Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Idler, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Baby shark kidnapped

THIEVES – two men and a woman – scooped a small shark out of an aquarium tank in San Antonio, Texas, then wheeled it out in a pushchair, disguised as a baby.

Fortunately nobody tried chucking the baby under the chin – they could have lost a finger or two – and the threesome – now a foursome – made it out of the aquarium.

But the thing had been picked up on CCTV, according to Sky News, and the cops were alerted. There was a panic that the shark would die pretty quickly.

The police put out a public alert and next thing the thieves – or perhaps we should call them sharknappers – were traced in the vehicle in which they had left the aquarium, arrested and the small shark – a horn shark named Helen – was returned double-quick to her tank, still in good fettle.

When the cops went to the van owner's home, they found it was virtually a private aquarium, all kinds of fish and other marine animals in tanks. How he stocked it is no doubt the subject of further investigations.



I WAS in The Pub With No Name in Florida Road the other evening when I spied a fellow in a Maritzburg College rugby jersey.

He was with a girl who was bent over the bar counter in concentration on her smartphone and he was assisting by patting her assiduously on her derriere. Manners. This was most definitely a College Boy.

Then it turned out that the group at an adjacent table were also College Boys – all except one who went to Ixopo High but is about to start at Maritzburg College as a sports coach.

I recalled playing rugby at Ixopo with the mist so thick the scrumhalf could barely make out his flyhalf; the ball disappearing if it were kicked into the air. A kind of hide and seek rugby. This fellow agreed that rugby at Ixopo is indeed like that.

'Twas a most jolly encounter with these young fellows. They insisted I must not miss the Old Boys' Reunion this coming weekend.

It was heartwarming to discover that these fellows – they were all of them Africans – have come on board totally with the school traditions, and with great cheerfulness. I'm sure it's true of all our traditional schools, and that surely is significant social progress.

I departed with a cry of "Jigamalayo!" – College's Zulu war cry - to which they responded, just about raising the roof.

A little bit of Maritzburg tradition comes to Durban. It's an enriching thing.


Brexit dilemmas

WHOM the gods would destroy they first make mad. The ancient proverb seems increasingly applicable to the Brexit process.

It's becoming clear that nobody – not even the arch-brexiteers – did their homework on the practicalities of leaving the EU.

How can the "soft" border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland be retained, with the UK out of the customs union? It seems an impossibility.

Now an investigation by Sky News reveals that the port of Dover has no hope whatever of imposing customs regulation on the volume of goods entering and leaving Britain, in the event of the UK crashing out in a "no deal" Brexit.

And opinion polls show a decisive majority of Britons are fed up with the whole thing and would rather remain in the EU. But Downing Street insists there will be no second referendum.

Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Will the House of Commons come to the rescue? It's worth a flutter with the bookies.

Choc horror

STILL with the EU, the European Court of Justice – bete noire of the brexiteers – has ruled against KitKat, the chocolate bar.

Nestle, manufacturers of KitKat, have been trying for 11 years to get the four-fingered wafer covered in chocolate trademarked as their own.

But they are opposed by Cadbury's and by a similar Norwegian chocolate bar called Kvikk Lunsj  - "quick lunch" – that has been around for about 80 years.

The European Court of Justice has ruled against KitKat. Nestle intend appealing. This one will run and run.


WHEN a man holds a woman's hand before marriage, it's love. After marriage it's self-defence.

Last word

Just a word of advice. Whenever you're furious with your parents or you think they're terrible, just remember, you vomited on them and they kept you.

John Green

The Idler, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Denarius or dibilishi?


A LUNCH menu from the Carlton Hotel, in Johannesburg, comes this way:


Assorted Hors d'oeuvres        from R0.95

Paw paw cocktail                               R0.40


Cream of lettuce soup                       R0.35

Pizza Carlton style                              R0.85


Grilled sole & lemon                          R1.05

Prawns a l'Orientale                           R1.35

River trout a'Orange                           R1.25


Larded Fillet of Beef Madere Sauce  R1.25

Roast Turkey Payanne                         R1.25

Poussins Peri Peri & Rice                     R1.30

Grilled Sirloin Steak Maitre d'Hotel   R1.15

Veal Noissette in White Wine Sauce R1.15

Grilled Lamb Chops & Cutlets             R1.05

Braised Ox Tongue & Spinach             R1.05


Gateau Meduse                                     R0.55

Baba au Rhum                                        R0.55

Iced Cup Venus                                       R0.55

Sweets from the Trolley                              SQ



Yes, you've guessed. This is a very old menu – January 18, 1963. It was less than two years after the country's disastrous slide into decimal currency and economic ruination.


