Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Idler, Friday, May 20, 2011

Grand Old Duke of York

MISSION creep – the thing developing into something absolutely unintended – is a concern being voiced in Britain as "advisers" go into Libya to organise the rebel forces.

Satirical magazine Private Eye puts it this way, under a newspaper masthead "Nursery Times" and the headline: "GOVERNMENT TO SEND TEN THOUSAND ADVISERS UP HILL."

"The Government has today hotly denied any 'mission creep' in the intervention over the Hill. Said a spokesman: 'These men from the Grand Old Duke's Regiment are not troops. They are there merely to give marching advice to the local Hill forces.'

"He continued: 'The ten thousand advisers will go up the Hill, do their advising and then withdraw down the Hill. There may, of course, be an uncomfortable moment when they are neither up nor down the Hill which may go on for a very long time – possibly forever and a day.'

"Said the Grand Old Duke of York: 'This limited intervention vis-à-vis the Hill is a very different operation from those we undertook on Hills in Afghanistan and Iraq.'

"He concluded: 'The idea that there is a mission creep is nonsense, as evidenced by our code name for the whole operation which is Mission Creep.'

"On other pages:

·         Yellow Brick Road closed indefinitely due to Munchkin Arsonists – 2.

·         Badger gassed by unrepentant Toad. Poop! Poop! – 3.

·         Hare claims 'I would beat tortoise with AV' - 94."

Lovely stuff! Sobering too.

Party coming up

PAUL McIlroy, of the Blarney Brothers Irish band, sends in some information.

This year July has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays, he says. This happens
once every 823 years. It is known in Chinese Feng Shui as "Money Bags".

Also, this year we're going to experience four unusual dates: 1/1/11; 1/11/11; 11/1/11; and 11/11/11.

And that's not all. Take the last two digits of the year in which you were born - now add
the age you will be this year. The result will be 111 for everyone in the whole world.

This is the year of the Money, Paul says. The Feng Shui proverb goes that if you send this information to eight good friends, money will appear in the next four days.

Readers might want to clip this out and send it to eight good friends. Perhaps I can already claim eight friends among readers.

If it works, Paul can nominate where we throw the party.

Essence of Essex

PHWOAR-R-R-R … Essex girls! Two blonde bombshells from Essex have posed topless, and with not much else on, for a tasteful men's magazine known as Nuts.

Sam Faiers, who stars in the reality TV show, The Only Way Is Essex, posed for Nuts with her sister, Billie.

As the London Daily Mail puts it: "The sisters, who co-own Minnies boutique in their native Essex, have stripped off for a steamy photo shoot for Nuts magazine – cashing in on their newly found fame.

"Sam, 20, and sister Billie, 21, posed in extremely skimpy outfits and even go topless as part of the raunchy photo shoot to please their growing army of male fans."

Is there any point to all this? Not really. Except: Phwoar-r-r-r!



BUT DON'T run away with the idea that Essex girls are airheads. Here's the tweet left by Sam as she left with her sister for a party at a nightclub called Sugar Hut to celebrate wrapping up the second series in The Only Way Is Essex.

She told fans: "Ready and on way to the wrap party with Billie :-) can't believe series 2 is over x x sugar hut !! Wohoo x"


Getting rich

AS WE AGE, our net worth increases: silver in the hair …gold in the teeth … stones in the kidneys … sugar in the blood … lead in the feet … iron in the blood … oil in the arteries … and an inexhaustible supply of natural gas.

How did we accumulate such wealth?


I was explaining to her the idea of reincarnation. You die but come back as a different creature.

She: "I'd like to come back as a cow".

Me: "You haven't been listening".

Last word


Defining and analysing humour is a pastime of humourless people.

Robert Benchley


The Idler, Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oranges and lemons …

THINGS move on apace at St Clements, the spot on the Berea where literati and various other genteel degenerates gather of a Monday evening for readings of poetry and prose, a glass or two of vino and some nosh.

The other night we had local raconteur Pat Smythe (aka Spyker Koekemoer) entertaining us with letters to Oom Schalk Lourens, in the Marico. Oom Schalk is, of course, the narrator in Herman Charles Bosman's wonderful stories, and Pat – who mimics all kinds of accent – has currently immersed himself in the platteland Afrikaner idiom and accent. His characters have names like Diktak Taljaard and Dikpens van Zyl and they do things like spike the drinks of the kerk diaken.

Pat in many ways continues where the late Patrick Mynhardt left off in his public readings from Bosman. Can it be long before he gets around to reading the actual Bosman stories as well? Nobody else seems to be doing it.

