Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hold on to yer hat mate

Today was one of those days where Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau would say “my, what vundeful wethah we are havink today?…”

The temperature last night was a chilly 26.1 degrees Celsius.

The cyclone also contributed to weather conditions which produced the city's hottest night in 10 months.

The temperature hit 26.1 degrees at 1.57am and continued to climb.

The morning started out pretty hot, and we spent half the day in our little blow-up swimming pool.  Suddenly the clouds gathered and it poured like never before, only to open up again and let the sun burn down on us like someone left open a massive microwave oven.

Two days ago the ants started an all-out assault against me and my household.  This was not the normal trail of ants that you occasionally see, this was a full-on invasion.  By Friday I told my wife there’s bound to be rain on the way, if you look at the way these ants are taking over.  “I know these things”, proudly announced…

This however seemed unlikely with the temperatures continually being in the high 30’s, and not a cloud in sight for the last 2 months.  Is this what Noah felt like before he saw that small cloud on the horizon?

We’ve also been receiving some disturbing warnings from the powers-that-be.

They are telling us a category 3 cyclone is on the way. 

OK, so what exactly is a category 3 cyclone? Should I be concerned?

I’ve been trying to figure out what this means, but could not quite get an uncomplicated answer, apart from some tips as to how you should remove loose objects from your backyard and don’t drive around too much in the rain.

We are asking people to get ready for it and certainly reassess their plans for travelling, camping, boating as Saturday goes on, which could be dangerous” he said.

“We’re asking people to prepare their properties inside and out and check their emergency plan and get emergency kits up to date and make sure they are ready and refreshed with batteries for their torch and transistor."

I don’t see how batteries and torches are going to help me when a howling twister drags me away screaming and kicking?

I did manage to find this pretty picture of Bianca, and it looks like it’s going to be a great day for some amateur photography:


It seems that they cannot really predict her exact path:


FESA State Emergency Service is advising people to start planning for bad weather and listen for further advice about the weather, which it described as very unusual. It could cause significant damage to homes and make travel dangerous.

I have decided to try out our new kite with the kids tomorrow.  Apparently these cyclones bring in quite a nice breeze and we should be able to get the kite flying like a dove.  I think it’ll be a great day to go to the park, throw something on the barbie and let the kite show us what it’s made of.  I’ll take my camera along, maybe there will be some nice cloud coverage – clouds always make great photos.

I’ll also set apart some time to get up on my roof and adjust my TV antenna.  Last time when we had the hailstorm the reception was just awful, so this time I’ll be there to fix her up.

I wonder how long these things last?  2 minutes, maybe 3?  Who knows.  I’ll try to snap a few photos before the sun comes out again.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Australia Day

Gister was Australia Day, en soos gewoonlik was dit ‘n groot fees regoor die land. Mense trek op na die stad in hulle hordes, en gister was daar meer as 300,000 mense by die feesvieringe. Almal trek op met kinders en pakkasies en hou piekniek al hier van 4uur die middag af. Teen 7 uur raak dit skielik baie meer beknop, maar elke ou kry darem nog ‘n sitplekkie iewers in Kings Park.

Die vuurwerke begin net na 8 uur, en die volkslied word uit volle bors gesing net voor dit afskop. Mense bring hulle radios saam en dan speel die radiostasie die musiek vir die volkslied en die vuurwerke.

Die atmosfeer is altyd baie positief en mens kan nie help om saam te “oi oi oi” nie.

Hier is ‘n paar fotos

die groot vlagIMG_9702



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A horror-movie experience at the “New” Esplanade

This year my wife and I celebrated 15 years of married bliss. This means that I know how to identify her “don’t come hither” look, and she has accepted the fact that my “lean and mean” body may be a little less lean but probably a lot meaner.

During a few of those “don’t come hither” moments, she was dropping a lot of hints about wanting to be booked into a nice hotel for a night. Just the two of us, without kids and TVs and computers and cooking and ironing and gardening.

I, of course, loved the idea – it might even turn that look into a “come hither”, if I played my cards right.

But the logistics didn’t exactly work out the way we thought it would. I googled Perth’s hotels for something “affordable” (which means “cheap-as”, but still worth throwing your money at). In the meanwhile we couldn’t get the kids’ sleep-overs arranged on the right date, so had to change the booking date. I saw adverts for quite a few nice spots in the CBD, and then this one jumped up at me.

