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LOCKDOWN IN SOUTH AFRICA

Washing, cleaning, home-schooling, working – rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Yes, that’s mostly what lockdown has meant for me on a personal level. The air is fresh and the birdsong and buzzing bees are loud and refreshingly beautiful. A private symphony that you wouldn’t normally pay attention to. No traffic drone in the background. No aeroplanes above. The world is in a strange sort of limbo for us, but mother nature is carrying on around as though nothing is wrong in the world at all. In fact, she’s flourishing without us.

The realities of lockdown on a practical level have meant a shared workspace with my husband and two children which has been slightly trying but not as bad as I thought it would be on the whole. As I begin to pen this, we are in our fourth week of official lockdown and the fifth for our family as schools closed a week earlier. As a cancer survivor, I’m told that I’m more at risk, so I’ve been at home this whole time. I miss my friends, my church and people in general – who aren’t my family of course. And yes, I do love them, but I’m a social butterfly that loves hugs… an absolutely tortuous time indeed. 

I feel heartsore for those who are on their own and face loneliness on top of this new way of life. Everyone has a bit more time on their hands and are looking at projects around the house that they’ve been meaning to tackle for years, but can’t as there are no hardware stores open. 

As I chat with friends and colleagues about the globe it seems that lockdown has been adapted to suit each country and their needs. Some have alcohol and cigarettes available. Others are still building and taking the opportunity to renovate their businesses, while a fortified prison and martial law governs others. To the north of us, Malawi has had the lockdown overturned stating that this would be against their human rights, and so carry on as normal. 

The only constant is the half hourly changes in theories of where this disease came from, how it is spread and what the numbers are. We are basing our planning on statistics from China, which are already highly questionable to say the least, but still we persevere in understanding and combatting. There seems to be a lot of grey areas and tons of hype. 

In the first three months of this year, three times the amount of people that died of Covid-19 died of seasonal flu. Almost half a million people died of HIV/Aids and just under three million people died of hunger! It just feels like a lot of smoke and mirrors with very little truth about what is actually happening here. Who knows if we will ever know the truth. A major concern for me is even at level one, no social gatherings of any sort will be prohibited, so when will we be able to do that again you have to wonder?

The worst dynamic of all – and will become even more prevalent as time rolls on – is the economic consequences of not keeping industry going. How will we ever be able to feed our people, keep them educated and in good health if business, especially small businesses as in our collision repair sector, can’t trade? It’s now that the full impact of “state capture” and the emptying of our country’s coffers will truly come home to roost. 

One thing we are as a nation is adaptable, resilient and innovative. And so, my hopes rest in the hearts of South Africans who have endured and overcome many hardships over the years. We have a bad rap with our crime stats – let’s not turn a blind eye to that – but I see more of a ready smile, a generous spirit and a heart of giving in our rainbow nation than in any other. This strength will help us endure and find a new way forward together. 

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. South Africa has already seen President Cyril Ramaphosa step up, take charge and lead us in a way forward that has defied what our stats should have been – according to many. Don’t you just love proving theories wrong? What a time to be a President, but he’s taken it all in his stride and with a good dose of humour too. 

Fast forward a few weeks… and then came the next level of complete incompetence with the rest of the organisation. No transparency on how decisions are being made, how we derive our numbers for Covid-19 and what the source is, who makes up our national crisis committee (NCC) who decide everything with what qualification, and then the best card if all – economic bail out according to your skin colour. An all time low to stoop in an election year. Madiba (Nelson Mandela) would be so proud – OR NOT! 

Shame on you as our people go hungry. Shame on you for closing borders so that foreigners cannot return home but stand by as they starve. Shame on you for not considering the thousands of children who receive their daily meal at school and even take that food home to feed their families, who have had nothing to eat and no means of getting food for six weeks now and still counting. Where is our heart? Where is our compassion? What a disgrace your incompetent decison making is costing us in humanity and how hard you will pay when you are held accountable. Utter disappoinment and sadness is what this always “glass half full” person is feeling right now…

As for Automotive Refinisher and our team, we are at hand to muddle our way alongside you. We are keeping the lines of communication open, highlighting new methods, pointing you towards helpful systems and other technologies that can help keep more pennies in your pocket and allow for more innovative ways of repair in the future. We are focusing at making our media platforms more relevant in this new marketplace as we go forward, so watch this space.

by Claire Macfie

 

 

 

LOCKDOWN IN LOS ANGELES

In Los Angeles there used to be four seasons. Fire, Rain, Mudslide, and Earthquake. My family has done them all, going way back to when this land originally belonged to Mexico.  Never easy…always with an elevated heartbeat.  Always prompting the question “What’s Next?”  Now we have a fifth challenge. Like we are all staring in the same Sci-Fi film!  Plot unfolding in real time.

