The subscriber you have dialled has detonated

I got a message from MTN today letting me know that I was due for a phone upgrade. My eyes filled with tears. It has taken me two years to work out a fraction of my current phone’s functions. Why why would I want to get another, infinitely more complex phone? Because it’s free? It’s not really.

It will lock me into another vicious cycle of shameless information superhighway robbery and exact a terrible physical and mental toll as I discover that I’ve thrown away the manual with the wrapping and will have to spend another two years cursing and weeping and stabbing at stupid little buttons and swiping a poorly lit screen.

I can take the upgrade or cancel my contract. Or I can kill myself. If I choose option three, then I might as well do it properly by strapping a kilogram of Semtex to my chest and running into my local MTN branch shouting incomprehensible slogans in the hope that one or other of the gods will send me to a place where there are no cellphones, no taxis and nobody in a yellow bib telling me where to park.

But a security guard would stop me before I could detonate. He would tell me to take a seat, not that there are any, and wait for the next available consultant. He would point out that there is a queue of people waiting to blow themselves up and that I should just be patient.

The staff at my local branch appear to be borderline retarded. I may be doing the mentally afflicted an enormous disservice, here. For that, I apologise. But I am not exaggerating when I say that their preferred method of communication is a form of grunting last heard in the Paleolithic era.

Cellphone shop staff are second only to the police when it comes to not giving a blind rat’s arse about someone who needs help or advice. The police at least make an effort to appear interested, even if they do lapse into a vegetative state halfway through taking your statement. Most of the time they can be revived with a chicken pie.

I am on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and something called Google+ mostly by accident and almost entirely against my better judgment. I am a huge fan of social media simply because it is so utterly anti-social. Let us all interact through our portable devices instead of our physical bodies. It’s far safer and infinitely less messy. No more gaping head wounds, no more unwanted pregnancies.

What a time to be alive. Or dead.

How not to score a birdie

In the interests of balance and gender equality, it’s only right that I reproduce my letter to Tiger’s ex-wife Elin Nordegren. After this, I will never mention Tiger Woods or his family ever again, I swear.

 

Dear Elin,

First, let me offer my condolences on your recent divorce. Second, let me offer you my downstairs bedroom. I’m not sure if you have a place lined up now that you’re no longer Mrs Tiger Woods and I would hate to think of you and the children roaming the streets at night with all your possessions in a shopping trolley.

If you are interested in my offer, it would only be fair if you put some of your nannying skills to use. I have a problem child that needs looking after. Don’t worry. He’s almost 20 and you won’t have to bath him or anything like that. Unless, of course, you’re willing to do “extras”, in which case I have a few requests of my own.

You’re easy on the eye and having you around would be no trouble at all. Brenda might be a little uneasy at first, but between the three of us I’m sure we can work out an amicable solution. If you know what I mean.

I hear you have made the cover of People magazine after agreeing to speak to them about your horrific ordeal with that golf-playing sex fiend. Well done. It’s the last quality magazine left in a world awash with sensationalist rubbish.

I hope they are paying you well for your story. After all, your divorce settlement of $100-million or so won’t last forever. As you said in your interview, you won’t have to work initially. Out here in South Africa, we have people who are down to their last million. It’s too sad for words. Still, as Groucho Marx said, the poor will always be with us.

I am pleased to see you are sticking to your story that you had no idea Tiger was hitting the sweet spot every time your back was turned. Perhaps your sixth sense was blunted from the overpowering smell of money that must have pervaded your home.

Some people say that Tiger strayed after your libido became trapped in pack ice. What nonsense. You’re Swedish, for heaven’s sake. You people die without sex.

I see you’re also sticking to your story about not having attacked Tiger on that terrible Thanksgiving evening. Smart move, babe. Why run the risk of coming across as a psychotic Viking running across the lawn in your nightie screeching in a foreign tongue and failing a 9 iron above your head? The last thing you want at this stage is to lose public support. Tiger crashed his car after succumbing to a bout of the yips. It happens to golfers everywhere, usually after they have spent a few hours at the 19th hole. Or a few hours in 19 holes. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to reopen old wounds.

