Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recycle like Lance Armstrong

OK, folks, enough of the silly stuff now ... time to get serious. Time to throw away the plastic bags and never buy another one, time to start that veggie garden, time to think about what you eat, wear and throw away. Time to do your bit to help this truly lovely planet.

RECYCLING has been on my mind for some time now, but I did not know what to do about it or how to start. Recycling and environmental awareness is so much part of life in Europe, the States and Australasia, but South Africa has not quite reached this stage. Overseas there are special bins for paper, plastic, bottle and tins and everything gets taken away by the municipality to be recycled. But our own beloved Pikitup arrives once a week, makes a helluva racket, everyone screams and shouts, the cats and dogs run away and then the truck is gone - having emptied the contents of the neighbourhood bins all higgledy piggledy together. No chance of recycling there.

The only ones who do recycle are the hawkers who go through all your municipal bins outside in the street, then load up their shopping trolleys with bottles and cans and huge cardboard pieces that they can't see over the top of, and wheel them down the road against the traffic (cue: screech of brakes!), en route to the dump where they get paid for their goods-to-be-recycled by the kilogram. This for many is their only form of livelihood. They can earn between R100 to R1000 a week, depending on how much they gather but it's a very tough existence.

Good news is, there are a myriad of smallish independent recyling companies out there and the shopping centres are coming on board. Like Gateway in Durban which is the only place in South Africa which has built-in semi-automatic sorting machines in the basement which bale all the waste, I was told by Marianna Naidoo whose husband Darren runs a company called WASTE RECYCLERS. Some of the shopping centres do recycling on site and then get companies to remove it to different depots. Marianna told me about the "bakkie brigades", who arrive with their own cars and take the rubbish off to the depot, earning themselves much needed cash. Something that people have not yet cottoned on to is there is MONEY in recycling.

There just isn't enough information for the man on the street, though. You all ask yourselves, how do I recycle in my own home? And where do I take it? What do I do about that pile of old magazines and newspapers? And the bottles from last night's party? Or all the empty loo rolls that the family mysteriously accumulates in a single week? Can I start a veggie garden if I live in a townhouse complex? Why does everything you buy seem to be packaged in plastic (sometimes impenetrably so). What happens to this mountain of STUFF?

First thing to do is, get into the habit of sorting out your rubbish into glass, plastic, wet waste, paper and cold drink bottles. Get a couple of old naartjie/fruit boxes and put each category into a different box. Soon it will be as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth. And here's what you do with it ...

Michelle Garforth Venter, who has just won a Glamour Woman Award for her eco-contributions, told me about a company called WHOLE EARTH (www.wholeearth.co.za) who provide recyling bins for your home and come every second Monday of the month to take away your sorted goodies (and yes, they do come to townhouse complexes). The company was started by Michele Higginson, who owns Crabtree & Evelyn in South Africa. The Whole Earth bins cost about R300 each and the service is about R700 a year. All you have to do is wash out your stuff (don't want fruit flies infesting your bins!) and sort it into different categories. Just throw in the cat food pouches or dog food packet, empty Coke bottle, yoghurt cartons, etc, in with the morning's washing up, and train your "home executive" to do the same.

Michelle gave me some great other tips too. If you can, get a wormery she says. This is for all your "wet waste" that doesn't get sorted out and you can put the nice smelling compost created by the friendly earthworms on your newly created veggie garden. She said Full Cycle make the best wormeries and you can get them at all garden shops. The reason she say they are the best is because they come on legs which allows for run-off. Keep the taps open, she says so the wormery drains and the worms don't drown. You or your "garden executive" (who may be your husband or even a green-fingered child) can use the run off diluted 3:1 with water as liquid fertiliser for your plants. Alright, get your head around the word "worms" now. These are the earthworm variety, the kind that eat up your tea leaves, newspaper and veggie scraps and turns them miraculously into soil!

Or try an interior composter from Full Cycle which you can keep in the office/home. It works with "bokashi", which looks like sawdust. Chuck your sandwich crusts, tea grounds, apple cores and lunch waste into the tray and sprinkle the bokashi over it to help the waste decompose. "Basically, it pickles the waste,"' says Michelle.

