Care for a little whine with that?

South Africa has overtaken Britain as the world’s foremost nation in whining and complaining. Service is too slow. Crime is too high. Standards are too low. Too many taxis. Not enough sex. Too many white people. Too many black people. Not enough rain. Too much rain. On and on and on we go.

Sure, every nation complains. But many of them take it a step further. We complain, then sit back and wait for something to happen. And when it doesn’t, we complain some more. Then we shake our heads and talk of emigrating, but then we have a braai and get drunk and suddenly this is the best country in the world to live in.

Our newspapers devote acres of space every month to complaining. Pick up any daily or weekend paper and you are guaranteed to come across an editorial, column or letter written by a professional complainer.

How long will it take before the penny drops?  Hundreds of months? Thousands of years? The people you are complaining about could not give a rat’s arse. The only time anyone responds to a complaint is if when it’s directed at them by a person who has influence over their salary or their job security.

Everyone, with the exception of artists and the homeless (often one and the same), wants to make as much as money as possible by investing the least amount of time and exerting the tiniest amount of effort. I am one of those people. However, I work for myself and were I to shrug off complaints, I’d soon enough end up sleeping beneath a culvert with a toothless crone pawing at me for another suck on my tik pipe. Not that I get complaints. Or work.

There has to come a time when we complain and then, after a decent interval of nothing happening, we change tactics. We get rude. Death threats, whether issued by mail or telephonically, have been known to get results. If that fails, we step it up a notch and take to the streets. If you’re a whitey, ask a darkie to teach you how to make a petrol bomb. Give him some money to make one for himself. It’s that kind of bonding that will be the salvation of this country.

The British, who invented good manners, can change government policy by putting half a million people on the streets. We’ve got half a million people on the streets every day and the government barely notices.

Politicians throughout the ages have forced people to use violence to bring about change. If only they’d just do what we ask them to do, we could avoid all this bloodshed. Governments aren’t overthrown because they refuse to meet demands for free weed and beer fountains on every corner. They get their metaphorical heads chopped off because people want jobs and houses and affordable food and fuel and the people who are in a position to provide these things either can’t or won’t do it.

Fuck the Jabberwock, my son, for ‘tis nothing compared to the underclass. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the Juju bird!

You’d be an idiot not to have a vorpal blade in these tense times. I have not yet had cause to use mine, so I know not whether it goes snicker-snack. I hope it does. You can’t return a vorpal blade. Not in these parts, anyway.

We don’t hear much about the underclass in this country. And for good reason. What? You mean there’s another class below the working class? Good god. Where are our passports? Chanteclaire, get the children into the Range Rover. Hurry! Bring the Faberge eggs! Leave the horses!

The underclass is allowed to vote, even though they pose the greatest threat to us all. This is why they say democracy eats its children. I don’t know who said that. Perhaps I dreamt it.

The existence of the underclass is the only reason the EFF has a presence in parliament. Even though their support base is more lumpen than it is proletariat, turn your back on them at your peril. France has plenty of second-hand guillotines they’d be happy to offload on a country with a 0.6% growth rate.

Unlike Britain, we don’t really have a class system. I’ve worked it out, though, and if we went down that road, we’d have eighteen distinctive classes ranging from lower underclass, through middle nouveau riche and all the way up to upper old money, also known as the Oppenheimer class.

Anyway. Where was I? Ah, yes. Complaining. You know what I hate? People who, when you ask how they’re doing, they say, “Alright, I s’pose. Doesn’t help to complain, does it?” I want to shout, “Look over there!” And when they turn to look, I sink my teeth into the fleshy part of their neck and shake them. You gutless drone. Governments love people like you. The given-up. The what’s-the-point brigade.

My job is to find fault with society but I’m not going to back it up with action unless you yellow-bellied bastards are prepared to back me up. I don’t want to be riding into battle against the riot squad and turn around to find you’ve all buggered off to the pub.

This week’s complaint, which requires no drastic action on my part, concerns one of my favourite pubs. I am outraged, not least because my opinion was never solicited before the sweeping changes were implemented. The yuppification of this former house of ill repute will go down as an atrocity second only to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

It was one of those bars with wooden tables, wooden benches and people you wooden want to take home to meet your mother. Rastas ran the bar, a giant TV played terrible music or sport and stray dogs came and went as they pleased. Neighbours complained regularly. It was great. Now it’s all chrome and glass and ergonomically designed plastic chairs.

Instead of lurking with intent against the far wall, the old bar now cocks its naugahyde hips and poses cheekily as a central feature of the room. The stairs leading down to the bathrooms, which take on Everest-like proportions the later it gets, and which have seen far more casualties than the mountain ever will, now have some kind of effeminate mosaic thing going on. It is now frequented by hipsters in ironically trimmed beards and, god forbid, families.

My waitress was a young white girl, all teeth and no brains. Her manner was awkward and her forced laugh set my eyeballs on edge. She said it was her first time. As a waitress or among people? I couldn’t be sure.

