Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Idler, Friday, June 29, 2012

Roundheads up against it


IT'S BEEN a thin time for Britain's Roundheads. This week Queen Elizabeth was a central figure in what was not just poignant drama but a diplomatic exercise with the most profound implications for Anglo-Irish relations.


When she shook the hand of Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland coalition and a former commander in the Irish Republican Army, this was the real deal in terms of reconciliation and new beginnings.


The IRA murdered Lord Louis Mountbatten, her much-loved second cousin who was also uncle to Prince Phillip. McGuinness could no doubt point to all kinds of British atrocities over the centuries. Yet they shook hands.


This follows Queen Elizabeth's highly successful state visit to the Republic of Ireland last year, where the crowds turned out in their thousands. Something very positive is unfolding here.


The Roundheads – notably those of the chattering classes - appear to have been discomfited by the degree of public enthusiasm in Britain for Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee. But can they name any individual from the political classes – of whatever party – who could have played anything like the role the Queen has in restoring Anglo-Irish relations?


Methinks not.


National icon


MEANWHILE, Private Eye magazine has a little fun with the chattering classes. "Britain salutes a national icon of dedication and service," declares a headline under a mock-up of the masthead of the Guardian. Inset is a figure waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.


"For 60 years, this increasingly frail and isolated old lady has shown the people of Britain what it means to devote your life single-mindedly to public service and the good of humanity … She is there to remind us all that we are one nation – united in our support for the Labour Party, our contempt for the Monarchy and our firm conviction in everything that she and the Guardian stand for … Never again will we see another Polly Toynbee."


Polly Toynbee is of course the veteran Guardian columnist and anti-establishment chatterer. The waving balcony figure is a photoshop job – Polly Toynbee.


Yes, a bad time for the Roundheads.



Mick's Pie Cart


RECENT mention of Mick's Pie Cart, the late-night diner that used to operate from a spot near the old station, has triggered memories for 84-year-old Arthur Wilkinson, of Hillcrest.


In the 1944 matric class at DHS, he sat beside Mark Rathbone who became a good friend. Mark's father owned Mick's Pie Cart, which was housed in a large garage in a lane off Stanger Street.


"In late afternoon the staff would arrive and push the cart out of the garage and along Pine Street to its site near the old railway station. The Manager of the cart was named Digger and he regaled patrons with amusing stories while he served up fried eggs, hash, sausages and of course the soup sandwich.


"The cart would stay open until the early hours of the morning, its clientele being revellers on their way home after cinema shows, dances, and parties. They were joined also by patrons leaving the Railway Institute across the road in Pine Street."


Yep, them were the days.


Pulling rank


MILITARY historian Peter Quantrill notes that in this week's piece on the deployment of field marshals, generals and major-generals on the police beats, I omitted the rank of lieutenant general


"Lieutenant generals outrank major generals. And when they reach that rank they are generally knighted.


"So - staying with the Gilbert & Sullivan theme - on the beat, fighting crime with baton to hand, strolling down Mahatma Gandhi Road on his own, we have Lieutenant General Sir Whatever Whatever, the very model of a modern, knighted lieutenant general."


July Beans


THE IDLER'S famous July Beans will be back in action next week. They have been planted – one for each horse in the race – in the kind of lab set-up in which beans sprout and flourish, and their progress, day by day, will infallibly predict the race.


I hate to steal Greyville's thunder but this is actually more exciting than the  July Handicap itself. And this year there will be a daily photograph of how the beans are doing. Great value!






Golfer: "Please stop checking your watch all the time. It's a distraction."
Caddie: "It's not a watch, sir - it's a compass."

Last word


Rules are just helpful guidelines for stupid people who can't make up their own minds.

Seth Hoffman

The Idler, Thursday, June 28, 2012

Elephant in the room


THE CIRCUS is in town, encamped down near the old Natal Command site, the elephants tethered and contentedly eating tufts of hay. I wonder where the elephant trainer hoists a pint these days?


It used to be in the street bar of the old Marine Hotel, off the Esplanade. This was also quite near the old premises of this newspaper, in Devonshire Place.


Reporters from The Mercury met up with the elephant trainer from the circus in the Marine one evening and – as so often happens – one thing led to another.


