Monday, April 22, 2019

The Idler5, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

That hellish



AMERICA seems to be in a strange state of suspense. While Donald Trump is jubilant that the 22-month Mueller investigation has cleared his 2016 election campaign of collusion with Russia – though not necessarily him of obstruction of justice – very few know what the 485-page report actually says.

Attorney-General William Barr first summed it up in four pages, then last week released the full report but so heavily redacted (material edited out for various legal and security reasons) that nobody is much the wiser.

Now the New Yorker brings us an angle on the redaction process. It says Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team spent a "hellish all-nighter" redacting the report on behalf of Barr.

"The Russian president was reportedly 'in a state of disbelief' over how much Barr had failed to redact. Quickly assembling a crisis team at the Kremlin to implement further redactions, Putin told his associates: 'Put some coffee on, boys - it's going to be a long night.'"

This is satirist Andy Borowitz again, over the top, getting a bit of a laugh. Now the Democrats in the House of Representatives have subpoenaed to be shown an unredacted version.

Yet the redacted version speaks unambiguously anyway of Russia's Internet Research Agency running pro-Trump trolls and automated bots on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, with social media accounts that "reached tens of millions of US persons".

Posts from some of these Russian accounts were retweeted unwittingly by high-profile supporters of then candidate Trump, including his sons, Donald J Trump jr and Eric Trump.

These fake accounts even set up rallies using unwitting supporters in the US.

Nobody can say quite what effect all this had on the outcome. But given that Trump actually had an overall minority vote – it's surely a concern.

Then consider well-founded suspicions that Russia did the same with the Brexit referendum in Britain – again a narrow result.

What are Vladimir Putin's interests in all this? Discord in Nato – which has already happened to an extent. A weakening of the EU and Britain.

Maybe Borowitz is closer to the mark than we think.


Rugby stats

A DRY statistic. The weekend before Easter, Maritzburg College sent 25 rugby teams to Pretoria Boys' High. All 25 won their matches.

Playful emails between Maritzburg and Pretoria have ensued. One Pretoria father declared: "I enjoyed the day's rugby like I enjoy a day at the dentist."

There's a song about it: Marching To Pretoria.

Free State

DISASTER in the Free State? A message comes this way from one Sonette Diedericks to Parys Nuus & Inligting (Parys News & Information).

"Weet iemand iets van die kerk wat afgebrand het?" (Does anyone know anything about the church that burned down?)

Ah, Parys, the Paris of the Free State.


ROB Nicolai, Howick's resident theoretical physicist, says the authorities in Paris have questioned all personnel on site at Notre Dame Cathedral to try to discover what caused the fire.

Quasimodo said: "I never saw anything suspicious but I have a hunch."



WHICH recalls the riddle: What's greasy and flaps about church steeples?

The lunchpack of Notre Dame.


No surprises?

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener takes issue with Pakamani Hadebe, the new CEO at Eskom, for saying: "Surprises at Eskom are over".

"One would think that the message to keep one's head down and mouth shut would by now be carved into the large mahogany desk in the corner office at Megawatt Park. Or just scrawled in lipstick on the mirror in the en-suite bathroom.

"There are just so many skeletons in so many cupboards in that business that surprises are never over.

"What about the company's debt book? A huge concern both for Eskom and the whole nation's credit rating."




THIS fellow is in a bookshop. He approaches a woman behind the counter.

"I say, do you keep stationery?"

"No, usually I wriggle a bit."

Last word

Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.

William Ralph Inge

The Idler, Thursday, April 18, 2019


from the


IS POGONOPHOBIA about to become a source of social discord? The word means fear or dislike of beards and bearded men, derived from the Greek pogon for beard.

For a long time, maiden aunts and others have harboured suspicions as to the motivation of those who sport facial hair. Now researchers at the Hirslanden Clinic near Zurich, in Switzerland, have come out with it emphatically – bearded men carry more germs than dogs.

