Friday, October 14, 2016

The Idler, Friday, October 14, 2016



IT'S the 950th anniversary today of the Battle of Hastings, where William, Duke of Normandy – William the Conqueror – defeated the Anglo-Saxon King Harold and then was himself crowned King of England.

I am reminded of this by a reader who calls himself NDC, who also tells me he is a descendant of William the Conqueror and therefore a little biased.

"Hastings was a stunning victory for the Normans from Normandy and their Celtic allies from Brittany (little Britain in France) - native Britons who had been displaced from England in the 5th and 6th centuries by the Saxon heathen horde who migrated to England from Saxony in the Germanic territories."

Yes, one does detect a touch of bias. But NDC's account of the battle is fair enough.

"William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons, led by their King Harold, in a single day on October 14, 1066. The English forces were strong in defence in the first half and no goals were scored by the Normans.

"There was a half-time break around midday. The Normans gained ascendancy later in the second half due to some mistakes and ill-discipline by the home side. It was all over by sunset. It was a great comeback for the Celtic Britons.

"The Anglo-Saxon excuse for the defeat was that the English king was shot in the eye by an arrow - as if that was against the battle rules. In fact it was a 'bullseye' which counts maximum points for the shooting side."

Er, yes. In fact William had a perfectly good claim to the throne of England when Edward the Confessor died childless. It was via the "Anglo" bit of the Anglo-Saxon thing. The Angles were Scandinavians. William's Normans (a variation on the word "Norseman") were Scandinavians who had settled in France, intermarried with the locals and adopted their language. William was a relative of Edward the Confessor.

But let's not get into a squabble over these things. The lasting effect on us to this day is the effect the Norman invasion had on the English language.

Consider these lines in the Saxon poem, The Battle of Maldon:

Hyg'e sceal py heardra, heorte py cenre,

Mod sceal py mare py ure maeg' en lytlap …

Yes, that was Old English. It described a battle with the Vikings on the Essex coast. No doubt it was top of the pops in 991 AD, but today it simply doesn't resonate.

Then consider these lines from Chaucer, about 450 years later.

And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers …

Then, further:

And seyde, "Fy! allas! what have I do?"
"Tehee!" quod she, and clapte the wyndow to.

Yes, we can just about follow this. It's very funny. It's the famous passage in The Miller's Tale that describes a misdirected kiss at a dark windowsill. It's Middle English, a blend of Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French.

We would not have had Chaucer's wonderful Canterbury Tales, were it not for William's victory at Hastings 950 years ago today. We would not have had Shakespeare nor the modern English language as it is spoken and written. Hastings was a turning-point.


Depressing warm-up

READER Eric Hodgson says the most depressing part of last Saturday's rugby debacle was for him the pre-match warm-up.

"The Boks warmed up by running into contact rather than gaps. Under absolutely no pressure they were dropping every third or fourth pass.

"Steve Hansen's comment about the All Blacks' micro-skills paying off was telling. Bok macro-skills are woeful."

Clive Raaff says no Springbok player would make the All Blacks side. He also takes issue with the crowd behaviour at Kings Park while the All Blacks were performing their Haka.

"This traditional challenge deserves the respect shown by our players, not the imbecilic baying of the crowd."






GLASWEGIANS Archie and Jimmy are sitting in the pub discussing Jimmy's forthcoming wedding.

"Och, it's all goin' pure brilliant," says Jimmy. "Ar've got everythin' organised awready, the fluers, the church, the caurs, the reception, the rings, the minister, even ma stag night".

Archie nods approvingly.

"I've even bought a kilt to be married in."

"A kilt? That's magic, you'll look pure smart in that. What's the tartan?"

"Och, A'd imagine she'll be in white."



Last word


I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. Groucho Marx




The Idler, Thursday, October13, 2016

Newspaper history

HELEN Zille's account of how she and her editor Allister Sparks (who died only the other day) worked to expose the truth of Steve Biko's death 39 years ago at the hands of the security police makes fascinating reading.

