The New Life — A Review

We’ve been living in Edinburgh for about two and a half months now, which is enough time to get halfway settled, and certainly enough time for some spection.

Rough seas | Photo credit guana (via flickr)

Spection isn’t a word. Retrospection; introspection; inspection; but no spection. The closest seems to be Spectioneer, or Specksioneer. This is “the chief harpooner, who also directs in cutting up the speck, or blubber; — so called among whalers.”

Cutting through the blubber of my experiences. Feels like a strangely appropriate metaphor.

A Brief Summary of Things

We’re living in Edinburgh. We found affordable (at the moment) shelter. It has the things we need, like beds, an oven, refrigerator, TV, heating, hot water. It’s in a decent area.

We have public transport. We can get around the city as we need to. Haven’t had any real need for a private vehicle so far (although missing buses can sometimes be a drag).

We found Jethro a nursery to meet other children.  He goes three times a week for 5 hours. We’d send him more but it costs a lot.

That’s all the blubber cut up, which leaves me with the mess of a vivisected whale. And the mess is this…


Disclaimer: I am predisposed to melodrama. Vivisected whale metaphors included.

Messy metaphor | Photo credit: Jan Egil Kristiansen

I also feel that tweeting has done my writing of lengthier, thoughtful pieces, a disservice.

Underemployment is arguably better than unemployment, but both are a rocket-harpoon to the belly of your ego. The ego doesn’t really survive being disembowelled, so instead it is reincarnated into some other form. My current place of underemployment is at a telephone call centre, as a market research telephone interviewer. Good thing I spent all those years of pain getting that Chemical Engineering degree under my belt!

It’s a job that is less terrible than one might imagine, and really makes me wonder why I bothered educating myself at all. It’s straightforward work. It isn’t stressful (once you get some experience). And you get a broad range of interaction with the human condition — a fascinating and often hilarious sample of the world of people out there. It really can be quite entertaining. The work isn’t exhausting either, leaving me some energy for more creative pursuits. At least, I’d have more energy if I didn’t have to match a 2-year-old’s endless supply. Two-year-olds are the solution to our fossil-fuel economy, if only we can find an efficient way to harness them as a power source.

All I needed to do was kill my Chemical Engineer self, and replace it with a more humble accepting self. One that had lower expectations. Or perhaps the humble one was there all along, getting trampled on and being ignored. Not exactly suicide, but some sort of psychological insurrection is running its course within me. I’m hoping to limit the collateral damage.

I’m not the only underemployed one in my household. Angie is struggling with some underemployment issues herself. Considering her epic CV, this is really a bit of a mystery. The recruitment agents keep putting her name forward for jobs. The insane employers keep not employing her. It’s not really a total mystery. We have our suspicions about the problem, but all I’ll say is this: The Nazis had an over-developed sense of nationalism.

I know about Godwin’s Law. I don’t care.

It’s not all a pool of bloody water and disembowelled Cetaceans

Well it is in the whaling nations, but not so much in Edinburgh.

There are good things, so I probably should try to bring some balance to this woeful account of my woeful woes.

Light-hearted musings

Pavements: They have them here in the UK because the powers that be aren’t entirely taken by surprise by the fact that one may want to walk from point A to point B. I note this because of the stark contrast to South Africa. In South Africa the municipality seems to believe that it’s only worthwhile building pavements for the rich people, and since the rich people drive everywhere, they don’t bother laying too many pavements.

In the UK a huge amount of consideration goes into how a pedestrian might get access to something. While doing maintenance on the road, the builders are likely to close off massive stretches of road to vehicular traffic, in order to ensure that pedestrians can still walk safely. Brightly coloured barriers guide us safely along.

I’ve noticed less jay-walking in Edinburgh, than I experienced in South Africa, but the reason isn’t what you might expect. British people are just as inclined to jay-walk as any one else in South Africa would be, but in South Africa the powers that be have more important things to worry about. In Edinburgh the city council puts up all manner of barriers along the road to discourage people crossing the roads at convenient places. People sort of bounce off the barriers in a confused manner, and slowly shuffle their puzzled sheeple bodies over to the pedestrian crossing points. Keeping us all safe from ourselves, as any good nanny-state should.

