Monday, January 31, 2011

Captain Cook, Friday, January 28, 2011

I HAD a feeling all along that the ODI cricket would not match the Test series for sheer quality and excitement. And, even though we won the ODIs against India and only shared the Test series, so it turned out. But who could have predicted the rain?

Duckworth-Lewis simply is no way to determine the outcome of a cricket match. Remember that rain-disturbed ODI in Australia, soon after we returned to world cricket, where we were set 22 runs to win off one ball? Ridiculous.

Is it beyond the wit of man to devise a match schedule that is flexible enough for the overs remaining to be played the next day as soon as the sun comes up? I know the aim is to get a result on the day, but can an abstruse mathematical formula, that so often seems to provide an unsatisfactory result, really replace the mechanics of batting, bowling and fielding?

I ask because in a couple of months we will be on the sub-continent of India for the World Cup, in a region where parts seem to be more or less permanently under floodwater and in conditions where the La Nina phenomenon of prolonged, torrential rain threatens more of the same. This could be Duckworth-Lewis's finest hour.

Rugby season is here at last. The Stormers versus the Lions tonight, the Bulls versus the EP Kings tomorrow. We don't play until Tuesday, against the Lions. We can start getting back to normal, the Florida Road rugby colloquium is back in session. We are removed from the distractions of the Thunder Bar and elsewhere.

And in this context I have to confess to a solecism last week in which I said Percy Hall, the former wrestler, had played rugby for Natal and Durban Collegians. His club was, of course, Durban Wanderers (now known as Harlequins).

I need to explain this. Many years ago I was playing Under 20 for Maritzburg Collegians and we were in Durban to play our annual start of season derby against our Durban namesakes. It was always a huge affair, played at all levels – first, second and third division, Under 20 – alternately in Durban and Maritzburg. All the big names were involved: Springboks like Keith Oxlee, TrixTruter and Ormie Taylor; plenty of provincial caps.

We Under20s had already played our match and were skylarking a bit in the clubhouse, indulging in minor horseplay and hooliganism, making a lot of noise. Suddenly Percy Hall was in our midst giving a stern lecture on good manners.

Now Hall had been a professional wrestler known as "Mr X". He wore a mask which his agent said would not be removed until he was defeated in the ring. And in the end he never would be defeated because the Natal rugby selectors drafted him into the pack to give it extra muscle against the New Zealanders and others. It turned out to be an inspired move.

And here was this gigantic figure telling us to quieten down or he would pull our heads off. We quietened. As a scrumhalf, it's the only time I've ever been intimidated by a flanker. And somehow I wrongly associated Percy Hall in my mind with the Durban Collegians hierarchy. Peccavi!

See you at the Pub With No Name! Heavy training lies ahead!

The Idler, Friday, January 28, 2011

The day we invaded Zambia


A HIGH court judge has made some damning findings against the SABC. It unlawfully manipulated news coverage; it blacklisted certain political commentators; and it blocked coverage of former KZN Premier S'bu Ndebele being pelted and booed, later allowing him to deny the incident had happened – which was a blatant fib.


The judgment follows an application by the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI). The item involving the then KZN premier recalls another proud moment of the SABC.


It was back in the early 70s when Prime Minister John Vorster announced to a cheering Free State congress of his party that South African forces had crossed into Zambia.


The newswires hummed. It was headline news on radio, television and print, all over the world. The SABC put the story out on every station (No TV in those days).


There was consternation in Zambia. And there was equal consternation among the military brass of Pretoria, who didn't know a damned thing about this operation they were supposed to have mounted.


Yes, it was garbage. What prompted Vorster to make the announcement has never been explained. The most convincing theory is that it followed an over-convivial lunch.


A denial was later issued that the prime minister had said any such thing. (Those who heard it  – including the SABC – were no doubt hallucinating).


This denial met with universal derision. Except from the SABC, which broadcast it deadpan. The prime minister had not said what it had quoted him saying. No invasion. End of story.


The more things change ... except that now we at least have bodies like FXI and the kind of framework that can bring these issues before the courts.


Midlands Picasso?


I WAS DINING in Howick the other evening in a pub called Sixty-two on Main. I was with a character named Tim Ward, who was once a captain in the Welsh Guards and Equerry to Charles, Prince of Wales.


The place was quiet and we got chatting to the barman, a young man named Joe Freer who said he had just passed matric and planned to become a cartoonist. While we were there he sketched the two of us on the only paper he could find, from a lined jotter. That explains the vertical lines (No, we weren't in jail). It is reproduced on this page.


