Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Self-Isolation - III

Working on an earpiece

The day started early at work as we were well into conferences from not long after 8:00 AM and were dipping in and out of conversations for the rest of the day. My rather tenacious colleague who can at times drive me to distraction was making considerable progress as we began to get a grip of the issues that consumed manpower and time yesterday.

Holding back the occasional exasperation we can address the frustrating and laugh about the infuriating, it all ended up being very productive.

Times are indeed changing

I was also looking forward to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the sense that some relief and comfort has swept away the incomprehensible and destructive atrocity that occupied the White House for the last four years.

Every moment of the pomp and pageantry, ceremony and performance was like a return to old traditions and new normalcy, an intelligible speech, impactful, sincere, and emotional with properly constructed and understandable sentences, you wonder, whatever happened to America?

Running low on some supplies, I had my friend do some shopping and deliver to the door. The hermit complex is settling in, even if we are hardly halfway there. 

The Horror Apprentice is cancelled

Something to celebrate

Today heralds a new dawning in the world order and global leadership with the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America. We need to take time to let that sink in, it is significant.

The outgoing president in his bitterness and truculent will hopefully slink into obscurity only to be noticed when his many legal and financial troubles are given the burning tails to chase after him and whether he is able to escape opprobrium or justice is left to be seen.

A piece of work

Donald J. Trump was an aberration visited upon us with a temperament most unsavoury even if entertaining for many. We had completely different worldviews, he’s was entirely self-centred with the pretensions to public service he was never disposed to. Apart from ambition, there was nothing exemplary in his conduct, demeanour, attitude, or deportment.

In speech, his excessive use of comparatives and superlatives with repetition for emphasis showed a man who did not read, was ready to dish out but averse to receive, he had the bully pulpit of the presidency and wielded it with a tyrannical ferocity attacking anything that did not serve his ego or redound to his personality. Basically, he had no humanity.

Vote with knowledge

The thought that he could have been rewarded with a second term was scary until it became obvious that he would not so be granted that opportunity.

If anything, we learnt of how power in the hands of one who breaks all the rules and does not subscribe to the orthodoxy can radically affect our lives. The vote is not something to be gambled away on the whim, for it is not enough to just assume power, the responsibility that pertains to power is tested when met with a crisis. That crisis became the Coronavirus pandemic.

401,777 people have died of CoVID-19 disease to-date, there had to be consequence and repercussion for this. [Johns Hopkins: Coronavirus Resource Centre] It is therefore gratifying that he lost the election to the person he nicknamed Sleepy Joe and has to the very last day not conceded to him. The systems and institutions have stood strong against the Trump onslaught and his quest to undermine democracy in America. He came into power with his party in control of all arms of government and he departs having lost it all for them.

No new season

Personally, it was essential that Donald Trump’s tenure end in disgrace with all the accoutrements of his malevolent character in global display as lacking in grace, in deportment, without gallantry, and full of calumny. He had no acquaintance with the truth, the Washington Post says President Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading statements in his presidency. When the truth is absent from our leadership and democratic system, we are left with little to trust about how we are being governed and the policies implemented that affect our lives. [Wikipedia: Veracity of statements by Donald Trump]

This became the hallmark of this woebegone presidency, an antithesis of decency in every ramification and a black spot on civility. He cannot be gone soon enough and to many it is good riddance. One however must not forget those who hitched their wagons to this apology of wanton excess, who believed every word he uttered, bestowed on him cult followership, and sacrificed everything to his cause. Some paid the ultimate price others will pay more than they bargained for. It is a veritable and cautionary lesson and tale to be told for history and wisdom.

In closing, one can only wish President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris the very best on their tenure, my prayers follow them and we hope that the leadership we have always excepted of America will be restored for some semblance of peace and the embrace of our common, yet diverse humanity. The future beckons as The Horror Apprentice has been cancelled for a second season because the ratings were rotten and the host was indescribably atrocious.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Self-Isolation - II

Counting tartan sheep

Today has been a slow day, hours spent on a telephone conference where hysteria promoted an issue to the highest priority when reality revealed it was hardly so. The problem, nebulous as it is has acquired a workaround that is being set in motion.

Looking outside my window a man in a yellow and blue tartan jacket and pair of trousers with a flat cap of the same material provides some amusement and he might well have the occupation of a clown, though there is no circus in sight. It is only the second day.

Someone to blame

My Brian has finally returned home to Bulawayo and we would soon be back to video messages on WhatsApp, text messages and video calls before we go to bed. We need to fix this thing.

