Saturday, October 25, 2014
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Day of destiny
IT'S a big 'un tomorrow and if the gods of rugby are onside, it's a giant step to the final. A day of destiny. And if the Bulls should manage to pull it off down at Newlands, it could be a King's Park final. Bring it on, bring it on!
A feast of rugby lies ahead. We can say this with confidence because this Currie Cup season has already sparked a risorgimento in South African rugby. From the stodginess and lack of imagination of the Super Rugby competition we have moved into the handling and running into space of the Currie Cup. It's a joy to watch.
Not only that, the penny has dropped for the Boks as well. They no longer treat the ball as something to be kicked away before it bites them, they too are running into space and handling. The pay-off has been immediate – the scalps of the Aussies and the All Blacks. The World Cup beckons.
'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!
A EUROPEAN Cup qualifier football match between Serbia and Albania ended in Belgrade the other night in fisticuffs, with thunderflashes thrown on the field and a violent spectator invasion. The English referee blew full time, not a goal scored.
The reason: Albanian supporters were not allowed into Serbia (let alone the stadium) because of continuing tensions over the Kosovo war. Then, as the game progressed, a drone appeared over the pitch. It was dragging a flag which showed a map of an ancient Albania that included Kosovo. This is highly provocative in Serbia.
The drone was flying pretty low and the flag was on halyards that were reachable. The Serb players reeled it in. At which the Albanians attacked with fury. Next thing the crowd joined the melee. The police were unable to do a thing.
What happens if tomorrow somebody runs onto the field at Ellis Park with a banana tree? What ancient Balkan-style animosities would not be aroused? Natal versus Transvaal. Remember the Alamo!
A READER who calls himself "Burnie from Newcastle" sends in his favourite "Zorba" to go with others listed here earlier in the week: "I used to be conceited but now I'm perfect."
EARLIER this week we discussed a Scots ceilidh (pronounced "Kayley") that was held here in Durban. Naomi Wakefield says she last encountered that word in the Australian novel, The Thorn Birds.
"I remember that Meggie, the heroine of the story, did not enjoy it very much, if at all, as the ladies weren't allowed to dance."
Times have changed, Naomi. At the ceilidh I went to, the ladies had to be restrained from dancing in the nude.
IT'S sad to learn of the death of Peter Ferraz, founder of the Splashy Fen music festival in the southern Drakensberg.
Peter was a fellow who crammed a lot into his 76 years. After qualifying as an advocate and being admitted to the bar, he went into newspapers where he became news editor of The Star, in Johannesburg, which is where I first met him.
Then he did the giant leap to running a trout hatchery in the southern Berg, where he also set up the annual music festival that has become a national landmark.
Was it coincidence that the name of his farm – Splashy Fen – so closely resembles that line in Evelyn Waugh's classic novel, Scoop: "Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole …"?
The story is of a "countryside notes" correspondent who is sent by mistake by a Fleet Street newspaper to cover a civil war in Africa. Absolutely hilarious.
I wonder if it was that similarity that attracted Peter to the farm in the first place.
The Splashy Fen festival will be an enduring monument to this multi-talented and highly entertaining character.
A LITTLE old lady's Maltese poodle falls off the pier into the sea. As she shrieks in distress, a German tourist dives off the pier to go after it. He reaches the dog and swims it back to the pier. He climbs back again and hands it to her after checking that it's not injured.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!"
"Don't vorry. Your dog iss fine."
"Are you a vet?"
"Vet? I'm bloomin' soaked!"
Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair.
High-tech desert patrol
BILL Gates meets Lawrence of Arabia … high technology from the back of a camel.
Google has launched Desert View – equivalent of Street View – with panoramic shots, captured by Street View cameras mounted on a camel, of the desert around Liwa Oasis, in Abu Dhabi.
The shots were digitally stitched together and users can now traverse the sand dunes at the click of a mouse. I can confirm from personal experience that the sand dunes of Abu Dhabi are very sandy.
The local Bedouin have so far not complained about this unwarranted invasion of their privacy.
A SHETLAND pony has been captured on CCTV walking into a police station in England. A verbatim report from Sky News follows:
"It is not known why he went into the headquarters in Winsford, Cheshire - maybe he was there to grass-up a friend or dobbin someone.
"But he was going to tell the hoof, the whole hoof and nothing but the hoof.
"However, he didn't re-mane there furlong in the incident, which was caught on camera.
