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…?

Is there a god?

When things in Cape Town are quiet and there’s not much with which to enlighten the readers of 6000 miles, I like to take a trivial subject and ruminate on it for a while.

Today, those conditions having been satisfied, I’m going to tackle the old chestnut of god. Is he? Does he? Who he?
There are three thing my mother told me never to discuss: Politics, Religion and West Ham United. She was hopelessly wrong on the politics – it’s the best entertainment that you can get out here in SA, and while she had a good point about the Hammers, I’m going to choose to ignore her advice on the god thing. Religion is important, however misguided it might be. West Ham United are just misguided, not important.
I don’t believe that there is a god. I just see christianity as an excuse to wake me up with church bells early on Sunday mornings. Right when I’m in the middle of that dream about Kari Byron from Mythbusters and the 50 litre vat of sweet chilli dipping sauce.
For me, this proves that there is no god. How could anyone be so cruel?

Which brings me to that age old question: “If there is a god, why does he let bad things happen?”
I don’t know. Makes no sense to me. Sorry.

Another sign of the lack of anyone upstairs is the increasing desperation, frequency and technological advancements with which the godbotherers turn up at my front gate.
The other day, two of them came around with a 20 minute DVD entitled How to get closer to god.
“Can we sit and watch this with you?”, they asked.
Seriously? Why? Don’t you have your own DVD player?
(Of course, living in the crime-ridden suburbs of Cape Town, it’s entirely possible that they just wanted to shoot me in the head and steal the DVD player as soon as they got through the door.)
(Or worse still, discuss West Ham United.)
I sent them packing, but before they left, they asked (begged?), “Do you know anyone that would be interested in seeing the DVD?”
Oh right, so now I have to do your job for you too, huh? No way.
“Sorry, we’re all pretty heavily into Islam around here.”
Cue their hasty exit before I arrived at the front gate with a “special belt” on.
Blimey. I’d better stop. I’m going to alienate everyone. Please feel free to leave offensive comments if I’ve insulted you or your religion. And please also mention (if you think you know) what noise an ostrich makes. It’s one of those things that’s been bothering me for a while now.

Oh – and I’m also looking for a local bulk supplier of sweet chilli dipping sauce…
I know I ask a lot of you, dear reader, but if anyone can handle it, you can.

Guess who’s found a cure for AIDS now!

There is a terrible disease sweeping across Africa. OK – there are several of them, but this one is really nasty. The symptoms include false hope, political gain and setting HIV/AIDS programmes back immeasurably.
We’ve mentioned South Africa’s own dear Health Minister – Manto Tshabalala-Msimang – on this site on more than one occasion, including her support for the Germanic conman Mattias Rath and her advice that a diet of garlic, african potato, turnips, lemon juice and olive oil can cure HIV. (Incidentally, even dear Manto is unwell). We even chatted briefly about the Deputy President of the ANC and his belief that taking a shower after having sex with an HIV positive individual will prevent you being infected with the virus.
Thank heavens that these individuals aren’t in positions of power and responsibility, hey?
Hmm.

Anyway – it’s all over now. Step forward Yahya Jammeh (ja, ja…) – who “just happens” to be President of The Gambia. He’s sorted all our problems out by discovering that a herbal remedy and a good dose of prayer will rid your body of HIV. And yes, that includes removing its intergrated nucleic acid from every last one of your cells. Incredible. He treats people on Thursdays and claims he can cure them in 3 days. Which should make for a pretty good Saturday night out, assuming all goes well. Sky News interviewed him while he was actually doing the biz – a superb demonstration of multitasking and altogether fascinating stuff.

The thing is, I can see you laughing at these stories in your comfortable Western homes and offices. What you need to realise is the terrible truth is that people believe these claims, they stop taking their ARVs and then they die.
I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. The answers to curing HIV or the answers to the dubious methods of African politics.


Frankly, I’m just shocked that “Uncle Bob” Mugabe hasn’t got in on the act yet…