I think I will cope well with this self-isolation malarkey, I did well with it most of last year, it should get better even though it is an imposition of inconvenience. I might just start with cooking something. On that too, I stepped on the scales and the numbers showing are not that encouraging. Only one person is to blame for this, he knows himself.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Self-Isolation - I

All in form or a fine

As per the mandatory CoVID-19 precautionary measures of the UK and England in particular, I am just completing the 1st of 10 full days of self-isolation (quarantine) because I was in South Africa. During the last week of my sojourn in South Africa, the UK had the requirement of a negative CoVID-19 test or the risk of a £500 fine within 72 hours of my departure effective from 4:00 AM on the 15th of January.

I took my test on Thursday and it would have just fallen within the 72-hour range, but by the time I got the result, the government website had updated the effective date moving it back 72 hours. In any case, I still needed the test because it was checked at the check-in counter for my local travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then when I was about to traverse customs and immigration in Johannesburg.

Another requirement from the UK was filling in a Passenger Locator form within 48 hours of arrival with details of where I was travelling from, where I will be transiting through, Paris, in this instance, and where I will be staying for my compulsory self-isolation which could attract fines of up to £10,000 if broken.

We are slow on the uptake

The checks were quite efficient in South Africa, masks compulsory, hands sanitised, temperature checked registration at the lounges. There was a tracking and tracing system in play with notifications from the South African authorities obtained from when I registered for the test.

Through the flight from Johannesburg to Paris, we had to keep our masks on and AirFrance offered mask to everyone whilst strictly requiring those with cloth masks to change to standard-issue surgical masks. In Paris, I was a bit concerned because the lounge did begin to fill up and the social distancing requirement was not that adhered to. The transit bus to the flight we boarded from Paris to Manchester had us packed in like sardines.

When we arrived in The UK on Sunday in the early afternoon, there were no checks whatsoever. Whilst there were hand sanitising stations, I was through the e-Passport gate in a minute and in a black taxi with windows open in the cold for ventilation after baggage reclaim in under 15 minutes.

Speaking foreign like English

Just before noon, I received a phone call, an unknown number but the lady on the other end with a foreign-sounding accent, presumably Indian was calling on behalf of the UK Government for public health purposes to inform me that my household and I need to self-isolate for 10 days. All that information I already knew. One of the questions she asked was whether I would like to continue the conversation in English, I did not ask what alternative languages were available, Welsh, Gaelic or Yoruba, Dutch, maybe Afrikaans, if she spoke slowly enough.

It was like the information I had submitted that included my passport particular had no significance. I was also back to work, my accounts needed to be reactivated as they were disabled when I was away. A long slow day, it was. There are only 9 more days to go.

Doing what we had to do, for love

The shifting sands of planning

When Brian and I kissed goodbye on the 14th of January 2020 in Johannesburg, nothing could have suggested we would not be meeting up in a couple of months. Then the pandemic came with the associated different levels of lockdowns and restrictions, we hoped but could not plan for anything.

Meanwhile, as it ravaged the UK putting us at the disadvantage of being one of the highest risk countries and so slamming the door on possible travel and leading to another month-long national lockdown, by which time we were in December.

As I had been anticipating a rendezvous from September, I had already hinted at work of my need to travel with the possibility of getting married when we next meet. I had considered taking two months off, but after looking at the options the 11th of December was the best departure date with the prospect of the whole of January.

You can weather turbulence

Between negotiations from just the Christmas break and lobbing two weeks off the end of January return, we settled on a 5-week break and I was out to meet Brian who had arrived the day before in Cape Town on the 12th of December. With hindsight, if I had not left the UK when I did, the cost of travel would have gone up almost 50% and another week, the new restrictions will have cancelled everything.

Whilst we were away, new strains of the Coronavirus were discovered and spreading more contagiously in the UK and South Africa that the world began to shut their borders to visitors from those countries. New lockdown measures were instituted with restrictions to movement, alcohol bans, curfews, with limited tourist activity and incremental measures to halt the spread of the virus just as vaccinations were being rolled out in some countries, the UK apparently taking the lead with the government thinking they had found a talisman to cover for the unmitigated and unnecessary loss of life numbering over 70,000 at that time.

Our things over other things

The swirl of events around us would have left some in a state of panic with the threat of abruptly shortening one’s holiday. I was of the mind that we would enjoy every moment we had together of 35 days and cross the bridge of when we needed to return to our respective homes when the time came. That is how we played it and had a wonderful time full of the expectation that we would soon be meeting up again.

