Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Idler, Friday, July 22, 2011

Luftwaffe over Durban


A CERTAIN rhythm seems to be establishing itself in this part of the newspaper. If people aren't falling out of aircraft, crashing aircraft and baling out of aircraft, they're performing superhuman feats of heroism on the rugby field.


Here's the latest instalment in aviation drama. Patrick Coyne brings us the account of Mavis Goyns who, as an evacuee schoolgirl at Gordon Road Girls' School, Durban, during World War II, suddenly heard the throb of a German bomber overhead.


She writes: "I automatically dived under my desk and shut my eyes, waiting for the bombs to drop. I was suddenly aware that all the class were looking at me, and Miss Murchie leaned forward and asked what I was doing under the desk. I pointed upwards and said: 'It's a German bomber.'


"'But how can you tell if it's a German bomber? We get many aeroplanes flying over Durban,' said the teacher.

"'Oh, you can tell,' I replied and scrambled back to my seat, feeling foolish."


Later that week they read in the newspapers that a German bomber had been captured at Tobruk and brought down to Durban to be inspected. During a test flight it had actually flown over Durban.


The account is one of many Patrick has received from former pupils of Gordon Road, which celebrates its centenary next year. Other former pupils with memories of their Gordon Road schooldays are asked to phone  082 4846900 or 031 3032628 to contribute to a history that is being compiled.


Hops and barley


AND NOW THE latest instalment in rugby heroism. So far we've had a fellow who completed a Currie Cup match with a broken arm and another who completed a club match with a broken back, both staying on the field because in those days substitutes were not allowed, not even for injury.


It turns out I have been rubbing shoulders for years with a rugby hero who completed a game with a broken leg – also because of that no substitutes rule.


Tony Ford and I belong to the same hops and barley sampling and appreciation society. The above-mentioned accounts prompt him to tell of the time he was playing in a school match for St Henry's against DHS.


He was playing prop forward. In a melee, somebody crashed into his leg. There was a loud "crack!" and he had agonising pain. But he carried on until the final whistle. You don't give up against DHS.


It got even more painful once he'd showered and cooled down. Then he went for an X-ray and it turned out he had a fractured tibula (or is it fibula?).


"But how could you run?" I asked incredulous.


"I told you, I was playing prop forward. In those days props didn't run. We walked from the line-out to the scrum, to the next scrum, to the next lineout. It was okay."


The mind, senor, she boggles!


No gnus is good gnus


ANOTHER tabloid newspaper is due to hit the streets in London. I'm indebted for this information to Rupert Wait, who says it will be called The Gnus of the World and material for publication will be provided by wildebeest hacking their way about the veld.


Nothing surprises me these days.



Microchips take over

PEOPLE say the age of the microchip has dulled our human intelligence. Nobody does mental arithmetic any more because of the pocket calculator. Spellcheck has eliminated the need to know how to spell.


Is this true? Consider these lines of verse:


Eye have a spelling chequer,

It came with my Pea Sea.

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss Steaks I can knot sea.

Eye strike the quays and type a whirred

And weight four it two say

Weather eye am write oar wrong

It tells me straight a weigh.

Eye ran this poem threw it,

Your shore real glad two no.

Its vary polished in its weigh.

My chequer tolled me sew.


Nope, nothing wrong there.


Gym enthusiast: "I want to impress that beautiful girl over there. What machine should I use?"

Gym trainer: "The ATM outside."



Last word


To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.

Gustave Flaubert


The Idler, Thursday, July 21, 2011

This is supersoap!

IS THIS News of the World phone hacking/police bribery thing some kind of gigantic publicity stunt? Is it soap opera gone stratospheric?

Consider the latest episode. International multi-billionaire and media ogre Rupert Murdoch is dragged before a House of Commons select committee to answer some very awkward questions, along with his son, James.

The Murdochs turn out to be charmers. Rupert, who is 80, is a little doddery. He cups a hand to his ear as he asks them to speak up and repeat the question. He makes them look a bit silly and crass, asking minute details about one of his newspapers that represents less than one percent of his international operation.

But then he manages a few wisecracks and his face lights up with a grin. Asked how many British prime ministers he's met, he shakes his head and says: "I wish they'd leave me alone!"

One senses the select committee warming to him. Also to James who is a model of good manners and forthrightness.

