Oudekraal statue mystery

A statue has appeared on the rocks on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard and the local newspaper and residents are getting unduly excited about it.


Statue

Alien. Tribute. Mime artist. Religious statement. Mummy. A gift from God.

These are just some of the suggestions offered by baffled onlookers as to what could be gracing rocks beyond Camps Bay Beach.
A large white statue, in the form of a man with his hands outstretched, has for the past few days stood on the rocks just outside the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Victoria Road near Oudekraal.

Let’s take a closer look at those possible options, shall we?

Alien: Completely plausible. A little disappointing after all these years of waiting to find that visitors from another world have finally made first contact and then instantly frozen, arms outstretched, on a rock just off the South African coast, but you can’t have everything, now can you?
Tribute: What? This was a newspaper reporter interviewing you about the weird statue on the rocks there, not your psychiatrist asking you to say the first word that comes into your head when he says “Björn Again”. Idiot.
Mime artist: Er… it’s been there since Tuesday. David Blaine might try a stunt like that, but there would be a million cameras and paramedics there. And me, throwing rocks at him. Therefore, I’m putting this one down as unlikely.
Religious statement: Again, I find myself a little confused by this suggestion. But then, I find myself a little confused by religion.
Mummy: Doesn’t look like my mummy. And sure, this is Africa, but we’re about as far from Egypt as you can be and still be in Africa. No.
A gift from God: Brilliant. This must be it. And it’s just what we always wanted. Yes, this lovely white bloke on some rocks near the sea more than makes up for the misery of famine and disease across the continent, war and attrition in the Middle East, global warming, that tsunami he sent down a few years back and Gordon Brown. We should be writing our thank you notes right away.

Of course, this rampant speculation could all be avoided if only the local hotel’s financial controller, Heather Blackie, had seen a statue on top of a car as she was driving home on Tuesday. But wait! Read on!! What’s this????

The hotel’s financial controller, Heather Blackie, saw a statue on top of a car as she was driving home on Tuesday.

And then, the moment when readers realise that Heather Blackie should have been a detective, rather than a financial controller:

Blackie said she didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when she saw the statue out on the rocks she made the connection.

It must have been a moment of pure genius. Enlightenment. An Epiphany, appropriately enough.
You can almost see/hear/smell the cogs grinding away in Heather’s brain.

Strange white statue on rocks… Oh Christ, did I leave a note for the maid about the ironing?… Strange white statue looks similar to the strange white statue I saw on top of that car on Tuesday… I wonder if there’s any chocolate in my handbag?… Hang on!  Maybe it’s the same statue!… Oh cool – 3 squares of Fruit & Nut – and not too fluffy… [sounds of chocolate being devoured]

The local authorities aren’t happy though:

Paul Sieben, head of Table Mountain National Parks marine division said permission had not been given to place any structure on the rocks, about 300 metres from the road.
If permission had been sought for it, it wouldn’t have been granted, Sieben said. Any structure proposed for below the high-level mark needed to be subject to a complete environmental impact assessment.

Paul – are you forgetting that this is a gift from God? Lest we forget, he is omnipresent and omnipotent. He can do magic. He can even override the need for a complete environmental impact assessment. But he does it without paying the committee shedloads of cash, unlike like everyone else.

But I have to leave the final words on this fantastic figurine, this rock-bound riddle, this… this… “strange white statue” (thanks, Heather), to Bernard Schaefer, Camps Bay resident (and member of it’s community policing forum): Noting that the rocks on which the statue stands are completely surrounded by water, he deduced, Blackie-style:

Someone with a boat must have done it.

Brilliant, Bernard. Mental agility such as yours cannot be quantified by the lowly means which we possess on this planet. We are truly not worthy.
Did you put it there? Are you God in disguise? But with a boat?

Wakefield’s Shameful Legacy

A new study, ironically published in The Lancet, raises serious doubts that the goal of elimination of measles in Europe by 2010 can be attained. The reason for this re-emergence of a disease which was completely under control 15 years ago is the “shoddy, litigation- and profit-driven pseudoscience” of Andrew Wakefield, whose now discredited study published in The Lancet in 1998, linked the MMR vaccine with autism in children.


Measles virus: small, but nasty

It later emerged that Wakefield was paid up to £55,000 by solicitors acting on behalf of the families of some autistic children to prove a link between the vaccine and the condition. This was something that he somehow forgot to mention to his fellow authors, medical authorities or The Lancet.

Simon Murch, one of the leading doctors involved with Wakefield’s research at the Royal Free, said that news of the £55,000 legal funding was “a very unpleasant surprise”.
“We never knew anything about the £55,000 — he had his own separate research fund,” said Murch. “All of us were surprised… We are pretty angry.”

10 years on and Wakefield’s scaremongering has resulted in a 13-year high in the number of measles cases in the UK: an “embarrassing problem” according to the WHO report’s authors. Vaccination levels have improved somewhat over the past 2 years, with concerted “catch-up” campigns for those who missed vaccination, but even cases of measles in South America, which was all but free of the disease, have been traced back to Europe.

