OK, so what follows is…

OK, so what follows is… well, for the next few weeks at least… is a combination of pre-written posts and juicy fresh content.

Pre-written posts because I want to have a break without having to be concerned about needing to blog every day, and there’s no way I can guarantee a decent (or indeed any) internet connection wherever we may be. But I recognise that there’s a demand for blog posts on here and I want to keep that record of a post every day going. Because I’m a bit obsessive like that.

Deal with it.

Also, I’m trying an experiment whereby I publish a post at the same time each day: 0800 CAT in this particular case (like this one, see?). Apparently, this is the best way to blog [citation required], although I tend to just post stuff once it’s written. And usually it’s not written by 0800 CAT. However, when you’re writing stuff in advance, it’s always written by 0800 CAT. So I’m giving it a go.

Oh, and juicy fresh content because I enjoy blogging, because my most important reader is me and because there will inevitably be things I will want to share while we’re away. If interest, internet and inclination ever meet (and I’m sure that they will), I’ll be popping thoughts, photos, opinions and whatever else on here.

Keep up with updates by following me on twitter or Facebook.

Weirdly (for us at least), we’re only flying out later this evening, so we’ve got a spare day to get all those last minute jobs to get done. Hair will be cut, the beagle will be bathed, the housesitters will get their final instructions, decisions on which bottles of brandy will be packed will be made (spoiler: it’s most of them).

I am trembling with mounting anticipation.

Positive

As a parent of school-age kids – much like when you were a student yourself – your family’s annual calendar naturally revolves around the school terms.
Term 2 of 2018 is at an end. And, having considered things carefully, I’d say that this term has been one of the most difficult that I can remember.

First “real” exams, illness, work stress, dark mornings, Eisteddfods, sad news, my effing knee: it’s all added up to a tough 10 weeks.

And yesterday was a very crappy day.

But… But… It looks like we made it.

As I switched off my early morning alarm for the next four weeks, and with just one more day in lab to go before a break of three weeks, I couldn’t help but feel just a little victorious.

There are changes on the horizon, but right now, all I have to do is get through two more meetings and put my bit of the lab to bed, and then I get to go home. And there are still quite a few jobs to do around the house before our flight in [checks] about 32 hours, but there’s time to do them. Suddenly, that first drink in the airport lounge – the traditional moment at which we feel that we can truly relax – seems closer than ever.

(Because it actually is, obviously.)

The weather looks absolutely amazing in France for the foreseeable future, flights, trains and hotels are booked and checked into. Luggage is (sort of) packed. The housesitters are primed and ready for action. There is a bone ready to distract the beagle from the moment of our actual departure. Spotify is ready to go.

I’m feeling positive. The next three weeks are going to be great.

Lots done

After a weekend which wasn’t even supposed to be spent at home in Cape Town, I find myself completely drained. I’ve done about a million jobs that I didn’t even know needed doing, but which – with hindsight – I’m actually glad I got out of the way.

There are a big couple of weeks ahead at work before our Europe trip, and I’ve been on the go all day, so I’m going to guide Panama a little closer to World Cup glory on the Playstation, rather than blogging this evening.

If that’s ok with you, that is?*

More – including news of Panama’s latest triumphs – tomorrow.

 

 

*  or even if it’s not, to be honest.

Declaring personal goods before leaving SA

South African resident?
Going abroad soon?

Lucky you.

You’ll be wondering if you need to declare your valuable personal effects to SARS before leaving South Africa, in order that you are not charged duty upon your return to the country, right?

After this alleged incident, there’s been some confusion over this, so here’s the definitive answer.

No.

But also, Yes.

But No.

However: Yes, you do.

Unhelpful. So I looked for advice from some experts.

Flight Centre said: mmm, maybe.
traveller24dotcom said: there’s a statement from SARS.

But before we go there, here’s an interview with SARS executive Beyers Theron in which he says:

If you have your laptop or cellphones with you, you’re not required to declare that when you leave the country.

So that’s clearly a no.
And here’s that statement from SARS, in which they say:

A more user-friendly and secure process has been created where the traveller completes a TC-01 (Traveller Card) notifying his or her intent to register goods for re-importation. This is presented to the Customs Officer who will then capture this online on a Traveller declaration system (TRD1). The traveller authenticates the declaration by signing on a digital signature pad. A copy is printed for the traveller to retain as proof of registration.

Which does appear to be a yes.

And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth website. So it looks like it’s a yes.

I’m flying out of the country soon, so I had a quick look at how many flights leave SA for other countries. Then I decided that that was a bit stupid because the numbers were just too beeg for my puny microbiologist brain to handle.
So I concentrated on Cape Town.

