Common sense: Not so common

On 1 June 2020, South Africa moved to level 3 of the measures in terms of the National State of Disaster to curtail the spread of Covid-19.  There are a few people suggesting that it’s the end of lockdown.  When the President made the announcement, he advised that the details would be made clearer in “the coming days”.  At the end of the 45 minute address, there were two – no three – takeaways. For me, anyway:

  • the primary purpose of the lockdown had been achieved:  a sufficient slowing of the spread of the Corona virus that causes Covid-19 to enable significant preparation for the inevitable and ongoing increase in acute cases.
    Every citizen must now take personal responsibility for not catching the virus by following the social distancing and hygiene protocols to stop the spread.
  • everyone would go back to work (working from home if it is possible to do so).  It will be business as usual: except for leisture tourism and hospitality
  • schools will re-open, beginning with the two exit years at year 7 (into high school) and year 12 (into the world of work or post school education and training)

Oh, but wait, there was one more:

I can cook with wine.  Again.  My smokin’ friends, however, still cannot light up and have a puff.

Alcohol will be on sale on specified days, in specified hours.  I’ll come back to this.

A quick look at the numbers

As has always been predicted, the numbers of Covid cases in South Africa is growing exponentially.  When I last did a numbers update, the world had 3,2m cases.  Now there are nearly 6,5 million.  In South Africa, we have gone from a mere five thousand odd five weeks ago, to nearly thirty six thousand.

Covid-19 figures as at 30 May 2020: The world and South Africa

In Cape Town alone, just a two and a half hour drive from where I live, there are nearly 1,000 cases in hospital and more than 194 people in ICU (Source).

Cause for pause

Prior to lockdown and the preparation for the onslaught, there were a mere 150 ICU beds in Cape Town’s public hospitals.

That metropolitan area, along with another rural municipality in the province, are the identified “hotspots”.  In our municipality, the number of cases has gone from 4 to 35 of which 27 are active (i.e. 8 recoveries, source).  To date, there is still no case in the village.  We know, though, it will come.  It’s inevitable.

It was initially predicted that South Africa’s Coved-19 outbreak would reach its peak around September.  Cape Town, however, is now expected to reach its peak at the and of this month or the beginning of July.  The concern about sufficient number of beds remains.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve not included the number of tests conducted world wide:  there are conflicting figures and a well-documented shortage of test kits.  In South Africa there’s a ten-day backlog and they’re using a triage system to identify who should be tested.  So, what’s the point?

In the “coming” days

In the days following the President’s statement, but prior to the briefing from the various ministers, the President again addressed the nation.  This time, he said it was to call for a national day of prayer.  In reality, it was to inform the population that in the interests of their spiritual health, from 1 June, they would be free to attend their places of worship. Gatherings may not exceed 50.  There must be attendance registers and temperature screening.  These registers will collect not just names and addresses but details of next of kin.  This information will, of course, be used for contact tracing.  That is logical and sensible.

What else?

I am, though, left asking myself:  where else will this data go and for what else will it be used?  When the pandemic is over.

In a country that has a “command council” coordinating efforts to curtail the pandemic, and where abuse of power is all too common:  under level 1 lockdown and which I mentioned in a previous post, and continuing under level 2 and when a a parent stepped on to the beach to fetch a child..

I alluded to some of the questions about personal data in this post, and when I linked to this inteview with Edward SnowdenIf you didn’t follow the link then, do it this time, and listen to the interview.  It’s even more relevant, two to three months later, than it was then.

More burning questions

Places of worship are internationally acknowledged as major contributors to the spread of the virus.  If these can function, with congregations of to 50, why not open restaurants and coffee shops?

With the same provisos:  social distancing and fewer than 50 patrons?   South Africa may have a religious people, but we are a secular state.

What about personal care businesses and tattoo parlours?

All these establishments have, in terms of their training, good business and good sense, to apply good hygiene and sanitary practices. Ergo less risk of spread.

