How much for that Baby Jesus?

The best part of Christmas shopping is driving into one of those monstrously phallic parking garages and discovering that it ascends in tightly wound spirals. The secret lies in steadily increasing your speed without allowing the G-forces to send you crashing through the passenger window.
By the time you reach level six you should be doing at least 90km/h and your eyes should be sliding off your face. It might make you laugh, it might make you cry, it will definitely make you feel like you’ve ingested a Schedule 9 drug. On the down side, you won’t remember where you parked and it will have worn off by the time you reach the escalators.
I usually do my Christmas shopping on the 24th but the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman said she would punch a new mouth in my head if I didn’t get her a proper gift. Last year I gave her a very valuable fossilised dinosaur tooth. A few days later she was digging a trench at the bottom of the garden – it might have been a grave – when she came across a bunch of them. I told her it must be where old T-Rexes went to die fifty billion years ago. She said it looked very much like a pile of builder’s rubble. I said many archeologists had made that same mistake.
This morning she smiled at me. “Please don’t give me another piece of concrete this year.” The hair on my buttocks stood up and my sphincter slammed shut like a startled clam. The look in her eyes was enough to make a grown man soil his broeks. Luckily, I am not yet fully grown.
She said that shopping for your loved ones was meant to fill your heart with joy. I don’t know about that. All I get is angina pectoris.
She mentioned something about my licence before we left. “I have ze licence,” I said. “Ze licence to thrill.” I jiggled my hips sensuously but my pants fell down and ruined the moment. “La Senza, you idiot,” she said. It turned out to be a shop full of feather-trimmed negligees, star-spangled panties and brazen bras begging to be filled. It was like offering a starving man a rubber hamburger. I stood in the doorway, slack-jawed and drooling, my imagination running amok like a wild horse of the Camargue.
Then I had some sort of bronchial attack in a shop that reeked overpoweringly of the stuff that women put in their underwear drawer to repel their husbands. If seems to be some sort of biological agent. Nerve gas, probably.
Right there and then I decided to buy toys for everyone. When one thinks of sex, a toy is generally the next thing that comes to mind. Well, not in my case, obviously. When I think of sex, I instinctively crouch low and avoid eye contact. Sometimes I lie down and pretend to be dead. A security guard nudged me with the toe of his boot and asked if I needed help.
Outside the toy shop was a mob of elves knee-deep in fake snow. I think it was fake snow. It could just as easily have been a couple of kilos of cocaine fallen from the top floor during a scuffle between rival gangs. I stepped over the plastic picket fence and was getting down on my hands and knees for a closer look when another security guard asked what I was doing. I told him I was an elf inspector from the department of sport and recreational drugs and that he needed to give me room to do my work. He gave me the lazy eye and told me to move along.
Once inside the shop I was bitterly disappointed to see how few guns were being sold this year. When these kids grow up, how are they going to know what to do to protect themselves?
“Wake up, there’s someone in the house!”
“Relax, honey. I have my Delta Squad Megazord Power Ranger right here.”
It’s good to see that the men over at Hello Kitty are doing their bit to ensure a steady supply of girls who will grow up unafraid of vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, kettles and other cooking and cleaning accoutrements so essential to a happy marriage.
Dolls are big. Bigger than ever. And they seem to be getting smarter. I prodded one in the belly and it said, “Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat.” Apparently it is no longer politically correct to have dolls that say “Mama” and “Dada” because of the increasing number of dadas who say they’re nipping out to the shop and are never seen again. Also, the increasing number of mamas who prefer the company of other mamas and are quite happy with dada’s role being limited to that of anonymous sperm donor.
I took a shine to Mia Bambina. She promised a lot. “I sneeze. I babble. My heart beat. I drink. I cry. I snore.” I related immediately. I do all of these things and yet the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman still won’t play with me. Perhaps I should wear a pink jumpsuit to bed. Hold on. Mia Bambina comes with a stethoscope, thermometer and syringe. What the hell is wrong with this baby? Maybe she’s Mexican.
Most shocking of all was a doll I tripped over. He was lying on the floor with a tag saying R89. A real bargain in the child trafficking business. He was a white baby and he had no clothes on. Nothing. Nada. As naked as the day he was moulded. I picked him up, studied his anatomically correct willy – small, as you might expect a whitey’s willy to be – and made a few hasty notes. Mothers looked at me with narrowed eyes and shielded their young. I dumped the little nudist and moved on to the next aisle.
I thought the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman might appreciate the ‘My Little Home’ range. It has things she’s never set eyes on before – a plastic washing machine, mop, broom, bucket. Next year I’d like see a ‘My Little Broken Home’ range that comes with a miniature crystal meth lab. Accessories will include paramedics and a social worker.
