Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Idler, Wednesday,DSeptember 19, 2018


extortion in

the Midlands


HOWICK'S resident theoretical physicist, Rob Nicolai, today lifts the lid on a sinister pornography/extortion racket.

"The latest online scammer threatened to release a video of me watching online porn unless I paid him $5 000 (R74 600) in Bitcoin.

"I have no webcam on my PC so unless the scammers have advanced stealthy spy drones, he was bluffing. "Anyway, I told him that $5 000 would use up all the earnings I'm currently getting from appearing in online porn, but if he wants to promote my videos I could give him a cut of the increased earnings from viewership fees.

"Online scammers are obviously getting desperate if they think people who watch online porn have a reputation that is worth expensive protection. I suppose all the fake lottery-winning scam e-mails are not working any more and scammers are getting vindictive."

A superb response, Rob. One wonders where the e-mail originated. It could have been anywhere – Moscow, New Delhi, Isipingo …

It could also have been from close by – Merrievale, Tweedie, The Dargle … one never knows these days.

In fact I hear disturbing rumours that events in America are likely to soon prompt vivid exposes of hanky-panky and kaaltit in the haylofts and cattle byres of the Midlands in days of yore, which was part of growing up in those benighted days.

Distressing times, yet we bear up with fortitude.


·       READER Clive Phelps is after information/experiences concerning the Volkswagen Beetle (sometimes known as "Hitler's Revenge") which was ubiquitous on our roads from the 1950s to a couple of decades on.

I myself did not own a Beetle, but I often raced them down the pavements of Maritzburg late at night in my Fiat Cub, after dining at Twiggy's Pie Cart.

The VW Beetle was a nifty vehicle indeed but the Fiat Cub had the advantage of being small enough to take short cuts down the pedestrian lanes of the CBD, where the lawyers hang out. The Fiat Cub had an open top and one night I had with me a most irresponsible fellow (he later played wing for Natal) who leaped up to swing on a lawyer's signboard, which then came crashing down on the car.

We hastened down the lane pursued by a nightwatchman with a knobkierie and a police whistle, but we easily outpaced him.

Ah, them wuz the days!

·       SPOT the contradiction.

Donald Trump persuades China to impose sanctions on North Korea as part of a campaign to encourage Kim Jong-un to denuclearise and join international polite society.

Donald Trump launches a trade war with China.



·       VLADIMIR Putin is  having a thin time of it these days.

The Salisbury poison attack – and the Russian response – has made his much-vaunted cloak-and-dagger service something of an international laughing stock, in spite of its evil.

Russians are out on the streets in their thousands in protest at his raising of the retirement age, meaning that many will receive a pension for a year or two at most before they shuffle off this mortal coil.

And now his bosom allies, the Syrian government forces, have shot down one of his military aircraft.

It's difficult to pin it all on the protest group, Pussy Riot.


PADDY is at the optician's.

"This is amazing, Paddy. Your eyesight seems to be improving.

"Ah, to be sure, to be sure, 'tis de luck of de Iris."


Last word

It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go.

Bertrand Russell

The Idler, Tuesday, September 17, 2018


book sales


SALES of Bob Woodward's book, Fear: Donald Trump in the White House, topped 750 000 on the day it was launched in the US a week ago, seemingly coinciding with some puzzlingly contradictory statstics.

Although the American economy is booming, opinion polls suggest President Trump's standing among voters has dipped appreciably, especially among the "independent" category who identify with neither major party. This disjuncture is highly unusual. But the dip could not have been caused by Woodward's book – the opinion data would have been captured well before the launch.

But could that explain the book's runaway success? The American public are anxious, in spite of the booming economy?

Whatever, Woodward, a journalist renowned for his meticulous attention to accuracy and detail gave a fascinating insight to Fareed Zacharia on CNN the other night of his modus operandi. (He co-wrote with Carl Bernstein, All The President's Men, which detailed their investigation of the Watergate scandal which ended in the downfall of the Nixon presidency.

He speaks to insiders connected with the subject of the investigation – in this case the White House. He guarantees their anonymity. He then checks with other inside sources the accuracy of what he has been told (also guaranteeing their anonymity). Then if they bear out what he was told by the original source, he goes ahead and publishes.

