Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Idler, Monday, March 20, 2017

Great day for the Irish

Wit a shillelagh at me arm and a twinkle in me oi … What a day

for Ireland at Lansdowne Road. They've run out of Guinness in

Dublin. What testimony to grit and determination, 15 men

playing the 80 minutes. England were never in the game.

And what a let-down for England. They'd already won the Six

Nations and the Calcutta Cup (England and Scotland). At stake

on Saturday were the Grand Slam (five out of five in the Six

Nations), the Triple Crown (beating the other three home

unions) and setting a new world record for consecutive Test


'Twas not to be. The Irish were simply determined, the way

they were to stop the All Blacks in their roll of 18 consecutive

Test wins.

It illustrates yet again how the fortunes of rugby can ebb and

flow. Also how the weight of success and expectations can

become an albatross.

The Sharks? We so nearly followed England. Okay, we had

virtually a new team on the field, for various reasons, but what

haphazard play. How the fortunes of rugby can ebb and flow.

Smoke signals

TODAY we shift the focus to Zululand. In recent weeks readers

have been sharing various bizarre experiences on the Wild

Coast – a leg of mutton dropped from an aeroplane, bonfire

acrobatics on the beaches – but today we take a look at Lake

Bhangazi, at Cape Vidal.

Lake Bhangazi lies behind the dunes, an idyllic spot. My old

mate Monty English and some other fellows had a rustic

cottage on the shores of the lake, which they used as a base for

skiboat fishing in the sea.

It was the marlin season. They were there to catch some

monsters. They arrived in the evening and opened up the

cottage. They lit the gas deepfreeze to hold the couta they

were going to catch next day while they hunted marlin. They lit

the gas fridge to keep the beer cold.

Then they partied the way you do on a fishing expedition.

Everyone had a big roll of cash with him because the marlin

season meant using a lot of petrol on the skiboats. The only

place to fetch it from was St Lucia, and these were the days

before petrol cards and credit cards and cash machines.

Then they went to bed, each fellow draping his trousers – with

roll of cash – at the end of his bed.

At first light next day they were on the beach, launching then

heading for the horizon. They were after the marlin.

Then, later in the day, they noticed something strange – a pillar

of smoke on the landward horizon. What could this be?

Somebody was burning something. But so what? They

addressed themselves to catching a marlin.

But when they landed that evening they discovered what had

caused the mysterious smoke. The flame powering the deep

freeze had blown out. But the gas supply kept coming. Being

slightly heavier than air, it covered the floor of the cottage,

then started to increase in depth.

Then it reached the level of the flame still burning in the fridge

and – BOOM! – the entire place blew up, including the rolls of

cash at the end of each bedstead.

It was the shortest marlin fishing season in history. Luckily, in

those days you still left your car keys in the ignition.

Morse code

BACK to the Wild Coast. It was evening and a fishing party were

relaxing with cold beers on some high ground near the Leper


A small coaster was passing northward, very close in, catching

the counter-current. Her navigation lights shone bright in the

fading twilight. It was an enchanting scene.

One of the party had been in the merchant navy. He knew

morse code.

Speak them," one of the party said.

At which this fellow picked up a fishing torch and began

flashing a message.

At which every light on the ship went out, she turned hard to

starboard and headed for the horizon, full steam ahead.

"What did you say?"

"Heave to or we open fire!"

Yes, the rhythmic beauty of our coastline belies its constant

tensions and dramas.


THIS cowboy dude rode into town dressed in brown

paper. The sheriff arrested him for rustling.

Last word

When they discover the centre of the universe, a lot

of people will be disappointed to discover they are

not it.

Bernard Bailey

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