Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Idler, Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Recovery mode

BY NOW MOST of us should be in full recovery mode after the New Year festivities. Ogden Nash wrote a poem about the phenomenon, titled They Won't Believe, on New Year's Eve, That New Year's Day Will Come What May:

How do I feel today? I feel as unfit as an unfiddle,
And it is the result of a certain turbulence in the mind and an uncertain burbulence in the middle.
What was it, anyway, that angry thing that flew at me?
I am unused to banshees crying Boo at me.
Your wife can't be a banshee—
Or can she?
Of course, some wives become less fond
When you're bottled in bond.
My Uncle George, in lavender-scented Aunt Edna's Day,
If he had a glass of beer on Saturday night, he didn't dare come home till the following Wednesday.
I see now that he had hit upon the ideal idea:
The passage of time, and plenty of it, is the only marital panacea …

Yes, a hazard of the season. Is there anything more vivid than Dorothy Parker's piece, You Were Perfectly Fine?

"The pale young man eased himself carefully into the low chair, and rolled his head to the side, so that the cool chintz comforted his cheek and temple. 'Oh, dear,' he said. 'Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. Oh.' The clear-eyed girl, sitting light and erect on the couch, smiled brightly at him. 'Not feeling so well today?' she said. 'Oh, I'm great,' he said. 'Corking, I am. Know what time I got up? Four o'clock this afternoon, sharp. I kept trying to make it, and every time I took my head off the pillow, it would roll under the bed. This isn't my head I've got on now. I think this is something that used to belong to Walt Whitman. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.'

"'You were fine,' she said. 'Don't be foolish about it. Everybody was crazy about you. The maitre d'hotel was a little worried because you wouldn't stop singing, but he really didn't mind. All he said was, he was afraid they'd close the place again, if there was so much noise. But he didn't care a bit himself. I think he loved seeing you have such a good time. Oh, you were just singing away, there, for about an hour. It wasn't so terribly loud, at all.'"

Amazing! This is a faithful rendition of New Year's Eve events at the La Bella street shelter for the over-40s last Saturday night. Yet Dorothy Parker wrote it in 1929.

Street names


LAST week's piece on the frustrations caused on all sides by Durban's new street names draws a response from Caryl Cusens and Hannah Lurie, both of Morningside.


Caryl notes that the traffic report on East Coast Radio tried using the new names but soon reverted to the old.


"I have the same trouble as you when I try to direct visitors to my home in Morningside. I have to give them landmarks rather than unpronounceable or non-existent street names as I can't remember which names have changed and what they've changed to.


"Why they had to do 100 all in one go, I'll never understand. I bet not even Michael Sutcliffe can remember all of them."


Hannah says she and her neighbour now live in two places at once.


"My street number and my neighbour's are replicated. North Ridge (where I live) and what was Ridge Road are now both Peter Mokaba Road so we are in two places at once. I hope they haven't received all our Christmas cards in Central Ridge, not to mention South Ridge."


Yes, the fiasco continues to unravel.




MEANWHILE, reader Graham Rudolph says he's solved the question of home security.



"I've cancelled my armed response, torn out my alarm system and de-registered from the Neighbourhood Watch. I've got the Vierkleur raised in my garden, a Blue Bulls flag draped in the window and a "God loves the AWB" sticker on my car. My sound system is playing 'De la Rey' at full volume.

"The local police, the Department of Home Affairs, and the Hawks are all watching my house 24/7. I've never felt safer."




I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it. I said: "Implants?" She hit me.

Last word

It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them.

Alfred Adler


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Idler, Friday, December 30, 2011

Hogmanay bears down on us

I belong to Glasgow,
Dear old Glasgie toon;
But somethin's the matter wi' Glasgie,
For it's goin' roond an' roond!
I'm only a common old working chap,
As anyone here can see,
But when I get a couple o' drinks on a Saturday,
Glasgow belongs to me!


