Could you ever write something in a library book?

Rows of books in Stockholm Public Library

Stockholm Public Library: Picture: Marcus Hansson, Göteborg, Sweden

When I was in Grade 2, I had a teacher called Miss Reynolds. She was outwardly terrifying and children in Grade 1 spent a lot of time hoping they would not be placed in her class.
But there I was, stuck with Miss Reynolds for a whole year. And it turned out she was lovely – my first life lesson in the uselessness of worrying about things that haven’t happened yet.
My memories are hazy, but in a clear indication of how good it was, I do remember clearly that we had a big tin of dog biscuits kept ready for the daily visit of a big golden neighbourhood dog called Shannon and we all took turns to give him a biscuit.
But one day, in a fit of six-year-oldness, I took a book and hit my desk mate on the head with it. I don’t remember why, and I don’t think I hit the child all that hard. But Miss Reynolds was mightily displeased. I can’t remember the punishment (being made to sit in a corner, probably) but I remember very clearly what she said: you don’t do that to a book. (In retrospect, it’s a little odd that she cared more about the book than the other kid.)

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Enough with the water restrictions – let’s try something else

water droplet

A precious resource. Picture: Lexi XU, Unsplash

As a household, we’ve been saving water for months now. Cape Town is in the grip of a drought, and there is no end in sight.
So we have put in a rain water tank, and are flushing the toilet with water saved from showering. We’ve long had a wellpoint for the garden, and have hardy plants. We are catching vegetable-rinsing water. We are taking short showers and wearing our clothes for longer to cut down on the washing.
In short, we have been fully supportive of our municipality in its efforts to stave off the day when the dams run dry.
But now I have had enough. Continue reading

Carmageddon may be coming – but what about wetsuits?

1996 Honda Ballade

The Honda waits in the driveway for its next mission. Picture: Jak Seddon

When a friend shared an article entitled Carmageddon is Coming on Facebook, I read it with interest, and some irritation.
The sub-heading of the article says humanity is “on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption in transport history”. Writer Angus Hervey lays out what he thinks is going to happen to the transport industry over the next few years, courtesy of three technological waves:
• Our ability to summon a car and a driver with our smartphone
• The arrival of the electric vehicle
• “Artificial intelligence, which paves the way for autonomy” – in other words driverless vehicles.

Says Hervey: “Within a few years, electric vehicles are going to be cheaper, more durable and more reliable than petrol powered cars, autonomy will be good enough that you don’t need human drivers and everyone will be able to hail a car on their phone… we don’t have to wait for people to get rid of their old cars; they simply walk out their front door one morning and decide they would prefer to hail an autonomous, electric vehicle.”

Charming as this vision of carless freedom is, I had a question: Would I walk out of the front door with a child, a school backpack, a model of the Taj Mahal made of matchsticks, a cricket tog bag, my own lunch bag, the office’s new coffee supplies and the cake dish I want to return to a friend on the way home and then decide the thing I want is to hail a ride? Perhaps not. Continue reading

Good taste does not equal good governance

This is going to be a very irritating few days – on Facebook at least.
On Friday, Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated as United States president. Barack Obama and family will take their bows and move on with their lives. My Facebook echo chamber, populated with journalists and eco-warriors and people of a politically correct persuasion, will be filled with shared photo essays of the gorgeous Obamas and many, many WTFs as our favourite American news websites (think Washington Post here) document all the varied failures of The Donald and his flashy family.
Here’s the thing though: the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. Continue reading

Moments of joy, found on a wall

Cat On A Warm African Night

Cape Town – A long time ago I bought a painting.

It was hanging in a small shop in Muizenberg village, and was called Cat On A Warm African Night. I fell in love with it instantly but it cost R850, a great deal of money at the time. I hummed and hawed but I had to have it. Eventually I bought it (all this time later I can’t remember where I found the money as it was certainly before I had a credit card). It has hung on the wall of all the places I have lived since, casting its benevolent gaze over my life. Every time I see it, my spirit lifts.

Last weekend, I bought another painting. Continue reading

Saving the world, one dog at a time

A dog of uncertain mind and big heart.

Cape Town – A long time ago I copied down something out of Time magazine, from an interview with the Dalai Lama.

This is what he said: “Whenever I leave a hotel room, I always try to switch off the light. In a way, it’s silly. But if another ten persons follow my example, then 100 persons, there is an effect. From that point of view, I believe that constant effort, tireless effort, pursuing clear goals with sincere effort is the only way. It’s the only way! The bigger nations and more powerful leaders are not taking care. And God is also somewhere asleep, I think. So we poor human beings, we must make the attempt.”

This last week I met some people who are making the attempt. Continue reading

Dinner, with a side order of story

Cape Town – “So,” said the rather vexed voice,” they’ve moved in, with two cats.”

“Of course,” she continued,”my father-in-law can’t organise anything at all.”

The cashier wanted my card, so I missed the answer.

The same cross voice continued: “And he’s started drinking again.”

I missed the next bit as my shopping was handed to me.

“We must do lunch,” said another voice.

I had to stop myself from going over and asking if I too could come to the lunch. Why, I wanted to know, were the cats such a problem? What had the father-in -law failed to organise? And who, for the love of all that is holy, had started drinking again?
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