Read the winning HPF Valentine’s letter
In order to discover if Rose was the right girl for me I took her on a two month camping road trip around the back-roads of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and South Africa. In a ancient Opel Corsa. She responded amazingly well to the test and was soon something of a pro with the gas-stove and the tent-poles. For my part I kept her stainless steel camping wine glass topped up and treated her to the occasional night under a proper roof.
Finally we found ourselves, on Christmas Eve, in the manic hub-bub of Maun on the banks of the Okavango river. I bought a chicken (the closest thing I could find to serious food, some Christmas crackers, hired a rough dug-out canoe and paid a local guide to pole us out into the watery wilderness. After a few hours of gliding across crystal waters through the searing Kalahari heat we arrived at an island in the flooded desert. We had a swim in a "safe" pool (the guide assured us he had never seen a croc or a hippo there...) our guide led us on foot to track elephants and other big game. It was a magical experience tracing the pachyderms by their poo and their prints and eventually watching the herd swimming across the flood and feeding on Marula trees.
When we got back to the island I set up the tent and decided that the time had come. And then it started to rain. Rain isn't the right word - the downpour was more like an aerial flood which was accompanied, most unpleasantly, by a plague of flying ants. Undeterred I made a fire (scouts training and some big leaves helped here) and spatch-cocked the chicken. Whilst Rose sheltered from ain and ants in the tent I grilled the chicken on a grid made out of wood skewers wrapped in foil (we had lost our metal grid) assisted by our guide and his wife - who were decked out in Christmas hats from the crackers.
Finally everything was ready - I put together the chicken, the gravy, some veggies and bread and dug out a bottle of vintage Cabernet Sauvignon that I had been saving for the event and presented it all to Rose. The effect was somewhat diminished by the rain, the ants and the fact that we were huddled in a dripping tent and I stank like a damp fire.
Nonetheless, when all was done I fetched the ring I had bought in JHB from its hiding place in our luggage and put it in the crown of a huge water-lily flower and, on bended knee (something of a default position in the tent!) popped the Q.
"OK then" was her rather exhausted answer.
We have been happily married for four years now - and I'd love to treat her to something more comfortable in the winelands - I think she deserves it after all of that!.
Ps. Joe and Rose won a stay in one of our cottages on the farm! Posmeester
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