Friday, February 26, 2010

Captain Cook Friday, February 26

THESE are the times that try men's souls. One match in a thunderstorm, the next in a sauna bath. Both of them games we could have won and should have won – and in fact I myself on both occasions thought we were going to win. Yet we didn't. And, probably as you read, the lads are the other end of the world and up against Canterbury. It doesn't come much tougher.

What went wrong last weekend? Well, everything was wrong. Maybe someone put bluestone in their tea – they just weren't up for it. When you see a side dropping passes the way we did, the threequarters taking the ball flat-footed then running sideways, there's something wrong with the chemistry. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the individuals as players – they've all proved themselves – but successful rugby is a game where the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. 'Twasn't so here. Serious questions are in order.

Mind you, Free State weren't that brilliant either. Referee Jonathan Kaplan had to leave the field at half-time as he was feeling sick. Who can blame him? All those spilled passes and aimless kicks. It was enough to make anyone sick.

Much hinges on this morning's match. If we can turn things round – and stranger things have happened in rugby – then suddenly the boys will be on a high and all kinds of great things are within grasp. But if the malaise of the past two weeks continues, I'm afraid we're staring down the barrel of a gun.

And I don't just mean log position. I mean the fan base, enthusisam. Already you hear people saying: "At least we can still support the Bulls and the Stormers." This is one of the consequences of the deliberate undermining of the old identities and loyalties that (quite unnecessarily) accompanied the switch to professionalism.

When Natal were relegated to the B Section of the Currie Cup did their supporters switch allegiance to Northern Transvaal or Western Province? Like heck! The B Section was a kind of punishment cell from which we emerged to beat Free State in the semi-finals, then came damned close to beating Province in the final. (The tickets preprinted at Newlands actually read "Western Province v Free State"). And very soon we were back in the A Section and on our way to dominating the Currie Cup for a decade. The true fans never wavered.

Do today's fans have that kind of staying power? I've ma doots! They've been fed a diet of success and hoopla, they won't like the hard yards. If this current Down Under tour should turn out a disaster, the hole will be a very deep one from which to clamber.

Much depends on what happens this morning in the Land of the Long White Underpants. May it be good news! Meanwhile, a diversion tomorrow from our Super 14 difficulties – England versus Ireland in the Six Nations will without doubt be a humdinger. See you at the Filler! Time for a Morris dance and an Irish fiddle. A luta continhua!

The Idler, Friday, February 26, 2010

Great slapstick

IN CASE people come to believe we have a monopoly in this country over political slapstick – elephant sculptures, millionaire youth activists, multiple wives and love children – it is as well to shift focus now and then; realise that others are also in the game.

Downing Street is currently putting in a very strong challenge in the comedy stakes. As a general election approaches in Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is suddenly beset by allegations that he is a bully.

It comes from a book by Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsley, who claims a senior civil servant had to take Mr Brown to task for the way he was treating junior civil servants inside No 10 – apparently seizing them by the lapels and shouting at them.

As the book is being serialised in a Sunday newspaper, full details have not yet emerged. But Mr Brown has appeared on television, denying that he ever hit anyone. Eh? Nobody said he had. Not yet anyway.

Meanwhile, another story has been doing the rounds on the talk shows of a stenographer being pushed out of her chair by Mr Brown.

The stories are all of them strongly denied by two of Mr Brown's trusted lieutenants, a man with the unusual name of Ed Balls and another called Sir Alan Sugar – neither of them ideal names in the context of credibility.

Then a woman named Christine Pratt (I kid you not) weighed in. She runs a charity known as the National Bullying Helpline (again I kid you not), and she said they had received complaints from No 10 staff of bullying, though she was a bit vague as to who was actually accused of doing the slapping, pushing, shoving and swearing – or whatever.

The thing is now being eclipsed by another controversy, this time over whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Allister Darling (he of the racoon-like black eyebrows and unmatching silver-grey head of hair), who lives in No 11 Downing Street, meant his prime minister when he said on TV this week that "the forces of hell" had been unleashed on him when he ventured to question the official line on the recession.

