Thursday, January 29, 2004

Left up on the shelf 

Exclusive Books sale started this morning. Piles of Peter McCarthy's 'The Road to McCarthy' (which I very much enjoyed), in both book and tape form. Is that the ultimate downer for an author – flogged off cheap because someone over-estimated your popularity and over-stocked on your oeuvre? Or is it just a rush to see your name, and picture in this case, on a book regardless of circumstances? I'd like to find out, obviously, so Peter, please drop me a line: details to the right.

Soon to be reading: my sale purchases: Glue by Irvine Walsh; Elephant & the Flea by Charles Handy; Grandma went to the Market (has pictures, so have read this one already. Out loud. To the kids. It rhymes too! Definitely the best of 3 books we have by the same author, whose name I can’t remember.)

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Postscript to yesterday:
People who get themselves stuck halfway across the junction when the lights (robots in SA) change. Net result: us poor buggers trying to cross the busy main road are blocked. Thanks love. No, don't worry - I'm not late or anything. I sit in traffic with my heart rate rising so that I don't need to go to the gym.

Friday, January 23, 2004

You drive me crazy 

Things that piss me off about driving in Cape Town:

People who don't indicate:
Indicating is a sign of weakness - if you signal your intention to change lanes, then the guy behind will close the gap. OK, that's me too, but it's a survival technique.

People who don't know how roundabouts work:
Just because you're going straight, it doesn't mean you have priority

Portable speed cameras:
Fixed cameras you can spot, but when the police are equipped with mobile jobs on tripods, that's not fair.

Cars that should not be on the road in the first place:
Why aren't the tripod police arresting people for driving cars with no lights, brakes, or tread on their tyres instead of sending me fines for doing 110km/h on an empty motorway?

Enormous off road vehicles:
Always clean and shiny (usually polished by the gardener), and driven by people (OK, women) who have no idea where the extremities of their vehicle are.

Taxis that use hazard lights instead of indicators:
Usually the lights mean "I am pulling over now", but sometimes it means "I am about to swerve across both lanes to drop off this friend of mine. Take your best guess."

Listening to: something soothing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Drop me a line 

Reading: Churchill by Roy Jenkins.

Churchill was a great letter writer. He was a great many other things as well, but his prolific writing must have made the job of his many biographers that much easier. While part of the government, and working in Whitehall, he would send a letter out in the morning, get a reply to which he would respond in the same day, and so on, until as many as half a dozen epistles (and he was not known for his brevity) had been added to the correspondence within 24 hours.

My grandfather used to run an engineering business in London , and told me how he could receive an enquiry in the morning post, send out a quote at lunchtime, and receive an order that afternoon - all by regular post. The obvious parallel these days is email, which has brought back the possibility of a frequency of communication on a global scale that was possible only within a large city two generations ago. Are we any better off for it, or making good use of it?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Sugar sugar 

My wife and I have two kids and a full time maid. This may sound like luxury (the maid part, anyway), and it is certainly pretty pleasant, but is also pretty common in South Africa. I do not know of a reasonably well off family here that does not employ what in South African PC language is a domestic worker. By reasonably well-off (this is South Africa), I mean anyone who is white, and anyone else with a similar income.

Anyway, Nancy, who is a part of our family, has been getting steadily less effective and more forgetful for the last few weeks. We persuaded her to arrange some time off, and then she called us on Sunday to say that she was not going to come in on Monday. She had been to her doctor who had told her that she had low blood pressure and depression. My wife persuaded her to come through today anyway so that she could see our doctor. The second diagnosis was that she has diabetes - her blood sugar was off the scale, and Nancy is currently in hospital while they stabilise her. It transpires that she had not - what's the expression - passed a stool in two weeks. She had been deteriorating steadily for weeks, and had probably decided that she was going home to die. This would certainly account for any depression. She normally leaves her money stashed around our house for safe keeping, so that it doesn’t get spent by the grandchildren she supports, but last week she cleaned it all out. She hadn’t been planning on coming back.