And then in rushes the anarchist fellow with a custard pie. (A metaphorical custard pie – actually it was a paper plate of shaving cream). But before he can push it in Rupert's face, Murdoch's young Chinese wife Wendi springs like a panther and – Whack! – she gives him such a hard slap over the head that his own face gets the custard.

The anarchist – a comedian named Johnny Marbles - is led away in handcuffs by the cops, shouting: "Rupert Murdoch will find it ironic that I can't comment on this because it's the subject of a police investigation!"

The select committee are greatly impressed by Wendi's Kung Fu. "You don't mess with Wendi!" says one of the MPs. Sympathy seems to have tilted to the Murdochs.

You couldn't script it. This has everything – drama, comedy, family loyalty. It's brilliant TV. The Murdochs should put it on B Sky B.


History timeline

AN ALTERNATIVE has emerged to the traditional History I university course – "Everything from Adam to Nasser":

·         3050 BC - A Sumerian invents the wheel. Within a week the idea is stolen and duplicated by other Sumerians, establishing forever the principle of business ethics.

·         1850 BC.-Britons proclaim Operation Stonehenge a success. They've finally got those boulders arranged in a sufficiently meaningless pattern to confuse the hell out of scholars.


·         776 BC - The world's first known money appears in Persia. The world's first counterfeit appears in Persia next day.

·         410 BC - Rome stops throwing debtors into slavery, removing the biggest single obstacle to development of the credit card.

·         79 AD - Buying property in Pompeii turns out to have been a lousy investment.

·         432 - St Patrick introduces Christianity to Ireland, giving the Irish something interesting to fight about.

·         1043 - Lady Godiva demonstrates against high taxes but everyone forget what she's demonstrating against.

·         1125 - Arabic numerals are introduced to Europe, enabling peasants to solve the most baffling problems: How much tax do you owe on MMMDCCCLX Lira when you're in the XXXVI percent bracket?

·         1770 - The shooting of three people in the Boston Massacre touches off the American Revolution. Two hundred and twenty-three years later, three shootings in Boston will be considered just about average for a Saturday Night.

·         1894 -Thomas Edison displays the first motion picture. Everyone likes it except the movie critics.

·         1911 - Roald Amundsen discovers the South Pole and confirms that it looks a helluva lot like the North Pole.

·         1924 - Hitler is released from prison four years early, after convincing the parole board that he is a changed man who won't cause any more trouble.

·         1930 - Pluto is discovered. Not the dog, stupid; the planet. The dog wasn't discovered until 1938.

·         1933 - German housewives begin to realise why that crazy wallpaper hanger with the moustache never came back to finish. Hitler establishes the Third Reich and announces it will last 1 000 years. As matters develop, he is only 988 years off.


MACTAVISH buys two lottery tickets and wins £5 million.

"How do you feel about your big win?" asks a newspaper reporter.

"Och, up an' doon. The ither won nothin' at a'."

Last word

The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.

Arthur C. Clarke


The Idler, Wednesday, July 20

Confusion of identity


AN AWKWARD moment on BBC television. The Beeb was doing one of those transatlantic interviews and on screen appeared a fellow who was introduced as Ben Walker, a leading authority on baseball.


Looking totally nonplussed, he did not respond to a couple of questions fired at him, at which they asked if the sound wasn't working?


The sound was fine, he said, but his name was Michael Wolf, writer of Rupert Murdoch's biography.


Much embarrassment. It recalls the occasion when Churchill had lunch during World War II with a fellow called Berlin.


Churchill was under the impression his guest was Isaiah Berlin, the high-powered academic who supplied the war cabinet with weekly analyses of the situation in Europe. In fact he was Irving Berlin, the American songwriter – Alexander's Ragtime Band, White Christmas, There's No Business Like Show Business ...


The mistake was never discovered during the lunch, which ended with both parties totally bewildered. Churchill growled afterwards: "That Berlin fellow plays his cards very close to his chest!"


Another victim

THE DEPUTY commissioner of Scotland Yard has now joined his commissioner in resigning over the phone hacking scandal. There's a vacuum at the top as the Olympics draw closer.

It's a pity Bheki Cele is preoccupied with the police HQ leases in Pretoria and Durban, otherwise a secondment could be in order.

Loose laws

THE ORIGINAL handwritten draft rules of football, from 1858, and the only known surviving copy of the printed "Rules, Regulations & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club", from the following year, have been sold on auction in London for almost £900 000.

