Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Idler, Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crayfish that glow in the dark

SO WE'RE to move from a programme of coal-fired electricity generation (by-products: smog/soot, greenhouse gases, hydrogen sulphide and acid rain) to a truly massive R300 billion programme of nuclear electricity generation by plants strung along the coast (by-product: crayfish that glow in the dark).

Does anyone remember the Tugela Basin? That natural feature here in KwaZulu-Natal that scientists and economists and engineers spent decades researching, coming to the conclusion that it has the hydro-electric potential to support several really large cities?

Unless those scientists, economists and engineers were smoking doob over all those years, the Tugela and its tributaries have the potential to meet most of South Africa's energy needs, if not all.

And then there are the Inga dams on the Congo River, that are also supposed to feed hydro-electric power into the South African energy grid. And there's the river system of the Eastern Cape, which the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had planned to connect to the Tugela system in a canalisation and aqueduct programme that would have created mass employment for decades.

Could there be any more "green" way of producing energy than hydro-electric?

The research has been done. It's all there in the exhaustive studies and reports of the old Natal Town and Regional Planning Commission, which employed some of the best minds over a range of disciplines.

Now here's a depressing thought. It's a pound to a pinch of nannygoat manure (as they say in the classics) that the fellows driving the coal-fired and nuclear options have never even heard of the Tugela Basin and its hydro-electric potential.

Cigarette cards

DISCUSSION in recent days of Springbok and C to C cigarettes brings back memories to reader Frank van Vloten of schooldays during World War II when he and his friends would collect and swap the cards enclosed in the larger cigarette packs.

"I used to badger my sisters' troopie boyfriends for cards, if they happened to smoke; and by the end of the war those of us who had collected seriously had built up a good pile of very educational cards on various subjects which we then stuck into handsome albums with very informative write-ups, produced specially by the tobacco companies and sent to us on receipt of a "tickey" postal order (threepence, the equivalent of two-and-a-half cents today).

"The subjects were: South African animals and wildlife; South African flora; works of art (international); South African artillery and weaponry; and no doubt one or two others that other readers would remember. We were sorry when it was all discontinued at the end of the war. They were popular references and I for one learnt a lot in general from them."

Prehistoric plants

RUSSIAN scientists have managed to grow a plant from prehistoric seeds hidden 30 000 or so years ago by squirrels that built burrows in the permafrost of east Siberia. Sylene stenophylla is the oldest plant ever to be regrown in this way and is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds.

The scientists say permafrost studies search for the ancient genetic pool of pre-existing life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth's surface. It might even be possible to find tissue of vanished animal species, such as the woolly mammoth, and regrow them.

It sounds a little alarming. How long before Hollywood cottons on? The Woolly Mammoth from the Black Lagoon.


SOME groaners:

·         "We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.

·         "It's made the grass wet," said Tom after due consideration.

·         "I don't think I want to eat eggs this morning," he waffled.

·         "Keep in step," Dick said archly.

·         "But there is no bathroom," said Harry uncannily.


A CHURCH has regular seminars for husbands. Guiseppe's 50th wedding anniversary is approaching and the parish priest asks him to share his thoughts on enduring love and marriage.

"Wella, I've-a tried to treat her nice-a, spenda da money on her, but besta of all is, I taka her to Italy for the 25th anniversary."

The priest:"Guiseppe, you're an inspiration to all the husbands here. Please tell us what you're planning for your wife for your 50th anniversary."

"I gonna go fetch her."



Last word

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.

Samuel Johnson


The Idler, Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The samba sparks off riots

DANCING is a desperate business. As crowds waited in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to hear which samba school would be named winner of a carnival contest, a man jumped over security gates surrounding the judges, grabbed their results – and tore them up as he ran away.

The incident led to riots and the police having to be called in.

The culprit is believed to be a member of Imperio de Casa Verde Samba School, which did not look set to be placed in one of the top spots.

Members of the La Bella Street Shelter For The Over-40s Samba School are shocked and shaken by the news. It undermines the whole ethos of the samba. It's enough to make them seriously consider going back to the foxtrot.

