OUT TO LUNCH
My esteemed fellow columnist Mr Jeremy Gordin kicked off his last column with a comment about how I had chartered an “entire train” for my 40th birthday and, in the process, confessed to falling foul of one of the seven deadly sins. Fortunately it was only envy which, as far as deadly sins go, is a low scorer.
I once started a new year with a commitment to the seven deadly sins as opposed to a far more challenging commitment to new year’s resolutions. Lust was dead easy and done and dusted before nightfall on January 1st.
When it comes to sloth it seems I have a natural ability and have never had to worry about failing on that score. I’m actually surprised to find that I can meet a weekly deadline for this column but I suspect that has something to do with pride. If the column didn’t appear one week for no good reason (such as chartering an entire private jet) my pride would be hurt so this is a clear case of pride triumphing over sloth, albeit only for a few hours each week.
Greed and gluttony are confusing because they sound the same to the layman but I’m told by those in the know that gluttony refers to helping yourself to the last Nandos chicken piece before offering it around.
I’m pretty good at gluttony but mine tends to be restricted to those 10 course dinners with a wine pairing for each course offered at some fantastically high price. Nobody could possibly need to eat 10 courses or even 6 courses so this ticks all the boxes for me as far as gluttony is concerned.
Greed I’m not so good at I’m afraid and that’s partly due to sloth. There are earnest fellows out there who claim to be workaholics and I’m not one of them. Even when I was running my own business I would decide that we had made quite enough profit in one trading day and that it was time to draw stumps and get down to a bit of gluttony. A greedy person would have hung on and tried to wring more profit out of the day.
Business moguls who stay in the game until their seventies constantly looking for opportunities to unlock value or maximise their gains fascinate me because I genuinely cannot understand why they bother.
Once you’ve made your fortune and don’t need to work for several lifetimes then what on earth is the point in going into the office every day and trying to grow your money stack even higher? But it seems to turn on the likes of Warren Buffett and his followers so who am I to criticise?
Which just leaves envy and wrath. Rather like JG my envy is more an inclination to be impressed by someone or something. For example, I would dearly love to own a Bentley and have several friends who do own them but I’m not losing any sleep over the matter. So mine is a controlled envy, more a respectful ‘good on ya mate’ attitude than lying awake at night sulking about the injustices of the universe.
But wrath? Now that’s one I am really good at and if it ever came to the old Biblical trick of ‘smiting thine enemies’ then I would be up there with the likes of Moses and Aaron and even the big G in the sky.
In fact, there’s a good deal of smiting to be done and we could start with the ‘wokists’. Then there’s all those corrupt politicians, dodgy D-G’s and municipal loafers not to mention people who straddle two parking bays in the mall just because they have a R1.4 mln SUV to protect.
I know I am not alone in this and judging by the comments section on PolWeb wrath is a pretty popular deadly sin at the moment. If Takealot sold ‘smiters’ online then I’m pretty certain stocks would run out within hours.
So that’s a clear personal score of five out of seven when it comes to Deadly Sins with a possible half point for envy. That’s well above the country’s matric pass rate.
Returning to the Rovos train hire business all I would like to say is that the option of not hiring an “entire’ train simply doesn’t exist. You either get the whole deal or nothing. Fortunately I had the whole deal which included two dining cars, an observation car and several other carriages which housed the sleeping quarters. Since we weren’t spending the night on the train these were merely to bulk out the train and make it more impressive plus they provided additional bathroom facilities.
The 40th took place just before we emerged blinking into our vibrant new, non racial, rainbow democracy so there was obviously important tax deductible work to be done ahead of the great day. Which is why the enormous cost of the birthday thrash went through the company books as “On Track-a conference on diversity in the new South Africa”. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
I noticed Injala Apera heaping praise on JG for his “increasing humbleness” in the comments section last week. Since the PolWeb ‘Uriah Heep Award for Extreme ‘Umbleness’ is up for grabs I’m hoping for crack at it this week.
Air travel used to be very pleasant before 9/11. You would get to the airport and check in and then amble through passport control and find somewhere to have lunch before boarding your flight. I always favoured ‘Caviar House’ at Heathrow because you could have a good blow-out meal and get rid of your remaining foreign currency. You could then decline the revolting meal in economy class and just load up on the whisky and gin miniatures.
