Saturday, May 14, 2011

South Africa FIFA 2010 World Cup Postscript

It has been almost a year and I am only getting ready now to bare my soul.

1.  I was wrong.  The event did take place in South Africa.

2.  My son was a McDonald's player escort at the Uruguay vs. South Korea match for which we already had tickets.  Because of the ridiculous call time, 0830, for a 1600 match, we had to overnight in Port Elizabeth, otherwise it was an all expenses paid day for parent and child.  Somewhere there's probably a good photo or video of son Gordon standing in front of an Korean player.  We lost the lottery :  no "money" shot of Gordon
 exchanging toothy smiles with Uruguay's Diego Forlan.

3.  My brother's first 3, maybe 4 matches attended were 0-0 draws.  Watching England was a major contributing factor.

4.  The City of Cape Town put on a good show.  Once the local Metro Police were banished from the immediate vicinity of the stadium, traffic flowed.  The vehicle search facility outside the stadium was worthy of
the former east German border protection police.

5.  I only saw 2 stadiums.  Cape Town's was an "E" ticket.  Fabulous.  Port Elizabeth's?  Worthy of demolition.  Both are now white elephants.

 6.  Very, very few overseas fans came.  5 came to stay with me and promptly switched to the Japan base
golf resort, Fancourt, running specials due to 30% occupancy.  We had no problem booking deep discounted rooms in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, even Bloemfontein on game nights.  We had a spare room in C.T. which I gave to my gardener and somehow he got a free primo match ticket from the ticket office.    We made a lot of Dutch and Uruguay fans happy as we gave away tickets to matches in Durban and Bloemfontein.  By and large, South Africans wanted to go to matches but not endure the traveling.

7.   The only price gouging on food I detected was at the Engen petrol stations on the major highways.  Suddenly, "Cool drinks", i.e. sodas were double their usual price.  Surprisingly, the prices at the concessions inside the stadiums were quite reasonable for a big event, so reasonable they consistently ran out.  Roving refreshments were far more miss than hit and reached their nadir in Port Elizabeth when the sellers began aggressively begging for tips.

8.  I doubt if any World Cup has ever had a greater SNAFU than the new Durban airport closing its runway to arriving commercial flights 5 hours before the start of a semi final match.  More than 1000 fans missed
the match.  This non-event was largely hushed up and goodness knows, how many other disasters were also.
Meanwhile, the South Africans continued to declare victory over the naysayers.

9.  We soon discovered that going to a match in Port Elizabeth, parking wise, was akin to going to a village fete.  Dead easy, just a short walk to the stadium.  If you followed the official directions, you ended up stranded as many were for half the night outside of Rustenburg after the USA vs England match.

10.  Apart from a handful of matches, the stadiums were not even half filled.  Reports of attendance were
concocted.  The cricket (South Asians) and rugby (the blanke) crowds were hugely supportive.  If the local blecks did not have a direct interest or free tickets, they were absent.  At least local TV coverage was
superb, though I kept the sound OFF.

11.  The SAPS, the national constabulary, saved FIFA's bacon in the Cape.  Superb policing, they replaced
thousands of the bottom of the barrel security workers at a few hours' notice.  Unfortunately they allowed themselves to be used as FIFA's pawns, arresting ticket touts for selling match day tickets at below face value.

But they redeemed themselves for busting Paris Hilton and her rent a celebrity crew for smoking dope in public.  And since when has the World Cup felt it necessary to use celebrities to promote the event?

12.  More bizarre was the Waka Waka business.  I was an early adopter of Shakira when I lived in Mexico in 1996-1997, but last time I checked she's not African.  So they made it a collaboration with pan African group, Freshlyground whose presence was to legitimise the undertaking, as though Freshlyground were not capable themselves of working with a songwriter/producer of John Hill's commercial instincts;   like magic, Freshlyground were no longer accomplished musicians but reduced to the level of feeble sex objects in the video (the only medium that counts, not the music but the visuals of Shakira gyrating).  I am not sure whose idea it was to contribute the huge copyright infringement ... if left unsettled, a court case might have revealed how little songwriting Shakira actually did on a song that she previously claimed as her own work.

So much for Freshlyground's exalted artistic principles.  And I like them!  

13,  South Africa now has 2 decent international airports, maybe a third in Durban.  Like most contemporary
world airports, their terminals resemble shopping malls but uniquely cater mostly to non international travelers and are accessible to the public.  Cape Town airport still does not have a public ground transportation link to anywhere.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A day in South Africa (a fragment from September 2007)

I will make the effort soon to give a real flavor of living in South Africa, a chronicle of everyday occurrences and people that make this a very special country.

Meanwhile, yesterday was a quite wonderful day, the first of September, an early Spring day that began chilly in the morning and by late afternoon hinted more of summer than of any other season.

Whilst my son will not miss Saturday morning cartoons of TV for anything, I love to cruise with the window down some 15 miles along the coast from Knysna to the small town of Sedgefield and do some shopping at the Wild Oats Farmers' Market held there each week.

There are real artisans of the kitchen and field selling their wares here and so many become friends from the weekly interaction.

First of all, I have a breakfast omelette at Sung Yee's easygourmetstation.


Once you live in the Cape, you realise that fine days like yesterday are to be cherished for they are almost always harbingers of inclement weather on the way; sure enough, we awoke the next morning to the steady drizzle of a Cape winter storm.

The Devil Wears Prada Redux

I finally caught a glimpse of the recent Devil Wears Prada film on cable TV here in Thailand. To aid my viewing pleasure, I had the sound on mute. What surprised me was how much the actress Anne Hathaway physically reminded me of the young Anna Wintour. Anna was never a great beauty but she had her attractive qualities as a teenager, which is when I fleetingly met her in London in the late 1960's. And actually, I kept thinking that a much more interesting film scenario would be that of the young Anna Wintour hopping from bed to bed as she hatches her plan for world fashion domination.

But getting back to the present : in looking at a phto of Anna in situ, in her office at Conde Nast, I am struck at how much she now resembles, who else, but her late mother, Nonie.

In spite of having had bore 5 children, I never found Nonie particularly mother-like. But there is no doubt that she devoted her life to making a home for her husband Charles Wintour and their brood. But the home as I recall it, always had a cold air to it. Lack of style. I wonder how Anna arranges her domestic life ...

