Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Idler, Monday, January 28, 2019

(Subs: Two lines of verse above intro, from "The deil …" to "… Exciseman …" Then eight lines of verse in Sarita Mathur piece from "Life is …" to "… misplaced.")






The deil cam fiddlin' thro' the town,
And danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman …


YES, it was Burns Nicht last Friday and I was in my best tartan Y-fronts where a crowd had foregathered at Royal Natal Yacht Club to honour the immortal Bard of Scotland.


Everything very traditional, of course – led into dinner by a piper; the time-honoured Address to the Haggis; much skirling of the bagpipes.

But then a bit of a change. A keyboard, guitar and vocal group taking over the music as we dined. And a marathon raffle to raise funds for the Highway Hospice.

Bottles of scotch, ranging from 30-year-old to relatively youthful 12-year-olds, being knocked down for astonishing prices; a framed tapestry; the flowers on the tables - some amazing arrangements of roses - though definitely not the vases!

Rising frenzy as the total raised approached R20 000. What next to auction? The tablecloths? No, they were in the same category as the vases.

Ah yes, flags displayed to mark the occasion – St Andrew's Cross (the white on blue Saltire) and the red on black Lion Rampant of Scotland. They went for a few grand. The R20 000 was breached. Cheers all round!

Er, one small problem. The flags were on loan from the Durban Caledonian Society. They weren't there to be auctioned. Yes, the deil had cam fiddlin' thro' the town all right.

What next? High court action? Durban Caledonian Society versus Royal Natal Yacht Club Burns Nicht Dinner?

Watch this space!


KNIFE-EDGE balances. Whither democracy?

In Britain, Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg (the haunted Victorian pencil) warns that Queen Elizabeth might have to dissolve parliament to stop MPs frustrating Brexit.


In the US, President Donald Trump says he might adopt emergency powers in three weeks, by-passing Congress, if it continues to deny him funding for his Great Wall of Mexico.


This is astonishing stuff. A double with the bookies becomes enticing – Queen Elizabeth dissolving parliament, coupled with Donald Trump adopting emergency powers in defiance of Congress.


Yet one counsels caution. Queen Elizabeth is likely to leave her phone off the hook on this one. Emergency presidential powers in the US are reserved for things like earthquakes and invasions by aliens from outer space.


This double is far from a certainty. But the outside possibility does illustrate what extraordinary times we are living in.



DURBAN poet Sarita Mathur tells us to put a smile on the dial.


Life is full if happiness ,

Life is full if fun.

Enjoy today and every day,

Until each day is done.

Let your mouth stretch from side to side,

A smile is in place.

Remember to do it more often,

So that the smile doesn't get misplaced.



INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener notes in his latest grumpy newsletter that President Ramaphosa has been in India for chinwags.

"One idly wonders if the name 'Gupta' ever comes up in these meetings?

"After all, this was the family that saw to it that SAA closed down its route to India in favour of an Indian airline in which Zuma's pals had an interest."




A FELLOW goes into a lingerie shop and says he's looking for a fancy bra for his wife.

"What size is she?" asks the saleslady.

"Seven and a half."

"Seven and a half? Where do you get a size like that?"

"I measured with me 'at."

Last word

Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.

Oscar Wilde

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Idler, Friday, January 25, 2019

The star of




Though he was but a ploughman lad
And wore the hodden grey,
Auld Scotland's sweetest bard was bred
Aneath a roof o' strae.
To sweep the strings o' Scotia's lyre,
It needs nae classic lore;
It's mither wit an' native fire
That warms the bosom's core.


HEY, it's Burns Nicht – haggis, neeps an' tatties, bagpipes, loads of whusky and many a snatch of poetry and song.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!

That's how it kicks off. Royal Natal Yacht Club will be no place for Sassenachs tonight.

It's remarkable how Burns and his earthy, evocative poetic work will be celebrated in so many parts of the world tonight. He's been an inspiration in the Scottish diaspora and way beyond.

