Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Idler, Monday, November 12, 2018

The White

House and

Shakespeare

"WHAT a mess. Dowd shrugged his shoulders at the waste of time, but he saw the full nightmare. It was quite a sight seeing the president of the United States fuming like some aggrieved Shakespearean king … Trump finally came down from the ceiling …"

This was John Dowd, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, rehearsing some questions as they decided whether or not Trump should give evidence before the Mueller inquiry into alleged collusion with Russia. He blew up and lost it on Question 3.

Dowd was to later tell him: "Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jump suit …"

This is from Bob Woodward's book, Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster). The title comes from a campaign trail quote by Trump himself: "Real power is – I don't even want to use the word – fear". When you consider that this aggrieved Shakespearean king has at his disposal the world's greatest nuclear arsenal, fear is the operative word.

Woodward – who co-wrote All the President's Men, on the fall of Richard Nixon – uses the technique of "deep background" interviews with figures close to the story – then checking with others close to it. If their accounts coincide, he publishes without naming sources. All is carefully recorded and annotated, then lodged – including source names - with a university for release at a future date. His credibility is difficult to shake.

It's an alarming account of senior White House staff stealing from Trump's desk documents that, if signed and followed through with, could have devastating strategic and economic consequences. Almost as alarming is that Trump does not realise they are gone. It's an account also of a conflict between White House advisers who are economic flat-earthers and those who are economic globalists. The former prevailed – hence the looming trade war with China.

The mid-term elections last week have produced for the aggrieved Shakespearean king a new set of this time troublesome courtiers in the House of Representatives. His bizarre "victory lap" media conference, having just lost the House, ought to provide Woodward with another chapter. Not to mention what looks like an attempt to close down the Mueller inquiry.

Hoo boy! Fasten your seatbelts! Whoever you are, wherever you are!

 

WE controlled the game against the All Blacks and should've beaten them. We controlled the game against England and should've beaten them. We were indifferent against France – yet beat them. A funny old game is rugby.

But boy, what drama in extra time! That touch flag a fraction before the final hooter. That disallowed try of ours. Penalties, kicks into the corner, everything last gasp, extra time stretching on and on impossibly. If you scripted this, they'd say you're mad.

But just as well we somehow did it. Three defeats in a row would have wrecked the Boks' morale, it would have looked like a jinx.

Tails in the air! Scotland next week. Then Wales (who beat Australia). The jinx is lifted. The guys can relax and play their natural game.

Meanwhile, England came so close against the All Blacks. That was an absolute cliffhanger. The Kiwis are on borrowed time. Just watch Ireland this coming weekend. That will be another humdinger.

These autumn matches in the northern hemisphere are certainly shaking things out as the World Cup approaches.

Tailpiece

PHARMACIST: "I'm afraid you need a prescription for arsenic. A photo of your mother-in-law is just not enough."

Last word

Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Idler, Friday, November 9, 2018

New pub sign

appears at

Twickers

 

A NEW pub has opened at Twickenham - but it's difficult to find. It's called Farrell's Arms. The rugby world still stands astonished at England skipper Owen Farrell's armless shoulder charge at Bok centre Andre Esterhuizen in the dying seconds of last Saturday's Test; that a penalty was not awarded; that Farrell has not been cited and will take the field against New Zealand tomorrow; and that referee Angus Gardner gets off unscathed

 

Had the penalty been awarded, Handre Pollard would probably have goaled it, giving the Boks victory. He might, on the other hand, have found touch in the corner. The resulting line-out could have seen the Boks set up a driving maul to score a try, giving Pollard an opportunity to convert and make the victory all the more emphatic.

But, as the philosopher said, if my auntie had gonads she'd be my uncle.

France tomorrow. All the Boks need is two halves the way they played the first against England. Malcolm Marx needs to get those line-out throws right, otherwise people will start calling him Groucho.

'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!

 

Cat Lady

 

DURBAN'S musicians are putting on a gig to support the famous Bluff Cat Lady, who's been feeding and caring for cats for the past 40 years.

