Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Idler Wednesday, November 23

Literary breakthrough
PROGRESS! Something of a breakthrough has been achieved in literary research begun a couple of weeks ago into the origins of the bawdy ballad Eskimo Nell, plus associated research into a poem with the refrain: "I never pushed pumpkins up Panama Canal"
To recapitulate. A  well-known twitcher (that is, birdwatcher) recited all 46 verses of Eskimo Nell recently while he and his fellow-twitchers sat around the campfire up in Ndumu game reserve. He asked if I could discover whether this classic of crudity was indeed written by Noel Coward, the British entertainer who also wrote such things as Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
This prompted a reader who calls himself Harry to ask whether anyone can help him with another poem with the repeated line – all he can remember of it- "I never pushed pumpkins up Panama Canal".
Well, success on two fronts. Chris Taylor, a stalwart of the Natal Cricket Society, says he's sure it was Noel Coward who wrote Eskimo Nell. His father met him when he came out to South Africa during World War II to entertain the troops.
"My father hosted a dinner for him at the officers' mess at Roberts Heights (Pretoria) prior to his performing a one-man two- hour show
"My father commented: "He told a long poem called Eskimo Nell which was rather naughty but the men loved it.'"
Rather naughty? These military types can't be shocked.
And now (flourish of trumpets) Tim Pearce tells me Eskimo Nell was certainly written by Noel Coward. Plus he has the words of the Pumpkins In Panama, also written by Coward and in ways even naughtier than Eskimo Nell. He was given the words of both by an ex-RAF pilot, who said both poems had been popular in air force messes during the war.
Pumpkins In Panama begins with a story about an Englishman who emigrated to Panama and decided to become a pumpkin farmer. He bought pumpkin seeds from a mail order company. His entire crop failed and in disgust, he wrote to the mail order company to tell them that not a single one of their pumpkin seeds had grown into a pumpkin.
The mail order company answered:
"Dear Sir,
"We are wondering if you understand that there are male pumpkin seeds and female pumpkin seeds and they have to be mated and planted together for a pumpkin to grow."
The Englishman wrote back:
"Dear Sirs,
"In the course of a long and varied career I have…"
He then launches into a vivid account of highly improper encounters with apes, bulls-and so forth, going right through the alphabet from A to Z. The content does not belong in a family newspaper. Besides, I don't want the twtchers to get hold of it so they can recite  it up in Ndumu, in the presence of impressionable bushbabies and hornbills.
But maybe we can get away with the last four lines:
Yikked yaks in Yokohoma
Zipped zebras in Zanzibar
But, I refuse to be a
Pimp to a pumpkin pip in Panama.
Yes, mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun …
Spared exposure
MILITARY men, RAF pilots ... Eskimo Nell, Pumpkins In Panama. We demure naval types are at least spared exposure to such bawdiness.
Who's that knocking at my door?
Who's that knocking at my door?
Who's that knocking at my door?
Said the fair young maiden.
It's me, it's me from over the sea!
Said Barnacle Bill the sailor.
It's me, it's me from over the sea!
Said Barnacle Bill the sailor.
But I go no further. I don't want this to fall into the hands of the twitchers, to be read at the campfire at night up at Ndumu, in the presence if impressionable bushbabies and hornbills.
I am privy to their communications. It seems another twitching jamboree is coming up. E-mails are flying back and forth concerning beer, scotch whisky and Old Brown sherry.
All jolly good fun, no doubt, but I can't help worrying about those impressionable bushbabies and hornbills.
THE salesman rings the doorbell. It is answered by a small boy smoking a cigar, holding a glass of brandy and with a copy of Playboy under his arm.
"Sonny, is your mother at home?"
"Now what the hell do you think?"
Last word
He is indebted to his memory for his jests and to his imagination for his facts. -
Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Idler, Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The applecart wobbles

THIS Brexit thing gets messier by the day. The English high court has ruled that it has to go through parliament. Article 50 – which starts the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU – can't be triggered by Theresa May, as she wants.

She's taking it on appeal – but meanwhile the Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish and Welsh regional governments should also be allowed to have their say in the appeal process. (For some reason the Northern Irish don't seem to feature).

Meanwhile, it becomes more obvious by the day that nobody has an actual plan for Britain's exit. Outside consultants say It would take 30 000 civil servants working full time on it to produce such a plan.

Former prime minister David Cameron might not after all be just a footnote to history. He might turn out to be the blighter who upset the applecart in a big way and in all sorts of ways.

