Saturday 30 July 2022

25th parkrun volunteer milestone at George parkrun

On Sat, 30 July 2022, I notched my 25th volunteer milestone at the George parkrun (my total is around 140). When parkrun restarted in George in about November last year, I jumped in to volunteer and meet the friendly George parkrun community.

My usual volunteer role is barcode scanning. This morning I enjoyed a role change as a marshal out on the route so I decided to take Rosy with me. I haven't taken her to parkrun here because this little black dog can be crazy-exuberant and a bit... unruly. Despite being a really good dog at dog school, Rosy's street-dog posturing comes out when other dogs are around and she is on a lead. When she runs off-lead, she is a well-behaved girl. Parkrun requires dogs to be on a lead and as I'm often volunteering, Rosy has been left at home.

Today, Rosy was exemplary. She ran almost beautifully on lead to parkrun and like a star to our marshal point. She watched the participants without barking and wasn't too bad when dogs came past. 

She was actually so good that I'm confident that she has matured enough to participate with me without being a maniac.
I'm very proud of this little girl.

Friday 29 July 2022

Costs of living and a good salary

 In my opinion, a good salary is one where you do not have to stress about covering your basic expenses every month - rent, insurance, medical, fuel in your car, vehicle maintenance, school fees, food on the table, food and vaccinations for your pets - and having a little for extras and to save. 

'Basic expenses' varies according to what you consider your basics to be. 

Rent figures depend on location and type of accommodation. George is more expensive than Parys and not as expensive as Jo'burg or Cape Town, but getting there! Township, almost-township and other-side-of-the-railway-tracks is less expensive than leafy suburbs. A room in a house is less than an apartment all your own; and a garden cottage on someone's property is less than a small house, which is less than a big house.

Once you're in a place, you need to cover water and lights, clean it, maintain the garden, fix dripping taps, replace light bulbs - rent or bond repayments are not the end of it.

Whether you have home, vehicle, medical, life or death insurance is a choice, but, I consider most of these basic expenses because the consequences are high if something goes wrong and you don't have them. I don't have life or funeral, but I do have the others.

I have a car. Cars cost to run. It needs fuel and maintenance. My car enables me to do my job efficiently in a way that public transport would not allow. It is also old and paid-off a long time ago. Keeping it going and in great condition is a basic expense that buys me mobility freedom. That said, with fuel the price as it is, I don't go driving around much or just take trips willy-nilly. Not any more. I drive for necessity.

I don't need to pay school fees or buy clothing for growing children, but I do need to care for my dogs. Annual vaccinations, deworming, Bravecto and food. And vet visits if they are ill or injured. I do pay for dog school lessons, which are as good for me as for the dogs. My attendance is regulated by my available funds.

We need to eat. Eating could be tuna and noodles with a glass of water or steak and salad with wine. The former is 'basics' for one; the latter is 'basics' for another.

Where some may consider eating out once a week and buying new clothing regularly their basic expenses, these are non-essentials for me. I do not do either very often and I cautiously weigh up invitations to go out because these are unplanned expenses that zap money I may have assigned for something of higher priority. 

Being able to cover your basics, save for bigger purchases or unexpected extras like vehicle repair or medical bills, and to put away for retirement determines what your 'good salary' would be.

Salaries vary hugely by type of job and your location. Salaries in Parys were abysmal; George doesn't seem to be much better and certainly not in relation to living expenses.

Minimum wage in South Africa is R23.19/hour. For a 40-hour week, that is R3,710. This is definitely not a living wage.

This article from Feb22 on The Business Tech website raises the issue of minimum wage vs living wage.

While South Africa prepares to introduce a new minimum wage in the coming months, it is unlikely to be sufficient to lift people out of poverty. This can be contrasted to a ‘living wage’, which is a wage that is sufficient to allow workers to maintain a frugal but dignified standard of living, says professional services firm PwC.

This represents a wage that is enough to cover the expenses of food, water, housing, education, healthcare transport, clothing and other essential needs.

A research study mentioned in this article found that the average South African needs to earn >R7,911 per month in order to maintain a decent standard of living. 

I'd argue that on this amount, it is only 'living'. Once you've paid for transport to work, minimum rent, basic foods, electricity and hygiene products, there would be nothing left for unforeseen expenses, travel, holidays, going out, or saving for retirement. You can't plan for the future either and every month will be a stress.

The article mentioned that "55% of South Africans – some 30.4 million people – are currently living below the upper-bound poverty line of R1,335 per month". Terrifying!

Rent of a small townhouse in a not-quite-township area in George, without a geyser, is R2500/month. A one room garden cottage on someone's property in a not-fancy suburb is R5,500/month. A one or two bedroom apartment could be R7,500 - R10,000 depending on the suburb. A simple house in a nice suburb will be R13,000 - R18,000/month. And then it goes up and up and up from there.

