A Gorgeous Blue Eyed Man
I wake after a great nights sleep. I feel so welcomed and warm and cosy, it feels like staying with friends.
We pack up the suitcases and reluctantly head for an early breakfast.
The food is excellent and waiter is wonderful, instead of panicking at my strange breakfast requests he confidently asks “may I offer you” and rattles off an alternative of vegetables. The coffee is fantastic, the company is fantastic, everything is so good here. The mist outside lifts to show the valley below us with horses running in the early mist. I feel so happy here, I would return in an instant.
It’s clear that none of us want to leave. We hang around talking to the staff as long as we can. Then we load up our luggage and leave to see more family.
I drive and grandpa directs me. The journey is longer than I thought and I worry that he may have forgotten the route because it all feels a bit off. Sure enough though we arrive at a house near the sugar cane plantations. I have met this great cousin before, I remember her visiting the old farm when we stayed. At the time of their visit though I had nicked the car keys to one of the Isuzu twin cabs and taken my cousin a few miles along the river to smoke and drink beer.
More cousins arrive to greet us. They wear mechanic outfits and are hard workers. We laugh and chat about women drivers. I observe that one of our relatives noses has welts and I feel certain that they’ve let their health insurance lapse. So many do. Even with the NHS I have backup health and dental insurance. My toothbrush provides a daily hygienist clean and I have biannual checkups because I can’t afford to mess up my health. Sure it means sometimes going without other things to prioritise, but I really wouldn’t like to loose my teeth. My cousin tells of a botched operation at a government hospital, after a triple heart bypass they tried to remove her legs and she woke midway through. Cici and I excuse ourselves.
We shortly leave and play various songs by Macklemore. I drive beyond the speed limit and my cousins over take me, my father enlightens me that their pickup truck’s speedometer is no longer functional and so they use a satnav for speed. Cici repeats the words “precious” over and over while I drive.
The next stop is gramps old neighbours. He calls when only ten minutes away and the wife calls her husband who is just about to leave and tells him to stop, there are very important people about to arrive. I arrive and he looks at me, then sees gramps riding shotgun (George Esra Style) and shouts “My god, you old bugger come here” and runs around, pulls gramps out the car, hugs him so strong. They are both clearly teary eyed to see one another and both mumble something about hay fever and colds. I follow the two of them along the winding path up to a chicken farm. I feel my breakfast rising. My mother leaps out first to make sure it’s okay. There aren’t any chickens, they’ve all been cleared out and the 6 huge warehouses are currently being deep cleaned. I feel sick. Yet at the same time I start tearing up, a man has run over, it’s an old farm worker who I recognise - Zeparti, I hug him hello. Another old worker sees Gramps and runs up the hill to shake his hand. We hug him too. It’s so good to see these guys and they tear up when gramps talks to them in Zulu.
I think about the lyrics to Macklemore’s Glorious.
We chat over a cup of coffee then we really have to leave to arrive at the next destination. Our friends warn us about striking in the area, earlier that week tyres were burnt making the road impassible. I drive with intent up the passes. My father fidgets behind me in the back then shouts that he wants to drive “right now?” I ask in horror before putting on my hazards as we approach an informal settlement and let him drive.
School has just finished and it’s crazy. The backs of 4x4s are loaded with fifteen kids I count on one. The calibre of driving is off too and I feel sick thinking about a crash. My father isn’t happy, he wanted a nice scenic drive but instead he’s in rush hour trying to reduce the chance of a collision.
He declares he needs the toilet so I interrogate google earth to find a suitable spot. I do and he jumps out. So I get in the drivers seat, put the car in gear and get ready to go. He leaps in to the back and we drive the last hour to our destination. While driving the final stretch I think about tooth loss and syphilis and really look forward to a beer upon arrival.
We pass through a town which Dad remembers from their summer journeys between Swaziland and Port Elizabeth.
After passing a maximum security prison we arrive at our lodge. The rooms are cabins, waterside on a small reservoir. We have views of the town below and space to run and there’s a golf driving range on site. It’s all so wonderful.
The rooms are luxurious with balconies onto the water. Mum and gramps sit in the sun and sip coffee while Cici and I talk about oral hygiene and STDs. We find bedside literature on spiritual anti semitism and the book of David. Again she overuses the word “Precious.” Dad hits a bucket of balls on the driving range. We’re all happy and content.
We leave for dinner at the on site restaurant, it’s quite literally a stones throw. I thumb through the menu and ask for a beer. They are dry. I choke a little. Dad stares at me as if to say “sort it out” it’s dark by this point and I’m not driving into the town to BYOB to the restaurant. So I sip a smoothie and he has tea.
The manager pops by to chat to us and I don’t know what to say. The rooms are lovely, the location is lovely, the literature is, uh, precious, but there’s no beer. He says something about their onsite boreholes and I get excited. I share banter about water until my father says “Hey, I’m looking for family who used to own the old Garage in town” my mind spins and I think, “no we’re not.” Dad mentions the name of the old owners, apparently his line of family, who are typically from the south coast of the uk. The manager shouts “Chappy, I know him, you want to speak to him?!” so he calls him and puts him on speaker phone to dad. I listen to this conversation and sure enough it is a Chappy who he is something like third cousins to. I’m gobsmacked. Ten minutes later Chappy arrives.
My head is spinning. In the ten minutes before finding out that I have Snook family around here I go from finding out to meeting him. Now in that ten minutes I’m panicking wondering if this man will lack teeth and have syphilis too.
A gorgeous blue eyed man walks into the restaurant, he’s gregarious, he doesn’t stop talking and damn he looks like us, almost spitting image of my uncle. He too is concerned about the no alcohol thing - a true snook.
We share our lives and experiences, he asks questions and we're all fascinated to hear about each others lives. He's an entrepreneur, his father and grandfather were entrepreneurs. Very few of us in the family fit a traditional mould, we actively seek to instigate our own paths in life. He asks if I'm married to a rich man, I tell him I am a rich man and get a high five for that. After two hours of non stop talking from all of us, we depart having swopped numbers and made a family WhatsApp group. Gramps walks us to our lodge cabin and tells us how proud he is, I'm glad because I worried a little whether my confidence slipped into arrogant territory.
We return to the room and my head spins. I fall asleep after a few minutes watching CNN.