Bugger! Turned out clear for the first time this week which may have meant the mountain was open. But it was awfy windy again so it’d prolly be closed for that.
Ah well. We’re due to zoom off up the west coast a little way to have a look see.
First off to Ruth’s folks place. Picked them up and headed off with the VW van again.
We had a booking at a place called “Die Strandloper“; a fish place of some renown.
Somewhat rural to the extent of having no mains leccy nor sewage.
It’s on the beach – I hate beaches, particularly sandy ones. There are no good or pleasurable leisure activities involving sand.
Portaloos – and not up to BBU standards.
Loads of people, noisy ones. People with no sense of personal space, decorum or shutting up when necessary. And people who don’t know that they’re standing next to our table shouting at people at their table whilst we’re trying to talk amongst ourselves.
Windy. Blimey it was windy.
BBQ style. So you have to queue for your food (except the last course) and you get paper plates.
So I wasn’t really in the mood. But I was wrong.
The company was lovely as always and the food was utterly excellent. I’m not a great one for shellfish but the snoek was gorgeous as was the bread. After 10 courses of this we left to head back and pack.
If we’re sat near another screaming kid on the way home I may have to resort to madness.
John (Ruth’s husband) arrives today, early. In fact he phoned and kept bloody phoning at 6am. Ruth had already gone to pick him up at the airport leaving me and K in the house.
The house phone had a damned annoying ringtone too. So blearily stumbling around trying to find the bloody thing. And then it stops so back to bed. And then it rings again, so stumble around again and then it stops. Repeat until seriously pissed off.
We know it’s John, we can’t do anything to help, Ruth’s on her way. What good does waking us up do? I really wasn’t best pleased. (NB I can see he was just after clarification but it’s known to all and sundry that I have a bitch of a temper when I’m tired. K and my colleagues have commented on it before and my old boss Reg, who we went to see early in this hol, told me that she used to just ignore me until at least 10am. Tsk.)
Eventually K finds a phone in the office room. Oh and it turns out she has a phone in her room too but didn’t bother to answer that one despite me stomping around and very loudly swearing at the fact that I can’t find a sodding phone despite it ringing.
Really not happy about that either.
After getting back to sleep was woken by Matthew at around 9. Off into CT for shopping and touristy stuff. Table Mountain was still closed due to high winds and cloud.
But the meteorology was impressive. There was blue sky everywhere except the mountain where cloud was piled up on the windward side and occasionally some would spill over the top and down the lee side to get dissipated by the wind. Looked excellent.
If you had a very poor grasp of meteorology you might have been annoyed that for the whole week the clouds just hung around the mountain rather than anywhere else in the sky.
But about the only “failed” thing of the trip was that we didn’t get up Table Mountain.
After returning home we had to sit outside for 40 minutes as John was not there, and didn’t answer his mobile. 40 mins is a longish while with a restive 5 year old and no clue when the key is coming.
But finally in and changed and ready to zoom off to a family event. It was the couple who’d just had their 25th anniversary on Sunday. It’s a large family and they’d brought as many round as could make it. Very nice food (partic the fish), loads of watermelon. Lovely people.
A very pleasurable evening with very nice company.
I woke up to the radio and the first item I heard was an interview with a shopper who left (yes left) the shop of her choice at 5.15am having got her bargains.
“Well it’s what Christmas is all about.”
I asked P along this afternoon to come and look at home security stuff for my place. He’s a total star for doing so and needs commending. Unlike the idiots who were queuing way back from the car parks to get their less than spectacular bargains themselves.
And no-one’s letting anyone through despite the fact that everyone would get through quicker if everyone let through 1 person. But at least we didn’t have any Italian or French drivers banging away on their horns.
Was awful and the exact reason why shopping is now so unpleasant that I’ll happily avoid it whenever possible.
Went into Cape Town today for another look round the centre and waterfront. Again we tried to get up Table Mountain but failed.
In the morning before setting off I had a bit of a marathon session entertaining Matthew. This was all happening whilst K was being beautified by Judy (Ruth’s sis).
So I was a car, a plane and a baddie; on occasion all at the same time.
I spent an age trying to get him to play something that didn’t involve shooting, bombing or hitting anything; and eventually succeeded.
We had a chat about the holiday so far and what he’d remembered. When bored of that we moved on to superheroes.
He knew of the X-men and expressed a preference for Wolverine. Then he went all conspiratorial and told me that a friend of his had come up with a new X-man.
What is it? I wondered.
“It’s a lady with no clothes on.”; he whispered this perhaps expecting censure. “But she’s got no powers” he finished.
Oh what little he knows. I changed the subject.
By the time we headed to CT I was knackered so slept in the car on the way.
We saw the castle; more like a fort in the American west style. Certainly not a patch on any European castle. Nice backdrop though. It also contained a couple of musea which were worth a look. And then there was a free tour. I dropped out of it early as the guide spoke rather too quickly and quietly. I was still tired enough not to want to strain so I went instead to play with my camera and people watch.
