Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Idler, Monday, July 18, 2016

Those porky-pies

BORIS bounces back – or so they were all saying when Boris Johnson got the foreign

secretary spot in Britain, having been manoeuvred out of running for the premiership.

But is this really such a bounce-back? Boris led the Brexit campaign, during which he

told a lot of porky-pies about Europe. It turns out he had no plan at all for actually

disengaging Britain from the EU.

Now he has to deal with European counterparts who are perfectly aware of the porky-

pies and will have a greatly diminished regard for him all round. He at least won't have to

negotiate the terms of disengagement – that's the responsibility of a specially created

ministry and it could take years – but there could be an uncomfortable atmosphere when

he does interact.

Then there's the rest of the world. Boris will also have to engage with other world

leaders. As a columnist he's already written about a few of them. Some examples.

 On President Obama: "He's a part-Kenyan president with an ancestral dislike of the

British empire."

 On Hillary Clinton: "She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare,

like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital."

On Donald Trump: He's "clearly out of his mind" and his "ill-informed comments are

complete and utter nonsense."

 On Vladimir Putin: "He looks a bit like Dobby the House Elf."

"Ha, ha, ha! Dobby the House Elf! No hard feelings, Vlad, it was just a joke on a quiet


Theresa Machiavelli, er Theresa May, is showing herself to perhaps have a wicked

sense of humour.

10 Downing Street

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener is impressed by the way prime ministers come and go

in Britain, with minimal fuss.

"Perhaps the most amazing thing about the clinical way in which Britain switches prime ministers

is the handover of the official residence – 10 Downing Street.

"Suddenly there was David Cameron and his family on the doorstep waving to the cameras.

Amazingly none of the children was tapping out a status update on a cellphone and Mrs C wasn't

clutching a supermarket bag stuffed with still warm pyjamas and half a bottle of milk rescued

from the fridge on the way out.

"Mind you they probably had to leave the milk behind for Larry the cat who, it turns out, is on the

permanent staff at No 10 and doesn't shift digs just because of mere political firestorms.

"So no sooner had the family shuffled down the street to be taken away into obscurity than the

new key holder pitched up with her startled looking husband in tow. After the waving and

smiling, the big black door mysteriously swung open and the pair bolted inside. Not even a duffle

bag of overnight things in sight. All very classy."

Yes, it recalls Churchill's comment when he lost the 1947 election in Britain to Clement Attlee.

"Tomorrow an empty cab will pull up outside No 10 Downing Street and Mr Attlee will get out."

Running rugby

SOME wonderful running rugby over the weekend. The Sharks threw caution to the

winds against the Wolverines, great handling and tackling on both sides, and a pleasing

enough spectacle though the outcome never seemed in doubt. The Japanese low tackle

proves this is the way to do it.

But the Lions came unstuck in Argentina with their second-string side, which means we

have to travel to Wellington, down in the Land of the Long White Underpants, for the

quarter-final instead of just to Ellis Park.

Oh boy, the jetlag factor. But look, we beat the Hurricanes at Kings Park. We just have

to do it again. Vasbyt!

Up at Kearsney, the Craven Week final – Western Province beat the Lions - provided a

pulsating end to a pulsating week of schoolboy rugby. The overseas talent scouts no

doubt enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.

Quite a few of the coaches were quartered at DHS, just across from the Street Shelter

for the Over-Forties, and were vocal in their praise of Kearsney and the way the whole

thing had been organised. That's nice to know.


"Knock, knock!"

"Who's there?"


"Fifi who?"

"Fifi fiefie fofo fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman!"

Last word

An executive is a person who always decides; sometimes he decides correctly, but he always

decides. – John H Patterson

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Idler, Friday, July 15, 2016

The fall guy

THE fellow you've really got to feel for in the great British

political shake-up is Philip May. A few days ago nobody had

heard of him. Every day he was quite happily doing whatever he

does as an executive in some financial investment company

where he's apparently an expert on pensions.

No doubt he took an evening snifter or two at some club;

probably played golf at weekends; probably enjoyed

Wimbledon, Twickenham and Lord's. A totally self-contained,

contented man minding his own business.

But now he's posing awkwardly in doorways with his wife, the

new prime minister. When ordered to do so by the waiting

photographers, he gives her an embarrassed peck on the cheek.

You can see the poor guy is having ants. His private, personal

life is over.

And it's only just started. When Margaret Thatcher became

prime minister, the satirical magazine Private Eye began a

regular feature called "Dear Bill", in which Denis Thatcher

supposedly poured out his heart to his chum, Sir William

Deedes, editor of the Daily Telegraph, and provided the

lowdown on what was happening in No 10.

It was hilarious and it ran for years. Stand by for something in

similar vein from Private Eye.

Come to think of it, Britain has another Philip who is in similar

circumstances. This one lives at Buckingham Palace. "Dear

Phil?" But I don't want to give Private Eye mischievous ideas.

Talent scouts

THE Wolverines tonight, and presumably a scoot through to the

quarter-finals. No Pearl Harbor, we trust.