Don't listen to the pundits. Watch the bookies as the weeks go by.

Smellysocks revolt

MEANWHILE, the pundits interpret the Brexit referendum result and Donald Trump's victory in the US as attributable to much the same thing sweeping the Anglo-Saxon democracies – a revolt of the smellysocks and fried Mars Bar eaters against the smug liberal elites with their Vichy water and genetically unmodified food.

And it seems this time the pundits could be right. Reports are coming in of British liberals trying to slip into the Republic of Ireland, which will remain part of the EU. Sociology professors, global warming activists and green energy proponents are landing in their scores on Irish beaches from boats and crossing the fields at night.

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a man who said he was a human resources manager fearing for his job, huddled in the barn," says Wexford farmer Paddy O'Brian, whose acreage borders the River Slany. "He was cold, exhausted and hungry, and begged me for a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he burst into tears and left."

Irish officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals just north of the border with Northern Ireland, pack them into electric cars and drive them across the border, where they are simply left to fend for themselves after the battery dies.

"A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," a Garda Síochána border official said. "I found one car load without a single bottle of lemon flavoured Perrier water, or any gemelli with shrimp and arugula. All they had was a nice little Sussex white wine and some beetroot crisps."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing that they fear persecution from Boris Johnson and his chums from the Burlington Club.

Yes, David Cameron has a lot to answer for.

Starbucks refrain

"TRUMP! Trump!" The name resounds in Starbucks coffee bars in Florida, in the US, these days.

It started when a Starbucks refused to serve a customer because his T-shirt proclaimed him to be a Trump supporter. Did this dismay the Trumpites? No. They got together on social media, according to Huffington Post, and told Trump supporters to descend on Starbucks en masse, order coffee and give their name as "Trump".

Then, when their order is ready, the barista calls their name.

I hope it doesn't catch on here. The last thing we want is for our coffee bars and eateries to become a cacophony of cries of "Zuma!", "Juju!" and "Mmusi!"


WHOOPS! The venue of the musical razzle in aid of the Isiaiah 54 Children's Sanctuary on the Bluff, on December 16, has been shifted from the Wagon Wheel pub to the Dutch Club in Tara Road.

Entrance R20, kids under 14 free. Guitarist Smelly Fellows will still be performing on a pogo stick. Businesses or individuals wishing to donate prizes for lucky draws throughout the day should phone Kerry Geyser at 071-8604177.




"I can't find a woman who's right for me, I think I'm going to die alone."

"What? That's terrible. Maybe you're being too picky."

"I don't think so, all I want is for a girl to prove she can make me a better sandwich than the rest."

Last word


Don't accept rides from strange men, and remember that all men are strange.

Robin Morgan


The Idler, Monday, November 21, 2016

Rugby – Saru acts

LET nobody accuse South African rugby of not being on top of things and up to the minute. Saru has already set up a helpline for Springbok fans who cannot cope with Saturday's defeat by Italy; who are depressed, suicidal and thinking of basketball. Here's how they've set it out.

Are you a Springbok rugby fan?

Are you feeling depressed?

Phone the Saru helpline.

0800 101010.

That's zero eight hundred

Won none

Won none

Won none.


The game itselfwas tough indeed – rather like a bar fight with the Mafia. It was lively and enjoyable, close-fought. But it was like finding oneself suddenly in the third division, doing reasonably well – then being beaten all the same by the Matatiele Bushwhackers.

O wee, O wee!

Ireland's epic

But if we were downcast by the Bok game, Ireland versus New Zealand was an epic of courage coupled with consummate rugby skills. A fortnight ago Ireland absolutely drilled the All Blacks in a match staged in Chicago, running in five tries to end the Kiwis' unbroken run of 18 victories. What rugby!

But it couldn't happen again within two weeks, everyone said, not even at Landsdown Road. New Zealand would come out pumping.

This they certainly did. But Ireland were pumping back just as hard. What a display of rugby this was. What guts! What stamina! What driving! What tackling! Until the final quarter it was still anybody's game. (And two of the All Blacks' tries were decidedly dodgy). This was another epic.

The Six Nations should be a humdinger. Just imagine Ireland versus England. (Curtain-raiser: Boks versus Matatiele Bushwhackers).


