A couple of weeks ago we went with English friends to see what “Willie’s Bush Pub” was like.
It is situated about half an hour’s drive from where we live and is on a farm. Arriving there we looked around and then thought it looked pretty derelict, but what the Hell, in for a penny in for a pound.
Entering the converted old homestead, (which I think must have first been erected in early 1800’s), we walked through a darkened hallway, out into a courtyard with plastic chairs and tables that appeared to be the roosting place for bantam chickens with outrageously ruffled feathers and baggy pantaloons.
Opening onto the courtyard was the entrance to an old barn that had been turned into Willie’s pub.
Good old Afrikaans “sakkie-draai” music came filtering out into the crisp evening air. We all looked forward to our first drink of the day as we entered the darkened pub with anticipation.
A raven waddled in to the pub with us and hopped up onto the pub counter, then promptly regaled us with abusive squawks. He certainly did not like men and pecked at Graham who happened to be sitting with his elbow propped on the bar-counter. Next thing the raven was trying to walk off with an ashtray which was too heavy for his beak. In frustration he flew at our friend Billy who had put money down on the counter, wishing to pay for a round of drinks. Billy stepped back in shock and the raven took the money and gave it to the barmaid, (clever bird.)
Then Willie arrived with his battle scarred old dog that looked something like Jock of the Bushveld. Our host was larger than life and a real character. His dog was prone to flatulence and tainted the air green.
We politely overcame the smell of second hand offal and listened avidly to stories he told us. Apparently Willie had been a rugby coach for the Northern Province.
I got the impression he was a rogue and this led to him paying out a huge divorce settlement that left him so broke, that he went over to England to work for a couple of years.
There, in London, he made enough money as a rickshaw driver to come back to South Africa and open his pub. During this period of story telling we all ordered from a well appointed menu and were led into the dining room by his attractive girlfriend when our starters were ready.
Sitting down to starched white linen table cloths and napkins as large as headscarves, we looked about the ethnically decorated room. There were paintings of the Limpopo River, baobabs and elephant on the walls reminding Graham and I of the bush we love with a passion.
As we were being served our second course our friends noticed a large tabby cat clambering onto the chair next to our table. Next thing a Jack Russell terrier jumped up onto the chair with the cat and started humping it.
“Oi,” said Josie, our female companion, “Where I come from in U.K., dogs and cats don’t do that sort of thing!”
Our eyes were popping out of our heads, this was just too much to take in and much to our utter amazement, the cat was purring and enjoying its little romp with the nice doggy!
Billy quipped, his eyes riveted on the engaged cat and dog,
“Next thing a sheep will come in here and start nobbling one of us!”
I looked up and in walked a full grown sheep through the restaurant door. Shutting my eyes tight and then opening them, just to make sure I was not hallucinating, I saw the sheep still standing at Billy’s elbow.
“Bill, there’s a sheep at your elbow and it’s trying to eat off your plate.”
“Aw, get off it….waahhh!”
Was Billy’s response as he finally saw the sheep and realised that I was not teasing him. Edging over to the side of his chair farthest away from the sheep, (and closer to the still amorous canine and feline interracial counter play), Graham, Josie and I just collapsed in a helpless heap of suppressed hysteria,
shouted Billy at the sheep.
“Can’t you see I’m eating?”
Of course the sheep could see he was eating, it wanted to share his meal! Now, English people are not used to the happenings and ways of the African bush, (certainly not the way of its animals, both wild and domestic.)
Anyway, his yelling at the sheep put a stop to the dog and cat’s antics and they jumped off their communal chair and ran out the door. The sheep stood its ground and started to urinate on the fitted carpet, splashing little droplets up onto Bill’s new sneakers.
“Waitressss!” yelled Billy,
“I can’t eat here, your sheep has just pee’d on the carpet and your dog is shagging your cat!”
By now I could not keep the food in my mouth and it burst out onto my plate. Laughter erupted from all four of us, and we all had tears running down our cheeks.
The waitress arrived and shooed the disgruntled sheep from the room, then returned to our table.
“Don’t you like your food Madam?”
she politely asked me,
“No, sorry, its great, but I spat in it,” I answered.
She removed it from my place, looking at me as if I had just grown a series of lumpy tufted warts on my forehead.
“What about your animals?” demanded Billy.
“Oh don’t mind them;” said the waitress,
“they are all individuals with character.”
We all looked at each other and started to laugh once again.
As we left the dining table we asked one another what more could happen. The night was still young and we were not yet ready to head home, so we returned to the pub.
Graham needed a fresh packet of cigarettes and went to the vending machine in the corner of the room where an angry cockerel started to crow and show him his spurs.
Unperturbed, Graham got his fix and muttered,
“Some way to try and stop people from smoking…”
The raven reappeared from behind a row of bottles, hopped onto the counter once again, turned tail towards Bill and let rip with a bright yellow shade of guano, narrowly missing him and landing in a pile on the cement floor.
Cawing at our men with a vengeance, he flew onto a stuffed buffalo head hanging on the wall, where he kept a baleful eye on the unwanted men in his life. At this stage I decided that it was time to take myself off to the bathroom. Innocently I perched on the loo, only to get a shock when an ostrich popped her head in through the small window above my head and made aggressive dives at the back of my head.
I was out of there in no time, only to nearly trip over the amorous cat and dog who had taken their love-making to the “Welcome” mat at the entrance of the pub.
Much to our amusement, the hungry sheep appeared once again and made a b-line for Billy.
That was enough.
We thanked Willie for a most entertaining evening in his Bush-pub, promised to visit again soon and beat a hasty retreat for our vehicle, where we were seen off by a miniature pony.
There are some really strange people and places around here, that’s for sure!
Susan Cook-Jahme© From my recently published book of short stories “African Patchwork”