All this is great knockabout stuff, classy entertainment. Julius Malema and his associates need to freshen up their script. Luthuli House could be upstaged by Downing Street.


Local bullies?

HAS THERE ever been bullying at Tuynhuis and such places? Not lately, I'd say.

Nelson Mandela was a keen boxer in his youth but was just not the type to whack staff. Thabo Mbeki – he was buried in books of English literature, not his style. Jacob Zuma? Nosirree - make love, not war!

One says "not lately" because PW Botha – the Groot Krokodil - a former occupant of Tuynhuis, was said to be not averse to administering a klap or two to those in his entourage who displeased him. Once parliament was abuzz with the story that he'd flung his Cape party provincial leader bodily about his office as they disagreed over some issue. PW certainly had a volcanic temper. His nickname among the BOSS spooks was "Vesuvius".

We had no national bullying helpline. But somehow I think it wouldn't have helped much anyway.

Bang booth

AIRPORT security is the new challenge. A reader sends in a solution he says comes from an engineer who was once a project manager with Nasa.

"Here's a solution to all the controversy over full-body scanners at the airports. Have a booth that you can step into that will not X-ray you but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you.

"It would be a win-win for everyone. Justice would be quick and swift. Case closed!"

Wow, drastic! But can you fault the logic?


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, weighs in on the controversy over the elephant sculptures.

Durban's wonderful sculptured elephants,

Designed to uplift all its residents;

Alas, now through spite,

Placed out of sight,

To satisfy party-political sycophants!




A SCOTSMAN takes a huge urine specimen jar to a clinic and pays to have it analysed. When the results come back, there is no sign of any illness. He gets on the telephone: "It's me, Wullie. Tell your Aunty Mary there's nothing wrong with you, her, me, Grandpa or the dog."

Last word


Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.

Benjamin Franklin


The Idler, Thursday, February 25

TIGER Woods has come clean and apologised. Or has he? Many are highly critical of the stilted, one-sided TV appearance he made, suggesting it was aimed more at his lapsed merchandising contracts than anything else.

I wonder how many share my discomfort at his extra-marital activities becoming an international topic instead of a matter for his own conscience and his family circle. But there's a strong counter-view that he cooked his own goose (if the expression may be pardoned) and there are fiercely strong anti-Woods sentiments in influential quarters.

Here are some extracts from what columnist Dan Jenkins has to say in Golf Digest.

"I'm still having trouble getting past the video games and Fruit Loops. That's if I'm to believe the report that Tiger was so distraught after his indoor athleticism became public - and turned into what some people call a Shakespearean tragedy - that he crawled into deep, lonely hiding and occupied his time playing video games and eating Fruit Loops.

"Maybe it is true, and that's why Tiger's agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG, said to the media at one point: 'Give the kid a break.'


"Tiger Woods was a month away from 34 years of age when his debutantes began turning up in the news. He was a grown man with a wife and two children. Well, we supposed he had a wife, but that was before we learned she was only an ornament.


"Kids flew B-17s in daylight bombing raids over Germany in World War II. Kids fought in Korea and Vietnam. Kids are serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan so Tiger Woods can live in a world where he can win 14 majors and match that number, the last time I counted, with 14 casting couches, most of them reserved for blondes.

"Now excuse me a moment while I try to envision Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus playing video games and eating Fruit Loops while they try to deal with a career problem. Of course, Hogan, Palmer, and Nicklaus never set themselves up to become future statues in Central Park. They never pretended to be the All-American Daddy-Pop Father of the Year Who Also Wins Golf Tournaments. They never sold themselves as the greatest Family Values brand ever, and conquered the marketplace with it, shamelessly scooping up hundreds of millions of dollars while saying: 'My family will always come first.'

"They were never what Tiger allowed himself to become from the start: spoiled, pampered, hidden, guarded, orchestrated, and entitled.

"I'll tell you what Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus were at their peak. They were every bit as popular as Tiger, they endured similar demands on their time, but they handled it courteously, often with ease and enjoyment.