Then an expedition to Botha's Hill tomorrow for the Craven

Week final at Kearsney. It should be a jolly jaunt – great

schoolboy rugby plus the fun of playing Spot the Talent Scout.

Usually they have dark glasses, turned-up coat collars and

fedora hats pulled down firmly. They used to speak in the

accents of Stellenbosch but these days you get Aussie, Kiwi and

the home counties as well.


THEY'RE talking about setting up a national

health service. What follows has some bearing

on our current gap in standards of care.

Two patients limp into two different medical

clinics with the same complaint. Both have

trouble walking and appear to require a hip


The first patient is examined within the hour, is

X-rayed the same day and has a time booked for

surgery the following week.

The second sees his family doctor after waiting

three weeks for an appointment, then waits

eightweeks to see a specialist, then gets an X-

ray, which isn't reviewed for another week and

finally has his surgery scheduled for six months

from then.

Why the different treatment?

The first is a golden retriever. The second is a

senior citizen.

Deville Wood

HALF-muffled bells will sound from St Mary's Church,

Greyville, this Sunday from 8am. They will be followed by

the tolling 100 times of the Delville Wood Bell (414 kg) to

mark the centenary of the World War I battle, which was

the bloodiest ever fought by South African troops.

The St Mary's bell tower has a set of 10 fine bells,

weighing a collective four tons. Each bell is inscribed to

commemorate World War I events and leaders.

They were cast in Taylor's foundry, in Loughborough,

England, in 1921 and were donated by Sir Charles Smith,

a founder of Illovo Sugar, in memory of his mother, Emma.

Weeping Cross

AND up in Maritzburg, the Weeping Cross will surely be


The cross was made from timber salvaged from the

shattered trees of Delville Wood after this horrific

engagement in the wider Battle of the Somme, in which

thousands of South Africans died.

In the days leading up to the anniversary of Delville Wood

the cross has (most years) produced blobs of resin – the


Scientists have been baffled by the phenomenon.

The Weeping Cross used to stand in the Carbineer

Gardens, in the Maritzburg CBD, before it was moved to

the MOTH headquarters in Scottsville.


PADDY buys an electric car. But next day he

phones the garage.

"It won't go more dan 10 yards."

"Is the battery charged up? Are the brakes off?

Is it in gear?"

But all that is in order.

"That's strange. You say it goes, but only for 10


"Yeah. Dat's de length de lead stretches to de


Last word

Rules are just helpful guidelines for stupid people who can't

make up their own minds.

Seth Hoffman,

The Idler, Thursday, July 14, 2016

The posh boys

HOW are the mighty fallen … the Eton/Oxford/Bullingdon Club cabal – the so-called "posh

boys" - that had been ruling Britain is suddenly routed.

Old-Etonian and Bullingdon member David Cameron believed in membership of the EU; in the

integrity of the United Kingdom.

He called a referendum on membership of the EU – in retrospect an act of braggadocio. He lost

and now he's out on his ear. His successor is committed to leaving the EU; there's a real danger

that Scotland will want to leave the UK to remain in the EU.

What kind of footnote will Cameron be to history?

Old Etonian and Bullingdon member Boris Johnson carefully cultivated a tangle-haired image of

bumbling likeability over the years. When the referendum was called he opportunistically opted

for the "leave" option, calculating that if "leave" won Cameron would be toast and he would be

the next PM.

But enter a sneak and a cad. Michael Gove was not at Eton but he was at Oxford – though it

seems doubtful he is a member of Bullingdon. He challenged for the premiership and blew

Johnson out of the race.

What kind of footnote will Johnson be to history?

Old Etonian and Bullingdon member George Osborne was Chancellor of the Exchequer (what

we'd call minister of finance) and was set to replace Cameron when he retired. It's not even

certain now whether he'll keep his cabinet job.

What kind of footnote will Osborne be to history?

How are the mighty fallen.

The Bullingdon Club? Oh, that's a dining club for very rich yobbos. It's associated with Oxford,

though the university disowns it because of its tradition of members getting drunk and trashing

restaurants, then paying for the damage immediately in cash. Most places won't have them.

On the rare occasions that women are invited to Bullingdon functions, they have to go down on

all fours and whinny like a horse while the fellows blow hunting horns.

The Bullingdon Club have had a fine time over recent months trashing the whole of Britain. Will

they be able to pay for the damage this time?

Thin majority

BRITAIN'S decision to leave the EU is so far-reaching after membership for 43 years that it's

tantamount to constitutional change. Yet the majority vote for "leave" is so thin it makes a

mockery of normal constitutional principles.

In South Africa, for instance, constitutional change requires a two-thirds majority in parliament;

on some issues a 70% majority.

Now more than a thousand British barristers - many of them QCs - have written to No 10 pointing

out that the referendum result is only advisory. To leave the EU requires a vote in parliament.