Later they went off to Cartwright Flats, where the circus was camped, and came back leading a young elephant through the city. It was not quite a baby elephant but not quite fully grown either.


They took him to the back entrance of The Mercury and led him into one of the big lifts that were used to take heavy machinery into the works department. They pressed the button for second floor editorial, got out and led the elephant down the corridor to the swing doors of the sub-editors' department.


I must explain about the sub-editors' department. Today it is a brightly lit place with banks of PCs, many of them operated by girls. In those days it was a dark, cavernous place where the sub-editor s sat with their heavy moustaches, each in his own pool of lamplight, chewing pipe-stems and growling in the accents of Scotland and the North of England at the split infinitives and hanging participles they encountered. It was an unnerving and intimidating place.


These sub-editors were most of them ex-servicemen from World War II. They'd been around, they'd seen it all. They were world-weary and cynical. They were hard-bitten. Nothing could surprise them.


But when an elephant came in through the swing doors, they were surprised. Especially when it seized the sugar bowl from the tea tray with its trunk and emptied it into its mouth. This was not like in the Buddhist parable. This elephant in the room was noticed.


Further down the corridor was the telex room, news from every corner of the globe whirling off the chattering machines. An excitable old bloke was in charge and he would from time to time rip the sheets of paper from the machines and set off down the dark corridor for the sub-editors' department with a sheaf of copy, exclaiming things like: "Bomb blasts in the Yemen!" and "Earthquake in Chile!" (He must have been a frustrated headline writer.)


That night he burst through the swing doors and ran smack into the rear end of an elephant. The reports from every corner of the globe were still fluttering in mid-air as he ran off shrieking into the night.


Yes, I wonder where the elephant trainer hoists a pint these days? Hmmm. No it's not on, I'm afraid. You could never fit an elephant into the lift in the new building.




LAST week's account of the hero who drove a Datsun Bluebird through the Mbotyi lagoon, to be the first to drive a motor vehicle on that stretch of Pondoland beach, reminds Val Johnson, of Kloof, of a story from the 1920s.


Her mother's then fiancée, Captain Chummy Johns, landed his small bi- plane on the beach at Port St Johns in November, 1920.He had friends who owned a small guesthouse on the beachfront - and this was a birthday surprise for them


"This was a major event in the small community of the area at that time, many folk never having seen an aeroplane before."


(Captain Johns was to die soon after the Port St Johns escapade in the violence of the 1922 Rand Rebellion.)


Yes, those Wild Coast beaches are so hard and flat you could just about land a Boeing on them.




THIS fellow drops in on a friend and is astounded to find him playing chess with his dog. "I can't believe it!" he exclaims. "That's the smartest dog I've ever seen."

"Nah, he's not so smart. I've beaten him three games out of five."


Last word


Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.

Christopher Morley


The Idler, Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Generals on the beat

THERE'S talk that senior police officers – major-generals – might soon be put on the beat, bringing to bear their experience in the fight against crime and correcting a certain top-heaviness in the service.

But why stop at major-generals? Let's get the full generals out there as well. Why not have a few field marshals on patrol? That would frighten the pants off the baddies.

The police service doesn't have field marshals, you say? Well, that's easily resolved surely. Just create a few. In fact, what better way to correct the top-heaviness? Field marshals in patrol vans would balance things out perfectly between those on the beat and those pushing pens in head office.

But for the moment it's major-generals. One imagines the pep talk as one of these takes command of a suburban police station.

I am the very model of a modern major-general,

I've information vegetable, animal and mineral,

I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical

From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;No smelly feet


IT'S AS WELL to be familiar with the complexities of the law of libel. A little book titled Hatred, Ridicule or Contempt provides some thought-provoking examples of the law as it applies in England and Wales.


Written by Joseph Dean and published by Penguin, it analyses various cases. One - Plumb v Jeyes Sanitary Compounds Co Ltd – concerns a policeman who was on point duty on a hot summer's day in 1929.


When PC Plumb removed his helmet to mop his perspiring brow, an alert passing newspaper photographer snapped it and the photograph appeared in that evening's edition.


