“Playing Table Tennis”

The Molton Brown Boys monthly curry evening was moved forward this month to the 15th. This was due to the Tall Accountant having Chicken Labrador* withdrawal symptoms because we canceled the December meet. Well, I say it was him – I think we were all suffering and when TA just suggested we moved things a fortnight earlier, we jumped at the chance. 

But now this leaves us all with a gaping hole in our hectic social calendars for this week. So the suggestion of a Table Tennis Evening was vaunted at the recent meet.

I watched bewildered, befuddled and bemused as these plans were made in front of my Jhal Frezi and Mint Paratha. But, seeing the enthusiasm and gusto with which the offer was taken up by everyone around the table, I quickly worked out that a “Table Tennis Evening” was actually a codeword for… well… something else. So obviously, I quickly signed up too. Trouble is, I’m actually not sure what for.

Look, I could just go along to the assigned meeting place at the assigned time on the assigned evening and then see how things go.
But… what’s the dress code?
How much cash will I need?
Should I bring drinks? And if so – what? Powerade? Beer? Uitkyk 15-year-old potstill brandy?

 

Obviously, I have asked, but I always get the same sort of replies: “We’re going to play table tennis,” or “Bring your normal table tennis gear”. But was that a nudge and a wink down the phoneline? Are they assuming that I know more than I do or are we, a group of six 30-something, professional men, going to actually… play table tennis?

The answer, of course, is to prepare for every eventuality (perhaps barring “Gay Disco”) and to head out with an open mind, a wallet full of notes and a boot full of drinks and clothes. Unless, in the interim, anyone can decipher what “Playing Table Tennis” really means.

Please?

* never ceases to amuse.

Heathrow alternatives – the Runwet

On a day when the big news in the UK was the Government’s long overdue approval for a third runway at Heathrow airport, a pilot in New York went out of his way (literally) to show how Gordon Brown et al could have saved £9 billion by simply utilising the River Thames as an alternative landing area.


Greenpeace: Nearly right. But… not. Now, go and have a wash.

I guess a few of the bridges may get in the way, but one must consider the advantages of a centrally-located landing area, ease of access to public transport (especially water taxis) and the picturesque views of London landmarks for passengers as they come in to land.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, on the starboard side of the aircraft, the Houses of Parliament and on the port side, County Hall and the London Eye.
Thank you for flying British Airways.
Lifejackets are located under your seats. Brace for impact.

This water-based option also provides the opportunity to open aquatic runways – or “runwets” as I like to call them – in smaller cities and towns*. Beautiful Cambridge might have to shift some of the punts off the tourist-laden Cam, but it would save that horrible cross country road trip to Luton and provide direct access to college for overseas students.

Further north, the planes could land on the crunchy crust of pollution that sits proudly atop the waters of the Mersey in Liverpool. It could be called the Paul McCartney Mersey Runwet, to go with the John Lennon Airport, situated so inconveniently out of town.

    
Cambridge and Liverpool – diverse runwets in the UK

If you think about it, runwets would be self-perpetuating. As more planes are able to take off and land from runwets worldwide, CO2 emissions will increase, global warming will accelerate, ocean levels will rise and there will be more space for more runwets. Pretty soon, the whole planet will be one big runwet and Kevin Costner will make a hugely expensive flop of a film about it.

Just remember – you read it here first. As usual.

* There will be no option to land at a runwet in Bloemfontein, as there is no water anywhere in the Free State. Fact.

Is Zuma appealing?

Well, not to a lot of people as our future President anymore, since fraud and corruption charges were re-instated against him yesterday, following the National Prosecuting Authority’s successful appeal against Zuma’s previous appeal to get the charges against him dropped was overturned.

It remains to be seen whether, having considered the NPA’s successful appeal against Zuma’s successful appeal against the NPA, whether Zuma will now appeal (possibly successfully) against the NPA’s successful appeal which overturned Zuma’s previously successful appeal against the NPA. If he were to successfully appeal, it seems likely that the NPA would appeal that decision. Well, why not?

