I had a day of two firsts, one that left me with a lifelong love, the other was later a giggle inspired by an advertisement.
A lovely warm Saturday, somewhere back in the early 1970’s I met some friends at an open air restaurant at the Carlton Centre. (The pride and joy of Johannesburg back then. We had never had a building like it. Just building the underground levels took a few years and people used to go and peep through special holes in the surrounding wall to see this huge hole and its subsequent lining and creating the foundation for a tall office block, shops, hotel etc.)
There we had a delightful lunch and I had my first Campari. Of course back then a Campari sounded exotic and sophisticated. I enjoyed it, but have to admit it hasn’t become a lifelong love.
Many years later there was a popular advertisement in South Africa asking about where you had your first Campari – hence the giggle – because the place given in the ad was not exactly sophisticated – more of a beer locale really.
After lunch we drove out east to the largest airport near the city. Jan Smuts. (Why do they name airports after political figures?)
The purpose? To see the Concorde doing her altitude landing and take-off testing. Johannesburg being conveniently high and (back then) one of the few cities at altitudes with an airport with a reasonable control tower and not too busy on a Saturday was a great place for the testing.
We sat on the car at the airport fence – in those days not too far from the runway, and watched as she came past, sometimes landing, sometimes touching the ground with her wheels and then speeding up, practicing an emergency.
My first Concorde!
And I sat, mesmerised and falling in love with that beautiful white needle of a plane. That love for a miracle so far ahead of its time, functionally beautiful, and able to do things little else could do back then has stayed with me for ever.