Monday, August 29, 2005

The Cape Of Storms

As Hurricane Katrina smashes into New Orleans (and the rest of the Gulf Coast), I can only hope that the people that did not leave the city in time will be safe, as a day from now there may no longer be a city of New Orleans as we know it. The city is eight feet below sea level and has only been safeguarded against a dry, Category-3 storm, according to The Miami Herald, which goes on to say that:

More than one million people could be left stranded away from home as emergency authorities attempt to pump out the water, a task that may take as long as three weeks. The newly homeless would be left with little food, no electricity and no transportation as cars are replaced by boats. Emergency officials fear that nearly 287 years of history could be destroyed in just hours, and that half of the old Victorian homes could be lost along with the old brick buildings of the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter.

The nightmare scenario gets worse: Sewers could back up, spreading disease like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, West Nile Virus and dengue fever, all of which pay calls at one of the nation's biggest and oldest ports. Coffins could pop out of the shallow ground. Above-ground fuel tanks might break moorings to become boat bombs. And toxic chemicals could spill into the mix if petrochemical plants to the west break up.

(More on the storm from USA TODAY.)

In Cape Town we are lucky in that we aren't in the path of hurricanes or tropical storms, although in the last few years we've had the odd mini tornado race across the Cape Flats, much to everyone's surprise. The worst weather we tend to experience, however, is heavy winter storms that have battered the cape for centuries, sunk ships, or left them stranded in shallow water, hence the informal name "The Cape Of Storms", but these are nothing like hurricanes.

Much of Cape Town's CBD is situated on reclaimed land (which basically means, of course, that the sea was pushed back to create more land - a practice that has never made sense to me), and with the ever-increasing threat of global warming and the weird changes in the weather, I've often wondered how safe this city is. Venice is sinking. New Orleans is sinking. Much of Holland is below sea level. Much of Asia was wiped out by last year's tsunami. Is Cape Town safe? Why would it be?


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

South African Version Of "Our Time"

A South African friend of mine, who is now in Ireland, sent me the following last week. It's been doing the rounds lately (there's a version here) as it's a total nostalgia trip - it completely sums up my childhood and, I guess, the childhoods of most of the people that grew up in SA in the 80s (and probably the 70s too). I presume you could tweak some of the brand names and it would be appropriate for people in other countries too.


REMEMBER (Before the Internet or the Apple Mac. Before semi-automatics and crack cocaine. Before the PlayStation and MTV. Way back.)

I'm talking about the time of hide 'n seek in the park or the dark.

The café down the road, Hopscotch, Donkey, skipping and handstands, back-yard cricket with a tomato box, Dandy & Beano annuals, charms and "arlies", jumping the river, living on the beach, building a swing from a piece of rope tied to a tree, tennis on the street or swing ball in the backyard.

The smell of suntan lotion, hot tar and Oros. Wicks bubblegum for a cent. An ice-cream cone from the kombi that plays a tune or the guy riding around the neighbourhood with an ice-cream delivery bicycle ringing his hand bell to alert the neighbourhood to his presence.

Wait, can you still remember when around the corner seemed far away and going into town seemed like going somewhere, and your ma made you "dress up" for the trip.

A million mozzie bites and peeling skin in summer. Sticky fingers and sand in and on everything. Cops and Robbers, Rounders, Stingers, foefie slides and climbing trees.

Walking or riding your bike to school - no matter what the weather.

Running till you were out of breath. Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt.

Jumping on the bed, pillow fights, spinning around, getting dizzy and falling down. Being tired from playing.  Remember that?

The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team.

Paper water bombs and clay "lats" were the ultimate weapon.

A piece of card in the spokes held by a clothes peg transformed any bicycle into a motorcycle.

I'm not finished just yet. Can you still taste and smell . Eating jelly powder from the box, ice lollies made from cold drink in Tupperware holders in the freezer.

Making sherbet from sugar and ENOs, and boiling tins of condensed milk to make caramel - took hours!

Marshmallow fish and mice. Wilson's toffees.

Remember when there were only two types of takkies - Tommies and the canvas ones, and the only time you wore them at school was for "PT".

