Back to life, back to reality…

It’s over. And South Africa won it. Which is great news for all concerned. Well, all concerned with South Africa, anyway. National pride is swelling, flags are being flown and… and… well look, that’s actually about it, but that’s just fine. Now – can we get back to normality, please?

It’s true. The last couple of weeks have just been odd. Everything else has taken second (or even third or fourth) place to rugby stories. It would have been a very good time to do a Jo Moore and hide your dirty laundry in the depths of the SABC bulletins.
In fact, thinking about it, maybe they have and we haven’t noticed yet.
I think that would be unlikely though. Even the spin doctors were probably more focused on events in France than lying about their respective parties political achievements.

But who needs spin doctors anyway with photos like this?

Up he goes
Thabo: Had a great game

For one such as myself, craving a return to reality – or what passes for reality in this country, anyway – it was almost a relief to see that the Springbok victory was being used for political purposes. It just wouldn’t be right otherwise. Check out that pic of Thabo – that’s mighty political currency right there.
Could you see Gordon Brown being hoisted aloft if England had won it? No. Despite the obvious weight issue, he’s Scottish anyway and no, he’s not “the President of England” as the local commentary here repeatedly described him. That almost suggests that he is some sort of despot who simply slipped into power without being elected, which is obviously incorr… well, never mind…
The SA Minister of Sport, Makhenkesi Stofile, has also not been backward in coming forward after the win in Paris. His argument?

If South Africa can win the RWC so easily with a largely white squad, perhaps they’ll struggle more if we pick the team based on colour rather than ability.
This will obviously be good for national morale.

OK, I’m paraphrasing him, but it looks like the quota system is rearing its ugly head once again. Politics and sport, hey? A heady mix. As The Telegraph’s Brendan Gallagher points out, it tarnishes the victory, the celebrations and – once again – the image of the country.
I’m not sure I ever bought the “unifying power of a shared positive experience” theory anyway. Yes, the people welcoming the team back this morning at OR Tambo were all happy, cheering and smiling, but they were probably going back to decent housing with water, electricity and an inside toilet or six.

¬†Anyone imagining that Percy Montgomery’s boot and a helpful (but apparently correct – just!) decision by the TMO on Saturday evening will solve all South Africa’s problems is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Or “The Presidential Residence”, as it is locally known.

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.