Thursday, April 29, 2004

I just have to say your name 

Still too busy to blog much, but one thing I noticed from the election last week was that the ANC’s candidate for the Northern Province is called Darkie Afrika. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Names in South Africa are fascinating – the blend of cultures and languages leading to some interesting combinations, like the aforementioned Darkie.

Afrikaner names are tricky for a Pom to pronounce, being based on guttural ancient Dutch names, and they often use nicknames as a matter of course. This can be fun. To go with Darkie, a popular nickname is Whitey. Good team. Sakkie (pronounced sucky) is also quite common, as is the surname de Kok. You figure the rest out.

The coloured community in the Cape are in some cases descended from freed slaves, so have either the name of their ancestor’s owner, or are named after the month they were born, or maybe bought. January, February, and so on are therefore common surnames in this area.

African names are wonderfully musical, albeit sometimes tongue twisting. Xhosa and Zulu, the two most popular African languages here, include clicks, made by various combinations of tongue, teeth and palate. These are very tricky for a Pom without a lot of practice. In the past, most Africans anglicised their names to make pronunciation easier. Nowadays, they are thankfully far less likely to do this, so Nonkiso and Tsepho replace Nancy and Steve. Often these names remind me that all names have a meaning, although it is usually not as deeply buried as it is in developed countries. Lots of black Africans seem to be named after emotions or virtues, so their names translate literally as Happiness or Patience. I once met a guy called Professor. The same is true of almost all names if you look deep enough. There is more that unites us than divides us, or something like that. According to a current bank advert anyway.

Listening to: Warren Zevon, may he rest in peace. Must be doing it a lot, because my wife now knows the songs.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The oil, the gasoline 

We finally have some work to do in consulting land, so things may slow down here for a while. It’s a piece of strategy consulting for a financial services company. It promises to be quite interesting, although in the meantime I’ve still got to go and waste half a day tomorrow on a review of another project that we did a year ago. They cannot, of course, send me any useful information in advance of this review, so I am going to go in completely cold and be expected to make a contribution. Way to go.

Yesterday was election day, so a public holiday in South Africa. What a great country! I don’t get to vote, as a Pom, so I had the day off. Lucky me – I spent large chunks of it in bed feeling ill, and the rest with my head in the boot of my car. The squirty guts were probably down to a dodgy meal the night before, and certainly weren’t helped by the petrol fumes as I tried to fix a clapped out fuel pump.

The car had broken down on the way home, making very unhealthy noises from the fuel pump in the boot. I have to say that this is a very considerate car. It has dumped me three times, all within a mile or so of my house, once as I was pulling into the garage. This is unlike my VW, which is 20 years younger, and has broken down twice in the same period, but usually far enough away to justify calling out the AA, who I joined when I bought the older car. Anyway, having been given a confidence boost by a friend who has done this kind of thing before, I removed the pump, spilling several pints of petrol in the process, then dismantled, cleaned, and reassembled it on the dining room table. I put it back in (more petrol spillage), fired up the car, and it works!! Well, the kids were impressed. Now I can start the new project with grease under my finger nails…

I need excitement 

I’m back from holiday. Did you miss me? I had a great time. Thanks for asking. The kids loved fishing in the rock pools and chasing seagulls on the beach. We stayed in a “timeshare resort”, which is basically a hotel that you go to for the same week every year. We bought someone else’s timeshare. It was full of families with kids, from tiny to teenager.

What is it about being surrounded by teenagers that makes you feel like one? I was looking around at the flower of South African youth, and wondering if I looked cool enough, cursing the spot that appeared on my chin. Hope my hair looks sharp. Maybe, as one of the most traumatic periods of your life, the teenager mind-set sears itself into your sub-conscious. I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress, induced by surreptitiously ogling 16-year olds from behind my shades. Looking around at the over-made up girls, and the studied casual attitude of the boys, I remember exactly how it feels to be fumbling your way through all the hormones. Beer helps, as I recall, but only up to a point. Then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever really got over it. I still get that “Emperor’s new clothes” feeling from time to time, usually in a business situation. Maybe I’m a bit too closely connected to my inner child.

Friday, April 02, 2004

We’re going on a holiday 

If there are any regular readers out there, then you’ll have to be patient for a few days. The family and I are heading off down the coast to Plettenberg Bay. Hopefully, in between chasing my kids along the beach, we can avoid thinking about what the builders are doing while we are gone. Maybe more consulting projects will come in while I am gone as well. That might slow the blogging down a bit when I get back. In the meantime, I shall be eating prawns and drinking beer at the Lookout, catching up on my reading, searching for pansy shells, and generally lazing about. When the kids are asleep.

It’s a beautiful time of year in this part of the world, with warm days and cool nights. We even had a Joburg-style thunderstorm in Cape Town yesterday morning. I heard the dog barking, then noticed the flashes. In my semi-comatose state, I couldn’t work out why somebody would want to take flash photos of the dog in the middle of the night. Then I heard the thunder, and the rain started. Don’t tell anyone though – it’s the secret season.

Listening to: Bloody Barney probably. For 6 hours in the car.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

No wonder it’s dark 

There was a piece on the radio this morning about a woman in Port Elizabeth who has won the right, in court, to harvest her husband’s sperm for future use. The husband is, tragically, in a coma, and is shortly to have his life-support switched off, but the wife would like to have his children at some stage.

There is a very sad element to this story, but for anyone who does not know the people or the situation, the whole thing really hinges on that word, “harvest”. What does that mean exactly? I’m sad to say that for me, it conjured up images of Glenn Close .

I think this inability to take anything too seriously is either a very good thing, or a deep psychological flaw. I’m going for the former. It can get you in trouble though. There is a line in The Passion of the Christ which begins “He’s not the Messiah” – to which it is almost impossible not to warble “He’s a very naughty boy!” Try that in a cinema full of Southern Baptists.

Listening to: John Cougar Mellencamp, American Fool.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?