Anyway. I’m just glad that you got out in time and didn’t end up like Nicole Simpson. I am not for one minute suggesting that Tiger would eventually have done an OJ on you, but you know what they say about black men who marry white women – they go mad after a while.

A word of advice: take some of that money and buy yourself a new man – one who isn’t obsessively preoccupied with his willy. There aren’t many of them out there, to be sure, but if you look hard enough and offer the right kind of money, I’m sure you will find one. It would help if you’re no longer suffering from jungle fever.

Now that you have given People magazine an exclusive interview, I hope you will consider a centrespread for Hustler. Both are equally reputable publications and your celebrity status will be given a huge boost. As will my testosterone levels. I’ll get the downstairs room ready in the meantime.

As they say in Sweden, lycka till!

 

Mea culpa, you a golfer

So, anyway. In February 2010, three months after I wrote my letter to Tiger Woods, he issued a televised statement apologising for his behaviour. I’m not saying this was in response to my letter, but I’m not saying it wasn’t, either.

Here’s the column I wrote at the time.

 

THE image of golf has suffered terribly as a result of Tiger Woods’ breach of marital etiquette. Yes, I can see how that might happen. I was thinking of taking it up but then Tiger ruined it for me by making a billion dollars a year and sleeping with dozens of beautiful women. I, for one, will have no truck with such filth. Instead, I shall take up a sport in which I stand to make no money at all and get to sweat so heavily that I attract stray dog rather than hot girls.

You have to hand it to the Americans. You can get caught pimping underage immigrants to support your heroin habit, but if you squeeze a drop of glycerine into each eye and go on television and apologise and say that you’re taking gender sensitivity classes and checking yourself into rehab, the nation will applaud you.

This applies to celebrities more than it does garbage collectors and other members of the proletariat whose mea culpa is generally described as a confession rather than a courageous admission of their human frailty.

It only works for Americans, though. When British actor Hugh Grant’s willy accidentally fell into a prostitute’s mouth while the two of them were discussing the Middle East crisis in a side street off Sunset Boulevard on June 27, 1995, he never tried to “rehab” his way out of it. His laddish grin on the LAPD’s mugshot said it all. What happened in the car that night – that wasthe treatment. Let us be clear on that. Suffering from a prolonged dearth of fellatio, Mr Grant had his ailment treated by the nearest qualified person, who in this case happened to be nurse Divine Brown.

Tiger Woods, on the other hand, speaks for thirteen minutes and convinces the world that he is a very sick man deserving of our sympathy.

Halfway into his statement something strange happened. I began feeling as if I had done something wrong. As he spoke, the burden of guilt lifted from his shoulders and settled on mine. He was pulling some kind of weird voodoo stunt and getting away with it.

Tiger blamed the media for daring to suggest that his perfect Swedish wife, Elin, had clubbed him like a baby seal on that terrible Thanksgiving evening. “It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that.” I hung my head in shame. “Elin never hit me that night or any other night.” Brenda snorted. “Some Viking she is.”

There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage,” Tiger insisted. Well, maybe there should have been. You’d be surprised at how sexual tension can be relieved by smacking one another around for an hour or so. It certainly works for Brenda and me.

I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.” And the problem is what exactly? This is precisely why fame and fortune are a tad more in demand than, say, obscurity and penury.

What is the point of being rich and powerful if you’re going to be like the rest of us and go home to a cold, hostile wife who puts your dinner plate on the floor and expects you to get down on all fours and eat it like a dog?

We are only the way we are because we’re too goddamn lazy to work relentlessly at something until we are so ridiculously good at it that people line up to throw money at us to watch us do it or even just write or talk about it.

Tiger apologised to parents who had once used him as a role model for their kids. What rubbish. Show me one teenage boy who spent weeks sobbing in his room after hearing that his golfing idol’s idea of relaxation was to check into a R40 000-a-night hotel, drop a little A-grade ecstasy and lick Beluga caviar off the quivering thighs of naked porn stars while cocktail waitresses vibrating with lust queued in the corridor.

