Friday, July 26, 2019

The Idler, Friday, July 26, 2019



on world stage

THE Brits have a new prime minister. A montage is already doing the rounds of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump wearing identical dungarees and striped shirts, sporting shocks of blond and orange-blond hair. It's captioned Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Some Brits are expressing concern that Tweedledum is offering them a "fantastic" trade deal to replace their crummy one with the EU. Concern that it could mean American chlorinated chicken ending up on British supermarket .shelves and American drug companies dominating the National Health Service.

Yes, there is an Alice in Wonderland quality to developments. When does the Mad Hatter make an entrance?

Meanwhile, British satirical magazine Private Eye combines the Downing Street drama with celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Its front cover has Boris Johnson waving triumphantly as he enters No 10. A speaks bubble from off-page left says: "One small step for a man …" Another speaks bubble from off-page right says: "… one giant leap in the dark for mankind."

Yes, Private Eye is the one to watch.


Mystery solved

YESTERDAY we discussed a mystery fish called the giant trevally that is apparently found in our waters and has athletic qualities that allow it to leap from the water and catch seagulls.

This was in the context of a video clip in which Sir Richard Attenborough provided commentary as a giant trevally leaped from the water to chomp an overflying gull in a blizzard of feathers. Amazing stuff.

But I was deeply puzzled when the spearfisherman who showed me the clip said giant trevallys were fairly common in our waters. He had shot one but it just bent his spear and skedaddled.

How could this be? Over the years I've been on fishing expeditions up and down our coast and never heard the giant trevally mentioned, let alone encountered one.

But my old mate Monty English – who has Springbok colours for deep-sea fishing – comes to my rescue. It's what we call a kingfish, he says. Giant trevally is the Australian name for it.

Ah, kingfish. Puzzle solved. I've caught the little blighters in the estuary at Kosi Bay and such places. Blokes like Monty catch the big blighters when they grow up and move out to sea.

"It's a big strong fish," says Monty. "I haven't heard of them chowing seagulls but I wouldn't put it past them."


Rugby rehearsal

THE eyes of the entire rugby world will be on Wellington tomorrow. Boks versus All Blacks – this will be a rehearsal for of our first pool game in the World Cup, now just weeks away.

Have things ever been more open? England, Ireland, Wales and Argentina, all of them front-runners as well as ourselves and the Kiwis.

The Bok Possibles pulled it off in fine style against the Aussies. How will the Bok Probables go against the All Blacks? The final selection for Japan could turn out pretty agonising.

The tension is tangible, the atmosphere vibrates as the damsels of the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties strum at their knickers in anticipation of supplying elastic for the fashioning of catapults for the traditional celebratory feu de joie when the streetlights are shot out.

'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!



THE Irish folksinger was unable to perform. She'd left her harp in Sam Frank's disco.

Last word

Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.

Albert Einstein



The Idler, Wednesday, July 24,2019

Relax –


dance in the streets

IF YOU think things are tough, thank your stars that you're not in Zimbabwe. Two regular newsletters paint the same alarming picture.

First the grumpy one of investment analyst Dr James Greener. "The sad and alarming news that Zimbabwe looks to be once again destroying itself with its new currency by sliding into uncontrollable inflation is yet another chapter in the book about the dangers of centrally run economies.

"Among the early signs of most financial calamities is the appearance of spuriously accurate statistics. That nation's inflation rate is now quoted to five significant figures as being 175.66% pa. What this means is that consumers are now faced with average prices almost three times higher than a year ago."

Then the vivid newsletter of professional writer Cathy Buckle: "A red light or high-pitched alarm are the two most dreaded things in our lives in Zimbabwe today. They mean that the car has almost run out of fuel, the prepaid electricity meter is about to run out of money, the phone battery is almost flat, the internet connection has gone, the inverter battery is dying. And when the red lights go off completely we just grind to a halt.

"After weeks of 12 to 17 hours a day power cuts we are worn down to a frazzle. Getting up in the middle of the night, every night, to cook, charge batteries and electronic equipment, catch up on domestic chores, work on computers, meet deadlines and keep any sort of production going, is taking a heavy toll on all of us …"

She says the government has decreed that trade shall now be in the new Zimbabwe dollar, not the US dollar. When she tried to change $10 (US) for Zim dollars, her bank told her to come back next day because unfortunately they had no cash. "You might be lucky".

"As I write, the whole town has had no water for over a week …"

Are we folk south of the Limpopo getting some kind of message from the future? Relax! Back to Greener on the Reserve Bank's reduction of the repo rate from 6.75% to 6.5%.

"Wowee! Pensioners dancing in the streets, shops limiting customers to one trolley each, boom time is back. (New readers are cautioned that excessive irony is an occupational hazard)."

But he says it was at least a signal.



