Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Another of those BW sagas

I have a suspicion that some people who perceive that they are not very important in the grand scheme of things feel that they need to find ways of exerting their importance.

I had to go into London this morning (a very rare occurrence these days, and one generally avoided at all costs), to attend an important talk of professional significance. I smiled inwardly to myself as I learnt that the things under discussion are finally coming full circle, back to where they were 30 years ago (which is potentially a much better place than they are at now). Actually, I must have smiled wryly outwardly, as the Professor and Head of Centre giving the talk caught me afterwards and quizzed me.

I escaped from her clutches, without giving too much away, and without having definitely agreed to do anything to assist the cause, and, having time to spare before I had to return home, decided to go to the university library a couple of streets away to renew my library card.

"I have free readers' rights," I explained (something that, despite being an alumna, would otherwise cost me £220 annually), "by virute of my membership of professional association." I presented my card. "I think that this might have expired though, as I've not been able to visit for quite a while."

"Where's your proof of membership?" the bored-looking woman behind the desk asked.

"Oh - I thought that was my card, that is in your hand?" I replied.

"No, your proof of membership of professional association!" she said. "The professional association don't send out membership cards any more - it's all done by direct debit and internet lists that are searchable, these days," I informed her.

"Well, you need something to prove you qualify, I can't renew your card without it," the jobsworth said.

"Well, there isn't anything, and you can prove who I am by searching the database online," I suggested. "But, that takes time," she said, "and there is a queue!"

I fixed her with a BW hard stare. There was a pause.

I raised my eyebrows and left them raised, in an assertive, "I'm not leaving until you've sorted this out!" sort of way.

She sighed. "There are lots of people waiting!"

I smiled, a sickly smile. "And I'm at the head of the queue, waiting for you to do a simple internet search, in order to validate my readers' card renewal." She sighed again, more loudly.

She must have decided that I looked like I meant business. I did.

"What's your name?" I told her. She tapped on her computer.

"What's your address?" I told her. She scrolled down a list and hit return.

"What's your email address?" I told her. She peered at her screen.

"How do I know you are who you say you are?"

"Well, apart from the fact that you have my expired readers' card, with my photo on it, in front of you, that I've answered all your questions correctly, and that you can always ask me to sign a piece of paper for you to compare against the signature on the card, I really have no idea!" I said, with just a hint of sarcasm.

"Well, just this once, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt!" she said, inserting my card into a slot which spat it out, duly renewed. She put it on the desk in front of her, rather than into my outstretched hand.

"And just this once, and only because I'm in a hurry, I'm going to give you the benefit of not asking to see your manager to report you for lack of any kind of customer service ethic, intelligence, or ability to do your job in a competent manner!" I growled. "But only this time."


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Out of Africa

Well that's stays in the hot mountains, hotter mountainous desert, seaside near Cape Town and winelands completed.

2210 km driven (fewer this year as, having been twice before, we felt less of a need to dash round and see everything), a 26°C drop in temperature, 6 loads of washing completed (we brought the sun and wind back with us yesterday, temporarily), and 1106 photos, or 6.10GB, added to my hard drive.

It was wonderful to have a couple of weeks free from chronic pain and have more energy, if only for the time while there, and then (hopefully) a few more days now we are back. We've already booked places to stay for next year. And we're going for a week longer (nearly a month).

I fancy making one of these this year:

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Friday, February 20, 2015

From vine to wine

Outside our cottage are lots and lots of merlot vines.

They are almost the only vines left that haven't been harvested. Summer seems to be about three weeks ahead here, compared to last year.

As the evening cools down to its 17 or 18°C overnight temperature, and the sun sets, it's lovely to walk through the rows picking a few. They are so sweet. Small, but sweet, and the pips are hardly there. In the heat of the afternoon sun, you can smell the juice evaportaing, and a few, especially on the south side of the rows, have started to raisinify.

This morning we heard some strange noises outside, and looking out, there were 8 or 9 workers picking. Lots of boxes. By 8.30am they'd finished. Three hours from start to finish.

Clearly 20°C is too cold not to wear a fleece and a wooly hat.

So - no deliciously sweet juicy evening snacks tonight. Shame really, as we have some German friends that we met last year in Cape Town (and who we saw again for an hour before we left to come here) coming over for a braai tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fire on the moutain, run BWs run

Yesterday afternoon and this morning. 500m away.