Meanwhile, in celebration of the winter solstice on June 21 – the shortest day of the year – St Clements have launched what they call National Short Story Day. People are invited to submit short stories, the winner to receive a case of Wildekrans Estate wine. Entries will be judged by poet Kobus Moolman.

But these stories have to be really short – the limit is 100 words. It's a new art form. Entries should be e-mailed in 14-point Times New Roman typeface to by June 13 and should show the author's name and the word count.


Some examples


THE COMPETITION is based on a similar one in England. Some examples of the 100-worder produced there:


·        I am looking at the old-fashioned, gold trimmed card in my hand: an invitation to a girls' night in. I've thought long and hard about going; there will be gossip and food and drinks. And that's the trouble:

There'll be drinks. Cocktails, champagne, white wine, red wine, rosé.

By the bottle and by the glass. Phil doesn't like to smell drink when I come home. I'm going to the party, but I'll be sober. As usual.

I hear a taxi pulling up out front. I pick up my coat. I'm going. My name is Caroline and my husband is an alcoholic.

·        She left the office with plenty of time to get there by six. She checked herself in the shop window and added a spring to her step. She counted the park benches lining the walkway as she passed: one, two, three.

On the fourth sat a portly man picking his nose while reading a newspaper. Her hand moved to her collar, grabbing swiftly.

The village clock chimed six times as she passed. He shuffled his paper aside and adjusted a flower in his lapel.  She walked on, head down, letting a red carnation fall to the ground as she went.


·        If I were to tell you the story of my life it would span the last ten minutes. They were spent meeting my wife, called Wendy, I think. She held up a mirror and showed me that I am John. I look old.

I see lines on my face I don't remember forming, experiences that never happened.

I touch Wendy's face and her eyes fill with the sadness of a broken heart. I feel it, too.

I have a wife but I never married her. We are old together but I was never young.  Apparently I loved her very much.


·        A man took trillions of cats and dogs to the moon to create a world record for animals on the moon. At first everything was fine and they all had plenty of room.  As we all know, the moon starts off big and round, and then shrinks a little every night. You can see it happening in the sky.

As it shrank, they became more squashed and uncomfortable. The man wriggled and pushed a dog.  All the animals began to push against one another and eventually fell off.  The earth people were amazed to see it raining cats and dogs.




A MAN FINDS finds his wife in bed with his friend. He draws a gun and shoots the friend dead.


Wife:"If you carry on like this, you'll lose all your friends."


Last word


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Idler, Wednesday, April 18, 2011

It's the cabriolet election

EVERY election has its theme, its dominating issue. This time it's the cabriolet toilet. Has there ever, anywhere in the world, been an electoral contest where cartoonists depict senior political figures sitting on the throne?

But there is a slight echo from the past. It never actually became a hot election issue, but there was another time when the government's provision of toilets provoked a lot of anger, mixed with hilarity.

Reader Ernie Robbertse reminds us of the bad old days when apartheid tenderpreneurs (yes, they were around then too) delivered toilets by the hundreds and thousands for township developments. They were properly built, it has to be said, and properly enclosed. Nothing shoddy about the toilet broeders.

The problem is, the apartheid planners often got it wrong. They forgot to organise with the builder broeders for the houses to be supplied. Stretches of otherwise bare veld had row upon row of toilets – "like beehives", as an incredulous judge once said when the matter came before him – but nobody to use them.

"It was amazing," says Ernie. "Thousands of toilets standing there in the veld. Not a single house built. The pictures were all over the newspapers. People forget those bad old days."

The issue is, of course, slightly different today. People yearn for the staid old sedan toilet. The cabriolet is just a little too sporty.

Official stamp

Various readers have sent in a warning, that has been going round by e-mail, that voters must be sure their ballot papers are stamped on the back with the official IEC imprimatur. If they are not stamped they will be disallowed. It comes, apparently, from somebody who worked at the ballot count in a previous election.

A senior IEC official confirmed on the radio that this is the case, the e-mails make a valid point.

So before you make your "X", check for that stamp. Then double-check before you slip the ballot paper into the box. Otherwise you could be just wasting your time – and your vote.

Here today ...

AS THEY used to say in the bad old days: "Stem vroeg! Stem Nat! Stem dikwels!"

And where are the Nats today?

Dreadful virus

NEWS arrives by e-mail of yet another of these dreadful computer viruses. Even the most advanced programs from McAfee and Norton can do nothing about it. This one causes you to:

·         Send the same e-mail twice. Done that!

