Most of the time I am at home here, take sights that would astound someone fresh in from Europe for granted, like a lorry crammed with people in the open back, barreling along the main road. Sometimes, though, I feel like a tourist here, seeing things with fresh eyes, especially when I go into Cape Town on an almost joll, which doesn’t happen all that often.
I don’t know whether it was my bright orange silk scarf, or the flu I was warding off, but I seemed to float around the most confusing shopping mall in Cape Town (the Cavendish, if you’re wondering) even with a heavy bag over my shoulder. It is the local mall for loads of Cape Town friends, who treat its tortuous layout with casual familiarity, but I was adrift without a compass.
Desperately in need of a pee, with no obvious signs in sight, I at last found the X marks the spot map of the centre. Pondering its intricacies I was rescued by a kindly young security man, who politely enquired if he could help. I immediately received detailed and step by step instructions to the nearest toilets without a hesitation, or a flicker of amusement at my plight. The instructions were spot on and I found the elusive rest rooms round a corner, up a flight of stairs and across a hallway, just as he said.
Upon entering I was welcomed by an effusive and genuine ‘Hellooo’, by a smiling, tall and elegant woman who was mopping the charcoal tiled floor, in case a drip from the basin should cause anyone to slip. She made me feel like a long-lost friend, maybe she thought she knew me? Telling it back now, I fear I was hallucinating – this has never happened to me before, not even in Harrods or Liberty’s!
The main errand to the bank was achieved and some atypical advance Christmas shopping completed before fatigue set in, the flu was fighting back, despite the floaty orange scarf. I put on Mamma Mia to get me home on a wave of good cheer.
At the petrol station heading home was a truly modern African scene. It is undergoing building renovations and was bristling with men in hard hats, doing complicated things on scaffolding. At the pump next to mine two sinewy men in orange hard hats were trying to trim a short metal rod with a hand saw. Their orange reflective vests were flapping in the gusting south-easter, as they stood round a black plastic dustbin, which they had turned into a makeshift workbench. A half brick on top raised the rod enough to clear the dustbin lid and one man held the rod while the other sawed. It wasn’t working and a petrol attendant came over to help by holding the other end, several more men grouping round to watch. They were still sawing when the attendant brought back my card and I drove off, wondering what would happen in Europe if Health and Safety caught you up to something like that … but at least they were wearing hard hats!
The flu did get me, but I took yesterday off and am feeling well enough to go to belly dancing tonight. It must be the orange scarf doing its work after all!