Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Idler, Tuesday, May 1, 2012

International solidarity …

HOORAY, hooray for the first of May – outdoor lovin' starts today! Well yes, in the northern hemisphere that is. Here it's possible practically all the year round. But international solidarity, brothers! May Day, International Labour Day, Workers' Day – whatever you want to call it – we celebrate together!

The people's flag is stained with pink,

It's not as red as people think …

Er no, that's not the right version. How about something from the traditional maypole?

And from that bird a feather came,

Of that feather was a bed

No, it all gets a bit suggestive. We've got to take this seriously. Toiling masses … hegemonic capitalist oligarchies … exploitation of the working classes … conscientisation … compradorist renegades …

Hey, surf's up! Let's go!

Scary stuff

PEOPLE living in the East End of London are alarmed to learn that the military plan to instal ground- to-air missile systems – some of them on the roofs of the buildings they live in – as part of the security arrangements for the Olympic Games.

It seems they are there as a precaution – to shoot down any rogue aircraft that might attempt a repeat of the 9/11 atrocity in New York.

No doubt every precaution has to be taken. But what an indictment, surely, of 21st century global society. The original Olympic Games in Ancient Greece were an occasion where animosities between the city-states were put aside. States that were actually at war would participate freely.

Will all this have any effect on spectator support? Perhaps not. But the poor old Cockney spadgers are given no choice. There must still be plenty with childhood memories of the Blitz.

Dress code

IT SEEMS unlikely that the ethos of Ancient Greece will ever return to the Olympics. Most people would probably prefer that the dress code of those days should not return either.

In ancient times, of course, the athletes competed absolutely starkers. While there might be some in the nudist community who would welcome a return to those days, practicalities such as the men's hurdles rule it out. The mind simply recoils from the thought of the women's shot-put.


Tidal flows

IT SEEMS the old airport site south of Durban – where they plan a dig-out port – belongs to the ocean anyway.

Reader Ron Coppin, of Hillcrest, says the marshy ground where they built the original Reunion airport was reclaimed partly by filling it in with sand from the Isipingo hills. He managed a business in the adjacent industrial zone – also on reclaimed land – and the underlying groundwater was so salty that the piping system the business required corroded within six years.

During the drought years of the 1980s, he had a borehole sunk. They struck water only three metres down but it was so salt it was unusable.

Yes, it sounds very much like the Kingsmead cricket pitch, which is affected by the tides. At high spring tide it becomes damp and soggy and the ball does all kinds of things. The dorsal fins of sharks are seen cruising the boundary, small mullet leap in the covers and fiddler crabs, with their giant pincers, are a constant threat to crouching slip fielders.

Crack shot

IN A HOSTELRY the other night this fellow told me how he shot a green mamba in Mpumalanga, using a .22 calibre rifle.

It was no big deal, he said. A mamba's reflexes are so fast that it struck at the bullet as it approached, automatically getting its head blown off.

Is this possible? I've no doubt the snake was shot but my suspicion is that this bloke's marksmanship is ahead of his zoology.

Any ballistics/herpetology experts out there who could shed light?

Royal surname

IT'S PUZZLING the way the young royals in Britain seem to have taken the surname "Wales". A Fleet Street columnist refers tongue-in-cheek to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as "Mrs Wales". But Prince William and his brother Harry do seem to use it as a surname in their military life.

Sure, their dad is Prince of Wales. But isn't the family name Windsor (once Saxe-Coburg and Gotha but changed by George V so as not to have the same surname as his cousin, the Kaiser)?

It's not important, but it's odd.


Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

Last word


No wonder people are so horrible when they start life as children.  - Kingsley Amis


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Captain Cook, Friday, April 27

WELL, this weekend we get full points, that's for sure. Never before have I known a rugby competition where points are awarded in this way for a bye. As everyone in the competition gets a bye, and therefore wins points for that day, there seems little sense in it. Or have I missed something? If you down a record number of beers on your day off, or if members of the team manage to seduce a barmaid or two, do you pick up bonus points? There is much that is weird and wonderful about the modern professional game.