The letter states: "The referendum did not set a threshold necessary to leave the EU, commonly

adopted in polls of national importance, eg, 60% of those voting or 40% of the electorate. This is

presumably because the result was only advisory.

"The outcome of the exit process will affect a generation of people who were not old enough to

vote in the referendum. The positions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar require special

consideration, since their populations did not vote to leave the EU."

Interesting. Many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Brexit lament

MEANWHILE, a lament comes this way from a Brit who voted for Brexit but now wishes he had


He attaches photographs of Ekatrina, from Latvia, and Sylwia, from Slovakia, who were

performers at his lap dancing club. But since the Brexit vote they've been replaced by Doris of

Doncaster and Ethel of Ealing.

Yes, you've guessed. Ekatrina and Sylwia are absolute stunners. Doris and Ethel are, er, plain and

more than somewhat overweight.

"That Nigel Farrage is a bastard!" the lament concludes.



OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "Your round."

"You too, you fat slob!"


"MY mother-in- law has vanished, disappeared from the house just like that."

"Have you given her description to the police?"

"They'd never believe me."

Last word

The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My

answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer

to that would be, 'No.'

Aaron Copland

The Idler, Wednesday, July 13, 2016

More fake footage

I HAPPENED to drop in late at the Street Shelter for the Over-

Forties the other evening. The place was nearly empty.

On the big TV screen they were showing some of that fake Nasa

footage – expanses of bleak, arid, flinty landscape, not a blade

of grass to be seen, nor vegetation of any kind. They tell us it's

the surface of Mars, when any fool can see it's the Griquas

rugby field at Kimberley. Is there no end to the deception of

these space agencies?

Then suddenly on ran a whole bunch of fellows in rugby kit.

This was not pretending to be Mars, it was a rerun of the

Griquas-Mpumalanga match at Kimberley, put on not by Nasa

but by Supersport or somebody like that. Silly me!

Then into the place came a whole bunch of jolly fellows you

could see at a glance were connected with rugby. But they

were not locals. They had pullovers emblazoned with badges of

lions rampant or leopards couchant, that kind of thing; they

were talking the taal – blacks, whites, all of them – and they

were ordering outlandish concoctions like gin and ginger beer

and dubbel brandewyn. These were definitely not locals.

It turns out they are here in Durban for Craven Week, the

interprovincial schoolboy rugby tournament being played up at

Kearsney College, at Botha's Hill.

Schoolboy rugby? Heavens! I know they're having trouble

getting through matric these days but these fellows were in

their thirties and forties. And they were knocking back the

jungle juice. Oh, then the penny dropped. These fellows were

Craven Week coaches, quartered over the road at DHS. It didn't

take them long to find the Street Shelter.

Much jollity and badinage, banter in Afrikaans and English. This

is rugby, a brotherhood that spans divides of race and ethnicity.

As I left I bade them farewell and said I'd see them on Saturday

at Kearsney.

"You're coming to the final?"

"Absoluut! Ek's die skeidsregter!" (Absolutely! I'm the referee!)

We rugger buggers like our little joke.

Changed times

READER Geoff Caruth says Monday's piece on the female take-

over of British politics - the Queen, the new prime minister and

possibly also the leader of the opposition – doesn't tell the

whole story.

"The first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, is a lady.

The first minister of Scotland,-Nicola Sturgeon, is a lady. The

Leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson, is a lady; and

finally what's left of the Scottish Labour Party is also led by a

young lass, Kezia Dugdale.

"We live in, er, changed times."

Too right, Geoff. The fainthearted might say they're circling like


Front line

MEANWHILE, if you're an enemy of the Brits you now stand the

chance of being bayoneted by a gel from the home counties

instead of a wee hardman from Glasgow.

The Brits have lifted the ban they had on women serving on the

front line in close combat roles. This was announced in Poland

the other day by Prime Minister David Cameron (now ex-PM) at

a Nato summit in Poland.

He said it would enhance the army's capability, allowing it to

draw on all its talent.

But is this wise? Should the kind of girls who relish close

combat in the front line be indulged in this way? Could it not

get the Brits into trouble with the Geneva Convention?

As Kipling pointed out, the female of the species is more deadly

than the male.


THIS fellow goes to the pet shop and buys a talking

centipede. He's absolutely delighted with it. He takes it

home in a white cardboard box.

Once home, he lifts a flap on the box and says: "Let's go

down to the pub so you can meet my mates and chat to

them. They'll be chuffed.

No answer.

He repeats in a slightly louder voice: "Let's go down to the

pub so you can meet my mates and chat to them."

Still no answer. He repeats it several times, getting louder

and louder.

Finally, yelling at the top of his voice: "Are you coming

down to the pub or not?"

A small voice comes from the box: "I heard you the first

time. I'm just putting on my shoes."

Last word

The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must

be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite


Nikola Tesla

The Idler, Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stun an elephant

A COUPLE of book bargains were on offer at the East

Coast Radio Home and Garden Show, which ended last

weekend. They will appeal especially to rugby enthusiasts.

