Monday, March 13, 2017

The Idler, Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Romantic Wild Coast bonfire

BONFIRES on the beach at Mbotyi … these have long been a tradition at this idyllic spot on the Wild Coast, that has featured in this column of late. The biggest bonfire by far was in 1929, lit by Jack Barber, storekeeper at Mbotyi River Mouth, to greet his lady love.

I am steered in this direction – the romantic story of Sally and Jack – by reader Peter Williams.

Jack Barber was the Robinson Crusoe of Mbotyi. He played football for Scotland and was wounded fighting in the trenches in France in World War I. Convalescing in a military hospital, he was nursed back to health by Sally Barnes, a volunteer nurse from Boston, Massachusetts.

He came to South Africa after the war and found himself running the store at Mbotyi. He and Sally wrote regularly. He popped the question by mail. She accepted and came out from America by ship. Jack calculated when her ship from Cape Town to Durban would be off the Wild Coast, and he built a massive bonfire to welcome her on a headland just south of  Mbotyi called Sharks Point.

Sally arrived at Mbotyi in due course, by oxwagon. She became a popular figure in the local community and used to ride her horse on the beach every morning. The path through the bush that she took from the store to the beach is known to this day as Sally's Alley. The store is no more but Sally's Ally now runs to the Mbotyi River Lodge.

A charming tale, you will agree.

Spectacular bonfire

ANOTHER bonfire was on the beach at Mbotyi, many years later. It was a big bonfire made of driftwood. A schoolboy who had gymnastics colours from Michaelhouse started doing perfect somersaults over the fire. His name was Andrew Zaloumis and today he is head honcho at iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Watching was a red-haired desperado from our fishing party, named Ginger Dick. He had imbibed a few ales during the afternoon to guard against sunburn. "I'll show these Michaelhouse kids," growled Ginger (a Hiltonian) and he rushed at the bonfire and performed his own somersault.

He was nowhere near as graceful as Zaloumis. In fact he dived headlong into the fire, fortunately at such velocity that he went straight through, knocking aside burning logs and coals in a shower of sparks. Not as graceful but certainly more spectacular. Astonishingly, the ginger locks and the ginger eyebrows were badly singed, but that was the worst of it.

Another charming tale from an idyllic spot.


Yet another fire

MIAMI defence attorney Stephen Guttierez was winding up his case that his client – charged with arson – did not set his own car on fire to claim insurance, it spontaneously combusted.

As he warmed to his theme, Guttierez detected warmth elsewhere. To his horror he realised that his pants were also spontaneously combusting.

He rushed abruptly out of the courtroom to seek the water closet, his backside aflame.

The combustion was caused by a battery-powered e-cigarette contraption in his pocket, according to the Miami Herald.

He returned, the flames doused, and continued his argument. But Guttierez got nowhere. His client was found guilty of arson.

What jury could give credence to such an attorney? They've all heard the playground chant: "Liar, liar, your pants are on fire!"

Like a seal

SOCIAL media has been a-Twitter with footage of Aussie actress Nicole Kidman "clapping like a seal" at last month's Oscars ceremony.

How does a seal clap? Well it's a sort of elbows-in motion, the hands symetrically held before the body – if seals had elbows and hands. But I'm sure you know what I mean.

Why was Nicole clapping in this strange way? So persistent was the social media trend that she felt constrained to reply.

It was because she was wearing a large diamond ring, she said. She didn't want it to fly off or get damaged. So she was clapping very carefully, combining enthusiasm with restraint.

A-a-a-ah. Let nobody suggest Twitter and the rest of social media can be somewhat naff. Why, Donald Trump uses it regularly.




THE jet age defined: Breakfast in Rome, lunch in Paris, dinner in London, bags in Singapore.


Last word

Conscience is what makes a boy tell his mother before his sister does.

Evan Esar

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