But Nonie was definitely the passionate half of the married duo. Charles was legendary for his coolness under fire and his being cool to the point of passionless at the best of times. He could have been sketched by Le Carre. But he was endowed with a superior intelligence and compulsion to nurture journalistic talents. He was the cheer leader for the swinging sixties, albeit from behind the curtain of his editorship of the Evening Standard.

The other thought I had was whether being a fashion maven in any way betrayed her father's legacy. Well, the flip side is younger brother Patrick's career as a political journalist.

I can't help but think that Patrick and the world would have been better off if he had chosen to have become a thinking man's soccer correspondent, somewhat in the mould of Brian Glanville but with a gritty political slant colouring his writing rather than the Tuscan sun always ready to pop out in Glanville's.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

FIFA World Cup 2010 Omnibus Post Part II

I submitted the following piece to the South African Sunday Times for publication in 2006, just after returning from FIFA 2006 in Germany. At the time, the tenor of the writing notwithstanding, I was optimistic about 2010. As reflected in my writings from this year, almost 3 years later, my optimism has been fading ...

South Africa Will Host 2010

Every 10 years or so I attend a major sporting event.

In 1974, as a cub reporter, it was the (FIFA) World Cup in Germany.

1984 found me in Los Angeles in time for the Olympics.

Still in L.A. for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

And, now, in 2006, I have just returned from an unintentional visit to the FIFA World Cup in Germany.

I actually went to a pre Wimbledon tennis tournament and a football match broke out.

In fact, football broke out all over Germany, all over Europe and reached the furthest reaches of the globe. O.K., maybe the South Africa’s own Platteland shrugged it off, but they were among the few hold outs.

Association football in its incarnation as the FIFA World Cup has grown exponentially since my first World Cup, back in 1974.

Germany had futuristic stadia back then and highly developed transportation links. There were plenty of fans, too.

But in 2006, there were significantly more teams participating. And whereas few fans would have traveled back in 1974 from the Far East and fewer were even allowed to travel from eastern Europe, the whole world has just finished a month of revelry in Germany.

I don’t think there was any doubt that the Germans knew how to throw a party for the world but they surely surpassed everyone’s expectations with this bash. Instead of a few thousand hard core fans from each country, the average fan contingent had to have been 50,000. England reportedly had 100,000 at any one time. Even minnows like Trinidad and Tobago seemed to have mobilised every last expatriate to show up to support their socca warriors.

No, there were not enough tickets for all the fans. Everyone knew in advance this would be the case. So the hosts decided to invite everyone anyway and make them feel welcome, irrespective of their attending an actual football match. In the center of every World Cup hosting city and outside the stadia themselves, there were giant screens set up, part of “fan zones”. Berlin had its fan mile stretching from the Brandenburg Gate. I went to the Sweden vs. Trinidad and Tobago match in Dortmund and had a marvelous time but never saw the inside of the stadium.

The Germans took the approach of treating fans with dignity and making them comfortable. Their approach surely paid off. 2006 was the year that football became respectable.

Now treating fans with respect entails rather more than just providing big screen matches and rock concerts. I was astounded that the organizers had laid an actual heavy duty red carpet all the way from the centre of Dortmund a distance of some kilometers to the stadium complex, indicating the way for those who preferred to walk to the match rather take the ubiquitous U bahn.

Of course, an integral part of the complex and sharing transportation links to the city was the convention centre, transformed into “Fan Camp”, providing indoor camping accommodation at a reasonable cost.

Reasonable is the keyword here. There surely was a vast conspiracy in Germany to avoid the taint of price gouging. Merchants charged their usual prices. Full stop. I stayed an hour’s drive from both the Dortmund and Hanover sites and the hotel was still charging its usual 300 rand per person for bed and scrumptious breakfast.

But going hand in hand with need for gracious hospitality was the overarching need for security.

It is not enough just to have a security blanket for the VIPs, the press and the teams. There was security everywhere to protect everyone. There was no shortage of visible security as well as massive pre-positioning of security personnel in case of incident. German borders were secured, every car checked at even small land crossings from such “friendly” neighbours as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria.

Now it will be South Africa’s turn in 2010 turn to host the world.

Or will it?

South Africa has to look long and hard in the mirror and decide whether it wishes to host only 100,000 core visitors from FIFA, the 32 teams and the world’s media in 2010 and leave a million of the world’s soccer fans literally and figuratively out in the cold.

This is a question for the country as a whole, not just for the flailing organising committee.

Let’s start at the beginning : South Africa does not have anywhere near the amount of “lift”, airplanes to carry passengers to and from and within the country that will be required. The already congested Johannesburg International Airport will have to shed some of the burden onto Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Government transportation officials need to enter bilateral talks now with their counterparts in the world’s aviation hubs. Airlines must be convinced that significantly more South Africans will travel abroad during this period to avoid airplanes flying full in one direction and largely empty in the other.

Once on the ground, can South Africa provide the infrastructure to welcome its guests?
Are there adequate plans for passenger handling from sufficient immigration and customs officials to adequate ground transportation.

Much is being made of the readiness of Gautrain, but the reality is that car rentals and motorcoach transportation will be the mainstays of transportation during the World Cup.

Government must provide incentives for the huge rental car fleets that will be required for visitors and then sold into the marketplace after the event. Similarly, fleets of new buses must be ordered and a plan for their continued use.

Ways must be found to combat the potential gridlock on urban highways. Relatively easy and quick to implement would be a Park and Ride system for each center that could be transformed into a commuter transportation hub after the Cup.

Much has already been written about the shortfall in hotel rooms. Even the economic miracle of a doubling in hotel accommodation would not even begin to address the problem. But solutions are at hand.

There will be a significant number of private house lettings besides an increase in guest house accommodation. That old mainstay of the South African holiday experience, camping, will not be an attractive option during mid winter.

What will work would be the conversion of schools and their hostels into “fan camps” and a chance for those institutions to raise desperately needed funds.

It will be utterly essential that the Ministry of Education announce as far in advance as possible that all schools and tertiary education take their winter break to coincide with the FIFA World Cup, at least until the quarter final stages, at which time most of the fans and press drift home.

This will free up emergency accommodation for those unable to find conventional overnight accommodation, reduce traffic and most importantly allow South Africans to go on holiday and let out their homes, if they so wish. Industry must be encouraged to shut down to reduce power consumption and to further reduce the nation’s traffic.

Similar ideas enabled Los Angeles to avoid gridlock in 1984.