Zille and Sparks were both on the Rand Daily Mail. They courageously probed to expose what they knew had to be a lie – that Biko had starved himself to death in a hunger strike. The account is in her book, Not Without a Fight.

However, lost in the mists of time is the fact that news of the actual fact that Biko had died of head injuries was first published in a sister newspaper of the Rand Daily Mail.

Hugh Murray, political correspondent of the Sunday Express (in the South African Associated Newspapers stable, along with the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Times) broke the story in a report which stated unequivocally in black and white that Biko had died of head injuries.

He received a furious telephone call from Dr Connie Mulder, Minister of Information and leader of the Nat party in the Transvaal, considered the natural successor as prime minister to John Vorster.

"Hugh," he said. "I will never speak to you again." (In spite of his right-wing political position, Mulder was surprising approachable, even for the "English" press).

About a week later Murray got another call from Mulder.

"Hugh, he said. "My humble apologies."

Yes, Mulder had discovered the truth of what almost everyone else suspected. The security police had been spinning a line to the only man gullible enough to believe them about a hunger strike – Jimmy Kruger, Minister of Justice.

This is in no way to detract from the excellent and courageous parallel work by Helen Zille and Allister Sparks. But my friend and colleague Hugh Murray – he died some years ago – also deserves his place in newspaper history.

His report turned out to be spot-on accurate. Where he got his information he never did let on.



JIMMY Kruger is usually portrayed as an apartheid ogre, the man who said of Biko's death: "It leaves me cold."

It's true he said it. I heard him. It was in the Pretoria city hall at the Nats' Transvaal congress.

But he was speaking in the context of a cock and bull story fed to him by the security police, who obviously got the idea from the Bobby Sands death fast in Northern Ireland.

"The man starved himself to death – "Dit laat my koud!" (It leaves me cold) Kruger said.

An ogre or a pathetically gullible fellow who was treated with contempt by the security police who supposedly reported to him? I go for gullibility.

India tale

HISTORIAN Peter Quantrill, who was also an officer in the Gurkha Regiment, brings us a yarn from India.


Mujibar was applying for a job.

Personnel manager: "Mujibar, you have passed all the tests, except one. This is a simple test of your English language skills. You need to pass it for this job."

Mujibar: "I am ready."

Personnel manager: "Make a sentence using the words
'yellow', 'pink' and 'green'.

Mujibar thought for a few minutes and said:'Mr Manager, I am ready."

"Go ahead."

"The telephone goes: 'G
reen, green!'I pink it up and say: 'Yellow
, this is Mujibar'."

"Mujibar now works at a call centre," says Peter. "No doubt you have spoken to him. I know I have."






Get there!

AT AN ELECTION rally this week, US presidential candidate Donald Trump urged his supporters to "get out there and vote on November 28"

Er, the election is on November 8.

Perhaps there's hope.



AMERICAN election fever reaches even to Kwambonambi. My  correspondent, George Hutchison, reports a bumper sticker in the town: "Monica Lewinsky's boyfriend's wife for President."

Bonds, blokes

OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "The difference between savings bonds and blokes? It takes a few years but eventually bonds mature."


SHE comes home from the store with a daring dress made of totally transparent material. She shows it to her husband.

"But Honey, people will see right through it."

"No they won't, dummy. I'll be inside of it."

Last word

Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.

Fyodor Dostoevsky


The Idler, Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More creepy clowns

CREEPY clowns have now appeared in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, frightening people the way they have been doing in America.

There have been six sightings in Newcastle, England. All over the place, clowns have burst from bushes and chased people. A woman had one jump on the bonnet of her car and strike a pose.

In Brisbane, a clown chased a woman down the street with a knife. In Hamilton, New Zealand, a woman was assaulted by two men dressed as clowns.

The authorities are alarmed at what appear to be copy-cat incidents reflecting what's being going on in the US, where clowns are walking the streets of various cities in the dead of night with bunches of black balloons; lurking around laundromats; and hanging out in the woods. It's been reported in several states..

Are we in South Africa immune to this weird phenomenon? Inured might be a better word.

For many years the Union Buildings were inhabited by creepy clowns. They disappeared around 1994 but have lately made a come-back.