Yet the full points thing highlights our dilemma, our huge frustration. In four games now we've earned a bonus point. Each of those matches we could have won and at least three of them we should have won. We seem fated this season to be one of the strongest sides in the competition yet to languish low in the log. The wiring is still loose. We splutter when we should be purring. We fail to execute, to finish. Yet we dominate the game. Mama mia!

Last weekend against Waikato was a game nobody deserved to win. It was a bummer. Yet we did do enough to win. We shut down Sonny Bill Williams in fine style. We had the best of possession. But we spilled critical passes; we took wrong options. Are we nervous? Over-eager? It's a mystery.

Let us use the break to reflect on the Super-15. One issue is the lamentable standard of refereeing. It stuck out again last Saturday like a sore thumb. I'm not talking just about that villainous head-high shoulder charge by Lelia Masaga on Lwazi Mvovo (an automatic red card offence); I'm talking also about the way the Waikato backs were consistently offside as they defended deep in their own half. It should have yielded a harvest of penalties.

Yet not a sausage. It's the touch judges (they call themselves assistant referees these days) that are a particular concern. It's possible for the ref to be unsighted, but the attempted assassination of Mvovo happened under the very nose of the touch judge. The offside encroachments were so blatant they were a joke. Again, the touch judges need to get involved.

Sanzar need to look seriously at this. The punters won't put up with this nonsense forever. The case becomes unanswerable for referees/touch judges themselves to be subject to citing and disciplinary hearings. If the players can be held to such high standards under camera scrutiny, why not the refs as well? There's too much at stake to tolerate this slackness.

One doesn't want to be vindictive. But a hefty fine plus the culprits being dragged about the streets by pigs – the way Ivan the Terrible did with people who displeased him – would be appropriate.

The weekend stretches ahead, free and empty. Let us gird our loins for Otago next week. And while away the time with beer and barmaids. After all, we are getting four points.

The Idler, Monday, April 30, 2012

A richness of names


ARE YOU IRKED by Durban's new street names? Do you drive around in a daze, perplexed that a major city has deliberately inflicted such confusion on those who live and work in it? Consider this telephone dialogue between a caller in Limpopo province and a Cape Town secretary.


"I'm afraid Mr Frobisher is out at the moment."


When he's back, please ask him to phone me in Polokwane."

"Where? Polokwane? Where's that?"

"Between Mokopane and Makhado, in Limpopo."

"Where's that?"

"Well, you drive from Tshwane past Bela-Bela and Modimolle. Polokwane is just after Mokopane but if you reach Makhado you've gone too far.".

 "Just hold it right there, sir. Where is Makhado?"

 "Between Polokwane and Musina."

 "Excuse me, but where is Musina?"

 "Musina is between Makhado and Harare .."

 "Ah, you're in Harare?"

"No, I'm trying to explain where Polokwane is."

 "In Zimbabwe?".

"No, in Limpopo."

"Please can we start again? Where is Tshwane?"

"That's easy. Between Bela-Bela and Egoli."

"No sir, I mean the town."

"So do I. Egoli is on the other side of Tshwane when coming from the direction of Bela-Bela."


"Excuse me, sir, you're not making much sense. Are you talking about South Africa?"

"Yes, but it's a bit complicated. They changed the name."

"Which name? "

"The town's name."

"Which town's name?"


"You're in Pietersburg! Why didn't you tell me from the start?"

"I told you it's complicated. Egoli is Johannesburg. Tshwane is Pretoria. If you travel north you pass Bela-Bela, formerly Warmbaths; after that Modimolle that was Nylstroom; and Potgietersrust that is Mokopane now. After Mokopane you get Polokwane that was Pietersburg, then Louis Trichardt that became Makhado. After you have passed Makhado you get Musina that was originally Messina .."

"And Musina is by the Limpopo?".

"Yes. But the Limpopo I was speaking of is the province."

"What do you call the river then?"


"Eek! My GPS has just exploded."

Duly noted

THE ST PETERSBURG Forum takes note: St Petersburg … Leningrad … St Petersburg again.


