Another cyclist killed

With the Cape Argus Cycle Tour only 3 weeks away, another cyclist, Colin van Schalkwyk, died on Saturday after he was hit by a truck in Milnerton. Another terribly sad accident and another family man killed. News24 utilised a convenient if overly-dramatic soundbite for its report title: Cyclists fear for their lives.

In there, two telling comments from people “in the know”:

The City of Cape Town is planning a meeting about the issue with various roleplayers.
Pieter Cronjé, a spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, said it was important to realise that there was no quick fix or easy solution. “You can only address a problem properly if you truly understand what the causes are,” he said.

Absolutely right, Pieter. And, as if proving Cronjé’s point, this from the Cycle Tour Director, David Bellairs, who clearly doesn’t understand what the causes are:

It is true that in summer there are more cyclists on the road. You would expect that motorists were more tolerant towards them.

What an utterly ridiculous comment. More cyclists on the road means more red lights and stop signs ignored, more 6-wide pelotons to avoid and more wobbling, weaving idiots more concerned with their chat than their direction. You want tolerance – encourage common sense, encourage lawful cycling, educate them – don’t simply blame the motorists.
Yet, that’s the sort of “expert” with his blinkered beligerence that motorists are up against in this debate. Perhaps David should read the comments following the News24 story. Very… telling.

Meanwhile, the hugely vocal Cape Argus is once again (rightly) outraged by the death of another cyclist. That’s four deaths in the last three months. Of course, this pales into insignificance next to the number of pedestrians and drivers killed in the same period, but then the Argus doesn’t sponsor walking or motoring events, does it?

A reminder of the time

A tenuous churchy theme running through today, I note.

From the letters page of the Southern Suburbs Tatler, the local freebie that they continue to insist on delivering, despite my many threats of violence. Perhaps I’m threatening the wrong people.
The subject being discussed is the rights and wrongs of church bells being rung early in the morning in a residential area. I didn’t see the original story, but this correspondence leapt out at me.

I read with some concern that the church bells were causing annoyance.
I was so thrilled to hear the beautiful clarion calls and bells at Christmas, and also hoped they would continue.

It is lovely to hear the bells at 5:45am, at six in the morning and the evening and at noon – nice to have a reminder of the time.

Joan Wurr, Claremont

Yes, at 5:45am, Joan likes to have a reminder of the time. And not just for her, but for the thousands of others who live in the area, too. Heaven forbid (npi) that she and they should sleep through that most important of times: a quarter to six in the morning. Although, it’s nice to know that if you somehow manage to continue your slumbers undisturbed past 5:45, then the local clergy have instituted something akin to a snooze function 15 minutes later.

Joan – if it’s “nice to have a reminder of the time” how about buying a clock with an alarm function? They’re all the rage these days, you know?

For the record, I have nothing against church bells ringing at noon or six in the evening. Not even at a reasonable hour in the morning like 9 o’clock.
But no, there’s no such thing as a nice reminder of the time at quarter to six in the morning.
If people want to know when it’s 5:45am, then they should do what I did and have kids.

Extra marks to me for getting all the way through this post without using the word “ungodly”.

Good Old God!

I’m an atheist. A very happy one at that. You won’t sway me, so please don’t even try. Equally, I won’t try to tell you who or who not to worship. Other than me, obviously: but that’s a given, anyway.

What I don’t understand (and probably never will) is reactions such as those of “Bruinman” to the deaths of three children (since updated to five) in a horrific car accident near Pretoria.

It is always sad to read news like this, especially when there are children involved. My condolences to the family and friends of the children.
May the Lord be with you and give you strength in this time of bereavement. God Bless.

Look, I’m completely with him about the “sad news” bit. And, for what it’s worth, perhaps even the condolences bit, too. But then it goes horribly wrong, because I’d actually have liked the Lord to have been with the kids in the back of the car, looking after them and maybe preventing them from plunging 15 metres (45ft) off a road bridge and onto the freeway below; not turning up a day later with a bashful apology and a pat on the back for the grieving parents, like the murderer bringing flowers to the funeral.

Perhaps someone can explain to myself and my readers as to why the “loving”, “omnipresent” God wasn’t there to stop these five innocent kids dying in such a horrible way.
While you’re at it, help me out with the rape stats in South Africa (52,000 pa) – can “He” not  do something to sort that out at all?
Cholera in Zimbabwe? 80,000 infected, 3,500 dead. Why would “He” let that suffering occur? And while we’re there, why do “He” and his followers tolerate Robert Mugabe swearing himself in (again) on the Bible “in the sight of God”? Not the sort of message I’d want to be sending out, but “He” allowed it to happen (again) this week. 

I could go on and on, you know. I often do.

It’s unfathomable to me as to how Christians (and those of other religions) can so easily turn a blind eye or make excuses for those things which don’t fit conveniently into their religious demographic.
If you think you’re different and you can tell us how and why these things happen with such regularity and apparent impunity right under “His” beard, please leave a comment.  

Note well: The first person to use the phrase “God works in mysterious ways” will be banned. Immediately.

Visa woes

Between them, the UK Government, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa and the British Consulate in Pretoria have conspired against me.
I’m not sure in what proportions the blame should be meted out, but I’m going to have a go. In more ways than one. 