In the evening Judy and her man were to take me and K to a jazz club in town. The time given was 9pm pick-up.
K went to bed at 9.45. They eventually showed up at 10.30. Still we DID make it to a jazz club; just in time to hear half a song by a fantastic singer. After that half song finished she left the stage and that was her. After about 20 mins quiet time another singer got up and the band played her a tune. This singer was rubbish though; far too shouty. But she only did 1 song before there was another break.
During this break I had some chat with Judy. She’s also done the Harkerville trail/trial with Ruth and she did some wonderful “Oh my god you did that too didn’t you?” stuff. Apparently half way through the first day she started singing a gospel number “If you ever needed the lord” to gee herself up a bit. Rather bizarrely I remember the tune stuck in my head on this trek was “Down Under” by Men at Work. Incidentally I spoke to yet another person on this trip who’d done that trek and got another load of nervous laughter, mad eyes, another tale of hardship and another “I’m never doing that again” type comment.
The band returned to play a couple of numbers (minus a singer). The music was good, the players very good, except the pianist (who incidentally looked like a black version of Rod). They all looked the part and actually looked like jazz musicians. Great stuff if rather brief.
And that was it. 2 instrumentals and 1.5 songs one of which wasn’t worth bothering with.
We headed out to find some life in CT but everything was shut. So home to bed.
Ruth had us booked to spend a day in a poor township near CT. Today we went to visit Kayamandi. She’d been in touch with a guy called Songo who works with an organisation called Prochorus. They do basic development work as well as crisis work. Ruth’s thought was not that we just go along and peer at their lives but to maybe help out a little. Not too easy for just one day but better than nothing.
We’d seen the odd township slum from roads as we passed the outskirts of towns but we’d not really been into any of them before. My word what a sight/site.
Kayamandi (meaning “lovely home”, yeah right) was set up in the ’40s as a base for rural people coming into the region to work in the towns. When all the SA segregation laws came in they forcibly stuck loads of the black community here after kicking them out of nicer areas in the towns (reserved for “coloureds” and whites).
There are a couple of sections to the place. One is an organised place with small houses and services; this is the richer end where people have at least a tap in their house and some sewage system. The other part is a higgledy-piggledy mess of lean-tos and shacks built with whatever people could find. These places are built on mud, the streets and gutters smell suspiciously of poo and the place regularly floods, fires are common and, since there are no building regs, they spread easily. All of those who think “health and safety has gone mad” just think about that for a while. It’s nice to live somewhere where the builders have been made to think about our safety should the worst happen.
In recent years things have improved a little for the inhabitants though. At least 95% of dwellings had electricity and everyone is at least near clean water.
Songo showed us to a building in the bad area that used to be a dwelling for single male workers. They’d have been separated from family as they only wanted the workers to come into the towns. The building was for 40 men. But since the end of apartheid these men brought their families across too. So in this place for 40 men were now 40 families. The building was long with a communal kitchen in the middle and 5 rooms with 4 bunks per room on either wing. The rooms were big enough for 2 bunk beds (hence 4 beds) and about 2mx2m space inbetween. And that has 4 families staying in it. There was no storage, no possessions, no privacy. Very poor indeed.
But as this was being related and the sheer awfulness of it sank in I turned my head back to the kitchen area. There was a lad about 4 or 5 years old dancing away to what was on the radio with the biggest smile on his face. I guess it’s what you know.
And friendly wasn’t a good enough word for these folk. We picked ourselves up 2 young children. They just came up and joined us. I imagine they thought we might give them treats or some such. But they didn’t want to let go of K and me.
Songo took us to meet quite an old lady; apparently she was the local pastor’s wife and was active in looking after the older inhabitants of the township. Our plan was to visit some of these oldies to see if there was anything a couple of physios and a nurse could do to help out.
We met a few old folk and gave out advice, mended walking sticks etc… But we were clearly only scratching the surface here. How aggravating to know that it only needs a little bit of vigour and tenacity, and not much money really, to make a proper difference.
The stories we heard and watched were very striking. We went to visit an old gent who’d been having trouble walking. I had a look at his foot but therein lay the problem. It was a way through going manky from diabetic problems. He didn’t need a physio he needed a specialist doctor. But the doctor costs R140. He gets R780 per month in pension. So a quarter of his monthly pension to see a doc. So he doesn’t go; and the foot gets worse. He will end up with gangrene at which point they’ll help him. For more money and worse outcome. And people wonder why I work in primary care.
One old lady I helped out was being looked after by her 11 year old grand-daughter. The old woman had had a stroke 3 years earlier but had forced herself to get sorted as well as she could with no physio follow-up really. Someone had provided her with a zimmer and she made herself stay active in the house as well as she could. The grand-daughter clearly adored her granny and did what she could to help but that’s pretty much a full time job. She was clearly bright, eager, energetic and in other circumstances could do well at school and become anything she wanted to be. And more to the point get out of this poverty should she attain decent academic standards. It’s so sad that she probably won’t attain that; even she avoids the likelihood of getting HIV.