He's also reputed to have contributed to the bawdy ballad, The Ball of Kirriemuir, that is sung with gusto in every rugby club in the world (but has no place in a respectable newspaper).

Aye, the star of Rabbie Burns.




A RHEA is on the run in Oxfordshire … emus escape in Texas. What is it with these large, flightless birds, distant relatives of the ostrich?

Thames Valley Police in Oxfordshire, England, spotted the rhea – which originates in South America - legging it across Sonning Common, according to Sky News. They gave chase but it outran them and has not been seen since.

It is believed to have escaped from a farm.

Then at Galveston, an island off the coast of Texas, police spent a whole day chasing a pair of emus – originating from Australia – that had mysteriously put in an appearance.

These birds also know how to leg it, but the cops eventually caught them near a school. It turns out they escaped from the backyard of a fellow who did not know emus are not allowed on Galveston, according to Huffington Post.

The world waits anxiously for an ostrich break-out. Zoos everywhere are on high alert and Oudtshoorn is poised for declaration of a state of emergency.




A STATE legislator in Arizona wants to help fund President Donald Trump's Great Wall of Mexico by squeezing money out of every Arizonan who patronises pornographic websites.

Representative Gail Griffin (Republican) has introduced a bill to the state legislature that would have this effect, according to Huffington Post.

Hmmm. Does this somehow connect with Stormy Daniels?



THE cold snap in the northern hemisphere has brought out the skiers in their droves. But it appears to have irritated the moose population of Colorado, in the US.

Social media has a video of a large bull moose charging at skiers and snowboarders at a ski resort at Breckenridge, Colorado, according to Associated Press. Nobody was injured.

The resort management warn that mooses (meese?) are highly territorial and should be avoided.

Yes, but skiers and snowboarders can also be highly erratic in the territory they cover. I was once ski-ing in Austria where a fellow in our party managed, on one run, to knock a bloke off the ski-lift then land on the roof of a house, still standing on his skis. I reckon he'd have seen off any moose.

Just what is the plural of moose?




A KENTUCKY cop flags down a trucker.

"You got any ID?"

"Got any idee 'bout whut?"


Last word

Howard Hughes was able to afford the luxury of madness, like a man who not only thinks he is Napoleon but hires an army to prove it. - Ted Morgan

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Idler, Thursday, January 24, 2019

Theresa May's




THE Brexit crisis in Britain takes another turn. Who knew that Prime Minister Theresa May grew up in Pretoria?

A video clip is doing the rounds on the internet, showing May giving a Brexit briefing from that lectern she sets up outside No 10 Downing Street.

She's getting "gatvol" of all the talking, to and fro, about Brexit and getting nowhere, she says. She would rather be sitting on an island with a martini in her hand.

Gatvol? Yes, she's speaking fluent Afrikaans. Pretty pungent Afrikaans too, more like what you'd hear late at night in an army sergeants' mess or perhaps in an ill-tempered third division rugby match

She eventually bids everyone a vivid and highly idiomatic "Get lost!" – still in Afrikaans – turns on her heel and stomps off inside through the front door of No 10.

This from a vicar's daughter? I say!

Great dubbing. Very amusing. And about the most sensible thing to emerge from the Brexit debate so far.


PRINCE William, Duke of Cambridge, was flying medical rescue helicopters not too long ago. Now, it seems, he's launched into environmental rescue.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, he interviewed 92-year-old Sir David Attenborough, veteran environmentalist and broadcaster.

Sir David told Davos delegates that people have never been more "out of touch" with the natural world than they are today. Yet the planet's survival depended on people being at one with nature.

"We can wreck it with ease, we can wreck it without even noticing."

A pity Donald Trump could not be at Davos, being busy with the federal government shut-down and his Great Wall of Mexico, having withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord.