"They were accessible, likeable, knowable, conversant, as gracious in loss as they were in victory, and, above all, amazingly helpful to those of us in the print lodge who covered them.

"That was their brand. All the things Tiger never was.

"As for Tiger's brand, boy, did that take a hit. Never in my knowledge of history has any famous personality - in sports, showbiz, or politics - ever fallen so far so fast. Tiger Woods is graveyard dead, as the Southern expression goes.

"Life as Tiger has known it is over. His reputation is ruined, possibly forever.

"Sure, he can come back and even win again, if he mans up, but if he does he will only be a hero to the 'you-da-man' and 'get-in-the-hole' crowd. And I can't imagine him coming back as a 'humbled man.'

"I covered Tiger winning his 14 professional majors, but I can't say I know him. I knew the smile he put on for TV. I knew the orchestrated remarks he granted us in his press room interviews.

"I once made an effort to get to know the old silicone collector. Tried to arrange dinners with him for a little Q-and-A, on or off the record, his choice.

"But the closest I ever got was this word from his agent: 'We have nothing to gain.'

"Now it's too late. I'm busy."

That's socking it. Graveyard dead. Poor old Tiger.

Headline of the week

"Man shoots neighbor with machete" - The Miami Herald.


WHAT'S yellow, sticky and deadly dangerous?

Shark-infested custard.

Last word


I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.

Michel de Montaigne


The Idler, Wednesday, February 24

Keep insults traditional!

I REGISTER the strongest possible protest about this business in Cape Town where a jogger was gripped by the blue light Gestapo for insulting President Zuma's motorcade by showing it the middle finger.

This is another instance of the creeping Americanism that is eroding our culture. If you feel like insulting the president, the blue lighters or anyone else, you should show them two fingers, which is part of our heritage, dating back to the Battle of Agincourt where the English jeered at the French, showing them two fingers to show they'd failed in their threat to cut off the fingers of the longbowmen.

Yet the American one-finger insult has been creeping in. Today you see it in traffic, all over the place. We traditionalists should always respond with the two-finger version. Stand firm for our culture!

Meanwhile, I suppose cricket umpires also need to watch their finger gestures. You never know who might be in the VIP box and what misunderstanding there could be.

Reader Dave Freshwater suggests the jogger might have been doing no more than try to hail a taxi.

That's a thought. With the amount of moonlighting going on – I've seen ambulances up in Maputaland doubling as taxis – I wouldn't be at all surprised if the VIP unit were making a few bob on the side in the same way.

Let's get rid of the confusion. Two fingers means an insult. The middle finger could mean anything.

You don't say!

READERS are advised to take a seat before reading the following astonishing, sensational newspaper headlines, taken from the US press:

·         "Study Finds Sex, Pregnancy Link" - Cornell Daily Sun.

·         "Whatever Their motives, Moms Who Kill Kids still Shock Us" - Holland Sentinel.

·         "Survey Finds Dirtier Subways After Cleaning Jobs Were Cut" - New York Times.

·         "Larger Kangaroos Leap Farther, Researchers Find" – Los Angeles Times.

·         "'Light' meals are lower in fat, calories" – Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

·         "Alcohol ads promote drinking" - Hartford Courant.

·         "Malls try to attract shoppers" - Baltimore Sun.

·         "Official: Only rain will cure drought" - Herald-News, Westpost, Massachusetts.

·         "Teen-age girls often have babies fathered by men" - The Sunday Oregonian.

·         "Low Wages Said Key to Poverty" - Newsday

·         "Tomatoes come in big, little, medium sizes" - The Daily Progress,
Charlottesville, Virginia.

·         "Dirty-Air Cities Far Deadlier Than Clean Ones, Study Shows" - New York Times.


·         "Man Run Over by Freight Train Dies" - Los Angeles Times.

·         "Wachtler tells graduates that life in jail is demeaning" – The Buffalo News

·         "Free Advice: Bundle up when out in the cold" – Lexington Herald-Leader.

