Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Idler, Friday, October 28, 2011

May history repeat itself


Oh, my island in the sun,

Natal 16 and Transvaal none ...

I RECALL writing this last time there was the same square-up at Ellis Park for the Currie Cup, back in the days before the Ponytails unilaterally altered rugby terminology and tradition.

That was the time most of the pundits were giving the result to Transvaal. It was the time Andre Joubert and Jeremy Thomson executed that brilliant scissors movement in midfield that brought us from behind and set us off on a pulsating spree.

May history repeat itself. We need a bit of respite from the trauma of the World Cup. Durban is itching for a party.

We can do it. As Plummers says, we must forget that whupping we gave them a few weeks ago. Rugby doesn't work by linear calculations of that sort. It's the 80 minutes on the day. We can do it. We will do it.

Oh, my island in the sun,

Sharks 16, the Lions none ...

This is, of course, the half-time score.

Great replies

A READER sends in some lines from the Hollywood Squares game show of long, long ago. They're classics. Peter Marshall was questionmaster. The answers were absolutely unscripted and off-the-cuff.

·         If you're going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be? - Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

·         You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman? - Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

·         According to Cosmopolitan, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think that he is attractive, is it okay to come out and ask him if he's married? - Rose Marie: No wait until the morning.

·         What are "Do It," "I Can Help," and "I Can't Get Enough"? - George Gobel: I don't know, but it's coming from the next apartment.

·         In bowling, what's a perfect score? - Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

·         It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other? - Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

·         According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people? - Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.

·         It is the most abused and neglected part of your body, what is it? - Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused, but it certainly isn't neglected.

·         Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant? - Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

·         According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed? - Paul Lynde: Point and laugh.


Twenty million bees

THE BUZZING of the bees in the cigarette trees ... A highway in the American state of Utah was closed after a lorry carrying at least 20 million bees overturned, freeing them.

The bees were being transported to California to pollinate an almond crop. The driver and his wife, who was with him, weren't hurt in the accident but were badly stung when they emerged from the cab. So were two police officers on the scene.

Interstate 15 was closed down for several hours while local beekeepers worked overnight to recapture the bees but without much success. Most had made a beeline elsewhere.

Who can imagine 20 million bees? I once knew a fellow who kept bees out at Richmond. He took the most elaborate precautions when robbing a hive – heavy corduroy trousers tucked into his boots; closely zipped anorak; heavy gloves; veil; a smoker to sedate them. Nothing was left to chance, the little critters couldn't creep in anywhere.

Then one day he forgot to do up his fly. Twenty million? One bee was all it took. Eina!

More bees

WHICH recalls another story from rural America. Reub and Abner were running from an orchard where the farmer had surprised them stealing apples. They seemed also to be pursued by a swarm of bees.

Reub: "Drat these bees buzzin' round!"

Abner: "Them ain't bees, them's buckshot!"


THIS dyslexic fellow walked into a bra … 

Last word

The follies which a man regrets most, in his life, are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity.

Helen Rowland


The Idler, Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sudden big whack

A DEFUNCT German satellite has returned to earth at high speed but nobody knows where it – or its fragments - have hit. The scientists say Rosat, which was the size of a van, would have mostly burned up as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere. But about 30 fragments, weighing 1.87 tons, are thought to have crashed somewhere.

They say there is so far nothing to determine above which continent or country Rosat re-entered. It appears to have missed any populated area.

I'm not so sure. Those scientists should speak to Bheki Cele, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Sicelo Siceka. They've suddenly taken a big whack out of nowhere.

Box clever!

THE LAST Javan rhino in Vietnam has been killed by poachers, who sawed off its horn. It's a familiar story. When will we read the same about our own two species of rhino?

And when will we learn to box clever?

The reason rhino are being poached so relentlessly in south-east Asia and southern Africa is that Chinese men believe rhino horn gingers up their sex life. It's absolute hogwash, of course. Rhino horn has much the same chemical properties as toenail clippings, and toenail clippings are not noted for enlivening the boudoir.