But at least the future King and Head of the Commonwealth appears to be onside. As he told the Davos delegates, after interviewing Sir David, responsibility for rescuing the planet from the wreckers will probably happen "on our watch."

It's encouraging – but the wreckers are already here and some of them are in high places. It could be a noisy and acrimonious watch.


AN 84-year-old man in Boston, in the US, is known as the "octopus whisperer' for the affection he induces in a giant Pacific octopus in the New England Aquarium where he works as a volunteer.

Wilson Menashi drops an arm into the water and Freya the octopus immediately latches on some of her 2 240 suction cups to gently taste, smell and gather information about her friend and the seafood treats he is bearing, according to Huffington Post.

"She's just contacting me and she's saying: 'You come to me,'" Menashi says of her.

Freya is three years old, weighs18kg and her 4m arms – eight of them – have the strength to crush and kill sharks and other enemies.

Yet this gentle, affectionate relationship with Menashi. Remarkable

As it happens, we also have octopus whisperers here in Durban. That's the best way to describe the fellows in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties who are given to whispering sweet nothings to the local damsels, who respond in exploratory mode with an alacrity and intensity such that you'd swear they have eight arms, not just two. You can't argue with nature.



WHAT sleeps at the bottom of the ocean?

Jack the Kipper.


Last word

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.

John Ruskin

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Idler, Wednesday, January 23, 2019



politics in


There'll be bluebirds over

The white cliffs of Dover.

Tomorrow, just you wait and see …

VERA Lynn's lines somehow aren't quite as reassuring as they once were. Dover is where the lemming-rush of a "no deal" Brexit would happen.

Official documents that have just come to light predict that trade across the English Channel - Dover-Calais and via the Channel Tunnel - could drop by as much as 87% if a no-deal Brexit comes into effect on March 29.

Heavens! Did the U-boats manage to put such a clamp on Britain during World War II?

The figures come from a leaked document produced by the UK's Border Force, based on an assumption that the French would impose at least the legal minimum in the way of customs inspections. The document predicts that the situation could ease over six months to 50% of current capacity but longer-term recovery would require huge investment in automation.

All this is surely pretty catastrophic. Yet Prime Minister Theresa May has presented to the House of Commons for discussion a Brexit Plan B that looks remarkably similar to Plan A that was defeated last week by a majority of 230 votes, the greatest defeat ever for a British prime minister. And May is adamant that the March 29 cliff-edge date will not be extended.

Is this a game of chicken she's playing with her MPs? Or does she really believe in the lemming-rush?

There'll be fun and laughter

Forever after,

Tomorrow, just you wait and see …

I dunno, Vera, I dunno.


MEANWHILE, cross-party MPs – including Theresa May's former Attorney-General – are mobilising to get parliament to assert itself over such issues as extending the deadline for an agreement with the EU, making a crash-out impossible.

Will they succeed in this close to revolutionary manoeuvre? Who knows? Is there time? Who knows?

But the bus is hurtling toward the cliff. This is drama, folks.


THE wonder is that it's all self-inflicted. There's no evil madman dictator lurking in a bunker in Berlin. There's a vicar's daughter with every good intention in No 10 Downing Street. She declares a commitment to fulfilling the declared will of the people as expressed in that referendum just over two years ago.

Do we not have here the nub of the problem? When you have a working constitutional democracy, where the people are represented by MPs who make it their business to know what's what, does it make any sense at all to put to the man or woman in the street a complex question on which they cannot be expected to have a sensible answer? Especially on an emotive issue that is so easily hijacked?

Who would have voted in favour of a possible 87% drop in cross-channel trade? Nobody surely Yet that's what could happen, according to the government agency that is closest involved in the issue.

The cat is now out of the bag. Rock 'n roll assuredly lies ahead. This in a senior Nato country and a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto powers, the world's fifth largest economy (for now anyway). The mind, senor, she boggles.



THE marriage got off to a bit of a bad start.

