Spring Day and more…

Once again, South Africa’s unofficial “Spring Day” (today) is ruined by the typically unspringlike weather which has left puddles on my lawn and rendered Table Mountain completely invisible, in a spookily David Copperfield kind of way.
Is this some hideous effect of climate change? Season creep? Or just a hopelessly optimistic plan by the locals to pretend that winter is over?
It ain’t – the sudden influx of wading birds into our garden surely proves that. September or not, this sort of weather hints that you should be indoors, under a rug, a glass of red wine in your hand (might I suggest KC 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from Klein Constantia just down the road?) and some decent music playing (unless there’s footy on the TV, obviously).

Decent music? Can of worms, anyone?
South Africa has a number of very good bands and singers. I have eluded to several of these previously, but just to run you through 6000’s Top 3 once again, they are the incredibly James-esque Parlotones (new album out 28th September), aging rocker Arno Carstens* with the Springbok Nude Girls, and the incomparable FreshlyGround, who can’t be compared with anyone, because they are incomparable.

And now add to that a couple of other names. One for the laydeez amongst you, pretty-pop-chick-folk-piano-and-vocals-with-nipplestand-in-a-laid-back-Tori-Amos style, Louise Carver, which is currently playing in the background here (good place for it) as Nix wrestles with another terrifyingly large spreadsheet full of terrifyingly large numbers; and the “the power of the Foo Fighters meets the pretty pop of Britney Spears” (their words, not mine) of Love Jones – whose imaginatively-titled debut CD, “Love Jones” is certainly well worth a listen.

But why would any South Africa muso want to stay in and listen to local stuff?
Well, let’s look at the international artists winging their way down to see us in the near future, shall we? Lest we forget, SA is a small market for the big stars and it’s a long flight, so we don’t get spoilt for choice.
And I think I’m about to prove that right here, right now:

  • Pink: September 07
  • Enrique Iglesias: October 07 – followed closely by his dad:
  • Julio Iglesias: November 07
  • Michael Bublé : December 07
  • Elton John: January 08 – and then to add insult and injury to insult and injury:
  • Celine Dion: February 08

The worst bit is, this isn’t a selective list. This is the list. There are no others.

Dear Lord. I know I don’t believe in you, but just supposing for a moment I did, please save us. Please.**

And with that, it’s back to the red wine, I think…

* He won’t thank me for calling him that. In fact, he won’t say anything to me, because he won’t read this.
** He won’t thank me for asking him that. In fact, he won’t say anything to me, because he won’t read this.

Just so we’re clear…

As seen at the V&A Waterfront:

Parking
The open parking is not open.

More photos from 6000’s Cape Town Set on flickr.

SA’s bad press

Just look at the news stories involving South Africa which made it to the front page of the BBC News website (more than 800 million pages served each month) over the last week and you can see why some people claim that SA gets a bad press. We have good old African corruption, political crisis, more self-publicising Simon Grindrod nonsense about crime and a completely laughable story about Durban being named after… well… bulls bollocks. A bad press, yes, but that’s not to say that these stories are not true – sadly, they are (although Simon Grindrod is an idiot and has a vaguely amusing name). It’s perhaps just a little unfair that the country’s dirty laundry is out there for so many to see, while the neatly folded stuff in the cupboard remains… in the cupboard.

But that’s not the only “bad press” that I’m talking about. South Africa’s own news sites – such as News 24 and IOL – are pretty awful: laden with poor journalism, sensationalist rubbish and more adverts than actual stories. That’s why it’s sometimes very hard to actually get a handle on what is going on in this country.
After all, why would one trust any content from a front page that features a dark picture of a dodgy looking gent, claiming to be a 25-year old man “looking to date men and women between the ages of 18 and 100”?
Not the most specific of parameters, I think you’ll agree, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the fact that bad news sells newspapers, gets viewers and snaffles a nice big internet readership too. Those good news stories are kept for the final item: the “and finally…” to leave the viewer feeling all snuggly and warm and ready to come back again at the same time tomorrow; that despite the fact the world is filled with crime, disease, earthquakes, war and poverty – Snookie the labrador is looking after some orphaned piglets, so everything’s OK.

Sadly for SA, most people on the BBC News site will have read the headline SA’s Table Mountain ‘needs army’ and moved on, probably with the thought that they’ll leave Cape Town and BullsBalls off their summer itinerary this year, Snookie or not.

