood-scum moviemakers, we'd probably be scheming on how to make more effective use of those beds.

We immediately pin flipchart paper over the cupboard walls, flip out the laptops, and start procrastinating. "They've got a mini gym here," I say.

Damon says, "Should we take a paddle out on the river?"

Nah. We decide to work. Which sets the tone for the next ninety-six or so hours. Work for four or so hours in the afternoon. Take a two-and-a-half hour supper break. Work for three hours more. Sleep. Wake up. Morning ablutions, breakfast up in the restaurant, at work by ten for about three hours. Lunch. And so on.

And it totally works! We figured that we'd be happy to get a third of the way through the movie at the end of this short long-weekend. By the time Saturday comes along, we'll have completed 51 pages of tight horror movie script! That's just more than half of the movie, and all of the plotting. We are mightily impressed. If we'd been able to take off a week instead of a midweek, we'd have finished the film by now.


Supper. Thursday night. Damon and I took a short break to paddle up and down the river in little kayaks. Dipping the oars deposits water into the vessel. Which wets the pants. My pants are sopping wet. So they're hanging on my door. I'm wearing a pair of shorts.

We walk into the dining hall, and start pulling our chairs out. The maitre d' hotel scurries up to me and says, "I'm sorry, you have to wear long trousers."

I look around the place. There is one other table occupied. "You ARE joking," I say, and continue to pull my chair out.

He pushes my chair back in. "We have a dress code."

"Call the manager," I say. "This is ridiculous. My trousers are wet." He shows me the way to the door. I decide that I'm not really interested in pissing myself off toooooo much, so Damon and I step onto the terrace.

The manager comes, three minutes later. "Sorry," he says. "There is a dress code, and there's nothing we can do except for maybe room service, or laying a table out here in the terrace."

This is a classic case of "Sorry, Can't" thinking. I'm used to "Can Do" thinking. My first response to any challenge is to wonder how I can solve it, rather than thinking about the multitude of reasons something can't be done.

I say, "What about your second dining hall? Noone's there now."

He looks ungainly and broken, as if I've just asked him to commit a fireable offence. If this were my hotel, his original attitude would have guaranteed at least a disciplinary hearing. He bows to the pressure of my intransigence, and opens the door to the second dining hall.

The food is nothing special in this place. Very competently made, mind you. But no real variety. And the menu doesn't change from night to night. They can feed about 150 people, I'd guess, and there is a tiny bit of institution about the taste. But it's fine. The breakfast is superb though. Everything you could dream of. In abundant quantity. And fresh.


Coming back from supper at the Fat Man on Friday night (see entry above), Damon and I run into the general manager, Mike. "I'm so sorry about the incident in the restaurant last night," he says. "Please, next time, if you're in shorts, please, just take a seat. You're our guests." He's a genuinely good guy, someone who's only been there for a few months, and who passionately believes in the "Can Do" ethic that I love. He's the guy who made the Mount Grace in Magaliesberg the talked-about attraction it is today. Was there for eight years. "No," he says, when I mention this to him, "it wasn't just me. Natasha was my right-hand woman. It was both of us. And we're going to make this place just as great."

Fifty-one pages. That's great! And thanks to Natasha for giving us the space to do it.

And thanks also to the tick that bit me down near the river for giving me tick bite fever. (See Wednesday 8 October above for details.) It gave me another holiday from work.

Friday, September 26, 2003

The Fat Man Restaurant, Magaliesberg

Friday, September 26, 2003

Phone: +27 14 577 1802

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

Damon and I have taken a break from the Valley Lodge, and came to town for Friday night supper. We want to get a taste of the local colour.

"Are you an artist?" says Ilze, our waitress. She's twenty-years-old, and walks like a model.

This must be the number-one most-asked question I get in restaurants when I whip my sketchbook out and start flicking ink across the page. Every time someone asks me, it flabbergasts me. Really, what does it LOOK like I'm doing? Exterminating termites?? I answer her. "Yeah," I say.

"What are you drawing?"

I'm twisted around in my seat, facing the only fat man with a moustache in the restaurant. I'm sketching. Ilze's looking at the drawing. From my angle it looks like a drawing of a fat man with a moustache. I whisper, "I'm drawing that fat man over there."

"Him?" she says, mirth erupting from her mouth. She claps a hand over her lips and squeals. "He's the owner's husband!"

"Did she name her restaurant after him?" I've just finished the quiche, which was very tasty, but a tiny portion. Not really enough for supper.

Ilze has graduated from modelling school. She occasionally models for catalogue shoots. I'm too scared to ask if she's one of the underwear babes on the Game broadsheets. I'll never sleep again knowing such intimate details.

The fat man looks up, aware of all the attention. Ilze says, "Can I show him?"

"Ya," I say, "but please ask him not to punch me."

"No, he won't punch you! He's not like that!"

She takes my sketchbook over to his table. He studies it. Nods. "Interesting," he says. "Who is it?"

I point at him, and Ilze says, "You!!!"

He looks again. Suddenly he delivers a vast bellylaugh, and the owner comes running out from the kitchen. "Swannie!" she says.

"This man drew me!" he says, still laughing. She takes a look and smiles. Swannie gets up and comes over to my table. I stand up, and we exchange handshakes. "Hey," he says, still jiggling, "are you an artist?"

He's battling to speak English, so I switch over to Afrikaans. I used to have an Afrikaans girlfriend, so I'm fully bilingual. "Yes," I say, in the vernacular.

He's so relieved to be speaking Afrikaans. He says (in his mother tongue), "So, uh... is this me?"

Jeepers. How many more fat men with moustaches can he see?? "Yeah," I say.

He laughs some more, and takes the book round to everyone in the restaurant. Seems I've become a minor celebrity.

"Ilze," I say, in Afrikaans, "is there any chance at all that I might be able to taste a tiny bit of Helena's famous bobotie? Just a taste."

She comes back with the plate heaped with bobotie. And it's delicious. And yeah, it's actually worth travelling all the way to the Magaliesberg for lunch one day to have it again.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Quiet Mountain, Magaliesberg

Monday, August 18, 2003

Phone: +27 14 576 1258

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

This is about my fifth visit to Quiet Mountain, and there will be many, many more beautiful weekends here. I haven't experienced anything better, and this statement includes the time I was put up by Intel in some five-star hotel in Dublin at fifteen-hundred pounds a night a couple of years back when I was editor of Gadget Magazine.

"So," I say to Jacqui, while Samuel carries all of our bags to our room, "did I oversell it to you, or is it better than you could have imagined?"

"Wow!" she says, running her hand along the hedge. "You're my love-buckle!" And before I can check whether or not Samuel has overheard this term of endearment, Jacqui stops me, throws her arms around me, and plants a vast and grinning kiss across my chops. This is destined to be a seriously lovely weekend.


Our room is very big, with a super-duper double bed, easy armchairs, lamps, heater, candle-holder mounted on the wall, stable-door. It's luxury. A door at the end of the room leads into a bathroom around twice the size of most peoples' bedroom. A huge bath on ball and claw feet on one side. Toilet with wooden seat in the centre. Antique dressing table with mirror opposite that. And a cherry-wood wardrobe near the door.

Jacqui leaps onto the bed. "Wow!" she says. "Feel this!" I join her. The mattress is firm, and moulds itself to my buttocks. I bounce up and down, trying to make it squeak. This one's the strong, silent type. Not the kind of bed that advertises the activity that may or may not take place upon it. We're not going to have any neighbours complaining about us this weekend.

"Let's have a snooze before supper," says Jacqui.

And the glint in her eye means I'm very quickly going to forget about the fact that poor old Mrs Hampton was utterly horrified about my paltry offer on her precious flat. It means I'll forget that Joburg is only one hour away. And I'll probably even forget that I own a cellphone, cos it's going to be switched off for a good four days.




As I promised... a continuation...

Right. Where were we?

Luxury. Joy. A bath with Victorian feet. Bubble bath. And... a picnic hamper! Now... how can I be delicate and non-revealing about this...? Let's just say that it's an ambition to make love out in nature. And let's just say that Jacqui and I are in a great mood here at Quiet Mountain.

So we take the picnic hamper and take a hike towards the mountain. There's a trail, and about a third of the way along there's a nice spot with a windmill and trees and stuff.

We lay the blanket out on the scrub, under a nice bunch of overhanging trees. This would be a GREAT place to make love out in nature. Except for a few things. (1) Jacqui's averse to spiders, and there are spiders EVERYWHERE. (2) We're pretty close to the path, since the spots off the path are kinda in the open, with only small scrubby bushes to hide us from prying eyes. (3) The damn blanket is just not thick enough. And the ground is covered in vicious stubbly grass and sticks that poke through. Whoever lies down on this blanket ready to receive the joy of love is going to get serious lacerations as a result.