·         "Economist uses theory to explain economy" – Collinsville Herald-Journal.

·         "Bible church's focus is the Bible" - Saint Augustine Record, Florida.

·         "Clinton pledges restraint in use of nuclear weapons" – Cedar Rapids Gazette.

·         "Discoveries: Older blacks have edge in longevity" – Chicago Tribune.

·         "Biting nails can be sign of tenseness in a person" – Daily Gazette, Schenectady, New York.

·         "Lack of brains hinders research" - Columbus Dispatch.

·         "How we feel about ourselves is the core of self-esteem, says
author Louise Hay" - Boulder, Colorado, Sunday Camera.

·         "Fish lurk in streams" - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, New York.


Medical terms

MORE medical terminology, provided in the interests of promoting a healthier nation:

·         ICU: Peek-a-boo.

·         Impotent: Distinguished, well known.

·         Inpatient: Tired of waiting.

·         Labour pain: Injured on duty.

·         Minor operation: Somebody else's.

·         Morbid: A higher offer.

·         Nitrate: Lower than day rate.

·         Node: Was aware of.

·         Outpatient: A person who has fainted.

·         Paralyse: Two far-fetched stories.

·         Pathological: A reasonable way to go.

·         Plaster cast: Drunk roadies backstage at a rock concert.

·         Post-operative: A letter carrier.

·         Protein: In favour of young people.

·         Recovery room: Place to upholster furniture.


·         Rectum: What happened to the Corvette.


·         Red blood count: Dracula.


·         Saline: Where you go on your boyfriend's boat.


·         Serology: Study of English knighthoods.


·         Sterile solution: Not using the elevator during a fire.


·         Tablet: A small table.


·         Terminal illness: Getting sick at the airport


·         Tumour: An extra pair.

·         Urine: Opposite of "you're out".


·         Varicose: Very close.


·         Vein: Conceited.



WHAT'S black and white, lives in a kennel and is deadly dangerous?

A fox terrier with a machinegun.

Last word

I don't really trust a sane person.

Lyle Alzado


The Idler, Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What a woman wants

WHAT is it that a woman wants in a man? Sociologists have been conducting research, coming up with results that suggest women's requirements change over time, becoming simpler and less demanding.

For women aged 22 a man must be: Handsome; charming; financially successful; a caring listener; witty; in good shape; a stylish dresser; appreciative of the finer things; full of thoughtful surprises;

For women aged 32, he has to be: Nice-looking; an opener of car doors and holder of chairs; possessed of enough money for a nice dinner; a listener rather than a talker; amused by my jokes;
an easy carrier of grocery bags; the owner of at least one tie; appreciative of a good home-cooked meal; one who remembers birthdays and anniversaries.

For women aged 42, he has to be: Not too ugly; patient – he doesn't  drive off until I'm in the car; a steady worker who occasionally splurges on dinner out; a listener who nods while I'm talking; a man who usually remembers jokes' punchlines; in good enough shape to rearrange the furniture; wearer of a shirt that covers his stomach; one who knows not to buy champagne with screw-top lids; a man who remembers to put down the toilet seat; a man who shaves most weekends.


For women aged 52 he has to be: Free of untrimmed hair in nose and ears; a non-belcher or scratcher in public; a non-frequent borrower of money; a man who doesn't nod off to sleep when I'm venting; a man who doesn't retell the same joke too many times; in good enough shape to get off the couch on weekends; in the habit of usually wearing matching socks and fresh underwear; appreciative of a good TV dinner; able to remember your name on occasion; in the habit of shaving some weekends.

For women aged 62: Doesn't scare small children; remembers where the bathroom is; doesn't require much money for upkeep; snores only lightly; remembers why he's laughing; is in good enough shape to stand up by himself; usually wears some clothes; likes soft foods; remembers where he left his teeth; remembers it's the weekend.

For women aged 72: Breathing; doesn't miss the toilet.

Yes, the demands become considerably easier as the years pass. It should be a great encouragement to young, recently-married men who are wondering what hit them. We await with interest the results of research into what men require of women as time goes by.