Finally, the elephant in our collective living space : security.

It will not be just FIFA delegations checking on South Africa’s progress towards 2010. It will be each national delegation, individually and collectively monitoring security. Certain nations carry clout with FIFA and if they say move the World Cup, FIFA’s hand will be forced. Images of rampaging security guards on strike do not lend confidence, nor do military style police shoot outs. Even if the government belatedly goes to war on crime and wins an unexpected but desperately hoped for victory, continuing security will be the order of the day.

The nation’s borders must be secured. A zero tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants and for those present through fraudulent circumstances. South Africa does need to know who lives on every street.

The private security industry needs upgrading, such upgrading must lead to higher wages.
It is time for the government to recognize the asset it has in private contractors working in the Middle East; make it easy for these highly trained individuals to come home, repatriate funds and be trainers for a new security apparatus.

This is not to forget the hard put upon SAPS and other vital public sector workers. Now is the time to maintain their confidence in the system by assuring them of bonus pay during the tournament period. Don’t make the 2010 FIFA World Cup a tough pill for your most trusted to swallow as they see the rest of society profiting while they shoulder the major part of the burden.

The World wants to visit South Africa. South Africa wants to welcome to world.

Let’s get together!

Robbie Fields is a retired American record producer who frequently visits his home in South Africa.

10 May 2009

Now for some good news or maybe not so good news : the visit of the British and Irish Lions rugby team on 16 June 2009 is slated to be the opening for the new stadium in Port Elizabeth. A sell out crowd would be expected ... the problem is that tickets sales have been delayed. Even if the stadium is not ready ... as FIFA decided it would not be in time for the Confeds Cup, that still leaves a year to finish the almost completed stadium. But it sure would be nice to see the stadium fully operational before the first FIFA 2010 match.

More Good News ...

I know London, I grew up there. The only surprising thing here is that this teenaged gang only drew the attention of the police once muggings in Wandsworth had risen by 15%. Think about it : the gang was charged with 56 street muggings of women but it is guessed they were responsible for over 170 that took place over a period of a few months. One wonders what happened to the fabric of English society that no menfolk were available to take on the gang. Anyway muggings are back down to just 85% of the peak number in the London borough of Wandsworth.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

FIFA World Cup 2010 Omnibus Post

For the past year I have neglected making new blog entries. Not that I have not been writing but I have been adding to others' blogs rather than my own.

Currently, I have been greatly preoccupied with the next FIFA World Cup in 2010.
As I have a magnificent house in South Africa and intend to be here for at least the next 2 years, I would love to welcome as many old friends from around the world to visit and for these friends to know that whatever happens there's a warm, comfortable space available to them.

But for those happening upon this page looking for answers to their 2010 questions, they will also find a warm welcome here. I make myself available to answer their queries as best as I may. And to help, I am going to post here many of the comments
I have been making elsewhere, as I believe they do contain nuggets of useful information.

I remain a 2010 sceptic : despite my having obtained tickets, spending even more money on home improvements I remain unconvinced that 2010 will not be moved. The only detail that gives me more hope that it won't be moved is ironically the current potential for a swine flu pandemic halting non essential travel for the foreseeable future therefore making 2010 a television spectacle rather than the fan fest on a scale that South Africa is ill prepared to host.

Here are some of my recent writings :

27 March 2009

I live in South Africa and have been to a few World Cups and Olympics in my time.

I am actively preparing for 2010, increasing the amount of accommodation in my house, going to upgrade my car, etc. Nothing will please me more than to have old friends from around the world basing themselves in my home(s).

That said, I have felt since mid 2007 that the event would be moved and my fears increase daily, not only due to the woeful lack of logistical preparation at this end but the ongoing economic collapse elsewhere.

I was somewhat surprised to read elsewhere many people regarding the USA as an alternate site. I think the evidence is compelling.

FIFA will be facing a financial catastrophe in reduced sponsorship and ancillary fees going forward. The U.S. hoteliers, airlines and car rental agencies are facing massive under utilization in the summer of 2010 and will make FIFA smile with offers of tens of millions room nights for FIFA to resell at huge mark ups.

Over here in RSA, there are no hotel rooms, not compared to any medium sized US city. The few hotel chains that exist here are shelving expansion plans. No trains. Some one wrote the busses are dodgy here. The major lines are great, just avoid Roadlink and make sure you are met in major cities. Right now the inter city busses are running empty, but come 2010 there will be no busses available for the public. I predict that the press corps will have to make their own arrangements.

There are wonderful roads in RSA and there are some horrific bottlenecks, too. When you come as a tourist to RSA, you generally have a great time with unbelievably low prices and huge, empty spaces to explore. If you come as a celebrity, you say "what crime?' because you're enjoying security that mere mortals have to do without.

But compared to European cities, there's a lot less street crime, but it's the gratuitous raping and killing that spooks all of us here. I enjoy the lifestyle here but I live in an area without serious property crime, but you'd better believe we have security measures in place.

Much, much more serious is the carnage on South African roads. And 2010 represents a real challenge. For a variety of reasons, including livestock on the roadways, even the fenced ones, it is almost suicidal to drive on unfamiliar roads at night here. Yet, owing to the general populace's reluctance, especially the Boere (!), to spring for overnight accomodation en route, people drive insane distances here, leaving Cape Town at 4 in the morning to arrive late evening in Jo'burg. For 2010, with the shortened winter daylight hours, everybody will be driving at night, like it or not!

FIFA have made the situation far, far worse.

Other than hosts South Africa who are stealing an advantage by playing all their group matches at altitude, i.e. in the north of the country, all other teams will be darting from one of the country, from high altitude to sea level and back, thereby creating huge strains on the transportation infrastructure. Even sillier is FIFA scheduling matches on 6000 ft high plateaux with 20:30 kick offs. Whether the weather is wet or dry, it will be freezing at that time of night.

Someone suggested experiencing the WC by hanging out in England. Not a bad idea. For 2006, I was in Germany and never got inside a stadium, except for a tennis stadium which was party central every time Germany played.

Oh, the ticket distribution system is a shambles. so far. At my local bank branch, the other day I was the very first applicant and initial sales are about to close. I sent a friend today to a bank in a larger city and he told me they seemed to be making up the rules on the fly.

And as FIFA know all too well, the Confederations Cup is a non event, no one's buying tickets, no public awareness, none of the new stadia ready, all matches to be played at altitude.