But you can't counter sexual superstition. And China's economic boom has created a vast new category of men with disposable income and a yearning for increased virility. They will pay anything for rhino horn, hence the international poaching syndicates, the helicopters, the walkie-talkies, the huge bribes. Also, very probably, the unscrupulous private owners of rhino who are ready to sell horn on the sly.

The answer, surely, is to make rhino horn available in a controlled manner; bring down the price and put the poachers out of business. Many in the conservation world are looking seriously at this. A significant quantity of rhino horn becomes available through natural attrition. Why not market it? Why not ship rhino to China so they can breed there, setting up a local supply of horn? Give the guys their placebo on the cheap.

The tree-huggers would go ballistic. But what's more important – the tree-huggers or the survival of rhino as a species?

Bar talk


OVERHEARD in a local hostelry: "I just got back from my mate's funeral. He died after being hit on the head with a tennis ball. It was a lovely service."



Scots gold

And me and my true love will never meet again

On the bonny, bonny dumps of Loch Lomond …


IT SEEMS there are plans to develop Scotland's first commercial gold mine in Loch Lomond National Park. A mining company, Scotgold, has asked for permission to extract millions of pounds' worth of gold and silver from a hillside at Cononish, near Tyndrum.

It's 500 years since gold was successfully mined in Scotland, but the high price of precious metals now makes the project cost-effective. Scotgold says more than £50million worth of gold and silver are waiting to be extracted from the site.

It will be interesting to see how this can be reconciled with Loch Lomond's wild natural beauty; whether the company really would be able to restore the landscape at the end of a 10-year licence.


KZN gold

THERE'S gold in them thar hills. KwaZulu-Natal has several gold mines that were abandoned in the 1930s when Britain went off the gold standard and they became uneconomical. One is at Nkandla, home territory of President Zuma, and another is not too far away in the Msimba gorge.

The second I knew as a schoolboy. The shaft was perfectly safe to walk in, having been blasted horizontally from rock.

The interesting thing is that the gold never ran out; it was the international price in the 30s that made these mines uneconomical. Would they be viable today?

Nature notes

DEFINITION of a centipede: an inchworm gone metric.

Social research

RESEARCH in Cornwall suggests that customs have changed little over the centuries. Many a man sleeps every night with a battle-axe at his side.


Cowboy: "Three packs of condoms please".

Counter assistant: "Do you want a paper bag?"

Cowboy: "Nah ... she ain't that ugly."


Last word

Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.

Paul Valery


Monday, October 24, 2011

The Idler, Wwednesday, October 26

Bad percussionist


AN INSISTENT staccato rapping came from the aluminium awning by the poolside. It had no particular rhythm but it went on and on.


On investigation it turned out to be an Indian mynah with a small stone in its beak. Now I'd seen everything. Was this bird a bad percussionist or was it just playing a kind of tok-tokkie?


Then suddenly the "stone" burst into small pieces. In fact it was a cube taken from the dog's bowl.


Okay, it turned out it wasn't an Indian mynah shaping up to become drummer in a band but I think the incident does illustrate a high degree of intelligence. The hadedahs swallow the cubes whole with no difficulty, being such large birds, the ringneck doves swallow them whole with great difficulty and, I imagine, a degree of discomfort. The little laughing doves don't even try.


But the mynahs take the cube onto the roof and bust it to bits. This is intelligence.


As in this account from Frederick, Maryland, in the United States.


A fully automated car wash company – where patrons drove through, paid cash and were dispensed change – was losing money. Somebody was stealing cash from the change machine, they suspected. They set up cameras to trap the culprit.


It turned out to be a whole bunch of glossy, starling-like birds (the species is not named) who were climbing right into the change-dispensing machine and emerging with two or three 25-cent pieces in their beak at a time.


The carwash owners subsequently found $4 000 worth of quarters on the roof of the building and a whole lot more under a nearby tree.

Again, a high degree of intelligence. These starlings didn't go and blow it on junk investments in the subprime market, they let it accumulate.


From now on I keep a close watch on the Indian mynahs. I'd always assumed when they ventured into the kitchen that they were after food. But it could be they're after the beer money.







