24 hours in sunny Africa

June 28th, 2007 at 3:52 pm by james

The weather was filthy in Cape Town on Monday. It was chucking it down with rain and the wind was so strong it whistled in the gaps around the car bonnet while I drove. I popped into the office in the afternoon via the Atlantic seaboard where the sea was up and belting huge combing waves into the normally placid resort beaches. Returning via Rhodes Drive – possibly not the wisest route on a day like that – the winding road through the forests was a carpet of leaves and branches. It’s a challenging road at the best of times, but wet-and-leafy with the added overhead of having to keep a wary eye out for falling trees shifted it to a whole new level of fun.

In the evening I flew to Joburg for a day of meetings on Tuesday. My new strategy to attempt to make heavy-commuting weeks sustainable is to leave home after we put the girls to sleep, stay over “up norf” and arrive at my meetings fresh. I cope much better with a series of late nights than a series of early mornings. So at 8.40pm I flew to Joburg for a 24-hour stint to return at 8.40 on Tuesday.

I spent a – thankfully brief – few hours in a hotel with light fittings supported on crossed faux-ivory tusks and bling marble bathrooms with vaulted ceilings and dim lighting. I couldn’t find a light in the room bright enough to allow me to read the label on the mini-bar can of Pringles to see if they contained MSG. Apparently Dubya stayed there on his last visit. He probably brought his own lights with him.

Tuesday morning dawned it’s usual dusty red in Johannesburg. This is the wet season in Cape Town where all is leafy and green and the dry season in Joburg. There the morning at this time of year is blanketed in a toxic mix of red dust, mist and pollution. If you fly in during the hours of daylight you approach an envelope of rust-red air that obscures the ground. Another good reason to fly in at night.

It was a mild, clear winter’s day in sharp counterpoint to Cape Town’s weather. I won’t bore you with my tour of meetings in Johannesburg and Pretoria except to say that the very best part of my job at the moment is the sitting down eye-to-eye with people and contributing to their success in ways that are meaningful for them. I’m having a good run at the moment and love seeing faces enliven as people begin to really engage.

My first schedule change happened at 11am when a time-critical engagement ran out of time. Last-minute changes in schedule are not unusual at all and the routine of calls from the car to change flights, cars, hotels and meeting arrangements is pretty automatic now. So 24 hours stretched to 42.

My second schedule change happened when it snowed in Johannesburg overnight. I came downstairs to be met with “Good morning Mr Adlard, I hope you’ve got lots of layers on” and the somewhat unusual sight of a beaming doorman walking across the lobby with a huge snowball balanced in his right hand. It was 1 below freezing and everything was covered in snow. That’s not strictly true, the roads were clear, it was the cars and verges that were covered in snow. Traffic was flowing well and we made good time to my meetings.

Now you would have thought that if road traffic was flowing air traffic might be doing the same, but you’d be wrong. Quite substantially wrong. Entirely wrong, in fact. Well, not entirely wrong. International air traffic was running (with some diversions to Cape Town). Local air traffic was shot to hell. When I arrived at the airport at about 11am there were people who’d been waiting for their flights since 6.30. People weren’t being called for flights that were leaving (I think these people must have been inexperienced ones who haven’t learned that the Airport Company’s software can’t let go of delayed/cancelled flights so fills up the departure boards with those and doesn’t show current ones – the only reliable way to find your flight is to ask someone wearing the right kind of uniform who is standing behind a terminal for the use of which they have had the requisite training).

I landed at 3.15 and went straight onto a conference call for the duration of the journey home. I dropped off it somewhat abruptly when hugging MGW triggered my handsfree. So all of you who heard “Now exiting …” at about 4.05 know why.

It’s been better since then. Sunny skies. Some fog on my return to Joburg this morning. Accidents on the main routes into Joburg. The usual.

One Response to “24 hours in sunny Africa”

  1. Ben Says:

    Snow in Johannesburg….crazy. Glad the travel is going well.

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