The vicar said: "You may now kiss the bride."

She said: "Not now, I've got a headache."

Last word

How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?

Woody Allen

The Idler, Tuesday, January 22, 2019




YES, 'tis indeed a strange, strange world that we live in.

The Brits are headed for the Brexit cliff-edge in a double-decker bus, everyone on board yelling "Whoa! Stop!" but the driver hearing nothing through her ear-muffs.

In the US 800 000 federal government workers go without pay because the president refuses to sign off on the budget until Congress agrees to an allocation to fund his Great Wall of Mexico. Until then government is closed – indefinitely.

In France, there are protests in Paris and elsewhere every weekend by people in yellow jackets who are cheesed off about everything but don't otherwise appear to have any coherent agenda. The president responds by mobilising France's mayors to begin a dialogue based on the grievances lodged in their municipal complaints boxes. It's a colourful spectacle as the president engages with his mayors in their red, white and blue sashes of office.

This is Britain, the US, France. It's improbable, all of it – very strange. So that's what the Four Jacks and a Jill were getting at all those years ago? Rather prophetic on the part of songwriter David Marks.

Hey, but wait. The best is yet to come. The Zondo Commission has just got going and it's already overtaken all of them in weirdness. Did anyone ever hear of anything more bizarre? That must be what the Four Jacks and a Jill really were on about.

It's a strange, strange world we live in …



READER Eric Hodgson sends in some motoring advertising from yesteryear:

·       Wheels can be thrown out of balance by a build-up of wheel ants. Protect your car's smooth ride with weekly applications of automotive grade insecticide.

·       Nash thought of the children too in the world's first travel car (the kids are shown asleep on reclining back seats).

·       Disposing of used engine oil can be a problem. Solution: Dig a hole in the ground with a posthole digger and fill it with fine gravel. Then pour in the oil. It will be absorbed into the ground before your next change. Cover the spot with soil.

·       He'll be in kindergarten when her Rambler needs its first chassis lubrication. (A happy baby reclines on the front seat beside his mum, driving).

·       Spread your legs! Enjoy maximum leg-room in the new Pontiac Star Chief. (I say! That must have been about the time drive-in cinemas began).

·       Keep baby safe with a "Lull-a-Baby" car hammock. (The thing is strung across the car's interior. It would be difficult to imagine anything less safe).

·       Use car's exhaust to clean cushions. (A lengthy explanation follows of how a device is attached to the exhaust, setting up a suction which is used to clean the cushions inside the car).

·       Dear auto industry, please bring the ball chiller vent back. Thanks, men everywhere. (!!!)



A LITTLE pig walks into a bar and orders a drink. Then he asks directions to the toilets. The barman tells him. Off he goes.

A second little pig comes in and orders a drink. Then he asks directions to the toilets. The barman tells him. Off he goes.

A third little pig comes in and orders a drink. The barman says: "I suppose you want to know where the toilets are."

"No. I'm the little pig who goes wee-wee-wee all the way home."


Last word


My pessimism extends to the point of even suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists.

Jean Rostand

The Idler, Monday, January 21, 2019

The cut

and thrust of



WEIGHTY matters in Britain's House of Commons. A video clip comes this way, showing Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, addressing the House.


He's been in Brussels, he tells them, meeting heads of government and the leaders of European socialist parties.


"One of them said to me …"


Tory interjection: "Who are you?"


The place just rocked with laughter, and it went on and on and on. The Speaker wasn't on camera. But presumably he was struggling to summon a straight face before he could call for order.


Yes, the cut and thrust of democracy. It can be a bear pit.



LAST week we discussed the Fynnland Drum Majorettes display coming up this Sunday at Fynnland Sports Club, on the Bluff, where my old muso mate Smelly Fellows is involved in arranging the musical entertainment.

I mentioned that among the attractions would be a jumping castle for the kids – that's if Smelly himself can be persuaded to get off it.

