Brian’s Walk and OMG HOW MUCH?!??!

After being away for the long weekend and the rigours of the kids’ Science Week to prepare for, plus a myriad of bugs to grow in the lab, I’m only finding time to catch up on the other blogs I read. Top of that list, as regular readers will already know, is
Post lurgy, and with Spring in the London air, Brian took us on a walk along the Thames to Battersea. He took some great photos too, as you’ll see when you click on that link. But it was the seventh one that stood out for me:


Firstly, I should note that this isn’t as “nice” as some of the other images. But just because it’s not showing “the river… adorned by bright reflections” or “world class roof clutter” doesn’t mean that it’s not a valid photo. It’s taken to share information rather than because it’s pretty. It’s something I find myself doing more and more too – photos of the blackboard shopping list in the kitchen or details of a show or something else I see on a poster for later investigation. Quick and easy.

But if you’re in SA and you’ve looked at that seventh image, then you’ll have seen why is stood out for me.

A 516 square foot, one-bedroom apartment, for £1,400,000.

Look out! Here comes the conversion:

That’s 47.94m² for a cool R25,474,034.59.
Twenty-five. And a half. Million. Rand.

‘Ow Much?!???!!??!?!

I recognise that we’re not comparing apples with apples here. I recognise that this is prime London real estate, but let’s just see what R25.5 million would get you over here, shall we? I popped in at leading SA estate agency Pam Golding Properties for a quick look.

Well, if we’re going down the apartment route, why not buy this place?

367417_H_11   367417_H_2
It’s over seven times the size of the London offering, has 4 en-suite bedrooms, overlooks all four of the beautiful Clifton beaches and comes with two (count them and weep) two parking bays. You’d also have R500,000 spare cash to buy a nice outside table, which would put you one up on the current owners.

But apartments are so boxy, aren’t they? Especially when, for the same money, you could buy your own BOUTIQUE WINE FARM AND EQUESTRIAN ESTATE:

     413637_H_2   413637_H_6
At 42,505 m², the property size is a mere 887 times the size of the Battersea flat, (although the actual living area is just 17 times the size). That pool is 11m long though, meaning that it’s about the size of the R25.5m London apartment. But what else do you get?

With majestic mountain views as a backdrop and entrancing vineyards gracing the surrounding slopes, one could imagine you’re in the south of France. Enjoy the romance of your own award winning vineyards (Savignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz and Viognier), without the labour if you wish, as it can be leased out.
Constantia Nek Farm graces a valley on the back slopes of Table Mountain National Park with a large home, several stables and 3ha of vineyards. Riding in the restricted Orange Kloof area of the park is allowed with a special permit.
The Property also includes a granny flat, two large sheds/workshops, extensive parking, three garages, large spring and perennial stream fed dam, and adjacent staff quarters on the Houtkapperspoort side of its Southern boundary. Amenities include an 11m pool with electronically operated cover and solar heating and heat pump and large, cool wine cellar. The grounds and vineyards are irrigated via a seven station computerised underground system.

And again, you’d still have R500,000 spare for a nice outside table.
Or you could look at the Thames from your shoebox. It really is your call.

Like I said, I know that I can’t legitimately compare these properties. But with London prices and frankly terrifying exchange rates, it makes for an interesting – and, as an ex-pat, rather distressing – juxtaposition.

Still. Where would you rather be?

Blackouts likely as power stations close for repairs

I know, South Africa. We’re used to it now, aren’t we? Electricity shortages, load-shedding, blackouts.

Since the first issues reared their ugly rears back in 2008, it’s become almost second nature to us: now, even the briefest of power cuts is hollered from the rooftops as being a rolling blackout and another demonstration of just how badly our country is behind the rest of the world.
And now, this: the news that four power stations:

…which provide 10% of the country’s electricity, could be offline until the end of the year on safety fears [raising] further concerns about the chances of blackouts during the winter.

Only in South Africa, hey?

Except no. Because this is from a Sky News article about the UK. So let’s drop the exceptionalism and step away from the exceptionalism. Keep your hands where we can see them. etc etc

It’s not new, either. The UK has been warned about this for over a year now.

