Name that bird

We were down at the Waterfront today, terrorising sealife in the aquarium, watching eco-friendly puppet shows and drinking chocolate milkshakes.
While I was enjoying a coffee at the pub [shurely shome mistake?], I spotted this little fellow, who later tried to defaecate on me. Despite consulting Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton’s Birds of Southern Africa (which, after all, is where I are finding myself today), I have no idea what sort of bird this is – anyone able to accurately ID it for me, please?

newbird

As there is nothing to relate the size to, I can tell you that it was about… this big. And it was only while reviewing the day’s photographs this evening that I noticed that it was ringed. I’m pretty sure that makes no difference to what species it is, though.

Answers on a postcard, please.
Or just leave a comment.

Winner!

News just in – I have won $25,000 in an SMS competition!! That’s serious moolah in SA: R200,000 no less. (Well, actually very slightly less, given that we’re running at $1 = R7.91 this morning, but let’s round it up and be happy.) I don’t actually remember entering the competition in question, but that is of limited interest to me or to anyone else given that I have now won it.

You have been drawn at 9:23 and won the check No. 509578!
Call 00239981103 to know the amount and withdraw it.

I called the number, which is based in the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe – a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea; a place I have never visited, never mind entered an sms competition in – and the news was good: $25,000 good, according to the wonderfully cordial if rather heavily accented gentleman called Phillipe on the other end of the line.

And now all I need to do is to verify my bank details by sending them a measly $100 and they will pop the $25,000 plus my $100 into my account by return. Apparently, they have been on the receiving end of fraudulent transactions and that’s why this step is necessary. As I said to Phillipe, what is this world coming to when people try to trick each other in this way? Phillipe was momentarily quiet, presumably as he considered the misery that such individuals may cause to their unwitting victims.
It was a bonding moment, I feel, that he too felt my anguish at the evil that men do.

Anyway, I got his bank details and I contacted my bank, asking them to help arrange the $100 transfer to Phillipe. And that’s where things started to go wrong. My bank refused, saying that they were not going to allow me to spend my money on a fishing trip. I got angry – this is my money and where the hell did they get the idea about me going fishing, anyway?
Sure, São Tomé and Príncipe has some wonderful aquatic life and is, in fact, famed for its fantastic seafood, but I have no desire to actually go there in order to partake in a pastime which, in all honesty, leaves me rather cold. My brother would be there like a shot, but then he didn’t win the competition, did he?

I asked to speak with the manager, but the message was just the same. A point-blank refusal. He wouldn’t even call Phillipe and explain his reasoning. So I have written to the head office to complain. Idiots. 
Meanwhile, I have withdrawn R920, which I have now converted into US dollars and I am posting it to Phillipe. I have also photocopied my credit card and sent that along too – so now he has my bank details and the $100. I phoned him and I told him – sometimes a little trust in this world is all that’s required.
He seemed overjoyed – he couldn’t stop laughing.

And I will also be overjoyed when I get my $25,100 in a week or two. Bring on the good times!

The Curse of The Stig

In news that has shocked the world, and just a week after he was revealed as the human face of Top Gear’s “The Stig” , comes the sad news of the death of Michael Jackson. Few would argue that Jackson’s story was amongst the most incredible in modern day history. Having released the best selling album of all time in 1982, Michael went on to win no fewer than seven Formula One Drivers Championships, while successfully defending himself against allegations of child molestation and, less successfully, of being German.

Jackson’s trademark was the Moonwalk, in which he would go out on slick tyres on a wet track and spin backwards around the circuit, while the wheels would actually appear to be going forwards. He was also famed for wearing one glove while driving (and often, another glove on the other hand). 

Michael’s family played a large part in his career, most notably in Scream, a 1995 duet with his youngest sister Janet, and also many on-track duels with his younger brother Ralf who drove for Williams. In addition, bizarre allegations surrounded whether Michael and his sister La Toya were actually the same person and, while these rumours were discounted, Ralf did – at one time – drive for Toyota, who was Jackson’s older brother.
You can see where the confusion arose.

The most successful part of Michael’s career was spent with Ferrari, during which time he released the critically-acclaimed album Bad. A track on the album, called Speed Demon was his tribute to Jeremy Clarkson, and featured the lyrics:

I’m Headed For Gambon, It’s On My Mind
And Coming Round The Follow-Through, I’ve Got To Be On Time

while Man in the Mirror was seen by many as a dig at Jacques Villeneuve, who regularly finished behind him in races.

