31 March 2010

Easter the zombie fest

Being in a Norwegian city during Easter is very similar to being in the opening scene of Danny Boyles "28 days later", the place is entirely abandoned. The streets are empty and there is an odd eerie silence. If you search long and hard you will find hungry, confused expat zombies wandering the streets looking for something to eat. Struggling to come to terms with a world in which everything has suddenly changed, where every shop, restaurant and cafe has suddenly closed for 5 days, the stagger bewildered through the town.

This is because Easter is a big holiday, in fact it is the biggest public holiday in Norway, more important and more seriously adhered to than Christmas. The official holiday starts on Thursday but most offices etc only work for half a day on Wednesday; because of that lots of people take off Monday and Tuesday and suddenly you have a 10 day holiday. Since the days are getting longer but there is still snow in the mountains the entire population decamps from the towns to their cabins in the mountains. The town is abandoned and everything is closed because "you couldn't possible expect anyone to work on a holiday".

Roy eloquently compared the atmosphere in his offices in the week leading up Easter to the week before half term in a junior school i.e. no work gets down because all the children are so excited about the impending break.

I used to think that it was a great tradition and a fantastic example of the Norwegian "work-life balance" because Easter is a good time to have a holiday and go to the mountains and actually the World does not stop turning if everyone takes a week off. But then I started thinking about the similarity to 28 days later and the whole zombie deal. Easter is about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Isn't somebody who comes back from the dead a zombie? This is ground breaking stuff, was Jesus a Zombie? A quick look on the internet confirmed it was true (see here for example) and also proved that once again a brilliant piece of original thinking by yours truly was not as original as I first thought and someone else had already done it better! They even made a movie about it - here (although its a bit slow).

Meanwhile back in Norway I found a documentary that offers an alternative zombie related reason which may explain why the town is so empty. You can see that here.

God Påske alle samen

Wednesday Movie - In the news

A guide to how making a BBC news item -

So spot on, especially the bit about the obligatory shot of fat people...

So all you media types - your secret is out! I never realised it was quite so formulaic

29 March 2010

Crude - corporate scum polluting the jungle

I just watched the excellent documentary "Crude" which details the 15 year fight between the indigenous Amazonians of Ecuador and Chevron (Texaco). The back story is that while operating a series of of concessions in the 80s and early 90s, Texaco dumped millions of gallons of crude and other toxic crap straight into the jungle. This contaminated water supplies and destroyed the environment. We are not talking about a little spill here or a few drops there, we are talking the systematic, willful pollution of hundreds of sites, presumably because it was cheaper than doing things properly and because its in the jungle, nobody who really matters would care. Now thousands of people have cancer in their teens, skin disease is rife, their animals are dying and their lives have been destroyed.

While the film is clearly emotive, the company, it's lawyers, scientists and executives are given ample opportunity to present their case. Their first defence is initially to deny that it is happening at all and when that fails, they then try to deny that it is their fault. It is painfully obvious that they are stalling in an attempt to "deep pocket" the Indians, hoping they will run out of money and be forced to give up. "La la la not listening, if I ignore you, you will go away."

This post is not about the evils of the oil industry because while it definitely can be evil (Nigeria, Iraq, etc) it does not need to be. There are plenty of places where they industry has managed to work in a practical and responsible way. No the purpose of the post is to ask one simple question...

"How do these people sleep at night?"

From the scumbag lawyers in the jungle, standing next to open pits of crude oil, surrounded by little kids covered in sores, arguing that this is normal oil industry practice and when that fails trying to shift the blame. Right up to the cold, sanctimonious, bitch Sara McMillen, Chevron's principal environmental scientist who sits there and smugly tells bare faced lies, with absolutely no hint of feeling, compassion or remorse. These are horrible, horrible fuckin people. I wish that I believed there was a hell for them to go to. I wish I could make them live in a jungle that stinks of gas while their kids die of cancer, I wish I could even begin to understand how a human being can be so cold, callous and uncaring.

Texaco fought for 10 years to NOT have the case heard in the US. Presumably the thought they could bribe their way out of trouble more easily in South America. Now the Ecuadorian judge has made a non binding recommendation that they pay $27 billion (use billion with a B) in clean up costs and compensation. But the decision is non-binding and the case will probably drag on for another 10 years.

Its pretty simple. You would not shit in your own living room, so going around to someone's house and crapping on their coffee table just because they are poor and you think nobody cares, is not acceptable.