Grilled Lamb Chops & Cutlets (R1.05) was still recognisable as 10 shillings and sixpence, what you'd expect to pay in a top hotel in those days.


Them wuz the days, pounds, shillings and pence - £sd. £ stood for livre (French, very posh), s for shilling and d for – well, there's some dispute here. Some say it stood for denarius, which was a small Roman coin; others say it stood for dibilishi, which was the Zulu word for a penny.


Whatever, there was seldom a reason to calculate in anything but shillings and pence – no need to break into the pounds.


Decimalisation brought disaster. Pre-decimals you could get a mixed grill on the beachfront for three shillings and sixpence (equivalent of 35 cents). You could take a girl out to dinner for a pound (R2).


I rest my case.




DECIMALISATION also wrought havoc with our folklore. The two-shilling piece (or florin) was only slightly smaller than the two shillings and sixpence piece (or halfcrown). It (the two-shilling piece) was known in Zulu as Iskoshimeni (Scotchman).

A Scotsman won a contract to lay a line for the Natal Government Railways. He hired Zulu labourers and paid them in florins, telling them they were halfcrowns. It meant that for every pound they earned, they were cheated out of four shillings.

They never forgot this schlenter. It became part of the lingo, Scots business practice immortalised. Now forgotten.

Well, almost. A few years ago I was in a remote rural village when I picked up a 20 cent piece (nominal equivalent of two shillings) that an old woman had dropped at her stall.

"Iskoshimeni," I said as I gave it back to her.

Her face lit up. "Awu! Impela! Iskoshimeni!" (Oh! True! A Scotchman!)


But the next generation will know nothing of it. This seems a pity.




WHY this nostalgia for the imperial coinage? Well, consider. The halfcrown (two shillings and sixpence – nominal equivalent 25 cents) had several Zulu names. One was idiomatic – ingogo, meaning "the price of a woman".

Twenty-five cents! Yep, them wuz the days!





Oldies' quiz


THE folk of Ridgewood Retirement Village, north of the Umgeni, believe in keeping the grey matter active. Recently they had a quiz evening . During his introduction the MC quoted a few answers from similar evenings in other villages .


·       Who was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas? - JR .

·       What was Gandhi's first name? - Goosey.

·       What was Hitler's first name? - Heil .

·       Name a bird with a long neck. - Naomi Camphell.

·       What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963? - I don't know, I wasn't watching it then.

·       Name something that follows the word pork.  - Cupine.

·       Who hit the first golf ball on the moon? - Tiger Woods .

·       Who is the author of Winnie the Pooh  - Brooklax .



Er, so what? Pretty clear answers, I'd say.




THEY'VE  started a self-help group for compulsive talkers. It's called On and On Anon.


Last word


A girl phoned me the other day and said "Come on over, there's nobody home." I went over. Nobody was home.

Rodney Dangerfield


Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Idler, Monday, July 30, 2018

A python in her bed

A LONDON woman got the fright of her life when she woke up to find a python snuggled up next to her in bed. The 1m royal python was perfectly happy but had his slumber rudely disturbed as the woman screamed and ran for the telephone to call the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals.

An RSPCA collection officer arrived but by that time the snake had disappeared. The following evening she was called back again, and this time she managed to catch the python in a corridor of the woman's flat in Kensington, West London, according to Sky News.

The python is almost certainly an escaped pet, according to the RSPCA, the owner probably living very close by.

A terrifying experience for that woman to wake with a python in bed beside her. Of course, the python can't talk so we'll never get his version.

(And shame on you, those who expected something different after that headline).

Political analysis

ZIMBABWE goes to the polls today. Will Emmerson "The Crocodile" Mnangagwa make it in true democracy?

He's tainted with plenty from the Mugabe era. But then he has the considerable prestige of having at last put boot to the ancient posterior of Mugabe and his dreadful wife, who was set to succeed him.

Why is he called "The Crocodile"? I've always half-imagined his name Mnangagwa, must be a version of the Zulu "ingwenya", which means crocodile.

But it seems my half-imaginings have been only half-right. His actual nicknames in the Zimbabwean vernacular are "Garwe" or "Ngwena" (sho' nuff!), both of which mean crocodile.

But initially that was the name of the guerilla group he founded. The faction within Zanu-PF that supports him is called "Lacoste" after the French clothing company whose logo is a crocodile.