They compared the bacterial load of human-pathogenic micro-organisms in specimens taken from 18 bearded men and 30 dogs, according to Huffington Post.

All the bearded bros showed high microbial counts, compared with only 23 out of 30 dogs. In fact, seven of the men had so much beard bacteria they were at risk of falling ill, says the BBC.

"On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean, compared with bearded men," study author Andreas Gutzeit said.

It's caused quite a hoo-ha. Keith Flett, founder of the Beard Liberation Front in Britain, cast doubt on the report.

"I think it's possible to find all sorts of unpleasant things if you took swabs from people's hair and hands and then tested them. I don't believe that beards in themselves are unhygienic.

"There seems to be a constant stream of negative stories about beards that suggest it's more about pogonophobia than anything else."

Flett perhaps has a point. What breeds of dog were tested? A short-haired fox terrier would be virtually microbe-free. After burrowing for rats or moles, within 20 minutes or so his coat looks like an advert for Omo, having rubbed off all the dirt on the furniture. An Airedale terrier by comparison carries around in his thick coat all kinds of often unidentifiable matter that could well provide a breeding ground for microbes. I know, I've owned both.

Accepting that bearded men are themselves pretty constant in terms of any microbe count – they seldom go burrowing after rats or moles – it makes all the difference in the world whether they are being compared with fox terriers or Airedale terriers.

That said, it seems there has for a long time been a prejudice against beards. In August 2013, Christopher Oldstone-Moore, history lecturer at Wright State University in Ohio and author of The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain, commented: "Facial hair for the past century has been thought to reflect a suspicious streak of individuality and defiance ... Politicians, public servants and businessmen – and apparently journalists – risk their reputations if they abandon the razor."

This is shocking prejudice. There was a time at Oxford University when students would shout: "Beaver!" at any bearded geezer they encountered. Will the Hirslanden Clinic research see a resurgence of such rudeness.

I think we have to go out of our way to show kindness to our bearded fellow-citizens. Pogonophobia has no place. Let's have Pogonophilia instead. The fairer sex have to take a lead in this – plant kisses on the bearded ones at every opportunity.

Of course, I have no personal interest in this. But if the bearded ones want to buy me beer, who am I to decline?


TWO retired army officers are sitting in their club.

Says one: "When did you last make love to a woman?"

"Oh, 1947."

"Good heavens, that's a long time ago."

"Not really. It's only ten past eight now."


Last word

Until you walk a mile in another man's moccasins you can't imagine the smell.

Robert Byrne

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Idler, Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Florida is

where it's


IT'S all happening in Florida, in the US. Three women were found lounging about stark naked at a highway rest stop near Tampa Bay. Questioned by police, they said they were "air drying" after taking a shower.

They then cut short the police interview, jumping into their car and speeding off, pursued by the cops, according to Huffington Post.

When the cops followed them to a shop's parking lot, one of the gals got out and attacked them with a pink baseball bat. All three had to be tasered before being taken to the lock-up to be charged with fleeing to elude police, resisting arrest, aggravated assault and lewd behaviour.

These Florida gals are high-spirited but clearly a handful.

Meanwhile, at Fort Myers the place is being invaded by horny and hungry alligators. Two factors coincide. It's the mating season. Also, high temperatures have wrought a metabolic change, making the alligators hungry as well. So instead of honeymooning in the swamps, as usual, they've made for the suburbs where there's a bit of grub to be found as well.

It's all rather chaotic. Yes, Florida is where it's happening.

Cathedral city

SALISBURY, the Wiltshire cathedral city, has been named the best place in Britain to live. This is according to a poll by the British Sunday Times.

Home editor Helen Davies says: "Salisbury remains a divinely attractive and welcoming place. It's handy for coast, countryside and London, has some of the best schools in the south-west, a great market and it's very strong culturally too."

That's fine – just as long as you can avoid the Russian secret service spooks with their novichok poison.

British wit

MORE from Rosemarie Jarski's Great British Wit. Topic: Success.