It’s pure comedy, isn’t it? And add to that the improbable names of Zuma’s lawyer, Kemp J Kemp, and the NPA’s spokesman Tlali Tlali (which isn’t pronounced like you think it should be) and it gets even sillier.  

Many, including FF+ leader Pieter Mulder, are now calling for charges against Zuma to be dropped and some sort of “agreement” to be reached. (I wonder where he got that idea from?)
One only has to look at the effect yesterday’s judgment had on the exchange rates to see that this case has much wider-reaching implications than the freedom (or otherwise) of our dear Msholozi. It’s harming the country and something needs to be done to halt the damage before it’s too late.
For many people, the ideal solution would be JZ stepping down as the ANC leader and presidential candidate before the election in Autumn. That’s not going to happen though. Too many people stand to gain too much to allow something as trivial as fraud and corruption charges and the wreckage of what was once South Africa’s shining reputation to get in the way.

And so, it comes down to a settlement to allow the charges to be waylaid or put aside or dropped or something. Safety first. It’s a wholly unsatisfactory way of doing things, yes, but it might just save the country. Or it might not. Thank goodness I don’t have to make these sort of decisions and have people like Julius Malema to do it for me.

In other more important news, that statue mystery turned out to be some artist wanting to “mix art and nature”. Boring.

Although I will in future follow the correct procedure and obtain permission from the relevant organisations, I will continue to place sculptures in different locations in South Africa and abroad to raise awareness and provoke debate.

Yeah – whatever. Now go and get a proper job.

And, in a poke in the eye for Victorian maritime engineering, Port St Mary lighthouse has been washed away by a big wave.  

A combination of a high tide and strong winds over night dealt a fatal blow to the 19th Century light that has been there since the breakwater was built, between 1882 and 1886.

I could sit here by the fireside and relate a myriad of tales from my childhood, many of which would be about that lighthouse. But that would be rather dull for you and a lot of them would be made up anyway. So I won’t.

Oudekraal statue mystery

A statue has appeared on the rocks on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard and the local newspaper and residents are getting unduly excited about it.


Statue

Alien. Tribute. Mime artist. Religious statement. Mummy. A gift from God.

These are just some of the suggestions offered by baffled onlookers as to what could be gracing rocks beyond Camps Bay Beach.
A large white statue, in the form of a man with his hands outstretched, has for the past few days stood on the rocks just outside the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Victoria Road near Oudekraal.

Let’s take a closer look at those possible options, shall we?

Alien: Completely plausible. A little disappointing after all these years of waiting to find that visitors from another world have finally made first contact and then instantly frozen, arms outstretched, on a rock just off the South African coast, but you can’t have everything, now can you?
Tribute: What? This was a newspaper reporter interviewing you about the weird statue on the rocks there, not your psychiatrist asking you to say the first word that comes into your head when he says “Björn Again”. Idiot.
Mime artist: Er… it’s been there since Tuesday. David Blaine might try a stunt like that, but there would be a million cameras and paramedics there. And me, throwing rocks at him. Therefore, I’m putting this one down as unlikely.
Religious statement: Again, I find myself a little confused by this suggestion. But then, I find myself a little confused by religion.
Mummy: Doesn’t look like my mummy. And sure, this is Africa, but we’re about as far from Egypt as you can be and still be in Africa. No.
A gift from God: Brilliant. This must be it. And it’s just what we always wanted. Yes, this lovely white bloke on some rocks near the sea more than makes up for the misery of famine and disease across the continent, war and attrition in the Middle East, global warming, that tsunami he sent down a few years back and Gordon Brown. We should be writing our thank you notes right away.

Of course, this rampant speculation could all be avoided if only the local hotel’s financial controller, Heather Blackie, had seen a statue on top of a car as she was driving home on Tuesday. But wait! Read on!! What’s this????

The hotel’s financial controller, Heather Blackie, saw a statue on top of a car as she was driving home on Tuesday.

And then, the moment when readers realise that Heather Blackie should have been a detective, rather than a financial controller:

Blackie said she didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when she saw the statue out on the rocks she made the connection.