"The footage shows a man trying to turn the animal around and point him off the premises. But the horse seemed determined to head to the desk.
"Moments later, an officer is seen guiding the pony back out of the automatic doors and it is understood he was returned to his nearby paddock safely.
"A force spokesman said: 'We like to ensure a warm welcome to all our guests at HQ and at neigh point did the horse pose a risk to security.'"
A-a-a-r-r-r-gh! This is so bad you have to marvel!
COFFEE bar dialogue:
"Hi! I'm 32, I'm a politician and I'm honest."
"Hi! I'm 29, I'm a prostitute and I'm a virgin."
HERE'S a World War II story I'd never heard before. An American aircrew were taking their B-17 Flying Fortress on a bombing run over Kassel, Germany, when they flew into heavy flak and took a direct hit in a fuel tank.
But instead of the tank exploding as it should have, nothing happened. They made it safely back to base.
Next day the pilot asked the ground crew if he could have the shell as a keepsake of this barely believable good luck. He was told there had been not one but 11 unexploded shells in the tank.
This was truly astounding. Then he was told that the armourers, who had been given the task of defusing the shells, found they contained no explosive at all, not one of them. The shells were absolutely harmless.
But one had in it a tightly rolled up piece of paper with a message scrawled in Czech. Somebody was found to translate.
It read: "This is all we can do for you now ... Using Jewish slave labour is never a good idea."
The incident is recalled in a book, The Fall of Fortresses, by Elmer Bendinger, who was navigator in that B-17 aircrew. What a story.
OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "I used to be a historian, but there was no future in it."
A GROUP of fellows, all aged 40, discussed where they should meet for a reunion lunch. It was agreed they would make it The Gourmet because the waitresses were well stacked and wore mini-skirts.
Ten years later, at age 50, the friends once again discussed
where they should meet for lunch. It was agreed they would make it The Gourmet because the food and service were good and the beer selection was excellent.
Another 10 years later, at age 60, the friends again discussed where they should meet for lunch. They agreed they would make it The Gourmet because there was plenty of parking, they could lunch in peace and quiet and it was good value for money.
Ten years later again, at age 70, they discussed where they
should meet for lunch. It was agreed they would make it The Gourmet because the restaurant was wheelchair accessible and had a toilet for the disabled.
Yet another 10 years later, at age 80, the friends discussed where they should meet for lunch. It was agreed they would make it The Gourmet because they'd never been there before.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
IT'S quite a wheeze this wife-carrying thing. At a place called Newry in Maine, in the US, last weekend a fellow named Jesse Wall carried his lady love Christina Arsenault (she's not yet his wife) over a 250m obstacle course that included log hurdles, sand traps and a water hazard, as reported in yesterday's paper. Jesse and Christina beat 50 other couples to the finishing tape.
Then the organisers placed Christina on a seesaw and stacked cases of beer on the other end until there was equilibrium. Jesse walked off with the winnings in beer.
Then they weighed Christina and paid Jesse out in cash for five times her weight. As he got $482.50 (R5 300) and the Americans work in pounds avoirdupois, we can deduce from this that Christina weighs 96lb 8oz, or about 44kg.
So she's a fairly slight girl. And it shows that wife-carrying is as complicated in its way as racecourse handicapping. Marry a slip of a girl and you've got a good chance of winning. But the returns in beer and cash are less than if you marry a more buxom wench.
Yes, in that case you stand to win barrels of beer and buckets of cash but you also have to carry her over those hurdles and things and win the race. It's a conundrum.
But is all this in the spirit of the times? One feels there are people – gender commissioners and the like - who would look askance at women being placed on seesaws to have their weight expressed in volumes of beer. For that reason it seems unlikely that our local custom of polygamous marriage will be harnessed to wife-carrying to set up the splendid relay races that would otherwise be possible.
A pity. Durban could have become the wife-carrying Monte Carlo of Africa.
READER Sally Stretch and her cat Chloe join the debate over the naming of cats, citing the poet TS Eliot.
Sally points out that Eliot said a cat should have not one but three names.
There's the name that the family use daily – Oliver, Reginald, Bobby, Muffin or whatever. "All of them sensible everyday names."
Then, "A cat needs a name that's particular … such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat … names that never belong to more than one cat".
Finally, there is "the name that the cat himself knows and will never confess."
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
How about Pusspuss?
NAMES, names … there was the Pom who arrived here on a visit and wrote home: "Every dog in South Africa is called Voetsek, and when you call him he runs away."
