The country and people of South Africa

Posted July 6, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

This inevitably had to be the last post even though I had wanted to write about the people from pretty early on in the trip. What of the country first of all?

The numbers of visitors at the World Cup seemed to be significantly less than anticipated (I heard this consistently on my travels) and although (lack of) geographical proximity, FIFA’s inflated forecasts and a worldwide recession may have been contributory factors I suspect the main reason was actually the negative publicity that South Africa receives abroad. One often hears stories of rampant crime, high HIV rates, terrible road fatality statistics, racial tension, no go areas in cities etc. etc. These all exist in one form or another but are no means unique to South Africa. There are areas of London, New York & Los Angeles that I wouldn’t care to be wandering round alone at nighttime.  It seemed that as long as you tool normal & reasonable precautions, personal security wasn’t an issue. We never felt threatened during our 3 weeks travelling around the country and the only person I heard of who got robbed was the young American student who passed out drunk as a skunk outside a bar on a sofa. Even then, he only lost his wallet. Lucky boy.

Problems do exist though in South Africa and they’re quite close to the surface. Economic growth has attracted migrants from all over the African continent, especially to Joburg, and this is causing simmering resentment, especially with regards to unemployment.  In the recent UK General Election immigration was a hot topic, it’s a political hot potato in many parts of the world as informed citizens become more mobile and move to where the opportunities are greatest.

Racial tension is also an obvious challenge. What the country has achieved in the post Apartheid era is incredible and in no small part due to the charisma and personality of a certain Nelson Mandela. One only has to look across the border to Zimbabwe to see how difficult the transition from one form of governance to another can be and we probably take for granted sometimes what a difficult task the South Africans have faced. Although the progress has been excellent so far, this process will take decades and is not something that Mandela or Zuma or any other politician can solve in a 5 year term of office.  Many of the whites, when probed, candidly spoke of their back up plans for moving their families overseas if the country descended into economic or social turmoil. All were united though in saying they would only do that as an absolute last resort because they passionately loved the country they lived in.

I’m 100% sure that the (Football) World Cup was a positive step in this ongoing integration process. The Rugby World Cup in 1995 had been a defining moment for the new Rainbow Nation but rugby was and perhaps still is a predominantly white sport (see the movie Invictus for some Hollywood style background on this) whereas football had been the sport of the blacks throughout the apartheid years. Many of the whites I spoke to said their favourite sport was still rugby but they were proud to be hosting the Football World Cup and were 100% behind Bafana Bafana. We saw total unity among the locals at football matches irrespective of colour, social status etc. and although it would be naive to suppose that we didn’t see a sanitised, tourist friendly view of South Africa there was such a reservoir of goodwill present that one has to be optimistic for the future.

This though is a macro view and susceptible to generalisations. It’s perhaps more instructive to move down to a micro level, to examine one’s own experiences and for me this is where the warmth and generosity of spirit really shines through. There are countless examples I could note (a few selected ones below) of local people who went above and beyond the call of duty to help us and never for monetary reward. They did it because it came naturally to them and because they wanted visitors to enjoy the experience of being in their wonderful country:

  1.  Christu – the driver who had volunteered to help me print out tickets the day of my arrival and spent about 6 hours driving me around Joburg and waiting for me to get sorted
  2. Etta – the landlady of the guest house in Bloemfontein we stayed with.  After England came 2nd in their group we realised we would be playing in Bloemfontein the 2nd round rather than Rustenburg and had no accommodation booked. We called Etta and although she had no rooms available back at her own place she took it upon herself to call all the local B&B places until she had secured us 3 rooms. We weren’t even staying with her and still she couldn’t do enough for us!
  3. Mohammed – the Indian guy we met on the drive from Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth for the England game. There were major roadworks every few miles which necessitated a 10-20 mins wait for opposing traffic to file through the single lane. Got chatting to Mohammed at one of these traffic stops and within 10 mins he had invited me to drive, with his family, in his car the next day to Durban. I never managed to take him up on the offer because we had ‘accomodation issues’ in Port Elizabeth but we stayed in contact via text and several days later it was Mohammed who we ended up selling our spare Qtr and Semi-Final tickets to. Actually to be accurate it was one of Mohammed’s friends; Abdul. Mohammed lived in Durban but had called his friend Abdul (who lived in Joburg) to immediately go and buy 7 Qtr and Semi-Final tickets off these complete strangers. BTW, if you think Facebook or Linked In are useful tools for connecting with your extended social circle, they are as nothing compared to the power of the Indian Diaspora. Every country I’ve ever lived in there are wealthy Indians who know everyone and are hyper connected; perhaps the blueprint for the Borg Collective. 