She waited until my mouth was full, then ambushed me and began enquiring about my pizza. It turned into an interrogation. My phone started ringing and still she wouldn’t stop. “It’s very colourful, isn’t it?” she said. Could she not see my mouth was stuffed with pizza? Could she not hear my phone ringing and that I was waiting for her to shut up so that I could answer it? Apparently not. Apparently my pizza was so vivid and exciting that we needed to discuss it as a matter of some urgency.

When I asked for the bill, she said, “Not a problem.” Are there restaurants where asking for the bill is a problem? “I’m sorry, sir. You haven’t eaten enough to warrant dirtying the cutlery and a napkin. You will have to order another course before we can allow you to pay and leave.”

She brought the bill and stood there while I fished out a couple of hundreds. Then she asked a question I’d never before been asked in a restaurant.

“How much change would you like?” Well, honey-bunny, I’d quite like all of my change, if you don’t mind, and then I shall decide whether or not to leave you a tip. Too polite to actually say that, I found myself being pressured into making lightning fast calculations using nothing more than my head. She didn’t try to help, either. I sat there going, “Ummm. Ummm.” She must have thought I was trying to come up with some sort of figure. I wasn’t. I was just going ummm because I didn’t know what else to do. Customers shouldn’t be put in this position. Working out twelve percent of R97.45 and then relating that to the change from a R200 note is the sort of thing you go to Harvard to learn.

King of Spades Screws Queen of Diamonds

Our well-padded mining minister, Gwede Mantashe, opened the 25th Mining Indaba in Cape Town today. Sadly, I wasn’t there to applaud his hollow assurances that South Africa was safe for investors and that corruption was being addressed. I was, however, there in 2014 and this is what I wrote at the time. I don’t expect much, apart from a few faces, has changed.

……………………

With a little help from a former colleague living in early retirement in Port Nolloth, I managed to get myself on to the list of delegates attending the African Mining Conference at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town.

I wasn’t a delegate, per se. It wasn’t as if I was going to make any speeches. To be honest, I was there primarily for the free lunches. And maybe to pick up a small concession in Sierra Leone. There is something about blood diamonds that sets them apart from the common or garden stone.

Any fool can walk into a jeweller’s shop and pick out something cut and polished and glued into a ring. But it takes a special kind of man to go into the heart of darkness and bring back a bag of gems that could have prolonged a civil war by at least another few days.

My plan was to mingle unobtrusively with the other delegates and eavesdrop on private conversations so that I might gain a better insight into the situation under the ground, as it were. My plan went to hell the moment I walked through the doors. I had never seen so many men in one place sporting dark suits and greedy eyes. I had taken my suit to the dry cleaners, but that was in 1987 and it had probably been sold to defray expenses. In retrospect, it might have been a mistake to wear a traditional garment that looked like it had been put together by a blind tailor on a street corner in Banjul. I thought this would help me to blend in with the investors, so you can imagine my embarrassment when I saw that everyone else was wearing Pierre Cardin.

After a little trouble at the metal detector, I managed to find my way to the conference hall where mining ministers were lining up to sell their country’s mineral resources to the highest bidders.

Some of the smaller countries never really had much to put on the table. However, if nobody else was interested I was more than prepared to put in a cheeky offer to tap that shrunken vein of tanzanite. I kept putting my hand up until a delegate wearing the last of Ghana’s gold around his neck told me this wasn’t an auction and that if I was interested in investing I needed to be a little more discreet.

That’s when I saw Dali Tambo in one of his peculiar oversized Sgt Pepper outfits standing off to one side oozing schmooze all over a couple of delegates. I waited for him to whip out one of his quaint embroidered pillows but he seems to have stumbled into something far more lucrative than presenting talk shows.

While waiting for lunch, I got talking to one of the security guards who was keen to get involved in my project. Not wanting to hurt the poor fellow’s feelings, I explained that the word “mine” is an abbreviation of “mine, not yours”, a phrase that helped to popularise early capitalism. This also effectively ended the conversation, allowing me to be first in line at the buffet. And a fine feast it was, too.

While wolfing my third plate of fish and pasta and curry, I sidled up to a white man with silver hair. He smelled of money. It turned out that his company was about to begin strip mining along a pristine piece of coastline on one of the Indian Ocean islands. I think he took my silence to mean disapproval, but my mouth was so full of free food that I could barely breathe, let alone conduct a decent conversation. He quickly went on to explain that local conservation groups were fully behind his project because they saw the potential benefits to the community. At that moment my mouth became empty and I used it to laugh harshly. “So you paid them off? Good job,” I said, shovelling half a chicken into my gaping maw.

It was probably for the best that I never got the chance to discuss matters further, because the next time I saw him he was on his knees giving the mining minister of an obscure central African dictatorship a big fat injection of foreign direct investment.

I spent the rest of the day conducting business from the lavatory. It was only the next day I read in the paper that I was among a group of people who had eaten the toxic trout. Some of the more delicate delegates were apparently treated at the scene. At the time I thought my body was simply reacting to years of abuse. It does that sometimes. But it seemed more likely that it was reacting to the sight of Africa once again being gang-banged by a bunch of rapacious thugs in three-piece suits.

