It’s Argus Day!

Oh joy!

The annual Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour is here in Cape Town once again.
Each March, the largest timed cycling event in the world effectively paralyses the city for the day and increases the square metres of lycra to local population ratio far beyond safe limits.

So why do I love it so much?

  • For the two weeks (although this is now stretching towards a month) prior to the event, cyclists in the city are apparently permitted to ignore any traffic rules. Extra points are given for going through red lights and causing accidents, which are then blamed on anyone sitting in something with an engine (and helpfully, with insurance too).
  • On the actual day, residents of the city get woken up by the television helicopters flying the route from 6.15 in the morning. On a Sunday. Thanks.
  • It’s a wonderful day out there today, but can I take my boy to the beach?
    No, I can’t – because all the roads are closed.
  • Better not have a heart attack today if you live on the route. Getting an ambulance to you will probably take a bit too long. Anyway, it’s far more important that some poorly-prepared 55 year old from Bloemfontein gets to the local cardiac care unit first, because he has a bike and is wearing lycra.
  • For the next three months, we have to endure people talking about how they went “sub four” and what a struggle it was in the wind.  Then, for the nine months following that, we have to endure people talking about how they’re going to go “sub four” and that they hope it’s not windy.    

“Come now, 6000” some people say. “It’s just one day of the year!”

And they’re nearly right. They just missed a bit:
It’s just one day of the year TOO MANY! 

More diary entries please

Actually, there wasn’t a “please”.

I may be 34 years old, but despite my distance (both physical and chronological) from the family nest, the voice of my mum (now often experienced via email) still carries that air of authority. Apparently, there aren’t enough “diary entries” on 6000 miles… Nor should I be drinking beer during Lent. This despite the fact that both my mother and I are committed atheists and drunkards.

So. Diary entries.
Well, this evening, we attended the Summer Sunset Concert at Kirstenbosch Gardens under threatening, but lenient skies. Arno Carstens was performing, and any South African will tell you that you can’t miss Arno.
Once again, he performed some of his great music and totally failed to connect with the audience. Except for that expletive when he got a blast of feedback, which sent several old people home in disgust. Probably mostly retired mixing desk technicians.

I’ve uploaded a few pics from the concert. I’ve got to be honest: once again, it was primarily about the people watching and less about the music. Don’t get me wrong – the music was excellent – but the opportunity to gaze at and comment upon the population of Cape Town’s southern suburbs is not one that can easily be passed up.

   
Click for bigger versions of each pic

First up, we have a lady who we know, but we don’t. Yes, that friend of a friend thing strikes again. If the wife wasn’t pregnant and had a brain consisting mainly of freshly boiled porridge oats and if I hadn’t had a skinful of Castle Milk Stout, we would remember you. Sorry. I feel that I should offer some sort of reward for your name. I’m thinking “Dave”, but that just doesn’t sound right.

Secondly, an aggravating old bloke who wanted to stalk watch Arno with binoculars the whole time. Creepy. He kept getting irritated with people for standing up and blocking his perving.
Fancy. Standing up at a music concert. Whatever next?
His lady* friend went on to ignore the no smoking signs and exhaled her fumes all over my pregnant wife. Bitch.

Lastly, a shot of Arno on stage, doing his thing. I may have got a bit of my beer bottle in shot. Sorry about that. Photography isn’t my strong point. Drinking is though and one out of two ain’t bad.

So, Mum; I hope this pacifies you a little. I sat next to a really iritating bloke and his filthy missus just so that I had some stuff to tell the world about.
It was worth it though: as I lay back with my 5th bottle of beer and gazed up at the lack of mountain, Arno did his best to sum it all up:

Can you feel it?
Can you feel it?
It is heaven on earth

Well, Arno – perhaps for you.
Personally, I was missing the naked dancing girls, the masseuse, a Debonairs pizza and some sunshine.
I guess you just set your standards a little lower than I do.
I’m surprised. You always struck me as the naked dancing girl type as well.

* It might have been female, anyway.

Equine sign

In the week that Canadian diva, Celine “Ole Horse Face” Dion arrived in Cape Town to perform two concerts at Vergelegen Wine Estate as part of her Taking Chances tour , the Western Province Horse Society chose to release the following reminder to horse owners across the province:

African Horse Sickness
Link

Coincidence? I think not.

If only Canada had enforced some sort of export ban, we’d be feeling a lot happier in Cape Town right now.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this city as I pray for hoarse of a different kind.
Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Whose rights – who’s right?

Did you enjoy your Valentines day?

Stupid looking pink sparkly thing on your blog? Soppy card? Chocolates? Flowers?
WAIT! You bought flowers?!?

If you’re in the USA (and a fair number of accidental tourists to 6000 miles… are) then your lovely bunch of roses probably came from Columbia or Ecuador and were grown and cut for the love of your life by exploited workers. Still, it’s better than other Columbian crops imported into the USA, I guess. Fairness in Flowers is an organisation campaigning for better rights for cut flower workers. Their page is worth a read.

Human rights organisations and campaigners do a great (if highly subjective) job of alerting us to these issues. However, I can’t help but think that their position is undermined by the odd stupid campaign thrown in, seemingly because some organisations have nothing better to do.

This week was pretty quiet, so Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, dived in to the row over the Mosquito device, dramatically calling it:

a sonic weapon directed against children and young people

and arguing that its use constitutes:

a disproportionate interference with an individual’s right to a private life

Quite a soundbite over a device whose effect is compared to “the level of irritation of going downstairs without turning off your alarm clock – you can ignore it for a couple of minutes but after five minutes it starts to get annoying.”
Woo. That’s infringing my right to watch Vuyo Mbuli in peace right there.  

