Da Lowdown

As my virally-ravaged body continues to exude mucus at an alarming rate, I felt it was time to update the site once again. This is mainly because, although my symptoms have shown a mild improvement since yesterday, I’m still far from convinced that I’ll make it through to the end of the week.


I have already been forced to miss two football matches, one international rugby game and one father’s day, while the pharmacists of Cape Town now greet me happily by my first name and offer less then reasonable credit terms for the myriad of their products I have been utilising. At one point, I was taking 22 times my RDA of vitamin C. My kidneys were extremely unhappy about this and it seemingly made precisely bugger-all difference to my immune system. I cut down when my hastily calculated risk/benefit analysis on the back of a tissue box revealed that the vitamin C would allow me to live for approximately 3 more days than if I wasn’t taking it.
3 more days of snot, coughing and generally feeling like crap?
No, thank you.

So, aside from generating bucketloads of phlegm, what have I been up to?
On the technology front, I have discovered Audacity and have been playing around with that. Now all I need is a nice OpenSource video editor and I’m sorted. Anyone?
My music listening on the now infamous rattly iPod has been almost exclusively Send Away The Tigers by the Manic Street Preachers, which is dangerously happy by their somewhat melancholy standards, but with guitar work echoing back to Generation Terrorists and The Holy Bible (the Manics’ album not the book, which, although not an avid reader, I believe contains virtually no guitar work).


The public sector workers strike continues – just. A whole one bloke in the picket line outside the hospital this morning, which was rather amusing. He was toyi-toying, but mainly just to keep warm, I think. Note: solo toyi-toying is really funny to watch.
Anyway, according to the Allister Charles of the NEHAWU Union in this morning’s Cape Times:

Our demand is still at 10%, there’s no doubt about that. But the question nationally is: are we going to accept or should we fight until we reach 8%? That’s for you to decide.

Is it just me or does he have it all wrong? Isn’t he supposed to be fighting for a bigger percentage increase? Keep fighting, Allister and you’ll owe them money.
Once you’ve settled that little issue, we can chat about the R50 you owe me. What’s that, you say? You actually owe me R75? I thought it was R100. R125? Really? [continues until I’m a millionaire]…

One last bit of good news. While I may be slightly behind in updating my 2010 flickr pictures, South Africa is exceeding its obligations, as Sepp Blatter found out on his visit this week. Awesome stuff, even if he can’t pronounce Phumzile’s name. Lots of people struggle with that though.That’ll be all for now then – consider yourself informed.

Sport and Racism in South Africa…

I read with interest the Ruck & Maul column by Ashfak Mohamed in today’s Cape Times. Ashfak is a rugby fan who was at the SA v England game in Bloemfontein last Saturday.


Ashfak isn’t white. (There was a photo).


He described what we’ve all seen at rugby matches across South Africa, namely an almost complete absence of black and coloured fans in the crowd; an embarrassing and hostile silence through the first verse of the national anthem (which is sung in isiXhosa), followed by a bellowing of Die Stem (the Afrikaans verse which also used to be the national anthem of the “old” South Africa) and players of colour being racially abused for their mistakes on the pitch.
His citing of previous racism at matches in Bloemfontein for this overwhelming majority of white fans got me thinking. Also on Saturday was the ABSA Cup final between Ajax Cape Town and Sundowns (that’s a soccer* game, folks). One wonders how many white fans were at that game? I would wager that it was fewer than blacks and coloureds in Bloem. But is that a problem? Well, obviously, it is a problem when racial abuse stops people from watching sport** – whatever their colour. But is that really the reason that these two games were attended by such completely different crowds?
I think it is only one part of the story.

According to southafrica.info, “Sport is the national religion. Transcending race, politics or language group, sport unites the country”

I laughed when I read that. Yes, this country could have gone down the road of civil war in 1994 and it didn’t, and for that everyone should be thankful. But saying that life is settled and the country is united in any form just because there’s no civil war is like saying that England did well at the rugby because they didn’t lose by, say, 100 points. Those claiming “racial harmony” are, to coin a cockney phrase, “having a larf”. This country is amongst the most divided in the world.

Insecurity, paranoia, resentment, retribution, disillusionment and distrust are plainly evident the way many South Africans live their daily lives. Those reading this will probably snort and dismiss this. “That’s not me.” they’ll say. I beg to differ.


