Never give up

In some ways and despite its somewhat amusing headline, the Cape Times story which I read this morning was rather sad. But you just can’t help but read a piece entitled: 
Escaped mental patient stones police and jumps into Durban harbour.

The fact that someone is so ill and so out of their mind that they have to be locked away from society is tragic. That in desperation, they then escape, attack police cars and injure a police officer before throwing themselves into a harbour is perhaps even worse.

But as ever in this crazy country, there is an funny side too. And it’s a lesson that many of us would do well to remember: Perseverance is a wonderful trait.

An hour-long chase ensued before the man jumped into Durban harbour.
While in the water, he was still “very aggressively looking for anything to throw”.

Presumably, there weren’t many stones floating around, but this being in an industrial harbour, god knows what he could have found to fling.

Never give up.

Out of the frying pan

Once again, Eskom is to blame.

Newlands got load-shod mid-afternoon and the traffic lights on the M3 never really recovered. It was all a bit of a mess and I joined the queue by the Aquarium.
At this point, anyone that knows Cape Town thinks I’m lying. I wish I was. But no, my journey home from work is 15km and I queued solidly for 14½ of them. It took about 2 hours.

And it’s only going to get worse. But not for me. The city is upgrading Hospital Bend – perhaps the largest interchange on the outskirts of Cape Town – where the N2 meets the M3 and traffic mingles across 10 lanes near some zebras, on the bend next to the hospital –  an old, famous and listed building.
It all sounds quite romantic, but you’d be amazed how many of the cars coming from the right want to go left and vice versa. Weaving happens and then chaos regularly ensues (at least twice each weekday).
Fortunately, it looks like someone from the council has finally noticed this and they’re going to sort it out.

It is a condition of the contract that at least two lanes of traffic must be maintained in each direction for the duration of the project. This will lessen the disruption of traffic flow and consequent inconvenience to motorists.

Two lanes each way, huh? Down from five each way now. Yeah, right. That’ll lessen the disruption nicely.
Never mind – it’ll only take a couple of years. And then we’ll have this for the zebras to look at:

Click for largeness
All new Hospital Bend. Complicated is the new sexy.

All very pretty. But since my work is moving out of the city centre and a little way north, I won’t have to contend with Hospital Bend on a daily basis anymore. I was rubbing my hands together in glee and laughing in the way that only truly lovely people can, when I was told that while the City were taking Hospital Bend to bits, the Province would be upgrading Koeberg Interchange.

Bugger.

Because if you thought that Hospital Bend was a bit of a design error, then you’ll love Koeberg Interchange:


Koeberg. Indescribable without swearing.

Koeberg Interchange was designed by Willie van der Plooy – a nasty, bitter individual with a hell of a temper, a drink problem and complex psychological issues including a vendetta against all forms of road transport after he failed his driving test six times in a single month. Legend has it that he hid himself away and studied long and hard to become a civil engineer, then got his own back on an unsuspecting Cape Town driving public one evening by downing 6 bottles of Klippies, popping a couple of tabs of LSD and coming up with a new design for the crossroads of the N1 and the M5.
Some say he invoked Beelzebub through ritual worship and got him to fart on the plans, such is the barbed, twisted, evil nature of the junction. These days, tourists and locals alike flock from miles around to sit in massive queues and gaze miserably upon the fetid industrial heartland of Cape Town awaiting their turn on the aging concrete spirals.
And van der Plooy is no more, assassinated by terrorist group The Provisional AA in England for coming up with the concept of the M25 in retaliation for being charged an extortionate taxi fare on a trip to London in 1958.

So it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for me. Stick a few decent CDs in the multichanger, bang up the aircon, sit back and crawl to work up the M5 instead of up the M3.

Love it.

Why are you still here?

No, dear readers. This isn’t a question for you. 
We all know why you’re still here. It’s the almost ethereal, magical, magnetic attraction of the prose you read on these pages. It’s a completely understandable and excusable addiction.
No, this was a question I was asked by the Molton Brown Boys over a particularly tasty curry at Bihari last night. I guess it’s at this point that I should explain that the Molton Brown Boys are a group of friends that get together for a curry and a beer every so often and discuss everything from Borat through to cement statistics.
We were drawn together by our shared outlook on life and our penchant for fine soaps. Deal with it.

So – why are I still here?

The question was posed, I believe, in response to the current “bad news” vibe in South Africa and my ability, as a UK citizen, to up and run back to the safety of Blighty at any time. Why would I want to stay?