First off, the UK Government. For once, I think they are pretty blameless in this one. All they have done is to extend the list of countries whose citizens need a visa to enter the UK. Unfortunately, South Africa is now on that list (along with 75% of the world’s countries). This is to help prevent terrorists and smugglers from entering the country, probably as part of their “Jobs for Brits” policy: after all, why import terrorists when you have a roaring trade going producing your own?

Secondly, the Department of Home Affairs. This Department has a terrible reputation, which is almost entirely justified. Of all the Government Departments, Home Affairs is the one which elicits the most laughter, anger and sheer disbelief as to how bad an organisation can be. And they must take their share of the blame in this sorry tale. Their security and systems areso bad that anyone can get a South African passport – hence the UK’s concern over who is getting a South African passport.
Of course – if you go the legal route to getting a South African passport, you end up buried under an avalanche of red tape from which it will take you a good few months to escape.
The UK, of course doesn’t have this issue: passports there are completely safe and secure. Right.

But, I’m putting 0.5% of the blame of the UK Government and about 2% on Home Affairs. Why? Because I’m saving it all for the real culprits.
The extra R3,000 that it’s going to cost to take my family across to the UK in July is solely down to the utterly useless ****s at the British Consulate in Pretoria.
Thanks to them losing our (original) documents when we applied for a passport for the boy, we can no longer proceed with that application, nor one for the girl. Getting replacement documents means going through the Department of Home Affairs – and you may have heard what a reputation they have in South Africa.
And thus, because we can’t get the documents which they lost from the Department of Home Affairs, we have had to apply for South African passports for the kids through – the Department of Home Affairs.

A brief pause while I bang my head against a brick wall. Ah – such sweet relief.

The worst bit is that despite the fact that the British Consulate have prevented us from obtaining passports for the kids by being useless, they are rewarded by us paying them some more money for the privilege of taking my (half-British) kids to Britain. And this despite the fact that they will have a combined age of just less than 4 when we go over. And very limited bomb-making expertise. Probably.
It’s insult to injury, it’s salt in the wound, it’s a kick in the balls. None of which are particularly pleasant.
One could draw some interesting parallels to the bunch of merchant bankers in the UK getting bonuses for being rubbish at the jobs.

No alarms and no surprises

…please.

Living in a fairly affluent suburb of Cape Town and with the perception of crime being so very high, especially amongst those who live in fairly affluent suburbs of Cape Town, we are surrounded by houses with a range of high-tech security systems, many of which regularly remind us of their existence for no reason whatsoever. This is not a solely South African phenomenon, but South African burglar alarms are the only ones I can hear from my house. Because my house is in South Africa, you see?
False alarms aren’t just very, very annoying; they also reduce the efficacy of everyone else’s alarm systems – including mine. My first instinct when I hear a burglar alarm sounding now is “grr”, rather than “oh, someone is being burgled, I wonder if I can help them*” and I would imagine that I am far from alone in that approach. Rather than being concerned at the potential predicament of my neighbour, I try and blot the noise out as soon as possible and get on with my life.

Fortunately, alarms sounding during the night are pretty few and far between. The majority of them are in the early morning, as people get up and wander, bleary-eyed downstairs into the path of the sentinel PIR in the hallway or – as I have previously mentioned – on sunny weekend afternoons when I want to braai and play in the pool in peace.

Compare and contrast this with dogs, nature’s own useless burglar alarms, which are liberally spread around gardens in the neighbourhood. Unlike electronic security systems, dogs tend to sound at all hours of the day and night and, in an additional poke in the ear for anyone trying to do anything so silly as sleep during the night, set off a canine chain reaction. Inconsiderate dog owners will claim that Biggles the beagle will let them know if there’s someone in their yard. And they’re probably correct. However, Biggles will also inform them if a car drives past their front gate, a rat runs through their shrubbery or if there is a breeze which makes the tree across the road move – all through the power of the bark. In addition, Biggles is acutely tuned to bark loudly should he hear any other dog bark loudly. And so it goes.

My reaction to hearing the alarmed barking of a neighbour’s dog is subtly different to hearing a burglar alarm sound. When I hear a dog barking, I actually find myself hoping that there is an intruder on those premises and he is going to steal the dog. And quickly.

We are forever getting communications from the security company that monitor our alarm, asking us to please avoid false alarms: it wastes their time, their time is their money, and their money comes from us**. But it seems that, despite the hysteria and the drama over crime in South Africa, I’m the only one that reads such communications.
Ironically, if our alarm does go off, the security company staff refuse to come onto the premises until they are told that we don’t have a dog. Biggles evidently has a reputation for chewing patrolmen.

I’m tempted to suggest that people think there is a sort of herd immunity here. Everyone has an alarm, but no-one take any notice when an alarm goes off. Some people have a dog, but no-one takes any notice when a dog barks. 
Sadly, the burglars are rather more adept (in most cases) than your average virus and they are also aware of this.
And so, thank to the false alarms and Biggles et al, we’ll keep on paying. 

* The house owners, rather than the burglars.
** In fact, looking at it another way, we’re already being robbed by them.