Springbok: The Official Opus comes in two editions. One

is a massive, leather-bound, gilt-edged page, numbered

edition – only 500 printed so far, maximum print run 2 900.

The other is a smaller, scaled-down edition, but a heavy

tome by any standard nevertheless.

Published by SA Rugby, they give the exhaustive

illustrated history of rugby in South Africa since it arrived

here in the nineteenth century, with the most marvellous

pictures – paintings as well as photographs. The written

material comes from a range of sources. Reproduction

quality is superb.

I emphasise, these are substantial books. The larger

would just about fit on a four-chair restaurant table. You

could stun an elephant with it. The smaller you could use

to stun a wildebeest.

Price? The bigger one is R30 000 (and you get the smaller

one thrown in as well, for free). The smaller one is a snip

at R3 500.

Has anyone been buying these books? Yes, said the

fellow manning the stall at the Home and Garden Show.

He'd sold two of the R30 000 ones and quite a few of the

smaller ones. People take their rugby seriously.

Have Durban people missed their chance now the Home

and Garden Show is over? No. the SA Rugby bookstall

will be at Craven Week, up at Kearsney College, until


This is your chance fellows to really impress the missus

and show you love her. Instead of the holiday in Mauritius,

get her the jumbo edition of Springbok – The Official

Opus. She'll love you in return.

Small differences

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener notes in his latest

grumpy newsletter the surprising extent to which the small

differences in large numbers are being used to draw important

and sweeping conclusions. He compares it with the Tour de

France, where stages of 200km have been won by mere


He notes that the GDP of South Africa is now almost exactly R4

trillion per annum

"The key metric is of course the rate at which this GDP number

changes. Increases are good, decreases are bad. And this week

the IMF suggested that South Africa would see growth of just

0.1% in 2016. Now that is a mighty small difference (about

R3bn after removing the assumed effect of inflation). Barely the

cost of a new presidential jet and far less than the amount Eskom

have asked the taxpayer for in order to make ends meet.

"But it is positive, and so sighs of relief all round. What

nonsense! The sole target is for economic growth which is

undeniably and substantially greater than population growth. We

need big differences.

"There is way too much government happening here on the

southern tip. Public sector expenditure is almost a third as large

as the nation's GDP, but is poorly allocated and prioritised.

Minister Blade Nzimande has been told that it is not possible to

accede any longer to the demands of the '#FeesMustFall'

campaign and is muttering about inflation-linked fee increases

for university students.

"This will likely pave the way for another round of protests

getting under way as the end of year exam season approaches

and students look for something to do other than swotting."

Yes, Greener's especially grumpy this week.

Roadside assistance

NEWS from America. It was a bitterly cold night in North

Dakota. A state trooper on patrol came upon a

motorcyclist stalled by the roadside. The biker was

swathed in heavy protective clothing and wore a full-face

helmet as protection against the cold weather.

"What's the matter?" the trooper asked.

"Carburettor's frozen,"came the muffled reply.

"Pee on it. That'll thaw it out."

"I can't."

"OK, watch me closely and I'll show you." The trooper

unzipped and promptly warmed the carburettor as

promised. Moments later the bike started and the rider

drove off, waving.

A few days later, the local state troopers' office received a

note of thanks from the father of the motorcyclist. It began:

"On behalf of my daughter, Jill..."


THIS fellow was writing a new book about the American

Civil War. Unfortunately he left his notes outside. One gust

and it was all gone with the wind.

Last word

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire

public relations officers.

Daniel J Boorstin

The Idler, Monday, July 11, 2016

The Falklands factor

BEWARE the Falklands factor. Before long the Brits will have

either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom as prime minister.

Come November and the Americans seem likely to have Hillary

Clinton. The ladies will join Angela Merkel in governing

heavyweight democracies.

The Falklands factor? Not all societies appreciate the

significance and worth of women put in command. They see it

as a sign of weakness, something to be exploited.

An American diplomat friend who was posted in Argentina in

the early eighties tells of his desperate attempts to persuade the

Junta against invading the Falklands as a diversion from internal


"They only laughed at me. 'But the British have elected a

woman as prime minister. She will never do anything about it.

She's only a woman.'"

"I tried to explain to them that Margaret Thatcher had bigger

cojones than any of the men in her party. But they just wouldn't

buy it. And look what happened."

I wonder what Vladimir Putin thinks of women leaders. He

strikes me as a decidedly old-fashioned cove. Not to mention

certain quarters in the Middle East who could be inflamed by the

very idea of a woman considering herself an adversary.

I suppose it's liberating and all very good that women should be

able to get to the very top like this. But it could also be a little

destabilising. Let's never forget the Falklands factor.

Their interests

THERESA May's interests are listed as "cooking and walking."

Andrea Leadsom is more of a dark horse in this respect, though

she's said to be the conservative daughter of a vicar.

They must be having the absolute jitters in the Kremlin.

All gals

MEANWHILE, it seems that today Labour MP Angela Eagle

will challenge the party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

If she succeeds, it will mean Britain has a queen, a female prime

minister and a female leader of the opposition. If an election

should exchange parties in power, the gender disposition would

be the same.

