Last chance to amend the amendment

Are you earning a bit of cash renting out a room or property on Airbnb?

If so, today – June 11 – is your last chance to have a say on the Tourism Amendment Act before it becomes law.

The amendment restricts the number of nights you may host guests and puts a limit on how much you may earn. All in the name of protecting the formal accommodation industry.

So if you are involved in the unpatriotic business of luring people away from struggling hotels and into your home, and you feel that heavy-handed state regulation of Airbnb is fair, you should email Mmaditonki Setwaba at atmsetwaba@tourism.gov.za and let the government know what you think.

It’s also the subject of my column in The Citizen tomorrow.

Dear Alabama Senate

Congratulations on passing what is being hailed as the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States! Me and my buddies are gonna slaughter a lamb right now to celebrate the sanctity and preservation of life.

I hear there are some who disagree with your new law. I must admit that when I first heard about it, I was also a bit critical. Is a 99-year prison sentence for doctors who perform abortions enough of a deterrent? I suppose you had to keep the liberals happy. I would have preferred to see 150-year sentences and then, if they survived that, give ‘em the chair. Hell, why waste electricity on these monsters. They deserve a taste of their own medicine. Do abortionists even use medicine? They have no ethics, these people. I heard stories of so-called doctors terminating pregnancies as late as the 64th week. This is not Haiti or Africa. Haiti might even be in Africa, which makes it worse.

Have you considered that abortion would not exist if it were not for women? Of course you have. Fifty percent of the population is walking around full of eggs begging to be fertilized, for heaven’s sake! We men do what the Bible says we must do and that’s why all twenty-five of your lawmakers who voted for your measure are decent good old god-fearing white boys with proper legacy names like Randy Price, Shay Shelnutt, Will Barfoot and Garlan Gudger. Hell, yeah. Shelnutt, Barfoot and Gudger. Now there’s a law firm I’d trust. Price would have to be a junior partner because his first name suggests men might somehow be responsible for pregnancies and that just wouldn’t do.

Without the brave twenty-five, the streets of Alabama would run red with the blood of the unborn. It would be like Gettysburg all over again, except back then families were more inclined to take in orphans and unwanted children after the war.

Just as we know that the Earth is six thousand years old, so do we know that men understand women better than they understand their own selves. We know what is best for them. Two drinks and a dollop of good old Alabaman sperm. Sure, there will be those (lesbians) who try to rebel but you must prevail. Smash the matriarchy.

The devil-worshipping bearers of free market vaginas might say that conception starts in a man’s testicles and therefore male masturbation is murder, but if they knew the first thing about our bodies they would know that we go mad or explode if we go three weeks without release. We might even be driven to kill.

Some people on drugs say that women who are blessed with a child through rape or incest should be allowed to abort that child. You need to round them up and have their tongues removed in public. We only need to look at our friends in Saudi Arabia. They know how to deal with these things. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying I approve of Muslims, but they do have a way of dealing with women and we too need not deviate from the path of the lord. To be clear, I am talking about Jesus and not Allah.

Five members of your senate voted against the bill, three of them men. I would urge you to subject the traitorous trio to a rigorous bout of gender testing. What kind of man would allow women to be in charge of their bodies when they can’t even be relied on to put gas in the car when it’s on empty? Oh, wait. The five are Democrats. That explains everything. How did they even get elected? Don’t let Alabama go soft, my friend. You have taken the lead in the war against abortion and you need to follow it up with something big. Have you considered bringing back slavery? Of course you have. Your hearts pump Confederate blood.

I don’t understand what the critics don’t understand. Men have orgasms, women have babies. It has been that way ever since Adam and Eve and the talking snake. America needs more children. Having said that, it would be helpful if there were some way of telling if the foetus was going to turn out Republican or Democrat. You could put in a clause. I’d support abortion for any unborn child that might vote Donkey. Wouldn’t you? Don’t answer that. It might jeopardise your chances of re-election.

