Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I caught a litter bug

As I run around my neighbouring suburbs, I see litter everywhere. And yet there are many, many bins along sidewalks.

There's a park that I run through often either on my way out or my way home. It used to be a mine dump that they re-mined a good 20 years ago. As a kid I just thought it was a hill and I used to fly down its slopes in a cardboard box. Now it is a lovely open piece of grassy ground with a bit of a reed-encircled pond at the one end - evidently a section just below the water table. Birds and frogs are abundant.

Yesterday evening I was out on a run. My mom was with me, riding her bike. Reaching the exit of the park, I stopped to wait for her. Two attractive women approached. I heard the taller of the two opening a wrapper of something and as she put the cookie into her mouth she dropped the wrapper on the ground.

If there's one way to make my blood boil in an instant, it is to see someone littering. I rarely have the pleasure of catching offenders in action but when I do...

I pointed to the wrapper and said, "You've just dropped your litter on the ground. I think you should pick it up and put it in the bin. This park looks like it does because of people like you."

She did pick it up, looked daggers at me and proceeded out of the park and across the road. I shouted after her, "There's a bin on your left, you can put it in there".

She didn't and I'm quite certain that she would have dropped it again a little further on.

Here's the kicker. The two women work at a school up the road. They were wearing jerseys embroidered with the school's logo. Whether teachers or other staff, I don't know, but it did mean that I headed home with a bounce in my step, an email already writing itself in my mind.

This is a public park and it is used as a thoroughfare, cutting out a lot of distance that would have to be walked around big blocks without it, and for recreation. There are a bunch of friendly soccer players who use the part a few evenings a week, there's a guy who practices his golf and I've seen people walking their dogs. And I run through the park, delighting in the open space and changes with the seasons.

Green - the route taken by the women; red 'x' - site of offence; blue - the park
Of course, littering is rife. People passing through drop bags of trash, random wrappers and even old furniture occasionally. Every time I run through the park (most days) I fantasise about spending the day sitting on the nearby rise with a paintball gun, shooting offenders that I catch red handed.

Despite the municipality cleaning up regularly, the park is in need of a really good cleanse and I cannot think of anything better than mobilising the school (staff and students), which is located less than one kilometre away, to do a clean up in the park.

I can't believe that an expensive private school with Herbert Baker architecture, beautiful grounds and extensive sport and cultural activities condones littering and the disrespect of the environment and public places that comes with it. They surely teach environmental awareness and provide bins on their property for trash.

That this woman dropped her wrapper without hesitation... That she is a regular litter bug, I have no doubt. If she has children, she has probably taught this behaviour to them. And her family are certainly litter bugs too - she had to learn this from somewhere. Catching one litter bug in action is so much more than just one person dropping one piece of paper.

I've written to the school, described the women (the friend is, for me, just as guilty because she didn't say anything to the litter bug and is probably one herself!), and suggested a clean-up (which I'll assist in coordinating), with the offenders participating too.

I am awaiting a response.

Litter is a HUGE problem. It is unsightly, dirty and totally unnecessary. What I saw yesterday is unacceptable and what a blessing (for me!) that these women can be identified and be reminded of right from wrong. She knew. That she didn't care is the greater problem. It is the problem not just in this park and with this incident. It is a problem in this country where too many people do not care.

Fortunately, some of us do.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

You've got to donate blood more than once to make a difference

We're in the Easter season, a time when blood donations are desperately needed. I've heard the SANBS (National Blood Service) people on the radio and calls for donations are in the news.

Some stupid ass on the news yesterday proclaimed that the increase in already excessive number of road deaths over this Easter period was because Easter falls at month-end. No, idiot, it is because there are so many on the road who speed, drive drunk, overtake on corners, solid-white lines and blind rises, reverse on the highway... That's why. 

Right now, they especially need regular donors to donate as all components from first-time donors ARE NOT USED until the person has donated twice more.

The reason for this is safety; SANBS makes sure that your blood is good and healthy to give to someone. If you're on the receiving end, you can be assured that SANBS has one of the highest testing and donating standards in the World.

SANBS has fixed donor centres around the country and they also run mobile clinics at schools, business and companies. You can find these on their website - www.sanbs.org.za.

I've written about blood donating many times. As a regular donor, it is something close to my heart.

Even more important to me is to tell you that ONCE-OFF DONATIONS ARE NOT USED until you go back and donate again!

The focus is safe blood and that means that you need to donate more than once so that SANBS can run their various tests on your blood and are able to confirm that your blood is safe to give to someone.

This is what happens when you first donate.

SANBS collects your donation and runs your blood through tests for things like HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis. They spin your blood to separate the components. They throw away your red blood cells and put the plasma on ice to wait for your second donation.

The next time you come in - after at least 56 days - they do the same again. When the tests from this second donation also come back negative, they will use the quarantined plasma from your first donation.

When you come in again for your third donation (after at least another 56 days), they test again (every donation is tested every time!). And after this third donation (within a one-year period), you have achieved "regular donor status" and all of your components are used.

