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Cape Town

It is a fact Cape Town has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. (OK take away the townships – but every city has a dodgy area – just look at Bath!)

It was an early start on our first morning after an evening of Ostrich Steak the night before I skipped breakfast, mainly because I was late and we headed off on the trip of Robben Island. This was what I have really been looking forward to doing – 4th trip and finally I made it (first trip was actually before it was a World Heritage Site). Sadly didn’t make it onto top deck which was a pain but there we go. The trip over was pretty calm which was a relief and the view of Table Mountain from the boat was just superb. Almost worth the trip alone.

When we arrived on Robben Island we were escorted onto buses which then proceeded to take us around the island looking at several of the ‘sites’ apart from the Maximum Security prison itself. We were told the history of the island, most of which I knew from reading in the guide book but I never remember reading about the buses I have to say. I was kind of hoping that we were free to walk around the island – its not that small after all – and that there would be placards at various locations to explain what things are or the history behind it. The only time that we were allowed off the bus was at a particular point which gave the most fantastic views back across the sea to Table Mountain and the city itself. Wow. Just how lucky were we with the weather – it was this time last week that the Lions played the Emerging Springboks here and the weather was AWFUL and I was personally a little worried about just what we would do for the three days (yes yes, apart from drink!) and about what a crying shame it would be for all of those that have never been here before. Really didn’t need to worry – if my legs were not as bruised still (marble effect on my calves up to my knees, from the crushing I presume) I would actually be in a pair shorts right now.

Getting back to Robben Island, Simon and I had to be content with just taking photos out of the bus window which I have to say I was a little miffed about. The view over the bay – yes. Well the photos of me there are not all that great it had to be said. I was a little worried about the water breaking behind me on the rocks as the spray kept coming up and I was rather adamant that I was going to get soaked. They will just have to do though. Once we had been whisked around the island we were dropped off at one of the entrances of the maximum security part of the prison and greeted by our guide who was a former prisoner from 1986-1991. His accent was really strong so you had to listen very carefully to what he was saying to hear and understand. It was fascinating but there were times when I really couldn’t hear a word that he was saying – namely when we were in the outside areas as there were some people who talked the whole way through. I was quite disappointed really having been looking forward to going for so long. The bottleneck to see his actual cell was mental and so I hung back in the hope that I might get a little more time to take it all in and get a decent shot. Sadly there was another group behind us and when I went to take the photo one was almost on walk by mode and I was jogged by some arse when I took the photo and so the camera focused on the bars rather than the interior – I only noticed this when I uploaded them onto the pc earlier.

It was still despite all that very, very humbling to see the tiny spaces that the men were in for such a long time for standing up for something that they believed in rather than for actually committing a serious offence and the political prisoners were deemed to be far more dangerous than common-law prisoners and were thus treated far more harshly than say one that had murdered, raped etc. It really beggars belief.

For lunch, which was part of our tour we were taken to a lady’s house in Langa. She clearly rakes in the money from this as her house had two floors to start with as well as being extended out the front as well as the back. The lady was Xhosa and made a right welcome for us going on about watches and how she never needs to wear one and that she was currently going by the time on the Chinese clock on the wall. It was all in relation to what we call different meal times and that we have different foods for different meal times, when for them food is just food what ever time there is no speciality for say breakfast. (I think that is what I understood from it anyway!) We were entertained by some Xylophone / glockenspiel players throughout our lunch, with of course the hard sale afterwards of a cd of their music. Whilst it was very authentic and all that – not quite your Ladysmith Black Mambazo stylee that I so dearly love – I decided against investing in s copy. I overheard the gentleman sitting next to me at lunch describing to another couple where he and his son came from in Surrey (he was from another group – Leopard Purple if I remember rightly, staying in the Mount Nelson) Blow me he lives in the same village as Sue and Peter and knew them. Small world hey!! Lunch itself was a massive spread of traditional Xhosa food and I got stuck into the sweet potato and pumpkin that I love so much. I had to be rather careful with the meat dishes as there were a lot of peppers lurking about in things and I really DIDN’T want another lovely reaction to them thank you very much.

The afternoon part of our tour was to a township where we had lunch and saw inside one of the hostels in the township of Guguletu. Having seen the schools of Tipini and Nelson Mandela Schools in Umtata some 9 years ago, I was more prepared for the sights that we saw than some others. The streets are full of debris and as for the little streams – they are as murky and what have you as you see on Comic Relief films. Something I certainly was not prepared for to put it mildly. Not all of the accommodation was shacks made of corrugated metal there were some houses – but I use the term loosely. But these were closer together than terraced houses; I know that is not physically possible but still. They can extend their ‘houses’ forwards or backwards or upwards but obviously not sideways. Most of this type of accommodation is used as hostels but not in the sense that us Brits think but there is one rooms with like 4 beds in. Each bed is for a different family – be that 2,4,6,8,15 children and the adults or just one male. There is no privacy. They are usually taken up by men that have come from the Eastern Transkei to find better prospects of work in Cape Town and even when their wife comes to visit they are not left alone in the room (catch my drift there?!). There were loads of shards of glass all over the floor and yet the majority of the small children were running around with bare feet. I won’t go on too much more but it once again made me thankful for all that I do have. It also reminded me that I have not remembered to arrange another sponsor child now that my time with Sein in Kenya has come to a close – must contact Action Aid again on my return.

The evening came the turn of the Gulliver’s Forum which was being held in another hotel – good lord it was posh! A 6* apparently. We had free beer and wine and soft drinks as well as some pretty decent nibbles, a lot of which I found to be fish before we had the forum. Jason Leonard and Rob Lowe (SA flanker, back in the day) were the guests, Jason was staying at our hotel and it was hilarious watching all of the guys swarm around him like flies!! Jason this, Jason that. The evening was good fun and Chris from our group managed to win the signed shirt from the evening’s stars through playing heads and tails which was nice for him. It was very interesting hearing Rob’s views on Peter De Villiers – clearly not his favourite and believes that he has a lot to answer for. Interesting, interesting.