HERE are a few more Zorbas, those expressions with a twist in the tail. Er, sorry, not Zorbas. They're paraprosdokians. (I knew it was a word of Greek origin):
· I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paycheques.
· I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
· Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they're sexy.
· A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
· I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.
· You're never too old to learn something stupid.
· Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
· Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
Not just sex
OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "It's not true that men think of nothing but sex. They're also fixated on power, world domination, money, football and beer."
AN UNEMPLOYED Irish panty-stitcher complains at the dole office that he's being paid half what his workmate is getting.
"But your workmate is down as a diesel fitter. That's a skilled occupation."
"No, no, you don't understand. I stitch de panties. Dat's skill. Den me mate, if he can pull dem over his fat backside, he says: 'Diesel fitter'."
What's another word for Thesaurus? – Steven Wright
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Knees-up highland style
Cauld winter was howling o'er moorland and mountain
And wild was the surge on the dark rolling sea
When just about daybreak I spied a wee lassie
Who asked me the road and the miles to Dundee.
I'VE been a couple of times to the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Fringe Festival; to John O'Groats, northernmost tip of mainland Scotland; to Hawick, Queen of a' the Borders; to Loch Ness; to Glasgow. I've hoisted a pint or two in all these places. But never before had I been to a ceilidh – until the other night, that is.
A ceilidh (pronounced kayley) is the Scots version of a knees-up. All kinds of things happen. Pipes and drums – even though it's indoors. Scots ballads. Scots folk songs. Scots chamber music. Scots dancing by the most lissome lassies. Long recitations off by heart of humorous verse; bawdy jokes – everyone has a chance to take the stage. And shove the shillin' – a contest in which you slide coins across the floor (a bit like curling) to win a bottle of whisky. And, of course, quite a lot of whisky, whether you won or not.
This particular ceilidh marked the start in Durban of the congress of the Caledonian Federation of South Africa. Laddies and lassies from all over the country (not all of them in the first flush of youth) were there in their tartan. (Maybe I was invited because of my origins in Dundee – KwaZulu-Natal, not Scotland.) I was one of the few chaps in troosers but they made me feel at home.
It started with the pipes and drums of the Durban Regiment and the Natal Mounted Rifles. These fellows always produce a decibel or two. In the confined space of the Pool Deck of the Blue Waters – which has a ceiling and is completely walled in – they made themselves heard.
Then, as the evening progressed over dinner, traditional dancing by the lovely Wood twins, Samantha and Melissa, in all kinds of costume. Then Scots chamber music by Friends of Note; the ballads and the folk songs.
Then it was open to the floor. There seemed to be at least one saucy rugby song (if not a rugby song, it should be) that everyone seemed to know because they joined in. Zany verse and jokes, (one of which I have purloined for today's Tailpiece). Things got better and better.
And then some lovely solo ballads by Ian Lamb. What did he wind up with but The Road To Dundee, as quoted above?
Then closure and a piper playing Auld Lang Syne as the whole scrum linked with crossed arms and surged about the way they do.
Now you know what a ceilidh is. A lot of fun.
WHERE is Kim Jong-un (The Young 'Un), the North Korean leader? He hasn't been seen in public since September 3 and then he was limping badly. Recently he missed the annual pilgrimage to a mausoleum where the bodies of his father and grandfather are embalmed (they're big on that kind of thing in North Korea).
Speculation is rife. Has there been a coup? Has Kim been chopped up and fed to the dogs the way his uncle was recently?
Western diplomats seem to think not. But otherwise they are guessing.
Does he have an attack of gout? Or has he gone incognito to Nkandla to discuss nuclear matters?
Nobody would wish gout on the Dear Leader, but most of us would probably prefer the former.
A FISHERMAN on Durban's North Pier hooks a big one. He fights it for hour after hour and a crowd gathers. Eventually he manages to reel his catch in close. A submarine pops to the surface, so encrusted with barnacles it's almost lost its shape; also draped in seaweed.
The hatch on the conning tower pops open. The submarine commander is there with a pistol. He has a very long beard.
"Hande hoch, Englanders! You iss prisoners uff der German navy!"
"That's crazy. The war ended years ago."
"Vot you say? Der var ofer? Who von?"
"Wi' a bit o' help from us Scots."
"Himmel!" He calls down the conning tower. "Hans, der var iss ofer. Ve lost. Take down der picture uff de Kaiser!"
The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself.