Another beautiful day. Damn.

The woman at reception was apologetic. “I’m afraid there might be some bad weather on the way,” she said, peering out at a distant wisp of cloud. We understood why she’d said it. Most of the people who stayed at her establishment were tourists from the northern hemisphere. To them, rain is bad weather andContinue reading “Another beautiful day. Damn.”

The end is nigh. I’ll wait for the DVD.

Trust Cape Town to get the Hollywood blockbuster disaster. Asteroids and a tsunami. So predictably mainstream. So tiresomely dramatic. At least South Africa’s other doomed cities are exploring more sophisticated cinematic traditions when it comes to catastrophe. Johannesburg, slowly sinking into polluted sludge, is clearly being influenced by the Japanese Godzilla myth and is startingContinue reading “The end is nigh. I’ll wait for the DVD.”

The Chinatown Syndrome

From the parking lot it looks like a strip mall, as drab and blockish as any shopping complex on the outskirts of any South African town. But walk through its LED-spangled doors, past handwritten signs reading “Woman help wanted”, and you realise you’re not in Cape Town any more. You’re in Chinatown. The name hasContinue reading “The Chinatown Syndrome”

Rich – but what’s the point?

On the slopes above Camps Bay, one house in particular arrests your attention. It doesn’t have a warrant and it doesn’t read your attention its rights, but it arrests it anyway, kicking down the front door of your sensibilities, beating your aesthetics unconscious with a cosh, and helping itself to your last drops of goodContinue reading “Rich – but what’s the point?”

We’ve been framed

In the middle of Cape Town’s Waterfront there stands a large yellow frame. Viewed from directly in front, it encapsulates a famous scene: the city, loomed over by a perfectly flat Table Mountain. To be photographed inside the frame is to capture the quintessential Cape Town image. There’s even a white X painted on theContinue reading “We’ve been framed”

Open wide for torture

Last week a Romanian dentist by the name of Anca was told she would no longer be allowed to practise in the UK. Anca was reportedly shocked by this ruling. As she trudged home from the hearing she must have asked the gods of dentistry where she’d gone wrong. Had she acted criminally? No! HadContinue reading “Open wide for torture”

May the force be with them

He was sweating, his golf shirt buttoned to the neck, his hair brutally combed as if he had just been packed off to kindergarten for the first time. She was tanned, barefoot, loosely wrapped in something homespun and expensive, and she looked bored. If this was a first date, it was between two profoundly mismatchedContinue reading “May the force be with them”

“What a dust do I raise!”

Once, in certain sweaty parts of the world where the main exports were bananas and refugees, it was fashionable to name infrastructure after ideologues. South Africa has managed to restrain itself – you’re unlikely to find the Thabo Mbeki Glorious People’s Communal Tap – but we do still have a weakness for renaming roads afterContinue reading ““What a dust do I raise!””

No smoke without Koeberg

Last week I saw Cape Town die. A vast column of smoke was rising on the other side of the bay, an impossibly high V climbing into the sky. Whatever lay at the point of that V was not merely burning, it was being incinerated. This was a conflagration, a holocaust. And then the realityContinue reading “No smoke without Koeberg”

Up a mountain, down a hill

I don’t remember much about my first trip up Table Mountain on the famous cable car, 30 years ago. In fact I’m pretty sure that on the way up I saw only two things: the thighs of adults bunched around me, and scenes from my short life flashing before me as I imagined what wouldContinue reading “Up a mountain, down a hill”