The expat on the experts…

It being the day after the weekend before and this being an English guy living in South Africa’s blog, it’s not like I can get away without mentioning the rugby. Yes, after a dramatic weekend, England will play South Africa in the RWC final next Saturday. It’s big news here. Really big. It’s also got me a bit confused after that quote from Jake White, SA coach last Monday:

frontsm
Cape Argus, Monday 8th October

I’m not sure England will agree to his demands. Really. Why should he get to choose anyway?
But in fact, most of South Africa thinks that they’ve already won the damn thing. And why not? After all, they comprehensively beat England in the group stages. Not that previous results apparently count for a lot, as France beat England twice just weeks before the tournament, but er… didn’t in the semi-final.In fact, if you listened to the pundits, England’s World Cup was over almost before it began.
After struggling past the USA and then losing to South Africa, you could have been forgiven for imagining that England were already out.
Finishing second in their group, claimed the experts – if they even managed to get past Samoa and Tonga – would only result in a quarter final defeat against Australia. It was a lost cause anyway.
To cut a long story short, England beat Samoa and Tonga, finished second in their group and then also beat Australia.
Oops. The back-tracking rugby gurus hastily re-revised their positions. England would instead crash out against the New Zealand All Blacks in the semi finals. All good – except of course that New Zealand didn’t even make the semis – France beat them to claim that spot.
But we must have misheard – because France would obviously beat England in the Saturday semi final – believe it, because it’s true – even Jake said so. It was in the Cape Argus. But – as history now shows – they didn’t.

In actual fact, I don’t claim to be an expert in rugby. It’s a silly game.
However, I’ve lost my shirt by incorrectly predicting football matches often enough – I now know better than to stick my rooinek out.
And although I will be cheering for England on Saturday, I have the best of both worlds: If England win, I’m delighted – home country and all that; and if the Boks win, I’m still pretty happy – home country and all that. And yes, I will join in the party.
I’m often amazed that I encounter a fair amount of hostility for supporting England while living here. It’s not like South Africans in London give up supporting the Boks just cos they live in the UK. And Putney’s got more Saffas than Durban.
No, there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England – and it just so happens to be in my back garden in Cape Town. Right next to the birdbath.

My only hope is that it’s a decent game, despite all that’s at stake. And that relies on Jake White admitting that he was completely wrong in his “expert” prediction and not trying to stick to his guns and targeting French icon Sebastien Chabal for special treatment.
He’ll be watching the final at home with his girlfriend, Mimi. Or something.
The last thing they want is Schalk Burger mistakenly crashing through the kitchen door and knocking over the bowl of snails on the coffee table.

That’s the last thing anyone wants, right?

Health (it needs some money)…

Ah. The Department of Health. The government department that everyone loves to hate. Well, that and the Department of Home Affairs, of course. Actually, I daresay that there are a few others too. But recently, the DoH has been taking a fair old beating. And the majority of it is entirely justified. Dirty wards, staff shortages, poor pay for nurses, a lack of qualified doctors – the list is seemingly endless. Perhaps it’s at this point that I should point out that although I’m referring to the South African Department of Health, I could equally be describing the situation back in old Blighty. Having worked in both, I can say that in many respects the similarities are striking. The underfunding, lack of equipment and the shortages of staff are obvious and alarming in both countries, albeit on different scales. Here in SA, there has (rightfully) been outcry over the fact that newly born babies were placed in cardboard boxes. It sounds terrible – it is terrible and unacceptable. But reading Georgina Guedes’ column, one can see the good in the people that work in these conditions; a staff, under pressure, underfunded, underpaid, yet still doing their best to make patients – be they mothers or neonates – comfortable and safe, despite the lack of support they face. Making the best out of a very bad job.

I looked closely at those babies and I could see that they were clean, clothed and covered with warm blankets, and so I wasn’t too concerned about their wellbeing.

For me, it’s a reminder of my time in the NHS in the UK. Hospital workers doing their best for the patients in difficult conditions. Unpaid overtime, long hours, extra duties due to a lack of qualified staff; low wages, low morale, high staff turnover etc etc. But there was a willingness to serve the patients, wherever you looked – almost a Blitz spirit. But staff goodwill can only go so far. Eventually, the system passes breaking point, shortcuts are taken and mistakes happen. And patients die. 90 of them in this Clostridium difficle “superbug” outbreak in Kent. The interview with the son of one of the victims, Ranjit Gosal, describes the situation in the wards, and the difficulties he came up against when trying to get help for his dying mother. It’s tragic. And the NHS baby units are in no better state. We’re not down to cardboard boxes in the UK just yet, but the parallels are there for all to see. The answer? More money – but more better managed money. But it’s ok – I’m no fool. I have heard these calls in the UK for many years and nothing has been done to redress the balance of years of underfunding. The same goes for SA. And so, the respective Departments of Health stagger from one disaster to another, each time claiming that “lessons have been learned”. Sorry – I just don’t see the evidence of that.

