Landscapes

If I take photos of local mountains and stuff, a lot of the time, they are actually landsCapes, because of where I live: Cape Town. So, landsCapes… Capes.

Geddit?

Fortuitously, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the recently announced Landscape Photographer of the Year 2017 awards in the UK, “showcasing Britain’s eclectic landscapes”, and being reported about in The Guardian.

Now obviously, all the images that they’ve given us in the article are really good, they’re unlikely to lob an Owen Crompton in there or anything, so having looked at the brief, I’ve chosen a couple of my favourites which fit it nicely to share here. Click through on the link above if you want to see the rest. It’s not rocket science, folks.

First up, George Robertson’s The Cauldron, the industrial landscape of Grangemouth in Stirlingshire. It won the “Urban” category:

And then, about 150km south of there, across the border into civilisation (although you might not think it by comparing the images), Ken Rennie’s The Raven. (That being the name of the boat in the photograph.)

Quite glorious, both. And a reminder that while South Africa and other countries may have the natural features, the outstanding beauty and the drama on an altogether more impressive scale, the UK can still have its moments.

Another attack

Another attack, more outrage, more division, more strong words.

No solutions.

There will be a vigil, prayers, candles, hashtags and a minute’s silence. But give it a week and we’ll all have moved on and forgotten about it. The only reminders will be the banners across the bottom of the profile pictures of our more dramatic Facebook friends.

I’m tired of being told that this is the new normal, tired of being policed on which adjectives I’m allowed to use when describing the individuals involved, tired now of this cycle of horror and distress followed all too quickly by acceptance.

We’re told that hundreds of terror plots have been foiled, and that’s to be congratulated. But when things like Manchester and London Bridge happen (because that’s how we describe them now – just the geographical location – we all know what we’re talking about), then whatever measures are being taken are clearly not robust enough.

Don’t ask me what to do. I’m a microbiologist. If you want to know what eight spots in the second panel of an immunological test for latent tuberculosis means, then I can tell you. It’s the politicians and the leaders who get paid the big bucks – our big bucks – to make the policies which should explicitly prevent these attacks from occurring. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist (which I’m not either) to see that whatever policies exist right now around this area need to be strengthened. It’s not for me to say how. I’ll look at your blood test and tell you whether or not you’ve been exposed to TB. You stop the terrorists from killing innocent people on a night out.

And yes, some rights might get trodden on, some individuals might get offended, upset, angry. So be it. The needs of the many and all that. A van and some knives, a jar of homemade TATP surrounded by screws in a backpack? That’s nothing compared to what these people would like to be able to do, nothing compared to what they are aiming for. So put on your big girl panties, take a deep breath, and make those decisions which you know are going to be unpopular with some people.

Because hashtags and candles aren’t ever going to stop people being murdered.

On UK politics

As Helen Zille puts foot firmly into mouth with her “Colonialism wasn’t ALL bad” tweet, thus conveniently removing the spotlight of the SASSA scandal from the rotten and rotting ANC, I spotted this on twitter this morning.
Not sure whose words, but… well… yes.

Yep. It’s free rein for the Conservatives at the moment. Theresa May could poo on the front lawn of Buckingham Palace on live TV* and she’d still win the next election by a landslide. Helen Zille? Not so much.

* not a campaign suggestion.  

Facebook images

On my Facebook this morning, these:

6-0

Yes, it was “only” Leyton Orient, but you can only beat what – or who – is put in front of you. And they were well beaten.
Apparently it was “a footballing exhibition”. We don’t get many of them at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane.

And then… this?

14962518_10154240154903710_9161354421735151647_nIt’s all a bit Scarfolk, isn’t it?

Here’s the gen.

Housed in a graffitied 40ft shipping container, The Aftermath Dislocation Principle (or the #ADPRiotTour) is a miniature world full of irreverent, post-apocalyptic scenes created by artist Jimmy Cauty (from 90s duo The KLF). This artwork was originally part of Banksy’s Dismaland Experience in Weston-super-Mare in 2015 and was shown at the Royal Academy in London this summer.
With your support this unorthodox artwork will be outside B&M Bargains in Macclesfield from Tuesday 15th to Monday 21st November to continue the town’s cultural revolution.
The container is internally lit from 11am-7pm so visitors can view the interior townscape through the peep holes all around.

Ah yes, but beware the Macclesfield Cultural Revolution. Knowledgable individuals will tell you that it’s been coming for quite a while. And it’ll be big too. Right up there with the Great Illyrian Revolt and The Khmelnytsky Uprising of Cossacks in Ukraine against Polish nobility in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

And we all know how that ended.