Reality bites!

31 March 2009

Somehow we got all 3 of our local South Africa ticket apps in before the deadline today.

We were the only applicants at our local FNB branch, 3.5 hours from Green Point, so quite close in S.A. terms.

Even if the bank tellers are up to speed, the process is very lengthy and full of pitfalls.

The process is definitely not that outlined in the brochure. The most serious issue is FNB not allowing people without a RSA i.d. to purchase cat 4 tickets, even when the lead applicant is South African. This is not going to sit well with the folks back home in other African countries.

The involvement of FNB is extremely underhanded. The bank is involved for marketing reasons only. The explanation of limited internet access for applicants is so bogus!

How did it go for people applying at FNB in the big cities? Huge queues?

I applied for stadium specific matches as there is no chance I will want to drive to the Highveld from the Cape where I live.

I also applied for wheelchair tickets (I may have to go for back surgery soon) and if successful, that will be like winning the jackpot. Though I will probably have to invest in a motorized scooter to get me the last few kilometers into the stadium.

15 April 2009

It's a matter of scale. South Africa can host a myriad of sporting events successfully, such as the relocated Indian Premier Cricket League. But the WC is far, far bigger and South Africa does not have the infrastructure to cope nor has it made meaningful progress in providing such. Hollow promises were made to FIFA and the local populace by the LOC and it is now that the people on the ground as well as FIFA and the national federations are finding this and other realities out for themselves.

I am buying tickets as I want to go along with the many friends from around the world that I expect to host in accomodation that I control. I have added
2 additional en suite bedrooms to my principal house and am looking to have a 7 seater vehicle available rather than making everyone squat in the back of my bakkie (pick up truck).

At the 1974 WM (FIFA WC) in Germany, I hitched rides and stayed in youth hostels located right next to the various stadiums. At the 2006 WM, again in Germany, I saw that indoor camping was provided on site at the various stadia. As things stand right now, none of this will be possible at 2010.

This very week the ATP professional tennis tour has an event in South Africa called The Soweto Open, being played close to where the expansion of Soccer City is nearing completion. The players are staying in hotels in Sandton, more than an hour away and all of the official people involved are advised to only travel to the site in the secure motorcade. Are they over-reacting?

Maybe we can get a first hand report from a tennis fan going to these matches ...

I think South Africans as a whole are some of the greatest people in the world and that's why I live here. With good information, people will have the time of their lives here and won't believe how low living costs are in terms of foreign currency. I'd say the visitors' best chance for a great stay will be to spend most of their time outside the big cities and only venture in for the matches.

17 April 2009

Each applicant was able to apply for a maximum of four tickets per match and for a maximum of seven matches only. Out of the total of 1,862,319 tickets requested from 205 countries, 555,871 tickets were drawn successfully. Of those, 245,948 tickets were drawn to South African residents - this corresponds to 44 per cent of all tickets successfully drawn during this first phase of ticket sales. Outside the host country, the highest number of tickets drawn was to residents of the United States (69,208 tickets), followed by the United Kingdom (39,421 tickets) and Germany (29,330 tickets). From the applications received, the most popular team was England, for which a total of 228,822 team-specific tickets (TST) were requested and for which the total number of available TSTs was 8,895. With regard to individual match tickets, the most popular ticket category was Category 4 and the most heavily oversubscribed match was the final, by a factor of 3,000 per cent.

Very few tickets were released to the public in this sales phase.

But of those few tickets, a large percentage were the designated low priced tickets, situated behind the goals.

Danny Jordaan is not telling us what percentage of South Africans were successful. It could be that there were as few as 10,000 total applicants from South Africa, some of whom were not even buying the cheap tickets but are dual citizens buying TSTs for their favorite teams.

What is obvious is how few tickets (as usual) are being made available to the general public. And, as usual, the bulk of tickets that make it to the black market will be from allocations given to national associations and to a lesser extent, sponsors.

Phase 1 of the 2010 ticketing was a non event in South Africa. No white South African that I know cares about 2010 per se, only what it might entail for the economy and they are getting pretty blase about that, too. The Cape Coloureds are deeply embittered about being excluded from the construction jobs and though they will be excited to have 2010 happen, once again I don't know of one who applied for tickets.

Oh, I am glad to say that I did not apply for any tickets to the final. I went for stadium (coastal cities) specific tickets only.

23 April 2009

The sad reality is that South Africa is the origin of many fraudulent credit card transactions and some banks may have a complete block on transactions emanating from here.

Many people have reported "Johannesburg" as part of the payment advice; that and the country code "ZAF" would be the tip off that the transactions originate in South Africa.

For those coming here, you should notify your banks and credit card companies in advance that you will be using your cards here as they will routinely block their use without your doing so, once several transactions show up. Foreign currency gets a terrible exchange rate in South Africa and is not advised for obvious security reasons.

Generally speaking, South Africa has plenty of ATM machines but some of them are picky about which foreign cards they will accept. I would never rely on just one or even 2 pieces of plastic to get me through life here. That said, ATM machines are essential for obtaining cash here rather than using the physical banks.

23 April 2009

Speaking as a fanatic non smoker ...

The laws are one thing, reality is another ....

In spite of recent anti smoking legislation, South Africa remains a smoker friendly country.

Hotels all have smoking rooms and I see people smoking at the reception desks all the time. Non white staff are still highly reluctant to give white customers or anyone else for that matter instructions not to smoke.

I see people smoking at petrol stations all the time, especially coloureds. Whites seem to prefer sitting in their cars puffing away and flicking ash out of the windows while their car is being serviced. By the way, it's full serve (no self serve!) at all petrol stations here!

Where non smoking is enforced, such as hospitals or food stores, you have to wade through a haze of smoke at the entrances.

Near most taxi ranks (South African version of bus stations for non whites), there will generally be a pall of dagga (cannabis) smoke.

I was surprised to find smoking permitted in the stands at a major tennis tournament. Fortunately, few lit up. Surprising as many members at my former tennis club would smoke and drink beer, even on court.

I think many South Africans assume they can smoke when visiting a stranger's house.

And tobacco is ridiculously cheap here! Even for major brands.

26 April 2009

For getting around during 2010, domestic flights are the best option ... we'll see how that goes, in terms of price gouging and flight cancellations.