Another option is a Sink Master, the same as they have in the States, for the leftovers. No more old green gibble in dustbin gravy!

Michelle and her husband Riaan have already been involved in greening the Minister of the Environment's house, as well as that of Basetsane Kumalo, and gave me some handy things to do around the house, some of which might help beat Eskom's unbelievable price hikes.

1.Geyerwise is the gadget that you put on the side of your geyser and set the temperature at 27 degrees Celsius. If you want you can go down to 10 or 12 degrees.
2. Changing all the lightbulbs to Eurolux, including up and down lighters.
3. Stop using a tumbledrier and use natural sunlight.
4. Use a Bioball (get this at health shops, such as Fresh Earth in Linden) to replace your detergent, or use local natural detergents such as Blouwaterblommetjie or Enchantrix, also from Fresh Earth.
4. Recycle all the water in your house via a gray or black water system.

Michelle also told me about the top three chemicals to avoid in household cleaners and cometics. The next time you're in the supermarket squinting at the fine print on your toothpaste, face cream, general cleaner, or dishwashing liquid, here's what to look for:

1. Parabens. These are preservatives.
2. Phthalate, commonly known as parfums.
3. Asodium Laurel Sulphates (on the label it will say ALS).

All of these are oestrogen mimickers, she says, which enter the bloodstream. They do have to be present in huge quantities before they affect you to the degree where all sorts of medical conditions present themselves, but who wants to risk that? It's time we starting thinking more about these things.

Another scary fact is the landfill. Landfills are municipally allocated specific areas where everything is dumped all together. Often this produces huge amounts of methane gas (which can be used to generate energy, which is positive) and the landfills have to be covered or they pose a health hazard. They also have to be dug very deep and if the dumps are not lined the waste goes into our water table. Not a pretty thought. Michelle told me about a "good" landfill called Enviro-Fill which her programme has shot a few times. Enviro-Fill have a reccyling station and compact cubes of waste on site.

Another thing I have always wondered about is what happens to all the plastic and paper once it has been sorted, collected and sent to the right place. So I asked Marianna what happens to the waste that is sent to her plant in Elandsfontein, where they have different machines for breaking down and recycling plastics. The plastic is melted into opaque thick masses, like cottonwool, to be reused. Sometimes the cans get flattened and sold to India to be turned into sheet metal. Paper is sent to big companies like Sappi, Mondi and Nampak and sorted into different categories, like white paper, coloured paper, newspaper, magazines and cardboard, and broken down again. The ink of course dissolves. The recycled product is used instead of virgin paper for other commercial products.

One company in South Africa even makes polyester clothing and duvet covers out of cold drink bottles, she told me!

Education is the key to understanding recyling and environmental awareness. We have to relearn our lives and the way that we think. We have to throw away our favourite household brands that we grew up with, unless they get with the programme and become more environmentally friendly. Nursery schools are a good place to start. If your children become more environmentally aware, so will you. Local garages are another good spot. Press coverage needs to be stepped up although community papers have been very vigilant.

We as Africans were brought up with the notion of conservation, of saving or rehabilitating animals in the bush, practically on our doorstep. The idea of shooting a wild animal for the sheer sport of it is anathema to most of us. Even culling seems cruel. So let's translate that awareness into our own lives, as now it is our planet that is endangered.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My 10 worst dates from hell

Every girl (and guy) has been on one ... the really really bad date. Which is why programmes like Sex and the City hit the spot. Those girls went on some of the worst dates possible, even though they were gorgeous, accomplished, successful and intelligent women! From bad kissers to men who break up with you on a Post-It, there was just no getting off the bad dating game carousel for Carrie, Sam, Miranda and Charlotte.

Even though my bad dates were hardly in the region of the Fab Four, I think, after a lifetime of dignified silence, it's time to name and shame ten of the worst dates I have ever been on.

My teens and early 20s were a dating desert, probably due to extreme inexperience and natural nerdiness. I never got any useful information about dating, except when my older sister who was much wiser in the ways of the world said to me: "Men are rats."