My loinfruit, Clive, showed no interest in golf until Tiger got bust. Now all he wants to do is get his hands on a bag of clubs, a bankie of Ambien and one of those Thai girls who work in the house across the road. That’s my boy.

Instead of being lauded for making golf the aspirational sport that it should be, Tiger was forced to grovel. Shocking, really, and a scathing indictment on what kind of world we are bringing our children into.

It’s hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February, I was in in-patient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I’m facing. I have a long way to go.”

And right there, the attitude of millions of people watching Tiger beat himself up went from self-righteous disapproval to a weird mix of empathy and pride. You fucked up, Tiger, but you’re dealing with your problem and we’re proud of you for that.

It’s black magic, I tell you. Not only does he manage to convince us that he has a problem, but he has somehow convinced us that his problem is different to the problem experienced by all men – that of wanting to sleep with lots of different women but not being able to because we are too ugly, too poor, too stupid or too fearful that some supernatural being might be judging us.

Tiger has already been through 45 days of hell. Therapy for sex addiction is no walk in the park. It involves role playing where women brutally rebuff your advances, group sessions where everyone points and laughs at your privates and being strapped down and forced to watch videos of women giving birth. Or so I have been told.

Stupidly, he said, “I have a long way to go.” In other words, “I still want to tear my clothes off and jump on anything that isn’t nailed to the floor.”

You used to have a great grip, Tiger. Don’t lose it now. Why didn’t you just say that the six weeks of therapy worked? Tell us you’re cured, for god’s sake. Nobody would even know the difference.

Actually, it doesn’t matter what you say. From now on you’re doomed to live the life of a Buddhist monk. I’d suggest you work on your chanting because your days of shrieking and whooping are well and truly over.

Talk about blowing it on all fronts.

Golfing For Rats

Tiger Woods says he’s “blessed” to be back after winning his first PGA Tour event in over five years, following a long and painful return to form from a back injury.” – news report.

But it was this quote – “All of a sudden it started hitting me I was going to win the tournament” – that reminded me of a letter I wrote to the maestro almost nine years ago. I reproduce it here in the interests of, well, nothing, really.

Dear Tiger,

It is absolutely outrageous that the filthy, lying dogs of the media are saying you came home smelling of some Yiddish tart called Rachel and that your wife scratched your face to bits then chased you out of the house, and when you tried to escape in your Cadillac you ploughed into a tree because you were whacked on painkillers and your eyes were full of blood and Elin caught up to you and smashed the window with a nine iron and dragged you out of the car and continued to maul you right there on the lawn in front of the neighbours.

This kind of wild speculation makes me sick. Your version of events, even though you haven’t given it yet, is far more plausible. Let me guess. You woke up in the middle of the night desperate for one of them damn fine Dunkin’ Donuts and you got up quietly so as not to wake your beautiful wife whom you love more than life itself and just as you were pulling away a dog, no, a pack of dogs, ran in front of you causing you to swerve and hit a fire hydrant and then a tree. Alerted by the noise, your beloved awoke and upon seeing you trapped semi-conscious inside the vehicle after your terrible accident she grabbed the nearest implement which in your house would obviously be a golf club and came to your rescue.

My wife says I am a gullible fool and that you were clearly up to your elbows in un-American activities. I find it easier on the kidneys if I agree with her, so I am changing my story.

You idiot! What on earth were you thinking? Whatever possessed you to marry a white woman? Did your mother not warn you about this? I know white women. Trust me when I say they are almost always more trouble than they are worth. Out here in the bush, many of our politicians have dozens of wives each and you never hear about marital problems. Why? Because they marry black women.

Look, I’m also a sucker for Swedish babes. Who isn’t? But as you have discovered, it’s not all hot monkey sex in the sauna and rolling about naked in the snow beating one another with birch branches. These people are Vikings, for heaven’s sake. They are natural born rapists and pillagers. Cross them and they will be at your throat in an instant.

