Saturday 29 January 2022

The knot as I blot my paper

Naught, Nought, Not

Many a thought climbs upon a thought,
For which most a duel is frequently fought,
Even if what you desire to write is fraught,
It is a situation in which we all get caught.

Should there be way to escape and be taught,
Then maybe one might soon be on a yacht,
Yet my order of words travelled and bought,
Just as what would get read is highly wrought.

Would mean do the script much as I ought,
That to this very line we can truly be brought,
Where by now the end to a diatribe is sought,
Before a critical review begets an onslaught.

Friday 28 January 2022

Coronavirus streets at canine trot - LVIII

Beware of dog

Deciding on an early start rather than taking a nap after work, I launched into my walking exercise with the aim of catching up on my daily average, if not for the week, at least for the month. My balaclava face mask worn like a neckerchief to be pulled up when approaching crowds, for the pandemic is not over by a long stretch.

The dusk was closing in quickly, that at 5:00 PM, it was as good as dark and so I needed to reconsider how my route would go. As I came off the second crossing of River Irwell, I took a turn that left me with the foreboding of an unfettered dog barking at the sense of any movement around its territory, but it appeared the dog was already out on walks with its owner that was chatting to their neighbour as passed by, the dog literally ignoring me, I was quite surprised.

Beware of person

Back on my typical route, one pedestrian path had been closed off for road maintenance which left me in an awkward dalliance with danger and car oblivious of other road users. I survived to make it onto Peel Park where I found that quite a few dog owners had attached lights to their dogs so they could be sighted in the dark.

Another two encounters with dogs well-behaved almost had me wondering whether the dogs had been pacified and mollified with substances, only to almost walk into another dog that the owner did not care to control. Meanwhile, the cover of darkness allowed for a dog to foul the undergrowth without having to clean up after their dog.

Beware of plumes

When I came out to the students’ halls of residence, I was accosted for a lighter which would be rather strange as I would have never really expected someone exercising to be a smoker, the lady who asked had me thinking, I stopped flicking a lighter long before you were born. I stopped smoking in 1988.

Back on the macadamised path between River Irwell and Peel Park, I had a second encounter with that control that appeared to be out of control whilst on the leash and now much better behaved when allowed to roam free, you can only wonder whether the temperament is on the owner or the dog.

Beware of fools

My last canine encounter was at New Islington, two dogs with two owners, the leads left loose that they covered the whole pathway such that anyone wanting to go by needed the owners to tug the leads or call the dogs.

Why that is so necessary when it was obvious, they were in a busy area, escapes me, but you have to agree that dogs either imitate the good behaviour of their owners or the owners simply copy the wildness of their potentially housetrained and domesticated dogs, the potential left unexploited from my observation.

It was a good workout and for all the dogs I saw, none barked or growled, it was just a case of the control or absence of the same.

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Cape Town reflections: Feathering the nest

But for a love nest

We aim to create home away from home when we meet up in Cape Town that has become our city of choice in South Africa. This requires we have suitable domestic arrangements beyond what obtains in a hotel, and so certain things need to be taken into consideration.

I have used Airbnb once before and, in many ways, I did not enjoy the experience as the upfront costs can be quite high in terms of deposits and I was not sure on the dispute resolution process. With, whilst we cannot make bookings more than 28 nights, there are other benefits as it is part of the larger Expedia Group and for even 10 nights you book, we get an average cost reward night, I have been quite happy with the rewards of almost 9 years of loyalty.

When seeking accommodation, we look for fully-furnished apartments with certain requirements, this demands apartment block information and the apartment inventory are detailed and frequently updated as things do change and sadly, this not always the case. We would rarely book a place where we are not sure of what the apartment contains on the main booking page or in the small print.

Things we note

We can probably trade-off on unlimited Wi-Fi as we have once had to use a Mi-Fi (mobile wireless Internet) when the landlord forgot to keep up with their Internet Service Provider subscription, however, the apartment must have a washing machine, probably with a dryer, a fully kitted kitchen with cooking plates, an oven, a microwave oven, utensils, crockery, cutlery, and other essential elements to make for a homely setting.

Sometimes, the inventory would not suffice and we are left with scrutinising the pictures of the apartment and views from it to see how it is furnished, the general layout, what and where things are installed and gleaning subtle detail as fixed showerheads or those on hoses, the furniture and the bathroom.