But science is an inexact science. To appease the communists, you could have an amendment stipulating that if the woman doesn’t want the baby, the father is legally obliged to take responsibility for it. What? I apologise. I have been drinking and I’m not thinking clearly.

So now it’s in the hands of your governor – a woman. How did you allow that to happen? What if Kay Ivey refuses to sign the bill? I suppose you could always proclaim her a witch and have her drowned. No, wait. That’s Salem. Anyway, I’m sure you have your own traditional ways of dealing with stubborn women.

I forget to mention that you should forget about Roe versus Wade. Those are just two ways to cross a river. And condolences to any of your mothers who might be wishing today that abortions could be effective retroactively. Thoughts and prayers.

Like your giant virile willies, the South will rise again!

Losers, weepers

Today, 367 years ago, Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Table Bay and shouted, “Finders, keepers!” And that’s why it became known as Founders Day.

Alhough the Khoikhoi and San were taking decisions by consensus long before the Dutch navigator sashayed onto our shores in 1652, it was really the Europeans who brought the concept of modern democracy to South Africa. They also brought syphilis, guns, racism and Christianity, but we shall stick with democracy for now.

The very first ballot took place aboard the Drommedaris when the passengers and crew voted, through a show of hands and a fair amount of crying and screaming, to go back to Holland. “This looks nothing like the brochures!” they wailed. “Where are the quaint fish markets? The cycling paths? Where are the coffee shops and the dimpled harlots?”

Van Riebeeck said it was his boat and he would land wherever he damn well pleased, an attitude that gained in popularity as the Dutch settlers slowly mutated into Afrikaners.

In the years leading up to 1910, the British, the Zulus and the Boers had a whale of a time slaughtering one another. It was all fun and games until someone lost an eye and the British said they didn’t want to play any more.

“Here’s what we are going to do, chaps. We are going to let you become a self-governing dominion of the British Empire.” The Boers scratched their heads. Isn’t that where the British played dominoes? The Zulus heard about the plan last Thursday.

So it came to pass that General Louis Botha was elected South Africa’s first prime minister. Even though he fought like a tiger during the Boer War, he retained a soft spot for a girl who later insisted on being called Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, the Union of South Africa and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

As one of only three or four Boers who had ever been to London, Botha earned a reputation as something of a Brit-boetie, which was almost as bad as being seen kissing a darkie.

In 1947, King George VI popped in at the Royal Cape for a round of golf and a stern word with the Bantu. The following year, the National Party was voted into power and it was a long, long time before anyone from Buckingham Palace came near us again.

“Who are those dreadful people?” the king asked over a cup of Earl Grey beneath the royal gazebo at Balmoral. “They are called Afrikaners, daddy,” said Liz. “Rather like the Dutch, but a little more, shall we say, déclassé?”

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. On 15 September, 1910, people of a Caucasian persuasion came out in their thousands to vote in the first general election. The darkies thought the whiteys were leaving and spontaneous, yet hopelessly premature, celebrations broke out in the native yards.

Three main parties and a smattering of independents vied for 121 seats in the country’s first parliament. Nearly 105 years later, the number of parties fighting to get their snouts into the national trough has quadrupled. Parliament is also much bigger, but then so are its members.

Back then, elections were held every two, three or five years, depending on public transport and the calving season.

In 1915, the National Party made its first appearance on the ballot, as did the Socialist Party, which scared everyone by scooping 140 votes.

The Nats took ’24, ’29 and ’33 while 1938 was a huge year for the Socialist Party. Back on the ballot after a well-earned 13-year break, they took their first seat and predicted that by the end of the year everyone would be driving Ladas and calling each other comrade.

South Africa’s place in the world was well and truly secured in 1948, when National Party leader DF Malan (who later retired and became an airport) released a visionary manifesto supporting the prohibition of mixed marriages, the banning of black trade unions and job reservation for whites.

Thick, hairy clumps of farmers, their barefoot wives, wagon-mechanic sons and child-bearing daughters voted overwhelmingly for Malan – and the National Party remained resolutely in power until 1994. Good one, guys. Mooi skoot.

