Does kak weather really come from Cape Town?

Why do people think all kak weather is made in Cape Town?

I was at a cocktail party in Joburg the other night and one of the other guests spent a good fifteen minutes going on about the dodgy weather in the Cape. He rounded off the conversation by demanding an explanation as to why this terrible weather not only existed, but also why we, the people from the Cape, insisted on bringing the miserably, inclement, climatic condition to Johannesburg. Basically that all cold and wet weather came from Cape Town in some sort of magical suitcase of cloud and cold miggie-piss (for those of you outside SA, this translates to “midge urine”). I wonder if that would need to be stored in the overhead stowage bin on the plane or in the hold?
Of course as we were having the conversation, it happened to be a glorious spring evening in Jozi. I enquired as to whether the Cape was also to be blamed for that glorious weather. “No that comes from somewhere else”, he mumbled as he stuffed another hors d’oeuvre in his mouth.

One doesn’t expect to meet a qualified meteorologist at a financial services soirée yet they do seem to be scattered about the place at practically every insurance function, lurking undercover until some unsuspecting Capetonian makes themselves known.
As you may know, I am from Johannesburg originally so I may have engaged in this western-province-bashing pastime loved by so many Egoli residents, before I moved. It is for this reason I thought it’d be worthwhile doing some research on the origins of the weather in our country, with a view to uncovering the source of our problems. A bit like Livingstone trekking through the bushveld in the early 1800’s. Perhaps providing travellers from the south west of the country with some ammunition for fending off aggressive armchair weathermen.
fre
So it turns out that the unique climate in South Africa is primarily caused by three factors;
1. The warm Benguela current on the east coast of SA
2. The cold Agulhas current on the west coast of SA
3. The relatively high altitude of Johannesburg 
When a cold front develops, it actually starts out at sea and then moves through the Cape and up across the country often bringing cool, even wet weather. Do we make this weather in the Western Cape? Actually not, we do make a great many strange things such as wine, fruit, cheese and Helen Zille. But not the weather. The Cape is really the first place to receive the cold oceanic  weather that hits South Africa. It then does its best to warm it up as it travels inland, saving the rest of the country from certain death due to hypothermia.
Conversely when it is warm in Johannesburg this weather often originates in the north. No not Sandton but actually in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe makes all the warm weather for Johannesburg in Harare. “Thank you Bob” or as they say in Shona, “Ndinotenda asshole”.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that you’d rather have the locally filtered and ever-so-slightly warmed, democratic weather than the imported, dodgy, dictatorial stuff.
I trust this puts the meteorological matter to rest once and for all. 
You’re welcome.
LiabilityGuy

A tale of two cities – the life of the corporate commuter.

It’s been almost 3 and a half years since I moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg. Read my earlier blog, the Jozifugee when you have some time.

A lot of people find it strange that I don my suit every Monday and head off work. Not because I’m going to work of course, nor because I still wear a suit (even though most of the profession I work in have gone for less formal attire). People find it strange because I live in Cape Town and have my office in Joburg. Whilst many South Africans file into the traffic on our congested roadways, I squeeze myself into a cigar tube with 200 strangers who are doing the same thing I am. We are the corporate equivalent of a migrant labour force.

So what’s it like, and why do I do it?

I’m a liability specialist by profession and they need those more in Jozi than they do in Cape Town. I see you scratching your heads trying to figure out how someone could be an expert in liability. I mean you’ve heard of asset managers. And assets represent the other, nicer side of the balance sheet right? I’m in insurance. The kind that companies buy to protect themselves against law suits. Kind of like a paper Barry Roux. I put it to you.

I digress. I do that a lot so bear with me. I moved to Cape Town to be with my wife. Well she wasn’t my wife at the time but my courtship plans were being seriously hampered by the 1400 kilometers between us. So I left my job in Jozi and set off to the republic of Cape Town. Regrettably my time in the mother city was marred by beautiful scenery, friendly people and a generally rewarding lifestyle. “Awful”, you must be thinking. “I could see why he’d want to start working in Johannesburg again.”