One for the road – do it for your country

I long for the day that we are number one in the world. I’m not talking about jejune frivolities like rugby or cricket, but something far more significant. Not too long ago we were almost hailed as the country with the world’s highest murder rate, but the bloody Colombians beat us to it by a miserable dozen or so deaths a day.

When I heard about the World Health Organisation’s latest global survey on drinking habits, I thought we at last had it in the bag. If there’s one thing we can do, it’s chuck buckets of booze down our throats whenever the opportunity presents itself. And when I say opportunity, I mean whenever we are not in hospital or prison.

And yet, we still somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Top of the log is the Republic of Moldova – the world’s biggest vineyard. Moldovans drink a respectable 18.2 litres of pure alcohol each year. That’s without the mixers. Picture an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with vodka and orange. Now picture yourself living in Moldova. Tempting, isn’t it?

We staggered in at a pathetic 9.4 litres per person. Diluted, that wouldn’t be enough for sundowners at my place on a Friday night.

You would think, then, that at least the binge drinking category would be ours for the taking. The only good thing we learnt from the Germans was how to open our throat valves and pour the filth straight into our bellies without having to waste time swallowing.

Again, we rolled over. Ahead of us are Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and, shamefully, Mexico. Pathetic. If you are not already hanging your head in some seedy bar or over the rim of the toilet, then hang it now. The embarrassment of it all. Those appalling eastern countries I can understand. Life in Kazakhstan, for instance, must be utterly intolerable without being permanently gevrotteled. But Mexico? This is a nation that goes to sleep every afternoon and yet they still managed to out-binge us.

The fact that binge drinking is on the decrease in this country is a symptom of a much deeper malaise. The worse things get, the happier people seem to become. And the happier they become, the less they drink. We may very well one day be crowned the country with the lowest collective IQ, but it’s not a title I would be particularly proud of.

There was a time when drinking was a sport for the whole family. Even the children could be relied upon to get involved. Not any more. Kids today won’t touch a drink that’s not laced with methylenedioxymethamphetamine or some other fancy-pants chemical. Spoilt brats.

Binge drinking takes commitment and dedication, qualities that are becoming increasingly hard to find. It’s not unusual these days to walk into a bar and find grown men and women sitting with just one drink in front of them. These are the sort of people who would sooner run out of petrol than fill up while there’s still a drop in the tank. Many of these dilettantes will even be chatting and laughing as if there were no such thing as closing time.

When I was young (last Tuesday), drinking alone was preferred since company could lead to talking. I have never grasped this obsession with conversing in places expressly designed to encourage intimacy with the astonishing range of mind-altering beverages which mankind has been generous enough to invent.

Now and then I catch myself inadvertently eavesdropping in taverns frequented by congenital babblers. This distracts me from the job at hand and what starts out as a promising binge session often comes perilously close to ending in that middle class masquerade known as social drinking.

The only person you need to communicate with in a bar is the waiter or the barman. If you have to talk, please stay at home or find a park bench where nobody else has to listen to your witless gibberings.

Moving on. In its report, the World Health Organisation claimed that alcohol causes nearly four percent of deaths worldwide. Upon reading this, I issued a far more positive report claiming that more than 96 percent of deaths worldwide were not caused by alcohol. When my friend Ted heard the good news, he rushed over with four bottles of homemade rice whiskey and a small can of soda water.

We agreed there were far too many people in the world and that somebody must be watering down the drinks otherwise surely there would be more deaths. This planet needs to be saved and there is not a moment to waste. The world must be flooded with powerful UN-subsidised alcohol and the drinking age immediately lowered to seven. Police manning roadblocks should be required by law to provide sober motorists with sachets of industrial ethanol which must be consumed in front of the officer before they are allowed to continue on their way.

The report also found that men outnumber women by four to one in what they coyly describe as “weekly heavy episodic drinking occasions”. Ted and I did our own research and discovered that women outnumber men by four to one in rejecting offers of sex with strangers. We may be wrong, but there could be a correlation here.

Alarmingly, there are at least 25 countries that have an annual alcohol consumption rate of less than 1%. These shining examples of what a country can achieve without the deleterious effects of alcohol include Afghanistan, Iraq, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Yemen and Somalia. Someone give them a drink, for God’s sake. How could a couple of cold beers possibly make things any worse than they already are?

Meanwhile, health ministers from 193 states have agreed to try to curb binge drinking through higher taxes on alcohol and tighter marketing restrictions. All this will do is create an entirely new stratum of well-spoken indigent alcoholics and an outbreak of perforated septums as advertising execs are forced to hoover up the dangerously cheap shnarf.

SABMiller, the wheel-greasers of this great nation, warn that higher taxes will force us all to start making toxic moonshine in our own back yards. Thank you, SABMiller, for your concern. I’m sure we would all prefer to drink the legit stuff and risk developing neuropsychiatric disorders rather than ulcers.

The lighter side of domestic violence

Unlike witch-burning, wife-beating has never really declined in popularity among the ill-bred lower classes. Men who work with their hands (if they work at all) have for centuries used assault and battery as a means of ensuring that their dinner was on time and their women remained loving and faithful.