INDIAN mynahs are, of course, part of the fabric of Durban. At Kingsmead, they dive-bomb fielders on the boundary. The late and great Jock Leyden featured them in his cartoons (one of which hangs in Buckingham Palace). This led on to formation of the Kingsmead Mynahs, a noted invitation side who have their own section of grandstand at the ground.


But what brawlers they can be (the birds, that is, not the cricketers). Every now and then you will see numbers of them scrapping on the ground, usually between six and eight at a time, screeching, flapping, rolling about.


I've often wondered at this phenomenon. There doesn't seem to be anything sexual about it. I always assumed the Mynahs were just natural hooligans, streetfighters.


But now it seems they might be fighting over a 10-cent piece.


Knit one, pearl one …


Police are said to be hunting a "knitting needle nutter" who has stabbed
six Berea shoppers in the buttocks in the past 48 hours. Detectives believe the attacker could be following some kind of pattern.


Routine incident

FIREMEN wearing breathing apparatus had to rescue Manchester City footballer Mario Balotelli from his bathroom in Macclesfield last weekend after a firework went off in it, starting a blaze.

Balotelli escaped unharmed and the police say they are not treating the incident as suspicious.

Of course not. Don't we all set off fireworks in our bathrooms as Guy Fawkes approaches?


Salad days


SPEAKING of which, I bought some rocket salad the other day. But it went off before I could eat it.



Got the T-shirt


I MET A Nepalese sherpa the other day. A fascinating fellow. He's climbed the highest peak in every continent. In the course of his travels he's swum with sharks and wrestled bears. His name: Bindair Dundat.





A COUPLE are lying in bed together on the morning of their 10th wedding anniversary.

She: "Darling, as this is such a special occasion I think it's time I made a confession. Before we were married I was a hooker for eight years."

He: "My love, you've been a perfect wife for 10 years, I can't hold your past against you."

She: "I don't think you understand. My name was Koos and before the sex change I played rugby for the Springboks."


Last word


No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.

Lily Tomlin

The Idler, Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Capitalism strikes back

AS PROTESTERS against the banking system occupy Wall Street, as well as the financial districts of various cities around the world, a leading New York banking and investment giant has spoken out. A letter addresses investors:

"Up until now, this banking and investment group has been silent on the subject of the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street. That does not mean, however, that it has not been very much on our minds. As thousands have gathered in Lower Manhattan, passionately expressing their deep discontent with the status quo, we have taken note of these protests. And we have asked ourselves this question: How can we make money off them?
"The answer is the newly launched Global Rage Fund, whose investment objective is to monetise the Occupy Wall Street protests as they spread around the world. We recognise that the capitalist system as we know it is circling the drain – but there's plenty of money to be made on the way down.
"The Rage Fund will seek out opportunities to invest in products that are poised to benefit from the spreading protests, from police batons and barricades to stun guns and forehead bandages. Furthermore, as clashes between police and protesters turn ever more violent, we are making significant bets on companies that manufacture replacements for broken windows and overturned cars, as well as the raw materials necessary for the construction and incineration of effigies.
"It would be tempting, at a time like this, to say: 'Let them eat cake.' But we are actively seeking to corner the market in cake futures. We project that through our aggressive market manipulation, the price of a piece of cake will quadruple by the end of 2011.
"Please contact your local representative for a full prospectus. As the world descends into a Darwinian free-for-all, the Rage Fund is a great way to tell the protesters: 'Occupy this.' We haven't felt so good about something we sold since our souls."
Yes, Marx never did grasp the resilience of capitalism. As they say on Wall Street: When the ducks quack, feed 'em!


PJ O'Rourke

A READER sends in quotes from American writer PJ O'Rourke:

·         Mankind is supposed to have evolved in the treetops. But I have examined my sense of balance, the prehensility of my various  appendages, and my attitude toward standing on anything higher than,  say, political principles, and I have concluded that, personally, I evolved in the backseat of a car.

·         Most of the research about species extinction has been conducted on  islands because islands are controlled environments and scientists can get drinks with little umbrellas in them there ... Island logic  also tells us that an increase in habitat size means an increase in number of species. But it doesn't necessarily. You can build your bed as large as you like and still get very few people to sleep with you.