I didn’t get her the electronic kitchen set after discovering that it made Realistic Sounds. The last thing I needed was a toy that shrieked, “You’re not having another beer, are you?” or “You can also cook sometimes, you lazy pig bastard!”
‘My Little Iron’ also made Realistic Sounds. Like what? “I’ve had enough of working for these ungrateful mlungus” or “Open the safe or I’ll iron your face.”
I was distracted by row upon row of babies stacked up like prematurely born infants in cheap plastic incubators. There was Butterfly Doll with eight functions – five more than a real baby – and Kissing Baby, a favourite among Belgian paedophiles. Sippin’ Sue was a cute little thing “who lets you know when she wants more”. Yeah, she’s cute now. Wait until she grows up and starts demanding imported vodka and an iPhone 15.
Then there was New Born Baby. “Look after me,” the synthetic sprog demanded. “I can drink and use my potty.” So can I but you don’t see me lolling about in a cardboard box expecting people to pay R300 for me to do a wee. Not that I wouldn’t.
There was also some kind of contraption that could accommodate seven babies. Of course. Why have one when you can have seven? It’s a valuable lesson for any girl to learn in a country starved of people.
There was another doll that promised “27 lovable phrases – press my tummy!” Nothing happened. I felt cheated. It didn’t say a word, not even when I jumped up and down on its tummy. Things have come to a pretty pass when shop assistants order paying customers to step away from the baby or face expulsion from the store.
Barbie was back, looking more desirable than ever. Her old metrosexual buddy Ken seems to have been dumped and replaced by a limp-wristed prince who comes with the warning, “Choking Hazard – Small Parts.” I can’t imagine who, apart from Barbie, might want to put the prince’s small parts in their mouth.
There’s still no Junkie Barbie with her own cookin’ up kit or Greedy Barbie with advocate’s robes or Corrupt Barbie with her own seat in parliament. I came across a raunchy rock ‘n roll Barbie and took her out of her box for a quick inspection. A sales lady caught me looking up her skirt and threatened to call security. I explained that I was in Thailand not long ago and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Anyway, for that price I could pay a woman in the parking lot to hoik up her skirt and allow me a squizz at her frilly bits. Not that I would. I’m just saying.
Lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You genuinely have to be stoned to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison and to hell with the consequences.
There was also a talking octopus. What can it possibly have to say? I once met an octopus while snorkeling and I can honestly say that in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk I expect they would say, “Please take that pointy stick out of my head and return me to the rock pool from whence I came.” Well, the educated ones would. The more common octopi would probably squirt ink everywhere and try to strangle you with a tentacle.
It’s hard to believe that toy shops are still selling microscopes and chemistry sets. This country needs more pole dancers, not scientists, goddammit. In the old days this type of thing was sold because the state wanted to encourage an early interest in the noble art of biological and chemical weapons manufacturing. I bet Papa Basson bought little Wouter a splendid set for his fifth birthday.
I found an Ant Mine but don’t tell Malema or he’ll want to nationalise it.
The shelves are full of lies. Call it aspirational if you will, but I call it setting your kid up for a lifetime of feelings of inadequacy and failure. Here’s what I found in the toy car section: an Audi Q7, a Range Rover Sport and a Mercedes G55 AMG. I want to open a toy shop that stocks faded red Hyundais up on play-play bricks with small plastic hobos passed out in the back and dented Vauxhall station wagons with missing hubcaps and doors rusted off their hinges.
The same goes for ‘My Happy Family’, a lurid atrocity of a doll house. It comes with a double-storey home, a vintage convertible and better furniture than mine. There’s mom, dad and a little girl, all glowing with health and happiness. In my toy shop I would sell ‘My Horrid Family’ featuring a crack house covered in gang graffiti, a tattooed dad wearing a wine-stained vest and mom sporting a black eye. The kid, being an only child, would be weeping into a bowl of gruel. There would be no furniture, what with it having been repossessed and all.
I even found a battery-operated ATM machine. All it needed was a battery-operated skabenga in a balaclava blowing it up with some plastic plastic explosives. The sound effects would be awesome. First the blast, then the police sirens, then the bad guy in court being acquitted on a technicality, then the sound of him laughing all the way to the next bank.
On my way out of the mall, empty-handed and emotionally crushed, I passed a fat bearded man in a tight red suit trimmed with white fur. That’s a bit gay, I thought. He was sitting in a chair waving at small children. That didn’t seem right so I went over and asked if he was an employee of the Catholic Church. He looked at me with Bride of Chucky eyes and said he was a Father, but not that kind of Father. We shook hands, agreed on our mutual loathing of children, and went for a drink.
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It's that time of year when …

