Thursday, February 21, 2008

Knocking off and going for a drink


Peroni girl, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is past knocking off time here and I am waiting in the office for my colleague to take me out for dinner. There is a table booked at 7 and we will be eating best South African steak washed down by delicious red wine… looking forward to it. Lunch today was at Lord Prawn (est. 1975) where we were disappointed not to have an avocado and shrimp salad, avocados not being in season apparently… yet again I manage to choose the one thing on the menu which they did not have… something which I am very good at no matter where in the world I am…

It has been a quietish day in the office, in meetings and looking at figures and reports and meeting a few more of the staff, including a young chappie who is on his way to Cape Town for a week’s holiday. As he was leaving, the ladies in the office urged him to have a good time and ‘to get drunk and stay drunk’…. I thought he was just going for a wedding but he is going for a whole week…. Drink plays a big part in South African folk culture (where not?). There is even a bar in the boardroom, with fridges stuffed with cans of beer and mixers for the heavy stuff in bottles in a locked cabinet. I helped myself to a lemonade, rather than a beer, which I had last night, which left me rather bloated.

The beer here is Castle Beer, invented by a man called Charles Glass, who shares the name with a journalist chap who wrote a book about the Middle East which I have in my hotel room as reading material. Anyway, it seems that Castle Beer grew and grew to become SAB Miller which is now the largest brewer in the world (bigger than Interbrau of Belgium, apparently). One of the big names they took over fairly recently was Peroni, of Italy. Peroni is being pushed all over Jo’burg, showing black and white photos of manly pretty Italian girls, some with hats, recalling the days of Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida. All very appealing and undeniably Italian, which is very exotic and chic to people in this part of the world… And, of course, beer, like bottled water, is a marketing phenomenon. The beer all tastes much the same, and it is the marketing which creates the demand. SAB Miller seem to be world beaters at it.

It was Tafel beer which Jannie in Namibia was so keen on.. so keen that he would start drinking at 10.30 in the morning, with a whole day’s drive ahead of him. I am told that the South Africans would normally wait until mid-day. In the meantime, talking about traveling up the Mozambican coast, a colleague told me that he (and his mates) would drink some gin for breakfast as a way to keep the mozzies away, mozzies not being too partial to the quinine in the gin, apparently.

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