On location, Cape Town

Location is obviously important, we try to be within walking distance of the V & A Waterfront, and though we first stayed in the Foreshore area, we have tried out the Gardens, Mouille Point, Green Point and Sea Point. The apartment at the Gardens near the District Six Museum was quite spacious on the second floor, but the area seemed a bit precarious and unsafe, even if it was just 6 blocks up from a main police station. It has a draw, but we have not been persuaded to return.

Obviously, Mouille Point gave us the best views of the sea looking all the way to Robben Island, but the apartment needed some cleaning up before we could move in. The overworked manager who is desperately in need of help but probably too parsimonious to spend on the need to modernise and maintain his portfolio of apartments could do with some aspects of personal hygiene too, our first meeting left me quite crestfallen, I was afraid the last 17 nights of our stay would be in a hovel.

Just to get it right

We lodged our most complaints in a choice of 7 apartments at Sea Point and it was dire. Information on booking page suggested there was no lift in the apartment block and there was. I could have in the absence of a lift for a 3rd floor accommodation decided on somewhere else. How whoever took the inventory missed the bathtub in the bathroom is totally beyond me.

Then, in the kitchen, there was no microwave oven, like whoever had stayed there before had never spent more than a couple of nights or did not have any inclination to order takeaways or warm meals, surely. Then when trying to cut some kitchen, I found there was no kitchen knife and then we had to go shopping for a knife after 8:00 PM on a Sunday night and we just about got a something slightly longer than a penknife.

The pots were aluminium bowls with handles for the pots or the lids, we needed a laundry basket and a clothesline, we should have asked for a table fan as there was no air-conditioning installed, though there was a gas heater; for Cape Town? I guess I too Northern hemisphere to think winter is Cape Town demands heating.

For convenience always

For our first 28 nights, we were not going to endure the absence of these essential things and it was 6 nights on before we got a useful pot, the microwave oven, a laundry basket and a dozen clothes hangars to supplement the mere 3 in the wardrobes.

When moving to another apartment we have an overlapping day, to check-in the day before we checkout where we are. It gives us time to move apart from allows us to make essential arrangements if necessary. The option to extend always exists, but we have found that for the third time moving apartments during our rendezvous helps give us a feel of the Cape Town and prepare us for our eventual move there.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Cape Town reflections: To the point of embrace

With every hope to do

A time to reflect on my recent journey to Cape Town, for this visit for a rendezvous with Brian had been in consideration from the time I returned in mid-January 2021, but the pandemic with its many waves and Coronavirus variants kept everything at bay.

As the year drew to a close, I had at least two essential things to do before I could plan to travel, my biannual consultation was already scheduled for the last week in October and coming due in the second week of November was my vaccine booster shot after which it looked like there was a clear way ahead to plan for the break.

I planned on a 6-week break and had diligently informed them at work about my plans for which a stand-in was recruited for my time away and this gave me the opportunity on approval to book my holiday from the first week of November and the countdown had begun.

We ploughed ahead regardless

Meanwhile, our daily conversations continued, in the morning and the evening as we planned what we were going to do along with the prospect of getting married. It looked like the whole pall of the pandemic was being put behind us until just in the last week of November, the Omicron variant first sequenced in South Africa though from what transpired was already prevalent around in Europe and the US, led to the putting of southern African countries on the UK red list without even knowing much about the variant.

This could have kiboshed our plans, but I reckoned that since I was going to be away for 6 weeks, enough knowledge and understanding of the variant would have helped put some in reconsideration into the knee-jerk reaction in the Global North. Besides, the whole idea of spending 10 nights in sub-standard quarantine hotels did not appeal to me.

Anyway, I kept my hopes up and continued with my arrangements, renewing my travel insurance, helping my stand-in bed-in, taking my Fitness to Travel PCR Test and I was ready to go. My journey to Cape Town was smooth and in just two legs, the first from Manchester to Paris and the newly reinstated Paris to Cape Town leg, arriving just after 22:28 on the 3rd of December, but without my baggage in tow.

Bags on a merry-go-round

My baggage did not make the transfer between arriving from Manchester to taking off from Paris, and though we arrived late in Paris, I literally had to rush to the departure gate, the transit time was another 24 minutes longer than the scheduled connection and still, I was not reunited with my baggage until Sunday afternoon. The baggage itself took the Manchester – Paris – Amsterdam – Cape Town route. I should have been given Airmiles for that too.