It’s that time of year when boilerplate journalists stare out the window, sigh heavily and begin writing stuff that begins with “It’s that time of year when ….”
Calling them journalists gives them more credit than they’re due, I suppose. They’re content producers. And it can’t even really be called writing. ‘It’s that time of year’ stories are almost always lists or advice. Quite often advice in the form of a list. Any idiot can draw one up. I am nothing if not an idiot, so here’s my contribution.
It’s that time of year when the ravening dogs of capitalism are out of the cages and straining at their leashes. Their eyes are red and wet and their foam-flecked jaws snap and slaver. Soon they will slip their choke chains and, howling and biting at our heels, they will herd us into the malls and shopping centres until panic drives us crazy and we plunge desperately into debt.
The objective of this appalling game of loans is to accumulate as much new stuff as you can while not losing any of the stuff you already have. Cars, handbags, cellphones and occasionally entire families are lost at this time of year.
One of the byproducts of poverty, unemployment, sloppy genes, faulty upbringing and bad drugs is that the closer we get to Jesus’s birthday, the more our personal belongings become irresistible to others.
For some the festivities have already begun. Last week a group of 20 armed shoppers visited a shopping centre in Limpopo, blew up a safe, shot a policeman and left with some cars that weren’t theirs. In some towns people gather around and cheer when the Christmas lights are turned on in the main street. The other day in Vereeniging, onlookers cheered when a Fidelity cash-in-transit van exploded during a heist. I’m not making this up.
Parking lots are filling up fast and you don’t want to find yourself having to park so far away that you need a GPS to find your way back to the mall. I was lucky enough to buy a second-hand car that already had a disabled sticker on the windscreen. I don’t really take advantage of it because shopping takes so much longer when you have to pretend to be crippled. You can’t just get out of your car and limp off, either. To properly pull it off you have to gimp it up spectacularly, which can be exhausting. Also, everyone around you then makes a very obvious point of not looking at you, which is a bit cruel if you enjoy being the centre of attention, as I do.
A lot of malls have parking bays right at the entrance that are reserved for women with babies or toddlers. I don’t know why toddlers. I’ve toddled around plenty of parking lots as an adult and if I can do it I don’t see why a two-year-old can’t. They don’t even drink beer.
As for babies, they’re either pushed in carts or carried in plastic bags. Any mother who can’t portage her own baby shouldn’t have one in the first place. And if she has more than one, she shouldn’t be allowed out in public. The parking is great, though. If you don’t have a baby, try to borrow one for the afternoon. A lot of mothers would be grateful for the break. I think R30 an hour would be a fair rate for a decent baby. If it has teething or colic issues, or is one of those babies that can move objects with its mind, insist on a discount.
I can’t remember if the sign actually says ‘Mothers With Babies’. That would be incredibly sexist if it did. If security says you can’t park there because you’re a man, tell him that you are in fact a woman and threaten to hit him with your borrowed baby. There’s a lot of sensitivity and confusion around gender at the moment. Exploit it.
Don’t think you’re safe once you are in the belly of the beast. Keep your guard up. Trust no-one, especially not members of your family. Children who could barely string a sentence together a week ago suddenly understand the psychology of guilt and coercion.
And remember that even though pickpocketing and purse-snatching is considered quaint and old school in this glamorous age of state capture, the pilferers and purloiners are still out there practising their ancient craft. Fleet of foot and nimble of finger, not for them the tedious complexities of tender rigging and money laundering. Handbags are their thing. This is why women should keep a small explosive device in their bag at all times. If the bag is stolen, they can detonate it with a remote control. This will not only teach the thief a valuable lesson but will also help thin out the crowds in the mall.
Apparently the big thing this year is not to go to the mall at all but instead to second-hand shops. Peter Forshaw, the chief financial officer of Cash Converters, said more people were starting to buy “pre-loved” gifts. This makes sense. There are a lot more pre-loved people out there than ever before.
The only thing I want for Christmas is for people to shut the fuck up about bitcoin. Stop telling me to get in now. Stop trying to explain the mining process. You got nine percent for maths and your mother was still helping you with your jersey at sixteen. Maybe that was me. The point is that you sell bathroom supplies, believe that women who have abortions are going to hell and that the earth is six thousand years old. When it comes to advice of any kind, I’d sooner trust a Nigerian prince.

