Teetering on a slippery slope

Stephen's Scribble

As I was driving back from the inevitably over crowded Point today I noticed two Xhosa women laughing. They held the hands of two white toddlers as they were jumping in puddles on the side of the road. I smiled in the hope that perhaps that image could soften some of the many assumptions that surround our beautiful country.

In the landscape of South African politics we find ourselves in a very interesting time. Last week the Nation was on tenterhooks following Jacob Zuma’s sentencing. At the 11th hour he turned himself in and many breathed a collective sigh of relief. But not for long …. soon after many parts of KwaZulu-Natal descended into chaos.

South Africa (Azania) has had a chequered history. Colonial rule followed by apartheid and more recently a democracy. All have been marked by inequality and corruption. One thing has remained consistent. The wealth has been steadfastly held by a select minority. Currently South Africa has surpassed Brazil in becoming the number one country in the world with the greatest disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. On one side of the fence luxury five bedroom homes with servants, swimming pools and triple garages. On the other, ramshackle make shift shacks without running water, electrification or proper sanitation.

The brazen looting and lawlessness over the last few days may have come as a shock to many but perhaps we’ve been sitting a proverbial tinderbox for decades. What is most scary is the speed with which things have unravelled. Many questions are currently being asked whether law enforcement in this country is capable of bringing the situation under control. If ever there was a time to show the strong arm of the law, surely it is now? What has been unfolding in certain areas of KwaZulu Natal is nothing short of anarchy. And it appears to be spreading. This is probably the most serious socio political unrest since the xenophobic violence of 2008. People are afraid …. and rightly so. Are we facing a revolution? One which many feel they were denied in the early 1990’s perhaps.

With governments sluggish response to the unrest it comes at no surprise that community security groups have become more active than ever. It is understandable that that if law enforcement can’t protect people’s families, businesses and property, community members will take action. It’s undoubtedly a dangerous playing field in more ways than one. Clearly there is quite a large contingency of civilians with weapons out there. Pretty scary stuff.

As a somewhat liberal “Soutie” I’m horrified by the rhetoric of certain “Grens Vegters”. Provocative talk such as “If they’re taking the law into their own hands, then so will we”. Irresponsible, illegal, aggressive action from this sector of our population may well have catastrophic outcomes. The path towards racial warfare is a slippery one. Protecting one’s family is one thing, poking a black mamba with a stick is an entirely different matter. It only takes a few incidents and sadly, it appears they’ve been happening already. Just yesterday in K.Z.N, an innocent black family of four caught in a hail of bullets while driving passed some white militia on a koppie who assumed they were a “threat”. It’s miracle nobody was killed. Gee, thanks guys for all the help.

To make sense of it all is nigh impossible. Who am I to judge? I was one of those kids who grew up with a pool. I’ve seen what life is like on the other side of that fence but I’ve never felt it. Perhaps a revolution in South Africa is destined to be …. who knows? Until a few days ago I’d never really entertained the thought. It certainly isn’t out of the question. One things for sure, I’m not ready to fight it though. With all that we’ve been through as a Nation it just doesn’t feel like something like this could happen. Have I been naive in thinking that there’s just too much to lose and we’d all see it that way? Cry the beloved country …..

Stephen Praetorious

Article by Stephen Praetorious

Oh to be a lighthouse keeper for a night …. !

Stephen's Scribble

Cape St Francis Lighthouse restaurant about to openThere’s something very special about living close to a lighthouse. A symbol of safety and security, protecting mariners from harm…. a reminder of how precious life is. The beams are like an ever steady heartbeat. They bred life into this place nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. To this day they still flash across the sky, ever consisitent …. never missing a beat …. It’s almost mystical.

Sadly for decades the lighthouse precinct here in Cape St Francis has slowly been rotting away. Many of the buildings had been abandoned and fallen into complete disrepair. The area surrounding the iconic tower had been neglected for decades. As one walked passed it looked almost like a minature ghost town ….. but not for much longer …..

I’m sure many of you are aware of the hive of activity that’s been happening recently in the lighthouse precinct. I had a wander around with Paul who passionately shared his vision. I also met Wesley who’s going to be skippering the ship. It seems they are just weeks away from opening and both were super amped!

A major draw card for the locals is going to be the restaurant. “Nevermind” stands on the footprint of the old penguin sanctuary. Seeing the pictures of that dilapidated cesspit it was, it is hard believe the transformation. It looks truly amazing.

