The best news of the year reached me ten minutes after we'd sat down in seats 65 B and C on our SAA airbus. The flight time, the captain announced, would be 14 1/2 hours, and our crew would look after us all the way to Johannesburg. That meant only one thing: we were not landing at Dakar, in Senegal. We usually do, adding hours and angst to the flight. The fewer times I land and take off the better.
At 11am I asked our friendly flight attendant whether sparkling wine was to be had, and she produced a Swartland dry bubbly. A taste of home within our mini, flying homeland. With orange juice, we mixed our Buck's Fizz (Mimosas) and inspected our goodie bag of socks, mask and toothbrush kit.
We admired our sparkly cutlery. And philosophically ate our 'beef' as 'chicken' had been snapped up by the other denizens of cattle class.
I settled back with my new bear neck cushion, purchased from a spa shop at our gate. I love that bear. He was soft and friendly. During bumpy bits I held him on my lap.
Then followed a long flight. Six movies (Up, The Day After Tomorrow, Ice Age 3, Man on Fire, The Incredibles, and something I never finished and hardly remember). Overdose. Dawn found us over the eastern edge of Namibia, having made landfall at the border of Angola and Namibia.
We had spectacular clouds all the way to Johannesburg - it is the rainy season in the north of southern Africa, and afternoon thunderstorms are typical.
A short two hour flight to Cape Town, seated next to a Texan who lives in Cape Town, and says he has perfected ostrich enchiladas. On disembarking he told me I had missed my calling, as a dancing girl in Vegas. My height seemed to impress him. I understood that he felt that he was paying me a compliment so thanked him as graciously as I could. He installs fire suppression systems on oil rigs, worked in Iraq for three years, and said his wife would be waiting at the airport for him with a litre of milk and a chocolate bar.
Why, I asked, What's so special about Cape Town milk?
You only get powdered milk on oil rigs, he said.
Our luggage arrived safely, nothing had been stolen (Vince had cling-wrapped his suitcase at JFK, for a $9 fee, to help deter theft this time, and my case was locked), and we wheeled into the reception area to the whooping of my mother and the waving of her agapanthus.