The skill of the 3 helicopter pilots, who were scooping water out of the vineyard reservoirs, was amazing.

I haven't told them about my spells.

There was a frog in our bedroom in the Karoo, lizards in Noordhoek, and mice and bats here. I may have been a bit over-ambitious.


And now, as I'm sitting here using the wifi in the tasting room of the vineyard where we are staying, it's flared up again.

*tries to look innocent*

Posted at 12:56 PM | Comments (3)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Back on the road again

These two were taken on the R44 coast road, which runs along the bottom of the country, across False Bay. A stunningly beautiful (and twisty) road, which we will be taking again this morning as we head off into prime wine country. We will be staying in the midst of the grapevines (which are currently being picked) in a cottage on a small wine farm - they make just 15,000 bottles themselves every year, but also sell grapes to large-scale producers

This is the view to the other side of the same road - it is correctly orientated - and shows how two types of completely different rock often exist side-by-side.

We are saddened to see just how much development is going on in SA at present. As long-term readers might recall, this is our third visit, and already some areas that we initially visited when they were quiet and beautiful are being spoilt. Lots of ribbon development joining up small communities. Rather like the UK. But, the President said in his SoNA last Thursday night that non-SA nationals will no longer be able to own land. Whether he means all property, or just 'land', and whether he means going forward, or retrospectively, isn't clear. There are quite a few worried ex-pats.

From time to time in the UK one hears that the energy companies won't be able to supply the amount of power the population require, because of poor infrastructure planning for the future. One hears murmours of the likelihood of power blackouts.

Well - I've seen the future - it's already happening here. Almost all townships are now connected to mains eleectricity, and the grid can't cope with supplying houses plus shacks. The power companies are being forced to run a programme of rolling outages, to protect the grid from meltdown. Here we had no power from 4-6.30pm on Saturday afternoon, and none from 8-10am yesterday. There was an outage in the night, but none planned for today. Larger shops and petrol stations seem to have generators of varying power, but the smaller shops either close or operate in near-darkeness.

Apparently when Nelson's lot came ot power in 1994 they inherited a 20 year power plan, which included infrastructure development and maintenance. But, they failed to keep up-to-date, or to recognise the necessity of investment for the future This, together with widespread corruption and jobs for the boys (replacing the experienced engineers who were of the wrong political persuasion), has led to the current position (ooh, nice pun there BW).

20 years down the line, the grid can't supply the power being demanded -and they are now burning more and more diesel to generate electricity. Along all the major roads there are Greenpeace placards proclaiming that anything but renewable power sources will take 15 years to get online, and the investment needed is beyond anything that can be raised. There is little evidence of the use of solar power, or wind power, either as micro- or large-scale generation, which is crazy in a country that is as hot, sunny, and (in coastal areas) as windy as this.

Despite these rolling power cuts (called 'load shedding'), no-one (public organisations or individuals) seems to be restricting their use of power, and lights in towns, cities and in houses are burning brighter than ever. The picture above was taken on the way out of Cape Town on Friday night (Table Mountain on LHS in background).


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love in the sun

Currently my favouritest beach in the world. Beach, mountains, shells, sun, and peace, all in one place. Working on finding a house to rent here next year. Given that there are only about ten, and most look like they are third or fourth homes to vineyard or diamond mine owners, I'm not hopeful.

We paid another visit to the Harold Porter Botanic Garden.

When we were here a year ago, large sections of the garden had been devastated by flood. A year on, it was hard to see what had been done to repair the damaged sections. Given the government and NGO 'job creation schemes' that are evident everywhere, it was frustrating that little had been done here. It may have been lack of money: but they wern't helping themselves - it being VD, they were offering 2 for the price of one admission. Given that admission is only R18 (slightly over a pound), I don't think the entry fee would have put anyone off visiting

The season seems to be much advanced on last year, and, other than some ericas, and this weird daisy-on-the-end-of-succulent specimen, there were few plants in flower.

This beach has pure white sand, and, were it not for the wind and the fact that it is opposite the largest township in SA (400,000 people living in 15 square miles - as featured in a thought-provoking BBC3 documentary last year), it would be amazing.