March arrived and nothing seemed wrong.  Propaganda TV fed us the HOAX line as late as March 9. “No worries here!”   Our “Safer at Home” was ruled on March 19 with jokes about hording toilet paper and wine.  By Sunday, March 22, we woke up to 44,000 cases. Big moment of clarity.  Let’s side-step this Covid thing at all costs.  NOT going to die on an over-full hospital floor.  Active avoidance. Survive. 

April has been no joke.  All the over-shopping for food has taken place and we now have a very nervous calm. Like waiting to be bombed. You hear almost no words spoken in the market.  Do not get close on the sidewalk or they run to the opposite side of the road.   Many, many small business owners continue to work secretly – just text them ahead.  Like using a special code word from our alcohol prohibition years of the 1920’s.

Construction is allowed, and booming. Off the charts. This was a giant green light. Remodel that office or restaurant or shop right now.  On a short drive I counted six road crews doing street repairs within two miles. Building inspectors? HA…! It’s the wild west all over again, this time with nail guns.  

Now this is weird. Bandanna on the face to go into the bank…to deposit my money. No airplanes over head…all day.  One or two police helicopters, being aggressively flown like they are back in the 60’s chasing Viet Cong.  Up on the freeway it’s waaay over the speed limit.  Suddenly you’re playing full-sized Grand Theft Auto.

My phone has green roads in every direction.  But, there’s a catch. Apple, Google and many others already know your tastes, and routes.  Soon they will track Covid people, and the recovered, and the immunised.  Alerts buzzing your cell when you get close to a positive person.   Keeping weeks of your social history for contact tracing during the next outbreak.  

Is that legal? Not before. In days past, authorities would have to get a specific court order to allow that kind of surveillance.  Guess we’re all criminals now. Soon we will get to the dystopian part of our real-life movie. We need a big STAR like Tina Turner. She still living in Paris?    We need that girl to take control!  Always wanted to build a MAD MAX vehicle…something rusty with spears and armor.  And a big V8.  Open pipes.  Why not?  There are no lines at the pumps, and gas is cheap.  

Switches up – flame thrower ready – let’s roll. Mel Gibson lives just up the road.

by Jay Dalton

 

LOCKDOWN IN FRANCE

Sue and Dave Fall (Dave does his best to keep Automotive Refinisher free of typos) ‘while living the dream’ in ‘locked-down’ France, their new domicile after leaving Cape Town about six months ago. This couple remain resolute and upbeat given the unprecedented hand that Covid19 has dealt everyone right across the globe.

One always needs to look on the bright side,” reckon the Falls, who remain hale and hearty, their combined ages tallying more than 140 years; having recently relocated to the Dordogne region of southern France. We haven’t seen any of the panic shopping in France that the UK seems to be experiencing – unlike my brother who lives in ‘civilised’ Chiswick, London being a case in point, reckons Dave. “The only thing I’ve done is ensure the vehicles that we brought with us from Cape Town are kept full of fuel, as this will most likely be the next ‘big worry’ (toilet rolls availability permitting).

I must say the French seem to be pretty cool about the Corona pandemic in so many ways such as visits to the local supermarket nearby where the shelves always seem to be well stocked. In fact, I was the only customer who had a pack of toilet rolls in the trolley! The all-important wine and spirits section are definitely extremely well stocked(!) – along with an abundance of all the usual stuff including choice meats, cheeses and baguettes.

There are rules and regulations to follow here in France: one has to fill out a form (Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire) per journey stating the reasons why you need to be ‘away from your place of abode’. It has to be signed and dated and handed to the local gendarmerie (police) should there be a road block. One trip a day allowed – that’s it!” says Dave.

Currently (April 17, 2020), France has the fourth highest Covid19 death rate in the world (18 970 deaths). Emmanuel Macron, the French president regularly appears on TV with Covid updates. This is a guy who is doing a good job of running the country during these difficult times.

To amuse myself I’ve discovered quite by accident an entirely new hobby … it’s called Pallet Popping* … round up all the wooden pallets that are lying around – if you look, you’ll find them. Strip them down to their various thicknesses and sizes and one can then construct trestles, work tops, hanging shelves and much more. The hard (frustrating) part is busting the pallets apart because they are seriously nailed together… but now I have a dedicated pallet buster, courtesy of Amazon. 