People keep talking about trains. There are almost no inter city trains left running in South Africa. There is no surplus rolling stock to be placed in service. Other than a couple of main lines, the lines themselves have speed restrictions of 40 km/h or so, as they are lucky to see 1 train per week. The Transportation Minister, Jeff Radebe, has been full of hot air since day 1 concerning infrastructure improvements.

Like Mexico, Thailand and other so called 3rd world countries, the best option are VIP busses ... though not as good here!

The most reliable is

as a fall back

Oh. many former train stations usually serve as ad hoc inter city bus stations.

As for traveling Durban-Port Elizabeth by road. That is strictly a day time only road for 75% of the distance with ultra high vigilance required.

The operators in the Kruger will be rubbing their hands in expectation. It is
the only decent accommodation located near the Nelspruit stadium. Remember to take the malaria prophylactics beforehand.

Oh, I live in S.A. flyover country!

26 April 2009

Camping is the #1 accommodation option in South Africa. It's a rite of passage for a white South African male to buy his first caravan!

Every single town and village had its caravan park for overnight visitors. Now many are in disuse, away from the holiday centers.

The unfortunate detail for 2010 is that it is taking place in mid winter.

The schools have co-ordinated their holiday schedules with 2010, so I imagine indoor camping will take place. But even the former whites only Model C schools do not heat their classrooms, let alone their assembly/sports halls. So bring artic rated gear.

The normal rate for a luxury bed and breakfast in a small town is approx.
R 250 p/p. Those rates will at least double, at which point the whole country will sleep in their parked caravans and have strangers stay in their unheated bedrooms, but with hot showers down the corridor.

But NOTHING is organized at this point. But knowing South Africans, the small towns will rise to the challenge and small town South Africa is a very special place.

The absolute key for visitors will be securing their car rentals. They will soon learn the ropes of visiting this great country.

26 April 2009

We will see in due course if FIFA allows the cup to actually take place in RSA, but so far the local Organizing Committee (LOC) have been pitiful in their efforts and FIFA has been covering for them behind the scenes.

Advance ticket sales have been by past WC standards nigh on dreadful, except for the fans as they are seeing more successful requests than ever before.

The logistical problems are such that I would NEVER consider traveling from my home in the Cape to 2010 matches in the Highveld, even though I recently had a very enjoyable week long trip to a major tennis tournament in Johannesburg.

Why the difference? The tennis tournament was held in an ultra high security casino complex called Montecasino. If you were a player or had money, you could stay in of 2 hotels on site. I chose to save money by staying at a very good chain hotel, 3 km City Lodge down the road. But any time I drove back to my hotel at night (walking NOT an option), I assumed I would be hijacked at any moment ... so I never allowed the car to come to a complete stop, I ran red lights at T junctions (which is permitted, just as in Mexico City).

The hotel had no other guests for the tennis. The tournament drew its crowds from around the local Gauteng province. I was a VIP so I did not pay admission but tickets were cheap, under $10. Ice cream cones were 25 U.S. cents each.

In spite of the security, there was at least one gang working the ATMs (working elaborate mechanical scams that result in malfunctioning machines) and I was lucky that all I had to do was replace my swallowed ATM card at my local South African bank the next day.

RSA is spoken of as a top vacation spot. Indeed it is ... there are probably more upscale, ultra luxury resorts here than anywhere else in the world. But in toto they serve a few thousand well heeled tourists at a time. There are bed and breakfasts everywhere where you will meet the most wonderful hosts but again they serve a few thousand guests per night, when considering the entire country. Outside of Johannesburg, hotel rooms are numbered in the hundreds in each of the other 2010 cities. Nelspruit only has the Kruger to the north able to provide hotel accommodation.

Fortunately, most South African cities now have secure enclaves, usually centered around a local casino. Even Nelspruit has one! In Cape Town, there are 3 big areas ... The V&A Waterfront, Grand West casino and the Canal Walk shopping mall at Century City. Port Elizabeth has the Boardwalk casino complex.

The biggest danger to 2010 visitors will be the South African roads. No matter that South Africa is the greatest country I have ever driven in, the highway death toll here is beyond comprehension, affecting all manner of vehicle and races. The highways simply have not been upgraded in any meaningful way as promised by the LOC. There will be 1930's era narrow 2 lane roads forming vital links in the 2010 traffic patterns. On 2 of the most important roads in the country, the N1 and N2, there are bottlenecks through towns without bypasses. It will be winter with limited daytime driving hours.

As for security, nobody knows but we fear the worst. FIFA will make sure their people are protected but nothing is being prepared for the general fan population. We have had gun battles between different police forces in Johannesburg in the past year. Running battles between the police and security guards in Cape Town. When commuters are dissatisfied with the metro train service, they torch the trains. Nobody knows what will happen when thousands of local fans without tickets want to see their favorite team play.

Yet, I just went to an annual festival held in a small town here that has transformed itself from a high brow arts festival to being a local variation of spring break (though held in the autumn!). Teenaged kids walking the town unmolested at all hours, tent hopping. But the kids flocked to this town precisely because it is not the big city.

I am sorry, you just cannot compare the experience of visiting Germany to visiting South Africa. Under the right circumstances, South Africa is a far richer one. If you were to come now, you would be absolutely shocked at how cheap it is to stay here. Last night dinner for 3 in a steak house cost 10 euros total and that was for a pizza, chicken burger, pork schnitzel that covered my plate, 2 milk shakes, coke zero; we all took most of our dinners home with us in doggie bags!

But those top resorts in South Africa will try and charge hundreds of euros per day. These days they are largely empty!

If I could not afford to live in a small town and run a car here, I'd be living in Germany (where I also have ties).

28 April 2009

I may be wrong, but I feel as a "floater", someone who does not support any nation in particular, I may be in a small minority of those purchasing tickets.

Most people who spending huge amounts to come to South Africa are doing so primarily to support their favorite nation.

We are seeing this reflected in the demand for the relatively expensive TST packages.

But the structure of the 2010 group matches seems terribly flawed.

Anyone following a team in the group stages are forced to base themselves
in the Highveld, in the Johannesburg area. Unlike previous world cups, group matches will not be geographically clustered. Normally one would expect Cape Town and Port Elizabeth to be hosting the same group matches, this time they are not. Of the 10 sites, 3 are coastal (Durban, being the 3rd) and these sites will receive a mandatory visit from each team (apart from hosts South Africa)..

It just won't make much sense for nation specific fans to base themselves at a coastal city, as all but one of their group matches will be played elsewhere.

