THE happiest man in Bathurst walked into the pub in the Eastern Cape village's Pig and Whistle Hotel on Tuesday evening, 10 minutes after his countrymen beat Uruguay 3-2 in the World Cup semifinal.
"It was amazing, but I just hope Spain wins tomorrow (in their semi-final clash with Germany last night)," said Hans van den Nouweland.
He had watched the televised match at another bar up the street, but had stopped in at the Pig and Whistle - the oldest and longest - licensed watering hole in South Africa, to share his joy with its patrons. He did not find many.
Maybe it was the ghosts that are said to haunt the hotel that kept the residents of the historical Eastern Cape village away on Tuesday night, because when Holland kicked off against their opponents at 8.30pm, there were only four people at the bar, and one of them was manning it.
"There'll be a big crowd tomorrow (tonight) to watch Germany. It's the cold weather," Pig and Whistle barman Gavin Johnstone-Robertson explained. He hailed Van den Nouweland as "the only Dutchman in the village", but the Hollander corrected him. "No, there are four - my brother and his wife, and me and my wife."
Van den Nouweland was too happy, and relieved at the outcome of the game, to worry about the turnout.
According to retired librarian turned local historian Merwynne Jones, a pair of noisy ghosts haunt the old hotel.
"Seriously, it has a pair of ghosts - a man and a woman. The building is on the site of an old forge. The farrier had a daughter who made a tragic marriage. Her husband was a spendthrift and a drunk.
"Now, all these years later, you can still hear the shouting and the tears. There is stamping up and down the staircase, and you can sometimes hear her terrible cries," she said.
Hotel barwoman Kotie Smit was also adamant the hotel has a ghost.
"I've seen and heard it; it has no features, it's just a shadow."
She said the ghost had never given her any problems.
Manager Claire Cawthorn was more circumspect. "I think you have to believe in it to see it," she said.
Waitress Bukie Zweli insisted that while she had never actually seen a ghost at the hotel, something kept shifting the mirror on the wall in the hotel's entrance hall.
But the only spirit to be seen in the Pig and Whistle on Tuesday evening was being passed over the bar.
According to a sign on the pub's door, there is "No Thirst Like Bathurst", a claim jokingly endorsed by Jones. - Sapa