It's your fuckin mess, stop lying and start facing up to your responsibility!

28 March 2010

Nerdy photo things for a wet weekend

Have been getting more and more interested in different forms of photography recently

Started out with High Dimensional Range (HDR) which is based on the concept that the dimensional range of a photo is much less than your eye, so that in any single photo a few bits are optimally exposed while while most of it is either too dark or too light. With HDR you take several photos of the same view, bracketed around the optimal exposure and then sample the best exposure from the set. This can be done manually but is best left to a piece of software. I use photmatix pro - details here and the results are awesome. There are lots of examples of the results at my flickr site such as these from Utah.

Then I got interested in timelapse - my first efforts were with a web cam pointing out the window. I captured a winter week outside the lair. The result can be seen here. The movie was made with a photo taken every 10 minutes and then combined into a movie using some free software at 15 frames per second. It was ok but the quality is pretty shitty.

Next stage was to try and get better quality, so I dug out an old Nikon D70 and started experimenting with that. To get the time lapse it needs to be linked to a laptop and have some controlling software. First I tried to use Nikon capture control which is apparently very good but is also rip-off expensive. When you have spent 2000 quid on a camera the least they could do is give you the software to run it! Anyway I tried to use the trail version but it kept bombing and I wasn't about to spend 120 quid on software that may not work, so back to the interweb.

Then I found DIYphotobits from here which does everything I wanted and is FREE - yes you tight arsed bastards at Nikon - take note! Its a great piece of software and I can't understand why it is not more widely known about.

So then I set up the D70 and experimented. The camera battery only lasts a couple of hours which is a major bummer because it means you need an external power source (another £85 from rip-off Nikon). That is on order.

Apart from that it works really well and it is possible to do time lapse and bracket as well, opening up possibilities for timelapse HDR. So yesterday morning (saturday) I set it all up on the window sill , to take 1 shot every two minutes, bracketed +/- 1 stop. So that is 30 shots per hour (with 90 exposures). This ran for a couple of hours before the battery ran out at lunch time.

Photomatix has an excellent batch process mode which combined the three exposures in to 1 shot, I then stacked them up into a movie at 10 frames per second. The result is here.

I am not super happy with the results. First of all the view was pretty crappy. It was a dull overcast day and not much happening. Secondly the software that has stacked the images into the AVI didn't do a particularly good job this time, it's jerky. I need to have another go at compiling it. When I was loading it up to youtube I realised, as with many great ideas, someone else had beaten me to it and done a better job. Check this and this out.

Finally photo-nerd of the decade must go to this guy who put an old canon into a box, wrapped it up in duct tape and sent it into space on a weather balloon. Awesome! Total respect and great results. Check out his website.

Now time lapse, HDR from space... pass the gaffer tape

26 March 2010

Friday Joke - The wisdom of the ancient Greeks

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?"
"Wait a moment," Socrates replied, "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."
'Triple filter?" asked the acquaintance.
"That's right," Socrates continued, "Before you talk to me about Diogenes let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say.
The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"
"No," the man said, "Actually I just heard about it.
"All right," said Socrates, "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about Diogenes something good?"
"No, on the contrary..."
"So," Socrates continued, "You want to tell me something about Diogenes that may be bad, even though you're not certain it's true?"
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued, "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about Diogenes going to be useful to me?"
"No, not really."
"Well," concluded Socrates, "If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even useful, why tell it to me or anyone at all?"
The man was bewildered and ashamed and he decided not to tell his story.

This is an example of why Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why Socrates never found out that Diogenes was shagging his wife.

25 March 2010

Thursday Fashion

This is the first of a new, weekly post on Fashion, including tips, advice and comments from yours truly. There is of course a mild degree of irony assocaited with a geologist providing fashion tips.

This week - "Head bands"

What would possibly possess an adult woman to wear a thin plaited strip of leather around her head. A latent desire to play and being a Squaw? A vague attempt to recycle the 70s and get in touch with your inner hippy? Well it looks ridiculous, especially when you wear it to work. In fact the only thing that looks more ridiculous than a grown woman playing at cowboys and indians is the bloke I saw wearing one in a restaurant last week. Utter Wanker

24 March 2010

Wednesday Movie - Not quite AC/DC

Two unrelated movies this week.

The first from Roy Fitz - its not quite AC/DC but its pretty damned good...