I hope and pray that the intervention of a good doctor will give her a few more years yet. I find it shocking and troubling that she was so accepting of her fate, and but for the intervention of my (admittedly wonderful) wife, she would probably have died of a very treatable disease, hastened on her way by the pharmacopoeia supplied by her local quack.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

I and I 

So: Me. Ex-pat Brit living in Cape Town, which is in South Africa, in case you were wondering. For Americans, South Africa is at the bottom end of Africa (the clue is in the title), and Cape Town is in the bottom left hand corner. Don’t come here – there are too many foreigners already. I’m currently sitting in an office wondering what to do with all my spare time between projects, and wondering if anyone will read this stuff. So far so good.

I moved to Cape Town when my South African wife talked me in to it. I had been here before, so it took her about 5 minutes. It was not a career driven decision (the clue is in the title again), but then I was old enough to have worked out that my 'career' was not the only thing in my life. I've also worked out that there are lots of ways of defining a 'good' job. I'm a slow learner. Since we arrived, I have been part of taking my first employer into insolvency, started my own business, been part of a management buyout of another, which I subsequently sued. And I came here for an easy life.

As well as the work related strife, I've been getting in some practice on my mid-life crisis, so I bought a 30 year old sports car. In the intervening 4 years, we've also acquired two kids, who have nowhere to sit, so I may need to get another car with a back seat. And a roof.

Listening to: The Thrills, So Much for the City (thanks Stu!)

Friday, January 16, 2004

It’s a shame About Ray 

Actually, it’s not – he is one of the Greatest Living Englishmen, but that title was too good to pass up. It’s a shame he got shot (I’m talking about Ray Davies, singer, songwriter, leader of the Kinks, and general good bloke, by the way – recently shot while chasing a mugger in New Orleans), but the Queen was dead right in honouring him with an OBE or whatever it was (CBE - I checked, and apparently CBE is better. Good.). Not as if she’s got anything to do with it – it’s probably all decided by Trendy Blair’s specially convened honours think-tank. Since Ray practically invented Cool Britannia about the time that uncle Tony was still bossing around his school chums and copying Alastair Campbell's homework, he is one of the more deserving recipients of a gong. Him and Sir Clive, obviously. Say what you like about Tony, but he does populism pretty well.

Quote from Ray himself, when asked in one of those daft interviews "what do you never leave home without?"
"My front door key."

Listening to: The Kinks, obviously – Waterloo Sunset’s fine

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Got my Mojo working 

I’ve just bought the 10th anniversary issue of Mojo magazine. I know it’s a few months old – it came out in November last year – but the best way to get UK magazines here is to buy them cheap at a place called Paperweight. I recognise the first issue from its picture in one of the articles. I must have bought it when I was living in a flat in London’s east end with 5 assorted yuppies and weirdos. As I recall, we had at various times an Irish chef, a gay shop lifter, a hospital manager who supported Ipswich, a girl with black underwear who worked for Hansard, a civil engineer who never saw the light of day because he worked on the channel tunnel, a guy who left the flat to go to a job making models for Legoland, a lesbian who played football for Watford, a skinny social worker with a Spanish boyfriend, a Guardian journalist, and me. What a team. When someone invents the time machine, there will be a great market in time travels tours back to one’s own past for the purposes of dispensing advice.

Let’s see… “Don’t drink that – it’s been burning for the last 5 minutes.” “Call her – you’ll always regret it if you don’t.” “Buy Microsoft.”

Anyway, the Mojo purchase is part of my ongoing reimmersion in music. We're in a bit of a backwater here, with many CD shops still keeping Oasis under 'alternative', so I've lost contact with what's going on. Via a few friends with reliable tastes, and the odd imported CD, I'm starting to get back into it.

Maybe I need an output for my creative side. Something to satisfy my inner voice so that it doesn’t keep shouting at me. A blog. I can pretend to be a famous young author road testing his latest manuscript by pretending to be an unpublished saddo writing an online stream of consciousness diary. Or something.

Listening to: loads of old stuff I last heard at college, now replaced on CD, and finding myself noticing the missing scratches I had faithfully preserved on tape.

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