Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Idler, Friday, February 22, 2013

It's the new tourism

A FULL-SIZE working replica of the Titanic is to be built in China following an agreement between an Australian entrepreneur and a Chinese shipyard.

Titanic II is due to be completed by 2016. She will then be sailed to Britain and prepared for her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York - a repeat of the 1912 journey which ended in disaster.

The Jinling shipyard in Nanjing has already signed an initial agreement to build the ship with billionaire mining tycoon Clive Palmer.

Palmer's representatives say his company has already received inquiries from potential passengers around the world, with some offering up to $1million (R9 million) for a chance to be on the maiden voyage in 2016.

Disaster re-enactment is obviously the new craze. Stand by for a replica of the giant passenger airship, Hindenburg, and a flight from Germany to Lakeside, New Jersey. Nothing like a giant hydrogen balloon to get the adrenalin going. The punters will queue and pay over the odds for the experience.


The Great Fire of London? It could be tricky persuading Boris Johnson and the London authorities to play along with a re-enactment, but just think of the spectacle; what the punters would to pay be present. This is the new tourism – disaster re-enacted.


Volunteers wanted for the Titanic band! Bring on the icebergs!




LATE newsflash: The archaeological team that discovered the bones of Richard III under the Leicester car park are digging up the Tesco's car park next door to see if they can find his horse.


Bad to verse


MEANWHILE, Ron Coppin, of Hillcrest, contributes some verse:


Roses are red,

Apples are fruity,

Watch out, your lasagna

Might be Black Beauty.




TYGER, tyger burning bright … the St Clement's soirees kick off again at 6pm on Monday, after a longish summer hibernation, with a presentation and slide show by Pieter Scholtz on the illuminated poems of William Blake.

This should be a good 'un. Blake was a master craftsman in both verse and illustrations, and he always saw the two as complementary.

Perhaps we can also persuade Pieter to lead us in singing Jerusalem, that stirring hymn – also written by Blake – that has become almost an anthem among rugby enthusiasts in England.

Chomp, chomp!

RABBITS have been wreaking havoc on cars parked at Denver International Airport in Colorado, in the US. They hide under the cars, seeking warmth, then while they are there starting chewing the insulation round the vehicles' spark plug cables and other wiring. They've caused damage running into thousands of dollars.

It's no doubt very pesky but at least it's not the carnivorous rabbit that featured in Monty Python's Flying Circus. This was a terrifying creature that sprang straight for the jugular.


Sea slug romance

NOW HERE'S a strange one. The red-and-white sea slug of south-east Asia sheds its sexual equipment after dalliance with a lady sea slug, only to grow a replacement set within 24 hours.

This is according to Japanese biologists who have been studying the copulation of red-and- white sea slugs.

What is one to make of this? Is one supposed to feel envy? But why? One can also feel relief – at not being subject to the replacement uncertainties of being a red-and-white sea slug; also not being a Japanese biologist who has to sit and observe such goings-on.


Rifle romance

NEWS from America. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, has married his longtime gun, an AK-47 assault rifle, which he met at a gun show in Alabama in 1991.

The wedding ceremony was attended by 25 of LaPierre's guns and over 200 members of Congress, according to satirist Andy Borowitz.

He says marriage between a human and a gun is not legal in most states, a situation LaPierre deplores: "For a lot of NRA members it's the only intimate relationship they're capable of."

Lovely stuff!

Zombie threat

BUMPER sticker: "If they ban guns how can I fight the zombies?"


She: "You haven't listened to a word I've been saying, have you?"

He: "Why do you always start a conversation with that statement?"

Last word

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it. - Upton Sinclair


The Idler, Thursday, February 21

Are you still with it?


HERE'S a simple test of mental agility. The outcome determines whether you're on the ball or beginning to lose it. It's rather harsh and judgmental but is designed in our best interests.


·         What do you put in a toaster?

Answer: Bread. If you said "toast" just give up now, do something else, stay quiet and try not to hurt yourself.

·         Say "silk" five times. Spell "silk". Now - What do cows drink?

Answer: Water. If you said "milk", don't attempt the next question, your brain is over-stressed and may even overheat. Rather read some JK Rowling.

·         If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house from blue bricks, a pink house from pink bricks and a black house from black bricks, what is a green house made from?

Answer: Glass. Green bricks? Mama mia!

