Franskraal. 6110 miles from civilisation

Welcome to Franskraal. A sleepy Afrikaans dorpie so tiny that even the locals aren’t sure where they live. Frans may have had his kraal here, but it obviously wasn’t much to look at. Photos of the main features of the village (that’s 1. the beach and, 2. Alex) will follow when we return to the Mother City, where the interwebs is fast enough to… well… do stuff on.

Today, the weather is beautiful, a stark contrast to the howling gales of yesterday which left everywhere covered in a thin layer of fine sand. This explains the slightly gritty feel to the keyboard as I grind this post out.

We’re away for a few days, enjoying a short break after a hectic Christmas and staying in a little self-catering cottage just back from the beach. Although we’re rattling around a house that sleeps eight, the beds are uncomfortably small. I commented that there wasn’t even room to swing a cat in there but my wife told me to stop being silly. Fortunately, a neighbourhood feline was easily procured and I was quickly proven correct. Cleaning up the mess, as I told the missus, is certainly not the job of the victor.

I’m also using the time to try some New Age fathering techniques. Thus, when Alex screams, that’s fine, because he’s “expressing his inner rage”. Either that or he’s found some chunk of dismembered cat in his parents’ bed. Truth be told, our little boy is a little angel anyway. The only reason he has been upset while we’ve been away is because he’s covered in sand, his toys are covered in sand or most likely, him, his toys and everything else around him are covered in sand.

Of course, that is aside from the journey here anyway, where he was too interested in what was going on around him to get any sleep. And bribing him into his slumbers was a great plan if only the sweeties in question weren’t full of tartrazine.

While he was delighted to arrive here and be free from his car seat after the 2 hour trip out from Cape Town, he reminded me never to put him through such an ordeal again by swiftly expressing his inner rage with a kick to my bits as I extricated him. His mum can get him out of the car at the other end.

Ah. 11am. Time for a cold bottle of hearty Milk Stout to help me through to lunchtime when we will head beachward again. The beach is packed today compared with yesterday when the only brave souls out there were us and a dog-walking couple chasing their fox terrier as it did a remarkably accurate impression of a tumbleweed across the sand. We saw the same lot out again this morning, the dog looking sheepish. In a suitably canine way. 

And so, dear reader, I must away. There’s the company of the sun and a son to enjoy before reality hits home on Monday as I return to the lab and start playing with infected sputum again. Oh, happy days…
 

Yes, it’s different here

“Proper Christmas” just doesn’t work in South Africa. I tried to point this fact out in the article I wrote for the December issue of Emigrate2 magazine. There are plenty of reasons for this, but here’s the biggie: it’s the middle of bloody summer.

So: no chance of snow, it’s hot, it’s light, it’s bright and therefore it’s about as festive as genital herpes. (Obviously, I didn’t put that analogy in the emigrate2 thing: it’s a classy publication, not like this dross.)

Chicken. Safe and traditional.   Pwawns in garlic butter - adventurous

Hence, at Christmas in SA, you get to take pictures of regular readers of 6000 miles… (both of you) slaving over hot braais. Christmas parties take place around swimming pools rather than around roaring log fires; mulled wine is entirely inappropriate and replaced by cold beers (in evidence in both those pics above – you can tell those guys are experts) and you head for the beach instead of watching the James Bond film* on Boxing Day morning.

 Pool party   Building

All well and good, but not ever so atmospheric. Not in a “Proper Christmassy” way, anyway. So if you want to enjoy Christmas here, it’s very much a case of adapting to local conditions and not trying to make it like a Christmas back home. Embrace the change, enjoy the differences. It’s taken me a while, but this has been by far my best Christmas over here, simply because I’ve finally given up trying to fight the system**.

I have a friend who moved over here 2 months ago and who came for breakfast at Chez 6000 on Christmas Day. Seeing her looking so homesick brought back a lot of memories for me. Moving countries is a brave thing to do at any time, but I think that this time of year is definitely the toughest if you’ve done a UK to SA move. I know a lot of expats read this blog and if you’re finding it difficult, my advice to you is just to hang in there. It does get easier. And while you might be desperate for a cold and dark Christmas, try sms’ing your friends and family back in the UK from the beach. Mention the soft white sand and the gentle rolling waves. Hint at the soft, warm breeze that’s blowing and the sun beating down on your bikini-clad body***. Then ask them where they’d rather be right now.

Be prepared for some coarse language when they reply though.

(More Christmas pics are available for fans and family on the 6000 flickr page.)

* “Never say we’ve never seen this one before”.
**  OK, watching 0.6 open his presents probably helped a bit too.
*** Probably best to leave this bit out if you’re a bloke.

 

Wellington. 6050 miles from civilisation…

Believe me. That 50 miles makes a hell of a difference. We popped out to Wellington – more specifically to Diemersfontein – for a wedding this weekend. What an interesting experience.

Maybe it didn’t help that it was raining, but Wellington is nowhere near as pretty as some of the other towns in the Winelands. It also doesn’t seem anywhere near as geared up for visitors. Aside from the KFC and Wimpy (God help us!), we managed to find just one restaurant (D’Olive, if you feel the need) open for that most unusual of mealtimes… er… Sunday lunch. (It was bloody good though.)