So we kinda sit as well as we can and eat our gourmet sandwiches, prepared specially by Terry. Delicious.

So. To be delicate about this rather private matter... let's just say that it's still our ambition to make love out in nature.


The food. I'm writing this now a while after we were there, so I don't have details to mind anymore. But I have to say that the food is everything I remember it to be. Unbelievably beautifully presented. Gorgeous colour and flavour combinations. Impeccable place settings. Candles. Super wine choice. And all hand cooked by Terry, and finessed by John. What a team. And Samuel is an excellent presence too.

One of the things I love about Quiet Mountain is that they have a policy of no day visitors and no children.

It's no accident that Quiet Mountain is a favoured spot for romantic getaways. But maybe they can get thicker blankets for their picnic hampers, and have someone go out with a tractor to clear some outdoor lovemaking spots? John? You listening???

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Graasroots, Village Walk

It's only fitting that a turbaned vegetarian should be eating in a fine vegetarian establishment like Graasroots.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *

Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I have met after work. I've had a lovely day, editing three promos for KUMARS ON 42nd STREET, and two for THE PRACTICE, with Anne, the SABC3 intern. Jacqui's had a grueling day training a client in the software her company develops.

Damon and I are supposed to be meeting for our regular screenwriting session, but he's busy shooting a documentary for the United Nations. They're putting him up at the Balalaika Hotel, which is just next door. We've discussed the possibility of having a drink together anyway. So I can see him AND Jacqui in one night. Neat!

If you're into noses, this one's as kinky as they get.When Jacqui's in the room, the babe count rises to five stars without hesitation. Yay!!! She's looking gorgeous tonight. And I love the fact that I'm in love with a gorgeous woman. "Hullo my Love-Buckle!" she says to me. That's the term of endearment that seems to be working for her right now.

"Are you ready to order yet?" says Precious.

I opt for the Copioso -- a yummy artichoke, olive, sundried tomato, and avo pasta dish. Absolutely wildly recommendable. Jacqui goes for the grilled veggies. Ultra yummy.

She has flatly rejected 'Cunni-Bunny' as my contribution to naming her. I'm working on it. I figure we've got a good few decades to crack it. So I'm in no rush. Hmm. I wonder if I should try 'Cunni-Suckle' out on her? Probably not.

We've got just two sleeps left before we take a long weekend together. We're heading for Quiet Mountain, one of the most delectable hideaways I've been to. It's in the Magaliesberg, and we both need a rest. And we aim to spend many hours relaxing in each others' arms. Finding appropriate pet names for each other. Through trial and error.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Nescafe Cafe, Melrose Arch

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I have just spent an hour or so at Foo Moon, and the smell of smoke is heavy in our clothes. Hans, a colleague of hers, has just announced his engagement to Cheryl, and we've eaten free sushi, and we've smoked other peoples' cigarettes involuntarily, and now we're spending a tiny bit of love time together.

I'm showing her my devious spreadsheet.

I've just come from Linden, where I put in an offer on a flat. I've decided to go the property-mogul route for now. So I'm looking for investment flats. The one I'm after is near Red Pepper, and I want to let it out to someone in the movie, advertising or tv industries.

My spreadsheet allows me to make an unemotional decision about how much my offer price can be in order for the loan to be self-amortizing. I don't want to spend any of my own money on the place. It must work for its living, and yield me lots and lots of hassle-free wealth.

"Your decaff coffee," I say to the waiter, "is it filter coffee, or is it instant Nescafe from a jar?"

"No!" he says. "It's real filter coffee."

"Are you sure?" I say. "Cos this IS the Nescafe Cafe, and I'm going to send it back if it comes from the jar."

Jacqui also opts for the decaff, seeing as the waiter is adamant that it's real coffee.

He brings us our order. I'm having the fruit cheesecake. Jacqui's going for the bran muffin. Not bad stuff. Delicious, actually. And the coffee arrives. And it's darn good! Definitely not from a jar. Recommendable.

So, anyway, the poor old woman who owns the flat I'm keen on, the one who's asking R195 000, the poor old woman with burst varicose veins and two crutches, the one who has to move in with her daughter cos she can't cope on her own anymore, the one who almost offered me a cup of tea when I visited the flat to examine it but didn't cos the milk was off and she couldn't afford to buy more, the very same old woman is facing my extremely generous offer of R107 000. And I say it's generous because it's a good R50 higher per square metre than the average price in the neighbourhood.

Shame. Poor her. She has to consider my offer and either turn it down or accept it. I'll know on Friday at noon. And if you know anyone who wants to rent in Linden, let me know. I'll give them a good price.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Wiesenhof, Killarney

Monday, August 11, 2003

Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Gillian is my opponent tonight. We settle down before my open backgammon board. She gets down to the serious matter of the accuracy of my reporting.

"I checked your website for an update, and you haven't mentioned anything since you beat Renee. And, I've read every word, and I don't see any mention of myself. What's going on?"

"I promise I'll feature you in my next update," I say.

"And what about your matches since Renee?"

Gillian's wearing gorgeous red lipstick, and a polo neck sweater. She's almost certainly dressed for war tonight. She's trying to distract me by displaying her delightful curves. But I will not buckle. I will play well tonight. And I will certainly win.

"Okay," I say. "I'll put the results on my site too."

So here they are:

Alistair 21--Roy 20.

Andreas 21--Roy 20.

My supper arrives. It's the special... a croissant with scrambled eggs and bacon. I didn't notice that the menu mentioned mushrooms, so I have to send it back. My waiter is Leo. He's been my waiter every time we've played here, and every time, I've asked him to be CERTAIN there are no mushrooms involved in anything I eat. He's gotten it wrong twice. Tonight, when I forget about the mushrooms, he forgets about my preference. Hence, back to the kitchen.

It comes back, and they've either cunningly removed all traces of mushroom and spat on the eggs, or they've cooked a whole new dish for me. Either way, it tastes good.

Gillian and I start playing.

"So why haven't I featured on the site?" says Gillian.

"Well," I say, dicing appallingly. With backgammon, it's always possible to explain away any loss by mentioning how poorly the dice were behaving on the night. "I didn't want to appall you by mentioning that incident with the cat."

"Hmmm," she says, and smiles like a cat, hefting her tightly-clad bosom while shaking her dice cup.

I say, "How can I tell people that I tried that line on you? I was destined to failure. And anyway, it was a tragic night."

Gillian and I sort of attempted to date about a year ago. On my way to meeting her for our first and only date, I was driving along the old Kyalami Road. There was quite a lot of low mist. I was doing about 100km/h in my slinky li'l red sportscar when I noticed a darting movement on the side of the road. Skidding, my brakes and wheels squealing, smoke pouring from the tyres.

Next thing, WHAM!!! and a cat goes bouncing off the front of my car. So I stop, and see if the cat's dead. But it seems to have taken off into the night.

I drive on. Get to the pub I'm meeting Gillian at -- something to do with Geordie's Arms, I think -- and speak the words destined to prevent me from EVER scoring with her or any of her friends.

Instead of saying, "Hi, Gillian, you look divine," I go for the impossible punch line. The one that no man should ever say. I say, "You know, Gillian, I came here tonight hoping to get a bit of pussy. And I did. I just ran over a cat."

Which might explain why she's dicing so well. And why she beats me 21--19 by the end of the night. Damned cat.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

It's an uncharacteristically sparse night in Hyde Park with regards to babeage. In fact, JB Rivers is relatively empty. I've just put the phone down to Damon, telling him I won't be meeting him and Wendy in the smoky gunge of Nuno's in Melville. It's just too much for me.

Instead, I'll sit here and draw for a bit. Jacqui's been hectic at work, and we've been seeing each other every day for the last while, and it's all just in overload territory right now. We love each other dearly, and we're each certain that the other is our dream-partner, but Jacqui really needs some recharge time. Which is cool for me, but really quite tough, since I'm craving her every second of my life.

Which is why I'm here moping, feeling vulnerable, holding myself to the chair so I don't jump into my car and head for her place. Sigh. Love is gorgeous. But it can definitely allow me access to my own inner anxiety.

Wait a seccie. Maybe Eran's around. "Hey, Eran," I say into the cellphone, "I'm in Hyde Park. You joining me?"