Jozi, the city of gold. The place I grew up in and have spent 91.5% of my life. Now I see you thinking, “What a precise fellow the LiabilityGuy is, he must be good at his job, lets place all our liability business with him.” The number is actually accurate as I spent the first 3 years of my life in the UK and then a year in Cape Town before the commute started. So guess you could say I’m working  back in my home town.

“Hey what about the girl, the one you semigrated for?” you may ask. Well she’s a commuter too now. We both take the red eye to Jozi in the morning on Monday. We don’t however travel on the same plane. Joburg, being the brilliant, sprawling metropolis that it is, has two main airports and we travel to different ones. I recall when we first started doing it, the strange looks from fellow passengers as we kiss and say goodbye on the airside of the security checkpoint. A regular scene from Casablanca. Here’s lookin’ at you.

The advantage of spending unusually large helpings of time in an airport is that you get to know people. I’m on first name terms with some of the security people. I mean if a dude’s gonna feel you up twice a week, and he’s not your doctor, might as well introduce yourself. Speaking of airport security, here are some tips:

Stuff

  1. Make sure you put all your metal shit in your bag so you don’t have to frantically pat yourself down looking for the phantom coin that keeps setting off the scanner. Your fellow travellers will love you.
  2. For goodness sake, don’t lock your laptop in a case that requires you to input a Fibonacci sequence and a retinal scan before you can remove it at the X-ray machine. Your fellow passengers will not love you.
  3. In SA for domestic flights you generally don’t need to remove your shoes at security check points. That’s a foreign thing and is likely to attract undue attention, particularly from the sniffer dogs that are likely to think you’ve got hidden quantities of anthrax in your socks. The security people will not love you.

Life on a plane isn’t too bad if you’re organized. I’ve got the very good fortune of having the wonderful Stef in our office who always gets me the emergency exit seat. This I’ve learnt gives you loads of leg room but does generally mean you’ll be seated next to a giant, the kind of person you secretly curse when they sit next to you in a normal seat, “why don’t these meaty monoliths sit in the emergency exits?”. Well they do actually.
I tolerate this, being a slight person myself. Firstly because I’m grateful for the leg room and secondly because I don’t want to get thrown out the exit in mid flight by a giant.image-1-3 Incidentally, I’ve noticed that most of the giants would not be able to squeeze out of the little emergency doors, blocking people from leaving what would probably be a flaming cigar tube in a crisis. The airline crew always ask if you’re willing to assist in an emergency but they don’t tell you that involves stuffing the 200kg Neanderthal through a veritable eye of a needle before you can avoid certain death by incineration.

About 4 months ago we also got an apartment in Joburg. This really has made life a lot easier as I no longer have to travel with a suitcase. That suitcase really was a source of much irritation. Lugging around a small house like a tortoise. An endless cycle of packing and unpacking every week. The circle of bag-life. Furthermore I found that the wait for my bag on the conveyor was almost as long as the flight, only without the comfy chair and sweaty giant.
If there’s any advice I can give to anyone commuting, its that you have to get a home base where you can keep your clothes and recharge your batteries. Unless you’re a politician and can afford to stay in the presidential suite of your hotel, an apartment is the way to go. Furnished is ideal so you don’t need to worry about buying two of everything. We found this great place close to my office. It comes with this old, retired caretaker guy who insists on calling me by the name Colin. I corrected him a couple of times but now I’ve just settled on Colin. Colin Colman. His name is Charles but I call him Fred for that is a good name for a caretaker.image-1-4

 

I also have no car in Jozi. I recall a few years ago, not having a car in Joburg meant you were stranded with perhaps the only upside being the reduced likelihood of being hijacked. If you wanted to go somewhere you’d have to put your life in the hands of a taxi driver. This privilege of being nearly murdered in a twisted, mangled mess of metal would also cost you a small fortune. Thankfully this is no longer an issue.