Sheffield FC is the world's oldest football club, established in 1857, a year before the rules officially came into play.

Before that date, organised football was played exclusively at Britain's public schools and universities, to widely varying sets of rules.

But after 1858 football clubs joined together to agree on a structure over the following 20 years that was to become what the game is today.

Oddly enough, those 1858 laws seem to have a bit of rugby union terminology. They speak of play commencing with a "place kick". That today is a rugby term.

And, mystifyingly: "Fair Catch is a catch from any player, provided the Ball has not touched the ground, or has not been thrown direct from touch, and entitles to a free kick."

What's a soccer player doing catching the ball in the air? "Touch" is most definitely a rugby term for the ball going out of play.

And what we today in rugby call a "mark" – the clean taking of a kick while in one's 22, which entitles the catcher to a free kick – was also known, not all that long ago, as a "fair catch".

Maybe William Webb Ellis wasn't being that radical after all when he picked up the ball and ran away.

Good point


INTERNET comment on the £900 000 fetched by the Sheffield FC documents: "900 grand cheaper than most 3rd rate players in today's market and yet worth more to football than they are."


Methinks he has a point.


Relax, man!


WISE advice from man's best friend: Handle every stressful situation the way a dog does. If you can't eat it or play with it, just widdle on it and walk away. Relax!



Gold and silver


DOES anyone remember Margaret Harriman, formerly of Pennington, who won plenty of gold and silver in paraplegic bowls championships then went to visit her daughter in America some years ago, where she is believed to have died?


Zoltan de Rosner, of the Alexandra Memorial Bowling Club (Pennington) says the club has a suitcase containing her scrapbook (she was also a champion wheelchair archer in Rhodesia - as it was then still called), various certificates and medals.


They have tried to trace relatives to take possession of this memorabilia, but without success. Anyone who can assist is asked to phone 039-9759554.


If no relatives can be found, the club will box-frame as much as they can and put it on display. But they would rather hand on these items to her family.




I LOST so badly at the casino I had to sell the car in the car park. The people at Hertz are going to be really angry.

Last word

It was no wonder that people were so horrible when they started life as children.

Kingsley Amis

The Idler, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lurid to the last


THE PHONE-HACKING scandal barrels on in Britain. Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International, has resigned and now been arrested. All kinds of other people have been arrested. The head of Scotland Yard has resigned. Prime Minister David Cameron has egg on his face because he hired one of those now arrested as his communications chief (apparently against the advice of all kinds of people).


It's as lurid a tale as anything ever carried in the News of the World, now closed down. Nobody can guess how it's going to end.


Writing in the Spectator, Charles Moore sheds no tears for the News of the World.


"It is certain that the paper's main purpose was pornographic. Nor, for the most part, was it good honest pornography – pretty, topless women smiling gamely at the poor lonely men who bought it. Its pornography was of the much more sinister kind which uses disapproval as a cover for filth and mistakes the kinky desire to punish others as a symptom of morality …


"It is wholly fitting that it was the paper's prurient interest in the young girls whose cause it claimed to espouse – in this case, Milly Dowler – which brought it down."


Strong stuff. But it's difficult to disagree.


Merry old-timers


THE OTHER day we had some lines by Charles Duffy, wondering at the fact that the animal kingdom is not exposed to the demon booze, yet humans seem to live longer. It ended:



And some of us, though mighty few,

Stay pickled 'till we're ninety-two.


Why this early cut-off, reader Ray Gorven wants to know? He adds a few more couplets.


There are those of us out on a spree,

Who can't stop going at ninety-three.


And lots of us add some years more,

So are going strong past ninety-four.


There are those of us – Oh, Man alive!

Who are still around at ninety-five!


And some of us with walking sticks

Can still climb steps at ninety-six!


There're some of us,Oh, Lord in heaven,

Who are still strong in mind at ninety-seven!


There are those of us who stay up late,

And we've only got to ninety-eight!


Then there's this guy, a pal of mine,

Who's a hale and hearty ninety-nine!


Hey, game old geezers! This is most encouraging. My crowd have still got 30 or 40 years to whoop it up. But can we take the pace?







I SEE A letter-writer has asked that the new-look "Sharkie" – mascot of our provincial rugby side – should get about on the field more, show himself off to the whole of King's Park.