Political analysis takes us down some strange paths. I wonder, does Mnangagwa wear Croc shoes?

Stripy row

THERE'S the dickens of a row over a zoo in Egypt that is accused of painting stripes on donkeys and calling them zebras. Their ears seem too large and their muzzles are grey in colour instead of black.

A student photographed one of the suspect zebras and put it on the internet, where it's gone viral. The zoo – the International Garden, in Cairo – denies any verneukery but an Egyptian vet insists these are donkeys.

According to Huffington Post, it's happened before in the region. In 2010, a zoo in Gaza was found to have painted stripes on two donkeys it bought because they were very much cheaper than zebras.

What do we make of it? Maybe there's a clue in the Fanagalo definition of a zebra: "Lo donki khona lo football jezi."



OVERHEARD IN THE Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "They say that mean think only about sex. That's not true. They're also fixated on power, world domination, money, football and beer."




A STORY comes all the way from 1923 – 95 years ago – with a moral attached.

In America, the Titans of 1923 were:

·       The president of the largest steel company – Charles Schwab, who was eventually to die a pauper.

·       The president of the largest gas company – Edward Hopson, who went insane.

·       The greatest wheat speculator – Arthur Cooger, who died abroad penniless.

·       The president of the New York Stock Exchange – Richard Whitney, who was released from prison to die at home.

·       The Great Bear of Wall Street – Cosabee Livermore, who committed suicide.

However, in that same year, 1923, the PGA champion and winner of the US Open, was Gene Sarazen.
What became of him?
He played golf until he was 92 and died in 1999 at the age of 95, financially secure.
The moral: Forget work – play golf!



A TEACHER is giving a lesson in logic.

"Here is the situation." she says. "A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of a river, fishing. He loses his balance, falls in and begins splashing ad yelling for help. His wife hears the commotion, knows he can't swim and runs down to the bank. Why do you think she ran to the bank?"

Little girl: "To draw out all his savings."

Last word

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.

Robert Benchley

The Idler, Friday, July 27, 2018


OBSERVERS have noted President Donald Trump's use of capital letters in his alarming tweet to Iran threatening all kinds of dire consequences if Iran persists with its conduct.

The New Yorker quotes him announcing a discontinuation of the Obama era practice of using lowercase letters.

"In a series of early-morning tweets, Trump announced the ban on lowercase letters, calling them 'SMALL' and 'WEAK.'


"Trump's policy of zero tolerance for lowercase letters could have a sweeping impact on the federal bureaucracy if, as rumoured, all government agencies are required to retrofit their computers and mobile devices with a permanent caps-lock key," the New Yorker says.

"Additionally, civil-liberties groups argue that Trump's war on lowercase letters flies in the face of the First Amendment, which implicitly protects the right to use letters of all sizes and fonts.

"Amid the controversy, the White House appeared to walk back the new policy later in the day, as aides revealed that Trump will still use lowercase letters, in the style of the poet e e cummings, when communicating with Vladimir Putin."

Yes, that's satirist Andy Borowitz. The guy's having a lot of fun these days, even as many of us quake in our boots.

Huffington Post says Twitter users responded to Trump with a deluge of Tweets using capitals, many of them somewhat mocking.


No, I'm not familiar either with the subtleties of the Twittersphere, nor with what Huffington Post calls "rickroll". But you can be sure this shakes 'em up in Tehran.



Puker taxis

UBER taxis in Florida, in the US, have some of them taken to fleecing customers by claiming they vomited in their cars.

According to Huffington Post, a clean-up bill is added to the fare charged, backed if necessary by stomach-churning alleged photos of the mess in the car.

This is not on. The people of Florida need to fight fire with fire. They need to mobilise.

There must be the equivalent of rugby clubs in Florida. Get them to ride about in ubers all night, quaffing beer, singing vulgar songs and throwing up from time to time. Give 'em the real thing! That'll larn those vomit fraud shysters.

No takers

ROMANIA is looking for a chief anti-corruption prosecutor after the previous one was eased out of office for being "too authoritarian" by justice minister Tudorel Toader.

But the odd thing, according to Sky News, is that nobody has applied. Cut-off date was last Monday but applications are zero.

Toader suggests potential candidates have not applied because they know what an immense task it would be to root out corruption in Romania.

But maybe they just don't like his name. On the other hand, maybe they're waiting for vacancies in South Africa when our own government gets round to properly tackling corruption.

Mars discovery?

