Busy Times

Cape Agulhas is packed. Full of people from all over the country – I have seen cars from each of the nine provinces and I haven’t even left my bedroom this morning. Intersections which usually don’t see more a couple of cars each hour have actual queues at them – sometimes as many as 3 or 4 vehicles long.

Yes, I guess that as with anything in life, one’s definition of “heavy traffic” is relative. That said, I’m expecting heavy traffic even by Cape Town standards as we  head down to Struisbaai beach this evening for the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks.

It’s chilly (20C), breezy and no-one seems to be particularly looking forward to our late night beach trip right now, but we’ll still do it. After all, as they say, it’s always better to regret something you have done rather than something you haven’t. Actually, that might not hold true for murder, but then I’m not planning on murdering anyone tonight.

As long as the traffic isn’t too bad…

Happy New Year.

Fireworks

Ah. I miss the UK on November 5th. Specifically the fireworks. Yes, they do them here, but for all the mocking of “The Nanny State” on “Mud Island”, the rules here around fireworks are far tighter than in the UK. And, surprisingly for SA, they are generally pretty well observed.

The Isle of Man, of course, is not in the UK, but they still do fireworks and here’s Douglas Bay on Saturday night courtesy of Flickr user cabmanstu:

image

Stunning!
Many thanks to Stuart for permission to use the photo.

As ever, twitter is divided over the fireworks here. Some don’t see the need, many are enjoying them and then there are the local dog owners whose animals keep us awake each and every sodding night, but who object to people making noise for a couple of hours on one evening a year.

I hesitate to use the word “killjoys”, but only briefly.

Lantern ban in the offing?

Sky News today is reporting that there are moves afoot to ban “Chinese” Lanterns in the UK because of their potential “deadly impact”. Apparently, these lanterns can drift for miles and land on farmland, where their metal frames can be devoured by livestock:

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has urged people to think twice about letting them off at celebrations this summer.
“Anyone who’s seen sky lanterns at night knows how spectacular they are, but they probably don’t know how they can cut a cow’s insides to ribbons and be devastating to the countryside.”

Unpleasant indeed, and a compelling argument for banning them rather than:

The lanterns have also caused the death of a foal, which was put down after injuring itself on a fence after being spooked by the mysterious floating light.

Which would also necessitate the banning of planes, cars and celestial bodies such as the spooky moon and the extremely environmentally unfriendly sun.
Also, did the foal (awww. baby horse. heartstrings tugged.) tell the farmer that it was spooked by the lantern? Or was this just a handy excuse for the insurance claim over this tragic equine incident involving some poor quality fencing?
Apparently:

the lanterns are frequently mistaken for UFOs as they drift across towns and cities.

If you think about it though, if the lanterns are airborne and people don’t recognise them as being lanterns, then they are, by definition, Unidentified Flying Objects. So there’s no actually mistaking involved at all.

But I digress. Often. The fire risk from these things along is surely reason enough to ban them – as they have already done in Germany, New Zealand, China [cue irony klaxon] and Australia (mind you, they recently banned swearing there too).

And, as ever, there are calls in the comments to ban fireworks as well, because they scare cats and dogs. Well, hard luck.
While “Chinese” Sky Lanterns may be a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, fireworks have been around for hundreds of years. And therefore, instead of getting all uppity when your pet gets scared by the bangs (one whole night a year), perhaps you should have thought about that at the time of purchase rather than complaining now.
It’s like buying a cat when you live near a busy road: and then whining about banning cars in case your cat gets run over.

Killjoys.

If you should be feeling particularly creative here’s a great post on how to make your own sky lantern. Don’t let it land near any cows or float near any baby horses though, obviously.

Notes on celebration

Many people will be waking up this morning with stinking hangovers, but not me. We’ve effectively written off New Year’s Eve for a few years by having kids. Too much hassle, too much money (have you seen babysitter rates recently?) and it’s not like there won’t be New Years Eves when we’re ready and able to go partying again in a less than a decade.

But just because we choose not to celebrate doesn’t mean that others can’t, of course. And lying in bed, listening to others celebrating the clock doing what it only does another 364 times each year, I had a couple of thoughts.

Firstly, people – and here by “people”, I mean “women” – who are consistently surprised by the pop of a champagne (or local equivalent) cork: why?
Imagine the scene: a handful of revellers gather round the host, who has a bottle of bubbly in his hands. He tears the foil, he untwists the wire, and he eases the cork out in front of his expectant audience. And when the pressure of his thumbs and the gas inside the bottle reach the critical force, the cork comes out with a  loud “pop” and flies off into the darkness.
We’ve all seen it many times before.
Well, apart from Little Miss Surprised, we have. There’s always one.  Seriously. And I’m not talking about  the people who cheer the pop. That’s also always seemed a little odd to me, but we’ll let it go in the spirit of general misplaced exuberance.
If you don’t believe me, then watch next time you are at a cork-popping moment. One woman there will be apparently shocked at the sound and sight of the cork leaving the neck of the bottle and will squeal.
I have never really understood what this woman is expecting to happen at the critical moment. A herd of fairies to magically appear with sparkly pink earmuffs for her? The cork to silently fall from the neck of the bottle into that pile of feathers that no-one had previously seen? Or what?

Whatever it is she is expecting, it’s not what happens and so you get the inevitable pop-squeal combo every time.

Does this behaviour stretch into other areas of her life as well, I wonder? Is she alarmed by the sight of the green light after waiting at red traffic lights for some time? Astounded that the sun comes up each morning? Astonished that Julius Malema appears to have said something rather silly again?

And then, fireworks.
Now fireworks seem to have a bit of a bad reputation in South Africa. Not for me, you understand – I love them – but in this country of equal rights for all *cough* we apparently have to consider the rights of  pets as well.
And as we all know, fireworks and pets don’t mix. Don’t mix well, anyway.

Thus, on Guy Fawkes night, which is inexplicably celebrated here in SA (why don’t we celebrate every foiled foreign terror plot in this way?), those who wish to use fireworks are directed to specific and limited sites across the city to set them off and have fun far away from those lovely dogs which only disturb us firework-users on the other 364 nights of the year. And then everyone is happy – apart from the moaning dog owners who want fireworks banned completely because Graham (their pedigree short-haired dachshund) is ever so sensitive and even the thought of fireworks puts him off his Woofies Gourmet for hours at a time. Yes, yes, we know he barks all night and keeps you awake and s**ts all over the local fields and footpaths where your kids play and walk, but then he would, because that’s what dogs do – it’s only natural, see?

Well anyway, there were a few fireworks going off around midnight last night (Lord only knows what effect they had on the lass who was surprised by the champagne corks) and I suspect that local dog owners will be up in arms about the whole thing. Shame.
I’m expecting letters galore into the Cape Times about that. They should probably also complain about the thunder at 6 o’clock this morning which was 17 times louder and longer, but they probably won’t because Mayor Dan Plato is  powerless to do anything about that. Actually, he seems pretty much powerless to do anything about anything, but that’s for another more politically motivated post sometime later in the year.
And it was then that it came to me. In the same way that the firework-users are banished to remote sites on November 5th, so should the dog owners (and their dogs) be on New Year’s Eve. It’s only fair (in the same way that tens of thousands of people are denied exit from their homes and emergency medical assistance so some cyclists can complain about the wind one Sunday each year). The dogs could bark, howl and defaecate to their heart’s content, miles away from where people are enjoying themselves with some harmless and colourful small explosive devices.

Yes: let’s start each New Year with a degree of fairness, parity, understanding, compromise and shared responsibility, shall we?

Ja, right…

P.S. Cape Town tourism post now moved to tomorrow.