This would not have pleased the 16 th century Scottish theologian

and political reformer, John Knox. As he put it:

"For who can denie but it repugneth to nature, that the blind shal

be appointed to leade and conduct such as do see? That the

weake, the sicke, and impotent persones shall norishe and kepe

the hole and strong, and finallie, that the foolishe, madde and

phrenetike shal gouerne the discrete, and giue counsel to such as

be sober of mind? And such be al women, compared vnto man

in bearing of authoritie. For their sight in ciuile regiment, is but

blindnes: their strength, weaknes: their counsel, foolishenes: and

judgement, phrenesie, if it be rightlie considered."

This was part of a pamphlet he published, titled: "The First Blast

of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women."

Knox was campaigning against the presence on the throne of

various European queens, including his own Mary Queen of


But he got nowhere. Mary's cousin became Elizabeth I of

England and was so infuriated by Knox's male chauvinism that

she cut him adrift, withdrawing the support he had expected

from her as a fellow-Protestant.

I think we can safely say that John Knox would not have

approved of the course of events in Britain today – "foolish,

madde and phrenetike". But that was way back in 1595. The

times have changed.

Sharks win

OH BOY, a game of two halves – except we were drilling Free

State for the first 10 minutes. It was only when Beast got

carded for giving a flattie to that guy who was giving him gyp

that we lost the plot.

But then recovery. Great driving, a solid scrum. Fierce tackling.

That interception by Stefan Ungerer. Awkwardly squirted ball

on the tryline could have brought two more tries.

Thanks fellers, we'll bank the points. There's much to build on

as we target the quarters. Great ball clearance, great handling,

superb tackling. We're getting better with every game.


THE captain of the Titanic calls a meeting of his officers.

"I've got good news and bad news."

"Give us the good news."

"We'll get 11 Oscars."

Last word

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense

than to put out on the troubled sea of thought.

John Kenneth Galbraith

The Idler, Friday, July 8, 2016

Crazy UK script

WHO is scripting this stuff? Tony Blair won three elections

on the trot in Britain. Now, following the release of the

Chilcot report on the Iraq invasion debacle, there are calls

for him to be called before the International Criminal Court

or impeached by the House of Lords. One Fleet Street

paper describes him as an international terrorist.

None of it will happen, of course, but the howls are there.

Boris Johnson, leader of the Brexit campaign and at one

stage an apparent shoo-in to be the next Tory leader, has

disappeared off the radar. Yet a YouGov pollster

describes him as the most trusted of the current crop of

British politicos – though he immediately qualifies it:

"That's like saying he's the tallest of Snow White's


TV viewers yesterday witnessed the extraordinary

spectacle of a group of politicos marching down a street

chanting support for a candidate.

Were they for Hillary or Donald Trump in the US

presidential election? No, these were British MPs at

Westminster, campaigning on behalf of Andrea Leadsom.

Weird is hardly the word.

Next we'll see the final round of the Tory (and PM)

leadership race. It's down to the membership. The future

of the UK, as it wobbles in its relationship with Europe, will

now be decided in the clubland of St James, in London,

and in the golf clubs of the shires.

We hope the buffers of St James don't come to blows over

the port.

The mind, senor, she boggles.

Reasonable error

HOWICK'S resident theoretical physicist Rob Nicolai

suggests an out for Tony Blair.

"He could play it safe and say the Americans provided

photos of Saddam Hussein with a calculator and a

protractor, and say he thought they said weapons of mass

destruction instead of weapons of maths instruction.

"A reasonable communication error."

New NHS?

MEANWHILE, some thoughts to ponder here in South Africa, not least

as the government seeks a new National Health Service.

 If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what

it costs when it's free! - PJ O'Rourke.

 I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a

man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the

handle.  - Winston Churchill.

 Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor

people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. - Douglas


 I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the

facts. - Will Rogers.

 In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money

as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. –


 A government big enough to give you everything you want,is

strong enough to take everything you have. - Thomas Jefferson.


A BLUE and white vase that was used for years as a

doorstop by a family in Birmingham, England, sold on

auction the other day for £650 000 (R1.5 million).

It turns out the vase was a rare 18 th century Chinese

artefact from the reign of Emperor Quanlong, possibly

manufactured in the imperial kilns for the emperor's

summer palace – where it probably was not used as a


According to the Huffington Post website, the Birmingham

family (not named) inherited it from an antique dealer aunt

named Florrie.

AS THE spacecraft Juno orbits the planet Jupiter, it is

picking up a stunning light show, according to a European

Space Agency release. It is also picking up strange

sounds known as "bow shock", says Nasa.

The European Space Agency says Jupiter's auroras cover

areas bigger than the entire Earth. They are hundreds of

times more energetic and never cease, pulling charged

particles from the planet's surroundings.

The bow shock sounds are analogous to a sonic boom,

says Nasa.

