On this day
YESTERDAY'S "On This Day" feature in The Mercury fairly bristled with noteworthy entries.
It recorded Nelson Mandela's birth at Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, a full century ago in 1918 (as did another five pages in the newspaper).
In 1925, Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which is today banned in Germany. The original title was the catchy Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice. But some publisher talked Der Fuhrer out of it.
In 1938, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan arrived in Ireland after a 28-hour flight – he'd left New York flying for California.
It's not known what became of "One Way" Corrigan subsequently. Perhaps he's still on his way back to New York.
The entry for 1926 is intriguing. Author and journalist Herman Charles Bosman (Herman Malan), shot and killed his stepbrother, David Russell, during a quarrel.
That tragic incident has never been fully explained, that I know of. But it did lead to one of South Africa's major literary works.
Cold Stone Jug records Bosman's being sentenced to death for the shooting. The grim humour of being on Death Row where one evening he and a fellow Death Row prisoner were kicking up a racket to keep their spirits up, and the chief warder arrived and warned that if they didn't stop they would be in "serious trouble".
Bosman's death sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment, then gradually whittled down by various across the board prisoner amnesties until eventually he was released on parole.
Cold Stone Jug captures the grimness of prison life, laced with dark humour. It also fully captures the ghastliness of the regular hangings.
And if Bosman's original sentence had been carried out, we would not have had his glorious subsequent output of humorous/tragic short stories, set in the Marico district of what was then the Western Transvaal, where he had been a schoolmaster.
Mafeking Road, A Cask of Jeripigo, Jacaranda in the Night, Unto Dust – the stories are beautifully crafted, capturing the tragedy – yet still laced with humour – of the Boer War and the hiccups that followed it such as the 1914 Rebellion and the later mineworkers' disaffection on the Witwatersrand.
Bosman wrote in English but in the Afrikaans idiom – it was most effective. The English departments of our universities were always a little sniffy about him, but for my money he's the equal of F Scott Fitzgerald, O Henry, Damon Runyan and the other American exponents of the short story with a twist in the tail.
And if he hadn't dodged the hangman, we'd have got none of it. Makes ya think.
What the Helsinki?
PRESIDENT Donald Trump has been taking a lot of stick at home for his haranguing of his European allies, followed by a love-fest with President Putin of Russia.
He'd better stay away from Howick. Rob Nicolai, the town's resident theoretical physicist, is also gobsmacked.
"President Trump must be exhausted from an unprecedented bout of kow-towing, boot-licking and schmoozing up to Russian President Putin in Finland.
"What the Helsinki went on there? Trump was even noticed trying to lower his height so as to make the shorter Putin seem more important.
"After insulting trusted Nato allies and the UK, German and French leaders, he heaps praise on Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who wants to re-establish the Soviet empire."
DISHY Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic looked great in her team's red-checked football shirt for the World Cup Final in Moscow. But as the rain teemed down at the end, she was wringing wet.
Ian Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, notes that Russian President Vladimir Putin had an umbrella while she did not.
Does Putin deserve the dog box,
Or some time in the stocks?
For he kept his umbrella,
The unchivalrous fella!
As Kolinda got wet to her socks.
THIS fellow makes a booking by e-mail at a beachfront hotel and asks for directions on how to find it.
"It's a stone's throw from North Beach," comes the reply.
"But how will I recognise it?"
"It's the one with the broken windows."
I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.