A little girl, a little American girl at that, looked at me and shrieked on the Central Line on the London Underground less than two hours after I had landed in the country. I know I smelt yukky.
I know I looked ikky. Eighteen hours of cheap air travel will do that to a man when he has to fly to London via Abu Dhabi. And so, the little American girl opened her big gob and shrieked. Loudly.
“Are you, like, an Olympic athlete?”
Finally. Someone who can see through the mess my mortal being has become post-Absa Cape Epic and can see the inner Usain Bolt in me trying to break out. Perhaps it was in the way I carried myself.
Perhaps it was the way I sat on the seat on the train like a panther in repose, cool, relaxed and yet ready to strike should that sod with the dodgy eyes get too close to my suitcase again.
Perhaps it was the way I rolled my shoulders and clicked my neck, like a boxer about to fight. Or perhaps it was the Olympic accreditation I had hanging around my neck that she was pointing at.
“No, I’m afraid not. I’m a…” I started.
“Are you, like, with one of the teams?” she went on, as bright-eyed and unable to listen as a man who has just done four lines of the devil’s dandruff and just knows you want to hear him speak.
“No, I’m here to…” I started again.
"Are you, like… sorry, what were you saying?” she paused. And I struck.
“I’m a journalist. I write about the Olympics. For newpapers back home,” I said.
“Where are you from?” she asked.
“South Africa. Johannesburg,” I said.
“Is that near Kenya?” she asked.
“No. South Africa. As in South. Down at the bottom. Near the sea at the bottom. Like South America, but across the Atlantic Ocean,” I said, the sarcasm kicking in much earlier than on any other visit to another country. It usually takes me at least a full day before I get sarky about where I live.
“Oh. Yeah. Good point. That’s so cool. Like, OMG cool. I’ve gotta go. This is our stop,” she said and left with 10 other little shriekers and a man who gave me a skeef look as he walked off behind them. I sighed. Awesome. I’ve been in London for two hours and some Yank thinks I’m a paedophile. Could be worse. He could have mistaken me for a Manchester United fan.
London is lovely at this time of the year. The rain is warmer. Why, just yesterday I ventured out on a summer evening dressed only in a T-shirt, a merino jersey and a rain jacket. Then, yesterday the sun came out and the sound of birds singing in joy was only interrupted by the gentle thuds of English men and women exploding as they came into contact with the sun. The gingers, the daywalkers, they went first. Gone in a puff of smoke.
I am in England for the Olympics, but could not resist going down to the Oval to watch the third day of the first Test.
Stuart Hess organised me a ticket through Lerato Malekutu, but I had to work and wandered down the road to The Royal Oak to send some missives back home. As I walked in at 11.14am, the barman scolded me: “You’re late! They’ve all left!” Then the cricket fans all came back at lunchtime, leaving the Oval for a quick lunchtime drink.
I took the gap and walked inside, and went to buy a beer. A tall ginger man with Oakleys stopped, looked at me and almost cursed my name.
It was David Terbrugge, the angry matchstick of South African cricket. He was over to play for the Oppenheimer XI.
My old mate Clive Eksteen was with him and we chatted about how much of a spanking England would get.
Ekkers and the Matchstick were scheduled to play five or six games in the next week, but he wanted tickets to the Olympic Games. More specifically, he and some of the guys wanted to watch the men’s or women’s hockey. I shrieked. I might know someone who knew someone who could get him a ticket. He shrieked back. It’s an Olympic thing.