The idea behind the restaurant is that it will offer quality as well as value, primarily serving the greater St Francis community. Most of the produce is going to be sourced locally. Fresh organic greens, free range grass fed beef, locally caught fish and bread baked right there are going to be the order of the day.

The design of the restaurant is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Open fire cooking with high tables, sweeping wind protected decks with utterly spectacular views. There’s going to be a barista banging out coffee all day with fresh pastries from the bakery. Inside a wine bar and plentiful informal yet contemporary seating. At first glance it’s really impressive.

But wait, there’s more …. Adjacent buildings too are being renovated, as accommodation. The crème de la crème of which are the two cottages at the foot of the tower itself. Basically people are going to be able to stay in the same house that all the lighthouse keepers stayed in throughout the years gone by. As I understand, it’s the only lighthouse in the country where one will be able to have this experience.

On weekends, there will also be opportunity to make a donation towards a local worthy cause and climb the tower itself. Spiralling up numerous flights of stairs then finally scaling a near vertical ladder may lead to a few sweaty palms, but it’s worth it. Standing up there on the viewing deck in a busting westerly one can really sense the danger. I felt something unfathomable. It was almost as if the souls of lost mariners were whipping around in the gusts trying to blow me off! And the views … 360 degrees of epic!

The lighthouse precinct is indeed a very special place, soon to be entering a different era. People are again going to be welcomed into the fold. The scene has been set. The beam keeps on turning. I for one am looking forward to hanging out there. After a dawnie for a coffee in the sun or an evening meal perhaps. And maybe one day, an overnight stay …. just to be a lighthouse keeper for a night

Stephen Praetorious

Article by Stephen Praetorious

Local surfers up in arms over Webcams

Stephen's Scribble

Local surfers were up in arms last week following news of a webcam having been erected on a private property overlooking Seal Point. I took the opportunity to contact the owner of the webcam, Graham Brand of Ocean Eye as well as several surfers and ocean minded people within our community to find out what is going on.

Ocean Eye, a very popular website that has several webcams installed overlooking various beaches and surf spots around the country. It’s a very clever concept that allows online views of the sea conditions at these locations, in real time, for free! Naturally with ever increasing viewership there is plenty of cash to be made on advertising. It seems a good business.

I caught up with the owner via telephone to discuss the latest installation here in Seals. He appeared to be a nice enough person but was clearly very disappointed at the chilly reception he’d received from several Seal Point locals. According to Brand, the person on whose property the webcam has been installed at has been harassed by the locals to take it down. This also appears to be the case at the establishment hosting a similar installation at the Hulett’s break that has also come under fire from a very irate St Francis Bay local. Brand claims that there have been a number of emails from infuriated board riders and his wife even received a threatening telephone call.

I thus decided to approach a number of long standing residents over the matter and received some interesting feedback. Covid has turned our area into a proverbial ‘boom town’. The influx of people has been phenomenal over the last year and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. For the most part of it, the locals have embraced the extra numbers and welcomed new comers into the village. It is changing so fast with positive spin off’s and some negative ones. A big and bitter pill for surfers, is the crowd factor.

The local board riders here are generally quite mellow and open hearted. Part of why they are here is to experience that soulful solitude of the place and those days of being in the line up with just a few friends were part of that. Nowadays with 30 people in the water of a weekday morning, 20 of which nobody seems to know, is changing all of that. So when a webcam is installed advertising live surf conditions to the entire planet 24/7, I can understand that it is going to be met with vehement resistance.

There are already a host of very effective websites to view regarding sea and weather conditions. It’s actually pretty cool interpreting what effect the wind, swell and tides are going to have on the surf.

So is this webcam really necessary? And if so how does offering an ‘extra service’ help serve the local community?

There is no doubt in my mind that Ocean Eye has experienced negative responses from local surfers before. That there was zero prior consultation on the matter is reason enough to believe that the interests of the local surfing community have been completely overlooked. Bad move! Localism is part of surfing culture, it always has been, always will be. It serves a purpose that isn’t always pretty and last week it reared its head …. BIG TIME!

To many surfers the sneaky way the webcam suddenly appeared feels a bit like a royal “fuck you ou’s”. Senior members of the Seal Point Board Riders association have been in communication on the matter. Solidarity in the resistance to a webcam overlooking the point is unquestionable.