Camel factor


A READER who calls himself Jim D reflects on reminiscences this week about cigarette brands, including C to C (Cape to Cairo) that were issued to the troops during World War II.


"I am not sure that all World War II troops remember C to C with much affection. My late father, who served in the Kenya Regiment, recalled that the tobacco used was regarded with suspicion and that C to C was widely held to stand for "Camel to Consumer".



Smokes in quad


MEANWHILE, the mention of Merchiston boys smoking on the train to Zululand reminds reader Don Nicholson of a story told him by his uncle, Neil Chapman, who was a teacher at the school at its old premises in Prince Alfred Street.


"Some boys were caught smoking in the 1950s.The headmaster didn't give them six of the best. He told them to carry a table and chairs to the quadrangle. He then placed a packet of Springbok cigarettes and a box of matches on the table and told the offending boys to smoke every cigarette in the packet.


"The boys turned green and were very unwell once the cigarettes were finished. They were not caught smoking again."


Yes, that happened just a few years before I was at Merchiston. The story passed into school legend.




Squiffy recall


IT SEEMS my recollection of Springbok cigarettes being oval in shape is definitely squiffy. David Arnold, of Pietermaritzburg, is the second reader to say they were round. The oval cigarette he remembers was called Diploma.


I don't remember Diploma. But I do remember oval-shaped Venus, twopence for eight on the steam train to Kranskop.

Lowering the bar

THE WORLD record for shortness just keeps shrinking. At 54.6 cm (or 21.5 inches for those of us who still think that way), Chandra Bahadur Dangi, of Nepal, has snatched the title of The World's Shortest Man from Filipino Junrey Balawing (who is 5.3 cm taller).

Dangi, who is 72 and lives as a weaver in a remote valley in south-west Nepal, is also 2cm shorter than the late Gul Mohammed, of India, who had been the shortest man ever measured.

Craig Glenday, of the Guinness Book of World Records, says he's astonished that the shortness record keeps getting broken.

Maybe Guinness should take it a bit further – start a short men's basketball league or something. It could be a hit, a short-ass version of the Harlem Globetrotters.


Recommended Stories

Top Gear


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, pens some lines on the Top Gear show coming to Durban.


It's what many ratepayers fear,

This jamboree called Top Gear;

Some millions of ratepayers' rands

Watered into Mabhida's sands

To join the billions wasted yesteryear.


AN AUSSIE walks into a pub and takes a seat next to a very attractive girl. He gives her a quick glance then casually looks at his watch.

She: "Is your date running late?"  
He: "No, I just got this state-of the-art watch, and I was testing it."
"A state-of-the-art watch? What's so special about it?"
"It uses alpha waves to talk to me telepathically."
"What's it telling you now?"

"It says you're not wearing any panties."
She giggles: "Well it must be broken because I am wearing panties"
He looks at the watch, taps it and exclaims: "Damn! The thing's running an hour fast!"



The Idler, Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disgraceful, deplorable …

IT'S DISGRACEFUL and deplorable that people should have disrupted the address by President JZ in the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town, brawling and throwing chairs about. It's totally unacceptable. Yet it's happened before.

I saw Prime Minister Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, being pelted with teargas and firecrackers in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Earlier in the day, he'd had to come into the city on a side road because people had put barricades on the main road from Durban.

His lunch at the city hall had been disturbed by students slow-marching in with a Union Jack-draped coffin bearing a placard: "Freedom"; at which a massive free-for-all broke out.

Then the continued heckling and brawling that evening, punctuated by firecrackers and the lobbing of teargas manufactured in the university laboratories.

Absolutely disgraceful behaviour!

Then two powerful jets of water into the crowd from windows high above the balconies. Somebody had deployed the city hall's firehoses.

Then Verwoerd's car being rocked by the crowd as he was eventually driven off. This was absolutely reprehensible behaviour. This was, after all, the prime minister of the country. Unacceptable! Unforgivable! Disgraceful! Deplorable!