Ideally, your rent should not exceed 1/3 of your salary.  On R7,911, you are in for township or near-township living. For a simple house with a rent of R13,000, you need to earn R36,000/month. 

As a high school teacher in George earning maybe R21,000/month, you will be challenged to live on your own in a small apartment in a decent suburb and have medical insurance and a car. 

Then consider that running shoes are now R2,500 to R3,000 a pair...

Keeping up with socio-economic Joneses and their event-participating, holiday-ing and eating-out lives presented on Facebook is a source of puzzlement to me. It makes me wonder: how much do they earn?

Monday 18 July 2022

Can you be trusted?

12 years ago I wrote this post "Are you on my team?". I'm glad that I have now found it and re-read it because it is probably one of the best posts that I have written. It also contains content about how I stood up for myself. Even though I am a smart, capable, multi-talented woman, I do not stand up for myself enough. 

I'm in the midst of dealing with a legal issue for work. Some of this sorry tale will probably make it on to these pages - in some or other form - in the coming weeks. Like an LED light that displays one colour after another, the shades merging as they separate, I'm rolling through the colours of sadness, heartbreak, and despair, with that of being resolute with a fair dose of fight - and a dash of anger. For now, I'll say only that I'm dealing with a legal issue for work.

Four weeks ago, the proverbial shit hit the fan. I sat in on a meeting with lawyers the next day. Good advice that I was given was to consider outside counsel instead of being lumped in with existing activities for their current client.

A week after the event, I flew to Cape Town for a day to visit friends who were visiting from the UK. That's when I took photos from the plane window to match to Google Earth. On hearing of the situation, my friend, who sits as a magistrate in the UK in his 'spare' time (he runs his own business too), suggested that I contact his lawyer friends in Cape Town who he trusts. Well, if he trusts them, then I can certainly trust them.

In that first week-and-a-half post-event, I was waiting so see what was happening because the outcome for me and my companies could have been simple and easy. Nothing happened.

Taking action to contact the lawyers was a great move. I had been in limbo, waiting on others to decide my fate. Doing something proactive gave me focus and purpose and it was reassuring to know that I had someone in my corner. In their first communication with me, they informed me of a 10-court day deadline from day-of-event. The other lawyers had not.

Seven companies are affected. I represent three of them. Two others are in South Africa and two are overseas. I pulled them all together so that we can be represented as a united front - like a class action. We're all in the same boat. 

There was no way that we would make the submission deadline, which was two days after I made contact with the lawyer so my lawyer, now our lawyer, shot off a letter of intent and bought us 10-court days to prepare our documents.

The past two weeks, for me, have been all about documents, printing, communicating with the others, compiling their content - and my content - to present to the lawyer for our affidavits. We have to prove what we own. Many trees were sacrificed in this process. This has been profound paperwork.

This afternoon I completed my paperwork with commissioning the documents. Tomorrow I return to hook up the overseas guys on video calls for their commissioning. The documents for the other South Africans will be with me by Wednesday, when I can submit for me and them. Part 1 of standing up for myself is almost done.

I wrote something the other day in a message about the legal system being flawed. But, it is not really the legal system that is flawed but rather the decisions, interpretation and actions taken by people in the profession. Lawyers and their clients waste time, delay, frustrate the process and play games. 

When you take on a lawyer - ka-ching - you expect the best counsel. You expect them to do the best with every minute for which you are billed. That said, one person's best and other person's best will differ according to their experiences. One lawyer will say do this and another will say do that and yet they drink from the same cup. Which one is correct? 

With legal matters, everything is stressful, emotional, high pressured and financially draining. You don't have time or money to look around, ask questions, get quotes and then proceed. You have little choice but to go with who you have. That my lawyer was recommended to me by people I trust was a good start. 

Another lawyer, in the same area of expertise, may have done things differently. I have decided that when an action has been taken, it is not worth questioning because this can eat a person alive from the inside out. Cover all bases, do it and hope for the best outcome.

If the lawyer came with me on a river, they would have to trust me. They would have to trust that I would warn them of hazards and pull them out of a rapid if they got stuck. The only difference is that I don't charge extra for instruction or lifesaving - haha haha (but after this experience, I will!).

I like to be a person that can be trusted. But, my advice and actions - like those of my lawyer - are based on what I believe is best as a result of my knowledge and experience (which, notably, is not the paper-and-ink law).

Today a guy called me for advice on kayaks. When he first told me what he wanted to do with his paddling, I recommended another brand's kayak instead of my own. To have done otherwise would have been wrong. I know the strengths and limitations of my kayaks and it doesn't sit well with me to sell him a kayak that will not do what he wants it to. (As it turns out he also wants to do all the other things that my kayak can do, that the other cannot and so he swung past to take a look at my kayaks.)

I have to trust my lawyers. I have to trust that they have given me the right advice to resolve our collective issue. For this to go further... legal fees would kill our businesses.

In your profession, would you trust you? If you wouldn't, make it so.