Sea cruise

EXTRACTS from a diary come this way:


Dear Diary – Day 1

All packed for the cruise ship -- all my nicest dresses, swimsuits, shorts. Really, really exciting. Our group - The
Late Bloomers - decided on this "all-girls" trip. It will be my first one - and I can't wait!

Dear Diary Day 2

Entire day at sea, beautiful. Saw whales and dolphins. Met the Captain today -- seems like a very nice man.

Dear Diary – Day 3

At the pool today. Did some shuffleboard, hit golf balls off the deck. The Captain invited me to join him at his table for dinner. Felt honoured and had a wonderful time. He is very attractive and attentive.

Dear Diary – Day 4

Won $800 in the ship's casino. The Captain asked me to have dinner with him in his own cabin. Had a scrumptious meal complete with caviar and champagne. He asked me to stay the night, but I declined. Told him I'm not like that.

Dear Diary – Day 5

Pool again today. Got sunburned, and I went inside to drink at piano-bar; stayed there a while. The Captain saw me and bought me several large drinks. Really is quite charming. Again asked me to visit his cabin for the night. Again I declined. He told me if I did not let him have his way with me, he would sink the ship ... I was shocked!

Dear Diary – Day 6

Today I saved 2 600 lives.

Fruit salad

GETTING fruity … a couple living in Blackburn, Lancashire, ended up in court recently after a lovers' tiff, according to the London Daily Mail.


Themba Banana and Sarah Orange had a volatile relationship, the court was told. Orange caught Banana whispering into the telephone and presumed he must be talking to a girl. She accused him of cheating on her.


A flaming row ensued, in which Banana threw a pot plant at Orange, hitting her in the midriff. Banana, Orange and pot plant – an unusual combination. She called in the cops.


He pleaded guilty in court and was given community service by the magistrates.


We're not told whether they're still together or Banana's split.


State of play


JEAN Timm, of Howick, reflects in verse on the state of play in South Africa.


Our country has President Bloomer.

'State Capture?' He laughs. 'Just a rumour!'

With his cronies deployed

He can comeback avoid -

And corruption has grown like a tumour.





IT'S the labour ward. A woman starts yelling: "Shouldn't! Wouldn't! Couldn't! Can't!"


"Ah," says the gynaecologist. "The contractions have begun."



Last word


A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.

Sir Barnett Cocks

The Idler, Friday, November 18, 2016

Sudden social agitation


DURBAN is seized suddenly by a social agitation such as to make the university campuses look like a Sunday school picnic. For years we have been going about our business with calmness and decorum. But suddenly the tentacles of an international campaign have reached these parts, certain to create panic in every man.


The "Free the Nipple" campaign has hit Durban, as proclaimed this week in our sister newspaper, the Daily News.


It seems a local lass appeared in a nightclub wearing a diaphanous outfit that that left nothing to the imagination in the upper rigging department. She was photographed, the photos went on social media and have caused a huge sensation, circulating in the thousands.


And this has ignited a Free the Nipple campaign, something which originated in the US in a film of the same name – a campaign which calls for female nipples to be treated exactly the same as male in terms of exposure to the elements and to the public gaze.


The mind whirls. The very idea is intimidating. Will the human eye be able to cope with following this constantly bobbing motion?


One wishes to be broadminded, but you have to ask whether there are not sound reasons for current conservative arrangements in the upper rigging department. But of course there can be brief interludes. I think of the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties, where a nice balance has been achieved.


The gals dress with great decorum. But on Dress-Down Fridays they come along topless. The ornate tattoo work is artistic, educational and inspiring. But Saturdays it's back to twinset and pearls, regulation Women's Institute gear. Yes, you've got to have balance.


NYEH, nyeh, nyeh! Has this become the parlance of international diplomacy?

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson told Italian economics minister Carlo Calenda the UK wanted a single market in Europe but not free movement of people, according to the BBC.

Calenda: "No way!"

Johnson": "You'll sell less Prosecco to the UK." (Prosecco is a sparkling wine).

Calenda: "OK, you'll sell less fish and chips, but I'll sell less Prosecco to one country, you'll sell less to 27 countries."

Yah! Boo! Sucks!

What an odd choice Theresa May made for foreign secretary. Or was this something Machiavellian? The tousle-headed Johnson no doubt still has designs on No 10.

UFO (1)


A CANADIAN passenger aircraft took sudden evasive action to avoid a UFO over Lake Ontario this week. The Porter Airlines Dash 8 aircraft, with 54 passengers, was at 3 000m, descending to Toronto City airport, when the object suddenly appeared in their flight path.