The landed gentry, on the other hand, have traditionally controlled their wives by hitting them where it really hurts – their line of credit. Withdrawing Gold Card privileges is frequently more effective than bludgeoning. For a start, it saves on medical expenses and hardly ever leaves unsightly stains on the carpet.

However, well-spoken educated men are increasingly incorporating a little violence into their disciplinary code of conduct. Some analysts believe this trend of mixing and matching was a direct response to Oprah’s doomed campaign to get Hillary Clinton into the White House and thus pave the way for women to take over the world.

It is important for entry level wife-beaters to remember that spousal abuse is no longer the brutal sport it was when our parents were young. The application of minimal force through the use of smart slaps has become the feng shui of home-based violence. The Japanese even have a name for it – they call it karate, the way of the open fist, although they practice something else when it comes to killing whales.

Punches are passé and, to be honest, a bit rude. Traditional weapons like baseball bats and 9mm pistols are also on their way out as more men discover that it is better to lie back and accept the gratitude of a repentant woman than it is to spend your evening buried in paperwork at the casualty ward or take time off work to appear on homicide charges in front of a judge who is drunk on power but more likely vodka.

The open-handed slap is the workhorse of domestic violence and remains a firm favourite among men of all ages, from rural villages to the Tuscan townhouses of Houghton.

Sensitive men with a degree of self-control – architects, for instance – take pride in utilising the full range of slaps as they apply to different situations. Unlike, for example, a semi-literate welder who comes home early and finds his wife watching Jerry Springer instead of doing the laundry. Rather than using a low-level bitch-slap with marginal wrist action, he opts for the big-swing straight-arm whack-slap with full follow-through. This is the mother of all slaps and should be reserved for special occasions such as infidelity.

Should your wife be one of those skittish types who tend to bolt like a startled horse at the first sign of trouble, it is considered good etiquette to give her a head start. One minute is usually sufficient for the small to medium-sized woman. However, if she is one of those gargantuan behemoths whose idea of exercise is to open and close the fridge door 80 times a day, you might want to give her a bit longer. Like 20 years.

Husband-beating, on the other hand, is still in its infancy. This is largely because most men lack the capacity to appreciate the lighter side of physical abuse when they are on the receiving end. Unlike wife-beating, etiquette plays a secondary role in husband-beating. Because women are physically weaker, the use of blunt objects is acceptable.

However, if you are stronger than your husband, it would be only fair to rely on your innate weapons, i.e. your vicious tongue and supersonic voice, both of which can be equally damaging. You may also want to take a closer look at your sexuality. Marrying a man whom you can overpower with one arm behind your back sends disturbing signals on a number of levels. For a start, it suggests that you care not a fig for the traditional masculine/feminine divide. Fair enough. But be warned. Too much bullying raises a man’s oestrogen levels. It’s bad enough that he can’t find your clitoris. Do you really want him to start misplacing the car keys as well?

If you are a normal woman, it is likely that you will have small hands and feet. These are useless when it comes to husband beating. As a relative of the cat family, you would do better to use your teeth and nails.

When you use your teeth on your husband, his nerve endings will send out a message. Not, as you might expect, to his brain. The message first goes to his penis. His penis will then analyse the message. Depending on how much he has had to drink, your husband will respond in one of two ways. Either his penis will interpret the biting as foreplay and he will become aroused, or it will forward a new message to his brain indicating that the biting is an act of war and that his penis wants no part of this terrible business.

Since you are meant to be punishing him, it is unlikely that you would want his penis to misread the situation. Bite hard, but not so hard that you end up with a mouthful of flesh. That would be poor etiquette. Choose your spot carefully and avoid quick, random bites. You are not a piranha fish. Steer clear of erogenous zones. When it comes to men, this leaves you with two options – the top of his head (hard to grip unless you are a snaggle-toothed freak) or the numb fleshy bit on his elbow. Anywhere else and you risk turning him on.

If you would rather use your nails than your teeth, you need to once again ensure that both his brain and his penis fully understand that you are attacking and not sexually molesting him. Do not, under any circumstances, dig your nails into his back. This will only encourage him.

Good luck. Let the games begin.

An interview with the author


How did you get into writing?

When I was around five years old, I was sent to this building that had lots of rooms. A strange woman gave me and some other children coloured pencils and made us copy the alphabet. It just kind of snowballed from there. The army went some way towards helping me choose a career in writing. As a signalman, I had to learn how to type. When I came out of the army, the only thing I could do was type. That’s not strictly true. I also learned how to drink and how to shoot a gun, neither of which helped me much when it came time to choose a career. Being able to type like a demon meant that journalism was an obvious choice. I knew writing was for me because it’s one of the few professions you can do while lying in bed drinking beer.

How many words do you write in a day?

It all depends on whether or not I have a deadline. I am not one of those writers whose heads will explode if they don’t do ten thousand words by lunch. I write for money. I am a complete whore and I can’t believe I’m doing this interview for free.

Describe a day in your life?

