Not in Kansas anymore

UPDATE: Looking for pictures of the 30-31st August 2008 storm? Try here!

As I stared, bleary-eyed, out of the bedroom window into the cold and dark of the Cape Town morning, I was once again blown away by the sight of the lights of Muizenberg glittering on the ocean. What a view. Despite the atrocious weather of the past 24 hours, I am very fortunate to live here.
It was only a few minutes later, standing under a very welcome steaming shower, that I realised that we live about 10km up the road from Muizenberg. Something wasn’t right.

It turns out that rain over the past 24 hours had turned my back garden into something akin to the ocean. As the gloomy, grey morning struggled to be slightly less gloomy and grey, I caught sight of an aging hippy in a wetsuit with his longboard next to my braai, anxiously looking across the lawn for any sign of sharks before he paddled out towards the birdbath to wait for the next big breaker.

It’s true that it has been a pretty torrid couple of days weather-wise for the residents of Cape Town. One of those times that you are glad that you aren’t living in a shack in a township or a tent in a temporary refugee camp (sorry – “displaced foreign nationals site”). Glancing at the SA Weather Service website, I see that Kirstenbosch – home of the famous botanical gardens and just around the corner from us – had 135mm of rain dropped on it in the last 24 hours. That’s 5½ inches for you oldies out there.

S'wet
Kirstenbosch: Rather damp

Still, this is winter in Cape Town so we really should be expecting the wet and the cold. Interestingly, in exactly 2 years time, the entire world will have descended upon the Mother City for the 2010 World Cup. I’m already buying up Pak-a-Mac’s by the lorryload which I will sell at a vastly inflated mark-up to ill-prepared Europeans who think it’s hot and sunny here all year round.

The profits will be used to install some sort of drainage system into my garden before high tide floods my living room.

Real Life is pink

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written on here. And the reason for that is pretty simple: that annoying thing called Real Life has gone and got in the way again. With about 6 weeks left until child number two enters the world, it was decreed that my study was finally to be given up and painted pink. Which is why I am currently sat here in the midst of what appears to be a furniture stacking convention and what smells like… well… paint.

I have always known that when CN2 was on its way I would be forced to give up my last bastion of tranquility and sanity and head downstairs into the pseudo-spare room with Harold and Edith. Basically, the baby either got this room or slept in a tent in the back garden. To be honest, I was all for the tent idea – we’ve got thick curtains, which would probably allow for consistently undisturbed nights for her parents – especially if we pitched the tent right in the far corner of the garden in the patch of thorn bushes. However, after a brief discussion (well, it was more of a monologue, really) the missus made it abundantly clear that if anyone was going to sleep outside it was going to be me. 
Consequently, this will be my last post from this room. Of course, you won’t really notice a difference, save maybe for a greater hint of melancholy in my writing or the occasional extra letter here or there when my son gets hold of the keyboard.

I didn’t surrender without a fight, though. Oh no! Sure, overall the paint was a joint decision, but I got the final say. Hence, my wife looked at all those irritating little colour cards that I’d gone out in the rain and picked up from the paint shop and whittled them down to a shortlist of one. Then I got to choose the paint, go out in the rain and buy it and then apply it to the walls. Ha – I think you’ll agree that it’s clear exactly who is the boss in this household!
Anyway, the paint is “Sweet Sundae 5” as Dulux describe it (or “Pink” as most normal people would say). The tin, which confusingly, is actually made of plastic, advertises the product as being “Low Odour”. Ja right! Currently surrounded, as I am, by a plethora of airborne organic polymers, several pixies and a friendly dragon named Steve, I would beg to differ. Presumably the idea is that these errant molecules will have dissipated somewhat by the time any child attempts to sleep in here.

So farewell, my study. We’ve had some good times together. You’ve got the best view in the house (Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, the sunloungers next to the pool when the wife is in her bikini and I’m supposed to be working). Your acoustics are second to none for listening to Morten Harket, Jared Leto and Jamie Cullum. You are beautifully cool in summer and satisfyingly cosy in winter.
But now you are pink and you smell. And thus, it is time to move on to bigger and better smaller and worse things. Still, I shall remember our time together with a certain wistful fondness and when CN2 is of a suitable age (say, 6 weeks) I shall explain to her just what sacrifices were made in her name.
I know she’ll understand.

A money-making sideline

Completely ignoring the thoughts of flame-haired gyppo Mick Hucknall, I chose to mention just how tight money was in SA right now. Sitting watching the footy last night as prices around me continued to rise, I could see only one way out of the situation: sell our son.

Flushed with self-pride and bored with Greece’s lack of ambition, I ran to my wife and explained my brilliant plan. When I came round ten minutes later, I had a headache, my right wrist had been secured to the heater on the bedroom wall and my wife had locked herself and the boy in the nursery. Struggling to get myself off the floor, I contemplated the potential value of adding my wife to the deal. It was only after pulling the heater off the wall (I had only used rudimentary means of attaching it to the wall in case of just such an emergency) that I realised I should probably just have untied my wrist. Bugger.

I eventually talked them out of the nursery by using SWAT negotiation tactics that I learned on Discovery Channel. Well, that and pizza.
As they emerged, my wife handed me the boy and told me to blow his nose. Glancing down at his offending facial appendage, I was appalled to see what I could only imagine was the aftermath of an explosion at a pea soup factory. Evidently, it was actually the thought of drowning in snot rather than my agreeing to a helicopter and a fast car at the border which had forced my wife’s hand during the hostage episode.