If, on the other hand, this is a publicity stunt, then I have to say you have outdone yourself. Many of us have long suspected that you were some kind of robot or alien from another galaxy. Nobody could be that perfect. My racist friend Ted always said your only discernible flaw was that you were black, but after you made your first billion nobody even noticed that any more.

Perhaps you decided to do something outrageous to make yourself seem human. Unlike Britney Spears, you could hardly dismount from your golf cart at the US Masters and give the paparazzi a clear shot at your gentleman’s region. So you did the next best thing – staged an affair with a sultry temptress from New York City. Classy. I like it. Did it slip your mind to tell Elin that the entire business was a PR hoax?

Whatever you do, don’t speak to the cops. Look what they did to OJ. Next thing, you know, you’re up on charges of murdering half the neighbourhood. You can come and stay with us for a while. I instructed Brenda to get the spare room ready but she threatened to disembowel me with a screwdriver. That’s white women for you.

Anyway, good luck with whatever the hell it is you’re up to.

Yours at the 19th hole,

Ben Trovato

Happy Heritage Day

I am fascinated by the cultural differences that exist in this great country of ours. When I’m not busy being fascinated, it’s all I can do not to pack a bag, grab my passport and head for the nearest airport.

Black people have a rich culture that includes ancestor worship, traditional healing, lobola, ritual slaughter (cows, sheep, taxi drivers etc) and settling tribal disputes with machete fights at dawn.

White people have a culture that is rooted in sport, beer, fear, litigation and emigration.

Although I am always careful not to stereotype anyone, I think it is important to point out that industrial action is also an integral part of black culture.

When white people sing and dance, you can be fairly sure they’re in high spirits and celebrating something or other – more often than not, their good fortune at having been born into the Caucasian race.

When black people sing and dance, there is no such certainty. What looks like a rollicking street party frequently turns out to be angry mobs of striking workers.

When whiteys feel oppressed, they suffer in silence. Well, those who aren’t rich enough to move to Perth or stupid enough to join Afriforum suffer in silence. Sometimes, one will come home from work, quietly murder his family and then blow his brains out. Generally, though, they don’t do much more than mope around the braai exchanging racial slurs through mouthfuls of brandy and boerewors.

Darkies, on the other hand, are always ready with a song and dance at the first sign of exploitation. This is where the confusion sets in. To the untrained eye, it appears that the brethren are indulging in a bit of the old merriment, what with the ululating and leaping about. I have seen tourists join in under the impression that they have stumbled across some sort of primitive ethnic festival. Whipping out their cameras, they flail their little white arms and legs, roll their eyes and shout happy gibberish in the hope that it passes for Swahili.

Here are some other things that make South Africa special.

We have a fascinating array of indigenous fauna, all of which go well with one or other of our many endemic sauces.

Our flora, too, is not to be sneezed at. Unless, of course, you suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis, in which case you have no business living here.

Our national flower, the king protea, was recently replaced by the cannabis sativa.

Our national bird is the blue crane, a graceful creature that specialises in pinning people to the ground and pecking their eyes out. Canada’s national bird is the Common Loon. It reminds me of Steve Hofmeyr.

The motto on our coat of arms isǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke Nobody outside of the /Xam tribe knows what it means. Most South Africans think it’s a hyperlink.

When it comes to the national animal, we have the springbok. France has some sort of chicken. Our rugby team is also called the Springboks. The French once accused us of playing like animals. This made us feel tremendously proud.

Our national fish is the galjoen. Like most hard-drinking South Africans, the galjoen is regarded as a creature that will fight to the death. Cooked over an open fire, however, galjoen tastes a lot better than the national drunk. Decolonised galjoen prefer to call themselves black bream.

Jaws Truly

“Four large sharks have been killed in Australia after a woman and a girl were attacked at a popular Great Barrier Reef tourist spot.” – news report

Drum lines, which use baited hooks to catch the predators, ensnared the tiger sharks. One of them was 3.7m long, according to Fisheries Queensland spokesman Ray Remora. Three of the sharks were shot while the fourth had a spike driven into its brain.