They’re all the same, really. Wednesdays, for instance, are no different to Sundays. That’s one of the curses/blessings of being self-employed. That’s a euphemism writers use. It sounds better than ‘jobless’. I wake up early, around 10am, and look out the window to see which way the clouds are blowing. This tells me if the wind is offshore at Muizenberg or on the other side of the peninsula at Kommetjie. I will then put on my wetsuit, strap my surfboard to the roof of my car, and head out in search of waves. Surfing helps keep me sane. It also helps me to avoid doing any work. I’ll surf for a couple of hours, then go for a pub lunch. That takes me up to sunset, at which point I go somewhere else for sundowners. I prefer to start writing just as the sun has sunk below the horizon. There is something in that soft light that I find very inspiring. There is also something in beer that I find very inspiring.

Advice for people who want to become writers?

They don’t need advice. Everyone is already a writer. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites. Everyone old enough to figure out a computer keyboard is a writer. Some are good. Most are appalling. If you want to become a serious writer and make serious money, you will need to emigrate. Or, at the very least, find a publisher overseas. There are only seven people left in this country who read, and four of them would rather buy a case of beer than a book.

How is writing a column different from writing a book?

A column takes four hours to write. A book can take anything up to four days. That seems to be the case with some of the drek I’ve seen on bookshelves lately. Also, writing a column is a lot more fun. You can play loud music, carry on a conversation and drink heavily. Columns are written by the attention deficit for the attention deficit. Books are utter bastards to write. You need to concentrate for long periods of time and work in complete silence and isolation. If you are an alcoholic misanthrope who knows how to spell, the odds are you’d make a great writer.

What do you think of social media?

Antisocial media suits me because I prefer communicating with people from a distance. It’s also a voracious consumer of one’s time and has the capacity to turn bright, ambitious people into dribbling vegetables in an alarmingly short period of time. One does on occasion stumble across nuggets of moderate genius, but trawling Twitter and Facebook is by and large an overwhelmingly depressing experience because one is constantly reminded that the world is populated almost entirely by ill-informed halfwits not bright enough to realise how dumb they are.

What do you think of all these literary festivals?

I think they should be banned. If you want to know what’s in a writer’s head, buy his or her books. That’s where you will find the valuable stuff. People too often mistake writers for performers, for celebrities. We’re just conduits. Words pass from our brains, through our fingers and into our computers. If they’re good enough, they get published.

It is all very well writing a book but how do you market it, how do you get those sales rolling in?

“Rolling in” might be pushing it. Unless you write a book about rugby or a kid at a snooty private school in the KZN Midlands, it’s going to be more a case of royalties trickling in. Publishers are meant to do the marketing, but all too often their budgets are limited to three bottles of wine and a plate of snacks at the launch. Authors are increasingly expected to help with the marketing. That’s why I’m doing this interview. Hopefully tens of thousands of people will read this and rush out to buy my new book. It’s not easy marketing a book in a country where most people are only interested in things they can drink, drive, eat or wear. We need to find a way to turn books into status symbols. Or authors into celebrities. I know I said earlier that authors shouldn’t be regarded as celebrities, but I’ve changed my mind.

How can people buy your latest book?

The best way is with money. Cash or credit cards, I don’t mind. They can find it in bookstores. If they’re not sure what a bookstore looks like, it’s the shop with nobody but the staff inside. They can also order it online, either in book form or as an ebook. It’s probably safer than going out.

Dear Barman

“Two Windhoeks and a Jack on the rocks, please.”

“Sorry?”

“Two Windhoeks and a Jack.”

“Sorry?”

“TWO WINDHOEKS …”

And so it begins. I have just walked into your bar and already my idea of a fun evening is clashing heavily with your staggering inability to make the connection between the volume of the music and the fact that nobody can hear anything anybody else is saying.

All around us, people are communicating in sign language. Girls are screaming into each other’s ears. Boys have given up and are staring at the floor, slack-jawed and drooling. But none of this is important. The main thing is that you are having fun. And are you having fun? By golly, you certainly are.

Stripped to the waist, you are gyrating your hips and flipping vodka bottles through the air and catching them behind your back. How frightfully clever of you. I’m sure your parents are very proud. But while you are balancing ice blocks on your nose like a goddamn performing seal, I’m on the other end of the bar dehydrating faster than a dog in the desert. Flairing, my arse. The only things flaring are my nostrils as I hyperventilate and struggle to contain myself from leaping over the bar and smashing your gormless face repeatedly into the counter.

There are only two types of barmen. Which one are you? The alcoholic or the recovering alcoholic? Judging by the trouble you have remembering orders and working out the change in your head, I would say you were born with a touch of the old foetal alcohol syndrome. Thanks, mom.

I don’t care if you drink behind the bar. In fact, I am all for it. The more you drink, the more chance there is that I can stiff you on the bill. But what I do object to is your crass attempt at guilting me into giving you a tip. If I pay for a couple of drinks and I’m due R20 change, just give me a fucking R20 note. Don’t break it down into a whole bunch of loose change in the hope that I will leave some of it in that cracked white saucer you prod across the bar in my direction, you panhandling prick.

