I ran over a cormorant, accidentally, as it tried to make its way, flying rather low I thought, from the desert side to the sea side of the Trans-Kalahari highway, as I turned off to Long Beach, half-way between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
There is a rank smell of seaweed and a dead seal lies on the beach as I wander down the pier to the abandoned Oyster Bar to watch the ocean crashing around in the cold way that the Atlantic does even when the sun is shining.
Long Beach has changed its name from Langstrand, in an attempt to improve its image. The owners of the tiny erven with their multicoloured boxy houses are trying to sell ridiculously expensive properties to townies who want the cachet of owning a spot on a foggy, windy desert shoreline where celebrities have been known to hang out.
I was here on a mission to research some oysters and to snoop around the guesthouse used by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie during her confinement and recently visited, too, in an equally strange voyeuristic moment, by Wesley Snipes.
Why was I interested? Well, I wasn’t really but the whole ridiculous performance had received so much media coverage and I knew Langstrand of old so I wanted to see whether the place had changed since these two spent their prima donna couple of months there, making The Burning Shore in the modest words of the owners, ‘the most celebrated boutique hotel in the world’.
So much so that the guesthouse was up for auction now that they had, according to The Telegraph, extracted R15 million in the off-season from the proud Hollywood parents. I understand that, curiously, bidding did not reach the reserve, so it remains unsold.
But why on earth did Brangelina want to have their baby in Namibia anyway? And can you imagine if other famous people were to try the same combo-name thing?
We’d have the exotic, vaguely Cape-sounding Philabeth for the Queen and her Consort, we might have the roughly-named Gaura as America’s first couple and our own state president and his wife could be Zanthab, which is almost a drug although he might deny its efficacy. Tony and Cherie Blair would be Torie, which goes a long way towards explaining his unpopularity with his own party. Personally, I have always thought that Brangelina sounded like a breakfast drink, for little darlings, to keep them regular.
They apparently made very few friends in Long Beach. Their bodyguards patrolled proprietorially, threatening innocent tourists, innocent seals and innocent restaurateur Jaco Bindemann of the Langstrand African Grill and Seafood Restaurant. There’s nothing pretentious about Jaco. He runs a damned good restaurant, probably the best in Namibia – and he knows what to do with an oyster.
Jaco buys his oysters in Walvis Bay from an Australian who brings them in from Chile and fattens them up in the Namibian sea. They are big and juicy. I know that oysters are supposed to be small and juicy, and that they can get tough if they are too big, but not Jaco’s Walvis Bay Oyster. These things are huge and soft and, with a splosh of Worcester sauce, a squeeze of lemon and maybe a dash of Tabasco, I have never tasted anything like them.
The Jolie-Pitts (now they sound like an upmarket long drop) sensibly dined with Jaco and he tells me discreetly that there were ructions to excite a tabloid when Ms Jolie, in a Food Raider moment, ordered a light chicken dish but insisted on swapping meals with her man when she saw the size of Mr Pitt’s seafood platter.
Of course, it was too late anyway for her to get the full aphrodisiac benefit of the oysters, being seven months pregnant with the poor child that was ultimately to be named Shiloh Nouvel. (It is a girl’s name apparently, despite the nouvel being the French for something new and male). The child was eventually born in Swakopmund and reported by their agents to have “tufts of her mother’s dark hair and her father’s nose”. (How can a baby have tufts of a nose?). And so they left.
Life in Long Beach has returned to normal. Property prices continue to rise with every celebrity visit and Jaco is back to serving oysters to his regular clientele who eat their own meals, not one another’s, and choose names like Grant and Charmaine for their children. Nobody is missing the bodyguards, although they will need to find someone else to remove the dead seals, seaweed and guano and to redirect the cormorants.