Table Mountain was the destination for the following morning and I headed up there with Simon and the chaps from Dubai on what must have been one of the first cable cars up to the top – no queue what so ever – main point of going at that time obviously. The view as ever was simply spectacular. I don’t think that I have ever seen it as clear as it was. The smog that seemed to be lingering over parts of the bay that we could see from Robben Island the previous day all seemed to have blown away in the night. Its divine in its natural beauty and the sheer drops from the side are just amazing (and pretty scary too!) I was all ready to abseil down the side but sadly by the time that we had gotten back around to the side where they do that the wind had picked up rather and to be honest – I bottled it! We went and had a coffee instead – what a wonderful view to have a coffee with, looking back over the Twelve Apostles. Better than your average busy Starbucks in the centre of a town, even if the coffee still wasn’t all that good – the view made up for it ten fold!!!

Coming back down we headed back to the hotel for a bit, Simon was off to Camps Bay to see some friends and the guys from Dubai were planning on spending the afternoon at the Waterfront. So I gate crashed as I didn’t really fancy going down there on my own. We had about an hour and a bit in the hotel before we left though and so I totally repacked my bag so that I have everything that I need for the next few days on the top, dirty washing on the bottom – Hilda bless her can have that when I get to Juliet!! I hand washed my strip as I suddenly remembered that I had not done so and it stank. I hung it out on the back of a chair on the balcony for the afternoon and as it was such a beautiful day it was all ready to be folded up and put away in the case when I got back to the hotel later on in the day. Had a delicious steak lunch and a few beers and whilst the chaps sat and drank a bit more I popped into a shop here and there to have a look. I only ended up in buying a casual Sharks shirt though, namely because I can fit little else in my blinking luggage which is already overweight!!

Sadly the plans for Mama Africa didn’t work out as the others were lateish back from their day trips and exhausted. To be honest it kind of worked out the best as my throat was REALLY killing and my glands were all up to I went down stairs and got a packet of crisps and some chocolate and had that as my supper so I could take the Malaria tablets and so on. I was in bed at 8.15 feeling a poorly girlie I found a blanket in the cupboard and put that on the bed as well and I turned the light out at 9 hoping that it would all go away and I’d be as right as rain in the morning for the flight to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga and the Kruger.

Pretoria – 2nd Test

Breakfast was the usual thing on Saturday morning with a mass of different things to choose from. I went for the donuts, I was spotted by the manager eyeing them up wondering if I really actually could have donuts for breakfast – covered in chocolate and everything and I was spotted. He came over to tell me that I could not walk past them and not have one that they were by far the best thing on offer for breakfast that morning. I’m telling you now; my stomach will no doubt get larger as a result but eeeebygum it was worth it. I resisted the temptation to go back for seconds though for which I was most proud.

We had a bit of time after breakfast to ourselves before we went and left for the Second Test. I was feeling pretty on top of the clouds with the excitement and similar to a small child at Disneyland about to meet Mickey Mouse. I had to chill the hell out before making myself look like a right nana. So I lay on my bed for a bit listening to a radio station through the TV who were doing nothing but going on about a Michael Jackson tribute weekend this coming weekend starting at 10am – it was turned off pretty quickly and I decided to get myself all dressed and ‘tarted up’ for the match. On went the beloved Bath Rugby face tattoo. Using the pre-prepared template – laminated and everything Ill have you know so that it could be re-used for the final test as well I donned a vague resemblance to the Lions logo as well on the other cheek. The ‘skirt’ of my massive flag was put on (for now) and then . . . to top it all off was the mother of all wigs – my blue black and white wig. I was dressed and ready to go. I looked pretty darned hot I have to say (see photo!)

Camera, money, ticket, wrist band – lets go and to the lift I went with it all on and the sunglasses too, of course for the ‘cool’ look. I got some giggles from people that I passed on the way to the lift which I was prepared for. But it was when I got outside to the others – Janette and Ian (Glos supporters) Sue and Clinton (from Devon) and Mike and Irene (Porthcawl and still no bags) to name a few that the giggles came ‘oh my god classic’ – I thought everyone was going to be getting in the spirit of it. Nope, as usual, just me! I didn’t care I was still proud as hell to be supporting my club as well as the Lions. I was posing for masses of photos and I hate to think what the tag lines will be under most of them – the weirdo of the tour! Pah, who cares! It was a friggin Lions match and I was here!!!! Simon gave me the nod of approval and thankfully pointed out that there was not only one Bath Supporter and how they had to answer both of us. I am coping just fine and have already pointed out the white line on the swimming pool which I may have to indulge in later – needs must and all that!! (The vacuum for the pools trail) I thought I would get in there first and to be fair I think that saved me from quite a lot of banter as I showed that I am good humoured about it. There were several who didn’t realise it was me to begin with and it was not until they asked someone that they were told – tee hee hee!

So sitting on the bus in the car park at the time that we were meant to go and all bar 2 were on. We had already had a reminder that things run like clock work when the timings are kept to as they are there for a reason and we all agreed and discussed it was best for us all to be there well early than hold the others up. As well as the 2 that had not appeared we had Jeremy who somehow in the hour that he had had it for had managed to loose his wrist band to get him into the Big Bar (The Lions Den). The third of the party went to find his two mates who, it turned, were sat in the bar thinking that we were all still there. See it helps to keep in with the group so that you know who you are travelling with if they are not in the same place as you!! We decided as a coach that they should so be given a forfeit as a result. Sing a song at the front of the coach or buy everyone a drink. I think that to begin with they thought we were joking. Urmmmnnn no!