According to my old muso mate Smelly Fellows, Cat Lady Jean feeds 69 cats a day – 36 in her cat shelter, 20 feral cats along the Bluff beaches, eight at the squatter camps at the end of Brighton Beach and next to the dump and five at the Wentworth Hospital Creche.

The food costs between R2 000 and R3 000 a month - pellets, mince, rice and tinned food.

"Jean relies on donations from the public.
She works alone collecting food, feeding cats, and arranging veterinary treatment where she can," says Smelly. "She also runs a bookstall at Buxton Village Centre every Saturday morning.

"To help Jean with her costs we're holding a fundraiser at Fynnland Sports Club, Smith Drive, Fynnland, on Sunday, December 2."

Entertainment will be provided by the GPS Choice duo, Mark Hunt, Oscar Swanlund, Glen Winter, and other musicians who still have to confirm their availability.
The musicians will perform free of charge. Donated items will be raffled. A jumping castle will be set up for kids.

Glenys Theron will be there to do face-painting, a  major part of her income going to the fundraiser.

Entry is free but donations are welcome. To book a table phone Fynnland Sports Club on 031 4662010. For further information, or to offer donations or other assistance, phone Smelly Fellows on 078-2649475

 

 

Cousins?

I USED to misspell Smelly's surname – Fellows – because I was at school with a chap called Skunk Fellowes.

Smelly, Skunk … could they perhaps be distant cousins, the spelling of whose surname diverged? It's a small world.

Praise poem

DURBAN poet Sarita Mathur (who hails originally from India) produces a paean of praise for her adopted city.

Durban,
Dream destination,
No other city beats
It's beauty ,
Climate,
Culture , food
And diversity.
A city like no other.
Durban-
The place to be.
Inspiring artists,
Poets ,
Foodies too
Durban,
Everyone loves you.
 

Tailpiece

 

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in the Middle East have decided that a 3 000-year-old mummy died of heart failure. Reason? They've deciphered a parchment found in the mummy's hand.

It read: "5 000 shekels on Goliath."

Last word

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people.

Kin Hubbard

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Idler, Thursday, November 7, 2018

Lavender

memories of

yesteryear

DOWN memory lane … there I am at Royal Natal Yacht Club having lunch with two colleagues from an increasingly distant past. Award-winning photographer Dave Valentine and his charming wife Penny are here on a visit from Australia, where they now live (Penny always was an Aussie sheila). We all three worked together in wordsmithery in an era that has passed.

We recall past colleagues – the photographer who, on a mission to record the translocation of cycads to save them from flooding at Jozini Dam, asked the Parks Board ranger: "These cycads - what do they eat?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do they eat grass or leaves or other animals?"

It passed into legend. Also into various gags. Alfred Hitchcock's latest horror movie: Cycad! Also: Son of Cycad. Plus: The Cycad from the Black Lagoon.

I recall the night before I left for a sojourn overseas. I went to the Press Club in West Street (known as The Filler – a filler is a paragraph filling space on the page). A colleague of ours was in the corner fighting with his girlfriend. Eventually she took off her engagement ring and flung it out of the window.

Next thing everyone was out on the sloping roof, three floors up, looking for the ring. Incredibly, somebody found it.

Three years later, having returned, I strolled into The Filler. The same colleague was in the same corner fighting with the same girlfriend. Ah, continuity … certainties ...

Then the time that same cycad photographer phoned in to say he couldn't come to work that day.

"Why not?"

"I hung my jeans on the balcony to dry. The wind blew them away."

They dipped into the petty cash, got a secretary to buy a new pair of jeans for Alfie then take them round to his pad. I don't know how he opened the door.

Ah yes, them wuz the days. Dave recalls his most creepy moment in Africa. It was in Nongoma, up in Zululand. He was wakened in the hotel by a "Thock! Thock! Thock!" It was the nightwatchman, who had a wooden pegleg, walking up and down the wooden verandah. The only streetlight was flickering. A dog was howling. That's atmosphere.

Ah yes. And the burial at sea of yet another colleague, who'd been a keen deep-sea fisherman. The boat had been hired. The parson was there at the wharf. But the ashes? Another colleague entrusted with them couldn't remember which pub he'd left them in. A search party fanned out. Eventually they were found on a shelf in an establishment just off the Esplanade.