I returned home yesterday just about 27 hours from door-to-door and Brian should be home in Bulawayo by noon tomorrow. Our story continues with an exciting chapter we have already begun to write. In our prayers, we know that dreams do come true.

At breakfast on Saturday, I wrote this short poem.

My heart is clouded in a mist,
With the heaviness of what'll be missed,
I slept beside you many times at night,
I woke up refreshed to kiss you in the light,
Now we are about to wave goodbye,
Each moment was a gushing high,
Love, It won't be long,
For this is not wrong.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

The onerous protocols of CoVID

Everything for the outing

Before you leave your home, you don a mask whilst having at least one to spare, just in case the ear straps break, or you just need to replace it because of some mishap. You will be refused entry to any establishment without a mask; besides, it is now an offence to be without a mask covering both your nose and mouth when in a public space.

As you arrive at a place, you can expect the following activities which begin with sanitising your hands, the many times you do this can present a dermatological crisis. Then a scanning gun is pointed at you to take your body temperature. I have registered as low as 34.30 Celsius, but this might be due to environmental factors than being poikilothermic.

Document your existence

Forms to fill, your name and phone number, where you are staying, your passport number, whether you have had symptoms, who you might have encountered that had symptoms, if you have been at a rave and then you swear by any religious tome of choice to be truthful and only be true.

Leaving the country comes with other requirements, all the places you stayed at, then went to for whatever duration, when you arrived and when you are leaving, your destination address, your next of kin with contact details. Not forgetting, you must have taken a SARS-CoV-2 test which should be negative, or you are going nowhere. The protocols of CoVID are myriads and I look forward to 10 days of quarantine.

On my honour

On the word of a gentleman

After a 5-week stay in South Africa, I am homeward bound in a changing world of requirements, restrictions and reassurances. On the latter, I had one duty to perform to be able to check-in, I had to affirm, ‘On my honour’ that I did not have any CoVID-19 symptoms and I had not been exposed to anyone who might have had symptoms in the last 14 days.

We are being asked to rise to a gentlemanly and sportsmanlike code of integrity, truth, and honour that we are honest and true, caring and unselfish, considerate and courteous of others even to our detriment if any of the questions asked of us elicit answers that will put us at disadvantages of cost, time and much more.

The path of lies to power

I think about this and wonder about what example we have from people we have inadvertently put into leadership, people who exhibit no virtues or values, whose acquaintance with the truth and facts is as alien and distant as the east is from the west. It is in the hands of these people with the teams of similar disposition that we have laid the trust of governance and policy with the hope that they will do right.

We live in a tragedy of the times when that which is demanded of those who sit in power is lacking and depressing. Yet, as individuals, we cannot give up, relent, or allow the preponderance of the reprehensible, the irresponsible, and the unconscionable to become our guiding light.

We must stand apart

As the silent majority, we must work to bring the truth to light from under the heaped rubbish of verisimilitude, the ploys and propaganda of taking their many lies told too many times that they almost sound truth.

We can make that solemn oath that our word is our bond, shake hands and know that what is agreed will not be reneged on. Maybe we are old-fashioned, but these things matter today as much as ever. I look around me and for all the people I see, I hope they feel the same way too.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Testing for the home straight

Our world today

It could be easy to be angry and disillusioned with the world when viewing the inconveniences, the restrictions, the limitations, and the encumbrances that present with this global pandemic. Without heaping opprobrium on any, what has been unleashed on us has had unimaginable consequences and brought catastrophic losses.

All this is exacerbated by inefficiencies and incompetence in policies, systems, planning, execution and governments, leaving us the people absorbing the absolutely dire consequences.

For instance, it is not even 9:00AM and I have found myself in a 60-deep queue trying to meet a stringent requirement on the pain of a hefty fine to be able to return home. I hate officialdom, but here we are, desperately trying to maintain social distancing and keeping our peace in the face of the untenable.

Organised in a way

Lancet Laboratories is making a wad, with their byline of ‘Key to diagnostic excellence’ they probably cannot be faulted for their diagnostic abilities, their organisational acumen however leaves much to be desired.

Two hours after I arrived, I was called into a testing room, my details recorded on the swab kit before the nurse donned a pair of disposable gloves and then proceeded to tickle my brain through my nostril, twisting and turning the swab to find the extent of my tolerance and with no consideration for my discomfort. It is probable I was being tested for endurance instead.