PC Plumb had no problem with this – in fact his family rather liked the picture. But six years later, and after he had retired from the police, the same picture appeared with an advertisement. It was captioned: "Phew! I am going to get my feet into a Jeyes Fluid foot-bath."


Elsewhere the advertisement extolled Jeyes Fluid as the answer to "smelly feet."


Former PC Plumb took umbrage at this. He did not have smelly feet, he insisted. He had suddenly become the butt of humour. He sued Jeyes Sanitary Compounds and was awarded damages of £100. (This was in the 1930s. A hundred quid in those days was a lot of dosh.)


What of our own police? They are accused of criminality in the highest places. Twenty of the Durban organised crime unit are arrested on charges including murder. Yet Martin Weltz, editor of Noseweek, says (in the Sunday Tribune) that this was a Hollywood-style circus. Are the police serious about fighting crime? Can they be when crime is their business?


Most alarming. But nobody seems to have suggested they have smelly feet.








Soup sandwich


GOOD news for gourmets. An exotic dish once served at Mick's Pie Cart, the late-night diner that used to operate near the old station, is making a come-back.


Recently this column mentioned the "soup sandwich" – sloppy curry between two slices of bread – in which Mick's specialised.


Now reader Dave James says the soup sandwich – with an egg on top, on request – is being served at Durban Country Club and Beachwood Golf Club.


The chef and kitchen staff have been persuaded – after much cajoling and initial giggling and disbelief – to serve the soup sandwich at the clubs' lunch bars.


"They are now able to produce this mouthwatering item on request, together with relishes such as chutney, sambals and dessicated coconut, to be applied at your own discretion.


"This well-remembered dish is becoming very popular at lunch time, particularly with the the Khehlas, a geriatric, early morning golfing group."


Mick's Pie Cart rides again!


Sweet failure


READER Gray Braatvedt shares with us his frustrations as a quality confectioner: "I wanted to make a fondant but I didn't have the right ingredients; so I fudged it."




OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-40s: "This guy tells me he can tell when I was born by holding my boobs. I say: 'You lie!' He says: 'You gotta believe me.' I say: ' OK, hold them.' He holds them. I say: 'So when was I born?' He says: 'Yesterday!'"




THE EUROZONE crisis staggers on, coinciding with the European football championship.

British satirical magazine Private Eye has on its front cover a headline: "Spain in Euro shock"

Below is a heroically posed onfield shot of the Spanish football side, the front row crouching slightly.

Speech balloon from the crouching skipper: "Can someone lend us a ball?"

Sub-headline at foot of cover: "Final score: Germany wins! Everyone else loses!"

It's as good an analysis as any.


Five facts

HERE ARE FIVE incontrovertible facts:

·         You cannot stick your tongue out and look up at the ceiling at the same time. It's a physical impossibility due to the tendons within your neck.

·         All suckers, after reading the above, will try it.

·         They will discover it is a lie.

·         They will smile sheepishly at having been caught for a sucker.

·         They will try to catch another sucker.


SIGN at a Bangkok temple: "It is forbidden to enter a woman, even a foreigner, if dressed as a man."





Golfer: "I'd move heaven and earth to break 100 on this course."
Caddie: "Try heaven sir, you've already moved most of the earth."

Last word


In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is.

Chuck Reid


The Idler, Monday, June 25, 2012

What a bang!


AN UNUSUAL feature at King's Park last Saturday was the field gun – I think it was a 25-pounder – that was wheeled onto the field by a group of army personnel just before the Sharks-Barney's Army charity match.


Was the KZN Rugby Union getting tough on crowd control? Was Ian McIntosh – coach of the Barney's Army World XV – going to be fired as a projectile over the East Stand.?


It turned out the gun was there to be fired as a salute as the multi-capped John Smit ran out for probably his last appearance at King's Park, the barrel trained high. And what a thunderous crash it delivered – hundreds of people nearly jumped out of their skins.


I trust it was a blank shell they fired. Otherwise, given the direction the gun was aimed, the folk at the Oysterbox, in Umhlanga, could have had a nasty surprise.


Euro parallels


LATER in the evening it was telly and Greece versus G ermany at football in Euro 2012. What an uncanny parallel with events in the Eurozone. Imagine if Greece had beaten Germany. The tanks could have been rolling by now.


