What of the Future? Personal

It’s probably easier to be a pessimist on most days about the future. Life is bound to change. Equality will be a key word and so it should be.. So many of us are faced with a not very comfortable balance between health and money. It was the famous American comedian, Jack Benny,  regarded as a bit of a tightwad, who in a sketch was  faced with a gun and threatened with “ your money or your life!” To which he responded “let me think about it”.

Our President told us towards the end of April that the Government has raised R500 billion towards various critical projects designed to see our people through the virus and beyond into a renewed, vibrant economy. This sum of money is beyond imagination in South Africa. It destroys the recent pollution under the  corrupt Zuma regime. It gives all of us renewed hope in the future.

But when? There are millions here who have nothing and now no way of generating any income. People are being extraordinarily generous but, no matter how many food parcels, how do you replace self-respect?  We will get there but it will take some time. The strain on all of us will be considerable.

No Trump and the Media

I have to admit that there have been a number of occasions when I have felt warmed by Donald Trump’s remarks and statements. With regard to COVID-19, it does seem that he, and particularly his team, do understand the consequences.

It’s just that he seems to have a unique ability to put his foot (no, both feet) into his mouth at the same time. Why might this matter to us? I think the point is that we all need thoughtful, intelligent and well-balanced leadership. No hysteria, no histrionics. In particular, calmness and straightforward, honest statements and responses.

Today we are facing a prolonged period of uncertainty with indefinable variables. And yet, it is a fact that COVID-19 palls into insignificance when compared to Spanish flu around 1918, let alone the Black Death in the 14th Century. So, much falls into the minds and words of the media and social media.

The conclusion is that politicians and up front speakers need real experience and subtlety in dealing with the media. When they let themselves down, they let us down and today that really matters to us all.

SWOT analysis

COVID-19 requires all of us to revisit our lifestyles, a true personal SWOT analysis.

Let’s say that the Strength is hopefully one’s health. That must come first as, without good health, nothing matters.

Weakness is not paying attention to today’s reality. None of us is immune and, what’s more, we mustn’t assume that we are above and beyond exposure. (Read Edgar Allan Poe’s masterly short story ‘Masque of the Red Death’)

Opportunities. The most difficult time to spot opportunities is when they seem to be invisible! But let’s seek and we will find because when COVID-19 is brought under  control, then the opportunities will have been and gone. So keep your eyes open and your ears alert!

Threats: life and death have grabbed us round the throat. It’s as if there is a bottomless pit drawing us in with no escape. But some countries may already be past the peak. We will all be cleansed in due course. I promise.

Meanwhile…we’ve cancelled our cruise from Venice to Venice and I fear that our month in the country near Lake Como , time with the family, so it’s quiet: time to do the replanting our lives as I suggest above.

‘Fact or Fiction

I am in Wuhan market, shopping for the family dinner, and more. My God, nothing like a few exotica to rouse the tastebuds! Let’s see: we’ve not had anything wild for the past month. Yum! I see snake (commonplace); bat (boring); deer (too expensive and our refrigerator is on the blink).

Ooh, look. Pangolin, haven’t had that in a while. Wonder if it’s fresh as there are some nasty rumours going round about a virus. Let me check: are you sure? Just came in this morning. Great, I’ll take two.

One week later, I’m back in the market. Where’s that butcher? What do you mean, he’s vanished? In hospital? Died two days ago! Everyone here looks scared! You’re telling me that all was not well with those Pangolin. You know, it’s strange but I’ve been feeling feverish for the past two days. My wife the same. Which hospital?

We went. She died. And now? Help!! But I know who caused this: it’s that (let me. see) Donald..we call him ‘duck’ but I don’t think that’s his name. I’m cold, my throat is dry. This cough. Help!!


Are soothing words what you want to hear/ read from your professional advisors right now? I’m inclined to react by suggesting that, if anyone tells you that you shouldn’t panic, the first thing you do is to panic. A bit like “this is your pilot, speaking to you from outside the plane”.

