Don’t judge a book by its cover?

Our anniversary celebration was on a Sunday, a perfect day to organise a picnic lunch. Something different. Out in the open. A slight deviation from our evening date night but a date nonetheless (you may want to read this blog as well Date night).

Let me paint the picturesque features of this summer’s day:

Kievits Kroon Country Estate, AKA the crowned plover.

Beautiful weather. Clear blue skies. Stunning grassy lawns with old style Cape Dutch architectural buildings. A country estate just minutes away, out of the hustle and bustle of Gauteng. Pillows, throws and mats, laid out on the luscious green grass, underneath some old, shady trees. So inviting. So peaceful.

We get escorted to our spot. Quaint. It’s hot. We lie down and order a drink. To start, a non-alcoholic mojito, they always refreshing. It came with about 4 mint leaves, a tiny slice of lemon and tasted like watered down lemonade. Disappointing start! But, we gave it a bit of a thumbs up, as at least it was cold and had a hint of being refreshing.

We requested our bottled water as we had already pre-booked and paid for it.

We decided to go for a swim and bask in the sun a little, before lunch arrived. We didn’t take long at all and really just cooled off a bit. That was refreshing!

By this time, the other three picnic groups started to arrive. The sense of space feeling a little more tighter. Not cramped, but close enough to hear the conversations of the next group. We were the only couple attempting to have a romantic picnic. Nobody wants to be that close! We decided to move our spot over the pathway to another luscious patch of grass, just as shady and peaceful, to allow for a little more privacy. As we moving over, my husband looks up to the sky and notices big dark clouds rolling in from a distance. Not realising what he was about to say, he blurted out:

Babe, it’s just black on that side!

My eyes darted across the grounds in front of us as I quickly tried to shush him. We were indeed the only white people picnicking, but man did that come out wrong! Lets give him credit where credit is due, he was referring to the darkening sky. But trust me, my husband is not the most subtle or quietest of persons when he speaks. Wrong timing. Wrong place. Wrong words! I laughed so hard it hurt!

Our bottled water still had not arrived.

We see our waiter walking towards us. Our food finally arrives one basket after the next. Lots of it. I mean just look at this menu:

Doesn’t it sound amazing?! Sadly to say it certainly was not appealing to the eye. We barely touched it. My husband was convinced we had all the left overs from previous meals of other people. It’s a shame. Such a nice country estate setting and yet shocking tasteless food, poorly presented.

Where’s the water?

Determined to enjoy the picnic experience, we lay on the cushions and looked up at the darkening sky. We remembered seeing on the website some old style croquet pictures and wondered where we would find the set up. It would be fun to play. For some reason we both stammered trying to recall what the game was actually called. I mean we work so hard during the week our brains literally feel like scrambled eggs on a weekend. You know when something is right on the tip of your tongue but it just doesn’t come out? And then, out of the blue it just came out as if it was the most natural well-known game in the world:

Ama Sticky Balls!

The game with sticks and balls. Croquet is now officially dubbed Ama Sticky Balls!

Ok maybe you had to be there for that one, but at this point I guess we tried to find anything to laugh at, just to keep our spirits high. Not before long the black clouds released their burstful anger of thunder and soon exploded in light to heavy rain. Of course, despite the prior warnings, everyone waits for that absolute last moment to head for cover. As if the thunder and lightning in the distance will not interrupt their picnic!

We had fortunately asked our waiter where we should go should it start to rain and so my husband headed to the designated place while I quickly ran to the car to put on something a little warmer.

Upstairs in the Manor house there was a bar (unstocked), some fairly decent couches and sofas, and the bare essentials like bathrooms which had no toilet paper. It looked as if that specific building was currently not in use. Waiters and barmen furiously ran upstairs and down to stock the bar, to deliver the outstanding picnic baskets and to replace the bare necessities so vital to our daily living.

Still no bottled water.

As we sitting we unpack our food onto the table. That’s it. We again just looked at it. So not impressed. Then it happened.

A deep rumbling.

A churning.

A moment of discomfort followed by immediate painful stomach cramps.

Yes, I am very quick to react to food that is not clean or healthy. I will definitely not go into the details of what happened next, but let me just remind you that the bathrooms had no toilet paper at that point and as a substitute I grabbed some paper towelling from the automated machine, piece by piece as I waved my hand in front of the sensor clenching my buttocks as tight as I could. I mean I must have looked a bit spastic from behind. Waving at a machine. Grabbing the paper. Legs crossed. Clenching my buttocks! Wave, grab, clench, repeat!

The good news is that I made it (#sigh of relief) but my poor bottom. Have you ever used paper towelling for diarrhoea? Let me tell you that paper towelling is not designed for soft, gentle lady bottoms or any bottom for that matter! It felt as though I had been dragged through fine cemented gravel. A free buttock scrub. Try putting that on the menu at a Spa! Ouch!

What about our water?

Could this day get any worse? Back with my husband, sitting a little more awkwardly, we now requested the water again. The waiter running all over in a frenzy as there was apparently no bottled water, even though we had ordered this a full week earlier! I mean how does this estate win the world’s luxury hotel award?! He offers to bring us three small bottles instead. I’m beyond staying rational. My husband takes the lead, a little more controlled than myself at this point and agreed that would be fine. Indeed it was not fine and probably time to go before one of us lost the plot.

The three small bottles arrive while we wait for the drinks bill. One is already half-opened. The bill arrives and it’s wrong. I am done. I just could not contain the heightened emotion that welled up inside. Normally I would be the calm one but this time, it was all me. I gave it to the so-called manager who could not resolve our issue, but at least did try to show some hint of being sorry. I didn’t believe it for one second. For someone who certainly cannot beat around the bush, I did not shout. I did not use any language. I just gave the facts with lots of passion.

#sigh

The bill was rectified. We paid and left. That saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, really proved true on this day, at this venue. The outside of this estate truly can take one’s breath away, but on the inside all there was, was chaos, mix-ups, angry employees and lack of passion to serve and serve well.

I thought to myself what does this place have in common with the crowned plover? Its bold, noisy and common. That’s all the interesting facts I could find about this bird. And I guess that’s what this country estate was to us:

  • Bold – it captures ones attention by its outward appearance
  • Noisy – the internal politics and lack of enforcing regulations
  • Common – just so ordinary

However, I must admit despite how this day unfolded, my husband and I landed up having the most amazing journey home, reminiscing around everything that went wrong, everything that was said, everything that we came up with for future referencing. To the point of laughing tears. It was so worth it!

Date night is still a must even if you shake it up a bit or if it doesn’t go as planned. It’s amazing how things can turn around. Memories for life. So worth it!