It’s not enough that you put a 300% mark-up on bottle store prices, but you still want me to cross your sweaty palm with silver because you went to all the trouble of walking three steps to the fridge? You can suck my cocktail shaker.

I don’t mind giving a tip to the waitress, because this rewards her for making the effort to come all the way over to my table. A tip also entitles me to sexually harass her in a light-hearted manner, which is something that I would not wish to do to you.

Hey! Look at that! For once you actually came to my end of the bar and took my order. But you know what? That tequila you just poured me? How come it slipped down my throat so easily? Where was the gag reflex? The watering eyes? You low-life son of a bitch. You cut the tequila with tap water, didn’t you? Unless, of course, my body has developed a tolerance for the stuff. In which case, I apologise.

To be fair, you do provide a valuable public service. And on behalf of millions of South Africans with a drinking problem, I would like to thank you for the good work that you do.

Why, then, must you spoil your chances of winning some sort of humanitarian award by adopting an attitude that suggests it is us who should feel deeply honoured to be served by you? Perhaps you aren’t the compassionate altruist I always thought you were. Perhaps you really are nothing more than a glorified sweatshop monkey trained to pull levers and press buttons and top up the peanut bowl.

This may come as a shock, but you are not some sort of deity that deserves to be worshipped. You are a barman. You are there to serve me, to bring me whatever I want. You are not there to look at me with hostile, hooded eyes because I have ordered something that involves more than two ingredients and maybe a small purple umbrella.

Most of the time, however, you do not look at me at all. You look at everything else except me. Even though I have fought my way through a crowd of angry dipsomaniacs standing seven-deep and am now pressed right up against the bar waving a fistful of banknotes at you, there seems to be something wrong with your peripheral vision. You wipe the counter, get more ice, wash a glass or two, check yourself in the mirror, take the orders of everyone around me. I begin to feel like a character in The Others. I start to think that maybe I died in the toilets and came back to get a drink but now nobody can see me because I am a ghost.

I pinch a girl’s bottom and she slaps me. So I am still alive. And now I’ve got your attention. But only because you think there’s trouble and you have been dying to use one of those fancy muy thai moves on a drunk customer. Well, buddy, you’re out of luck. I’m not drunk. And that’s because I have been standing here for the last hour shouting your name. Maybe I should start shouting: “Hey Batman” instead of “hey barman”.

Would you like that? You are, after all, a superhero without whom the evening would die an unnatural death as people stood about speaking among themselves in hushed tones, too self-conscious to dance, too shy to flirt, too sober to even go for a quickie in the loo.

As the designated pusher of the world’s most popular legal drug, you have the power to make people lower their expectations and shed their inhibitions. Without you, nobody would have any fun at all. Ugly people would never get laid. Tow truck drivers would be out of work. Casualty wards would stand empty. The divorce rate would plummet. The poor would have money for food.

No wonder you suffer from an overblown sense of importance.

I’m back …

Here we go again. The Citizen newspaper has kindly and courageously offered me a home for my column. My first tabloid! This is tremendously exciting.

Cut & Run appears for the first time today but will in future be published on Wednesdays.

Part of the deal is exclusivity – meaning I can’t spread the column around. It’s not on the paper’s website and it won’t appear on my blog. So if you want to read it, and you’d be an idiot not to, you will have to either buy the paper or subscribe to the newspaper’s e-edition. You can even pay for just a single copy. On, for instance, Wednesdays.

Here’s the link http://thecitizen.pressreader.com


2019 – Your Stars

After a close encounter with a celestial body on New Year’s Eve, I had an epiphany so powerful that I had to go home and change my broeks. It was downhill from then on.

All indications are that 2019 is getting itself off to a very suspicious start. On Thursday next week, Scorpio enters Venus. They barely know one another. How I miss the golden era of the Big Bang. There was a sense of propriety among the astral bodies that is sorely lacking today.

It gets worse. Pluto will be doing unspeakable things to Uranus in February. If you are of a sensitive disposition, you may want to avoid looking at the night sky next month. And keep the children inside.

Having recently spent a night or two on my back at the bottom of the garden, I am something of an expert in the ancient art of astrology as interpreted through the abominable wretchedness of alcohol poisoning. Here, then, is your Horrorscope for the year ahead.

Aries – This is a fire sign, but you probably don’t need reminding because ever since you were little, people have been telling you not to play with matches. The good news is that this is your year to burn stuff. Don’t hold back. It can be anything from parking fines to office blocks. When the police try to arrest you, tell them you are astrologically impervious to their authority since you are governed by Mars alone. If they are fellow Aries, they will understand. If they aren’t, set them alight and run away.

Taurus – Your element is Earth. This year you are entitled to behave as if you own it. Get drunk and disorderly, drive slowly in the fast lane and park in handicapped bays. You are ruled by Venus and not, as you have always thought, your penis. Your symbol is the Bull. Act accordingly. Attack people who wear red and, when angry, paw the ground and snort loudly. On the career front, you will lose your job but will find happiness in other things. Heroin, mainly.

