Relaxing doesn’t come easy to me. I am not one of these people who can just switch off and enjoy being idle. My Trinidadian mother has always told me since I was a child that I like to gallivant far too much “all day all night miss Mary-Ann”. And true to form that is how I spent the weekend Mum!
I decided to treat myself to a bit of luxury after ‘slumming’ it and working non-stop over the last eleven and a half weeks. On Friday night I met up with my lovely mate Richard Kavuma, the journalist, and we went to The Lawns. This restaurant is in an area of the city that can only be described as the Beverley Hills of the capital. The roads are home to international embassies, mansions sit on enormous plots of land and beautiful gardens. Every home is hidden behind giant gates with high walls covered in barbed wire and armed guards posted outside. It’s also where the jogging community live, both Muzungus and very fit Ugandan men with bulging muscles battle the steep hills in order to stay fit and keep the love handles at bay. The restaurant is near to the private airstrip. It’s an area of the city I had no idea existed until a few days ago.
“So have you been to The Lawns?” I asked Richard getting into this new car.
“No, never heard of it,” he replied.
“Ah-haa, stick with me Richard, and I’ll show you where to hang out Asha Bradshaw style,” came my response as we set off.
I’d been playing around on Google and had been surfing all the places I wanted to eat at. Anyone who knows me well knows food is a passion. My other half is a chef so it kinda goes with the territory.
The Lawns is famed for a menu sporting unusual meat – crocodile, ostrich, various antelope as well as your regular pork, chicken, beef and fish. The setting is as the name says – huge, well-manicured grass that is dotted with enormous comfy sofas set in a pristine garden. There are pretty hanging lanterns, a gorgeous al fresco restaurant/bar as a backdrop and two pet rabbits that are very habituated to people. They will even attempt to steal your dinner if you’re not careful. I felt like a small child as I walked in and then half ran half skipped and jumped towards the giant-sized sofas. I turned around and took a mini leap crashing into the soft cushions.
“Ahhhhhh this is luuuuurvlie,” I squealed.
We settled in our seats and chatted over fruit cocktails of fresh watermelon and pineapple for a few hours as the light faded and then ordered a sumptuous meal. I’m definitely going back before I leave the city, I have to try crocodile!!
After Richard dropped me back to my digs, the sound of the Friday night rabble in the bar boomed through the complex and filled my room. Oh God I’m going to be kept up all night, I thought, so I put my headphones in and prayed I’d drop off quickly. At 0412 precisely I was woken up by a loud bang. The room next door was opened and slammed shut followed by drunk voices half talking and giggling. Then the sound that no one wants to hear – other people shagging. And I might add doing a poor job too. He was clearly too p***ed as he took forever and she was definitely faking it. I wanted to shout through the wall: “You’re not fooling anyone love, get on with it!”
The sound of flesh slapping flesh was too much for me and I scrabbled around in the dark to find my ipod, low battery – seriously bad timing Asha – I had no choice but to pull the duvet over my head and continue listening to the drama. Once the post-coital slumber had taken hold of the porn-stars next door, the morning call to pray began at the local mosque at 0500. This was preceded by the neighbour’s cockerel cock-a-bloody-doddle-doing at 0530 and at 0600 I thought bugger it, I’ll just get up early and seize the day.
After breakfast I headed off to find the boutique hotel, The Emin Pasha. I’ve been searching for the perfect location with a swimming pool and wanted somewhere that wasn’t going to be full of screaming children. The Emin is a gorgeous small hotel, it’s made up of a main house with lots of other smaller buildings dotted around the grounds. It’s simply decorated with an elegance and style of an Italian villa. The staff are friendly and attentive and the grounds are well maintained. I lay by the pool for most of the afternoon reading, catch some rays, taking a dip and even caught up on the sleep I’d missed out on. I booked myself in for a massage in the last afternoon and an early dinner in the restaurant afterwards.
When I arrived there was a buzz of activity in the garden. A large stage was being put up with a crew rigging up lighting for what looked to be an outside show.
“What’s happening tonight?” I inquired.
“There’s a fashion show this evening. It starts around 8pm,” said the poolside waitress.
“Ahh, so If I am eating in the restaurant, I’ll get to see the whole event?” I asked.
“Yes, very good timing,” she smiled.
That’s Saturday night’s entrainment taken care of. The models began arriving all afternoon. Young, tall, lithe, and pretty but my God the attitude that came with them needed a room of its own – Naomi Campbell and some. They lapped up the attention making any excuse to strut around the grounds parading themselves. Distracted waiters looked flustered as they glided by sashaying. All the girls were sporting long jet black weaves with a fringe, I wasn’t convinced it was the best look as their hair just looked far too fake (Yes all right meow!). Well I suppose not everyone can afford a weave like Beyonce!
At 5pm I conked out on the massage table hoping to drift off. A young woman with bony fingers and ironically by the name of Grace began my session. As she reached the top half of my back and neck I thought I was doing to pass out with pain. The knots in my shoulders were being given a proper going over rebel milita style, at one point I asked her to stop.
“But Madame, you have paid your money. You will leave the same as you came in if you don’t let me finish,” she protested. “You have left your massage too long.”
“Yes but I’m in agony,” I mumbled through the sheets. “I only have one massage a year, you’re going to have to apply less pressure, unless you want me to faint!”
With that the door opened and slammed shut. Where’s she gone I thought? She returned a few seconds later and slapped a hot towel over my shoulders.
“I start again in a minute,” she said.
To her credit I did feel better, very tender but the pain eased up. After peeling myself off the table I got dressed for dinner. Joining me was the Budongo intern vet Ricky. He was travelling back from Queen Elizabeth National Park so I invited him to be my guest.
He’ll be so excited to be surrounded by all these glamorous models I chuckled to myself as I sent him a text with directions. We had a fantastic dinner and a great ring-side seat to the show as well as the guest arriving. I was truly surprised by the amount of care and attention the women coming to this event had made. Each one wanting to out-do the other – frocks, skyscraper high heels and lots of bling – could have easily have been an event in LA or London – except the hemlines would definitely have been closer to the knee rather than the crotch. Ricky escorted me home after midnight, to my door I might add, even though it was a 40-minute detour and we agreed to meet up the next day.
This afternoon he took me to Wandegeya – an area where Makerere University is. The campus is HUGE! We must have walked around for about 3 hours in the sun and the rain as he showed me the various faculties and halls of residence and filled me in on the gossip of what goes on where.
After working up an appetite we went to Joy’s Joint, a spit and sawdust place close by where the food is honest and hearty. We scoffed pork, cassava, chapatis and avocado. With full bellies we decided to “foot it” and made a 30 minute journey to Garden City passing alongside various golf courses and very grand buildings.
Each area of the capital is divided into districts and like London, each one has its own personality. It’s quite easy to come to Uganda and completely avoid poverty and be none-the-wiser. The rich and middle class live a privilege life in glorious surroundings, but the reality is one-third of the population (30m) lives below the poverty line. Garden City is an upmarket shopping mall where, as Ricky puts it, rich not simple people go.
“Well we’re here aren’t we?” I said jabbing him in the arm.
“But you are definitely not simple,” he said laughing at me.
We weren’t there to shop but to watch a movie. It’s one of my favourite past times and I have missed not seeing all the latest releases. I studied film for part of my first degree and I love switching off for a few hours at the cinema. I finally saw The Avengers, Luton Boy (cinema buddy in the UK)! I thoroughly enjoyed the blockbuster and while it wasn’t amazing, (we can discuss and dissect LB when I see you) it did what it said on the can, which was a great way to finish off a perfectly decadent weekend.