Memories, memories … nostalgia's not what it used to be.

 

RACONTEUR Spyker Koekemoer (aka Pat Smythe) is shocked at the number of our cricketers who suddenly face corruption/match fixing charges.

"Could a Prisons XI end up winning our domestic competitions? Would the Australian government be interested in offering asylum and ball-tampering contracts?"

I think what we'd all like to see, Spyker, is a Prisons XI made up of the shysters who drag our cricketers into this deplorable stuff.

 

 

Tailpiece

SHE'S telling her friends in a café her idea of the perfect man she could marry.

"He must be a shining light among company. He must be musical. Tell jokes. Sing. Entertain. And stay home at night."

Middle-aged waitress: "If that's all you want, get a TV."

Last word

A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Idler, Tuesday, November 6, 2018

St Clement's

reaches a

milestone

'TWAS an auspicious occasion this week as the St Clement's arts soiree celebrated its 10the anniversary in style, renowned songbird Shomon entertaining us with guitar, keyboard, and vocal cords, interspersed with readings by compere Pieter Scholtz from short stories he has written to an unusual formula.

Pieter goes into a bookshop, notes the new titles on sale then goes home and writes short stories based on the titles of books he has not read. Very amusing. This probably does not count as plagiarism but it could be one-upmanship.

There was an undercurrent of sadness as this was also au revoir to Shomon, who is going to Lesotho on a three-year contract. Singing at the casino? Renditions of the gumboot dance perhaps? No, Shomon is going to a remote part of the mountain kingdom to play Mary Poppins to the children of Canadian families who are there on a construction project.

She says she will spend her spare time composing new songs. What could be more conducive than the mountains of Lesotho? Having heard her songs this week, which included the soulful Mama Afrika and The First Time I kissed A Dolphin, it should be worth the wait. A feature of her performance this week was the way she navigated the keyboard, getting her hand round an awkwardly placed microphone to reach the high keys. One watched with fascination.

There was also a slight undercurrent of dodginess. A banknote for many hundreds of francs was in circulation about the place, ostensibly issued in the Belgian Congo during the colonial era. The bank governor's signature was in the name of Jean-Marie Spitaels, a staunch St Clement's participant who writes poetry and plays the harmonica with gusto. What should be the image of King Leopold is that of none other than Jean-Marie Spitaels.

Jean-Marie worked as a doctor in the Congo in his early days. He turns 90 soon, and I only hope he doesn't get into trouble with the counterfeit squad.

 

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener brings us, in his latest grumpy newsletter, an old and familiar story.

"'The story you are about to hear is true. Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.' This was the sort of disclaimer that preceded the half-hour whodunnit in the days of steam radio.

"Nowadays the rubric ahead of the never-ending tales of corruption should be: 'The story you are about to hear is the same old one. Only the names, organisations and amounts stolen are different'.

"The most recent development in one of them is that the main suspect has been fired. Undoubtedly he is already punching the speed-dial codes for the finest lawyers that (our) money can buy. The next chapter in the same old story is usually that the self-declared angelic servant of the people who has been caught with hand in cookie jar resents the suggestion that he/she was naughty and panics about maintaining lifestyle.

"Years of court time stretch ahead and the partners of Sue, Grabbit & Runne (as in Private Eye magazine) in turn summon their architects and order yet another Sandton glass and aluminium office tower."

Yes, it does have a familiar ring.

 

 

 

 

Tailpiece

"DOCTOR, I keep seeing images of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck."

"I see. And how long have you been having these Disney spells?"

Last word

As I grow older, I regret to say that a detestable habit of thinking seems to be getting a hold of me.

H Rider Haggard

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Idler, Monday, November 5, 2018

Bliksems

need to

pas op!

PIETER-DIRK UYS is back with a bang. I hadn't seen his show in years. On the way to When In Doubt Say Darling, on at the Elizabeth Sneddon, I thought of his merciless and hilarious lampooning of the Nats and apartheid – Dr Piet Koornhof of the long nose and enormous ears, finger-shaking PW Botha in his homburg hat. How had Uys adapted to the new dispensation?