And meanwhile, on the Isle of Man:

the strictly craze grips the nation

Yes.

14980618_10154638425284134_6515707000528030111_n

Presumably the nation in question being that of Ellan Vannin. And yes, given the Islan’s geographical position twixt England and Ireland, Manx Folk Dancing seems to basically be the bastard child of Morris Dancing and Riverdance:

I bet your Facebook was nowhere near this interesting this morning.

UK retail innovation

…and why it might or might not work in SA.

Recent visits to the UK have left me irritated that my homeland has chosen to move on and develop – especially in the technology arena – since I’ve been away. How very dare they?
Trains, buses, pubs and restaurants all have free wifi. You can use NFC to find your way around shopping centres, or log in to your local bus stop to get a live map of where your bus is and when it’s going to arrive.
Google Now works! (well, sometimes)
And then there’s the shopping stuff.

First up, the online ordering stuff. It just makes sense. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work here either, and I don’t quite understand why more stores don’t offer it. If Takealot can manage, why can’t other places? Maybe it’s a critical mass thing, because the shops in the UK have had to adapt or die, so they’ve all pushed their online option hard. When you order online from your supermarket, you get what you asked for, and you get it when you asked for it. If you’ve ever used our local system, you’re probably not using it any more, because those two things don’t happen and it’s a disaster.
But if you’re missing the opportunity to impulse buy, then there’s always ‘click and collect’ – the hybrid of traditional and online shopping – whereby you order on the net and then go and pick up your shopping at the local store. This saves you the delivery fee and means you don’t have to be at home to receive your goods. You can also decide if you need another 4 pack of Murphy’s when you go to collect your groceries (spoiler: you do).
All of this means that fewer people are actually in the supermarkets, and it’s so actually a much less stressful experience when you do go along.

It’s not just food and drink, either. All the major clothing stores offer the same services, so you can shop online and either get it delivered or pick it up at your local store. And if stuff doesn’t fit, you stick a big returns label (supplied) on the bag and drop it off at your local post office. Simples. It’s no fuss, because if it was fuss, people wouldn’t do it, just like you’re not doing it with PicknPay right now.

If you actually want to go to the supermarket and walk around the aisles, in some stores, you can wander round with a barcode scanner and Scan As You Shop. This means that you can pretend to have a raygun and shoot aliens (although you may be charged for items you didn’t actually get if you hit them inadvertently while pretending to be Flash Gordon).
And then there’s the option to scan your own stuff at the end of the shop. Apparently, the phrase “Unexpected item in the bagging area” has been voted one of the most irritating things in the UK, and is being phased out. And it’s not always straightforward either:

Shoppers are stealing more than £1.6 billion worth of items from supermarkets every year as frustration with self service tills leads to theft, a survey found. One in five people admit pilfering items at the checkout, but the results suggest people steal regularly once they realise they can get away with it – the majority admitting they first took goods because they couldn’t work the machines.

But for foreign visitors (especially those with kids), scanning your own shopping is actually quite fun. And if you don’t have kids, it can actually be quite quick as well.
Sadly, it would never work in SA though, as passing zebras would constantly trigger the barcode readers.

And finally, contactless payment. Like us here in SA, the UK has long had chip and PIN payment, but there, you do everything yourself. (To explain to anyone not in SA, generally, we hand our cards to the cashier and they put it in the machine for us.) (We also have attendants who fill up our cars with petrol, and fairly regularly, someone at the entrance barrier to car parks to press the button and hand us the ticket.) (Yes, I know.) But contactless payment is the one where you just wave your card over the machine and it takes the money off your account.

_20150818_094824Now, my SA card (it’s the exciting accountant coloured one on the right) has this facility too, but I’ve yet to find anywhere to use it here. Whereas in the UK, it’s everywhere and it’s all too easy to wave and spend without even thinking about it. And yes, I suppose that there are some security worries with this system, but wow, it’s so damn quick and you suddenly realise just how much impact having to enter your PIN has on making you understand that you are spending money.

This certainly isn’t a OMG – Look How Much Better The UK Is Than SA post, but the integration of technology into the retail process has definitely made it better for the consumers over there and they are way ahead of us in this area. The good news is that hopefully, the best bits of these advances will trickle down to South Africa – there’s actually no reason why these ideas wouldn’t work here – and we can all live happily in the future together.