The second is related to a NASA study of the impact of various drugs on spiders and the webs they spin. This was a real study and its worth looking at this website before you watch the movie here.

19 March 2010

Friday Joke

This really made me laugh...

18 March 2010

The Cove

I just watched “The Cove” and it is a brilliant documentary. After it was over, I felt predictably depressed. Ignorant arseholes using culture as an excuse to practice outdated, barbaric practices on beautiful, intelligent, sentient marine mammals and then blatantly lying about what they are doing before feeding toxic meat to school children. Not really too much to be happy about there. But the more I thought about it the more I realized there is reason to celebrate...

The tide is turning, the global success of this movie, culminating at the Oscars, has led to a huge audience, all informed and outraged. The butchers find themselves more isolated and more marginalised on a daily basis – That is a result!

Meanwhile in the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd have just concluded their most successful season ever. They shut down the Japanese whaling fleet for over half of it’s season, cutting their kill quote drastically and costing the Japanese tax payer millions of dollars in subsidies. The success of Whale Wars on Discovery Channel has brought extra awareness and with that extra funding for the campaign, increase the number of boats and the chance of success. That awareness has also, finally, forced vote hungry Australian politicians to stand by election pledges and complain openly about the poachers in their waters. Meanwhile the whalers are forced in to more and more desperate measures like, secruity ships, acosutic weapons and running over small boats as the World watches, intrigued, bemused and appalled – That is a result!

Last year the EU banned the import of Canadian seal products so that the butchers of Newfoundland have one less market for their grizzly kill – That is a result!

Today in the UK a hunt observer was cleared of wrong doing in association with the death of a thug who was threatening him and trying to stop his gyrocopter taking off to observe a fox hunt. I don’t celebrate the death of a member of the pro-hunt lobby, frankly I don’t care if he lives or dies, but what was interesting was that a high proportion of comments in the Times Online supported the verdict. I was surprised at that, I thought the right wing readers would be outraged. This perhaps illustrates that the debate has moved on. People are no longer able to hide behind the veil of calling it a class struggle and are seeing it for what it actually is. A law to stop barbaric ritual slaughter for entertainment - That is a result

The world is slowly changing. These changes are made possible by the availability of information, through TV, movies and the internet. The majority of people are intelligent, compassionate and caring. They don’t support this pointless, outdated barbarism and will take a stand. Society is becoming progressively more aware of its power to control nature and th efact that with intelligence and power comes responsibility. Just as slavery was abolished, just as child labour was outlawed so these unnecessary, barbaric acts will eventually be stopped by collective World opinion. Culture is a piss-poor excuse for brutality and slowly but surely we are winning this fight - That is a result!

17 March 2010

Sheep and Goats

So very odd goats here
and some quality sheep here

16 March 2010

Ice Ice Baby

Its been an amazing winter in western Norway, very cold for a sustained period of time, which means lots of ice in good condition. Last weekend I had some old friends across to visit with the main intention of climbing. Things at work have been horribly busy so I was very happy to take a day off and head to the hills.

The guys arrived on the late Gatwick flight on Thursday night so we sat around and drank beer until about 1.30. Friday morning we headed up to Voss to check out a 5 pitch route that Sandy had recommended. It has been a bit warm on the west coast in the last week so I thought it had probably melted. When we got there it was still looking ok, so after a fairly grim wade through thigh deep snow Dave and I picked it off. It was longer than it looked but a great start to the weekend.

Mike and Clair at Voss

Five pitches that were in better nick than they look here. Near Voss

Drove to Hemsedal and arrived very late, due to a fairly pointless road closure (klonnekkjøring). Next day we checked out a long grade 5 above Ulsåk which looked rotten and rather nasty so we headed to Haugfossen, one of Norway’s more popular ice locations. It’s popularity is totally justified, two really nice falls, sheltered from the wind, fat, great plastic ice and a blue sky day. Sandy cracked off a nice WI5 which I seconded, Dave did another on the same fall while Mike and Clair climbed a route on the left side of the main fall. I then led the long WI4+ pitch on the right side of the main fall. Ice climbing doesn’t get much better than that.