The SABC is absolutely infested. If Hlaudi's eventual successor should turn out to be a short clown called Tickey, we know we're in real trouble.


Caribbean mystery

HURRICANE Matthew has caused devastation in the Caribbean and, somewhat weakened, wreaked a fair amount of havoc in Cuba, Florida and elsewhere.

But here's a puzzle. More than 800 people have died in Haiti, which not all that long ago suffered horrendously in an earthquake. Aid workers were already there, helping with the earthquake damage. More aid is going in for hurricane damage.


But what about the Dominican Republic that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti? It was hit by the same hurricane. Yet you hear little or nothing about it, not on any of the newscasts.


A rare early mention was of four hurricane deaths in the Dominican Republic – at a time there were already several hundred in Haiti.


Is the Dominican Republic somehow sheltered from hurricanes? Are its buildings better constructed, making it safer. Does it have hurricane defences??


Or is it one of those reclusive countries like North Korea, with close to zero news coverage?


It's a mystery.


Exit contagion


STIRRINGS in the Brexit saga in the UK. As the pound plunges in value and it becomes increasingly clear that the whole thing is a leap in the dark, various people are insisting that parliament should have the final say.


Meanwhile, there is speculation that Brexit could prompt all kinds of other exits.


Reader Linda Nel brings us a few: Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovakout, Latervia, Byegim.


Only Remanie will stay.


Yes, Brexit is a dreadful word. If the remainers had won, we'd have forgotten it a month ago.


Wine fundis

WINE tasting honesty:

"I'm getting raspberry with hints of freshly baked dough and a chocolate finish."

"I'm getting sloshed."


Shut up!


DID you know there's a government official who routinely tells the people he deals with: "Shut your mouth!"


And nobody takes him to task for it.


Reader Naomi Stapersma spills the beans. It's the fellow at Home Affairs who takes your photograph for passports, ID cards and that sort of thing.


Booze policy

IN HIS latest grumpy newsletter, investment analyst Dr James Greener addresses the question of booze and its effects.

"In government it has been decided that we drink too much booze but the good news is that it's not our fault. Apparently the blame lies with the people who sell us our tipple.

"They should not serve us if, in their view, we have already had enough.

"This of course dovetails neatly into the current climate of not being responsible for one's actions and makes the police's job that much easier as they can simply ask the drunk where he purchased his last toot and arrest the offending shopkeeper or barman.

"The proposed legislation also reinforces the quaint notion that 500m is just far away enough for a school or church-goer not to be tempted by the demon drink.

"But perhaps the most difficult thing to understand is how the twin statistics of our world-beating liquor consumption, and our desperate levels of poverty match up. Someone is fudging the numbers."



"Can you think of any book that's changed your life?"

"Oh, certainly. My husband's chequebook."


Last word

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Don Marquis



The Idler, Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Debate, round two

SYRIA is a nightmare, much of it a charnel house. Civilians are being bombed, gassed and starved. Four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are militarily involved, not all of them on the same side. Millions of refugees are besieging Europe. Much of the rest of the Middle East is a tinderbox … North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and missile capability … the South China Sea is becoming a region of contention … global warming threatens the future of the entire planet …

Yet in St Louis, Missouri, the two US presidential candidates were debating derogatory locker-room conversations about women and the pecadilloes of an incumbent president 20-odd years ago.

Hoo Boy!

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump did in time get on to more substantive issues but to describe the debate as in any way elevated would be an exaggeration as bad as anything Trump said.

He wound up by promising that if he became president he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary and send her to jail.

Hillary complained she was unable to properly set out her own position and programme because she had to continually rebut Trump's avalanche of falsehoods.

One of these two will become de facto leader of the Western democratic world and will have to address the questions listed above. In an opinion poll immediately after, CNN gave the debate to Hillary – 57% to 34%. Yougov made it a narrower margin 47% to 42%.

But all of this is too close to call. There's nothing to say the people who support Trump – who possibly share his rumbustious disregard for facts and argument – would be swayed in any way, no matter what happened in the debate.

