In which our visa extension saga descends beyond the Styx, last girlfriend and first girlfriend deliberate over which one of them drew the short straw ... and we actually catch some fish.
Extension saga Part 2
This saga started in the previous episode of AtCi144D but was temporarily abandoned out of depression and a local shortage of SSRIs1.
The idea that we could complete formalities in a morning in the relatively close and traffic-free Caledon must've been formed during a prolonged session on dagga2 or lysergic acid (or both).
First of all we were told we'd have to go and stand in a queue at the Seffrikkin Department of Home Affairs, located in Long Street in Cape Town. This meant getting into Cape Town during rush hour and, according to urban legend, waiting in said queue with no guarantee of being seen before closing time. What is more, if one reached the front of said queue before closing time, unless the accompanying documents were immaculately prepared, we, the applicants, would be turned away and told to come back at some indeterminate time in the future. I have read The Trial and needed a cocktail of morphine, heroin and cocaine merely to finish the book.
"Speak to Riempie3, she'll introduce you to someone who knows the ropes," we were advised by Shan's sister, Kerry.
Riempie was tres sympathetic provided Shan with contact details. The then spoke to this "someone".
His advice was simple: "the only way is to get an agent, would you like me to refer you to one?"
"It'll cost you about R9,000 but it is your best chance," he added.
We accepted the contact details with gratitude but also some scepticism.
I suggested I check with Viv (first girlfriend). She runs a B&B and many of her guests are long term foreign students at an international college in Muizenberg. The gist of her advice was to use the agent if we wanted relative peace of mind. Shan needed no more affirmation and phoned the recommended agent. We parted with R9,027.16 and asked him to get on with it
They would submit some forms that we would have to complete and then book an interview with Home Affairs. These meetings were hard to come by so we'd have to take what we were offered.
The forms were a nightmare and involved shuttling to and forth between relatives with printing facilities and the local police to witness the signatures as commissioners of oaths. Our last few days before heading off to Muizenberg were filled with these activities and consuming strong drink to calm the nerves. Strong drink is legal in South Africa and we didn't wish to fall foul of any drug legislation while applying for a visa extension.
The agency confirmed that we would have an appointment on the morning of the 14th of December (two weeks before our visa expired and we'd become illegal aliens). If we missed that one, the next opportunity would be in January, beyond the end of our current 90 days4.
We could finally go to Muizies, reasonably relaxed in the knowledge we'd covered all the bases (for now). We set off relatively early so as to visit Kirstenbosch with Viv and her daughter, Dani, and have lunch together after absorbing the "invisible exhibition".
Visiting Muizenberg 1
All I can say is thank goodness we had the wonderful Dani there to coach us in the ways of "invisible exhibitions5." Dani looked on indulgently while Viv and Shan ran around checking the app. Our Kate would've done the same, both of them being women of enhanced intellect. I was able to feign diminished running around capability brought on by Long Covid.
Above: (top) Viv and Shan on the Boomslang at Kirstenbosch with the magnificent mountain range as a backdrop: (bottom L to R) the water that sustains the uniquely diverse botanical playground; Viv and Shan enjoying the augmented reality art on Viv's mobile.
Following a long, lazy lunch in the gorgeous surroundings of the Kirstenbosch Cafe we said goodbye to Dani and repaired to Muizenberg.
Last girlfriend and first girlfriend have a toenadering6
I'm running a huge risk of being accused of mansplaining7 here but it would be well nigh impossible to avoid that dastardly trait and keep the narrative. Both Shan and Viv are women of intelligence and an incomparable sense of humour so I beg Dani's and Kate's indulgence for appearing Neanderthal in their more enlightened eyes:
So, how does Viv fit in? She was the first person of the opposite sex with whom I had a relationship that exceeded one year. This was more than 50 years ago. There's a backstory at fuzzy-photos-unreliable-tasting-notes-rites-of-passage-4.htm. Since then we've been in contact quite a few times in the last decade but only fleetingly ...
