Chappies to open for Argus?

I’m not a big fan of cyclists, generally. They clog up the local roads, ignore red traffic signals, weave and wobble all over the place and then moan when you hit them. Yes, some of my best friends are cyclists, but we know that if civilities are to be maintained during a braai or social curry, then the subject of cycling is best avoided.

It doesn’t help living in Cape Town, where the Cape Argus Cycle Tour – the largest timed cycling event in the world – takes place each autumn. Sure, it’s “just a day”, but there’s all the road closures, detours and damn lycra everywhere. And all the parlance in all the local pubs is about “going sub-three” and stuff. (I was hugely disappointed when I found out that this was time to do the race and not metres underwater.)

But now, taking over the entire peninsular for a weekend and more is not enough. They want Chapman’s Peak Drive reopened for them for the day. “Because they’re special”…

photo: Hubert January on Flickr.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, ruining a mountain recently.

I should explain. Chapman’s Peak Drive or “Chappies” is a stunning road cut into the cliffs between Hout Bay and Noordhoek with some of the most amazing views in the world (personally, I prefer the R44 south out of Gordon’s Bay, but anyway…). But with cliff cuttage comes rock fallage. Fortunately, the (allegedly corrupt) Entilini company who built and now operate the toll road knew about this and put big nets up to catch the rocks which would otherwise squash the cars. These are called catchfences (the biggest misnomer since Pussy Galore) and they don’t work. That’s why Chappies has been closed since heavy winter rains last year made it too dangerous for cars and buses and lorries and people to go along the 9km route.

But not for 35,000 cyclists in March, apparently. No. They are invincible (except when in contact with motor vehicles) and thus, falling rocks pose absolutely no danger to them at all. And so they want Chapman’s Peak reopened for them. For the day.

Never mind the poor souls who live in Noordhoek and Kommetjie who have had to add an extra 40kms onto their journeys into Cape Town for the past 6 months. Entilini (who helpfully get paid by the Province whether they are collecting tolls or not) have consistently ignored their desperate pleas to reopen the road. “No,” say Entilini, “it’s unsafe! Rocks and stuff. Gravity. Squashed car. Lawsuit. See?”
But it looks like they’re going to open it up just so the visiting Jo’burg lycra brigade can have their jollies on March 8th. If I lived in Noordhoek, I’d picket, toyi-toyi and block the road*.

The announcement was promised last night and, because it’s being made by the Province, will actually be made this afternoon. And if it’s a yes, it will be a big two fingers up to the local residents, at which point, maybe we should be asking what Entilini stand to gain from the deal. Because otherwise – why would they open an unsafe road for 35,000 potential targets?

EDIT: And, as widely predicted on this blog, they have opened Chappies for the Argus. Shock.

What a disgrace. As Kaiser Chiefs once said: I predict a riot. Although knowing the gentle folk of Noordhoek, perhaps it will just be a stern letter to whoever will listen.
Presumably, on Monday 9th March, it will suddenly become “too dangerous” again and be closed for another 6 months.

* This is what I would do if I lived in Noordhoek and does not amount to incitement to violence.

No alarms and no surprises

…please.

Living in a fairly affluent suburb of Cape Town and with the perception of crime being so very high, especially amongst those who live in fairly affluent suburbs of Cape Town, we are surrounded by houses with a range of high-tech security systems, many of which regularly remind us of their existence for no reason whatsoever. This is not a solely South African phenomenon, but South African burglar alarms are the only ones I can hear from my house. Because my house is in South Africa, you see?
False alarms aren’t just very, very annoying; they also reduce the efficacy of everyone else’s alarm systems – including mine. My first instinct when I hear a burglar alarm sounding now is “grr”, rather than “oh, someone is being burgled, I wonder if I can help them*” and I would imagine that I am far from alone in that approach. Rather than being concerned at the potential predicament of my neighbour, I try and blot the noise out as soon as possible and get on with my life.

Fortunately, alarms sounding during the night are pretty few and far between. The majority of them are in the early morning, as people get up and wander, bleary-eyed downstairs into the path of the sentinel PIR in the hallway or – as I have previously mentioned – on sunny weekend afternoons when I want to braai and play in the pool in peace.

Compare and contrast this with dogs, nature’s own useless burglar alarms, which are liberally spread around gardens in the neighbourhood. Unlike electronic security systems, dogs tend to sound at all hours of the day and night and, in an additional poke in the ear for anyone trying to do anything so silly as sleep during the night, set off a canine chain reaction. Inconsiderate dog owners will claim that Biggles the beagle will let them know if there’s someone in their yard. And they’re probably correct. However, Biggles will also inform them if a car drives past their front gate, a rat runs through their shrubbery or if there is a breeze which makes the tree across the road move – all through the power of the bark. In addition, Biggles is acutely tuned to bark loudly should he hear any other dog bark loudly. And so it goes.

My reaction to hearing the alarmed barking of a neighbour’s dog is subtly different to hearing a burglar alarm sound. When I hear a dog barking, I actually find myself hoping that there is an intruder on those premises and he is going to steal the dog. And quickly.

We are forever getting communications from the security company that monitor our alarm, asking us to please avoid false alarms: it wastes their time, their time is their money, and their money comes from us**. But it seems that, despite the hysteria and the drama over crime in South Africa, I’m the only one that reads such communications.
Ironically, if our alarm does go off, the security company staff refuse to come onto the premises until they are told that we don’t have a dog. Biggles evidently has a reputation for chewing patrolmen.

