As 2014, another strange year in a strange decade in a strange century, whittles to an end in a rush none of us expected, again, nor wanted, again, it should be time for reflection, for seeking peace among all humankind, of happiness and joy and celebration.
But it has, as I said, been a strange December in a strange, mad year, and I am tired of the strangeness, despite strangeness being a good news topic.
This morning, many will wake up in twisted heaps on their beds around Sun City and tell themselves “never again”.
For the Nedbank Golf Challenge is as much won and lost by those who dive into the lakes of booze and inhale plates of the legendary ribs and sway at the ropes around the course, as those who walk mostly down the middle of the fairways.
Alex Brown, an Australian sports journalist and friend, got it spot on this week when he tweeted: “It does not matter what @MClarke23 did before, or will do in the future. This is his finest hour. He is carrying a team, a family, a nation.”
Michael Clarke, devastated at the loss of his close friend Phillip Hughes, is a broken man. But this week he has picked up the shattered pieces of his heart, held them tight against his chest and offered a piece of it to the world of cricket.
Mark Blewett has a dream. It’s an 80s dream, a cycling and music dream in one package. The dream is to have Midge Ure, the former lead singer of 80s band Ultravox, jumping out of a cake, singing “Vienna” as his top-end bike, named the Ultravox in honour of the band, comes on to the stage through a mist of dry ice.
“I was a big Ultravox fan when I was 15,” said Blewett over dinner in Cape Town last week. “I’ve been in contact with (Ure). It was strange and amazing. BikeRadar, the website, did a review of the bike, and I got this e-mail out of the blue and it said, ‘Hey Mark, I saw the Ultravox on Bike Radar. It’s really cool. We now have a race horse and a race bike named after the band.’ I thought it was Neil (Gardiner, head of marketing, communications and wine buying for Swift) taking the piss out of me. I sent an email back, saying, ‘Ja, whatever. Who is this? Who is taking the piss?’ He e-mailed back, saying, ‘This is the real Midge Ure.’ His real name is James Ure. I thought he was going to sue me for plagiarism or something.”
Blewett, a former professional rider, is back in Cape Town, his hometown for part of the year, a break from Xiamen, the Chinese port near Taiwan, where his bike business, Swift Carbon, has its headquarters. Over the last five years or so, Blewett has set about designing and building bikes that have received rave reviews. They are South African bikes designed by a South African, a Dutchman, a German engineer and built in China. Once “Made in China” was a term of some derision, but Xiamen is the epicentre of the world carbon frame manufacturing industry. If you have a high-end European or American bike, chances are high it was built there.
The riders of Team MTN Qhubeka drove down Hindley Street in Delft yesterday, past cycle lanes painted on the pavement that led to the entrance of Blikkiesdorp, the informal, yet formal settlement on the Cape Flats. It is a place of much controversy, called a “dumping ground” for the poor, a temporary relocation settlement as they were moved away from Cape Town ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Here, some of the best professional cyclists in the world got to see what the Qhubeka in their name stood for.
It’s a grey, dusty place, a R30-million collection of one-room corrugated iron shacks that make up Tin Can Town. It’s a hard place to live, a hard place to grow up and even harder to grow food to eat. Yet, some manage to prise life from the dirt, growing plants and vegetables. Marius, who did not want to give his surname, has a lush patch on which spinach, cabbage, tomatoes and other plants grow. He uses these to feed his family. The other plants are taken back to the “treepeneurs” programme run from the Spier wine farm by Lesley Joemat, an employee of the farm. The programme is part of the Wildlands Conversation Trust, an NGO begun in KZN, that rewarded “treepeneurs” for growing saplings and trees from seeds, so they could be returned to the environment.
They swap the plants for vouchers for “food, clothing, agricultural goods, tools, and bicycles – even school and university fees”, says the literature.