On the Beach

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Dear Graham..

(A long response to a comment on my last blog post, it was too long for a reply..)

Dziekuje Panu bardzo za kommentarze, zawsze dobrze wiediec co inni mysla. Cieszy mnie barzdo ze Panu tak smakuje Polskie jedzenie. Zgadzam sie ze jest bardzo dobre ale chyba osobiscie wole jedzenie z dalekiego wschodu.

I don't think that the blog post "The Other Way Around" had  any intention at all, just an observation on an observation but I am quite concerned that you read it as a treatise on why I moved to Cape Town from London: petrol pumps and self-scanners. The list of why I chose to move here is long and probably boring to everyone but me (and even so, it bores me)but I feel that as you have stated some reasons why you don't miss being in SA, I should reply to your comments and state the reasons why I don't miss my life in London too much and why I like it here. Briefly. Sort of briefly.

Firstly, except for the period up until I left Poland (age 4) I don't think I have ever lived near or aspired to live close to a Polish shop. It hasn't formed the basis of where I live. If we have Polish food, we cook from scratch at home although, now I think about it, there is a farmstall in Constantia that sells Eastern/ Central European stuff if I want it.

Living in Africa you do put yourself at a distance from lots of amazing European cities. In the 27 years of my life that i lived in Europe, i visited many of them and I hope to again one day in the future but with 2 kids aged 3 and 5 city breaks, I suspect, will not be on my list for quite some time. I have had a fairly nomadic life and I love to travel so, for me, wherever you live, you are far away from somewhere. I haven't lived in Poland for 32 years and I don't hark for it although I know it would be better to see my grandparents more often.

I have never been scammed by a petrol pump attendant and I don't know anyone who has (maybe they just didn't tell me). I'm not mad about parking attendants as I think I am capable of parking my own car but they can be helpful when unpacking your car or if it's busy. But for the officially employed ones, it's a pretty crappy job and I admire them for getting up in the morning to earn a living, some people beg or steal. The ones in long Street are very irritating but useful for helping you find a spot when it's busy.

I've never been nervous at traffic lights here- irritated, yes, by the hawkers. Agitated by the state of driving, the recklessness of pedestrians, yes. When I lived in London, I used to carp endlessly about the terrible London cabbies but, compared to the standard of driving here, I think they (and all British drivers) should be held out as world-wide exemplars of fabulous driving.

I've always preferred to walk in the day rather than at night (I find I can see more) and I walk happily in the day here with my kids or by myself. In London, I only walked at night if I was coming home after work or a night out. After there were signs on the way home from the station for a week asking for witnesses to a sexual assault in my lovely leafy suburb, I went off walking at night even more.

I can't argue with you about crime stats and I you have my deepest sympathy if you have at any point been the victim of a crime anywhere. I am surprised but not shocked that in 3 years you have not met anyone who has been a victim of a crime (although I would be shocked to hear of a hijacking in the UK). But that's great, I'm pleased that you move is circles that have been untouched by crime. Nice to know they exists somewhere in the world.

Since I have lived in CT (22 months)and my parents (5.5 years) we have read in the press about crime of course.The crimes we "know" about are 3 burglaries (while people were out) and one friend was mugged in Long Street in the early hours on a Sunday morning. That's 4 more incidents than we would ideally have heard about.

It could be that we are lucky not to have experienced more, I don't know, just reporting the facts.

Let me list what happened to me and people I know in London in recent years:

1. I had my wallet stolen 3 times in a month, once mugged at a cash point.
2. A friend was mugged, someone hit him over the head with a pipe, took his stuff and left him there.
3. At the end of last year, a family friend was greeted in his garage by 2 gunmen who made off with his car, phone, laptop wallet etc. He was in the car with his teenage grand daughter. They are fine, just were a bit shaken.
4. On a train home from work in daylight, I was spat at by a group of about 6 boys repeatedly (aged between 9-12) when I asked why they said 'because it's fun, **** off'. Not a single other person on the train(and it was 1/2 full) said a word. Maybe not a crime, but it didn't leave me feeling very good about my environment.
5. Whilst taking my girls for a walk in their pram (age 1 and 3) to get some milk in the beautiful suburb where I lived, I was stopped by 3 youths who asked me to buy some booze and fags for them as they were too young. I politely declined to which they replied: "F*** off you stupid b***h". They were kind enough to repeat that several times. Again, not a crime, but didn't make me feel too good.

That's just some stuff, not an exhaustive list, and it may seem petty to you but it didn't make me feel great about where I lived and where I wanted my kids to grow up.

From the sounds of it, living in South Africa didn't make you feel great about it which is why you left. I had the luxury of the choice to leave or stay (as I assume you did) and, so far, I am glad we made the choice to leave.

Yes, we have an alarm which is hooked up to a security company (which my parents have in London anyway) and we check before we pull into the driveway, we are generally vigilant (but not tense) but, for us (and it may not be the case for everyone) we have a better quality of life here. We have more time together, we are under less pressure, the kids have more freedom (yes, they do!) and we love so much of what living here has to offer.

Some stuff I don't miss about London:

1. Getting around. Takes an hour to get anywhere at all. Too many cars so they, rightly, imposed the congestion charge. Shame they didn't make the trains, buses and tubes run well enough and at a reasonable enough cost to compensate for that.

2. The work and consumer ethic. Work, work, work and getting more money to buy more stuff is king. SA may well go that way at some point but for the moment, for us, it's nicely behind.