·         Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. - Winston Churchill.

·         All the rudiments for success in life are to be found ironing trousers. – Chris Eubank.

·         Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

·         Winning is everything. The only ones who remember when you come second are your wife and dog. – Damon Hill.

·         If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs, you'll be taller than anybody else. – Tim Brooke-Taylor.

·         The penalty for success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you. – Nancy Astor.

·         I attribute my whole success in  life to a rigid observance of the fundamental rule – never have yourself tattooed with any woman's name, not even her initials. – PG Wodehouse.


DURBAN poet Sarita Mathur pens some lines on change.

We all seek change,
From the inside out,
Abundance within our world
Within our heart and mind.
Contentment of another kind
Away from all the noise and din.
In restfulness and peace.
Our outer world will also change,
Bringing in joy and happiness
Contentment too.
Change within ourselves.
Creates the change we seek.
Our physical world gets transformed too,
We have to Be The Change
We want to see.
A happy and dynamic future.
Awaits you
As it awaits me.



DADDY takes little Johnny to the zoo for a treat. When they get back, Mummy asks: "Did you have a nice time?"

Little Johnny says: "It was great. For Daddy too. He was so happy when one of the animals came in at 30 to 1."

Last word

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. - F Scott Fitzgerald

The Idler, Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Please no

spikka da


DEBORAH Haynes, foreign affairs editor on Sky News, has appealed to foreigners not to reply in English when Brits approach them using their own language, however imperfectly.

"It's demoralising and actually - unless we're floundering and need help - rather rude.

"I've lost count of the number of times I've bucked up the courage to attempt a bit of French in a French-speaking nation only to have the person I'm addressing shoot back in English. (She's in Brussels for the Brexit drama).

"I imagine most times the other person is simply trying to be polite, rather than get in a bit of English-language practice at my expense, but at least give me a chance.

"I found myself feeling pathetically grateful - after largely receiving English responses to my French questions - when in a cafe in Brussels I ordered a pain au chocolat and a cup of tea in French (not hard) to be met with a response… also in French!

"The waiter asked if I wanted milk with my tea, to which I responded: '"Yes please" (Oui, s'il vous plait - see, it's really not hard)'."

How does this square with my own experience once in Brussels. The signage everywhere is bilingual – French/Flemish. You can buy on the streets a Flemish newspaper. Flemish is very close to Afrikaans – more so than Dutch. But, I was to discover, Brussels is actually a French-speaking city.


I needed a toothbrush. The shop sign said "Apotek". Ha, Apteek. I marched in and asked for a "tandeborsel."

"M'sieur?" The girl behind the counter was flummoxed. She called a colleague.

The colleague spoke slowly and deliberately" "Do you speak may-be a leetle bit Engleesh?"

"Ag ja, I speak a leetle, leetle bit Engleesh. A teethbrush asseblief."

As I walked out with my toothbrush, I heard one of the girls say: "C'est un Allemagne." (He's a Gerrman).

Election sediment

THE election looms ever closer. Investment analyst Dr James Greener notes in his latest grumpy newsletter a connected geological process.

"Sedimentologists are flocking to a traffic island on the M4 in Durban North to view the wonderful example of bedding taking place on a row of flagpoles.

"As each new posse of party workers adds their own flimsy cardboard-mounted poster to the top of the pole it soon slides down compressing those beneath it and after some rain there is a perfect layering of portraits and promises at the base of each pole.

"Wind weathering is adding to the geological processes. The lower levels could be nearly fossilised by now."



Fascist dogs

OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties:

"Dogs are fascists. I like cats."

"That's ridiculous."

"Absolutely absurd."

"Dogs don't have political ideas."

"Did you ever see a police cat?"


TECHNOLOGY news. Apple has announced that it has developed a breast implant that can store and play music.

The device will cost from $499 (R6 956) to $699, depending on cup and speaker size.

This is considered a breakthrough because women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.



