Thursday, 13 September 2012

Bust out the biscuits / Strike up the band


The old Papyrus was a Kigali institution. I used to swear every Monday that I would never go there again, only to end up slinking back in come Friday night. Dressed like a camp version of Jeremy Clarkson, I'd ponder the perfect moment to put a gun in my mouth. Perhaps during the opening bars of "I gotta feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas?

It was closed down by the authorities and everyone migrated up the hill to Sundowner, which started out as the sort of place Rwandan 30-somethings with a bit of cash would go to enjoy themselves and has ended up as the sort of place where you'd go to have a fight with an idiot in the toilets. What now Kigali nightlife?

Enter Papyrus MkII. According to the "party organisers", Papyrus is now "Four floors of amazing". This description alone makes me want to smoke crack.


The Restaurant:

Le Sappeur lifts up his trouser leg a couple of inches to reveal bespoke cuban-heeled python-skin boots.

"Jiffler, if the boots are right, you know you're in for a good night out"

He's right of course, and he will end his evening at 4am, stripped to the waist dancing salsa in a muddy car park in the rain. Right now we're sitting under the downstairs loggia at 9pm sucking on Skol Gatanu.

Our enthusiastic young waiter arrives with a flourish.  Le Sappeur is keeping it simple with a margherita while I take the pizza of indecision: the four seasons. Both are the product of an expensive looking wood-fired pizza oven, and come with a generous amount of Masaka farms mozzarella. The oven needs to be hot enough to make horseshoes to pull off the thin-crust finish though. Ours are slightly too floppy, and the topping has stewed a bit, like a cheap American pizza.

Our attention turns to our surroundings:

"It's much bigger than I expected it to be" offers Le Sappeur.

"Yes. It's a very tropical-modernist kind of building, the likes of which you don't see much in Rwanda. Almost Bawa-esque in the way that the inside and the outside are one continuous experience."

Le Sappeur exhales Dunhill smoke and looks down at my polished two-tone brogues.

"I think you're wearing the wrong shoes tonight"

The Sports Bar:

An SMS from The Director: I just made the last bus. Wedged between a dribbler and a pervert.

Jiffler: They're probably on their way to Papyrus.


The Director: Is that where you are?

Jiffler: Just leaving the Greek restaurant now. Follow the smell of taramasalata and whisky and you'll find us.

It's a Thursday - a school night - and yet they're all out, old and young. I spend much of the evening gently shoulder-charging old mates who keep popping up with huge swinging handshakes. The Surfer, The Dude and I stay anchored to our table and our Johnny Walker, while The Young Ambassador buzzes from flower to flower.

The scene is both brilliant and depressing. Looking around I can see everyone who goes out in Kigali. There's O'mania, wearing his best waistcoat and trying to chat up Diaspora-girl on the stairs. A few nervous looking VSOs wondering round in a cluster like a gaggle of particularly moronic geese. A cute muzungu blonde is surrounded by a mob of peacocking Rwandan male suitors. They would do better if they paid more attention to the pouting gang of glamourous students from the Kigali School of Finance and Banking. Even that sarcastic British guy is here, all tweedy impertinence and red pocket handkerchief.

"It's the end of gossip as we know it" The Director appears like the Dungeon Master at my right elbow.

There is nowhere to hide in this bar. Any funny business after one Primus too many will be witnessed by all, so all the fun stuff will have to go on behind closed doors. What will we do without the whispered rumours (like the one about the young American intern who got fingered on a bin at Sundowner)? What will we talk about?

"It's not a Bawa, it's a Bentham. We're in the Papyrus Panopticon"

I suppose we could always talk about ideas. That would be a start.

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