Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Idler, Thursday, April 26, 2018

Man who lives his job

DYLAN McWilliams, of Colorado, in the US, was bitten by a shark while bodyboarding at Kanai, Hawaii, last week. He managed to swim 30m back to shore, not knowing if he'd lost half his leg.

Fortunately, all he needed was seven stitches in hospital, according to Sky News. It's believed he'd been attacked by a tiger shark about 2m in length.

Dylan is becoming accustomed to stitches. Last year he needed nine in his head after an encounter with a black bear.

He was sleeping outside at a summer camp in Colorado when the bear started biting the back of his head.

He punched it and poked it in the eye, and it loosened its grip and skedaddled.

"I guess I was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time," the 20-year-old says.

Wrong spot, wrong time. Like when he was bitten by a rattlesnake on a hiking trip in Utah a couple of years ago. But the bite was not that severe, he says. He was ill for only a couple of days.

What does Dylan do for a living? He's a survival training instructor.

It figures.



THE state visit to the US by President Emmanuel Macron, of France, has revealed an extraordinary personal warmth between he and his counterpart, President Donald Trump.

So much hand-shaking, hand-holding, spontaneous touching and Gallic cheek-rubbing and kissing was there between the two that those of us of old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon mannerism began to feel a little uncomfortable.

Some commentators describe it as a "romance". But that is surely going too far. It's more like current football pitch behaviour.

But who scored the goal?


Ructions ahead

STAND by for ructions today in Britain's House of Commons. The House of Lords has already amended the bill providing for the UK to leave the EU, specifying that it should remain part of the Customs Union – anathema to the Brexiteers.

Today in the Commons they debate a cross-party (Tory and Labour) backbench motion suggesting much the same thing. The outcome will not be binding – but it could be a great pointer to the fate of the Lords' amendment.

The Brexiteers' dilemma is the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland. This is "soft" – no controls – and practicalities demand that it remain so. The EU has rejected Tory suggestions as to how they could have it both ways.

Ten or so Tories are said to be ready to vote with today's motion. At the best of times Theresa May relies anyway on the Democratic Ulster Unionists to get a majority in the Commons.

Ulster? Yes, that's another name for Northern Ireland.

Could the backbench motion succed - defeat for Theresa May? As the Whitehall political pundits say: Dan sal die poppe dans!

Anything could happen. It's safer to bet on names for William and Kate's new little prince.


MORE FROM Rosemarie Jarski's Great British Wit. Topic: Football.

·       We murdered them nil-nil. Bill Shankly.

·       The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score. – Nick Hornby.

·       Football and cookery are the two most important subjects in this country. – Delia Smith.

·       Nature hating a vacuum like the average English mind, it has hastened to fill it with football. – Theodore Dalrymple.

·       And now the worst news of all. Gay men are getting interested in football. What a catastrophe. One became homosexual to get away from this sort of thing. – Matthew Parris.

·       Let's face it, football is a game for commoners. As soon as you get a mortgage you start liking tennis. – Jonathan Ross.

·       I don't know much about football. I know what a goal is, which is surely the main thing about football. – Victoria Beckham.

·       My doctor told me I should have a complete break from football so I became manager of Wolves. – Tommy Docherty.

·       Bobby Robson's natural expression is that of a man who fears he may have left the gas on. – David Lacey.

·       I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat. – Ron Atkinson.


"WOULD you like to dance?"

"I don't like this music and even if I did I wouldn't dance with you."

"I'm sorry, I think you misheard. I said you look fat in that dress."

Last word

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Idler, Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Copyright clarity at last

AT LAST we have legal finality in this wretched case of the macacque monkey that took a selfie deep in the forests of Indonesia.

Readers might recall that British wildlife photographer David Slater set up his camera in the forest to record the antics of the macacques. At which one of them somehow tripped the camera, producing a grimacing close-up of himself.

The photograph was used in various newspapers and magazines about the world (including this one). It was a hit.

But then Naruto – the name bestowed on the macaque – sued Slater in America for infringement of copyright. Well, not Naruto exactly – he's still cavorting in the forests of Indonesia – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) sued on his behalf.

Peta took it to the US Court of Appeals. But the court ruled against Naruto/Peta this week, according to Huffington Post.

Said Judge Carlos Bea: "We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement.

