Cape Town or London? You decide

David Bullard writes on why the grass is not greener on that other side


In the mid 1970’s I was living in London in the fashionable postal district of SW3. Britain was suffering under the yoke of an inept Labour government which had followed hot on the heels of an equally inept Conservative government where prime minister Edward Heath had decreed a three day week at one point to preserve the country’s power supply in the wake of continuous strike action by the miners.

Since solar panels had yet to become a commercial reality this meant very long periods spent in darkness for most people.

Britain at the time was in a deep recession and in 1976, under the Labour government, the country had to approach the International Monetary Fund for a $4 billion dollar bailout. This inevitably came with a set of conditions, most of which involved massive public sector spending cuts. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Inflation at the time was running well above 20% and companies were advised to only give cost of living rises when increasing an employee's salary. This led to me getting a 25% pay rise in 1976 which didn’t displease me at all. In fact, none of the financial mess the country was in upset me in the slightest, even though I was working in the financial markets as a lowly deal booking clerk at the time.

On what I was earning I could easily afford a shared flat in fashionable Chelsea just off the King’s Road. I didn’t need a car living in London so most of my non rental discretionary spending went on food, drink, women and entertainment but not always in that order. At the time my monthly rental cost £30 which went up to £33 when our lease came to an end and I moved to even more fashionable SW1 in a very handsome block of flats next to Westminster Cathedral.

Reading articles in the British press last week it now seems that it is virtually impossible to find a decently priced rental in central London. A gloomy one bedroom apartment in a not at all fashionable area of London now costs £1800 a month and it would not be the sort of place you would want to go back to at the end of a busy working day.

Another problem is that the shortage of rental stock has not only pushed the rental prices up by about 20% for inner London properties but it has also made the competition for decent accommodation ‘more stressful than internet dating’ in the words of one potential renter. It’s now fairly common to be in competition with at least thirty or more other people who are equally desperate for accommodation.

I mention all this because there are still people who believe that the grass is greener on the other side and it probably isn’t. A really shabby flat on the outskirts of London in a run down area will cost you the Rand equivalent of R4 mln+ and a 3 bedroom terraced house in South London with no garage and a postage stamp sized garden will set you back around R19mln if you’re lucky enough to snap up a bargain price. I suspect that much the same applies to most of the more desirable European capitals.

Despite the ANC’s best efforts to decolonise South Africa and turn it into a non-functioning hell-hole for all but the gangster elite, the country still has quite a few redeeming features, particularly if you are fortunate enough to live in the Western Cape.


I’m re-reading George Orwell’s classic, 1984, yet again. It’s a book I revisit every couple of years to see how we are doing here in SA and in other parts of the world and the news isn’t good. When I say re-reading I should probably say listening to because I joined Audible recently so, in truth, Stephen Fry is reading 1984 to me.

This works remarkably well unless you listen when you go to bed. In which case you tune in to Chapter four, doze off and wake a few hours later to find you’re on Chapter seven and haven’t a clue what happened in between. So huge self discipline is required with audio books and I now only listen in a sitting position when there’s less chance of me nodding off. I’ve already loaded Prof Nigel Biggar’s ‘Colonialism’ and Douglas Murray’s ‘The Strange Death of Europe’, both of them requiring the listener’s full attention and both well worth a relisten.

Why am I not buying the books? Two reasons. When I finish a book (Jacques Pauw, Helen Zille) I tend to pass it on to a friend who I think might enjoy it. I do this because I am out of bookspace in Chez Bull. Mrs B had custom made bookshelves installed in our third bedroom and still stacks her leather bound volumes of Bulwer Lytton two deep because of the many other volumes vying for space.

The other reason is that I like the luxury of somebody reading to me. I’ve been horribly ill in bed for the first time in many years with what I assume is the latest flu bug. Feeling very sorry for myself, coughing and wheezing and shuffling between a nebuliser and bed the Audible books have been a blessing as I lie here staring at the ceiling and wondering if I should cancel all social events for the next few days. I’ve already missed a spectacular wine tasting at a neighbour’s house because I refused to share my germs with anyone else.

But back to 1984 and where we are already. The key theme of 1984 is lack of personal freedom and surveillance and dear old Orwell was well ahead of the game with the telescreen spying on our lives.

Except that it’s now our own much loved iPhones and the dreaded algorithms that monitor our every move and interest and feed them back to a central computer. And all with our full consent. Cameras are already all over the streets of an ostensibly free city like London monitoring and reporting on your every move.

Of course this is all for the common good so isn’t it strange that crime levels have risen in London since the introduction of these ‘security measures’? At the moment the British Police seem more involved in removing ‘offensive’ golliwog dolls from pubs in Essex, pursuing online hate crimes and investigating horrific sexual offences among their own officers than they are with the more mundane business of trying to find out who broke into your home.

But the more frightening parallel to 1984 is how truth can be twisted to suit a new official narrative. The obvious one is that women can now have penises and that transwomen are women; utter rubbish of course but something that has politicians, corporates and media houses grovelling in agreement to what is so obviously a biological impossibility. Not even George Orwell’s fertile imagination came up with that piece of nonsense.

Then there’s the censorship which today masquerades as ‘cancel culture’. If your opinion happens to not accord with the common herd (many of them particularly dim university students) then you should be banned from speaking and probably sacked from your job. The Ministry of Truth is alive and well.

Books may have been burnt to erase the past in 1984 but when publishers employ sensitivity readers to cleanse literary works of anything that might be deemed offensive and the BBC feels the need to destroy previous programmes that would now be ‘problematic’ you know you are on the slippery slope to totalitarianism.

When people have to start apologising for something somebody unrelated to them did over 200 years ago then common sense has completely failed. Even the Bank of England exhibition now has a section devoted to fessing up to its role in slavery…as if any sensible person even cared.

The only idea I am still trying to get used to is that of a Big Brother figure wearing a red beret a year from now.