Pixie help in the wind

I’m been an incredibly blowy day in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Sustained 60kph winds with gusts into the mid-80s. The Fire Danger Index was red for most everywhere, and that forecast has proven to be wholly accurate, with fires… well… most everywhere, as well.

I did see one guy “in the know” describe it as “a shit show”. Who am I to argue?

Of particular personal interest above, that one bottom right, which – although a long way from our little place at the Southern Tip – is threatening to head that way. [UPDATE: I’ve just heard that they’ve got it contained.] And also the big one right in the middle, just north-east of Paarl, which has been burning for 8 days now, right around the area where we stayed just before Christmas, including the Bains Kloof Pass, and has consumed an immense amount of land, and sadly, a good number of buildings.

I was trying to glue some stuff to some other stuff earlier, using volatile glue for gluing purposes, and some meths for cleaning purposes. Obviously, I tried to work outside: a well-ventilated area being important, but being on my own, and having no-one to hold the wood, the wind was actually ventilating too much, and playing havoc with my efforts. And so I had to go inside into my office. This was much better, because not only was everything not being blown around, but I was also suddenly joined by an army of helpful pixies who sang and danced as the work got done.

Wonderful stuff. And I really enjoyed the nap that inevitably followed, even if it was on the floor.

Anyway, the pixies might not have helped the firefighters, but the early arrival of the first rain in over two months might give them a hand. I’m back in my car park for the first time this year, and it’s actually rather wet. Ironically, they’re sprinkling water on the grass on the playing fields opposite me.

What’s coming from the sky is not exactly a deluge, but it’s certainly better than nothing, and it’s very welcome. Everywhere is… was… dirty and dusty. Cape Town needed a wash.

As I write, it’s raining heavily, the wind is still blowing and the sun is setting. Trash chickens being blown around in the bizarre sulphureous light, and… is that… is that another pixie?!?

Day 631 – Breeze

It’s time to head home. Back to the hustle and bustle of Cape Town, the city just 6000 miles from civilisation…

It’s been a good break down in Agulhas. I could have been a bit less lazy, but sometimes a pre-nap nap is just what you need before your nap.

And the weather could have been better: several bouts of heavy rain throughout the week, and today – when the sun is shining and the skies are blue – a gale force wind. Not a metaphorical gale, either. This is actually fully 60kph and up from the east, and that actually puts it into Admiral Beaufort’s Force 8 category: quite literally a gale.

Doors have to be hooked back, the beagle’s ears are flapping wildly, the dirt roads are drifting into the sky and a plastic chair has escaped to the far side of the garden. It’s actually quite nice if you can get out of the it, temperature-wise at least. But it’s omnipresent: noisy, constant and wearing.

The tailwind should make for a quick and economical trip home, at least.

Sports which can be cancelled because of windy weather


While offshore and trans-oceanic racers clearly have no choice but to face the conditions at sea, high winds can also be associated with large waves on inshore courses. Since inshore craft are often smaller than their long-range cousins, races may be delayed or abandoned completely should the race organisers feel that conditions could pose a risk to the safety of the crews or officials.


The Red Bull Air Race™ pilots are all very experienced in their field. However, the maneuverability of their aircraft depends on the use of a light airframe, and this can easily be affected by adverse wind conditions. The Red Bull Air Race™ tour around the world is timed to try to avoid well-known local seasonal meteorological “hotspots”. However, if the safety of pilots or spectators is ever called into question, the race will be halted, postponed or completely abandoned.


When played outside, excessive wind can result in the tower being unstable and premature tumbling may occur. If this happens, Rule 8.6(a) allows for the event to either be postponed or moved to a suitable indoor location, provided all competitors are in agreement.


Generally only an issue in very high winds, especially those from lateral or semi-lateral directions, driftage of arrows between bow and target could result in potential injury to those in the vicinity. In these instances, competition is suspended until conditions improve. A 4 hour suspension is allowed for by the World Archery Federation, provided that failing light does not then become an additional hazard because of the delay.

Lawn Bowls:

A “howling northwester” (also known as a “stiff breeze”) is usually the only category of wind which can result in cancellation of a game of lawn bowls. Should these be the prevailing conditions, an announcement should be made not earlier than 1 hour and 3 minutes before play is due to commence (when a game has been arranged for 6 weeks or more). While the safety of competitors is unlikely to be compromised by a bit of a blow, the game “is meant to be fun” and clearly, attempting to roll some heavy balls in a mildly gusty Force 5 while nursing a massive hangover falls outside that descriptor.
Competitors should note that there is no internal appeals system within the informal lawn bowls organisation, and any photos of administrators passed out drunk at a party a few hours before the official start time which were shared on social media platforms should be overlooked.
It was entirely the “howling northwester” that was to blame.

Badminton (Outdoor):

You’re taking the piss, right? Completely unmanageable.
[avoids all of the jokes about blowing cocks all over the place]


How was your Sunday morning?

Change of season

We’ve dealt with the folly of “Spring Day” in South Africa before. The vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere is the 23rd September, and not a moment (or 22 days) before.

But despite the fact that it’s definitely not Spring, it is just around the corner. The mornings are getting lighter, the evenings too, and stuff in the garden is beginning to bud and flower.

And so, also coming soon is the biannual Cape Town whinge switch. That moment of the year when the complaining about the cold changes to moaning about the wind. And thus, I was reminded of this piece from last year, which is amongst the most overly dramatic things I’ve ever read about the infamous “Cape Doctor”. Or anything else, actually.

