Saturday, November 10, 2007

And I'm like...

Mother Blog and Ali G arrived in South Africa this week - phase one of the Great Australian Invasion, which will take place when no fewer than 23 people gather, Legion of Fans (LOF), to celebrate a significant "zero" birthday of Mrs Blog. We're not talking 30, and we're not talking 50 (and neither are we talking 10, Black Mustarfa). Decorum, and my wife, prevent me from saying which birthday it is.

Ali G - a regular poster on this blog and fellow bloggers' sites - is, I can now reveal, actually my stepfather. He and Mother Blog bought me the above "whatever" T-shirt, which I love so much that I only removed it (at Mrs Blog's insistence) after three days.

And so, LOF, we segwe, as I knew we must one day, into the thorny realm of Safari fashion.

Apart from my "whatever" T-shirt I am no style icon, LOF, and nor have I ever pretended otherwise. However, I am big-headed enough to be quite judgemental about what others wear, particularly when on safari in Africa.

Beware, if you are planning a trip to the dark green continent, of those trendy high street camping stores, specialist safari outfitters, or, worst of all, airport and safari lodge souvenir shops. It's a jungle out there, LOF, a veritable dripping green fashion hell, teeming with leopard and zebra print, barely concealed by a veritable forest of camouflage clothing.

Having the right clothing in Africa is important - and not just for creating the desired apres game viewing or hunting image. It may save your life.

When walking in the veldt, where dangerous game could be lurking around the next bush, it's important not to wear colours that scream "I'm a tourist, come and kill me", such as white, yellow, day-glo orange, or hot pink. Khakis, greens, and even dark blues are the colours of choice, here.

It confounds me, why, whenever we front up for a bush walk in the Kruger National Park with armed rangers, that the European tourist who happily wears head-to-toe camo or khaki when driving around in their rented Volkswagen Chicos show up for a close encounter with the Big Five wearing a floppy white vinyl hat that would have looked good on, say, Twiggy or Petula Clark. You couldn't blame an elephant for trampling that hat, or the head that thought it OK to wear it - on the grounds of fashion sense alone!

Natural hues are not compulsory when lounging around the rest camp or sipping sundowners by the waterhole, though green and brown are very practical colours - particularly if you are drinking Creme de Menthe, or eating chocolate ice-cream. These colours hide stains very well, and if you do dribble something (as Mrs B and I are want to do after one too many beverages) then you can pass the resulting mess of as trendy camouflage.

Here at Park Safaris the rule as regards leopard, cheetah or zebra skin is simple - we say no to fur or any animal print (with the exception of lingerie, of course).

Mother Blog and Ali G had put a lot of thought into their safari ensembles for the two weeks they will be staying with us. I suspect Mother Blog had invested the most thought as they arrived at Kruger's Malelane Gate wearing complementary T-shirts and matching three-quarter length jeans. Mother Blog's T-shirt was emblazoned with a bold "Je Suis Avec Stupid", and an arrow, pointing sideways to Ali G's shirt, which read, "Stupid".

Next day they fronted, like a pair of Japanese honeymooners, in matching safari gear.

Full marks, I gave them, for the baggy green T-shirts, which are the last word in practicality while travelling and camping. The three-quarter length khaki cargo pants scraped in - not too many D-rings; no zip off legs; no scribbled unintelligible writing. They even knew how to accessorise, with matching insulated safari coffee mugs from the Skukuza Souvenir Shop and Tacky Merchandise Emporium here in Kruger.

Re the three-quarter pants, I have to say that I like my shorts African style - short, and I make no apology for this. I know this is very un-trendy in the rest of the world, but here in the scorching summer it is perfectly acceptable for men to wear (green) hotpants.

Ali G is a terrific bloke and I like him a lot (especially for posting lots of comments on both of my blogs, which makes it look like people actually read them) but he did, however, let the side down badly two nights ago, when he and Mother Blog (Pink long-sleeve T-shirt - acceptable for evening wear - and long green flared trousers) dressed for dinner. He committed the cardinal sin, LOF, and he was unrepentant about it.

Sandals and socks.

What sets us (well, most of us), as Australians apart from our European ancestors is a firmly held belief that socks should not be worn with any form of open-toed footwear.

"But it's comfortable and cool, and it keeps my feet clean and you said I had to wear socks to keep the mosquitos from biting me," protested Ali G (he will have right of reply here).

All well and good, Ali G, but that doesn't make it right. If he buys a pair of those other tragic fashion disasters, "Crocs" (which are, at the end of the day, plastic clogs, so I rest my case) while he is here I may just have to shoot him.

At least, LOF, Ali G had the decency to wear black socks with his sandals, so we might have got away without too many people noticing in the restaurant. I did, however, see a couple of Germans and Poms nodding appreciatively as he strode down the platform at Kruger's Selati Train restaurant, which has a big old colonial-era steam locomotive as its centrepiece. Mother Blog was too busy saying things like "Be careful of my Limoges" and posing for picutres in the bar carriage to notice her husband's fashion faux pas.

There is so much camouflage clothing in Africa at the moment that it's easy to trip over fellow campers. Camouflage is, to inject a military metaphor, a minefield.

Yes, it's trendy and practical (when hiding from rampaging rhinos and lip-smacking Leos), but like flamethrowers and hand grenades, Camo is a two-edged weapon.

Mrs Blog has very fetching little US Marine Corps Middle East Theatre of Operations (I know my camo) mini skirt, which I had to bark like a Drill Sergeant to force her to buy. She doesn't regret it, and neither do I, for as well as being practical and made of sturdy military-spec material, it's also strangely arousing.