I’m tempted to suggest that people think there is a sort of herd immunity here. Everyone has an alarm, but no-one take any notice when an alarm goes off. Some people have a dog, but no-one takes any notice when a dog barks. 
Sadly, the burglars are rather more adept (in most cases) than your average virus and they are also aware of this.
And so, thank to the false alarms and Biggles et al, we’ll keep on paying. 

* The house owners, rather than the burglars.
** In fact, looking at it another way, we’re already being robbed by them.

Parlotones at Kirstenbosch

As promised (although I’m not sure by whom, to whom), we headed out into the blisteringly hot February sunshine to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to see the ever-popular and completely sold-out Parlotones.

I was disappointed. They weren’t up to their usual standard and they were much, much smaller than I remember them. This could have been because we were sat so far back with a million* people and a small forest between us and them. Or it could have been because they had shrunk and weren’t as good as before.
Thanks to several beers and a mild case of heatstroke, the  jury is still out on that one. 

Thankfully, as ever, it was less about the music and more about the idle chatter, the free-flowing alcohol and the people watching. And so we chatted, drank and people watched, including Faceless pandas, Camps Bay queens, Posing dudes and Schalk Burger and Andries Bekker.
And I couldn’t resist one more quick shot for my Sunsets and Skyscapes set.

  
  
More pictures in the Parlotones – Feb 09 flickr set.

 Next week, Arno Carstens. Bigger, better and something else beginning with B.

 * teeny exaggeration.

Should Expats be able to vote?

With an election imminent, as with any political party in any country, each of the political parties in SA is working out how best to maximise their chances of not losing too heavily to the ANC. Apart from the ANC, of course. Their tactic seems to be to not give a toss what happens because they’re going to win anyway.

Such is democracy.

Botox Queen Helen Zille’s DA (the Desperate Alternative) and Pieter Mulder’s FF+ (which is actually a political party and not a remedy for period pain) have launched separate court actions in Cape Town and Pretoria respectively to try and change the rules so that South Africans living overseas can vote in the upcoming ballot. And, since these are “white” parties and the majority of expats also fall neatly into that racial demographic, presumably for them.
One would imagine they’ve done their sums and worked out that the expat vote would be a “good thing” for their numbers, anyway. That would be a mighty own goal otherwise. Jacob Zuma would kill himself laughing.
Maybe that’s the plan.

So, should South Africans living and working abroad be allowed to vote in the SA elections?

No. They shouldn’t.

I should be allowed to vote here though. I’m a permanent resident here. I’ve lived here for five years. Paid taxes here for five years. So give me their vote. I promise to use it wisely (if not quite as they might have done).
The ironic thing is that I can still vote in the UK, despite not living there or having even stepped on British soil for over two years. I choose not to though. I think that I gave up that privilege when I made the decision to come and live here in Cape Town. And so it should be with those who have chosen to leave Cape Town – or wherever and head off to the UK – or wherever.

Don’t get me wrong. People like Gabrielle Johannes (does she mean renounced and not denounced, by the way?), currently annoying people in South West London on a two-year working visa, are not the ones I’m talking about. If you are overseas “temporarily” – like on a 2-year visa – then I’m all for your rights. Although, there’s always the counter argument that you knew the rules when you left the country and you still chose to go. Why moan now?

But if that also means that Frikkie van der Merwe who left SA in – let’s choose a year at random here – say 1994, also has the right to vote this year, then something has gone very wrong with the system.
And if that means that you renounce your South African citizenship (or at least that aspect of it) when you choose to move abroad – well, so be it. I have seen too many SA expats who rely solely on dodgy news sites with dodgy reporters and dodgy agendas for their information about South Africa. That those ill-informed individuals should get the opportunity to influence the future of the country is plain wrong.

As it is, whether Helen and Pieter’s court cases are successful or not will almost certainly have very little bearing on the outcome of the election. But it’s nice that they have suddenly realised that they want to campaign for the disenfranchised masses overseas. In an election year.

Who’d have thunk it?

“Playing Table Tennis”

The Molton Brown Boys monthly curry evening was moved forward this month to the 15th. This was due to the Tall Accountant having Chicken Labrador* withdrawal symptoms because we canceled the December meet. Well, I say it was him – I think we were all suffering and when TA just suggested we moved things a fortnight earlier, we jumped at the chance. 

But now this leaves us all with a gaping hole in our hectic social calendars for this week. So the suggestion of a Table Tennis Evening was vaunted at the recent meet.

I watched bewildered, befuddled and bemused as these plans were made in front of my Jhal Frezi and Mint Paratha. But, seeing the enthusiasm and gusto with which the offer was taken up by everyone around the table, I quickly worked out that a “Table Tennis Evening” was actually a codeword for… well… something else. So obviously, I quickly signed up too. Trouble is, I’m actually not sure what for.

Look, I could just go along to the assigned meeting place at the assigned time on the assigned evening and then see how things go.
But… what’s the dress code?
How much cash will I need?
Should I bring drinks? And if so – what? Powerade? Beer? Uitkyk 15-year-old potstill brandy?

 

Obviously, I have asked, but I always get the same sort of replies: “We’re going to play table tennis,” or “Bring your normal table tennis gear”. But was that a nudge and a wink down the phoneline? Are they assuming that I know more than I do or are we, a group of six 30-something, professional men, going to actually… play table tennis?

The answer, of course, is to prepare for every eventuality (perhaps barring “Gay Disco”) and to head out with an open mind, a wallet full of notes and a boot full of drinks and clothes. Unless, in the interim, anyone can decipher what “Playing Table Tennis” really means.

Please?

* never ceases to amuse.