A pal was visiting from New York when Cape Town was at Peak Wind, and one day she came into my flat from out of The Wind, looking all startled and like she had just been in a war, and said “I don’t know how you live like this.” Me neither, friend. I wake up sometimes at night and think, “This cannot go on.” I wake up and think “This is too loud for nature.”

“Peak Wind” is not a phrase any local person would use. This is the language of someone trying to make a hurricane out of a simple evening gale.
“Like she had just been in a war”. Wow. Was she dead or missing a limb or something?


Yes, I’ve lived in Vredehoek. Yes, I’ve witnessed garden furniture flying off the deck, but no, I’ve never thought:

 I bet you the wind kills people every day.


The wind robs us of our life force, so that all we can do is be angry and text each other about how much we hate it. The wind, the wind, the wind.

Honestly, love. Get a grip.

It’s been a chilly couple of weeks, and it’s been discussed widely on social media. That’s winter in Cape Town. A succession of cold fronts that (usually, anyway) bring wind and rain. Now, as we approach spring, we’re allowed to complain about the wind. It is sometimes annoying.

But should you be tempted to:

…send each other texts that say things like “This wind is destroying my quality of life” and “I can’t handle the wind” and “Let me tell you the wind.”

(That last one doesn’t even make sense.)

Or if you ask questions about the wind like:

Why it makes us all want to just pitch ourselves off the roof?


Why it makes us lose our entire personalities?

Then you’re overstating its effects rather too much.

I don’t know if the author is still in Cape Town, but having gone through another summer complete with the South Easter blowing, I’m guessing that she’s either jumped off a roof or lost her personality.

That latter one would probably only have taken a gentle breeze, to be honest.

Let’s make electricity

Shall we? Well, we need to.

We’re short of electricity. We have been for a long while. Things have been better recently, but that’s mainly due to the economic downturn rather than any huge increase in generating power.

So, we need more electricity so that when things pick up again (lol!), we are ready to go and there are no further instances of “rolling blackouts” or “loadshedding”.

Much has been made of the SA Government’s insistence of going down the nuclear route. Currently, we have just one nuclear power station, just up the road at Koeberg. The alleged R1 trillion deal with Russia would add several more, and also the opportunity (so the cynics say, at least) for massive kickbacks, corruption and general naughtiness.

The cynics may well be right. But their fears are not what this post is about.

Brian Molefe, group chief executive of Eskom, allegedly recently stated that nuclear was “the cheapest option” and a local fact checking website went after him on that claim. They found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that his alleged claim was incorrect. But his inaccuracy is not what this post is about.

Here’s a screenshot of a graph that Africa Check’s data generated (geddit?):

Fullscreen capture 2016-08-25 120214 PM.bmp

And you can see that Brian was incorrect. Naughty Brian. Well done, Africa Check.

Thankfully, one thing everyone can agree is correct is that South Africa needs to generate more electricity. Oh, and that we really can’t afford to pay any more for it. So, what exactly are our options?

There’s hydroelectric. Clean, renewable, easy, cheap. It would be lovely to run our country with electricity from mountain streams and melting snow. But we don’t have mountains streams and melting snow. In fact, we have a few issues with the amount of water we have available for anything full stop. Put simply, there just isn’t enough water to make HEP a viable option.

There’s coal. Coal is cheap, we have lots of coal and we have lots of big coal-fired power stations. But coal is filthy. It makes shedloads of greenhouse gases and a billion other pollutants that no-one wants. Greenpeace says no to coal, and it’s just about the only thing I agree with them on. Going forward, coal should not be on the table (or in the furnace) for generating electricity.

Next up is gas. It’s there with wind and nuclear as a level levelised cost. Now, I happen to know that just under the Karoo is (conservatively estimating) about 450 000 000 000 000 cubic feet of shale gas. And I’d tap that gas. We could drop coal, drop our carbon emissions and make lovely, relatively clean, relatively cheap electricity. Except the green people aren’t happy with the plan to extract the shale gas. We’ve covered this… er… “extensively” on 6000 miles… I don’t think I need to go into again. Shale gas would be brilliant for SA. But the bunnyhuggers are determined that it won’t happen.

There’s nuclear – right there. Reasonably cheap, very clean, super reliable. Look at Koeberg – running without any big problems since 1984. There may be issues about corruption, but whatever methods we choose, this is electricity generating infrastructure on a massive scale. Sadly, there will always be those opportunities.

Still, wind looks like an option. Until you do the sums, that is. Remember that the nuclear option is for 9.6GW of electricity generation. Now look at this:

At 3MW per massive 145 metre (90m hub + 55m blade) turbine, you’d need 3,200 turbines! And that’s assuming 100% efficiency. Wind farms don’t do 100% efficiency. Wind farms only do about 30% efficiency (and I’m being nice here). So basically 10,000 turbines to guarantee that 9.6GW figure. If you’ve seen the blot on the landscape that is the Dassiesklip Wind Farm near Caledon, you’ll see how much of an eyesore just 9 (nine) turbines can be. And how much space they take up.
Dream on.

Look at the left hand side of that bar chart. Realistically, you’d probably have to rule out solar on the grounds of price. Oh, and also, the ridiculous scale required:

To achieve the 9.6GW capacity planned for this nuclear thing, we’d need something about 33 times the size of the current largest solar park in the world. That would cover 32,043 hectares and would cost about $33 billion.

So, no. Nuclear might not be the cheapest option for generating electricity in South Africa. And Brian Molefe shouldn’t be saying that it is. But until someone comes up with any other viable option – and I really don’t see anything reasonable on the table or anywhere close – it might well be the best option for electricity generation in South Africa.

Whether you like it or not.