At first, I thought I would need to stay at an airport hotel overnight because of the pandemic restriction curfew, but that was not an issue, travellers were allowed to make that journey to their accommodations. I had arrived in Cape Town safely and was in Brian’s arms that night, that was all that mattered besides the troublesome issue of my baggage somewhere on the planet.

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Men talking helping other men talk

Sharing a private matter

I am just listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 – Room 5 where I think people talk about life-changing diagnoses of personal consequence. Today, it was about Jon, tall, successful, nice young family and ticking all the boxes. [BBC Radio 4 – Room 5 – Jon]

He was at Peppa Pig World with his family a couple of years ago when he discovered something wrong with his body, secretions from his penis that his GP first treated as a rash or basic infection, then he was referred to a Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic where they determined he did not have a sexually transmitted infection. Now, I already suspected what it might be.

Anyway, after researching online, he found a consultant that diagnosed that he had penile cancer and it had spread to one of the lymph nodes, it was advanced, but also treatable and so they arranged the programme of treatment that has now put the cancer in remission apart from making Jon a totally changed man.

Time to be expressive

I share this story because it has resonance with me in many ways that I have written about before. As men we find it difficult to take about health issues, an irritation in a private place with the accompanying discomfort that we dismiss as trivial even as we are caught up in the embarrassment and tongue-tied when it matters.

Men are dying of conditions that are treatable if caught on time, prostate cancer especially, but also penile cancer and breast cancer, yes, men get it too. We need to cross that barrier that stops us getting help. Only you can properly explain how you feel for a doctor to begin a proper diagnosis or set you on a course of the treatment that would give you that best outcomes, you need to have your voice speaking loud, clear, without fear, shame, or embarrassment.

On sex and sexual organs, the words describing them should not be taboo and move out of the category of profanity. Penis, arse hole, scrotum, balls, buttocks, breast or whatever colloquialism or vernacular gives meaning to what you are referring to need to be words you can use freely in a describing how and what you are feeling as your life might depend on it, it is no time to be coy or shy.

You are going to be touched and prodded in places you have never been touched before or where you have not intended was touchable. Heck! Your life depends on touching the right places to feel and see what is wrong. You can’t play offensive when a situation has made you defensive.

Where my manliness was foolish

In early 2009, I allowed what appeared to be athlete’s foot to develop into a stinking sore half-aware that it might be related to a much earlier HIV diagnosis. That sore turned out to be Kaposi’s sarcoma, a kind of skin cancer and a manifestation in my own case of full-blown AIDS. My condition was that serious that at diagnosis in September of that year, I was given the prognosis that it was treatable if I could tolerate the treatment, else, I had only 5 weeks to live.

The treatment worked because there was a body of knowledge and experience garnered from people and many of whom had not survived that became the canon on which specialists could claim and assert confidence to tackle my condition. I was put on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that I am still on and seven sessions of chemotherapy over 5 months to put the cancer in remission and reverse AIDS to the point where I have had an undetectable viral load of HIV for over 12 years.

Responsibility and acceptance

I know I contracted HIV through reckless and unsafe sex practices, I have come to terms with the responsibility and consequence of my own actions, however, I do not live in guilt or regret of that, I have a life to live and I intend for whatever time I have left to live it well. In the process, I have learnt to speak freely and liberally especially with medical personnel about how I am feeling, promptly, directly and without mincing words.

However, many diagnoses are not of commission or omission, they are accidents of nature bringing adversity, infirmity and challenges with them. We are left with ourselves and the help we can get to face these situations with the hope that we might surmount them and get to tell a better story.

My voice for my choice

To a team, I once had so say, “It’s my body first, before it is your guinea-pig.”, when I was challenging the determination for intrusive treatment not long after my ordeal with chemotherapy. To another, when I was seeking treatment for another condition, I was blunt about being aware of my mortality as a result of co-morbidities for which immediate action was taken. When I was asked to change to medication that gave me no quality of life, I presented the daily dairy of recorded side effects and contra-indications, and at my request, I was put back on my original drug regime.

I am in my knowledge and understanding as good as my medical notes, if not better. It comes from genuine self-interest and awareness along with the freedom and willingness to talk to address any medical situation I am facing. Then, I encourage the invitation and sitting in of medical students on my consultations, I believe that not only can they learn from my condition, that experience can also go into helping others. I would normally engagement them to appreciate what areas of study and research they want to specialise in.

