Today, I used public transport to get home from work. Yes, you read correctly, I took the train. This is the first time that I have been on a Train in Cape Town for about 15 years (this of course excludes Bigsey’s, the Restaurant and Bar coach). Now, you may be wondering why I used the train to get home. It was not because I wanted to experience public transport first hand, or because I needed the extra exercise walking to and from the station. And it is definitely not because I had any urge to walk home in the cold, coastal rain!
The reason that I used public transport to get home from work is because my car is spending the night in hospital, and is currently connected to life support systems.
It all started on Friday morning when I drove to work. I got into my car at home, started it and off I went, completely unaware of what was not going to happen. At about lunch time I went to my car to fetch something and upon arriving, I pressed the button on my remote control. Nothing happened! Nothing at all.
“Great!”, I thought, the battery on my remote has gone flat. “Not to worry, I will just let the alarm go off, as long as I lock the car afterwards the alarm will eventually stop, hopefully before I get arrested for trying to steal my own car.” –not that it was going anywhere as I soon discovered. So I opened the car door, and there was silence! Deafening silence.
“Hmmm…lets see if the car starts!”
“Hmmmmmmm…battery must be dead.” Well, I guess that answers my question regarding weather I should renew my AA membership or not (Automobile Assoc, not Alcoholics Anon, although by the end of it all, possibly the later). So I phones the AA, we got the car started and off I went. I drove straight to a battery place who informed me that it could be the battery or the car, but they would have to charge the battery overnight to find out. That would leave my car without a battery. So figuring that since my car had been serviced (by the agents) days earlier, it must be the battery, which was probably due for a replacement anyway. Besides, I was going to the REM gig the next day, and I was not prepared to be stuck after the gig at 12:00am with a flat battery.
Swapping the old battery for a new one was a painless exercise, and I drove home. So far so good…..or so I thought. On Friday night we were going to meet a friend for supper. I opened the garage door, pressed the button, and yes you guessed it…nothing (the silence at night is even more so than during the day). These deafening silences are really starting to get to me. My car, while switched off, had managed to completely discharge a brand new battery in about 3 ½ hours. That takes some skill!
This morning, I jump started my car and drove to the agents (the same people who had serviced my car a week earlier). They agree that there is a fault, however they cannot find it. They have put the battery on charge overnight, and will continue tomorrow.
As far as using the trains go, not much had really changed from my last experiences (at least what I can remember of them). The trains are fuller, which is probably a good thing. The queues at the ticket counters are much longer than I remember, and the old timetables have been replaced by electronic signboards – which was a complete surprise to me. I really did not think that Metrorail were so technologically advanced. I also don’t remember hawkers on the actual platforms and trains, which was a bit of a surprise to me. My train started on time, and left from the correct platform. The electronic sign above the platform was correct.
What I did notice is that nobody on the train used cell phones, I think they were trying not to be soft targets for bag (or phone in this case) snatching. I tried to sit on a busy carriage, and I was very aware of my surroundings, probably the paranoia a car commuter who is only aware of the bad stories regarding train travel.
I was very aware that I was the only passenger – in fact the only person I saw from when I entered the station – that carried a laptop. I desperately tried to make it look as small as possible. However nobody seemed to look at it or take the least interest in me, and I arrived home without incident.
The only big difference – which has just struck me now – is that the carriage I was on was totally multi-racial. When I last traveled on the train as a scholar, only whites were allowed on the first class coaches. Yes it is difficult to believe now, but that is how it was then. When that bizarre and sick rule was in place, I was too young to notice. It is good that we are getting more integrated; it counts, even in the small things.
Lets see what happens tomorrow. The really interesting part is when we negotiate the cost of all of this – I’ll keep you posted.
Two good things have come of this:
1) I have decided that it is in fact a good idea to renew my AA membership
2) The security code I was given for my radio (you have to enter a code if you loose power) does in fact work!
This morning I received an email to let me know that I have just passed my last exam required to receive my honours degree (got a first for the exam). I am very happy about this, and it really does feel like a weight has been removed from my sholders.