My worst blind date at school was with a Bishops boy who was part of a visiting rugby team. The school organised some of us girls to accompany them to a dance and I was teamed up with a "gentleman" called Peter. We did not like each other and he promptly ran off with the Biology teacher, who was engaged, but turned out to be nothing but a cheatin' old cougar. Her sex education lesson to us all in class consisted of one word: "Don't". She obviously wanted to impart some biology lessons to him, though, and I was left with some nerd who played in the brass band! Peter was not finished behaving badly, however, and distinguished himself by writing in the vistors' book at school: "Sit on your face". He was a real charmer.

Then there was Juan or Jose or something like that. I (all 17 years of me) met him at a dance on my first day at university. He had flat bright predatory eyes like a ferret or a small weasel. He took one look at me and said: "You are so preeeetty and so eeeenocent." Although we kissed like crazy (he was a very bad kisser, later years would teach me. Slimy-tongued! He also put me off Latin men for life), I wasn't dumb. He did not get what he was after ("You are so cold!" he accused me). I tortured him. He was forced to date the campus mattress subsequently (more his speed). He now lives in New Zealand. The really bad thing about Jose/Juan was the boy that I did like saw me with him, and wouldn't speak to me for years.

Then there was the dreaded Lurgy. Oh lordy. My mother pushed me into this one. The dreaded Lurgy was much older than me. Again we went to a dance. My so called friends were rightly horrified by him and kept at a distance, whispering in the corner about us. Only 18, I just about died of embarrassment. Then he took me to an establishment called Charlie Bambi's which was a right dive and served chicken pies probably made from old horse. I could not wait to get home. The dreaded L tormented me for years afterwards though, with bad bagpipe playing outside my window.

A vast men-free void of studying followed at varsity. After I left home for the big bad world dating picked up considerably. I went on a date practically every night and not all of them were bad. But then there was Dominic, who was my age instead of the slightly older man which I preferred. He asked me out and arrived late, in an un-ironed shirt. He took me off somewhere (the Hard Rock Cafe?) and spent the night flirting with the various waitresses (my worst, gameplaying). Contrary to his expectations I was not prepared to be dessert so he dumped me off at home at around 9.30pm (I thought this was a world record, but it was beaten by one of my sister's dates, who was called Milton. Milton was told by my father he had to have her back at the house at 7.30pm!!).

Then there was some dude, whose name I can't even remember now. I think it was Oswald, but we will call him Date no 5. A friend rustled the whiffle-bearded Ozzy up as a plus-one for, ironically, Dominic's sister's wedding. My date was married but still considered himself in the game (as I recall, he was reading Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses at the time, in a brown paper bag, as it was banned). We sat at the same table as the best man, who was cute and dark. I took a huge shine to the best man and we flirted up a storm. Then my dodgy date suggested that we all go out on the town. I had to go home to feed the dogs and when I came back cute, dark boy had disappeared completely (suspect to this day that Oswald got rid of the other guy). I was forced to go out with my date instead, who turned out to be tighter than a duck's ass. After our meal he patted himself down and said: "Oh dear, I seem to have forgotten my wallet". Then he made me pay for his parking!!!!

I also met "Hannibal", who was probably a bit mad. I met Hannibal at a rose nursery when I was with my sister and brother-in-law. He gave us a phenomenal discount on all the plants we bought. "Oh, how kind!" I said and my sister and bro-in-law gave each other a significant look. Surprise, surprise Hannibal (not his real name) phoned me at work and proceeded to take me out. He got very insistent in his bakkie ("kiss me, kiss me"), after bringing me love gifts of compost, manure and about a million rose bushes. After a while I couldn't take his calls any more. He seemed a bit disturbed (he had been in one of the bush wars) and it had finally dawned on me that he was in earnest.

Friends introduced me to Munich-born Michael, who worked for BMW. Michael was much older but fun, especially when he was drunk, which he seemed to be most of the time. We played Trivial Pursuit together and he liked my killer instinct. We were friends for a while and then he asked me out on a date. Big mistake. We were supposed to be going to a Police Ball but it turned out (very coincidentally) that his PA had messed up the dates. Instead he took me to a Japanese restaurant called Osho in Rosebank where he proceeded to behave like a prize idiot. "Do you know who I am?" he asked all the restaurant staff, demanding that someone be at his elbow 24/7 to refill his glass. I was mortified and we had a ding-dong fight in the car on the way home. We had another date for the next weekend but he got his secretary to phone me and cancel, saying he had to PLAY GOLF THAT SATURDAY NIGHT!! Turns out he was having an affair with a married German lady, hence the golf.