Gemini – Nobody likes a Gemini. Not even other Geminis. Your element is Air, which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. Your symbol is The Twins. Nobody trusts twins. Your ruler is Mercury, a gay little fellow who flitted around the heavens gossiping about Aphrodite banging half the pantheon and how wasted Dionysus got at last Saturday’s bacchanalia. This is the year you shut up for a moment and give someone else a chance to talk. Divorce is on the cards. The bad news is that you will marry again before the year is out.

Cancer – You killed my mother a few years ago, you cold-hearted bastard. Because you are governed by the Moon, you cannot help carrying on like a lunatic. This is the year your aberrant mood-swings drive the last of your old friends away. You will soon make plenty of new friends and share cold showers and long walks around the exercise yard. When you are released, you will emulate your astrological symbol and approach matters in a more circumspect way. Your manner of walking in a crablike fashion attracts the wrong kind of attention and you end up with the Crab People who have been living in the Earth’s crust for thousands of years waiting for an opportunity to take over the world.

Leo – Your ruling planet is the Sun. So, to your discredit, is your favourite newspaper. Much like your symbol, the Lion, your pride often stops you from straying into unchartered territory. You are compatible with anyone as long as they have their own transport, money and functioning genitals. Driven mad by your unrelenting good humour, a family member will try to kill you in March. Your massive ego suffers a blow but you quickly recover and go on to perform an improvised comedy/musical/dance act at the Baxter Theatre. Well, outside the Baxter Theatre. In fact, on a pavement outside a tik den in Woodstock. You will be a hit. Or be hit. Or take a hit. The oracle is murky.

Virgo – Forget Gemini. Virgos are the most disliked of the star signs. You are compassionate and caring, but not so compassionate that you’d have sex with a man who is down on his knees begging for it. I’m talking about a friend, here. You will be more popular this year if you raise your skirt and lower your standards. If you’re a man, let your willy and not your brain do the thinking for a change. Many Virgos are found in the service industries. Remember that prostitution not only provides a valuable service, it’s also a fun way to earn a little extra money.

Libra – Affectionate and romantic, you depend too heavily on your partner and friends for support. The Scales are your symbol, which suggests you also depend too heavily on drugs. Ambitious yet lethargic, you need to get some balance in your life. Less weed and more speed, perhaps. Make the year more interesting by saying yes when you mean no, and vice versa. Be careful of the number seven and avoid men who wear hats.

Scorpio – Your element is water and your symbol is the scorpion. This is stupid. Scorpions hate water unless it has a dash of whiskey in it. For the sake of compromise, let us make your symbol a Jamesons on the rocks. Ruled by Mars, a rubbish planet overrun by toy cars from America, the ever-contrarian Scorpio knows all the answers and has a prodigious passion for power. All Israelis are Scorpios. You are entering an exciting new phase of love, prosperity and the total annihilation of Palestine.

Sagittarius – As the Archer, you owe it to yourself to invest in a real bow this year. Your metaphorical arrows have failed you dismally in the past, either falling short or hitting the wrong target altogether. It’s time for the real thing. And think big. Instead of stealing the office stationery, rob a bank. No, not with a bow and arrow, you idiot. Use a gun like everyone else. You will once again be unlucky in love this year. With the Centaur as your astrological symbol, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. On the other hand, I know a number of women who think nothing of sharing their bed with a creature who is half-human, half-beast.

Capricorn – Goat-people often need to be push-started. You know that the first step on any journey is the hardest, especially when you’re very stoned, and sometimes it takes a little light whipping to get you moving. Once you’re climbing the mountain of success, you don’t know when to stop and often have to be brought down with a dart gun for your own good. You will have a decision to make this year. Good luck with that.

Aquarius – The Water Bearer is not much in demand anywhere outside the Sahara, and even then your average Tuareg would rather you were bearing a six-pack of Brutal Fruit. One of them clean-living veggie Berbers would probably be happy enough with water, though. Considered to be “special” people, there are more Aquarians in mental asylums than any other sign. For those who weigh less than 53kgs, it is going to be a good year for love. Or anorexia. Watch out for a tall man with red eyes and no teeth.

Pisces – The Zodiac’s most sensitive sign, which makes no sense because fish are easily the most insensitive animals on the planet. Pisceans are relatively easy to hook and they make good eating, but can become confused and belligerent when out of their element for too long. Their natural environment is happy hour at a wet bar. July will see dreams turn into reality. In August, reality will become dreams. Come September, there will be doctors, lithium and straps on your bed.

A guide to surviving New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve. My liver huddles up against my spleen and whimpers at the mere mention of it. Come out, you lily-livered coward. I need you now more than ever.

The Anno Domini system, which counts years from the death of Jesus, spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Big deal. A lot of things spread through Europe during the Middle Ages. The Black Death, for one, yet you hardly ever see anyone walking around with a long face moaning about the good old days when the plague was all the rage, so why should we continue using a calendar wielded by organised religion as a propaganda tool in the name of … ah, forget it. Let’s stick with the liver, shall we?

To be honest, and I think honesty is important at a time like this, I have felt uncomfortable about making a huge thing out of December 31 ever since discovering that the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Catholics have done some truly appalling things over the ages and for all I know the calendar is one of them.