Considering this inevitable reaction from the local surfers, karmic-ally speaking, surely making enemies of a large number of local board riders must be quite a heavy self-imposed tax? Personally, when it comes to small villages, I just don’t see how it could possibly be worth it. Earning an income in hard times can be tough, with some interesting lessons. In this case learning the difference between a hurdle and boundary perhaps? The locals have put a stake in the ground and I don’t see them budging any time soon. A webcam feels a like a slap in the face …. the straw that broke the camels back ….

Brand claims that what Ocean Eye is doing is 100% legal. If there is consent from the host that has the camera installed there his company is well within its rights. “Nobody owns the ocean. The locals have no place to be making demands to have the camera permanently removed.” In saying that, he has begrudgingly agreed to not go live with the feed …. FOR NOW. He is currently consulting lawyers over the matter. According to him, its an inevitability ….. according to many of the board riders ….. It will never happen. What do you think?

Stephen Praetorious

Article by Stephen Praetorious

Enough for all if we don’t steal from the ocean 

Stephen's Scribble

I was sitting on the beach the other morning with my vegan friend I could see these were old hands at this … A couple of guys were absolutely smashing the Shad in front us…. putting back the smaller ones and keeping some beauties. As the one guy was reeling in a feisty one, I was thinking how delicious a pan fried Shad would be to take home for breakfast and cursing myself for not bringing my rod with me. It was just then when she turned around to me and said, “Don’t you think they’ve got enough? Those poor fish!” I was a little lost for words actually.

Stephen's Scribble - Fishing in St Francis

Having worked with passionate marine conservationists over the years I am well aware that our oceans are in big trouble. We should never lose site of the fact however that there is a BIG difference between commercial fishing and recreational fishing. Both have boundaries and codes of ethics. Some legislated, some not. At the heart of this lies the individual that is doing the catching. When it comes to sustainability it is the character of those individuals who can make or break things.

Here in the greater St Francis region there are a LOT of fishermen. They’re a huge part of our culture and history. It’s more than an institution or sport …. I would liken it more to a religion.

Packing one’s gear the night before. Gently informing the missus and telling her what time you’ll be back. (more or less). Checking the tides. Scoring the bait. The weather. The sea temperature and visibility. The early wake up. The walk to the spot you’d found recently. Baiting the hook and casting out as the sun creeps over the horizon. That feeling as you stand with your finger on the nylon as your mind finally goes into neutral. The anticipation as you feel that “duk …duk …duk” on the line. Then the “graggadukdukduk” knowing you’re ON! The rush of the fight and the thrill of landing a ‘Boytjie’!

It’s epic stuff. But let me not leave out the best part. Later on … your family and friends around the fire telling fishing stories and enjoying a delicious freshly foraged meal. Questions like “So where did you catch this one Mike?” Answers like “There on the other side my Bru” …. Don’t for one moment think that a fisherman is going to give away secrets that easily! Gotta love the fishing banter around a fire …..

Fishing subculture runs deep. It’s been written into folklore for centuries. I believe most of our fishing fraternity DO respect the ocean and understand what fish are okay to catch and which are less so. Developing that consciousness can only enhance ones love and respect for the ocean and it’s continued (localised) abundance. Every now and again it’s good to ask oneself, “How can I fish more responsibly?”

We have much to be grateful for, lets not take things for granted. Here’s to all the locals who regard Mother Ocean as their church. This stuff runs deep for many of us and is worth honouring. A special shout out to those are helping fight the battle against the devastating exploitation further offshore … Massive respect to you! I have visions of the “St Francis Sea Shepard” … no doubt there’ll be no shortage of crew members.

Back on the beach, as I sat there pondering my vegan friend’s question, (and the bigger picture) it got answered right before my eyes. I looked up and checked the ‘Ballie’ we’d been watching thread six fat Shad onto a nylon rope, rinse them in the sea, pack his bag and head off down the beach. Enough for the braai later with some friends…. and a few (carefully edited) stories. With renewed enthusiasm and a little stoke for the Ou I retorted, “He’s got the perfect amount and they’re nutritious and delicious!” …. She just rolled her perfect, deep brown, militant eyes at me …. “Oh look” I said … “There’s an Oyster Catcher over there!”

Stephen Praetorious

Article by Stephen Praetorious

Mentally Aweh Cause needs you!