Edward's one of the waiters at JB Rivers. Every time I pitch there, the waiters all ask me to draw them. This time, I figure it's best to get them off my back by caving in to their requests. My theory is that they'll take one look at the mutilation I wreak on their likeness, and they'll never ask me again. After showing this to Edward, he was silent for several seconds. Then he rubbed his shaved head and said, "This one... is this my head???""Hold on," he says. A bit of a hand over a receiver, some muffled discussions. "Cool," he says. "I'm just finishing something at home, and then I'll see you in about half an hour. Can Jade come?" A female snigger.

"I don't know," I say. "If you do it right, I suppose she can."

I finish my customary chicken salad and read a third of my latest book-find. It's called THE MILLIONAIRE COURSE by Marc Allen. He's a musician and an artist, and he's made his millions several times over through following his own advice. Things like being clear about your vision, knowing what wealth means to you, having and living your higher purpose. And the book's a practical way of getting those things. A proper workshop. I'm thinking of getting a couple of friends together to work through the exercises together. I want my friends all to be millionaires with me.

When I see Jacqui on Friday, I'll show her the book.

Jeez. Two hours have passed. Where the hell's Eran? I send him an SMS. "I'm finishing my coffee. Where are you?"

He sends one back. "Just leaving Sandton. You still going to be there?"

"I'll wait for you," I SMS back.

While I'm waiting, I start sketching someone. I become aware of a scratchy tenor voice behind my right ear, a metre or two away. It's going, "Hey..." cough, cough, "uh... hey? Uh... yeah, uh, scuse me...?"

I turn. It's a youngish dude with greasy hair, and bright red eyes. I think he's a citizen of Stonedville. This one's soaring. He's sitting at a table behind me. "Yes?" I say.

Cough, cough, cough. "Uh, sorry, man, sorry to interrupt you. What are you doing, huh?"

I can't believe he's asking what I'm doing. I have an open pot of ink to my left. I have a dripping Maped Ruling Pen in my left hand. I have an open sketchbook before me. There is a caricature of a woman on the end of the pen. What does this stoner THINK I'm doing? Fixing cars? Baking bread?? "I'm sketching," I say.

"Oh," he says. "I sell advertising space. For an interior design magazine. You know, for interior designers. For the trade. I sold R75 000 this month. Next month I hope to sell R125 000." Cough, cough, cough, cough, cough.

I'm glad this guy's at the next table. I could get a blob of lung lodged in my neck if I were any closer.

He says, "So, you an artist?"

"Yes," I say. I'm doing the monosyllabic reply thang. Maybe he'll just shut up and head off into the cold to warm his ruined lungs on another joint.

"My name's Shaun," he says. "What's yours?"


"Please to meet you. Can I ask you a favour?"

I stay silent. I know what he's going to ask.

"Can you draw me?"I don't INTEND to exaggerate things in my caricatures. Things sorta leap out at me and take over my pen. I think it's truthful to say that my pen was basically channeling Shaun's nose.

Go home to Creepsville! Instead of saying that, I say, "Sure. But this is a hardbound book, and I don't ever tear my sketches out. So I'll draw you, but you can't have it."

"No, that's cool." Cough, cough, cough.

"That's a nasty set of lungs you've got there Shaun." I start drawing him. Quite an interesting subject. Desperately chiseled features. And quite a few young wrinkles. This dude's no older than about 24, but his skin's a ruin. Must be smoking.

"I almost never sit out here in the non-smoking section," he says. "But I've given up for three days." Hack, cough, cough, cough. "Whenever I do that, my lungs just rebel."

I show him the sketch.

"Hey!!!" he says. "Hey, check at this!" He's talking to two women who've just sat down, increasing the babe-count marginally for the night. "This guy's an artist. He sketched me. Hey man, Roy, that's excellent man."

He doesn't ask me if he can have it. Cos I've already turned my back on him, and I'm drawing Edward, my waiter.

Shaun tries to get my attention a few times, but I ignore him. I hear him engage the two women. "Hey," he says, "hey, I'm Shaun, what are your names? I sell advertising in an interior design magazine. I'm quite arty. I'm only twenty-two. How old are you?"

They ignore him. He shuts up.

Jade and Eran arrive just as Edward calls last rounds. Coffee it is. And because of Jade, the love of Eran's life, there's a babe count at last! Yay!!! Jade gets five stars. Unfortunately, since there's only one of her, and a large restaurant, the overall babe count only rises to four stars. But that's okay. Two photos of Jacqui are next to my bed, so when I get home, I've got a babe count all of my own.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Wiesenhof, Killarney

Monday, July 21, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * *

Ah! The taste of victory! I've just thrashed Jonathan 21--14 in my first game in the new cycle of our backgammon club. I've made the cut into the B-division, and life smells like organically grown roses. And my beard smells like chicken breasts with peppadew and sweet-onion topping, served with Greek salad. Which just happens to be the dish on special tonight here in Killarney.

It's definitely a recommendable light supper. For only R22, this is enough to fill the gap caused by a long Monday at work, and it's tasty enough to be called a victor's meal.

"Roy," says Matt, looking up from the pounding he's giving Doc Pete. "How's your relationship with Jacqui progressing?" He throws his dice, shrieks a fist-pumper, slaps Doc Pete's lone blot onto the bar, and says, non-sotto-voce: "Please please please... give us the sordid details. All of them!"

Well, it's gotten to the stage where Jacqui and I are trying to work out pet names for each other.

I've rejected 'Boy Roy', which is what I was called by Stan Katz back in the days I was the sound controller on his afternoon show on 702. I've rejected 'Royco', cos I don't really want to be associated with a brand of instant soup, even though it's hot and steamy and likes being stirred vigorously, whereupon it foams lightly. And I'm uncomfortable with 'Enormous Boy', cos it's untrue. Mostly.

Jacqui has rejected 'Lust Bucket'. I don't really know why. 'Honey Bunny' is just too mundane for both of us. I don't really feel that calling her 'Jax' is appropriate, cos all of her friends call her that, and it seems to me to be too reminiscent of an incident involving a headmaster and a cane when I was in primary school. (I don't know what they called the administration of corporal punishment in your school, but in mine it was called 'Jacks'.) She's given a provisional 'yes' to 'Jacquilicious', but only in private.

"Excuse me," I say to the Wiesenhof waiter in the privacy of Jacqui being in a different part of the world from me, a waiter who I haven't seen for forty-minutes. "I seem to have drooled all over my beard. I've been talking about my girlfriend and she's so Jacquilicious I can't control myself."

He doesn't seem to know what the hell I'm talking about. Which just proves that Jacquilicious could be obscure enough to be uttered in public.

"Please can I have a serviette?" I ask the waiter.

"Ah," he says, handing me one. "Are you Boy Roy from the Four-to-Six-Afternoon-Fix with Stan Katz in 1989?"

Sunday, July 20, 2003

The Garden of My Flat, Cresta

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I are lying on a blanket in my garden, covered by a purple sarong. It's mid afternoon, and the winter sun is warm. It feels like spring is almost here.

My next door neighbour -- Pauline, I think is her name -- is sitting on her stoep making a patchwork quilt. She's also preventing Jacqui from allowing me to try to get up to no good under the sarong.

"No, Roy!" she says. "That woman can see us!!!"

"That's okay," I say. "It's her daughter who's the one keen on me." Her daughter stayed with her for a while, but moved out when she got a better job. She sends me religiously inappropriate SMSs like, 'Jesus Loves U2'. I replied to that one, 'That's amazing! Bono must be thrilled!' I didn't get a reply.

We've just been to gym together for the first time. "You know what?" I say, trying to get my leg between hers. "We should make a ritual of this Sunday gym thing. It really felt great being there with you." I'm aware that I'm talking in syrup bubbles, but love will do this to a man.

"Cool!" she says. "That can be one of your three days a week. And maybe it'll spur me to get to yoga more often too."

Sigh. We're so supportive of each other. It's just delicious. Almost as delicious as the rosemary and herb ham on three-corn rye with cumin gouda, tomato and avo sandwiches we're busy digesting. And it's amazing that Steve's Spar on Beyer's Naude Drive sells kosher ham.

"Show me a yoga position," I say, shifting into a position where I can maybe see how lovely her contorted body will look. She's wearing her tracksuit, so I should be able to learn more about the position if I study her carefully enough.

"Pervert," she says, and we nestle together like spoons in the decaying winter sun.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Tokyo Star, Melville

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Service: * *
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * * *
Jacqui-Babe Count: * * * * *

Basically, whenever I'm with Jacqui in a public place, I have to modify my babe count scoring system. Cos Jacqui is the babe-ist of them all. But just cos I only have eyes for her doesn't mean I don't notice whether other babes are present. Like tonight, here in Tokyo Star, owned by Matt Hoffman, Antoinette's brother.

