Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hypochondriacs get worse

Hello cyberchondriacs ...
If you leap online and then reach the worst possible conclusion every time you have a sniffle you might just be a cyberchondriac – the new millennium version of a hypochondriac.
That cough? I may have TB. Sore hands? Carpal tunnel syndrome, and that means I’ll have to stop working on a computer forever. That itchy eye? It’s galloping Pink Eye. That nodule growing on my ankle? Bubonic plague.
A new study shows that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads web searchers to conclude the worst. The study found that web searches for things like headache and chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare.
Actually, I blame shows like Grey’s Anatomy as well, the patients there never just have a migraine, it’s always a brain tumour or something far more unusual and why shouldn’t I have an extra-special illness too?
I have to go now, all this writing makes me a little tired and I am terribly afraid I have an impeding case of narcolepsy.
Actually, that’s not a rare and terminal disease as a former colleague, Mr G, actually did have narcolepsy. At least that was his excuse he gave for nodding off in front of his computer when he should have been sub-editing our deathless prose.
The bigger problem was, though, that he used to surf the internet for pornography in between subbing stories and all too often he would nod off. We work in an open-plan office which meant that these lurid images were up on his screen for passers-by to see. Literally, a case of being caught napping ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nog huisies ...

I didn't have space to post all the quaint Buffalo Bay house names yesterday, so here are some more. For those of you wanting to find out more about the village, click here (just like the place, the site is tiny). You'll find yesterday's photographs on yesterday's post, Almal wil 'n huisie by die see he.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Almal wil 'n huisie by die see he ...

("Everyone wants a little house at the sea" ... Koos Kombuis)

Holiday homes can be shacks and they can be mansions. Buffalo Bay, or Buffelsbaai to its mostly Afrikaans residents, has both and with soul aplenty. You can stroll around the hamlet in less than half an hour. I felt like Bill Bryson travelling round Europe in Neither Here Nor There, as everything is so fetchingly familiar and yet at the same time it’s another world (well, to an English-speaking visitor, that is).
Buffalo Bay is an unpretentious little village, close enough to Knysna for the shops and yet far enough away to avoid the crowds and chi-chi Disney-fication that has afflicted parts of this beautiful region.
It’s almost as if the homeowners have entered a competition to see who can give his or her home the cutest names. Only a few spoilsports have stuck to the street numbers.
I loved the variety and imagination these signs showed but, just like Obama, Jou Doring, there are just no English equivalents for some of these names ...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hug a tree today

But if you want to hug a tree today, don't make it this one ... have you ever noticed that magnificent fig tree at the intersection of Cape Road and William Moffett Expressway, opposite the old Kahns?
The Herald used to be full of stories of the threats around the arboreal elephants at the other end of William Moffett, where Fig Tree Village is, but I've never seen anything on this lonely giant.
It is sporting a canopy of green leaves right now, which are taking a battering in our spring winds. Last weekend the branches were like huge green bellows pumping out air, refreshing this traffic-jammed intersection.

But, although this fig tree is magnificent from afar, it is far from magnificent if you decide to take a closer look. It smells of alcohol and has broken beer and liquor bottles all around it, and even a few tossed up into its branches. Graffiti gashes its trunk and more than a few splatters of paint. It’s a meeting place for bergies and an easy-access outdoor urinal. Its position, next to one of the city’s largest bottle stores, makes this perhaps not so surprising.
I know there are more pressing problems in the metro that the state of one tree. Still, though, I find it a little sad ...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Buy a book for Christmas

Just don't buy me this one ...

One of the perks of being a journalist who loves reading (you know, there are journalists who don’t read, odd as it sounds) is that publishers send you titles to review. Sometimes though, I’d rather they didn’t, as in the case of this new release, The Girlfriend's Guide to Rugby.

It’s a bit like those idiot’s guides you get, and tries to lure unsuspecting girlfriends into learning more about the manly game so they can spend happy times watching the chaps play with odd-shaped balls.

“We've squeezed in a final title for the year, we couldn't resist it, it is the perfect stocking filler” blurbled the Johannesburg pee-ar in her e-mail from the publishing house.

I know they sell all sorts of absurd titles at Christmas to those who don’t have a clue what to buy their loved ones but this is just so patronising. Just as you never hear of a guy being asked how he juggles fatherhood and a career, I don’t think we’re likely to get a matching series of Boyfriend’s Guide to ... titles.

Here are a few the opposite sex could do with though: The Boyfriend’s Guide to Ballet, The Boyfriend’s Guide to Baking and The Boyfriend’s Guide to Leg Waxing. Let’s add in a couple that might even conceivably be useful: The Boyfriend’s Guide to Shopping, The Boyfriend’s Guide to TV Remote Etiquette and The Boyfriend’s Guide to Chocolate.