For it said

I held my breath all the while and when she had fulfilled her sadistic pleasure, pulling out the swab, I let out a gasp. Later, I was called in to pay up and then arrange for getting my test result with a turnaround between 24 to 48 hours.

Some 5 and a half hours later, I received my result, the app giving a more chemical prognosis stating that “SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid was not detected by means of a real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.” I will be back there tomorrow to collect the stamped and signed certificate. The joys of travel have become a matter of compartmentalisation, perspective, and a sense of just being unflappable.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

A teacup of different

Getting a feel

We decided on a trip to Stellenbosch today and it was our first apart from a drive-through over a year ago. We had been to the winelands around the city and it was getting to be too historic a place to miss.

Setting out for lunch at Stellenbosch Kitchen, the short menu, two per course had provenance and historical notes. As there is no alcohol being served, we made do with what was in the meals, one of the entrees had vinegar and for dessert, it was Amarula bread and butter pudding. Yet, we are in the middle of the Cape Winelands.

Then we made for the Tourist Information office and as we passed the African Art Gallery, I could not help but notice the many giraffe sculptures quite likely numbering more than giraffes in the wild.

Rooibos tea

At the Tourist Office where we waited to start our Stellenbosch On Foot tour, I asked and decided to try rooibos (red bush) tea with a hint of sugar. Out of the teapot, I expected a redder hue than was presented in the teacup, a strong tea visage with an inviting palate.

The aroma was cool and earthy. To the taste, it felt like tea without any characteristic discovery in flavour. From a frame of reference, a stronger and darker serving of Chinese tea. I won’t put milk in rooibos tea and will likely prefer it as iced tea. Alright, now I read it is an herbal tea, how on earth can you be served that at breakfast?

Blog - South Africa: This humble customer is not a diva

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Pirates from beyond the Cape

Curfews and crews

Last night we were out on the balcony playing Scrabble well after we were under curfew around 23:00 hours and looking towards the Cape Town Stadium on the Bay Road footpath there were three people involved in a racket before they moved on. Whether they might have been members of the public involved in essential services and exempt from the restrictions.

Meanwhile, the wind was boisterous, almost blowing the Scrabble board away, the clothes horse leaning on the wall fell on my foot and we had to close the doors to limit the effects of the wind.

Then out at sea was a well-lit ship, more like a galleon by its shape or promisingly a pirate ship apparently moving at speeds you will not expect at that time of the night close to the legendary shipwreck coasts of Cape Town. I did not think twice before I suggested it had to be a ghost ship.

Floating a ghost

From the comfort and safety of my balcony, I was not ready to scream in terror, but it soon disappeared from sight, obviously behind an obscuring building to be seen by others who could be more predisposed to fright.

However, maybe we were just a bit excited, the wind gusts from the historic weather charts of yesterday suggest it was just 29 km/h which on the Beaufort Scale just passes for a Fresh Breeze, any mariner and even Long John Silver will not have had any problems with a breeze. To the uninitiated, at the best of times, we had our own story of a ghost ship, any other logical explanation is curmudgeonly and boring.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Discoveries that lead off course

The lurch for brunch

We have veered off the beaten path in search for brunch around our new accommodations. The places that seem inviting are not particularly offering what we want. When we thought we could walk through Green Point Park, the gate nearest to us was locked, and by the time we got to the open gate, there was no point traversing the park, we kept to the circumlocutory path on the pavement.

After the formalities, sanitised hands, temperature checks, and registration, we made selections from the menu and I was about to hand over my phone when I realised the menus were only available through a QR Code read by my phone. The Jason of Jason Bakery is assuredly not an Argonaut, but for your sausage, thy chorizo instead.

Sausages Española

You can presume if anyone tries something in Cape Town, there will be a copycat and I cannot speak of the originator, it might well be an agreement at the meeting of Cape Town chefs. For a few blocks down, they kept the kitchen open for us at Sotano, minutes after it should have closed.

Jason offered a downloaded PDF menu whilst Sotano on the QR Code revolution sent us to a web page and this time they were upfront with what they were up to. It would appear chorizo is replacing the sausage and the option will appropriately be called Spanglish Breakfast, a portmanteau of Spanish and English. It was good.

And now that we are by the seaside, Brian can get his salt from the sea, the table salt is not nearly enough for him to salt to taste, pepper to heat, and Tabasco to burn. By the time he is done, it is most definitely another meal that he can finish in style.