Helpful holiday hints

Now is a time for reflection, a time for evaluating the year gone by and a time to make fresh plans for the year ahead. More importantly, though, it is a time to lie on the beach and chuck as much alcohol down your gizzard as is medically possible. It must be said, though, that both the beach and drinking come with their own attendant risks. Let’s start with drinking.
The worst thing about drinking, apart from waking up to find a wedding ring on your finger, is the hangover. Some doctors try to tell you that hangovers are caused by dehydration. This is like saying floods cause drought and I, for one, would sign any petition that calls for these charlatans to be struck from the roll.
Dehydration is caused when the bartender ignores you because he is too busy catching bottles behind his back and flirting with all the pretty young things.
In rare cases, dehydration is also caused when a girly little hormone that is meant to tell the body to conserve water can’t hold its liquor and passes out on the job. This results in you having to wee every ten minutes. With the floodgates open, the body starts borrowing water from less important organs, like the brain. This causes the brain to shrink, which annoys it tremendously. This explains why stupid people with small brains suffer worse hangovers than smart people with big brains.
All alcohol contains methanol. I would have thought this is a good thing since it is also the fuel used in motocross bikes. And, boy, can those babies go.
However, instead of doing the sensible thing and using the methanol to accelerate the mind, the body breaks it down into formaldehyde and formic acid. Deformed foetuses and pygmy brains are preserved in formaldehyde. Ants and bees secrete formic acid when they attack. What the hell are our bodies thinking?
The monstrous aberration known in scientific terms as Babelaas Horribilus is also partly caused by the depletion of magnesium in your body. As we all know, magnesium constitutes 2% of the Earth’s crust. So before you go drinking, take the time to step out into the garden and grab a handful of that damn fine crust.
Just remember to wash the dirt from your face before you walk into the bar. Not many drinkers can handle the sight of a grown man with a soil-encrusted mouth spraying bits of grass and earthworms about while shouting for another round.
Drinking & Swimming
Lifeguards warn you not to drink and swim. I have never heard such nonsense. What are you going to do? Lose control on the backstroke and sideswipe a jellyfish? Burst a water-wing and roll? Have a head-on collision with a snoek? The ocean is by far the safest place in which to drink. For a start, it is impossible to fall over. This means no more inexplicable cuts and bruises the next day. And there are no roadblocks to ruin your life. No chance of irresponsible sex with someone whose name you can’t remember. The only problem I ever encountered while drinking and swimming was having my beer diluted with seawater.
Bluebottles (Bloublasies)
Apart from the Congolese gentleman selling beaded flowers, the thing next most likely to ruin your day at the beach is the bluebottle. This little scoundrel is also known as the Portuguese Man-of-War, although we are no longer allowed to call them that because the Portuguese say it portrays them as an excitable people who are always up for a fight. I thought that was the whole point of being Portuguese.
The tentacles of the bluebottle trail through the water with the aim of snaring small crustaceans. Whenever I go into the sea, they trail through my baggies with the aim of snaring my testicles which, it must be said, look nothing like small crustaceans.
One of the first times I was stung, a friend said the best way to ease the pain was to urinate on the affected area. Since I had been stung on my back, he volunteered to help out. Our friendship was never the same after that. Later, after leaving school, I heard that he had joined the priesthood. As I grew up, I heard more and more about people weeing on each other without even having been stung by bluebottles. As far as I could tell, they hadn’t even been near the beach. I found it all rather disturbing.
Using Sharks to Pick Up Girls
Very few girls can resist a shark attack victim. One bite, and you’re theirs. But don’t think you can simply pitch up at the beach, wade in to the water and expect something to chew helpfully on your arm.
There are an average of only six shark attacks a year in South African waters. With a strike rate like that, you might think that sharks are rubbish when it comes to dishing out a decent savaging. You’re right. They are.
So don’t waste your time with second-raters like the Zambezi or the hammerhead, let alone that big aquatic pussycat, the ragged-tooth. For a start, you would have to slap him around a good deal to get him angry enough to even nibble your toes.
You need to find Carcharodon carcharias – the Great White – the most frightening of all creatures in the sea apart from the Gauties wallowing off Umhlanga’s main beach as we speak. Here are some tips to help you lose a limb and get laid:
* Swim only at river mouths at dusk and dawn.
* Use a razor blade to lacerate your legs.
* Head into deep water and splash vigorously.
* Have a Ferrari in the parking lot.
Right. That’s enough helpful hints for now. You’ll be hearing from me next year. Possibly sooner.
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A season for exchanging gifts and bodily fluids

Bloody Christmas. Again. Squeaky little humanoid hamsters on a giant treadwheel in the sky. Round and round we go. Well, I’ve had enough. Stop this thing. I want to get off.
Why the 25th of December, anyway? It’s not as if anyone has irrefutable evidence that Jesus was actually born on that day. In fact, my research indicates that Jesus very nearly wasn’t the messiah at all. Luke (not Skywalker, the other one) tells the story of a childless couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth, who were visited by Gabriel. The angel told Zach his prayers had been answered and that he and Elizabeth would have a son. They were to name him John. Zach was, like, “Yeah, right, I’ll name my own son, thank you very much. Bloody angels, coming around here thinking they own the place.” Pissed off with Zach’s bad attitude, Gabriel went down the road to Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, and pretty much told her the same story, only that she was to call her kid Jesus. Word on the street is that Jesus was born six months after John. There’s no mention of it, but I reckon Liz couldn’t have been too happy.
“You idiot, Zach. That gold, frankincense and myrrh could’ve been ours!”
“What the fuck is myrrh, anyway?”
“That’s not the point, you idiot. For thousands of years, people would have prayed to me, the Virgin Elizabeth.”
“Oh, please. You’re no virgin.”
“Bastard. My mum always said I should’ve married Joseph.”
Anyway. I suppose we should be grateful. It just wouldn’t be the same if every time we were overcome with frustration and rage, we shouted, “John!”
I trawled through a few more biblical tales in the hope of verifying JC’s date of birth, but became so depressed by all the wanton begetting and random savagery that I wanted to kill myself. Perhaps this is what one is meant to feel over Christmas. It certainly seems like a more appropriate emotion.
All this before I had even slithered from my lair in search of gifts. I once suggested to my ex-wife that instead of gifts, we exchange bodily fluids. She seemed to think something more substantial was in order, so I gave her a rough, uncut emerald I found in the driveway. She said it was a piece of broken beer bottle and threw it away. Ungrateful cow. That was the last time I gave her jewels. That Christmas I also gave my loinfruit a beautiful picture of the Maldives which I tore out of a magazine in the toilet. He was so overcome with gratitude that he wept for days.
Quite frankly, I’m still a bit pissed off that the Christians hijacked a perfectly good pagan festival, but if you mind your manners and wish Jesus a happy birthday, you can still get drunk and drugged and have hot monkey sex with your neighbour’s wife without being consigned to burn in the eternal hellfires of damnation. Okay, I might be wrong, but it’s worth a shot.
The worst thing about Christmas is that you have to go shopping and buy stuff for people you don’t necessarily care about – like your friends and family – because you know that if you don’t, you won’t get any stuff from them.
I was in a shop today, happy as a lamb in Islamabad on the eve of Eid-ul-Adha, loading up my basket with the cheapest, tawdriest rubbish on the shelves, when I overheard a young couple complaining.
“I don’t know what we can get him.”
“No idea. He has everything.”
I’ll tell you what you can get the person who has everything. You can call the SARS hotline and get him audited. You can bring him to the attention of the Asset Forfeiture Unit. You can send him to live among the untouchables for three months in the hope that his conscience will drive him to give away half of the everything he has. Preferably to you.
Nobody deserves to have everything. For a start, it makes a mockery of capitalism. What kind of world would this be if none of us wanted anything ever again? The only reason we work is so that we can get money to buy shiny stuff. If we break the cycle, everyone will go off to lie on the beach and play didgeridoos while the streets fill up with unemployed advertising executives begging for cocaine at the traffic lights. The world just isn’t ready for that.
I’m easy to buy for. Beer and power tools, I’m happy. There’s nothing more fun than spending Christmas Day drinking heavily and chasing your relatives around the garden with a whining Black & Decker drill in one hand and a nail gun in the other.
If you’re looking for the gift that keeps on giving, you might want to consider getting a restraining order. They don’t need batteries and they work fabulously. Actually, they don’t work at all if the phone at your local police station has been disconnected. In a perfect world, the state would provide newly-weds with a marriage certificate and a complementary restraining order. Any trouble with the husband and all you do is dial 10111, wait for someone to answer while your beloved chops your legs off and then, when the police arrive three days later, you claw your way to the front door, show them the restraining order and everything will be fine. Well, once you get your prosthetic legs, everything will be fine.
Or you may want to give your spinster aunt a street child. Just grab him off the street. If your aunt doesn’t like him, or wants a different colour, take him back and find another one. There are more than enough for everyone so don’t panic.
Vietnamese potbellied pigs also make unusual gifts and, once their cuteness wears off, are even better on the braai. Alternatively, you may want to get a potbellied Vietnamese. They make excellent servants but not such good eating.
I could go on, but I won’t.
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Jingle Hells