We received this appeal from Adam Brook of Black & White Sports Marketing and do feel this is a quest worth supporting for it has been all but ignored as Covid took centre stage over the past 12 months.

“Good morning Colin,

I trust you are well.

Colin, are you still the editor of the St Francis Today?  The reason I ask is, I am responsible for the PR and social media elements for a young man by the name of Henry Cock, who will be attempting a Guinness World Record – running 133 half marathons back-to-back (133 consecutive days).  Henry will start the run on the East coast of SA then run round the coast finishing on the West coast all in aid of raising funds and awareness for Mental Health.

Henry Cock

My name is Henry Cock and I am running from coast to coast to raise funds and awareness for mental health. That’s 2800km in total. From from Kosi Bay, South Africa to Vioolsdrift, Namibia.

How this relates to you, is Henry will be running through St Francis, and I was wondering if you would be interested in doing an interview with / article on Henry (for St Francis Today), either in the build-up to the world record attempt or between the 11 – 13 September 2021 – to assist us in generating as much exposure as possible and potentially some interest in the community when Henry does run in St Francis.

As part of the runs and to generate additional exposure we have invited a number of sports personalities to run some of the legs alongside him, so far the following people have agreed,

  • Stefan Terblanche
  • Makhaya Ntini
  • Anrune Weyers
  • Robbie Kempson
  • Lee Anne Persse
  • Bong’musa Mthembu

Please see below a link to more info about it.”

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/mentally-aweh

Even the Royals had to follow the lockdown rules.

Collo’s Comment

2021 Royal Funeral For Prince Philip UK 4480 | 2021 Royal fu… | FlickrI am neither ashamed nor embarrassed to say that I cry at funerals and that is why I have made a pledge not to attend funerals of people I know. So watching the funeral of Prince Philip whom I obviously didn’t know personally didn’t raise a tear but it did rather cause a momentary lump in the throat, for indeed it was a sad event. But rather than the sadness on the event, there is something to be said for the pomp and ceremony on matters royal.

Local TV stations seem to broadcast the funerals of every cadre of late and it is not unusual for all three news stations to televise the same funerals at the same time ignoring that there is far more important matters to inform us.  All one needs is an ANC connection and your funeral will be on TV which surely must question who is running our TV stations.  Gatvol of these almost everyday broadcasts I had absolutely no intention of watching Prince Philip’s funeral.

Waking up from a speed nap on Saturday afternoon I turned on the TV whilst waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of coffee and there it was, all the pomp and pageantry that are synonymous with Royal events. And who can ignore watching when those bands strike up.  So now well and truly hooked on the music I kept on watching.

Although christened in the Cathedral of Johannesburg and serving as a choir boy as a youngster in our local Anglican church, I have no doubt disappointed both my very religious grandmother and mother alike in choosing to not follow my religious roots. That said much of the  ceremony of that church does seemingly reside in my sub conscious so the hymns and the chanting were not unfamiliar to me and so I delayed switching to Netflix to listen to the service as I pottered.

My decision to keep watching was actually cemented when the first hymn was sung for the last time I recall hearing that hymn was at father’s funeral way back in 1964. The hymn “For those in Peril on the Sea” was in recognition of his, the Prince’s, service as a naval officer. My late father also served at sea during WW2 and was in fact was torpedoed whilst in the Mediterranean sea so certainly at peril in the sea for a moment of time until rescued.

Having just 30 mourners at that cavernous cathedral seemed rather sad and one would have thought an exception could have been made for the Queen but in true British spirit the Royals obeyed the rules even if there were a couple of hundred military personnel outside the venue. All seems a little pointless but so has everything else about this pandemic. No doubt if this had been in SA with ANC “royalty” there would have been thousands of mourners allowed including a few MK types with army officers not knowing their left from their right as demonstrated at a similar event recently.

The other aspect of the restrictions in numbers brought to mind the reality of how many people worldwide have been unable to pay their last respects to family or friends who have died not only of Covid but of the many other causes that seem to have been forgotten as being just as sad as a Covid death. So sad and one cn only wonder how many have never managed to bring closure to their loss.

With Covid infections falling, in South Africa at any rate, we can only live in hope that Mother Earth is going to give us a break and let us return to normality so that maybe we can enjoy another traditional British spectacle due to reach our shores in June, The British Irish Lions Rugby tour.