Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How do you answer this?

I was related a story this morning that I found really funny so amidst the doom and gloom of everyday life in south africa:

This actually happened in Holland where a South Africa couple were staying for a while. One morning they woke up and the wife asked the husband to go and get some food for breakfast and gave him 30 guilders with which to buy it. On the way, just around the corner in fact, he walked past a prostitute who gave him some 'come hither' looks and fancying himself as a bit of a player he entered into a conversation with the woman. After a bit of chit chat he got down to the nitty gritty and inquired about the price - 100 Guilders was the answer and so the bargaining began. She dropped her price down to 80 and he was offering 30 and eventually she asked how much he had at which point he opened his wallet and showed her the 30 guilders. "30 Guilders, I won't even do a hand job for that!" she retorted indignantly and they both went their separate ways.
A week later he was leaving his flat with his wife on his arm and they walked around the same corner and lo and behold, bumped into the same prostitute. "See what you get for 30 Guilders" she commented as they walked past.
Now, I ask you. What exactly do you say to your wife at that moment that isn't going to result in celibacy?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eish! Pollution as bad a Joburg!

This was inside the Liverpool street train/metro station which, one the face of it, looks quite clean.

Maybe not so clean after all. The fluff and gunk in the air has collected on the wires put there to keep the pigeons off.

A day in London

While Caron was busy working I took the opportunity to take a trip into London to see some sights which I've been keen on for a while. First stop was the Photographers Gallery near Leicester tube station which turned out to be a real disappointment. It really only shows the work of a couple of photographers and even then, not anyone that is known so it was hardly inspirational.

Next stop was the Tate Modern about which I think the best that I can say is that the building and exhibition rooms are magnificent. There is obviously something about modern art which I simply don't get. If art is about communication then it is in a language I don't understand but I think I'm in good company because nobody else seems to understand it either. By way of example:


Has real meaning and a message that I, as the artist, would like to communicate to you. I promise you, it really does. Don't get it? Well neither does anyone else but that doesn't mean that it isn't art - you just don't understand the message.

If art is about aesthetics then we all have different tastes but lets not confuse the issues and try and make art to be more than it actually is.

While I was pondering I ended up watching a mother and her children playing far below on the expanse of concrete that forms the entrance to the Tate. Taking the example below

Aesthetic? Probably - depending on the viewer. Meaning as in a message from me, the artist to you the viewer. None! I could make up some bullshit about waiting at the crossroads of life and pondering which direction to go but no, it is simply a picture of a little girl which I found aesthetically pleasing.

Moving on. From the Tate I walked over the Millenium bridge which I found particularly aesthetically pleasing, to St. Pauls cathedral where I handed over 10 GBP of Caron's money to go inside. I like this kept husband thing! As I handed over the money the cashier told me to take off my cap and not to take any photographs because it is a place of worship. I wonder if they see the irony of paying to go into a church. St. Pauls is pretty damn impressive once one gets past the ghoulish aspects of bodies everywhere and just looks at the actual building. Comparing St. Pauls with the cottage below which is almost certainly of more recent vintage one would conclude that standards are going down here but like everywhere else that probably isn't true.

You get what you pay for and in St. Pauls case the cost must have been plenty - kindly provided by the colonies conquered by some of those interred within. So while some are feted here, they are more than likely hated elsewhere.

After St. Pauls I went to the prison that gave it's name to prisons worldwide when they are referred to as 'the clink'. Interesting but pretty brutal back in those days. I'm glad we have moved on - at least I think we've moved on. Sometimes I wonder though.

I finished the day off with a meal in a pub on the edge of the Thames while I waited for peak time to be over. When I had lunch at a sandwich bar quite close to the pub there were dozens of joggers running during their lunch hour even though it was decidedly chilly and they were wearing almost nothing. Judging from the figures that went past me I don't think that jogging is adequate to make up for the food consumption here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Stonehenge has always, for some reason, been one of the 'things' which I have wanted to go and see and although I have been to the UK many times I've just never managed to get there. I had always thought that it was quite close to London - it is if you look on a map of the whole of the UK. In reality it is actually quite far away from London; a good two hours drive.
John and Julie, friends of Carons, picked us up at 08:30 for the two hour drive down to Salisbury and Stonehenge. I must say that I did enjoy seeing Stonehenge even though it could be adequately described as "just a pile of stones in a ring" and nobody actually knows why or how it was built although I have a theory (as in "just a theory" aka a hypothesis) of my very own to throw into the ring.