Frau Merkel was there in the stand, leaping for joy at each of Germany's  goals. At least she had the tact not to wear one of those spiked Prussian helmets.




Misdirected effort

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener reflects in his latest grumpy newsletter on the disjuncture between the effort put into pursuing the tobacco and liquor industries and into pursuing violent criminals.

He says there is an ever-growing list of restrictions on the sale, advertising and use of cigarettes and liquor.

"When I last checked these were still perfectly legal methods for calming the nerves after dealing with stupidity, and the state happily pockets revenue from their use. Surely there are many other life-threatening dangers which are not the result of free choice, to which the government more urgently ought to be directing its attention.

"We would like to see the perpetrators of violent crime being pursued at least as vigorously as someone who leans over the garden gate with a fag in their mouth and a beer in their hand."

Oz ambush

HOW'S this for an ambush? Dave and Jenny Hudson, of Durban, have sons living in Sydney and Perth, Australia. Son Murray was turning 40 and Dave and Jenny knew his girlfriend, Paula, had organised a surprise party for him. Brother Greg and his wife were flying in from Perth. Friends – former DHS boys – were also arriving from various parts of Oz.

They all arrived at Murray's home and hid in the pantry. When he got home he was told the pantry door was stuck. When he went and pulled at it, brother Greg and his DHS mates tumbled out. Surprise!

But the plot thickens. Dave and Jenny had decided they would gatecrash this surprise party. Unbeknown to any of the folk in Australia they had flown out and booked into a hotel near Murray's home.

On the night of the party, Dave phoned Paula to ask how it was going. Well, she said, and promised to e-mail a video next day.

Then Dave and Jenny strolled into the pub where they were partying. All were were thunderstruck. Then the party started in earnest.

As they always say in New South Wales: "Balke toe!"



A VENTRILOQUIST is touring Essex. One night doing a show in a small town with his dummy on his knee, he starts going through his routine of dumb blonde jokes.

Suddenly, a blonde woman in the fourth row stands up and starts shouting: "I've heard enough of your stupid blonde jokes! What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does the colour of a person's hair have to do with her worth as a human being? It's men like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in the community and from reaching our full potential as people. It's people like you that make others think blondes are thick! You and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against not only blondes, but women in general ... pathetically, all in the name of so-called humour!"
The embarrassed ventriloquist starts to apologise. The blonde yells: "You stay out of this! I'm talking to that little creep on your lap!"

Last word

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.

Franklin P Jones



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Captain Cook, Friday, June 22, 2012

WELL, the Test series interlude is almost over and what a cracker it's been. It's difficult to find the superlatives for last Saturday. The Boks played right out of their socks in the first half. Everything was there – driving, handling, running onto the ball. Not much tackling because England didn't get their hands on the ball, they weren't allowed into the game.

Then England's stirring fight-back to within four points. This was high drama. People say the Boks became complacent when we went into half-time so far ahead. I'm not so sure of that. It's that half-time lull that gives a good side like England the opportunity to take stock, refocus and come back with guns blazing. This they did to brilliant effect.

These are two well-matched sides. Only one try separated us in both Tests. Anything could happen tomorrow. As Katinka, Ukrainian leader of the dance troupe in the Thunder Bar warned last week: "Zese Pommies is full uff tricks!"

England will be disappointed naturally that they didn't level the series last week. But, whatever happens tomorrow, they go away knowing their young side has gelled and is building promisingly for the next Six Nations and eventually the World Cup. Similarly with us. We go into the Rugby Championship – Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and ourselves – in August, knowing we're a crackerjack outfit. By the time the World Cup comes round we could even be drawing on a couple of the youngsters who have been tearing up the turf in the World Under-20 tournament.

And speaking of the Rugby Championship – the Tri-Nations until Argentina joined – who dreamed up this exciting name? Were the Ponytails locked in the loo or something when the decision was made? I'm not saying they should have called it the Southern Hemisphere Rugger Razzle-Dazzle – the way the marketing gurus would like – but the Rugby Championship sounds like something dreamed up by Aunt Mildred. What's wrong with plain Four Nations? It's played at a different time of year from the Six Nations, so what's the problem? The Rugby Championship. Zzzzzz …

Meanwhile, Barney's Army versus the Sharks at King's Park tonight, John Smit's tribute match in aid of charity. This should be an entertaining affair, given the international cast and the carefree spirit of the thing. But what a pity that it clashes timewise with the Under 20 Boks against New Zealand. This match at Newlands should be an absolute humdinger and a foreshadowing of rugby strengths in the years ahead. You can't watch both at once.