So, Rule #1: beware the Ides of December a.k.a. it takes nerves of steel to put your last girlfriend together with your first girlfriend and a bottle of wine. You will end the evening with a comprehensive list of your shortcomings.
It's not that Shan hadn't met Viv before but the previous occurrences were brief encounters sans vino. Shan even stayed in Viv's house in Muizenberg the night before the Cape Town Cycle Tour (to this day colloquially known as "The Argus"). Viv wasn't there. She'd decamped to last boyfriend, John's, place so that our Faringdon team could have the run of her home and the downstairs B&B. Not too much alcohol was consumed that evening because we were poised for an assault on the vertiginous Argus very early the next morning. Shan insisted that I had the small single room while she slept on some cushions on the floor in the living room. I needed my sleep to fortify me for the 110 km, 1220 m ascent event around the fabulous mountains of the Cape Peninsular the next morning.
So now we're sitting on Viv's small balcony on a balmy but fresh (if you can get such a thing) evening. I'm on a small two seater and they are each on their own chairs on either side of my perch. Shan to my right, Viv to the left. I refill their glasses. And then it starts. Some of it apocryphal in extremis. I haven't had that many "girlfriends". Actually, if I had to count, two wives and two lovely people with whom I'd had a relationship (both actually very innocent). I am still friends with all four. Technically speaking, I haven't actually ditched any of them. especially "last girlfriend". We have had an, at some times maybe stormy, relationship that has lasted almost 43 years and, hopefully, still going strong.
So Mizzes Deale-Harrison and Connell launched into a dialogue (or maybe duologue, seeing as any attempt by me to contribute was met by a simultaneous glare between the two of them). If you remember the psychobabble cliche, You're OK and I'm OK but he's not OK, that was obviously what the glare meant. To have taken their nodding and tongue clicking at face value, I must've been a callow rake. But I wasn't especially, not to either of them. Gawky and lacking in seductive confidence, maybe, but not a rake.
So, dear Shan and Viv, next time you meet, as I hope you will before too many years intervene and we cannot remember anything, please no more "He was ... ," followed by "and another thing ... ."
Even Mansplainers have feelings.
The next day dawned as if nothing had been said. We had a fab walk to St James where Viv swam in the tidal pool and we had a lovely coffee and chat before she drove John, Shelley-Ann and me to Tamboerskloof for a fab meal and last girlfriend's reunion with her school buddy from 40 years ago.
Such is the way with Old Friends. We played Bananagrams that evening to great hilarity.
The next day was Viv's birthday and a LOT of Methode Cap Classique was consumed. The next morning we were properly introduced to the Palmer Street enclave for brekker and other shopping stuff..
Above: (top row) Random eclectic stuff a la Muizies. (2nd row) Viv and Shan comparing notes; stylish dude who inspired me to be a little less constrained in term of my sun hat; Shan in BluePriest where she bought some local stuff and I got the hat. (3rd row) Viv contemplating a makeover (perhaps); who knows what they were up to? Praying mantis mating dance?; Severe (deco?) building as the backdrop for the previous evening's revelations. (bottom row) parlour matron?; we'd seen bike locks and car locks but not one like this before ...
Extension saga Part 3
All things being equal, there were pros and cons regarding a trip to Cape Town and Home Affairs. We would travel to the city the day before and stay within walking distance of Long Street and we could revisit Jane and the Miller's Thumb before a good night's sleep and a long walk. We could also obtain some pukka Paella rice (unobtainable in Hermanus) for a big fishing related feast on our return.
We had even managed to bag a fabulous deal at the Tintagel Guest House in Tamboerskloof, where the lovely manager, Utah Ryan, couldn't do enough for us: from afternoon tea to a sumptuous breakfast the next morning. We even got blow-by-blow instructions for the safest way to walk the 1.8 km down the hill to our appointment in the Home Affairs version of the VFS "Premium Lounge", for which we'd paid an additional R500. I know the V in VFS stands for Visa. No idea about the FS ... will leave that to your imagination.
Suffice to say that the Wasabi Kob8 at the Miller's Thumb and the hospitality at the Tintagel were the high points.