You do need to maintain your regular donor status by donating three or more times a year.

When these calls for blood come out, heading off to a centre to make a once-off donation is a noble feel-good gesture and all that... but as you can see, if is a waste of SANBS' time and resources and money unless you return to donate again.

People often gripe about SANBS' exclusions - but they are set for good reason for your health and that of the recipients of your blood (here's a list of deferral reasons).

Like you can't donate if you've got flu or a cold. Come back when you're better.

You can't donate if you've just returned from a holiday to a malaria area. Come back four weeks after your holiday.

You can't donate for six months if you have a new sexual partner.

You can't donate while you're pregnant or breast feeding. Doh! Your baby needs you!

You can't donate if you're under 16yrs, over 65yrs or weigh less than 50kg.

You can't donate if you have a critical condition like diabetes, heart/blood pressure issues.

You can't donate if you're taking certain medications. These could seriously affect the recipient, who is probably not in such a good state if they're needing your blood.

SANBS DOES ALLOW donations from same-sex relationship donors - FINALLY!

A friend emailed me last night asking about the location of my local clinic. She's heard the calls for donations in the media and as a past recipient of a life-saving transfusion, she wants to give something back. I told her about the ineffectiveness of once-off donations and how to become a regular donor. She had no idea.

Your first donation over this critical holiday period won't help to replenish the blood stocks now. But, it is the starting point to become a regular donor and by Christmas your blood will indeed be saving lives.

The SANBS website is neat, tidy and informative.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The best time to go fishing (and running)

I often think of that sentiment: "Any day you're too busy too run is a day you're too busy".

Damn right.

I'm totally guilty of getting caught in the same trap even though I know that getting out for a 30 minute run won't cause the Earth to blow up nor the sky to fall down. But I have gaps in my training log because I do get in a state when I have endless lists and never enough time. And when I run less I feel worse and then everything feels like it is going to implode.

Today I stopped in at my local nursery to get some flower seeds. They have a coffee counter there. A framed poster on the wall caught my attention. It had a fish on it (looked a bit like a mounted fish).

It read:
"The best time to go fishing is when you feel like it"
an image I found online

Same goes for running eh? (the only issue here is when your tired, lazy-ass mind tells you that you don't feel like it?)

I haven't run with my husky friends for weeks and weeks. The most convenient days to get the husks are Mondays or Fridays when the domestic worker is there - the gardener takes them on Wednesdays and their dad takes them on weekends. My Mondays have been non-starters with the orienteering schools league stuff and Fridays have been equally rushed and chaotic.

Today I left home just after 11am to collect the dogs and I thoroughly enjoyed my in-the-middle-of-the-day run with them. It felt decadent and indulgent and I loved it.

Toscana (left) and Angel (right)

Me and Toscana's nose
I'd like to confidently proclaim that I'll 'sneak' off more often... but I know the reality is different. But for my sanity - and the dogs' fitness - it would be a good thing to do indeed.

I've got my annual pre-birthday running game coming up soon. I decided to start this year's '39 Days of Running' early (on 25 April) to complete my 39-consecutive days on 2 June, the day before I depart for Expedition Africa, where I'm under no illusion that running every day isn't going to happen. My game was a mess last year because of this (and a sore knee that I bashed into a rock!) so starting early should smooth things.

This annual game always serves to remind me that 30 mins a day is very, very doable. For this period I totally prioritise this game and myself and it works. The rest of the year... I am guilty of letting other things get in the way.

Now is certain. Tomorrow is not.

At races you get to meet really lovely people; and more so during small-field staged races where you spend days together. And very often it is the people that make these races more than the race, location and scenery.

In March 2013 I had the most wonderful opportunity to run in the five-day Namib Desert Challenge for a second time, having run the inaugural event a few years before.

One of the guys that I spent a lot of time with was Dave Gunner, who was out here from the UK with his brother Paul to participate. We ran all of stages 3, 4 and 5 together and as such he is pictured in many of my photographs -  a fine model to showcase the route and scenery and terrain of the race.

It it with sadness that I heard today of his passing from a few weeks ago.

Dave fell ill just after June last year and was diagnosed with leukaemia. He had a bone marrow transplant, which went ok but in January he got a lung infection. He passed away on 7 February 2015; his heart, which was under too much stress, had had enough (information on his health from a family member via a common running friend).

Dave's company and conversation on those long, long stretches at NDC made the race all the more enjoyable and memorable. Reading my daily blog posts and looking at the included photographs is a fresh reminder of the good - but tough - days we spent traversing the Soussousvlei area. We were well-suited running companions.

With 'English Dave' at the end of Stage 4 on top of Dune 45.
The passing of a fit and healthy running friend whose route through life has been cheated out of so many hundreds of kilometres is ever a reminder that for all of us that tomorrow is never a certainty.

Now is.

Stage 5 - Dead Vlei and only a few kilometres from the end. Photo by Hannisze.