But it doesn't end there. Everything is carefully recorded and classified – names and everything. Then it is lodged with a university for release and study sometime in the future. It's the kind of operation whose credibility it is difficult to shake.

The outcome is an astonishingly fresh and frank account of events, including quotes attributed to major players by others who were there at the time.

The US mid-term elections bear down. Will the sales of Fear continue to soar? Is there a disconnect between the presidency and mid-term elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives? We'll know in a couple of months.


·       A HIP-HOP artist named Fatman Scoop has become a figure on America's political scene. After three weeks in the top job, new prime minister Scott Morrison posted on social media a video showing MPs raising their hands during question time in parliament, according to Sky News.

It was overlaid with a snippet from Fatman's hit, Be Faithful.

You gotta hundred dollar bill put your hands up,

You gotta fifty dollar bill put your hands up,

You gotta twenty dollar bill, pout your hands up,

You gotta ten dollar bill put your hands up.

The lines seem inoffensive enough but there was a furore and Morrison had to take down the post and apologise. It seems Fatman Scoop's song goes on to become sexually suggestive.

Oh dear, such prudishness. It's not like the Aussies I've known.


·       SEEN any sharks in the footage on North Carolina? A fellow in Scotland called McCann never misses the American hurricane season, according to Huffington Post.

It began with Hurricane Irene in 2011 with a photograph posted on social media of a shark swimming down a flooded street past parked cars and things. McCann has kept it up since then.

Snopes labelled the picture a fake, but McCann admits that. "I know it's fake," he said after tweeting the image during Hurricane Harvey last year. "It's part of the reason I share the bloomin' thing."


DOCTORS at a hospital went on strike, picketing outside with placards. The administrators sent a pharmacist to read the placards.

Last word

COMPUTER dating is fine, if you're a computer. – Rita Mae Brown

The Idler, Monday, September 17, 2018


on the


I TOLD you anything can happen in rugby, even against the mighty All Blacks – and so it did. When Handre Pollard overcooked his opening kick-off, sending it over the deadball line for a scrum on the centre spot, their put-in, it seemed the silly buggers factor was there in force.

When New Zealand ran in a two-try blitz, it seemed we had no answer. But then gutsiness took over and we tackled them out of the game, scoring our own tries. This was stirring Horatio on the Bridge stuff, an epic.

The official match stats tell the story. On attack: Tries – New Zealand 6, South Africa 5. Metres carried – New Zealand 653, South Africa 245.Carries – New Zealand 205, South Africa 59. Defenders beaten – New Zealand 33, South Africa 10. Passes - New Zealand 234, South Africa 61. Offloads – New Zealand 17, South Africa 3. Possession – New Zealand 75.3%, South Africa 24.7% … and so on.

That's the dry stuff. It suggests an overwhelming win for the All Blacks. But stats don't measure guts and kop, 15 men acting in concert, saying: "They shall not pass!" That's what makes rugby the game it is, a test of character as much as brawn and skills.

Sure, it was kicks that decided it in the end. Pollard on song again, Beaumont Barret getting the Silly Buggers Award for hitting the upright twice. But that's the fortunes of war, that's rugby.

Those closing minutes as we kept them out on our tryline were an epic of heroism. Ole, ole, ole! The return match at Loftus will be a sell-out.


·         INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener takes issue in his latest grumpy newsletter with the very existence of the KwaZulu-Natal Quality of Life Portfolio Committee

"Presumably someone knows exactly what powers it has. But for the rest of us it sure looks like a severe case of fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Not to say unwarranted and unnecessary meddling in individual choice.

"If President Cyril really was the steely-eyed decisive businessman we are assured he is, he would long ago have asked for a list of all the national and provincial outfits with names like this and closed them down with a stroke of the pen. No argument.

"Assuredly, closing the deficit by increasing taxes is now way past the point of diminishing returns and for our president to live up to his alleged abilities he must immediately slash the state wage and expenses bills."

·         OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "What's the difference between a bloke and a catfish? One's a bottom-feeding scum-sucker, the other's a type of fish."

·         I'M NOT quite sure how to take this. Reader Naomi Stapersma sends in a quote from Can Jane Eyre Be Happy, by John Sutherland, published in Oxford World Classics: "He is a drone, and there is no lower order of life in the Trollopian order of life than idlers".


