So at the beginning of our last lockdown I decided to start writing small appreciation pieces dedicated to bartenders who have heavily influenced me over my years behind the bar. It was as much supposed to be a dedication to 21 bartenders in as much as the lockdown was supposed to be 21 days long, but neither of those were realised with their original intent intact.
The lockdown blew out to like 90 days and my appreciation pieces ceased out at day 13 with my attention span dwindling like that akin to a small child. Not being able to split my attention between writing and trying to negate the havoc-like, dismantling power of the pandemic, I shifted my gaze to saving my small businesses. Albeit, in vein.
Anyway, for the most part the other people who I didn’t get to acknowledge during the first lockdown period are people who are not exactly short of ‘accoladal’ dispensation. Deservedly they are bereft on all sides with the recognitions they receive. In a world of drinks; where actions will always speak louder than words, taste will always beat pretty pictures, proof will always be in the shaking and suffice to say these bartenders have metaphorically and literally brought their Ramon Gin Fizzes to the yard.
But for a humble bartender named Bennett Sfundo Ndlovu, herein lies the one person I know whose efforts and ensued credit have been given and received with criminal disproportion. Someone who hasn’t, and in truth never really did receive the credit that he deserves, nor did he ever demand it. He still shadows a stalwart, upright figure of undeniable importance to our industry, an industry for which he has given his industrious best for, for over a decade.
Although perennially unsung, the story of the ultimate superhero underpins your life; a life you live the same way regardless of the praise you might get.
We enjoyed cross country trips together by the dozen, often under hectic time frames and cargo burdens. But no matter how quick we needed to be on our trips, the nature of a long haul will always denote that a considerable time span will be spent in conversation while traversing vast distances together in a box on wheels no bigger than a cockpit of an enemy MIG 27 fighter jet.
So much, or so little can be learned about a person during a road trip of considerable distance depending on the people who take it. For someone who completes a whole page of crosswords before breakfast, I hope I was not a total dull bore of a travel buddy.
In my life I always want to be able to offer more than a lion’s share of conductible energy to a conversation, however with you I feel that I might have been scrapping at the shallow end of the pride pool and probably at best only just holding up my end of the discourse.
I will miss diving into the human psyche with you and exploring the tick-tocks of humanity. Searching deep, meaningful concepts within religion and science has always made me appreciate your position in relation to other people.
In such a pernicious system we find ourselves in, I have rarely met another person who applies the idea of helping others above helping themselves like you do, and I could hardly believe the prodigious stories I heard about things you have done on the job until I experienced them for myself.
I know that your single most important purpose in life is to pioneer the success of your family with you at the helm. I have never heard a single derogatory thing said in your name and if I ever did I would have defended your honour as if it were my own, such would it be so undeserving to you.
We have enjoyed so many memories in the bar together, and through most you have carried your own personal betterment as a secondary idea to that of a successful company and you treated everything within it as if it were your own. Even at the expense of your own health at times as I found out exhaustion is actually, a real thing.
A great bartender in your own right, you can wet shakers with the best and I will always attest to that. However, it is your humanity and gentle persuasion which leaves a mark on all the people you touch and it’s that which has left such permanent mark on me. In my life I have very few people who I could trust in the same way as I do you, and together with Leigh we will always cherish our time together and will look forward to creating many more memories together in the future.
Like Rapid Eye Movement, the careers of the mumble rap bartenders will be as fleeting as they are real, with no humanoid contribution given to our cause their legacy will pass through time like a dream in waiting. But for those who cared as much about the people as they did about the drinks, to them a lasting legacy awaits. For most others, the frustration of being in the shadows for so long would make them lose their religion by now. But for you and with your heavy appetite to give freely without expectation or recognition; to you I say:
“I see you - that’s you in the corner, that’s you in the spotlight”!
Bennett and I at the entry to the Inverroche Distillery in Still Baai.