With all this talk of farm murders and other crimes of a less savage nature, I thought it a good time to share a chapter from my book Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival.
BUYING property is a big decision. Bigger even than choosing a wife. These days it is far easier to divorce a dud wife than it is to sell a dud house.
You home is your castle. You worked hard for it and you have the right to defend it with your life. Or, preferably, someone else’s life.
When it comes to choosing where to buy, a lot of people make straight for the gated villages and security estates. I am not a big fan of these for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that you can’t escape easily if the sheriff comes looking for you.
Whether you opt to live in the leaf-riddled suburbs, within the walls of a fortified compound or free-range on a farm, you need to pay close attention to the points of entry. Some people prefer to stay in apartments high up in the sky where the yellow-eyed varmints can’t get to them. The estate agents call this a lock-up-and-go. All my life, wherever I have lived, I have simply locked up and gone. And yet I have been burgled more times than I care to mention. So much for that idea.
The suburbs are the natural habitat of the common housebreaker. Although they are solitary animals, it is not uncommon to find two or three of them hunting together. These shy creatures are easily startled and are difficult to spot during the day. Nocturnal by nature, they have a keen eye for detail, especially when it comes to alarm systems and dogs.
Police have warned that “scouts” leave coded messages on the pavement indicating which houses are safe to be robbed. Green crème soda cans let the boys know it’s open house. Red Coke cans signify that a little force might be required. Police urge residents to report strange objects that appear on the pavements outside their homes. Among the unusual objects that regularly appear on my pavement are drunk homeless people. I am still trying to work out what this signifies. I also on occasion leave half-empty beer bottles outside my house. I hope this strange new code gives the varmints sleepless nights.
The only way to ensure that you are never broken into is to make your house impregnable. Doors and windows are the weakest security points. These must be bricked up. Make sure you do this from the inside. If you have a chimney, seal it off. Burglars can also gain entry through your roof so you will need to replace your ceiling with a concrete slab. Your house should now be completely safe. Nobody will be able to get in to rob you. Nobody will be able to get out, either, so make sure you have enough food to last for the rest of your life. If you are married to someone who insists on getting out now and again, then you should probably consider other options.
Here are a few ways you can minimise the chances of getting burgled.
Apart from being one of the sillier words in the English language, a moat can be highly effective in keeping the varmints at bay. To minimise your water bill, it is best to run hoses from taps around the neighbourhood. If you live near a stream or river, go out late at night with a spade and divert it so that it fills your moat.
Once your moat is full, you may want to make a feature of it by adding water lilies, fountains and a couple of crocodiles to take care of those housebreakers who, as adults, have learned to swim.
Crocodiles are easily obtained in South Africa. Lake St Lucia is well stocked with these brutes. In Zululand, nature conservation officials move slower than the crocs so you need not worry about getting caught. You should worry more about getting eaten. With that in mind, try to avoid taking fully-grown crocs. As tempting as may be to have instant security, you will have trouble fitting more than one adult in the boot of your car. You could tie another to your roof racks if you don’t mind attracting attention.
If you are pressed for time, it makes more sense to load up on eggs. You can visit one of our crocodile farms and stuff the eggs down your pants when nobody is looking or you can get them on eBay for a few dollars apiece.
The eggs of saltwater crocodiles take about 80 days to hatch, but I would suggest you stay away from these unless you are prepared to go to the trouble of converting your moat. Some people say chlorine is best, others swear by salt. I don’t want to get involved. This argument has claimed lives.
You are most likely to end up with Nile crocodiles. Crocodylus niloticus can grow to over five metres long and weigh up to a ton so it is best to get them while they are young. Unless you want the SPCA on your case, you will have to feed your crocodiles on a regular basis. Although they will get to eat the occasional drunk who falls into your moat, this should be seen more as a dietary supplement than anything else.
One of the major benefits of using crocodiles instead of other aquatic species such as geese or hippos is that crocodiles can live for up to 80 years in captivity. Not having to replace your watchcrocs will save you a lot of money in the long run. Don’t forget to get the drawbridge people in before you fill your moat.
Some people have a thing about landmines. Princess Diana was one. She decorated two entire rooms at Balmoral with disarmed mines. The green room was reserved for anti-tank mines, the red room for anti-personnel mines. They were all there, from the Soviet POMZ-2 to the American M-18 Claymore. A particular favourite of Diana’s was the Valmara 69. Produced in Singapore, this little baby can shoot more than a thousand metal fragments over a 25-metre radius. Sometimes, when William and Harry were little, she would bring out the OZM-3 jumping mine as a special treat and let them play with it. The princes had hours of fun trying to catch it as it bounced through the castle.
None of this, however, is of any concern to you. All you have to do is remember where you laid your mines. I have heard of people who went to the trouble of sowing a minefield around their house only to step outside to fetch the newspaper and get blown up. It is essential that you create a map showing precisely where the mines are.
Most housebreakers prefer to take the path less trodden, so you might want to scatter some of those mines in the more inaccessible areas of your garden. Try not to bury any in the flowerbeds. Reliable gardeners are hard to find these days.
If you are a real patriot you will want to get your hands on something homegrown. During the 1980s Armscor turned out some damn fine blast and fragmentation mines. Unfortunately these have not been stocked at local hardware stores since Nelson Mandela was released. You could try getting your mines from the Russian mafia in Cape Town, but be advised that it is very difficult to get through to them. On all levels.
Here’s an idea. Why not make it a fun outing? Take the family to Angola for the weekend. Even though the country is a little run-down, landmines can still be found in most of the rural areas. It might take a while, but with a little poking around, you, mom or one of the kids are almost guaranteed to pick up a few good-quality mines for use around the home.
