Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Idler, Friday, April 26, 2013

The great shedding of flab


IT'S PLEASING indeed that our councillors are about to start riding bicycles about the city centre.


They were probably a little startled to receive from the UN this gift of 294 bikes for the purpose, all in the interests of the international campaign against climate change. But it seems they've accepted the idea with enthusiasm and we look forward to seeing them fly about Durban, shedding flab furiously as they pedal-push for service delivery.


The Metro police are already in training. Stand by for every mayoral procession to be headed by a sergeant on balloon tyres, sweating profusely as he pedals through against the red lights, furiously ringing his bicycle bell.


Lean and mean. It'll be better than the rickshas.


Injured list


THE SHARKS are in New Zealand, and at last we can answer the telephone.


With the injury list getting longer by the day, some of us were getting nervous.




YESTERDAY a reader suggested setting words to the "Bee-Baa! Bee-Baa!" of a police blue-light vehicle going through the red traffic lights, as a new national anthem.


An early response comes from Perry Webb:


Late for tea!

Late for tea!


Calcium gobblers

GIANT snails are eating up buildings in Florida. The African land snails, as they are known, can grow to the size of a rabbit and they are eating into the walls of buildings in search of the calcium they need to grow their shells.

Florida has problems with all kinds of alien species that thrive in the American state's moist sub-tropical climate, including the Burmese python that threatens the ecology of the Everglades. Officials are catching about 1 000 snails a week around Miami.

The source of the infestation has not yet been traced. They haven't blamed Fidel Castro – not yet anyway.


A GROUP of skiers in Canada have performed the largest simultaneous backward somersault ever.

It happened at Mont St Saveur, in Quebec, where 30 skiers went down a short slope then, in unison, performed a backflip, landing on their feet further down the slope. It was captured on video.

These apr├Ęs-ski parties get wilder by the day.


ACTIVISTS are accusing the government of Brazil of failure to protect the Awa people from the inroads of civilisation.

The Awa live in north-eastern Brazil and survive as hunter-gatherers in remote areas of rainforest. But thousands of loggers and settlers have been attracted to their territory. They now outnumber the Awa 10 to 1 and are cutting down huge sectors of forest with chainsaws.

Last year a judge ordered that all outsiders should leave the area within 12 months. But the deadline has passed and no evictions have taken place, says indigenous rights group Survival International.

If the Awas' way of life is destroyed, they will rely forever on government hand-outs, say the activists.

But can or should the benefits of civilisation be resisted? Should the Awa be denied the benefits of algebra, junk food, reality TV and rap music?

It's a no-brainer, surely.

In far Tibet

MEANWHILE, Ogden Nash provides the definitive counterpointing of primitive existence and our modern, consumption-driven society.

In far Tibet
There live a lama,
He got no poppa,
Got no momma,

He got no wife,
He got no chillun,
Got no use
For penicillun,

He got no soap,
He got no opera,
He don't know Irium
From copra,

He got no songs,
He got no banter,
He don't know Hope,
He don't know Cantor,

He got no teeth,
He got no gums,
Don't eat no Spam,
Don't need no Tums.

He love to nick him
When he shave;
He also got
No hair to save.

Got no distinction,
No clear head,
Don't call for Calvert;
Drink milk instead.

He use no lotions
For allurance,
He got no car
And no insurance,

No Alsop warnings,
No Pearson rumour
For this self-centred

Indeed, the
Ignorant Have-Not
Don't even know
What he don't got.

If you will mind
The box-tops, comma,
I think I'll go
And join that lama.


DOCTOR: "Your heart, lungs, pulse and blood pressure are all fine. Now let's see the bit that gets you ladies into all kinds of trouble."
She starts taking off her underwear.
"No, No! Don't take off your clothes ... just stick out your tongue!"




Last word


I think age is a very high price to pay for maturity.

Tom Stoppard


The Idler, Thursday, April 25, 2013

These kindergarten antics


THE WORLD of football is rightly scandalised by the incident in which Liverpool striker Luis Suarez bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. Did you ever see anything so pathetic and babyish as a grown man biting another?


