Sunday, July 17, 2016
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Tuesday, July 5, 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."
Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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.
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.!"
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.
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!"
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."
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'.'"
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."
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Mark Twain
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.
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.
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."
When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.