YES, HOGMANAY belongs to the Scots. As do St Andrew's Nicht and Burns Nicht. But noisy celebration of the passing of the Old Year and the birth of the New has spread across the world to all kinds of peoples and cultures, though usually still with a strong Scots flavour, not least of single malt. Rabbie Burns captured the celebrations worldwide for Scotland with Auld Lang Syne, which they will start singing in Australia and New Zealand some time tonight and will carry on in shifts for 24 hours as our planet spins in its orbit round the sun for the last time in 2011.

Why the excitement? What's the significance of just another day? One thinks of the famous Punch cartoon of two hippos standing in a swamp, one saying: "I keep thinking it's Thursday". What makes Saturday, December 31, 2011, any different, when you think of the vastness of the universe and the millions of years it's been going, from January 1, 2012? Why such a fixation on the calendar?

It's difficult to answer. Probably humanity needs a sense of renewal, new hope. Why the booziness? Maybe people just need a party, to let their hair down. Burns certainly sensed that. But the lines quoted above are not from Burns, they're by music hall entertainer Will Fyffe who based them on an encounter he had at Glasgow Central Station in the 1920s with a drunk who was declaiming with equal enthusiasm on Karl Marx and John Barleycorn (favourite topics at Glasgow Central Station late at night).

Fyffe asked the drunk if he belonged to Glasgow, to which he replied: "At the moment, at the moment, Glasgow belongs to me!" And from this sprang the song, adding to Scotland's reputation for living it up.[1]

We all know who Karl Marx was (though he's not likely to feature much in tomorrow night's celebrations. The Theory of Surplus Value is a bit of a clunker on New Year's Eve). Who was John Barleycorn?

Actually he's a mythical figure of an English folksong (English, not Scottish) who is killed, ploughed under, harrowed, scythed and generally mistreated, but harvested and eventually made into beer and whisky. Scholar Kathleen Herbert draws a link between Beowa (a mythical figure stemming from Anglo-Saxon paganism whose name means "barley") and the figure of John Barleycorn. She says Beowa and Barleycorn are one and the same. The hymn, We Plough the Fields and Scatter, is often sung at Harvest Festival to the same tune as the folksong.

That's interesting. Just as Christmas was celebrated again last week as an overlay to the ancient pagan celebration of the winter solstice, so tomorrow's festivities are lubricated in large part by John Barleycorn, a once pagan figure who now provides the score to a Harvest Festival hymn. It's rather cheering.

People will be celebrating all over the place tomorrow. Everywhere will be Glasgow. I personally will probably repair to the La Bella street shelter for over-40s for some sedate Bambaduza dancing and the occasional libation to John Barleycorn. Other celebrations are likely to be rather more riotous. I urge restraint (though not necessarily in the Bambaduza department). Avoid any possibility of interaction with the Fuzz. I mean walk or take a taxi. Meanwhile, to quote the Immortal Rabbie Burns:

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine,
And we'll tak a right guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne!

A happy and prosperous New Year to all of you!


NEW YEAR'S Resolution for 2012 – no more wine, women and song.

Wine? I prefer whisky anyway.

Women? I didn't say anything about girls.

Song? Nor did I say anything about the saxophone.

Another tough and challenging year lies ahead.

Last word

When I remember by-gone days
I think how evening follows morn
So many I loved were not yet dead
So many I love were not yet born.
~ Ogden Nash


Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Idler, Thursday, December 29, 2011

Street names again

IN HIS LATEST grumpy newsletter, investment analyst Dr James Greener revisits the issue of renaming Durban's streets.

"Some of the earliest of the renamed streets here in Durban are back to their original names following the unearthing of some legal glitch in the original process. Nothing was said about that process being insensitive, unnecessary, costly and stupid.

"The argument against changing a name from one now unremembered and possibly dubious dignitary to another whose fame is equally mystifying has nothing to do with disrespect for the newcomer but everything to do with continuity and history. Surely the number of roads being created in this ever expanding metropolis far exceeds the number of folk deemed worthy of being remembered by a length of tarmac?"

Well, quite. It came to me yet again the other day when I had to get hold of the AA (not Alcoholics Anonymous, the other one). I was in a road I have always known as Walter Gilbert.

But the AA breakdown service in Johannesburg couldn't find a Walter Gilbert Road on their computer system. Was it one of the Durban street names that have been changed they asked?