"We conclude that this monkey - and all animals, since they are not human - lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act."

Phew! That's a relief. There's a yak in Borneo that's been threatening defamation for this column making fun of his kind, not to mention that bushbaby in Dukuduku.

But I decline to describe Peta as a pack of absurd, trouble-making, monkey-hugging sentimentalists. They are not beyond bringing an action claiming this column is in fact written by the troop leader of the Morningside vervet monkeys. Peta stops at nothing!


Disgusting tide


IT WAS Earth Day last Sunday. Our TV screens had all kinds of people, all over the world, telling us about the disgusting tide of plastic throwaways – wrappers, bottles straws – that are actually destroying our oceans as the  objects eventually come to outnumber fish. Plastic, of course, doesn't biodegrade.

There was much talk about recycling and the need to step this up. I did not hear a single pundit suggest the swift and effective shortcut – stop using plastic for wrappers, bottles and straws. Go back to what we used in the fifties – paper and glass. It's not rocket science.

Mind you, we did hear it from local Greenpeace Africa, as reported in yesterday's paper. Nhlanhla Sibisi said: "There seems to be a public perception and expectation that the recycling industry will save the planet. Reactive clean-ups are not the solution, only once we have a clean-up of the systemic reliance on plastic will we see the change we want to achieve."

Hoor hoor! Well said!




READER Andrew Scott points out, however, that glass also doesn't degrade. It just breaks down into sharp pieces that give him punctures on his morning bicycle rides.

So much so that he has fitted a box to his bike carrier, into which he places all broken bottles he encounters, then puts them in a recycling bin – probably 10kg a week.

This is most commendable but, with respect, it addresses a slightly different problem. A bottle in the sea will sink and eventually be ground by the motion of the waves into tiny, smooth granules of sand.

What do we do about the oafs who throw glass bottles onto cycle paths? That's another problem.


Contact sport?

MENTION this week of rugby and ballet reminds my retired colleague Clyde Bawden of Heyneke Meyer, when he was the Bulls coach, responding to a comment that rugby is a contact sport.

"No," he replied. "Ballroom dancing is a contact sport. Rugby is a collision sport."


Dinosaur enlists

YOU can do just about anything in the forces, except mock tradition. A senior non-commissioned officer in the Tennessee National Air Guard had a video made, replicating her enlistment oath.

The difference this time though was that the words were mouthed by a dinosaur glove puppet on her hand.

Master Sergeant Robin Brown says she did it only to amuse her young children. But somehow the video got onto Facebook.

The Tennessee brass are not amused. The issue is being addressed, a general says. As they say in the forces, HKK – hier kom …



OUTSIDE of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Last word

Hope is tomorrow's veneer over today's disappointment.

Evan Esar



The Idler, Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Town under siege

RUSSIAN bots are spreading fake news on social media. Russian hackers are threatening the computer infrastructure of the Western democracies. And now the Russians have an entire town in California under siege. People can't even get out of their houses.

Russian thistle – also known as tumbleweed – is tumbling down the streets of Victorville,100km north-east of Los Angeles, driven by strong winds.

The weed is piling up against houses, according to Huffington Post, stacking up and forming two-storey mounds People have been phoning 911 for help.

However, Russian thistle long predates the Putin era. It's an invasive species brought by Russian immigrants to South Dakota in 1873. It has since spread over some 40 million hectares.

It's now naturalised, American as apple pie, nothing to do with the Kremlin. Gene Autrey, The Singing Cowboy, was able to croon:

I'll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds…



I've just finished reading Greg Arde's The Sugar Farmer's Son, a biography of Gerard de Rauville, Durban's mover and shaker in the property world, whose origins were in the canelands of the North Coast, part of the vibrant French Mauritian community.

Bonds of family, duty and honour – underpinned by the Roman Catholic Church – played through strongly. He and his brothers suffered ghastly tragedy when their parents and sister died in the Windhoek air disaster in 1968.

They picked themselves up. Gerard embarked on a sometimes terrifying rollercoaster ride in the property sector, that came close to disaster but fortunately turned out very well in the end. This is in many ways a snapshot of yesterday's Durban.

I'm intrigued by a passage from Gerard's schooldays at St Charles, in Maritzburg. His younger brother, Michel, was playing in a rugby match when a Catholic brother smacked him on the head for some mistake.