It has taken me about four years to complete my honours, however I was studying it part-time. I will say that having completed this degree, I have far more respect for people who study part-time. It is hard work and required a hugh amount of dicipline. However, the hard work does pay off…
|The weekend started with a braai on Saturday evening, in which we were joined by my uncle and aunt (Peter and Ella), as well as my cousin Cathy and her husband Jason. Peter, being the romantic had to give the girls roses (wonder where they come from…..?)|
|On Saturday afternoon, we were treaded to some fresh sushi made by Rory (aka Master Wun Tsi) and Lynne. I was very impressed by their hidden sushi-making abilities. It probably took them a good two hours to make everything, but you can see the results for yourself. I don’t know what all the stuff is called, but we did have salmon trout, Cape salmon, avocado, cucumber, rice and seaweed, along with the mandatory soya sauce and wasabi paste. Having the sushi was probably a very good thing, because we only ended up having supper at about 10:00 pm!|
Some of the ingredients and prepatation…..
|And finally the results. Well done to Rory and Lynne!|
This was, of course, the beginning of the Murder Mystery Evening, one of the reasons for our trip (like you need an excuse to goto Langebaan). We bought the game from www.host-party.com, and it was a fantastic evening. I quote from the script:
Good evening everyone and welcome to Effingham Hall, the new home of rock legend, Roland Stone. Tonight’s party was to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the formation of the supergroup ‘The Falling Rocks’ which was founded by Roland Stone and Tristan Shout. I am afraid however that I have some terrible news about Roland. You all saw Roland jumping around in his hot tub when the lights were turned on and then lying very still. Well I am afraid that he was not fooling around. He had been electrocuted and he is dead. Roland bought this place six months ago and his hot tub was the centerpiece of the extensive alterations, which he had done to this beautiful 15th Century mansion. The police have been called and will be undertaking their investigation.
The characters were:
Glad Allover (Rock Chick), played by Jenny. She is Roland’s girlfriend for the past five years. A lively girl who has hung round the fringes of rock music for years.
Tristan Shout (Guitarist), played by Rory, our Sushi chef. He is the guitarist with Roland’s group The Falling Rocks. Has a habit of slipping lines from songs into his conversation. (He also has a big, six string bass guitar that is bigger than him!)
Ophelia Bottom (Actress), or bottome, as Lois called herself. She is a Shakespearean actress who owns her own theatre called "The Ophelia" She loves to talk in rhyming couplets (or Iambic pentameter if you are cultured!) as if she was still on stage.
Orson Cart (Film Director), played by myself. I am the director of the new motion picture about Roland’s life. Previously I have directed some of the all time great movies.
Ann Thology (Author), played by Lynne. She is the writer of Roland’s new biography, Rock’n’Roland. She has written a number of crime thrillers and murder mysteries.
Adam Upp (Account), played by Mark. He is Roland’s accountant and financial advisor. He has control of Roland’s financial affairs and tries to keep Roland’s spending in check.
Wendy Legsache (Fitness Trainer), played by Chantal. She is Roland’s personal fitness trainer. She has been seen regularly around Effingham Hall during her daily sessions with Roland as he has fought to stay fit and youthful.
Al Legations (Lawyer), played by Paul. He is Roland’s legal advisor. He has had his hands full with Roland’s many business deals and property transactions and is one of his most respected advisors.
Lord Effingham (English Lord), played by Nick. He is the Previous owner of Effingham Hall who had sold it to Roland after it had been in his family for 300 years
I found to remarkable how quickly we all slid into our roles and played our parts. While we managed to stick very closely to the story, we definitely had a large amount of ad-libbing and extra subplots emerging that were definitely not in the script. This could be due to the six bottles of bobbly that Effingham brought with him.
Somebody from USA is coming to visit South Africa this year and had some security-related questions for me. For your interest, here are my responses:
My tourist-related questions . . . I don’t want you to do any research or any other work, but just to give me your impressions or best guess on the questions below. What you already know will be ten times what I know! I have never been to S Africa, from which my husband left in 1959 out of high school, and has scarcely been back since. We have read the guide books and know what sights to see, so we don’t have that type of question. Many of our questions relate, though, to crime (which the newspapers here may sensationalize) and some to costs (which look very steep after recent dollar declines). Anyway, could you perhaps just reply to this message with some off-the-cuff answers to the questions below? A couple of other background matters. We are talking about touring in a rental car, and the questions relate as much to Gauteng, Kruger, and KZNatal as the Cape. Also, take as a given that we won’t go to really "bad areas" anytime, or most downtowns at night – just as in the U.S." By the way, crime in the U.S. must also be something to think about for visitors from abroad, and my questions imply that I’m ignorant, and they don’t imply anything critical. We will be visiting SAfrica because we know it to be a wonderful place.