Football returns

HERE'S a good news story that's so inconsequential against the vast tragedy of Japan's tsunami disaster last year that it's sad.

A football that was swept away by the tsunami has been found on a remote Alaskan island thousands of kilometres away.

Sixteen-year-old Misaki Murakami's name was written on the ball that was swept out to sea. David Baxter found it more than a year later on Alaska's Middleton Island, 112km from the mainland. His Japanese wife was able to read an inscription on the ball, which consisted of Misaki's name and a good luck message from his classmates.

Misaki survived the tsunami by running for high ground, and has been traced. The football is being returned to him. But I bet it's been the least of his worries.

Baxter has also found a volleyball but with nothing to identify it - like so many of the tsunami victims.





INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener appears to have mixed feelings about the new government agency to promote entrepreneurship. Writing in his latest grumpy newsletter, he says it seems the perfect example of an oxymoron.

"Surely by definition anybody who can create wealth would never work in government and so the state could hardly be in a position to offer advice on such a matter.

"But a moment's thought reveals the wisdom of the idea. For generations the best way to secure government contracts has been to know the right people in the right departments. This new agency, which will be born out of the consolidation of three existing but obviously ineffective agencies, should merely publish the names and family trees of influential government officials. Entrepreneurs will then pop out of the woodwork as it were.

"Unfortunately, closer reading reveals that the new scheme will start life already crushed by its name – SA Finance Enterprise Agency (SAFEA). All too predictably, it is about allocating money - probably at the wrong price – to small businesses operating in 'the 17 infrastructure projects identified by the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordination Commission'. Well woo hoo. That doesn't sound very entrepreneurial. A government committee? Infrastructure projects? Oh dear me no."



I GOT A job in a helium factory. The boss said: "Stop talking to me in that funny voice!"

Last word

The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.

Albert Einstein

The Idler, Friday, April 27, 2012

Who will Harry marry?

WHO WILL Prince Harry marry? It is a question that has the entire Commonwealth on tenterhooks. British satirical magazine Private Eye manages to combine it with a spoof on the Daily Telegraph, a sober broadsheet that has lately taken to carrying photographs of attractive girls.

"After the Prince confesses that he finds it very difficult to find a woman with whom to share his life, we invite Daily Telegraph readers to choose his future wife:

·         Fruity carnival beauty, Zumba Bumba, 23, Miss Tabasco as seen on the front page of the Telegraph.

·         Fruity A-level student, 18, getting her results on front page of this paper.

·         Fruity cyclist, Victoria Pendleton, 32, lycra-clad Olympic hopeful, as seen on sports pages of this newspaper.

·         Latest fruity actress in Downton Abbey, possibly the one playing Lady Cynthia (22) or Lady Amelia (25) but definitely not Dame Maggie Smith (94) – see TV pages.

·         Fruity Mrs Assad, 36, soon-to-be-available widow of dictator and internet shopper – see all pages

·         Fruit and nut Allison Pearson (52), Welsh Telegraph columnist who has brilliant ideas about whom Prince Harry should marry … (cont. P94)."

Great stuff! I'm sure Mercury readers might have a few ideas as to who Prince Harry should marry.

Maybe he could even get into competition with JZ in the polygamy stakes. Imagine if Harry were to choose a bride from every country in the Commonwealth? What a wonderfully unifying thing. The princesses could have their own grandstand at Royal Ascot.

This would put Harry right up there with August II of Poland, "The Strong One", the king who sired 355 children around the turn of the 17th century (though they don't tell us from how many wives).

The thing is to always aim high.

All that sand


EARLIER this week investment analyst Dr James Greener wondered what they will do with all the sand when Transnet creates the new Durban dig-out port.


Ethekwini councillor Geoff Pullan says we can relax. All the sand from the dig-out can be used instead of what is taken from the sand winning operations in the rivers around Durban.


"The Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs seems to dish out sand-winning licences quite easily. Unfortunately these operations mess up the river courses and even redirect the water flow. There have been occasions when the large holes scooped out of the river bed have caused harm to children swimming there.