It wasn't odd to have two or three "best" friends.

Nobody owned a pedigree dog. 25 cents was decent pocket money.

When nearly everyone's mom was at home when the kids got there.

Remember when it was magic when dad would "remove" his thumb, or make 10 cents appear from behind your ear.

When it was considered a great privilege and very unusual to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant or in a proper hotel.

Or when, on the rare occasion, Dad stopped at a roadhouse or Shell One Stop.

Remember when any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him, or use him to carry groceries - and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.

When being sent to the headmaster's office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home. Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn't because of muggings, drugs, gangs, etc. Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat and some of us are still afraid of them!!!

Didn't that feel good? Just to go back and say, "yeah, I remember that!"

Remember when decisions were made by going "eeny-meeny-miney-mo."

Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, "Nix!"

A "race issue" meant arguing about who ran the fastest.

Money was handled by whoever was the banker in "Monopoly".

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was germs.

Having a weapon in school meant being caught with a BIC pen pea-shooter or a "cattie". Taking drugs meant orange-flavoured chewable Vitamin C or Milk of Magnesia. Ice-cream was considered a basic food group. Skills and courage were discovered because of a "dare". Older siblings were the worst tormentors, but also the fiercest protectors.

If you can remember most or all of these, then you have LIVED!!!!

For much of the rest of the day my friend and I emailed back and forth as we began to remember many of the little things that bond all kids that grew up in SA in the 80s, including:

  • Chappies sweets: If I remember correctly they were half a cent back in the early 80s but, by the late 80s, they cost two cents each. I loved the trivia on the inside of the wrappers.

  • Fizzer sweets: These sweets were so cool. They were flat, about 15cm long, and about 3mm thick, and came in pink (strawberry) and green (cream soda - my favourite). If you bent it quickly you could snap pieces off and eat them (it was incredibly difficult to bite pieces off) or you could warm the Fizzer in your hands and then stretch it slowly to form weird shapes with it.

  • Spending your entire summer vacation on your bike riding around the neighbourhood within the area your parents have designated as safe to venture around in (nowadays there's no such thing), visiting friends and going to the local café (convenience store) to buy your favourite brand of cigarette sweets (I bet they don't make those sweets anymore) and have the guy at the till tease you as you walk past the magazine racks with the Scope magazines and their strategically placed stars. Then you'd spend your spare 20c pieces playing whatever arcade game the café had standing outside the entrance (unless you were me and your parents wouldn't let you).

  • Handheld games: Back in the day before the GameBoy, you had LCD handheld games (another guide). If you had a Nintendo Game & Watch game you were superior to someone who just had a generic game, and if you had a multi-screen (or panorama) Game & Watch game (especially Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong II, or Mickey & Donald), you were just the ultimate.

Damn, those were the days!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Alphabetical Conundrum

A: "Where would I put @home [alphabetically]? At the top of the [stockist] list, with 'A'?"
Me: "...yeah...I think so..."
We sit there for a moment trying to figure it out, and I start giggling.
S: "Editorial dilemma!"
A: "Gives subs sleepless nights."


Monday, August 15, 2005

Pleasant Reading For A Monday

This morning's Cape Times ran a story about a man who found a foot at Milnerton Lagoon (north of Cape Town) over the weekend. I couldn't help giggling at the story (it might be due to the influence of the evil flu germs that currently have almost total reign) partly because the police response was to "open a dossier". In an ideal world there would be enough money for the police to have developed a DNA database, like cop shows on TV always have, into which they could quickly input the relevant data and obtain a match. Meanwhile, everyone's debating whether the foot was the result of a shark attack or recent Salt River mortuary "incidents" in which a foot was sawn off a corpse and went missing, body parts have gone missing from other corpses, and allegations of necrophilia are making the rounds.

The story became more ludicrous when this article was posted (from the Cape Argus), complete with a rather grotesque photograph (you've been warned).

This sounds like something out of a bad horror movie but it is hot news in Cape Town right now and, embarrassingly, it's so utterly absurd that it makes me laugh.



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