For three days on safari we survive close encounters with the big five, to say nothing of a wandering warthog that likes to visit our cabin. But on the last morning Gordon wakes to find his upper body covered in bites. We are unsure what they are but it looks as if he shared his bed with a small blood sucking prostitute or a large spider. As the only other person in his bed was me and I am neither small nor blood sucking and have never charged for my services, we can only assume a spider was the perpetrator.
But the bites are not itchy and all seems to be fine, so at 9.30 we set off for our trip to Cape Town where we will rejoin the ship.
The journey takes all day and it is 5pm by the time we reach the ship. Gordon is now in the grips of whatever poison the spider injected into him. He is freezing cold and violently shivering one moment and incredibly hot and sweating profusely the next. He goes straight to bed and wakes the next morning to find the sheets, pillows and blankets soaked in sweat. I know all your sympathy is going to Gordon but please spare a thought for me who shared the bed. I have just one word to say: eeeeewwww!
We have two days in Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. We have been before and are excited to return. We have rented a car and Gordon is determined to come out for the day. We drive around the Cape, but Gordon sleeps through most of it.
Cape Town is one of our favourite places to visit but as before our enjoyment of it is spoiled by the number of aggressive beggars, pickpockets and undesirables who fill the streets. We never feel safe or at ease.
We have booked a table that evening at a restaurant famous for serving game. We manage to eat a lot of the animals that we have just been watching in the game reserve which seems a little ironic. We feel slightly guilty about ordering Springbok and Kudu, but the warthog is such an unpleasant animal we order two portions.
The next day Gordon still has the fever, but now it is accompanied by a hacking cough. We think the cough is a separate illness as a nasty cough has been going through the passengers like wild fire.
Gordon doesn’t feel up to doing anything so I decide to venture into town and have a haircut. There is a thriving gay area in Capetown which I assume must offer some decent hairdressers. I find a very trendy and up market salon with black wooden floors, chrome and white leather chairs, and huge displays of tropical flowers. It is ten in the morning and they have just opened. The place is deserted except for several very handsome young male stylists with outrageous haircuts bleached and dyed in a wild assortment of colours waiting for customers. The price is $30 and you get a glass of champagne or a cappuccino to sip during the process.
I can’t go wrong I think.
But I could and I do.
I ask the receptionist if I can have a haircut.
“You mean – now?” she asks in an incredulous voice suggesting that no one has ever tried to walk in without an appointment.
“Yes, now would be perfect, if it is possible” I reply and give her what I hope is a winning smile.
She makes a great fuss of searching through her appointment book. I have never been too good at reading upside down, but even I can recognize a blank page when I see one. I am beginning to get worried.
There is a lengthy pause while she decides if my smile was winning enough for her to somehow squeeze me in.
“I think Stan can fit you into his schedule “ she finally announces.
Of course he can, I want to say. I am the only customer in the shop.
I am shown to a hair washing station where an attractive young lady, whom I assume isn’t Stan, washes my hair and gives me the most fabulous scalp massage I have ever experienced.
While she massages my head, I survey the young men waiting at their stations, trying to decide which one I want to be Stan. They are all extremely attractive and dressed in heavily starched, crisp long sleeve white shirts and tight white jeans worn with a wide black belt that unfortunately just manages to keep the jeans from falling below crotch level. I decide that for once in my life I will not be picky. I will be happy with any one of these young men running their fingers through my hair. The fabulosity meter emerges and starts to ring. But it doesn’t last long.
The young lady finishes massaging my skull and asks if I want Champagne or coffee.
Dear readers, I hope you know me well enough to know what my answer is. If you don’t, then you haven’t been paying attention.
She leads me across to a chair with no young man standing by it and says she will fetch Stan.
I sit for a few minutes and watch in the mirror as a gaunt figure in his fifties wearing an extremely rumpled white shirt and baggy jeans emerges from the back. The only thing hollower than his cheeks is his stomach, which is alarmingly concave. The only thing darker than the circles under his eyes is the dyed black hair rapidly receding across his head. He looks like something out of Psycho. I wonder what he is doing here, but pay him little attention, until I realise he is coming my way.
He gives me a grim little smile revealing a row of yellowed teeth and tells me his name is Stan.
Sensing that I am about to run he pins me to the chair, ties the nylon sheet tightly around my neck and asks me how I want my hair cut.
“By one of the cute young men” I answer
He thinks I am joking and shows me his yellow teeth once more.
Now dear readers, you know and I know that I travel quite a lot and over the past few years I have found myself in need of a haircut in countries where very little English is spoken. For this reason I carry a photograph of myself with what I consider to be my perfect haircut.
With some trepidation I show it to Stan.
“What a great idea” he says as he tapes the picture to the mirror in front of me. “I totally get what you want” he continues.
What he does to my hair could warrant a jail term if I were some wealthy despot. Unfortunately I am not, so I am left to contemplate murder or at least grievous bodily harm. My hair looks like a cross section of Yosemite Valley with huge mountains and deep valleys
“It is very uneven” I complain trying not to scream.
“Where” he replies.
“Everywhere. Just look and you can see bumps in the hair all over”
“You don’t like those” Stan says “ I thought it made you look cool”
“It makes me look like the love child of Telly Savalas and Tina Turner” I reply, hoping he is old enough to relate.
“Well I can take the bumps out” says Stan and precedes to chop away at the bumps, creating valleys where the bumps were and bumps where the valleys were.
“Look what you have done” I hiss through clenched teeth.
“I’ll take a little more off and make it more even” he says
Ten minutes later I have virtually no hair left on my head. I look like a convict on chemo.
I pull off the black plastic sheet and tell Stan not to touch my hair again.
“Would you like anything on it” he asks
“A wig” I say
“ Very droll” says Stan “that was so much fun. I have never done a cut like that” he continues.
“What made you think that now was a good time to do it” I reply as I run out of the salon.
I return to the ship and walk into the cabin. Gordon is slumped in a chair with a blanket wrapped around him. The book he was reading has fallen on the floor, his head is on his chest , his glasses are sliding down to the end of his nose, his eyes are closed and his mouth is open with a little spot of drool running out of one side. He is either dead or asleep. But either way he presents a frightening picture of what is in store for us in a few years time.
I don’t wake him. I am worried that the shock of my haircut will finish him off.