I had no idea. There was no street sign. I accosted a passer-by who assured me he worked in the road and its name was Walter Gilbert.

I was between Moses Mabhida stadium and King's Park stadium, both of which the AA people could find on their system, but the road between them was a mystery.

Fifteen minutes late the AA were back on the line. They'd found it. The name had been changed.

"What's the new name?" I asked.

"It's Isaac ...  I'm sorry, I can't pronounce the rest."

No matter, a breakdown vehicle was despatched.

How often every day is something similar not enacted? What is the cost in cash terms and aggravation? Surely it's the height of folly to tamper with the smooth functioning of a major city in this way?

The Post Office doesn't use the new street names. Nor does the Deeds Office. Even the municipality uses the old names to send out accounts.

This is pretty comprehensive failure. And all for the sake of some cheap political grandstanding.


Black hole?

STANDING there waiting between Moses Mabhida and King's Park, one reflected. On one side an old-fashioned, functional stadium designed for rugby; fully paid off, successful, assured of crowd revenues.

On the other a visual masterpiece that is unfortunately unsuitable for rugby or cricket, while local soccer will not provide the crowds to support it. Fifa has apparently reneged on its share of the billions it cost to build. The council seem to be casting about desperately to find a role for the new stadium, even if it means filming the BBC's dire Top Gear programme there – at a further cost of millions to the city and the province. Moses Mabhida begins to look like a financial black hole.


Makes ya think!


Linguistic tide

AN ELDERLY robber known as the "Geezer Bandit" has been responsible for 16 bank hold-ups in California over the past two years. He is so named because he appears to be at least 70 and sometimes has with him an oxygen bottle during his stick-ups.

But the FBI now suspect he could be a lot younger; that he uses an elaborate disguise. In his most recent heist at San Luis Obispo, things went wrong and he sprinted away from the bank at a speed which belied his apparent old age. The FBI think he might be wearing a latex mask and gloves to give an impression of advanced years.

This being America in the digital age, the Geezer Bandit has become something of a cult. A Facebook page has attracted 12 000 supporters and sells merchandise. The FBI offers a reward of $20 000 for information leading to his capture.

It's an extraordinary story – not least that he should be known as the Geezer Bandit. "Geezer" is Cockney slang for an old-timer. Never before have I heard it used in an American context. Is the linguistic tide turning at last?



A GANG of robbers hit a lawyers' office and are making a run for it.

"That was tough but at least we've got R5 000," one pants.

"Are you crazy? We went in with R10 000!"


Last word

Rock and roll is the hamburger that ate the world.

Peter York


ded Stories


The Idler, Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a jungle

AS THE FESTIVE season rolls on, police are warning all men who frequent clubs, parties and local pubs of a male date-drug. They are urged to be alert and to stay cautious when offered a drink by any woman.

Many females are using a date-drug that is on the market under the name "beer".

The drug is found in liquid form and is available anywhere. It comes in bottles or cans or from taps. It is also found in large kegs.

Beer is used by female sexual predators at parties and bars to persuade their male victims to go home and sleep with them.

A woman needs only to get a guy to consume a few units of  beer and then simply ask him home for no-strings-attached sex.

Men are rendered helpless against this approach. After several beers, men will often succumb to the desire to sleep with women to whom they would never normally be attracted.

After drinking beer, men often awaken with only hazy memories of exactly what happened to them the night before, often with just a vague feeling that "something bad" occurred.

At other times these unfortunate men are swindled out of their life's savings, in a familiar scam known as "a relationship". In extreme cases, the female may even be shrewd enough to entrap the unsuspecting male into a longer-term form of servitude and punishment referred to as "marriage".

Men are much more susceptible to this scam after beer is administered and sex is offered by the predatory females.

If you fall victim to this "beer" scam and the women administering it, there are male support groups where you can discuss the details of your shocking encounter with similarly victimised men.

For the support group nearest you, just look up "Golf Courses" in the phone book.


Careful, fellows. It's a jungle out there.



Small town ways


A RECENT piece recalled the case of a letter that was successfully delivered to the intended recipient at a rural post office in Zululand, the address consisting only of: "Elderly Zulu, Speaks English, PO Ntingwe."