Actually, I knew the people who set off the fire hoses. One was a schoolmate from Zululand. The other a master at school. They shared a police cell that night and … ha, ha, ha, ha! Hee, hee! Hoo, hoo, hoo!

Oh dear!

Too much Spanish


SOME complaints by package tourists to Thomas Cook Holidays:


·        The local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.

·        It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy

things during siesta time. It should be banned.

·        On my holiday to Goa, in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every

restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all.

·        No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.

·        We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as

 they all speak Spanish.

·        There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks

Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners now live abroad.

·        My fiance and I booked a twin-bedded room, but we were placed in a

double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find

myself pregnant.


Survey flops


THE UNITED Nations conducted a world-wide survey. The question asked was:

"Could you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the

But the survey was a failure:


·        In eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" meant.

·        In western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant.

·        In Somalia and Sudan they didn't know what "food" meant.

·        In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant.

·        In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant.

·        In South America they didn't know what "please" meant.

·        In the US they didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant.

·        In Canada they hung up when they realised they were speaking to a call centre in India.

Science notes

A TOP PHYSICIST has offered to eat his boxer shorts on live television if it turns out that experiments at the Cern  Cern laboratory, in Switzerland, have correctly measured neutrino particles travelling faster than the speed of

light – which contradicts Albert Einstein and would stand current physics theory on its head.

However, it seems increasingly unlikely that Dr Jim Al Khalili, of Sussex University, will entertain viewers

in this way. It seems there might have been a faulty connection between a GPS unit and a computer at Cern,

 affecting accurate measurement of the neutrinos' speed.

·         It's good for physics and Einstein's reputation but not great for TV viewership. It's not often we get to see a

·         noted physicist eating his boxer shorts.



Little Nancy is digging in the garden when a neighbour looks over the fence and says: "What are you doing?"

Little Nancy: "I'm burying my goldfish."

The neighbour laughs: "That's a big hole for a goldfish, isn't it?"

"That's because it's inside your cat!"



Last word


Everything in the world may be endured except continued prosperity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


The Idler, Monday, February 27, 2012

A lucifer to light your fag …

LAST week's mention of Springbok cigarettes reminds an ex-serviceman of World War II when they were issued to South African troops Up North in Italy and elsewhere.

Those Springbok cigarettes had a peculiarity, he says. They had in them small pellets of sulphur, or some such chemical, which assisted with the burning of the tobacco.

But sometimes the pellets would pop disconcertingly while you were smoking, as if the enemy were shooting at you.

Heavens, imagine all that stuff being inhaled into your lungs! Which was more dangerous – the enemy or the fags?


Cape to Cairo

ANOTHER cigarette issued to the troops during World War II was C to C (Cape to Cairo). I was in a pub with a friend once in deepest Herefordshire, in the West Country of England. An old codger at the end of the bar was listening to us intently.

Then suddenly he broke in with the broadest West Country accent: "Ar-r-r-r! Wher-r-r-r's yor-r-r-r tickeys? Wher-r-r-r's yor-r-r –r Zee to Zee?"

He'd recognised our accents. No, he hadn't passed through Durban during the war, he said. "Oi wor-r-r-r in the Wester-r-r-r-rn Deser-r-r-r-t with yor-r-r-r boys."

Then he pulled out his tobacco tin. Soldered onto it was a Natal Carbineers badge. My friend was a Carbineer. He almost freaked. Hands across the sea.

Oval ciggies


MEANWHILE, Dudley Potgieter recalls Springbok cigarettes as having been round – not oval – and coming in packs of 60, plain or cork-tipped. The oval cigarette he remembers was Passing Cloud.


Dudley might well be right. It was a long time ago.


Another oval cigarette was Venus. These came in packs of eight which cost twopence. We used to smoke them on the steam train from Maritzburg to Kranskop, en route to Zululand for the school holidays. We Merchiston boys were very naughty.


Farcical robbery

A ROBBER described by a judge as a man who "ranks amongst the all-time stupidest criminals to come before the courts" has been jailed for a botched armed robbery in Dublin where the raiders had to be rescued by the fire brigade.

