Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Idler, Friday, April 30, 2010

Navigational error

THE MARITIME authorities in England are perplexed by the case of a man who drove a motor cruiser round and round the Isle of Sheppey, off the Kent coast, eventually running out of petrol and running aground off the Elmley marshes.

Rescuers from the Sheerness lifeboat and the Thames Coastguard said he had with him a road map and no navigational charts or equipment.

He told them he had been heading for Southampton, hugging what he thought was the coastline of England, and had been unaware that he was circling an offshore island. He had set out from the River Medway.

I've a theory that this was a straggler from the NSRI Barrel Race held in Durban harbour a couple of weeks ago. He was looking for Westville, hence the road map.

As I mentioned in this column, alcohol plays a prominent role in the barrel race. However, it's gratifying that a supporter of our National Sea Rescue Institute should make contact with its counterparts overseas, the Sheerness lifeboat and the Thames Coastguard.

Maybe we should invite them next year for a cruise round Salisbury Island.

Flower power

IT'S AN ODD story this about London's guerilla gardener. Art student Steve Wheen cycles about the British capital, looking for potholes. When he spots one he stops and plants in it spring blooms – cyclamen, narcissus and polyanthus.

It's his way of beautifying the city. Also of drawing the attention of motorists and cyclists to the potholes so they can avoid them.

He concedes there is a high attrition rate with his plantings. One lasted a few weeks but most last only a couple of hours. Yet he perseveres.

Bring him to Durban and the city would look like the Namaqualand wild flower phenomenon - and there the blooms stretch to the far horizon.

Book sales

THE TELEVISED debates of Britain's party leaders in the current general election campaign are having a galvanising effect on bookshop sales, we are told. People are walking in and buying copies of the party manifestoes at an unprecedented rate.

In fact, one London publisher reports, the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pushed JK Rowling's latest Harry Potter book into fourth place.

I find this strangely dispiriting. As one who considers Anthony Burgess to be our finest novelist since Evelyn Waugh, I would rather play darts than read the Tory manifesto, the Labour manifesto, the Liberal Democrat manifesto or Harry Potter.

Perhaps I am not attuned to the times

The struggle continues

THE BATTLE of the sexes rages on:

* "Do you always carry your TV remote?" the shop assistant asks as he notices it in the customer's handbag as she rummages for her purse.

"No, but my husband wouldn't come shopping and I figured this is the harshest thing I can do to him legally."


·         A couple drive down a country road in silence after a row. They pass a farmyard full of mules, goats and pigs.

He: Relatives of yours?"

She: "Yep. In-laws."


* He: "This article says a man uses only 15 000 words a day and a woman uses 30 000."

She: "That's because we have to repeat everything we say."

He: "What?"



·         A couple are giving each other the silent treatment. At bed time he puts a note on her pillow: "Please wake me at 5 am. I've got an early flight."

He wakes at 9 am. A note on his pillow reads: "It's 5 am. Wake up!"

(Men are not equal to this kind of contest).





AS A SURVIVAL test a German, an Australian and a Chinese are to be abandoned on a desert island for a year. The German is put in charge of building the group's shelter, the Australian is in charge of power requirements and the Chinese man is responsible for supplies.


They are landed on the island and their equipment is checked. The German has brought tools, nails and screws and the Australian has a wind turbine and a solar generator. But the Chinese fellow just disappears. They search for him all day with no success. As night approaches they head back to the boat.


As they approach the beach the Chinese leaps from behind a tree.


He shouts: "Supplies!"


Last word


You will find that the State is the kind of organisation which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.

John Kenneth Galbraith


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Idler, Thursday, April 29

UFOs, aliens, giant frogs


EXCITEMENT continues on the Bluff over supposed sightings of UFOs and tall aliens who emerge from the bush in sinister capes. One might even be a giant frog. Headlines in the community newsletter Bluff Stuff give a digest of the reaction (much of it sceptical and derisive) of residents to initial reports of strange red lights and so on:


·         More alien encounters at the beach – half-frog half-human.

·         Groot padda.

·         UFO captured on film over Ansteys

·         Bright lights and little green men.

·         Radar should pick up UFOs.

·         Aliens or bush weirdos?

·         Aliens at Brighton Beach.

·         They have come to pick up Julius Malema.

·         What are the Bluff people smoking?

·         To-o-o-o-o much TV?

·         Aliens want to turn the Bluff into a sewerage farm.

·         Any photos of aliens?

·         CSO/COP (security firm) will scare off aliens

·         Footage of aliens trying to invade South Africa


A fisherman describes finding huge, webbed frog footprints emerging from the surf at Garvie's beach. Halfway up the beach they morphed into human footprints, which he followed as far as the car park. He was so spooked by the experience that he left his tackle box on the beach.