"It will be brilliant to get our river sand washing down to the beaches again … just in time to re-apply for Blue Flag beaches."


Blue Flag beaches? Hey, happy days are here again!





Dull and Boring

THE SCOTTISH village of Dull is to forge links with an American town called Boring. Dull is in Perthshire, Boring in the state of Oregon. Arrangements are being made for a twinning of the two, but it's not certain yet where the ceremony will be held – the Dull public library (Quiet please!) or the Boring deeds registry.

Maybe they need strippers and a jazz band.


Strange likeness

CHARLES Moore, a columnist in Britain's Spectator magazine, detects a strange likeness between Julian Assange, the Wikileaks man, and Anders Behring Breivik, who admits to the atrocities which shook Norway and the world.

"I keep getting confused between Julian Assange and Anders Behring Breivik," he writes. "One, I recall, was briefly the hero of the Guardian, and the other, so far as I know, never was. One is accused of murdering scores of Norwegians, the other of sexually assaulting a couple of Swedes. One believes in destroying multiculturalism, the other in destroying privacy. They seem to have little in common, yet something about these two Nordic-looking men born in the 1970s, with their vaguely left-wing, dysfunctional family backgrounds and their absolute narcissism, makes them quite hard to distinguish."

You know what? Moore is right.

The skirl

MACTAGGART is indignant. His neighbour knocked on his door at 2:30am. "Two-thirty am, can ye believe it? What a nerve! Luckily I was still up playin' ma bagpipes."


TOURIST in the Swartland of the Western Cape to waitress with a pronounced Malmesbury brei.

"I love the way you roll your 'r's."

"Ag thanks, it's these high heels."

Last word

The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him.

Robert Benchley


The Idler Thursday, April 26, 2012

Durban does the Hokey-Cokey

You put your bus fleet in,

You put your bus fleet out,

You put your bus fleet in,

You shake it all about …

THE VAGARIES of Durban's transport service are more complicated to follow than the steps of the Hokey-Cokey. Now, it seems, the council is about to take over running buses again.

Insofar as one is able to follow the dance steps, the council sold its bus service to private operators for R70 million, which seemed at the time a snip for the buyers. Then it bought the buses back again for R405 million. This might seem like economic madness, but in Hokey-Cokey terms it's no doubt a brilliant shimmy.

Another private operator was found to run a much-reduced service on a month-by-month basis. And now the municipality wants to take over the whole thing again. We're back where we started.

You do the Hokey-Cokey,

You turn it inside out,

That's what it's all about …


ST CLEMENT'S broke new ground this week with Up And Under, a hilariously raunchy rugby review featuring Pieter Scholtz (who wrote the piece) Pat Smythe (aka Spyker Koekemoer), James Parker (on guitar) and Phillipa Savage (one of Pieter's former drama students).

The lyrics were of a coarseness which is not usual at this weekly soiree of folk who follow the arts and enjoy a glass or two of wine plus din-dins. I'd had no idea that Pieter has such a wide-ranging vocabulary. The audience were urged throughout to chant "Fifty million sheep!" as the plot unfolded of a rugby trip Down Under to Auckland, in the Land of the Long White Nightshirt.

Piece de resistance was without doubt the striptease. Spyker's face was a study as his girlfriend began to strip off in front of a whole bunch of strangers. Except she wasn't really his girlfriend, this was just part of the act. Or was she his girlfriend? You begin to lose track of things, life imitates art.

It was an absolute hoot, though I think some of the rugby folk who came along were a little shaken by the lyrics. They're sensitive souls, not accustomed to bawdiness and coarseness.

Next week things get back to normal, more or less, with a talk and slide show by Durban artist Andrew Verster, who will engage in discussion of his work. Striptease seems unlikely.

But Up And Under should not be consigned to oblivion. It would be a great idea for Pieter and the rest to put it on for the KZN Rugby Union, maybe in the Duikers' Club or somewhere.