Tokyo Star is where young people hang out. It's next door to the Melville barber shop in the premises that used to house the butchery. I haven't asked Matt if it's his sense of irony that caused him to leave the old sign up on the roof. It says, 'FRESH MEAT'. And it really means it. We're talking trainer bras.

Jacqui and I are here because Antoinette is back from New York having a belated birthday- and 'I Love Joburg'-party. She's invited me and Jacqui cos she wants to meet the new love of my life and pass on a message to her.

"Antoinette," I say. "Don't you have something to say to Jacqui?" Antoinette is the last real love of my life, the one before Heidi, who was probably just a surrogate. Antoinette and I had a marathon stretch together. Two years and four months. Give or take a day or two. And we've been broken up for about two years. Give or take three days and two hours. But who's counting?

"Oh ya!" says Antoinette. "Take care of my ex-boyfriend, okay?"

"Uh, no," I say. "That's not what you wanted to say." I prompt her: "Tell her about the kneecaps."

"Ah! Yes! Well, basically, if you hurt him, I'm going to break your kneecaps," says Antoinette. She's looking remarkably like Cleopatra. She hugs Jacqui. "You two look so good together!" And she means it.

She and I had chatted a bit while she was in New York. She had some husband troubles there involving flower pots smashing against walls, a sugar bowl and lid that went through the open window to the street below, her husband deciding to commit suicide by beating himself over the head with an industrial-size rolling pin, the topless ex-girlfriend of mine running down the stairs while trying to put her t-shirt on, a vastly oversized Polish woman shrieking "I'm terribly scared!" in an incomprehensibly thick immigrant accent while this same ex-girlfriend of mine hid behind her, this rolling-pin bloodied husband burying his head in a New York sidewalk rubbish bin screaming, "I'm so worthless; I deserve to die", and the two of them finally resolving their troubles on a park bench with the husband sitting a respectful distance from the ex-girlfriend due to the stench emanating from his head.

"But you're not allowed to tell anyone about this!" she had said.

But tonight, here in her brother's pickup spot for meaty teenagers, she mentions this to all and sundry. So I figure I can mention it too. But just don't tell anyone, okay? Your kneecaps are at risk.

The Question Mark, Melville

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * *
Juacqui-Babe Count: * * * * *

We're taking a chance on the Question Mark. In recent years it turned into a bit of a drug-addled dive, with cruddy food and useless staff.

But Jacqui and I are totally surprised at the transformation.

There's excellent art on the walls, along with a catalogue and price-list. Two of the artists are sitting on a brand new funky couch nursing cocktails. And the menu is enormous. It's like we've discovered a brand new restaurant.

"Wow," I say to the maitre d' hotel, a young man with what could possibly be a wisp of moustache tickling his lip, "this place has changed!"

"Yes," he says, "it used to have somewhat of a communist slant before."

Jacqui and I look at each other. Two things are clear. Firstly, it's possible English is his second language. Secondly, he probably only knows the word 'communist' from Apartheid propaganda days, and is a little out of his depth. After all, he's only about eighteen, and can't be expected to know what such things mean.

I figure he means that because the old place used to have a load of Soviet-realist film posters on the walls, this could be construed to mean that the previous owners were Soviet-realists themselves. In a limited field of experience, this could be interpreted as being of the communist persuasion. But it's fine. We kinda figure that he means that the old Question Mark used to have somewhat of a Bohemian slant.

Jacqui orders the oxtail with veggies. It arrives in a small potjie, and smells delicious. I've ordered the bacon and avo burger, "Welllllllll-done," I tell the waitress, "with no fat on the bacon, and please toast the insides of the bun."

"Is jy eintlik Afrikaans?" she asks.

"No," I say, "I'm English."

"Oh," she says, "you speak with an Afrikaans accent, so I thought you were actually Afrikaans."

"I had an Afrikaans girlfriend," I tell her. And in fact, that's why Jacqui and I are at the Question Mark. We're catching a bite to eat before heading across the road to Tokyo Star for Antoinette's welcome-home party. She's been in New York for several months working on her masters degree and being with her new husband, a writer and filmmaker.

But frankly, I'm baffled. Many people ask me if I'm British, and I'm not aware of having any serious Afrikaans in my vocal makeup. In fact, one of Antoinette's favourite laughs was to ask me to say the word 'strikkie' whenever her other Afrikaans friends were around. And while my spoken Afrikaans is pretty damn good for a scurrilous half-Jew like myself, my mouth just cannot bend around the rolled-R coming after the ST. Yeesh. Hilarity ensues whenever I try that. (But just try getting Antoinette to say the Yiddish word, 'Schmooze'. We'll see who's laughing then.)

My burger arrives just after Jacqui's dish, and I wish I'd ordered hers instead of mine. But the burger's great.

"Would you like a taste?" she asks. I nod, and she assembles an assortment of the veggies and some of the tenderest oxtail I've seen trembling off a bone. The gravy smells divine. She prods the fork into my mouth. And it's delicious.

"Everything all right?" says an older gay-looking man of the straight-looking, straight-acting variety.

"This oxtail is worth coming here for," I say.

"Thank you!" he says. "We're rather famous for it nowadays. I'm Ivan, the owner." He goes on to tell us that he bought the Question Mark in September, and got back from Malaysia, where he owns a factory manufacturing hand-drying machines, to find that the managers he'd installed had run the place into the ground. They'd gone so far as to steal plates of food to get enough money for their next drug fix.

"I love the art," says Jacqui. Which gets us a guided tour around the gallery, and an invitation to the next drag show on Wednesday.

"A very classy act," says Ivan. "And your R120 includes dinner and the show."

Monday, June 30, 2003

Wiesenhof, Killarney

Monday, June 30, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * 1/2

The only reason there's a babe count at this place at all is cos I'm playing Renee, newly a mother for the third time, and she's pretty slinky. The waitresses are also gorgeous. But it seems as though Killarney on a Monday night has about as much voomah as a spent scud missile in a Palestinian second-hand shop.

But I'm not complaining. And that's cos I'm tasting victory. (Not to mention the solid, workmanlike flavour of the chicken schnitzel with cheese, no mushrooms.) Renee has just succumbed to the humiliation and despair of losing to me in backgammon, thereby securing me a place in the B-division of our backgammon club. Viva! Amandla! Power to the Blumenthal!!!

Yeah. That feels good.

"I'm going home now," she says. "I've been away from my baby too long."

She leaves.

I hand my score sheet to Matt. "Sheesh," I say, sheepishly. "I think I may have caused her lactose-generating hormones to dry out!"

"Beat her, did you?" says Matt. He's catching up nicely against Andreas.

"Yup," I say, and I can't keep the grin off my face. I just can't hide the fact that I love the pain and humiliation and suffering and despair I cause in others when I beat them. Naturally, I don't really enjoy being on the receiving end of that myself. But that hasn't happened in a while. I've had a very hot winning streak.

I send an sms to Jacqui, letting her know that her boyfriend is champion of the universe, sex-bomb with a set of dice, god of the white and red tiles. She is suitably impressed, and my groin vibrates madly when she smss me back to say how proud of me she is.

I so love being in love.

"Hey," says Matt. "Update your website, you hobgoblin! I want to know sordid details!"

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Da Vincenzo's, Kyalami

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Erich is now officially a married person. Jacqui and I are at table three at the reception. And guess who's with us? Yup...

"What line of work are you in?" I say to the smooth looking guy with very large jowels.

He sort of blinks, wondering why I haven't recognised him. "I'm a minister," he says. "A priest." He waves his finger dangerously at the crowd of people. Maybe he's trying to tell me something?


Bloody hell. He's one of the two dudes who sealed Erich and Janet's wedding covenant. Eek. I should pay more attention in church.

And the guy next to him? Yup. The other priest. There were two of them. And Erich, given that he's got as perverted and twisted a sense of humour as I have, has put me, a scurrilous half-Jew, at the same table as the emissaries of the Christian Deity.

But it's all right. I went to an Anglican high school. So I kinda know what to say to priests. Nothing.

Instead, I turn to my right and fondle Jacqui's neck.

"I love you," I croon.