This alarms reader Naomi Stapersma, who wants to know what size Smelly is?

She herself runs a jumping castle at Tafta Park (presumably for the grandchildren, not the residents themselves) and not more than 10 people are allowed to jump on it at any one time. The maximum individual weight allowed is 65kg.

It would be indelicate of me to speculate on the weight of my old pal Smelly Fellows. Rather just think of a frisky young hippo in his prime.

A maximum 10 jumping at a time, maximum individual weight 65kg? So if Smelly were to jump alone, the maximum allowed is 650kg? I reckon he makes it.

Naomi is also concerned about Smelly's name. She suggests he try Sta Chlorophyl tablets, which apparently are magical at making you nice to be near.

Fragrancy Fellows – I like the alliteration; a whole new career could lie ahead for him. But then he'd have to find a whole new string of lady friends, the present ones being accustomed to the current aroma.

Drum Majorettes it is then, 12 noon at Fynnland Sports Club, Fynnland Drive. Any questions: Sharon at 084 511 6516. I might even phone her to suggest a "Guess Smelly's weight" competition.



IN HIS latest grumpy newsletter, investment analyst Dr James Greener notes evidence before the Zondo Commission – to the effect that an outfit most of us have never heard of is exposed as a conduit for distributing mostly public funds in unusual directions.

"Its website claims that the Bosasa Group is 'a multi-functional group of companies that has developed many of its own specialised techniques for business services'. No kidding!

"This might be a tad untruthful since bribery and corruption have been around for millennia. But it has become apparent in the last few years that down here on the southern tip these activities have reached gold medal standards.

"The amount of folding money that is being sloshed about in secret (presumably the aforementioned 'specialised techniques') must comprise a significant fraction of the Reserve Bank's published total of notes and coin in circulation.

"And if these transactions were to be recorded, the nation's GDP would also be appreciably larger."




"THIS morning at breakfast she dished up soap flakes instead of cornflakes."

"I bet you were mad."

"Mad? I was foaming at the mouth."


Last word


Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Idler, Thursday, January 17, 2019



in Blighty


"BREXTINCT!" So screeched the headline in yesterday's Sun – one of the more vociferous pro-Brexit Fleet Street tabloids – alongside an illustration depicting Theresa May as the Dodo.

Hysteria was inevitable following May's humiliating defeat in the House of Commons of her Brexit deal negotiated with the EU. But what follows?

And why, oh why, did the pound sterling rally on the world's financial markets just as Prime Minister May's humiliation sank in, instead of doing the opposite? Do the punters believe Brexit is dead? That the no-deal crash-out is a non-starter? That this is the start of a return to pre-Brexit normality?

What certainly has happened is that parliament has asserted itself over the populism created by a referendum where complex issues are so easily over-simplified. What parliament will do with that assertion is another matter.

Some weeks ago, Tory MP Dominic Grieve, a former attorney-general, defeated his own government with a motion bringing control of the Brexit process back to parliament, in the event of the deal being rejected. May acknowledged that in her speech accepting defeat and committed herself to reaching out to all sides in finding an alternative. Presumably, that is where matters now stand.

What will be stitched together? Can it be stitched? Will it be a cross-party deal? Will the Brexit process be abandoned? Will it be modified? Will the Article 50 deadline of March 29 be extended? Will Article 50 be withdrawn? Will Theresa May continue as prime minister?

Will there be another referendum, as so many urge? But what happens if the result produces just another clash between the populist will and parliament?

Will Britain simply crash out of the EU, and to hell with the consequences? Can it happen by accident as they run out of time?

So many questions, so far no answers.

Only one thing can be said with certainty. To draw on the collective wisdom of political analysis: Snot en trane still lie ahead.


ENTERTAINMENT value apart, does Brexit have any real impact on us down here in South Africa?

Well, yes if it's a messy Brexit. The EU is probably our biggest trading partner. The UK is a major part of that. We sell wines, fruit and other agricultural produce extensively in the UK.

