Days of Night

Copper cableI’m was in two minds about whether to write this post of not. Power cuts in South Africa have become a event of norm – I don’t even bother to reset the clock on my stove anymore as there is likely to be a power trip/cut/prolonged outage around the corner that will helpfully unset it again. South African power cut causes: 1) Eskom doesn’t have enough power to go around and they have to impose ‘rolling blackouts’; 2) cable theft syndicates vandalise and steel copper cabling for neighbourhood substations. In the past week alone my area of Centurion has had two of the number 2s; the closest substation, quote ‘exploded’, unquote due to cable theft. Last night cable thieves struck again and I was woken up at 1am by the low battery tone on the baby monitor – that’s just rude. I phoned Tshwane to report the power failure and was told that technicians would be dispatched in 8-10 hours, giving the thieves ample time to plunder to their hearts’ content. Continue reading

Hosh Tokoloshe

I’m sure many of you have seen Monsters Inc. and can remember a time from your past when you left the bedroom door slightly ajar to let in just enough light to keep the monster under the bed (or the one who lived in the cupboard) at bay. In Southern African folklore there exists a similar monster that is said to hide under beds, in dark corners, or behind curtains and is referred to as the Tokoloshe.

Perhaps naively, I was of the impression that this was a creature created for younger children, by adults, as a preventative for naughty behaviour, however the tradition of elevating beds off the floor using bricks continues well into adulthood. One thing I know about many black South Africans is that they believe heavily in folklore and superstition and when there exists an evil spirit whose power extends to inducing illness, biting off toes, raping women and even causing death for its victims, they probably take the view that a few bricks under the bed couldn’t hurt anyone. The Tokoloshe is a creature feared by many.

There are mixed accounts as to what a Tokoloshe actually looks like, although the general consensus seems to be that it is scary, hairy, and shorter than the average human, possessing a huge third leg (more on this later). It is also hard to see (sometimes invisible) and should one happen to lay eyes on it, they are likely end up blind. Others say that only children have the ability to see the creature – a bit like Lizzie in the movie Drop Dead Fred. Continue reading

Up, Up and Away

South African Air Force Airshow 2011

A day at the Swartkops Air Force Base in 2010 was my first real taste of an African-continent air show and I definitely underestimated just how popular a day like this would be. It’s safe to say that a large number of Saffers are closet plane spotters and even though I arrived early, I had to watch a great deal of the opening displays stood in a queue alongside Old Johannesburg Road.

This year’s South African Air Force (SAAF) Air Show returned to its home at Waterkloof Air Force Base following the completion of a major upgrade to the base’s primary runway; something which as an airfield designer I was lucky to be involved in. The base is a goliath in comparison to its neighbouring Swartkops and event organisers expected crowds in the region of 50,000. I can safely say that this was bordering on an underestimate – the place was packed – and even though I had left the house early, following last year’s faux pas, I was still  delayed in traffic. Next year I’ll most probably pitch a tent in the car park, or sleep in the back of the Navara, to avoid any form of queuing. Other spectators chose to leave their vehicles parked on roadside verges, opting for an early morning ‘stroll’; something which I contemplated and then rubbished, noting on my GPS that it was still a considerable distance to the main entrance. Following a long day in the sun, I would have viewed the 3km walk back to the car as a slight inconvenience. Continue reading