"I love you," she croons back, and it's lucky the wedding ceremony is already over, cos at this rate, we could easily have skipped up the aisle and joined the queue.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Primi Piatti, Rosebank Zone

Friday, June 06, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Like most of my portraits, Jacqui is much prettier in real life. I'm still working on getting my sketches to work as seduction tools. Sigh.Jacqui and I sitting having coffee at Primi Piatti, a spot where the beautiful people hang out. And the ugly people hang out to hang out with the beautiful people. And we're being beautiful together, oblivious to any surrounding beauty. This is our second date.

We're here together because of a quirk of fate. A mutual friend is getting married. Erich Viedge... Cool dude extraordinaire. Multilinguist. Man with a huge cd collection. Man who brings his friends together.

Last Saturday a bunch of us found ourselves at Cafe Cafe in Village Walk to have our wedding invitations personally issued. I'm on the list. I made it to the cut, being a close friend and all. So did Jacqui.

"Okay," says Erich, standing up and tapping a glass with a pen. I'm blowing soap bubbles, and they're popping on Janet's head. Janet is the lovely fiancée. "Listen up," says the Viedge. "We've set up a gift registry at the HOME store in Rosebank. If you want to get us anything, that's where to go." He sits down.

I say, "Erich, what would be a really meaningful present from me to you? What would you like ME to give you?"

He thinks for a while. Snaps his fingers. "Gottit!" he says, eyes bright. "There's a Patrick Rorke painting I've set aside at the Stewart Gallery in Parkhurst. It's R1500. If you can contribute something to that, I'd be very very very happy."

"Done," I say. I own a Rorke already, a beautiful nude that hangs on my bedroom wall. And Antoinette, my ex, has another of his nudes on her bedroom wall. It was a present from me to her after we broke up. "Which painting of his do you want?" I went to the opening of that exhibition, and had my eye on two of them -- a Muslim Girl, and a Woman Playing Guitar.

Erich says, "There's this amazing painting of a woman playing a guitar. That's the one." This fellow has excellent taste. "Hang on," he says, with another snap of the fingers. "Guys," he says, standing up again. "Roy asked me what I REALLY want, and it's a painting by Patrick Rorke. If you'd like to contribute to that, give some bucks to Roy. He's the contact person."

Everyone's keen, and it's a really meaningful gift. I collect a whole bunch of money, but a few people haven't given any. "Jacqui," I say, "will you contribute?"

"I don't have cash on me at the moment," she says. "Can I transfer some into your bank account during the week?"

I don't realise it at the time, but this is a delicious ploy on her part to ensure that we make contact during the week. "Sure," I say. And the party dissolves, and we all head for the sunset.

Now, sitting here at Primi Piatti, I find out what Jacqui was up to. She says, "If I gave you money that Saturday, there would've been no reason for us to get together." Excellent! This chick is total babeness. "And when you emailed me to say we should meet so I could hand over the money instead of transferring it, you made my day. People at work kept looking at my smile and saying, 'Who's the guy?'"

She and I did coffee on Tuesday night. Strolled down to the Stewart Gallery and looked at the painting through the window. Strolled some more. Stood in a doorway and kissed for about an hour. Yummy!

For our second date, we've just seen BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, a movie that blew the top of my head off.

And that's hopefully the last time I use the phrase, "blew the top of my head off". Quite a negative phrase, don't you think? And a phrase that just invites trouble, seeing as Charlton Heston is still alive and mostly-well and advocating gun ownership. And seeing as he has Alzheimer's, he might not remember how many times he's pulled the trigger. What's more, George Dubbya Bush is still finding enemies under every fig leaf.

Here's an SMS poem I wrote to commemorate Mr Bush's victory in Iraq...


by Roy Blumenthal

If the US troops wore Nike boots,
if the Burger King would only serve sin,
if Saddam's soul could be heard from hell,
if dollars were in
stroking Levi-clad skin,
if pulling the pin
meant Palestine would win,
if Bush's spunk could be spiked like junk,
if Korea were clean instead of lean and mean,
if war-wound cots were the price of loss,
if second-hand Jeeps were ours to keep,
then that's what war is for.

So here Jacqui and I sit, adoring each other, and wondering why on earth it's taken so many years for us to finally get together.

And suddenly I'm out of the "shag-anything-that-moves" mode I've been in since Heidi dumped me. I'm now firmly in the cross-hairs of "looming relationship" mode. Sheesh. Where the hell does this stuff come from??? And can it be trusted?

Sunday, May 25, 2003

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

I've just dropped Darryl off at her parents. They're all going through to visit a cousin of hers who lost a husband to kidney failure last week out of the blue. I've been at her place most of the evening after she and I decided to go to an art exhibition. "Wait," says her mom. "Come in. Have you eaten? Would you like some chicken? An apple?"

"Uh... just an apple, thanks," I say.

"What happened to your hair, Darryl? Have you been driving in an open convertible?" Her mom's pretty observant. I like driving my MX5 in winter with the top down and the heater on full blast. It's very romantic.

There's a wedding photo on the wall. "Who's this babe?" I say, knowing that it's Darryl's mom in her heyday.

"Trevor! Come here! Come listen to what this young man has to say!"

Darryl's dad emerges from a room. Handshakes, greetings, introductions.

"Tell him!" she says. Darryl's standing there shaking her head gently.

"I said," I tell her dad, " 'Who's this babe?' "

"I had good taste," he says.

So now I'm in Hyde Park. Still sex-starved, cos as romantic as my car is with the top down and the heater snarling its dragon breath all across my and Darryl's bodies, somehow sex just didn't raise its lovely head today. Sigh.

But heck. Hyde Park is an antidote to that. It's sex city tonight. Babes extraordinaire all over. Two in particular. So I whip out the sketchbook and surreptitiously start a slow drawing. I normally crank them out really quickly, but I'm working on technique at the moment, so I'm using very controlled strokes. This means that I'm observing much more intently than usual.

I've just finished eating my usual JB Rivers feast... their Cajun Chicken Salad. Lots of decaff cappuccinos. Excellent. A new waiter though. Keeps mishearing me. But no harm done. He'll still get my customary 20% tip. I believe that waiters deserve to be treated as humans. I get very pissed off with people who bark orders at them and then don't tip.

So now I'm really observing this girl's breasts as I massage the paper with my ink-soaked pen.This sketch took about ten minutes. They normally take about thirty seconds. Note the flowers in the foreground. I drew those as an attempted decoy. I thought she wouldn't notice that I was observing her. Fat chance with my waiter standing behind me pointing. Sheesh. Please note that she's really utterly gorgeous in the flesh. My caricature in this case is pretty darn cruel. Not intentionally. I just can't resist emphasising peoples' features.

Which means that any second now I'm going to be bust. Cos the waiter is standing behind me peering all around the restaurant to see who my model is. "Who are you painting?" he says. I cock my head in the general direction of the blonde babe with the sumptuous breasts and the rather prominent nose. He points right at her. "That one?" he says. Everyone at her table looks up. They look at me.

I want to throttle this waiter. Or jab my trusty Maped Ruling Pen in his crotch, like I did to Janine's Matthew in Kaapschehoop. "Yeah, her," I say.

An envoy from her table comes up to me. There are three boys, three girls. All three girls are just totally luscious. The three boys are biceptuals... they spend a lot of time in gym getting slinky so girls like these will go for them. Clearly a very good strategy. Which is why I've been going to gym quite a lot recently.

"Hi," says Greg. "Do you mind if I see your drawing?"

I show him. "Is that Linda???" He laughs. Beckons.

Linda gets up. Comes over.

"Oh my god!" she shrieks. "I look like a witch!!! Oh no! Is my nose THAT bad?"

"Please don't beat me up!" I say.

A lightning-quick impression of Linda. This one captures a bit more of her beauty. But of course, it doesn't look anything like her. This one took about ten seconds to fling onto the page.A bit of small talk. They look through my sketchbook. Smiles all round. They head back for their table. I sneak a super-quick sketch of her. And she catches me again. Immediately back to my table.

"Who's this?" she says.

"Uh," I say, "it's your friend." She buys the story.

"Oh, good. Thank god. Ilana," she calls, "he's drawn you too!" A pause as she flicks through the book again. "You've got a thing for hooked noses, hey?" Back to the table.

I hear one of the guys say, "Hahahaha! Ask him where her broom is!"

Then I turn my attention to Ilana. If this is possible, she's even more desirable than Linda. And I've been studying her panties peeking out from above her jeans. A dark, rich brown. Velvet. Love. Lust. Renewal. Ilana. Definite dream material. I'd LOVE to get her to model naked for me. Serene face. Very interesting bones. A fifteen second sketch.But trying to steal these drawings unobserved is impossible right now. Six waiters are standing behind me watching. And the babe-table is completely aware.