On the other hand, within reach of Johannesburg will be the proximate Soccer City, Ellis Park, Loftus Verfeld, with reasonable access to Royal Bafokeng, Bloem and Polokwane. Nelspruit may be a bit tougher.

Winter just isn't the best season for the Highveld. Cold and dusty is the best description. In my part of South Africa, the Klein Karoo in the Cape, winter is glorious for the most part, with a climate not that dissimilar to Palm Springs, California or Scottsdale, Arizona. I am beginning to feel in common with many parts of South Africa, 2010 will pass us by.

I hope for all our sakes that I am wrong!

29 April 2009

The problem with the Johannesburg area is that nearly all of it looks like a city under siege : high perimeter walls topped with electrified fences is the norm.
This is much less prevalent in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and hardly ever seen in small towns in the Cape.

The wealthier suburbs of Johannesburg are in the north with Sandton the de facto center of the new Johannesburg. The Eastern side of Pretoria is the favored side. One of the few idyllic small towns nearby is Hartbeespoort, just a great base for matches in Gauteng and Rustenburg. "Potch" is a pleasant college town about 90 minutes from all these mentioned cities.

There's also the historical settlement factor to consider : in the north, most towns owe their existence to mining and are about as charming as most mining towns tend to be. On the coast and in the Cape, there are many picturesque towns dating from the Dutch and British colonization periods and the 1900 Ostrich boom that are thriving once again and do not have a serious crime problem, e.g. carjackings and home invasions.

In the Cape Town area, Durbanville and towns to the east are generally o.k., also north of Blauwbergstrand on the west coast. Again eastwards from Somerset West, along the southern coast. In the Port Elizabeth area,
consider Port Jeffereys/St Francis area on the western side and Grahamstown/Port Alfred/Kenton on the eastern side. There are dozens of other small quiet towns elsewhere in the Cape, one of the largest, George with its own airport (GRJ).

I had a meeting with one of the leading citizens in my town (Ladismith in the Western Cape) who is organizing the local 2010 initiatives of his own accord.
There is ZER0 organization or leadership coming from the LOC. If we can get the message out that the many small, wonderful towns of the Western and Eastern Cape are ready to host the world, then the world will experience one of the greatest countries in the world and maybe one of the best WC's.
But as things look, we may get bypassed even as tens of thousands of visitors experience extreme frustration in the cities.

There are 11 official languages here but only 3 that are widely spoken, English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa/isiZulu. Unfortunately there are probably 11 versions of English that are spoken and I find most of them fairly incomprehensible at first and that includes certain variations spoken by native English speakers. But we muddle through here. The Standard Received English that is used in TV commercials is dated and almost never heard any longer in the UK ... very few people actually talk like that on the ground.

In Johannesburg a great place to hang will be Montecasino ... ultra secure complex with dozens of restaurants and bars with a piazza that will almost certainly have a big screen set up.

In Cape Town, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and probably the Grand West Casino Complex. For those looking for an "edgy" experience, Long street will be touted, but I would give it a miss.

In Port Elizabeth, the Boardwalk casino complex.

Small towns that are a lot of fun when full are Knysna, Mossel Bay, Grahamstown, Jeffreys Bay and Oudtshoorn.

Even my very small town of Ladismith has its own pub crawl these days, around 5 different night spots.

Internal flights usually cost between $50 and $200 one way with the most frequent flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg. JNB-DBN can be cheap but other city pairs tend to be more expensive, even though shorter.

The leading low price airline is, so wherever they fly, fares will be held in check. has the most flights by far and is Star Alliance. Their budget division is called

For One World mileage, there's BA Comair.

Obviously, early booking is advised. It's hard to imagine too many extra flights being laid on to cope with the demand ... the system is already overloaded, particularly in Johannesburg airspace. I am guessing there will be a large number of charter aircraft movements and the government could conceivably unclog the system by restricting those flights to Waterkloof (Pretoria) and Ysterplaat (Cape Town), both military bases.

The tragically funny story this week is the Government announcing it has the swine flu scare in hand, despite a couple of confirmed cases of local tourists ill after returning from Mexico. They have ONE operational temperature scanner and they are cranking it up at Lanseria Airport, a minor Johannesburg airport used mainly for executive jet movements. They say they are trying to source a couple (!) more scanners for the main Johannesburg airport. No mention for Cape Town or the other airports.

At this point we can only hope as nothing useful for visitors has been organised.

The Confeds Cup is designed to be the "dry run" for each WC. In this case,
it is already a massive failure. Only half the stadiums will be utilised, none at the coast. Only one match is a sell out at this point (Italy vs Brazil) ... they will need to have at least one sell out at each of the stadia to ascertain the logistics required.

The recent election is actually good news. President to be Zuma is the only politician who can mobilise volunteer action and probably keep the various stakeholders from their continuing shooting war (I am not making this up).

In the Western Cape, we will have a less corrupt administration with a grip on reality, so the so far untackled logistical problems might get addressed sooner rather later. The underlying difficulty in Cape Town is that the new Green Point stadium is being built with ZERO thought as to access (I stand corrected but unbowed! See below).

Unfortunately, it seems fairly clear that fans will be required to walk the last so many kilometers to/from the stadia. Now in Germany, this was optional. Fans could either ride the U/S bahn right up to the stadium or they could follow a red carpet all the way from a town's main square to the stadium complex. For parking all you had to do was park near a train station and ride a train the rest of the way.

They have already implemented this approach with the recent ill attended match between South Africa and Norway in Rustenburg. FIFA was most unhappy.

But as I said at the outset, we can only hope ...

30 April 2009

I'm not sure I am the right person to speak on this subject as I live far, far away from Johannesburg ...

If you are not going to stay at a location like Montecasino (2 hotels), Sandton Square (multiple hotels in the vicinity) or a home stay where the hosts will pick you up ... there's not going to be much choice but rent a car.

Besides Sandton Square and Montecasino being likely hang outs for 2010, I am pretty sure there will be group transportation from those locations to the various stadia.

They are promising that the new Gautrain will be operational in time for 2010, but until it is, we're guessing at how it will work. In theory, you'll board at the airport and be able to travel to Sandton. Unfortunately, the onward routes to
Johannesburg Park Station and Pretoria are uncertain to be operational in time for 2010. Park Station would have provided a very good transit point for onward travel by bus to both Ellis Park and Soccer City. Pretoria similarly for Loftus Versfeld.