ITALIAN scientists claim to have discovered a 20km lake under the southern icecap of Mars, re-analysing data obtained by ground-penetrating radar on an earlier Nasa exploration. They say the water is at a temperature of minus 68 degrees Centigrade but has not frozen because of the presence in it of salts.

They say this is highly significant because the presence of liquid water makes possible the presence of life, even if in a very basic form.

We hope these Italian johnnies are not abetting Nasa, who have been hoaxing us for years with photos ostensibly of the arid, flinty, leafless surface of Mars, while all along it's the Griquas rugby field at Kimberley.

Who knows, they might have found Vladimir Putin's swimming pool in Moscow.



A GOLFER slices his shot into a wooded ravine. He takes his seven-iron and clambers down.

He spots a gleam in the underbrush. It's a seven-iron in the hands of a skeleton. An old golf ball lies nearby.

"Oi!" he shouts up to his partner.

"What's the matter?"

"Can you throw down my eight-iron? You can't get out of here with a seven."


Last word

We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.

Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Idler, Thursday, July26, 2018

Deep meditation

SHOULD the yoga mats be a judgment-free zone? Eric Stagno was in a yoga posture and in deep meditation on the mats at a Planet Fitness gym in New Hampshire, in the US, when he was seized by cops.

The problem, it seems, is that he was starkers. He'd walked into the gym, stripped, left his clothes at reception, walked about a bit among the other patrons then settled in on the yoga mats, according to Huffington Post.

"I thought this was a judgment-free zone," he told the cops when they accosted him.

"It isn't a clothes-free zone," they said before taking him away to be charged with indecent exposure, lewdness and disorderly conduct.

His case will be heard in September. It seems worth following. How will he be togged out in the dock? Will he be togged out at all?

Mein mistake


OOPS! Last week I said Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, is banned in Germany. But reader Franz Arazym tells me it was unbanned some years ago.


Franz tried to read it.


"But I put it down . It was impossibly difficult to read."

Yes, that's understandable when you consider that the original unabridged title was (translated) the catchy Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice.


So it seems they might as well not have bothered with unbanning it. Nobody can read it.



A SCOTTISH Football League Cup match produced a tongue-twister of a result last weekend.

East Fife and Forfar were locked at 1-1, according to Sky News, triggering a penalty shootout.

The outcome: East Fife 4, Forfar 5. And by amazing coincidence this was the fictional result used for years by British comedian Eric Morecambe.

He always used it as a greeting to his friend James Gordon, who read the football results on BBC radio for 40 years.

Morecambe and Gordon both died years ago, but their joke is suddenly reality. It's what they call a slow-burner.

They're off!

LIFE can be slow in Norfolk, England. In the village of Congham last weekend they held the World Snail Racing Championship, which has thrilled the crowds since the 1960s.


The race starter sets them off with: "Ready, steady, slow!"

The crowd cheers, but it takes the competitors some time to get away from the start line.


More than 150 snails took part in the annual event, which coincides with a summer fete. A silver tankard stuffed with lettuce leaves is the prize.

The snails are placed on a special damp cloth marked with three concentric circles and the creatures race 33cm to the outer ring.

"We take this seriously," snail racer John McClean told Reuters. "We have training slopes. We look at diet, we are drug compliant as well. It is the whole thing when you look at elite sports."

Each race lasts several minutes. Competitors are able to select a snail from the organisers' stash or bring their own.

This year's eventual winner was a rank outsider. Jo Waterfield, from the nearby village of Grimston, found him among her plants.

"I pulled him out this morning and told him if he didn't win I would squash him," Waterfield said.

A brutal sport this Norfolk snail racing can be.



OVERHEARD IN THE Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "Why do female spiders kill the males after mating? To stop the snoring before it starts."

Santa stampede


THEY'RE having a heatwave in Europe. So much so that more than 150 bearded Santa Clauses from around the world took a break from their annual conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, to plunge en masse into the sea, much to the amusement of onlookers.

Skinnydipping? Not at all. Santas are respectable fellows who you don't mind coming down your chimney. Besides, it just would not do to bring a blush to the cheeks of the Little Mermaid.


Ho, ho, ho!





AN AMERICAN couple get lost motoring in Canada. They come to a town. A gent is standing on the pavement. The wife winds down her window and asks: "Excuse me sir, where are we?"

He replies: "Saskatoon, Saskachewan."

She winds up the window and wails: "Now we really are lost. They don't even speak English here."

Last word

Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest.

Alexandre Dumas