Evidently, the week in which Garry Newlove was kicked to death in front of his family by a gang of teenagers after confronting them when they vandalised his car, was a little busier for Shami, despite the fact that the anti-social mob had long been causing a “disproportionate interference” with his and his family’s right to a private life.

Shami also missed the death of Mi Gao Huang Chen, beaten to death by a group of teenagers who regularly gathered outside and vandalised his takeaway shop.

I’m well aware that these incidents are rare and far more serious than the usual issue of chavs outside the local chippy, but they are the product of an escalation of that problem – one that can be prevented by using the Mosquito. For example, a South Wales shopkeeper says:

The problem we have is large gangs of youths that congregate in the entrance way – hanging around, drinking, and I know other narcotics can be involved.
It ranges from them being annoying to intimidating customers and staff to outright physical assault.
One customer has been mugged for their alcohol, and in the time I have been here there have been three occasions where someone has tried to stab me.
The problem comes and goes. When it gets bad it generally lasts for three of four weeks.
At certain times before we counted over 40 people outside the shop.

The Mosquito has reduced the problem massively. It still happens, but nowhere near the same amount. It has had a positive effect. Customers have praised us for it.

or how about this:

Gurmes Chatta, 54, runs a general dealers on Chiswick Road, Hylton Castle, an area where teenagers regularly congregate.
In recent years he has seen damage done to his shop by yobs kicking footballs and has suffered verbal abuse. But now Mr Chatta says the problems have virtually been wiped out by his Mosquito device.

I’m also well aware that more needs to be done to sort out the problem of anti-social teenage behaviour than just moving them on from trouble hotspots. But hey, it’s not a bad start.
I think Shami has missed the point. Jumping on the trendy bandwagon of criticising the Mosquito while conveniently ignoring the rights of the thousands of people whose lives are made a misery by anti-social teenage gangs is blinkered. That sort of thing puts me right off listening to anything else her lefty group has to say.
And her doing it in an irritating high pitched whine which annoys people of all ages is somewhat hypocritical.

No. Don’t ban the Mosquito. Use it wisely as part of a bigger scheme to get teenagers off the streets.

And send me one so I can enjoy the footy in peace over the weekend.
Do you perhaps have one that will deter wives from wandering in front of the screen just as a goal goes in?
That would also help.

Why are you still here?

No, dear readers. This isn’t a question for you. 
We all know why you’re still here. It’s the almost ethereal, magical, magnetic attraction of the prose you read on these pages. It’s a completely understandable and excusable addiction.
No, this was a question I was asked by the Molton Brown Boys over a particularly tasty curry at Bihari last night. I guess it’s at this point that I should explain that the Molton Brown Boys are a group of friends that get together for a curry and a beer every so often and discuss everything from Borat through to cement statistics.
We were drawn together by our shared outlook on life and our penchant for fine soaps. Deal with it.

So – why are I still here?

The question was posed, I believe, in response to the current “bad news” vibe in South Africa and my ability, as a UK citizen, to up and run back to the safety of Blighty at any time. Why would I want to stay?

Let’s look at the bad news: electricity shortages, crime*, bloody awful customer service. Sure, they’re huge issues – especially those first two. If you’re samzn0, then you’ve obviously had a particularly bad couple of weeks in January and the third one is a big problem too.
But if you want to complain about something else, then you actually have to dig a bit. You could moan about the Government, but some would argue that in many respects, they’re doing a pretty decent job – it’s politics and no-one ever agrees about politics.
You could moan about the inflation and interest rates, and it is a real drain on one’s finances each month, but these growing pains come with a developing economy and frustratingly high oil prices.
You could moan about Bafana Bafana’s exit from the Afcon tournament, but they got drawn in the Group of Death – Senegal are out too. Who’d have thunk it?  

No, life isn’t always easy here, but then is it always easy elsewhere? You see, I believe that wherever you run to, you’ll still find problems and drawbacks. Maybe not as acute and as pressing as those here, but irritating and frustrating, nevertheless.
Examples? Is Gordon Brown everyone’s cup of tea? How much is a litre of petrol in London? And what are England’s footballers doing this summer?

There’s always the plus side. The bit that some people in South Africa (and virtually everyone on that appalling internet forum) try to bury under all the bad stuff. And yes, there are also plus sides wherever else you go in the world as well.
I’m not stupid. I keep an eye on the news and what I see and hear “on the street”. I’m aware of the challenges SA faces now and in the future.
But perhaps part of the lure of SA is the rollercoaster ride between the bad news (which is often pretty bad) and the good bits, which are actually exceptionally good.

There’s the weather, the lifestyle, the food, the scenery, the braais.
There’s the people, the smiles, the optimism, the hope, the World Cup(s). 

It’s hard to define the experience of living in South Africa right now. If one were only to review the newspapers and the news websites (like the people on that forum do), then one would get a horribly skewed version of the country. Actually living here, it’s not like that at all. I’m typing this in a brightly lit room on a PC which is working absolutely fine. I haven’t been murdered today.
Note that I’m not making any claims about customer service though.

One must take the rough with the smooth. And the smooth in South Africa more than makes up for the rough.
I’m staying put, thank you very much.

* Interestingly, the moaning about crime has dropped significantly since the recent round power cuts began. Evidently, even your highly-trained, seasoned moaner can run out of negativity.