I had watched the Facebook feeds about the upcoming inaugural Diner en Blanc event in Joburg, and felt disappointed at my lack of effort to get tickets. Then, on Thursday morning, my friend Judith invited me to come along as her date. This sort of thing seems to be happening to me a lot lately – I should pay more attention to it. But more on that some other time.
My instructions were simply “Be at the pick up point at Parktown Quarter at five o’ clock dressed in white. You don’t need to bring anything”. So feeling like a terrible slacker (I’d seen our menu and heard about all the preparation that the other women were doing), I did the bare minimum (packed my only white dress and any white accessories I could get my hands on, and the silver shoes I wore to my wedding 14 years ago – white, silver or tan being the only shoe colours allowed and I refuse to buy white shoes!) I went to work, snuck out a little early from a meeting, dressed in the bathroom, and arrived at the pick up point dressed in white with nothing else. Not even my camera. (I’m very pleased my iPhone takes a decent pic – would have been gutted if I had to rely purely on other revellers’ pics!)
My date and our companions arrived with overloaded picnic baskets and we, along with other white-clad folk, boarded the bus to the mystery venue. When the organiser of our bus (a wonderful woman who reminded me strangely of an ostrich with her old fashioned hat) said our drive would be a short one, speculation about the venue started. It was, indeed, a very short drive – the War Memorial at the top of the Jo’burg Zoo. As we arrived, the sun hovered spectacularly on the horizon (and I cursed not having my camera again, and not for the last time!).
As I disembarked from the bus, one of my wedding shoes disintegrated (not unlike my marriage did, 6 years ago!) and my white fishnet stockings refused to stay up any longer. I refused to be hindered by a wardrobe malfunction and removed the offending items forthwith and enjoyed the rest of the night in my white summer frock I bought in Rome, and my white wings and gloves from China (mall). Later I added some fairy lights to the mix – sorry table next door to ours; I had to have them!
Anyway, long rows of white tables and chairs had been laid out. They had been named for overseas cities for some reason that I didn’t quite get. We were in Madrid. Smooth Edith Piaf songs played while the picnics were set up (deliberate use of the passive verb here – I continued to behave like a guest all night!) and the venue filled up. People went to town with decorations – a mini Eiffel tower decked with fairy lights, a white wooded rooster (which, I swear, the gentleman who owned it took around and asked if anyone would stroke!), white flowers, feathers, candles. It looked magical.
I enjoyed my first glass of delicious rose (I don’t know how to make that right) in the gorgeous evening light that Joburg does so well, and thought about how grand it is to be alive. I made the first of many politically incorrect quips about it being a whites only event. My hosts were fantastic. I’ve never eaten such delicious food at a picnic! And so organised! Little jars of salmon sashimi, with finely chopped red onion and ribbons of cucumber for starters; baguettes with rare roast fillet and onion marmalade and a salad caprese on the side (in another jar); individually wrapped cheese platters and a muffin later – by which stage I had filled up on french champagne and good food and dancing, so I had to decline!
The event was incredibly well organised (not just by our party). There were decent portable toilets (better than those at the colour fest, but not as much fun), balloons sponsored by a law firm (go figure!) and giant sparklers. We wrote messages which were to be tied to the helium balloons and released but I wrote my wish and never got a balloon. I wish it anyway. There was live music (mostly playing mainstream popular hits) and the people of Joburg partied hard.
Diner en Blanc was great fun. It always feels really good to be out and about in Joburg, and even more so when Johannesburgers are letting their hair down in the spirit of peace and love. A little white light will do that.