All aboard and off we went – it was a tight squeeze for some as the seats were 3 on one side and two on the other, I however had taken one of the front seats which was all on its own. It was evident that the driver was totally lost as he was starting to pause longer and longer at junctions clearly trying to work out which direction he should be going. Eventually he asked a car – I couldn’t see it as I was the wrong side of the coach. Before you know it we have a Police escort in front of us guiding us to the stadium. Not any old escort though sirens going lights flashing they were flashing everyone to move out of the way even at red lights and everything. It was absolutely classic as we waved at all we passed. I am glad that we had a bit of a nose through the centre but I am also glad that it was from the inside of the coach!! After a little while we had the sergeant on board with us as he was then directing the coach whilst the police in the car in front would suddenly get out every now and then to move the traffic on at the red lights. It was absolutely classic and the whole bus was in fits of hysterics, even more so as we gave other passing Gullivers coaches the royal wave as we sped past them! It was good that Simon is trying to pull out all the stops to make the day memorable!!!

We had all coaches parked in a car park a way from the stadium and there were people holding signs along the route to the Big Pub prior to the match. All so brilliantly organised – but that it part of what we pay for. It was kind of odd as we expected loads of stalls and things around the Stadium but there were none leading up to it. So we joined the masses heading into the Big Pub – aptly called the Lions Den. It was a total sea of red. So the usual witty comments of – don’t worry, you will spot me easily I am wearing red! Your wrist band was stamped and you were given your food and drink tickets. I got a wee emotional at this stage. It was all actually happening I was here I was amongst the rest of the Lions Supporters out here and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was on a high, I think pretty much with the same type of feeling as me. I managed to catch up with all of the Bath lot that I knew were going to be there and now I feel that is done – next week I am going to be making the effort to be soaking up the atmosphere for myself. But I wanted to have a touch base with them all so that we can reminisce when we got back. I spotted a Bath flag hanging up under an shady brollie and we kind of walked towards it – suddenly I realised that it was Steve and Rich so I went up behind and smacked him on the arse – just as he would have done to me!
The Welsh male choir sang a number of songs, my personal favourite was ‘we are marching in the light of God’ and the Zulu (I think that it is Zulu) version. But to be fair the one that went down the best was the Irish Anthem but with Lions in place of Ireland. My throat was already quite sore from before we left but it was really starting to hurt quite a lot after the singing. We were looking at a no voice possibility after the match here. Deciding to take in as much of the atmosphere as possible we headed to the stadium which was a short walk from the Lions Den this was about an hour and a half prior to kick off. The sea of red and green was pretty impressive but at this point there was more red than green that could be seen. I walked in with Janette and Ian and we walked part way around the stadium trying to find our Gate. We were told by one of the Security guards that we could go in the Gate that we were currently by as the Gate 6 – that we were meant to be going through was chocker and it would take us ages. So in we went. I didn’t break down like I did at the World Cup Final ’07 but then I guess it was that I knew that the ticket was real here. We were in incredibly easily and were dying to get tour seats to sit and finally be there and marvel in the glory of the surroundings, get those Lions chants going and so on. This was not going to be as easy as getting through the Gate though.

We went up to the level that we thought that we were on but could not find the letter that corresponded to our ticket so went to ask some one. Aaaahhhh, you need to go back down stairs and to the right. So down we went fighting the crowds coming up to try and get to the entrance. Looking for our letters they seemed to be going down rather than up and so we were clearly going on the wrong direction, we asked again. Aaaahhhh no maam, you need to go upstairs and to the left. So back upstairs we went (can you see where this is going?!) to find more frustration that we, once again were back where wehad been before and still no where bloody near a letter that was near to L. This was starting to really piss me off as we had been up and down the fricking stairs enough times to sink a ship and frankly, running up and down stairs was not what I had planned on a match day in the high altitude (if it can effect their play on the pitch I’m bloody well using that excuse too – nothing to do with me being unfit or anything!!) On the penultimate time of asking we found out that we were no even on the bloody higher level – being ill advised my SO many of the ‘ground staff’ was ridiculous. So we thought that we would head up to Gate no 6 which was on our ticket to be somewhere that we should have come in by. Logical you would have thought.
In effect we were walking up the outside of the East side of the Stadium and at about the half way mark it bottle necked. I am not even sure why as there did not appear to be an entrance way where we were and it was predominantly South Africans and those Lions – like us were just trying to find our fricking seat – STILL. The crowd started pushing and I was almost a head below the size of the bastards all around me. Built like brick shit houses and clearly part of the front row – second at a push. There was no way that they were going to be looking after little old me (still adorning the beautiful wig). They probably didn’t realise that I was female to be fair as although there are parts of me that make that fairly obvious I was carrying my rucksack on my front to try and prevent any thing being nicked. We were crushed basically. I hate even crowds at a concert; I have to stand back away from it. This was my idea of hell. I had no one looking out for me really. It was me looking after me and all I concentrated on was keeping my footing and not flaking out. I kept taking BIG deeps breaths as all air was squished out of me. My legs were getting knocked about to buggery and yes. Yes I was indeed shitting myself (not literally though!) I had Hillsborough going through my head at this point. I feared the worst. Thankfully though, after what felt like an eternity, we were out the other side. I will state quite clearly here and now. There is absolutely NO WAY that they are ready to cope with the drunken masses of the Football World Cup next summer. The crush to get to your seat and the poor signing really angered me that I had spent all this bloody money on the trip and I was not even going to get to see my boys run out on pitch.

Somehow we made it in to the Stadium – thanks to a lovely lady who actually DID know the seating arrangements of the Stadium and we went in the left and corner of the East stand but our seats were all the way over in the right hand corner. We opted to walk the length of the stand down the front and, as a result had an awesome view of the boys coming out – the photo may not be awesome though as I was quick marching to get to my seat at the time! Everyone was stood up thankfully as we arrived at our row – finally, admittedly the wrong end. I made my arrival by running the entire length of the row along the seats as everyone was stood up for the South African National Anthem. I was gutted. I love the anthem and I was lucky enough to be sable to hear the South Africans sing it at the World Cup Final – but somehow I felt that this version was going to be way more passionate than I had heard before. I had missed it though as the rush of getting the fat bastards out of the way on the way up to the row was more of a task than you could have anticipated. There is, however, one more opportunity – Jo’burg next weekend.