25% of expectant mothers in the camp have HIV. People we spoke to in SA generally said that the official rate of HIV infection was somewhere in the 20%s. They also reckon the actual percentage is nearer 70! Bloody hell. And the government still does nothing much about it. The president thinks that HIV and AIDS are not linked; one of his ministers still thinks that having a shower after sex will protect him (and more to the point goes on telly to say this), and Mbeke reckons that AIDS researchers are no better than nazi scientists.
And some of the churches in the camp don’t help matters either. Rather than educating they’re still doing the “sex before marriage is wrong” shtick. And therefore condemning those who get infected. The problem with this approach is that people don’t learn the truth. So myths still abound. “Sex with a virgin” still equates to “cure for HIV”. “Condoms don’t work” is one in particular that the churches are not trying to stamp out. So the cycle goes on.
The former of these is a particularly nasty myth. Most girls have kids by the age of 16. This means that men wishing to have this “cure” have to look for younger girls. I didn’t notice at the time but the rape crisis room at prochorus was a childrens room. Loads of cuddly toys etc… I’ll leave that there before I get too angry again.
Returning to the subject of women. We found out that Songo is single and he reckons he’s unlikely to find a bride now. He wants someone with no children yet and he’s in his late 20′s. All the women by that age already have children of their own so he’s not likely to get anywhere.
Other memories: K remembers the 11 year old asking her when she’s coming back. Quite made her well up it did. Ruth’s abiding memory was the rape crisis room.
Is there anything WE can do here? I wonder. I’d love to think that a bunch of jugglers could get together to go for a while, do some practical stuff in the days and maybe entertain in the evening. How worthwhile or fanciful that is I don’t know.
But again it’s only scratching surfaces. Kayamandi is quite a small township. There are worse problems in some of the larger ones.
We left in the afternoon to head back to what OUR normal was.
In the evening we headed to a restaurant in CT called Mama Africa. Good and proper food again. I had crocodile this time; nice enough but basically pork. The place was nice enough but it had a few black marks against it. The service was tardy at best; they didn’t have the drink Ruth wanted; and it was very very loud with a live band banging away in the bar.
The worst problem we had was in the evening before when Ruth phoned to get directions as she’d reserved us a table but hadn’t been before. An extract of the conversation as I heard it (Ruth’s on the phone to them):
“Hello is that Mama Africa?”
“Is that Mama Africa?”
“I’d like to confirm your address.”
“No. Your address.”
“How do I get to the restaurant?”
“I have a reservation. How do I get there?”
“Move somewhere quieter.”
“This is my 3rd call. You need to move somewhere quieter.”
“Where is the restaurant?”
“No I have a reservation already. Where are you?”
“Move somewhere quieter.”
And so on and so on.
One last note from today. The locals at Kayamandi speak a language called Xhosa. The room I was staying in at the house had a Xhosa-English dictionary so I had a peer through. Now some words don’t translate directly, we know this; we also know that some languages just nick words from others such as the French nicking “le weekend” and us stealing well just about our whole language from other places. But some of the translations in this dictionary were stunning. An example taken from the first page that fell open when I looked:
Hey it’s that magic time of year again. Yup I get a day or two off work for no really good reason but I’m not going to turn my nose up at that.
I had a quiet morning after being woken up by Ana phoning to tell me Happy Christmas.
Just finished cutting up food ready to be cooked and I’ll be off to pick K and her mum up later so I can cook for a change.
Phoned my folks and said hello. Phoned my brother twice and been engaged once and not answering the next. Might get to chat to them later.
Will send texts to a few too later.
The rest of the morning has been spent watching telly. There’s been some interesting stuff on. I started by streaming the James May programme about his sisters’ toys. Rather an odd idea for a show but he’s a genial host and there was some heavy duty nostalgia involved. Worth a look on the iPlayer.
The major channels have been doing some odd stuff. Channel 4 worked their way into Christmas Day by showing a horror fillum. Beeb 1 had a morning worship type wotsit on. But the most interesting and too my mind the most appropriate channel has been UKTV History. I turned it on and they had an episode of “The World at War” on. Particularly this episode was about Holland during the 2nd WW.
Now that’s what I call good programming.
Had K and ma round for dinner and a very nice one it turned out to be if I do say so myself. I do like cooking a good roast.
Later on had the usual crowd round. IE P&C&D. Clurb got the fire going. P played Mario Galaxy for a bit. D turned up and we played a couple of board games. And drank some beer. A pleasant way to finish the day.
Oh yes pressies. I now have 2 copies of The Jungle Book, the 2 disc and the 3 disc versions. A poor quality soft-core fillum from the recesses of the Plumpton-Bear’s attic, a board game also from there, and a calendar. Clurb was mightily impressed with a couple’o books and that.