Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

When my husband heard that Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond would be presenting the MPH Top Gear Live show in Cape Town and Johannesburg, he went online and reserved our tickets in a flash. To say that my man “enjoys” the BBC show is like saying that Michael Schumacher “enjoys” driving Formula One cars: it’s not so much a passion as an obsession.

I watch the programme as well, but I am no petrol-head by any stretch of the imagination, so I tend to discern more entertainment from Clarkson’s caustic wit and Hammond’s tight jeans than the actual facts and figures and fast machines. Still, I was excited to see what the threesome would bring to our sunny South African shores.

The result? In a word – showmanship. And lots of it.

Clarkson and Hammond were on hand for the Cape Town show, as May could only secure enough free time for the Johannesburg leg of the tour. The tall man with the appalling dress sense wrote off Captain Slow’s absence in the Mother City by saying that he’d discovered Sandy Bay (our local spot for nude bathing) and decided to stay there. The short man in the faded denims seconded this theory when “photographic evidence” was produced showing May in flowery cutoffs instead of his trademark flowery shirt. In truth, it was May’s head morphed on to a slightly flabby, slightly sunburned male body, but at least there wasn’t a Speedo in sight!

The evening kicked off in spectacular fashion, with a toned, bronzed young woman showing off her skills with fire sticks while pyrotechnics welcomed Clarkson and Hammond as they made their grand entrance behind the wheels of two exotic sports cars. Clarkson took the time to chastise the “potty-mouthed” producer in the sound booth who, during a pre-show sound check, had cursed without knowing that the speakers were broadcasting his tirade to all and sundry! “Just do the f*cking microphone check,” he had drawled. My fellow Capetonians, alert as ever, responded by holding up the red side of their voting cards (for the Cool Wall), effectively giving him a stadium-wide red card. You had to be there to appreciate the moment, but it was pretty funny!

Due credit must be given to the stunt drivers, whose talents were truly astounding. The stage area at the Grand West Casino is not nearly as large as some of the locations used abroad, but these guys proved that they can do 360s on the head of a pin. The term “precision driving” doesn’t do justice to their mad skills. And I say “mad” because they must be slightly left of the middle to push themselves and their machines to the kinds of extremes we witnessed from the stands.

And then there was The Stig, the “tame” racing driver some say escaped from the CIA after a government experiment gone wrong. His identity remains a secret, but his pedal power is unrivalled. He wiped out three vehicles during the Carmageddon skit and completed the loop-the-loop stunt without even breaking a sweat. In the words of Ali G: “Respek!”

Local DJ and F1 fanatic Sasha Martinengo did an admirable job as the third presenter, but the evening belonged to Clarkson and Hammond, whose banter is really the core of Top Gear. We loved them! And they loved us, too. “I fancy Cape Town, it’s a beautiful city,” Clarkson said, before offering his opinions on Table Mountain and the locally produced red wine… He thinks Capetonians make a mountain out of a mole hill regarding the famed tourist attraction and he says his tongue will never recover from the pinotages he’s experienced at the hotel. Here’s a word of advice, Mr C… Try the stuff in the bottle, not the Chateau De Box swill on the room-service menu *wink*

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Drive by The Cars. Find the song on amazon.com


How much pain has quaked your soul?

I am lucky to have a roof over my head. I cannot begin to comprehend the horror facing those who survived the earthquake in Haiti. It must be something akin to hell on earth.

Broken limbs. Broken bodies. A breakdown of social order. Chaos and desperation in the ruins. Can you imagine trying to pick up the pieces in a city cloaked in death and destruction? Can you imagine trying to forage for food when the smell of rotting flesh permeates everything? According to news reports, people have started painting strips of toothpaste between their noses and mouths to try to mask the odour as they breathe.

But hope remains. At work last night, we covered a story about a Haitian man who was pulled from the rubble two weeks after the virtual levelling of the city. He had a crushed leg and several other injuries, but he was alive. He had held on in the darkness, clinging to the belief that rescuers would find him. Now he faces a long and difficult road to recovery.

Humanitarian aid continues to pour in from around the world and everywhere I look, people are rallying to raise money for the reconstruction of the island. My best friend and I had a discussion about this earlier today… What compels us to try to help strangers in a foreign land and yet look the other way when confronted by the beggar outside the local supermarket?

Are the victims of natural disasters more deserving of assistance than the victims of circumstance standing at the traffic lights with pleas written on cardboard?

Charity doesn’t have to start when the earth moves. A simple act of kindness can go a long way towards improving the life of another – near or far.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of I Belong To You by Muse. Find the song on amazon.com


The truth hurts, a lie’s worse

I have been thinking about the Tiger Woods saga since my post this week. The news coverage we had at the office overnight made me look at the situation even more closely and I realised something about myself… As a journalist, I have been standing back, keeping a distance, focusing on the story and staying on the fence for the sake of being as unbiased as possible. But as a woman, I am disappointed; as a mother, even more so. And not only in Tiger Woods, but in the sponsors who have condoned his behaviour in the name of commercialism.