Let’s look at the bad news: electricity shortages, crime*, bloody awful customer service. Sure, they’re huge issues – especially those first two. If you’re samzn0, then you’ve obviously had a particularly bad couple of weeks in January and the third one is a big problem too.
But if you want to complain about something else, then you actually have to dig a bit. You could moan about the Government, but some would argue that in many respects, they’re doing a pretty decent job – it’s politics and no-one ever agrees about politics.
You could moan about the inflation and interest rates, and it is a real drain on one’s finances each month, but these growing pains come with a developing economy and frustratingly high oil prices.
You could moan about Bafana Bafana’s exit from the Afcon tournament, but they got drawn in the Group of Death – Senegal are out too. Who’d have thunk it?  

No, life isn’t always easy here, but then is it always easy elsewhere? You see, I believe that wherever you run to, you’ll still find problems and drawbacks. Maybe not as acute and as pressing as those here, but irritating and frustrating, nevertheless.
Examples? Is Gordon Brown everyone’s cup of tea? How much is a litre of petrol in London? And what are England’s footballers doing this summer?

There’s always the plus side. The bit that some people in South Africa (and virtually everyone on that appalling internet forum) try to bury under all the bad stuff. And yes, there are also plus sides wherever else you go in the world as well.
I’m not stupid. I keep an eye on the news and what I see and hear “on the street”. I’m aware of the challenges SA faces now and in the future.
But perhaps part of the lure of SA is the rollercoaster ride between the bad news (which is often pretty bad) and the good bits, which are actually exceptionally good.

There’s the weather, the lifestyle, the food, the scenery, the braais.
There’s the people, the smiles, the optimism, the hope, the World Cup(s). 

It’s hard to define the experience of living in South Africa right now. If one were only to review the newspapers and the news websites (like the people on that forum do), then one would get a horribly skewed version of the country. Actually living here, it’s not like that at all. I’m typing this in a brightly lit room on a PC which is working absolutely fine. I haven’t been murdered today.
Note that I’m not making any claims about customer service though.

One must take the rough with the smooth. And the smooth in South Africa more than makes up for the rough.
I’m staying put, thank you very much.

* Interestingly, the moaning about crime has dropped significantly since the recent round power cuts began. Evidently, even your highly-trained, seasoned moaner can run out of negativity.

I’m building a power station

I think it’s the only way out of this infernal power crisis.
No lights? Whatever.
No TV? A minor irritation.

But allowing my beers to get warm? Action needs to be taken.

Sod the Government, the captains of industry and the so-called experts countrywide who all say that there is no quick fix. I think they’re blinkered. If everyone builds their own little power station, we’ll be sorted.

As far as I can remember from my physics lessons at school, all you have to do is make steam (water + heat), turn a turbine and Bob’s your uncle.
For your average Southern Suburber, with a pool (water) and a braai (heat), that’s surely not such a big ask.
Apart from the turbine bit.

I drew a quick diagram and presented it to my wife.  With hindsight, I probably should have put it in Powerpoint with some fancy graphics. The back of Alex’s first school painting was not a good idea.
Still, once I had survived the hormone-driven onslaught of the enraged mother and wiped the blood from the plans, the idea seemed to get a cautious welcome.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to a hastily scribbled rectangle.
“That’s the pool.”
She hesitated.
“Well, what’s that then?” she asked, pointing to a second rectangle.
“That’s the braai.”
“And this big space?”
“That’s where the turbine will go.”

It didn’t help that the drawing was not to scale and made it look like the turbine was going to take up most of the garden, turning her beloved lawn yellow and (thankfully) squashing her Fatsia japonica, the ugliest plant in existence and rumoured to be a key part of the nightmare which gave John Wyndham the idea for The Day Of The Triffids.
In actual fact, by my calculations, it would also flatten the neighbours pansies as well. And possibly part of their house. But on the bright side, I could probably generate enough electricity to run the pool pump and my beer fridge. Just about.

“How much will it cost?” she asked, suspiciously.

This was a problem. Although running the unit would be relatively economical, subsisting solely on rooikrans bought from the scary lady in the light blue horsebox in Diep River, the initial capital expenditure was a touch over 300 million Rand. The missus turned a strange shade of crimson when I told her this.
Alert enough to recognise the imminent danger, I ran. Almost quickly enough.

Nursing my wounds at the Fireman’s Arms, where the fridges always work and SuperSport plays 24/7, I was approached by a Iranian dwarf who claimed that he could get me a partly decommissioned Russian nuclear power plant for 10,000 US dollars, three gallons of whipped cream and a night with the Ad Wizard.

I have a feeling that I’m going to have the coldest beers in Cape Town this summer, whatever games Eskom play.

Getting it right with baby

Hmm.

  Careful now.             Car seat 

Well, with another one on the way, I guess this might be a good time to polish up on our parenting skills.

This page seems a good place to start, with plenty of helpful advice.