All the help available

Obviously, for the outcomes I have had, I have to thank the open-minded, professional, considerate doctors in their humanity who have listened, understood, helped, and encouraged me on my path to wellness, their expertise applied with respect and consideration has been lifesaving in so many ways.

To us men, when you feel something, have it checked out and follow the full course with all the advice and help you can get, speak up, speak loudly and if you are not getting the best outcomes possible, challenge the orthodoxy. It is always your body first, before it is anyone’s guinea pig, no matter how good they are at what they do.

Thursday 13 January 2022

Too much wine down the spittoon

Traipsing a new wine trail

Having missed out on understanding the essence of the Garden Route wine trail in not visiting a wine estate, or a distillery as there were many in that area, we decided we’ll do at least tour of wine estates close to Cape Town with the view to doing something different.

We booked a tour on Monday night and had a phone call informing us that our tour guide would be round to pick us up from our apartment at 9:00 AM, we were up and ready well before that time, thinking we were going to join a tour group on a bus, but it soon dawned on us as we drove out of Cape Town that we were on a privately chauffeured tour.

We arrived at Meerlust at 9:30 AM, Felix, our tour guide thinking we were up for wine tasting at that time. I could not countenance the idea of swilling alcohol that early, I come from a good home, we cannot be tasting wine at that time. Even as we saw people walking towards to the tasting rooms, we did a U-turn and continued our journey to other wine estates.

Music for posh wines

De MorgenZon (Established 1699) in Stellenbosch was acquired by the Applebaum’s in 2003 and they have a penchant for playing classical music to the ears if they exist of the grapes to make fine wines, at which point I was rolling my eyes. Apparently, according to Kudzai, the sommelier who conducted the wine tasting at our table, the vibrations from the music help the vines.

When I visited the restrooms, there were music scores on the walls leaving one captivated by both the familiarity and the strangeness of the music. Some new knowledge we gained was that for certain wines, the grapes were pressed with the stems to give that lemon zest taste.

My question was whether this excursion into the musicology of viticulture had made allowances for changes in vintage if the genre were hip-hop, blues, or jazz, for which no research could be provided. However, the vines were on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on our visit, the day before, they were given a serving of Antonio Vivaldi, to which I quipped as the weather was changing, if it was The Four Seasons.

A platter to clatter

Next, we arrived at Neil Ellis, a rather modern looking setup where we were told by the Tessa, the sommelier that they mostly buy in their grapes, though they have recently come into possession of a number of vineyards. Then again, this would suggest the wines made here are down to winemaking skills than the end-to-end from planting to bottling or core viticulture.

We availed ourselves of the platters of cheese, Parma ham and somewhat bland melon, but of the wines we tried, we came, we saw, we drank, we left. Nothing more to be said than the evident prospect of no return. Thank you.

At Haute Cabrière (Established 1694) in Franschhoek, by Pierre Jourdan for whom their Methode Cap Classique wines are named. Bongile, the sommelier, whose name attracted a twisting fate of mispronunciation, was helpfully at hand to explain as we took in the amazing mountain views from the tasting room. The bubbles go to my head.

Down a snake-winding staircase to the view of a cellar of barrels in a temperature-controlled room. To the right, the gents with urinal bowls full of ice cubes that creaked to the heat of your urination. Dare I say that might have been the highlight of my visit to this wine estate. We cannot for the snobbery of wine accept as good what our taste does not perceive, regardless of the medals earned from wherever.

Just at the very last

We invited Felix to have a late lunch with us in Franschhoek before visiting the last wine estate on our itinerary, Rickety Bridge (Established 1797) which for all its old money looks as part of an old estate La Provence now had such avant-garde names for their wines as Printer’s Devil from a few decades ago. In my own opinion, the range of wines were without character, though almost with distinction in aroma and definitely not in taste.

On being asked about my assessment after tasting 4 wines, I suggested they were a bit arboreal, a word our sommelier whose name I cannot recollect might not have understood, having not been provided with a spittoon, we had poured it all down the roots of a tree by our table.

The fifth wine had desperate attempts at effecting character but coming short in defining itself, that it verged on the quite truly forgettable. She returned with a Pinotage that did go down well, the first glass of about 25 wines that I had tasted in the day that I drank all up. Much as I sympathise with the winemakers along with the art, craft, and expertise involved in making their wines, to the individual, it is down to taste, palate, and comfort, one man’s poison is another man’s elixir. C’est la vie.