Sandy at the base of Indrehaugfossen - bigger and steeper than it looks here

Clair on Haugfossen

Dave looking realxed on steep ice - Indrehaugfossen

Yours truly on the RDS of Huegensfossen (pic by Dave)

That night we managed to drink a lot of wine (18 bottles between 8), some beer and half a bottle of jeager in the hot tub at the cabin. Not sure where all that booze went but it was a fun evening. Next day, we were all looking and feeling decidedly ropey. Sandy, Helen and Ceclie headed off to ski at the ski-centre and we opted to explore Lærdal. It has some amazing, large and very scary looking ice lines in it, which are way too hard for mere mortals like me, but I had got a guide off Jamie which suggested that buried in the side valleys were some more do-able routes.

We scouted a few before we hiked up a gorge to huge amphitheatre called Nausagrovi, with 4 distinct falls and numerous ice lines. The most obvious was a big fat fall that looked at two pitches of 3+ or 4.

Nausagrovi in Lærdal, 150m of WI4

Mike took pictures while I dispatched the first pitch. An unconformable, near-hanging belay brought Dave up who then dispatched the steep second pitch, pronouncing that he wasn’t going to make the top. By this time I had been on the belay for about an hour and a half, why one foot had serious pins and needles, I was cold, hungover and getting spooked by how quickly the ice screws were meting out. I seconded the pitch and lead through to another full rope length and the top. The angle eased off just in time as I ran out of energy and motivation and I reached an awesomely conformable belay at the top and brought Dave up. Some fairly hairy abs got us back down again and we walked back to the car in the dark. A fairly full on day, especially considering the hangover and the previous two days.

Dave on the second pitch of Nausagrovi

My rat is very well fed now, in fact I might have to put him on a diet! Great to see the guys, drink wine and climb quality ice! Now looking forward to spring.

09 March 2010

Pretty good English for a Russian

It's 1994 and I am doing fieldwork in Utah. Based out of the town of Green River, population 973, famous for water melons, uranium mining and being home to a cold war missile base. It’s a one street town which is 70 miles from any other town, in any direction. It has some plus points, there is Ray’s Tavern a truck stop and a few ok diners. It sits in front of the Book Cliffs and as such is a gateway to some of the best geology in the World and it is my home from 3 months.

Its hard to believe but this is in the days before the internet, mobile phones or email. To communicate with the folks back home you wrote letters (how quaint) and every couple of days you went to the Post Office and collected your mail that was sent “general delivery”.

So one day I walk into the post office and see the smiling old lady. I buy some stamps and hand her my cards before asking for my mail.

Out of the blue she asks “Is the Ukraine still apart of Russia?”
Now that’s a curved ball question! But this is the time of the break up of the Soviet Union, so I figure that maybe she doesn’t know who else to ask.
I reply “Yes, I believe it is”
“You speak pretty good English for a Russian”
Getting more random by the minute...
“I am not Russian” I reply
“Oh” She looks confused but not put off she comes back with “Well you sure send a lot of cards and letters to Russia”
At this point I am totally lost and trying to work out if some cold war task force is going to appear and arrest me.
“I have no idea what you are talking about” I reply
“Look!” She exclaims. “All these cards going to the Ukraine”
She points at the UK at the bottom of the address and all is clear…
“No, that’s UK - United Kingdom, Britain, England…”
“Nope its definitely Ukraine” she insists and I give up arguing.

I leave hoping that a) the person in the main sorting office is more geographically aware and b) she didn’t see fit to add “raine” to all my UKs so a confused postman in the Ukraine is looking for a town called Llanwrst.

Wednesday Movie - Evolution

The theory of evolution as taught in your average American school

"So there you go, you're the retarded offspring of 5 monkeys having butt sex with a fish squirrel "

Or you can check out Homer's version

New Adventures

Headed to Aberdeen for the weekend to celebrate Katharine’s birthday with an extra plan in mind. It was my first trip there since she left Bergen, I was a bit loathed to leave all this amazing fresh snow in Bergen but I was also looking forward to seeing her.

Arrived Friday evening and we had a curry with some of Katharine’s friends. I was feeling pretty tired after a long week and also a bit under the weather, but it was a pleasant evening. Saturday we headed out to the country for an evening at a very nice country hotel. After a fine dinner I realised it was now or never so I rather nervously asked her to step outside for some air. Once outside I popped the question and she said yes – or something that equated to yes in between a lot of blubbering. We then engaged a bottle of champagne to cap off the evening, Secretly, I think that she is just as excited about having a very large party as anything else, but that’s fine with me.