Who knows, this could be the equivalent of an early Picasso.


The Dunn ladies


HISTORIAN and writer Peter Quantrill reminds me that John Dunn, mentioned on Tuesday, already had one wife before he wedded the 48 Zulu ladies.


"History of course has just recorded the 132nd anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, so your John Dunn description was very appropriate.


"His first wife was Catherine Pierce, father a Port Natal businessman and mother of Cape Malay origin. That makes 49 wives!


"Of interest is that he paid lobola for each of the Zulu women he married, many of royal stock. Today his progeny, scattered all over the world, number some 120 000 and it is a source of great pride to belong to the Dunn's Descendants Association, indicative of the high esteem in which this extraordinary "White Zulu" is held. His grave is worth a visit and lies at his eMoyeni home, near Gingindlovu."


Yes, I used to know Dan Dunn, head of the Dunn clan, a jovial former ship's bosun who had sailed the world. I think he lives in Cape Town now.

Once I was paging through the firearms register at the Gingindlovu Hotel. The place was a bit like the Wild West. Except you had to check in your shootin' iron for safekeeping before they would allow you into the bar. Every other name in the register seemed to be a Dunn. I'm sure those in between – many of them Portuguese – were also part of the clan.

The Ging hotel burned down years ago, the firearms register no doubt going up in smoke as well. A bit of history gone.

Lotsa gin

A LOVELY name, Gingindlovu. Some say it means "Gin, gin, I love you." But it actually means "Swallow the elephant." How that arose, I can't say.


SOCIOLOGICAL research has discovered that the ultimate fantasy of any woman is to have two men at once. One is cooking, the other cleaning.

Last word

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.

H L Mencken



The Idler, Thursday, January 27, 2011

Octopus extraordinaire

IT'S FITTING that a statue honouring Paul the psychic octopus should be erected at the aquarium in Germany where he correctly predicted the outcome of every match played by his country in the Football World Cup in South Africa last year, as well as the final between Spain and The Netherlands.

Paul would make his predictions by choosing between boxes bearing the flags of the two countries involved in each match, to get at a mussel placed inside.

He died peacefully and of natural causes last October.

A statue honouring him is now on display at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen.

The memorial is a six feet high plastic replica of Paul clutching a football in his eight tentacles. An urn inside the ball holds his cremated ashes.

The memorial was created after public demand from fans around the world.

Paul correctly tipped the outcome of all eight games he was consulted on during the World Cup including, of course, the final.

However, he tipped wrongly in his last consultation. He predicted that England would be picked to host the 2018 World Cup - but Russia was selected instead.

Yet this only enhances Paul's reputation. He called things as they were. He could not be influenced or bribed. This eight-armed creature of the sea just was not on the take.


Sad exodus

SOMETIMES it's difficult to appreciate the scale of the calamity that has struck Ireland with the financial meltdown.

Something like 150 000 young Irish people have their bags packed, mainly for New York, because there's nothing for them at home. This is the greatest exodus since the potato famine of the 19th century.

Emigration doesn't have the terrible finality it once had, but it's still traumatic. A TV programme interviewed some of the young leavers. One was struck by their brightness (and the beauty of the girls). Very sad.

Ireland's politics are in matching turmoil. Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen has resigned as leader of his Fianna Fail party but hopes to continue in government office until an election he has called for March 11. It's the kind of election nobody wants to win, and he could be unseated before then anyway. This is free-fall. It's scary.

Fianna Fail's ratings have plunged. Maybe Cowen will himself head for New York, bringing the number to 150 001. If his election date holds, he'll have just enough time to get there for the St Patrick's Day parades.

Sad and scary.

The question popped

A PORTUGUESE air stewardess was more than somewhat startled when, on a flight between Lisbon and Barcelona, she heard her boyfriend's voice over the PA system asking her to marry him.

Joao Viera had sneaked on board without her noticing, having arranged the thing with the rest of the aircrew. The 80 passengers cheered when Vera Silva agreed to marry him.

I suppose this rates as a very respectable version of the mile-high club.

Awesome shot


SUPPORT for the Supersport camera at cricket matches comes from reader Perry Webb. He says he also hates the banshees who howl and scream but loves the skin paint, the birds flying in formation and that awesome shot of the moon which has not been commented on.


"These shots are normally taken between overs and do not interfere with the enjoyment of the game but add to it.


