Weathering the storms

I’m almost back in the land of the living and so is the Mother City following a 24 hours of horrendous meterological conditions which left us facing the triple onslaught of rain, snow and hysterical news reports.

With the N1 flooded and De Waal Drive full of big rocks, there was sudden interest in Cape Town traffic news, including webcam sites. Even Seth at 2oceansvibe was in on the act, grandly proclaiming (as is his wont):

This WILL change your life

Hmm. It won’t change mine much. 6000 miles… has had a Cape Town Traffic Webcams page for nearly two years now. I don’t use it (or publicise it) as much as I used to, because I don’t work in town anymore, when it was personally more useful to me.

However, given the sudden renewed interest in all things Cape Town and traffic, maybe it’s time that I gave you the address again: or

Save it. Take a quick peek each evening before you head home – it might save you some stress.

In other news: it seems that Mozart may have died from complications following Strep throat:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The death of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of 35 may have been caused by complications stemming from strep throat, according to a Dutch study published on Monday.

As a 35-year old currently suffering from Strep throat, I found that this news did nothing at all to aid my recovery. It’s complicated.

And finally – not all bad weather is bad news. Sometimes bad weather can be beautiful, as proven by this post on – with some stunning images of Franschhoek and surrounds in the snow.

Gansey – a parenting revelation

Behold! A picture of Gansey – the beach in the Isle of Man where I spent most of my childhood summers.

Gansey (gets bigger here)

It had everything a young boy could want: ample sand for beach football or cricket, sun, sea, rocks with the essential rock pools, a small river etc etc. It was perfect.
At the time it never really troubled me, but looking back, I wondered how come my parents were so happy to let us spend so much time on the beach each holiday? Finally, as I visited there for the first time as a parent myself, the answer came to me.
It was so bloody EASY!

Even at their young ages, my kids were completely visible, completely safe and completely happy. As parents, we didn’t have to do anything except provide the odd biscuit and relax. And it cost nothing.
This is obviously the Manx equivalent of dropping the kids off at Westlake and getting the police to bring them back.

I’m going to highlight this post to my son when he has his own kids. Because forget all that stuff you learn at parenting classes about diets and nutrition, about bathing and which soaps are best to use for baby’s skin. That pales into insignificance against this sort of information. This sort of information is invaluable. It’s gold dust. It’s priceless. (Pammie – I hope you’re listening)

And relaxed parents mean happier children. Or so I’m told.

Gansey flickr set here.

Back home

After a 20 hour trip during which I was impressed with National Express coaches, during which we were repeatedly thrown all over the sky (most especially above Nigeria) and during which the children were mysteriously (but thankfully) well behaved, we find ourselves back in Cape Town, where the Mountain is flat and the people are allegedly rather cliquey.
Not that either of those things bother us particularly, because although the excitement of the holiday is disappearing and although the thought of work looms large on the horizon, we have our own beds in our own rooms; our own sandpit and our own Nanny (where applicable) and I have my own Uitkyk potstill brandy.

All these places feel like home…?

And although in some ways, I wish we were still over on my beautiful Island, it is good to be back home. Routines can be reinstated, normal life can begin again. And yes, routine and normality have their highs and their lows, but if they didn’t then those times away wouldn’t be so special.
Of course, if when I win the lottery, I will be on holiday all the time and it will still be special, but that’s because I’ll take my own bed with me wherever I go. The benefits and security of home coupled with the enjoyment and novelty of being away. I think I could manage that quite nicely.

Many thanks to all of you who have made the last few weeks so special. You know who you are. Apologies to those of you who we were unable to see. You know who you are too. And you should also be aware that you are top of our list for next time. Whenever that may be. I would say “don’t hold your breath”, but that would be a little pointless, since I’m sure it’ll be longer than a minute or two and you’d get all uncomfortable.

And with that, I am heading off to pray at the temple of El Matresso, the Mayan God of Sleep.

All hail, El Matresso. We are not worthy.

Holiday Highlights

Although it pains me to say it, the 2009 Kids in Tow Tour is slowly but surely drawing to a close. And – as with all holidays – it’s had its ups and its downs. Fortunately, the highlights have far outweighed the negatives and – because I blog for myself as much as anyone else and I find myself with a few rare spare minutes – I think I should list them. That way, when I get back home to Cape Town (which apparently got washed away while we were here), and it’s grey, cold, wet, depressing and my zebras have gone missing, I can quickly and easily refer to this post and remind myself of the great time we had here. Which will cheer me up for all of 3 seconds. My brain is not easily fooled.

