SA Xmas

While many may say that there’s nothing like a traditional UK Christmas – dark nights, snow on the ground, roasted chestnuts and a local pub or seven – I’m very much getting used to Christmas in summer. We spent most of yesterday sitting around the pool, braaiing crayfish and drinking beer. And as today seems to be turning into an absolute scorcher as well, I would imagine that more of the same is in order.

Christmas means many things to many people, but since becoming a dad, it’s really all about the kids for me. Not that that means I don’t enjoy giving and receiving gifts as well. After last year’s amazing present from my wife (and even though it all ended in tears), I had high hopes for something extraordinary and had been dropping hints about viticulture for the past few months: I have always dreamed of owning my own vineyard. Things seemed to be going well, as Mrs 6000 kept dropping hints about my dropping hints – a sure sign that my hint droppage had not gone unnoticed.

It was only when I opened the gifts on Christmas morning that I realised that there had been a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line. I had said “viticulture”, she had heard “vermiculture”. And as those of you well versed in Latin will already have realised, that means that I now own my own little worm farm. It does produce a liquid product, but you really don’t want to be drinking it. However, my veggies will love it and I can always get a wine farm next year, can’t I darling? Darling?


Anyway, the kids loved their presents – a motorised crane for the boy, a stereotypically intricate German doll’s house for the girl – and the wife will be running and gymming to her new mp3 player.
While I’m not tending to my worms, I will be mostly reading this gift from my parents. Bittersweet stuff.

But for now, it’s back to the original plan: pool, beer, braai.


All the way from Cape Town to London. But no further.

It’s sad that after all the anticipation, all the planning, all the trials and tribulations, that the final photo I managed to get on my trip up North was this one:

But it does speak volumes about my last few days in the UK. Taking photos inside the airport – even if you were in the mood to do so and there was something worth recording – is frowned upon by the Sussex police and their big guns. And the view from the windows was grey, industrial and limited by poor visibility.
That pic was taken on my arrival at Gatwick on Wednesday afternoon. The following morning, I trekked 4 miles up the A23, towing my suitcase. To put you in the picture (not literally), this is the the major route that leads in, out and around Gatwick airport. It’s a major road, a busy dual carriageway. Usually, anyway.
This was it on Thursday morning at about 9:30am:

This was just before I hitched a lift with an aircraft engineer called Brian, who was trying to get into work and who had been on the road for over an hour, despite living only 6 miles away. He told me that the ground staff had cleared over 160,000 tonnes of snow off the runway in 8 hours the previous day. I wondered why the person weighing it was bothering – the numbers are meaningless when you’re fighting a losing battle anyway.

And so, with Gatwick cut off from the outside world – no planes, no buses, no taxis, no hire cars, no nothing – in or out for over 24 hours and with reports of the weather rapidly worsening towards the west of London, when a single (and I mean a single) bus did become available to Heathrow, I jumped at the chance, got to T5 and moved my flight home forward by 48 hours. And thus, I found myself – ironically, left without a reason to stay – checking in for a flight back to Cape Town at just about exactly the same time a-ha would have been coming onto the stage at the Oslo Spektrum.

Utterly heartbreaking and a disastrous end to my trip. I didn’t see the friends I wanted to see, I didn’t get to Oslo and I didn’t get that last opportunity to see Morten et al doing their thing for the last time. At least for my part, I did everything I could.
There were the usual, annual reports in the papers about how badly Britain had coped with the snowy conditions, but this was exceptionally bad weather: the worst in living memory in Sheffield, as you can see from this photo of my parents’ road – yes – it is there somewhere.

Back to Cape Town and normal life (such as it is), then.

Which actually isn’t such a bad thing.

Left without a reason to stay

So, here it is. This is it.
While the magic of WordPress schedules this post, I will – all being well – be in Norway for my final audience with a-ha. And so, it seems rather appropriate that I should present you with their final song and video, Butterfly, Butterfly – and it’s one of their best, I think.

Heading back to their early years, they employed the services of Steve Barron to direct the video – he directed the ground-breaking Take on Me video (and Michael Jackson’s Billie-Jean, as it happens, but we won’t hold that against him,ok?).

This video is full of symbolism: from the chrysalises at the beginning, through the flashbacks to their early videos, the three roads heading in their different directions, to the butterflies flying free into their new lives at the end.
And that silent agreement on their decision at 2:38 and poignant goodbye: heartbreaking for fans like me.

And, because they made the decision to split, rather than just fade away, we get an insight as to some of the stresses and strains of being in a successful band:

Over thinking every little thing,
Acknowledge the bell you can’t unring,
Tomorrow, you don’t have to say what you’re thinking,
You don’t have to mean what you say.

Tomorrow, you don’t have to mean what you say,
Left without a reason to stay,
Comes the last hurrah,
Here’s our last hurrah.

Who knows if they will finish on this one tonight?

It’s worthy of that honour before we step out into the frozen streets of Oslo.

The dream is dying

Things are looking bad. Very bad.

The beauty and rediscovered novelty of the snow has given way to the practicalities of travel and the implications of not being able to get to where I need to be.
As I write, there are blizzard conditions outside, adding to the (at least) 16″ of snow on the ground already. Locally, the roads are all closed, deep in snow and transport is at an absolute standstill. These are exceptional conditions, even for Sheffield.  And in the midst of all this, I have to get to the station and try and find my way to Gloucester for the next leg of my journey. But that’s not going to be possible – I’m just not able to get anywhere at the moment: it really is that bad. And so, I’m going to make a big push to walk the 5 miles to Sheffield station towing a 23kg suitcase on a sledge: and get to London.

And even when I do that, Gatwick airport is closed.

But I need to do my bit: there’s no point my being anywhere but Gatwick if they should reopen before my flight is due to leave.

I’m depressed, a litte worried about heading out in these conditions and resigned to the fact that this isn’t going to happen. So, if it does, then I’m all smiles.

Photos from yesterday are going up on flickr as I write.

And now, I am just going outside and may be some time.

Baby, it’s cold outside

Blimey. Chilliness abounds.
Yesterday, I nearly died at Portishead by the side of the Bristol Channel. And bloody hell, there are nicer places to pop your clogs, I can tell you.
I would have taken more photos on such an elemental day, but I was shaking too much: when my brother feels the cold, you know it’s bad.
It was bitter and I needed a pint of the same to recover.

Then onto the football – least said, soonest mended, although I will quietly seethe forever at the inexplicable and biased actions of Mr A Wanker – or whatever that ref’s name was. Still, always a pleasure(?) to watch my beloved red and white wizzzaaaaaards.

Today – sunnier, more beautiful, less windy, slightly less chance of getting hypothermia. Slightly.

Up onto the moors above Sheffield for a walk in the snow. And very pretty it was too.
Photos from the first two days (which have passed far too quickly) are here.

Tomorrow, Newcastle, where I can apparently expect to see A LOT of the white stuff – and get some more of that infamous Portishead-style wind.

Back into the pub, then.