It's been a difficult time to blog with doing a course and running round trying to get ready for the BIG O. (For those that don't know, The Big O is what New Zealanders call a long visit overseas - its almost a right of passage for them.) I finally do mine about 30 years later than everyone else. The other day, while ironing - I find it easier to do if I have something to watch - I watched the dvd of the 2009 Lions tour and games again. I still think that Bryce Lawrence (referee in the first game) got the scrum calls wrong and he was going to ping Vickery by the end no matter what. Southern Hemisphere refs always seem to take the scrums out of it as a contest - think how the 2003 World Cup Final was almost ruined by a series of random penalties at scrum time.
Anyway, the background countryside in the dvd reminded me of the vastness of South Africa, and the openness of the country. Nowhere is close. We drove for over an hour through a sugar cane field north of Durban without any sort of noticeable change on crop, or farm. On moving from Kruger to Johannesberg a 6 hour journey which had been punctuated on the way by the most violent stomach upset going - the driver had to unpack my case to get the Diocalm out so I could continue. For those that ever have to take Malaria tablets - that is a potential side effect, so make sure that you take them when you have easy access to a loo. It could have been worse, the rampant wind that suddenly turned liquid happened at a service station that we'd stopped at for lunch, and I didn't leave the loos for half an hour. (As is the custom there, I tipped the toilet attendant but more generously than the norm).
On the return journey, I was much better and managed to eat at the service station. Sat outside in the sun, eating my antelope burger and chips, I spotted TWAOR from the club. A 6 hour journey, in a country that takes 3 hours to fly over, and I stop at the service station and spot a guy from the club. (Needles can be found in the haystack.)
We were in a convoy of three coaches on my tour. The coach behind including Matt (see an early blog for the legend that this guy was - he spent £1500 on beer in 3 weeks), broke down and it took 6 hours to get a replacement there for them to get to their hotel. So what did 6 blokes and 1 woman do - drank 12 bottles of wine. The sober ones joined the other two coaches for a lift. Needless to say the Magnificent Seven were in a bit of a mess when they got to Jo'berg. They continued the session in the hotel.
Whilst South Africa seems superficially to be a developed country, it's infrastructure at times is strained. The magnificent Seven's hotel didn't have a back up generator, and there was a power cut every night. One of the men was a bit of a shandy-arse, and struggled with the pace and quantity that Matt was driving them at. His stomach rebelled just as an evening power cut happened. The room was plunged into darkness and there were no street lamps to help light the room. In looking for the en-suite in a hurry in the dark with an urge to use the facilities,he didn't make it. Alcohol is not a recipe for success. The hotel cleaners had to be called.
It is exactly these sort of little stories I am looking forward to hearing and enjoying on my rugby tour of New Zealand. People are always happy to share the funny ones, without breaking the Tour code of 'What goes on Tour, stays on Tour'. Names can be removed to protect the guilty, but they are too good to be condemned to the dark recesses of the mind.
Whenever I leave the country, on my return, the song 'English Rose' - The Jam always comes into my head:
I've sailed the seven seas,
Flown the whole blue sky.
But I've returned with haste to where my
Love does lie.
No matter where I go I will come back to my english rose