Bad prang

A POLICE car is not the sort of vehicle you want to crash into. Especially not when it is innocently parked in front of the police station. And most especially not when your own vehicle is a van loaded with 270kg of illegal drugs with a street value of $200 million Australian (R1.9bn).

But that's what happened in Sydney, according to Sky News. The drug was meth, also known as "ice".

Smasho! The cops rushed outside, gripped the 28-year-old driver then, when they searched his van, added another item to the charge sheet.

We're not told if the driver had been sampling his wares.



A PRIVATE detective is reporting back to his woman client.

"Yesterday I followed your husband to two bars on Elm Street, three on Maple and finally to the Humpmore Motel."

"I see. Do you think this is grounds for divorce?"

"I'm not sure. He was following you."


Last word

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive. - Thomas Jefferson

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Idler, Tuesday, Huly 23, 2019


show begins

its run

A GREAT knockabout show begins its run in the UK today. The Tories will choose a new leader – almost certainly Boris Johnson.

Tomorrow Theresa May will go to Buckingham Palace to resign as prime minister. A clutch of her cabinet ministers will already have resigned rather than serve under Johnson.

The Queen will invite Johnson to the palace. He will kiss her hands and accept the prime ministership.

Then on Thursday – technically – Johnson could be out on his ear after a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, where the Tories do not have a majority. That is technically possible but highly unlikely. It would ruin the Knockabout Show script.

More likely is that Johnson will be run ragged trying to make good on his promise of Brexit by October 31 – Halloween – "deal or no deal". The Commons, where he has no majority, has already ruled out a "no deal" Brexit. A substantial bloc of his own MPs oppose "no deal".

For Johnson this build-up to Halloween will be a challenging and taxing time. We can only hope the strain will not end in the cops being called round to No 10 Downing Street to investigate shouts, screams, argument and the smashing of crockery in the early hours of the morning.



Blokes and bonds

OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "What's the difference between savings bonds and blokes? It takes quite a few years but eventually bonds mature."



Rhino news

GOOD news on the conservation front. A breeding herd of black rhino has been introduced to Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), obtained from a private reserve in South Africa.

This is in the face of an epidemic of poaching of both species of rhino – white and black – in recent years across southern Africa, driven by demand in the Far East for their horn, for medicinal and cultural reasons.

The breeding herd has been dehorned, to reduce its attraction to poachers and placed in a national park, unnamed for obvious reasons. Eswatini has a good record in rhino protection but you can't be too careful.

"In light of the fact that only 5 000 black rhino remain on earth, this is a very significant conservation initiative," says Ted Reilly, CEO of Big Game Parks, Eswatini's conservation authority.

Good news but it seems a great pity that rhino have to be disfigured to assure their survival.

Reilly is a prime mover in Legal Trade for Rhino Survival - a campaign among conservationists for the Cites ban on trade in rhino horn to be lifted, so that the poaching syndicates can be undercut pricewise and anti-poaching measures can be properly funded.

It sounds counter-intuitive but I don't know a single conservationist who does not want the ban lifted. Natural attrition is more than enough to meet international demand for horn. Not a single rhino needs to be killed.

Happy the day when rhino are left free to grow their horns.



THIS fellow walks into the office of a theatrical agent and says he does boird imitations.

"Bird imitators a ten a penny," says the agent. "It's not really worth putting you on our books"

"Oh well, says the imitator. "Here's my card and you can give me a call if you change your mind."

At which he drops his trousers, lays an egg and flies out of the window.



Last word

Anything too stupid to be said is sung. - Voltaire


The Idler, Monday, July 22

Man who


the language

THIS newspaper's "On this day" feature recalls that on July 22, 1844, 135 years ago exactly, William Archibald Spooner was born, later to become Rev William Archibald Spooner, an Oxford don and lecturer in ancient history, divinity and philosophy. He was also to unintentionally enrich the English language.

In church once he announced the next hymn as "The Kinkering Congs Their Titles Take". What Rev Spooner meant to say was "The Conquering Kings Their Titles Take". He had a habit of getting his syllables mixed up in whatever he was saying, often to hilarious effect.

Some examples:

·       "Three cheers for our queer old Dean". (He meant: "Three cheers for our dear old Queen" – who was Victoria).

·       "The Lord is a shoving Leopard (Loving shepherd).

·        "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride. (Customary to kiss the bride).

·        "It's roaring with pain". (Pouring with rain).

·        "That's just a lack of pies". (Pack of lies).

·        "Plaster man". (Master plan).

·        "A blushing crow". (Crushing blow).

·        "A well-boiled icicle". (Well-oiled bicycle).

·        "You were fighting a liar in the quadrangle". (Lighting a fire).

·       "Is the bean dizzy?" (Dean busy).