Oh, and on the issue of collecting names and addresses of “attendees”, names and addresses are not collected when one visits the supermarket, hardware store or the bank.  Not that I’m suggesting they should be.

Then there was more

When the ministers responsible for the various sectors of the economy eventually briefed the country, a few things remain as clear as mud:

One can exercise at any time of the day.  Non-contact sport is playable.  But the golf and tennis clubs cannot be open.  Inter provincial movement is prohibited, but you can go and visit a game park – as long as you drive yourself.  It’s still not clear whether one may visit family or have a few friends (who are family) over for lunch.  One minister says “Aye” another says “Nay”.

Then, restaurants, previously only allowed to sell alcohol when it was consumed on the premises, may now sell sealed bottles of their patrons’ favourite tipple to take home.  During the same days and times that any other off-consumption outlet may sell alcohol, viz., Monday to Thursday between 09h00 and 17h00.


It precipitated an outburst from me on my personal Facebook page:

Restaurants & pubs selling alcohol for home consumption – these things spring to mind:

They have to charge restuarant prices to make it worth their while. What patron will pay those prices when it’s possible pay much less from bottle stores and from grocery shops?

As they also have to sell alcohol, for delivery and collection, during the specified times, so other than lunch orders, no wine pairings…

And little [village] pubs: do they have the buying power to buy alcohol at discounted rates? More to the point, do they still have the reserves to buy in stock? I am sure there are other things I can’t think of right now…

I have long thought that those in government have less than no idea how business really works, especially small businesses and where people are self-employed and/or freelance.

People who get monthly salaries from our taxes have no clue what it takes to actually make money, i.e. generate a product or service that customers buy and which pays not just the business’s bills, but people’s wages and salaries. Money doesn’t appear in our bank accounts by magic each month.

Emphasis added

The rant precipitated a response from longtime friend and former partner in one of the big (and credible) international accounting firms:

 I ran a corporate finance boutique in the late 90s and early 2000s. I learnt then that the guys in government have no clue what cash flow for a business means. This is (sic) becomes quite acute when you have a contract with them. Scope variations, late payments, and other horrors were the order of the day.

Every month-end, however, the same government officials were happy to receive their salaries with compliments from the tax payer.

The guys making decisions over the citizenry have no clue as to how reality is on the ground.

Pop Motsisi

From my old day job:  this scenario that was a reality with virtually every contract awarded to either my business or to associates’.

Economic ruin

We all get that the world economy is getting sicker, and in this country, the situation is dire.  Since I started writing, there has been a High Court judgement declaring the regulations pertaining to levels 3 and 4, unconstitutional.  While the country’s top constitutional expert believes the judgement is flawed, the principle remains:  this whole “thing” hasn’t been thought through.  There seems to be a profound inability to make connections, think laterally, let alone rationally.  Especially in a country where the unemployment rate sits at nearly 30% and of that number, nearly 60% are unemployed youth (Source).

Forty odd years ago, when I started taking Geography seriously, I learned that primary industries, and specifically, mining and agriculture were the greatest contributors to the country’s economy.  Now, those two, are second only to services which contribute just on 24% of the country’s GDP (Source).  The lockdown has seen the mines closed and now slowly reopening with all the challenges of this rampant disease.  Other than “essential” retail, the only services that continued were financial banking services.

Effectively, the economy was shut down for two months.

What constituted essential retail was the source of endless discussion:  under level 1, we could only buy food.  It was a fight to “release” sanitary items other than toilet paper on to the shelves.  Only after significant pressure was one able to buy baby clothing and infant supplies.  Then only for newborns and to a particular age.  It seems that the powers that be understand that babies’ arrival won’t wait for lockdown to be lifted, but that children will just stop growing and start again when the lockdown is lifted.  Under level 2, only certain specified (I kid you not) items of clothing could be bought.

Covid relief – is it?

Oh, the banks have given us a bond holiday.  But they’re not going to lose:  the debt will just be re-scheduled and re-calibrated and it’ll cost us the same…. Their only loss:  less interest because the central bank reduced the interest rate.  Banks have not dropped their lending rates, have they?