Overall, the polls so far give it about 45% to Hillary, 42% to Trump. It's too close to call.

Hoo boy!


AMERICAN baseball cap slogan (based on a Trump slogan): "Make America Great Britain Again!"

Out cold


MORE political drama, this time in Ukip (Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party – the only one with hysteria built into its very name).


Leader Nigel Farage steps down. Diane James is elected leader. Eighteen days later she steps down. Stephen Woolfe, a member of the European parliament, puts himself forward for the leadership.


Then, at the parliament in Strasbourg, he and fellow MEP Mike Hookem (Hey, Hookem – geddit!) get into a brawl and Woolfe is laid out cold. Photos on the internet show him sprawled face-down, out for the count. He is admitted to hospital.


Two inquiries are ordered – one by Ukip, the other by the European Parliament.


Hookem goes on TV, denying that a punch was so much as thrown. Later he posts a photograph of his hands – unskinned, no bleeding knuckles – proving he's punched nobody.


Complete mystery. Maybe Hookem hit him with a cosh.


Real question

AM I missing something in this row over the R671 000 funeral for a local businessman that was paid for by the metrol council?

Suggestions are made that the thing was not properly procured; that the invoice produced is a bit dodgy; that somebody might have creamed off a bit.

But surely the real question is this: Why should a single cent of ratepayers' money be spent on anyone's funeral?


Cites upbeat

WE WERE all of us cheered, I'm sure, by the upbeat messages that emerged from the international Cites conference that ended in Johannesburg last week.

Among the endangered species which are to receive energised special attention are totuaba and vaquita.

Er, what are totuaba? What are vaquita?

Totuaba, it seems, are a fish species to be found in the Gulf of California. They've been over-fished to a point where they're in danger of extinction.

Vaquita are a species of porpoise, also found in the Gulf of California. They have been illegally hunted, almost to the point of extinction.

But Cites is stepping in big-time. Things are looking up - so long as it doesn't turn out that the few remaining vaquita are eating the few remaining totuaba.





DOG thought: "I'm done with chasing people who aren't prepared do the same for me. From now on the ice cream man can go jump in the lake!"



Last word


Today you can go to a gas station and find the cash register open and the toilets locked. They must think toilet paper is worth more than money.

Joey Bishop



Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Idler, October 10, 2016

Our only chance

THERE'S a slim chance we can appeal against the outcome of Saturday's Test against the All Blacks. They were sailing under false colours, you see. At the flags and anthems ceremony before kick-off, they were displaying not the New Zealand flag but the Blue Ensign.

The Blue Ensign is the flag of the British merchant navy if the skipper happens to be on the Royal Naval Reserve (otherwise the ships fly the Red Ensign).

The New Zealand flag is the Blue Ensign with the Southern Cross on it, the stars in red against white. That is not the flag that was displayed at the pre-match ceremony.

It's a slim chance, but I'm afraid it's all I can offer. Otherwise the thing was a rout, South Africa's worst calamity since Tobruk.

We held our own up front and our fellows tackled their socks off, to be sure. It was stirring. But they had no answer to the silky, unhurried handling of the All Blacks, the endless recycling of the ball. In the end you run out of tacklers. The All Blacks were able to make it look like beach rugby.

Nobody likes losing but for a crammed King's Park it was a spectacle of superb rugby. And at least it highlighted once and for all – and beyond argument – that the All Blacks have progressed to a new level of the game.

Talk of going back to "traditional" Blue Bulls rugby is facile. So is talk of sacking the coaching staff. Lack of continuity in coaching has been a major part of our problem.

Roll on the Rugby Indaba. It needs to look seriously at the structure of South African rugby, where the club game has been marginalised. It has to ask what has happened to the Currie Cup, the furnace that produced the great Bok sides of the past. It has to look at professionalisation of coaching at all levels.

And some kind of strategy must be devised to keep young players in the country a few years, a counter to the exchange rate attraction overseas.

A luta continuha!


AUSTRALIA played Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday. The idea apparently is to interest northern hemisphere rugby fans in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship (a real razzle-dazzle name that – what hotshot PR firm dreamed it up?)