Another super-quick sketch.

Ilana comes up to my table. Yeowch. She's breathtaking. She looks at my drawing of her.

"Can't you draw women so they look MORE beautiful than in real life?" she says.

I have to improvise here. So I say, "You're both WAY too beautiful to capture in an artwork."

Greg says, "Is THAT how you get away with it? You use that line?"

"Yeah," I say, "but I normally get beaten up by boyfriends who can't stand to see their girlfriends humiliated. Did I get away with it this time?"

Both Ilana and Linda say emphatically, in unison, "Yes, you get away with it this time."

Erich Viedge's Home, Greenside

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * 1/2

Erich has invited 40 of his closest friends to breakfast at his place. Most of us arrive around 35 minutes later than the stipulated 9:30am.

Now one of the things about Erich is that he knows some seriously attractive women. And luckily, he's about to get married, so it's okay to flirt with as many of them as I want to.

By 'okay', I mean, okay by me. In other words, I'm not treading on his turf. Except when I flirt with Janet, his fiancée. But I do that in front of him, and he knows my errant ways. And he knows I'd never try and shag her. Cos I'm not into relationship-busting.

But when I say 'okay', I have no idea whether or not I'm coming across to the hordes of babes as some kind of sex-starved drooler. Hmmm. Actually, I've thought about this statement for about a quarter of a second, and I withdraw it. I have a pretty good idea that I do INDEED come across as a sex-starved drooler. Which is pretty darn accurate now that Heidi in Somerset West is off the scene. Praise be to Jah.

So anyway. Jacqui is emminently flirtable-with. So's Darryl (as in Darryl Hannah). So's Claire. And countless of the others, whose names I don't recall, and who are married or attached anyway.

I spend my morning walking from cluster to cluster with Roger von Oech's CREATIVE WHACK PACK in my hand, offering people the opportunity to pick a card to solve a problem they're facing.

"Oooh, no," says one of the delectables, clutching her chocolate croissant as if it were garlic warding off a vampire. "I don't really like tarot cards." She pronounces it as 'tah-rot'. I correct her...

"That's 'tah-row'," I say, "but these aren't them. These are just idea jolters. Try one. They're not evil."

So she draws a card. It's number 45... DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH IDEAS. It advises her to "let go of a previously cherished idea. Be free to look for new ones. What part of the idea are you in love with? Kiss it goodbye!"

"Oh!" she says. "This is so cool! Can I try another one?"

Crystal walks down the driveway. Her shoulders are all hunched, and she's pretty dazed. "What's wrong?" says Erich. He's wearing some kind of North- or West-African sarong. When he springs up, his tackle shows briefly, and he rearranges it quickly.

"They've stolen both of my back wheels!" says Crystal.

Her car is parked just behind mine in the street outside. Unbelievable. Broad daylight. Back half of the car on bricks. These dudes are experts. Sheesh.

Always one for a pun at someone else's expense, I can't help myself. "Hey Crystal," I say, "you a wheeler dealer?"

Jacqui groans, and covers her head with both hands. Four of us are sitting on a blanket out in the winter sun in Erich's garden. She's lying just out of reach. Not that I'd try and reach her, you understand. Cos that would blow any chance I might be under the illusion I have with her. But I think the pun blows things worse than any invasion of body space might.

And then I clinch it.

"So, Crystal," I say, plowing in where angels fear to tremble, "are you feeling... TIRED?"

Jacqui sighs extravagantly and starts talking to Darryl. And I start having fantasies of them being lesbian lovers on my futon. And I sigh extravagantly.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Stones, Cresta

Friday, May 23, 2003

Service: * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * 1/2

Aryan Kaganof, Dick Tuinder, and I, are here to play some pool. It's Friday night, and kiddies' curfew hasn't yet kicked in. So Stones is filled with an abundance of cross-cultural under-age babeflesh. Most of which seems to be attached to gorilla boys, most of whom are going to strike it a hell of a lot luckier than I will tonight.

Tables are all booked. But there's one that's being dominated by two succulent honeys. The one, the dark one with the sun tattoo between her shoulder blades, the one with delicious, broadish hips and a tiny waist, is dream material for me.

I kinda wish she were older, cos then I'd consider working my way round to proposing marriage.

Instead of marriage, I propose that Dick and I challenge them for the table. The blonde one points at the pile of coins on the edge of the table. "Everyone wants to challenge us," she says, a smug smile on her face.

"Beauty will do that," I say. It just slips out. I had no control over the statement, and I expected retribution and further smirking from them.

Instead, a pause. "Okay," says the blonde one. "You're on. We'll call you just now." A shared look between the two of them.

I dunno. I certainly TRY to be a charmer. And I often succeed. But I really don't understand how it works. Surely a statement like, "Beauty will do that," MUST be regarded as Hick-honcho dorkiness incarnate? Surely?? I mean, heck, it's not as if these two honeys have run short in the looks department. They must have creepoids pawing them constantly. So surely originality has to enter the equation. I dunno.

In the interim, Kaganof has engaged the attention of a tall strawberry blonde in a pencil skirt. She's trying to get him to dance. But he doesn't do that sort of thing. So she eyes me from the dance floor, and beckons me to join. This is a babe I spotted as I came in, and she and I had done a bit of eye-contact swapping.

I join her. "I didn't catch your name," she shouts into my ear.

"Roy," I shout back. "You?"


Her name is Catherine. "Cat for short," she says. I make a clawing cat motion with my hands, hissing as I do. "No!" she says, and throws back her head and laughs. "More like a kitten!" And she purrs, and tucks her hands up under her chin as if she's sleeping. I think this might be love. She's got that perfect cello shaped body. Curvy all the way. And such a pretty face.

We chat a bit off the dance floor. She's about to study graphic design at Damelin, so she can join an ad agency. "But that's not my dream," she says. I spur her to reveal more. "I want to be a pilot." That's so cool. A friend of mine is a pilot. Leigh. Has his own microlight plane. He's pretty impressive. "But right now I'm just a receptionist." And she shrugs, and her face looks all defeated. And all I wanna do is take her home and give her a big boost of self-esteem.

I show her my sketchbook, and she sits looking at it, enjoyment all over her. It's so gratifying having one's art appreciated. Thanks, Cat.

Her friend has been hovering around, looking all svelte and breasty. Her name's Cindy, and she wears a hat, despite the Stones 'No Headgear' policy. "I was in a car accident," she explains, and pulls the hat off very quickly. Her face took a bit of glass. Now she wears the hat to hide what she thinks is her hideousness from the world.

"Do you really think you're hideous?" I say. "Cos you're serious babe material."

"Well," she says, "before the prang I was seriously pursuing the supermodel route." And sure, this chick is model material. Blonde hair. Incredible tits. (I know they're incredible, cos they're pretty much in plain view.) Very slim.

Aryan kicks in at this point. "My camera is in for a service right now, but gimme your number and I'll call you in three weeks, and I'll make you a video portfolio."

Aryan happens to be one of Europe's most prominent filmmakers. He's the first filmmaker to have made a feature film using digital video. It's called WASTED, a drug movie that made it huge in Holland and the rest of the world. About twelve South Africans have seen it.

"But," says Aryan, "I have some conditions. I film you without makeup, with your scars in plain view. I want to show you, on video, how beautiful you are." She flaps her hands. "Wait," he says, "sure, we can do a version with all your makeup and stuff. But a no-makeup version too. Okay?"

She writes her numbers in his artist's notebook. And he'll call her in exactly three weeks.

Cat's finished looking at my book. "I'm also an artist," she says. "I do oil paintings."

Dick says, "Hey! You should carry them around with you, like we do." He mimes putting huge framed paintings under his arm. "That way you can attract the attention of nice boys."

"Let's go," Aryan says to Dick and me. We're off to play pool in Fourways, near Tovey's. The babes I tried to get a game from earlier have some younger and better suitors, ones with better lines. And Cindy and Cat are ready to go home, not party some more. Sigh. These young people are just not made the way they used to be.

But I've got to try this line on Cat, cos between Cat and Cindy, I would LOVE to make love with Cat. She's just totally sumptuous. Not that Cindy isn't. It's just that Cindy is way too thin for me. Forty-nine kilograms! And she thinks she's overweight! Tells me her ideal weight is forty-three! Jesus. I can bench press two of her.

So I say to Cat, winking extravagantly, as if I were being ironic, and demonstrating said irony, "Hey Cat, since we're both artists, how about you coming round to my place and modeling for me? And if you like, you don't even have to take your clothes off at first."