Two flight attendants suffered minor injuries as the aircraft swerved then landed safely.


Debriefing, the pilots said they at first thought the object was a balloon. On reflection, it was probably a drone, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports. The UFO is not thought to have been of the sort piloted by little green men from Mars with three heads.


In England recently, a British Airways flight landing at Heathrow actually struck a drone. Nobody was injured.


These incidents are becoming alarming. But are drones being unfairly blamed? The Frisbee action we see on our beaches surely needs looking at.


UFO (2)


ANOTHER UFO. Villagers in a mountain region of Myanmar (what most of us know as Burma) were shaken by a deafening early morning explosion the other day. It turned out that a 4m cylindrical object with a diameter of 2.5m – it looked like some sort of engine - had landed in a jade mining works, having apparently dropped from outer space.


A piece of debris smashed into the roof of a house and had "Chinese writing" on it, according to the BBC. The incident is believed to be connected with the recent launch of a Chinese orbiting satellite. Nobody was injured .


How much space junk is whirling around out there? How much still has to come down?






IAN Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, shares the national dismay over Twickenham last weekend.


The Springboks are possessed by a fatal obsession,

Of continually giving away precious possession;

The forwards outplayed,

The backs mostly dismayed;

Two late tries won't remove our depression!




"DO THESE jeans make my bottom look like the side of a house?"


"Not our house – it's not painted blue."


Last word


Classical music is the kind we keep thinking will turn into a tune.

Kin Hubbard



The Idler, Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mysterious ping


THE Canadian Navy is investigating a mysterious "ping" or "hum" that seems to be coming from the Arctic seabed and appears to have chased away wildlife in the Fury and Hecla Strait, a remote part of northern Canada.


The ping/hum was first detected by a yacht with onboard sonar. When it was reported in a local newspaper, the Nunatsiak News, callers reported also hearing the sound, even through the hull of a ship, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


The concern is that the sound appears to be driving away seals and other sea mammals, which are traditionally hunted by the Innuit community of nearby Igloolik.


The Canadian military flew a CP-140 Aurora aircraft over the strait, equipped with multiple sensors, but it picked up no hums or pings. Naval vessels will now take over the investigation.


Whatever could this be? One theory is that America's Democrats have taken a submarine under the Arctic ice for a brainstorming session on the recent election campaign. Ping! Hum! Yes, it could be. These could be frenzied neurological transmissions that are being picked up.


Nobody's seen Hillary for a while.


Long-term bet


THE analysts seem to agree that Brexit and the Donald Trump victory were driven by very similar sentiments. There was disillusionment with the snooty and distant political elite; swathes of the electorate were suffering economically and felt ignored. In Britain it was the once-industrial north-east of England. In America it was the so-called "rust belt" of failed industry.


Now a leaked memo has emerged in Britain, claiming the government never had a Brexit plan; that it would take ages to put one together and this would require the input of 30 000 civil servants.


It's worth a punt with the bookies. What comes first – Brexit or Donald Trump's wall around Mexico?


You could wait a while for the pay-out.




RACONTEUR Spyker Koekemoer (aka Pat Smythe) recently took issue with former Aussie cricket captain Ian Chappell for suggesting that Proteas demon bowler Kagiso Rabada comes from some kind of boondocks village.


"In every outback village you can find both an idiot and a chapel," Spyker said, pointing out that Rabada went to St Stithian's and his dad is a neuro-surgeon.


Now Spyker suggests that the inhabitants of that outback village could perhaps benefit from a sermon by a certain South African abbot.


"I am told that he delivers speedy hell and damnation with a ferocity that drives the boastful forever from the fields of sporting endeavour and delivers them on the wings of a boomerang to the sports reporters at the Sydney Morning Herald."


Yes indeed, Kyle Abbott went through the Aussie batting like a hot knife through butter in the second Test.. Rabada didn't do too badly either.


Great stuff! Next a day-night Test with the pink ball our fellows have never before encountered. No matter, we've won the series already. Twickenham is a fading nightmare.



Panama, pumpkins


A READER who calls himself Harry is prompted by my recent research into the origins of the bawdy ballad Eskimo Nell to seek assistance with another poem.


Harry has been looking, fruitlessly so far, for the words of a poem, of which he can remember only one often-repeated line: "I've never pushed pumpkins up Panama Canal."