"I think South African sports cameramen are the best in the world."




MARITIME piracy costs the global economy between $7billion and $12billion a year, says a study by the British think-tank, Chatham House. Most of the costs are attributable to piracy off Somalia.

About $2bn is spent on naval operations off the coast of Somalia each year.

Two Durban people are currently among those being held hostage by Somali pirates. Is it not about time our state of the art corvettes were deployed to those waters to join the international naval force against the pirates? Why else were they bought?



THIS fellow approaches a girl at a disco'


"Would you like to dance?"


"Not with you."


"Oh, come on. Lower your standards a little. I just did."


Last word


The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness, can be trained to do most things.

Jilly Cooper


The Idler, Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Navy for a new world

IT'S ENCOURAGING that the Royal Navy, that bastion of archaic values that have no place in today's world, has at last joined the modern age. Details have been released regarding Britain's introduction of the next generation of fighting ships. The RN says it is proud of the cutting edge capability of the new fleet of Type 45 destroyers. 

Having initially named the first two ships of this class HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, the HM Ships naming committee have, after intensive counselling, renamed them HMS Cautious and HMS Prudence.

The final four ships are to be named HMS Empathy, HMS Nervous, HMS Timorous and HMS Apologist.

Costing £750 million, they have been designed to meet the needs of the 21st century; in addition to state of the art technology, weaponry and guidance systems, the ships will comply with the very latest employment, equality, health and safety and human rights legislation.

They will be able to remain at sea for several months and positively bristle with facilities:

·        The new, user-friendly crow's nest comes equipped with wheelchair access.

·        Live ammunition has been replaced with paintballs to reduce the risk of anyone getting hurt.

·        Stress counsellors and lawyers will be on duty 24 hours a day and each ship will have its own onboard industrial tribunal.

·        The crew will be 50/50 men and women, and balanced in accordance with the latest Home Office directives on race, gender, sexuality and disability.

·        Sailors will only have to work a maximum of 37 hours a week in line with Brussels health and safety rules, even in wartime.

·        All bunks will be double occupancy, and the destroyers will all come equipped with a maternity ward and crèche, situated on the same deck as the gay disco.

·        Tobacco will be banned throughout the ship, but cannabis will be allowed in the ward room and messes.

Saluting officers has been abolished because it is elitist, and is to be replaced by the more informal:"Hello Sailor!"

Rum, sodomy and the lash – rum is replaced by Perrier water; sodomy remains; the lash is only on request.

Now there's a navy to terrify the Somali pirates. Or is somebody pulling my leg?



Figures, figures


A READER tells us that this year has four unusual dates: 1/1/11; 1/11/11; 11/1/11; and 11/11/11. 


She also invites us to take the last two digits of the year we were born; add the age we will be this year – and the total comes to 111.


Sho nuff! But I'm an innumerate so I don't know whether or not to be gobsmacked.


Hacking hacks

THERE'S quite a flap in Britain over telephone hacking. Prime minister David Cameron's spindoctor, Andy Coulson, has resigned amid continuing allegations that he must have been aware, while editor of the News of the World, that reporters on his staff were hacking into the cellphone conversations of Buckingham Palace officials and various celebrities.

Now a lawyer says he is bringing proceedings against several other newspapers for the same thing. It emerges that former prime minister Gordon Brown suspected, while still Chancellor of the Exchequer, that his telephone was being hacked and it is thought that Tony Blair suspected the same while he was prime minister.

A senior Fleet Street figure is quoted saying it is so easy to hack into the messaging system on mobile phones that he would be surprised if it were not common practice.

Easy? I have difficulty even operating my cellphone. I've downgraded to the most basic model available (short of having a little handle you crank, then say: "Hello, operator ..."). No cameras, no this, no that, no instrument for taking stones out of horses' hooves (no, I beg your pardon, that's the Swiss army pocket knife), nothing fancy. But I still get flummoxed just sending and receiving. I'm not ready to hack.

So I'm afraid that if you want the lowdown on Julius Malema and other luminaries, the planning for their birthday parties and other extravaganzas, you will have to look elsewhere. I'm technologically challenged.



THINK of it. If all the women left the country, we'd have a stagnation.

Last word

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.

C P Snow


Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Idler, Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beauty and ghostly laughter

ZULULAND is at its best following the recent rains. It's like an emerald tapestry of grassland, interspersed with forest, gorges so deep the full sunlight gets there only fleetingly and dispersed human settlement. Pretty empty, the way it was 50-odd years ago.