My seat was next to Simon – bless, and I was sat next to the Welsh couple too – whose names escape me just now. We had a cracking opening to the match I have to say and the first half of the match was just electrifying and as for the atmosphere, words simply can’t describe. As I have said before I am not one for being able to commentate on the match after as I, to be fair seem to forget most of it before we have even walked out of the Stadium! However the gouging in the first couple of mins on one of our guys. Excuse me but only a yellow card??? How the hell can that be when players are cited and so on and are banned for matches? It should have been a red. The language around me was mighty fruity after that and it was evident that the match was going to be brutal. Not only on the pitch but with the level of shouting to out shout the Bokkas. I did find it amusing that they kept shouting out at us in Afrikaans, clearly going ot be swear words and what have you. In reply Bread of Heaven – I know I couldn’t believe I was singing a Welsh song either – went up tenfold. Totally drowned them all out it was awesome. We had swing low and of course the ever present Lions chant that is SO much more pleasing to shout than Bath, only because I could do so at the top of my lungs and it felt special to be able to do that I was ACTUALLY there!. We led the entire match. We, as ever, had some fairly dodgy calls that were not replicated when the infringements we completed by the opposition. Did the ref have South African ancestors or what????

We have lost 6 guys due to injuries on the pitch, concussion, broken hand/finger, smashed cheek bone and more. Considering we have been so lucky with injury all through out the tour it is bloody sods law really isn’t it. When we lost BOTH props within mins we were down to uncontested scrums, which was where we seemed to fall apart as to me it appeared that we dominated through the pack. I can now see why we didn’t have Mearsy small and mighty but I feel the other hookers on tour are a bit weightier in bulk. I REALLY hope that he plays next weekend, even off the ruddy bench.

My voice fled after the first 5 mins but that didn’t stop me. And as for that ‘try’ – his right foot was CLEARLY in touch but yet the ref seemed to choose to ignore that fact and awarded it anyway – despite the touch judge clearly pointing it out on the commentary on the ref link ‘hang on you can clearly see his foot is in touch there’. The Lions Supporters in our area were livid – like the rest of them I guess all around the stadium.

I felt absolutely gutted at the final whistle. I was rendered speechless. We had come so fricking close and then lost in the dying second. Unbelievable, totally unbelievable. It of course means that they win the series and so the celebrations went on, on the pitch and them all wandering round. No idea where the Lions suddenly all went to as we could not see them but then we were the wrong side of the stadium for the ‘prize giving’. As the final whistle/siren/horn went several of them were totally flat out on their backs taking a few moments. Clearly emotional having worked so hard after all 80 mins and loosing so many players and leading the whole time, to loose like that and be a player in that position must be gut wrenching. We paused for Paul O’Connells non-plus speech in my view. Does that man ever how any real emotion? To me he speaks in such a monotone I really can’t see how he can be the one in the changing room firing up the lads. But then who am I to presume? And then headed out of the stadium. I was fearful that we would experience the same sort of crush that I had experienced on the way in – thankfully not as most of the Bokkas were of course still cheering on their boys – lucky bastards.

The atmosphere walking out of and ¾ of the way around the stadium (we thought it best to go the long way round as we were fighting against the traffic and thus had a fairly easy path) was most surreal to put it mildly, it was exactly the same after the World Cup Final there was a deadly hush which you just would not expect. By the time that we had go to the equivalent of the opposite side of the Stadium from where we were sat, but outside we were in amongst the Bokka fans and there did not seem to be any great jubilation from them, it was like it was just any old match that bore no relevance so they did not seem o celebrate. There was not really even any jeers at us as the opposing fans as we walked through. It was just seriously weird. We got stuck rather by where the two team coaches were as there was suddenly an infestation of police which we had not seen anywhere else. The traffic slowed right down. Someone has since told me that it was because Zuma was coming out of the stadium and being led away by police escort (rather like how we arrived!!!).

We headed back to the Big Bar as Simon had said that we were all going to met there for a drink but we arrived and I made sure that I kept the wig on so that we could easily be spotted by the rest of the group and we stood by the entrance but saw not one of the group – most odd. The atmosphere was really eerie, back in the same place where all those hours ago we were on the highest spirits possible marvelling in the excitement of actually making it and now we were feeling winded sand everyone’s shoulders seemed hunched or slumped. But it was the atmosphere that really struck me. The silence, you could almost hear a pin drop as some poor bugger had the odious task of ‘entertaining us’ by coming on and saying its not all that bad and what have you. No one was in the party spirit any longer. It crept into my mind that the whole trip had been a waste of a lot of money and precious time. That soon fled though once we were back on the bus.
We had a long wait for Simon who was bringing up the rear of the group and after a ‘Churchillesc speech’ (as one of the others described it) we had the lads from earlier who seem to have now got the nickname Boyzone poor sods doing their forfeit – I don’t think that they realised that they would not get away with not doing it. A rendition of the Oasis classic Wonderwall started off the group singing on the way back with one from Simon as well – singing in the rain with actions for his tardiness. Any non-rugby person would have thought that we had won from the vibe on the bus. The motion was carried that although we lost we were blooming proud of our boys and it sure as hell was not going to ruin our trip.

That kind of followed when we got back to the hotel. The original plan in my book was to head to my room shower and take off the strip which frankly humdinged and I smelt like, well like a man. Not attractive but ho hum – never quite made it as we hit the bar first. After a few we all headed into supper in the restaurant in the hotel as Simon had organised that we all had a long table together. Well the ‘long table’ was for about 8 people and I would say that there was a darned good 30 of us all eating together. The waiters slowly started realising that spread out was not what we wanted – we wanted to be ‘as one!’ We took up most of the back area of the restaurant and had once again delicious food.