THIS fellow goes into his local and is astonished to see a cow serving behind the bar

"What are you staring at?" says the cow. "Never seen a cow serving drinks before?"

"It's not that. It's just I never thought the moose would sell this place."



Last word

Good taste is the enemy of comedy.

Mel Brooks

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Idler, Monday, April 15

A debacle

to be


ALAS and alack – what happened in the Jaguares debacle? I'm afraid I can offer no explanation, no analysis, because I was not there (I count myself fortunate), I was at Old Halliwell, up in the Midlands, making merry with my Big Cousin Jennifer, who used to swing me around by my arms when I was a kid, on our granny's front lawn.

Twenty-odd of us were there celebrating Big Cousin Jennifer's 180th birthday, seated on a vine-shaded verandah of the stone-walled structure dating back to the transport rider days of the 1830s, partaking of a fantastic, lingering lunch and looking down on the lovely Karkloof valley.

Yes, the Midlands are a tonic to the soul. They remind me very much of the Scottish border country. Old Halliwell lies between Howick and Currie's Post and for many years I believed Howick was a misspelling of Hawick, Queen of a' the Borders, back in Bonny Scotland. But actually it was named after Lord Howick, Secretary of State for the Colonies back in those days.

What do we do about Sharks rugby? This seesaw stuff is just too much. I could volunteer the services of my Big Cousin Jennifer against the Queensland Reds– even at age 180 she can still swing 'em around and she's a ferocious forager. You should have just seen her at the lunch.

On the other hand, itchy-powder in the jockstraps could be just the thing. It concentrates the mind.


NEWS from America. An off-duty firefighter walked starkers into a Rhode Island convenience store, smiling broadly, bought a soda and left without causing any kind of fuss.

He got into his car, put on his gear drove off and next thing was flagged down by the fuzz.  Seems the convenience store had phoned in about a dangerous nutter.

According to Huffington Post it had been a bet with his girlfriend, who'd been sitting in the car fully clothed all the time.

Now he's been charged with disorderly conduct and the fire department – where he has 40 years' service – has put him on administrative leave.

Is there not a bit of overkill here? What if there's a fire on Rhode Island? He'd wear at least his fireman's helmet.

Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, police entered a bathroom with guns drawn. They'd been alerted by a house-sitter that somebody was moving round in there.

It turned out to be a robotic vacuum cleaner that had switched itself on.

At least it wasn't an off-duty fireman, stark naked. The cops had a good laugh.




NEWS from Scotland. A Staffordshire bull terrier needed an emergency op at a Glasgow veterinary clinic after swallowing a Nintendo video game.

The dog, named Rocco, began vomiting and could not eat. An X-ray showed he had a rectangular-shaped object in his small intestine that turned out to be a Nintendo DS cartridge, according to Sky News.

It's not surprising Rocco was ill. Many of us can't stomach video games and Nintendo is, I understand, full of violence and altogether over the top.



HOW do you know an Irishman is at the cockfight?

He enters a duck.

How do you know a Pole is there?

He puts money on the duck,

How do you know an Italian is there?

The duck wins.

Last word

Idleness is not doing nothing. Idleness is being free to do anything.

Floyd Dell


The Idler, Friday, April 12, 2019


lies ahead


CAN THE Sharks turn it on again? There's no reason why not. There was nothing flukey or haphazard about last Friday's performance against the Lions, it was just a matter of sticking to the basics and doing them really well, with flair and for 80 minutes.

The driving, the short-passing, the off-loads, the linking with the backline – magic stuff!

The Jaguares are tough hombres. They'll have studied the video over and over, they'll be running at us and tackling like demons. And they never give up, as the Bulls found to their cost last weekend.

This promises to be a spectacle. A 3pm match – who could miss it? Are rugby's glory days returning? Will the stands now have something more than a smattering of spectators?

Curwin Bosch and the rest of the backline flyers – let's see it again, let's get the show on the road.

'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!