·       Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet." (Someone is occupying my pew. Please show me to another seat.)

·       "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain. (You have missed all my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term. Please leave Oxford on the next down train).

·        "I am tired of addressing beery wenches". (Weary benches).

·       "A nosey little cook". (Cosy little nook).

Spooner taught at Oxford for about 60 years and became an institution. He once invited another don to tea, "to welcome Stanley Casson, our new archaeology Fellow".

"But, sir," the man replied, "I am Stanley Casson".

"Never mind," Spooner said. "Come all the same."[

Much of all this is apocryphal. Spooner apparently admitted to the "Kinkering Congs" gaffe but said the rest was made up by mischievous students and attributed to him.

Yet look up "Spoonerism" in the dictionary and you get "A verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence 'you have hissed the mystery lectures.'"

Spooner couldn't win. I guess it's part of the tough and rumble of life




THE kissing the bride spoonerism recalls a great cartoon in the Spectator.

A bra and pair of knickers fly across the foreground as a scandalised vicar exclaims" To kiss the bride will suffice!"



Great stuff!

HEY, what a weekend's rugby. The Boks beating the Aussies and now top of the log with their bonus point, the Sharks bouncing back to beat Western Province. Great games both of them. At last the Sharks forwards came to the party.

The All Blacks just squeaked home against Argentina. A foreshadowing of the World Cup? The Pumas could be right there in the reckoning. Not to mention England, Ireland and Wales.

Which All Blacks side will the Boks play this weekend?

'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!



"TELL me nurse, how's that boy doing who swallowed all the 10-cent pieces?"

"Still no change, doctor."


Last word


We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

Tom Stoppard

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Idler, Friday, July 19, 2019

Now it's the

World Cup



SUDDENLY the Rugby World Cup Warm-Ups are upon us. Tomorrow it's the Aussies at Ellis Park. Next week it's the All Blacks at Wellington, down in the Land of the Long White Underpants.

Is this fair? What about travel fatigue, jetlag? No problem, we've got two Springbok sides, one of them already down there in New Zealand, the other warming up on the highveld for tomorrow.

This certainly is a novel approach by coach Rassie. I'm sure it's never been tried before. It seems to aim at giving double the number of our players international exposure in the run-up to the World Cup, while limiting the number of games they have to play as individuals, limiting exhaustion, burn-out and jetlag.

Crafty, eh? Rassie is an old fox.

We'll also watch with interest what happens between the All Blacks and the Pumas in Argentina, And possibly with greater interest whether the All Blacks side that plays in Argentina tomorrow is the same one that will play us in Wellington. International rugby is becoming a game of chess.

The Rugby World Cup Warm-Ups? Er, they're also known as the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship. But who cares who wins? It's the World Cup that matters.

Some things don't change though. The damsels of the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties are already strumming at their knickers in anticipation of supplying the elastic for a fashioning of catapults for the traditional celebratory feu de joie, in which the streetlights are shot out.




THEY keep coming up with new theories about Stonehenge, that mysterious neolithic circle of large stones and slabs that was set up many thousands of years ago in what is now the English county of Wiltshire.

The Druids and others invest it with great religious significance. Some say it has a mathematical significance from before the days of the Greek mathematicians. But nobody can say who built Stonehenge and for what reason.

According to the London Daily Mail, scholars of antiquity have now discovered traces of animal fats stored in surprising quantity in ancient pottery discovered in the vicinity of Stonehenge. This leads them to theorise that the fats were used, not for human consumption but as a lubricant for the sleds on which the stones were dragged to Stonehenge from where they had been quarried.

Well yes, maybe. But it gets us no closer to the core of the mystery of Stonehenge.

So far nobody has bettered the explanation of Punch, the British humour magazine. Stonhenge was a funfair-style miniature railway, according to Punch. The Ancient Britons dismantled it when the Romans arrived, so their technology could not be stolen. Punch illustrated it with a magnificent cartoon of a kiddies' toy train chugging along the raised circle of stones.

Punch, alas, is no more. After publishing succcessfully for 151 years, featuring some superb writing and artwork, it went down the drain in 1992 after the owners tried to update it with an appeal to "yoof", dropping its distinctive style and tone and going ultra-mod. That was funny as a lead balloon.

You could say Stonehenge and Punch are now as one.




A RUGBY player tells the doctor: "I've just been playing a tough game. Now when I touch my legs, my arms, my head, my tummy and anywhere else, it really hurts."
Doctor: "You've broken your finger."



Last word


Computer dating is fine, if you're a computer.

Rita Mae Brown

The Idler, Thursday, July 18, 2019


monster from

the deep


A HUGE jellyfish the length of a tall man has been spotted and filmed by divers off the coast of Cornwall, in England. The giant barrel jellyfish, which has a creamy orange colour as it undulates its way, is one of the largest ever seen off British shores, according to Sky News.