He's adapted. We had Koornhof – with the grotesque nose and ears mask – and PW Botha; also Evita Bezuidenhout, ambassador to the bantustan of Bapetikosweti (It means "We got sweat!"). But this was no trip down memory lane. Uys was reminding us (and telling younger members of the audience) where we come from.

Then on to the contemporary. Uys's gift is to transform his persona before your eyes with a few deft changes – wigs, headgear and so on – and changed voice and facial expression. It's uncanny. Suddenly there onstage is Jacob Zuma in traditional regalia, giggling and singing mshini wami. It brought the house down.

Everything gets parodied – expropriation without compensation, the future President Malema, it goes on and on for an uninterrupted two hours or so. It also ranges wide. We get Theresa May, also Angela Merkel – astonishing stuff. Also the voice and laughter of Nelson Mandela (there was a mutual personal affection). It's quite extraordinary.

And a parallel theme is Uys's personal life in the Karoo town of Darling, rich with the local accents and idiom, charming interaction with the community.

This is a tour de force. He got a standing ovation at a packed opening night. Pas op, bliksems! Pieter-Dirk Uys is back with a bang.

 

WHAT a shame that the special atmosphere of a thriller of a game at Twickenham should be marred by that neck-high decapitation shoulder charge in the dying seconds on Andre Esterhuizen – the more so that it failed to yield the penalty that would probably have brought the Boks victory.

They did more than enough to win this entertaining Test. Great handling, great driving. Electrifying breaks. We should have been way ahead at halftime. But – sigh! - when you repeatedly make a dog's dinner of your own line-out on England's line, that's how it goes.

But we're back in the Big League as the World Cup approaches, improving all the time. Next week France. Zut! Alors! 'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!

 

HEY, it's Guy Fawkes. Who's going to join me in a bit of tok-tokkie, gatelifting and crackers down the chimney tonight? Traditions must be maintained.

As in the town of Edenridge in Kent, England, where an enormous effigy of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson went up in flames last Saturday at an annual bonfire celebration, according to Sky News.

Predecessors chosen as Celebrity Guy by the Edenbridge Bonfire Society have been alleged sex pest Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. This time it's the Brexit bonfire.

Tailpiece

TWO tourists go into a small pub in the Scottish highlands. They order a beer each.

"That'll be sixpence," says the barman.

"Sixpence?"

"Threepence each."

"Threepence? What …"

It's oor centenary. We're servin' drinks at the prices of a hundred years ago."

"I say, how splendid." Then he notices a lot of people sitting on benches lining the wall. None has a drink. "But why aren't those fellows taking advantage?"

"They're waitin' for happy 'oor."

Last word

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Joseph Conrad

 

 

The Idler, Friday, November 2, 2018

Another

moment

of truth

 

OH TO BE in England, now the Boks are there … we're already in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup and tomorrow at Twickenham will be a pointer. Can the Boks repeat their performance against the All Blacks at Loftus?

And, if they do, can they this time hold on? That squandering of a 17-point lead in a game they dominated still rankles. It puts a worrying question mark against temperament. Are we really back in the Big League?

England on their home turf will be formidable. Twickenham is more than a rugby stadium, it's a rugby shrine. It draws a massive crowd.

My first visit there, a whole lot of us went onto the field after the game, just for the experience. Two policemen strolled by laughing. "From the colonies by any chance, gentlemen? Come to touch the sacred turf of Twickers?"

That's about it. A great place to perform. A sense of occasion. Let's do it! Do not disappoint the gals of the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties who have become accustomed in the Currie Cup to winning ways and are standing by to proffer their knicker elastic for a fashioning of catapults for the traditional celebratory feu de joie in which the streetlights are shot out.

'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!

 

 

STILL with rugby, reader Dave Pickford tells us 17 Western Province players are getting contracts in France because "they love Toulouse."

 

 

THE Amazing Spider-Man was a comic book superhero, later to appear on film, with climbing and web-making skills gained after he was bitten by a genetically modified spider.

It's not clear where Alain Robert gained his skills but he's been banned by magistrates from climbing any building in Britain after he illegally scaled one of London's tallest towers with no safety gear.