This is totally unfamiliar to me, I'm afraid. I tried Google. I picked up a site tagged "Canal Poems". They went on and on, none of them featuring Panama or pumpkins.


I gave up when I encountered an alarming poem about a fellow being raped by a ghastly witch. The things than can happen on canal banks! Google can take you places you'd rather not be.


Can anyone out there assist Harry? "I've never pushed pumpkins up Panama Canal". It sounds ;like an old music hall number.





THIS wild-looking fellow goes into a psychiatrist's rooms wearing Napoleonic costume, one hand inside his coat.

"Doctor, I need your help."

"I can see that. Lie down on the couch and tell me your problem."

"I have no problem. In fact I'm the Emperor of France. I have everything I could possibly want. But my wife, Josephine, is in deep psychological trouble."

"And what's her problem?"

"She keeps thinking she's Mrs Smith."


Last word


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell

The Idler, Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Snakes alive!

WHAT'S with these stowaway snakes? Panic broke out on an Aeromexico internal flight when a green snake started crawling out of one of the overhead luggage compartment then, to passengers' horror, plopped down to join them.

They hastily left their seats and made in the opposite direction, as shown in videos posted on the internet.

The plane was given priority landing in Mexico City, where airport staff came on board and caught the snake, according to Associated Press. There's now an investigation into how it got on to the aircraft.

Note: it was a green snake. Next we learn from Huffington Post that a deadly green mamba was found on a freighter docked in Aberdeen, Scotland, which had come from West Africa. The crew managed to get it into a box. (Oh boy, that takes some doing - you don't fool around with green mambas. Deadly poisonous, lightning quick) which they handed to the local SPCA.

The SPCA were unable to find a specialist reptile keeper to look after it, largely because the nearest serum for a mamba was 650 km away in London. So they reluctantly had to kill it.

Questions arise: Was the snake in the Mexican aircraft also a mamba? If so, why are green mambas on the move, stowing away? Are they getting in quick before Brexit and Trump's Mexican wall put an end to migration?

The animal kingdom has insights and instincts we cannot ignore.



THE above recalls an exchange from long ago in Parliament. Harry Lawrence, MP for Salt River, had called a Nat member opposite a "snake in the grass." He was ordered to withdraw it.

"I withdraw, and I apologise to the honourable mamba."

It's all there in Hansard. Every few thousand pages or so, you'll find a gem.


Squirrel goes nuts


A SQUIRREL went beserk in a seniors' centre in Florida, in the US, jumping on folk and biting them. It prompted a frantic 911 call for help.


"It's in our activity room," the caller said in audio that was relayed by a local TV channel, according to Huffington Post. "It's jumping on people and biting them and scratching them. We need help."


Then somebody announced that the squirrel had been caught and thrown out.


Yes, America is in a ferment. Was this a Trump squirrel or a Clinton squirrel? Most alarming for the old-timers, especially those who are physiologically vulnerable to nut-crunching squirrels.


Weary, wary

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener reflects, in his latest grumpy newsletter, on the American presidential election and detects voter sentiments similar to those revealed in Britain's Brexit referendum and our own municipal elections.

"Isn't this democracy stuff astonishing? You give people a choice and they choose. Just as amazing has been the over the top panic reactions to the news that a man with no political experience or background will now become president of the USA.

"But that's the point. Trump's victory suggests that the electorate have grown weary and wary of the same old Washington insiders and dynasties wielding the power and milking the systems. Much the same reaction emerged in our own elections in August and the British referendum a couple of months before that. More and more of us want less government in our lives.

"Apparently, the most terrifying thing about the president-elect is that he is aware that debt is the country's big problem and that the best way to solve this is to reduce government spending. And reduce borrowing – which is probably why interest rates are ticking up.

"Many of his ideas about how to achieve these changes threaten the way of life of various communities who have become used to being recipients of state hand-outs.  Some Americans have taken to the streets to register their disappointment by burning stuff. A familiar reaction to us down here."



NPA debacle

IAN Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, reflects on the astonishing goings-on in the National Prosecutions Authority.


An inept lawyer called Shaun,

Is said to be a number one pawn;

For his charges against Gordhan,

Had the touch of a moron,

As his case was clearly forlorn.




HE TAKES her home after a first date.

"Can I come inside?"

"Certainly not! I never invite a man inside on the first date."

"How about on the last date?"

Last word

Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.

Frank Lloyd Wright