Coronavirus streets in Cape Town - LVII

The cruise to amuse

At just before 6:00 AM this morning, I looked out of my window to see a cruise liner passing to the right in the bay ahead, and just as I thought it was going to dock it turned around and cruised back out of the bay, this apparent circling in the bay continued for a few hours as I took out my binoculars to view what might be going on. It transpired that the wind which we did not particularly feel as close to the beach as we were made it unsuitable for a docking manoeuvre.

Then just before noon, it appeared to disappear close to the V&A Waterfront and soon we found that she had docked at the cruise terminal. We returned from Wynberg to the waterfront curious to find out about the cruise liner we had already determined was the MSC Orchestra.

A view to a queue

At the cruise terminal, we found ourselves channelling Chaka Khan with two lines from one of her hit songs, paraphrased, as one is wont to play at.

I feel for you,
You’re in a long queue.

The queue of passengers waiting to board was quite literally interminably long even without the social distancing and we supposed it was exacerbated by the need for rapid testing before boarding as cruise liners have been unmitigated incubators of the Coronavirus and communal spreading is most definitely encouraged by the community and confinement in closed spaces of a cruise liner regardless of how luxurious it is.

Yet, this portends a change in activities that suggest either moving beyond or living with the pandemic. The surprise for me was that I did not realise there was a proclivity for cruises amongst South Africans, the majority therein being the nominal majority of the country. I am gladdened by this because this might be the year of exiting the strictures of the pandemic, with wider and easier opportunities for travel and much else.

MSC Orchestra this morning, coming into the bay.
MSC Orchestra circling out of the bay.
MSC Orchestra, up close at the cruise terminal.
MSC Orchestra, at the cruise terminal.

Tuesday 11 January 2022

George: Beach the sheep

Uber not about

For our second day in George, we were unsure of what to do apart from being able to get anywhere from our hotel which in its somewhat bucolic setting backing onto a golf course is hardly in the centre of town as the indicator from my hotel booking suggested.

We were excited about going to Victoria Bay Beach and then the Map of Africa viewpoint and as we were informed that Uber had reached George, we presumed the ease of getting about to a fault for even when we tried for an Uber there was no indication that cars that were about 12 minutes away would ever become available for our use.

In the end, we got the hotel reception to call us a taxicab and the driver that doubled as a tour guide availed us of his services for every place we chose to visit. The weather had taken a turn for the worse by the time we left the hotel that we arrived at Victoria Bay Beach with no enthusiasm to get into the water or relax on the beach.

More hype than type

Victoria Bay Beach is essentially a private beach with a security checkpoint and chalets held in families from long ago lined down the beach mostly up for rented accommodation or short stays than as homes. Much as there is a public right of access, there is nothing special about the place and even if we chose to stay there, after two nights with its isolated setting, we’ll probably seek the greater security of proximity to civilisation. If you are a surfer, you might find this place a treat indeed.

Our cab driver then took us to the Map of Africa viewpoint in the aptly named Wilderness, down a long nondescript dirt road to where the confluence of rivers appeared to map out from our observation point the depiction of Southern Africa, it was a hard-sell to suggest this was the map of Africa even at the most extreme stretch of the imagination. I could not find online any aerial view of this to confirm that Africa was mapped out on that terrain. How anyone has for any time gotten away with that scam escapes me, but we now know better.

Sheep may safely graze

Further up the road from this viewpoint was a paragliding site but the white horses (white foamy sea waves) ridden by high winds meant there was no paragliding activity. A sign on the field however caught my attention, “Please Do Not! Chase or Hassle the Sheep.”

We saw no sheep, but that was my highlight of the day as I was left wondering, how do you hassle sheep? Yet, when I think of it as I suggested in my Instagram post on the matter, sheep are intelligent, and for one, Shaun the Sheep is nobody’s fool.

Returning to our hotel, we decided to go for a wander to get a feel of George only to find out that there were no pavements on certain roads suggesting the town is best suited for vehicles. New developments on our way back had roads named after English golf courses. We would return and hire a car to get around. Dinner with Malaka at a restaurant closed an evening of pleasant and warm friendship.