·         Personally, I believe a rocking hammock, a good cigar, and a tall gin-and-tonic is the way to save the planet.


Adventure weekend


THE STEAM buffs of the Southern Districts are stoking things up again. They offer an overnight adventure trip on a steam train from Creighton to the Ngwakane Valley on the weekend of November 5 and 6.


The Shayamoya Express will pull out from Creighton at 10.30 am on the Saturday and stop in the valley overnight, where participants will either camp in the train (bringing their own sleeping bags) or outside in their own tents. It will return to Creighton at 2pm next day.


All meals are included in the ticket cost (R250 a person) and a cash bar will operate.


Also on offer will be: exploration of the upper reaches of the Ngwakane Gorge (which includes waterfall abseiling) at R200 a person; paintball fighting (R50); whitewater rafting on the Ngwakane River (R300); and whitewater kayaking on the Ngwakane (R50).


Bookings: or 039-8342963/072-5149070/072-4301247.


The Shayamoya Express runs on the broad-gauge Cape-Natal line, operated by the Paton Country Railway, a company not for profit that also has a narrow-gauge steam train based at Ixopo. The aim is to promote tourism in the scenic Southern Districts.


SCIENTISTS say 92 percent of all R10 notes carry germs. But that can't be true. Not even a germ could live on R10.

Last word

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to Somebody Else.

Will Rogers

The Idler, Monday, October 14, 2011

Back to the future


THE WORLD has gone off kilter. We can trace it all to events in the United States where greed and corruption have so infected the financial system that the very basis of our civilisation is threatened worldwide.


Governments rack up unrepayable debt. The dollar – traditional bedrock of international finance - is suspect. Street mobs rampage in the world's capitals. Society is being trashed. And the Americans, who allowed it all to happen, stand there wringing their hands.


Will anyone step in to restore order? I have it ton good authority that in recent days an e-mail has gone from Buckingham Palace to the White House. It reads, in part:


"In light of your failure to financially manage yourselves and your tendency to elect incompetent presidents - therefore being not able to govern yourselves -  we hereby give notice of the revocation of your Independence. Your new prime minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America.

"The House of Representatives and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed."


"To aid in the transition to a British crown dependency, the following rules are introduced:


·         The letter "u" will be reinstated in words such as "color", "favor",' "labor" and neighbor." Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters and the suffix "-ize" will be replaced by the suffix "-ise". Generally you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels.

·         There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted.


·         July 4 will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.


·         You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. -

·         All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts and you will start driving on the left.

·         The former USA will adopt British prices for petrol.

·         You will learn to make real chips.

·         Hollywood will be required to occasionally cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters.

·         You will cease playing American football. The really brave among you will be allowed top play rugby. You will cease playing baseball. You will learn cricket and we will let you face the Australians.

·         You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

·         A tax collector will be with you shortly to ensure the collection of all monies due, backdated to 1776.

·         Tea begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups and saucers, never mugs.


"Welcome back!"

Yes, desperate measures for desperate times. Remember where you read it first

Growing panic

IN HIS LATEST grumpy newsletter, investment analyst Dr James Greener provides trenchant analysis of events in Libya.

"Plenty of politicians and others who should have known better have, over the years, travelled to Tripoli to shake the Colonel's hand, give him a hug and enquire about the health of his oilfields and treasury. They must now all be pretty alarmed at what has befallen their friend whose last move was into a storm drain in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid his constituents.

"One of the downsides about being the boss of a country is that you meet some rather unsavoury characters in the course of your job. The sleaziest are often themselves leaders of nations. Our own president seemingly has not yet met a despot he doesn't like and he is currently entertaining the rather unappealing president of Equatorial Guinea. The two of them were probably sitting side by side on the newly upholstered presidential couch watching with growing panic the TV images of angry citizens all over the world venting their fury at the lifestyles and habits of the rich, famous and corrupt. The staff would have been instructed to double-check that the electric fence was properly switched on."



WHY IS PSYCHOTHERAPY so much quicker and easier for men than for women? Because when you have to take a man back to his childhood, he's already there.


Last word

If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and colour, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.

George Aiken