"We are not alone," he says.


Another correspondent says he actually met two aliens. "One was called Elvis, the other ET – but he went home."


Another describes a strange light which he got his daughter to capture on video. But when he called the police he heard one constable say in Zulu to his colleague: "This one's mad."


My informant, who lives on the Bluff, is among the sceptics.


"Either good stuff is going up in smoke or those crystal meth parties are getting out of hand," he says.


"Military exercises would seem the most likely explanation (there's no doubt they are seeing something) but it seems obvious that the webbed feet that morphed into human ones were flippers being removed, possibly by a kreef dief out snorkelling at night.


"Cape Town has military exercises of a similar nature. Why aren't we hearing similar reports from there? Probably because Bellville isn't on the coastline like the Bluff."


Whatever can he mean? That the Bellville and Bluff communities are both of them particularly dof? That they both smoke funny stuff?


I will keep you posted.



Loch Ness Monster

FROM UFO/alien sightings to the Loch Ness Monster. The existence of the monster in Loch Ness, Scotland, is "beyond doubt" according to a 1930s police report, just released.

For many years there has been debate as to whether Nessie really exists, whether she is an invention of the local tourism industry or whether she is simply testimony to the potency of the product of the local whisky stills.

Anyone who has seen the dark, brooding surface of Loch Ness will know that if there is such a thing as a monster, this surely is the place for it.

Photographs have been taken of a strange serpentine creature breaking surface in the loch – but photographs can be manipulated.

The 1930s government "X" file about the elusive Nessie has at last been released by the National Archives of Scotland.

In it William Fraser, chief constable of Inverness-shire, wrote to the Scottish Office raising concerns over the creature's safety.

He said: "That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness now seems beyond doubt. But that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful."

This followed a number of public "sightings" and dodgy photographs.

Ministers proposed that reliable observers be placed around the loch to get further photographic evidence. If there was a monster, it should be trapped for its own protection. But the project seems to have fizzled out.

And Nessie's legend has continued to grow.





A TOURIST in Los Angeles is walking through Chinatown when he sees a sign: Hans Olafsen's Laundry". Curious, he walks in. An old Chinese man is sitting in a corner.

Tourist: "How did this place get a name like Hans Olafsen's Laundry."

Old man: "It's named after me. I'm Hans Olafsen."

Tourist: "That's an unusual name for a Chinese."

Old man: "Yes. But when I came to America I was standing in the immigration line behind a man called Hans Olafsen. And when they asked me my name, I said: 'Sam Ting.'"


Last word


My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.

Errol Flynn


The Idler, Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baby it's cold out there

AS the first cold snaps of winter set in and the count-down to the Football World Cup becomes more urgent, have we covered all bases? Have would-be visitors been warned that South Africa, in June and July, is pretty nippy?

On the highveld the mercury dips below zero most nights. The wind chill can cut through you, day or night. In Cape Town, it's wet and cold; you know you're on the edge of the Southern Ocean. Even in sub-tropical Durban you need a jersey in the evenings.

It ought to be the task of the travel agents, but do we know if the fans have been forewarned that out here it's not perpetual tropical Africa? Factors like altitude and latitude come into play. South Africa in winter is not the place for Hawaian shirts and Bermuda shorts.

It would be sad if we got right things like crime control and travel logistics, only to have the competition marred by things like hyperthermia and pneumonia.

Televised debates

IN the British general election they've experimented for the first time with televised debates between the party leaders and senior party office-bearers. Apparently the participants are somewhat spooked by being placed in close proximity. In the House of Commons there's always a healthy physical distance.

Yes, the distance between the front benches in the Commons is exactly two sword-lengths. It used to be the same in the old House of Assembly in Cape Town.

Debate must have been rather robust in the early days.


Robust exchange

HERE'S an example of robust Westminster debate that had advanced from swordplay:

Lord Sandwich: "'Pon my soul, Wilkes, you will die either of the pox or upon the gallows!"

John Wilkes (a radical MP): "That depends, milord, on whether I embrace your mistress or your principles."


A TINY stallion just 14 inches high has been born on a farm in the US that specialises in breeding miniature horses.

Einstein, a pinto, weighed in at just 6lb and is thought to be the world's smallest foal ever.

Judy Smith, of Tiz A farm in Barnstead, New Hampshire, says he is the tiniest she has seen in 20 years of breeding.

One wonders though what the point is of such miniaturisation. Horses don't have the instinct to go down badger holes. And these sound still slightly too big for ladies' handbags.