Gary Byrne, Ian Jordan and Aidan Murphy held up a gold storage business, using a toy pistol. They tied up and gagged staff in the underground vaults. They had the place at their mercy.

But then Byrne unaccountably went walkabout, leaving his accomplices and the hostage staff locked in the safe, trapped. Eventually they were rescued by the fire brigade and the gardai (police).

In court the robbery was described by Judge Donagh McDonagh it as "one of the most farcical cases in recent criminal history in Dublin".

Byrne got seven years in jail and his accomplices five each. The judge accorded Byrne "the benefit of his stupidity" and suspended the last two years of his sentence.

Cosmic blast

SPACE scientists have caught a delayed glimpse of a cosmic blast that dazzled observers when it was seen from Earth more than 150 years ago. This was the Great Eruption, in the mid-1800s, in which a super-massive star, Eta Carinae, 7 500 light years away, began spewing out unusually large amounts of light.

The experts have now been able to create new images of that violent blast, using a technique that involves taking readings of delayed light that bounced off stellar dust and is only now reaching our solar system.

According to Armin Rest, of America's Space Telescope Science Institute: "It's as if nature has left behind a surveillance tape of the event, which we are now just beginning to watch."

Fascinating stuff. They must be getting closer to answering that age-old question of the number of angels that can dance on the point of a needle.

Recommended Stories


PADDY and Mick leave the pub. Says Paddy: "I can't be bothered to walk all de way home."'


"I know, me too but we've no money for a cab and we've missed de last bus home."


"We could steal a bus from de depot," suggests Paddy.


They arrive at the bus depot and Mick goes in while Paddy keeps a look-out.


Mick takes some time. Paddy shouts: "What're you doing? Have yez not found one yet?"


"I can't find a No 91."


"Oh for Heaven's sake, ye daft fool! Take de No 14 and we'll walk from de roundabout!" 


Last word


It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.

Oscar Wilde






Thursday, February 23, 2012

Captain ook, Friday, February 24, 2012

KICK-OFF this evening. The Bulls at Loftus. Nothing tougher. But nothing more satisfying either when we click. The eyes of the entire country will be on our half-back pairing of Freddie Michalak and Patrick Lambie. This is an inspired selection. Each has proven brilliance in several positions. Each is now in his preferred slot.

Michalak, the most humorous man in rugby – just watch what he does, the way he plays with the opposition, enjoys bamboozling them - will give Lambie every bit of room he needs. Lambie wriggles through a quarter-gap anyway. He also has a way of setting his threequarters moving at pace and with space. JP Pietersen is going to enjoy his move to centre. With forward momentum – and there's no reason to believe this will be lacking – we should be in for a cracker of a game.

The Bulls will, of course, be intent on closing down this potential brilliance, slowing the game. This match could set a pattern for the season. Will the 15-man game or the 10-man game prevail?

And then we've got England versus Wales on Saturday and Scotland versus France on Sunday. Both should be humdingers. My money's on Wales. They're a young side, they were the best in the World Cup, they were fantastic against Ireland and they deserve to take the Six Nations.

Meanwhile, there's been some fantastic rugby in the English premiership. Leicester versus Saracens was an absolute cracker, the lead see-sawing all the way through; Leicester taking the ball through several phases in extra time after the hooter, to set up a drop goal that snatched them the game 19-17. Classic stuff!

Lots of South Africans involved as well, including our own John Smit.

Then a West Country derby – Bath versus Gloucester. This began in a downpour of rain and with an incredible fracas almost from the kick-off. Here was a free-for-all that seemed to involve almost all 30 players. Would the ref stop the match?

"Welcome to West Country rugby," the commentator said sardonically. Ah, the West Country: "Oi 'ad 'er, Oi 'ad 'er, Oi 'ad 'er, oi oi …"

Then one fellow got yellow-carded – a sacrificial lamb after so much had been going on – and the game settled down into another epic – this time of the muddy paddock, Gloucester running out winners 14-11. Thrilling stuff!