George: Feathers to the caves

George on our minds

If our trip to George had not been made so rewarding and exciting by our friend Malaka Grant, we might well have been totally unaware of why we were there as this was one trip, we did no research on before travelling. We were keen to see Malaka and she had offered to show us around.

To clear one misconception, the Garden Route is not about gardens or stately homes as one would think if visiting from the United Kingdom, and whilst George is the capital city of that region, the things to do, see, experience are miles away from George, except if you want to go trekking the Outeniqua Mountain range. The Garden Route is essentially a wine route with historically significant monuments, natural features, a cultural heritage, and activities tagged on.

George of a time

According to a cab driver that doubled as our guide George saw modern development when P. W. Botha the penultimate State President of South Africa who represented George in parliament decided a local airport was essential as the roads were poor. He died in Wilderness, near George.

However, for our first full day, we visited the Ostrich Emporium at Oudtshoorn which had a heyday as the ostrich capital of the world at the end of the 19th Century and early in the 20th Century before the advent of cars and the world wars led to decline of the industry especially when flamboyant ladies ostrich feather hats could no more be accommodated in covered automobiles.

The highly successful merchants in the trade built feather palaces on the main street of Oudtshoorn but most departed as the trade declined and South Africa aligned itself to right-wing policies.

Caves to behold

On from Oudtshoorn, we drove another 30 kilometres to the foothills of Swartberg mountains where the world heritage site of the Cango Caves presented a spectacle of natural wonder impossible to describe in full as the breath-taking awesomeness left us astonished at what we beheld.

Limestone formations of speleothems crafted over thousands to millions of years discovered and made accessible that the tour guide’s introduction to each chamber happened in the semi-dark until the lights were switched on to reveal more than the senses could take in of the views exposed. On this visit alone, unexpected and unanticipated as we knew nothing of this place until after breakfast, we could be fully satisfied with this trip.

On our return, a mist had descended on the mountain pass reducing visibility to just about 20 metres, the way the weather changes in the Garden Route around George is one that would make for a good conversation with an Englishman, I was up for it. The day was good.

In the gut of surprise

Knowing by happenstance

Surprise as a function of events in commemoration of something can useful and exhilarating, however, when deployed in situations of long-term consequence, whoever is caught on the edge of it might be left nonplussed.

That is the feeling one would get when you learnt of the pertinent which should have been known aforetime and first-hand rather than through the equivalent of eavesdropping. For to be aware of the consequential through the accident of passing conversation directed elsewhere leaves a mind unprepared for the unexpected, removes agency for anticipation and reaction, and is thus unplanned for, even if with hindsight it is revelatory of other matters in flux.

Knowing nothing now

Inexplicably, the frame and structure of words to broach the subject are scarce as to be absent as rumination over days and nights proffers no respite or direction, like a cousin once said of a typical setting, you are left completely discombobulated, totally mixed up and in the dark.

One cannot act in haste and take a deep breath to be calm and in control of one’s temper and temperament whilst hoping some wisdom eventually prevails. Some things are just beyond explanation, that’s just how some things are.

Thursday 6 January 2022

Steel balls, please

No balls game

Lawn tennis as we used to know it to differentiate it from the original racquet sport of Real tennis that Henry VIII played or the ping-pong game of Table tennis and now commonly referred to as Tennis is a game of balls and quite a few balls have been tested the past few months. I prefer racquet of French provenance and etymology to racket by the corruption of spelling and language used in North America.

Anyway, the issue here is Novak Djokovic, the number 1 ranked male tennis in the world who was granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia to play in the Australia Open and defend his title. It was a case of no balls for that organisation to have done this when the rules required that all players at the tournament be vaccinated. [The Guardian: Appalling message’: outrage over Novak Djokovic’s medical exemption to play Australian Open]

Big balls boy

Now, Mr Djokovic to the eye is a strapping healthy 34-year-old at the peak of health and his sporting prowess, the burden of proof definitely had to be on him to show why for purely medical reasons he had to be allowed entry to Australia to compete. It appears that is the test that Mr Djokovic failed to convince the Australia Border Force of. [The Guardian: Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open hopes dashed after visa cancelled at airport]

For too long, issues with this Coronavirus pandemic have been politicised and usurped by libertarians pursuing freedom and liberty for the individual at the expense of community, the consequence of which is evident with us, the pandemic is still headline news as we enter the third year of its hold.