It reminds reader Gary Usher, a storekeeper at Wasbank, way out in the bundu about 50 km from Dundee in northern KZN, of an incident about 20 years ago when his young son, Paul, needed flu medication.


Their driver, Khuzwayo, went into Dundee to pick up various items. When he got to the chemist's, they knew nothing about pills for Paul (his mum had forgotten to phone through – nor did the chemist or his assistants know the Ushers).


"Good old Khuzwayo stood his ground and was adamant that he could not leave without pills for the sick Paul. The chemist and the assistants were most helpful, asking how old this child was? Where did he live, etc? Eventually someone knew someone who had a child by the name of Paul. The chemist traced us under the Helpmekaar section of the telephone directory and was able to tell us that someone had arrived to collect pills for Paul. Did Paul belong to us?


"There's a lot to be said for small towns . The diligent Khuzwayo arrived back home with the pills."




Belgian bust

POLICE in Belgium have discovered 11 Nile crocodiles and one alligator, kept illegally at a home in the village of Lapscheure, in the north of the country.

They have been taken to an animal rescue centre, from which an appropriate home will be sought for them.


We're not told where in the villager's home they were kept. The bathtub, taking it in turns? Nor are we told why the villager kept crocs and an alligator.


But the Belgian police are obviously on top of things. I wonder when they'll do something about that dreadful little fellow urinating in public in the centre of Brussels?


Food breakdown


SCIENTISTS have discovered that we live on only about a third of the food we eat. Health farms, gymnasiums and diet pill manufacturers live on the other two thirds.






WHAT'S the difference between a pigeon and a stockbroker after a market crash? The pigeon can still put a deposit on a new Merc.



Last word


After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.

Fred Thompson






The Idler, Tuesday, December 27, 2011

There was a jolly swagman ...

HEY, HE'S A razzler this Prince William. The other night he and the delectable Kate (stuffier individuals call her the Duchess of Cambridge) went to a youth shelter in Camberwell, London, where they danced with the locals.

Not only that, Wills stole the show by introducing a new dance called the Swag. In that he brushes imaginary dandruff off his shoulders while Kate mirrors him. It brought the house down.

The Swag will now become all the rage at every nightspot in London. It sounds remarkably like what we at La Bella call the Bambaduza, where you pull your partner in close and pretend to sweep the dandruff off each other's shoulders. It is fairly erotic.

How nice it would be if Wills and Kate could join us for New Year. We're a kind of over-40s youth shelter. Next year maybe?

Brain teaser


HERE'S something to clear away the Christmas cobwebs, sent in by Lilian Develing, of Hillcrest. It's a brain study and if you can read it you have a strong mind.


Once you get past the first two words it becomes easier. Here goes:


 7H15 M3554G3 53RV35 7O PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5! 1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5! 1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG 17 WA5 H4RD BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3 Y0UR M1ND 1S R34D1NG 17 4U70M471C4LLY W17H 0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17, B3 PROUD! 0NLY C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R3AD 7H15.

W311 done!


New words


SOME new entries to the English dictionary:




·        Aquadextrous - Possessing the ability to turn the bathtub tap on and off with your toes.


·        Carperpetuation - The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string or a piece of lint at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.


·        Disconfect - To sterilise the piece of confection (lolly) you dropped on the floor by blowing on it, assuming this will somehow remove all the germs.


·        Elbonics - The actions of two people manoeuvring for one armrest in a movie theatre.


·        Frust - The small line of debris that refuses to be swept onto the dustpan and keeps backing a person across the room until he finally decides to give up and sweep it under the rug.


·        Lactomangulation - Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk container so badly that one has to resort to the "illegal" side.


·        Peppier - The waiter at a fancy restaurant whose sole purpose seems to be walking around asking diners if they want fresh ground pepper.


·        Phonesia - The affliction of dialling a phone number and forgetting who you were calling just as they answer.


·        Pupkus - The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it.


·        Telecrastination - The act of always letting the phone ring at least twice before you pick it up, even when you're only six inches away.



Financial paean


READER Andrew Dale sends in some lines on the financial chaos in Europe.


