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.

Got bus?

Did you leave your bus in Heerengracht?
Still planning to work on that rattle in the cooling system when you’ve finished your lunch?

Umm. Too late.

    
Heerengracht, Cape Town, 1330 CAT, 1st December 2008

Sorry and all that…

UPDATE: More from News24.com. And I should think so – that’s their big yellow building.

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He had a long neck, Officer

We’ve all heard about South Africa’s crime rate, but in a worrying twist, it seems that even the local wildlife is now getting in on the act:

Pietermaritzburg – Seventy-year-old Schalk Hagen died without telling anyone exactly what happened to him. Now the prime suspect in his death is a giraffe. Hagen had gone for his usual morning walk at Bisley Nature Reserve in March.

The only thing he uttered to his distraught wife on his return from his walk, with blood spurting from a deep head wound, was “I ran away*“. Hagen later died of his injuries.

Prompted by the story of Hagen’s death in The Witness last week, a reader told on Monday how a bull giraffe attacked and chased instructors and patrons around at the Canterbury stables, the same month Hagen was injured. Hagen’s wife, Aletha, added that he and his 16-year-old grand-daughter had previously gone for a walk in the reserve when a giraffe, accompanied by a sibling, charged at them aggressively.

“I suppose it was chasing them away from the group. When he came home wounded that day, the first thing I asked him was if he had been attacked by a giraffe**, but he was unable to reply,” said Aletha.

Hagen had suffered a cracked skull and a deep head wound which received 14 stitches.

And then, as ever in South African news, the amusing side to this tragic tale, which also goes some way to explain why sit-com writers spend so much time scanning our local newspapers in search of novel, yet implausible, ideas.

The story of Hagen’s mysterious injury sparked Ross McCann’s memory of a giraffe attack at the Canterbury stables, a riding school at the Bisley Valley Nature reserve.

“I am of the firm belief that Hagen was attacked by a giraffe.” He said a giraffe left marks on a tree at the stables when it attacked instructors and trainees.

Instructor Francois Hugo said the bull giraffe chased more than five people around the stables. “I was with my colleague and four people, some of whom were training in the sand arena. It charged my colleague who ran into the outside toilet for hiding. But the giraffe stuck its head into the toilet through the hole above the door. It was trying to head-butt him, so I tried to distract it. It immediately came after me as I ran and hid behind the tree. It was a bull giraffe, it smelt horrible, and had big black spots, darker than spots on other giraffes. We were separated just by the tree’s trunk.”

Hugo said the giraffe attacked him using its horns but missed and dug them into the tree trunk. Two marks are still visible***. Hugo admitted he was scared and ran for his life, followed by his trainees, as the giraffe chased after them.

I’m picturing Michael Palin as colleague cowering in outside toilet
South African “comedian” Leon Schuster will have to be the giraffe. It’s the law.

* not fast enough, you didn’t.
** as you would…
*** neatly comparable with the number of horns on your average giraffe.