Just the balls

Indeed, Mr Djokovic has every right to privacy regarding his medical history, even his vaccination status should be protected for purposes of sheer confidentiality, and all that, he can exercise completely at fully at home. However, the moment you leave home and board a plane to travel abroad, there are limits to your exercise of individual rights within the scope of responsibility to others.

Imagine a scenario where the Australian Open had to be cancelled midway because of the outbreak of COVID-19 amongst any of the participants, players, officials, or teams and it was the unvaccinated or one whose vaccination status is unknown. There is form because the Adria Tour 2020 organised by Novak Djokovic was shutdown because COVID-19 protocols were not followed on the court and amongst spectators with some players and coaches testing positive for COVID-19. This was the risk Tennis Australia was ready to take.

Steel balls, please

Obviously, Novak Djokovic’s team would appeal the decision to cancel his visa and there is a diplomatic fallout about to result between Australia and Serbia, but common sense should prevail and that requires balls, steel balls at that. I believe the Australian Border Force have felt a handful of the balls of Novak Djokovic to traipse into Australia on a medical exemption called it out, we do not need Hawk-Eye to confirm that it was out as out can be.

That decision should stay, and Mr Djokovic can watch from Serbia his title go to a new champion that follows the rules and is deserving of the honour. For too long, people have used the privilege of wealth, power, or status to claim exemption from the rules and civic responsibility. We need examples to help us put this pandemic behind us, the good examples should be lauded, and the bad examples should never be rewarded. Put that diva on a plane and send him home.

Change that call from ‘New balls, please’ to ‘Steel balls, please’.

Wednesday 5 January 2022

En route to the Garden Route

To George to judge

Completely off the beaten track, at least by our own standard, we have strayed away from the ambit of Cape Town to the furthest we have ever been to George, the centre of the famed Garden Route.

Planning for the trip was a bit fraught as we first thought of driving the 5 or so hours from Cape Town, but that would have been Brian alone at the pedals, the gear stick and the steering wheel as I cannot drive and who is to say with his keen sense of direction we are not first in Johannesburg before we get to George? Not worth the risk.

We decided to fly, and the scheduled 50-minute flight lasted just 33 minutes as there are no speeding fines for flying. Though we noticed something quite distressing at the airport, a child for whatever reason was being told by his burly guardian that he would have his bones broken. We maybe should have done something, yet we hope that would not be the child’s lived reality.

What a time ago

George is everything Cape Town is not, quiet, provincial, bucolic and with a definitive colonial feel. The hotel we are staying at backs onto a golf course with the first floor being the first. As you drive in you drive past chalets all with the customary finish of chalk white paint, the windowpanes and doors finished in green.

The veranda of our room and the adjoining ones is deep with a wooden balustrade defining the balcony with a tar-brown coating, the outdoor furniture patterned in cast or wrought iron and painted white. You could feel caught in a time warp with a throwback to the 1950s or earlier.

Before it was dusk, the frogs were croaking, and you can only wonder what else we’ll hear through the night. There is a busy family atmosphere with kids milling around with abandon, not the kind of place we would have chosen with prior knowledge.

Everyone is different

Our neighbour to the left came out with a glass in hand, one leg in prosthetics and after a greeting, we engaged in conversation. His daughter, nice but acting shy might just be so in the presence of strangers. His wife later came out to take in a chair, her right arm in a long sleeve that looked like it was fully tattooed, I had to ask.

Two verandas to the right, a man stepped out to light up, I do wonder how people have not given up smoking in this pandemic. Anyway, the olfactory glands of you know who had caught a whiff of the smoke long before he had taken a puff. Some people would give canines a beating in a sniff test. I am not close by a mile. We retire to hopefully explore this region tomorrow and the day after.

Monday 3 January 2022

Coronavirus streets up in smoke - LVI

A conflagration in Africa

Fires are destructive and that’s just a given; however, I have many questions and for the many fires I have seen in Africa, there seems to be much to them than an unfortunate accident, especially in official buildings. There was a time I thought finance and accountancy departments in Nigerian public offices seemed to have rather more inflammable materials than any other place, one had to conclude that evidence was tinder seeking any opportunity to be reduced to cinder.