He was arrested after climbing the 202m Heron Tower in a stunt which saw police close the surrounding roads, according to Sky News.

Robert reached the top in about 45 minutes, to cheers from the crowd below. He immediately handed waiting police officers the number of his lawyer.

He has previously scaled the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, and the Empire State Building in New York. He pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance at City of London Magistrates' Court.

He was sentenced to 20 weeks' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £5 500 (R1.03m) compensation to the City of London Police.

That's a pretty stiff fine. Robert was wearing a shirt with a company logo and his lawyer admitted there was "some commercial motivation". Let's hope it covered the 5 500 quid.

 

MORE English signage in foreign countries:

·         In a Tel Aviv hotel: "If you wish breakfast, lift the telephone and our waitress will arrive. This will be enough to bring up your food."

 

·         In a Tokyo hotel: "We now have sukiyaki restaurant with lodging facilities for those who want to have experiences on Japanese bedding."

 

·         A signpost in Germany's Black Forest: "It is strictly forbidden on our Black Forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose."

Tailpiece

TWO musicians are walking down the street. Says one: "Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night?"

"That was no piccolo, that was my fife."

 

Last word

I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake - which I also keep handy.

W C Fields

 

 

 

The Idler, Wednesday, October 31, 2018

More science

projects in

Durban

RECENTLY we discussed a project in which scientists from Bristol, in the west of England, were in Durban to investigate the possibility of generating electricity from urine.

Why Durban? Well this is the only place in the world where urine could have originated as cannabis lager, which apparently has the capacity, having passed through the human bladder, to generate electricity on a scale of lightning bolts.

Those scientists have since departed – no doubt with a few barrels of the local product to continue their research – but are replaced by two more from Switzerland.

These I chanced to meet in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties the other evening, in the company of UKZN's professor of sewage. They're a charming girl and a pleasant young fellow.

Are they also set on producing electricity from urine? No, it seems their line is converting urine into potent fertiliser (and it goes without saying that fertiliser originating in cannabis lager is that much more potent).

I express my astonishment at all this – that urine should have an agricultural as well as an electricity generating capability, which in turn creates a monetary value.

Oh yes, the fellow says and he points at a small, almost empty, water flask on the counter. That would be worth €10.

Wow! €10! I volunteer to fill it to get another round of drinks.

"No, no!" shrieks the young lady scientist. "It has to go through a chemical process first."

The wonders of science. It all sounds so unlikely, it's as if I'm having my leg pulled. But the sewage prof is the real deal. He's devoted his entire career to the sewers and slurries of Durban.

And, I'm glad to say, he always takes a shower before coming to the Street Shelter to socialise.

 

 

WHO remembers the first rugby match ever played at Kings Park? The question is raised by reader Zoltan de Rosner, of Pennington, who says he remembers the stadium being built during the days he played Under 19 for Durban Collegians.

"Those were the days when Izak van Heerden coached and the likes of Freddie Swart, Keith Oxlee and Koeks Moller were playing for the First Team

He guesses that the first match ever would have been between two Under 19 sides (Durban Collegians possibly one of them) as curtain-raiser to a first division game.

"Aah, good carefree (Lion Ale) days those were."

Yes, Lion Ale – "The beer Natal made famous", as the breweries punted it. Can anyone out there remember who played first at Kings Park?

The stadium opened in 1958. In 1955 I watched Natal play their first Currie Cup final ever, led by the great Peter Taylor. But it was on Kingsmead cricket ground, Kings Park still under construction.

The final was against Northern Transvaal and we lost 9-8 in injury time to a very dodgy try. My smouldering sense of injustice was assuaged 35 years later at Loftus in 1990 when I watched as we beat Northern Transvaal to win the Currie Cup for the first time ever and in the centenary year of the Natal Rugby Union.

Since then we've done it another six times, plus last Saturday at Newlands.

Ole, ole, ole! No more Lion Ale to celebrate, but we do have Durban Poison.

 

 

Tailpiece

 

THE desk sergeant's telephone rings. He picks up.

"Help! There's a burglar in a nymphomaniac's bedroom!"

"Who's speaking?"

"This is the burglar!"

 

Last word

 

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

Abraham Lincoln