Who could forget Psycho Steve? By this time I was having serious relationships, followed by painful break-ups. It was after one of these that a friend introduced me to PS, who was going through a divorce (I am not surprised). He seemed very nice at first meeting and we went to a ball, organised by Edith Venter. I liked the way it went and thought he could be useful as a partner. So I invited him to my next function, the Viennese Ball. He accepted but on the morning of the ball sent me an SMS saying "uuurgh he had gastric flu and was in bed so he couldn't come". I told him I was upset by the short notice, and got hit by an SMS from hell. NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE REALLY LIKE. I AM GLAD I FOUND OUT NOW. I AM REALLY SICK. GO TO HELL YOU BITCH. Right. I was told later by other people who knew him that Psycho Steve was one sick puppy.

My friends all know about The Skidder by now. I met him on a wine tasting course where he eyeballed me boldly across the room. For six weeks we worked very hard at our course and finally when it was finished everyone went out for dinner together. The Skidder who was from Glascow was terribly proud of his Audi TT. He honestly thought I had never seen anything quite like it and asked me if I was impressed. He lived in a house which used to belong to an old school fellow of mine, a grand mansion which he had done out with fake Scottish coats of arms. He thought I would be impressed by that too. He told me how much everything in the house cost (there were huge boom boxes everywhere, such class) but then sat and farted into his expensive couch at top volume. I went to the loo, which is how the Skidder earned his nickname. I was brought up in a house where you had to leave the loo bowl as you would wish to find it. Obviously the Skidder grew up in the Gorbils and left the loo, well, with skidmarks. I never saw him again.

I then dated seriously again, or so I thought (this is actually getting to be like an episode of Sex and the City, by the way. Who knew I could compete with those New York glamazons?). This guy Andrew took the cake. Turned out he got married six months after he met me and lied like his feet stank about it. He worked in a bookstore and fed me big lines about how he had bipolar disorder and couldn't go out at night as he had to go to sleep. And I bought it. Well, the day that I found out about him and DUMPED his ass I immediately phoned Fergus, who my friend had been trying to hook me up with. Fergus was 27, younger than me, and worked for a security company, and I thought the date would make me feel better. We agreed to meet at the Westcliff Polo Lounge. When I arrived, I found that Fergus had brought all his friends along with him and that he was actually in love with the friend who set us up!

My ten dates from hell were probably the opposite to a date with Tad Hamilton (fortunately I have had lovely dates as well in my life, so what's ten bad evenings?) I am sure there are people out there with far worse stories to tell, so please feel free to leave your comments!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Encouraging South Africa's chicest women

I asked Francois Rall from Carducci Woman to help me out with an outfit for the Glamour magazine Oscars at the Table Bay last weekend because I have always liked his style and sense of chic, ever since he had a shop in Hyde Park and told me about his French grandmother. Francois has been employed by the House of Monatic since July 2008 and supplies Stuttafords and independent boutiques with his tailored ranges for the woman who has to juggle her work, family and lifestyle and look super-good in the process.

I was impressed by his outfits at the J&B Met this year, especially Leanne Manas's burgundy chiffon dress, with its long train and elegant hat. He amazed me for the Oscar party with a sheer printed blouse teamed with a 40s high waisted black velvet equestrian skirt printed with a gold bamboo pattern. It even had a train. I was in love at first sight. "It's print on print," he explained simply, and told me just how to do my hair.

SMSs flew back and forth while a gorgeous 25 year old stylist was blowdrying my sadly straggly locks. "Straight messy or curly messy?" I inquired, and the answer flew back, "Straight messy, like they did it at London Fashion Week this year." After turning my head upside down and tossing it about madly a couple of times I was dizzy, but messy enough. (Sorry about all the me, me, me but Francois's outfit did made me feel like a million dollars. So let me have one little Cinderella moment!)