Black hole

THIS is real drama though we don't really understand it. The first-ever picture of a black hole in outer space has been revealed, assembled by data from eight radio telescopes in different parts of the world. It shows a fiery orange and black ring of gravity-twisted light swirling around the edge of the abyss.

Beautiful, terrifying. In shape it could be the lips of a heavily-lipsticked singer, caught in the spotlight of a dark nightclub. But that mouth drags in and swallows everything – even light has to bend to its gravitational pull. The black hole has 6.5 billion times more mass than the sun.

Man takes one more giant step toward realising how little he knows.

But at least it seems the photo supports Einstein's theory of relativity. There's no hubbub of argument. That would be just too much.

The more science progresses, the greater the mystery of existence.

Twin trouble

A PAIR of identical twins in central Brazil have been ordered by a judge to pay child support for a baby girl who resulted from a casual fling with the mother.

The woman is not certain which twin is the dad. The twins themselves won't say. (Maybe they don't know).

Judge Filipe Luis Peruca ordered the brothers, identified only as Fabricio and Fernando, to take DNA tests, according to Huffington Post. Both tests came back positive.

The judge said the two men were taking away the child's right to know her real father. He ordered each twin to pay $60 (R835) a month toward child support, which is 30% of the Brazilian minimum wage. But it does mean the child will get double what other kids from that socio-economic background are getting.

Judge Peruca also ruled that the names of both men will appear on the girl's birth certificate.

A most unusual case of twins in the family.

Cat names

CATS can recognise their names, Japanese scientists say, after some prolonged research.

Many would dispute that. They don't get excited the way dogs do when they hear their name.

But then you have to recognise that cats are not dogs. They are superior to their so-called owners. Why should they get excited?

My favourite cat name: Pssssswsssssswsssss.


A CANDIDATE is being examined for admission to a leading medical school.

"Tell me," says the examiner. "Where do you expect to be 10 years from now?"

"It's Friday. On the golf course I guess."

Last word

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.

George Bernard Shaw


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Idler, Thursday, April 11, 2019

No moustache


the glass


I FIND myself the other evening at the HQ of the Natal Mounted Rifles. The pipers are playing. There are many bemedalled ladies and gents, officers and other ranks, representing the different arms of service.

I am puzzled to note that some of the insignia of the navy has changed since my days before the mast. I'm told that a fellow with the unfamiliar insignia is in fact a petty officer.

In my day a petty officer had crossed anchors on his sleeve, no mistaking it. A chief petty officer had three brass buttons on the sleeve, there to stop the midshipman (the most junior officer) wiping his nose on it. Midshipmen were considered snotty-nosed little boys and to this day are called "snotties". I think.

But this is by the by. I am there for the official opening of the NMR Museum, a marvellous display superbly mounted in glass cabinets, capturing the history of the regiment since its origins in 1854 – the early colonial days, the Boer War, World War I, World War II and beyond. Also the regimental silver, which is extensive. Somebody put a lot of work into this.

I am momentarily startled to encounter behind the glass a tall, cleanshaven figure in cavalry blues. Has Colonel Pat Acutt (the regiment's former OC) shaved off his famous moustache? But no, this is a mannequin figure. Pat is also there, medals, moustache and all.

I'm intrigued by a public notice from World War I: "Warning. Looting! Looting of premises damaged or vacated by reason of war is punishable by death or lifetime imprisonment."

Does this have a resonance today? A luta continhua!





KEITH Brodie, Vice-Commodore of Royal Natal Yacht Club, claims the KZN land speed record, supported by the Road Traffic Inspectorate.

"I received a speeding fine earlier this week alleging that I was trapped doing an average speed of 286km/h on my way back to Durban from the Midlands.

"It was so fast my vehicle does not even appear in the photo.

"I was wondering if this is not some form of speed record?"

It most certainly sounds like it, Keith. Wow, faster than the camera shutter! I've notified Guinness and I'm sure they'll be there to get the details when you appear in "R" court in Maritzburg.