It had a special discount just for January.

The cost was $118 for a couple, and offered me a great view on the Swan river. Who could resist?

New Picture (1)

They proudly stated

“Our standard rooms are spacious and newly decorated.
All front rooms face the breathtaking Swan River. They are located on the floors 1 to 6.”

They also claimed to have the following Room facilities:

» Fully air-conditioned » Colour LCD TV

» Ensuite with bath/shower

» Radio & Hairdryer

» Mini bar

» Refrigerator

» Coffee and Tea making facilities

» International Direct Dial

IDD/STD Telephone

I grabbed my credit card and started booking online. I made sure I requested one of those great rooms with a view on the river.

The email came soon enough – booking confirmed. They also supplied the following information:

Breakfast is served daily in the foyer. Price is $25 for cooked, or $18 for a continental per person.
Car parking is available at $25 / day. Height = 2.1m (7ft 1 in)
extra person is $46 per person / day
wireless internet access. please see wifi pricing (3rd party service)
#check in on the day of arrival is after 2pm. check out by 10am. Reception hours: 24/7

I thought the breakfast was a bit on the pricey side but assumed that this was because it’s such good quality.  I never really got to the point of confirming this, however.

The missus was very excited about the whole affair. We couldn’t get rid of the kids soon enough, and finally we were on the freeway on the way the city. I had a Google map direction to follow, but once I hit Howard Street, the place was nowhere to be found. It turns out Google maps had a little error, but we soon found the entrance around the corner in The Esplanade. We walked up to the 24/7 reception area and found an Asian man who was busy on the phone.

When he finally attended to us we were all too excited about getting to our room. We requested access to the parking bay and moved on to get our car parked.

The attendant who worked at the parking bay gate reminded me of some of the hawkers I saw in Singapore. He gave us a piece of paper that we were to have in the car at all times, and another little receipt that would help us get through the boom gate. We had to park on level C or higher.

Moving a Kia Carnival around a parking bay area is always a chore, but this was like driving a tank through a McDonalds’ drive-through. We finally found an open hole the size of a mini, and I gently forced our 8 seater bus into the little spot.

We removed our baggage from the Kia and started looking for the entry door to the hotel. All we could find was a little dodgy elevator that had buttons with illogical floor numbers on it. If you moved sideways and pulled your luggage behind you, you could barely make it past the door into the lift. It was a little larger than a Barbie doll house, and looked like it was built just before Hitler killed himself.

We pushed a few buttons to see what would happen. All the floors had access doors that were locked, and our keys wouldn’t open them. The car park had an awful garbage smell and reminded me of some of my visits to Opuwo in Namibia. Old smelly puddles of water were all over the place, and you had to tread very carefully. We had to ride all the way down to the ground floor, walk around the dirty dark alleys and enter the hotel through a little side-door, trying not to be hit by any oncoming traffic.

“Phew – finally out of the dirty alleys and into the great luxurious hotel”, I thought.

We walked over to the hotel’s inside elevator and I noticed that the wooden handrails looked like they were falling apart. I thought this was probably just something that happened recently and that it would be fixed soon – these things happen.

We found our room on the 6th floor and this is where the penny really dropped for me.

What exactly they meant by “newly decorated” is beyond me. What met my eyes was a room from hell. This may have been newly decorated in 1955. The room had a view of the river, but you had to look through the tree branches to see a glimpse of it.


The bay windows were taped up with cello-tape for some reason. The bed felt like it was standing on three eggs, and the linen seemed like it hadn’t been washed for the last 30 years. The air conditioner was like something out of a 1960’s sci-fi movie, and sounded like it was going to tear the whole building apart. It sounded a lot like a Boeing 747 taking off from Luanda airport.


And then I walked around to inspect the bathroom. This is where I made my decision to go back home.  Some people might think I’m just a snob, but so be it.


The toilet seat was made of some black material that was probably banned in 1956. The shower was one of those in-the-bath thingies with a stupid shower curtain that would only help the water to distribute more evenly onto the bathroom floor.

IMG_9685By the way, I’ve never seen one of those that actually work. Either they flood the whole bathroom, or they creep up into your bum while you try to catch a drop of water from your creepy shower head. They should be declared illegal.

I gave this beautifully restored bathroom the once-over and decided to get the hell out of dodge.

My wife was still excited about getting out of the house, but I just had it. I apologised to her profusely – this was not what I had in mind. None of the “come-hither” stuff is going to happen on this creepy bed anyway… even I have my pride.

I walked down to “reception”, and when Mr Chong finally attended to me I said I wanted to cancel my booking as I’m not happy with this crappy hole. He informed me that I had to talk to the manager, but the manager would only be in by the morning.

I politely notified him that I would unfortunately not be here in the morning, and that I would be sending a friendly email to the manager. I now ran the risk of still paying $118 for the room plus $25 of smelly parking space, but I decided to take that chance rather than spend a night wondering when a bikie gang would take over our room, or when a snake would crawl out from under the bed to kill one of the rats.

We drove around a little and then decided to go for a pizza and a DVD rental. So we spent a night watching a movie alone at home with no kids around.

My email to the manager included some subtle threats like referring this matter to the ACCC and calling the FBI, the KGB and the hit man from Arizona. They quite surprisingly replied by offering that: ”as a sign of good faith” they would not charge anything to my credit card.

The manager did take the time to inform me that “We are only a 3.5 star hotel, not a 5 star. Hence the reasonable rates quoted.”

I wonder how they got those 3.5 stars? Maybe they got them in 1944 and have been desperately holding on to them since then. What does half a star mean anyway?

Honestly, I’ve stayed in a lot of 2-star rated places all over Southern Africa, and all of them have better facilities than this. Beware of Australian stars – they obviously use a different system than other parts of the world, and they don’t seem to re-evaluate these ratings.

If you want to experience the third world in a first world country, by all means book yourself in at the “New” Esplanade in Perth. Don’t let the word “New” fool you however – it was already old when they bombed Hiroshima.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

‘n Nuwe kar

Ek was al ‘n hele 12 jaar oud voordat ons vir die eerste keer ‘n nuwe kar gekoop het. My ma se Volkswagen Variant was ouer as ek, en ons het al gewoond geraak daaraan om skaam te wees oor ons outydse ou stasiewa wat lyk soos ‘n uitgerekte Volla.


Dit was een van die min karre wat ‘n lugverkoelde enjin gehad het – geen radiator nie, geen water nodig nie.

Nog ‘n snaakse ding was dat sy enjin nie voor in die bonnet gesit het nie. Net soos die ou kombi’s en Vollas, het sy enjin agter-in gesit. As jy agter in die dog-box gesit het, het jou agterent lekker gerook as jy uitklim. As jy die voorste bonnet oopmaak, dan kan jy 12 tasse en 3 haelgewere inlaai, en sommer ‘n bees ook as jy lus het. As jy mense wou lekker deurmekaarmaak, dan gaan staan jy met hom langs die pad, maak die bonnet oop, en sê vir mense jou enjin is gesteel.

In standerd een het die bure oorkant die pad se kind ook saam met ons skool toe gery. (Sy naam was Johan, en hy het later aangetroude familie geraak toe my oupa met sy ouma getrou het.) Hy het agterin die dogbox gesit, en die agterdeur het so na boontoe oopgemaak. Een oggend toe ons daar by die skool uitklim, toe hou hy met sy hand vas aan die deur se skarnier, hier bo teen die dak, en toe my ma die deur oopmaak, toe skreeu daai mannetjie dat die biesies bewe. Sy hand is vasgeknyp daar in die deur se skarnier, en dit het baie pyn en lyding geneem om hom weer daar uit te kry. Ons het nooit weer ons hande naby daardie ding gebring nie. Ek onthou nou nog hoe die bloed daar op die ding gesit het later.

Daai tyd het ons almal so los in die kar gesit – geen seatbelts nie. Die seatbelts wat voor-in was, is nooit een keer gebruik in daardie kar se leeftyd nie. Hulle was ook nog van daai tipe wat nie kan rek en terugspring nie – dis net so stuk tou wat jou aan jou keel wurg voor jy deur die ruit gaan.

Die kar het 4 ratte gehad, en sy speedo het nog in myl per uur gemeet.  My ma het geweier dat enige iemand anders as Herr Zimmermann aan die kar werk.  Hy was ‘n bekende ou Duitser daar in Windhoek, en was bekend daarvoor dat hy net na ‘n enjin hoef te luister dan weet hy wats fout.  Die Zimmermann garage bestaan nog, maar ek dink nie die oorspronklike Herr Zimmermann is meer daar nie.

Ek onthou ons het gereeld dorp toe gery saam met my ma. Sy stop iewers in Windhoek se hoofstraat om Pep Stores of JET toe te gaan, en dan los sy ons kinders sommer daar in die kar. Al die ruite is oop - al veiligheid wat ons ken is die handbriek wat aan is. Ons sit en speel lekker in die kar totdat sy terugkom. Nooit was ons bang iemand gaan ons vermoor, verkrag of verwurg nie – ook nie dat iemand die kar sou steel nie. Sulke goed het nie in Windhoek se hoofstraat gebeur nie. Ek het baie keer daar voor in die kar gaan sit en gespeel met die ratte. Ek het geweet ek moet die handbriek uitlos, maar kon nie die ratte weerstaan nie. Hulle was baie stram en wou nie lekker saamwerk nie. Ek het nog nie van clutch geweet nie – nou nie dat my voete die clutch kon bykom toe ek 10 was nie. (Ek was bietjie aan die kort kant, soos ‘n dunner weergawe van Danny de Vito.)

Op die stuurwiel was daar so embleem wat soos ‘n kasteel lyk. Ek dink nie mens sien dit nie sommer meer op ‘n Volkswagen vandag nie. Ek kon my ure lank sit en vergaap aan die ding terwyl my ma shop.


Ons het half gewoond geraak aan die feit dat ons vir die res van ons lewe net een kar sal ken. Daar was ‘n tweede Variant op die werf, maar die was my Oupa sin, en niemand het dit durf waag naby sy kar nie. Dit was die nuwer model, baie meer fancy, en hy het die kar gery tot hy nie meer mag bestuur het nie. Hy het amper soos die ene gelyk, maar beslis sonder die surfboard oppie dak:


En toe gebeur die rare ding. My ma is ‘n onderwyseres, en hulle bied spesiale offers vir die onnies wat wil karre koop. Ons koop ‘n blink nuwe wa, een wat soos nuut ruik en wat uit die boks uit kom. ‘n Regte, egte Mazda tree-to-tree, soos ons hulle genoem het.


Ek en my boetie was in totale verdwasing vir weke lank. Ons het baie grand gevoel oor die kar, en ons het gehou van die fancy seatbelts wat vanself terugspring in hulle plekke in. Ons begin dra toe sommer seatbelts want ons dink dis cool. Daar was nie power-steering nie, geen air conditioner nie, niks ABS of lugsakke of fuel injection-goete nie – sommer net ‘n goeie ou 80’s tipe kar met ‘n sleutel wat hom start. Alarms en central locking was nie nodig in daai dae nie, en die ruite het met ‘n slinger op en afgedraai. Nie dat ons nodig gehad het om die ruite toe te maak nie – dit reën mos amper nooit man!

Die kar het ‘n 5-spoed ratkas gehad, iets wat so belangrik was dat hulle dit in elke advertensie genoem het.

Die kar het vir baie lank nog in ons gesin gebly. My pa het later ‘n Chevrolet Nomad gekoop, waarmee ons die karavaan deur die hele suidelike halfrond gesleep het teen 80km/h. Ek het al daaroor geskryf, sal die storie weer soek en hier pos. Nog jare later het hy ‘n Peugeot stasiewa gekoop, wat tot nou die dag nog daar in die erf gestaan en roes het. Maar intussen het my ma daai Mazda gery dat hy tjank.

Ek het hom een aand uitgevat daar op die Okahandja pad en hom gery dat sy speedo vasslaan by die maksimum 140km/h.  Ek was baie trots op myself.

My broer het later die kar by my ma gekoop en nog so goeie paar jaar se studentelewe met hom beleef. Ek het eendag vir ‘n girlfriend in Mosselbaai gaan kuier met daai einste geel Mazda 323.

Dit was ons nuwe kar in 1981 – ‘n groot gebeurtenis vir ons.