So Abdul (Mohammed’s friend) arranges to meet us at a McDonalds in a part of Joburg we are unfamiliar with and hand over 21,000 Rand in cash (about US$ 3,000). This would be quite a wedge of cash anyway but the largest denomination banknote in general use in S. Africa today is the 100 Rand (200’s have had too many forgeries) so Abdul turned up with half a rucksack stuffed full of cash which of course we had to count in the restaurant. I confess we were a little apprehensive. In true John Le Carre style Richard and I did the transaction and afterwards Richard met Kieran, who was loitering nearby incognito, in the toilets to pass over the money in a classic bag switch operation.

Anyway, we needn’t have worried. Abdul gave us a lift to the ground in his BMW 5 Series, ‘persuaded’ a policeman to let us park, quite illegally, right by Ellis Park, insisted we take his 2 match tickets, so Richard and I could sit together, while he stood outside and tried to sell off the extra ticket we now had between us. Feeling rather overwhelmed by his generosity I offered to do what any English football fan would do under the circumstances and bought him a beer. Bad call, non drinking Muslim but a fanatical football fan and we had a great time at the game.  

There are loads of other examples and I apologise to so many people for not mentioning them in more detail (the people of Pepper Entertainments, the UCT Campus Accomodation staff, the affable & accomodating South African Airways groundstaff etc. etc. etc.) This was a country displaying it’s wares, it’s product, it’s very soul.

Despite the dazzling variety of things to see and do it was the warmth of the welcome shown by the entire population that left the biggest imprint. Many South Africans may have been disappointed with the initial number of visitors but I offer this perspective. In the business world, people often use repeat purchase as an important brand loyalty metric i.e. once a consumer has bought your product or service do they go back again and again? The most successful brands in the world inspire this loyalty and it is economically more efficient to retain consumers that constantly attract new ones.

By the time I had left Cape Town (half way through my trip) I was already thinking about when we could come back for a family holiday. How my wife would enjoy Cape Town, how the kids would love safari etc. This became a recurring theme as I travelled round and talked to other football fans who were here without their families. So I’m sure the brand of South Africa has been improved both in terms of greater awareness and also greater positivity. The benefits will be difficult to measure but I’m sure will last for many years to come.

So the sun sets on another great tournament and great adventure. The people of South Africa have made this perhaps more spontaneous than the last few World Cups. Just look back and ask yourself, do spontaneous and Germany (2006) or Japan (2002) or even France (1998) often co-exist in the same sentence?

There are a group of people however who live, eat and breath spontaneity. These are the Brazilians. I have never ever seen any hint of aggression by Brazilian football fans despite often seeing them in their thousands. It was a very touching moment to see them in the bowels of Ellis Park stadium after the Brazil vs Chile match; singing, dancing, bursting with joy and totally in unison with the local South Africans, a kind of Rainbow Samba fusion. So take the torch Brazil, we are already looking forward to what promises to be a sensational time in 2014.

That then concludes this blog, it was never the intention to carry on after the World Cup or even after I returned to the UK as the perspective was about being there, not watching games on TV. I hope you have enjoyed it and maybe you will consider your own voyage of discovery to Brazil for the next World Cup.

See you there.

England fans

Posted July 5, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

There are 2 groups of people I’ve saved until last to write about, very different in nature but both amazing in their own right. The first are the English football fans. It doesn’t matter what game you go to at a World Cup, you will ALWAYS find England fans and English flags there.

If you go to an England game itself, the flags are the thing you really notice, akin to a male peacock’s proud plumage. Ahead of the Rustenburg game, the press was predicting more than 60% of the fans were likely to be from USA i.e. we would be heavily outnumbered. There were quite a few USA fans there but they were seemingly swamped by the numbers of English. This was partly an optical illusion and the reason was the flags. The English always have so many St George flags adorning a stadium (wherever it is) it’s an amazing sight to behold. Most of the club affiliations are the real bread and butter of the game, not the Man Utd and Chelsea glory hunters. Rather you see fans from Notts County, Wimbledon, Macclesfield, Stevenage Borough and all four corners of England’s Green and Pleasant Land. When you go to multiple England games in the same tournament you start to see the same flags and fancy dress costumes repeated and get a sense of the travelling circus you become a temporary member of.