Jackson was also infamous for his repeated visits to plastic sturgeons around the world and is widely believed to be the mastermind behind the tacky “plastic singing fish” craze which swept across America in the late 1990s.
His nose was also made of plastic, but didn’t sing.

His final revelation, that he was racing driver “The Stig”, came as a huge surprise to fans of Top Gear and Jackson alike. However, doubts still exist as to the veracity of the claim and many believe that the revelation was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Commentators pointed to the lack of sequins on The Stig’s racing suit and his apparent fear of children.
However, the transformation of the ‘tamed racing driver’ from black to white while the King of Pop underwent the same change is surely solid evidence that Michael Jackson was indeed The Stig.

He will be sadly missed. He touched many people (and now they can’t sue him).

On being studious

I’d love to be studious again. I have tried to be studious for most of my life, but after I finished my Masters, I discovered that I had become so fed up of studiousness that I decided to turn my back on it forever. Or at least until I changed my mind. Which appears to be now.
I crave information. It doesn’t even have to be anything useful: I love to hoard trivia and facts just in case they come up in a pub quiz somewhere, sometime. It would just be nice to formally study something again. But there has definitely been a paucity of opportunities for learning of late.
Add to this the fact that I have a pair of energetic children who are often active from the time I get home from work in the evening until the time I leave for work in the morning. This also applies to weekends. Bummer.

So I need time and space and with that in mind (and before I go completely Iggle-Piggle) we have decided to build a study. This is good because there is nowhere better for studying than in a study. And although the new study is currently merely some expensive lines on an expensive bit of paper, the ground rules have already been set. It is out of bounds for children and will have an awesome and expensive sound system. I haven’t told my son about him not being allowed in there yet and I haven’t told my wife about the expensive sound system, but I foresee only minor issues. Hmm.  

Because the builder suddenly decided that he wanted to start work this Wednesday, I spent much of the weekend digging up the garden where the new study will be and dodging thundery showers (with limited success) with the aim of saving valuable turf and plants. Thus, I now have heaps of wet, muddy clothes and every muscle in my body is now screaming in protest at my sudden call to action. One of the few benefits* was the opportunity to occasionally lean on my spade and plan the position of my new desk, which will have absolutely stunning views of the Constantiaberg and will be absolutely perfect for continuing and further refining the procrastination for which I have become famous.

How does this affect you readers of 6000 miles…? Well, I’m well aware that avidly following the progress of minor extensions to other people’s property is what people mainly surf the internet for, so I’m obviously going to make the most of this chance to allow you all to share in the highs and lows of our study-building experience in minute detail.
And then, once it’s completed, I will sit in it, oblivious to my son banging at the door, and wonder where all my readers have gone.

* who am I trying to kid? This should read “the only thing that was even vaguely close to being mildly beneficial…”

Stupid forms

Ah, the divine VAF1B.
I’ve spent my entire morning filling in three of them to apply for UK visas for my wife, my son and my daughter. Ten pages per application, with crippling repetition, bizarrely detailed requests for bizarre details and stupid questions galore.

For example:

In times of either peace or war have you ever been involved in, or suspected of involvement in, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide?

Seriously now, who – when applying for permission to enter the UK – is going to answer “Yes” to that one (and then provide full relevant detail in section 9)?
Certainly not my 10-month old daughter. And how can you commit war crimes in times of peace, anyway?

There was a worried look on the face of little Alex as I asked him question 6.14 though:

Have you engaged in any other activities that might indicate that you may not be considered a person of good character?

Especially after he had snatched the cuddly singing snake off his sister earlier in the day. I thought I’d better inform the UK Border Agency of that little incident, since they seem to want to know absolutely bloody everything:

When did you last visit the toilet and was it for number ones or number twos? (If number twos, please fully describe consistency of motion in section 9).

But despite even the most made-up of questions and the infinite detail to be provided, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs still holds the record for the stupidest form ever. Their BI-24 allows you to register your child’s birth, but in the answer space for “Country of Birth”, fails to provide enough spaces for you to write “South Africa”.

I hope heads rolled. Seriously.