If Suarez had punched or kicked Ivanovic it would have been bad enough. But biting? It's not just pathetic, it's comical and it brings the game into disrepute, reducing it to toddler level where Mum smacks naughty kids who bite – and that's the end of it.


Yes, I know rugby forwards have been known to nibble hard at an opponent's ear but it's not quite the same when, in the heat of a ruck, the other fellow's ear somehow ends up in the culprit's mouth.


This was out in the open and embarrassing, Suarez suddenly going all babyish and biting Ivanovic on the arm. It's a man's game, surely. The FA need to come down heavy over this one. What self-respecting football hooligan wants to see his game reduced to kindergarten antics?


ANOTHER "My Barber Says":


When HMS Dreadnought visited Cape Town in the late 1940s, the radio announcer on the Afrikaans service called it "Sy Majesteit se Skip Skrik Vir Niks."



Mixed fortunes

THE VAGARIES of fortune … A man who lived as a hermit in the woods for almost three decades has now been arrested on charges of theft from campsites and has received a proposal of marriage. A complete stranger has also offered to bail him out of jail.

Christopher Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit in Kennebec County, in the American state of Maine, had no contact with other human beings for 27 years – though he regularly raided empty cottages and campsites for food and equipment to help him survive. He faces more than 1 000 charges of burglary and theft.

Now he is in custody and having to get used to people again. He has declined the offer of marriage. Quite right, you can't rush things.

Sans tash

A PIGEON has crashed into a window in Scotland leaving a remarkable if greasy imprint of itself – wings, head, beak and body – on the glass,

It happened in Dunblane. A photograph of this freaky phenomenon has now been posted on the internet, householder Stuart Milligan peering through the glass from inside.

The pigeon is the one without the moustache.

Iron Lady


SOME Margaret Thatcher quotes:


·        In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.

·        The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.

·        Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.

·        Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that ... and I think I am fine.

·        Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it.

·        If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and would achieve nothing.

·        You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

·        Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.

·        I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.



MICK is appearing on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? It's the £1 million question. Which of the following four bird species does not build its own nest? Sparrow; thrush; magpie; cuckoo?

Mick decides to use his last lifeline, to phone Paddy.

"It's de cuckoo."

You're sure?"

"Dead sure!"

Mick wins £1 million. Next night he meets Paddy for a Guinness.

"I'm so grateful, Paddy. How did you know dat?"

"Everyone knows de cuckoo don't build a nest. It lives in a clock, ya eedjit!"

Last word

Nobody believes the official spokesman ... but everybody trusts an unidentified source.

Ron Nesen


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Idler, Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another harpoon era

THAR she blows … They're about to start collecting the space junk that is orbiting our planet by harpooning it.

The space junk – potentially dangerous to expensive satellites – is making the bit of space within earth's field of gravity look a bit like a Durban dump site on a windy day.

The idea is that the larger items of debris will be harpooned by a chase satellite, reeled in on a tether then towed to a lower orbit where they will burn up in the earth's atmosphere.

On TV they demonstrated the harpoon, powered by a gas cylinder, that can punch it's way through thick metal. It looks rather like an underwater speargun.

Harpoons? Reeling in? There's something very 19th century about this. Step forward Queequeeg!

The Young 'Un

IF YOU WERE thinking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – the Young 'Un – has gone a bit quiet lately, it's possibly because he's decided to pace himself.

It's a little punishing to sabre-rattle seven days a week, says American satirist Andy Borowitz. Kim has therefore decided to take weekends off from vowing to incinerate the world.

He is quoted: "On Monday through Friday I'll have the insanity and unmitigated rage necessary to do this job right."

That explains it then. It's reassuring to see a leader who recognises his own limitations. There are far too many megalomaniacs around.


VARIETY is ever a feature of St Clement's, the weekly arts soiree on the Berea. Last week we had Anton and Merle Scholtz taking us through typography, from the ancient hieroglyphics to monks with their parchment to Gutenberg hot metal to the computer-generated flowery fonts people like Anton and Merle have now turned into an art form.

This week we had charming chanteuse Natalie Winter with a medley of songs in French and in English, accompanying herself on guitar and harmonica, the latter held in position before her in a crafty sort of headset.