The thing to do, I suppose, is go to King's Park for the Barney's Army game then repair to where somebody has saved the Under-20 match with  this technological wonder known as the PVR. In fact where better to go than the Thunder Bar, where the gals have absolutely the latest in technology.

As Katinka said, strumming her famous suspender belt. Snap! Snap! "Zese Barney's Army zey velcome too. Some zey play for Bath? Zey like ze soapsuds? Ve got!" Snap! Snap!


The Idler, Friday, June 22, 2012

Pondoland's pioneering days


Lusikisiki here I come,

Right back where I started from …

TODAY, by special request, we conduct a little research into the pioneering days of Pondoland. Who was the first person to drive a motor vehicle of any description on the beach at Mbotyi?

Mbotyi, it has to be explained, has a long beach of flat, hard sand. The Pondos gallop their horses on it. They even ride their bicycles on it.

But the beach ends with rugged rock outcrops then high cliffs in the north. It similarly ends with rugged headlands in the south. A lagoon that is always open to the sea fills and empties with the tides and cuts off the beach from any kind of motor vehicle, 4X4 or otherwise. It's a lovely spot.

Cottagers at Mbotyi were startled late one night to see the headlights of a vehicle that was roaring up and down the beach. Was this one of those amphibious jeeps? No, it turned out to be a Datsun Bluebird.

The story really begins in the bar of the Royal Hotel, a little way inland at Lusikisiki. To get there from Mbotyi you take a precipitous road through high forest. A group of campers had gone up to buy provisions – notably eggs and tomatoes – not just for themselves but for the cottagers as well.

It was a drizzly day and, the shopping over, they met up in the bar for a cool libation. Paper bags of eggs and tomatoes were stacked to one side.

Then a dispute arose between two individuals. It became heated. Somebody said the only way out was a duel. The two were told to stand back to back, an egg in each hand. Then they were to march three paces, turn and throw.

Well, one thing leads to another. Next instant the place was a blizzard of eggs and tomatoes as everyone joined in. The local police sergeant was in the bar. He took refuge in the manager's office and watched developments through the glass door.

When the ammo was exhausted he came out and levied spot fines which he handed to the cleaning women who had been called in with buckets and mops.

Next it was noticed that the red-haired desperado who had arranged the duel in the first place was missing. He was located taking a bath in one of the hotel facilities. At which he was seized and carried bodily outside by both arms and both legs and deposited – stark naked – on the hot tarmac of the main street. On the way, a woman in the lounge tried to cover her children's eyes, protect them from this dreadful sight. The dumping caused much mirth and excitement among the local populace, who seemed unfamiliar with this fellow's coloration.

(I realise that much of what I have related so far is outrageous and deplorable. In no way do I condone it or associate myself with it. But research is research and facts are sacred.)

It was dark by the time the cottagers at Mbotyi heard strains of She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain as the Bluebird and two other vehicles made their way down the winding forest road. Next thing the Bluebird driver was standing on a piece of ground that rose almost like a ramp beside the lagoon. It was low spring tide and the main channel just below was narrower than he'd ever seen it.

Next thing he'd backed away and was going flat-out at the ramp, full revs. The Bluebird bucked and sailed over the channel; it then ploughed its way along a large exposed sandbank, somehow got through another shallower channel and next thing was on the beach. History made!

Why this exhaustive research? Well, the Bluebird driver turns 70 next month and his daughter asked me if I have any anecdotes for the birthday party. I'm afraid I have no anecdotes, only these dry researched facts.

Who is this hero pioneer of Pondoland? Step forward Phillip Rodwell, once of Maritzburg, now living at Henley in England. It's time you took a bow.


Golfer: "Do you think it's a sin to play on Sunday?
Caddie: "I'm afraid the way you play sir, it's a sin on any day."

Last word

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.

Samuel Goldwyn