1960 was a particularly memorable year. A regular carnival. The mielies were fat, the lambs were healthy, the ANC was banned, there was a massacre in Sharpeville, a state of emergency was declared, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was shot and wounded and 850 000 white people voted in favour of cutting ties with Britain and then spent the next 35 years playing ‘international’ rugby fixtures against neighbouring towns, travelling ‘abroad’ to Margate and reading the Bible, the only book approved by the censorship board.

Soon after the Republic of Skunks and Polecats was formed, an aberration called the Progressive Party appeared on the ballot sheet. The party was so popular that by 1974 they had wracked up an impressive six seats in parliament. The NP, with 122 seats, shook with fear. Okay, so it might have been laughter.

Beginning to suspect that not everyone in the country was deliriously happy with existing political arrangements, the government held a whites-only referendum in 1983 to gauge support for the creation of a tricameral parliament that would allow coloureds and Indians to have a say in their own affairs, on condition that they tucked their shirts in and smoked their zol in the parking lot.

Meddling foreigners pointed out that the government had forgotten to include 23 million black people in the referendum. “What?” shouted PW Botha. “You lie, you bliksems. There’s nobody here by that name.”

By 1989 you couldn’t walk down the street without a bomb going off. It all became a bit much for Botha, sensitive man that he was. He had a stroke – a stroke of good luck for most – and was strong-armed out of the presidency.

The last all-white election took place in 1989. Feeling the winds of change hot against their necks, voters threw their weight behind the Democratic Party and … oops, wrong fairy tale. Here’s what really happened. A solid 80% of just over two million ballots were cast for the National Party, the Conservative Party and the Herstigte Nasionale Party combined. That’s how thrilled white people were at the prospect of a new society based on justice and equality for all. The Democratic Party limped in with 33 seats.

The country’s last white president pocketed a Nobel Peace Prize by unbanning the ANC and releasing Nelson Mandela. Then he threatened to sue the Truth and Reconciliation Commission if it implicated him in apartheid crimes and repaid one of the NP’s main financial backers by sleeping with his wife. Good man, that de Klerk.

Needless to say, 1994 was the mother of all elections. For the first time, darkies were allowed to vote. The ANC swept into power and, oddly enough, failed to nationalise the mines, torch the churches and eat our children.

And so here we are today. The state has been hollowed out by hundreds if not thousands of human termites, leaving behind an economy that belongs in calipers. Our parliament of whores is a national embarrassment. We have a president who is surrounded by more double-crossing back-stabbers than Julius Caesar ever was. And there are white supremacists out there who still believe they are god’s chosen people.

I’m so excited that, come the 8th of May, I shall vote for everyone on the ballot.

The Ben Trovato Files

Who among us doesn’t remember satirist Ben Trovato’s outrageously subversive trilogy of letters to and replies from the rich, famous and downright dangerous? Well, the madness continues as the letters are reincarnated for the first time on video.

Featuring scenes of the writer himself, the letters come to life in a creative mélange of stop-motion animation, live action and a liberal dose of artistic craziness.

The episodes will be short and punchy, each featuring a letter and its reply, with durations ranging from ninety seconds to three minutes. The team has produced a pilot episode titled ‘The Two Oceans Aquarium’ from a letter Trovato wrote to the big house of fish. He got a reply without even having to bribe them.

Working on this project is a close-knit production team including cinematographer Dave Aenmey and animation artist Lindsay van Blerk. Dave has worked on many commercials, music videos, documentaries and feature films during his 30-year career.

Lindsay has directed and animated numerous award-winning films including The Velveteen Rabbit and The Chimes. He worked as storyboard supervisor and director of animation on the feature film Zambezia and has also directed and animated TV commercials and television series.

The material is drawn from the many letters and replies that appeared in The Ben Trovato Files, Will The Real Ben Trovato Please Stand Up and Stirred Not Shaken.