Football poser

HOW, in football, do you score two goals without the opposition touching the ball?

Impossible? There's a kick-off by the opposition after you score?

You score just on half-time. It's your kick-off for the second half. You dribble your way through.

The Street Shelter for the Over-Forties is a mine of useful information.



THIS fellow gets invited to the Humour Bar by a friend who is a regular there. Very pleasant, very jolly.

Then a chaps gets up and shouts: "Forty-four!" The place shrieks with laughter.

Another gets up and shouts: "Sixteen!" Agan they're rolling about.

"What is this?"

"Oh," says his friend wiping his eyes. "Everyone knows all the jokes. We've got them numbered. You have a try."

He gets up and shouts: "Eighty-eight!"

There's stunned silence for a second then an absolute paroxysm of laughter. They're paralytic. The barman wipes his eyes with his apron then shakes his hand. "Congratulations! It's a long time since we had a new one."


Last word

The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Idler, Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Cheese and

wine party


THIS is getting serious. The US is considering slapping tariffs on imports of cheese and wine from the European Union, according to the BBC. There's already a lot of bad blood over olives.

Tariffs levied on them by the US last year have already cost the Spanish olive-growing industry $27million (R379m) and reduced demand has greatly reduced the harvest of black olives.

Cheese, wine, olives – what's to become of cocktail parties in America?

Yes, we know President Trump favours hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and lotsa ketchup for his White House rave-ups, but there still is a diplomatic round driven by cheese and wine plus olives.

And tariffs are a two-edged sword. The EU have already responded with tariffs on  bourbon whiskey (as have the Chinese), motorcycles and orange juice. And we're talking here about the Harley-Davidson (to shift the terrain from cocktail parties) the worldwide symbol of American can-do.

A preliminary list of other imports from the EU being considered by the US for tariffs includes:

§  Salmon fillets, fresh or chilled (Another cocktail party thing)

§  Lemons fresh or dried (To go with the ambassadorial G&T or to follow the tequila)

§  Virgin olive oil. (For the party salads)

Also (mystifyingly) "Wall clocks, not electrically operated, designed to operate over 47 hours without rewinding."

Cheese and wine parties to wind-up wall clocks. Is the developed world's traditional way of life under siege? Is Donald Trump determined to punish the effete intellectual classes with their subversively mocking cocktail party chatter?

Where does it end? Tariffs can indeed be a two-edged sword.

The wind-up wall clocks remain a mystery.


Canned skunk


DRUNK as a skunk? Animal control officers in Billerica, Massachusetts, in the US, found a skunk that had somehow got its head stuck in a discarded can of beer.

It was taken to a wildlife clinic, sedated and the can was removed. The skunk was then returned to the wild after a few days' recuperation from his ordeal, according to Huffington Post.

The animal officers posted a picture on Twitter of the trapped skunk, asking if this was a case of "skunked beer".

Skunked beer, it seems, has lost its flavour due to exposure to ultra-violet rays through green or clear glass bottles. Brown bottles keep out the rays altogether.

It seems the danger of skunked beer is negligible in these parts. Most brands are sold in brown bottles, a few in green and one in clear glass. But none of them last long enough to get skunked.



WHOOPS! I don't know a Sunwolf from a Jaguare. On Monday I said the Sharks would be playing the Sunwolves on Saturday, while of course it's the Jaguares, the Argentinian Pumas lite.

Apologies. You need a degree in zoology to keep track of professional rugby these days, not to mention the confusion caused by Spiderman and Captain America.



A CROWD is waiting for the bus. She's there in a tight skirt. As the bus draws up, she realises she'll never manage the step up. She reaches back and unzips the skirt a little. Ah, that's better.

Then a fellow grabs her from behind and lifts her onto the boarding platform.

"How dare you lay hands on me like that?" she hisses.

"Well, when you unzipped me I figured we wuz old friends."

Last word

To disagree with three-fourths of the British public is one of the first requisites of sanity.

Oscar Wilde