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Diana Krall (Canadian – let me make the nod, in the direction of my wife-to-be and family and friends north of the 49th parallel: but hey, I found Diana Krall long before I knew any of you guys!) sings a lovely little song about ‘popsicle toes’: ‘popsicle toes are always froze,’ though other continents and parts of the body get a little warmer as the song goes along….

Anyway, as I was saying. It was 8 degrees Celsius, indoors in my home office when I sat down at my desk around 9 this morning, to work on my novel. Minus something outside. I have had a heater on in the office much of the day, so that I could work; but the last two hours I’ve spent in front of the TV in the draughty open plan lounge, watching a talented and mostly fluent Spain lose, baffled and frustrated, 1-0 to a determined Swiss side. A famous victory, I understand, in the eyes of those who understand these things. And it was a thrilling match, I have to say.

But my toes are solidly froze, inside my socks and shoes. There is a tunnel of icy wind between the lounge and the bedroom, and I suspect that climbing into bed tonight will be a bit like extreme swimming – you know, where a naked man wearing only a Speedo and a film of oil swims a hundred yards under the ice somewhere just south of the North Pole.

This won’t do. I have to stay alive long enough, at least, to watch Bafana Bafana play Uruguay at 8.30 tonight. Any South African who fails to do so will be instantly disfranchised – I know this, and it’s official.

So I have lit my first fire in this house in Emmarentia, and there are flames roaring up the chimney from the dry pine logs that have stood stacked under the braai outside, for months now, waiting until needed. And needed, believe me, they truly are. Eish!

Who would have believed, on 16 June 1976, that I would be sitting at home burning pine logs, thinking of a Canadian singer and a Canadian fiancee, and waiting for Bafana Bafana to play their second match in the first FIFA World Cup to be held in Africa? Right here, in South Africa? Roar, young lions, roar!

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