·         Send a blank e-mail. That too!

·         Send e-mail to the wrong person. Yep!

·         Send it back to the person who sent it to you. Aha!

·         Forget to attach the attachment. Well darn!

·         Hit "Send" before you've finished. Oh no, not again!

·         Hit "Delete" instead of "Send." I just hate that!

·         Hit "Send" when you should "Delete." Oh No!

It's known as the C-Nile virus. My informant asks if he's already sent this information to me – or did I perhaps send it to him?

Lekker, cool

CERTAIN academics have objected to use of the expression bunny chow to describe a Durban delicacy. It seems the term offends some obscure code of animal ethics because it suggests bunny rabbits are being devoured whole.

Sally Bosch puts them in their place.

Bunny chows are lekker,
Bunny chows are cool.
Bunny chows give Durbanites
The right to say we rule!

If you want to change the name
To something more banal,
You'd better have a brilliant plan,
Or leave it be, my pal.

It's in our constitution,
It is our ethnic right.
We love to chow our bunnies,
Mutton, beans - allright?

Why pay?

MICROSOFT has bid $5 billion for Skype, according to this news snippet. Obviously nobody has told them they can download it for free.


SABC bias


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, responds to complaints that SABC coverage of the municipal elections has been biased in favour of the ruling party.


What to do about the SABC,

With its strong bias for the ANC?

Switch to e-News,

For more balanced views,

Or to any other service you fancy!




THE IRISH have joined the Nato operation in Libya. They've sent in three ships – two laden with sand and one with cement. It's for a mortar attack.

Last word

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Abraham Lincoln


The Idler, Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To the polls we go

AS WE PREPARE to go to the polls tomorrow, a story doing the rounds seems apposite. It concerns a politician who is knocked down by a car and killed. His soul arrives at the Pearly Gates.

"Welcome to Heaven," says St Peter. "But before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official. We're not sure what to do with you."
"No problem, just let me in."
"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders. What we'll
do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can
choose where to spend eternity."
"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven."
"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."
And with that St Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes
down, down, down to Hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress.

They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the Devil, who really is a very friendly and nice
guy and has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realises, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the
elevator rises.
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on Heaven
where St Peter is waiting for him. "Now it's time to visit Heaven."
So 24 hours pass with the politician joining a group of contented souls
moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realises it, the 24 hours have gone by and St
Peter returns.
'Well then, you've spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven.
Now choose your eternity."
The politician reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would
never have said it before, I mean Heaven has been delightful, but I
think I would be better off in Hell."
So St Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down,
down to Hell.
The doors of the elevator open and he's in a
barren landscape covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash
and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The Devil comes over and puts his arm around his
shoulder. "I don't understand," stammers the politician. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's
just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

The Devil smiles. "Yesterday we were
campaigning ... today you voted."

All quiet …

SO FAR, SO good. The politicos have been badmouthing one another, but so far political violence seems to have been minimal.

It was not always so. Reader Ron Legg, of Hillcrest, writes in remind us of the tension that seized the country at election time in the old South Africa.


He spent the mid-50s in Burgersdorp where he recalls Nat and United Party families at best not speaking to one another during election season, at worst getting into fierce punch-ups. A woman he knew always took a nine-inch hatpin with her to political meetings, to defend herself when things got ugly.

Yes, it's quite true. People fought with bicycle chains and threw chairs about up in Northern Natal. A schoolmate and one of the masters shared a police cell after they turned the firehoses on a Nat meeting in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Verwoerd was on the platform at the time.

Days of sturm und drang – but no longer. Just as long as it's not the calm before the storm.



THE ART DEALER went bankrupt. He ran out of Monet.

Last word


Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.

Laurens Van der Post


The Idler, Monday, May 16, 2011

Astonishing ramp-jump

A CHILEAN daredevil has performed the staggering feat of ramp-jumping his motorcycle off a cliff in the Andes mountains, free-falling 3 000 feet then opening his parachute just 200 feet off the ground, to land safely.

Paratrooper Julio Munoz, 37, is matter-of-fact about it, saying simply: "The main motivation was that I found a group of friends who had the energy and the desire and the professionalism in their fields to develop this project. This was the result, a good jump with no problems."

Unlike a predecessor, Evel Knievel, an American stuntrider who used to ramp-jump buses lined up side by side – his record was 14 – and whose ambition was to ramp-jump the Grand Canyon in his Skycycle X-2, a steam-powered rocket.

Permission for this was never granted so he tried it at Snake River Canyon, Idaho, but crashed after his arrester parachute opened early.