·         It's 30 years ago and a plane is flying at 20 000 feet over Germany, which at the time was politically divided into West Germany and East Germany. The engine fails. The pilot crash-lands in "no-man's-land". Where would you bury the survivors - East Germany, West Germany, or no-man's-land?

Answer: You don't bury survivors. If you said anything else, you're a dunce and must stop now.

·         (Without using a calculator). You are driving a bus from London to Milford Haven, in Wales. In London 17 people get on the bus. In Reading six people get off the bus and nine get on. In Swindon two people get off and four get on. In Cardiff 11 people get off and 16 get on. In Swansea, three people get off and five get on. In Carmathen six people get off and three get on. You then arrive at Milford Haven. What is the age of the bus driver?

Answer: What? You don't remember your own age? You're the driver, dumbo!


If you got any of these wrong – welcome to the Street Shelter for the Over 40s! Two or more wrong and you qualify for pensioners' prices.


Nightmare drive

A FRENCH motorist travelled 240km along a motorway at 200km/h in a nightmare drive after his accelerator jammed. Frank le Cerf was returning from the supermarket in Pont-de-Metz, near Amiens, northern France, when it happened. Every time he braked, the speed only increased.

He managed to alert the police on his cellphone. They sent out cars to escort him along the motorway between Calais and Dunkirk and warned the border post into Belgium to lift its booms – which is as well because next thing Lecerf and his escort flashed through.

Eventually he ran out of petrol and crashed into a ditch near Alveringem. If it's Tuesday it must be Belgium.

Hair-raising stuff. But one question. Does Lecerf's car not have an ignition key that could have been switched off?



Vigilante justice

AS SOUTH Africa is swept by revulsion and outrage over the crime of rape, a news report comes in from Melbourne, Australia.

When 81-year-old Ava Estelle was told her 18-year-old granddaughter had been raped, she spent a week tracking down the two culprits before confronting them in their sleazy lodgings and blowing away their wedding tackle with a revolver.

Then she turned herself in to the cops, handing over the gun. The rapists have survived but not as the men they once were.

A police spokesman said it was a tricky case. "What she did was wrong, and she broke the law, but it is difficult to throw an 81-year-old woman in prison, especially when three million people in the city want to nominate her for mayor."



Not enthused


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, was not exactly enthused by the State of the Nation address.



The President's State of the Nation address

Purported to outline the road to success;

But the same old codgers

And their artful dodgers

Will still be in charge, making a mess.




AN AIRLINE pilot makes an announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, good news and bad news. The bad news: We've been hijacked by terrorists. The good news: They want to go to Disneyland!"

Last word

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labour and there is an invisible labour


Victor Hugo


The Idler, Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Old-fashioned gallantry

THEY take no chances with these old-timers down at the docks these days. Phyllis Ambrose tells me a whole lot of them were breathalysed the other morning at 9.45 in the morning. She finds it something worthy of mention in the Street Shelter for the Over-40s.

"On a recent Mostly Over 80s trip, 26 of us were driven by bus to the National Sea Rescue Institute. When we reached the Point security area, all 26 of us had to be breathalysed before being allowed in.

"Then a remark which made my day came from one of the gentlemen on the bus to a lady wearing a pretty blouse: 'I like your top'.

"'Thank you,' she replied.

"Then he added: 'I like your bottom too!' Never too old for a laugh!"

Yes, the gallantry reminds me very much of the Street Shelter for the Over-40s. Phyllis and her friends should drop in next time they take an outing.

Oddly enough there have been some rumblings at the Street Shelter that the name is beginning to suggest a kindergarten. Some want it changed to Street Shelter for the Over-65s. But I think not. We don't want to get breathalysed next time we drop in at the NSRI.

Barley wine

OF COURSE, the authorities have to keep tabs on these old-timers. During a sojourn in England there was a pub in my town that stocked a drink called barley wine – highly potent and in tiny nip bottles. It was just opposite a pension pay-out point.

Every week the pensioners would drop in, have a nip or two of barley wine then start punching each others' heads. They caused the coppers huge problems.

Hence the breathalyser tests at NSRI. They're checking for barley wine.

Special scotch

THE WHISKY distillers, John Walker, have produced a Diamond Jubilee blended scotch to mark Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee last year. It contains a unique blend of grain and malt whiskies, all of which were distilled in 1952, the year of the Queen's accession to the throne, and have been maturing ever since.

The blend was put into a marrying cask of English oak taken from the Queen's estate at Sandringham.

The blend produced just 60 bottles which are on sale at £100 000 each (R1.5 million).