But here's an opportunity. Why not play more matches at Twickers, those that would have us travelling Down Under or to South America? Why not Super Rugby matches as well?

It would certainly suit us. London is much closer and it's direct south-north, eliminating the jetlag factor.

Who knows? It could end up with us playing in the European Cup and the Eleven (or maybe Twelve) Nations.





A GUY is driving round the Bluff when he spots a sign: "Talking dog for sale". He stops, parks and rings the doorbell. The householder takes him through to the backyard. A nice-looking Labrador is sitting there.

"You talk?"


The guy is staggered. "Tell me your story."

"Well, I discovered I could talk when I was pretty young. I picked up the phone and dialled the American ambassador. Next thing the CIA were here. And they bought me and took me to America. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders because nobody figured a dog would be eavesdropping.

"I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years. But the jetting around was starting to get at me so I took a job at JF Kennedy airport, doing undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I was responsible for some spectacular busts and I got a whole bunch of medals.

"But then I got sick of it all and I came back here to the Bluff where I started out. I met a nice lady Labrador and we've had a couple of litters of puppies."

He turns to the householder. "How much are you selling this dog for?"

"Fifty bucks."

"Fifty bucks? You must be crazy! This is a wonder dog!"

"Nah, you get sick of his stories. He's a bullduster anyway. He's never been out of the yard."

Last word

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.

James Magary


The Idler, Thursday, October 6, 2016

Colour and chaos


AN EXTRAORDINARY book lands on my desk. It's by my old sportswriter friend, Norman Canale, who wrote so entertainingly in the Sunday Express and the Sunday Times in days of yore and today lives in retirement at Waterfall.


Skimming through, I see a photograph of "Two-Ton" Tony Galento, the Brooklyn (New York) barman who took on the great Joe Louis, trained on beer and cigars and in the end came quite close to living up to his slogan: "I'll moider da bum!"


Also of Galento boxing against a grizzly bear


Also of Tom von Vollenhoven, Springbok hero of the 1955 series against the British Lions; also of the great Frik du Preez; of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman; Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney ...


Snakes in the Garden of Eden: memoirs of a sportswriter (Don Nelson) is a blast from the past, the days before television and long before the digital age, when it was writers like Canale who brought us our sport, national and international, in all its atmosphere.


Canale also brings us the colourful and chaotic world of newspapers in those days – "a lost newspaper age that was ribald, restless, flamboyant, raucous and exuberant …"


"It was an epoch of wonderful nonsense that most of today's dedicated and computer-literate journos can only wonder at, an age as extinct as the typewriter and the linotype machine."


Canale sees what he calls the "newspaperman's pub" as being at the heart of all this, an institution that has today disappeared as mysteriously as the lost city of Atlantis.


He identifies three: in Johannesburg the Federal Hotel (frequented by staff of the Rand Daily Mail, the Sunday Times the Sunday Express and the SABC); in Cape Town the Café Royal; and in Durban the Filler (which was actually also the Press Club) in the old Central Hotel in West Street.


He brings us some marvelous vignettes from Studio 13 at the Fed (the SABC had 12 studios), not least the tag-wrestling mime by Joe Openshaw (a dear fellow I once worked with during a spell he had in Durban), in which he would take on a series of empty bar stools, catch them in a scissors grip and triumphantly pin them to the floor – to a tumult of applause.


I can vouch for the Filler. A photographer named Alf Chapman once threw a firecracker in there on Guy Fawkes night and was banned for a month. He maintained it was because he caused the barmaid, Alice, to pour a full tot for the first time in her life.


I was in the Filler the night before I embarked for a sojourn overseas. In a corner at the end of the bar a fellow was arguing furiously with his girlfriend. She took off her engagement ring and flung it out of the window.


Next, everyone was out on the sloping roof, three floors up, searching for the ring. Somebody found it.


Years later I returned from overseas and went to the Filler. In the same corner the same fellow was fighting with the same girlfriend. The place had a certain continuity.