“It’s the only language they understand,” said Remora.

Many conservationists are against the practice of randomly targeting sharks with drum lines.

“Those bloody shark-huggers don’t know their arse from their elbow,” said Remora. “But, yeah, fine. We can’t say for sure if those four tigers were the ones that chewed our people, but that’s not the point. Revenge is what we’re after. You bite two of ours, we kill four of yours.”

Remora pointed out that the attacks took place at the Whitsunday Islands. “You’d think the bastards would behave themselves around islands with the word Sunday in it. Sharks have got bugger all respect for our culture. Worse than the bloody refugees.”

He said there was nothing more sacred than the Australian way of life. “The Queensland government is here to protect white people, not white sharks.”

Thank you. Ngiyabonga. Mahalo.

Before the weekend gets underway and everything goes to hell in a handbasket, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has contributed to my fun-raising campaign. You’re very generous and are absolutely going to heaven in the opposite of a handbasket.

Some of you asked about the possibility of subscribing on a monthly basis and I am happy to oblige. This function is now available in the sidebar on the right. If you do choose this option, I’ll throw in one of my books for free.

Now that I have been removed from the mainstream media’s assembly line and am no longer forced to comply with grim editorial restrictions and draconian deadlines, I feel somehow lighter. Poorer, but lighter. As if I’ve been freshly unshackled. It’s probably because I no longer have a boss.

Hang on. Since I am now writing exclusively for you, the people, this means that everyone who follows my site is in effect my boss. In other words, I have 51 483 bosses.

Be gentle.

 

Howzit!

Welcome to my shiny new website! Is there anyone out there? Just nod if you can hear me.

It’s a bit of a bare-bones site at the moment but in the coming weeks I hope to tart it up and offer more content, links and free stuff like instructions on how to build your own nuclear weapon.

I’d also like to extend an invitation to advertisers. I think you’ll find my rates more flexible than Jacob Zuma’s integrity.

I didn’t want to make it a subscription site as suggested by some, like Bhekisisa, who was generous enough to write, “Put this behind a paywall. I am prepared to pay per article”. I gave it some thought but decided that when it comes to walls, the world could do with fewer of them.

Some of you offered to motivate me financially in return for making you laugh. Since I am now writing exclusively for you, the people, that seems fair enough. So there’s a button somewhere on the site where you can do just that. Think of it as a fun-raising campaign.

Oh, yes. And you are also able to download my books at charity shop prices.

The first post is my inaugural column that appeared in the Cape Times sixteen years ago almost to the day. Some of you were still at school when it came out. The euro had just been introduced. The world had a billion fewer people in it. And the first cellphone to have a built-in camera was released. That’s how long ago I started this nonsense.

So come on, then. Join me in a little walk down memory lane.

Gorilla Tactics in Mating Season

I am looking forward to spring more than most men.

It is the time when somebody cleans the house. But more importantly, there is a very good chance that my wife will thaw. Brenda’s libido has been trapped in pack ice ever since the first rains fell.

My efforts to send out a metaphysical icebreaker have repeatedly failed and I still bear the scars from an incident involving a multi-pronged kitchen utensil.

A warning to other men. Do not, under any circumstances, approach your woman silently from behind while she is washing a sink overflowing with dishes and try to pull her skirt down in one fluid movement expecting her to whip around and sink gratefully to her knees. Granted, not all women will instinctively lash out with a blunt instrument. But my Brenda is well trained in the often untidy art of suburban warfare.

My latest attempt to imbue a little spring fever in her was met with howls of outrage and a running battle that swept through the house until the neighbours threatened to call in the army. Ted and Mary usually call the cops but they switched to the military after the local police station had its telephone stolen.

These days I wear padded clothing and a fencing mask when I try to instil a little of the passion that once raged in Brenda’s ample bosom. She is a bit of a tease and likes to play hard-to-get by locking me out of the house.