What can we expect next? If this stupid title sells, we may be bombarded with flurries of PR bumf on titles such as Girlfriend's Guide to Cricket or Girlfriend's Guide to Soccer – especially with World Cup fever starting to rise. Heaven forbid, there are so many formerly obscure sports on TV all the time that the list could go on and on.

Even if Girlfriend's Guide to Rugby had heaps of pics of a sweaty Schalk Burger without his shirt on, and lovingly framed close-ups of Bryan Habana’s lips, it would still have limited appeal to womankind.

And if my beloved dares to try and slip this under the Christmas tree with my name attached, it’s not a stocking that will get stuffed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

High-tech homework excuses

Teachers have only a week or so left until the end of term ... and although for the most part homework is history for this year I’ll bet they are thrilled not to have to hear the usual lame excuses for not doing homework for nearly another two months.

Spare a thought for teachers in today’s technology world, who reportedly have to add the following excuses to the old staples.
The top five (believable) tech-related reasons given were:

* My computer crashed and I lost it
* I finished my homework but then I deleted it by accident
* I could not print it out
* My internet was down so I could not do any research
* I lost my laptop

And those who can remember the days of pencils and paper will be relieved (and I use that word advisedly) to learn that the traditional “a dog ate my homework” still gets a look in, as Madame Fifi was blamed for having urinated on one unfortunate pupil’s computer, which then exploded.
Sounds like a shaggy dog story to me ....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

007 and the Angry Alien bunnies

The name's Bunny, James Bunny ...

I've been away on leave (more about that later) and rounded it off by going out to a Port Elizabeth premiere of the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, last night.

It was hosted by FNB, whose invite stated “black tie” ... now, many women find it hard to resist a well-groomed gent in a tuxedo but, surprisingly, given how relaxed the guys in our neck of the woods are, heaps of them cracked the dress code. And the women too ... gorgeous red carpet gowns, Oscar-winning style. Refreshments in the form of martinis and sushi added up to a cool evening.

The bad news is that you don't get to see Daniel Craig emerging from the waves in those blue swimming trunks again, as you did in Casino Royale (now that was a memorable movie moment, right up there along with Mr Darcy striding out on the way to speak to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice.) Here's a word to all those old-style Bond fans - forget Ursula Andress, and even Halle Berry - we're in the new millennium now and movies today make men sex objects in the same way they used only to do to women.

However, if you were not there, and don’t have a spare evening to take in the action, you might like to take a sneak peak at the bunnies version of it.

In fact, they are pretty similar ... both hurtle through the surreal script at a hectic pace, have a rogues' gallery of ludicrous villains with hammy accents, spectacular car chases and a high dead body count.

Don’t know the bunnies? You’ll find their fiendishly hilarious work at the website If you’re one of those folk who think that cartoons are for kids be warned, if they spoof an x-rated movie, their spoof is also x-rated!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama, Jou Doring!

Lost in translation ...

Even Port Elizabeth has been affected by the US election this week, and this is how a firm in Walmer showed its support for US president elect Barack Obama after his victory.
If you don't speak Afrikaans, "Obama Jou Doring!" means "Obama, you thorn!" but you can't really translate the festive, carefree tone of "doring".
Now, can you imagine this sign in South Africa 20 years ago? Then, could a South African have imagined a black president either here or in the US 20 years ago?
We have moved, and so has the world. Jou doring!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My top 10 chocolate treats

The “F” in the “F-World” also stands for FOOD

Perhaps you’d appreciate a bit of help in tracking down the best chocolate treats, especially those which are available here in the Eastern Cape. I’m keen to share a few of my favourite places for chocoholics but, on the other hand, I don’t really want the whole world to know. Fortunately, Port Elizabeth people being as slack as they are, not that many of you will rush off and wipe out stocks of the delicacies.
Here are my personal faves:

1. The chocolate mousse slice at Ile de Pain in Knysna. This is a delicate rectangle of chocolate sponge topped with a mousse that is rich, bitter and silken all at the same time. Eat it and expire with delight.

2. The chocolate brownies at only three places in Port Elizabeth. These are: Dessie’s at Bloomingdales, Vovo Telo (Central and The Warehouse), and ... last, but not least, the newcomer Red Cherry’s coffee shop in Walmer. Red Cherry has a secret ingredient in the kitchen, in the form of Charlene, who used to work at the Warehouse, and she has a way not only with chocolate brownies but also with muffins. The so-called chocolate brownies that you buy at supermarket bakeries? Brownie-schmouwnie ... pale imitations, not to be taken seriously.