Tragic myth


AS THE closure of Durban International Airport approaches, Rodney Kenyon – himself a former air force pilot – notes a myth relating to the opening of the airport more than 50 years ago.


"The popular story, which has appeared in several books on Durban, is that the 1955 Governor General's Air Race, which that year started and finished at the old Stamford Hill airport, was won by Second Lieutenant Bryan Fletcher, flying a South African Air Force Harvard trainer. Exactly two weeks later the young SAAF pilot returned to Durban, this time in a Vampire jet trainer, to perform an aerobatic display at the official opening of the new Louis Botha Airport (now Durban International).


"During a rehearsal of the display, with the Vampire at full tap and flying low level south to north, a wing touched the ground and the aircraft crashed and exploded, instantly killing the pilot.


"The myth is centred on this tragic event occurring immediately prior to the official opening of the airport, only two weeks to the day after the SAAF pilot had won the country's premier air race by crossing the line at the airfield that was about to be replaced by the venue of his jet-powered display. Add to the mix the fact that the air race was first run in 1937 to celebrate the opening of the Stamford Hill Airport and you have all the ingredients of a local myth.


"My research confirms the basics of the tale, but the dates do not gel. Fletcher did win the air race but in 1954, the first time it was held since hostilities forced its closure in 1939, and more than a year prior to his display crash. His headstone in Stellawood Cemetery confirms his date of death as November 24, 1955."



DOGS are able to see only in black and white. They thought about breeding one that would be able to see in colour but it would have meant putting up the licence fee.

Last word

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.
Ingrid Bergman


The Idler, Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Talk like Shakespeare

SOMEHOW it passed us by, but in Chicago last Friday they went about addressing one another as "Sirrah", "Mistress" and "Cousin". They said "thee" and "thou" instead of "you."

It was Talk like Shakespeare Day, a celebration of the birth of the Immortal Bard 446 years ago, endorsed by the mayor, Richard Daley.

Citizens of Chicago were urged to use rhyming couplets wherever possible. The organisers also put out some guidelines:

·         Instead of cursing, try calling people who irritate you "jackanapes" or "canker-blossoms" or "poisonous bunch-back'd toads".

·         Don't waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" ('tis, t'will, I'll do't).

·         Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.

·         When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).

·         To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with "methinks", "mayhaps", "in sooth" or "wherefore".

·         When wooing a lady, try comparing her to a summer's day. If that fails, say:"Get thee to a nunnery!"

·         When girls woo lads, try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.


Why not here?

IN SOOTH, why not do the same for Durban? And wherefore stoppeth we with rhyming couplets? Mayhaps a full-blown sonnet? T'would fit the bill, methinks.

These jackanapes, these poisonous bunch-back'd toads,

They spendeth money like out of fashion,

They diggeth mightily at our roads

But availeth naught in satisfaction.


These canker-blossoms can't control

The dead or flicking traffic lights,

Consensus is that on the whole

The city will not be brought to rights.


Refuse pileth, the rats rejoice

As rubbish stands here uncollected,

As workers trash things it's their choice

That civic values go unreflected.


Alas, alack, we gaze to sea

From where the beachfront used to be.


Strange red lights

A HOUSEHOLDER on the Bluff sends in some community security newsletters that quote people seeing strange red lights in the sky in the vicinity of the old whaling station. Also some tall, sinister figures in capes who have been spotted in the dunes and who appear to have left narrow footprints.

The red lights, according to one informant, took off over the sea in the direction of Umhlanga.

What could all this be? UFOs? Or, as my informant suggests, maybe they're smoking some strong stuff on the Bluff these days.

Last Saturday evening a helicopter flying low about King's Park was showing red lights. Presumably manned by the police, it seemed to be practising routines for the Football World Cup. Could this have anything to do with it?

Keep quiet

MEANWHILE, British scientist Stephen Hawking says aliens very probably are somewhere out there. But he advises that we should keep quiet and hope they don't notice us. Such space life would simply abuse earth's resources then move on.

He says advanced aliens might look to conquer and colonise.

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," he said.

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

While most aliens were in all probability simple organisms such as microbes, Professor Hawking says it would take only a few intelligent ones to spell disaster for humans.

On the other hand, there's the theory that aliens would take just one look at us and skedaddle. Waste, plunder of natural resources, nose rings, discordant music, celebrity culture, general ugliness – "Let's get out of here, Captain!"

If those were UFOs, I wonder which they preferred – Umhlanga or the Bluff?


Love affairs


GLEN Fletcher, of Hillcrest, joins the reminiscence over the 1948 cricket Test against England that has so taken hold.