"At first?" she says, and she's smiling. And oh god, I wish pickup lines worked. Cos she's kinda almost vaguely contemplating the idea of modeling for me with her clothes on.

But it's okay. The line hasn't worked. And I know that lines don't work. So it's time to go shoot some pool somewhere. But just in case, I hand Cat and Cindy my 'Coffee-Shop Schmuck' business card, and get more laughs. Cat comes up close to me, and purrs in my ear, "How do you pronounce this? Is it 'Sh-muck'? That's so funny!!!" Please phone me, I think, as I'm walking to my car. Prove me wrong.

Times Square Cafe, Yeoville

Friday, May 23, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: *

I'm in one of my old haunts from back in the old days. The glory days. The days of being an earnest poet who was gonna change the world. Times Square Cafe in Yeoville. Back in those days I used to write a lot of performance poetry here.

Tonight, I'm watching South Africa's most famous unknown filmmaker -- Aryan Kaganof -- playing speed chess against a local maestro. His ass is getting whipped, even though he's a viciously hot player away from the pressure of the clock.

Eric Miyeni is the reason we're here. I bumped into him earlier in Melville, at Spiro's, where he was playing chess against someone. I sat down to play him.

"Hey," he says to me, in that performance poet, radio talkshow-host, agitator voice, the sneering one, "what colour you wanna play?"

"Jesus, Eric, does EVERYTHING have to be about race?" I say.

He has the grace to laugh. We've known each other since before he got famous. We shared poetry microphones years ago in the Black Sun in Yeoville. We even shared positions in an ad agency a while back, both working as copywriters. He became the creative director there, and I quit advertising for film.

I end up playing black, him white, and we start our mighty race war. I hold out for twenty minutes, by which time Aryan Kaganof and his Dutch filmmaker/artist/maverick buddy, Dick Tuinder are looking over my shoulder clucking at my crap moves.

"Check mate," says Eric. I shake his hand. "Play again," he says.

Aryan introduces me to Dick while we're setting up the board. "The reason you guys need to meet is cos I think you're very similar." Dick also shaves his head. He's also a multi-faceted artist, working in all sorts of media. Also carries a sketchbook with him wherever he goes. Also tries to shag anything that moves. Also makes movies.

Eric and I finish setting up the board. Then, THWACK. He goddamn mates me in four moves.

"Kaganof," he says, "come to Yeoville and play some speed chess."

So we do. We go in Aryan's car, cos I don't want to risk having mine hijacked out from under me.

Yeoville is humming. It's bloody awesome. A real buzz of enjoyment in Times Square Cafe. Exclusively black faces. And no women. Not one. Not even a waitress. Sheesh. This is wrong, man.

Kaganof sits down to play speed chess. He's wearing an old army jacket with someone's name tag still sewn over the pocket. The previous wearer's name was LOVE. Yup. The irony has escaped noone.

Speed chess. Pretty much the same rules as normal chess, except that you don't say "Check" when you threaten your opponent's king. It's his job to notice that sorta thing. If he moves another piece instead of moving out of check, it's game over. He loses. And it's frenetic. Hands whir as they move pieces and slap the clock. Each is allocated five minutes. If your flag falls before your opponent's, it's game over.

Kaganof is impressive. But the jovial dude in the winner's chair is even more so, and he wins Aryan's massive stake of two rand. And we've watched him beat everyone so far. This guy's loaded, man. He must have won at least thirty rand tonight!

Eventually a woman arrives. Greets Eric Miyeni as if she knows him. But basically everyone knows him. He hugs her as if he knows her. She smiles. Spreads perfume around the joint, and all the guys look at her. Ample hips. Serious afritude. But this joint's not cooking for her. So she leaves. Eric shrugs.

I order a half portion of the lamb shwarma. I'm nervous. No. Not nervous. Petrified. You know... Yeoville isn't all that far from Hillbrow. And who KNOWS what kind of hygienic standards this establishment holds itself to.

The food comes. Attractively presented. A huge portion. Elsewhere, this would have been regarded as the full portion. I make sure, "Hola bra," I say, using my ingratiating whitey persona, the one that greets black people in township lingo so they'll know I'm a brudda, and not some Apartheid-supporting whitey. "You sure this is the half portion?" And I make that 'Hola sevens!' sign, where each hand looks like a pointing gun, with a twist of the wrists so that the fingers end up pointing at the floor.

"Yebo, gazlam," he says, and laughs.

I feel good. I'm a diplomat for whiteys all over South Africa.

I eat the food. As good as anything I've had anywhere. And no signs of food poisoning. Excellent.

Dick Tuinder gets his turn at the speed chess. Gets whipped.

I don't even bother to put my two bucks down. If Eric Miyeni could slaughter me in four in Melville, I think the humiliation here in Yeoville would just not cut it for me.

"Hey," says Aryan, "let's go to Stones and shoot some pool."

"Stones in Cresta," I say. "Cos then if I manage to hook up with a babe, it's a very short trip back to my place."

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Carluccio's Ristorante, Village Walk, Sandton

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

I've just watched MOONLIGHT MILE starring Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman. And the dude, I think, from DONNY DARKO. It's an exquisite, offbeat movie. And it's only showing at Village Walk Nu Metro. I give it a solid 8 out of 10 on the Roy-o-Meter.

And I'm so inspired that I'm sitting at Carluccio's, surrounded by Sandton money-babes, the type who only date guys in BMW 330i and up cars, the type who look at me and think, "Mr Price T-shirt", and I've got my palmtop open on the table with a pot of tea and a terrifyingly hideous smear of Cherry Cheescake which tastes like shaving foam, and I'm working on HOME, my feature screenplay. (This is not the same one I'm co-writing with Damon. That's a horror. This one's quirky and weird and dark and personal. In other words, mine's unsaleable.)

It's going really well. By the end of the evening, I'll send this SMS to my three movie-writing buddies, the ones who are going to make it with me to driving stretch limousines in Benoni, namely, Janet van Eeden-Harrison, Damon Berry, Eran Tahor: "I've just written the final scene of HOME!!! Of course, I've skipped a few other scenes in my rush to get here, so I've still got another twenty pages to write. But I'm essentially finished with my first draft! Yay!!!!"

You'll notice that it's a damn long SMS. That's cos I've got a Nokia 6310i, which laces up to three SMSs together to form one long one. Aside from that, the damn thing's useless. It does NOT communicate with my Psion 5MX palmtop very well at all. I'm most unchuffed with it. But it's okay. Cos I immediately get congratulations messages streaming in from my three buddies. And it's just before midnight. And the babes aren't going home. Not with me, anyway.

Espresso, Parktown North

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Damon and I are meeting for our regular Saturday lunchtime movie meeting. He and I are co-writing a wonderful B-Movie Horror flick I'm not at liberty to discuss. We're also in discussions with SABC3 to produce a tv commercial that I wrote. I'll be producing, he'll be directing.

It's our way of breaking into the commercial side of filmmaking. See, it's all wonderful and great making short movies and contributing to audio-visual art in this country. But in five years, both Damon and I want to be household names to cinema-going audiences all round the world. And that involves making movies for money. And the best movies to make for money are commercials.

Commercials are excellent things, cos they require fanatical attention to detail, comparatively high budgets, and world-class crews. They're miniature movies that take almost MORE care and attention than full length features.

I've pitched the idea to our marketing whizz. And she's given it an enthusiastic yes. The spot I've written and storyboarded fits in with the new brand image campaign that Hunt Lascaris has created (award winning stuff, in my opinion), and it's really quite funny. She has in turn pitched it to our General Manager, and he's asked me to pitch it to him. Which I did yesterday. And he said a cautious yes. It's cautious cos the SABC is slashing budgets in a bid to become commercially realistic, and there is consequently very little money for things like ad hoc television commercials costing huge amounts of money.

But they're going to find money from various budgets, and we'll see what happens. I'm very happy to be a contractor there, cos that gives me the freedom to do this sort of thing. Thanks SABC3. You're giving me lots and lots of presents.

"Ouch!!!" says Damon.

I follow his eyeline. There is a girl dressed in tight, tight, tight black jeans leaning over the table next to me. And the light is shining through the gap in her crotch. And the cloth is a perfectly sculpted replica of something I'd like to reach out and touch.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Da Vincenzo's, Sunninghill

Friday, April 25, 2003

Service: * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * *

Hmmm. Troy has persuaded me to come to this birthday party. It's a buddy of his who he does laser shows with, and he's just turned some ludicrous age like twenty-five or something equally feeble. Troy has promised me that there'll be lots of babes, and that the place is really cool, and that I can't miss it.