Knievel crashed quite a lot. He's in the Guinness Book of World Records for sustaining 433 broken bones. He derived his showbiz name, Evel Knievel, from a night he spent in jail with a man known as Awful Knofel. (Originally it was "Evil Knievel" but then he changed it).

Munoz, by comparison, seems calm and collected. Nobody calls him Madcap Munoz.

Downstairs dive

EVEL Knievel captured the public imagination in his day. Down at Parliament in days of yore we had a much-loved messenger known as Evel Clevelly because at least once every session he would take a spectacular, death-defying dive down the stairs, carrying a tray of tea.

Mr Clevelly – a mild-mannered, perfect gentleman and veteran of World War I - was in his eighties.

Brideshead touches

CONTENTION rocks the university town of Oxford. British satirical magazine Private Eye has a feature titled Funny Old World containing bizarre news items, most of them from out of the way places. But this latest is taken from the Oxford Times and should interest all who follow developments in higher education. There are touches about it of Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead Revisited.

"We are absolutely furious with St Peter's College," Dr Haze of the Circus of Horrors told reporters in Oxford, "because they knew from the start that our shows are not for sissies, or for those of a nervous disposition. They initially said that they wanted a lavish show for their Summer Ball, so we offered them Captain Dan the Demon Dwarf, who can pull a vacuum cleaner with his genitals, but they deemed this act 'unsuitable'. Nor did they want Gary Stretch, who can pull the skin of his own neck up over his mouth.

"If the college didn't want Dan to pull a vacuum, we could have put him in an electric chair instead, pumped him with volts and lit fluorescent tubes off him. But they then told us that any acts that depend on physical conditions to achieve a shock impact were 'not suited to the occasion'. Yet Dan and Gary were born like this, and the college accepted a fork-tongued sword swallower and a female blade walker without complaint. Frankly, I think the students of Oxford University should revolt to get the acts they want at their ball."

After a spokesperson for the college had confirmed that the Circus of Horrors would now not be performing at their May 7 event, Captain Dan (real name Daniel Blackner) denounced the decision. "I have a brilliant resume, having featured as an ewok in Return of the Jedi, and as a flying teddy bear in several Muppet movies. To see me pull a vacuum cleaner with my penis is to witness beauty. This decision is an utter disgrace."

Ah yes, the dreaming spires ...



Keeping abreast

LAST week we discussed bra sizes in Britain, where they have apparently been getting bigger and bigger over the years.

The nomenclature of the different sizes and fittings is a little baffling but Richard Isemonger, of Hillcrest, comes to our assistance with SBH.

"It is a standard size I have known about, and a fair handful of British men have used it as a measure of appealing physique."

(SBH - Standard British Handful)


She: "How do you like my new haircut?"

He: "Classic Italian."

She: "Sophia Loren?"

He: "No, spaghetti."

Last word

Howard Hughes was able to afford the luxury of madness, like a man who not only thinks he is Napoleon but hires an army to prove it.

Ted Morgan


The Idler, Friday, May 13, 2011


TODAY is a day you try to avoid flying because you're likely to end up sitting beside Julius Malema; if not he, one of those fellows who enthuse about the Indian Professional League or - worst of all – one of those who hold forth on 9/11 being a stitch-up by the CIA and the international banking system.

It's a very real fear. These days you can run into any one of those just about anywhere, including the Umbilo bus. But it's a fear that is accentuated on Friday the 13th.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen). A simpler version is paraskevidekatriaphobia. a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía .

The origin of the supersitition is not at all clear. One version has it that Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility, was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labelled a witch when the Nordic and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil — a gathering of 13 — and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath."[9]

Another links it to when Phillip IV of France pounced on the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307, inflicting hideous torture and slaughter for their supposed heresy and blasphemy (while what he really wanted was to get his hands on their loot).

However, some experts doubt all this. They say the superstition was barely mentioned until it became popular after publication in 1907 of Thomas W Lawson's novel, Friday, the Thirteenth. In this an unscrupulous broker creates a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.[]

Well, that doesn't seem far off the mark these days. Watch the stock exchange! But I really don't know. If I run into Julius Malema today, I'll tell you about it.


Raquel Welch

PHWOAR-R-R … still a stunner! In the 1960s Raquel Welch provoked a hurricane of testosterone when she emerged from behind a rock wearing a doeskin bikini in the film, One Million Years BC. Now photographs have emerged of her power-walking (whatever that might be) in the Hollywood hills.

The figure is still voluptuous. The lady is glamorous as ever. And – unbelievably – she's now in her 71st year.