When we attended St. George’s Cathedral yesterday for the Sung Eucharist of the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, the priest prayed earnestly that the firefighters be able to take control of and quench a fire in one of the buildings of the South African parliament situated in Cape Town. [BBC News: South Africa parliament fire flares up again]

A prayer to quench

South Africa is a country of many capitals, the executive is in Pretoria, the legislature is in Cape Town, the highest office of the civil judiciary is in Bloemfontein and the Constitutional Court is in Johannesburg, the same city that is the commercial capital.

On leaving the church, we could see plumes of smoke that were supposedly from the extractor fans according to a politician, but the fire seemed to be out of control and even flared up again today. Meanwhile, someone has been arrested in connection with the incident for breaking in and possibly being an arsonist, but that is hardly the issue that concerns me.

Questions of fire-raising

You can only wonder why the fire took such hold on an important institutional building and the seat of democracy in this country.

For instance, how was there no intrusion detection system in service to alert anyone to unauthorised persons entering the parliament, especially through a window?

One would expect such a building to have closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring with recording observed by on-site security personnel who appear to have been caught napping.

A fire was started and there was no smoke detection alert system at the point when it started and then the sprinkler system was not working. The fire services were alerted by people who saw smoke coming out of the building.

Every link has failed

Now, one would expect the parliament building to have a facilities management office that ensures all the elements of security, safety, access, protection, detection, and avoidance were in place and it appears that the whole system of building management failed woefully or there has been some nefarious collusion activity that allowed a series of apparent coincidences to turn into a catastrophe.

I can only wonder what would come out of the investigation for I have a feeling that the arsonist was not acting alone, it all seems to be everything than fortuitous. A chance alignment of the stars for the perfect moment to destroy the parliament by fire? I think not. As for the rekindling of the same fire, after it was apparently put out, may I ask if the pandemic had put the firefighters out of practice?

Much as one wants to give this all the benefit of the doubt, there is a cynical feeling that there is more to this than meets the eye. Fires in Africa are another breed and this calls for a lot more eyes than would suggest an accident instead of a concertedly deliberate criminal enterprise.

Sunday 2 January 2022

For a better year

Perspective is focus

For a long time, I have abandoned the idea of New Year resolutions as they box you into a corner of aspirations that never meet expectations and you are on a downer after that, beating yourself up about the seemingly unattainable pretending to the easily achievable with a large deficit of unnecessary angst and regret.

As I have 10 days from my birthday to the end of the year, I do at times contemplate a few things; an assessment of the year past, much gratitude for how the year has gone and a few thoughts for what I want to do in the year coming.

Emotions cloud space

Recently, there has been too much emotional traffic in that slip of the year, birthday into Christmas, into anniversary, into New Year and all it entails, I have hardly had the quietness of time, mind and space to do anything, I have been on a roll that to attach any significance to any day might well be counterproductive, because you start reckoning and find there is nothing in the reckoner.

There is a process of acculturation that is going on in two hearts, a kind of understanding that a clash of two cultures brings with it considerable baggage weighing down on immediate plans, the lodestar, and the centre of it all is the commitment we have to each other that we are learning to grow in more considered and enduring ways, this is a long-haul business.

Pandemic changed world

What is quite evident from the way the pandemic has strangled opportunity and accessibility is the failure of global leadership to arrest its hold. If only the world had Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown for this pandemic as we did for the global financial crisis, rather than Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, I believe we would have had a better grip of the pandemic and less impact on our lives.

We are where we are now, we need to make the kind of choices that help through the situation so we can eventually take advantage of the circumstances. In my view, the world of work has changed so considerably, remote working is part of the deal and the ability to shift the home to any place on the globe is very much on the cards. In the world of talent and expertise, try as politicians and employers may, the national boundaries and domains would have to diminish in favour of the virtual world. This might even feed into the much-vaunted metaverse construct.

To the better

It is what I hope to exploit better and fully for the next stage of my career which is closely linked to crucial domestic arrangements and other things that would emerge from it. I find I have not done enough of a lot of things that I need to do more of; reading, listening, learning, travelling, exercising even loving, it has been crazy, and I have just pulled through by sheer grace, grit, grunt, grasp – anything that has given me a hold.

What is always a work in progress is the quest for a better me, that never stops and looking at the year ahead, there might just be things that change for that to happen. I cannot seem to switch my mind out of countdown, I guess that is how time works; at one point you think you have a lot of it and then, you have little left. Without promise but holding on to faith, hope, and love, 2022 will be better. I can work with that.