These days, an affair is just something else that our jaded society seems to glance over and move on from. Sure, men and women cheat on each other all the time, everywhere, in every corner of the world. Some cheaters make headlines. Others are never heard of. Some get caught on reality television. Others get away with it.

For me, infidelity is a deal-breaker. If my husband walked through the door and told me that he’d been unfaithful, I would tell him to pack his bags. No discussion, no debate. He knows this. It’s something we talked about when we first got together. We had a conversation about cheating and I remember telling him: “If you find that you’re no longer in love with me, if your eyes start to stray, if you get tired of seeing my face in the morning, if you’re dreaming of someone else, then walk away and go after what you want. Don’t stay here and lie.”

It’s that simple for me. It might sound cold, but I would never be able to move forward if the trust was gone. Infidelity is painful and leaves broken homes, broken marriages and broken people in its wake. It can ruin your life – whether you’re a celebrity or not.

Tiger Woods is a celebrity. And he’s in the middle of a media storm right now because he is a household name. Because he carved a niche for himself as a clean-cut professional and suffered a spectacular fall from grace when his wandering ways were revealed. If he happened to be a nobody from nowhere with nothing in his bank account, would the world give a damn? Probably not.

But he is a somebody. And the truth is he cheated on his wife. And that’s why I’m disappointed in him. That’s why I’m angry at him. That’s why I will never look at him the same way. And yes, I know I’m throwing stones. I know I’m on a high horse. I know I’m judging a man I have never met. But let’s not forget that he made a choice. Whatever his reasons, whatever his rationale, whatever his mindset at the time, he was a married man who made a decision to have sex with another woman. Nobody forced him to do it. He knew exactly what he was doing when he dropped his pants.

And yet, astonishingly, one of his biggest sponsors is trying to write off the whole episode as something that “comes with the turf”. I was shocked to read that Nike chairman Phil Knight believes Woods’s “indiscretions” are nothing more than “a minor blip” on the great fairway of his life. Um, what?

I can only assume that Knight is trying to safeguard the company’s bottom line. What reasonable person would classify Woods’s sexual escapades as “minor”? And what message does Knight’s apparent endorsement of the fallen golfer send to the public? That it’s okay to fall off the path as long as you feign remorse? That having loads of money and power makes you immune to responsibility? Immune to accountability? Is this really the lesson we want our children to learn?

I have to wonder what Woods was thinking the first time he strayed. Did he think of the woman wearing his ring? Did he think of his babies? Did he think about what his father would say if he knew? Did he care?

The nagging thought I cannot escape is this one: “Would he have come clean if he hadn’t crashed his car that night? Or would he have continued living a splintered life and trying to keep all the threads from unravelling?”

Given the recent revelations about his character, I am inclined to believe he would have perpetuated the lie. And maybe that would have been worse.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Broken Strings by James Morrison and Nelly Furtado. Find the song on amazon.com


You trade your passion for glory

The Tiger Woods snowball just keeps on rolling… His wife, Elin Nordegren, has purchased a home in Sweden and the rumour mill is tripping over itself with reports of an impending divorce.

Another corporate sponsor, Accenture, has dropped Woods hot on the heels of his most personal admission to date. He posted the following statement on his website three days ago:

“I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try.

I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What’s most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.

After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.

Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period.”

So far, 10 women – including a porn star and a cocktail waitress – claim to have had sexual relationships with the man whose formerly squeaky clean image was used to sell everything from clubs to shaving cream. And his admission of infidelity suggests that he has been unfaithful to his wife with at least one of them (or perhaps someone who isn’t on the list?) in the past.

I wonder why he didn’t come out with the facts from the start? I wonder if his fans would be more sympathetic if he had been straight with the world from the beginning? All this cloak and dagger stuff, with the spin doctors and the PR campaign to try to minimise the damage – seriously, doesn’t he know that the truth comes out eventually?

There’s that saying… “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”… And in this case, I think the gigantic Mr Woods will find that the journey to the ground is a long and painful one.

See the Tiger Timeline on Sky Sports for the full rundown of the saga.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor. Find the song on amazon.com


It was a faint line that brought you here

United States President Barack Obama has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize amid a flurry of activity that included protests, a grand dinner in his honour and mixed reviews from the American public and the world.

The Dalai Lama stated (very diplomatically) that it was, perhaps, a little early for America’s commander-in-chief to be given such an award: he has been in the White House for barely a year, after all.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was not alone in this corner… Obama himself admitted during his acceptance speech that as a wartime president, he was a controversial choice for the medal. He even acknowledged that there were many others who deserved it more.

Still, the award that once found a home with the likes of Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Kofi Annan now also belongs to Barack Obama. Let’s hope he endeavours to deserve it.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of A Good Start by Maria Taylor. Find the song on amazon.com