“The Only One Who Could Ever Move Me Was The Sweet Loving Son of a Preacher Man”

…wryly smiled the flaming atheist.

I very nearly didn’t make it to Viva Tequila. What I really wanted to do was stay home and fall asleep midway through a film. But that was never an option. And it was too soon to fake another physical illness. The only real alternative was to volunteer for the on-call night shift and I’d just done four fourteen-hour overnighters in a row. I was low on energy and quite fancied a decent meal, even though I couldn’t really afford one.

The bride to be’s groom to be sat opposite me and I slipped him sneaky cigarettes under the table when he thought his fiancée wasn’t looking. She was. The singer was loud but the alcohol went some way to drowning him out and we were being naughty and having fun.

“My friend would love you!” he slurred. Turns out he did. And still does.

I very nearly didn’t make it to The Gypsy Queen, for all the usual reasons, but I’d never been on a blind date before and curiosity simply got the better of me. We each had a pre-planned exit strategy in place – his was something software based; mine was much less convoluted and would have amounted to not much more than me declaring, “I’m leaving now,” had I felt the need to, which I didn’t.

I think William Boyd described zemblanity as the opposite of serendipity. Zemblanitous is how I might have described (if ever there was an excuse to use such a word) the circumstances of our meeting and then discovering very shortly afterwards that he was leaving for South Africa for three months. That was that then.

“I’m sorry, what was that? Are you serious? …Ok!”

There was no way I wasn’t going to make it to Johannesburg to meet a man I barely knew!

We got into his Sani and drove. Drove for miles in the red Swaziland dust without encountering another soul; reversed into a tree in Kruger, threw the bumper in the back and carried on; jumped off Leopard Rock and got blind drunk in the middle of nowhere in the Hogsback mountains. Was it dangerous? Yes, probably. Did I care? Not a jot! Did I have a once in a lifetime time of my life? Absolutely.

We flew back to the UK and moved in together. That was a little under ten years ago. One day we’ll make it back there and share the exhilaration of that wondrous landscape with our son…

South Africa 3

One day.