All this sounds very much like a disco. I hope this isn't

another of these space agency hoaxes – that Juno is in

fact orbiting the Diamond Disco in Kimberley.



PADDY: "If I was as rich as Bill Gates I'd be even richer dan


Mick: "How so?"

Paddy: "I'd do a bit of window cleaning on de side."

Last word

In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the

morning, day after day.

F Scott Fitzgerald

The Idler, Thursday, July 7, 2016

Amazing healing plant

YESTERDAY we had a picture of marijuana plants at an

exhibition in Oakland, California. Hardly had the paper hit the

streets when an e-mail arrived from a fellow called Anon.

"The caption under this morning's photo of marijuana plants

describes it as a 'drug'. In fact it's a substance, as it is a natural

plant. Drugs are chemically manufactured. Marijuana is not

addictive - but it's dependent - there are no withdrawal


"The public are ignorant about this amazing healing plant and

need educating."

Well, I'm no expert. My only experience of this amazing healing

plant was when, a few years ago, a gang of fellows were

working on my roof. At tea breaks they would sit in the shade


Weeks later, long after the work was completed, and after

some rains followed by hot weather, plants exactly like those

shown in yesterday's picture had sprung up where they used to

sit smoking.

Next thing I saw my Irish terrier eating the leaves of these

plants. Now this was a dog of high spirits. He was already

banned from three bars for misbehaviour.

Next thing he was running about the yard screaming with

delight and doing cartwheels and handsprings.

The stuff works. I emphasise that I base this solely on

observation of my Irish terrier.


OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "If

your cup is only half-full, you probably need a different


Deciphering it

JEREMY Hunt, Secretary for Health in the UK, says he is

dismayed and confused by the rejection by junior doctors

of the National Health Service of a new contract deal

negotiated with their union.

The medics are already out protesting with banners.

Hunt's confusion needs to be resolved. No doubt they will

get hold of a pharmacist right away to decipher what it is

the junior doctors are saying with their banners.


CATS up trees, hamsters under the floorboards … it's all in a

day's work for firemen.

But when firemen were called out on a "small animal rescue" in

Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England, the small animal turned

out to be a huge 2m boa constrictor that had slithered into a gas

heater and refused to come out, according to Sky News.

They're humane people the Brits. They didn't just fire up the

heater to persuade the boa constrictor to leave, they

disconnected the gas then dismantled the heater to get at him

"This goes down in hiss-tory," said fire crew chief Dave Brierly.

What are boa constrictors doing in England? It's probably got

something to do with the wave of immigration from the EU that

the Brits voted against recently.

Boss cat

NOLA Mitchell, a lady of my acquaintance, is to be found

rowing on Durban harbour in the predawn; ringing the bells in

St Paul's and St Mary's Churches; and whooping it up at St

Clement's, the arts soiree. She also owns a cat.

He's no ordinary cat. Very handsome, he's not one of these

purry, cuddly cats. He bites when you try to stroke him. He bites

passing ankles. He knows who's boss. Himself. He's a


Nelson – that's the cat's name – does not have the CV of your

ordinary moggy. He was born in Brazil and rescued by a South

African yachtsman from dogs that were killing his mother and

the rest of the litter.

He grew up at sea. He almost died there too, except he and the

yachtsman were rescued in a storm by a passing Japanese car

carrier which brought him to Durban and further adventures.

He's now with Nola and her husband, but not before reuniting

her with an old friend with whom she had lost contact.

Now Nola has told the story in a charming little book titled Just

Call Me Nelson (Avnola Publications). Between the rowing, the

bell-ringing and St Clement's, where did she find the time?


A MIND reader gives a demonstration of her powers at a


She reads the mind of the lead guitarist: "Wow, look at all the

cute chicks!"

The drummer: "Good crowd. We're gonna make bucks tonight!"

The keyboard player: "All three of these guys have no

appreciation of my talent. What a bunch of losers."

The bass player: "C … G … C … G "

Last word

History is the version of past events that people have

decided to agree upon.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The IUdler, Wednesday, July 6, 2016

St Clements rides again


REPRIEVE! A lot of us turned out on Monday evening for what was to be a melancholy occasion, bitter-sweet - the final St Clement's arts soiree on the Berea, that has been running for almost 10 years now.


The problem is that retired drama professor Pieter Scholtz, who has been the compere and driving force at St Clement's all these years, has relocated to his home town of Eshowe, in Zululand. Although he now divides his time between Eshowe and Durban, arranging St Clement's was becoming just a little too much.


St Clements had become an institution, combining artistic talent – prose, poetry, music – with much bawdiness and humour. Plus vino plus lovely grub. Some lovely girls too.


Who can forget the spirited reading last year of Chaucer's The Miller's Tale, which absolutely captured the mood of St Clement's. Many maintain this was Pieter's finest hour in theatre. Fellow-reader Rick Andrew (if reader's the word for a fellow who simulates flatulence) set new standards of sound-effects for the bedroom window scene.  On the West End in London they use a trombone. Rick puts them to shame by putting his lips to the wall and blowing.


