Dismay, disgust, disillusionment …
'TWAS a big night this week at the St Clement's arts soiree – Paul Mikula, of the Ubuntu Art Phantsi Museum and Academy, on the nature and significance of indigenous art; and the results of our 100-word short story competition.
Did I feature in the short stories? Well, yes and no. No because I did not enter. Yes because I judged the competition.
And here I feel I have to express my utter dismay, disgust and disillusionment. I was not offered a single bribe. What is the world of arts coming to? Have they learned nothing from our political establishment?
Entries were of course delivered to me, writer not disclosed. Then – blow me down and shiver me timbers! – the winner, the one I liked most, turned out to have been penned by none other than our St Clements organiser and compere, Pieter Scholtz.
Here is his Last Will and Testament:
He was troubled. "Must write a will". He was seventy four.
His body ached. Bad digestion. Frequent head aches.
He fingered a well-thumbed note book.
"First the names. Details later."
Harry. A good friend. Sense of humour.
Shirley. He still got sexually aroused when he was close to her. At seventy four. That pleased him.
Jerry. A black guy. Very intelligent. And kind.
He couldn't think of any others.
They found him the next morning under a bridge, huddled under a dirty blanket.
Next to him a shabby rucksack containing his worldly possessions.
And a note book … with three names.
Well done, Pieter! This is O Henry, Damon Runyan, F Scott Fitzgerald, WW Jacobs and Herman Charles Bosman all rolled into one.
AS I SAY, no hanky-panky, no cumashaw, no inducements whatever. But I did walk away with, as a reward for judging, a magnificent framed sketch in a Japanese theme by acclaimed Durban artist Andrew Verster
The same sketch appears in a little booklet published a year or so ago by Andrew and Pieter, Andrew providing the Japanese artwork and Pieter writing accompanying verse in haiku form – a terse and strict syllabic count, accompanied by penetrating meaning.
The haiku that went with the framed sketch I now possess:
Thoughts are dangerous
Caged they cannot wing your way
You possess the key.
Maybe I'll get Pieter to scribble the haiku on my wall.
Heart and soul
BACK to Pail Mikula. He delivered a passionate discourse on the true meaning of art as an expression of humanity's heart and soul rather than intellect. In the case of the Zulu people, their artefacts have somehow survived colonialism and modernisation and are a precious residue to be valued, protected and encouraged.
He also told an amusing story, in the context of traditional medicine, of how a wart on his nose simply disappeared out of fright at the prospect of being treated by modern medicine.
Ubuntu Art is certainly worth a visit.
SOME might be unfamiliar with the work of WW Jacobs, mentioned above, much of it set in the 19th century docklands of the Thames, the tales often told through a night watchman in the Cockney dialect.
Jacobs was my first encounter (many, many years ago) with the genre of the short story. He had some splendid passages, such as when a fellow boarded a ship moored alongside and went below, where he fancied he saw a ghost.
"'E came up that companionway like a fog'orn wot 'as lost it's ma …"
Or a dispute in a bar involving sailors on shore leave:
"Then old Sam saw 'ow he'd been done, and the way he carried on when the landlord gave Ginger the 'arf-dollar and said it was won fair and honest, was a disgrace. He 'opped about that bar 'arf crazy, until at last the landlord and 'is brother, and a couple o' soldiers, and a helpless cripple wot was selling matches put 'im outside and told 'im to stop there …"
AN EIGHTY-year-old gent is having his annual check-up. The doctor listens to his chest with a stethoscope.
"You have a serious heart murmur. Do you smoke?"
"Do you drink to excess?"
"Do you have a sex life?"
"Yes, I do."
"Well I'm afraid you're going to have to cut that activity by half."
"Which half – the looking or the thinking?"
A signature always reveals a man's character - and sometimes even his name.