I’m starting to think that the universe is conspiring to ensure that I remain friendless and alone in Johannesburg. Well, not quite, but you get my drift.
While my Beloved has cavalierly dismissed such musings as mere stuff and nonsense, I’m not quite so sure – the evidence seems pretty strong to me.
First of all, there was the tipsy group that we met outside a Parkhurst bar on our first official evening in Jozi. After partaking of a few drinks together, they’d invited us to meet them for dinner later in the week to celebrate late-night opening in the run-up to Christmas – something that we duly agreed to do.
Sadly, however, that particular little plan was scuppered following the eruption of a massive thunderstorm on the night in question. This meant that we were the only people fool enough to be wandering the streets and dodging stunning, white forks of lightening in the sleeting rain.
The others, of course, had more sense and presumably stayed warm, cosy, and dry, at home. And we’ve not seen them since.
Secondly, there was the tempting-sounding get-together entitled ‘Around the World in 80 Meals’, courtesy of the Gauteng Expats group listed on the Meetup.com social media website.
The fact that this month’s Meetup was at a British tavern called Gilroy’s Brewery, Restaurant and Pub seemed too good to miss, especially as its tag line was ‘120 years behind the times’, whatever that means. It was fate.
It also sounded distinctly promising that the place had won a Daily Telegraph award in 2012 for being the Best British Restaurant outside of the UK.
But I was just as intrigued to know how they’d interpret the British pub vibe and whether they’d serve the craft beers, made at their own onsite microbrewery, in the traditional warm mode that so horrifies people of different nationalities all over the world.
A long, long road
So after checking out the map given on the website, we enthusiastically booked a taxi for last Saturday night so that we could both enjoy a drink.
And it certainly didn’t look far to go – 10 minutes at most, right next to the Melville Koppies (or ‘small hills’ in Afrikaans) Nature Reserve, a beautiful, green Heritage site right in the middle of Joburg’s northern suburbs.
But oh, how wrong we – or should I say I – were. After sailing merrily along Beyers Naude Drive in the direction of Melville, it turned out that the map, complete with bubble-marks-the-spot, was woefully inaccurate and we were, in fact, at the wrong end of a very, very long road.
A road that, in fact, ended up taking us to Muldersdrift, way out in the middle of nowhere and well past the back of beyond.
To make matters worse, on getting out of the cab a good 20 minutes later than expected and a distressing R400 (£22.50) poorer than when we’d got in, all we could find was a rather grungy bush bar that certainly didn’t look and feel like any British pub I’d ever seen.
Undeterred, however, we approached the guy at the entrance gate and politely and calmly asked where we might be able to find our group.
He looked up and down his list, not once, but twice, before politely and calmly replying that there was no one matching our description there, although we were welcome to go in anyway – despite the sign saying that the place was full.
My Beloved at this point was somewhat less than amused as we veered through endless rows of brown-painted picnic benches crammed full of tattoo-covered youngsters at least 25 years younger than ourselves.
A tasty (cold) real ale went some way to easing the pain, however, as I mused on why no one had bothered to mention that the Meetup had been cancelled.
A perfectly edible if rather sweetcorn-heavy vegetarian wrap and salad (for me) and a supremely average sausage and mash (for my Beloved) later – both of which don’t say much for British cuisine if they’re topping the Daily Telegraph’s awards tables – and we were almost ready to go.
It was just a matter of calling the taxi driver, waiting 30 minutes for him to pitch up and forking out another R300 (£17) in discounted return fare, bringing the total cost of this magnificent evening, plus food, to R1,000 (£56) – not much by British standards perhaps, but a hell of a lot by South African ones. And still not so much as the sniff of a friend to be had.
To add insult to injury, when I enquired of the organiser what had happened to everyone, she brusquely informed me that I’d got the wrong day and it was next Saturday instead. Don’t think we’ll be going back there in a hurry though.
As for my third example of cosmic misfortune, this revolved around a Silent Walking Meditation group that I again signed up to via Meetup.com. Its members get together on every third Sunday of the month apparently, and I was keen to join as I’d not done that kind of meditation before – just the more usual sitting-down-with-crossed-legs type.
According to the bumpf on the website, the morning kicked off with an initial sit-down meditation for 15 minutes to get you in the mood. This was followed by a nice, slow walk around somewhere green and pretty for an hour in total silence, with the focus being on becoming aware of your body/mind/spirit and how they feel.
Then to round off the event, there was a discussion of anything that had come up for people during their quiet time, should they wish to share it. Sadly, and somewhat bizarrely however, the organiser appeared to have done a runner, which meant that no location was proffered despite several promptings to that end.
So myself and eight other willing participants all ended up just staying at home on our ownsomes, presumably drinking tea and reading the papers for the morning instead.
Still, all is not lost. A couple of friends from Stellenbosch have been kind enough to make some initial introductions with local mates of theirs – although nothing’s come of it as yet. And I’ve also joined the nearby St Vincent de Paul Society in a bid to feel like a useful citizen and throw myself into a bit of charity work.
So there’s still hope for me yet, it seems – although it’s not altogether clear just how much.