Hey, what a busker! It went down a treat. Natalie is librarian at the Alliance Francaise but I suggested during interval that she could make a fortune busking at the Greyville racecourse underpass. I could be her agent.


Stick around kid – I'll make ya famous!


New anthem?


READER Derek Atkinson suggests a new national anthem, set to the "Bee-baa! Bee-baa!" of a blue-light police vehicle going through the traffic lights on the red.


Yes, it's a catchy rhythm. Can anyone set words to it?


Duly noted

WAYNE Klinkel, of Colorado, has donned rubber gloves and taken to following his golden retriever around the garden.

Wayne and his wife left the retriever, named Sundance, in their truck while they stopped off for a bite while on the road. While they were having their meal, Sundance was also feeling peckish. He ate five $100 notes that were lying loose in the cab.

Wayne has since recovered most of the tattered remnants of the bills, washed them, taped them together and sent them to the US Treasury for a refund.


Who would be a teller in the US Treasury?




YOU CAN'T get a good poet down. Ian Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, toppled forward on the bowling green the other day as his Achilles tendon snapped with a sound like a pistol shot. In a hospital ward next morning his anaesthetist gave him some verse to read, written by himself in the style of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.


As Ian was reading, he slipped into dreamland. But, recovered, he has now dashed off a few lines.


A perky anaesthetist called Gwynne,

Gave his patient a verse to take in;

But while absorbing that

His patient went slack,

Overcome by his slow Mickey-Fynne.





Last word

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

George Orwell


Monday, April 22, 2013

The Idler, Tuesday, April 22, 2013

Wartime memories stir

IT WAS ALL a long time ago but last week's pieces about anti-submarine operations of our coast during World War II have stirred memories for older readers.

Frank van Vloten says he was at school at the time but his two older sisters were army drivers and they had to take lorries from Clairwood to Umhlanga to pick up bodies that had been washed ashore.

Details were sparse as there was a news black-out and nobody discussed such things.

"But there must have been submarine activity off the Natal coast, either by Japanese or German U-Boats."

Arthur Wilkinson, of Hillcrest, says Catalina and Sunderland flying boats also operated from Durban harbour. He lived with his parents in an eighth-floor flat on the corner of Broad Street and the Esplanade from 1942, and had a wonderful view of the Catalinas and Sunderlands taking off and landing.

"In the case of the Catalinas the depth charges could be seen fixed underneath their wings. On many occasions they would be missing on their return, obviously having been dropped on a target."


Mike Trevethan confirms that U-Boat 197 was sunk off the coast of southern Africa. He has a military chart of ships sunk, captured or damaged in the waters off Southern Africa between 1939 and 1945.


"She was sunk on the August 20, 1943, approximately 42 degrees East longitude and 28 degrees South latitude.


"Unfortunately the chart does not show how she was sunk, but I am certain you are correct to say by a local seaplane."


He says there were only German submarines off our coast, not Italian.


MEANWHILE, Neil Goss (presumably of the well-known family of Pondoland traders) sends information about the land-based anti-submarine sweeps of 29 Squadron (South African Air Force), who operated from Lambazi airstrip near Port Grosvenor.

They flew Ansons, Taylorcraft and eventually Venturas, providing escorts for shipping as well. They also flew to Durban and Mtubatuba to join anti-submarine operations off the North Coast and Zululand.

The Paramount Chief of the Pondos was once given a 30-minute flight in a Ventura, and afterwards he donated an ox to the squadron who were under canvas at Lambazi.

Neil says the grass airstrip at Lambazi was re-opened for the first time in 2009 and is now known as Mkhweni. The wartime ammunition bunkers are still there.


All this was sparked by the planned re-opening of the naval base on Salisbury Island. It suggests how crazy it was ever to have closed it. Nobody wants another war but unless you have certain minimal preparations against it, that's when you're more likely to get it.

Donnish wordplay


A RECENT Tailpiece featured professors exploring the appropriate collective noun for a gathering of prostitutes (a jam of tarts, a flourish of strumpets, an anthology of prose).


But reader Richard Newell, of Gillitts, says there are two more of these donnish collective nouns: "a firm of solicitors" and "a novel of Trollope's".