Then post 9/11 everything changed. The queues lengthened for check in and an added delay was the extra security which was introduced to make sure you weren’t planning to blow up the aircraft that was taking you to your holiday destination.
Strange rules were introduced such as not being allowed to take bottles of booze on board in your hand luggage (although you could still buy them in duty free). You had to have your toothpaste and toiletries in a clear plastic bag ready for inspection and you couldn’t carry more than 100ml of liquid on board, even it was proven to be water.
Nail clippers, scissors and nail files were confiscated from hand luggage much to passenger’s indignation and belts and shoes often had to be removed just to slow down the process even more. You weren’t allowed to joke about any of this for fear of a lengthy prison sentence and pointing out to a security officer that the number of flights that had been hijacked with the aid of nail clippers was negligible would have resulted in the entire airport being locked down for a security sweep.
Naturally this made air-travel thoroughly unpleasant with paying passengers being treated either as refugees or possible terrorists. All the anticipation of flying to an exciting new destination had gone and been replaced by a dread of what things would be like the other end. Generally it was much the same and I started to get anxiety attacks about my return journey at least three days before departure. In the case of Marrakech this was quite justified.
The only way to slightly improve matters was to give up Economy and stump up the extra for Business Class. Initially I was reluctant to do so but once I had taken the plunge there was no going back. I made a couple of trips to the UK on Emirates via Dubai in Business Class and it was a breeze compared with what I had been used to.
Biz class passengers were fast tracked through security and there were excellent lounges and facilities before the onward flight to Gatwick. The only downside was the 18 hour journey but since I was in no hurry that didn’t bother me.
Then a few years ago I reasoned that I wasn’t getting any younger, that I didn’t have any children to support, that I couldn’t take it with me and that the ANC commies would help themselves to it anyway given the chance. So I booked Emirates First Class and it was money well spent.
I was shown to seat 1A in an individual cubicle with a sliding door for privacy and the cabin crew introduced themselves. Then I made the mistake of asking what time I should order dinner. The crew member looked at me as one might regard a slightly backward child and replied, “Mr Bullard…this is First Class. You can order anything on that menu whenever you wish at any time during the flight. Just press this button and I’ll be there”. So I did, several times.
In the First Class lounge at Dubai I ate sushi at 2am in the morning local time. I asked my waiter if wine was available and he recommended a bottle of dry French white wine made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Out of interest I Googled the name of the wine and discovered it would sell for R4 000 a bottle in SA if you could find it. So I finished it.
On board the onward flight to London I was offered a pre take-off Dom Perignon 2009 and asked what time I would like my shower before landing. And thus it was that I had a hot shower at 30 000 feet over Europe followed by a glass of chilled Sauternes an hour and a half before landing at 7.30am London time.
Those days I fear are gone, never to return. If it hadn’t been for COVID I would have been over in the UK now to meet my two new great nieces and to spread my usual good cheer among the family. But PCR tests, vaccination passports, quarantine rules, five hour queues once you’ve landed in London and the prospect of spending hours on an aircraft which is forced to offer a vastly reduced service has deterred me from going anywhere near an airport for the foreseeable future.
The good news is that what I’m saving on First Class airfares can go towards hiring an entire train for my 70th next year.
My attention was drawn over the weekend to a tweet from Louise van Rhyn who is the CEO and Founder of an organisation called Symphonia Leadership Development and holds a doctorate in something called ‘Complex Social Change’.
She posed the question “should hospitals not be able to deny access to people who said no to vaccines?”
It’s an interesting suggestion and one should obviously add to the list obese people, smokers, alcoholics, HIV sufferers, those involved in knife fights, those injured in car accidents resulting from speeding or drunken driving (obviously innocent victims would be treated) and anybody whose lifestyle choice contributed in any way towards their intended hospitalisation.
This would free up our hospitals and ICU’s to treat politicians who ransacked the country for ten years and enriched themselves and their buddies. Effective triage is so important when it comes to medical matters.