Above: Shan languishing in our rather splendid Guest House in Tamboerskloof in preparation for a mile-long walk down the hill to Long Street and Home Affairs and then back up again to get our car: a little testing for an old codger with Long Covid.
After that it was all down hill. The lounge was far from "Premium", not that we gave a fig about that - it was the chaos and the hours-long extended wait that was frustrating, not to mention galling at R500 a pop. And that was just to find out that the papers, which had been carefully choreographed by the agency, were in order to be sent off to Home Affairs proper. There they'd be vetted by an unspecified date. On said (or perhaps unsaid) date, we'd have to return to Long St to find out if our application had been successful and, if so, have stickers inserted in our passports. A luta continua, indeed.
The process had been exhausting, especially for yours truly after a long-covid inflicted trudge back up the hill, including coming a painful cropper on the sidewalk en route.
It was such a relief not to have to trek back to Hermanus and to be able to take up Viv's kind offer of staying in Muzies again. She wouldn't be there but we had keys and could relax with easy access to Palmer St and Joon café. Joon being a great little atmospheric oasis to entertain some old friends and rellies including Mignon (Min) Gulbrandsen, Denise King and Charles and Adi Phillips. We'd also be a stone's throw from wine-guru, Angela Lloyd (more of that with pictures in the parallel wino blog coming up next), who'd kindly invited us for lunch the next day.
Note to self: we did play a lot of Bananagrams9 during both visits to Muizenberg. À trois et à deux. Shan generally won.
Above: (top plus bottom left) familiar Muizenberg sights - beach huts and mountains forming cloud formations. (middle) Min and Shan hadn't seen each other for 40 years but still got on like a house on fire; always a feature of our Cape trips, Adi and Charles Phillips. (bottom) the precious Paella rice at about twice the price of our local supermarket!; the fresh seafood paella it eventually ended up in.
But first we had to catch the fish
Shan's nephew, Andrew, was determined that we should go fishing with him on the boat he skippers, Mrs Jones. It doesn't happen as often as one might imagine because it is pretty heavily permit regulated and fisheries officers are on hand on the slipway to check your catch on your return.
Finally the day arrived on Sunday the 19th of December. Andrew cautioned us that, if we did not get there on time, Mrs Jones would leave without us. From the long early morning shadows on the jetty (below) at 06:30, it can be seen that we took him at his word. We left a bit later but that wasn't an issue on such a beautiful day and with almost the entire family on board. And we came back with a gurnard, 5 silvers and 18 crayfish, most of which were eaten fresh that night.
Above: (top right) storming out of Hermanus New Harbour to the fishing grounds. (middle row) Shan looks on as Bennie negotiates with Kinks for a lighter; Baby Mia came, too, seen here with dad, Michael, and mum, Janine. (bottom row) Michael's best man, Ayrton, and partner, Cara, both caught fish. It was her first ever, hence the excitement. Sadly, both of these fish had to be returned to the ocean because they were undersized.
A new home for a month
Over the Christmas period we might have been homeless were it not for the generosity of friends. We house-sat for Sheila Whitfield and Tony Webb and were blessed with the spectacular Hermanus views below.
Above (clockwise from top left) Surrounded by mountains in most directions, these cliffs were behind the house; looking across Walker Bay and the mouth of the of the Klein River at the brooding mountains beyond; at some stage someone must've introduced Norfolk Pine trees to the area. Whether you like them or not, they do provide a commanding silhouette against the sea and sky, lit by a fading sun at sunset; echo that with the "pink mountain" in the last frame.
Four generations for Christmas
Above (top) From 92 to nought, L to R: Matriarch Judy, Shan, Bennie, Andrew, Mia, Kinks, Michael, Janine and Tim (with Pepper the dog looking expectant - perhaps Tim had just said the word "braai10"); Proud parents with a seemingly always cheerful Mia - I'm sure she has her moments but she just lights up so as to be completely edible. I'll make no apologies for baby pictures in my blog.
A parallel existence in and around December focussing on winemakers, vineyards, wine critics and wine, mostly in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley