by Takeo De Meter
The tension was slowly rising as all were waiting for the signal. Oil
levels had been checked in the Series II and III engines and tire pressures
had been corrected where needed. Fuel tanks had been topped up and most
sand and mud had been shoveled out of footwells. A 90 had been carefully
checked and was now being marshaled to the end of the column of vehicles.
Drivers, inside the building, were impatiently waiting since the gathering
had begun the evening before and others had been arriving throughout the
night. None had enough sleep, as usual, so black coffee, strong tea and
cigarettes were being consumed in vast quantities as the excruciating
wait lasted longer and longer.
After carefully checking his watch, one of the group members gave the
signal. Drivers grinned as they put on their driving gloves and all went
to take their pre-assigned seating in the vehicles. Engines fired up one
by one and as all driving lights were switched on, the column set in motion,
led by a Stage One. The 90 stayed in the rear to fend off all following
traffic, effectively preventing it from interfering with the column that
was now progressing towards its goal at a steady pace. The drive seemed
to last forever.
In the lead vehicle, my team mate and I checked our documents which we
would certainly need when confronted with officials. All was there. Good,
I thought as we rounded the last turn and the target building was in sight.
I knew that I was going to be asked at least one very crucial question
and I mentally rehearsed my answer. The wrong answer may have spelled
disaster and we were all very much aware of the importance and far-reaching
implications of the confrontation we had prepared ourselves for.
Each driver parked his vehicle and the teams got out. No-one said a word
and all approached the building in silence and with great care; tension
was clearly visible on some faces. I even think I heard the very faint
click of a safety catch at the last moment when our # 1 briskly climbed
the stairs and pushed the door open in one, very determined movement.
The hallway was empty, so we carefully made our way inside. I checked
behind a corner and saw one official only, standing in a corridor, girded
by a tricolored waistbelt - the symbol of his high office. He greeted
us formally, sparingly using any words if any at all and motioned us to
The group cautiously followed my team mate and me, each member feeling
somewhat uneasy but very much aware of the importance of the confrontation
that was to follow. We entered the hall through a door at the end of what
had seemed a very long corridor and I felt the adrenaline rushing through
my system. Playing it cool, I showed no emotion but went forward to directly
confront the government official who sat behind a wide table and held
the crucial documents in front of him. All were motioned to take seats,
upon which that same official began reading the text, especially emphasizing
some excerpts in legalese containing the most compulsory obligations that
were to bind the parties involved. In my peripheral view I saw a nervous
grin appearing on my team mates face when certain contractual clauses
were mentioned. All present were very tense and listened with undivided
attention until the official motioned us to rise, together with two others
from our group who were to be the official witnesses.
Then, in an even tone as if he had done it a hundred times before, the
official asked us the fatal questions that were to change our lives forever.
Both answers were affirmative and the contract was duly signed in the
presence of the official and countersigned by the required witnesses.
Life would never be the same again.
So, my friends, I think I just gave you an account, as accurately as possible,
of how Annette and I got married on the January 26th, 2002.
It goes without saying that the actual proceedings were much more lighthearted
as I described them and immediately after we all got into our Land-Rovers
and drove off to the local clay pit where the appropriate wedding pictures
were made in the mud and rain.
Then, back home, we sortof kinda partied till early morning in which proceedings
Annette got her ears pierced by a world-famous doctor veterinarian and
she is now proudly wearing her new Land-Rover earrings. That night, I
went to bed with a married woman.