Ted suggested that I approach the Constitutional Court since Brenda is clearly violating my conjugal rights. A brilliant idea, I thought, until I remembered that judges these days are a bunch of limp-wristed nancy boys who are more concerned about appeasing disgruntled lesbian couples than they are about protecting the interests of red-blooded males who have wives that refuse to meet their connubial responsibilities.

But once Cape Town catches up with the rest of the country and realises that winter is over, I believe I stand a far better chance of getting Brenda to see what she is missing. And I won’t even have to use force. With the warmer weather, she will stop wrapping herself up like a beef roti before going to bed. And once she realises that direct eye contact no longer signals an impending outbreak of hostilities, she will become more generous with her favours.

She might even start cooking me dinner again. The laundry may take some time, but I have no doubt that once the birds are singing and the flowers are blossoming, she will make a start on the enormous pile of dirty clothes that threatens to topple over and suffocate me while I sleep.

It is not that I refuse to do any domestic chores. It’s simply that I don’t know how. Women are genetically programmed to clean, cook, sew, crush a man’s confidence with a single word and so on. A man, on the other hand, will see a vacuum cleaner and immediately start thinking that with bigger wheels on it and a small petrol-driven engine mounted on the back, it would be possible to ride it along the beach and discover new fishing spots while circumventing the ban on 4x4s. The dirty floor is quickly forgotten while he sets about designing this revolutionary vehicle.

She gets home to find the vacuum cleaner has been disembowelled and her man has gone off to the pub because he knows there is safety in numbers. As for me, I’m on my best behaviour.

I simply cannot allow another rutting season to slip through my fingers.

September 2002

 

 

There’s gold in them thar seminars

It might just be because I’m freshly unemployed and the algorithms are sensing my fear, but I have started noticing more and more Facebook ads from people who have a burning, selfless desire to make us all fabulously wealthy.

They plan on doing this by holding free seminars. That’s right. Free. These people are so generous that they want nothing in return. All they ask is to be given the opportunity to explain to us how to turn our miserable lives around and become massively successful in no time at all. It’s astounding. I had no idea there were such good people in the world today.

Over five days this month, 22 seminars titled ‘Think and Grow Rich’ will be held in Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Polokwane. Obviously I’ve been doing the wrong kind of thinking. Or more likely, given the state of my bank account, not thinking at all.

Their banner promises “A lifetime of riches in property.” Ah, that explains why Cape Town’s not on their list. Thanks to a shameless feeding frenzy sparked by predatory foreign buyers and fuelled by rapacious estate agents, everyone in the last staging post for white people has already made millions through property.

According to their website, the seminars are “inspired by Napoleon Hill’s original teachings”. Napoleon won’t be making an appearance at the Lombardy Boutique Hotel in Pretoria East or anywhere else for that matter because he be long dead. Napoleon’s life is littered with failed business ventures. In fact, he only ever made money from writing books on how to make money. Also, he heard ‘spirit voices’ which he said helped him write the books.

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The website implores us to “Imagine a lifetime of financial freedom!” You see, they shouldn’t do that. A lot of people use their imaginations to make a living. These are the ones who never have money. If you tell them to imagine being so rich that they’d never have to work again, there’s a very good chance you’d find us, I mean them, weeks later sitting in a forest laughing and talking to the trees.

Those blessed without imaginations will race ahead. They will be assured that Napoleon “has helped transform millions of lives, turning budding entrepreneurs around the world into focused business achievers”. Here’s a fun fact. More than 90% of people who decide to become an entrepreneur would struggle to spell the word correctly. I don’t know if that is a fact. It’s just something I heard. In my head. Right now. Damn voices always telling me rubbish that has nothing to do with making money.

Sylvia from Ga-Rankuwa seems to be their poster girl. Thanks to the tools she received from Think and Grow Rich (not tools like automatic weapons and plastic explosives) she went from “negative yielding properties to being a specialist in buying distressed properties from auctions and distressed sellers, refurbishing them and flipping to raise capital”. Not knowing what this means makes me feel pretty fucking distressed, too.