International flights from Cape Town today:

Amsterdam, Windhoek (x3), Victoria Falls (x2), Oranjemund, Maun, Walvis Bay (x2),  Addis Ababa, Paris, London (x2), Dubai (x3), Doha, Harare and Luanda.

20 flights, including at least 2 on 747, 5 on 777s and 2 on 787s.
In off-season.

That’s a lot of flights. All of which got me wondering about just how many people were likely to be on those flights. So I looked up the most recent available statistics and found that on average, each day 2,760 people depart CPT on international flights.

Bye!

Of those, how many travellers are local residents? There aren’t any recent figures, but a third seems like a reasonable assumption, based on what information is available. (Note that the figures are much, MUCH higher for JNB: ±80%.)
But back to Cape Town, because that’s where we can like to be looking at.

Approximate international travellers per day = 2,760.
So approximate locals travelling abroad = 920.

Now we have some numbers, I’can, and have been doing, some rudimentary calculations.

According to the missive above, each of those 920 people will have to go to SARS in town simply to register their personal goods (with proof of ownership for each) in order that they might not face having to pay duty on them upon their return.
Their cellphones, their watches, their laptops, their cameras.

920 locals per day = 6,440 locals each week, but since SARS is only open five days a week, that equates to 1,290 local people at that TC-01 counter each day. SARS is open 8am-4pm, so they’ll have to process 162 people per hour, or 2.7 people per minute every minute.
That’s 1 person every 22.2 seconds to ensure that everyone is accommodated and can:

avoid the inconvenience of having to explain ownership upon returning from travel abroad.

which clearly seems to be a perfectly reasonable and manageable target.

And that’s just Cape Town. And that’s just air travel.

Of course, this legislation has been in place for years and years and years, and no-one has ever fallen foul of it until some petty jobsworth SARS official at OR Tambo decided to have a pop at the ridiculously named Mr Toler Wolfe-Coote as documented above.

The can of worms has been opened. But I’m sure the our erstwhile tax agency is completely and adequately prepared to deal with the situation.

French railway workers strike: an update

‘Update’, ‘alternative opinion’, ‘unfeeling porcine capitalist viewpoint’… whatever.

You choose.

I wrote the other day about the public sector strikes that are sweeping France at the moment and how it might affect our upcoming trip there. In doing so, I wasn’t (intentionally) belittling or trivialising the issues at hand. I recognise that the striking individuals feel that they have grievances and they’re exercising their legal right to strike. That’s why I touched on the reasons why they are striking instead of just being irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday.

It’s good to be informed.

At the same time, I’m pretty much powerless to assist them in their crusade, so I am actually irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday. Fair play to me too then.

And then, I received an email with a link to this article on the strike:

Now, for the record, je ne sais pas what the general political standpoint or reputation of news site thelocal.fr is, although their coverage of Asian Giant Hammerhead Worms invading French gardens is quite superb.

That’s for another time though, ok?

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was this headline:

Oh. Great.

Anyway, thelocal.fr seems to feel that the French railway workers – les cheminots – actually have a pretty good working life:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiled plans to push through reforms of France’s mammoth rail system.
But the plans have not gone down well with rail unions who are threatening all-out war against the government, or in other words major strikes.

What has really angered them is the announcement that new recruits will no longer benefit from a special employment status of rail workers, which is fabled for the perks it offers.

What follows is a list of those perks, which include (but are not limited to) early retirement, guaranteed employment (no retrenchments), automatic career advancement, free rail tickets for family members, excellent pension benefits, above average wages, plenty of annual leave and subsidised housing.

Yes, it does seem very good. It seems very nice.
It does seem like they enjoy some sort of special status.

There are a number of thoughts that stem from this, none of which I’ve suitably ruminated over and I’m about to disappear back into the lab, so I’m just listing them here.

Firstly: why should the cheminots enjoy such special employment status? There are a lot of other jobs out there that are arguably more important (TB scientist, for example), more worthy (er… TB scientist again) and demand better qualifications to enter (cough… TB scientist) (not that sort of cough, I hasten to add) than working on the railways, but which have far less favourable working conditions.

Secondly: but then, shouldn’t we (humankind in general) be working towards having these sort of special conditions as standard for workers, rather than constantly dragging standards down to the lowest possible levels? I recognise that this is a pipe dream, but still, it’s surely not a bad way to start any process like this.

Thirdly: of course, on the flip side of this is that if there are going to have to be cuts across the public sector, then surely you cut from the ones that have the most, first. That does seem to be the cheminots.

And fourthly: the unions represent the interests of their members. If they simply stood back and allowed these cuts to pass with no objection, then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. You can argue the validity of their claims and efficacy of their methods, but as unions, protesting against this kind of thing is basically what they’re there for.

And finally: I would just be much happier if this was all sorted before we go over there. (Spoiler: it’s not going to be)