I drove around for an hour trying to not miss it. Even with Troy giving me explicit directions, I almost landed up behind bars by driving into the Sunninghill Prison twice. My car doesn't have a GPS like his Landrover Defender does.

Anyway. The place is appalling. One of those lapa-style places that can seat about 500 paying guests. The type of place cheap people with lots of money take wedding guests to. Or hair-oil salespeople. And sure. There certainly ARE babes. Joy and Renee, Troy's babe and close childhood friend respectively. Problem is, they're both attached. Where's Janine from Nelspruit when I need her? Or Heidi, for that matter.

So sue me. I'm not over the breakup yet. And even if we did only ever see each other in the flesh twice, those two occasions were huge and lovely. And it was about half a year's worth of emailing, SMSing, phoning, longing, fantasising. Sigh. Here's some advice for free... avoid the long distance relationship stuff, okay? Only tears at the end.

Back to Da Vincenzo's. I take the lead in ordering, cos I'm starving after being lost for an hour. But the host is waiting for just one more couple to arrive. They've been waiting for two hours (not only was I lost for an hour, but I was also an hour late).

"Waiter!!!" I shout. It's necessary to shout, cos they're so far on the other end of this cavernous room that they can't see me waving the menu around. In fact, they can't even hear me shout. It's another diner halfway to my target who hears me and shouts on my behalf. A waiter scurries over to him. He points to me. The waiter looks in my direction. Can't see me waving my menu and shouting. Eventually pinpoints me and sprints over ten minutes later.

"Are you ready to order?" he says.

I say, "Yes, I'd like the..."

But Troy's birthday buddy, Christo, cuts me off. "No!" he shrieks. "We're still waiting for another couple!!!" The waiter starts vamoosing into the distance, faster than a crab in an oil slick.

I stand up. "WAIT!"

The guy skids.

I say, "I'll have the pumpkin panzerotti in Napoletana sauce!"

And with that, the whole table starts ordering. Christo, who in later life will turn out not to like women as much as he thinks he does now, puts his head in his hands rather camply and sighs his order to the waiter. But he's too far away for me to hear what he's having.

Now the interesting thing for me about this gathering is that most of the guys look like the closet has been their home for many years, probably under the draconian regime of Afrikaans fathers who would bash any gayness out of their boys. But they all seem to have girlfriends who don't talk. And these boys are all wearing technical laser equipment branded t-shirts.

I suppose I shouldn't talk. I'm wearing my bright orange SABC3 t-shirt, showing my solidarity for the place I'm contracted to.

And with a serious dearth of babes in the place, I'm starting to eye the boys, and wonder if I'm in a closet myself.

But then I remember Janine in Nelspruit, who will hopefully be moving to Joburg one of these fine days to pursue her love of acting. I'll be her understudy.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

The Green Venus, Kaapschehoop

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Bloody hell. Back when I was twenty-nine or so, I did the Blyde River Canyon hike for the fourth time. Sure, there was a bit of pain and all that, but it wasn't the worst thing I'd ever done in my life. Now that I'm all of thirty-five, I think I have to admit that I'm not a frisky young being anymore.

Which is all my way of excusing the fact that instead of hiking 15.4km today, Damon, Wendy, Troy, Joy, and I took the short cut along the road, and went to fetch Troy's green Landrover Defender (it's got one of those snorkel devices up the side, so you can drive into lakes that are 1.8 metres deep). We then drove that to the last hut, the one in Kaapschehoop. And we decided not to eat camp food. So we're out on the town.

And it's a slightly rundown town tonight. Cos yesterday there was an all night music festival, and everybody is totally hung over. It's so bad that the pool players in The Green Venus are playing with no balls on the tables. The smacks were too loud, so they're miming.

The good news is that Janine Groenewald, the star of Damon's first movie, ENGAGE, has driven from Nelspruit to be with us. And I can reveal here, now, that my gut tells me she and I have some journeying to do. I'm smitten. Not only is she beautiful and gorgeous and vivacious with a sense of humour and intelligence, but she's an actress. So she understands the casting couch. And I'm a producer.

Which reminds me of my favourite movie joke. Stop me if you've heard me tell it before...

A producer and a director are walking along the beach at Cannes during the film festival. The director tugs on the producer's arm and says, "Hey, look at all those naked women on the beach! Let's go down and f*ck them!!!" And the producer, wild eyed and fervent, says, "F*ck them out of what???"

Unfortunately, Janine has brought along her special friend, Matthew. I say unfortunately, when I actually mean, "unfortunately for HIM". Cos soon, the hikers who are still awake at midnight on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere after a hard day's trek to fetch the car, those hikers being me and Damon, are somewhat manic. And I'm being spurred on by testosterone generated by exposure to Janine.

So, one thing leads to another, and Damon and I pretend to be filmmakers, and she pretends to be an actress, and Matthew pretends to be an innocent bystander who's never encountered such lunatics ever, and never will again. And of course, the sex scene starts being enacted. In the restaurant. With me rolling a fake camera. And Damon yelling direction.

And of course, like any self-respecting artist, I've got the tools of my trade with me. I never leave home without a sketchbook, a bottle of ink, and my trusty Maped Ruling Pen. The pen resembles a gynaecological excavation device, with two incredibly sharp, strong, metallic points held together by a little spring steel caliper. With this pen, it's possible to circumcise somebody if you should happen to slip and stab them in the groin.

I'm not pointing any fingers at Damon here. He IS a director, and as such, he must be afforded the ultimate respect. Suffice to say that he's demanding a less-controlled performance from young Matthew. "Loosen up, Matthew!" screams Damon while Janine is mounting Matthew's leg, her skirt falling open for the camera, revealing the most delicious white panties I've ever seen up close and personal in a small, Lowveld town. Matthew's being open-mouth kissed, and he's sitting there unable to find anything to do with his hands. Damon shouts, "CUT!!!"

He leans in towards Matthew. "Listen," he says, earnest, ready to pull director tricks out of his bag, "I need you to really feel the part." He points at Janine's crotch. "That part."

At which point, I get a great idea, no doubt spurred on by the word, "Cut!" so cavalierly used by Damon. I figure I'll help Matthew to loosen up. So I grab my trusty Maped Ruling Pen, the one with the twin points made of spring steel, and I jab the thing right between the poor fellow's legs, piercing his jeans clear through to the chair. I remove my hand, and the pen stays there quivering like Excalibur. "Now he's loose," I say.

Damon snaps his finger under the guy's nose. The bloke has turned extremely white. And he's not breathing. Finally, Matthew says, "Uh... that was a lot closer than you might have thought." And that's the last thing he says all night.

Oh... I have to recommend the pizzas. They're brilliant.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

The Wattles, Kaapschehoop

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
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All right. So I overcatered. I'm Jewish. What can I say? Which is why my shoulders are sore and the ring of pain most people call their waistline is sensitive even to my underpants.

It's the second night of a three-night hike, out in Kaapschehoop, near Nelspruit. Seven buddies and I have done the heroic thing, believing we're superheroes, and walking up hill, down dale, kilometre after stinking kilometre. We've gone hiking.

And you know, it's not really all that bad. Except for the pain. And the heat. And the fact that my pack is a good eight kilograms too heavy.

Now you will have noticed that my rating for this establishment, The Wattles, is a little on the generous side. That's cos tonight is my turn to cook for the eight of us. And boy have I cooked well. And it's been service with a smile too. So send me large tips.

I cooked Lionel Murcott's famous lentil briyani. It's an incredible rice dish he taught me involving baby potatoes, herbs and spices and curry powder, ginger, broad beans, and, of course, the indispensible lentils.

Except, of course, that Wendy New -- famous Joburg/New York singer/songwriter phenomenon, Damon Berry's gorgeous babe -- decided earlier this morning that her pack was too heavy. So she ditched the lentils back at Barrett's Coaches. But that's all right. I've improvised with Troy Bentley's Soya Mince concoction and some turnips and tiny gemsquashes.

The dish turns out to be amazing, thanks to Alfred Hilton's exceptional curry powder mix. Alfred is an awesome artist. His portrait of me hangs above my study desk.

People line up, and I dish the steaming rice into their camp plates, and they invariably go "Yummy!!!" on taking the first bite. This is probably because the hike has allowed me to access my inner Hitler, and they're probably just scared that I'm going to gas one of them. (And with hiking food, the gas is very apparent, let me assure you. Yes Troy. Yes Damon. I AM referring to you two.)