It was the entertainment that followed that has to go down as making all of our days though. We had been informed that the staff was hoping that we would sing again like the others started the previous evening. Well we like to do what we are told us Pink Leopards so sing we bloody well did. Any song with actions was sung along with usual rugby anthems and of course Swing Low with the actions over dramatized, without words and actions only had us all in giggles as there was one word – of course that was shouted out at the appropriate time. My favourite though has to be Sunshine Mountain. Oh dear god. It basically starts with one person, I can’t remember the words just now but it ends with ‘and you’ where upon you point o someone else who gets on their chair and off you go again. Safe to say we had a rather large proportion of the entire restaurant on their chairs and kept going with the ‘and you’s’ until people stood on their chairs. After that the ruder songs came out and whilst I would love to share some of the spur of the moment additions that were added, I will keep those as my own personal memory of the evening as they had us all in stitches, more so because of the comic timing. A ‘you had to be there’ moment to fully appreciate their geniusnuss!
As we were sort of winding down having had NO luck with the Bokka family in the corner joining us (the two sons faces at some of the songs really was a sight worth seeing – jaw hit the floor on many occasions) but they were having nothing when we asked them to start us off on a song. Suddenly the fire door opened and in came the kitchen staff and some of the waiters who had clearly heard the shenanigans and they came and did a couple of songs for us. It was classic, one of the chefs was using a roll of tin foil as his trumpet – and rather well too it has to be said!! Only the father of the Bokka family joined in though and only briefly at that. Superb end to a hilarious evening.
Dancing and a fair few more beers were consumed before the clock chimed bed time. The music stopped at 11 but it feels so much later always as it gets dark much earlier being in the Southern Hemisphere and winter and so on. I trundled on up to bed and sorted out my bag pretty much as we had to have them outside our rooms for the porters to collect the following morning at 9am so that we were all good to go to the airport in reasonable time. I have no idea how I thought I was going to close it the following morning.

Was awoken (as was nearly the whole group) around the 4 o’clockish mark by ridiculously loud music. The Ting Tings ‘That’s not my name’. At first I though it was an alarm on my phone or even it ringing then realised I don’t have it on my phone at all. Then checked the tv was not on radio, or my iPod suddenly turned on. It was insane and who knows where it came from, we tried working it out the following morning but could see no where that it would have come from. It was quite funny trying to work out at which point people woke up – as in which song the woke to!

On to Cape Town the following morning/lunchtime/afternoon/early evening. Bloody delays!! We passed our time waiting for everyone to come through by playing ‘catch’ with one of the rugby balls that someone had brought. I cleverly got out my camera to take photos thus taking myself out of that sort of situation, I could feel myself starting to stress over it and the fact that I could drop it and be laughed at – even though others were too. We managed to successfully break 2 pairs of sunglasses from dodgy throws and decided that surely the best place to play this was on the beach at some point. I can see many of us getting VERY wet if we do!!

And we are off!

I had an impressive 2 hours sleep on Wednesday evening with all the excitement and preparations before departure on Thursday morning. If I have forgotten any thing then I will just have to buy it!!

The journey to the airport was fairly easy, having picked Simon up from Timsbury we headed back to Mum and Dad trying to avoid any Glastonbury traffic – which we did quite successfully – down the motorway and to the folks where we put our luggage in Mum’s car and had a coffee and then left. I was worried that they would be asking Simon all sorts of embarrassing questions, thankfully not. Mum wowed him with her impressive knowledge of my boys and Dad started to show him around the garden and then proceeded to tell him that if he needed any help in organising people that he could count on me as I am very bossy – CHEERS DAD!

Mum dropped us off at Terminal 3 after a speedy journey up the M4 and I had managed to book the hotel for Andy and Hannah’s wedding for Tash and myself for the end of August. Simon cleverly thought of seeing how we could all be checked in more quickly as we were as a group yet knew nothing of what all the others looked like apart from the fact that they would have the pink Leopard tags on their bags!!! Sorted by those at the Emirates desk and I checked in after Simon and, yes of course my bag was over weight. Only by 4kg though so actually not as bad as I thought it could be! Once I was all sorted I went out to have a fag. I stared at my tickets while sitting there and started welling up. The time had come after near on a year of planning and the 175 day count down from the start of the year. The excitement, the anticipation, the hyperness – it had all been WELL worth it as I sat there with my precious boarding card not quite taking in the mammoth journey that I have been on since booking it and of course the mammoth journey that I was about to undertake!

The first flight was hell on earth. The seats I found SO uncomfortable – it was like sitting on two pieces of wood and reclining did not help that much. So much for being that tired that I was bound to sleep. So films it was – Yes Man, based on a book by Danny Wallace that I loved but nothing like it in reality. It was a pile of poo but I am glad that I have seen it on a plane and not paid for that pleasure!!! The second film that I watched was ‘How to loose friends and alienate people,’ which I actually really enjoyed. The entertainment system in the back of the seat was pretty impressive with a mahoosive range of films to watch and games even to play. I tried the latter but easily got bored and listened to some music instead. Even if I had wanted to sleep there was no way that I could have done, there was a screaming child for the WHOLE flight about 4 rows in front and then the two rather large gentlemen sitting next to me (not on the tour!) were snoring like pigs sometimes at the same time and also at times out of sync. It gave me the major giggles at one stage. Of all people on the flight – !

Getting off in Dubai at 03.15 was interesting 36 degrees it was, so we were told. The bonus was that we did not have to encounter the heat as we had to walk to transfers and then security which took a while. To be fair the walk was a welcome relief to get the blood moving as I had been doing some of the exercises but one of the things I realised that I had left behind was my DVT socks – you never can be too careful and frankly they are an incredibly sexy item of clothing that everyone has to have a pair of! The inside of Dubai airport is pretty amazing, high ceilings and full on palm trees inside and o course a/c which clearly is needed if it was that hot at that time of night – imagine what it would be like during the day?! I would not be able to wear my Lions strip in that kind of heat – actually it would be a weight loss strategy to think of – sweat it all out!!!!