Thought Picnic: A bag of life to pack

In the mind in a swirl

In visualisations and vivid imagination my daily thoughts are consumed by proposals and plans, the prospect of emigration, the destination being South Africa.

Thinking of the major to minor of what it entails, first for me and then critically and crucially for the lives I will be responsible for as they begin to thrive in their own aims, goals, and careers.

Much of if seems like the stuff of dreams, then dreams do come true, and in a sense as apprehensive as I sometimes feel, I am not afraid the possible is quite possible indeed.

I have emigrated a number of times and in some ways, I must be a bit more experienced whilst I try to recapture that sense of youthful adventure that drives you to things that give life every chance to become both testimony and story.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Time and place issues

Other places to live

After 4 weeks in an apartment in the Oranjezicht area near the District 6 Museum, we decided on spending the rest of our holiday at Green Point in the Mouille Point suburb just a few metres from the Green Point Lighthouse which we learnt was the headquarters of the South African Lighthouses.

For our first night, we decided to eat out. Our bijoux apartment is busy, packed with unnecessary furniture, yet with all the modern conveniences at literally half the size of our previous abode. We do have a balcony with a view of the sea and the Cape Town Stadium over a golf course seemingly full of the fit players on golf carts. I am judging no one.

Only for better monitoring

For our first night, we went out for a meal at The Butcher Shop & Grill with a byline, ‘The original and only’, it left me a bit confused because they are in three places, Cape Town, Johannesburg and the Middle East, they weren’t specific, so it is a case of pinning the tail to the donkey on a map of possible locations.

As there was no alcohol at the inn, Brian has been on ginger, lemon and sprite, if he digests and expels the fluids fast enough, I might still have a man than wake up beside an elf. The thought alone. The restaurants are stricter on registration even if we sit outside, sanitising the hands, temperature readings written against our taken names and phone numbers. I still think we are missing time in and time out.

Being safe and careful

As I had written before, without that essential piece of information, I might visit an establishment long after or long before another possibly infected person, but because we were there on the same day, I acquire a tenuous risk factor. Obviously, the overhead of managing lists, times and overlaps of visiting patrons might just be too onerous, maybe electronic tagging is necessary or an extension on the Track-n-Trace apps.

In all, we are keeping to the protocols, keeping safe as much as we can. It is the only thing we have against this plague until it is under better control or we are vaccinated.

In the slipstream of Uber

Uber on the pulse

Anything over a few kilometres or if we are quite tired out from walking, we have Uber cabs come to our rescue with opportunities for feeling the pulse of the city from the perspective of people who might know a lot more about what it going on from the many diverse riders they fare from one place to another.

In this modified lockdown setting, you here of whether tourism is thriving or not, it isn’t compared to before the pandemic. Bootleg alcohol is on offer at exorbitant prices, I think we can survive teetotal for a few weeks. Brian has been trying out presumable 0% alcohol at restaurants, barely fermented effluent with hops to give that distinctively bitter taste.

For all the opinions I have heard about the Coronavirus pandemic, I don’t challenge the assertions from believers or unbelievers, but we can agree on one thing, you do not want to contract CoVID-19 at all because it is just not a nice thing to have from what we have read from survivors with long-term issues referred to as long-CoVID.

Every name a winner

Another trigger for conversation is the names of the Uber drivers for which I can say something funny, we met Yen; a rich man named in a unit of Chinese currency, Enos; an alternative spelling of Enoch who in the Bible purportedly walked with God and never died a natural death, probably sent to take us to a holier place. On our way to have brunch, we got Ramadhan, we had not planned to fast on that day.

The most fascinating of these names was Mitterran from Cameroon. I immediately thought the name was spelt wrong and I was right. His birth certificate was acquired on his behalf by his headmaster who did not care to find out how the French name given to his pupil was written and probably in his rural setting might have been unaware that there was a world leader Francois Mitterrand, the President of France, thereby formalising a misspelling with the last letter D lost to posterity.

There is a likelihood no one had said anything about this to Mitterran before I did, but for my failings, a misspelling will hardly pass me by even if many of my blogs for the lack of effective proofreading might be full of spelling errors that I correct years down the line. Meanwhile, if I come across Gianfranco Zola, I will have to remember Zola sends his regards from an Uber in South Africa.

Eyeing the fish on the sign

The eyes have it

Signs with meaning and some that require a bit of research, though I could not ignore one big board as I step out of our apartment complex. It read, “Buy full set – Single lashes R400.”