Four-times-married Raquel says she mainly plays the grandmother in movies these days. She'd like to be one for real, but her kids are not co-operating.

That would be some granny.

Odd expression


OVERSEAS TV is full of stuff about a blitz by the British police, who are to be given the power to spot fine motorists up to £100 for dangerous driving. It includes those who "undertake" on the motorways.


Undertake? Whatever can this odd word mean? Obviously there is a causal connection between dangerous driving and funerals, but that can't be it.


Do motorists in mini-minors overtake a heavy duty lorry by driving under the chassis, startling the driver by suddenly popping out from between his front wheels? Do they therefore undertake?


No, that can't be the answer. It's a mystery.


Military poser


I'VE BEEN had before by this one but I can't remember the answer.


Bobby Freeman, Regimental Sergeant-Major of the Natal Mounted Rifles, sends in a puzzle. Ken needs to buy jeans. He borrows R50 from Walter and R50 from Joe - total R100. He buys jeans for R97 and gets change of R3.


He decides to reduce his debt and pays R1 to Walter and R1 to Joe. That leaves R1 in his own pocket.

He now owes Walter R49 and Joe R49 – total R98. Add the R1 still in his pocket and you get R99.



What happened to the remaining R1?


I really don't care. It's the kind of thing they argue about endlessly in the army. We in the navy forget about it, we go ashore and razzle – blow the whole R3 and be damned!




She knows hundreds of photography jokes. You just can't shutter up.


Last word


Contrary to general belief, I do not believe that friends are necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who got there first.

Peter Ustinov


The Idler, Thursday, May 12

Durban lags behind

TOILETS al fresco ... Cape Town has them, Viljoenskroon has them. You're out in the fresh air, you can read the newspaper, do the crossword, smoke a cigarette, wave to your friends.

Open toilets are gaining in popularity. Soon they will have all the cachet of the patio jacuzzi.

Why does Durban not have them? Why has Mike Sutcliffe not demolished the stonework that makes the public toilets in Farewell Square, and other parts of the city, so archaically reclusive?

This should become an election issue.



THIS week's piece on Twitmarsh bureaucrats reminds reader Perry Webb of his son's encounter with military twitmarshery.


His son completed his army service in 1987 with a fine outstanding of R275 for a misdemeanour which involved being rude to a senior officer, mistaking him for one of his fellow-soldiers.


When discharged, the army failed to deduct the fine from his final pay packet. For several years letters arrived requesting payment. They were ignored.


"In 1995 after the new dispensation the army sent him a cheque for R275.00. It was gratefully accepted. Case closed."


Yes, twitmarshery can have its upside.


Stages of man

SUCCESS in life goes through different stages. An in-depth research project has identified and tracked them.

·         Age four - success is not wetting in your pants.

·         Age six - success is finding your way home  From school.

·         Age 12 - success is having friends.

·         Age 18 - success is having a driver's licence.

·         Age 20 - success is having money.

·         Age 35 – success is having money.

·         Age 45 - success is having money.

·         Age 55 - success is having money.

·         Age 60 - success is having money.

·         Age 65 - success is keeping a driver's licence.


·         Age 70 - success is having friends.


·         Age 75 - success is finding your way home from anywhere.


·         Age 80 - success is not wetting your pants.

Love's an equation

THE RELATIONSHIP between the sexes can be expressed algebraically, it seems.

Smart man + smart woman = romance.

Smart man + dumb woman = affair.

Dumb man + smart woman = marriage.

Dumb man + dumb woman = pregnancy.

Yep. And it makes the world go round.

The cups

ANOTHER cruel sports story. The Fire brigade phones Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in the early hours of Sunday morning."Mr Wenger sir, the Emirates stadium is on fire!"

Wenger: "The cups, man! Save the cups!"

"Don't worry, the fire hasn't spread to the canteen yet, sir."


Twitchy Brits


THE BRITS are becoming increasingly twitchy about illegal immigrants. An open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron comes this way:


"Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow disease epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Appleby years earlier, right to the stall where she slept in the county of Cambria? 

"And they even tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 125 000 illegal immigrants wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow."


NEW DIMENSIONS are being added to the language by corporate-speak. Some examples from America:

·         What I need is an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter.

·         E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.

·         This project is so important we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.

·         Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule.

·         No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them.

·         Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.

·         We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.




PADDY applies for a job with a blacksmith and is asked if he has any experience shoeing horses.

"No, but I once told a donkey to get de hell out of it!"


Last word

The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.

Woody Allen