The government has similarly made relief packages available for small businesses with turnover below ZAR 300 million. Ahem…  However, of those that qualify, and which have applied, nearly 70% have been unsuccessful.  Entities that do not qualify are sole proprietorships.  Given high barriers to entry, and the cost of maintaining a business entity, the sole proprietorship is the simplist and cheapest entity to establish.  Within my own circle, I know of individuals and entities, alike, that have simply not tried to seek relief:  we know from past experience, the bureaucracy and hoops through which they must jump just to apply.  Here’s a specific example:  a friend established a pre-school nine years ago.  She has put her heart and soul into it, and until Covid-19, it was very successful.  She was planning a celebration of ten years early in 2021.  Because of the lockdown, she’s considering closing it.  Then, last week, there was a glimmer of hope for some compensation for work done – in line with the requirements of the relevant  government department.

Hopes dashed

But no, all hopes were dashed because the type of entity in terms of which she operates, is not deemed appropriate.  Early childhood centres may still not operate.  Yet parents must return to work. Where’s the sensibility in that?


Speaking of sensibility, there is at least one political party, claiming to be economic freedom fighters that wants the hard lockdown to continue.  I am not making this up.

Back to my Facebook rant and the subsequent comment which corroborated what I was trying to say:  that, by and large, politicians and government have no real concept of the mechanics of running a business.  Did they really think through the implications of permitting restaurants and takeaways selling booze for home consumption?  Do they really think that this will rescue micro businesses that have not had any turnover (let alone income or, heaven above, made a profit), for two months?

Lockdown or lock up?

So, while for some people, things are returning to normal:  they go to work every day, and come home to an evening tipple.  However, for some in the hospitality and tourism sectors, the lockdown has ended.  I wonder how many face the prospect, like my friend, of locking up shop, for good?

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem with the occasional post on Medium.


I’m tired….

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being in lockdown.

I’m tired of people supporting the lockdown.

I’m tired of people not supporting the lockdown.

I’m tired of people railing about “the situation” before they’ve read all the facts.

I’m tired of the mixed messages from our leaders – local and international.

I’m tired of listening to learned people telling us that they’re learning that they don’t know what they don’t know. Every day.

I’m tired of hearing the numbers. Every day. They are awful.

I’m tired of people dying. All over the world. All day. Every day. So far, none of my near (or far) dear people have died. But I’m hearing of people whose dear ones are ill and might die.

I’m tired of this virus. It has developed a vibrant life of its own that has taken over mine. I’m not ill, but it’s making me sick. It’s the last thing I think about as I go to sleep. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up.

I’m tired of spending every day – and I mean every day – and a signficant portion of it – in front of the laptop. I’m trawling the interweb for work, bearing my soul listing my skills for all and sundry. Because my business has gone down the tubes. Just when things were looking up. Every gig has come to an end.

I’m tired of having to reinvent myself. Again.

I’m tired of stretching each penny as far as it possibly can.

I’m tired.

One in 58 million

I’m only one in 58 million in this country.

There are many in that 58 million for whom I feel and, today, one in particular. Last evening, following a week of clamouring, the President addressed the nation.

Did he impress me?

No. Not this time.

I did learn, though, that the level of preparedness has improved.

I appreciate the acknowledgement and apology that the government has potentially overreached and contradicted itself.

I hear that things are under review and that the country could be moved to level 3 at the end of May.

It’s not enough. I’ve said I don’t agree with everything he’s done. Yes, I think he’s missed a few things and is lead astray often overruled by pedants.

Think about this: we’ve been locked down for 49 days. It’s 70 since the first case was diagnosed. That’s more than two months. He and that team, responsible for 58 million souls, have probably had no days off.

And they’re dealing with a moving morphing target.

Would I like the job?

When I watched the president last night, I saw something else: I saw a man who is exhausted. He’s worried. He stumbled over the numbers. I would have. He stumbled over that big word, death. I would have. Palbable sighs punctuated parts of his speech.