"I was 11 years old and my Dad took me to all five days, sitting in the old stand close to Castle Corner.


"I remember being devastated when Allan Watkins took a brilliant catch to dismiss my hero, Dudley Nourse, and then in that run chase in the drizzle, Owen Wynne dropping Cyril Washbrook at deep square leg.


"I have had a love affair with the longer form of the game ever since."




GOOD King Wenceslas rings up his local pizza parlour. "The usual please. Deep pan, crisp and even."

Last word

If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.

Ludwig Wittgenstein


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Idler, Monday, April 26, 2010

East is East and West is West …

NEWS from Afghanistan. An army platoon was patrolling when they came upon a Taleban insurgent, badly injured and unconscious at the roadside. On the other side was a British soldier, also injured but not as seriously and fully conscious.

As first aid was administered to both, the British soldier reported: "I was on a recce of the highway here when suddenly coming towards me from the south was a heavily-armed insurgent. We saw each other and we both took cover in the ditches along the road.

"I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein was a miserable lowlife scumbag who'd got what he deserved. The insurgent yelled back that Gordon Brown is a fat, useless, lying, one-eyed pudding-head. And furthermore, Lord Mandelson is a nincompoop and a complete prat.

"So I said that Osama Bin Laden dresses and ponces about like a frigid, hatchet-faced lesbian.

"He retaliated by shouting that so does Harriet Harman.

"And, there we were in the middle of the road, laughing and shaking hands, when this damned bus hit us."

Bar brawl

A FEW OF us plan to gather in the Shamrock this evening to mark the end of an era. The Shamrock, one of Durban's character pubs, is not closing – that would be a catastrophe – but moving to new premises up the road.

It will be a poignant moment for me. My hooligan Irish terrier, whose depredations have at times been mentioned in this column (and who alas is no more – he died recently at a dog's age of 105) was once the mascot of the Shamrock. His photograph was on the wall, along with newspaper clippings recording his exploits. He was always fed, on arrival, with a bowl of eisbein bones.

Then he was barred after a fight with a standard poodle- those are the big jobs -  brought in by a woman. It made a wild west bar brawl look like a picnic. The place was wrecked, the owner was knocked from the bar stool from which he was appealing for calm.

Memories, memories …

Never walk alone.


MORE on that dust cloud. British air space has been closed to all flights for the first time in history due to a massive dust cloud covering the entire country.


Police however have made a breakthrough and have arrested the man thought to be responsible. Apparently he was cleaning the Liverpool Football Club trophy cabinet.


Yes, sports jokes can be very cruel.


That Test again


IT'S THAT 1948 cricket Test against England at Kingsmead again. It's truly astonishing how many readers clearly recollect it – and favourably compare it with current cricket. Reader Denis Barker recalls it as the first instalment in his addiction to cricket.


"I well remember, as a 17-year-old from Umzinto, sitting under the old Kingsmead scoreboard watching that epic last ball win of England back in 1948 - the first cricket Test I ever watched. And it was the first of many later games both in England and Australia that I followed with never-failing enthusiasm, except perhaps for Jackie McGlew's seven-hour century against Australia the following year.


"And now I have to put up with this billion-dollar Indian 20/20 farce - apart from the quite brilliant fielding - every day of the week. And the commentators! Mind you, I think even John Arlott would battle to find what to say in such a short time."




WHAT is a myth? No, it's not something that's untrue- as many seem to think – it's something people construct in their minds to explain the world about them. It goes on all the time.

"Mythmaking , Ancient and Modern" will be the theme of a series of lectures/discussions from Tuesday next week, given by retired psychologist Desi Halse and former university lecturer Charlotte Mbali, both of them with Life Long Learning, an organisation that has replaced the Centre for Adult Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The drawback is that I will be joining these redoubtable ladies to discuss the role of the media in modern myth-making.

Anyone interested should contact or phone 082-8732702.


A biker goes to the doctor with hearing problems.

"Can you describe the symptoms to me?" asked the doctor.

"Yes. Homer is a fat, yellow, lazy bastard and Marge is a skinny bird with big blue hair."


Last word

I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.

John Cage



Thursday, April 22, 2010

Captain Cook Friday, April 23

EVERY match is a cup final from now on. Tomorrow it's the kind of cup final where you not only have to win, you have score four tries doing it. Can we do it against Auckland? The only thing to do is go for it.

Last week showed us what rugby is all about. Our backs were running onto the ball at last, and at real pace. The pack were hungry for possession, really hungry. There was some splendid tackling, though also a bit of vas aan die slaap in that department, rather than failure to take on the man. And Transvaal were magnificent in their fightback. Did I not predict this would be a humdinger? When the two sides of the Drakensberg meet on the rugby field, there's fireworks, no matter the log positions.