3. The fact that I either having to fake finding faith or bankrupt myself to provide my kids with a half decent education (which is slipping year after year on international league tables- such a shame because the UK education system used to be a hallmark of quality).

4. The prices of everything, London is so expensive (except some clothes, I'm pathetic and miss cheap clothes).

5. The weather.

6. The fact that I always felt like a foreigner, even in a city of foreigners.

Things I miss about London:

1. It's an amazing city but since I had kids, my enjoyment of city attractions has been at a minimum. Life has other attractions for now.

2. The diversity and availability of the arts.

3. British comedy, cheap books, the BBC, Channel 4.

4. Mostly I miss that it's close to Brussels, where my brother is.

5. The friends that are still there.

I don't think CT is perfect, I don't think anywhere is perfect because if it was everyone would go there and it would be ever so slightly less perfect. But I think some places are more perfect for some people than others at different times in their lives.

I'm genuinely very happy for you that you are so happy in the UK- there are millions who love living there like you! I'm delighted the proximity of Polish food and Poland makes you happy.

I don't think I need to write AGAIN why I like it here. My all too numerous posts say it all.

I hope you'll be happy for us that we made an informed choice to live here that things are working out well for me and my family here for now.

All the best, Graham, enjoy your trip to Poland and New Year there. Just please don't think I left a country on account of petrol pumps and scanners....


  1. Nice presentation! Got delighted to know about the current condition of the city!! I guess the life in Africa is much better than London though the higher facilities are not available here but the touch of purity and peace of nature is fully spread over here. Good luck!
    used cars

  2. Hi David, thanks for your comments.

    You know, every city has a good and a bad side and some cities that people love others hate. I think standards for some things are much higher in CT than in Europe- but other may disagree. I think it's always interesting to listen to other's point of view and take note of it whilst realising it is informed by who they are and their experiences- which may or may not be relevant to you and your life.

  3. Oh dear, maybe we are missing each other's point a bit, I intended my bit to be a sort of half-serious, half tongue-in-cheek comment. ;-) Can't let you get away with that article scot-free.

    So you like CT - Great, I have no problem with that - do enjoy. I don't actually live in London, more to the North, but I do like visiting The City which I do on a fairly regular basis. And, I am pleased to report, so far without incident.(Same for Manchester, Blackpool and Liverpool)

    Anyway I'm sorry about your experiences, with your wallet and the London Yobbo culture, but that does happen elsewhere (even in CT as I can attest - and on somewhat more than two occasions, although I must say I rather considered it inappropriate to respond in any way! Definitely would not be good for continued good health and longevity, I thought.)

    Also pleased that you have not encountered the crime culture of CT, may that long continue. We certainly can't relate anywhere near the same experience, particularly our last 5 or so years in CT. Not only ourselves, but amongst friends and acquaintances, far, far worse than your London experiences, although I don't want to appear to minimise what you went through.

    Just one example of many, when my daughter was still at school, it came out in a class discussion that every family represented in her class had been burgled at least once at some fairly recent point in time. Well I suppose at least they were being fair about breaking into everyone's place. Discrimination is not a good thing you know.

    Just one last little point (and sorry if all of this is not reflecting a somewhat light touch as I would have hoped). When in SA I kept a very strict record of mileage and fuel purchased for my car (for reimbursement and Tax purposes). After a newspaper report (Argus I think) about petrol pump fraud, I decided to carry out my own little experiment. For a number of consecutive fill ups I used get out of my car and watch the attendant put the fuel in. I would get out and lock and unlock the petrol cap myself, and made sure that I never lost sight of my Bank card. Now, judging by the responses at most garages, the attendants were clearly not pleased with me when I did this. Once they knew me, some would even stand against my door and lean right into the car to try and stop me getting out. (BTW these were not great experiences, as I generally try to be a friendly and amenable sort of guy, but there you go.)

    Then a number of times at each fill up I would hand them the keys, and just sit there,like most people do, while the attendant filled the car. With the second part of the experiment, almost every time, I would get 10 - 15% less mileage per fill up, one one occasion it was as high as 25%. Clearly I discontinued the experiment after a few cycles of this process and carefully maintained my vigilance thereafter, glum faces and glares notwithstanding. I shall leave the application to your good sense.

    OK time to go, I hope to visit your site from time to time, to be updated with your cheery news.


    PS We can get really good bigos here. Smaczny. :-)

  4. Hi Graham,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and reply.

    My list of yobbo behavior was by no means exhaustive, nor was the crime one. I didn't think it was an especially useful thing for anyone to sit there for hours and list it or read it. And it's not a contest, And, in the end, some stuff is a bit too personal to share and this is a public place- I might seem to bare all but I don't quite! I also lived in Leeds for 3 years and that was not exactly a crime free experience either (but you, see, I went to Rio on my own and everyone was freaking out and nothing happened and I had the most fabulous, non restricted time. Go figure.)

    I just wanted to make the point, and I hope I did, that crime happens everywhere. I am very aware it happens here, don't worry. Some people leave, some people come back and are happy, others are not, some never do.

    It's not always cheerful in my life, Graham, but for the moment things are pretty ok. Again, it's a public domain and I try not to use the world as my agony aunt (I use almost no one for that!). I may have opted to inflict some of my views on the world, but I don't think it's ready for all of them ;-).

    Please keep reading and keep commenting!

    PS Wole pierogi