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Tea time in Johannesburg

PUBLISHED: 13:11 20 April 2006 | UPDATED: 10:26 07 September 2010

Passover, the Jewish festival of Pesach, is the time of the great chopped liver and chicken soup competition. Theoretically Passover is all about the Jews celebrating the escape from slavery in Egypt and the journey across desert to the Promised Land, but

Passover, the Jewish festival of Pesach, is the time of the great chopped liver and chicken soup competition. Theoretically Passover is all about the Jews celebrating the escape from slavery in Egypt and the journey across desert to the Promised Land, but not at our home!In our household it seems to be entirely centred on the chopped liver and chicken soup rivalry between Mrs Rabvinsky and my mother, now in its 25th year and going strong. My mother has held the title for three consecutive years and this year she was going for gold. Unfortunately so was Mrs Rabvinsky, and she won. It was a close call. And my mother, like the recently-defeated Italian prime minister, refuses to accept defeat and even now a week later is still demanding a recount.As for the Pesach evening, it was the usual friends and other families and a strange mix of people passing through London at the time. I found myself wedged between a Chinese girl called Xiao Fang and another Princess. I recognize the type. She is a South African copy of myself only a lot squeakier. After five minutes I feel this desperate need to move seats. She is unbearable. I cannot help wondering if I have the same effect on people, but dismiss this thought quickly.My father attempts leading the evenings prayers but his ability to read Hebrew has been leaking badly of late and so he does it in English with a poor attempt at an Eastern European accent instead, hoping no-one would notice it was not in Hebrew. It was a shambles and I doubt if the experience will result in Xiao Fang being overcome with a desire to trade Buddhism for Judaism. Her experience of the squeaky JP after I vacated my chair probably didn't help either; I overheard the JP asking: "Is it true the Chinese are a cruel race?"Meanwhile, I have landed in South Africa! It is our third family holiday this year and this time completely unavoidable. We arrived in a small piece of paradise close to the Zimbabwe, Botswana and South African borders, a safari called Mogalekwene River Lodge, which, I am told, means something nasty to do with crocodiles and quicksand. Unfortunately we have not yet seen any crocodiles and I suggested to my sister that if she sat on the river bank and dangled her feet in the water and I stood by with the camera, we might have some luck. Peter, the resort guide, who is seriously deficit in the charisma department, expressed his view, without much consideration, that this was a risky strategy.How did this being in Africa happen? Well, my mother's mother, that's my grandmother for you genealogically challenged dyslexics, turns 95 in a few days' time and is having a mega tea party in Johannesburg. The London chapter of the family decided that making a show was "a-good-idea". However, my father, who has a strong preference for reducing contact with my mother's family to an absolute minimum, or less if possible, books us in here in the bush-veldt for a few days in order to escape being in Johannesburg until the very day of the party. Peter our guide picked us up at dawn in a smart fashion accessory: a Land rover 4x4. So strange to see these large vehicles outside their normal NW3 or Chelsea habitats. I was momentarily confused as to whether my safari outfit was appropriate or should I switch to Sloane Ranger? The drive was a disaster. A Game Drive without the game, just lots of bush. We resorted to chatting and laughing amongst ourselves. At this level of noise Peter reckoned any wild animals would have fled to Zimbabwe.So here I am enjoying the tail end of summer in the Southern hemisphere with a river of very large crocodiles, me, my siblings and my parents. More of my African adventure next time.


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