No snow or reindeers

I see that it has been a month since my last blog. Do I have to apologise? Perhaps only to colleagues in the North, as this has been, at least in part, time well spent on a lounger next to the pool, good book in hand, or hanging out in good restaurants (Cape Town does those rather well). Then we have to take care to drink a lot of wine to make space for the new harvest, which is happening around now. The one imperative at this time of year is to keep away from the tourist centres and give beaches a miss on the high holidays.

It perhaps takes a southern hemisphere perspective to realise quite how crazy the commercial Christmas scene is – at least as it is seen from down here near the Antarctic. Go into one of our air-conditioned shopping centres and there will be a giant Christmas
tree, surrounded by snowscapes, elves and reindeers. Outside the temperature is 30 degrees. And then there is a Santa Claus of course, ho-ho-ing and greeting children from under the tree. Strange that – Saint Nicholas was a Turk from the Aegean, with a particular concern for young virgins – no snow or reindeers there. The rotund stomach and white beard came from Nordic folk culture and I gather that the red coat was a contribution from Coca Cola. Quite how that leads to the southern hemisphere pretending that this is a time of ice and snow down under is rather hard to fathom. So I put out my African rococo wire Christmas tree, made by a street trader in Johannesburg many years ago, hang it with beaded baubles and head for the pool with a glass of wine.

We should really switch New Year’s day to the end of June – it is crazy to have to contemplate new year planning in the aftermath of festive season over-indulgence, with the temperature hovering in the upper thirties. Just another example of
global imbalances.

Another good old northern hemisphere tradition has manifested itself this year, at the expense of a number of South Africans. In the olden days, the good people of Devon and Cornwall would light bonfires on the cliffs to mislead ships and lure them onto the rocks. They would then happily relieve the ship, its crew and passengers of any valuables and melt away into the
countryside. So, to have a container ship wreck itself on the Devon coast without any interference was wonderful serendipity. We were then, thanks to modern communications, treated to the sight of a horde of looters smashing open containers washed ashore and staggering off with the property of a number of bemused and angry South Africans – French oak barrels (for this season’s wine harvest), BMW motorcycles, even an aeroplane or two, some claim. Legitimate piracy? Neo-colonial pillage? It at least makes a change for us to be the ones who are pious and superior, tut-tutting about these primitive Brits.

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