Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back At Work (A Lot Can Change In Two Weeks)

Happy to new year to everyone! If you're still on holiday, lucky you. Yesterday I returned to work after a very short 12 days off, during which I didn't once turn on a computer, nevermind access the Internet, or watch much TV (the hours I clocked on the PlayStation 2 are another matter, however). Traffic was pleasantly light heading into the city, because most people are still on vacation and schools don't open for another few weeks and as I arrived at the office I marvelled at the number of parking bays that were still open at 9am. Usually, by this time, you have to fight for parking. Well, in theory, because you'd need ramming spikes, a murderous gaze, and lots of insurance. In practice you have to chance parking in a dodgy area or illegally, or you have to drive around for ages until you find something (unless you want to pay a high price for a parking bay: I'm not so into that, on a particular principle).

The day was rather quiet and uneventful as half the staff members are still on holiday (another bonus), and I spent part of my morning trying to catch up on my email and, unfortunately, route out all the spam that is currently magnetically being drawn to my personal address. On the plus side, however, the aircon was on a decent setting for a change (it's either way too hot or absolutely freezing, and it's never on a standard setting, so you have to arrive at work with clothing appropriate for both extremes, because you never know what you're going to get).

The day slowly drew to an end and I left the building just after 5:30pm to find a warm evening with a moderate breeze waiting for me, which was a surprise as I'd spent the day watching the clouds - known as the "table cloth" - pour over Table Mountain, and had assumed that it was - at best - mild outside. During the day I also noticed that the Heerengracht fountain, one of my favourite features in the city centre, has turned a sickly dark green, which means that it probably hasn't been switched back on since it was switched off a few weeks ago, and no one has cleaned it. Yuck. I guess the people responsible for that are on holiday, along with the people responsible for watering the grass, which surrounds the fountain and which lines the middle island of the road that runs eastwards from the fountain, as most of it has turned brown, which makes the whole area look depressing.

As I walked towards the car the city was eerily quiet, as there were far fewer people around than usual, which also meant fewer taxis [*] disrupting the serene atmosphere. I did, however, see a number of tourists. I don't know what they all do at this time of the day because most businesses are closed at this time (except some restaurants), and I presume it's too early to go to clubs (I think I should do some research on that, LOL). You can usually identify the tourists because they often wear shorts, moon bags, and funny hats, but even if they appear more "normal" you can usually suss them out because they'll be walking slowly while they gawk at everything (whereas I walk fast while I'm gawking at everything as I go about my business in the city).

What could I possibly be gawking at after having lived here my whole life? Well, there is a lot of urban renewal/reinvention/development going on at the moment. Construction usually stops during this time of year, but I noticed many changes, which I hadn't seen before my holiday, to a number of buildings that are being gutted and redone near where I work and along the route I walk to the car on the other side of the city. It's a weird process to witness, as these are buildings that have been around forever but, suddenly, they are being transformed in a strange way in that, technically, while the building is still there, so much about it is changed that its entire character and history slowly disappears. Forever. I find it disturbing, I guess because the loss is so permanent.

So that was my first day back. Thankfully there was little drama, so my stress levels are still reasonably low, although this will change within a few days as more people return to work, the next deadline looms, and the madness escalates. I am not looking forward to it. I think I need another holiday.



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