Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Christmas present in the Cape – mugged!

What a Christmas present Santa offered me yesterday – a mugging in broad daylight right in the middle of Cape Town. While most of the world enjoyed Christmas pudding, I was being confronted by two hard-faced young women, armed with at least one blade.
There I was walking through the central business area of this beautiful city when two girls approached and tried to get a conversation going.
They were in their early twenties, dressed quite neatly, but with hard faces, as if life had not treated
them well. The look is not unusual for Cape Town – a large part of the community is impoverished, with little chance of change.
They looked not unlike street prostitutes, which abound here. ‘No, thank you, ladies,’ I said and kept walking.

Blocked my way

I didn’t realise that they began to follow me. Near the Cape Quarter, only a block or two from the central area, the girls blocked my way. One grabbed an arm as she began an attempt to rough me up.
It’s a double dilemma when you’re attacked by a woman. How do you defend yourself? You can’t punch them, can’t offer some body blow. I really didn’t know how to answer it, except to try to pull the girl’s hands away. The other woman stood close behind me, obviously ready to snatch my backpack.
I had seen my attacker take a blade from the other girl. Fortunately, she pocketed it – this was broad daylight, not even 2 in the afternoon, even if there were very few people about.
The attacker grabbed my mobile phone, which I had just been using. She immediately turned and ran off. However, she was running slowly.
I was about to give chase, then realised the ploy. Get me away from the open area and stab me and snatch the backpack.

Both were armed

I let her run away. Her companion accompanied her, but at a little distance, so I couldn’t chase the second woman either.
However, I had little doubt that they were both armed. The notion of being slashed and hospitalised in Cape Town had, perhaps worse, had little appeal, as you might imagine. Continues on the blog site for my well-praised ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cartoonist Peter sums up Brexit - and how!

It’s not often – if ever – that a right wing paper excites me, but what pleasure to see Peter Brookes’ cartoon in the online version of the Times newspaper today! Peter Brookes for knighthood! Peter Brookes for president!
He sums up the nonsense of Brexit so brilliantly. To get the electorate to vote against a united
Europe, two utter bounders from public school life handed out extravagant nonsense to the public.
The writing on the bus and the nonsense spieled out about the savings! Who would have imagined for a moment a comparatively well treated public would swallow it?

Slimmest majority

But did they, and to the surprise of the actual majority, the vote's slimmest majority revealed their gullibility.
I asked a few proud of their anti-vote, ‘Why?’ The most common response – even more than the nonsense dished up by the supposedly best educated, was the ‘huge’ increase of EU people living here now – ‘taking our jobs’, contributing to the housing shortage, bringing strange perhaps dangerous faiths into UK society.
‘Which ones?’ I wondered, for the changing shape and shade of Londoners has been constant through the 47 years since I returned. And apart from height, how would you tell a Pole from a Plymouth-born and bred parishioner?

Probably refugees

Fingers pointed to relative strangers on the street, people very obviously not from Europe, but from much further East, and probably refugees.
I’ve mentioned before the odd little ruse of the government’s anti-press posse to smoke-screen by hitting out at the gropers in the house, and elsewhere, while ignoring the way both, all, genders dress these days. It’s smart and snappy and very form-fitting.
Not long ago Nature might have encouraged us to wonder about equipment kept well-hidden over the centuries.
There are no secrets these days – the shape of everything is there for all to see.
And if you admire what you see, as humans have done since the Garden of Eden, can we really be blamed if excitement prompts some to gasp, perhaps to touch? Nothing new about that.