I also saw another side of the man: when he mentioned masks, he involuntarily smiled. Really smiled. With his eyes. Remembering the last time he addressed the nation and donned the now mandatory mask. You have to admire that.

So, no, I’d not like his job.

Today, we should cut him some slack. At 8.30 pm, last night, he should have had his feet up catching up with his wife, or having Facetime with his grand children.

I’m tired

I’m tired of being in lockdown.

Today is day 49. Theoretically We’re in level 4. That means nothing if one has no work or that the work one did prior to lockdown was in and/or associated with hospitality and tourism. Or domestic construction. Or cleaning someone’s home or tending a garden.

I’m tired being one of the missing middle unable to apply for government support.

Who knows when we’ll get to level 2, let alone level zero when we can associate with as many people as we please, and travel freely. Locally and internationally.

I’m tired of the new normal.

Not the 9 o’clock news

I’ve stopped listening to the news. Except mornings and evenings with the odd article from reliable sources during the day. I do need to stay informed and up to date.

I have to stop this “Corona crud” from making me sick. I do worry how it will all end up: for the people and our democracy.

I have to get on with things and do what I can. Reinvention of Fiona: version 500.

I’m tired, but I have to take these lemons, sour as they may be, and turn them into lemonade, marmalade, lemon curd, pickle and pie.

I just have to.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain. Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem with the occasional post on Medium.

If I were to choose…

I participate, from time to time, in the odd blog challenge.  Just because.  There’s a particular one to which I’m quite partial.  Not because I’ve ever won, but because it gets me thinking.  About things.  All sorts of things.  It’s run by an international bunch of guys and gals hailing from the UK, US and Canada.  When I read the entries, one of the things that strikes me is how often there are things that unite the world.  More often than there are things that divide us.

The monthly Your Top 3 has shown, for example, that no matter who you are, or where you live, food is the epitome of comfort.  Often defined by our own experiences and cultures, food is sustenance for the soul.  Now, though, the world is in a very peculiar place and we’re all united in one major concern:  Covid-19.  Many of us have been confined to our homes and estranged from family and loved ones.  Birthdays have passed with virtual celebrations.  I speak for myself when I say, that as we approach being locked in for 50 days, it’s beginning to tell.  The news is never good;  the more the scientists know, the less they know and, frankly, the less I want to know.

A welcome diversion

So, to have something entirely different to contemplate is a welcome diversion.   Not that I participate every month.  I don’t.  This month’s contest made me think, though.

It’s no secret that I’m a great lover of books.  I love books and have a hard time parting with them. Frankly, and I’ve also often said so, I’d rather read the book than see the movie.  This month’s contest is about DVD/TV box sets.  A foreign concept in our house.  Partly because we don’t spend a lot of time in front of the box screen other than in the evenings around/after supper.


If I were to choose three must-have sets, what would they be, and why?

My first two choices are based on my penchant for thrillers and crime.  As well as cooking.  Of course.

Thrilling crime

On thinking about which of these to choose, I was hard pressed between three:

NCIS – the original one.  I still have a school girl crush on Mark Harmon.  A hangover from the days when he was in 240 Robert.


On a similar, but different vein is CSI.  I also prefer the first in the franchise.  I enjoyed not only that each episode stood alone, but that the characters and the relationships developed as the series progressed.  As they do in NCIs.  However, when I really thought about it, there really was only one choice.

The Blacklist

The  Blacklist ticks every box:  complex characters, good acting, even more complex plots filled with intrigue and thrilling suspense.  Reddington is so awful as to be likeable at times.  Liz Keen’s character has developed and become complex and contradictory over the seasons.  She, too, invokes mixed emotions.  Then there’s Ressler’s insanity countered by the good, solid Dembe whose touchstone role, in my opinion, is underrated.

Oh, and there are two other reasons that The Blacklist really does do it for me:  firstly, there is often a hint of international and political intrigue.  Secondly, the plot hovers  – only just – on the bounds of reality.

Or does it?