Koos van der Merwe bought himself a bottle. It goes great with Coke, he says.


Horseburger humour

BRITAIN'S horsemeat in the hamburgers scandal continues to gallop – though outpaced by the jokes that accompany it. Examples:

·         I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse. I guess Tesco just listened.

·         Anyone want a burger from Tesco? Yea or neigh?

·         I'm  not entirely sure how Tesco are going to get over this hurdle.

·         Tesco are now testing all their vegetarian burgers for traces of unicorn.

·         Tesco have been forced to deny the presence of zebra in burgers. Shoppers were confused by barcodes.

·         To beef or not to beef. That is equestrian.

·         The smaller version of those Tesco burgers makes great horse d'oeuvres.

·         These Tesco burger jokes are going on a bit.

·         China has jumped on the burger bandwagon. They're now selling Quarter Pandas

Veggie love

MEANWHILE, some vegetarian verse is supplied by reader Eric Hodgson:

Cabbage always has a heart;
Green beans string along.
You're such a Tomato,
Will you Peas to me belong?

You've been the Apple of my eye,
You know how much I care;
So Lettuce get together,
We'd make a perfect Pear.

Now, something's sure to Turnip,
To prove you can't be Beet;
So, if you Carrot all for me
Let's let our Tulips meet.

Don't Squash my hopes and dreams now,
Bee my Honey, dear;
Or tears will fill Potato's eyes,
While Sweet Corn lends an ear.

I'll Cauliflower shop and say
Your dreams are Parsley mine.
I'll work and share my Celery,
So be my Valentine.

Yes, I know we're about a week late for that but Eric had to munch his way through a huge pile of Brussels sprouts to find the message underneath.



THEY'RE at a fancy restaurant. She orders oysters, lobster, champagne – the whole nine yards.

He: "Does your mother feed you like this at home?"

She: "No, but my mother's not expecting to get laid tonight is she?"

He: "How about dessert and a liqueur?"

Last word

All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.

Sean O'Casey


The Idler, Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trumpet ventriloquist controversy


CONTROVERSY rages. American singer Beyonce lip-synched, pretending to sing for President Obama at his inauguration. All kinds of people are now saying pop stars do this regularly at their gigs. Is this a verneukery?

And where does Colin Howes hide his trumpet? The question arose at a recent Merseyside jazz session where Colin – who has been on the Durban music scene for many years - wowed them as guest vocalist, especially in the snatches where he produced trumpet-like music from his mouth. Most uncanny. Is he some kind of ventriloquist? (And where's the trumpet?)

No, he says, he grew up in deprived economic circumstances on the Bluff and he couldn't afford a trumpet. He just had to make do.

Another great session it was with a second guest vocalist, the diminutive and dynamic Elaine Rodriquez, absolutely knocking them out with I Left My Heart In San Francisco. (She appeared not to be lip-synching).

Then rousing renditions of Take Five and Twelfth Street Rag. Three hours go by so quickly.


Toll irony

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener detects a delightful irony in the protests against imposing tolls on the new roads around Joburg. In his latest grumpy newsletter, he says the collection method relies upon being able to identify each vehicle passing a toll point.

"In order to collect the fees therefore the tolling authority is supposing many things. These include the presence of a valid or indeed any number plate on every vehicle; that the number on the plate is linked to a valid postal address; that their administration and the post office will not drown in the task of despatching tens of thousands of notices daily; and finally that vehicle owners will take a blind bit of notice if and when they get the toll fee invoice.

"Ignoring traffic fines could easily replace wrestling as a widely enjoyed Olympic sport here in South Africa. The reason for not using an extra fuel levy to finance these new roads is probably that revenue raised in this way (like almost all special imposts) disappears into the government's general revenue fund, from where a long list of fiercely argued and higher priority spending needs will loot it long before the road maintenance team can claim their share."

More ring-a-ding


LAST week's piece about my Idler predecessor finding his wife's engagement ring in a bin bag reminds Arshad Moola of a similar incident in the early 1970s.

"My parents were driving from Volksrust to Durban with my Mum's sister. My Mum took her wedding ring, wrapped it in a tissue, handed it to her sister and asked her to keep it in her handbag. My aunt misunderstood and thought my Mum was giving her a tissue to chuck out of the window (those were the days before litter awareness.) This was on the old N3, travelling at least at 100km/h.

"My father turned the car around as soon as they told him of their mistake. They drove back to the spot where the tissue was thrown out and started hunting for it. Amazingly, they were able to find the tissue with the ring still inside."