Gerard ran down the field and tackled the brother, shouting: "What are you doing to my brother?"

Would this smacking brother by any chance have been Brother Carrot-Top? It sounds very much like him. Brother Carrot-Top – so named for his carroty red hair – was a short, chunky German who refereed matches at junior level. (I was a Merchiston boy).

Carrot-Top's enthusiasm for St Charles far outstripped his knowledge of the laws of rugby. "Grun, grun!" he would shout when St Charles had possession. He would whip their backsides with the lanyard of his whistle if they were slacking. He would join the loose scrums, shoving for St Charles.

It was most comical. The St Charles parents watching would be embarrassed and even more outraged than the parents of the opposition side.

Them wuz the days.


Highland Gathering

MY OLD muso mate, Smelly Fellows, has adopted the nom-de-guerre, "Maloliente". This is Italian for, er, "Smelly".


Smelly/Maloliente reminds us that in Amanzimtoti this Saturday the Lions Club will be holding their Highland Gathering at the Sports Ground in Hutchison Road, from 9am.


There'll be live music in the beer tent from 10-30am, from Salty Dog (Smelly's group) as well as R@W, Catlike Thieves, Zisamo, Mitch Barnes Band, Calamity Jam, Bradley Grey Band, and Groove Croo.


The massed pipe bands will display at 4.15pm.


Entrance: R50 for adults; R20 for schoolkids. Further information: John - 082-7711108; Shane – 083-3069997.


Smelly will be wearing a kilt and will give an exhibition of tossing the caber. This is not to be missed.

Expensive treat

BOBBIE Gordon, of Nottingham, England, added a single banana to her grocery order by e-mail from Asda, who deliver to your front door. The banana was a treat for her seven-year-old boy.

Then the bill arrived by e-mail. The banana was charged at £930 (R15 763), according to Sky News.

Fortunately her credit card blocked the transaction. Adsa apologised for the "computer glitch".

Says Bobbie: "I told my seven-year-old: 'You must really enjoy this banana, you must cherish every mouthful'."




A FELLOW walks into a bar with a small dog. He puts it on the piano stool and the dog starts playing like crazy. Then a big dog comes in, grabs him by the scruff of the neck and drags him outside.

Barman: "That little dog's fantastic. But what's with the big dog?"

"Oh, that's his mother. She wants him to be a doctor."

Last word

Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another. - H L Mencken

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Idler, Monday, april23

More Washington cabaret

IS THIS a stunt or is it for real? The Democratic National Committee, in the US, is suing the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, accusing them of a wide-ranging conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Russian government is located in the Kremlin. Will the lawsuit be served on it there?

How do you serve a lawsuit on something as nebulous as a campaign?

Wikileaks is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. It's been there five and a half years under political asylum and is probably impermeable to lawsuits.

On the other hand, perhaps lawsuits are the answer. In that case the Brits and the French missed a trick in 1939.

They should have just sued the pants off Adolf Hitler when he invaded Czechoslovakia. It would have saved a lot of botheration.


We had it first

'TIS gratifying to have one's predictions in the realm of international affairs so readily confirmed.

Last week this column said Brexit had reached its definitive fault line over the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Sure enough, the EU over the weekend rejected the UK's suggestions for the Irish border.

Also last week, we predicted that Prince Charles will eventually become Head of the Commonwealth, even though it's not automatic.

Sho' nuff, that's what the Commonwealth Heads of Government decided unanimously at the weekend.

President Trump and Kim Jong-un (The Young 'Un)? Long-range forecasts for the July Handicap?

Watch this space!

Meeting of …

MEANWHILE, momentum toward a summit between Trump and Kim appears to be gathering. It could mean a breakthrough for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula; for a reduction in tensions with the US that could otherwise have dire consequences.

One thing is certain: It would be a meeting of the world's two worst haircuts.


What a thrilling and inspiring game this Stormers encounter was. Thrilling in the sense of closeness of the result. Inspiring in the way the Sharks picked themselves up off the deck after last week's disaster and showed what they're made of. We're still in the hunt.

A dour game, some say. Lots of forward play, little sparkle in the threequarters. Yes, it was dour. Lots of ferocious backline tackling by both sides. But this is rugby, not ballet.

Psychologically, this is exactly the right thing for the Sharks going forward. They can do it. Ole, ole, ole!

