Constantia crab

I’m still wondering about that crab we saw yesterday. Under a car. In Constantia.

Thing is, I always thought crabs lived near the sea. (Apart from Coconut crabs, that is.)
And this was some distance away from the sea.

I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and worked out that the most accessible sea to Alphen Drive is about 12.4km away.

The route the crab may have taken up the M3.

There is sea nearer than that as the crow flies, but it’s over a massive mountain and anyway, crabs can’t fly.
And bearing in mind that this crab was only about 8cm across, that 12.4km is the equivalent of you or I walking to the moon.

So what exactly was this crab doing under a car in Constantia?
Do we get land crabs in South Africa? In Cape Town?
Or was it just on holiday? Constantia’s Green Belt is very pretty.

Google has been unhelpful and I’m not exactly sure who else to ask. Especially after some of the results I got when I searched for information about “crabs” on the internet. Goodness me.

I’m quite sure that’s not the kind of thing you’d find in a nice suburb like Constantia.

UPDATE: This tweet leads me to look into Potamidae spp. A-ha!

Impulsive Appulse Pic Blog

Everyone is going ape about the moon and Venus this evening.


Well, apparently, they’re very close together – but not really: they’re actually about 23½ million miles apart – but the perception is that they are close together in the night sky.
And they were even closer in the day sky too.

There’s a word for that, but I can’t remember what it is.
Quick google gives me “Appulse“.

You live, you google, you learn.

Who am I to deny myself such a blatant photo op?
Hence the image to the left.

And all this Micklethwaite-style rambling to fill in the space alongside it.
You may also like my long exposure sky pic, which is full of Cape Town’s light pollution.


Out of date


I was hoping to have some happy news this weekend, but the Public Sector Workers strike put paid to that. And when I say “put paid”, I mean “put paid, but not with an 8.6% increase and a R1000 housing allowance”. Just put paid a dismal and demeaning wage.
So more on that another time.

Instead, because I have many requests to elaborate on my shopping issues yesterday (as mentioned on twitter), I find myself bitching about the utterly despicable behaviour of local supermarket Constantia Pick n Pay which, as far as my recent experiences go, seems to consider it perfectly reasonable to sell goods which are past their sell by date.

Last week, I had to take some veg back to them because it was three weeks beyond its sell by date. Caveat emptor, you might say, but then why should the emptor have to caveat – shouldn’t the venditor be looking out for the emptor and taking the goods off the shelves once they’re past their best? Sure – I might have been a little more observant, but I was stressed, shopping amongst a million others (business is evidently good) in the narrow aisles of this flagship store.

That was annoying. My money. My petrol. My time.

And then yesterday. Wow. First of all, while looking for yoghurt, I noticed that one of the 6-packs on the shelf was 6 days beyond its sell by date. Not good. Fortunately, there was a PnP employee stacking the shelves right next to me, so I pointed this out to him and he removed the offending item. Easy.

But then, as I walked off down the chilled goods aisle, I forgot to get margarine. Can you imagine life without margarine? Dry toast. Dry…bread generally. And so on.

And when I realised and went back a few minutes later – guess what was back on the yoghurts shelf? That offending 6-pack again, sell by date still 30 Aug 10.
I was aghast. That’s disgraceful. Inexcusable. It was no mistake: he knew they were out of date. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but a security guy stopped me. Very pleasantly, I might add. Just doing his job.
Nice to see someone was, I thought.

The manager was “unavailable” when I asked. The staff seemed unconcerned about what had happened. I was unimpressed. Everywhere I looked, there were words beginning with “un”. That’s never a sign of a good situation.
I made a mental note to call the boss on Monday. And then I paid for the stuff I’d bought and went home. And yes, I tweeted about what had occurred, but I chose not to mention the store in question, despite a plethora of requests to “name and shame”.

And then I slid the cardboard sleeve off the ostrich fillet I had bought (this week, I’m trying ostrich biltong) and found that it too was past its best before date. I could not believe it. (I may have mentioned that.) I named and shamed.

So – back to Constantia Pick n Pay (My money. My petrol. My time), where I met Bertie, who told me that the manager was unavailable. So no change there then.

I explained to Bertie about last week’s veg, the yoghurt issue and my new-found ostrich fillet problem. Bertie half looked up from typing on his computer, apologised and said he “would look into it” with the same conviction which Zwelinzima Vavi might look into taking a 0.3% pay offer back to the Unions. But hey, at least I got to go and get some fresh ostrich fillet, although I had to pick it out from amongst those that were past that “BBD” again – those were still on the shelf when I left. Nice.

But I am determined to speak to Bertie on Monday and find out what he has discovered.
Because surely he wouldn’t have just said that to fob me off. Would he?

Pre-empting your questions:

1. I will go to another supermarket once they have finished building at Blue Route. Until then, it’s impossible to park.
2. I can’t afford the money, petrol or time to go to Table Bay Butchery. But thanks for the heads up.
3. I am aware that @picknpay are on twitter. But why would I want to go through a middleman when I have the name and number of the manager? What is the middleman going to do? Give me the name and number of the manager? Get him to call me? I can just about afford a local call, thank you.
Besides which, I have also had dealings with (and not necessarily complaints) MTN and Avis, whose social media presence is handled by the same agency and have received no assistance whatsoever by going that route.
Is it really worth these companies shelling out for this service? Not in my opinion – all you get are happy sycophants who get the occasional chance to win prizes. When it comes to the negative side of things, things seem somewhat less helpful.
There’s a whole other post in there – have you ever been helped via social media? And by “helped”, I mean got somewhere you couldn’t have done on your own? Let me know – I’d be interested.
My feeling is that (assuming you get any response) you simply get put through to the same people that couldn’t be bothered to help you in the first place.
4. The ostrich biltong should be ready tomorrow – I’ll let you know how good it is.

