On the last day of January I was asked to take a group of six Germans on a tour around the Cape Peninsula from the Westin Grand Hotel.
While I waited in the tour company’s Vito for the group to arrive a middle-aged man sidled up to me and said that I was to be host to some fairly exalted company: apparently the group included an ambassador and a bishop. I asked him if he was also important, and he replied that he was merely a retired banker. His name was Geiger but he was not related to the inventor of the Gieger Counter.
Later, the ambassador confided that he was actually only a consul-general, and the bishop’s wife told me that the bishop was also a professor of theology at a German university. As we set off with the three VIPs and their wives, Mr Bussman, the consul-general, started doing a commentary in German for his fellow-travellers. I interrupted and asked whether he wanted me to be merely a driver, or if he would like me to contribute. He said that I could chime in at any time if he left out something.
To facilitate this he started doing his commentary in English so that I could tell when to chip in. It didn’t take him long to realise he was losing his audience, so he switched back to German. Because of my knowledge of Afrikaans, a Germanic language, I could figure out more or less what he was saying, and during silences I could add in my tuppenceworth. But I did manage to learn during his brief English commentary that we had more to thank the Germans for than I had realised, such as our new World Cup stadium. (Apparently it was designed by them.) I refrained from saying that an opponent of the stadium had used the words “monstrous carbuncle” and that others had said that it looked for all the world like a giant bed pan.
During the journey I asked if they would like me to book for lunch. Mr Bussman said that they intended to have lunch at Constantia Uitsig, and I replied that due to our late start (10.50 am) we wouldn’t get there before 4 pm, and that as far as I knew they expected lunch guests to be there before 2 pm. He felt he could use his influence to get lunch out of them at this late hour.
All went well, and as we drove past Muizenberg I remarked that this had been one of those rare perfect summer days, with a gentle breeze (instead of the usual howling gale) and crystal-clear air. The bishop’s wife confidently announced that they had been in contact with the deity about such matters and persuaded him to see things their way . . .
Their influence did not extend to the restaurant, however. And no pulling of rank could persuade Uitsig to re-open the kitchen at 4 pm. Fortunately we were directed to the new restaurant at Steenberg farm, and they were able to eat to their hearts’ content at Bistro 1682.
Although the day dragged on for a lot longer than the allotted eight hours the smiles and generous tip at the end indicated that they had enjoyed their voyage around the Fairest Cape.