I’m well aware that two wrongs don’t make a right though, and I’m sure the 120 million odd individuals resident in the UK and SA would much rather have readily available electricity 24/7/365. But in a society where we are so anxious to draw attention to the negatives (and let’s be fair here, there are plenty of negatives to draw attention to), singling out SA as being the only country where the population has to contend with power shortages is plainly incorrect.

And yes, Eskom keep increasing our electricity prices, and that’s very, very annoying, but guess what’s happening elsewhere?

In the UK: Energy bills rise by 37% in 3 years.

In Germany:

Today an average family of four in Germany spends about $107 a month for electricity. This year, their monthly bill will be $129. The price hike is due to an increase in the Renewable Energy Surcharge. The surcharge is one of many government fees, taxes and subsidies that are passed on to average consumers and fund Germany’s renewable energy sector.

That’s a 20.6% increase.

And even in the USA: “We are now in an era of rising electricity prices,” said Philip Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

And as for the ludicrous sight of Eskom begging South Africans to use less electricity (cue: “What other organisation asks people to use less of its product?” remarks), well – most other electricity suppliers around the world, actually.

As temperatures plunged to 16 below zero in Chicago in early January and set record lows across the eastern U.S., electrical system managers implored the public to turn off stoves, dryers and even lights or risk blackouts.

We’re not alone. We’re not even vaguely special when it comes to not having enough electricity to go around – how about this for a headline?

New research warns world to prepare for blackout

That’s right – the whole wide world.

It’s time to drop the victim mentality and give up on the self pity. The grass isn’t greener on the other side, or if it is, it’s only because of all the extra s**t over there.

Eskom might not be a world leader in electricity supply and production, but neither, it seems, is anyone else.

UPDATE: And Belgium.

I’m building a power station

I think it’s the only way out of this infernal power crisis.
No lights? Whatever.
No TV? A minor irritation.

But allowing my beers to get warm? Action needs to be taken.

Sod the Government, the captains of industry and the so-called experts countrywide who all say that there is no quick fix. I think they’re blinkered. If everyone builds their own little power station, we’ll be sorted.

As far as I can remember from my physics lessons at school, all you have to do is make steam (water + heat), turn a turbine and Bob’s your uncle.
For your average Southern Suburber, with a pool (water) and a braai (heat), that’s surely not such a big ask.
Apart from the turbine bit.

I drew a quick diagram and presented it to my wife.  With hindsight, I probably should have put it in Powerpoint with some fancy graphics. The back of Alex’s first school painting was not a good idea.
Still, once I had survived the hormone-driven onslaught of the enraged mother and wiped the blood from the plans, the idea seemed to get a cautious welcome.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to a hastily scribbled rectangle.
“That’s the pool.”
She hesitated.
“Well, what’s that then?” she asked, pointing to a second rectangle.
“That’s the braai.”
“And this big space?”
“That’s where the turbine will go.”

It didn’t help that the drawing was not to scale and made it look like the turbine was going to take up most of the garden, turning her beloved lawn yellow and (thankfully) squashing her Fatsia japonica, the ugliest plant in existence and rumoured to be a key part of the nightmare which gave John Wyndham the idea for The Day Of The Triffids.
In actual fact, by my calculations, it would also flatten the neighbours pansies as well. And possibly part of their house. But on the bright side, I could probably generate enough electricity to run the pool pump and my beer fridge. Just about.

“How much will it cost?” she asked, suspiciously.

This was a problem. Although running the unit would be relatively economical, subsisting solely on rooikrans bought from the scary lady in the light blue horsebox in Diep River, the initial capital expenditure was a touch over 300 million Rand. The missus turned a strange shade of crimson when I told her this.
Alert enough to recognise the imminent danger, I ran. Almost quickly enough.

Nursing my wounds at the Fireman’s Arms, where the fridges always work and SuperSport plays 24/7, I was approached by a Iranian dwarf who claimed that he could get me a partly decommissioned Russian nuclear power plant for 10,000 US dollars, three gallons of whipped cream and a night with the Ad Wizard.

I have a feeling that I’m going to have the coldest beers in Cape Town this summer, whatever games Eskom play.