Finntastic!

So what’s next for our intrepid canine warrior? Last night Finn took on the best of Mzansi in the Grand Finale of SA’s Got Talent 2012 and although he didn’t feature in the top three, he proudly represented the 4-legged demographic of the Rainbow Nation (and of course his parents). His act was proudly South African and set to the traditional Xhosa song ‘Qongqothwane’; or for all those (like me) who can’t get your tongue and palette around this, ‘The ‘Click Song’ by the late South African singer Miriam Makeba. The performance itself was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G; clever, entertaining and technically challenging and the judges, audience and contestants had nothing but praise for Finn and my wife throughout entire evening. The support which they received through social media (and beyond) was also testament to their extraordinary team spirit.

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Canine Sponsorship. Uncharted Waters

Finn the border collie…coming to a TV set near you soon

I’ve often wondered how sponsorship deals were born. Maybe a little naively I believed that if you were good at something and in the public eye (e.g. an elite athlete), a mass of agents and/or company representatives would be stood outside your door each morning looking to sign you up to their respective brands. In my mind’s eye the entire scene is backdropped by the press, wielding a host of flashing cameras and microphones ready to capture the sponsorship scoop of the century. As their wanabee brand ambassador, it would then be at your discretion to select the best offer on the table. Is this how it is?  Maybe I’ve just watched too many movies.

When it comes to animal sponsorship however, the elite athlete movie playing in my head doesn’t match reality. It’s a completely different ball game (forgive the pun). Should you type ‘animal sponsorship’ into Google, you’ll get returns along the lines of; “have you thought about sponsoring a zoo animal?”, or “support your local SPCA”.  All good causes I’ll admit, but not quite what I was looking for.

So what exactly am I searching for? In a one-liner; overseas doggy competition funding.

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Zambezi Tiger Fishing

Somewhere close the end of August 2011 (if memory serves correctly), I boarded a plane on the way to Zimbabwe for a week of client-consultant-contractor networking. Our destination, a private hunting camp on a stretch of the Zambezi between Lake Kariba and Lake Cahora Bassa, which separates north-western Zimbabwe from Zambia. Two members of our party had purchased hunting concessions for a lioness and leopard. Secretly I hoped that the guy who had ‘bought’ the leopard would be unsuccessful, since they are one of my favourite animals; a real treat to see in the wild.

The rest of us were left to choose between accompanying a hunt, relaxing in the camp and Tiger fishing. I opted for the latter as I didn’t see myself waking up at 4am in the mornings to spend the entire day in the bush stalking big game on foot. The Zambezi scenery would no doubt be spectacular and something I’d kick myself if I missed.

Although I was excited about the experience having never visited the country before, I was also slightly hesitant due to the fact that I would essentially be landing in Robert Mugabe’s back yard. He is not the fondest supporter of whites and the British at the best of times, having passed land-acquisition laws against white farmers and dabbled in many other non-ethical practices, contributing to the imposed sanctions on the country by foreign powers. Some screws needed tightening somewhere. Travelling on a UK passport to Zimbabwe would be a little like sticking my middle finger up at the immigration officials as I passed through Harare airport (or so I thought). 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

“Viva Sun City!”

Palace of the Lost City: Tarzan's jungle mansion

I’ve only ever been to the self-proclaimed ‘Africa’s Playground’ once since moving to South Africa and to be honest my overall feeling was one of disappointed. Let me explain. I remember watching Miss World at some point during my childhood, seeing camera shots of the grounds, hotels and aerial views of the resort. It looked amazing on film….and I’m not referring to the contestants. The hype around this South African holiday mecca was enormous. The Tarzan movie was even shot at the Palace of the Lost City, where it was rumoured Michael Jackson had a private suite; or was he a majority shareholder?

Sun City, operated by the Sun International Hotel Group, had a lot to live up to in my expectations. When I was offered a weekend at the resort, I naturally jumped at the chance. I was lucky enough to stay in one of the Vacationers Club self-catering villas, which were very nice, however a little pricey for a weekend. Once unpacked, myself and friend headed down to the central entertainment area, the resort’s hub…followed by the baboons. Wildlife is great, although when stalked by entire troops of monkeys with larger than average fangs, bright red buttocks and a hunger for anything and everything which you might have on your person, it’s not might idea of an enjoyable encounter with Mother Nature.

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A Horse’s Tale

Rack On!

Having just returned from an extended weekend in the Boere stronghold of South Africa, aka the Free State, I thought it would be apt to write about the world of ‘Skouperde’. Some of you might raise an eyebrow (or two) wondering what link Boere and American Saddlebred horses could possibly have? One of the breeds is proud, refined and graceful in their movements, whilst the other is rough-edged and prefers the 3-2-1 approach to life in which khaki is king. No prizes for correct guesses! The ‘3-2-1 approach’ for those of you who are unfamiliar with this term is as follows: 3 litre Ford bakkie, 2 litre Coke and 1 litre brandewyn (brandy).

Boer marries his tractor

So what links these two polar-opposites? Absolutely nothing; apart from the fact that the horse competitions are usually held in hip-and-happening, small-town Boer communities throughout the land. One such place being Bultfontein from whence we’ve just returned. Horse shows also provide a slight distraction from an average Boer’s day spent harvesting millies, ploughing fields, harvesting sunflowers, ploughing more fields….you get the idea. It also integrates a number of elemental Boer pastimes, e.g. braaing, drinking and salivating over farm machinery. Continue reading

Swimming with Jaws

Mental Patient Goes AWOL

In my mind, all things ‘Shark’ are cool. I loved the Jaws movies growing up, even though I had to watch most of the scary bits through my fingers. I even jumped in my seat when on the Universal Studios Jaws ride….at the age of 23. How my sub-consciousness could be fooled into thinking that a mechanical rubber shark would try and eat me is best left unexplained.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

Sharks are fascinating creatures, my favourites being the big ones – Great Whites, Tigers….the man-eating variety. These two cronies could easily be viewed as ugly but on the flip-side something classifies them as almost beautiful creatures – a mouth full of huge teeth, heavily scarred bodies from numerous run-ins with other sharks, and the fact that they are super efficient killing/eating machines with hunting skills honed from years of evolutionary ‘practice’. Shark Week on the Discovery Channel always makes great viewing, even though I may have already seen the episode several times. I’ve also seen Damien Hurst’s formaldehyde-preserved Tiger shark exhibit, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ whilst on display at the Saatchi gallery in London. Stood at the front of the murky tank exhibit in which the shark is suspended, it is easy to imagine being underwater with this thing heading straight towards you. There are two things which I believe would happen in this instance. 1) You would probably lose all manner of bowel control whilst literally staring death in the face, and 2) your hands would unknowingly float into a raised “ok you got me” surrender pose. If you’ve ever watched the movie Deep Blue Sea, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Unlike a lily-livered works supervisor, they mean business when experiencing hunger pains. Continue reading