For the purchaser, they probably know full well what is on sale, a lash of the whip it probably is not, something for the eyes would be a sight to see. I have seen lashes that could sweep streets, long and batting you wonder if the weight of those lashes would require eyelid training to open the eyes before they slam shut.

Single lashes might indicate the lashes for one eye which you have to pair up for the other eye, to match length, colour, quality, lift, just allow your imagination to run whatever course it chooses. Maybe there are cascading lashes, one mounted on the other in an installation of double or triple lashes. Better to be observed than to be tried out.

Fishing in Congolese cuisine

Further on at the bus terminus, a kiosk serving Africain (sic) foods beckons to patrons to come and try out from a list of foods with literally indecipherable names. I thought I will start with the first and then consider if the rest should be studied.

Mbika (na) Makayabu, the first read, which I found out was salted cod with sauteed vegetables, the name already a mouthful before you have tasted the cuisine. I know in my heart of hearts; I am not ready for this smorgasbord of street food. It is probably tastier than the name suggests, and we’ll leave it at that. It is of Congolese provenance, that’s a few thousand kilometres up north.

If you can follow Lingala or just watch the YouTube video, you can serve it up at home too.

Off colour small talk

Dissolving strangeness

Sometimes, small talk is a defence mechanism, a way to put you at ease with strangers though there is no clear determination of what topic will come up for discussion. It is at times a case of fleeting opportunity taken advantage of to stop the heart racing in countenance of the unknown.

Where it occurs might also determine how long that encounter will go on for. At a restaurant or on a journey, it might go on for hours, weaving in and out of the insignificant to the gravely important, snippets of personal information inadvertently exchanged in the trade for a sense of the personal, the individual or the unique.

Short and naughty

However, in a lift, the exchange will probably be over before it has started. It requires something catchier like when I stuck my foot in it so much that I literally could not put it out without causing a right old stink. He was already in the lift going doing as I entered on the second floor, he ensuring I had entered for the right direction of travel.

“You don’t live in South Africa, do you?” I asked, observing that he was completely devoid of the tone of tan as you might naturally expect of a Caucasian living in these climes. In my mind, I expected another answer pertaining to him being a foreigner tourist who had just arrived on holiday. Suffice it to say, I had to quit whilst barely ahead, he does live in South Africa, the other question that should have followed indiscreetly was reserved and unspoken as we part ways soon after the lift doors opened.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Ashli Babbit, a needless death

What a shame for her

Ashli Babbit, 35, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, California was at the US Capitol yesterday as a staunch supporter of President Donald J. Trump having been fully persuaded of the unfounded claims of voter fraud determining his loss of the presidency.

Egged on by the president, she, unfortunately, found herself at the end of a bullet to the neck or the chest, as she climbed through a broken window as part of a hooligan mob invading the sanctity of the Congress, depending on the reports you read and soon she was dead and probably will not be remembered or celebrated for her needless martyrdom to a hopeless cause.

Silliness as patriotism

Some will have us believe that she was a patriot and there are many who fly the flag, stand for national anthems recite pledges of allegiance with gusto, who believe they are patriots or are more patriotic than those not so enthusiastically consumed of nationalism, jingoism, and belligerence.

The concept and meaning of patriotism has been corrupted, abused, and misappropriated to odious and nefarious ends. Many so-called patriots need to sit back down and have another in-depth civics lesson on the constitution, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the freedoms we all have in the kingdoms and republics in which we live and the responsibilities we have as citizens of our different domains.

Cut loose or perish

I am sorry that Ashli foolishly and needlessly lost her life in the pursuit of an alternative reality that had no evidential bearing of truth even in the broadest sense if there is an afterlife where an account is required of our deeds, anyone would hate to be in her shoes, it almost qualifies for a Darwin Awards citation. If you lose your life hitching your wagon to Donald J. Trump, you should be entered for that award and it is likely Herman Cain is celebrating his somewhere in the Great Beyond.

It is a salutary lesson, regardless of what you are asked to believe, take time to engage your head and do not be so closely hitched to anyone that you cannot cut loose when they are careering into a ditch.

In embassies of embarrassment

Done without a fuss

This morning, I had an appointment at the British Consulate in Cape Town for 9:00AM. It was just a kilometre from our apartment and with a brisk walk, I was at the reception with 10 minutes to spare. The wait to get registered was exacerbated by people ahead of me who appeared to be unsure of why they were in the building and then by staff at the consulate itself acting like Pinky and Perky trying to discover my name from the appointment sheet.