The population here is divided into those who won’t openly admit to there being a problem, those who see the issues but don’t have a problem with them and the other 1% who want to sort things out but can’t overcome the apathy or engrained racist attitudes of the other 99%. Of course, 99% of the South Africans reading this think that they’re in that 1% – and that’s exactly the problem.

But back to sport.

Because of the unique history of this country, the lines of division run through every aspect of life. But perhaps the most public of these is sport. Well, that and politics, but no-one reads posts about politics. Sport is neatly divided in three in this country: Rugby, Cricket and Soccer. Of course, there are other sports played here, but those are the biggies. Rugby and cricket get the most press. They are the “white” sports. What distresses many of the rugby and cricket fans is that the official national sport of South Africa is… er… the other one. And that’s because the majority of the sporting population play football. Rugby and cricket come in very much second and third. How embarrassing.


And while there is a huge push to get more coloured and black players into the national teams for rugby and cricket to make the team more representative of the racial make-up of the country (often despite the fact that the players in question aren’t actually very good), there is no reciprocal push to get white players into the soccer team.

Ashfak suggests that beacuse the ANC is in power in the Free State, there must be a lot of black people living there and they should have been at the game. Nice big tarring brush you have there, sir.
But it seems to me that the major reason for the obvious racial divisions in South African sport is that for the vast majority of whites, soccer holds no interest and for the vast majority of blacks, rugby holds no interest. And as long as those few who want to watch and play a sport from “the other side” can, I don’t see a problem.


So Ashfak, while I agree with your comments regarding the Afrikaaners and their small-minded and right-wing attitudes, I think the major reason for the nearly all-white crowd last Saturday was really because they were the only ones actually interested.

*I hate this word. Obviously, I mean football, but that would just confuse everyone.
**or indeed doing anything.

SA sporting success. Yes – really!

Great news!
With both of the South African Super 14 teams winning their semi finals, we have an all South African final to look forward to. This is big news for the whole of South Africa and a cause for great national celebration. Everyone has forgotten about the horrendous crime statistics. Everyone is overlooking the corruption and nepotism rife in government. The millions who are living in shacks with no electricity, heat or running water are out dancing in the streets. Even HIV has decided to take the week off and enjoy the run up to the game in Durban on Saturday.

Well no, not quite. But that’s what the newspapers would have you believe.
So, who will you support on Saturday – Sharks or Bulls? That’s the 64 million Rand (US$9,195,402.30) question and fortunately, we’re here to give you the background on the teams and their fans so that you can make an informed choice. As if you care.

The Bulls are the Manchester United of South African rugby. Successful, but disliked by the masses. They are rather like a large political party. Based in Pretoria, their fans tend to be white, Afrikaans, loud-mouthed and have disastrous taste in home furnishings. They all drive double-cab bakkies and have never cooked a meal indoors, preferring instead braaikos (literally “BBQ food”) prepared oor die kole. And that braaikos consists of red meat. Just red meat. Huge great chunks of red meat. Washed down with beer. And some red meat. No true Bulls supporter (male or female) weighs less than 120kg.
Yes, they have that arrogant, superior streak which no-one really likes, but it is almost justified: like it or not, they support a pretty good team.

And then The Sharks. If The Bulls are like a political party, The Sharks are more like a cult. In order to join the cult, you need to have some connection with Durban. Maybe you live there, maybe you were born there, perhaps you once visited. Possibly you share a letter in your name with one in the word “Durban” – it really doesn’t matter – you can still be a Sharks fan.
Everyone likes The Sharks, not just because they’re the coolest team to support, but perhaps because previous to this season – and despite their name – they have been no real threat to any other team. The Sharks’ fans live all over South Africa – seemingly with the exception of Durban – and they have the coolest badge to stick on your car. I know these two facts because I see 74 of them on my way into work each day.

Actually, I don’t know why I’m bothering with all this analysis. For the neutral rugby fan, it simply all comes down to who has better cheerleaders. So here’s three reasons why the Sharks would be getting my support this Saturday if I wasn’t watching the disappointingly cheerleader-free FA Cup final. 

Give me an H!  Ohhhh K!  Give me an S!