School holidays should be abolished.
Our creaking infrastructure and shattered nerves can no longer withstand the blitzkrieg of semi-educated savages at the end of every year. There should be new rules starting from next year. Any pupil who scores an aggregate of, say, less than 90% in their final exams will be deployed to help the M23 rebels take the Congo. There is nothing wrong with children being soldiers. They are already halfway there, what with being accustomed to wearing uniforms and fighting among themselves. Then again, the rebels might not be able to put up with the constant cries of, “Are we there yet?” Never mind the convoys having to pull over every five minutes because someone needs to wee. It would take forever to reach Kinshasa.
But not everyone can afford to send their brat away to help topple a government. Here are some cheaper ways of keeping the ingrates entertained, while at the same time scoring a bit of payback for the twelve months of hell they have just put you through.
Shopping malls. Generally not a place for any sane, self-respecting adult, but exceptions can be made at this time of year. Decorations are up, tills are jingling and shops are getting more and more crowded. Consider, for a moment, that your child will probably only get a job if he is good with his hands. I wouldn’t normally suggest you encourage him to consider pickpocketing as a career choice, but with a pair of nimble fingers he could certainly help bring in some extra beer money.
Boys make the best pickpockets. If you have a girl, there’s no need to despair. Well, that’s not strictly true. If you have a daughter who is older than 13, you will know despair. In truckloads.
But if she  is very young – six or seven is good – take her to a mall that has a fat, white man wearing a red suit and fake beard sitting in a tawdry tableau fallaciously billed as Santa’s grotto. He will encourage your daughter to sit on his knee and tell him what she wants for Christmas. Before she does this, whisper that Santa will only bring her presents if she jumps off his lap and screams, “He touched me inappropriately!” Tell her those are the magic words that will make all her wishes come true. Santa settles out of court and you get a new car.
If there is something wrong with you and you don’t want to make money but still want a bit of a laugh, take the kids into a department store and remove a bunch of electronic tags from some of the clothing. Each person gets a tag and you all leave the shop at the same time. The alarm is the signal to start running. Security guards will chase you through the mall. The first person to the car wins. Even if you get caught, you can’t be prosecuted because you haven’t actually stolen anything. It’s good exercise and fun for the whole family.
Theme parks. In Cape Town, you have Ratanga Junction. Some of the rides, like the Cobra, get the adrenalin pumping. However, I have always found that at this time of year, the real thrill lies in gambling on whether you will make it to the front of the line before the seizures and hallucinations kick in. Heatstroke gives you all the symptoms of a heroin overdose and, best of all, it’s free.
Gold Reef City is Joburg’s idea of a theme park. I have never been there, but I imagine it’s full of undercover cops, coke dealers, human traffickers and obese families sucking on ice-creams and racially abusing the dude in charge of the Jozi Express. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a member of the tactical reaction unit shooting the Wimpy staff for getting his order wrong. For a bit of light relief, pop in to the Apartheid Museum.
Durban has uShaka Marine World where dolphins leap high into the air in the hope that their buddies in the ocean will see them and mount a rescue operation. There is also a paddling pool area where you can take your child to have its hearing impaired by hip-hop music. And, if you are white, you will feel right at home among all the other whiteys on uShaka beach. Too much of irony, my bru.
Children also like to be taken to casinos. They might say they don’t but they are lying through their filthy teeth. I have seen many happy little faces pressed up against the barrier as they watch their mommies and daddies getting drunk and gambling away the last of the food money.
Zoos are also popular among the kids. When my loinfruit was small I took him to a petting zoo which turned out to be a brothel. Still, he learnt a lot that day. And that’s what is important. It doesn’t matter whether it’s watching a chimpanzee playing on a tyre swing or daddy haggling with a black-hearted harridan whose name clearly isn’t Jasmine. It’s all educational.
Children also like to make things. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or complicated. Petrol bombs, for instance, can be made by kids who can’t even spell mathematics. And they don’t have to be used on Christmas Day, either. Keep them for a rainy day.
Of course, the best thing you could do these holidays is go to Thailand. Put the telly on, shout to the kids that you’re popping out to the shop and drive straight to the airport. When you get to Bangkok, call home and tell the family that they can do whatever the hell they like.
It will be the best Christmas ever.

