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A chance encounter leads to a lifelong friendship

An old friend from South Africa who is now living in the UK visited me the other day. The conversation soon drifted to our first meeting when I was visiting the country many years ago.

I was in Cape Town at the time. I rented a car and drove around the city exploring the many sights this magnificent place has to offer. I remember this was just after the V&A Waterfront had opened its doors for the first time. Nobody could probably foresee, at the time, that this was to become one of the country’s top tourist attractions. I sat at one of the many restaurants with a lovely view of Table Mountain, sipping an espresso; life was good.

After my fifth coffee I was getting a bit hyper and also needed to visit the bathroom rather urgently. I got up and this was when I bumped into this guy making his way back to his table. The problem was he had just helped himself to a nice plate of beetroot salad from the salad bar and during our unfortunate encounter, most of it landed up on his hitherto dazzlingly bright white shirt.

Needless to say not much could be done about the situation at the time and he was so incredibly graceful about the whole thing and I felt so guilty that I had no choice but to invite him to dinner at the same restaurant the next day.

And this is how a 20-year friendship started. Afterwards he invited me to his vineyard near Stellenbosch and showed me more about the culture and history of the Boland region, part of the Western Cape than I would ever have discovered as a tourist.

Jake has since retired. He sold his vineyard and he and his family moved to London to be near their grandchildren. We regularly visit each other and often talk about the old days in South Africa.

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