Once I was let in, I filled in the CoVID-19 monitoring sheet along with my mobile phone number in a space that was not designated for that information but had to be entered by their instruction. Next, I rang the bell at the service counter and a very pleasant and friendly lady appeared, asked for what I was after, took a pre-typed form from the tray signed it and stamped it. My official purpose was done.

She wished me well as we had a little chat about my getting married, I was out of the building at 9:05 AM.

Moribund systems of angst

My consulate experience was easy, quick, and efficient. Then I learnt of another involving the US Consulate that required a payment for which there were no electronic payment systems that the person had to make a 10-hour round-trip to Cape Town just to make that payment. Bureaucracies can be completely insufferable and frustrating.

Just to the North of South Africa is Zimbabwe, and one would expect with a consulate in Cape Town, no one will suggest you must return to Zimbabwe to obtain a document you need for an activity in South Africa. That assumption was shot to bits when an official did say a document should first be obtained from the country and then brought to the consulate for certification.

There is no logical sense to this and apparently, no recourse to any alternative arrangements as it seems, the bureaucratic systems bequeathed to many Commonwealth states by the British have become beacons of red tape inertia, completely impervious to improvement or progress.

My experiences indicate

It reminds me of when I visited India in 2011 and the visa acquisition process was so fraught that my European or British citizenship almost counted for nothing that the pertinent information, they required related to that of my parents and I was already in my forties. Whilst it was eventually sorted out in 5 days, there was a likelihood of an 8-week processing time and I paid the processing fee a Nigerian would have paid, even though my passport was British.

However, in my experience, British consulates have been helpful and efficient. I would presume my status and standing gives me those privileges. Even in Nigeria over 30 years ago, it was a breeze for me when it might have been an ordeal for others. I knew why I was there, I had everything needed to request what I wanted, formalities were quickly dispensed with and we settled into banter and small talk with raucous laughter. It could be better for others too.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Coronavirus streets in Cape Town - III

Streets with meaning

Stepping out this afternoon to catch a breather from the onslaught of bureaucratic hurdles I could do without, the illiterate Dutch collided with my mastery of English in the naming of some streets in Cape Town. Obviously, I should be careful not to suggest that Dutch and Afrikaans are the same language separated by centuries and the tropics but must give due consideration to the distinctive difference that makes each language unique.

From Buitenkant (Outside corner) Street, you begin to get a feel of the history and the geography of the city which I will not delve into that much apart from offering a snippet of my observations as I walked and sauntered in the heat of the sun.

A slipper of a masked dog

For by happenstance or a yet to be determined means, a slipper or probably a shoe found a home on an air-conditioning unit quite out of reach, the other foot whether right or left was not right beside it and for whatever reason got left behind. Much as we are under legal compulsion to wear face masks, as he walked past me, he was wearing something that looked more like a neckerchief that if he were ordered to don it as a mask, he most like would strangle himself.

In the back of a truck they call a bakkie in these places, something moved that I expected to be a big shaggy dog. Another blink and a man it was, unleashed and left there alone without anyone else in sight. I could have asked, but he might well not have mastered speech. Therein is some inconvenient truth, some people are still being treated as subhuman, else, he could have been just standing beside the vehicle until the owner returned.

An English history here

Edward, yes Edward VII, what are doing in the Grand Parade where Nelson Mandela made his first speech when he was released from prison. His mother, Queen Victoria regales the front of Parliament as a jubilee statue. The English not only were here, but they were also trouble too. To my hearing, trousers hanging under a canopy shop and the exchange in unmistakably Pidgin English has an accent much closer to another home, I made no further inquiries.

On to Strand or Beach if translated properly, but that was a long, long time ago, it is a more a boulevard with cars travelling as if their brakes have been tampered with until I saw a splash of golden Jesus painted on a rock or perhaps the ruins of a once palatial edifice. Need I travel back in time to see?

Ocean views on a bicycle

The Strand soon becomes High Level Road and just at where it peaks, I have an amazing vista to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and just in front of me is a grave memorial of Muslim ancestors with an ocean view. It makes you wonder if in life they did command that view before they were so revered in death.

A road takes me down to the Main Road and then the promenade at Sea Point where she mounts a rented bicycle, Gucci bag on shoulder, stilettos screaming kill, completely oblivious of anyone that she might just run us down and then she is off, the belt on her trousers flexing out and pulling down to reveal, that’s all.