As for Constantia Pick n Pay – what can I say? I’m appalled.
I hope to speak to the manager tomorrow – maybe I’ll find out why I wasn’t able to on Saturday. And I’ll let you know what he says, because if he’s not bothered about what’s going on, then why should any other Pick n Pay manager be? Perhaps you might want to review your other options (such as they are) out there.

Sorry to rant.
6000 – protecting the rights (and the health) of the South African consumer – out.

Just doing your job?

Or: “Why you need to be nice to people in Cape Town“.

This is a bit of a personal story, but there’s an important message in it (I think), so I’m going to bore you with it anyway.

A few months back, the company I worked for closed its doors “for operational reasons”, meaning that the people working for that company were summarily retrenched. Me included. It was not a pleasant time, as you might imagine and it was a particularly unpleasant process. This unpleasantness was due in no small part to the attitude of the people who employed us and the lawyer who they had hired to do the hatchet job.
Now, at this point, you can spring forth with all your “Did you really expect to meet a nice lawyer?” quotes and your perhaps more reasonable claims that I would say something like this because I’m being subjective and the matter was emotionally charged and of course I’m not going to like what’s going on, am I?
Do you want to get those things out of your systems now? I can wait.

Done? Good.

Because I have met nice lawyers before: they don’t all conform to the stereotype in the same way that not all accountants are dull and grey and not all microbiologists are good-looking, witty ex-pat bloggers.
And while it was not a nice thing to happen, I accepted that a business decision had been made and we didn’t realistically have a huge amount (read “any”) chance of reversing things. So I did my homework, spoke to some (nice) lawyers I know and made sure I understood my rights in terms of the Labour Relations Act 1995 (section 189) and Basic Conditions of Employment Act 1997 (sections 35, 37 and 41). Fascinating stuff.

Given the situation, I chose to put emotions away and went in to the discussions with my new-found knowledge and my scientific logic as my sword and shield.
Sadly, the lawyer who turned up for the other side scored highly in every category of “typical” lawyer behaviour. On the personal side, I found him pompous, arrogant, aggressive, belittling and generally unpleasant. On the professional side, he sailed very close to the wind of illegality in his actions when going through the official processes. And then he made a verbal agreement on behalf of his clients which he later went back on. Which was nice.

Anyway, to cut a long story slightly shorter, we fought back and we won.

And that’s that. Except to say that then, out of the blue, his wedding photos popped up on my Facebook stream yesterday. Because while the entire world is apparently interconnected via the famous human web of Six Degrees of Separation, in Cape Town it’s generally about 1.2 Degrees of Separation. Friend of a friend happens here very regularly.
And that’s well worth remembering before you act like an arse.

Sure – I’m aware that there’s some parts of anyone’s job that aren’t easy and aren’t pleasant. But when you are dealing with people – especially upset, vulnerable people – while “just doing your job” and you act like you don’t give a damn, try to weasel your way out of promises you made and walk all over them, well that’s when you clearly cross the line from “professional” to “arse” for me.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not asking you to care, I’m just asking you to make it less obvious that you really don’t.

Interestingly, seeing his those photos allowed me to put some pieces into my mental jigsaw and I realised that I had actually bumped into him “socially” a couple of weeks ago (through the same friend). My mind couldn’t quite work out who he was, seeing him out of context like that, but I didn’t introduce myself because there was this nagging doubt that I knew this person but I didn’t like him.
Now I know why. My mind is great and I have renewed respect for it.

So be nice, be respectful to people you meet: professionally, socially or even on the roads. Especially in Cape Town.
Because you will meet them again at some point and your previous actions could make that situation rather awkward.

Just saying.

DIY Biltong

Ah – biltong – the staple food of South Africans since 1652.

What is it? Well, in case you don’t know and you haven’t already clicked through the link above, it’s essentially seasoned, dried meat.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s completely addictive, it keeps the South African toothpick and dental floss industries afloat and at anywhere between R150 – R350 per kilo (do the sums on the smaller packets), it’s damn expensive as well.

And it was these outrageous prices which led me to consider making my own biltong. But wouldn’t that be rather difficult?
Actually not – thanks to an article in June’s Popular Mechanics magazine. (I’m trying to keep this bit quiet because June still doesn’t know I’ve got it.) And, a couple of bits of wire, a light bulb, some dowel, a plastic box, an old computer fan and two hours later, I have my own homemade biltong dryer. And it works. Really well.

The first lot came out midweek and actually tasted very professional. And so the next lot has already gone in and will be ready by Tuesday morning: 72 hours being the current estimate for the optimum drying time.

I’m using strips (or “stokkies”) of Scotch Fillet (on offer at R60/kg at Pick n Pay) and seasoning with a mixture of black pepper, rock salt and coriander seeds. Then it’s into the dryer:

The meat is hung on bent paperclips from doweling crosspieces around a 45W light bulb. The lid goes on, the fan blows fresh air in and the timer is set.
And at night, it looks like a UFO has landed in the corner of the garage. Which is also quite cool.

Further tweaking of my methods and repertoire will obviously follow, but I think this must surely be the final step in my integration into South African society.

UPDATE: And here they are – ready to eat (remove paper clips first).