Unhappy hooker

THERE'S a bit of a flurry in the US Secret Service following a flaming row in a hotel lobby in Colombia between a Secret Service agent and a lady who was volubly demanding more cash from him.

The Secret Service agents had been in Colombia to see to security arrangements for a visit by President Barack Obama. Now several have been suspended while the whole thing is investigated.

Meanwhile, American satirist Andy Borowitz reports that the International Alliance of Professional Escorts – which represents hookers worldwide – has downgraded the credit rating of the US from AAA to B.

"We are urging our members to avoid conducting transactions with the United States and to focus on more reliable customers like the International Monetary Fund," the Alliance is quoted saying.

Borowitz adds that the US Congress has passed a resolution blasting the Secret Service. "We strongly denounce the Secret Service for consorting with prostitutes, which has traditionally been Congress's role."

He says applications to join the Secret Service have jumped 5 000 percent.

Heh, heh!


A BUSLOAD of politicians were driving along a country road when the bus suddenly ran off and crashed into a farmer's field.

The farmer heard the crash and rushed over to investigate. He then began digging a large grave to bury the politicians.

A few hours later, the local policeman was driving past and noticed the bus wreck. He approached the farmer and asked where the occupants had gone. The farmer explained that he'd buried them.

"Were they all dead?"

"Well, some of them said they weren't. But you know how those politicians lie."

Last word

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

Woody Allen


The Idler, Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The buzzing of the bees …

THERE'S some dispute as to who holds the world record for covering his body with bees. A Chinese beekeeper called She Ping covered almost all his body with 33.1kg of bees, estimated to be 331 000 of them.

It happened at Chongqing, in China's south west, and early reports said this was a new world record.

But now it seems the record might still be held by one Vipin Seth, of India, who covered himself with 61.4kg of bees – roughly 613 500 in number – at the Agriculture Research Centre in New Delhi a few years ago.

Whatever, we trust they both remembered to do up their flies – unlike a beekeeper I once knew at Richmond who used to fastidiously wear boots, gloves, veil and heavy overalls when he robbed a hive, but once forgot to zip up.

His wife later described it as a bullseye for the bee.


Quartermaster's store


There were rats, rats

The size of bloomin' cats

In the store … in the store …

IT WASN'T the quartermaster's store of the old army song but Brian Watson was startled to come across what he describes as a "giant rat" while out mowing grass with a tractor at Consett, County Durham, in England.

He jumped off and managed to whack it to death with a piece of wood. Then when he tried to lift it with the paddle of a boat, the paddle broke.

"I've never seen a rat as big in my life before," he says. According to local fundis, the rat must have been a coypu – also known as a river rat.

What about the cats in that part of the world?

There were cats, cats

With bowler hats and spats

In the store … in the store …





READER Gray Braatvedt adds his contribution to the currently topical issue of polygamy.


Why a man should want to marry a woman is a mystery.

Why he should want to marry two is a bigamistery.




Nigel Wood


I LEARNED with sadness of the death a week or so ago of Nigel Wood, former MP for Berea, at the age of 69. He died suddenly in Howick, where he had retired with his wife, Glenys.


Nigel was an exemplar of the ethos of public service. He served in parliament for many years, replacing his father, Lawrence, who had held the seat a really long time.


When he left parliament he was appointed to the Natal Schools Project of the Urban Foundation and he supervised the building of schools for deprived communities, especially in the deep rural districts, which he did with a bustling cheerfulness. For this he was made a Paul Harris Fellow – Rotary's highest award.


Not too many people have contributed the same kind of enthusiastic effort to social upliftment.




SOME daffy dictionary definitions:

·         Avoidable: What a bullfighter tries to do.

·         Control: A short, ugly inmate.

·         Eclipse: What a barber does

·         Heroes: What a guy in a boat does.

·         Paradox: Two physicians.

·         Parasites: What you see from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

·         Pharmacist: A helper on the farm.

·         Polarise: What penguins see with.

·         Relief: What trees do in the spring.

·         Rubberneck: What you do to relax your wife.


A SCHOOL inspector asks the class who broke down the walls of Jericho? They look blank – so does the teacher. Then one boy pipes up: "Sir, it wasn't me."