Why can't we bring our club rugby to this kind of pitch? Imagine Durban Collegians versus Pretoria Harlequins; College Rovers versus Diggers; Maritzburg Collegians versus Villagers – all of them with their Springboks and provincial caps playing. It would transform and revitalise club rugby, create a vast new pool of talent. If France and the Home Unions can organise it, why can't we?

But back to current realities. Tonight it's the big crunch. Feelings are running high. Ladies who attend the screening at Durban's various rugby-supporting establishments are advised to wear knickers because the elastic might  be required for catapults to shoot out the streetlights in the celebratory feu de joie. The season begins!

The Idler, Friday, February 24, 2012

It's the Pienk Bulle


THE 2012 rugby season starts tonight And dominating the pre-match analysis is the news that the Blue Bulls will be playing their away matches this season in pink. How this transpired is a matter for conjecture. It seems unlikely the Loftus faithful – the "kenners", as they are known – were consulted.


The Bulls will be in their traditional blue tonight for their opening fixture against our chaps which will be just as well all round. Imagine how shocked the faithful would be at the sight of their heroes prancing about in pink. How demoralised the players themselves would be. And how our own fellows could be paralysed with laughter.


The thing is doing the rounds on the internet, of course. The name of the ground has been changed to Moftus Versveld. The name of the team has been officially changed to Die Pienk Bulle.


Reader George Enslin, of Ramsgate, sends in an account of other changes at Loftus.


·        One lucky season ticket holder will win a free make-over during half-time of each match.

·        Fans will no longer be allowed to braai before kick-off. Instead, fondue stations will be available for snacks.

·        The beer tent will no longer sell beer but a wide variety of fruity drinks will be available.

·        The trompoppies, or dancing girls, will be replaced by a French poodle parade.

·        Man of the match will receive not a cheque but a subscription to Home and Garden magazine.

·        The yellow card area will no longer be referred to as the sin bin, it will now be the temper tantrum tank.

·        The new mascot will be Lady the French Poodle.

·        Those dangerous horned helmets will be exchanged for more appropriate silk scarves.


A penny for the thoughts of the kenners.







Collectors' item

MEANWHILE, as the season begins, reader Dick Pope, of Durban North, sends in a collectors' item: the tour itinerary of the 1951 tour of Britain and France by Basil Kenyon's Springboks.

It's been meticulously filled in. The one match lost – the Boks went down 9-11 against London Counties at Twickenham; the famous 44-0 drubbing of Scotland at Murrayfield; wins against Ireland (17-5), Wales (6-3) and England (8-3). 

This was the Boks' most successful tour ever. Sadly though, Kenyon suffered a serious eye injury in only the third match (against Pontypool and Newbridge) which put him out of rugby for good. But it did bring to the fore his replacement eighth man, Hennie Muller, the Windhond.

Them were the days.


Springbok ciggies

DICK also asks if I remember Springbok cigarettes? I do indeed. They were oval in shape, plain and very strong. I remember them mainly though for an incident in which they made an appearance in a manner reminiscent of the Old Testament account of manna from heaven in the wilderness.

A friend and I had been trout fishing in the Little Mooi at Nottingham Road. We'd caught a few, we'd braaied a couple for lunch but somehow the one packet of cigarettes we had between us had ended up in the drink. (We smoked in those days – everyone did – though you couldn't pay me to do it today).

As we walked back that evening, we longed for a fag. But there was nothing doing. We walked on. We were walking through some tall papyrus-type reeds, when suddenly we noticed something up in the fronds. Dozens of Springbok cigarettes were scattered there, caught up in the fronds. This was astounding, something like that Old Testament story. But why were we being favoured in this way?

As we lit up, we considered. The farm manager, we knew, smoked Springbok. But how had his cigarettes come to be scattered here for us?

Later investigation revealed that his box of 50 Springbok had indeed flown out of the window of the Land Rover and been carried away by the wind. His loss, our gain. The age of miracles is not past.




YOU'RE trapped in a room with a tiger, a rattlesnake and a basketball fan. You have a gun with two bullets. What do you do?

You shoot the basketball fan - twice.

Last word

If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.

Arthur Schopenhauer