If you look carefully on the bottom left you can get a sense of the size of the stones but don't be fooled - the people in the photograph really were a group of midgets. :-)
My theory on the purpose of Stonehenge is supported by the following photograph of the supposed "heel stone":

I don't think that, from this evidence, that there can be any doubt that the ancient Britons were worshipping those denizens of the sea - the moray eels. One could also speculate that since creatures of the sea are also held sacred by pirates who worship the FSM that Stonehenge is actually an ancient temple to the FSM. Tenuous but possible I say!

From Stonehenge where evidence is sparse and speculation fun we went into the centre of Salisbury (previously known as "Harare") to have a look at Salisbury Cathedral. Not really my "cup of tea" as they say here but Caron and Julie are history buffs so John and I were dragged along. It is nothing if not an impressive and imposing edifice and there happened to be an orchestra and a choir practising for the evening's concert to add to the ethereal atmosphere as we sauntered around to the strains of Elgar whoever he was. I presume he's dead, shuffled his mortal coif so as to say.

Purely by chance we strayed into an enclave and saw an "original copy" of the magna-carta. I, of course, challenged the guide as to how it could possibly be an "original copy" since this seems to be an oxymoron to me. The guide was however correct since there were many copies all made at the same time and no original. The copies were made and sent to the town and cathedrals where they were read to the population. I must say that I did find this very interesting and even purchased an English translation of the magna-carta which I enjoyed reading since it is always referred to in the development of common and constitutional law.

UK in Crisis!

Excerpts from "The Sunday Telegraph" - 18th May 2008
  • "Superbugs cause more than 6000 deaths in UK hospitals in 2006 - a fourfold increase from 2001."
  • "Police seize 900 weapons over a two year period. This only covers police confiscations - there are up to 8000 confiscations per week according to teachers unions."
  • "Richard and myself were partners for 11 years. On the face of it everything was perfect. We had a six bedroom house and I had a lovely, tall, good-looking husband. I had ticks in all the materialistic boxes. I had security ... but not enough excitement. We split because I needed to find out who I was, not because there was anything specially wrong. I saw I needed to make big changes if I was to be proud of my life" - Roz Savage
  • "It scarcely made the headlines: after all, fatal stabbings are two-a-penny now. ... That lightness is no more. In British towns and cities, now, people carry a silent weight of fear."
  • "The government is staring at a corporation tax black hole of more than 10bn GBP per year, as the pensions crisis ravages companies' balance sheets."
These cherry picked excerpts from the Sunday Telegraph which, in itself, are from the cherry picked articles that the telegraph chose to publish - picture a nation in crisis. My view is that the nation isn't in crisis but it is in newspapers interest to present it as such in order to sell.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

England - a working holiday

Caron has been going overseas so much in the last few years that if one was to add it all up she has been away from home more than half a year in the last 4 years so we decided that this trip, I would accompany her and be the 'kept' husband - the secret dream of husbands all over the world.

Caron left on tuesday evening and I flew out on thursday and, as usual, timing from a work point of view couldn't have been any worse. My network administrator resigned unexpectedly and this is going to leave a big hole for me to fill so i've been trying to get him to fill in the documentation gaps but he is about as enthusiastic as a horse going to the knackers yard.

The flight was fairly good, no screaming children, no fat people encroaching on my space. Between drugs, ear plugs, eye patches and neck braces one can actually get an ok nights sleep. A friend of mine maintains that the only difference between cattle and first class is the strength of the drugs that you need to take to knock one'self out.

Landed in the new terminal, the one famed for losing baggage, which is simply cavernous. There are 12 baggage handling points and we were the only one in action. After waiting for about 20 minutes watching the baggage carousel going around and around there was an announcement that there was a 'sorting' problem as the first pieces of baggage popped out from the bowels of terminal 5. Seeing as we were the only ones in the entire hall, I'm curious as to whose baggage ours was being mixed up with - I think it may just be their stock excuse.

