Tap. Tap. Tap – go the raindrops on the windscreen. My fingers chase the rhythm on the wheel – tap tap tap – as a sea of blurred red brake lights stretch from here to some far unseen clear shore. It’s before 7am on a dark, wet winters’ morning and I’m going nowhere slowly, stopped by the triple roadwork bypass which cones me off from my office.

This first set is allegedly close to completion according to the cheerful signs, if not the actual evidence dimly illuminated by a hundred headlights. But providing my commute starts at stupid o’clock, their constrained one lane twitchery costs me only a few minutes. This is more than compensated by the longest roadworks in history blocking the main arterial road into Birmingham. And what has backing up the traffic for miles, in either direction, achieved during the last eight months?

You want descriptive precision? No problem: nothing, nada, fuck all – the entire premise behind this pointless digging expedition is so a single bloke can perform daily digger burnouts in a vaguely up and down fashion. That’s not quite true, I did one see a second fella with a spade, but he was utilizing this traditional bastion of the manual worker for leaning on while puffing a cancer stick. Let’s hope it’s not the gas main then? Actually on reflection…

Tap…Tap….Tap now we’re moving but so are the windscreen wipers clearing the rain, but with an end of arc tap. But not all the time, no the mnemonic is broken by blissful silence luring the twitchy one inside into a state of near calm, but then TAP TAP TAP. I’ve tried all he speeds, I’ve tried shouting, I’ve turned on the radio but that brought forth Nicky Campbell – compared to which the entire fucking windscreeen could explode, and you’d still be up on the day.

How can that man be so far up his own arse* and still spout such uninformed pretentious bollocks, while simultaneously adding smug, patronising and condescending to his overflowing bucket of wrongness? Radio off, Tap…S I L E N C E… Swish…… TAP – God it’s the bastard love child of Chinese Water Torture and the ‘Get the Parent’ game babies play. Cry, Quiet, Quiet “YES YES YES SHE’S GONE” WAIL…OH FUCK YOUR TURN” – tell you what pass me the dentist drill for a bit of displacement therapy.

The final set of roadworks started today carelessly chopping out a couple of motorway lanes, inevitably on the busiest stretch. The next six months are laid out in front of me with cold, stationary cars and heated drivers. It’s some bloody cosmic hurry up to get me back to commuting, and it’d be a bloody privilege to listen to knees creaking, breath rasping and the imminent crumbling of some key, yet poorly maintained, bicycle component. But I’m holding out for light at one end, and a level of breeziness not troubling the Beaufort scale.

Tap..Tap..Tap, the sound of one mans’ desultory roadside drilling distorted by tightly sealed windows. There are those who’d question why anyone would live sixty miles from the office, but it’d be a dumb question because this is Birmingham we’re talking about. A 100 kilometers is about the minimum blast radius any sane person would choose to run away from England’s second city**

Now a creak has started from the dash, and is perfectly juxtaposed with the percussion brain damage of the wipers. I’m surmising it’s coming from the airbag, and seriously contemplate crashing into the lane weaving cock*** so firing the bloody trim into the boot. You never know, if my righteous quotient is significant, it might take the wiper with it.

Tap..Tap..Tap, calmer now heading home, on the forgotten Ross spur ‘where no cars will go‘. CD is jammed to rock 80s anthems and I’ve got a cruise control, 4 limb, all body drumming experience going on. Mercifully, the creaks and cracks have gone, except for the last of the daylight being inexorably crushed between dark land and a darker sky. But it’s 5pm and that’s getting pretty close to BMT.

Bike Mean Time is coming 🙂

* SO FAR, we’re talking a detailed examination of his small intestine here.

** 2nd to London. So not very good at all really.

*** He’s driving a BMW. So essentially a phallus in a suit.

Out of Africa…

.. and rather pleased about it. There are many things about the place (Jo-Burg especially) which I’ll miss not at all. For example, the barbed wire topped residential conclaves housing the white middle class and guarded by armed black guards. H’mm can’t see that ending well in any revolution.

The endless panhandling wasn’t much of a thrill either. Their is a strong directive not to drop a few coins into the hand of a young mother who is using the other one to cradle a hungry looking baby. The argument advanced is to donate to one desperate person will merely attract many more to the same spot tomorrow.

But this is missing the point, surely? The solution must be for the state to provide a safety-net for these young black – and of course they all are black – women. But get into that conversation and a whole slew of barely contained anger laments the state of the country, the way in which it is run and the feeling that it is no longer fair. That’s from the white minority of the population, obviously.

The end of apartheid was so obviously something to rejoice, and yet it doesn’t feel like it has quite gone away. Anyway such weighty debate is not really at home on the hedgehog, so I’ll leave you with this. I never really felt safe out there but what really bothered me was it seemed no one else did either. Not just the constant threat of low level violence (with counter measures you couldn’t make up), but the underlying friction of many different social groups all feeling as if they were the victims.

In completely unrelated news, the site just had another update, after a benevolent hack that probably was exploited through an ancient version of code from someone even lazier than me on this shared server. I don’t think it has enbusted anything but if so, consider it custom code 😉

Still here…

… still working. Apparently the weather back in ol’ Blighty is shocking. Sort it out can you, I am kipper smoking back for breakfast tomorrow. That does pre-assume I am allowed out of the building before dark (which hasn’t happened at all this week), the inevitable car jacking doesn’t take me out on the way to the airport, I can find the airport and the plane doesn’t plunge into the ground in a flaming plume of death when hit by one of the fierce electrical storms forecasted.

This morning, a local told me not to run from muggers. Why Not I asked trying to establish the rationale of standing still and getting beaten up, because they’ll shoot you he replied. 2 minutes later, I was asked if I could stay for another week.

I could have been no less keen if they’d offered to shave me naked and apply an all body jalapeno massage applied by an angry hedgehog. I feel this may have come across as ungrateful.

Right fiery death not withstanding, normal service shall be resumed next week. You can confidently expect the same drivel but now – at least – it will be drivel with an international twang.

Car Hire..

… South African Style. Aside from the cheery note “Driving in SA is as safe as any other country BUT DO NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT UNLOCK YOUR DOORS, LOOK AT ANYONE IN A FUNNY WAY, OR PARK ANYWHERE THAT IS NOT SURROUNDED BY A SWAT TEAM” from the South African Tourist board, there was also this nugget of usefulness:

At a 4-way stop intersection, vehicles from all 4 directions must stop at the stop sign before proceeding to cross the intersection. With more vehicles stopping at the intersection, the rule is first one to stop is first one to move. If vehicles stop at the same time, common courtesy applies and either vehicle may proceed first.”

Now I’m English and multi skilled in queuing so I am going to be there for DAYS. “No, No after you, I’m fine here and anyway you’ve got a gun rack, so that definitely gives you priority

Due to almost everybody flying to Johannesburg this weekend, my journey to our office starts at midday tomorrow and finishes sometime early Sunday morning. There are many things I love about living here, but I will concede that Birmingham is not a proper international Airport.

South Africa?” replied the shocked looking travel person “From Birmingham?” “Weeeel, you could if you left last Tuesday and are happy to cross Nigeria by Camel“. That’ll be a trip to Heathrow then, with an alledged upside that the Virgin lounge is like no other on the planet.

Apparently you can even get a haircut. Well that’s clearly sold it for old “MonkTop” back here.

So look after the old Hedgy while I am away. I shall be suffering in 28 degrees, under Summer sunshine situated in a hotel with an outdoor pool and bar. And probably being car jacked, worked to within an inch of my being, and crashing into innocent citizens as I attempt to orientate the map on the steering wheel.