Foul! | Photo credit: Gene Hunt

Dog-fouling: The thing about having pavements is that dogs can crap on them. This can cause quite a bit of consternation, with dire warnings posted everywhere regarding the terrible financial consequences of allowing your dog to foul the verges and pavements.


The £100 fines don’t deter every dog owner, as I frequently discover that my shoes have become malodorous due to a misstep of mine. Perhaps those were stray dogs?

Silly rules about alcohol: South Africa certainly had stupid rules about the sale of alcohol. Only licensed liquor stores can sell all types of alcohol, but not on a Sunday after a randomly chosen time. Supermarkets are only allowed to sell wine. Licensed restaurants can sell any type of alcohol at any time, including on Sundays when the retail places have to close their doors.

It’s sort of nuts in Edinburgh too, but there are extra levels of complexity that are, frankly, incomprehensible to me at the moment.

Supermarkets sell wine and malt, but the licensing in the restaurants is weird. We tried going out with Jethro in tow on a Sunday evening and were turned away from several pubs because of the child — but for different reasons. At one establishment, Jethro got us barred because he was under the age of five and the restaurant/bar didn’t have small child facilities. At the next place, we were barred because children weren’t allowed after 5pm, and at the place where we finally stopped, we were barred because children weren’t allowed on the premises at all.

How is it that we stopped where children were not allowed on the premises? Jethro was asleep in his pram, so we sat on the edge of the pub’s property, and placed Jethro on the other side of an imaginary line which marked the boundary between the pub property and the neighbouring property.

Comparison of the air: The air in Edinburgh is cleaner than it is in Johannesburg. Evidence, other than the fact that one cannot see the air in Edinburgh (while this is possible during winter in Jozie), is that my asthma is gone. Perhaps the lower altitude, and consequential higher concentrations of oxygen are helping me out there too.

The air is colder though. It’s October now, and the frosty chill in the atmosphere is getting noticeable and I know it is only a an aperitif before the main course of winter. I’m going to miss the African summer, methinks.

Walking around at night: People do this in Edinburgh. People do this in Johannesburg. Life expectancies are vastly different between those two populations of nightwalkers. Not saying I haven’t come across some dodgy folk on my night adventures around Edinburgh. Just saying that I haven’t taken any extensive nightwalking samples in Johannesburg.

Public transport: I’ve been using the buses in Edinburgh, and they are excellent (except the No.10 which generates a disturbing resonance when the engine idles, causing my brain to rapidly oscillate around inside my skull, bashing the sides and making me feel quite nauseous). They have a different approach to service than the South African mini-bus taxis.

  • Buses in Edinburgh stop at the designated stops. South African mini-buses stop anywhere the customer is or wants to be.
  • Buses in Edinburgh adhere to passenger capacity limits. South African mini-buses ignore passenger capacity limits.
  • Buses in Edinburgh leave a stop once the passengers waiting get on. South African mini-buses leave the stop when the mini-bus is full.
  • Buses in Edinburgh have their drivers intimidated by antisocial passengers. South African mini-buses have their passengers intimidated by antisocial drivers.
  • Buses in Edinburgh have bus lanes reserved for them. South African mini-buses have to reserve normal or emergency lanes for themselves.

I think both parties could learn something from the other one.

In Conclusion

I think I need to meditate more on patient acceptance.


Photo credit: Vincent van der Pas

Bean Prison Visit

Bean incarcerated in Scotland. But super-fluffy and super-happy

We visited the Bean-dog in quarantine on Saturday. They actually locked us in her dog-run (she also has as heated sleeping area that isn’t exposed to the elements). I assume that people have attempted to jailbreak their pets in the past.

Nevermind—we’ll be better prepared next time when we smuggle in the wire-cutters.