Black, blue, purple

SHOULD our rugby administrators not turn their minds to colour contrast?

At Kings Park on Saturday night the Sharks were in black. The Stormers were in a blue that showed very dark under the lights. The jerseys (and pants) were barely distinguishable.

There was also a fellow gesticulating continually. Ah, that was the ref, wearing purple. He could have been another player.

It probably wasn't that bad down on the field. But in the stands it took a lot of guesswork. Confusion should not be added to concern.

Home fires burning

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener notes in his latest grumpy newsletter that President Cyril came home early from the Commonwealth meeting, presumably to put out actual and figurative fires.

"Some of the most severe conflagrations are the result of dire local and provincial leadership. Instead of renaming airports, government needs seriously to curtail provincial and 'traditional' power structures.

"These are costly anachronisms unsuited to a modern state, providing cover for incompetent paper shufflers and disguise for large scale larceny.

"Halving the public service wage bill will trigger social upheavals registering at least 10 on the Richter Scale. But it will allow for massive reductions in tax rates, which in turn will encourage entrepreneurship and self-help capacity."

Greener also notes that the King of Swaziland is so sick of his country being mistaken for Switzerland that henceforth our neighbour is to be known as eSwatini.

"It's hard to see where the confusion arises though."



PADDY goes for a job interview. His friends ask him afterwards how it went.

"To be sure, it was goin' swimminly, no problems at all. I was doin' very well.

"But den dey asked to see my testimonials. And dat's when I made my big mistake."


Last word

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Idler, Friday, April 20, 2018

That Irish border

HAS a definitive fault line revealed itself in the Brexit process? How do they square the circle of the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland?

This is a "soft" border with no controls. People live one side of the border and work on the other. Farming operations straddle the border. Hundreds of trucks carrying trade goods cross the border, to and fro, every day.

The Republic of Ireland insists that border should remain soft. But that is incompatible with Brexit. The EU suggests a border in the Irish sea. But that would detach Northern Ireland from the UK, make it part of the EU and virtually part of the Republic. The Brits throw up their hands in horror.

Now Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, says there will be no Brexit withdrawal deal and no transition until the Irish border issue is resolved.

The brexiteers say there is a solution but they don't tell us what it is.

It takes us back to Spike Milligan's Puckoon, set in 1924 when "the clock in the church tower said 4.32, as it had done for three hundred years. It was right once a day and that was better than no clock at all."

The Ulster Boundary Commission was tasked with creating the new official division between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. Through incompetence, dereliction of duty and sheer perversity, the border ends up running through the middle of the small town of Puckoon.

Houses are divided from outhouses, husbands separated from wives, bars are cut off from their patrons, churches sundered from graveyards ….

The brexiteers should really have done their homework and read Milligan. Apart from the confusion, there is the danger of re-igniting sectarianism.


Two little men with the arse out of their trousers were holding a mass meeting. They had both known better days but not partaken in them. They were forced to admit that the glorious days of the IRA were in decline.

"Comrades," said Shamus Ford, addressing his partner from a chair, "I have good tidings. This new customs post at Puckoon is a boon and a blessing to man. I have a plan, such a plan as Brian Boru would be glad to be associated in …"

Ends ital

Is this not a foretaste? Milligan also captures the breakdown in common civility and good manners in the tensions over a border. Consider this scene at the Holy Drunkard pub.


"Hello, Hi-lee, Ho-la, Hep-la," he shouted through the letterbox.

Upstairs a window flew up like a gun port and a pig-of-a-face stuck itself out.

"What do you want, Milligan?" said the pig-of-a-face. Milligan doffed his cap.

"Ah, Missis O'Toole, you're looking more lovely dan ever. Is there any chance of a cool libation for a tirsty traveller?"

"Piss off!" said the lovely Mrs O'Toole.

Ends ital

And there you have it in a nutshell – social breakdown and hostility caused by the Irish border issue. Few credited Spike Milligan with such insight and foresight when he wrote Puckoon.


Pep talk


Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height …

Yes, Shakespeare knew how to do a rugby pep talk. Boy, do we need it tomorrow against the Stormers, wipe out memory of last week's debacle. Tomorrow is a test of the Sharks'character as much as skills.

