I have to admit the approach from the good folk at MUDL to write a column for them took me a bit by surprise. Sure, I knew it was only a matter of time till they came knocking asking if I'd grace their pages, but when I was only given one word of guidance, 'brandy', I'll admit I was a little perplexed.
Not since that rather dashingly brilliant piece I was recently commissioned to write for the influential Zimbabwean magazine Mother & Child have I felt so ill equipped to provide some sort of cutting insight on a subject. Unlike that masterpiece on 'Tips for breastfeeding your two-year-old' I'm not completely unfamiliar with the topic of the 'burnt wine'. My trepidation rather stemmed from a deep-seated fear that I was an imposter, a novice and that I'd offend some (or all) of the rather passionate segment of South African society that take their brandy seriously.
Fortunately, I'm not a complete novice to brandy like Joel Stransky is to a throat lozenge or Paul Harris is to getting vicious turn off the pitch. Recently my education has been hugely accelerated by a change in jobs and a budding friendship with a 6'5'' bearded Afrikaans gentleman who, for the purposes of this column, we'll call Schalk Jonker. The recent Cape Town Tens was the first time Schalk and I enjoyed a drink outside of work, and after a few enjoyable beers in the tent, the big man started itching for sterner stuff. "That's enough beer Rossers, I'm going to need some brandy now," he said and headed for the clubhouse, leaving me with no choice but to follow.
The barman was quickly put to work pouring the two of us four Kraaifontein Cocktails, and when they arrived, Schalk instructed him to please add a slice of lemon. Lemon!? Now, where I'm from, only Mexicans, poets and grandmothers add a slice of lemon to their drinks, but I detected a determined streak in Schalk that suggested neither the barman, his drinking partner nor any of the other patrons in the bar were going to have anything to say about his choice. We were stopped at the bar by security who explained that drinks weren't allowed out on the field. Schalk looked down, pointed at the slice of lemon and told the muscle that he we were Jehovah's Witnesses that didn't drink alcohol. With his two 'plain Cokes' he breezed past and, by the time I caught up to him, he was feeding one of his drinks to a Durbanville Old Crock who had just stumbled off the field looking like he needed medical attention. By the time half of the revitalising elixir was down his gullet the appreciative player looked ready to re-enter the fray. No time to pause after that touching show of cameraderie as we had places to go, clever comments to pass, people to make laugh and more polisie-koffies to drink.
Now I'm no Hunter S Thompson so there's no ways that my writing skills can send the whiff of brandy up off the page and into your nostrils. Besides, I can't remember most of what happened from there on in, save for that it was bloody good fun. I think the conclusion that I took was that brandy will make you confident, it'll make you a little smarter (at least in the short term), it'll make you friends, it'll make you have fun and, if you have enough, it will make you forget! It also taught me that there's a difference between the right time for a tall bearded Afrikaans chap named Schalk and a short soutie who can't grow facial hair to switch their evening from beer to brandewyn.
by Gareth Rosslee - find him on Twitter @GarethRosslee