This is, of course, the remote hill country of Zululand, not the lowveld/sandveld to which tourists are accustomed. Events last week took me to Eshowe, Nkandla and Babanango, places I knew in my distant youth.

At Eshowe, the old colonial capital – the name comes from the wind soughing up the valley – the past is evoked in the George Hotel which has been revamped and decorated with a fascinating collection of old photographs and paintings from the colonial era – Zulu kings and dignitaries, administrators and military people. You can feel the 19th century at your elbow.

Outside the George a harpoon gun is mounted, presumably recognition of the strong contribution made in the past by the Norwegian community. Inside, they're making more noise than the Zulu War with a saxophone, tuba and electric guitar. It's party night and the young folk of the town are there enjoying themselves – all races, all hues, all ethnicities. There's absolutely no chance of the Zulu War breaking out again.

I ask for a Zulu Blonde. This, I hasten to add, is a beer brewed on the premises by Richard Chennels (son of the owner, Graham Chennels), which recently won a real ale brewing competition in Britain.

The Zulu Blonde is excellent, a pale ale not a lager. Another brew produced by Chennels is a bitter ale called Jantoni (John Dunn) named after John Dunn the Scottish adventurer who befriended Cetshwayo, was made a chief, took 48 Zulu wives and sired a vast number of children whose descendants still live at Mangete, near Tugela Mouth. It's not everywhere you can drink history.

The road from Eshowe to Nkandla is a drive through stupendous scenery – rolling hills, dizzy drops, the high point of Qudeni hill lost in clouds which, at another time of year, would leave behind snow. Then you enter Nkandla through the forest. This is real forest – huge trees, lianas - Robin Hood and his merry men would not be out of place.

President Zuma of course lives at Nkandla, but not in the village. His residency is in the Nkandla district, the other side of the forest, down a steep drop into the Tugela Valley. Some people seem to disparage the president's rural origins at Nkandla. They never mention that he lives in possibly the most beautiful part of South Africa.

Two days in this part of Zululand are a tonic. The Ntsuze River flowing green at the bottom of an impossibly deep valley – green because of the rain. Normally it's a pellucid blue, the cleanest river I have ever known in Africa apart from the Zambesi. The village of Babanango, where the legendary Stan Wintgen used to hold court in his tiny bar, festooned with women's bras and knickers, along with British uniforms and Zulu regalia of the Anglo-Zulu War (obtained from the film set of Zulu Dawn).

Stan died years ago and the hotel closed. But I'm glad to say it's re-opened under the ownership of one Clive Ngcobo. It was early when I went to take a look but the new folk showed me around. Stan's Bar is still there but looking more decorous - the bras and knickers are gone, the uniforms and regalia remain. One senses ghostly laughter. A whole lot of bed and breakfast places and tourist lodges also seem to have sprung up in and around Babanango.

It's tempting to describe this Zululand hill country as the province's best-kept secret. But actually it's not a secret at all. Eshowe has made a good job of setting up a cultural/historical centre. It actively promotes tourism. It's just that what is on offer is so very different from elsewhere. It's a different natural beauty, it's full of echoes from the past. And, of course, it's very much in the present as far as the political tide goes.

It's worth a visit.


I USED to be able to clap with just one hand. But that was Zen, this is Tao.

Last word

In physics, you don't have to go around making trouble for yourself - nature does it for you.

Frank Wilczek


The Idler, Monday, January 24, 2011

Banana-skin humour

YOU'RE standing in a shopping mall. A woman across the way is walking along, sending a text message on her cellphone. Totally engrossed, she trips over a low wall and – kerplash! – she falls into the ornamental fountain.

Do you laugh? You bet you do. Is she hurt? Not at all, just sopping wet. Do you tell your mates about it over beers later that evening? You bet. You all have a good laugh.

But where a security guard in the Berkshire Mall shopping centre in Massachusetts went wrong is that he had access to the CCTV footage. He found the incident so hilarious he put a video on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, to share it with the whole world. It's proved hugely popular.

Now the shopping centre is being sued by the victim, Cathy Cruz Marrero, for making her a national laughing stock. The security guard (unnamed) has been fired.

Until Miss Marrero took legal action, nobody knew who she was. So has she not made herself a national laughing stock?

Humour is a serious business.