Between 2007-8 in Europe, there were over 12,000 cases of measles, which should have been erradicated from the continent by next year. Over 1,000 of them were in the UK:

1,049 is the highest number of measles cases recorded in England and Wales since the current method of monitoring the disease was introduced in 1995.
This rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully vaccinated with MMR. This means that measles is spreading easily among unvaccinated children.

As a microbiologist and a parent, I strongly urge all parents to do the decent thing and vaccinate their children. These are not called “preventable diseases” for nothing. Apart from the benefits for you and your kids, there should be a collective sense of social responsibility to help reduce the reservoir of these illnesses in society.
The results of a decade of misinformation, poor science and hysterical reporting are becoming evident now: disease, disability and even death for hundreds of children, all of which could and should have been avoided.

Don’t let it happen to your kids.

More sky stuff

A few weeks ago, I gave you a lovely picture of the sunset taken from my front garden.

Just one month later, I found myself pointing my camera skyward once again:


Clouds

With just a touch of imagination (or a quart of Milk Stout), it could be a dove of peace, bringing hope and love for the New Year. Or, I suppose, a seagull ready to poop on your dreams for 2009.
Alternatively, you may choose to opt for the more realistic “it’s just some clouds” option. That would also be entirely justified and is probably the most sensible course of action.

It’s all over

It’s obvious that the holiday season is coming to an end, as the malls are filled with dishevelled whities wearing poorly-ironed clothes, desperate for the return of Mabel, their domestic, who spent the festive period back with her family in the Eastern Cape. They’re even willing to overlook the embarrassment of that phone call they made two weeks into her leave, to ask her where the iron is kept. And the one half an hour after that to ask how it works. Two scorched t-shirts and a burnt sock later, they gave up.
They ran out of clean plates just after Christmas and Mr Delivery is getting expensive. The carpets are ankle deep in beach sand and dirt.
Never in the field of human cleaning was so much owed by so many to so few.

Not so here, of course. I was trained in the art of domestic warfare back in the UK and I’ve been putting my skills to the fore. Having a happy milk-recycling unit which happily recycles milk all over the furniture, carpets and whatever she and you are wearing has driven this domiciliary activity. While others were still trawling the depths of their wardrobes until the 27th, I developed an acute shortage of trouser garments after just two days of family “quality time”, thanks to my little lactose-regurgitation factory, which is instantly forgiven as soon as it smiles through the milky residue. Damn you, Mother Nature.

As Christmasses go, it was pretty laid back. Too hot to be hectic. And the kids always make that festive period a bit special. Back in my childhood days, the time between the 25th and New Year was always a bit empty: the excitement of Christmas over, but everything held in limbo until the end of the year. This time around, in order to avoid that boredom, I contracted viral meningitis and lay hurting in bed for three days. As a microbiologist, I do actually find it interesting to experience the diseases and illnesses that I used to diagnose on a daily basis, but I can put this one alongside Salmonella gastroenteritis and malaria in the category labelled Never Again, Please.  Gonorrhea was over-rated too, if I’m honest. Anyway, I’m happy to say that my meninges are much improved and it’s had absolutely no effect on my brain function. Pink Panther. St Bernard. Picture frame.  

And now, to complete the holiday period, we have been invaded by bees. I have removed around 50 of them from the house this morning alone, using a combination of insecticide spray, A4 paper, a tea towel and the cunning ploy of opening windows. I have no idea what sort of bees they are. In the UK, it’s easy enough: bumble (Bombus terrestis) or honey (Apis mellifera), and you can kill them by using your cell phone. Here, it’s more complicated and there’s always the danger of the Africanized Killer Bee (Apis mellifera scutellata), which can, like, kill you and stuff. Add to that the worrying oversight that the otherwise superb SE X1 doesn’t seem to have a bee killing function and the warning signs are there for all to see. 
They’ve moved into our roof and they’re staying put. Until the bee-killer comes this evening with his bee-killing stuff and kills them, that is. Sorry, my little band of environmentally-inclined readers, but they are going to die a slow, horrible, painful death. Possibly, anyway. I have absolutely no idea what methods he is going to employ. Just that he’s going to employ them this evening. On the bees. In our roof.
You have less than 6 hours to save them and I’m not telling you where I live.

The Southern Suburbs Sprout Shortage

There are no Brussels sprouts in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town. In fact, there seems to be an overall shortage of Brassicaceae generally.

I’ve never really understood the huge rush to buy stuff just before Christmas.  The shops are, after all, only closed for one day. In fact, since every branch of Woolworths (the South African version) is open on Christmas Day*, that’s not even true this year. Thus, I was both slightly surprised and rather disappointed to find empty shelves reminiscent of Eastern Europe when I was out and about this morning.

And there were no sprouts. If there’s ever a time of year when demand for sprouts will be somewhat increased, it’s surely now. Am I really the only one who feels this way?
Don’t even get me started on parsnips… Really.

I’m back home and settled now, having come to terms with a sproutless Christmas dinner, so please don’t post comments telling me where I could have or should have tried in my quest for traditionally festive vegetables. I will be happily quaffing a beer by the pool and not listening.

Have a lovely Christmas, dear readers and thank you for all your support this year. That’s not to say that I won’t be blogging tomorrow or any other time before the New Year, but I recognise that you may just too busy shopping (or just too drunk) to come and read. 

 

 * obviously, the UK version is very closed.