For those renting cars, both Montecasino and Sandton Square have huge amounts of secure, indoor parking, though Montecasino is cheaper, charging only R 10 for an unlimited stay.

Staying in Soweto is really only an option for those interested in a township experience. In practical terms, you will be a long way from anywhere else.

At this point I have no idea whether any of the luxury Johannesburg hotels will have availability for the general public. A nice, reputable chain with several hotels in Sandton but not immediately adjacent to Sandton Square is

Off season or weekends, their rates are as low as R 400 per night per room, using their fun booking portal. R 1000 is close to their peak rate. We'll see if they up it to R 2000 or more per night.

As far as where to stay in the Johannesburg area, we are shooting in the dark until we know what are the actual transportation plans to the 3 area stadia, Soccer City, Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld and which staging locations will be used.

CTGuy has lambasted me in the comments below for being ignorant of a Integrated Rapid Transit Plan (IRT) for Cape Town.

Well, I thank CT Guy for leading me in the right direction but the fact remains
that Green Point stadium will not be operational for the Confeds Cup nor does it have public transportation at this time. That's right, there is no public transportation between Cape Town airport and the city, let alone Green Point. Or have I missed a Golden Arrow bus in there somewhere, CT?

As I have written elsewhere, I think the change in political leadership at the provincial level after the recent election so now the same party (DA) controls both the metropole and the province will mean things might actually get done.

But this IRT was only greenlighted in August 2008, a little late in the day. Let's hope it gets finished on time and sufficient busses are operational!

Similarly, getting back to Johannesburg, the contentious BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) there is basically designed to take traffic between central Johannesburg and Soweto, which is about as useful for the general populace as the first operational phase of Gautrain.

The fact remains that the BRT is facing organised, violent resistance from the taxi (minibus) constituency in Johannesburg and if anything, the Cape Town taxi community is more prone to violence (dozens, if not hundreds killed in turf wars).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On Our Way To Meet Alan Banks

I recently came across the photograph below in my study at my Knysna, South Africa house.

Of course, it’s me in the picture along with my late twin brother Randy, as he was then known. Well, I had to show it to Bianca the local girl who kindly comes during the week to tidy the house and make me breakfast and lunch …

But in posing the question to Bianca “Which One Am I?”, looking at this photo provokes a lengthy story of “Who I Am”. And as you read on, this entry is hardly about me but rather about someone I have greatly admired and continue to admire.

The photograph was taken in Bulstrode Gardens, Cambridge, England in late July or early August 1964. I was 11 years old. Travel and football mad.

A few months earlier, at the end of the Easter holidays, I had accompanied my 2 brothers to London and then onto the Brighton bound train which took them to Haywards Heath where they alighted to be ferried to their “prep” school, St Peter’s Court. I continued on the train to Patcham station, just before Brighton where I knew there was a youth hostel. At 11, I had already stayed in a large number of hostels, especially those in London at Holland Park and Earl’s Court, sometimes with my brothers, other times by myself. I think that when I checked into the youth hostel this time, the warden called my mother to verify that all was in order. However, the next morning upon departing I was not handed back my youth hostel card, a type of passport that carried my picture and details and that had blank pages for “stamps” and which was absolutely required. It was explained to me that I needed to be 12 years old to stay unaccompanied in a hostel and my card would be sent to the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) in London.

In due course, I received a letter from the YHA informing me that my membership had been suspended! No extended jaunts for an interminable 9 months!

Well, together, with my ever enabling mother, I hatched a scheme whereby my brother Randy and I would sign up for an escorted walking tour of Devon in the far west of England that coming summer and we would get our travel fix that way. Little did I know that football would enter the picture.

So here we are in Bulstrode Gardens, equipped with brand new rucksacks and off to catch a series of trains to Plymouth, hundreds of miles away, where our walking tour would begin!

I did not mind the leisurely 10 miles a day walking. I did mind that the footpaths rarely took us along river valleys but rather across them resulting in some very steep climbs of the local hills. I soon rebelled, declaring I was off and either hitched or caught a bus to the next hostel on the itinerary, Salcombe. Randy must have made a friend among the other walkers as he stuck with it.

I do remember a memorable afternoon in a boat fishing for mackerel in Torbay, the town of Brixham being the end destination of our escorted walk.

Now it was time to make our way back to Cambridge by train.

I distinctly remember sitting with Randy in an open seating carriage, sitting across a table from him. We would have boarded at Torquay station. Within half an hour after the train made its stop at Exeter St David’s, I could not believe my eyes when a familiar figure came walking past.

Alan! Alan Banks !!!

Here we were, 2 young American boys living in Britain and a guy who could have passed for the fifth Beatle with his broad Liverpool accent and dark moptop was on our train. And he was going to sit with us and chat!

Alan is truly an extraordinary person who is known to a mere fraction of mankind but who has had a profound effect on anyone who has met him.

He’s a footballer, a soccer player. He’s 69 and he still plays. I last saw him play 45 years ago …

He played most of his career for lowly Exeter City and finished with them in 1973. Yet more than 30 years later, he was voted the most popular player of all time for the Grecians, as the team and their fans are known. He had spent the previous 2 seasons before joining Exeter with even lowlier Cambridge City in the Southern League and I probably only caught his last half season with the club, the compressed half season of 1963 after the great freeze. I have to look it up but he was reported to have scored an unearthly total of 120 goals in 2 seasons … Pele like in his finishing.

Yet … Alan Banks was a cast off, not once but twice in his career. By modern day standards, he should have become a gangbanger, a sociopath. Instead, he made a glorious life for himself.

Alan was destined for greatness. Perhaps it was growing up during the war that stunted his growth but he ended up with an exceptionally low centre of gravity similar to the great Gerd Mueller. He was Liverpool born and bred and was signed to Liverpool FC.
Just shy of his 20th birthday, he scored on his debut against Brighton in the old second division. Yes, mighty Liverpool were a second division team for many years until the arrival of their great saviour, Bill Shankly. Alan never succeeded in gaining a regular spot in the line up and over 3 seasons made just 8 appearances but scored an impressive 6 times. And the club sold him the equivalent of 3 divisions down to Cambridge City for 3000 pounds and probably a wage of 20 pounds a week.