Let us begin:

  1. The embarrassingly uncomfortable Michael Jackson Tribute in Trafalgar Square.
    This, in fact, deserves (and will get) a blog post all of its own. Rarely have I seen a group of people looking more awkward in their own skins. Apart from the one lass in her polka dot skirt, floppy hat, white tights, cream fishnets and crocs, who was making all the others even more self-conscious.
  2. The worst landing ever at Ronaldsway Airport. Not a highlight per se, but it was just nice to be alive after it. 
  3. Reliving my childhood watching Alex and my Mum heading up to the farm together to collect the milk. A reminder that it’s sometimes the really simple things that mean the most.
  4. Every visitor to the cottage being invited to come and have a ride on Alex’s shed bus. For those of you who are uninitiated in the ways of the shed bus, it’s basically a shed with two chairs inside which stops at local Manx villages, Constantia Pick n Pay and the Waterfront.
    No ticket required. If you want a trip, just turn up and you’ll get an invite. Or ten.
  5. Silverdale Glen, with its Victorian water-powered roundabout. I have rarely seen anyone so ecstatic at such a unique playground feature. Bouncing with excitement. Shaking with exhilaration. And that was just my wife. The boy was beside himself.
  6. Our little girl’s First Birthday. She had cake in the garden and then went out on her first ever boat trip. I’m happy to report that the cake remained within her despite the somewhat lumpy sea conditions beyond Port St Mary breakwater. 
  7. Finally getting Mrs 6k to the summit of Cronk ny Arrey Laa. That’s a hill on the West coast of the Island with stunning views – especially at Sunset time – and it was always my intention to get engaged there. To whoever I was going to get engaged to. However, when the big moment came, I was 6,228.23 (thanks Google Earth!) miles away in Hermanus and I thought the romance might have been lost by the drive back to Cape Town International, a 15 hour trip to the Island via Amsterdam and Manchester, a drive up the shoulder road together with the worry of the weather being a bit crap when we got there. Although, I suppose we could always have taken the shed bus.
    Still – all’s well that ends well and it was nice to finally get up there yesterday evening, albeit that the sunset was more pretty than spectacular.    

And there are still 5 days remaining before the (literally) long haul back to Cape Town. It seems to have passed like wildfire, but at the same time (as is the way with these things) I can hardly remember details from the beginning of the trip. That could be down to old age or red wine though. Or, more likely a bit of both.

And – as a bit of a disclaimer – I’m not mentioning the obvious stuff like seeing family and friends. That should go without saying. Although I just said it.

Photos still available (and being regularly updated) on the only official 2009 Kids in Tow Tour flickr set.

A remarkable moment

As a parent, I recognise that there is no such thing as “time off” – even on holiday. And, vaguely related, as a microbiologist, I recognise that when visiting new destinations – especially foreign destinations – you are more likely to get sick from those annoying little upper respiratory tract infections which aren’t swine flu, but are just enough to make you feel a bit crap and produce litres of snot where before there was none.

Our youngest has gone down with such a virus. Nothing serious, but nasty to make her a bit miserable, exude litres of green gunge from her nostrils and significantly increase the dividend for Adcock-Ingram’s shareholders.
On the plus side, the boy seems to have brushed off any infectious advances from his sister’s bugs and he continues to have a whale of a time chasing seagulls, making a bus in the garden shed and generally not stopping.  

Thus, moments like this one are remarkable. Both kids in bed, sleeping soundly and in no danger of plunging into local harbours or in need of paternal solace, while wiping “stuff” on my shoulder. And that is why I find myself sitting in the sun, tapping away on the fancy laptop with a decent cup of coffee by my side, listening to the Manic Street Preachers belting out Autumnsong, Indian Summer and the rest from Send Away The Tigers*. I know that this remarkable moment will only last perhaps thirty minutes if I’m lucky, but that only makes every minute all the more special.

Reading back, you might get the impression that I’m not enjoying the holiday. Or course, I am. But holidays with young kids are different. You don’t get your pleasure from lying on a beach not dreaming of tuberculosis or Friday’s lab meeting – you get it from the smile on your boy’s face as he heads for the swings for the umpteenth time or from your daughter’s giggling as Granddad throws her a ball.

It probably sounds like hell to those of you who aren’t parents. Or at least a bit sloppy. But it’s just different and you don’t understand that until you’ve got kids. And I don’t mean that condescendingly: I certainly didn’t get it before I had kids. Priorities change and you don’t get lie-ins – even when you’re on holiday. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding.

And with that, I see the lights blinking on the monitor as K-pu awakens. Perfect timing.
Thanks for sharing my short remarkable moment with me.

Tonight: The almost certainly anti-climactic final episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth, which has had me hooked all week, but which will have to pack a whole lot of action, bewilderingly virulent viruses and heroes improbably surviving massive explosions into just 60 minutes this evening if we’re going to get a decent conclusion.

* Just to clarify: I’m listening to the music, not the cup of coffee, which has no ears – often seen as a prerequisite for music listenage.