We have had plenty to panic about it if we want to in South Africa for 50 years or more. There were the Sunday lunch parties regularly hosted by Alessandra’s family in the 1970s and 1980s with a group of well-connected guests who repeated that the country had five years before the inevitable revolution. A rolling five years with a revolution which has never (not yet!) taken place.

Bringing you right up to date, COVID-19 is very new to South Africa, we have a very old friend of Alessandra and her daughter in isolation in a less than attractive hospital, having been exposed to the virus last Monday (March 2).

So, what are we doing? We are buying (but not hoarding) supplies of relevant materials. We are briefing and guiding domestic employees as well as family members. We are doing our best to stop doing what we all normally and automatically do, like touching our faces.It’s very hard to change one’s habits.

In short, we are behaving micro, doing the things we can control and influence personally, nothing more, though we still sit on our reservations for a trip to Venice followed by a cruise, Venice to Venice, plus nearly three weeks en famille in Lombardy!

If this trip takes place, much will have to improve. We are not optimistic but we are not panicking.


Taliban or yes, Taliban; Trump or no-Trumps! There is no such thing as a lasting peace in Afghanistan. It’s eugenically impossible. The Afghanis don’t really comprehend the concept of peace. They like to fight. They like to carry arms.

This is nothing to do with religion. Just think of the geography of the country: mountains and passes and more mountains and more passes. Let alone an abundance of poppies which are good for the production of hallucinating narcotics.

I’d bet a pound of poppies that there will only be a temporary peace.

Think of Mel Brooks’s movie ‘To Be or not To Be’. Hitler: ‘all I want is a little piece. A little piece of Poland, a little slice of Turkey…’


There are few things more difficult for us to deal with than certain uncertainty, especially when one can’t be certain who is telling the truth. Except that we can be certain enough that the Chinese aren’t… not even to themselves.

We can, however, be certain that all bad things do come to an end. When will this bad thing come to an end is uncertain but with mutual goodwill and cohesive efforts it will be this year.

Don’t panic! Just as the pilot said, when speaking to his passengers from outside the plane. Seriously though, we were expecting some kind of a bear market in stocks for at least five years. We certainly didn’t know that a virus would prove to be the provocation.

Climate Change

We may have to live in what to expect or expect what we have to live in. Here in Johannesburg we are used to summer temperatures reaching the high 20s. It’s reaching the high point this year and a typical day with a high of 31/32/33. Some rain but not enough.

Just run time forward, say, 5 years: temperatures 40 plus will not be uncommon. At 5500 feet above sea level the intensity of the heat is already very uncomfortable. Will it be unbearable by 2025?

And other countries are and will be much worse. Greenland daily becomes more appealing especially since the world’s largest island is beginning to reveal enormous hidden wealth.  So the ice will continue to melt and sea levels will rise! Such is progress-or is it?

Technophobe or HarMegphobe

Or both. In the first, I rate my phobia as fear; in the second, the phobia comprises a mixture of boredom and the disbelief in how low people’s standards can go.

All of us should be ‘free’ to travel backwards and forwards first class, refurbish our homes for £2 million plus, and keep unoccupied more than 40 neighbouring seats at the Centre Court at Wimbledon. Enough of you, Meghan. I don’t think you can get centre stage in Hollywood!

I once had the password ‘grumpy’. Why? Because I thought I couldn’t do what I wouldn’t do but should do on the computer. That was more than 20 years ago and age hasn’t improved me.  79 this month. That’s a boring prime number but I confess I am not in my prime, unlike Jean Brodie.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Maybe it’s because the murders, in whichever way, were so extraordinary and extreme that it’s possible that there are those who find it possible to deny that the Holocaust happened. And the Holocaust is by no means only about the murder of 6 million Jews: Homosexuals, gypsies and other minority groups were ‘selected’.

Those who live the truth do not need to be told the truth. We will not forget,whether or not our own families directly suffered and lost relatives. The memory is stamped within us. What about generations to come?

One thought I have is that Germany itself was primarily excluded. Just look where the concentration camps were located. We almost invariably begin with Auschwitz. Perhaps we don’t to look further.

This may be the most important issue because time here is not a healer! Not now! Not ever!!