The inspector looks at the teacher. She says: "Well, I've known him since the beginning of the year. I believe that if he says he didn't do it, then he didn't do it."

Shocked, the inspector storms to the principal's office and tells him of this appalling ignorance.

The principal: "Look I don't know the boy, but I know his teacher and I believe her. If she feels the boy was not involved, he must be innocent."

The inspector can't believe what he's hearing. He phones the Department of Education and relates the entire episode to a senior official.

The official sighs heavily:"You know I'm very busy. I don't know the boy, the teacher or the principal. Just get three quotes and have the wall fixed by my brother."


Last word

I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.

Ogden Nash


The Idler, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Piecing it together

THREE fellows woke up in their digs on the Gold Coast, in Queensland, Australia, with bad hangovers and company in the living room – a live penguin.

Piecing together events of the previous evening, and consulting video footage on a cellphone, it seemed that after a bender they'd broken into the aquarium at a theme park , stripped to their Y-fronts to swim with the dolphins then kidnapped a young fairy penguin.

Somewhat remorseful, they released the penguin into a canal, where it was spotted by a passer-by who caught it and returned it to the aquarium.

But the lads – two Brits and an Aussie – then made the big mistake of posting the footage of their lark on the internet. Next thing the fuzz were knocking on their door and they're due to appear in court on a string of charges.

It's an almost exact repeat of an incident in Maritzburg in days of yore.

Some fellows woke up in their digs with bad hangovers and company in their living room – a live goose.

Piecing things together (there were no cellphones or video in those days) it seemed they'd been on a bender then visited their old school (St Charles), where they decided to relieve the brothers (or "crows" as they were known) of one of their geese.

One of these chaps - a renowned tackler on the rugby field – set his sights on a particular goose and gave chase. He chased it right through a pond, all kinds of other geese and ducks scattering noisily on either side, dive-tackled it and triumphantly bore it back to the digs.

Somewhat remorseful next day, they decided to return it that night, which they quietly did – before they went out on another bender. There was no boastful YouTube by which they could betray themselves.

But a goose does make a terrible mess cooped up in a living room for a day.


Bible studies

A SUNDAY school child reviews the Book of Genesis:

In the beginning, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says: "The Lord thy God is one," but I think he must be a lot older than that. Anyway, God said: "Give me a light!" and someone did. Then God made the world. He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren't embarrassed because mirrors hadn't been invented yet. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden.

Here endeth the lesson.


Cow on run

YVONNE, the cow who escaped the slaughterhouse by busting through an electric fence then going on the run for months in the Bavarian countryside, is to feature in a Hollywood movie.

While hunters went after her with guns and helicopters, animal rights activists competed, trying to attract her with recordings of the romantic mooing of a handsome young bull named Ernst.

Eventually they managed to dart and drug her and take her to the Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary.

 Now a film titled Cow On The Run is to be made by the Munich-based film company Papa Loewe and American film producer Max Howard.

So Yvonne is safe. They don't tell us if Ernst will also feature in the movie.

Recommended Stories

Spare him

THE ABOVE recalls the lines of Ogden Nash

Pray, butcher, spare yon tender calf!
Accept my plea on his behalf;
He's but a babe, too young by far
To perish in the abattoir.
Oh, cruel butcher, let him feed
And gambol on the verdant mead;
Let clovertops and grassy banks
Fill out those childish ribs and flanks.
Then may we, at some future meal,
Pitch into beef, instead of veal.

You don't have to be a vegan to find them somewhat disturbing.





HUNG Chow phones work and says: "Hey, I no come wok today, I really sick . Got headache, stomach ache and legs hurt, I no come wok."
The boss: "You know something, Hung Chow, I really need you today. When I feel sick like you do, I go to my wife and tell her to give me sex. That makes everything better and I go to work. You try that."
Two hours later Hung Chow phones again: "I do what you say and I feel great. I be at wok soon. You got nice house."

Last word

The saying "Getting there is half the fun" became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines.

Henry J Tillman