I MUST have dozed off at points on the following flight – far longer and just as uncomfortable seats but as I was totally shattered by this stage they felt way worse. I was on the aisle seat again and once again I was sat next to a larger than average gentleman. Thankfully there was no fat protruding over the seat but it just meant I couldn’t lean or be anywhere near on arm of the seats. I didn’t watch any films in the very vain hope that I would be able to sleep. I got irritable and just as I was dozing off fatso needed to get out – it was like he was watching to see when I was nearly asleep and then wake me just to piss me off.

Coming into South Africa and Johannesburg we were all told by the captain that the ground temperature was a pleasant 2 degrees. Ummnn hello? Pleasant?! I felt sorry for those who had not brought a jumper with them on the flight as it was a little biting to begin with but the sun was out the sky was blue with not a cloud in sight! It was here that we could really see who was on our group as we were ushered around the airport with Gullivers Leopard Pink signs to be taken to our coach and thus our hotel out in Pretoria. It was quite interesting to see that most people second to introductions were pretty much all talking about the news of Michal Jackson passing away as there were headlines on the tv screens at most times and so it was hard to miss. It was literally only that he had passed away from a cardiac arrest. I tried to find out more info later on the news about what had happened but always seemed to try finding it at the wrong part of the hour. Ah well, I am not here to worry about that!

The transfer to the hotel was painless as was checking in. There was another Gullivers Group that had arrived earlier that day via Munich – Wildebeast Red. They, the poor sods were all sat in the bar area and not really looking the happiest of bunches on brief glimpses. I soon became apparent why – ALL of their bags were at Munich Airport – they had all made the transfer but none of their bags had. The poor buggers – I did give a little chuckle to myself though as I was so prepared for that to have been me! The hope is that all of the bags will turn up on the same flight tomorrow – if they don’t there are some that didn’t have ANY Lions stuff on and so they would have to go shopping for stuff. What a way to start your trip?!

Once in my room I opted to have a lovely long bath and was quite prepared to then fall into bed and have a much needed kip. Having spoken to Lauren though I decided that frankly that was not going to happen and the delight of being able to have a beer – and a Castle at that was frankly NOT something that could wait! So down stairs I headed and joined the plethora of people taking in the afternoon sun and blue skies out on the decking of the Hotel Bar. My good god, after seven long weeks of no beer that Castle didn’t half taste good!! So good I just felt I had to have a few more and then come the free drink from the management at 6.30pm as a welcome drink we all found that none of us had moved! Some had had to retire after not being used to the drinking in the afternoon sun scenario and were not to be seen until the following morning but the rest of us all headed into food in the hotel restaurant. A superb buffet choice with delicious primes of beef, fresh fish cooked in front of you, you could create your own stir fry and so on. I decided to try and stick to the jolly old diet as I had had a few beers – that was my indulgence for the day.

I left for bed at half nine, about the time that some of the group started singing in the restaurant, not audience participation songs but just singing. I knew I could easily have stayed there all night but the adrenalin running through me for the excitement of actually being at a Lions match tomorrow was nearly getting to much and my whole body craved bed. I know I was out like light. However I still woke at the usual time of about 3 or 4 o’clock but I felt rested and managed to doze off thank heavens!

The night before

I really can’t believe that I am actually here. The night before I fly. The last couple of days at work have been MENTAL for one reason or another and as frankly only I do best I have been doing nothing but stressing about leaving stuff for everyone else to do bladebladeblah. I am out of it now I have done what I can and I know full well they will all be fine without me – does not stop the stressing though!

I am packed – god alone knows how. I have taken stuff out twice and yet still could hardly carry the case downstairs. but now it is safely in the car ready for the morning. I have nearly everything sorted for the hand luggage which too ways a tonne as I have my laptop amongst other things in there.

I watched the last match on the tv on Tuesday on my own – for the first time this series. I had loads of things to do and was late back from work, well later than I had planned and had not been for a swim – I needed a serious glass of plonk after the day at work! Some things just have to give. So I have joined the gym and been the sum total of once since! Well that was value for money or what. I hope things will be less mental when I return and I can actually go more often.

I have taken Sky over to ‘Granny and Grandpa’ after she eventually returned at some crazy hour on Monday morning. It was as if she knew! She is all settled thankfully, sadly no Flora to keep her company as Mum had her put down a fortnight ago. We had been warned it was imminent for a fair few months – does not make it any easier though does it?

Is this really happening?

Is this all FINALLY real?

Will I get a wink of sleep?!


The First Test (on the TV)

I am not quite sure if it is actually possible to get much more excited as I was on Saturday – the goose bumps and shivers going up and down my spine were relentless all through the pre-match program, even if I had to watch it through a sea of bodies. Stace and I ended up in standing on the bench so that we could see the screen. The only issue that was raised then was the jumping up and down when we scored a try of throwing your hands in the air to celebrate and whacking them on the ceiling and thus skinning your knuckles – all the name in support! Stace, being taller than me, managed to jump up and smack her head on the ceiling and swears that she saw stars!!

The first twenty mins of the match was actually painful to watch and I was screaming and shouting as loud as ever. But dear god the last 20 mins was edge of the seat stuff. Once again it was the scrum that seemed to let us down/it looked like the opposition were cheating and we seemed to ‘give away’ so many penalties. The there was also the issue of Mears who in my mind (of course I am biased) has had a fantastic tour so far but he was made to look crap on Saturday. All of the calls for him were long and he seemed to overestimate the length needed and as a result we lost a fair amount of ball but then when a replacement is brought on all of his calls are short which of course we get. I really really hope that it does not hinder his chances of staring again next week or indeed in the final test. The Springboks looked a little like they were flaking out towards the end, where as it almost as if we picked up and increased the effort another level. I guess that might be because they have not been playing together more recently where as we have had the last few weeks or so – I don’t know.

