Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Idler, Wednesday, March 22, 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 victories.

'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 Colony.

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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