Do you think she's getting at me?


·         THE novichok poisoning saga in England shifts from resembling a John le Carre spy novel to the realm of Walt Disney.

The two named and videoed Russian agents appear on TV saying they flew in to take a look at the splendours of Salisbury cathedral, then flew out again quickly because it looked as if it was going to snow.

Actually, Mickey Mouse would do better than that.


"I JUST bought my mother-in-law a Jaguar."

"I thought you didn't like her."

"I know what I'm doing. It's bitten her twice already."


Last word

I know nothing about sex because I was always married.

Zsa Zsa Gabor


Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Idler, Friday, September 14, 2018

Don't say it's

only a


ARE you a Springbok rugby fan? Are you feeling depressed?

Then call SARU helpline on 0800 10 10 10.

That's zero eight hundred, won nothing, won nothing, won nothing.

Yes, the above is the kind of stuff that's flying about on the internet these days. South African rugby is in a state of deep despondency. Only the brave will switch on their TV sets tomorrow.

But nil desperandum. It's decided in 80 minutes on the field, where anything can happen. Rugby is a game played with an awkwardly bouncing oval ball. Anything can happen.

The Boks need to eliminate the silly buggers stuff, kicking away possession, those crazy line-out throws. They need to tackle the way the Sharks do. Then anything can happen. Keep the ball in hand. Give 'em a skrik!

Let nobody say it's only a game.


STILL with rugby, retired MP Val Volker recently reminded us of a match in 1870 on the Maritzburg market square between Maritzburg College and the Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg (where he has grandchildren, the sixth generation to go there). The match was played according to the early laws of rugby where a try counted for zero, merely giving the scoring side the right to kick at goal.


More on that match is found in a 1990 piece by Reg Sweet, at the time doyen of rugby writers in this province, in a publication to mark the centenary of the Natal Rugby Union.

He quotes The Natal Witness: "After playing for nearly two hours with varying success, the High School players kicked what ought to have been a goal but which the umpire did not give as such, the ball striking a bystander in the goal space and bouncing off into play before touching the ground …"

Sweet quotes Danie Craven, of the South African Rugby Board, on that incident: "The bystander referred to was one used to load the goals when the kick was taken, for players and spectators alike tried to stop the ball from going through the goalposts …"

Hmmm … players and spectators alike? Did the spectators also do a bit of tackling? Is there a loophole here? It's too late now to organise a contingent to get to Auckland to surge onfield and help the Boks out of a tight spot, but it's a thought for future matches.


THE folk of Philadelphia, in the US, are nervously tucking their pants into their socks. More than 7 000 goggas ― including a highly venomous spider ― have been stolen from the city's Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion according to Huffington Post.

Thieves made off with about 90% of the museum's collection, including a six-eyed sand spider whose bite can rot 25% of its victim's body.

Philadephian fellers are also being careful with their zippers. You don't want to play host to the six-eyed sand spider.



FIREFIGHTERS in Minnesota, in the US, had to use the jaws of life to rescue a black bear from the wreck of a car he'd wrapped around a telephone pole … er, correction, from a milk can inside which his head had got stuck.

A conservation officer called the firefighters after attempts to lubricate the bear out of his predicament with cooking oil failed, according to Sky News.






A FLEA jumps over the swing doors of a saloon, drinks three whiskies, then jumps out again.

He picks himself up out of the dirt, dusts himself down and says: "OK. Who moved my dog?"

Last word

Nobody believes the official spokesman... but everybody trusts an unidentified source.

Ron Nesen

The Idler, Thursday, September 13, 2018

This dolphin's



DOLPHINS are friendly, playful creatures. They have a bond with humans which reaches back to antiquity. It's welcome to see them in the surf because their presence means an almost certain absence of sharks. To watch them surfing the big offshore swells, then back-flipping out of it, is exhilarating.

But the playfulness can go a bit far. At Landevennec, on the Brittany coast of France, a dolphin playfully intercepted a bather who was trying to wade ashore and just as playfully kept nudging her back out to sea. She had to be rescued by the coastguards.

This followed an incident in which the 3m bottlenose dolphin playfully leaped over the head of a kayaker.