The vuvezelas have been an interesting innovation at this World Cup. In general I don’t mind them, they’re quite fun, except at the Japan vs Paraguay game when the football was so poor that all people had to do was to blow them non-stop for 120 mins. It was noticeable though that the vuvezelas were much less prominent at England games. This was partly because the English fans, sans vuvus, had hoovered up so many of the spare tickets that neutrals would otherwise use but mainly because England football fans like to SING. There are a variety of songs in the repertoire; some funny, some mildly offensive, some centred on the historical period of 1939-1945 and nearly always jingoistic in nature. There was a new song especially for this World Cup whose lyrics consisted entirely of “you can stick your vuvezelas up your a..e” (clue = 4 letter word, beginning with the letter A and rhyming with grass). The locals seemed to get the message and after a couple of renditions of this gay ditty there was a sufficient decibel reduction to hear the travelling England Supporters’ brass band. They generally orchestrate the rhythm and dynamics of the songs although, there is rather more Fortissimo than Pianissimo.

The next 2 opponents; Algeria and Slovenia you would expect to have few fans anyway, although the Algerians at Cape Town made more noise than the USA fans had at Rustenburg and were an impressive and very good natured bunch. The big one though was the game at Bloemfontein vs the Germans. Not only would this be a big football game but there was honour at stake here for the fans; who could drink the most beer, who could sing the most and the loudest songs, who could have the visible most flags etc. 

 Turning ever so briefly to the football. England were outplayed, outfought and outthought. Simple as. Lampard’s goal was obviously a goal but Germany could have scored another 4 if they’d needed to. You just have to admit sometimes that the other team was better and Germany were miles better on the day. In purely technical terms, we were crap and they were good.

As to the important matters though I can proudly reveal that England ‘played a blinder’:

  •  There were way more England flags there than German ones (this may seem trivial but don’t forget that most England fans had assumed that we would win our group and therefore had accommodation and match tickets lined up for the Rustenburg 2nd round game the day before, a mere 8 hours drive further North)
  • The England songs were much more vocal and varied, at least until the 3rd or 4th German goal went in when life seemed to lose all meaning and we collectively started to consider the merits of Existentialism
  • Best of all though, the England fans drank the stadium dry. I was in a queue for beer at half time that seemed to last an eternity. The reason was that mass panic had set in as scurrilous rumours emanated that other parts of the stadium had already run dry and this was possibly the only queue left with beer at the end of it. I actually missed the first 10 mins of the 2nd half, inc Lampard’s free kick that rattled the bar, but did have the satisfaction of receiving some of the last beer available in the stadium.

Actually this seemed like déjà vu as our journey down to Bloemfontein had already been significantly extended in the morning by a search and rescue mission for ‘essential supplies’. We had set off about 8am for a 6 hour drive but were deterred by press reports that had suggested Free State (the conservative & heavily religious province of Bloemfontein) was usually dry on Sundays and all bars / bottle shops would probably be closed. We were terrified that we would arrive in Bloemfontein with no beer and see the Afrika Korps er I mean the German fans there in force with Steins of ice cold lager and perfectly griddled  bratwursts.  Suffice to say, we eventually found a bottle shop, open on a Sunday morning, and rewarded them with more business than they’d normally do in a week.

The drive down in the morning was actually great fun. A flotilla of seemingly random vehicles coalescing the closer we got to Bloemfontein. There are quite a few toll plazas on this stretch of the N1 and as the cars slowed to filter through there was already some good natured banter & horn honking going on.  Wanting to ‘get into the mood’ we searched the collective memory of our respective iPods but the only vaguely jingoistic tune we could come up was a 30 secs clip of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. Winding down all the windows we cranked this up to maximum volume and placed it on continuous loop as we inched along in the queue. There were a few puzzled looks on the German fans’ faces whereas most of the England fans seemed to think we were a production crew for ‘Last Night of the Proms’ and were craning their necks to see if Richard Baker or Clive Anderson were hidden in the back of our car.    

There are other countries that have excellent followings; Brazil, Argentina, Holland and Germany all have great fans but the difference is that their team also delivers. The problem for the English fans is they put in so much time and effort but the team rarely reciprocates. I have been ‘lucky’ enough to see England play 13 times at the World Cup finals since 1998. Of those 13 games there are a grand total of 2 that I remember us playing really well in

  • 1998 vs Argentina in a game we still lost. The Michael Owen game.
  • 2002 vs Denmark when we were up 3-0 before half time and the congas had started after only 30 mins. To add to the surreal feeling of that evening in Niigata I think Emile Heskey may even have scored. Halley’s Comet may also have made an appearance.