3. Karoo Moon’s Chocolate Indulgence is a lavish sauce too rich to be kept only for ice-cream.

4. The Magic Bar at Cobblestone Bakery, which, by the way, has moved to 40 6th Avenue in Walmer. A magic bar, for those who have to fall prey to this calorific addiction, is a rectangular slice of shortcake, topped with caramel, topped with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts.

5. Mrs Christodoulou’s chocolate cakes, both Greek and mousse. I am not sure if I should give you her address or phone number, suffice to say that she is a legend in Port Elizabeth chocolate cake addict circles.

6. Wickerwoods chocolate spring rolls. I’ve seen a version of this hot and crispy treat elsewhere, but chef-owner Joel Malkinson is a fantastic cook and his is still the best. It’s a bit like that Scottish horror, a deep-fried Mars bar, I suppose, except a lot more sophisticated.

7. Chocolats Marionettes from Emily Lee in Knysna. Emily imports couverture from Europe and creates the most deliciously unusual bars of chocolate in Knysna

8. Bushman’s River Mud Pie. This local version of old-fashioned millionaire’s shortbread has shortbread that is gritty like sand, but sweet like sugar. Those crumbly caramel jewels are made in Kenton, sold all over and, of course, one is simply not enough with a cup of coffee.

9. The hot chocolate from Nomu. It is solid chocolate, crumbled, to which you add hot milk. The wonderful thing is that it doesn’t sit on the shelf and tempt you to eat it straight away like a normal piece or bar of chocolate does but really desperate chocoholics (yes, I know you are out there and I share your pain) can eat it just as is.

Now, as you can see, the list is just one short of a “Top 10”. Please send in suggestions – just be sure that they are here in the Eastern Cape. I’ve only slipped Nomu in because it is a South African product, available in our supermarkets here and I know there are Port Elizabeth distributors for it. And remember, if you are short of an idea for a Christmas gift, the answer, for me at least, is chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ...

Monday, November 3, 2008

What do you spend your money on?

My friend Debbie says you can divide women into two camps: underwear girls and those who love shoes. Some of fall into both groups, more’s the pity for our bank accounts, and there are those of us who just can't say no to a well-designed handbag. Then let's not even start on the brigade who yearn for shiny new jewellery.
Well, it’s up to you to choose where your money goes ... mine kinda likes to follow the coins in this little video clip ...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Comment from Canada on Something Good roadhouse

Rob Hepworth, a former PE guy who now lives in Vancouver with his wife Rochelle and their kids, saw my post on the closure of Something Good and sent me this e-mail ....

"I happened to stumble across your article on Road Houses earlier today and it got me thinking …this is not just PE, but other places too.
Growing up in Uitenhage, we had a die-hard entrepreneur called Harry Panagis, who had the only roadhouse called “Harry’s Road House” out near Willow Dam.
It seemed to outlast many other business ventures over the next 30 years, but I believe it may still be there today, if only by the grace of God.
Surviving fires, break-ins, name changes, various business directions (Pan Handle / Disco)…even outlasting “little Bess”, the steam train and the Putt-Putt - across the road.
I remember the PE road houses a lot better. During my national service, and brief stint at UPE, I ended up supporting Casbah (Formerly the “SugarBush Wimpy), who was famous for their R1,25 burger, dubbed the “pets-mince burger”….long before Something Good changed that perspective.
While working at HAL Fennel, York Road, I used to support Westees, then legendary for their Venison Pies (that contained raisins) and their Strawberry Cheesecake. Pity to see them go.
I also remember “Palms Road House” near the Humewood Golf Club that , as you mentioned, has been reduced to a hole with a view.
That said, Vancouver has the same problem, I have noticed that most of the road houses here have been reduced to take-out fast food outlets. There was one, and I think the only one left, in Burnaby, called the “The 50’s Diner”, where you got served from your car, old style greasy food etc…but have noticed that they are hardly open any more.
The massive American food chain called “Allen & Wright”, now “A&W” (The Root Beer Kings) are everywhere and started out as a real road house, but have entirely changed direction, and are as unique as KFC, Wendy’s and McDonalds.
The only option left are the “White Spot” chain of restaurants, which have some locations that serve you roadhouse style, complete with the long board that gets clipped into your car from the inside (window to window) – an awesome experience, especially for South African visitors.
One aspect that has never changed, and remains constant, is the crappy service !!!
I’ll never forget The Red Windmill having that “FLICK YOUR LIGHTS FOR SERVICE” neon sign…and having a bus full of Woodridge pupils point out that the black paint on the neon tube, between the L and I, had been worn off, enough for the instruction to be changed to ”F*CK YOUR LIGHTS……”
Thanks for the article and the memories.

Thanks Rob, I'd almost forgotten the Sugarbush, but who can ever forget that neon sign!