Jingle Hells

Jesus!

The reason for the season. Happy birthday, dude. You’re looking pretty damn good for a 2000-year-old white hippy with a Mexican name. There aren’t too many kids born in a stable environment in that part of the world these days, let me tell you.

You are probably unaware of this, what with being on Sabbatical and all, but your name is taken in vain more at this time of year than at any other. The streets and shops are jammed with people muttering, “Jesus Christ!” beneath their breath. Some shout openly. Few, if any, show signs of being in a state of religious rapture at the time.

Now and then I am forced to deploy an Old Testament headlock and take one of the more strident blasphemers into a deserted shop, like CUM Books, and explain to him that at this time of year, nobody fucks with the Jesus.

Right. That’s enough about Jesus. This is my story. His story has been out for a while and still outsells my memoir by, like, three to one. I should have gone with his publisher.

A powerful combination of poor genes and even worse judgement saw me pass through the apocalyptic portals of one of Hell’s more commercial outlets this week. First, though, I had to progress from level one of Dante’s Christmas Inferno – the parking lot. Car guards are hopelessly under-equipped to deal with motorists in December. What they need is paramilitary training. They need pepper spray and cattle prods to keep people from leaping out of their cars and strangling one another. And that’s just the children.

This particular incubus-infested horror show had a hairdresser’s right at the entrance. The sight of women of every grimace and girth in various stages of lassitude and bedragglement hardly encourages one to move deeper into the belly of the beast.

Next to the hairdresser, possibly deliberately, was a shop called Outdoor and Velocity. It had an impressive range of paintball and pellet guns, including one shaped like an AK-47. The perfect gift for the man whose criminal record prevents him from owning a real gun. There was also a selection of knives that would’ve made the executioners of Islamic State envious.

Health shops were occupied only by their lentil-faced staff while bottle stores made the fall of Saigon seem calm and orderly.

Shopping malls are acoustically designed to enhance the high frequency sound produced by children hysterical on sugar and lies. It’s like psychological warfare; a way of rattling your synapses so you spend more money than you might otherwise have done.

I doubted I could single-handedly contend with this bloated river of humanity and its ungodly stink of anger and fear and money, so I ducked into a pet shop and asked for a medium-sized attack dog. They asked if I was blind. Absolutely, I said. Blind drunk. That’s a lot better than being barking mad, which they clearly were for charging R1 295 for a silly plastic ramp that allows one’s golden retriever to take a leisurely stroll from or into the back of one’s Range Rover.

“Protect the joints of the pet,” said the box. Nonsense. It’s our joints that need protecting from the ravening narcophobics in the police force. Point is, if you can’t lift your dog into your car then he’s either criminally big or you shouldn’t be driving.

I no longer even glance into the windows of jewellery shops because every time I have put a ring on someone’s finger it has ended in tears. “Here, darling, have this fabulously exorbitant bauble. It’s guaranteed to ruin your life or mine. Maybe both.”

Verimark’s Maxxus V-Trainer caught my eye. It’s a vibrating pad you stand on. “Get the body you have always wanted in just 10 minutes a day!” Watching a fat kid wobbling on the pad, I’d estimate it would take me 25 550 days to reach my ideal weight. And that’s only because I would have been dead for the final two years.

Buying gifts for people you loathe is never easy. What, for instance, do you get for the man who

has everything? Here’s an idea. You get him audited by the Revenue Service.

I heard the hideous sound of children screaming as if they were being murdered and rushed over to see if I could help but they were alive and, since I couldn’t kill them all on my own, I had a look around the toy department. The men who work in this section have nervous facial tics and their names are down for emergency vasectomies. The women don’t respond. To anything.

What is this fresh outbreak of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I thought they had been wiped out years ago. Shouldn’t they be called Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles by now?

I found a radio-controlled king cobra snake with glowing eyes and a flickering tongue and it seemed more like something Satan rather than Santa would drop down your chimney. It “looks so real that may scare your friends”. What’s more frightening is that there’s a word missing from that sentence. That’s the Chinese for you. Always looking to cut corners. Save a word here and there and soon enough there’s a secret stockpile of surplus words they can use to build an entirely new piece of junk around.

“Look, babe, here’s something that says ‘Big it that was new fish water real flash remote jump.’”

“What does it do?”

“No idea. I think it lights up.”

“Ooh, let’s get three.”