It’s a strange sensation, practically nothing will change, however maybe it’s the deeply buried traditionalist in me but it feels significant, which probably explains the nerves. I guess proposing is not that big a deal, most of my friends have managed to do this successfully, some have done it several time! But for us it’s a new adventure and sometimes its good to be certain before you dive in there.

And this is something I am certain about

04 March 2010

Ninja Centipede

Whilst in South Africa I was attacked by a Centipede. Yes that is for real! I was standing by the track minding my own business, checking out the geology when I felt a sudden shooting pain in my foot. I looked down to see a 6 inch long, yellow and black Centipede sinking its fangs into my foot. I hurt like hell and quickly swelled up. One week later it is still slightly swollen and the area around the fang holes is hard and itchy.

Evil bastard ninja centipede

This unprovoked attack lead to an interesting discussion. It was clear that this thing was poisonous, my foot was swollen and growing. But how poisonous? Are we talking bee sting or death in 10 minutes? There are plenty of poisonous snakes and scorpions in the area but nobody knew anything about any killer ninja centipedes. My logic was that if it where deadly I would have heard about it, Andy was more concerned, which was ironic since it was my foot. But since we were at the end of the day and the hospital was on the way home we stopped in.

An elderly Afrikaans nurse was highly bemused and said she had never seen or heard of this before. She then proceeded to inject me in the arse, although I am not sure what with, probably with saline solution she keeps next to the band aids the stick on peoples foreheads to cure headaches. That’s now 3 trips to hospital in 4 field seasons!

So this weeks joke is about a centipede...

Rodents vs Insects – Football World Cup

A team of rodents were playing a team of insects in the finals of the very small football world cup. The rodents totally dominated the first half and at half-time were leading 6-nil.

At half-time the insects made a substitution and brought on the centipede. He was stunning, great ball control, very aggressive play and within 15 minutes had personally scored 7 goals and set up another 3. The insects went on to win the game 14-6. In the dressing room afterwards the captain of the rodents was chatting to the insect captain.
"That centipede of yours is terrific," the captain of the rodents said. "Why didn't you play him from the start?"
"We'd have liked to," replied the insect captain, "but it takes him 45 minutes to get his boots on."

02 March 2010

Wednesday Movie - timelapse

This weeks Wednesday movie was made by me.
It's my first attempt at timelapse and represents about one week over the view from the living room window at the Lair. It is taken at one frame every 10 minutes and 60 frames per second using a basic webcam attached to an old laptop.

This is version two, there is a bug with the compilation software but I have fixed that now. Enjoy

Comments welcome as always

South Africa 2010

Was back in South Africa for a week doing some field work. The overnight trip down was with the Luftewaffe and was fairly grim, the plane was full and we were stuck at the back with virtually no leg room. Managed to get about 3 hours sleep and then just watched movies for the remaining 6 hours, “An Education” was the best, thoughtful insight into early 1960’s Britain. The pilot did at least treat us to a fly-by of Table Mountain, seeing Cape Town again brought back so many memories and all of them good, lots of good times from field work in the Karoo and the parties that inevitably followed the IAS in 1996 when Nige, Dougal and I drove from Namibia after 3 months in the desert, through to 2002 and 3 days of solid partying with Dougal and his south African mates when we someone metamorphosed into a band on tour and attracted a fan base of models and posh kids at Club La Med. I love Cape Town.

We arrived and met Andy from Liverpool at the airport and he, Andreas and I drove straight to Lainsburg, 4 hours through the Cape Fold belt, amazing scenery. Simon stayed behind to met the helimap folk. Next morning we headed down to Matjesfontain for breakfast. Entering Matjesfountain is like stepping back about 100 years in time. The town is a single drag along a wide dusty road lined with old colonial buildings. There is a strong Scottish theme with a pub complete with imported stags heads and a large collection of whisky. Breakfast was at the hotel which hasn’t changed very much since it was built. It sits in an ongoing state of dilapidation, steadfastly trying to resist both the erosion of the elements and changing social and political attitudes. The restaurant was busy. The people mirrored the buildings. Once good looking and majestic they retained their arrogance despite looking tired and haggard.