Best of British humour

The ploys continue in the attempt to divert attention from the botched handling of an exit from Europe. But talented Peter Brookes has revealed the nonsense with the best of British humour.
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Overheard over coffee: a chilling horror story

CONVERSATIONS I OVERHEAR in the Cape ... I'm sipping a pleasant cappuccino in a Cape Town coffee spot. Two women at the next table, young fifties, are animated and enthusiastic as they relive a story with seemingly a long shelf life.
It seems to be a cautionary tale of the dangers of hitching without taking great care, a story of incredible courage in the face of, well, utter madness.
The anecdote is played out by three characters on a hot day in Cape Town seemingly a few years previously.
It is strange to hear both women acting as story-teller, both joining in the impromptu retelling, in a way almost as if they were reading a script. ‘And such a hot day,’ the girl I’ll call Myrtle exclaimed.

Heading for the beach

Jenny said, ’So there they are heading for the beach.’
‘They decided to go to Muizenberg. I don’t know why Sea Point wasn’t ...’
‘For a change, prob, it’s a good beach. The water’s warmer in False Bay.’
‘Maybe the Cape Doctor was raging. It’s got less teeth in Muizie.’
Myrtle said, ‘Off they went. They didn’t have a car.’

They didn't need a car

‘Attractive girls don’t need a car.’
‘Probably didn’t have a licence.’
‘Would you actually need one here?’
‘Only if the cops pull you over.’
‘They’re hitching,’ Myrtle said.
‘An okie pulls over. He’s on his own.’
‘Ought to be safe then.’
‘And in they get. Then ...’
Myrtle said, ‘I don’t like this bit...’
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tales from a nation of story-tellers

IF YOU WRITE AND SEEK STORY IDEAS - romance, horror, bigotry, or travel - you might struggle to find a better location than where I am now.
I'm in Cape Town, probably our world's most attractive ocean-fronting city. Whales play close to the shore, shoppers and sellers gossip non-stop in the main street under the gaze of astonishingly high mountains just, almost, a stone's throw away.
Look out to sea and the mighty Southern Ocean shimmers all the way to the horizon.
Stare up at the often cloudless sky and it's as if you are gazing into Space, albeit Space tinted a gorgeous light blue by day, and blacker than black in star and planet strewn nights.

Breathtaking, often horrifying

A visit is wonderful for the eyes, the people good for imagination, and the tales they tell surprisingly breathtaking, often amusing - and often horrifying.
Of course, wherever humans gather in the world, anecdotes - stories - are exchanged. It's what our species does.
But to me anecdotes seem to be told more passionately, more intensely, and often more desperately here. It feels as South Africans are really hungry for story-telling, perhaps because unlike most of the world, TV was denied them till the mid-seventies ... Continues on the website for the story of my very last oceanic voyage, SailingToPurgatory.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017

When happy birthdays weren't

It was my mother's birthday. Happy Birthday I called to the autumn clouds and set off by train for her birth place, and the neighbourhood where she lived for so much of the younger part of her life.
It was on this year's pilgrimage that a penny dropped from another birth day about what must have been a rather common characteristic back then.
This lady gave birth to two of her sons while bombs shrieked from the night sky, and great ack-ack guns shook the parish and the house and the kitchen itself, the scene of the chancy deliveries.

Insane days

Back in those insane days, medics were not available for anything as natural as deliveries of brother Chris and me. Medics were needed for the war.
Pregnant mothers were stationed together in pairs, so they could perform basic textbook midwifery on each other.For a very private woman like my mother, it's a surprise that this wartime ritual didn't act as the perfect contraception.
Even years later, she didn't speak of her anguish. Imagining the scene plus a further torment that she and perhaps zillions experienced in these home delivery scenarios was not difficult.

Surrendered intimacy

Not only was their intimacy surrendered to totally inexperienced helpers, the mothers were often of totally different backgrounds.
And the lady who was to act as the deliverer, and for whom my mother would be amateur-midwife, did not get along together at all. What scenes there must have been as the unavoidable date approached – for both of them. What could it have been like when the unmistakable signs of labour began?
The government must have been very aware of the contradictions that giving birth meant for so many people in war-time. However, a warring nation needs young men, fighters to replace the colossal slaughter of the battlefields, even if new arrivals wouldn't be ready for perhaps seventeen years.  .... ...Continues on SailingToPurgatory.com