There are shelves of model cars for boys although they could just as easily be for girls because men rarely drive any more thanks to the heavily armed extremists found at roadblocks. Four beers and you risk spending the evening having your bottom interfered with by a fighting general in the 28s. Not worth it. Sell the car and buy beer. Lock yourself in your room.

There’s a kitchen set with a boy pretending to cook. He looks about 19. Then again, I’ve never been a very good judge of age. It’s astounding that I’m not in jail. “Let the children play happily and feel assured,” lisps the box. So you see, laddie, you can rest assured that it’s quite normal for you to be pottering about in a frilly apron packing the tiny dishwasher and making imaginary vol-au-vents in your tiny oven.

There are little plastic prams and pushchairs, all of which are being controlled by little plastic girls. This isn’t so much gender stereotyping as it is a reflection of reality. All the boys are clearly in court fighting for custody or getting nailed for child support.

“Anything is possible with Barbie” just doesn’t sound right. I’ve known girls who have embodied this ethos but, while initially fun to be with, stick around for too long and you’ll end up in a mental hospital.

With one exception, the doll section looks like a picnic organised by The Young Mothers of the Ku Klux Klan. Talking Tip has an anxious yet determined look on her swarthy synthetic face. Her box says, “Try me!” but there are no buttons to push. It’s probably a challenge. A warning. She probably says things like, “Don’t be tryin’ none of that white shit or I’ll bust yo cracker ass.” She comes with a spare outfit and removable shoes, which I imagine would be useful when she’s hiding out from her parole officer.

There are also boxes of twins, all of whom look like an experiment by Dr Josef Mengele gone horribly right.

Toy department staff aren’t trained to deal with hulking unshaven brutes clearly unsuited for fatherhood loitering around the dolls, and I could see them becoming visibly anxious. I stepped out into the fetid, roiling swamp of humankind and was almost immediately possessed by the festive spirit.

All I need now is an exorcist.

BenSanta-1

The Christmas spirit

Today, 177 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River.

And in 177 minutes from now, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway Shopping Mall. The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. The Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight-abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking me out of the way with their meaty hips and big asses. I don’t stand a chance.

William Butler Yeats wrote, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Here, they’re slouching out of Bethlehem (there by the Free State) and into Durban. Quite frankly these people scare me. If I had the space I would explain how one can tell the difference between trolls, homunculi and troglodytes.

I did a recce at Gateway earlier in the week to check out the exits and locate the shops that sell weapons. If it was going to turn ugly, I wasn’t going down without a fight. To hell with reconciliation. At this time of year it’s every man for himself.

The first thing I noticed was that Christmas decorations aren’t as Christian as they used to be. In the old days you could barely walk through a mall without smacking your head into a simpering polystyrene angel swinging from the rafters. These days it’s all disco balls and plastic dross swaddled in fairy lights. It’s not so much Santa’s grotto as it is Hugh Hefner’s, although in Game you do have a slightly smaller risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

Orphans are big this year. I saw several shops offering to donate a percentage of purchases over R100 to those lucky enough not to have parents. They never say how much goes to the orphans, though. It could be 0000.2% of each purchase. This means that by the end of the holidays, three children in a village north of the Tugela will each get a tin of soup. Next year, if they’re really lucky, they might get a tin opener.

The war for drugs escalates at this time of year. Too many family reunions, dinners and parties mean that young and old alike are desperate for fresh meds. If you’re new at this, I recommend something from the benzodiazepine family. Ativan or Librium will do nicely if all you need to do is get through Christmas lunch without slashing a sibling’s throat.

However, if you’re worried about getting drunk and exposing Uncle Pervy for the kiddie-fiddler that he is, you might need one of the neuroleptics. Thorazine works well, but get your timing right. You don’t want to be slack-jawed and drooling into the turkey with your paper hat over one eye while everyone else is pulling crackers.

I saw a sign saying, “Add more sparkle to your festive season – shop with American Express!” Yeah, sure. It’s all fun and sparkles now, but what happens next year? It’s bad enough what the local banks will to do to you, but you fuck with the Americans at your peril. I’ve heard that Guantanamo Bay isn’t a prison for political detainees at all. It’s for people – Muslims, mainly – who have maxed out their American Express cards and are late with their repayments.

A 10-piece nativity set caught my eye. It was rather nicely done, if a bit outdated. If it were today, the three wise men would be unemployed academics with substance abuse problems, Joseph would be out working overtime to pay for the new baby and the shepherds would be on strike.

I saw television sets so big you would have to sell your house, buy a piece of land and build a new house around the telly. Where will it end, this race for the biggest television? Will new homes eventually offer plasma screens instead of walls? I hope so. I already spend hours staring at the wall. I may as well be watching something.

And lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You have to be on drugs to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison.

In the toy section, there’s a doll that speaks six lines. Or does six lines. I can’t remember. Cocaine Barbie, perhaps.

For the boys, there are millions of heavily armed action figures that don’t look so macho as they do gay. This is a good thing. If you want your son to grow up believing he can kill with impunity, rather he does it wearing nothing but cropped hair, a moustache and a pair of tight red shorts. At least that way we’ll see him coming.

I found a paramedic’s kit but it lacked a plastic handgun for when the ambulance has to go into the townships on a Friday night.