 Still hope springs eternal and everything goes in cycles. The gloom and despair of this historic loss will be probably be superceded by another loss vs Australia in the Ashes this winter. Night will turn to day, we’ll gradually forget ‘the shame of Bloemfontein’ and instead spend The Winter of our Discontent harping on about Uruguayan linesmen while nourished by a steady supply of ‘If Only’ ruminations.

They are an amazing species, the England football fan. Occasionally bad tempered, always humourous, incredibly flexible (you have to be to follow England) but above all fiercely loyal. Does the Rest of the World care though that England exited the competition so early?

From a football standpoint the answer has to be a resounding no, a deafening wave of apathy from the other nations. We got exactly what we deserved on the field.

Off the field though the shopkeepers, merchants, hoteliers, bar owners (especially) and general population were genuinely saddened. Only 20 short years ago English football fans were pariahs and towns would shut up entirely if England were drawn to play there (this happened as recently as France ’98). In South Africa though, hosting an England game was seen as a jackpot. In a survey of the highest spending fans conducted by Visa between June 1st – 20th the amount spent by fans using Visa branded payment cards was as follows:

  1. USA                       US$ 34.5m
  2. England                US$ 33.8m
  3. Australia              US$ 8.8m
  4. Brazil                     US$ 6.5m

 Of course this is not a totally scientific measure but it gives an indication why England fans are once again a prized attraction with the local populace.

Random Photos

Posted July 4, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

French Horn

 

Great Expectations

 

Philanthropic S. Africans

 

Subterranean zebras

 

Oversized ladybug

 

Joburg Taxi

 

The pain of defeat

Joburg

Posted July 3, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

It’s funny how it works with some towns. I stayed in Cape Town for only a short time but after walking around it for a few days I felt like I had a reasonable handle on the place. With Joburg it was very different. I spent much more time there in total but still feel like I only scratched the surface of what the city itself was all about.

As noted in an earlier post Joburg is extremely well spread out and seems more like a collection of independent towns, united by name but not much else. From the affluent northern suburbs of Sandton & Bryanston to the funky downtown enclaves of Melville & Newtown to the grittier areas of Yeoville & Alexandra where tourists are usually recommended not to venture, there is such diversity that it feels more like a microcosm of a entire continent than parts of the same city.

As usual I tried to rationalise what Joburg ‘is all about’ i.e. what is it’s raison d’etre by looking for historical context. Cape Town is easier, there are lot’s of analogies with Sydney; stunning, picturesque cities both that are well aware of the charms they possess and not afraid to let other people know it. But what of the role of Joburg ?

From an Old World perspective It is most often compared to New York. There are elements that work here especially around immigration. People from all over the African continent are flooding to Joburg as they believe it is the economic hub and a place they can fulfill their dreams. Sounds like New York’s immigration story.

Joburg is a very recent phenomenon though having only gained importance or even any kind of size after gold was discovered in 1886. This giant and rapid leap forward on the back of a kind of industrial revolution reminds me somewhat of the history of Chicago in the late 19th century i.e. a change in the economic landscape of a country (in the case of the USA the railroads helping trade to expand westwards) causing the pre-eminence of that city for a period of time.

From a geography and topography point of view, the analogies are easiest with Los Angeles and being stuck in 5 lanes of traffic at 6am on a weekday morning confirmed this unintended and unwelcome linkage.

There were several other cities I tried but none seem to match the indentikit properly. It finally came to me though on the plane home; I was looking at the problem from the wrong way. Joburg will not fit an indentikit of an old world city but rather will become a blueprint for the emerging cities of tomorrow i.e. I should be looking forwards not backwards. History doesn’t solve every problem…

Back at Maropeng they’d had an interesting exhibit on the top 10 cities (population wise) in 1900. The list included Vienna, Manchester, St Petersburg, Philadelphia, Chicago etc. – all beautiful and interesting cities but no longer among the world’s biggest or (probably) the most dynamic.  

By 2003 (just one century later) the Top 10 list was now dominated by cities from the emerging world including Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Shanghai etc. Joburg is not on this Top 10 list yet but who knows in the future.