And there's something very familiar about its appearance.

It's not a monster from the deep, despite its looks, insists marine biologist Lizzie Daly, one of the divers. It's absolutely harmless to humans.

Not a monster from the deep. That's reassuring. But why does it look so familiar?

Bingo! It's coloration, its barrel plumpness and undulating motion bring to mind nothing so much as the portly, blond, tousle-headed Boris Johnson, probable future prime minister of the UK.

No monster from the deep? Harmless to humans? Sigh! Only time will tell.



Row erupts

THERE'S the dickens of a row in the US over President Donald Trump tweeting against four Democrat women members of the House of Representatives, who are from ethnic minorities.

He tweeted: "So interesting to see 'progressive' Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done."

It's caused a furore, partly because three of the four were born in the US – one in the Bronx, New York, close to where Trump himself was born. The fourth came to the US at the age of 12.

It seems to connect with the dispute over the southern border with Mexico and Trump's insistence that a wall be built to keep out illegal immigrants.

And now the New Yorker reports that Trump himself has become a victim of ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – in Palm Beach, Florida..

"Donald Trump was reportedly 'hopping mad' after a surprise ice raid left his Mar-a-Lago retreat with no employees.

"The ice agents conducting the pre-dawn raid swept through the opulent Palm Beach club and left guests with no one to prepare their food, wash their dishes, or clean their rooms.

"When informed of the news, a furious Trump reportedly barked at his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his sons Eric and Donald jr, ordering them to hurry to Palm Beach and wait on table.

"A spokesman for Mar-a-Lago called the situation 'dire,' warning that the resort had lost almost as many staff members as the White House."

This is satirist Andy Borowitz again. You gotta laff.





THIS fellow and his wife were at her high school reunion. She kept staring at a drunken man who was sitting alone swigging his drink.

"Do you know him?"
"Yes, he's my old boyfriend. I understand he took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear he hasn't been sober since."
"My goodness. Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?"
And that's when the fight started...



Last word


Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. - Oscar Wilde

The Idler, Wednesday, July 17, 2019

It's the

Duckworth Lewis



WHAT a corker of a finish that was to the Cricket World Cup. So much at stake. England have now, at different times, held the World Cup in football, rugby and cricket. Two more runs and the Kiwis would have been current World Cup holders in rugby and cricket.

England at first seemed to have it wrapped up. Then New Zealand systematically unwrapped it. A tie – you don't get closer than that. Such drama! Such tension!

Then the arcane mathematics of the one-day game, in the Duckworth Lewis tradition. A Super Over, New Zealand to bat, 16 runs to win.

And finally it's England the winners by boundaries scored.

But what if it had been another tie? Rest assured, the Duckworth Lewis tradition has it covered. In one-day cricket there has to be a result.

They'd have trooped off the field into the Lord's Long Room to decide it in a bok-bok contest. Still no result and it would switch to armdruk at the bar counter.

And if still no result – yet another tie – they'd be back on the field for sudden death bokdrolspoeg, that bushveld game where you spit pellets of impala dung, the process lubricated by a mouthful of peach brandy. Yes, rugby is a-changing.

Ah, the subtle twists and turns of the one-day game. The camaraderie of cricket, enriched by an intertwining of the cultures and traditions of the participating nations.

There's a lot to be said for membership of the Commonwealth.



Netball success


STILL in Blighty, over in Liverpool there was more drama with our Proteas gals in an upset win against Jamaica in the Netball World Cup.

A win is a win. We'll bank that one, thank you. And we wish them well in the rest of the tournament. Are we as a nation beginning to get up off the canvas?

And now the Rugby World Cup in Japan is only months away. Can we salvage our reputation there?

I'd been thinking it could be a northern hemisphere side to take it this time round – England, Ireland or Wales. But the Super 12 final makes me think again. That was a humdinger. The Jaguares came much closer than the scoreline suggests. They crossed the Crusaders' line twice, then lost the ball.

What's the difference between a Jaguar and a Puma? Dunno. Some says it's the same animal.

But can Rassie put together something to spring a surprise? Draw on the overseas legions? We hope so. But time is short to build up an understanding and the gees.

No, we're not going to talk about the Currie Cup – not for the moment anyway. This is a respectable newspaper.



Trafalgar Square


WHEN Lord Nelson died he was 5 feet tall. His statue in London is 15 feet tall.

That's Horatio of 3:1.





A BATSMAN is bowled first ball of the over. His replacement comes out and is caught behind, first ball.

Walking back to the pavilion he meets the incoming batsman, a pompous rival.

"Tough luck. Better luck next time," the other says facetiously.

"Yes, a shame to be right in the middle of a hat-trick. See you soon."


Last word


As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly. - Samuel Johnson