The transformation is complete

If, for some strange reason, I didn’t think that I was really a dad yet – and by this I mean in the full-on emotional sense, rather than the biological sense (something I accepted a LONG time ago) – then now, I do.
That’s the sort of realisation that a new shopping complex can bring to youThe new development in question is on the Breakwater Boulevard at the Waterfront. It consists of 3 units, the middle one of which is a bank. Don’t let that bother you. The bank plays no further part in this tale. Forget the bank. Don’t get Inspired, Motivated or Involved.
The other two units house a toy shop (grandly named “Toy Kingdom”) and a car dealership, respectively.
But it’s not just any car dealership – it’s the Cape Town Aston Martin dealership.
Big, fast, flashy sports cars.

And that’s where the problem arose. I was far more excited about the prospect of a new toy shop than I was about the sports cars. The idea of buying cool gifts for the little one was far more appealing than looking at some sleek, shiny DB9, Vanquish or Vantage as I pass by each day. It would seem that my Playboy days are well and truly at an end.
And, by even the most conservative estimates, I have at least another 15 years before I hit the midlife crisis zone and need to risk my toupee by purchasing a flashy, open-top sports car.
Truth be told, I’ve never really been into flashy, open-top sports cars anyway. What is it that they say?

The size of your engine is inversely proportional to the size of your you-know-what*

I guess that explains it then, because I have a 1.4 injection. It’s capable, it’s reliable and it gets the job done.
(My engine, however, is nothing to write home about.)

In other news, I’m sure many of you will be wondering why I haven’t yet written about the Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge incidents which are currently dominating the South African news at the moment. There are two very good reasons that I haven’t written about them:

  1. Because this isn’t a blog about politics, so political posts turn readers away in their droves
    and, more importantly:
  2. Because their names are so long, I actually can’t afford the bandwidth.

Just a quick personal note:
I have been reliably informed that certain people – well, certain person, anyway – in the UK has been reading this site and I’d like to just make it clear to her that you really don’t need a gun. A big water pistol, maybe – they’re always good for a laugh. But not a gun. You know who you are.

Sorry about the rather conservative language, but I can’t risk offending either of my regular readers.

What Sky News has missed

It’s strange how things happen. Only a couple of days ago, we were enjoying the story of simple country folk together, going about their er… “business” without a care in the world. And now, suddenly, the role of the British vet is seen in a whole different light (actually, thank goodness) as an outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) in Surrey, UK is investigated.

As a microbiologist, this case is particularly interesting to me. I’ve always had a bit of a personal interest in epidemiology (the study of the spread of disease) and the detective work that goes with it, since reading the story of the Broad Street pump. I guess I’m just a frustrated forensic scientist, deep down. With a love of bacteria.

The FMD outbreak in 2001 was devastating for the British farming industry and cost the livelihoods of many hundreds of farmers. Over 7 million animals were culled and the total cost of the episode was in excess of £8bn. Behind those easily reported figures though, the true human cost remained largely hidden. It was a very a big effect for a very small virus (about 0.0000001mm in size).

So I guess in a way it’s understandable that, so far, the rolling news stories have all been about the human side of the story. That’s the way that British news has been heading for some time now – demonstrated admirably by the hopelessly overblown Madeleine McCann case. After all, there’s nothing that reels in the viewers like a distraught farmer, crying in front of the baying newsmen; the pride of his life – his thoroughbred bull who he describes as being “like a pet” – shot in front of him, along with the rest of his herd of 100 cattle.


But for me, what makes this whole sorry scene even worse is that this outbreak appears to have begun at a research laboratory site nearby to the (so far) two affected farms. That it seems to be down to poor laboratory practice makes me even more angry for the poor farmers and even more incredulous that the news teams in the area appear to have missed what I think is the bigger story here.

The virus that causes FMD is one of the picornaviridae, called Aphthovirus. Because of the lack of any cure for the disease, the lightning quick transmission and the low numbers of viral particles needed to cause infection, aphthoviruses are classified as a Containment Level 4 pathogens by the Department for Enviornment,Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Just to put you in the picture – and I could list the others, but I think that one will do – essentially that’s the same classification as the Ebola virus.
Step forward Dustin Hoffman in a spacesuit. Or something.


Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute that the research facilities at Pirbright have Ebola on site. That would be silly. But there is something utterly terrifying about a pathogen “escaping” from a CL4 facility. That simply cannot be allowed to happen. It’s the stuff of hideously paranoid paperbacks, of low budget films, of conspiracy theorists wildest dreams. And now – in all probability – it’s reality.

Why have Sky News missed this so far? As I said – this is the stuff of movies – surely right up their street?
I think that maybe they just haven’t realised the “Ebola link” yet. So once again they wheel out Prof Hugh Pennington (he and I have history – grr) and his eyebrows and he says… well… nothing of interest. No big surprise there. Literally.
So, Sky et al, if you’re reading this:

Here is the news.
A virus as dangerous as Ebola has escaped from a laboratory just outside London.
Stop interviewing crying farmers and get on with some real journalism.

Much obliged.