Spoke to Lauren after the match as we were wondering around Sainsbury’s as I knew that she was having a braai with her family and stuff as the tickets were SO absurdly expensive for them out there and of course she was full of it because they had won!! (I would have been the same to be fair!) She was getting just as excited as I am eeeeek! She was telling me how she is going to get the brother that lives out in Pietermaritzburg to come down for a night and stay at hers so that I get to meet him too. SO the only Rush I wont get to see are Mummy and Daddy :O( I spoke to Daddy Rush though on the phone as it was his birthday the day before and so I wished him a Happy Birthday and commiserated that I would not be seeing them. La clearly has loads of ideas of things to and plans a foot. The Berg is all booked and I am really looking forward to that as it is SO beautiful up there. (That is when the hot water bottle will come in very handy!)

I managed to survive the jabs on Friday, my notes had not come over from my old surgery and so there was no history of my jabs. The only one that I wanted and knew that I MUST be out of was Tetanus there is no time to start having leads more and its not like plan on drinking any dirty water so I got that done and also got Malaria tablets. They are a new form which are apparently fine with my other meds (I was a little concerned) and don’t make you as sick as the old types did. I only have to take them 2 days before I enter the malarial area, while I am there and then for 7 days afterwards. Fingers crossed all will now be well with that and even if I do get eaten alive as I am apparently irresistible I won’t suffer apart from the itches and bites!

So it’s Sunday afternoon and I have not done the main thing I wanted to get done today – take Sky back to Granny and Grandpa to be pampered and spoilt rotten for the next 3 weeks. I have no idea where the little madam is – she has not appeared since yesterday morning when we left for the pub for the match. I am trying not to get concerned and panicked its just ruddy frustrating as I am going to have to come back after work tomorrow and get her and then go back to Mum and Dads, also I never got to see Dad on Fathers Day. There is no point in going back to see him anyway as they have ben out to lunch today. Instead I have done the washing the packing and the organising – well part of and I just need to put away the clothes that are dry and iron some of the stuff on the drying rack and have a nice relaxing bath and go to bed before I explode of excitement that it is 3 days tomorrow!!!


Its lunch time on Friday before the first test and I am feeling as sick as a dog – I thought it was hunger but nope. Its friggin butterflies about later. Not tomorrow, thats just pure excitement that the actual first test is here. These are for the big trip this afternoon. My trip to be stabbed in the arm and be given yet more drugs to take. I hate injections with a passion and have even brought Bunny into work with me so that she can calm me down in the Doctor’s Surgery later – sad isn’t it! I get myself in SUCH a tizz over the whole thing. Hugo knocked the Doctor while he was giving me one while I was very small and it slit the skin – eww I am squirming in my seat just thinking about it I remember having to have my BCG at school, I didn’t sleep for days prior and was given good luck cards by several friends. I am also hoping that the Malaria tablets won’t give me too many really nasty side effects, particularly with my other meds too. Could be an interesting few days!

I remembered to book a table at the Royal Oak again managed to get the last one for Jimmer, Stace and HG I must actually remember to take some photos this time!! So we are all set – I just need to work out Tuesday evenings viewing location and I am sorted!

Penny and Kelvin had blue, black and white wigs which they dug out for me so the red one will be abandoned and I now have that one instead – I look like a prized banana in it – but that is half of the point. They also lent me their Gulliver’s Binoculars, a very clever idea. You would have thought that they would have thought of that this time around with some of us going on Game Drives as well?! So I can actually pretty much pack this weekend. Wooo hoooo! Just the last wash to do and put the clothes away so I don’t have a massivo pile to do when I get back on the 16th of July, hoover, check on the Sky+ for while I am away, chuck out the things in the fridge that will go off – ooh and I need to sort out money. I thikn it might be best to write a list at this stage!!

6 days!!!

Busy few days

Wednesday was a mental day at work to put it mildly – I have another job title under my belt for Business Development Team Organiser and I was already being asked to do more things, yeay busy!! I had an appointment after work which was a massive brain dump and fricking draining to put it mildly. I felt as if I had had a ten tonne lorry run over me – totally flat. I let myself feel a little like that whilst I popped into Sainsbury’s to pick up the steak and more chips for the others which I had failed to do last night as I just HAD to have a glass of vino after the tickets turned up and thus never made it to Sainsbury’s! After rushing home to make sure that I was not leaving anyone on the doortstep I managed to turn up at exactly the same time as Jimmer and Stace who were armed with Choccies, vino, and also a beautiful orchid which Sky was far more interested in for most of the evening! After the vino was put in the fridge and the excitement had started we awaited HG’s arrival. On went the Lions. . . . . What a match!! We had decided that Stuart Barnes clearly has been using the word of the day bog roll as he was coming out with some classic words in his commentary. I did supper after the match which we watched on pause play so that we could see the pre-match chat and so on and I have to say the steaks were pretty darned good, even if I say so myself. AND I managed no to smoke the entire house out!!! Mearsy got a try, god how we screamed with joy. We were all like sort of ooo, whats the term? Well like Mum’s proud of their son – bless him. God, imagine is he gets another in the Second of Third Test – OMG that would just be soooo awesome. I’m going to be as hyper as hell anyway but if he gets a try I hate to think what Ill be like!!!

Thursday was an evening around at my friend Pam’s that I taught with at Regis many moons ago. Some shite had thrown a boulder over the fence which had landed on Holly (the dogs) foot so I was helping hold fort as the kids and Pam were all over the place. The poor thing had to have part of her leg amputated which is just SO uncalled for. The Police are involved now as they are pretty sure who did it even though sadly they did not see them. Whilst I was there I spoke to Simon (Tour Leader) and sorted out the arrangements for 2 weeks today. Oh sorry did I forget to mention that? 2 weeks to go!!! I am going to pick him up in the morning and drive over to Mum and Dad’s where I am dropping off my car as I don’t want to leave it on the street for 3 weeks and then either Mum or Dad (probably the latter as Mum has Lip Reading on a Wednesday) will take us up to Heathrow. The flight goes at like 5pm but we will be there from like 12.30 – Ill be on the ceiling by then I think! It was good to hear him getting all excited too though I have to say and catch up about some of the plans for while we are there like the Robben Island Tour and supper out in Camps Bay with some of one of the other groups whose Tour Leader is Dani (as in the girl I have been in touch with at Gullivers over previous months). Sounds like a plan to me and then of course up Table Mountain on the ‘Day off’ and that I did read it right there are 4 possibly 5 Game Drives. OMG can’t wait 3 weeks today Sundowners in the Bush (probably a Castle if I have anything to do with it!!!) with the native sounds of the African Bush all around. BLISS!

