Just back from three days of luxury. It was at a place called Mont Fleur, in Stellenbosch, a.k.a the lovely Cape winelands.
Let’s see, a typical day: breakfast at 8, comprising the usual full spread (hot or cold, healthy or British, whatever, all with home-made bread and preserves). Tea at 10, with fresh scones, cream and strawberry jam (the stuff with real fruit). Lunch at 1, something “light” like a prawn and seafood skewer on a bed of wild rice with fresh salad. More of the good fresh bread. Tea at 4, with freshly baked lemon meringue (that’s mar-an-gyoo to you). Drinks from 5.30ish with snacks (peanuts, potato skins, pretzels and so forth). First course: blinis with smoked Franschoek trout and sour cream. Entree: Stuffed, deboned leg of lamb with pommes dauphinoise and a blah-blah jus. Dessert: Chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries. Or poached pears in a butterscotch reduction.
All accompanied, of course, with plentiful fine wine from the area. Some (no names mentioned) went on to after dinner drinks: Jagermeister, Amarula and so on.
Anyone hungry yet?
Well, I was, and it was all delicious. And in case you’re wondering what was happening in between all the feasting, it was a “writer’s workshop”. That’s another way of saying a departmental peer-review session. Or a getaway. Or a piss-up.
But let me not misrepresent. It was all useful in the ways that these things are, that is, in the way of picking you up and dunking you in a large barrel of icy water, which is both exhilerating and potentially deadly (if you should suddenly forget not to try to breathe underwater). They make you excited to come home and get on with your work and they also make you want to run for cover or look for work as a cashier. The ivory tower is a cold and magnificent place.