I met up again with Francois at Stuttafords this week, having joined his Facebook site The Face of Carducci Woman. The site is getting around 100 fans per day - the power of Facebook - even though it was started up only two weeks ago. The closing date is April 17, and 20 finalists will be chosen from each region: Joburg, Cape Town and Durban.

So who is this fabulous Carducci Woman who can project a new ad campaign? Not a professional model who are all over-exposed, he believes. One week they are with this brand, the next week with another. Last year he sat down with creative guy and producer/designer Dirk de Waal who is also a scout, and discussed it. "Let me call you back in ten minutes, said Dirk. He did, and suggested: "Why don't you have a competition?"

Francois's designs from Carducci Woman are aimed at the career girl, from 24 upwards to an elegant, beautiful older woman. In fact, that's one of the criteria for entering the competition: you have to be 24 and upwards, and you HAVE to have a career (circus acrobat, dog walker, personal shopper, CEO of your own company - you're all eligible). He and a panel of media will be looking for someone with the right proportions, ("I am not sensitive about size. They don't have to be a size 32, size 36 can photograph just as well," he told me), plus intelligence and inner beauty ("anyone can look like a movie star with the right make-up, but we want the overall package") and sophistication ("the clothes in my range are sophisticated. My genre is clothes for the modern working career woman, with evening and day lifestyle pieces. I know women like that, they are my friends and I relate to them"). When the finalists have been chosen they will be given a makeover, photographed by a professional photographer and interviewed. The overall winner will be the first face out on the catwalk at his Carducci show at Joburg Winter Fashion Week. She will also do the next Carducci Woman campaign.

Francois is very excited. "I'm going to choose the Face of Carducci Woman, but every woman could be the winner," he told me flourishing his Blackberry which contains an amazing amount of photographs ("someone should publish a book").

Each entrant has had to submit not only her Facebook pic on the electronic competition form (www.carducciwoman.co.za) and must post pictures of herself on the site.

I'm a bit of an Elle fan and was happy to hear that they had come on board as a media sponsor. Also on board is Iman Cosmetics (I'm meeting her at a Destiny breakfast in a few weeks), Clinique and Redken to do the hair.

The Face of Carducci Woman competition and the catwalk show are all very good news for South African women who are being encouraged to become more chic every day by great designers like Francois.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The story of an African wine farm

The Barns brothers, Andrew and Gary, from Mischa Estate invited me at last year's Glamour mag Oscar party to come and see their Wellington wine farm, and it took me a whole year to get there (sorry guys). The visit was a lovely relaxation time before this year's Oscar party, and I was picked up outside Cape Town's very swish new domestic arrivals hall by a busload of celebs and fellow media, looking for all the world like the bus from Little Miss Sunshine as it careered around the corner with the door open and everyone hanging out of the window shouting: "Get in! Get in!"

(OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but us scribes are allowed to embroider a little from time to time.) My fellow occupants of the bus were eager to get on their way, as the Cape was in the grip of a heatwave and temperatures in the winelands had hit 44 degrees. Presumably the grapes were turning to raisins on the vine. It was positively boiling and the air-con struggled. Most of us sat in our seats with our mouths fishily open, gasping for air. The party consisted of footballer Larry Cohen and his lady love Lady Kitty Spencer (who had been savaged by mosquitoes attracted by the soaring temperatures the night before)

... Thoko Qoboza from the Table Bay where most of us were staying,

actress Lee-Anne Summers and her boyfriend Bjorn, Danielle Franco from Bush Telegraph who had supplied VO5 hair products for the Oscar party, singer Jennifer Su (who spent most of the day flat on her back suffering from heatstroke), MAN star Henri Slier (who told us about a old school dive in Cape Town called the Dom Pedro where the German tourists take their dates and everyone sits around and has a jointwith the waitresses who afterwards get up on the tables and show off full-bodied, gorgeous voices) and TV producer Alan Ford. Plus a photographer.

