Saturday, March 26, 2011


Have you ever unwittingly stumbled upon something that you didn’t want to know and then you can’t un-know it?  Well then, this one’s for you.

In my search for an image that I could suitably match up with my “Helpful Guide to Understanding SA Driving Mentality”, I Googled the word “blindfolded”.  Of course, I should have pre-empted the possibility that weird stuff was going to pop up, given that the word “blindfolded” is either generally associated with some kind of skanky business, or torture. I would have to say that neither are themes that I’m particularly fond of. (Ok, so I have played pin–the-tail-on-the-donkey but it was only that one time.)

After recovering from a brief but severe bout of post-traumatic stress disorder, I decided the wise thing to do would be to narrow down my search words to something more specific, namely “driving blindfolded”.  Phew.  Safe ground here, as some considerate soul had already anticipated such a search and had helpfully uploaded loads of stock images of all kinds of people driving blindfolded.

However, as I am scanning through the first page of thumbnails, I (unwittingly, strike two) spy an unusual looking thumbnail near the bottom of the page.  It seems to be two people in a little cart. In a woodland. Being pulled by a grown man who is wearing a harness and not much else (unless you count his bikini type thingy as clothing but I should point out that it was a very small bikini type thingy.)

Obviously, (unwittingly, strike three) I had to click on the image because that’s what you do when you feel a combination of curiosity and disbelief.  In truth, thought it might be some sort of tomfoolery.  You know, like those idiotic races and competitions they hold, like the Redneck Olympics*, or the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Race. *

It wasn’t.  What I discovered is a site that is dedicated to one of the lesser-known (thank goodness) activities that’s called “Pony Play”. I have to point out that this is not a site dedicated to people who love horses.  No no, this is a site about fully-grown adults who dress up as, and get treated as, horses.  Voluntarily. I’m unashamed to say that I have lived my whole 33(ish) years without knowing that such a thing even exists.  Do these people really walk amongst us?

What’s more, I’d have to say that after reading all (well, most) of the copy on the site, I still have abso-bloody-lutely no idea why anyone would want to partake of such a thing. (I might add that there are lots of “Lord This” and “Lady That’s” involved – which only make it more curious. I mean are mostly blue-blooded folk into this sport?)

So honestly, if anyone out there can explain this compulsion to me I’d be grateful. Because I think I’ve been put off pony’s for life. And carts. And maybe even woodlands.                   

* These are real events!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

the hill's are alive, with the sound of muuuuusic...

I missed last weeks blog because only the very best, highly trained, technically proficient cyclists manage to break two of their spokes just days before the magnum opus of cycling events and have to get their blue tractor of a MTB to the shop and still make time to test out the repairs before THE BIG DAY.  Tess, the cycling shop owner who is an epic cyclist (really, she rides the Epic) always asks me tricky questions like “did you go over a pothole?” or “did you jump a pavement?” when I bring my bike in.  I think she’s trying to be funny with me.

I probably should be writing about how wearing lycra in public humbles you.  Or how some women manage to cycle with makeup on (yes, mascara and base). Or how the spirit of camaraderie swept me up on race day. But the main thing I have to comment on, is the choice of pre-race music.

Now I know that most sporty people can’t dance.  Sorry, but it’s just one of those universal truths.  Still, there’s no need to insult them further by playing heinous music. Of course I know that the thinking behind playing music before a sporting event isn’t in fact to teach step-bull-change and that it’s purpose is primarily to psych you up. Think this is a point that the DJ might have missed.

I’ve just finished reading Lewis Pugh’s book on his insane below zero swims in Norway and the North Pole etc.  He talks about how he has a pre-swim playlist that is there solely to get him into the right headspace before taking the plunge.  This is going to come as a shock, but Hokey Pokey is NOT on it. 

And neither should it be on any playlist.  And if you think that Hokey Pokey  took the cake, let me run through some of the other tracks that were played on race day. 

As I arrived they were kicking off with a very fetching remix of My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.  You didn’t know there was a remix?  Ah well, now I guess that changes everything folks.  You rush out and get that CD now, I’ll just bet they’re flying off the shelves.

The obvious choice after Hokey Pokey, is Simple Simon Says. Obviously. Plenty of clues regarding what dance moves you should be doing.  And no amp-me-up-before-I-go-go playlist is complete without Agadoo (again with the fun moves). Of course the all time winner has to be Lily The Pink. I mean what other song could totally get me in the mood for cycling 109km!? I was so desperate to hear some good music that I actually started singing along when Achy Breaky Heart came on.