The Café Royal was special. It had a lunchtime table in the corner, permanently reserved for Sir de Villiers Graaff, leader of the opposition.


I was there one night with my colleague Leon Marshall, who hails from the Marico. He was telling us about the bitter Nat/Bloedsap rivalry in the Marico (a Bloedsap being an Afrikaner supporter of the United Party).


The Nats had taken over command of the local skietkommando, Leon said, at which all the Bloedsap members automatically resigned. A rumour got around that on a certain night the Bolshevik hordes were going to attack the farms of the Marico. The skietkommando spent the night on top of a silo with the kommando's bren gun. (The Bloedsaps weren't even told of the impending attack).


This was worthy of Herman Charles Bosman. At the end of the bar was a Bloedsap senator from the Marico, named Henri du Toit, smoking a cigar.


"That's a good story," he said. "Now I'll tell you some real stories from the Marico …"


It was another age, but it had its moments.





MAN in bookstore: "Do you have a book called 'Husband – Master of the House'?
Salesgirl: "Sir, Fiction and Comics are on the First Floor".

Last word


In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.

Napoleon Bonaparte

The Idler, Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Soapie in the making?

TRUMP and his taxes. Clinton and her e-mails. Can anyone beat this soapie? Well, maybe.

A supreme Court bench in the UK is due to rule some time this month on whether Britain's proposed exit from the European Union can be achieved simply by the government triggering Article 50 of the EU agreement, or whether it has to be approved by parliament.

This could be highly problematic for Prime Minister Theresa May. She has a majority in the House of Commons of only 17. Many Tory MPs hate the idea of leaving the EU – 56% according to Business Insider UK, and 73% of all MPs. Most observers seem to agree that the House of Lords would almost certainly vote against, even if she got it through the Commons.

A memorandum from more than 1 000 British barristers tells the government it has to act through parliament, the referendum was merely advisory.

So it's the royal prerogative – a power originating in mediaeval times and now devolved upon the modern-day prime minister – versus parliament, a whiff of the days of Cromwell.

This would completely overshadow the drama the other side of the Atlantic.

Of course, it might not happen. I myself hae ma doots. But if the Supreme Court should rule that Brexit has to go through parliament – dan sal die poppe dans, old chap!

And if it should happen – remember where you read it first!

Existing soapie

MEANWHILE, the Trump and Hillary soapie trundles on.

The New York Times publishes a report that Trump's business made a loss of $916 million back in 1995 and speculates that, as a result, he possibly has not paid tax since (Trump has so far refused to release his tax records).

Which is worse? The man wanting to be president losing almost a billion dollars in a year, or his not paying taxes for 18 years? It seems a toss-up.

But Trump ally Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, describes Trump as a "genius" for the way he has been able to manoeuvre his way through the tax system.

This surely is more than weird.

Then the New Yorker takes up the theme, with Governor Christie again calling Trump a genius for his plan to "burn down the White House to collect insurance money". It could make a sizeable dent in the national debt.

"It's not just the White House," Christie is quoted saying. "That building is chock-full of priceless antiques, paintings, and rugs, all of which, when burned, would fetch a pretty penny."

Christie called criticism of the plan to burn down the White House "typical media bias," and said Trump was moving forward with plans to see how much he could get for burning down the Lincoln Memorial.

Yes, you've probably guessed. This is satirist Andy Borowitz again. But he seems closer and closer to the real plot of this soapie.


A NEWS item records the recent 105th birthday of Admiral, a tortoise in Mitchell Park who was left there by a naval officer, name unrecorded – along with two other giant tortoises – during World War I.

Admiral is said to be the oldest tortoise in South Africa and the second oldest in the world.

But I wonder. Durando, tortoise mascot of the Victoria Club, up in Maritzburg, was handed over by the York and Lancaster Regiment (he'd been their mascot) when they left at the time of Union in 1910.

That's 106 years ago, without taking into account Durando's age at the time.

It's all recorded on a silver plate screwed into Durando's shell. He takes his name from the winner of the marathon in a long-ago Olympics.

