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.

Constant whining sound from crashed plane

Some people just shouldn’t open their mouths. One doesn’t have to look any further than the excellent (and blogrolled) spEak You’re bRanes to learn that. That site alone shows the dangers inherent in allowing people a soapbox and an audience.

And now there’s example number two: Mark Tamburro.

Mark is from Oxford.
Immediately, that puts him into one of three categories: 

  1. Stuck-up, pompous arse.
  2. Ill-educated druggie.
  3. Cool, good-looking bloke who just works there and will be moving to South Africa soon.

Mark was on the BA038 flight whose engines apparently failed on final approach to Heathrow last week. 
Immediately, that puts him in one further category:

  1. Bloody lucky to be alive.


Great bit of parking

But now Mark is on the BBC website (and many others) moaning about how crap the staff at the airport were, landing himself (if not his plane) quite neatly into the pompous arse group and  reminding us of his disappointing inclusion in the bloody lucky to be alive category.

Mr Tamburro said he and his two travelling companions had to leave their hand luggage in their overhead lockers on the aeroplane and so had no money or personal belongings on them

He said the BA staff who were looking after the passengers rationed water, the only drink which was initially offered to them in the departure area, and did not offer any food.

His story doesn’t quite tally with this post from one of BA’s ground staff at Heathrow though, which makes very interesting reading. And it’s also interesting to note that he seems to be the only one of the 136 passengers that’s whining about their treatment.

A quick google of Mark shows us that he is a little overweight, owns a bit of a racehorse called Cossack Dancer and has a beard. It also tells us that he writes letters to the council  moaning about them setting taxi fares so high in South Oxfordshire. Except that, as any fule kno, the council doesn’t actually set the taxi fares in South Oxfordshire. Oops.

Is this painting a picture for you, too?
People like Mark annoy me. He’s just been fortunate enough to survive a plane crash in which even the pilot thought “everyone on board was going to die” and all he can do is whinge.
I think that Mark might just be setting himself up for a little bit of extra cash from his compensation claim.

Incidentally, since Mark works for Nokia, he may be the perfect person to explain to investigators, BA and Boeing as to why the plane’s computer system didn’t respond, as he’s obviously an expert on crap, bug-ridden software. 

Update: Tues 22nd Jan.

Just read a ~2000 word piece on the BA038 incident in today’s Cape Times, which they shamelessly stole borrowed from The Independent in the UK. 16 passengers interviewed (not including dear Mark) and not one complaint. And that despite being thrust with a microphone. The evidence just keeps adding up…  

Update: Thurs 24th Jan.

Ooh look! It’s back (by popular demand).
Please THINK before you comment. I’m in a particularly “deletey” mood today.

I think he blew it

The thing with unwritten rules is that you can never go back and say to someone:
“Look – it says right here you shouldn’t have done that.”
I always thought that was because unwritten rules were so obvious that no-one would break them and there would be no need for any chastising or clarification (Darwin Awards nominees aside, obviously):
Don’t poke that tiger. Don’t touch that wire. Don’t chew on that razor blade.
Let’s be honest, it’s pretty straightforward stuff. But ignoring unwritten rules can result in consequences far worse than the traumatic amputation of your arm, a nasty electric shock or bleeding gums. Yes, really.

Take kids’ birthday parties as an example: An opportunity for a few mothers to get together and have a chat and a glass of wine, while the toddlers play happily with each other, eat sand and generally have a good time. Everyone wins. Especially since while the cat is away, the mice will play. And this proverbial mouse takes the opportunity to play FIFA 07 without fear of interruption from anyone asking you to make them a cup of tea and mow the lawn or anyone (slightly smaller) tugging the power cable out of the back of the PS2 and eating it. It’s a near perfect situation.
Or at least, it was until the Saturday just past.

That’s when someone tinkered with the system. Upset the equilibrium. Broke the unwritten rule.

It would be wrong of me to name and shame the person in question. He knows who he is. What he doesn’t realise, perhaps, is that with his attendance of a kids birthday party on Saturday morning, he has opened the floodgates. With him turning up, suddenly the rest of us have no excuse to avoid forthcoming events of this nature.
My wife was hardly through the door, a filthy but happy Alex in her arms, when she piped up, “[name] was there too – you should come along to the next one!”
At first I thought it was a bluff: no-one would be guilty of such folly – especially [name] – would they?
Sadly, my hopes were dashed – apparently [name] was indeed there and won admiration and brownie points deluxe from the assembled mothers at the party. Good work, sir.

The question is, will that reward be worth it when he meets all the fathers at the next one…?