Easy on the ice cream

The sea wall protective and may be exposed for it is a Designated Mugging Area, I cannot say what time of day, but I was immediately conscious of the fact that I was some 50 yards from the next person, not that I quickened my steps, for there were other such designated areas. We can assume we are safe for now.

I ask for 3 kinds of Italian Ice Cream, bubble-gum flavour did not pass the muster, but pistachio, strawberry and vanilla became a hefty 6 scoops. The calories I had burnt in completing 10,000 steps were to be replenished with what might require another 20,000 steps today. Let’s indulge with no regrets.

Salvation from the waves

Out on the sea he paddled in a canoe whilst below him lay many wrecks and watering graves, though it is quite too sunny for the lighthouse, it stands as a beacon to maritime history and safety. My view is then momentarily obscured by a big house, she like us all was rolling everything and more accentuated than we could ever attempt. Let’s not talk of fitness, but my friends appear to carry around a bit more than their wallets.

As I was quite far from home, I called an Uber to take me back and my driver’s profile was as spiritual as they come, not that I was blessed as I boarded nor regaled by gospel music from the mouth of angels playing instruments that would take you right up to heaven, but he had this much to say all the way from the Democratic Republic of Congo, “I’m a Christian, I strongly believe in Christ.” For those of us still weakly believing, we have many more beaches, seas, and lands to cross.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

It's walking and it's working? - VII

Keeping at a good thing

It could be quite easy to relapse whilst on holiday from the routine I adopted from the end of July 2020. I guess one of the things I miss from measuring my progress is weighing scales, even as I try to ignore the issue, I could be a bit obsessed about my weight and getting it to where I want it to be has not been easy.

It is summer in Cape Town and from early in the morning, the sun is out, and the weather is warm, by the time you have done the first kilometre of the 8 you need to get your 10,000 steps in for the day or the workout, you are sweating, and you have the compulsory facemask on.

And a natural inconvenience

Soon you also want to use the public conveniences too and hopefully you are walking route takes round somewhere you can get to ease yourself or you’ll be running back home just before you wet your pants. In the meanwhile, it probably is still working from just walking.

The numbers from last year are 3,088,840 steps for an average of 9,360 steps a day, the bulk of which was done in the last five months of the year, because until then, I only exceeded 5,000 steps once and that was in January. I probably can do more but I have to pace myself, because either a strain or a nerve ending is playing up in one of my legs that gets a regular hot press.

Blog - It's walking and it's working

Blog - It's walking and it's working - II

Blog - It's walking and it's working - III

Blog - It's walking and it's working - IV

Blog - It’s walking and it’s walking - V

Blog - It's walking and it's working - VI 

Friday, 1 January 2021

Unwrapping a brand new year

Like flipping the page

We ushered in the New Year quietly, no fanfare or gatherings as we were under a curfew in South Africa. The ban on alcohol sales also meant there was no bubbly to click glasses to and without live television there was nothing to keep us prompted on the passing of time.

With an eye on our watches, we lit a candle each o reflect on a year we could never have anticipated, to remember the many who we lost to the pandemic and other causes along with the blessings and grace that has kept us, and to resolve to live, tell, and write better stories.

Not a paradise for many

When it struck midnight, some people came out of their houses to hail in the New Year, a lady above us was beating a pan and hollering at the top of her voice. We looked out to see what was going on, acknowledged and exchanged celebratory greetings until the persistence from street level indicated something else.

The man was pleading for alms and others were already lining up to ask for something if I acceded the first request. There is grinding poverty in Cape Town, it is difficult to look into the eyes of some people and not feel your heart go out to them, but there is little you can do. Once you give to one, literally out of nowhere many appear acting completely oblivious of the fact that you had just been generous. Suffering has no nuance, survival scrapes for anything.

Not too ordinary a day

At that point, we kept away from the window until the police dispersed the people whilst we made to retire and go to bed. When we eventually woke up, we went out for brunch before making for the V&A Waterfront. Finding a quiet spot by the Mariner’s Wharf, we soaked in the sun, at a large harbour of yachts all overlooked by the natural emblems of Cape Town from left to right, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, and Signal Hill.

On our return home, I fell asleep on the couch, it was another day, an auspicious day by the calendars we share and with it we close the chapter on a year that was yesterday and begin to plan to a different tomorrow. Most of all, I did all this with my fiancé, Brian, the love of life and amazingly wonderful man.