He was cast off. By no less a football savant as Bill Shankly, 2 years into Shankly's reign. Banks, at age 22, no longer waiting in the wings at one of the cathedrals of English football, Anfield, but making the forced move across to East Anglia to a non league side, albeit one drawing 4000 to its matches, still considerably less than attending Liverpool’s other great team, as Bill Shankly famously quipped, Liverpool reserves.

Together with the ageing, lumbering Tommy Wilson, 3 years removed from winning the F A Cup final with Nottingham Forest, Alan Banks terrorised the Southern League, winning a nail biting championship in 1963 over cross town rivals Cambridge United.

Banks was patently too good for the Southern League and had not even hit his prime as a footballer. But it was fourth division Exeter City, not a big London club, that swooped to sign him for 5000 pounds, giving Cambridge City a small profit on their investment.

As others have reported, Alan transformed the Grecians from also rans to winning promotion in his first season, scoring prolifically. When we met in August 1964, Alan may have been still commuting across the breadth of the country to play matches. He was down to earth, possibly as intrigued meeting these 2 young American twins on the train as we were by getting to speak with him for the first and only time.

It was at what should have been the peak of his physical ability as a footballer that Alan was given a second chance at playing in the old English second division with Plymouth Argyle. But he barely played half of the matches that season and was soon back on the train to nearby Exeter. Cast off for the second time!

Well, Alan settled back into the fourth division and continued plying his old trade of scoring goals into his mid 30’s. Still, Alan was not finished. He dropped down to non league Poole Town in nearby Dorset, then continued with Tiverton Town.

I note that there was a referee by name of Alan Banks active in the 1980’s and I wonder if it was the same man. We do know that Banks has turned out in his 60’s for the Exeter City Legends football team.

Even though Alan left for Exeter City in 1963, he served as the bait to get me hooked on watching Association football, a totally foreign sport in those days for a Californian boy.

It had all started as a 9 year old at my wondering what was going on under the distant floodlights that I could see, poking my head through the skylight, from the attic of our semi detached house in De Freville Avenue in Cambridge.

Eventually I paid my shilling to pass through the turnstile and I saw this graceful man in white shirt and black shorts, almost on cue, stick the ball into the net. Within weeks, I was riding the supporter club coaches to away matches and visiting far flung reaches of Britain (Merthyr Tydfil!). Soon, I would follow second division and later first division Queens Park Rangers to matches all over England,. But other than the chance meeting on the train, I never crossed paths with Alan Banks again. But I always looked for Exeter City’s results and Alan’s goals in the Sunday papers.

To liven things up, here's a portrait of Bianca

Oh, to answer the question : I am the handsome boy on the left. At least I think so.

My brother Randy became better known as Randolph Fields, the first chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways, among his many accomplishments, before his untimely death from cancer at age 44.

Alan Banks will be among those attending the centenary dinner of Cambridge City F.C. on 10 May 2008. Details are to be found on the following link. I very much regret I will not be able to make it; I'd love to be there and either meet or ask about old football supporter friends like Hedger and Bruce Young from the Cottenham area.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How I used to seduce girls .... An Introduction To Poetry

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

The above poem is Leda And The Swan by William Butler Yeats who may have been inspired by the Peter Paul Rubens painting Leda mit Schwan that hangs in the Zwinger gallery in Dresden and in turn both may have inspired David Herbert Lawrence to paint his own interpretation of Zeus at his playful best. It was in the woods outside Dresden that Lawrence had his creation Constance Chatterley give up her virginity.

In late 1974, I went on pilgrimage to Dresden just to see the Rubens. It was during the old days of the DDR and Dresden just was not on the usual tourist map, apart from coachloads from the eastern bloc. It was a winter's day and even those coachloads were missing and I seemed to have the re-built former palace to myself.
I must have stood before the Rubens for an hour, unimpeded by another soul.

That same trip, I managed to get a very attractive east German girl in heaps of trouble by visiting her at her college dorm, as a prelude to the proverbial walk in the Saxon woods. As I didn't speak German at the time and her English would have been, at best, halting I don't think I would have performed my usual act of seduction by reciting in a stentorian voice the Yeats poem. It would be nice if just one of the young ladies I met at parties in the early 1970's might now register in the comments section their bafflement, bemusement, utter horror at my having launched unprovoked into that recitation at what may have been otherwise a pleasant party for teenagers.

I would also recite a poem or two of my own. I had started writing as an anguished 15 year old and periodically would write for the next dozen years. For many of those years I received enormous, quite undeserved support from Stuart Hood. An interesting factoid is that Stuart was Wolf Biermann's translator and champion in Britain and 10 years later in California my company released a recording from Nina Hagen, Wolf's step daughter.

A crushing blow was having an elegiac poem I wrote in October 1974 upon John Carleton's death ignored by the editors of The Elizabethan, the Westminster School magazine; Carleton had spent virtually his entire life at Westminster as pupil, teacher and finally Headmaster. I have lost the beginning but I believe the final 2 stanzas are a good representation of the whole :

They say he was "great"
He opened his heart
I saw
And felt his hand
Stretched away
He had this special loyalty
To his suit

He let people cheat
He was with the rest
Only last year he asked me to tea
Sir, if only you could say
Do Come
I would more than accept
My love goes on
John Carleton is dead

If anyone has the beginning to this poem, kindly post same in the comments.

Earlier that year I was profoundly affected by the crash of Turkish Airlines flight 981, outside Paris en route to Heathrow. Among the horrific number of 346 killed was Geoffrey Brigstocke whose son David had been a classmate of mine at Westminster and whose daughter Persephone was a friend. I was moved to write the following entitled Paris Aircrash And After for Persephone :

Faint feelings of concern
The hiss and roar of vast engines far above
In another world in the sky
His mind loosens the body resting in deepset chair

The few last seconds
Are gone
His senses die with the blast

We find his daughter hearing the quiet news
Of delayed despair regret
Inevitable that the picture she sees
Is of a younger man
Of twenty years ago
And she is just sixteen

The wait for emotion
Rushing to flood her presence
Under the coverlet
She sees his empty future
And fills it with future thanks
And dedications
Where is he? Daddy, please take care
It's her way of asking forgiveness

She knows she'll marry, produce
Say to all of them
He's quite dead and far gone
Like future boyfriends

It may seem amazing now but a few years later I unsuccessfully attempted to have a ballet produced under the same, albeit translated, title in east Germany at a time when I was writing a series of ballet libretti.