Funny old game cricket.
Sunday was a day that will live long in the memory; Monday a day instantly forgettable.
‘You cheated,’ jokes Allan back at the Commodore.
‘Cheated?’ I ask.
‘Dipping out today.’
‘Guilty as charged,’ I reply, ‘I may, if I’m very lucky, have around five thousand dawns ahead of me. And I certainly don’t want to waste one of them sitting in a furnace watching England spill catches and South Africa crawl along at a rate of two runs an over.’
And that will do for my summary of day three.
Time, I think, to say a word or two about South Africa.
Let’s start with politics: South Africa is a country in crisis. President Jacob Zuma, in charge since 2009, has achieved a feat that only one other politician I can think of has managed — Jerry Fitt of the SDLP. And that is to piss off absolutely everybody, despite having ‘friends in high places’.
I am reminded, talking to Sydney — a member of Western Provence Cricket Club — that democracy only works when the right people get elected. And Zuma, he adds, is not the right person. And then there’s the matter of the missing R280 billion.
There is a sentiment that a corrupt black government now rules South Africa; whereas in the bad old days of apartheid, it was a corrupt white one. Plus ça change.
Quotas are the post-apartheid way. This, of course means many more blacks and coloureds find employment but certainly does not mean that the best people get work. It’s probably better than before, for after all, what is fairness? As Richard Nixon said: ‘Anyone who considers that life is fair, has been seriously misinformed.’
Our hotel, the Commodore, is almost entirely staffed by blacks; they clean, they wait, they make the beds and they flip eggs at breakfast. The management is white.
We befriended a black day-glowed steward called Welcome who sat for two days opposite us in the searing Newlands heat, staring blankly at the crowd in the lower tier of the Members’ Pavilion. His presence served no purpose; no one was going to cause trouble. During this time he was given one bottle of water on the first day, none on the second… no food, and was expected to work a twelve-hour shift without an adequate break.
Then his supervisor reprimanded him for rolling up his sleeves, his trousers bottoms, looking at his mobile phone and eating a sandwich, which we had given him. I told her to leave him alone. This did not go down well.
He told us he was paid R200 per day. On the third day — according to Cameron — he was no longer there.
Things have improved, Sydney tells me, but South Africa is still a ‘work in progress.’ Welcome’s treatment, he says, is not typical of the modern South Africa, but it is unacceptable and should be reported.
That’s enough about politics.
Then there’s ‘Elf & Safety’. There is none. Waiters pick up broken glass with their bare hands. And there is a considerable amount of this for them to pick up, as South Africa has yet to embrace the plastic ‘glass’.
Defence of negligence can be summed up thus: ‘if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, it can’t possibly have happened. Case dismissed.’
Writing this blog in the Members’ bar, I wonder why I’m spilling water everywhere each time I take a sip from my glass. Have I developed early onset Parkinson’s overnight? Then I see why — there’s a small triangular gap where glass should be beneath the rim.
Then there are the roads which are amongst the most dangerous in the world.
The police will issue on the spot fines if you park in the wrong place but ignore cars without lights, cars with bits missing and anyone speeding who looks incapable of payment. If the lights on your vehicle fail, it appears to be quite acceptable to drive with your hazards. And one of our tour leaders once hailed a taxi only to discover that it had no steering wheel: the driver steered with a pair of pliars.
And why do these these transgressions go unchecked? It’s a simple case of economics — they are committed by the folk with no money.
Yet for all this, it is an enchanting place. The people — at least those I’ve met are engaging and helpful and they do it all with a smile.
Back to the cricket… on day four we leave before tea. The most entertaining part of the day was during the lunch interval, when school children entertained us with Quick Cricket.
Even Cam is bored, and we’ve both got dodgy tummies.
Twelve hundred runs and twelve wickets in three days is not a recipe for an exciting game of test cricket.
I was right — the second test is headed for a draw. Alma and Cook will shake hands at around 4pm tomorrow and the show will move on to the New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, with England still 1-0 up.