Driving through the dusty streets of Wellington I was reminded of trips to the town as a child, eating dried fruit that we bought at farm stalls. Wellington is one of the Cape's lushest fruit bowls, and is also renowned for its meat and fresh produce. Not in this weather, the tail end of the Cape summer. Men walked shirtless in the searing streets and the town bowed before the heat, silent and motionless. Only its stern Victorian patriach Andrew Murray glared straight ahead of him like Abe Lincoln. The gardens were desolate and flowerless, the trees sparcely planted. No over-arching avenues of Joburg green to break the dry, dust-laden agony as we drove down the main street with its algemene handelaar, requisite bottle store (closed on a Sunday), Pep store and butchery.

It was a blessed relief to bump down the dirt road which led up to the farm, one of the oldest in the district, and be greeted by greenery, a big dam, picturesque cellars and a chilled glass of sparkling wine, grown on the estate.

Andrew's wife Rachel (see both of them, above) dispensed it as we huddled under a vine on the verandah, and he told us Mischa's bubbly is of the few to use Merlot as its base. The estate in fact is mostly devoted to viticulture and the nursery supplies vines to many of the neighbouring winemakers. That's younger brother Gary's job. Both men grew up around wine, as the farm has been in the Barns family for three generations, since the 1940s. The name Mischa is a composite one, after their grandmother's Russian dance partner plus a family friend called Michael.

The estate had finished harvesting and our group was aken to see the grapes fermenting in big vats, covered with plastic taups. Their smell hung heavy in the air and the miggies danced drunkenly above the vats. Gary plunged his hand in to show us the frothy purple juice coming out of the de-stemmed berries. It stained his fingers indelibly, reminding me of Homer's wine-red sea.

I was hoping we might have an old-fashioned grape stamping - certainly few of us were dressed for it. But the organic-ness of winemaking was unmistakable, and seductive.

Andrew led us off to the cellar where the temperature was regulated at a blissful 16 degrees. The cellar was romantically full of pink-stained barrels and Andrew explained the various kinds of oak they are made of, and how each style of oak makes the wine taste different. He drew off various samples from American and French-oaked barrels with a "barrel thief" (a long glass tube that looked like a catheter) and squeezed them into our glasses, inviting us to taste and explaining how the wine evolves and grows in the barrels.

With his patience and knowledge we could start to distinguish the various tastes, and he explained terms like "'open", "closed" and "structure" to us. He was also quite passionately opposed to comparison being made between French and South African wines (Bordeaux, for example). They are two completely different countries, he said, with different styles of wines, climate, soil and methods. There is no need to compare them - just enjoy the good wines from both countries at all times!

Despite South Africa being a wine-growing country few of us encounter the actual processes involved, and so many of us don't drink it or are intimidated by all the pursed-lipped pretentiousness that goes with wine drinking and winespeak. Who knew that there is no longer any need to worry about corkage, with all the new screwtop bottles around. So you don't need to make a wise face, and swill your mouthful around the next time the waiter pours a little to taste in your glass.

By this time the Mischa sparkles had kicked in and I was staggering like one of the drunken miggies. It was time for lunch. Andrew and Gary's parents joined us after our trip to the cellars. The resident chef Duncan explained how he had married the Mischa labels to the meal: springbok carpaccio,

... followed by seared beef with a prune juice sauce (above) and a berry chocolate dessert. I was loving my Eventide Viognier (below) and Cabernet Sauvignon and we were given a gift bottle of the latter to take home with us.

After lunch many retired to the pool, in either their bathing costumes or feet first in the clothes they were in.

Beating the heat ... hotties Gary and Bjorn.

What a blissful end to a wonderful day at an African wine farm ...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An act of international tenorism

Did you know that a man's voice can change when he gets older? We know about piping little trebles becoming deep baritones as their hormones kick in, but did you know that Elton John used to be a tenor? And that his voice "dropped" with age? Yellow Brick Road will never sound the same again! Gravity is an interesting thing.

That's one of the things I learnt when I had DINNER WITH THE 12 TENORS the other night. "The who?" you ask. Please don't confuse me, as I can be a little musically challenged. No, not The Who. The TWELVE TENORS. Not three, or four, or even ten - which is the last number I heard singing together (those were Australians, I say, whipping out my official anti-Aussie T shirt). These are the 12 tenors, who were put together by Michael King, he of the Spirit of the Dance fame (more confusion: Lord of the Dance? Riverdance?), or so they told me.