What's your poison?

REGULAR correspondent Tom Dennen appears to have been spending some time in his native America. He relates a fishing story.

"I finally got around to going fishing for bass one day but after a while I ran out of worms. Then I saw a cottonmouth with a frog in his mouth, and frogs are good bass bait.

"Knowing the snake couldn't bite me with the frog in his mouth, I grabbed him right behind the head, took the frog and put it in my bait bucket.

"Now the dilemma was how to release the snake without getting bitten. I grabbed my bottle of Jack Daniels and poured a little whiskey in its mouth.

"His eyes rolled back, he went limp.  I released him into the lake  and carried on my fishing with the frog.

"A little later I felt a nudge on my foot. There was that same snake with two frogs in his mouth."


Nicotine as poison

THE above recalls an incident in my schooldays when our Zulu gardener found a snake – a redlip herald, slightly venomous – trying to swallow a frog.

He pinned its head to the ground, removed the frog (which was already dead) then pushed a blade of grass down the stem of his pipe. Then he dragged the tar and nicotine-coated blade of grass through the snake's mouth. Then he let it go.

The unfortunate snake went through paroxysms, trying sluggishly to strike. In about 10 minutes it keeled over and died.

Jack Daniels might be OK for snakes, it seems, but pipe tobacco is not. What does it not do to humans? It certainly didn't put off Charlie the gardener, he puffed at his pipe all day.



WHAT'S black, lives in a tree and is deadly dangerous?

A crow with a shotgun.



Last word

In all recorded history there has not been one economist who has had to worry about where the next meal would come from.

Peter Drucker


The Idler, Monday, February 22, 2010

Roast beef of Olde Englande

CONTROVERSY over the contract won by one of President Jacob Zuma's paramours to supply the Provincial Legislature with tea, coffee, juice, biscuits, scones and so on – at a cost last year of something like R2 million – prompts Neil Dunton to send in the Bill of Fare of the Lord Mayor's Banquet, in London in 1849.

It reads as follows: 250 tureens of real turtle, containing five pints each; 200 bottles of sherbet; 6 dishes of fish; 30 entrees; 4 boiled turkeys and oysters; 60 roast pullets; 60 dishes of fowls; 46 dishes of capons; 6 dishes of Capt White's Selim's true India curries; 50 French pies; 60 pigeon pies; 53 hams ornamental; 45 tongues; 2 quarters of house-lamb; 2 barons of beef; 3 rounds of beef; 2 stewed rumps of beef; 13 sirloins, rumps and ribs of beef; 6 dishes of asparagus; 60 dishes of mashed and other potatoes; 44 dishes of shellfish; 4 dishes of prawns; 140 jellies; 50 blancmanges; 40 dishes of tarts creamed; 40 dishes of almond pastry; 30 dishes of orange and other tourtes; 20 Chantilly baskets; 60 dishes of mince pies; 56 salads.

The Removes (presumably extra stuff that would be wheeled in as required, if you were still peckish): 89 roast turkeys; 6 leverets; 80 pheasants; 24 geese; 40 dishes of partridges; 15 dishes of wild fowl; 2 pea fowls.

Dessert: 100 pineapples, from 2 to 3lb each; 200 dishes of hot-house grapes; 250 ice creams; 50 dishes of apples; 100 dishes of pears; 60 ornamental Savoy cakes, 75 plates of walnuts; 80 plates of dried fruit and preserves; 50 plates of preserved ginger; 60 plates of rost cakes and chips; 46 plates of brandy cherries.

Now that's what I call a catering contract! Neil doesn't say if it was his grandfather who tendered, but I bet it was won fair and square!


How many guests?

ANALYSING the above, it seems there were few vegetarians around in those days. But it's a little more difficult to work out how many guests there were at the banquet.

Take the soup – most people start off with soup – there were 250 tureens, each holding five pints. Heavens! Who drinks a pint of soup? Maybe they did in those days. Maybe it was half a pint each. That would make it 2 500 people at the banquet. Quite a bash.