Africa is an economic powerhouse of tomorrow. It as abundant in natural resources and they are likely to be huge strategic and political weapons of the future. Of course there are many problems to overcome but just think again about the change in the world order over the last 100 years.

So, I choose to remember Joburg today as a teeming, chaotic, fascinating & fun metropolis but have a sneaky feeling that when my children’s children’s children are studying their history at school, Joburg will be held out as a beacon of an economic and cultural changing of the guard both for South Africa as a country and Africa as a continent.

The unluckiest man in the world ?

Posted June 30, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

Some people show true dedication & fight adversity to get to and stay at the World Cup. A quick mention therefore to Richard, a good friend and one of our travelling party.

Richard lives in LA and flew here via London so that’s a good 2 day journey each way anyway. He was excited though both by the prospect of the football but also a safari to Kruger Park that he had arranged with Kieran and family (the rest of our party).

Now Richard is the true embodiment of Inspector Gadget. If there’s a toy or piece of hardware out there, he has to have it and has to have the best one. He’s one of the 12 remaining people on the planet who bought a DAT player when that was the next big thing in Hi-Fi. He also, truth be told, is a bit of a control freak and has to have GPS directions working just to go down to breakfast.

So kitted out with the latest, greatest technology Richard arrived in South Africa. The first problem encountered was he lost his personally engraved, present from his wife i-Pod. I suppose in all fairness it would be more accurate to say that Kieran and I lost it for him because we left it in the rental car that we returned to Hertz at Joburg airport.

We were actually upgrading our car having only being able to get a Chevy Aveo to start with. A Chevy Aveo may be Ok for pottering round town in but we were driving stretches of up to 1,100km at a time. The Aveo is basically a mechanised lawnmower with a plastic chassis over the top of it to disguise it as a car. Once / if you get above 40mph it starts whining like those damn vuvuzelas. Most of the highways in South Africa are single carriageway so you are forever overtaking. The strategy in the Aveo for overtaking was to get to the top of the hill & just when you started on the downhill stretch, all lean forward at exactly the same moment. This was our turbo.

Anyway, enough about driving. Richard still had the rest of his gadgets intact including his trusty Blackberry which is surgically attached to his arm. Even I don’t care for his habit of doing GPS  AND texting AND driving simultaneously, one handed at 160kmh (100mph). Technology of course is not infallible as his GPS had directed us faultlessly to the wrong place in Port Elizabeth due to incorrect map data.

Esther 2.8…and so it came to pass that Richard’s Blackberry did bear false witness and did stop working. This was a hammer blow for poor Richard. No GPS, no texts, no email (although of course he still had his top of the range laptop to use when we could eventually find any wi-fi).

His mood darkened but he still had his top of the range camera to fall back on with a seperate add on jumbo lens that probably cost more than I’ve ever spent on cameras in my entire life. Now I know what you’re thinking, surely his camera couldn’t get lost or broken as well. Surely no-one is that unlucky.

In fact the camera is in perfect shape as far as I know. The problem is to use a camera you need eyes and Richard had started to develop an eye infection. We all sympathetically told him to take 2 aspirin, drink a bottle of red wine and it’d be fine but it got steadily worse. Not only was the eye getting worse but he was getting an aversion to light, both sunlight and artificial light.

We went to see Brazil vs Chile at Ellis Park. Great game, great occasion but poor old Richard was in torture from the floodlights and assorted flashbulbs. He still took hundreds of photos but he was in a bad shape by now and the bus was coming to pick him for Kruger at 5:30 the next morning. My God, he’d even bought a special shirt to go on safari with, I didn’t know such a thing existed. Have never seen one of those down at Marks & Spencers.

Anyway, the alarm went at 4:30am and Richard had to decide whether he was up to an 8 hour drive on the bus to Kruger for a 3 day safari. There was the not insignificant detail that he’d already paid for the safari and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. He took the sensible option though and we drove to the nearby 24 hour clinic.