                                   A Euro Paean.

The Germans as usual were quick off the mark.

The French were perhaps less than frank.
The British, more openly, chose to expound
That expense would be borne by the bank.
One thing they've all learned as the world's debts increase:
You are much better off if you don't elbow grease.


That's right. Slackers of the world unite!




THIS fellow sits down beside a blonde in a sports bar. The news on the TV screen shows a man on a ledge outside a high building, looking as if he's a about to jump.

Blonde:  "Do you think he'll jump?"

Fellow: "I bet he'll jump."

Blonde: "I bet he won't."

The fellow puts a R100 note on the bar counter: "You're on!"

Just as the blonde puts her R100 on the bar, the guy on the ledge does a swallow dive off the building.

The blonde hands over her R100.  "Fair's fair. Here's your money."

Fellow: "I can't take it. I saw this on the earlier newscast. I knew he'd jump."

Blonde : "I did, too. But I didn't think he'd do it again."


The fellow keeps the cash.


Last word


Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg



The Idler, Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas is here
CHRISTMAS is upon us. It's a time of festivity and giving, of reconciliation and goodwill. It's interesting to look at the way different writers have portrayed it.
Most people think of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol, and indeed the Dickensian Christmas – food drink and jollity among the holly and ivy – has permeated the world over. But, let's be honest, there's also something a little mawkish and schmaltzy about A Christmas Carol.
How about WW Jacobs, that wonderful short story writer of the turn of the 19th century, who divided his attention between the London docklands and the inland village of Claybury? In Prize Money, the villagers have contributed twopence a week toward a Christmas hamper.
"… there was a fine, large turkey in it, a large goose, three pounds o' pork sausages, a bottle o' whiskey, a bottle o' rum, a bottle o' brandy, a bottle o' gin, and two bottles o' wine.  The hamper was all decorated with holly, and a little flag was stuck in the top."
But no. The local poacher, Bob Pretty, won the hamper by sleight of hand and went on to blackmail the others for 30 shillings when they tried to steal it back. That's not in the spirit of Christmas.
How about F Scott Fitzgerald? In A Luckless Santa Claus, a wealthy young man spends Christmas Eve trying to give away $25 to strangers in New York, in a wager with his girl. He meets with nothing but hostility.

"Dorothy rushed to the window and pulled up the blind. There, coming up the steps on his hands and knees was a wretched caricature of a man. He was hatless, coatless, collarless, tieless, and covered with snow. It was Harry. He opened the door and walked into the parloĆ¼r, leaving a trail of wet snow behind him."

She asks where he's been, what's happened?

"'Oh, nothing. I've just been giving away that twenty-five dollars.' And Harry sat down on the sofa.

"'But Harry,' she faltered, 'your eye is all swollen.'

"'Oh, my eye? Let me see. Oh, that was on the twenty-second dollar. I had some difficulty with two gentlemen. However, we afterward struck up quite an acquaintance. I had some luck after that. I dropped two dollars in a blind beggar's hat.'"

It turns out he's brought with him the two gentlemen who gave him difficulty.


"… 'They are coming home with me to spend Christmas. They are really nice fellows, though they might seem a trifle rough at first.'

"Dorothy drew a quick breath. For a minute no one spoke. Then he took her in his arms.

"'Dearest,' she whispered, 'you did this all for me.''


A minute later he sprang down the steps, and arm in arm with his friends, walked off in the darkness.

""Good night, Dorothy,' he called back, 'and a Merry Christmas!'"

That's more like it. And there's a great realism about it the way he walked off with his mates..

But I think O Henry still come out tops. The Gift of the Magi comes closest to capturing the sublime message of Christmas. A young couple are dead broke in New York in the middle of the Great Depression. She cuts off and sells her beautiful locks to buy him a chain for his prize possession, a watch. He sells his watch to buy her tortoiseshell combs for her beautiful locks.

"The Magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi. "

A happy and blessed Christmas to one and all.



IF THERE are two Father Christmases on your roof, which one's Van der Merwe?


He's the one with the Easter eggs.


Last word


Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveller back to his own fireside and quiet home!
Charles Dickens

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