I caught the heathrow express into paddington, two tubes to fleet street, a train out to brentwood and a taxi to the hotel. 30 GBP of public transport - no wonder it works here - it costs a fortune. Watching the scenery flashing by I can help but feel that england is a vast exercise in studied decay and grime. There are so many examples of walls or buildings in desperate need of repair; back home people would be complaining of the shoddy workmanship quitely meaning that black people, who do the vast majority of work, just aren't capable. Here the same shoddy work, now done by white people, is 'quaint' and lends 'character' to the scenery. What rot, shoddy work is shoddy work, like the wall that has just about eroded away because the bricks weren't fired properly.

I spent most of the day working remotely which didn't actually work that badly, I had conference calls and support calls where no-one was the wiser that I actually wasn't in the office. I've finally started getting my laptop in order again after it's reformat on tuesday which has made a dramatic difference to the perceived speed.
At about 16:00 I decided to call it a day and take a walk into brentwood about 4 miles distant.

The first thing one notices is that there is an innordinate number of hair dressers and beauty salons - not that it has made much of a difference to the local population. It reminds me of a joke I received which shows a bevy of blonde beauties and the caption was "Swedish girls - making English girls look ugly for 200 years". On the way home I was hit by a plastic water or juice bottle that was thrown from a passing mini-van. Although it hit me quite hard it wasn't that sore thankfully. So it seems that I've left a country ruled by fear and arrived in a country ruled by boredom. Speaking to the barman later on it turns out that this seems to a common occurrence where he lives but he hadn't heard of it around here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Slapdash, shoddy workmanship

I obtained a geyser blanket from my sister-in-law to wrap around the geyser which had me coughing and spluttering from the time I got into the roof to about 3 hours after I had finished. I think I have a slight allergy to dust.

While I was up there I was looking at the drip tray that had been installed along with the solar geyser a few years ago and I noticed that the damn thing isn't level. It slopes away from the outlet which kind of makes the outlet superfluous. What absolutely irritates me no end is that it would have cost the installers nothing in time nor money to have just installed it level. They just didn't care that they had done an atrocious job: there is absolutely no pride in one's own work these days it seems.

I had another example of this when my parents-in-law's foundations were dug. They couldn't be bothered to dig the foundations to a level depth so as a result, the concrete has a difference of 350mm from the highest point to the lowest point. While I understand that digging foundations is not easy, that is what they are getting paid to do so they should do at least a reasonable job, not the abortion that was done. It's very frustrating that even pointing this out before the concrete arrived failed to get their asses into gear - in fact it seems to have had the opposite effect and two of the workers were found sleeping in wheelbarrows when they should have been working.

While I'm on the topic, I spent the long weekend a couple of weeks ago building a headboard for ourselves. We looked at a couple in shops but they were these disgusting padded jobbies which seem to be universally disliked but the only one's available. After a lot of thought and expense, I'm sure we paid more for this than if we had bought one in the shop, the work of art below emerged from my workshop.

It definitely isn't perfect but I am proud of the design and the workmanship.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Progress at last

Sometimes it seems that there are just so many big issues that need to be solved that one forgets to appreciate the march of progress albeit in small ways.
I went to fetch Caron at the airport last week and they've installed this nifty system to help one find parking bays. Above every bay is a light which is either red or green depending on whether there is a car in the bay or not so you can see where the open bays are from hundreds of meters away. This is one of those inventions where one sits back and says "Now, why didn't I think of that?" - it's so obvious. At least it is now.
We have taken to having some real junk food from Steers which is a very successful franchise here so I tried to place my order for the "vegetarian" burger and the ladies behind the counter looked at me blankly and politely asked "Which one?". I'm so used to only having one choice that it took me completely by surprise that I actually had a choice - in fact I could have absolutely any burger I wanted just with a vegetarian patty. Way to go, I might have eat there more often.
Lastly, my brother-in-law had an operation today and we went to see him and he told us something which to us was quite amusing. After the operation he found himself in a ward with what looked like a "please call the nurse" button in his hand. After a while he wanted to call the nurse so he pressed it but no nurse appeared, he pressed it again and again nothing then he drifted off to sleep thus missing the nurse. This happened a couple of times before he realised it wasn't the "nurse" button it was the "morphine" button - no wonder the nurse never appeared. What a great idea - you can dose yourself up with morhpine.

Women aren't what they used to be either ...

... and the 90% of men that are heterosexual breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Pass me the, hic, whiksky pleash ...