Nigerians must be some of the kindest, most generous people on earth. Every week I am approached by Nigerians, many of whom I have never met, offering to deposit substantial sums of money in my bank account. That’s really sweet. Nigeria has its own problems with poverty, but their people are true humanists, willing to share what they have with those less fortunate. I am planning a trip to Abuja to meet all my new friends. I imagine a city full of smiling people greeting visitors to their fair city with a fistful of dollars. If I were a 21st century Dick Whittington I would pass on London. Abuja is where it’s at!
Friendly, good looking Nigerians were much in evidence at the Shimmy Beach Club, Cape Town’s newest gliterati hot spot. The location is magical. One drives through a working harbour, past active warehouses to a perfect plot of land jutting into the ocean. Shimmy is huge. There are two swimming pools, a 13 metre bar, a whisky tasting room, several eating areas and a dance space. It was the height of the tourist season when I showed up for lunch with the Monkey Princess and the African Data Queen. Old Africa hands, they surveyed the vast space (mostly empty at lunch) and turned to me in unison and said “money laundering set up!”
I thought this analysis was a tad uncharitable. Sure the food was forgettable and the cocktails were plain bad, but the staff were really nice. One of them had been hired to arrive at lunch time, disrobe in the manner of Mata Hari and float rather enticingly in the truly stunning swimming pool. Every so often she would stand up, arch her back showing her assets to good effect, squeeze the water from her shoulder length hair and accept a cocktail from a passing waiter.
Our waitress was envious of the bather. “It’s a great job” she said, before pointing out that the cocktails consumed by the bather were non alcoholic. It was way too hot to stand in the sun, take off your clothes and drink spirits. Our bather was a sensible lass. The waitress kindly offered to get me the bather’s phone number in case I wanted to treat her to a real cocktail. I wasn’t sure whether she had to put her clothes back on to do that. My female lunch companions stepped in around then, suggesting that I be moved to a less compromising location…
I was bundled into a car and driven to Stellenbosch, in the middle of the wine lands to meet Dylan Lewis, South Africa’s pre-eminent sculptor. Dylan could have been a Californian with his beard, long locks, torn jeans and laconic drawl. His sculpture garden had pieces ranging from feline animals all tension and grace, to mythic half human-half animal creatures. The giant pieces set off against big African skies and a mountain backdrop created a visually stunning spectacle. If the new money in Africa goes to Shimmy’s the old money comes here.
As Dylan wound down his pitch, some in the international audience started reaching for their chequebooks. I called a Nigerian friend. We met at the Planet Bar at the Mount Nelson hotel to taste test South African gins. The bather joined us.