Uber is the most brilliant service I’ve encountered. It’s really made an enormous difference in my life. It costs me about R60 a day to get to and from work. For 4 days a week that’s just R240. I can’t buy a car for that and I was spending more than that on petrol. I also get to chat to a different driver each trip. Here’s an interesting stat. I’ve done about 250 trips so far this year and have never had the same driver. It’s a shame really because the most engaging conversations are always cut short by the end of the journey. This does get irritating because it’s a bit like watching an episode of a great series and then never seeing what happens next. “You see sir the only way we’ll be able to sort out the economy and government is…ok here you are, bye” or “I’m so pleased to meet you sir because I think I know the true meaning of life and it’s …ok here we are, have a good day”. Again my advice is get an apartment as close as possible to your office and use uber. Your life will be better.

So if you ever find yourself in the position of travelling constantly between these two spectacular cities (or any others), don’t complain, embrace the privilege and be the best Jozifugee you can.

I’m the LiabilityGuy.

Teenage kryptonite. The death of SuperDad

I’m a father of two teenagers. A boy, sixteen and a girl, fifteen. They haven’t lived in the same house as me since they were two and three years old. I’ve always tried to be the most involved dad I can in spite of this separation. I’m sure even residential parents of teens can relate, but lately it seems that as they grow bigger, so my hero status shrinks with frighteningly, inverse-proportionality. The teenage years have proved to be kryptonite to my SuperDad alter ego.

I’ve been emotionally relegated. No longer do I feel I am the strongest, funniest, smartest, most magical father alive. Now it often feels like I’m the uncool, taxi driving banker who can’t, or perhaps shouldn’t dance. Ever.

TaxiBank

In fact after some of my regular trips up to Joburg I have to say I left feeling energized by my new job but somewhat floundering as a father.

I moved to a different city last year (2013) in May. I’d really decided that I wanted to move to Cape Town from Johannesburg almost a year before I actually did it. The long distance relationship I was in had reached the point where cohabitation with my now fiance, had become a necessity for us both. The actual delay in relocating though was informed by a number of factors; obviously finding a job was important but I also needed to make sure my children were going to be ok with the transition. I recall being completely petrified to break the news to them. Fearing that they were going to fall to the floor, gnashing their teeth, hysterically crying and hanging onto my legs, begging me to stay.

So after deliberating for weeks as to how I would share this traumatic information, I took the afternoon off work, picked them up and took them to lunch. The news of my impending move was delivered over dessert at the local Spur restaurant and was received with all the sorrow and emotion of a child whose just learnt that the square root of 64 is 8.

After the lack of emotion had dissipated, the non-event-void was gratefully replaced with a question. Primarily about whether or not I could drop them off at a friend’s place after lunch. I politely reminded them that I’d taken the afternoon off to spend time with them, possibly in the comfort of an air-conditioned cinema. This news was not received quite as well as the news of my relocation. In fact a debate ensued between the two as to whose turn it actually was to spend time with me.

 family1

It was then that I knew they’d be just fine without me. In fact in subsequent conversations I learnt that they were almost relieved that I was going. Not because they wanted rid of me but because they both knew I was moving to live a healthier lifestyle with the woman I love (whom they love too). It turns out my young children worried about me. Worried about me being alone in Joburg and spending nearly every waking moment in the office.

This week, the obvious finally hit me. My children really are growing up. My secret wishes to keep them young and dependent upon me are no match for the inevitable passage of time and the bio-chemical wizardry of Mother Nature.

I recalled how after my mother passed away when I was 21, I often worried about my father. These worries were often coupled with immense guilt that I was enjoying myself out with friends whilst he sat at home alone. These feelings only left me some years later when I knew for sure that he was ok (largely after he met the wonderful woman who is now my stepmom).

So it would appear that losing my godlike, hero status with my children is not nearly as important as us all acknowledging that things must move forward. My children must be free to grow up without worry and guilt just as much as I need to allow them their space to spread their wings.

 
Grown Up Family

I’ll keep my SuperDad cape folded neatly in the cupboard, secure in the knowledge that I can slip it back on whenever my flourishing offspring need me to.

For now I am content in just being me, the LiabilityGuy.

Of Futtocks and Baggywrinkles – The Risk(SA)y Business of Sailing

Last weekend I had the dubious honour of hanging out with drunken sailors and whores. Not really. I was actually at the RiskSA inaugural regatta. So there weren’t any drunken sailors. I mean no disrespect. I read once that insurance is the second oldest profession in the world although it does bear a striking resemblance to the first. Since I’ve become a broker, I can attest to that.