I won’t say anything more about Sylvia because her surname is Milosevic and the last thing I need is some tough guy from Pretoria getting Serbian on my ass.

But, hey. They promise that in just two hours your life will never be the same again. It’s not impossible. My life certainly changed in the two hours it took to conclude both my marriages. I have since managed to wrestle it back under control. Sort of.

What if you live under an upturned boat at the harbour and you’re too poor to invest in a mutton bunny chow, let alone property? No problem. You should still attend the seminar because “part of what you’ll learn is how to creatively acquire and raise finance towards your property investment”. They don’t suggest ways to get past seminar security if you’re bleeding from an open head wound and smell like a rotten snoek. To be fair, people do creatively acquire finance all the time in this country. Mostly through cash-n-transit heists, but each to his own.

You are encouraged to bring guests to the seminar because “building a personal fortune is more fun and rewarding when you have a friend or family member to share the experience”. The experience, sure. But the profits? There will be blood. I can guarantee it.

Another question people frequently ask is, Will I have to buy anything? This is, after all, a free seminar and you don’t want to come all the way down here, bribe the pigs at the roadblock, hassle for parking, pay a car guard, maybe get mugged, find you can’t smoke or buy a drink, sit on a cheap plastic chair wedged between people reeking of desperation and still have to buy something at the end of it.

Of course not. “You are not required to purchase anything,” says the website in a soothing voice. However. “We do offer additional educational products and services at our workshops.”

They also offer people a free gift for attending the seminar. Quite likely the same kind of free gift that guarantees you safe passage out of a timeshare presentation.

Then there’s another one coming up in Durban and Cape Town. The Secret to Business and Financial Success! The secret, as far as I can make out, is to use the word Secret. You mean there’s a secret to making money? I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. All journalists are. Mention that something is secret and we’d kill to find out what it is and then tell as many people as possible about it.

This seminar is an interminable four hours and might explain why presenter Anne Wilson is pictured clutching her temples. Co-presenter Brian Walsh is seen in a more relaxed pose. Maybe a bit too relaxed. They both look a bit mad, to be honest.

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In their short blurb, they use the word ‘secret’ thirteen times. There’s a reason Frodo Baggins didn’t tell everyone who passed by that he was on a mission to destroy the One Ring at the Crack of Doom in Mordor before Sauron could get his filthy hands on it. That’s because it was a secret. If you tell too many people that you know something they don’t, they’re going to start thinking there’s something wrong with you mentally and in all likelihood will stop inviting you to their parties.

Brian name-drops Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. He ponders if they became successful because they know “the secret”. Brian can confirm that, after thirteen years of research at The REAL Entrepreneur Institute, there is indeed such a secret. Judging by the number of people who attend their seminars, there can’t be that many who know the secret. Perhaps it really is only Richard, Elon, Jeff and Brian.

Brian is “super excited” that a “very special lady” will join him to share the second secret. Yeah, there’s a second secret. It doesn’t get better than this. The second secret “involves our habits and management of money”. I can’t remember what the first secret was. I’m not that kind of journalist.

The very special lady is Ann Wilson. She looks thirty years younger in her second picture. That must be one of the benefits of financial success. Brian and Ann are “super excited” to share their life-changing secrets with us.

Perhaps anticipating an existential crisis, there is a section that introduces “People who have seen Ann and Brian together”.

Marlene Visser thanks them for an amazing seminar filled with laughter, information and food for thought. Being a free seminar, I imagine that’s the only food you’ll get. Christopher Ndohlo said, “Each presenter did way more than i expected and thank you for the invite it was a moment i dont intend forgetting,.” I don’t know, Chris. I expect there’s more chance of success if you work on your grammar and punctuation.

Anyway. Fuck it. We’re all hustling to stay alive. Some preachers get their flock to swallow snakes and petrol. It’s up to you what you want to swallow. But I just can’t work out why Brian and Ann and Napoleon’s people do this kind of thing for free. Come to think of it, I can’t even work out why I’m doing this for free. Until recently, this would have appeared in the next Sunday Tribune.