1. Is an airport-to-hotel shuttle service by day with one’s baggage safe, e.g., Joburg Airport to Sandton?
yes – most hotels offer a good shuttle service
2. Same with airport-rank taxi?
yes – probably a lot more expensive
3. Are there any special precautions involved in buying petrol with cash at a suburban filling station? (E.g., stay in the car, avoid stations with people sitting around . . .?) (And does one pay the attendant or in the office?)
At all petrol stations, an attendent (in uniform) will come to the drivers door. You can ask him/her to put in however much petrol you require, and pay them cash or on a ‘petrol card’. Normal credit cards are not accepted. They will usually offer to check the oil/water, and to wash the windscreen. Usually you would offer a small tip after the transaction is complete. Cost of petrol is about R3.50 per litre.
4. I am assuming that motorway driving is safe . . . what about other main roads, does one plan an itinerary to avoid anything in particular? What about really rural roads, e.g., as one might find between Kruger NP and Durban (west of Swaziland) . . . any concerns?
All major roads are safe, however NEVER stop on the side of a moterway, and make sure that you always have plenty of petrol. The main risk on large roads is hijacking (very rare), so be careful. Regarding the conditions of the roads, they are all fine, you can easily go from Joberg to Kruger to Durban and all over on very good roads. Some of the roads are toll roads, so be sure to have enough cash. Its best to have a good AA map if you are going to go off the beaten track.
5. Is it smart/essential to carry a cellphone in a car?
Always a good idea – just in case of a breakdown. The police are very good about waiting with you while you organise a tow truck/change the tyre etc. You can rent cell phones from most airports. We use GSM, so I don’t think that all USA cell phones work here.
6. When one parks the car, anything in particular to avoid (other than visible belongings)? For on-street urban parking, would one tip a "street-person" to keep an eye on the car?
At some places (eg shopping centre parking lots), they have uniformed guards (social upliftmint, job creation etc…), usually give a small tip when you leave. Most off-stread parking is payment at the meter. The meters do not accept cash – only preloaded cards which you can buy from some shops. However there are often parking attendents present that will swipe their card at the meter in exchange for an equivilent fee.
7. When stopping overnight at a hotel/motel, is the car safe (assuming no locked-compound situation), or do I try hard to find a place to stay that has that type of protection? Maybe assume our current plans would be to find a City Lodge, and comment and go from there.
Most hotels have secure parking (esp in Joberg). City Lodge, Holiday inn should be fine. Just don’t leave your valuables in the car.
8. Are rental cars special targets (in some countries, they carry special stickers or license plates which identify them as such, is this true in SA)?
No special identification at all. (except for the really cheap agencies that have advertising all over the car). AVIS, Budget etc are all fine.
9. Tolls on motorways . . . I have heard everything from "few if any" to "expensive". Just to get an idea, how about "Joburg to Cape Town" and "Cape Town to PE" . . . estimate or even guess is fine?
No toll roads in Cape Town – estimate Joberg to Durban +-R300. As far as I know most toll roads do have free longer equivilent routes.
10. Will use cash machines to get cash out of my U.S. bank with a card. Where does one find these machines (safely!)?All over the place (shopping centres, banks, petrol stations etc).
We have more cash machines per capita than any other country (or so I am told). The usual precautions apply. Most machines accept VISA, Mastercard, AMEX etc…
written by Craig
This is a small Dodo puzzle that I made with my new scroll saw. From start to finish, it took about 45 minutes to make. I am actually quite impressed with how it worked out. For those of you who don’t know, the Dodo (Portuguese for stupid) is a small, flightless bird from the island of Mauritius, just east of Madagascar. It was made extinct by man a few hundred years ago.
When I was last in Mauritius, I went to the museum at Port Louis and saw a stuffed Dodo, as well as a few skeletons. Unfortunately I do not have any photos if it, since you are not allowed to take photos inside the museum.
One of my favourite authors, Jasper Fforde has writted a series of books about literary detectives, who are responsible for ensuring the correctness of novels, and that the characters and grammer etc behave correctly. In these books, Dodo’s are not extinct, and you can buy (or make from a home-cloning kit) them as pets. Our here, Thursday Next, has a pet Dodo called Pickwick.
More info on the Dodo and Mauritius can be found here. http://www.mauritius.net/.
More info on the Jasper Fforde books can be found here. www.jasperfforde.com