Perhaps the organizers were going for a carnival kind of atmosphere.  You know, choosing familiar songs that everyone can sing along to. But seriously, I just don’t think that playing the Chicken Song will ever bring out the best in anyone. Cyclists or dancers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ignore the rules...

The response to my last blog was surprising.  People showed a real concern about the possibility of my karate suit getting hooked on my bicycle chain and the fact that my music taste has gone feral.

They also had a quite a bit to say about South African drivers. So much so that I felt moved to write this “Helpful Guide to Understanding SA Driving”. Feel free to pass this on to visiting foreigners - unless of course, they come from Beirut, where I believe they are already in the loop when it comes to risky driving.

We already spoke about the fact that speed limit signs are more a vague suggestion than an instruction and that numbers like "60" and "80" are a hint at what is the minimum - not the maximum. We have also spoken about how solid white lines are there solely to taunt you and that those fancy double lines with a little stripe in the middle are merely decorative. 

Zebra crossings are for zebras.  Clearly.  The average SA driver sees a zebra crossing and, seeing no zebras waiting to cross, shoots over it.

Speed bumps, as their name implies, are to be taken at speed. No point in slowing down when there’s another one just a couple of metres ahead, right?  The aim is drive fast so that you are actually airborne between speed bumps.

The phrase “traffic flow” is there to fox you - make you feel like a meek little follow-the-leader-Norman-Nobody sheep. Ignore the word flow. Defy the flow. Zigzag between cars at pace. This momentarily gets you ahead of the flock.  It doesn’t matter that the MOFO car that you nearly beaned 5km ago pulls up next to you at the traffic lights. It’s the principle of the matter.  You just have to get ahead.

Traffic jams are for losers.  To not be a loser, you must squeeze onto the hard shoulder and force your way forward as though you are an emergency vehicle. If there’s been an accident, you must, must, MUST slow down to ask the traffic officer if there has been an accident. Because the ambulance, fire truck and police vehicles after all, aren’t enough of a hint.

At an intersection, don’t let anyone in.  Just don’t or so help me, they’ll only try to keep in front of you (see "traffic flow" above).  You must keep intersection interlopers waiting, and if they try to push in, cuss and make rude signs with your hands.  What are they thinking?  Is it your problem they’re unable to cross, thereby causing a 7km back up? Best policy is to pretend you don’t see them. 

Rain? Just ignore it.  No need to adjust your speed or traffic light strategy for a bit of torrential downpour.  Also, don’t bother leaving home earlier than usual to allow for the delay.  Everyone else should have thought of that, dammit.

Parallel parking isn’t a skill; it’s a challenge.  It’s your job as a fellow person of the road to make this challenge as difficult as possible for the person in front of you, who might be trying to parallel park.  If you see them indicating for a bay, drive right up their butts, and then when they start reversing into the bay, throw your hands up and mouth “WTF!”.  Then watch them (because by now some other eejit has rammed up your butt so you also can’t reverse) try and magically squeeze into the bay.

If you spot a yield sign, drive faster.  Only total anoraks slow down at yield signs. You don’t want to be an anorak, do you? Best to approach these as fast as you can, possibly accelerating in a dice-to-the-death kind of fashion.

Stop signs are actually technically called “rolling stops”.  If you slow down enough to change into first gear you are a road nerd. You need to adopt a drug-dealer kind of roll forward, where it continually looks like you’re selling some narcs. Glaring at the cars on the other side of the stop sign will help to complete the illusion.

Although you must ignore stop signs, you can commit random stopping whenever you like. No need to indicate or put on your hazards or obey the big yellow or red stripe on the road.  Just stop and then do your drug dealer glare when passers by get irate. If they’re not happy about it they should have zigzagged in front of you ages ago. 

If you are old, you must wear a hat (preferably tartan or tweed.)  This is an indication to those cars around you that you have absolutely no intention of either tapping into your peripheral vision, or even turning your head to check for traffic.  Just wear your hat and do whatever you like.  You especially have Carte Blanche when it comes to reversing out driveways – no need for caution, just wear your hat and keep facing forwards.

It is no accident that traffic circles are in the shape of a roulette table. Under no circumstances must you give clues as to the direction you intend to take.  Definitely DON'T indicate that you are turning, you must keep people guessing till the very last moment and even then, don't indicate.  If they know where you're going they'll probably try and follow you, just so that they can ultimately overtake you and get ahead (see "traffic flow" once again.)  

Above all, you must never apologise if you’ve behaved like a *doos. It’s just a sign of weakness.  No. You must flip the middle finger to finish off your doos-ness.

I’m off to buy a tartan hat.

*doos:  South African (quite rude) slang for loser/idiot/wally/d..ckhead