This night my African son tells me he is going out for dinner with his wife and her folks. I know the place. Its all sand drives and security controlled, a sort of housing estate but without living too close to anyone else. In the mornings and evenings, they watch giraffe, zebra, warthog and a million rainbow birds who come by in their search for water and possible food. The local shop sells wild animal food pellets and, although none of the above agree with feeding wildlife, it is tempting. It means the animals stay awhile and I get that. Did it myself when I was there.
On the ‘estate’ that flanks a big croc busy river, lies Kruger park on the other side and fenced high. From viewpoints we can see elephants, leopard (if we are lucky), crocs, hippos, kudu, giraffe, zebra and so much more. It is quite intoxicating. They seem so near and so safe and yet not one of them is either. There are a few restaurants, all a big sandy drive away, and some offering eventide views of the big five coming for water, for it overlooks a freshwater pool (when there is rain, which is not often). Some restaurants are nestled in the bush, and the sounds of cracking branches and birdsong, like we never hear in the UK, interrupt and cause us to look here, or there for a catch of rainbow or the big butt of a rhino just minding her own business, for we are are on her territory.
It thinks me. It has been a very long time since I felt that flutter of anticipation, knowing I was going out for dinner; what dress to wear after a shower, what boots to wear, what perfume? Like an electric pulse but not one that hurts. If I knew in the morning, it fizzed me all day long. If, as was often the case with me and Popz, it was 30 minutes warning but nonetheless the electricity fizzled. He might say (way back in the day) What’s for supper? I might say Ah I don’t feel like cooking tonight and he would respond immediately with Let’s go out and I was hooked, line and sinker. We have…..had…. superb restaurants on the island, brilliant ambience and excellent chefs and I knew he was driving so I could just enjoy my wine. We went oft in the summer months. I loved that. Needless to say we didn’t go out (for some time) once he became compromised with what he could eat, the amount of voice ‘noise’ he could bear and the whole faff of driving out when he was really ready for bed. It happened like a season. Slow, gradual, almost not noticed.
Looking back I remember the wild times. The suddenness of action. Pick up your bed and walk, kind of thing. I got really good at looking marvellous in minutes. I can do it now, but now there is covid and fear and all restaurants closed and the ferry a threat and, although I thank this isolation time for the chance he and I had to re-connect as friends, I would choose it gone.
Once, on my chance for escape, when day time carers were enough for him, I took myself to Glasgow, to the river and to a flat on the quayside. It was a few minutes walk to about four excellent restaurants. In the morning I wandered out to choose my place for the evening meal, the lights, the buzz, the life. I had no problem at all booking a table for one.
I wonder if I will find this place again, this animation, this lift of independent life.