               The Liver

There is one school of thought that says the liver is the human body’s largest and most complex organ. This is generally the opinion of everyone who hasn’t seen me naked. Yes, Mrs Worthington of Margate, I’m talking about you.

An unsightly and consequently rather shy organ, the liver is one of the few parts of the body that are prepared to suffer in relative silence. The poor could learn a thing or two from the liver.

It must be said, however, that the liver is not as perfect as it likes to think. For starters, it takes its job way too seriously. The heart, on the other hand, knows how to have a bit of fun. It speeds up, slows down, murmurs to itself, does an Irish jig, stops altogether and then, just when you think you’re dead, starts up again. It is an impish organ that understands the art of comedic timing.

Simply put, the liver does not know how to have a good time. I find this odd, considering the amount of drugs, alcohol and nicotine that pass through it on an average Friday night.

Perhaps it’s not so strange. If we want to be really unkind, the liver is little more than the body’s policeman. It’s a sullen cop manning a permanent roadblock. What’s this? Tetrahydrocannibanol, eh? You’re coming with me. I’m going to detoxify and neutralise all the goodness out of you. Bastard.

But there is more to surviving New Year’s Eve than merely letting your liver know that it’s not the boss of you.

When Pope Gregory established December 31st as the night upon which the faithful and the faithless join hands in drunken revelry, he probably never had roadblocks in mind.

               Roadblocks

When I am president, and I will be one day, I shall give every police officer the night off on New Year’s Eve. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to party with the rest of us? After all, cops are people, too. Well, most of them are. Sort of.

All I ask for is one night of the year in which we can go out without worrying about getting slammed up against a van full of snarling dogs, cavity searched and tossed into a stinking cell to be remorselessly ravaged by a diseased convict. Is it too much to ask that we be allowed one night free of fear?

We are all adults, apart from those who aren’t, and if we are prepared to take our chances with motherless drivers, desperate divorcees and psychos on tik, then that is our choice. If you prefer to spend your New Year’s Eve clutching a glass of warm Pepsi and getting all misty eyed over ridiculous songs like Auld Lang Syne, then stay at home. By going out and expecting Mr Plod to keep you safe, you are ruining it for the rest of us.

Since I am not yet president, we have to face the reality that state-appointed arbiters of appropriate behaviour will be out there looking to ruin our lives and reputations. As if we can’t do that all by ourselves.

Fact is, even if you haven’t touched a drop all night and then you kiss someone whose blood alcohol level is above 00000.01, this would put you over the limit and you will be dragged behind the police caravan, pistol-whipped and read the last rites in a language you don’t understand.

Roadblocks can be dealt with in several ways. One is to slip into the passenger seat and tell the officer that your driver ran away. The officer may wish to attach electrodes to your testicles to determine the veracity of your story, but, unless you enjoy that sort of thing, you should remind him that the constitution frowns on torture.

Do not attempt this if there are two of you in the car. Police are trained to spot suspicious behaviour and there is nothing more suspicious than an empty driver’s seat and someone sitting on your lap in the passenger seat.

Also what you can do is pretend to have a speech impediment. Most cops treat the disabled marginally better than they do the rest of us. But don’t lean out of the window and say: “Good afterble consternoon.” That is a speech impeded by vodka shooters as opposed to, say, blunt trauma to the head.

I used to get stopped a lot before I became a master of disguise and the cops would always ask me why my eyes were so red. “I have pterygiums, officer,” I would say, opening my eyes as big as they would go without me passing out. Cops don’t want to take your statement knowing they are going to have to ask you to spell whatever the hell it was that you said you had.

You may be asked to provide a urine sample. “But I just went,” is not a valid excuse. What you need to do is invest in a fake penis. Adult World is full of them. Or so I have heard. Drill a hole down the middle of it and fill it with your dog’s urine. The cop will be so impressed by the size of your willy that he will shake you by the hand and send you on your way.

               Medical Treatment

A basic knowledge of First Aid is essential for anyone who plans on celebrating New Year’s Eve properly. There will be injuries and you need to be prepared. Under no circumstances do you want to have anything to do with state hospitals this evening. The doctors have been working for nine straight days and the nurses earn R2.50 an hour. They will not share your sense of humour no matter how much you laugh and poke your finger into your gaping head wound.

Stitches are piece of cake if you have a fish hook and a piece of gut. If you don’t at least have that in the boot of your car, you’re not a real South African and you deserve to be deported.

Carry a roll of bubble wrap in your car. The moment your girlfriend gets the wobblies,  wrap it around her. She won’t hurt herself when she plummets off the north face of her bar stool and the rest of the bar will join you in a game of Popping The Drunk.

If someone loses an eye, ask the barman for a glass of ice and stick it in there. It will be good for 24 hours.

Avoid amputations because they can be messy if you don’t have access to serviettes. A lot of people complain of severed limbs but if you look closely you will often find their leg bent behind their head.

Open heart surgery is easily conducted with a bottle of whisky and a steak knife. If you don’t have a knife, rush to the nearest restaurant and order a steak.

Right, that’s it. In the immortal words of Pope Gregory, “Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.”