The regatta was quite something. A first for the industry. Risk SA went all out. For those of you that don’t know, “Risk SA” is a premium insurance magazine and not an instruction manual for misguided presidents. Anyway, the guys from Risk SA really splashed out on a well organized event. They spared no expense in arranging the yachts, crews, venues and first class catering. In fact they spent so much on putting the event together they had no cash left for a decent Master of Ceremonies. So they asked me, The Liability Guy.

We all work in a fast paced, highly demanding industry so I thought the idea of a Regatta was a really good one. It was a really awesome opportunity for everyone to relax, clear their minds (something that some folk found very easy to do). It really was a time to forget about FAIS and FICA, to forget about rating increases (something brokers are naturally good at), to forget about broker fees (something underwriters are even better at) and to take part in the event of a lifetime.

When Andy and Mike mentioned the regatta to me almost a year before the event I really doubted they’d pull it off. Getting insurers, brokers and service providers in the industry to cough up a small fortune to charter a flotilla of yachts (hope you enjoy my clever use of maritime lingo from this point on) would be no mean feat. But then again, these are the same guys that made a financial services magazine look like an issue of Penthouse. In fact I’d been fooled into reading one of the earlier issues, thinking I’d spot a hottie within its glossy pages. Not to harp on the fact but I did actually spot the one I now live with.

So last Friday night, the who’s who of the insurance industry descended upon the Royal Cape Yacht Club to prepare for battle on the open water. If a tsunami had arrived simultaneously, I have no doubt the impact on the industry would’ve been cataclysmic. Ok maybe not, but at the very least there’d be an increase in motor rates. Whenever anything happens there’s an increase in motor rates.

I’m told Risk SA had also contemplated inviting the FSB to take part in the event but decided against it after the regulator suggested a bout of examinations to ensure crew members were fit and proper. An impossibility. They also insisted that the skippers communicate in plain language, again an impossibility. Whatever happened to TCF? That’s Treating Crew Fairly.

edwardlloyds

The eager mariners on the first night were reminded that there is a rich historical connection between insurance and the ocean. This dates back to mid 17th century England in Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop. I can believe this because when I really need a good cup of coffee, I too would travel thousands of miles for my fix. Ok maybe 10 miles.

The event on the Saturday was hosted in near perfect weather. I was quite relieved about this because the thought of explaining to one more person why the fucking weather in Cape Town is “soooooooooooooooo bad”, as one individual put it, was giving me a serious bout of the sea-voms.

Out on the water that day, over 300 sailors took to the oceans. More seamen than Moby’s Dick. The Silver Falcons also did a flyover and some aerobatics. Perhaps as a tip for next year, it’d be a good idea to warn the residents of the V&A of this impending display. One old guy I work with said he saw the boats on the water and the planes flying in and thought the Malawians may have been meting out a version of Pearl Harbour as payback for a recent JayZee’ism.

The race itself did not go off without incident. One of the yachts had to turn back after it suffered some sail damage. Two other vessels collided. I understand there are some rules of sailing to avoid collision that are very simple. For the uninformed reader, I dug this up on Wikipedia:

There are four main right of way rules: [Part 2, Section A]
1. Boats on a port tack shall keep clear of boats on starboard tack (Rule 10).
2. When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, the boat to windward (the boat closest to the wind) shall keep clear of a leeward boat (Rule 11).
3. When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, the boat that is astern shall keep clear of the boat ahead. (Rule 12).
4. When a boat is tacking (changing tack) it shall keep clear of boats that are not tacking (Rule 13).

Well that’s clear then…. perhaps penned by the same author as the Binder Regulations?

One of the VIP boats also apparently sailed into the Cape’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. The vessel and all who sailed upon her disappeared momentarily. Fortunately the crew all magically reappeared at Ferryman’s and caught a cab back to the YachtClub. The mysterious area is now known as “Die Dronkie Drie Hoek”

And of course who could forget the misfortune that befell the vessel “Mount Gay” who almost lost a crew member to Davy Jones’ Locker (that’s ocean-speak for drowning). One of my former colleagues has always had a penchant for going overboard but this time he took it too far. Perhaps more amazing still was the fact that the crew of the yacht still emerged as victors of the event, with all souls safely back on board.

sailing geoff

Congratulations must again go to all who took part in the Risk SA Regatta, particularly to the organizers, my former colleagues at Camargue who won the competition, and all the amazing businesses that sponsored the event of the year. It was a real pleasure being a part of it.