Now the local mayor has decreed that people should avoid the dolphin, who is well known in the region for his interaction with bathers and boatsailers and is affectionately known as Zafar. His playfulness is becoming too boisterous and could be dangerous, the mayor says.

Zafar used to allow children to hold on to his dorsal so he could pull them through the water. He was popular. But now people have to get out of the water if he is spotted.

Poor old Zafar. Nobody to play with any more.


MORE from Rosemarie Jarski's Great British Wit. Topic: Critics.

·       I can take any amount of criticism, so long as it is unqualified praise. – Noel Coward.

·       Why is it that even a single slam from even the most patent imbecile can undo the praise of a hundred critics? – PG Wodehoiuse.

·       When the critic caused me a somewhat messy breakfast, I contented myself with the knowledge that I had given him a perfectly ghastly evening, - Jeremy Sinden.


·       WHAT do you make of a woman who plays a prank on her husband, saying she's won £250 000 (R4.9 million) in a lottery when she hasn't – then a few weeks later goes on to win a million pounds for real?

When Charlotte Peart, of Cambridgeshire, England, phoned her husband at work a second time to tell him of the windfall, he didn't believe her, said he was too busy to talk and handed the phone to his brother.

It was only when she sent him a screenshot of her winning message that it sank home.

"I didn't believe her at all because we like to wind each other up," he told Sky News.

An interesting marriage. Winding each other up over hundreds of thousands of quid. Nowt so queer as folk.


·       POET Sarita Mathur pens some lines to capture the essence of her adopted city.


Durban Calling
Come here and stay ,
Ocean calling,
It's waves soothing ,
Both night and day.
Touristy, warm and bright ,
Friendly people ,
The weather just right.
A busy harbour,
Markets thriving,
Art and culture,
To top it all
A city of architecture.
Foodies love Durban,
It's varied tastes
It's beautiful melodious sounds
I love Durban
Every day and all year



·       READER Diederik van der Werff bringus us a new buzzword.

What with all the "talk shops" going on – and the latest buzz phrase "Expropriation without compensation" being bandied about, I think it appropriate to add another buzz phrase – "No taxation without incarceration" (of the looters who steal our taxes paid)!



THEY'VE been squabbling as they drive down a country road. The squabble has lapsed into silence. They pass a barnyard of mules and pigs.

She breaks the silence. "Relatives of yours?"

"Yep. In-laws."

Last word

Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too.

Richard M Nixon





The Idler, Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rassie and the

White House


I AM ASSAILED by doubt and apprehension. The White House is in turmoil, scene of a witch-hunt to discover who of President Trump's senior officials had the temerity to take on the role of "Deep Throat" in the investigation by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the Watergate affair.

And, just as Woodward publishes a similar expose of chaos in the White House, a senior official has had the temerity to write what we in the trade call an "op-ed piece" in the New York Times, unsigned, more or less confirming it all.

My foreboding stems from the fact that the op-ed piece seems to coincide in many ways with an e-mail I sent to Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus. Much of the imagery is the same.

I used the term "lodestar" – much favoured by Vice-President Pence – to describe the guiding principle of rugby, which is also known as ADP (agter die pale). I described the principle of a throw-in to the back of the line-out when virtually on one's own tryline as being on a par with the chaos we keep reading about in the White House.

Could it be that I hit the wrong button and sent my advice to Rassie Erasmus to the New York Times instead? That there's been a great misunderstanding? That, edited down, it's what has driven Trump into a rage? That there is no "Deep Throat" culprit in the White House team?

Gee fellers, if it's my fault I'm sorry. I was only trying to help Rassie.

Meanwhile, the furore in Washington continues. The New Yorker reports that Donald Trump found a sign above the Oval Office door reading: reading "Entering Crazytown, USA".

According to White House insiders, determining the creator of the sign could prove difficult, because White House staffers do use the word "Crazytown" to describe their work environment."

"'Whoever put that sign on my door has committed treason against the United States,' Trump told reporters, before turning away and revealing that someone had put a post-it reading 'President Stupidpants' on his back."

Yes, it's satirist Andy Borowits again. Hoo boy!

·       THE Guinness Book of World Records has just released its 2019 edition. According to Huffington Post, record-holders include:

·       Rolf Bucholz, of Dortmund, Germany, with 516 body modifications - tattoos and implants, including two knob-like horns on his forehead.