Banshees, dervishes


THE LAST ball of the India cricket tour has been bowled, but has the last dervish whirled? Last week a reader complained about the way the Supersport camera has taken to zooming in on spectators, encouraging them to pull faces and howl like banshees.


Others agree. "Cricket coverage has become ridiculous," says Peter Bartlett. "More time is being spent on the crowds than on the cricket and on close ups of the players, so that you can count the blackheads on the bowler's nose, rather than appreciate the broad canvas of a cricket match in which field settings and interactions between players are missed.


"To compound the problem, the camera switching between bowler and batsman at the point of delivery completely messes up the action as you are unable to see the batsman's preparation and cannot focus on the actual shot-making."


Ian Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, is so exercised he writes in prose: "You are spot-on about the Supersport camera work. Remember the horrible banshee shots during the IPL Twenty20s in India last year? It's now copied by Supersport. With advertising breaks and now banshee shots, quiet reflection on the state of play is brutally interrupted."


Raymond Silson says over-use of the zoom in filming a shot spoils the effect.


"For example, a bowler delivers and the batsman hits a six. A frequent problem is the overzealous use of the zoom button to have the batsman virtually fill the screen when he hits the ball, with the correspondingly negative result that an excessively fast zooming-out or excessively fast pan-to-the-left or pan-to-the-right is necessary, to try to recapture the ball as it travels. But even if this recapturing is achieved, it's not seen subjectively by the viewer because his reaction time has been exceeded by far.


"A sufficiently panoramic view should be maintained to enable the TV viewer to see all relative players at the same time."


Ron Coppin says the "screaming, waving dervish idiots" are highly irritating.


"The TV authorities should give consideration to the thousands of home viewers, not the handful of families hoping to glimpse their kin on the screen."


Does anyone have a different view?


What about whisky?


MURDER and horror on the Aussie beaches … some friends have just returned from a visit Down Under, bringing with them a newspaper with the front page headline: "It's blue murder."


The report is about an invasion of bluebottles at Manly beach, Sydney, where 2 000 bathers required first aid treatment. That is a pretty serious bluebottle invasion, but it's also about the most alarming piece of news in that issue of The Manly Daily, a suburban newspaper.


An expert is quoted saying the best treatment for bluebottle stings is immersion in hot water – 45 degrees - for 20 minutes, or alternatively ice.


Huh? I can understand that in Oz they perhaps don't have those dune shrubs with the fleshy triangular leaves, whose juice neutralises bluebottle stings. But haven't they heard of whisky?


Whisky is the great antidote to bluebottle stings. Also to sunburn and various other shoreline maladies.


As I say, officer, this is purely medicinal.



"I'LL HAVE steak and kidley pie, please."

"You mean steak and kidney, sir?"

"That's what I said, diddle I?"

Last word

The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.



Monday, January 24, 2011

Captain Cook, Friday, January 21, 2011

CRICKET has taken a definite dip in recent days. The Ukrainian ladies at the Thunder Bar are aghast at our batting in the last two ODIs; the way our middle and lower order batsmen failed at the Wanderers to chase a very gettable total and the way they failed at Newlands to set up a sufficient target for India.

Says Katinka of the Crimea: "Vhy der crumblink in der battink half-vay? Vot giffs? Zey like der bird votching der snake? Voss such luffly cricket in der Tests. Voss humdinger stuff. Now batsmen collapsink whole time. Ve not snappink der suspenders for ziss no more! Phooey!"

Her command of English is improving as fast as her understanding of the intricacies of cricket.

"Vhy zey gettink in der shrink? Zey needink der lapdance. Vun session mit Sebastopol Suzie and zey not gettink no more nightmares for Harbahjan Singh. Six, out uff der ground!"

Well, tonight's the crucial one. Get it right in Port Elizabeth and the game's on, a cruncher of a decider at Centurion on Sunday. But somebody has to come off big up top. Plus somebody has to take the initiative in the lower order, stop being intimidated like der bird votching der snake. I'm not sure what lapdancing facilities there are in PE, but the St George's oompah band might make up for it.

It's cliffhanger stuff. It would be so nice to end the cricket interlude in style before our attention switches to the start of the Six Nations next weekend, which signals the start of serious rugby.

Of course, the Heineken Cup has been in action all along and Leicester have got into the interesting position of having a sniff at a place in the play-offs and, from that, the outside chance of winning the European title back to back for a second time. They play Benneton Traviso (Italy) at home on Sunday.