Tehee quod she, and clapte the window to.


Was all this to become past tense?


Then Pieter's announcement, to acclamation. The soiree will not be closing down entirely. In future it will be held once a month. The cognoscenti practically wept with joy, and matters moved with a swing from there, with various readings.


Pieter himself read from a book he is about to publish, titled Mountains of the Mind. It seems this is about a long, meandering holiday he spent in England with a girlfriend in a narrowboat, travelling the canals and rivers.


It seems this jaunt had its moments. One night, tied up at the riverside, Pieter awoke to find the boat was drifting. Some villain on the shore had undone the painter with which the boat was tied up.


He jumped out of his bunk, managed to start the motor and got the narrowboat back to the quay. Furious, he picked up the axe he kept on the foredeck and went ashore to confront whoever it was who had cast them adrift.


The canals of England have, wherever there is a mooring point, pubs, shops and things. In summer, the towpath has people on it, even late at night. These ran off shrieking at Pieter's approach.


It was only then that he remembered that he slept without pyjamas. He was stark naked and running around with an axe in his hand. He hastily retreated to the boat. The legend of the naked axeman has no doubt become part of village lore.


One wonders though whether Eshowe is ready for this kind of thing.


Yes, a rollicking evening it turned out. Jean-Marie Spitaels read a poem ending with the two lines


Pieter Scholtz enjoy the Zulu beer

Amba gashle Pieter, amba gashle.


It's not great Zulu but not bad for a Walloon (French-speaking Belgian). Jean-Marie then produced a harmonica, on which he is a master, and a sing-song ensued on the porch until eventually they chucked us out before the police were called.


Hey, this was reminiscent of the Duikers' Club at Kings Park in the glory days.


Tehee quod she, and clapte the window to.





ON FEAR of the number 13, reader David Rodgers refers us to a book, 13 The World's Most Popular Superstition, by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer. He found it in the Durban North library.



"The author uncovers the history, psychology and evolution of the Unlucky 13 superstition.  

For example, early Christians blamed the Last Supper at which Judas was the 13th guest.


"But long before then, Norse mythology was telling of a banquet for a dozen gods that was crashed by an evil spirit, Loki, who killed one of the guests, Baldur.


"Also in the book are references to: triskaidekaphilia  -  being positive to 13; triskaidekaphobia - fear of 13; triskaidekaphiles - people who like 13; triskaidekaphobes - people who fear 13."







HE REPORTS for his first day of work at a supermarket. The manager hands him a broom. "Your first job will be to sweep out the warehouse."


"But I'm a graduate."


"Oh, sorry, I didn't know that. Give me the broom and I'll show you how."



Last word


Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.

Eric Hoffer





The Idler, Tusday, July 5, 2016

US orangutan scare

VISITORSs had to be evacuated from an animal theme park in Florida the other day  when an orangutan escaped from its enclosure and climbed trees.

There were screams from bystanders when it dropped to the ground near them, according to Fox News. It happened at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.

The orangutan was eventually darted with tranquillisers and returned to its enclosure.

An unnerving experience for those visitors, to be sure. The orangutan has a topknot hairstyle very similar to that of presidential contender Donald Trump. You don't expect Trump to come dropping out of trees at you when on a visit to the zoo.

Americans these days need nerves of steel.

Pesky agencies

CAN it be true that we're about to sidestep these pesky ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's by creating our own?

Investment analyst Dr James Greener raises it in his latest grumpy newsletter.

"Brics is a very loose and all but senseless association of five nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, oh yes, South Africa) with absolutely nothing in common except perhaps a determination to squeeze their partners for concessions and a chance to feel behind each other's couch cushions for lost spare change.

"Recently, however, their finance folk hatched a plan to deal with irritation that the rest of the world don't rate any of the Brics highly when it comes to repaying loans.

"Our fellow's plan is simple. They will create their very own ratings agency which, presumably, will award everyone an AAA certificate.

"Job done! Someone get the IMF on the line and ask them to send round the armoured truck stuffed with money. Pronto.!"

Unlucky 13


LAST week we discussed the origins of "Unlucky 13". Readers Grant Freshwater and Hasler say aversion to the number 13 dates back to Friday, October 13, 1308, when Philip le Bel (Philip the Fair), King of France, raided the Knights Templar (in connivance with the Pope), inflicting a slaughter that began the demise of the Knights as an order.


Meanwhile Peter Quantock, of Empangeni, who first raised the issue, also notes that rugby players appear not to be afraid of wearing that number.


Yes of course, an outside centre wears No 13 on his jersey. There's no particular record of these players being stretchered off the field or failing to dot down when they should.


And of course in rugby league there are 13 players on each side.


Maybe the rugger buggers are impervious to history.




Coastal plunder


ROB Nicolai, Howick's resident theoretical physicist, detects a correlation between the writings of TS Eliot and the depredation of our coastline by foreign trawlers.