Friday was a trip into Cardiff which was a nightmare as Jane from work and I had been waiting for the tickets to turn up from her Dad all week as he sent them first class on Monday but we had not seen them. In Fridays post she had a postage to pay card and zipped off to see what it was and THANK GOD it was our Oasis tickets. Seriously excited. It had only taken me a whopping 14 or 15 years to see them live. I did have the opportunity of Maine Road back in 1997 but thanks to the joys of some of the little beauties that I was at school with I was told at the 11th hour that actually they didn’t want me to go and someone else was going instead of me. Charming hey?! – Welcome to the inclusive environment of an all girls school. I think it had kind of haunted me for years so it was such a frickin buzz actually seeing them. The Enemy and Kasabian were supporting who I am both quite keen on. Kasabian were totally awesome though and when I heard Fire come on the radio this morning I was not only singing but boogying in the shower too. But Oasis themselves – ah. Worth every penny that was paid to see them. We had a really nice couple sitting next to us, the husband of whom was in the same position as me as he too had never seen them live but had always wanted to. He didn’t do what I do when they came on to Live Forever I think it was. I started crying. The emotion of finally getting to see them suddenly overwhelmed me. Tears of joy though. Even though it was a Dig Out Your Soul Tour they played loads of their old stuff which the crowd went wild for. They were, well words cant really describe it well enough. Fucking A though I think might be a good one! Safe to say I slept like a baby and woke up this morning at 10.15am. Check me out!


Popped home after filling up the car on the way home from work expecting to pick up my cossie and dry towel and head back out to the pool at the gym and do a few laps in there. Fat chance after I spotted what was on the doormat after opening the door! A rather shiney white bag and I was not entirely sure what it could be until I remembered the date and that it is coming up close to two weeks until I leave (the time in which we are mean to have the tickets and so on sent out) . On picking it up a shriek once again erupted as it was indeed the tickets etc. Bugger the idea of swimming! I poured myself a glass of vino to celebrate and carefully opened the package to see what it contained apart from my tickets! A guide on the names of everyone in the tour, info on a sim card that could be useful but on looking further on the website in relation to it the calls don’t appear to be free when people call you despite what the letter said. I need to double check with la as to whether she has sent me an SA sim or not. Also there was the luggage labels for all of the bags and a cover and so on to hold it all in. I have read it all once and got excited and had to put it down and concentrate on something else my poor little heart is racing with excitement!! They even give you copies of the itinerary so that you can leave one behind – very clever!! Saves typing it out again for Mum and Dad!

I finally got around to emailing everyone in the address book the link to this last night. Quite odd to now think that other people are actually reading this and its not so quiet and personal as it once was! Things will pick up when I am out there, still cant decide whether or not to actually do a handwritten diary as well or not – don’t think I can be bothered or have enough time!!!

So match no 4 tomorrow evening. I have a doctors appointment and so I am not going to be able to make it down to the Royal Oak in time and so I will be watching it at home on delayed start – god I LOVE Sky +! I want to watch all the hype and so on but my appointment is due to finish 5.30 the other side of Bath – will never make it back quickly in that time. Stace and Jimmer are coming over and Helen Grace too and I have said I will do supper – steak and chips (well chips for them – steamed veg for me – JOYOUS!) pretty easy. Was meant to go out and do the shopping for that this evening – oh well, probably better if I buy the steaks tomorrow anyway. Eeek! I put the Lions strip through the wash and thankfully none of Mearsy’s signature faded!!

P.S. BUGGER – the baggage allowance between cities is only 20kg I am going to have to pay SHED loads in excess baggage.

Lions in Lincoln!!

Good Lord that was a tight match on the weekend.

Slightly bizarre surroundings in a crowd of about 20-30 people in the end of a Walkabout pub in Lincoln with Tash. I was the only one in the newest shirt and we were getting looks for being girls in the Lions tops anyway from some in the pub. It was very odd, so used to being in public places surrounded by fellow supporters. It meant that my shouting was noticed a little more and got a few looks. Apparently ‘AVE ‘IM is not a commonly used term when watching rugby further north. (Stace I blame you for that one!) I was quite looking forward to a day of rugby in the pub with the England match after (particularly as I had forgotten to record it!) but nope Setanta was turned on and the football was all that was being shown. The crowd that suddenly appeared to watch the footie was . . . how do I put it . . . special?! It looked like half of the drunks of Lincoln came in to watch it and so a speedy exit was made by the pair of us!

After making my way back from Lincoln in the peeing rain I did joyous housework and STARTED ACTUALLY PACKING!!!!! Yes, it is actually true I started seriously thinking about what clothing I need to take as well as other bits and pieces and they are all on the spare bed – no room for guests now!

Should be getting the tickets and so on any day now .. . . perhaps I should start hunting out where I put that passport of mine . . . . ?!!


So the days are ticking down – 73 to go until I actually depart. Not that I am at all excited or anything!! I have been counting down since the start of the year – worrying isn’t it?!!

Went to Lee Mears’s Testemonial Curry Night in the Eastern Eye last Wednesday evening and Lee told us that he had signed a preliminary contract with the Lions but it is still 8 days until the team is announced. All very exciting that one of the Bath boys will possibly be going. I have to plan flag and so on ready for the trip in advance! So much planning, such little time!

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