Don’t you just hate it when this happens…

You know, you’re just wandering along one day, minding your own business, dressed (obviously) as a tomato, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a mayor runs up behind you and injures you (obviously) while trying to leapfrog over you.

leapfrogging mayor story
From BBC News website

Here’s the full story, which also has detailed footage of the incident. Sometimes even I am lost for words.
This is (obviously) one of those times.

How annoying

The most annoying thing about someone telling you about annoying things is that suddenly you realise that it’s now annoying you as well. I must warn you that I’m about to do this to you now. I’m not talking about The Gamehere. Although that is pretty annoying.
No, until just today, I have had the unenviable experience of having any spare moment in my mind instantly filled by the theme music from the Police Academy series of films.

This may have been the subconcious reasoning behind my desire not to relax in Madikwe. There’s nothing that compliments sighting endangered antelope, skittishly* drinking at the waterhole less than der-dum-te-der-der-der-der-derrrr, de-diddly-dum-de-de-der-dum-der-der-der running through your mind.
And, because annoying things are catching, you’re now humming along too. With or without your skittish antelope.

But that’s ok, because I have (or rather, I had) moved on. Police Academy has now been overwritten in my cerebrum by another police theme tune. Cagney and Lacey, no less. Remember the unfathomably fast solo sax intro, breaking into the happy 80’s cheese?

Of course you do.

And what’s more, now you can’t forget it either. Annoying, isn’t it?

Another annoying thing, more particular to South Africa, is the sudden rash of people who have seemingly moved on from their denial that the 2010 World Cup is coming to South Africa. In addiction terms, this is described as “hitting bottom”. It’s not kinky. Not at all. No, it’s a good thing. The World Cup is coming; they must get used to that idea now.
There is a more sinister side though. After all, every silver lining has a cloud. (Unless it’s the silver lining of The Ad Wizard’s super sexy jacket, obviously.)
But I digress.
The sinister side is that their reluctant acceptance has led to just one more line with which to put the country down. “If we can’t do it now, then what’s going to happen in 2010?”

(And various forms thereof).
The joy of this little line (for them) is that it can be applied to virtually anything. And they do apply it to anything: The trains, the roads, the hotels, the crime, the people, the housing crisis, the health department – even the stadium, god bless it. Forget the fact that the stadium isn’t scheduled to be completed for another 2 and a bit years. And that it’s over 2 months ahead of schedule. No.
[mildly hysterical voice]: “If the stadium isn’t ready now, what on earth will happen in 2010?”
Well, I think they’re going to carry on building between now and then, so that by 2010 we have a world-class facility ready for the competition. Don’t you?

The simple fact is that even if the World Cup were to arrive tomorrow, SA would probably manage just fine – although the matches in a few places would be on huge building sites, with cranes for goals.
Here in Cape Town, we’ve been told that it will be like a usual month in the tourist season, and because it falls in winter down here, it’ll be like a bonus month for the city. Oh, and look, we managed just fine last January and I daresay we’ll manage nicely this January too, so I’m not too worried, no matter what our Doubting Thomas friends see through their half-empty glasses.

* From skittish – every game ranger’s favourite antelope adjective.

It doesn’t happen often…

…so perhaps you should mark this post in some special way so that you can come back here and marvel at this most unusual of occurrences.
Yes, I may have been “a bit wrong” in my last post. See, actually while I was writing my previous post about this place, one of the local lions was successfully hunting one of the local wildebeest.

Seeing the outcome of that little mismatch has changed my whole outlook on the game reserve/safari concept. I have to admit, I didn’t get it. Even having seen the lions up close, having watched the elephants at the water hole and seen a billion different antelopes*, it really wasn’t any different from a zoo. Except that there were no guarantees of seeing anything.


But getting up close to Mrs Lion, her two nephews and her three cubs as they tucked into 200kg of unfortunate wildebeest somehow made something click. At least they were doing something, and not just lying around in some really thick bushes, confusing my camera. And I couldn’t wait to get out the next morning to see the latest developments – which, essentially, were that lions eat a lot. And quickly.
You can see our lion pictures by clicking here and other snaps from Madikwe (including Caroline and David’s wedding pics, if that’s what you’re here for) by clicking here. I do, however, maintain my theory about camera envy. The lenses just kept getting bigger and bigger as the days went by. Some achievement considering that we were miles from anywhere in the middle of the African bush, the nearest specialist camera shop perhaps a 2 hour drive away. Assuming there is a camera shop in Zeerust. All we saw (and used) was their amazing drive-thru bottle store.


We’ve been back in Cape Town for a couple of days now, but I know that some of the main protagonists (can you have more than one protagonist?) were staying on – god only knows how long they’re exposing for now…Back to reality – but it’s good reality. I’m just off to purchase the all new Parlotones CD which was released today: A World Next Door To Yours has been described as “a suitably excellent progression from their previous work” by the Cape Times and as “a CD I’m about to go and buy” by me.  

In our next post, 6000 miles will be looking into the reasons behind the apparent issue of an arrest warrant for the Commissioner of Police in South Africa. We’ll also be asking when any sort of decent weather plans to arrive in Cape Town and not commenting (at all) on Madeleine McCann.

Vive la difference!

*This may be a slight exaggeration.