She went into Cape Union Mart (a South African safari clothing store of note) a while ago to spend some of her birthday money in advance of the big day and tried on a very respectable (not too short this time) US Army Jungle Leaf pattern skirt. It looked good (damn good), although she pointed out to the shop assistant that the hem had come undone.

"No, madam, that's the new fashion, to have the hem undone."

Well, LOF, let me tell you that Mrs B acted every one of her not insubstantial number of years when she retorted: "Well, I don't care if that's the fashion, it looks jolly untidy young lady and I won't be seen in a garment that is not properly hemmed" (or words to that effect). She bought it, anyway, and spent most of the other day sewing it back together.

When it come to camo, LOF, the rule is as simple as it is timeless. Less is more. Mini-skirts are better than full body-length Rhodesian Light Infantry jumpsuits any day, and it's always best to team an item of camouflage with something brightly civilian.

A couple of weeks ago a tourist from a certain European country that will remain nameless reported for duty at zee camp site next to us in Pretoriuskop dressed in head to toe matching camouflage. Worryingly (for someone who knows his camouflage), the pattern was very, very similar to WWII Waffen SS issue.

One doesn't want to be trampled to death in the African bush, Legion of Fans, any more than one wants to be shot as a mercenary - or, for that matter, mistaken as a resident of a foreign land.
Tread carefully, LOF. When on safari take only pictures, and leave only footprints (and socks) behind.


ali g said...

currently sitting here in Seth Efrica drinking Windhoek draughts and must say that having once had the dreaded malaria in PNG, would even wear a sock over my head at bedtime [which occasionally has been suggested ] if that would also help to keep the dreaded mozzies at bay...Am very much Denys Fynch-Hatton at the moment and Mother Blog is doing her Karen Blixon thing.....

tonypark said...

I'm sure Denys, being a pom, probably wore sandals and socks on safari also, Ali.

meggie said...

O the visions conjured up by your words!
Reading this blog is a danger. Do not have food or drink anywhere near yourself, or choking & dying, could result. Or snorting coffee at the least.

JR (Mike Williams) said...

Oi! TP!,

Ever since reading this I have developed nervous tic and was the mention of leopard or cheetah skin patterned lingerie...Mrs Blog had never previously mentioned your predilection for lingerie. I must say...I am a little shaken at the thought; frightened to go to sleep and all!!!

Herr Doktor said...

Happy BD to Mrs Blogg, Mother Blogg and Ali G all the best! Envious of you out there in Africa.
A couple of fashion comments, Cammo anything in Africa is not such a great thing(mini skirts excepted) Some parts of the continent will haul you off and want to know why you are wearing military unifroms. I nearly fell off my airport seat in Jo'burg last year watching a group of 6 + tourists in matching khaki with "Max's Gun Club" emblazoned on their baseball caps and shirts. There has to be a middle ground! Something practical but not too over the top. I think Tony you always look casually elegant in the photos!

dionj said...

pity I only saw the food & drink warning now as I clean tea & soggy Ouma rusk bits out of my keyboard. Been following the LOF blog since recently reading Far Horizon (then Zambezi - which I bought!). This blog was just what I needed to offset a monday morning in Jo'burg. Thanks Tony! An aspiring legionnaire

tonypark said...

Thanks all for the comments.

Herr Doktor, you always cut a pretty fine jib in your desert pattern DPCU's I seem to remember.

JR - you shouldn't be thinking about lingerie in sand-land. It's not good for you. Take two bromide pills and lie down.

Thanks, Meggie, for being, as usual, the nicest person in Blog land.

Welcome Dion, the Legion needs all the new blood it can muster. Too many of you are related to me, and Dion swells your ranks ever closer towards that magic double digit figure. Thanks, too, for buying my books - I appreciate it, and so, to, does my Land Rover's clutch.

Java said...

AhA, now I know who to rope in for a pic of Mrs Blog AND her mini skirt this time!! Please to meet you Ali G.

Sucker ... you gave it away ... I'll get my pic and revenge LOL. (just joking ok, not normally that aggressive says my tag).

Happy Happy Birthday Mrs Beee, Happy Happy Birthday tooo youuuuuuu!

sales said...

Hi Mrs P, Mrs H here. Wanted so much to be in SA for the big day - but no can do. Have great #0th b'day from the Hyland's. Luv u lotsxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Watch out for the red wine (I should know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Big smooch for Mr P too.
c ya
Mrs H.

Sandy said...

Mrs H again.
The camo skirt is a far cry from your preferred style of the past (shall I remind you of the school girls in the cage at many an army reserve night??????)

redcap said...

I've never understood the whole sandals and socks thing (sorry ali). If it's cool enough for sandals, it's cool enough for boots. And do not get me started on Crocs. It's horrific how popular they are in South Africa! Socks and good sturdy boots do it for me every time. And long trousers.

But what about bush hats, Tony? Hats are a very tricky thing. I nearly died laughing seeing a family of South Africans in Botswana all wearing matching, brand spanking new hats. I've forgotten the name of the brand, but you know the ones - they're the African Akubra, the khaki ones with the mesh sides.

I had to buy a new hat a little while ago and I'm now doing my darndest to get it looking as scungy as possible before it goes out in public.

redcap said...

Sorry, "cool enough for socks".

ali g said...

Ah Red, I really only wore the socks & sandals as Parks & Wildlife [aka Mr & Mrs Blog] made rude & disparaging remarks about my 20 year old bunny slippers last time they visited home.
Should have known blogged for my indiscretion.
Hi Java [aka Hahn] love your country!