To pass the time when not knocking the pallets about and maybe seated in front of the computer I’ve discovered ‘YouTube’ (OK, it’s been available for years, but new to me). Check out the tips and tricks on just about any topic you care to mention – nothing seems to stump it.

“As you may imagine I love cars and motorcycles, yet electrical circuits etc. is the one component of car ownership I tend to struggle with, so have of late been picking up further T&T on multimeters, dynamos, magnetos, etc. Thirdly, fancy reading up on your car, perhaps – in my case it’s Mazda’s MX5 – there really is always something new to learn during the enforced lockdowns. Keep your mind active, at all costs!

To sum up, at the end of the day, residing in France means one can if need be, always survive on croissants, freshly baked twice a day and available in just about every village boulangerie (bakery) found throughout France – Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

by Dave & Sue Fall

 

LOCKDOWN IN UK

We are in a state of fear. The mainstream media have resorted to double guessing science, latch on to everything that ‘must’ be done and created real, tangible fear. The many, many people required to make a country function have been stripped back to those who work for the NHS – whilst those who have to work (carers for the elderly, energy supply, water supply, waste collection, food supplies, vehicle repairs) are consigned to the shadows of this over inflated ego.

The vehicle collision repair sector is hurting. HM Government are offering tax offsets, up to 80% of full-time employee income and more, but – and it’s a big, big but – not only are these things loans repayable someday, the systems are overwhelmed with applications from employees (1 million plus in the first week) and employers. Add to that vehicle manufacturing stopped dead from mid-March 2020 onwards, the OEM parts supply is definitely finite.

For some groups and smarter individual businesses, they have sought NHS / ‘key worker’ repair jobs by offering discounts and generally making people aware that they are open. For most repairers – easily the majority – they have looked at the financial situation and decided to hibernate the business instead. Bottom line – vehicle traffic is down by 75%+, so pro rata the accident rate is down too.

So, for businesses with good cash reserves and clear thinking, there is an opportunity to build bridges. However, most collision repairers know they need to conserve cash, and the good PR of today will be long-forgotten in 12 months’ time. This huge experiment where the entire nation is living inside and lead by the NHS is coming to an end, because tax revenue funds the whole country and without that revenue we have nothing – literally, nothing. 

As you probably know, the ‘first world’ has bought credit at favourable terms and is busy printing notes to bring money to the level of Zimbabwe – this is now mentioned as the new standard. We are in the honeymoon stage, where 50% of the economy is funded from tax cash – either as direct benefit or via tax rebates / holidays. We know this ‘happy cash’ has to be paid back, and that those of us fortunate to work will end up paying for those who didn’t. The UK is in free fall.

This is the time that the order is changed forever, and our ‘right’ to access relatively cheap credit has been blown clear out of the water. Soon we may face the stark choices South Africa has. Only the credit line separates us – you are not able to get food, we can get food. In truth, South Africa is in a more truthful position than us, as we mop up money that simply does not exist.

Our civil servants have run riot. The N-H-S has become the Central Government, and since the Public sector can not justify anything except by the amount of cash they spend, no one is officially talking about the economic ruin. We piled into lock down guided by those who seemed to understand what to do, only to find that they did not know what to do next.

We now know this:

  1. The People’s Republic of China has not been straight with the world, nor has it even after the initial phase, admitted the second wave is underway.
  2. WHO is run by corrupt individuals, placed by China, and have done very little beyond defending China and suggesting the pandemic be named after the major source – as is convention until now – due to ‘racist tones’.
  3. Individual governments have panicked, tried to order materials which were already in very short supply, and to observe other countries.
  4. WHO has failed to establish a protocol to measure who has died from Covid-19. In the UK we know the bullying incompetant N-H-S spreads disease better than an incubation dish in a lab, so it is important to decide… is a death recorded of Covid-19 was the primary cause (al la Das Achtung Deutschland), ignore certain sectors (as per the N-H-S by recording only those who are in hospital), or every case regardless of underlying health issues?

Testing is a farce – quite simply the required test does not yet exist. The so-called connectivity App which allows tracing is meeting significant libertarian resistance, yet it needs 60% take up to work.We have passed the fear of the disease. Now the very real prospect of poverty looms large: South Africa can see it, we are ignoring it.

We fear for the health of our family, friends and colleagues. However, as the social isolation bites deeper and the health benefits become less tangible, we know the economic crash that is coming will hurt more than many of us have ever experienced before. Time to get back to work. 

by Andrew Marsh