Back to the Rock volume… 4?

It’s a long way off, but it looks like I’ve cracked the nod again to be one of the parent leaders for this year’s school trip to Robben Island.

This will be my fourth tour, and regular readers will know that it is always such a privilege to be able to go over there and help out.

It is an amazing place.

Last time around, I was drafted onto the team with less than 2 weeks before we were due to set off. This time, we have seven months to plan (and therefore no excuses).

I’m already excited.

This has been a good day.

Great gig, bizarre encore: David Gray in Cape Town, 2022

I mean, you knew that the evening was going to be a belter when you get escorted right across the local casino, drinks and all, into the VIP room with free beer, bubbly and gourmet pizza before the concert has even begun. [Thanks, Andrew šŸ˜‰ ].

And then, when it did begin, it was just a lot of fun with some great music. Ten songs in the first half, starting with You’re The World To Me and Fugitive before finally getting the audience involved in Be Mine, and bewitching us all into silence (incredible for a South African crowd) with a raw, emotional performance of Alibi. Hospital Food rolled neatly into the catchy Nemesis to end off a tight, professional set by a clearly accomplished band and singer.

Twenty minutes later – beating most of the bar-queuing audience back – he returned with a new drummer (the one and only Craig McClune) and a bang, for the main event, and Please Forgive Me and Babylon got the crowd – and the band – bouncing.
Running on through the album, he remarked on his two favourite songs that “took him back like a time machine to that tiny bedsit in Stoke Newington, N16”: Nightblindness and Silver Lining. And then after those two poignant, introspective numbers during which he seemed strangely distant, it was like a switch was flicked and he back to engaging the now slightly less reluctant audience with the now seemingly obligatory cellphone waving to This Year’s Love: “Come on, I know you’ve all got phones. And I know you’ve all got arms!”.
Sail Away and a really beautiful Say Hello, Wave Goodbye completed the album set and then there was… the encore.


Back on then, and having just given us one Marc Almond number (from the album), he went straight into another song that Soft Cell made famous: Tainted Love. A real poppy, swingy, almost silly version though. It was fun, but it didn’t quite fit. And then he sat at the piano and told us the story of the day in June 2000 that White Ladder and David Gray finally made it into the big time. A tale of a father on chemotherapy, a lucky break of a near headline slot at Glastonbury, and a chance backstage meeting with an apparently bewildered David Bowie, complete with pictures of the whole thing. It was more what I had expected from the whole evening: a bit of background, some anecdotes etc. But this was the only window we got into the story of the album. And then – using the somewhat tenuous Bowie link – the rest of the encore: Life On Mars and Oh! You Pretty Things. And it was great, but it wasn’t David Gray, it was David Bowie, and it wasn’t what the audience had come for. I’m sorry to say that we watched a fair percentage leave during these two songs. Bit disrespectful, but then that’s sadly par for the SA audience: we’ve been here before (more than once).

When you’re playing your biggest album in full, you can’t save your biggest hit for the end of the encore. Still, we thought there would be a rousing repeat of Babylon or something, because why not? But the second Bowie song was segued really awkwardly into the last few (admittedly energetic) bars of Please Forgive Me. But only the last few bars. It was just weird to finish off a concert with 4 cover versions (from three different artists) and then the false ending reprise of one of your songs.

It was still really good, but it was also really odd.

Anyway… overall, an altogether lovely evening and (even before the encore) we’d been treated to a lot of genuinely great music and some amazing vocals. It’s been 16 years since we last saw him here, but if he does come back again, I’ll definitely be there.

BTS Aquarium Tour

We did a Behind The Scenes tour at the aquarium today. Regular readers will recall that we have done this before. Well, this morning, we did it again.


This was a photo I took before the tour – it’s a Tube Anenome. The photos from the actual tour, which was excellent and included a quick view into the new (but currently empty) 1,500,000 litre exhibit, will follow in due course.

UPDATE: As promised, here they are.

Aquarium Tour

With the cat away (the cat is mostly in Budapest this week), the mice will head down to the Two Oceans Aquarium and learn about the progress of their new exhibit, before going on an excellent behind the scenes tour.

For a start, the passion of the staff is clearly evident. From the friendly greeting, through to the knowledgeable and infectious enthusiasm of Mike de Maine, theĀ Technical Manager, everyone was keen to educate the visitors and answer any queries. Breakfast was served, my kids ate about seventy-four croissants each and we looked at technical plans and 3D renderings of the new section of the aquarium. Mike – who is project managing the work – showed us photos of the new build and shared some of the difficulties that they have experienced: from the unusually varied rock structure underneath the site through to the metalworkers’ strike, which is threatening to push the opening of the new tank back. We were given some startling numbers about cost, concrete and steelwork (I’ll have to look these up, but suffice to say that they were all very big). Also big are the stats on the new tank, from the huge, single-piece 350mm thick acrylic windows to the 10m long tunnel.

And then curatorĀ Michael Farquhar gave us a quick run down of the complex operation coming up when they will have to transfer the fish from the current tank to the new one and the challenges that they face in doing it. One of things I didn’t realise is that the old tanks (the Kelp Tank and the Predator Exhibit) are leaking and need repairs. There will need to be some shifting around of stock in order for these repairs to be done – all while the aquarium remains open and the public enjoy their visit.
Tough ask.

Finally, we headed backstage and had a look at the surprisingly shabby roof areas, including the top of theĀ predator and kelp tanks – complete with penguins chilling out on the roof. Sadly, the light wasn’t great and my camera has gone to Hungary with the cat, so please excuse the photos.

This is the top of the I&J Predator Exhibit:

Ā  Ā Ā Ā Ā 
And part of the filter room, “something” in the lab and a kitchen shopping list.

You can see some more of my photos here, and some of Mike’s from the building site here.

All in all, a pretty cool and educational couple of hours, and if you are members at the aquarium (and if you’re in Cape Town and you have kids, you really should be) then get yourself along to the next members breakfast – really interesting stuff, nice people and a great way to spend a Saturday morning.