His new appearance did cause some comment in my part of the ground last Saturday. Some felt he looked over-bulky, as if he's been on steroids. Some thought he looked a bit like a Friesland bull.


Myself, I'm absolutely impartial about the two manifestations of Sharkie. I preferred Manie Blom and the banana tree.


Tomato patch


HERE'S a heartwarming little tale from America. An elderly Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden but it was difficult work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who normally helped him, was in prison.

The old man wrote to his son and described his predicament: "I am feeling sad, because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig theplot for me, like in the old days. Love, Papa"

A few days later he received a letter from his son.  "Dear Pop - don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried. Love, Vinnie."


At 4 am next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire garden area without finding any bodies. Then they apologised to the old man and left.


The same day the old man received another letter from his son. "Dear Pop – "Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances. Love you,Vinnie."


HE TOOK her to dinner at the neighbourhood bean restaurant. It was a case of mutual inflatulation.

Last word


But what is the difference between literature and journalism? Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.

Oscar Wilde


The Idler, Monday, July 18, 2011

Roll on the Currie Cup!


WHAT an opener to the Currie Cup we had on Saturday. This was brilliant rugby, the best King's Park has seen all season. Played with flair and zest, it showed we still have wonderful depths of talent.


Yet the stadium was sadly empty. It was as if people somehow feel the Currie Cup has been downgraded by the absence of Springboks playing in the Tri-Nations, to be followed by the World Cup.


They couldn't be more wrong. If they want top-class, quality rugby, here it is. The Currie Cup always was the dynamo of our rugby and that's still true. What a joy it was to see the pace at which the game was played, the way the passes stuck, the split-second offloads, the deadly tackling and - get this! – the way the Sharks drove and shoved the Bulls pack all over the park. John Plumtree has here a well-drilled, wonderfully honed outfit.


As a rugby traditionalist I am not enthusiastic about the way the game has been Americanised in the professional era - the ridiculous team names, all the razzamatazz. But Saturday showed that class will always show through in the end.


Roll on the Currie Cup! This is rugby!


Irish railways


SOME correspondence comes this way between a rail commuter and the Irish Railway Company.

I have been riding your trains daily for the last two years, and the service on your line seems to be getting worse every day. I am tired of standing in the aisle all the time on a 14-mile trip. I think the transportation system is worse than enjoyed by people 2 000 years ago.
Yours truly,

Patrick Finnegan

Dear Mr. Finnegan,
We received your letter with reference to the shortcomings of our service and believe you are somewhat confused in your history. The only mode of transportation 2 000 years ago was by foot.

Irish Railway Company

I am in receipt of your letter, and I think you are the ones who are confused in your history. If you will refer to the Bible and the Book of
Numbers 22: 1-35, you will find that Balaam rode to town on his ass.
That, gentlemen, is something I have not been able to do on your train in the last two years.
Yours truly,

Patrick Finnegan.




Where have all the seagulls gone?

To St Lucia, every one.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?


READER Dave Bishop responds to Gray Braadvedt's ornithological posers. The seagulls appear to have deserted Durban, Gray says, while the other day in Moore Road he spotted what appeared to be swallows or swifts in mid-winter.

The gulls have gone to St Lucia, says Dave. "The most common gull in Durban is the Grey-headed which at this time of year migrates up to St Lucia and environs to breed and will return with the youngsters in tow only around the end of August."

The birds spotted in Moore Road would have been swifts, which do not migrate like swallows.


"As your reader saw the birds in Moore Road they would probably be Little Swifts which roost and nest on cliffs, the tall buildings in the area being wonderful substitutes."


So there we are then. I know it's silly, but it sounds good set to the folk song.


Where have all the swallows gone?

Gone to Moore Road every one ...


A HONEYMOON couple check into the Watergate Hotel in Washington. The bride asks: "What if the place is still bugged?"

"I'll check," says the groom. He looks behind the curtains, behind the pictures, under the rug. Finally: "Aha!" Under the rug is a disc with four screws. He takes his Swiss army knife, undoes the screws, throws them and the disc out the window and then gets on with the honeymoon.

Next morning, the hotel manager asks: "How was your room? How was the service? How was your stay at the Watergate Hotel?"

"Great. Why?"

"I thought so. The couple in the room under you complained that the chandelier fell on them in the middle of the night."


Last word

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.

Rita Mae Brown