The Victoria Club merged some years ago with the Maritzburg Country Club and I presume – I can find no report to the contrary – that Durando's still hale and hearty and enjoying the magnificent golf course that is his current home.


THIS fellow finds an old violin and an old oil painting in his attic. He takes them to an antiques dealer to be valued.

"You know what you've got here? A Stradivarius and a Rembrandt."


"Unfortunately, Rembrandt made the violin and Stradivarius painted the picture."

Last word

Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.

Groucho Marx



The Idler, Tuesday, October 4. 2016

That enigmatic smile

A FRENCHMAN is going to court over his right, as he claims, to pose for a passport photograph bearing a discreet, ironic Mona Lisa-esque smile instead of the absolutely straight face demanded by the regulations.

The man, whose name has so far not been revealed by news agency Agence France Presse but is code-named Thierry, says the no-smiles rule makes people depressed. His passport photo was rejected because it showed "a slightly ironic grimace that borders on a discreet smile."

His lawyer,Romain Boulet, says the law simply states that subjects must look at the camera, maintain a neutral expression and keep their mouths shut - with no mention of not smiling.

He refers in his submission to the court to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, "famous for its subject sporting an enigmatic half-smile".

"For over 500 years people have wondered if the Mona Lisa is smiling, That so many leading experts have failed to agree on this, shows that it is not for the authorities to determine whether a smile is neutral or not."

"Allowing French people to smile on their passport photos would give the French a friendly face when they arrive at borders around the world", Boulet added.

It's an interesting question. But would a favourable court ruling not cause a rush of passport photos depicting nose picking, tongues out and eyes deliberately crossed? This could greatly complicate the work of border control officials.


In poor shape

PASSPORT photos are notoriously grim and severe. In a recent case at Home Affairs a passport was refused: "Going by your photograph, you are in no condition to travel."



A READER named Rip, who hails from the Bluff, notes some oddities in the English language.


"'Womb' is pronounced 'woom'. Tomb is pronounced 'toom'.

"Why is 'bomb' not pronounced 'boom'? It would be very suitable if it was.

"But 'comb' is something else again."


Dunno, Rip. I guess that's what happens when you mix Saxon with Scandinavian and French. Why, a previous Idler even used to spell "Bluff" as "Blough".


To steal a kiss

REALITY actress Kim Kardashian has been having a tough time of it in Paris. As she was making her way into a restaurant a notorious Ukrainian prankster named Vitaly Sediuk pounced and tried to kiss her on the bottom.

Security men wrestled Sediuk to the ground, apparently frustrating him in his amorous intentions.

Kim has laid charges. Even in Paris you're not allowed to do that kind of thing

And, according to Sky News, Sediuk has form. At Cannes recently he caused a rumpus when he crawled under the dress of actress America Ferrera. He came off second best in another incident where he seized supermodel Gigi Hadid at a fashion show in Milan, but she saw him off with an elbow jab, they don't tell us where.

This Sediuk fellow clearly has a taste for the high life, but he needs a few cold showers.

Back to Kim Kardashian. Hardly had she recovered from her horrible experience with Vitaly Sediuk when two fellows in police uniform rang the doorbell at her Paris apartment, produced pistols and robbed her of jewellery worth several million Euros, according to the BBC.

Vitaly Sediuk is not a suspect. It's not his style.

Rapacious crazies

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener says in his latest grumpy newsletter that the SABC's current offering is the finest example of ignoring what a financial report from an organisation should contain.

"Admittedly it is a strange business with income from licence fees, tax-payers and advertisers and a product that is free. But the presentation of the report with whizz-bang graphics more or less obliterates that it spends way more than it receives and is run by rapacious crazies.

"First prize for crass foolishness in the full page newspaper spread is shared between the league table of how often the accounts have been qualified and the complete absence of any conventional financial schedules beyond the bald statement that the loss was R411m.

"Like so many of the state-owned enterprises this sad institution needs to be flogged off, and quickly."






She: "I'd like to be a newspaper and in your hands every day."


He: "Hey, great thinking! A new edition every day!"

Last word


The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

H. L. Mencken