By the way, for those of you that only read this because of a dirty sounding title, a Futtock is a curved wooden piece of a ship’s frame and a Baggywrinkle is a soft covering for a cable on a ship.

I’m The Liability Guy.

So far South its North – Sub’urbanville

Since I’ve  been here I’ve learnt that there is a certain stigma attached to the northern suburbs of Cape Town.

I cannot fathom this. I grew up in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg which also has a stigma attached to it. The two places are nothing alike. Growing up in the South, in the eighties was interesting. I grew up with lots of Lebanese, Portuguese and Greek kids, so it was a fairly olive-skinned, cosmopolitan environment although I’m pretty sure no one has ever used that phrase to describe the area. There were kids in my class that were much older than me in standard 6. Some had been “kept back”, several times. I got in a fight with a fellow student once who had a spectacular mustache. Apparently she looked a lot like her father, who’d run off after his chop-shop (not a butchery) had been raided by the police.

Anyway I digress. Durbanville is amazing. It has a unique charm and the folks are generally very friendly. In fact at a four-way stop, one can sit for several minutes with drivers in all four directions waving each other on and then subsequently getting pissed off because the offer has been met with a counter offer to proceed first. Perhaps this aggressively polite disposition has something to do with the fact that the place is practically surrounded by wine farms and everyone is permanently drunk?

dronkpampoen

In the latter part of the 18th century, the town was actually called “Pampoenkraal” which translates into “a circular enclosure for pumpkins”. I would imagine the local folk resented being associated with a comical Halloween vegetable and the name was changed to D’urban in 1836, after the Governor of the Cape at the time. Unfortunately a further name change necessitated itself when the locals became frustrated with sunburnt stoners seeking the town’s KZN namesake, Durban. And so we have the derivative, Durbanville – creative little fuckers, those town fathers.

They grow grapes in Durbanville and also very large people. I’m not a very big fellow, height-wise. I’d say I’m probably average height, in any other part of the world. Here I am a Lilliputian in a land of Gullivers. I often feel like a child when I’m standing in the queue at any of the local stores. Even Woolworths. Where I am often the only male in the store. Even then I’m still the most vertically challenged person around. An English People-Mcnugget.

giant queue

People in Durbanville speak a variety of languages. Most folks are bilingual and both English and Afrikaans are spoken fluently. Apparently the schools are dual-medium. This is a term that I had not heard before I moved here. When I first heard it I thought it must be some kind of seance involving two psychics. It turns out its a process where the teacher communicates in both languages to the scholars. Perhaps reminiscent of the safety demonstration on a 1980’s SAA flight. My Afrikaans is improving although Christelle has forbade me from speaking it. Apparently I sound something like a throat cancer sufferer with a hot potato in my mouth.

There is a hardware store up the road from our new house. The store presents one with a very interesting shopping experience although I’ve noted it’s a bit fishy. I mean no disrespect to the owners. The place sells some good quality tools and also fish. Yes you read that right. They also sell fish. Dead ones. Packed in ice. To eat. It’s a wonderful idea, shopping for power tools always makes me want to indulge in gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals.

fishtools

Seriously though, the area is truly beautiful. We often go running around the town and into the surrounding wine farms. It is on the winding dusty paths of the vineyards that we wage weekend war with the mountain bikers for control of the FOOTpaths. These cyclists intrigue me, for they complain bitterly about the inconsiderate drivers on the roads and then act like two-wheeled tossers themselves. It is wrong to generalize, perhaps only 90% of them give the other 10% a bad name.

So I don’t really know about this whole northern suburbs thing……..If I think about it, I have come from Johannesburg which means Durbanville is technically in the south. Problem solved.

I’m the Liability Guy and unless you live in the North Pole, you’ll always be south of something.