Which leads him to recall the case of five insurance companies that were about to merge. They employed a commercial artist to design a suitable logo. In due course he arrived at the boardroom with a picture in each corner of the page of a man in bed with a woman and picture in the centre a man alone in bed'


Asked to explain, he said: The couple in the top left corner are man and wife – "Legal & General"; in the top right corner we have a man in bed with his housekeeper - the "Employers' Liability"; bottom right is a man in bed with his fiancee - "Mutual Trust"; and bottom left is a man with a prostitute - "Commercial Union".


"Ha, very good," said the directors. "And the man alone in the middle?"


"Ah, he's the "Prudential".






Last word


Go, and never darken my towels again.

Groucho Marx


The Idler, Monday, April 21, 2013

Maul rained off


SUCH was the weather last Saturday that only a lunatic (or perhaps a Liquor Board official) would be on the outer fields of King's Park.


But it's interesting that the Sharks management appear to have spotted the flaw in the thinking of the Liquor Board and told fans to go ahead and have their braais and beers on the outer fields, as they always have.


Of course – as argued in this column last week – the outer fields, where liquor is neither bought nor sold, have nothing to do with the Liquor Board. Nor does it have anything to do with the police or anyone else that people should be consuming beer, along with their sausages, in the open air on land leased by the KZN Rugby Union and closed off from public view.


All the same, the apparent hostility of officialdom to rugby and to the internationally renowned King's Park after-party is disturbing.


The Sharks depart for Down Under. The maul with officialdom is put off for another day.


That visit


MORE on that visit to South Africa in the 1930s by Edward, Prince of Wales. Devlyn Fraser, of Umkomaas, says Edward was playing golf at Rondebosch, in the Cape, where his caddy heard the others in the four-ball calling him "Your Highness."


After a few holes the caddy said to the Prince: "D'jou know, my bra's name is also Johannes?"


No agony uncles


THERE are plenty of agony aunts but no agony uncles. Reader Esmond Naidoo explains why not, with the example of an unsuccessful attempt to instal an agony uncle on a newspaper.


A reader wrote in: "I am a woman aged 26. I left my husband with the au pair and my baby at home. I drove for just about two kilometres when my car engine started to overheat so I had to turn back to get help. When I got home I found my husband in bed with the au pair. I don't know what to do now, please help me."


The agony uncle's reply: "Over-heating of the engine after such a short distance can be caused by problems associated with the radiator. You need to check the oil and water level in your engine before you start your journey. You must also make sure your car is serviced regularly to avoid problems in future. I hope this will help."


So? I'm not sure what Esmond is getting at.


Safer underground


A READER who signs himself M Dyduch says last year there were 37 fatalities in road accidents per 100 000 of population. The statistics are more or less the same when it comes to the murder rate.


Yet there were 123 fatalities in our mines, out of a workforce of 550 000. This makes it 22.3 fatalities per 100 000 of the working population. The miners are therefore much safer underground than on the surface.


He adds: "English is not my home language but I tried my best."


Monsieur/Herr/Senor Dyduch – there's nothing wrong with your English. Your maths is even better.


Maybe we should all become troglodytes (That's a dreadful English word for people who live underground).


Gone where?


MARY Ann Grafetsberger, doughty defender of the interests of vervet monkeys, is captivated by Granny Joan's story of the two mynahs that have taken over her garden flat.


Mynahs are just little vervets with wings, she says, and Granny Joan is obviously a person who loves animals.


But what, Mary Ann asks, has happened to all the mynahs that used to roost in such numbers at places like Medwood Gardens?


"One could not hear oneself think with all the twittering as they settled in for the night."


Well, I'm not sure about that word "twittering". Raucous screeching is more like it. But I take Mary Ann's point. All kinds of people have been asking what's happened to the mynahs that used to be here in such numbers?


The same seems true of the European sparrows. Does anyone out there have any idea?





Attorney: "Back to court again. What are the charges this time?"


Client: "Well, I was settling down to sleep naked the way I always do …."


Attorney: "So?"


Client: "Then this stewardess appeared in the aisle and next thing they had the handcuffs on me."


Last word


I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either.

Jack Benny