We headed to the field and reccied the first sections, then in the evening we met up with Simon, our friends from helimap and the chopper pilot, an Aussie called Bronte. Bronte was, like most heli pilots I have met, an interesting character. Stories of flying in Angola during the civil war, hanging out with Mandela during the first elections and various other stuff, reminded me that no matter how cool you think your life is, there is always people who have a more interesting time of it…

One man and his machine
Next day Andy headed off to co-pilot the first flight and we headed to collect the supplementary field data. A good day was had by all, although Andy decided that chopper time was not for him. That evening we moved to Sutherland. This small town in the northern Cape has an impressive church and not much else. This always makes me wonder why so many crappy communities spend all their spare cash and more on a building that gets used once a week! Sutherland is also famous for being so far into the arse end of nowhere that there is no light pollution, and therefore it is a great place for star viewing. It is even the home of SALT, the South African Large Telescope which is actually a collection of telescopes on a hill. Unfortunately the weather was rapidly crapping-out so we did not get to see too many stars.

Heli in the Karoo - note the shitty weather in the distance

Apart from the telescope and a church there is not much else in Sutherland. Lots of bottle shops and the obligatory Woolworths, a single hotel and some shitty guest houses. The people in these parts of South Africa are fascinating. Its easy to dismiss the white South African and a bunch of arrogant, racists has beens. Spitting image summed up that stereo type nicely. But there is more to it than that. This is a tough place and these are tough people. They are racists and they are bigoted, they are conservative and they are small minded. But they are also kind and welcoming to outsiders (I guess as long as you are white). They are polite and friendly. Many, especially the younger ones you meet in the more cosmopolitan areas are also trying to move on from the past These are tough people who live in a tough environment. They bear the scares of hard outdoor lives. The women are as tough as the man. All those that we met in the Karoo are old, the young fled to the cites long ago, and you can see that they were once beautiful but the harsh environment has abraded their looks as cruelly as it has weathered the bedrock we come to study.

Volcanic plug intruding fluvial sediments

So we worked the next couple of days. The weather was not especially kind to us. It was either very hot, 40+ degrees c or it was stormy. Andreas and the helimap guys spent a very eventful day being buffeted and bounced around by storm force winds only to discover that the data were no good, I spent a long day as co-pilot collecting lots of data and eventually we got everything done within the time allotted and by Thursday evening we had finished.

The delights of Suderland

Good advice from the bottle shop, the sign above the door says "home of headache"

Thursday night was spent in Stellenbosch, which is on route back to Cape Town and so different to the Karoo that it might as well be another planet. The town has beautiful tree lined streets with great colonial architecture. We had an excellent vegetarian meal, taken with G&T and fine wine, sat outside a really lovely restaurant. The streets are filled with young people, it’s a student town, and while it is still conservative there is a real sense of optimism. I guess it’s the kind of optimism you get from being rich and privileged and I am sure that if you spent time there it would drive you crazy, but as an antidote to the harsh Karoo it is great.

Friday morning we headed back to Cape Town and spent the afternoon being tourists. Hit the beach at Camps Bay for the sunset, had a quick and bracing body surf before dinner in Club La Med.

Camps Bay

The tourist theme continued on Saturday when we drove down to Cape Point. I have been there several times but always in a rush, drive down, quick picture by the famous sign and then whiz off. This time we spent most of the day there including hiking around for several hours. It was windy and classic sunburn weather, but it was nice to get some fresh air and relax a bit. On the way back we stopped at a vineyard and did the wine tasting thing before buying a couple of crates to bring back. The day was capped off with dinner at the awesome Mama Africa followed by cocktails in Cape to Cuba.

Sunday we went up Table Mountain. There was much deliberation about walking or taking the cable car. The lonely planet said “there are no safe hiking trails on the mountain take a rope and be prepared to die”. I was pretty sure that this was bullshit and persuaded them to have a go. In the end the path was absolutely fine, although steep. It was about 600 m vertical of steps and it was bloody hot, but certainly not dangerous. It took me just under 2 hours while the youths did it in an hour and a quarter! Very impressive I am definitely feeling my age and the impact of my sedentary lifestyle.

Steep enough for a heart-attack but probably not a rope

On top

Quick shower, lunch and then the airport for another 12 hours encased in a very small German torture seat. The bitch at check-in wanted to charge us 400 euro for being 8 kg over weight but after some arguing she graciously said she would be nice and waive it. I hate these people so much…

Arrived in Frankfurt Monday morning and was back in work in the big B just after lunch. While we had been boiling at 40+, Bergen had got another half metre of fresh snow. Amazing!