Removing the rivers of green exudate from the boy’s top lip proved unexpectedly tough. It was sticky like glue, stringy like mozzarella, and clingy and difficult to get rid of like a couple of my ex-girlfriends.
It was then that my second idea hit me. Sell snot.
South Africans are bizarrely proud to have had a product called “Pratley’s Putty” developed within their borders. Pratley (Pty) Ltd supply “DIY Epoxies, Acrylic Adhesives, Anaerobic Adhesives, Cyanoacrylates, Sealants, Hybrid systems and Special Performance industrial adhesives” to home users across the Cape Flats. Their putty is marketed as “the only South African product to have gone to the moon” – presumably passing some of their less salubrious customers in the troposphere as it did so.
So there’s definitely a market out there for sticky stuff. And thanks to the continuing viral adventures of the little one, I’ve got litres of it.

Continuing with the space theme, it could be used to stick those errant tiles onto the Space Shuttle. Or as a sealant around the booster rocket joints. That’s 14 astronauts we could have saved already.
Closer to home, snot could be used as a non-lethal weapon to spray over mobs intent on xenophobic violence, thus immobilising them.
Tanks of it (in patriotic green) could be used for resistance training for the South African rugby team, or to drown Graeme Smith and Benni McCarthy in.

I’m sure there are a myriad of uses for this innovative and versatile product which I have not yet considered. There’s got to be some sort of waterproofing agent in there somewhere – and a kid’s toy. And maybe a foodstuff too.

I’ll have a quick sniff of Pratley’s finest and see what comes to mind.

It’s beginning to hurt

More and more of the column inches of the newspapers in South Africa are being devoted to inflation, interest rates, petrol prices and the cost of living. While the entire world is suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous oil prices and the so called “credit crunch”, South Africa – as a developing economy – has taken a harder hit than most.

Being a weaker currency than those of the developed economies, our Rand has taken a bit of a battering. This means that imported goods are more expensive – and that includes oil. And – as you may know (unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave with Osama) – oil has also been going up pretty quickly anyway.
The effect of this is known in economic circles as “compound misery”.
So – because everything costs more to produce – inflation goes up, the Reserve Bank tries to stop people buying things by increasing interest rates and eventually, we all end up living on the grass we’ve been growing in our back gardens. (Stop sniggering at the back).

We’ve been hearing about this for a long time now. But it’s only in the last couple of months that it seems to really be hitting home for the general population. It’s as if a line has been crossed.  Car sales are down 23% year on year. The housing market has stopped completely* in a way that would have the average Daily Mail reader contemplating suicide (oh go on then – if you must).
And then this from the Southern Suburbs biggest shopping mall on a Sunday lunchtime:

 
Cavendish Square – not square and not full

And yes – all the shops were open. It’s just that no-one has any money to spend in them.

We’ve been told to expect it to get worse before it gets better.
One wonders just how much worse we can manage.

* Although the headline “R110-million for SA’s priciest flat” might make you think otherwise…

Bergvliet’s NIMBYs are a disgrace

People all over the city are trying to help out (see DC’s blog) with the refugee crisis that has hit Cape Town since the xenophobic violence. However, it would seem that these fine examples of humanity and selflessness only go so far:

The Methodist Church has accused some Bergvliet parents of “an exquisite form of genteel xenophobia” for forcing refugees and migrants displaced in xenophobic violence to move from a church in the upmarket suburb.
The Methodist Church has expressed its disappointment at having to move 57 displaced foreigners from the Bergvliet Methodist Church to venues elsewhere, because of “safety and health” concerns of parents of children at the preschool on the property.

Yes, when it comes to actually having displaced people living in a church hall near your house and using the same toilets as your children, then suddenly your viewpoint changes. Dropping a couple of cans of beans or an old coat in at a collection station is great, because then you don’t actually have to see the problem. Someone else can do the hard miles and you can sit back in your comfy chair in front of your fire knowing that some poor black person is happier now – as long as he has a tin opener, anyway.

But actually finding that your local church has made its safe, dry and warm church hall available to temporarily house immigrants fleeing from violence.
Hang on a minute! Little Verity goes to creche there – whatever is the church thinking, providing shelter and food for these stinking, robbing, drug-taking foreigners?!?

I disagree with Tim Attwell’s “genteel xenophobia” comment. It’s an oxymoron.
Yes, he’s comparing it to the horrific violence in the informal settlements – but in many ways, moving these people on in this way is equally prejudiced, equally unnecessary, equally heartless, equally ugly. It’s xenophobia – hatred of those who are different to you – there’s nothing genteel about it.

Four parents wrote to the church and 12 signed a petition, giving the church an ultimatum to remove the displaced families, or they would remove their children or stop paying fees.

The refuge seekers were moved to Trinity Methodist Church in Heathfield, Aldersgate Methodist Church in Steenberg, and Lotus River and Grassy Park Methodist Churches at the weekend.
Members of the Bergvliet congregation are still taking food to the people every day.

That 16 misinformed, prejudiced hypocrites can have such an impact on the lives of these people, especially in their time of need, is a great shame. I know some of those “members of the Bergvliet congregation” who are continuing their good work in helping the refugees. They now have to drive further into less reputable areas and at their own cost – many of them are pensioners who struggle to afford petrol as it is. It’s sad that their humanitarian efforts have been associated with this negative story.

I hereby invite any of those parents who complained to the church to get in touch and give their side of the story. Because, as it stands right now, you are as much a disgrace to this country as those beating and burning their neighbours in the townships.

Bergvliet Methodist Church: (021) 715-3045

NIMBY – “Not In My Back Yard”