Then I came across a whole series of things you can do in the tub. “Shaving in the tub” was one. This is a filthy habit and you should only get this for your child if you have someone other than yourself who cleans the bath. Everything on the box is in French, which makes sense when you consider what these people regard as acceptable behaviour. What next? Wine in the Jacuzzi? Frog’s legs in the bed? Pissing in the pool?

There’s also a talking octopus. I once met an octopus while snorkelling and in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk, though, I expect they would say, “Please take that pointy stick out of my head and return me to the rock pool from whence I came.” Well, the educated ones would. The more common octopi would probably squirt ink everywhere and try to strangle you with a tentacle.

A shop assistant has just caught me looking up a doll’s skirt. Awkward. I simply wanted to ascertain whether it was anatomically correct. With the education system as it is, I wouldn’t want my nephew growing up thinking that all girls have a piece of hard plastic between their legs. Not that I have a nephew. Or can even remember what’s between … never mind.

With my blood-alcohol levels dangerously low, I repaired to the restaurant area where several companies appeared to be having their get-togethers. Christmas parties used to be held at night. There would be carousing and fornicating and the company would happily pay your bail the next day. Now, the grinches offer their employees a free lunch. As if there’s such a thing.

Jingle Hells

I went to a mall the other day just to get a break from the marathon coverage of all things Madiba.

Under normal circumstances, I would sooner pluck my eyeballs out with a red-hot spoon than go into a mall at this time of year, but the circumstances of the last few days have been anything but normal.

When I was a kid, giant glittering baubles dangled from the roofs of shopping centres. Around every corner, fake Christmas trees soared into the vaulted heavens. There was glitter and tinsel and at least one Santa on every level. Laughing reindeer posed in gloriously frozen tableaux. It was like, well, like Christmas.

However, the bearded thugs pushing a green agenda seem to have given the management of malls an opportunity to skimp on the trimmings.

Now, decorations consist of plywood stars, bits of recycled lawn furniture and balls of sisal coated in edible silver paint. Also, no angels and no Jesuses. We wouldn’t want to offend the suicide bombers.

I did, however, manage to offend a number of shoppers by walking around with my zip down for the best part of an hour. My not bothering with underwear that day was unfortunate. It was also a mistake ducking into a toyshop to rectify my wardrobe malfunction and I apologise to the little ones who were traumatised. If you grow up to become journalists, you can blame me.

It used to be that you could tell which section was for boys and which was for girls, but with so many parents raising their children in a gender-neutral environment, it’s not so easy these days. The military section was in a state of advanced readiness in the event of Barbie Battalion launching a pre-dawn raid. “Locked, loaded and ready to go,” threatened a well-armed recoil vehicle. There was a lot of helicopter backup, too. And infantry, in case it became necessary to drive General Barbie’s troops back to their base in aisle four.

My attention was caught by an Air Bus “made according to the scale of the real thing so that it is lifelike and breathing”. I put my ear to the box but heard nothing. It was probably holding its breath. The box was full of wild promises. “This multifunctional plane makes your dream come true.” Apparently in China you are allowed one dream only.

I was tempted to buy Ant World – “See inside the amazing world of ants!” – but then remembered that there is absolutely nothing amazing about being an ant. You carry bits of sugar and leaves and shit backwards and forwards all night long and then still have to suck on the queen’s breasts so that there is fresh honey for the day shift.

What the hell? What madman would make a Fingerprint Analysis Kit and sell it to children? “Identify your suspect!” Do you really want your kids dusting the house for prints, collecting forensic evidence, bugging the phones and god knows what else? The next thing they do is call the cops, get you banged up on fabricated evidence and have the run of the house for a couple of years. Let’s not encourage the little bastards.

I stumbled across a collection of weird, dystopian doll-like creatures. They looked like crack whores with an eating disorder. I liked them right away. The range is called Monster High, which I always thought was a term for being way more stoned than is good for you.

For R199 you can get “My First Baby”. The Chinese version, I expect, would be “My Only Baby”. We are warned of a choking hazard. Perhaps. But only if you cut it up and put large chunks of it in your mouth. If that’s the kind of child you have, you may want to keep it in some kind of isolation tank.

There is also a Supermarket Play Set with a smiling white girl behind the plastic till. You will never see a white girl behind a till. Not in this country. And I don’t think it’s right that we raise their hopes.

For R699 you can get Baby Born. No promises are made on the box apart from saying that it is “interactive”. For that price, I can get a real baby off the internet.

The shop assistants were making it very clear that I had overstayed my welcome – “are you sure we can’t help you with anything?” – so I left with one of the Monster High mutants stuffed down my broeks.

I popped in to the AA to find out more about their 12-step programme but they said I had to be a motorist, which I thought dovetailed nicely with my penchant for drinking and driving. However, after heated negotiations, they made it clear that my sort wasn’t welcome as a member.

By now the mall had filled up. It took me forever to get back to the car. Partly because I had forgotten where I had parked, partly because I kept getting trapped behind families the size of hippos. Heavily sedated hippos. Men with calves thicker than rugby posts. Men thicker than rugby posts. Women with hips that could breech-birth a zebra. Children that looked as if they had eaten a sibling.

I saw a woman with five kids. She was pregnant. I saw teenagers walking and texting. They moved with the gait of zombie cows, heads lowered, shuffling, chewing. I saw men with slow-burning panic in their eyes.

I saw my car – and ran.