The world's economies are inescapably intermeshed. Economic decline in the EU or Britain would certainly be felt here.


INTERVIEWED on the spot by Sky News, former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was upbeat about developments at parliament.

No riots, no violence, nothing like what's going on in Paris, he pointed out. Parliament would sort it out.

Yes, all very British. But no less problematic.


"CAT gets head stuck in rat-trap"… Relax, this isn't more about Theresa May.

A black cat was found with his head stuck in a commercial rat-trap near a hotel in Newport, South Wales, according to Huffington Post.

"This poor cat's head was completely wedged ... and he was unable to free himself," Inspector Sophie Daniels of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.

The cat in the box was brought to a vet, who managed to safely free him. The kitty was "understandably shaken," the RSPCA said.

Yes, and he hadn't even been told about the Brexit goings-on.



DON'T forget, when in Rome – be an awkward cuss and do as the Belgians do.


Last word

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.

Albert Schweitzer

The Idler, Friday, January 18, 2019


models and



SCIENTISTS believe that the black and white stripes on a zebra are a deterrent to horseflies.

Indigenous communities in Africa, Australia and Papua-New Guinea are known to paint stripes on their bodies for decorative. purposes and as markers of group identity. But does this also protect them against horseflies?

Scientists in Hungary decided to find out, according to Sky News. They smeared some models with glue and placed them in a horsefly-infested meadow.

Now these were not the gorgeous models you find on the fashion catwalks. Such models do not take kindly to being smeared with glue and placed in a horsefly-infested meadow. The models used by the Hungarian scientists were plastic mannequins of the human form.

They were coloured brown or beige, to mimic dark and fair skin. Some had white stripes

The brown model attracted 10 times as many horseflies as the white-striped brown one. The beige model got twice as many horseflies as the striped brown model.

The researchers said: "The results of our field experiment support the theory that the use of striped body painting may be related to protection against dangerous parasitic pests."

Next scientific project: "Striped football jerseys and parasitic pests in the stands."


WHICH recalls a dialogue between Reub and Josh in America's Deep South.

"Josh, what's these things buzzin' 'bout mah face?.

"Them's hossflies, Reub."

"What's hossflies, Josh?"

"Hossflies, Reub, is them things what goes buzzin' 'bout the rear end of a hoss."

"Is youse insinuatin', Josh, that I gotta face like the rear end of a hoss?"

"Ise insinuatin' nuttin', Reub. But you cain't fool them hossflies!"


A GAL in Ventura, California, was alarmed when the house she shared with her mother suddenly filled with black smoke. Maddison Ridgik rushed to her mum, who dialled the emergency services.

Next thing a group of firefighters burst in, wearing full kit, according to Huffington Post. Then one of them went down on one knee in front of Maddison and whipped off his oxygen mask. It was her boyfriend, Zach Steele – indeed a firefighter by profession. He asked her to marry him.

Background violins.

At which Maddison burst into tears, almost sufficient to douse the flames. Except there were no flames. Zach had set off a few smoke bombs in the house and hidden round the corner with some firefighting buddies. Mum was also in on the lark. She had only pretended to phone emergency services.

And Maddison accepted. This is going to be an interesting marriage.


OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "The only way to make a man love you and nobody else is to become his secretary."



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

·       The plot of The Archers is squelchy and the dialogue compost … but Shula Archer is trimly stacked, with eyelashes like long grass, and any man would climb a loft ladder for her. – Jean Rook.

·       I have always characterised the relationship between my producer and I as that of a man and his dog, each believing the other to be the dog. – John Peel

·       I am amazed at radio DJs today. I am firmly convinced that AM on my radio stands for Absolute Moron. I will not begin to tell you what FM stands for. – Jasper Carrot



THEY'VE formed a self-help group for compulsive talkers

It's called On and on Anon.

Last word

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. - Lily Tomlin