The main thing is, we're improving every outing. The scrum looks solid as a rock. John Smit has suddenly discovered loosehead is his dream position and that gives him opportunity to exercise his craftiness as skipper plus put in some handy ball-carrying. One of these days they will discover the magic spark. May it be tomorrow.

Patrick Lambie is find of the season at fullback, and it's astonishing to reflect how young he is. He's just been selected for the national Under20 side for the Under-20 World Cup. That's if Piet de Snor doesn't snatch him for the senior Boks. The way he's playing, that just could happen. Cool under the high ball, faultlessly in position, deadly tackler, strong on counter-attack – he's got it all.

Lambie is a Michaelhouse boy and there's a strong chance he could close the gap on Durban Girls' College when it comes to rugby Springboks. Durban Girls' College? Yes, it's an excellent Trivial Pursuits question.

Who's got the most rugby Springboks on the honours board, Michaelhouse or Durban Girls' College? The answer is Girls' College. Michaelhouse hasn't produced a single rugby Springbok. Durban Girls' College has produced two. In the 1920s Girls' College used to enroll boys in their Kindergarten. Among them were Wally Clarkson and Pat Lyster, both of whom went on to play rugby for the Boks before World War II. They were most definitely old boys of Durban Girls' College.

So even if Lambie does make it, Michaelhouse will still be playing catch-up with Durban Girls' College. And who knows what fearsome Amazons Girls' College might be secretly training up for the moment the Constitutional Court declares rugby to be open to both sexes? This competition between the top private schools can be a cut-throat business.

And speaking of schools, I see De Snor himself is tipping Peter Grant (Maritzburg College) for the Bok flyhalf berth. Coming from the coach, that's about as hot a tip as you can get. It would restore the equilibrium in Bok rugby, where College have provided a long succession of flyhalves – Keith Oxlee, Joel Stransky, Butch James. Get Grant back home where he belongs and it would restore the equilibrium to our provincial rugby as well. This surely has to be an objective.

However, all this is to digress. Tomorrow is another moment of truth. My prediction? We'll moider da bums! See you in the Duikers'! I'll do a Cossack dance on the bar counter if we pull it off.

The Idler, Friday, April 23, 2010

Only for the educated


FEEL flattered. What follows comes to me titled "Puns for the educated". I therefore pass them on to this column's cultivated and discerning readership.

·        King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan. Croesus said: "I'll give you 100 000 dinars for it".

"But I paid a million dinars for it," the king protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king!"

Croesus replied: "When you wish to pawn a star, makes no difference who you are."


* Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. Unfortunately, all the Swiss league records were destroyed in a fire ... and so we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

* A man rushes into a busy doctor's office and shouts: "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!" The doctor calmly responds: "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."


·        A marine biologist develops a breed of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day, his supply of gulls runs out so he has to go out and trap some more. On the way back, he spies two lions asleep on the road. Afraid to wake them, he gingerly steps over them. Immediately he is arrested and charged with ...transporting gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises. (A-a-a-a-r-gh!)

* Back in the 1800s the Tates Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products and, since they already made the cases for watches, they used them to produce compasses. The new compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California. This, of course, is the origin of the expression: "He who has a Tates is lost."

* A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the toilets and urinals, leaving no clues. A spokesman was quoted saying: "We have absolutely nothing to go on."


·        An Indian chief was feeling very sick so he summoned the medicine man, who gave him a long, thin strip of elk rawhide, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged : "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."

* A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register.
His wife complained to the local civic official who apologised profusely, saying: "I must have taken Leif off my census."


Oh, stop groaning … it could have been verse.


FREE Animations for your email - by IncrediMail! Click Here!The culprits


THE ABOVE atrocities are inflicted by Alf Taylor, retired Chief Constable of Durban, sent on as an accessory after the fact by Ron Coppin, of Hillcrest.


Alf moved back to his native Scotland after retiring. It seems he missed the boat by doing that. Huge housing contracts have opened up for former city policemen.


Two wolves

PIETER Aarsen, of Westville, sends in some Cherokee wisdom.

One evening an old Cherokee tells his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He says: "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity,humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thinks about it for a minute then asks his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee replies: "The one you feed."


A GOLFER is playing a disastrous round on a Scottish course. He slices a shot, hits two trees and lands the ball in the middle of a bog. He tut-tuts and turns to his caddie: "Golf! Funny old game, isn't it?"

"Aye. But it's no meant tae be."

Last word

It is possible to be below flattery as well as above it.

Thomas Babington Macaulay