In addition, maybe it didn’t help that we had booked into the bewilderingly named La Rochelle B&B, run by a lady who spoke only a smattering of English – Afrikaans being die taal of choice in the Winelands. The name wasn’t the end of the French connection, however; the olde worlde charm of the place included an olde worlde mattress with a depression so great in the middle of it that the Frenchies would have build a damn great viaduct from one side to the other and raised goats in the valley below.  Still, several beers and a bottle or more of the wonderful Pinotage at the reception probably assisted with my getting a decent night’s sleep – and also probably explains the utterly bizarre dreams about treading grapes with gold-shoed Croatian ladies.  

In a final cruel twist of the La Rochelle knife, the “B&B” turned out to be just “B”. 9am, mildly hungover and pretty much exhausted from freeclimbing my way up the side of my mattress to get out of bed really wasn’t the best time to find this out.

“The price you pay are not including the breakfast. There is a good place in town to eat, but I think that they is not open for breakfast.”

Looking back, the wedding was wonderful, I would heartily recommend the Diemersfontein Pinotage – “I’m getting chocolate, I’m getting coffee, I’m getting quite drunk” – and Wellington is another town to cross off my SA list. Whether it will be one I revisit remains to be seen…

Return of the Mac

Remember Guy MacLeod of Plumstead? Of course you do. He was the guy that wrote to the local paper comparing Jacob Zuma with Princess Di. I did take the mickey a bit, but in one way (most especially the comparison that he made, rather than the ones I suggested), Guy was right. They both appeal to the public (known locally as the masses) and it makes them both very popular figures with every chance of taking on the ANC Presidency and presumably therefore being President of South Africa in 2009.

Well, JZ anyway – Di is dead like Elvis.

If you read the post, you’ll see that Guy dragged me out of a period of not writing. Perhaps I did the same to him. After he commented on my infamous Big South African Crime Post, he appears to have been inspired. Another letter to the Argus and it appears that Guy thinks that criminals have had their day!

Imagine if anyone (including a burglar or hijacker) placed his/her hand on a “technologically treated” door handle on which you have a chemical/electrical imprint indiscernibly placed but which lasts for days or weeks and is satellite-trackable? Criminals will be unable to hide!

This isn’t actually so far away, I guess. We already have datadot which is the vehicular equivalent and which seems to be having an effect, despite not really catching on just yet. But hang on. There’s more…

Better still is the next generation development where an individual’s criminal thoughts can be identified by a remote control “intelligence base” – well before the criminal act is implemented, so that counter measures can be taken.

Hmm. These “counter measures” worry me. I hope they’re not monitoring what I’m thinking right now… But wait, there’s… even more!

And a later development that enables the central intelligence base, at the touch of a button, to trigger an instantly disabling electrical charge that also also serves as an effective remote-controlled punishment for premeditated serious crime.

Argh. Mnnurgh Mnuff.

Mnnnnnnn. Mn.

Sorry – I’m back. Not sure what happened there. Or how I ended up twisted on the floor like John Travola gone wrong. It also appears that I have a slight nosebleed.

Sadly, I think these wonderful ideas from the realms of Fortress and Demolition Man (both of which were on the TV last night – hmm) are about as fanciful as Superman coming to save the earth next Tuesday (Monday is a public holiday) or me getting this blog sorted out by February.

February 2009.

Meanwhile, according to K Dawson (also of Plumstead) there are more pressing matters to be attended to. “K” – if that is its real name – has noticed at the turnstiles at Cape Town Station:

… you are met by only two people manning two turnstiles at rush-hour, with a no-care attitude. And I have noticed that people of a certain race are left to go through without their tickets being verified properly.

Well K, if they singled you out for being white(?) then it sounds like they are at least paying some attention. But well done for getting this out in the open now. 50 years down the line, you’d be writhing on your carpet just for thinking about writing something like that.

The doctor will see you now…

Here’s the post that I was going to put onto 6000 miles last night, but couldn’t.
Ha – you’d thought you’d escaped, didn’t you?

No. No-one escapes the long arm of Doctor Perez…

In the letter box this morning…

Dr Perez will help you out

Dr Perez – He can do magic. (click for bigger)

May I draw your attention in particular to three unfortunate claims:

Need to take long in action (24 hr results)
It was long ago that I last claimed to understand the female mind. It’s a foolish thing for a male of the opposite sex to try and comprehend or predict. But even I feel confident in suggesting that 24 hours “action” might be a little too lengthy for most ladies. In a single stint anyway.
Presumably, if one were to actually attempt such a feat, one would have to plan in advance and have food and drink readily to hand (I’d avoid garlic). A completed sponsor form for an abused women’s charity would probably also be appropriate. And you’d have to set the video to avoid missing your favourite shows. In addition, from a male perspective, try to plan the session over a Thursday evening when there’s unlikely to be any decent footy on.

Also:

Women who can not produce Female discharge
I’m gathering that the good doctor is actually claiming to cure two separate ailments here – infertility and well… female discharge. But could he not have separated them a little better? It’s just confusing.

And:

Need to control your speed of reaching orgasm premature (24 hr doze results)Yes. Nodding off for an entire day will almost certainly delay orgasm. Anyway – there’s a “100% refund if it fails”, so why not give him a call and see if he can help you with your problems? The International Dialling Code for South Africa is +27. And drop the first zero. Let me know how you get on. (And if you’re able to get back off again afterwards)…