They quickly diagnosed viral conjunctivitis, put some gooey anti-septic cream on the eye and told him to wear an eye patch for at least 24 hours. Now the bus to Kruger had left hours ago so the options were as follows:

a) don’t go to Kruger and stay in Joburg. This would offer the salivating prospect of attending Paraguay vs Japan but Richard had emotionally and financially invested quite a lot to get to Kruger

b) drive the rental car to Kruger to catch up the bus. This would normally be the obvious solution but he didn’t know the roads at all, of course had no GPS or even phone anymore, it would dark before he could get there even if he didn’t get lost and best of all he only had one eye working !

c) the perfect compromise – take a taxi. The Guest House had recommended a local operator called Swift Shuttles or something like that. They were willing to take Richard 8 hours there and the driver to return 8 hours back again. I won’t divulge the cost but suffice to say that if you’re saving for a deposit on a 4 bedroomed house, this would have paid for it several times over

When I said goodbye to Richard (I’m not going to Kruger) he said he was planning to try and sleep on the shuttle up there so his body could recover. I suspect though that he was probably rummaging through his assorted toys trying to build a Morse Code transmitter so that he could stay connected to the outside world.

Photo of Richard attached above with a rather fetching use of the airline eyepatch / mask thingy. Richard found this was the only way he could stay comfortable due to his light sensitivity issues but of course the downside in that strategy was that he kept on falling over everything.

Happy safari Richard, hope you get to see……something.

Bloemfontein

Posted June 30, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

You know a place may be less than inspiring when even Lonely Planet, a publication that can sometimes make Milton Keynes sound like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, says (of Bloemfontein) “….no reason to go out of your way to visit …”

Well, in our crazy, mixed up, see how many days we can waste driving around the country itinerary we went to Bloemfontein TWICE and stayed over both times. Still, you find interesting stuff anywhere if you look. We spent a  morning at the National Women’s Memorial & Anglo-Boer War Museum (which to be fair is featured in LP)

Another interesting example of the rose tinted version of history you receive in your own country. One of the most famous escapades of the Boer War from the perspective of English History was the daring escape from captivity of a certain Winston Churchill. There have been documentaries which laid out objectively what the British side did during the Boer War (Andrew Marr’s recent history of the 20th century springs to mind) but in general we like to remember the good bits and gloss over the less desirable elements.

I had read already about the concentration camps that the British set up for the Boer women and children as they adopted a scorched earth policy to force the Boer guerilla units off the land. This is by no means a unique tactic in military history but it was still chilling to see in so much detail, especially the artefacts, photos and grim details of all these camps.

What was surprising (at least to me) was the number of nations involved in a conflict I had assumed was mainly the British Empire vs some plucky settlers. Soldiers from several British Empire countries (Australia, New Zealand, Canada) fought there for the British and POW camps were set up in  places like Bermuda, St Helena, Sri Lanka & India to keep enemy combatants out of the way. That was understandable in a way but the number of different countries that were represented on the Boer side was a big surprise; Germany, France, Belgium, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and several others). Now more accurately these were not official armies of these nations but were well meaning volunteers who came because they believed in the cause (similar to what happened in the Spanish Civil War).

Indeed, there are many people in South Africa who insist this should be known as the South African War rather than just the Boer War because it wasn’t just against the Boers. There was also the question of Black i.e. local tribe participation. The local tribes fought mainly, but not entirely, on the side of the British apparently on the belief that the British would afterwards grant them autonomy, land etc. Unsurprisingly this didn’t work out entirely and there were several Black concentration camps set up as well. So, as usual, no-one really comes out of the war looking good.

Actually there was one person, a lady called Emily Hobhouse. She was a British welfare campaigner who devoted her life to bringing attention to the appalling conditions that the women and children faced in the concentration camps. In many ways she played a similar role to that of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War. Not only that but Hobhouse went back to South Africa after the war and helped the women (many of whom were widows by now) establish weaving and spinning industries so that they could become self-sufficient and actually leave the camps. Although Emily died in London, her ashes are buried at the National Womens Memorial, next to the Museum. It is very moving.

Florence Nightingale is a revered figure in the UK and everyone studies her at school. I wonder how many schoolchildren or even people in the general population could name Emily Hobhouse or what she did.

Technical problems

Posted June 30, 2010 by wctoffee
Categories: Uncategorized

It was certainly my intent to update this blog daily but that plan has met a few challenges recently:

- several days spent travelling and sometimes driving vast distances in the car

- lack of wi-fi or internet at several of the places we stayed at (how can you have a guest house w/o wi-fi ?)

- and best of all, when I did dedicate a whole afternoon to walking round a dusty middle of nowhere place, the first internet cafe I went into kindly ‘donated’ a worm virus to my SD card which seems to have blocked access to my hundreds of World Cup photos & videos

A tad frustrating but will try to catch up a bit without pictures


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