At the weekend, whole familes from the township can be found sitting fishing, and then, in the late afternoon, selling their catch on the side of the (busy, high-speed) road. Presumably if they have a good day, they have money for the week, and if they don't, well... But, I do wonder from where they sourced their fishing gear.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Dolphin Talk

It's an eight hour drive from where we were staying in the Karoo back to Cape Town.

We were listening to SA FM which is a cross between Radio 4 and a BBC local radio station phone in. For us, visiting other countries is about understanding what makes a country and its people tick, and doing things that most tourists don't usually do. In the absence of real people to talk to, listening to the radio seemed to be the next best thing.

It quickly became apparent that all the issues that people talked about on UK radio were also those that were being talked about here in SA.

The SONA (annual State of the Nation Address) was last night.

If you thought things in the UK parliament were bad, try what happened here last night.

Fighting in parliament. With real punches.

Something that it doesn't say in the BBC report that I've linked is that at the beginning of the session, all mobile phone reception in the parliament building had been blocked (although it was restored when demands were made by MPs).

Did this even make the news in the UK?

Talking to the pottery ladies last night about local and national events here, they found it hard to believe that their issues parallelled those in other countries.

Capitalism is cracking.

I had a three year pottery course compressed into 3 hours last night. As I said to our hostess, getting guests to make pots at least ensures that they return the next year to collect them. Best marketing ploy ever. Well, we've already stayed here three times, so the stakes are farly high.

Scarborough Beach yesterday (west coast, down near Cape Point, beautiful unspoilt uncommercialised beach in a conservation zone).

This is not us having lunch, it's what happens if you don't have a lock on your bin. Babboons are a dangerous pest, so the notices everywhere around the Cape tell you. We thought it was quite cute. Daddy first in the bin, scoffing the best bits and throwing the remnants behind him for Mum and Babe. The amount of waste food in that white man's bin was disgusting.

It's raining here this morning you'll be pleased to know.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Back to civilisation

We spent four nights living in the mountains in the middle of nowhere in the Karoo, miles down a dirt track, on an off-grid, artesian welled, permaculture farm in a very old worker's cottage made of cob.

The silence and the stars were incredible.

So was the orange ring round the bath (from all the dust) when we got back to civilisation last night.

Temperatures were mid to high 30s. It's cold back here 20 miles south of Cape Town: 25°C

There was an interesting clay pot by the edge of the plunge pool.

Tonight, having been invited to our hostess's pottery class (she teaches it, in the room under our house for the next 5 days), I'm going to recreate it.

Ah, the things we do on our holidays.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Wot you looking at, human?"

"It's nice and warm on top of this outdoor boiler, eight feet up. Now will you just get in that taxi and get off to the airport so that the house sitter can spoil us. We're certainly going to be fatter when you come back!"

Grey, cold, bleak, depressed. Got fed up waiting for snow...

...decided to head for the sun. Please call off the snow spells. We don't want to be sat on the runway for four hours in a plane de-icing queue (as we were two years ago) this evening.

Technology permitting, there will be updates.

Posted at 12:30 PM | Comments (9)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Want snow

Will you people with lots of snow please stop being greedy and share it around a bit? We've only had two mini-falls in total this winter.

Last night we had 24 flakes, which melted by 8.30am, and last Thursday afternoon there was about a quarter of an inch, but we missed that falling as we were at Wisley seeing the butterflies.

They were better than last year - more flying around, better identification boards. But the usual Surrey Yummy Mummy set with their terribly precious uncontrolled pre-school darlings. Breeding the politicians and bankers of the future, clearly.

This was the amount of snow that remained by Friday morning.

There aren't that many hellebores out at The Coven yet. I was tempted by this gorgeous specimen of a new introduction in the Wisley Plant Centre, until I saw the price. Thirty quid? I'd want ten for that.

I did a spell for more snow.

Mr BW tried to console me by putting the last roll of the Snowman and the Snow Dog toilet paper on the holder.

That didn't console me because I'd been saving it for next FOTCR™. And it didn't work.

So, I did another spell, for enough snow to make a Snow Cat, but all that succeeded in doing was producing an ugly bruiser of a white tom cat - who we'd never seen before - and who proceeded to chase my girls. I guess it will add variation to the next batch...

Where is all this snow hiding? Own up, who's got it?