Now all I have to do is explain to my wife how I managed to upload pics of some scantily clad girlies, but not those of our only son’s first birthday.
If I don’t post again for a while, at least you’ll know why.

On how life is right now…

So ends another mammoth gap in the annals of 6000 miles…. It’s really been a question of time and inclination. I’ve had both, but never at the same moment. I’m not about to disappoint my readership (or what’s left of it) with disappointingly poor social commentary, tired jokes and space fillers.

Neither of you would appreciate that.

Anyway: Yes, as widely predicted on this website, South Africa were humbled by Australia in the cricket, but that’s all well behind us now. New national pride is being sought through the Super 14 rugby and the progression of two South African teams through to the semi finals of that competition. I was fortunate enough to be at Newlands for the match between the Stormers and the Sharks last Saturday and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. The canapés were delightful and the spring rolls a joy. Also, there was free beer. We watched some of the rugby too, which was OK.

My dear little son has turned one year old. No-one is more surprised than us that he’s made it this far with our previous parenting experience; i.e. none. I guess it just goes to show how resilient the little fellow is. I will, of course, have some birthday photos up on the 6000 miles flickr site in the very near future. I’m in trouble at home for not having uploaded them already, which I guess is fair enough.

In addition to Alex’s birthday, my wife and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary (do the anniversary/birthday maths – it’s all completely legal), which came as shock to no-one – we were always meant to be.

But while there have been some variable sporting results and impressive bar snacks, baby’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries and partially-justifiable husband chastising, one thing is overshadowing my life at the moment. Sit, dear reader, for this is a biggie. This may foretell of a catastrophe of epic proportions.
My iPod has developed a rattle. This is, undeniably, a “bad thing”.
It is widely accepted that iPods should not rattle.

So far, there has been no further problem with the device, but I fear that it is only a matter of time.
And while it may be a couple of years old and well-used, I would hate to be prevented from enjoying the great sounds of Favourite Worst Nightmare by the Arctic Monkeys and Peace Breaker by the interestingly named local band, Springbok Nude Girls, (careful with the title of the page on that one if you’re at work), both of which I would highly recommend.

I showed my wife the iPod. I explained my concerns and then, with all else quiet, I shook it and demonstrated its terrifying death rattle. I explained that I would need a new, improved 60GB model with funky colour screen.
She seemed unimpressed.
“That’s easy to sort out,” she told me, lifting my forlorn hopes, “Don’t shake it.”

Readers, sometimes there is just no arguing with female logic.

Cricket and this country

The Cricket World Cup is on at the moment. Anyone reading in countries that don’t play cricket (Denmark, USA, England etc.) may have missed this fact, but here in South Africa, no-one will talk about anything but “that match” tomorrow. “That match” is the eagerly awaited semi-final between everyone’s long-standing tournament favourites, Australia and South Africa’s tournament favourites… er… South Africa.

The rivalry in this particular game has been upped somewhat by South Africa’s audacious snatching of the world number one spot from the Aussies just before the tournament started (although they have since relented and given it back by losing to… er… Australia). That and the still-fresh memories of the “greatest game ever” in Jo’burg in 2006, when Australia smashed 434 – a new world record score – only for South Africa to come out (not like that) (well, maybe Andre Nel) and score 438; beating them with one wicket and 1 ball remaining. That’s gotta hurt.

It’s difficult to desribe the hype surrounding the game here, which even the most hardened South African fans are admitting Australia should win. Think of England in the (Football) World Cup final or the USA actually winning the war in Iraq.
There are South African flags everywhere – some of them even being flown the correct way up*. The back page of the local newspaper was filled entirely with SMS’s of support for the team, which they’ll never read as they’re playing cricket over in the Caribbean. My football team is annoyed to have to be taking time out from the big game to play some poxy soccer match. Strange behaviour indeed.

This, of course is a far cry from the dark old days of South African cricket. Back then, when a stuttering South Africa side lost by 67 runs to minnows Bangladesh, things were very different. In those days, newspapers slated the team’s terrible performance, radio DJ’s declared themselves “ashamed to be South African” and the locals wanted the head of the captain, the coach and the selectors removed and publicly displayed next the the Ben Schoeman highway in Gauteng.

What a difference two weeks can make, huh?

* That’s with the blue at the bottom, in case you’re struggling.