Getting down and dirty in the kitchen

I quite like watching cooking programmes.  I have to admit that I’ve not seen many lately that have really piqued my interest.  Thinking about it, and looking at my bookshelf, I should be choosing Ed Baines.

I have watched him on TV and follow him on Instagram. I actually met him at the Cape Town Food and Wine show where he also cooked with some of “our” products.  But sorry, loyalty and having clapped eyes on the man, are just not quite enough.

I guess if I were also basing my choice on what’s in my bookshelf, and chefs I’ve met, I should be choosing Jenny Morris.  I have two of her books – I draw on them often.  Especially for Sunday Suppers and when I entertain.  And in the days that email newsletters were a “thing”, I had a subscription to hers.  She (or her son) would send out the recipes she’d discuss on a local radio show.  Jenny Morris lives up to her Giggling Gourmet moniker.  She’s warm and lovely, and when I mentioned that I had two of her books, she impulsively planted a kiss on my cheek!

However, my choice must go to the first ever cooking show that I really watched.

The Naked Chef

It wasn’t so much about Jamie Oliver.  It couldn’t have been because nobody knew who he was.  Then.  I don’t know how I fell over him because the show was on a Sunday afternoon and, in those days, I was often up to my elbows in the garden.  Then, as now, we rarely had the TV on during the day, so it really is a mystery.

‘E was still a young fing just frowing things t’gever in the kitchen.

I liked that.  The food was simple, as was the approach.  He cooked food to share.  I like that, too.  Oh, and I particularly like that he knows the members of Jamiroquai.

This was one of my songs at the time….’twas the year The Husband and I married…




My go-to roast chicken recipe is based on one of these episodes – nearly 20 years ago. On Sunday afternoons, I’d drop the spade or trowel and plonk on the sofa – note book and pen in hand and … The notes, not always legible have made their way into dishes that have become regulars on our menu.  And on my blog.  My summer watermelon salad, about which folk rave, is one of these recipes.

I guess the series could be quite dated now.  Still, though, I’d make a point of watching The Naked Chef again and again.

And finally

If you thought I was taking rather far you down memory lane, I’m not stopping at 2002.

I used to be an unashamed SciFi series fan.  I loved Star Trek.  And when I was at home, would watch it with my dad.  From Kirk to Picard, and everything in between.  I now realise that my father must have been a fan from the days when we still lived in England.  My mother loathed the programme, so he and I would watch it.  She’d retreat to the kitchen.  I admit, though, that I’m not a fan of modern SciFi.  It seems to be a mishmash of modern fantasy, and I can’t really get beyond Dune.

When I thought about a series I’d binge-watched (not that it was a thing, then), the series that came to mind was V: Mankind’s Last StandThe original 1983 series.

It would have been 1987, and I was sharing a house.  In those days one could hire a video player – not just videos – for a weekend.  How we ended up hiring this series, I’m damned if I can remember.  I do remember, though, that it’s the only time I’ve ever spent an entire weekend just watching videos and just one series.  That’s all we did.  Other than go to the video shop for the next tape.

With hindsight, and thinking about the themes of repression, oppression and restriction, it’s not surprising it resonated for me.  The mid-to late eighties were the height of the struggle years in South Africa.  These themes simply reflect the times we lived in, and some of the things we encountered every day.  It was never on television.  It does occur to me that had the South African censors understood symbolism and/or allegory, this series would never have reached the video shops in South Africa.

As an aside (but not really):

Prior to 1994, laws restricting freedom of speech and association were so zealously enforced that films that included mixed race and same sex relationships were banned. Unsurprisingly, the epic film  Cry Freedom about Steve Biko was banned.  As were Hair and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I admit that I didn’t watch the more recent remake of the series.  I would, however, watch the original V – for all the reasons I’ve mentioned – as well as for the then rather delicious Marc Singer.  In closing, I also wonder if choosing this series is not, to some extent, influenced by the potential ramifications of the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem and more recently share my burbling on Uptrennd and with the occasional post on Medium.