But the small amount of Heineken Cup rugby I've been able to watch this season has seemed to lacked zing, by comparison with previous years, due possibly to frozen pitches and generally awful weather conditions. Yet the grounds are still packed and play will no doubt pick up as Europe thaws out.

Meanwhile, the Prodigal Son returns – to English rugby, that is. Durban naughty boy Matt Stevens (England, Bath) has joined Saracens, having served a two-year ban for snorting cocaine. (This is an offence which those of my vintage find difficult to comprehend - it just wasn't around in those days. I suppose the equivalent would have been drinking meths or babycham).

But Matt is back – penitent, cleansed and, by all accounts, raring to go. During his lay-off he took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, became British intermediate champion and competed in the world championships in California. He also sired twin baby girls. The rucks and mauls in the Premiership League should become interesting, the way they did in Natal in the 1960s when professional wrestler Percy Hall started playing frontrank for Durban Collegians and the provincial side.

But for now it's still cricket. See you at the Pub With No Name! (Given what's at stake I don't dare show my face in the Thunder Bar. The gals could get really snappy).

The Idler, Friday, January 21, 2011

Good news for once

ONE MINUTE you're busking at an intersection for small change, hoping not to feel on your shoulder the heavy hand of the law for vagrancy, being a public nuisance and all the other offences connected with being a hobo. The next you're an internet personality and a celebrity.

The story of Ted Williams, of Columbus, Ohio, is like an inversion of the O Henry story of the down-and-out. Williams was spotted by a reporter who filmed his act, recording his smooth baritone, then put a video on the internet.

The response has been startling. Williams has received a $10 000 offer of voice-over work for a baseball league and is being pursued by a sports film company and others. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

He has been reunited with his family, including his 92-year-old mother, after living for years in a makeshift tent at the roadside, having dropped out of a career in broadcasting due to alcohol, drugs "and a few other things."

"I feel like a million-dollar lottery winner or Susan Boyle - she must have felt the same."

He's like a mirror-image of O Henry's hobo who went the other way. Winter was approaching and he needed to be thrown in jail for shelter, warmth and food. But he just couldn't get himself arrested.

When he heaved a brick through a shop window in full view of a policeman, the cop set off after a fellow who was running for a bus. When he ordered a meal and a bottle of wine in a restaurant and couldn't pay for it, they just booted him out.

Then, as he passed a church, he heard the choir practising. It took him back to his childhood, Sunday school, innocence and the promise that life held. He resolved to mend his ways; to turn over a new leaf; to abandon his life of idleness and vagrancy. To become somebody again.

At which he felt the heavy hand of a cop on his shoulder and he was booked for vagrancy.

Lovely stuff. Ted Williams did it in reverse.


Sir Benjamin's Landing

A TRIP down memory lane. Tom Dennen, who has often contributed to this column, has returned to his native America (temporarily, I understand). From Maine, New England, he supplies an excerpt from his book, But the Flag Was Still There, describing one of Durban's most unusual pubs, owned by a musician named Smelly Fellows.

"To get to Sir Benjamin's Landing you had to go down Maydon Road and take a left by the Sugar Terminal. Then you veered left toward Wilson's Wharf. Just as you got to Wilson's, there was an alley off a right fork that led to a seldom-used slipway. This alley was littered with broken dinghies, spars, boat trailers and rusting chains.

"You walked along a path on the left side of the wall over that slipway for about 10m, careful not to fall into the water. You emerged between a brick wall and the slipway and found an old double-storey concrete bunker on a grass verge overlooking the harbour. This may or may not have been a gun emplacement or a look-out tower for the old flying boats.

"An iron staircase went up to the pub. In Smelly's day, the beer fridge was on the right of the door and you helped yourself as you walked in. As you left, Smelly would say: 'How many beers did you guys have?' and you paid for what you had helped yourself to – Smelly trusted you."


Yep, them were the days. Sir Benjamin's is no more. And it's not such a long trip down memory lane either. Smelly is still about, playing music gigs all over Durban.

Slough of despond


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, captures the mood of national despondency over ODI cricket. The shrink didn't quite pull it off on Tuesday. May it go better tonight.


Our cricket team called The Proteas,

Has reduced the nation to tears;

Thinking like chimps,

And batting like wimps,

Requires a shrink to conquer their fears.




"I slept with my wife before we were married. Did you?"

"Can't remember, old boy. What was her maiden name again?"


Last word

Someday I want to be rich. Some people get so rich they lose all respect for humanity. That's how rich I want to be.

Rita Rudner