"I am shocked that foreign trawlers plunder our coastline of at least R60 billion a year just because we do not have the craft to patrol our shorelines! Perhaps we can use our submarines that cost us R8billion in the arms deal to protect our waters?


"To misquote TS Eliot: "South African sovereignty ends not with a bang, but a shrimper!"



Newtonian physics


AND as if the above is not bad enough, Eric Hodgson tells us of the man who walks into a bar with a little newt on his shoulder.
The barman asks: "What's his name?"
"I call him Tiny".
"Oh? Why Tiny?"
"Because he's my newt."




Hot dogs

YESTERDAY we discussed the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest in New York. It reminds reader Jeremy Whysall of another such contest.

"Paddy was a prodigious eater and decided to enter a hot dog eating competition. On the day, when it was his turn he could manage only to eat one.

"His mate Murphy said: 'How come you managed only one?'

"Paddy replied: 'I can't understand it at all, I've bin practisin'all mornin'.'"

Election fever

BUMPER sticker: "If we stop voting will they all go away?"






THE little old gent is taken to the witness box. His lawyer asks him to tell what happened. He goes into a lengthy explanation of how the row developed.


"And then she hit me with a maple leaf."


"A maple leaf? But surely that can't have caused you much harm?"


"Are you kidding? It was the leaf from the centre of our diningroom table."




Last word


Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Mark Twain

The Idler, Monday, July 4, 2016

Patriotic hot dogs


I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

Yankee Doodle Dandy do or die,

I am a nephew of old Uncle Sam,

Born on the fourth of July …

IT'S former champion Joey "Jaws" Chestnut versus reigning champion Matt "The Megatoad" Stonie in the annual hot dog-eating championship on Coney Island, New York, today.

In the women's section it's defending champion Miki Sudo against three-time champion Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas.

Contestants weighed in at a venue in Brooklyn last Friday, with hard stares worthy of any heavyweight boxing weigh-in.

Chestnut, whose record is 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes is hoping to regain the Mustard Yellow International Belt.

The competition – called Nathan's Famous after a hot dog franchise that spread from Coney Island – is said to have originated when a Pole named Nathan Handwerker set up a hot dog stand on the island in 1916.

An Irish immigrant called James Mullen came by and challenged other immigrants to prove they were real Americans. The test was the number of hot dogs you could consume, and Nathan Handwerker supplied the hot dogs.

The legend doesn't really stand up to scrutiny according to the Huffington Post on its website. It seems the story was invented as an advertising stunt.

But it's gathered its own momentum and thousands are expected to turn out on Coney Island today to watch.

Wales, Iceland

YOU don't usually associate Wales with football. It's the rugby that brings the singing in the valleys, look you. Yet here Wales are in the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after defeating Belgium in spectacular fashion. Cymru am byth!

Northern Ireland didn't make it, nor did the Republic of Ireland. England went down to Isipingo, er Iceland.

So it's Wales versus Portugal in the semis. Also Iceland versus France. We all know what should happen. But in this topsy-turvy world anything can happen.

Wales versus Iceland in the final? It's the time of the giant-slayers. Bring it on, bring it on!

One fellow who's been really enjoying it is Icelandic commentator Gummi Ben. His gibbering hysteria at the close of the Iceland matches has been beamed around the networks. It's not quite what you'd call judicious, dispassionate commentary but it's certainly lively. You don't have to understand a word to get the message.

Those who studied English will recall the Icelandic sagas – Scandinavian epics that put the Anglo into Anglo-Saxon.

Iceland versus Wales in the final would deserve another Icelandic saga. Gummi's the man to write it.

Crazy script

YOU couldn't make it up. The devious plot. The cast of characters. The bloodletting. Yes, it's the great Brexit saga.

It begins with Dave the diceman calling the referendum to silence The Fellows At The End Of The Bar who are vocally opposed to Europe and have managed to get elected a solitary MP. But the referendum activates all kinds of other people. Boris the Menace spots a gap for himself as the next PM if the Brexiteers make it, so he takes that gap.

But then a cove in hornrimmed spectacles pops up from nowhere. Michael Gove tells us he doesn't want the job, he doesn't have an ounce of charisma – and he's quite right there, this is the original nerd – but Boris is actually a bit of an oaf so he, Michael, is reluctantly running for leadership.

And, blow us all down! – Boris drops out.

Front-runner now is Theresa May, who was in the "remain" camp.

So it seems the person who will negotiate the new arrangement didn't want to leave in the first place. It's a complicated plot.

Also, it's beginning to emerge that the brexiteers never had any actual plan for the mechanics of leaving the EU. It could take years. Won't people get sick of the whole thing?

Do we see a Churchill anywhere here? The only real heavyweight to make a contribution so far is Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong – he knows all about disengagement; a former commissioner of external affairs for the EU – he knows the EU inside out; and who is currently chancellor of Oxford University.

He says bluntly that the campaign for a British exit was based on "lies".

This one will run and run.




"YOUR eyes are intoxicating."

"It must be the eyeballs."

Last word


When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.

George Bernard Shaw