And why the skimpiness in certain categories? Six dishes of fish; six dishes of Capt White's true India curries; only two roast peacocks. Where does that go among 2 500 guests?

Perhaps guests were asked to state in advance their dietary preference, the way we often are these days. Of course, they didn't have e-mail or fax, but you could always send your man round to the Guildhall with a note reading: "Count me in on the boiled turkeys and oysters but not the boiled rumps of beef. I also fancy one of Capt White's true India curries, followed up with some roast peacock then pineapple for pud. Thank you."

Boy, could they feed their faces in those days! Today's medical fraternity would be appalled. Tea, coffee, biscuits, scones and juice. The Provincial Legislature has a way to go.

Dietary let-down

MIND you, this "dietary preference" thing is a bit of a let-down. Whenever I get an invitation to a corporate bunfight, and it asks my dietary preference, I always fire back immediately with: "Roast pheasant and champagne, followed up with peppermint ice cream."

To date, I've always been disappointed.




Upward mobility

PAUL and Kathy Joubert send in a snippet about a squatter camp inhabitant near Somerset West, in the Western Cape, who bought a new TV from a high street store.

Days later he returned, complaining that it kept cutting out. When the store investigated, they found the set was connected to a nearby traffic light and it worked only on the green.

The progress is jerky, but I suppose it is upward mobility. Not everyone in those circumstances has a new TV.



Earthworm to caterpillar: "Who do you have to sleep with to get that fur coat?"

Last word

Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to become as mediocre as possible.

Margaret Mead


Friday, February 19, 2010

Captain Cook Friday, February 19, 2010

I WAS not among those who threw missiles at the ref last Saturday. There is no condoning it. But the irritation of the crowd was palpable. They had sat through a humdinger of a thunderstorm, getting thoroughly soused and experiencing the first intimations of dhobey itch as wet Y-fronts combined with a humid atmosphere. They had watched 80 minutes of erratic and inexplicable refereeing decisions that appeared to bewilder the players on both sides as much as they did the crowd. And they had watched our fellows win back the lead – then lose it again, plus the match – in the last 30 seconds of injury time. The punters were peeved.

The strength of their feelings can be judged by the fact that the missiles which flew onfield were the large plastic beer containers sold at the ground. As anyone knows, plastic beer containers lack aerodynamic capacity and distance unless they are still filled with beer. These punters were so furious they were prepared to waste their beer on the ref. That says something. All right, I suppose it's possible that some of them widdled in the containers before throwing but it's unlikely. People who are wound up like that tend to act on impulse, they do not think strategically.

There was severe commentary in the Duikers' afterwards - two schools of thought. One was that they found the ref at Fort Napier, the other that they found him at Fort Mistake. In fact, of course, he was a rookie from New Zealand.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that Keith Brown was biased. That is what we expect from Aussie refs, who have criminality in the genes. Kiwi refs merely have the defect of having been driven mad by scurvy, which is why they are as dangerous to their own sides as to us.

My overriding point is that the IRB seem so obsessed these days with fine-tuning the laws that nobody seems to know what the heck is going on from one season to the next; not the players, nor the punters. Maybe Brown was the only person in the stadium who had a proper handle on things. Last season we had the wretched ELV nonsense – the players never entirely sure what set of laws they were playing under – and now this season the new tackle laws.

These sound great in theory except that, as I've pointed out before, there's a crazy contradiction. When held in the tackle, you have to release the ball. But the tackler is no longer allowed to hold the tackled, he has to roll clear. You spotta da problem?

Meanwhile, what got into Steve Meyer? To have a great season with Perpignan, come back and train with Plumtree's squad, look sharp as a tack – then retire from rugby just a couple of days before the first match is erratic behaviour, even for a Kearsney boy. At first I thought he'd won that massive PowerBall jackpot – but it turns out it's not so. It can't be a woman – most girls support rugby. I don't think he's joined a Trappist order. Nothing makes sense. Maybe he's put off by the new tackle laws.

Vrystaat vanaand! Remember the Alamo! See you in the Duikers'! (I'll be the one holding the blonde in the tackle). Then tomorrow Northerns v ACT and Province v New South Wales. See you in the Filler! (I'll be looking for a blonde to tackle). A luta continhua!

The Idler, Friday, February 19, 2010

Forty days without the iPod

IT'S AN INTRIGUING call that senior Anglicans in Britain have made on people – to give up their iPods for Lent, and in that way help save the planet. Usually it's chocolates and booze and that sort of thing.

I don't quite get what they mean, possibly because I'm not entirely sure what an iPod is. I'd always been under the impression it's some sort of device that downloads music from the Internet, and the user then listens through an earpiece.

This does result in people walking down the street with jerky movements, snapping their fingers in time and looking ridiculous. I suspect it might even lead on to male earrings, tongue studs, other body piercings and hideous tattoos.

All this is no doubt highly undesirable and anti-social. But does it really threaten to destroy the world as Richard Chartre, Bishop of London, and James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, seem to suggest?

Perhaps the iPods they have in mind are something different, something more like Triffids, the evil, invasive carnivorous plants of the John Wyndham science fiction novel. It's a bit of a mystery because Anglican bishops are usually not given to hysteria.

Whatever, the bottom line is that I neither own nor use an iPod. Does this mean I have discharged my Lenten obligations in advance? It would appear so. Chartre and Jones are big hitters, churchmen to be taken seriously. Or is my reasoning flawed?

I tried phoning Archbishop Tutu for advice but there was no reply. I hope he wasn't listening to his iPod.



Global warming


EUROPE and North America have blizzards and freezing conditions. Global warming is a nonsense. We have days of the clammiest heat anyone can remember. Global warming is here.


Round and round the argument goes. Aren't we missing the point rather? If there is global warming – and the bulk of the evidence suggests there is – can it really be attributed entirely to human activity? What about natural cycles?


Reader Greg Pettit sends in an argument based on the Chinese circumnavigation of the globe in the early 15th century.

"We have them visiting Greenland (which really was a green land in the 1400s). We have artefacts depicting life there, complete with sheep farmers. The Chinese went via the North-West Passage. To circumnavigate the earth by way of the North-West Passage, there had to be no solid pack ice north of Canada. Today there is solid pack ice.

"It is colder now than it was in 1412. So before we can complain about global warming, as perpetrated by mankind, we have to get to a warmer temperature than we had in 1412, simply because man started his industrial revolution only at a point after the year 1412."

Either manmade global warming, as propounded by Al Gore, is a load of nonsense or the Chinese explorers/circumnavigators were a bunch of liars, Greg says.

"How many countries and their leaders are prepared to call the Chinese a bunch of liars?"

A fair point, methinks. What think others?



Medical terms

IN THE interests of public health, a glossary of medical terminology follows:


* Antibody: Against everyone.

* Artery: The study of fine paintings.

* Bacteria: Back door to a cafeteria.

* Bandages: The Rolling Stones.

* Barium: What you do when CPR fails.

* Benign: What you be after you be eight.

* Botulism: Tendency to make mistakes.

* Bowel: Letters like A, E, I, O, U.

* Caesarian section: A district in Rome.

* Cardiology: Advanced study of poker playing.

* Catscan: Searching for one's lost kitty.

* Cauterise: Made eye contact with her.

* Colic: A sheepdog.

* Coma: A punctuation mark.

* Congenital: Friendly.

* Cortizone: The local courthouse.

* D & C: Where Washington is.

* Dilate: To live longer.

* Enema: Not a friend.

* Enteritis: a penchant for burglary.

* ER: The things on your head that you hear with.

* Fester: Quicker.

* Fibrillate: To tell lies.

* GI Series: Baseball games between teams of soldiers.

* Genes: Blue denim slacks.

* Hormones: When a prostitute doesn't get paid.

As a further service to readers, the glossary will be continued as space allows.


Artist: "What's your opinion of my latest painting?"

Critic: "It's worthless."

Artist: "I know, but I'd like to hear it anyway."

Last word


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke