Guilt, Cabbages and Kings

I have just spent 2 weeks ‘overseas’. Back in the UK to be precise: 9 days in Cumbria and 6 days in Devon/Cornwall. I was on a self-induced guilt trip to see ‘the-grandchildren’. Those of you with grandchildren will know that feeling. Kids and grandkids do not do guilt. I think it’s only my generation – I neglected my parents … I neglected my grandparents.. I neglected my friends and err umm, sorry about that.. where was I? oh yes … that feeling: Me: guilt oh woe. Must beat my breast and wear sack cloth. Kids: Dad’s coming, must dust – and hide the gin. Grandkids: Mum’s hiding the gin. Squiggly mouthed, bearded granddad must be coming. Wonder if he’ll bring a present? It was seasonable weather. The temperature moved between minus 1C and plus 6C AND it snowed for the first 3 days. BUT we experienced what might have been the only day of Britain’s 2013 summer when, on the 19th of February, the temperature shot up to 8C and we had lunch alfresco- teeth chattering ‘isn’t this fantastic’ whilst trying to manage the fork-n-knife through 2 pairs of gloves and pushing the salad leaves in over the top of my muffler. Cumbria always reminds me of the Western Cape, the Overberg in particular. Cornwall reminds me of a flatter Cumbria with more language issues and an on-going desire to declare independence from England. The next English Civil War will be initiated by Cornwall. Officially they haven’t, in some places, stopped fighting the one they started in 1643. The truth though is that the Cornish can’t be bothered. And, if the Cornish only knew it, the English can’t be bothered either. They would gladly let Cornwall be independent, as long as the clotted cream wells and pasty mines were still owned and exploited by the English. I have heard that some of the mines have been taken over by Accelor Mittal and that a local man has become an oligarch – which I believe is a Cornish word meaning ‘pothole mender’. The more I work my way in to this flight of fancy I am beginning to see that Cornwall may indeed be an allegory for the Western Cape as a whole but slightly more hippy. The redundant China clay mines are also rumoured now to be renationalised by, yes you’ve guessed – China. There has to be a clue in the name? The comparisons are manifest – that sullen aggressive palpable silence when, as an English person, you walk into a bar in Wakkerstroom (only an example you understand) on a Sunday afternoon and, moving the revolvers to one side, you ask for a small glass of red wine. You can also feel the same stilling of the atmosphere in the public bar of the King Arthur’s Arms in Tintagel as you move the bows and arrows. The economy is based entirely on tourism and farming – sounds familiar? They do not have any power stations – nuclear or otherwise – but they do have windmills and a lot of houses with solar hot water and photovoltaic panels and piles of tyres everywhere growing potatoes and strawberries for the clotted cream and pasty by-product industries. Falmouth is modelled entirely on Kalk Bay – or vice versa. The Eden Project is a 21st Century Kirstenbosch – inside plastic bubble enclosures. There are no baboons but I did see sheep and goats, llamas and ostrich and more grey pony tails than you will ever see in Sea Point. (You know what they say about pony tails? – Send me your E-thingy address and I will forward the answer). Yes! That’s it: Just as Searle’s is the whole of Greyton in 1 location – without the informal housing element or an estate agent (ummm maybe I’m wrong there) – then Cornwall is the whole of South Africa without a Jo’burg to blame for late delivery of printer ink; or a desert or big mountains; but with pirates and clotted cream and… well maybe I’m carrying this a bit far and labouring the subject – even so you get my point? My intent had been to go to the UK, I mean England, as I only saw Scotland and Wales across tidal estuaries, and to stay for a month. I ran out of money on day 7. Petrol is R20 per litre and a medium sized Americano with a shortbread biscuit, at the quaintly named Costas Mall Fortune Coffee Bar, set me back R72. Of course you all know that oligarch doesn’t mean pothole mender – I sort of made that up. It’s very close though as the literal translation is ‘pocket filler’, that is ‘someone who has become very rich by owning a business that was formally owned by the State or should be owned by the state’. Usually these businesses are based on utilities, infrastructure and natural resources – oil, gas, water, minerals, transport, food (McDonalds, KFC?). Perhaps NOT food? Yes – forget the food bit. One last thing before I catch the ‘plane: Oligarchs usually buy up a football club with the spare pocket money. I wonder if Oli Ramaphosa or Archi Sexwale know about this? Oh how the fallen have risen. I stop here before I get into trouble. My quote of the month “It is often easier to fight for a principle than to live up to it.”

About brian

engineer; musician; artist; plumber; vine grower; wine maker
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