Meanwhile, a damsel from Zinkwazi, on the North Coast, urges me – through her bridge partner -  to desist from sport in this column. My reply is that she should join the gals of the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties and supply knicker elastic for the fashioning of catapults in the event of victory, for the trasditional celebratory feu de joie in which the street lights are shot out.

She will discover that rugby is part of the fabric of our culture, a source of never-ending joy. Her life will be transformed.



A TRAFFIC cop pulls level with a car that is speeding on the motorway. He's astounded to see that the woman at the wheel is knitting.

He cranks down his window and shouts: "Pull over!"

"No," she shouts back. "Scarf!"

Last word

I do not have a psychiatrist and I do not want one, for the simple reason that if he listened to me long enough, he might become disturbed.

James Thurber


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Idler, Thursday, April 19, 2018

Long-standing links

YESTERDAY'S front page photograph of Cyril Ramaphosa with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle before the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting recalls the personal links she has with South Africa.

It was in Cape Town that the Queen – then a princess – swore her oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth when she turned 21. It was during the royal tour of 1947.

One imagines she would have followed with some interest and concern the ructions that preceded Ramapohosa's elevation to the presidency.

Meanwhile, in an address to a Commonwealth Youth Forum, British Prime Minister Theresa May described the multi-nation organisation as unique.

"No other organisation can rival both our geographical and cultural diversity while giving all nations an equal role, an equal voice and equal standing.

"From small tropical islands to the vast Arctic tundra, from nations of just a few thousand people to countries that are home to hundreds of millions, the modern Commonwealth is a snapshot of the world at large."

Quite true. Also true is that South Africa is a snapshot of that snapshot – people of African, Asian and European origin; a mixture of the developed and the developing worlds.

The main Commonwealth shindig starts today. We hope nobody is indelicate enough to raise ball-tampering in cricket.


ELIZABETH is queen of 16 Commonwealth countries – head of state, the position hereditary. Elsewhere she is "Head of the Commonwealth". Does Prince Charles eventually take over that role? It's not automatic, not quite clear.

But the smart money has it that he will. There's nothing a republican likes better than the mystique of monarchy.

Angry Brock

PORTIONS of a 16th century Scottish castle had to be closed to the public last week because they have been taken over by a "very angry badger".

The tunnel at Craignethan Castle was considered especially dangerous for any human meeting up with the cheesed-off badger in that enclosed space, according to Huffington Post.

The badger had wandered in from nearby forest, said Historic Scotland, which manages the property. It dug through loose soil and stonework.

Built in 1530, Craignethan is noted for its fortifications, which were built to protect it from artillery and considered ahead of their time. But it seems it's not badger proof.

What made the badger so angry? We're not told. Perhaps he'd been watching First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on TV. Badgers are notorious male chauvinists.

We're not told if he was wearing a kilt.


OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "This fellow I know had to drop out of medical school. Really tragic. He wanted so much to be a doctor but he couldn't stand the sight of cash."


PLASTICS are choking our oceans. Plastic bags, wrappers, bottles and drinking straws are carelessly thrown away. They flow down the gutters, into the rivers and from there into the sea.

They are choking marine life. Tiny granules are entering the food chain, of which we are a part. Plastic doesn't biodegrade, it's there forever. It threatens to choke the entire planet.

Except here's hope. Scientists in Portsmouth, England, have discovered a naturally occurring enzyme that eats plastic bottles. They believe PETase (from the PET plastic used in bottles) can be fine-tuned to chomp all kinds of plastic.

And here's something absolutely intriguing. Some of the scientists believe the enzyme developed as a response to the presence of plastics.

If that is true, how marvellous are the forces of nature. Something built in to counter the excesses of humanity. Makes ya think!


RACONTEUR Spyker Koekemoer (aka Pat Smythe) turned 65 this week, a noteworthy occasion.

"The first message I received on my phone was from Clientele Life, suggesting I buy a funeral policy."

Happy Birthday!


THIS fellow is in a seafood restaurant. A sign reads: "Lobster tails R10 each." He says to the waitress: "These must be very small tails if you're selling them so cheap."

"No, she says. "They're normal size."

"Then they have to be pretty old."

"They're fresh today."

"There has to be something wrong with them."

"No, they're just regular lobster tails."

"Okay, I'll have one."

The waitress takes his money, sits him down at a table and says: "Once upon a time there was a big red lobster …"

Last word

Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.

John F Kennedy