·       Ash Randall of Cardiff, Wales, who controlled a soccer ball with his feet while lying on his back on the roof of a moving car for 93 seconds.


·       Josh Horton, who balanced a guitar on his forehead for 7 minutes, 3.9 seconds.

·       A Malaysian cat named Bibi who balanced nine dice on his paw.

·       Kevin Strahle, who ate nine powdered donuts in 60 seconds.

·       Betty Goedhart, of Escondido, California,  who at 85 is the world's oldest performing trapeze artist.

·       Barry John Crowe, a butcher in Cavern, Ireland, who made 78 sausages in a minute.

·         Fox terrier Jessica and her human, Rachael Grylls, skipped 59 times together on the same skipping rope.

Yes, great fun and all very sensible, to be sure.








Ian Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, pens some lines to capture the national angst over the Springbok performance Down Under.


Rassie faces the ultimate test,

Off on Saturday to face the best;

The awesome Kiwis,

Not lonely Pee Wees;

We need to play with brains and zest.

I'll say!





THEY met in the local bean restaurant. It was instant inflatulation.


Last word


The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.

G K Chesterton





The Idler, Tuesday, September 11, 2018





LAST week we discussed the way events in Britain -  as the police and security services uncover the Salisbury poisonings by Russian agents - look like something that could have been scripted by espionage novelist John le Carre.


Also that in the US events in the White House make yet another blockbuster book – launched today – by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward.


Then in a wide-ranging interview on CNN television the other night, we had George Papadopoulos, seemingly a kind of international fixer who was on Donald Trump's campaign team - and who recently co-operated with the FBI in its investigation of alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. Papadopoulos has ended up with a slap-on-the-wrist 14 days prison sentence for originally lying to the FBI.


Intriguing stuff. Yes, he told CNN, at a meeting where candidate Trump was present he did offer to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. No decision was taken at the meeting.


A somewhat bewildering account followed of clandestine meetings with various strange individuals, one of whom offered him employment.


Was Papadopoulos being recruited as a Russian agent? It's not explained.


At this time of the strange encounters, Papadopoulos also met a vivacious blonde Italian lady, Simone Marigiante, who speaks five languages, a citizen of the world. Things blossomed; they became engaged; they married; they're still happily married.


What brought them together? We're not really told. Was she perhaps another agent? Simone too was interviewed. CNN suggested her accent was not really Italian. She had become a citizen of the world, she insisted. Yes, she had been to Russia. So what?


Still mystery. But whatever, romance prevails. Another literary parallel: Ian Fleming's James Bond story, The Spy Who Loved Me. (Background violins).



·        IN BOB Woodward's book, Fear: Trump in the White House, James Mattis, Secretary for Defence, is said to have described Trump's understanding as being at the level of a fifth or sixth grader (Mattis denies having said any such thing).

Now the New Yorker reports Trump being furious at discovery that the book has been written at a seventh-grade reading level.


"An aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Trump was convinced that Woodward wrote the book for seventh-grade readers to make its assertions impossible for him to refute.

"'Trump was turning page after page, becoming increasingly angry at its gratuitous use of a seventh-grade vocabulary,' the aide said. 'It was like it was written entirely in a secret code."

"At one point, Trump became so frustrated trying to decipher the word 'imbecilic' that he hurled the book across the room."

This is satirist Andy Borowitz again. Boy, the knives are out.

·       ENGLAND seems suddenly to be invaded by alien snakes. A 2m albino corn snake (from America) was found slithering along a street in Newcastle, in the north of the country, and was caught and handed over to police, according to Sky News.

And at Billericay, in Essex, a 2m boa constrictor is at large. The local council has put up notices warning residents that small dogs could be at risk.

Could this have anything to do with Brexit? Or perhaps the impending Tory and Labour Party conferences?

·       READER Naomi Stapersma asks which government official it is who is allowed to tell members of the public: "Shut your mouth!" – and without any come-back.


It's the photographer at Home Affairs.


"MY EX-HUSBAND wants to marry me again."

"That's flattering."

"Not really. I think he's after the money I married him for."



Last word

Crime does not pay ... as well as politics.

Alfred E Newman