It must have been a moment of pure genius. Enlightenment. An Epiphany, appropriately enough.
You can almost see/hear/smell the cogs grinding away in Heather’s brain.

Strange white statue on rocks… Oh Christ, did I leave a note for the maid about the ironing?… Strange white statue looks similar to the strange white statue I saw on top of that car on Tuesday… I wonder if there’s any chocolate in my handbag?… Hang on!  Maybe it’s the same statue!… Oh cool – 3 squares of Fruit & Nut – and not too fluffy… [sounds of chocolate being devoured]

The local authorities aren’t happy though:

Paul Sieben, head of Table Mountain National Parks marine division said permission had not been given to place any structure on the rocks, about 300 metres from the road.
If permission had been sought for it, it wouldn’t have been granted, Sieben said. Any structure proposed for below the high-level mark needed to be subject to a complete environmental impact assessment.

Paul – are you forgetting that this is a gift from God? Lest we forget, he is omnipresent and omnipotent. He can do magic. He can even override the need for a complete environmental impact assessment. But he does it without paying the committee shedloads of cash, unlike like everyone else.

But I have to leave the final words on this fantastic figurine, this rock-bound riddle, this… this… “strange white statue” (thanks, Heather), to Bernard Schaefer, Camps Bay resident (and member of it’s community policing forum): Noting that the rocks on which the statue stands are completely surrounded by water, he deduced, Blackie-style:

Someone with a boat must have done it.

Brilliant, Bernard. Mental agility such as yours cannot be quantified by the lowly means which we possess on this planet. We are truly not worthy.
Did you put it there? Are you God in disguise? But with a boat?

A different pace of life

Some better informed or more observant readers will know that I have links with the Isle of Man – the small and extremely beautiful lump of rock in the middle of the Irish Sea. In fact, that little red and white thing in your address bar just up there [points] is not just the symbol of 6000 miles… website, but also the symbol of the island: the three legs of Man.

While I am Sheffield born and bred, I spent a lot of my childhood on the Isle of Man, I have a lot of family there and even more family history. Thus, it’s always good to keep up with what’s happening on “my island”.
Before I continue, perhaps I should explain that while the IoM is now a technologically-progressive, global financial hub, there remains a far slower pace of life over there. If you’ve ever watched Father Ted – think of it as a slightly larger Craggy Island: same wild beauty, same fierce national pride, same bizarre local traditions and characters. After all, this is the place where in February 1990 (yes, nineteen-NINETY!), locals queued up to stare in wonder at the “moving stairs” at the new Strand Shopping Centre in Douglas: the first public escalator on the island. Thus, the IoM is often mocked as being a bit backward – caught in the past – by many in the UK. Well, vive le difference, I say (when I’m in that sort of mood).

Catching up on the the latest goings-on via the BBC website, I was distressed and distraught to learn that the Isle of Man seems to have lost out to Southern Lebanon in possessing the world’s heaviest potato.

The 3.5kg (7lb 13oz) potato was bought by Greens restaurant owner Nigel Kermode in Douglas after it became the official world record holder more than 10 years ago. But on Monday, it emerged that a farmer in southern Lebanon had grown a potato weighing in at 11.3kg (24.9lbs).

Lebanese farmer Khalil Semhat hopes the monster spud from his farm near Tyre, 85km (50 miles) south of Beirut, will take the crown. But according to the Guinness Book of Records, the current record is till held by the Manx potato.

And Mr Kermode said there was still a local interest in the original, more than a decade after it was found: “It’s not on display at the moment. We’ve had it out periodically because, to be honest, it doesn’t look very nice,” he said. “It’s gone all sort of grey and brown and it doesn’t look very appetising.”

Yes. That’s what passses for news on the Isle of Man. A big, 10-year-old, mouldy root vegetable.

I’m heading back there next year for a few weeks of relaxation and I can’t wait. Because life is different there: the rat-race doesn’t exist, the outside world doesn’t matter and no-one really cares how big your potato is.
I’ll leave the closing remarks to Nigel Kermode – because he sums it up so well:

We’re still a world champion – we’ll call it the second biggest potato in the world.

Perfect.