These gals really need to be more careful. The trouble they cause their menfolk!






CLIVE Phelps, who used to write a squash column, says he enjoyed Xianthe Exall's poem last week on professional football in the sixties, especially her extolling of the qualities of sports reporters/editors Reg Sweet, Fred Forge, Mike Bradbury and John Holliday – "all talented, dedicated gentlemen."


"I would add to this list Darrell Thomson, sports editor of the Sunday Tribune and a classmate at Maritzburg College."


Agreed. Darrell was not just a great sportswriter, he went to a decent school.






REUB is being interviewed by the sheriff for the job of deputy.


"Reub, what's one and one?"


"That's 11."


Hey, thinks the sheriff.


"What two days of the week start with the letter 'T'?"

"Today and tomorrow."

Hey again. Thinking out of the box!

"Who killed Abraham Lincoln?"

"Sheriff, ya got me there."

"Reub, you go home and work on that one a while."

Reub bounces into the poolroom. "Hey guys, I got the job! First day and I'm on a murder case!"

Last word

The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better. - Thomas Carlyle

The Idler, onday, February 18, 2013


Bad-mannered shark


WHO SHOULD I meet up with the other day but Al Venter, my old colleague who has been writing stuff for decades now about Africa for publications like Jane's Defence Weekly. He's written at least a dozen books as well.


British-based Al takes a break from war-ravaged spots in West Africa and elsewhere by coming to the South Coast to scuba dive with sharks. He and his lady, Caroline, had a somewhat unnerving experience at Aliwal Shoal the other day with a 5-metre tiger shark (that's a fifteen-footer) that was behaving very badly and out of character. This one was pushy and aggressive. Sharks are normally no problem and are beautiful creatures, says Al.


Yeah. Like when Reub and Abner were camping in the Florida Everglades. Abner went off to collect water for the coffee and came back with eyes like saucers.


"That there bayou is full of alligators, Reub!"


"Relax, Abner, them alligators is twice as skeered o' you as you is o' them."


"Reub, that there water ain't fit fer drinkin'!"


Offer declined


AL VERY kindly offered to arrange for me to join him on a shark dive. But unfortunately I had pressing commitments elsewhere. Er, washing the car, mowing the lawn, addressing the Women's Institute …




LIZ CASTLEDEN, OF Westville, laments the disappearance from the shop shelves of writing paper, those pads of blue and lavender, some lined, some unlined, on which we as kids used to have to write thank you letters twice a year in ink, no corrections and alterations allowed.


To all the shops I've been around

No writing paper to be found!

So sorry, Mum, can't write a letter

To cheer you up and make you better.


The young assistants look with awe

But politely show me to the door.

Letter? Writing paper? They do not use

That's not in fashion, they accuse!


Is that a good enough excuse?


Alas, Liz, it's been all downhill since the microchip.



Vintage Hope


HUMOUR from another era – a compilation comes this way of quips from Bob Hope, the British-born American comedian who died a couple of months after turning 100:


·        On turning 70 – "I still chase women, but only downhill."

·        On turning 80 – "That's the time of your life when even your birthday suit needs pressing."

·        On turning 90 – "You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake."

·        On turning 100 – "I don't feel old. In fact, I don't feel anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap."

·        On giving up his early career, boxing – "I ruined my hands in the ring. The referee kept stepping on them."

·        On never winning an Oscar – "Welcome to the Academy Awards or, as it's called at my home, 'Passover'."

·        On golf – "Golf is my profession. Show business is just to pay the green fees."

·        On presidents – "I have performed for 12 presidents and entertained only six."

·        On why he chose showbiz as a career – "When I was born, the doctor said to my mother: 'Congratulations, you have an eight-pound ham'."

·         On receiving the Congressional Gold Medal – "I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it."

·        On his family's early poverty – "Four of us slept in the one bed. When it got cold, mother threw on another brother."

·        On his six brothers – "That's how I learned to dance. Waiting for the bathroom."

·        On his early failures – "I would not have had anything to eat if it wasn't for the stuff the audience threw at me."

·        On going to Heaven – "I've done benefits for all religions. I'd hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality."

Another era, but still fresh and funny.



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

"My love, you've been a perfect wife for 10 years. I can't hold your past against you. Besides, I'm sure it spiced up our sex life."

"I don't think you understand. My name was Brian and I played rugby for Western Province."



Last word


Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.

Bernard Berenson