The tenors, all 12 of them, were invited to dinner at friend Carolyn Steyn's penthouse in Sandton. There was already one baritone (Timothy Maloi) and I thiiiink, a few other tenors: Craig Whitehead (doing a very breathy Eartha Kitt "I want to be Evil") and Michael de Pinna (who talked about his variety days in the UK when he was told they were the worst act but everyone liked them anyway). When I arrived there was much howling coming from the roof, and I thought, God, it's a Sunday night and they have (a) started without me and (b) I don't think I have the stamina for this. Is it possible that tenors can misbehave so? I thought they all lived on a diet of lemon and honey and had to have resident chefs like Pavarotti.

On arrival at Carolyn's flat, it turned out the racket was coming from a school group who were two floors down. Carolyn and her friends were relatively sedate even though the champagne was flowing. The penthouse had a virtual 360 degree view and the Sandton sunset was gorgeous. The weather held out perfectly throughout the evening in fact, with a bright china moon so we were invested with inescapable lunar energy. That must have been the champagne talking _ I had had two glasses by this stage and was avoiding the edge of the balcony.

We, including Sandton magazine's Josef Talotta, had the roof all to ourselves as the tenors had not arrived yet. They were coming in convoy from the Parktonian downtown. So I had a chance to chat to Michael de Pinna, who amused me with his trip to Tasmania. I had a brush with some Jehovah's Witnesses when I was there many years ago and thought that beautiful as it was, it could, on occasion, be quite an odd place. Michael described the Tasmanian Devil as being like a "woes dassie with Pieter Toerien teeth".

At about 7.30 there was a flurry at the front door. The 12 good men and true looked like someone's childen who had had their hair slicked down for them before being sent off in their Sunday best. Except for LA Lakers soloist Branden James, who was curiously self-assured. And astute. He told me that he had gone to the Vatican to sing for the current Pope's 80th birthday and that word was that the next Pope would be coming from South America. The Vatican politics seem to be as involved, if not more so, than the average American election. Branden said that all the bishops vote but I wanted to find out more. Seems that Popes are pre-elected (what does that tell you about politics in general?). I told him that the previous Pope was my favourite, if you can have a favourite Pope. Who could forget the Popemobile? It had a certain razzamatazz.

Branden, who is used to meeting Hollywood celebrities at the Lakers games, clocked Princess Zenani Dlamini Mandela at 12 o'clock immediately. Not that Zenani would count herself as a celebrity. She is a good person, and so much like her dad. She was still upset about her PA who had died of cancer recently. The health care system in this country leaves a lot to be desired, as the PA had had lupus in her family but this was not diagnosed until it was way too late.

Zenani meets the guys.

The tenors were relieved of having to sing for their supper as their show had been cancelled that day and they seemed happy. It was off to London (home for many). We had to ask them about their washing situation; one of them told me they had been given a few pairs of Bone underpants so that was one problem solved! Carolyn was telling them about the time she was kept in custody at Heathrow for several hours. Her ex husband Dow Steyn phoned Madiba who phoned Carolyn whose phone had been confiscated. She was kept in a long room with a dirty loo, whose only occupant was a poor woman from Burundi who had been there for three days. The Nazis at Heathrow who were holding her prisoner then got a call from Jack Straw and she was released immediately. Good thing the boys were not there or she would have been accused of being a "tenor-ist". She has, incredibly, gone back to the UK several times.

Herbivore and carnivore alike tucked into their dinner with great enthusiasm and Michael (who had been roped in as cook and bottlewasher, so he told us) waved everyone over to bring their plates and start. And very delicious it was, lots of lasagne, chicken drumsticks and gorgeous salads. The champagne had given us an appetite so we joined in the eating fray.

The tenors, sweet young fellows that they were, told Carolyn later that it was the best time they had ever had. And they certainly seemed to want to come back to South Africa, mourning the fact that their tour dates had not coincided with the 2010 World Cup dates.

PS: I just got a comment about how do they split their takings between 12 of them. Good point ...