Anyone interested in helping to finance the series in return for a production credit is invited to contact Ben at bentrovato@mweb.co.za or leave a message right here on his site. Enquiries from producers and production houses are also welcome.

The pilot episode can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmafQMWDkrA

Happy V-Day

Here’s something I wrote at a time when my so-called marriage was at its best.

………………….

Brenda said she wants me to take her out on Valentine’s Day. This puts me in a bit of a dilemma. Should I pay someone to do it or should I do it myself? Purists might say it would be more romantic to take care of something like this personally. But then what do I use? Poison would take too long. A gun is too vulgar. Perhaps a tastefully arranged accident might be best.

Living an increasingly isolated life, I have taken to musing aloud. I find it helps lull my existential crises into a false sense of reality while entertaining the dogs at the same time. Although giving voice to my thoughts goes some way towards reassuring me that I am still of this world, it does land me in a spot of bother now and again.

“Accident?” said Brenda. “What on earth are you on about?” I pretended to have suffered a stroke and began slurring about the clouds in the trees and the birds in my pocket. She was meant to pick up on the aphasia and rush me to the nearest couch, upon which I would weakly request that she bring me beer and change the channel. Instead, she accused me of being drunk and went off to make a cup of gin for herself.

God know what would happen if I ever had to have a genuine stroke. I’d probably crawl into the kitchen and lie there for days, soiling my broeks and burbling to myself while she stepped over me, reprimanding me for not closing the fridge door.

Anyway. It soon became clear that Brenda was not asking me to Kebble her. She wanted me to take her out in a far less permanent manner. To dinner, for instance. Given restaurant prices these days, it would have been cheaper to have her whacked. I watched her face to see if I had said that aloud but there was no reaction. Then again, she doesn’t react to a lot of what I say.

Valentine’s Day? Really? In a country where a woman can cut open a pregnant mother’s stomach, killing her and stealing her unborn child, and yet we’re more shocked by an increase in the petrol price? Yeah, baby! Bring on the roses and shower me with champagne.

One does not, however, wish to be the curmudgeonly grinch who pours acid rain on the happy parade. There will be festivities today and this is how it should be. It has been this way ever since a clasp of Christians called Valentine were martyred on or about the date in question. Fourteen of them, at last count. Back then, the name Valentine must have been the equivalent of John.

“This is our seventeenth bloody kid. What the hell are we going to call this one?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. You keep making me pregnant, you name him.”

“Right. Valentine he is, then. I’m off to the tavern.”

Saint Valentine’s Day was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. This dude rocked. For a start, he was of African origin. He probably wanted an entire month set aside for candle-lit dinners and unbridled fornicating. On the other hand, he did suppress the festival of Lupercalia, which makes me think he wasn’t as African as he made out to be. Lupercalia was celebrated by degenerate young nobles who would run through Rome naked, striking those they met with shaggy thongs. Girls would line up to be lashed to ensure fertility.

Pope Gelasius was an idiot. He should have stuck with it. I would far rather stay home and be whipped with a shaggy thong than trundle off to a pretentious restaurant, make small talk with a woman I don’t care for, pay a fortune for a meal I never wanted, then get arrested for drunk driving on the way home and sodomised by a fighting general in the 28s. But that’s just me.

Then, in 1969, a grumpy old man by the name of Pope Paul VI deleted St Valentine’s Day from the Roman calendar of saints. With the stroke of his pen, he kicked Cupid in the kidneys and opened the way for Hallmark to flood the world with their nausea-inducing cards.

Hallmark’s V-Day page says, “Valentine’s Day is for saying I Love Us.” What they hell are they trying to pull here? The message was always, “I love you.” What is this “us” business? Why are they screwing with the message? What are they saying? I love us, but I sure don’t love them? Who are them? Maybe them be those who don’t buy Hallmark cards.

Love is no longer the all-embracing thing it once was and it’s fair to say the world changed forever when, on a sultry summer afternoon in a San Francisco bathhouse, a small green simian sweet-talked his way into having hot monkey sex with two men wearing little more than moustaches.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Use a condom.

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.