Walls and fences
The Germans and Israelis have done more to popularise defensive walls than any other nation in recent times. The trend was started by Roman emperor Hadrian in 122 AD when he built a stone wall right across Great Britain. It was the only way he could keep the lunatic Scots at bay. The feat impressed the electorate back in Rome and simultaneously served as a warning that Romans would not hesitate to build stone walls should anyone dare try to stop them from taking over the world.
Today, Hadrian’s Wall is the most popular attraction in northern England and tourists are often seen walking the length of it. Considering what else is on offer in northern England, this is extreme adventure at its best.
If we had to be honest we would admit that the Chinese started this nonsense with walls around 220 BC, but they claim credit for way too much already and I doubt that I shall mention them again.
Not everybody believes in the power of walls. The anti-wallers believe that by erecting a wall you are converting your home into a prison. What’s wrong with that? When last did you hear of a prison being broken into? How often does the head warden get back to his office to find his door kicked in and his TV missing? It just doesn’t happen. Prisons are the safest places on earth because they have walls around them.
Barbed wire vs blade wire
Anyone who grew up in South Africa will have a soft spot for barbed wire. Anyone who is white, of course. Barbed wire was invented to keep the darkies in their place and out of yours. Barbed wire sent out an unambiguous signal. Barbed wire was on the side of right. Barbed wire was strong. Trustworthy. It had principles.
Barbed wire topped the fences around our military bases. It lined the streets whenever the natives got restless. It lay there in tight reassuring coils in hardware stores throughout this once great country. If it weren’t for barbed wire, parliament would have fallen to the communists long before 1994. And if barbed wire is good enough for Guantanamo Bay, it’s good enough for your home.
The only negative thing I can say about barbed wire is that it is very working class. If you have received a good education and are well spoken (i.e. English-speaking), the chances are that you will prefer to secure your house with something that has a little more breeding. I am talking about razor wire, also known as blade wire. The Germans came up with it in World War One. And even though they eventually lost the war, they did succeed in killing several million enemy soldiers before admitting defeat. This was not bad going for a country that had little more than the crumbling Ottoman Empire and a couple of stoned Hungarians on their side.
It was at 11am of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 that a ceasefire came into effect. At 10.58am, a German sniper shot Canadian George Price through the head. Being the last soldier to die in the Great War showed the world once and for all what Canadians really are – a bunch of no-hope losers with an appalling sense of time and place.
This has nothing to do with razor wire.
The most aesthetically pleasing device to come out of the home security industry. Its spikes will tear your burglar to shreds, but at least he can admire its shroud of lifelike plastic green leaves while slowly bleeding to death in the hydrangeas.
Home alarm systems remain one of the most popular deterrents to people who lie around all day drinking wine from plastic bottles and smoking crystal meth and then when everything runs out they think they can come over to your house and take your stuff and sell it for a fraction of its worth so that they can stay drunk and wired for another three days. If it were that easy, we would all be doing it.
Alarms work by frightening off burglars who suffer from hyperacusis, an abnormal sensitivity to loud noises. These burglars, who make up 0.1% of the housebreaking fraternity, now wear earplugs to work.
Alarms are also designed to alert the neighbours that there is trouble next door. However, neighbours in South Africa have long since learnt not to get involved in anything that happens beyond their garden gate. The house next door could be dismantled piece-by-piece and carried away by a chorus line of transvestites in fishnet stockings and latex rubber leotards singing “Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go” and still the neighbours would say, “Didn’t hear a thing. We had the rugby on, you know.”
These days most alarms are linked to armed response companies. Keep in mind that most housebreaking syndicates are also linked to armed response companies.
If you are at home and your alarm is activated, all it really does is induce cardiac arrest in the elderly and infirm, give you a splitting migraine and encourage your cats and dogs to find a new home in the next town.
If you insist on an alarm that makes a conventional wailing sound, I suggest you invest in the type that Israel uses to warn people in Haifa that Hezbollah is about to ruin their day. If your alarm can be heard by every police station in the city, the odds are dramatically increased that someone might come around and investigate. If it’s not lunchtime, that is.
Try to get your hands on a Chrysler Air Raid Siren. It is the size of a car and weighs three tons but if you can hoist it up on to your roof, it would be a desperate burglar who would keep robbing you with 138dB howling into his head.
You may want to impress or even terrify your neighbours by acquiring a siren that has the ability to broadcast voice messages. These electronic sirens are similar to conventional sirens except for the fact that they rely on a series of electrodynamic, horn-loaded loudspeaker drivers to produce sound. I presume you record your message in much the same way that you would on your telephone answering machine. Here are a few suggestions in case you can’t come up with any of your own:
“The house is surrounded. Get down on the floor. If you move, you will be shot.” (Edit in background sound of helicopters and dogs barking).
“This is God speaking. Stop that at once.” (Insert background sound of thunder and a chorus of celestial voices raised in anger).
“Freeze! I’m Ma Baker! Put your hands in the air and gimme all your money!” (Boney M instrumentals in the background).
Closed-circuit television has revolutionised home security. Cameras mounted in strategic places are able to monitor a housebreaker as he climbs over your garden wall, enters through a downstairs window, walks down the passage, grabs a beer from the kitchen, heads up the stairs and sidles into your bedroom where he ties you up and steals all your valuables, leaving you with a unique video of an unidentified man in a balaclava roaming around your house and robbing you blind, which you can then show to all your friends and use as justification for emigrating to Perth. You may find it more rewarding to use your CCTV system to make cheap porn.
Armed response units are to police what paramedics are to doctors. They walk, talk and smell just like real cops but are quicker on the draw because they don’t have to fill in as much paperwork after gunning down a varmint. On the down side, they are paid almost as badly as cops. And, like cops, they also have habits to feed, gambling debts to pay and kids to put through reformatory. This is worth bearing in mind when you invite them into your home to inspect the entry and exit points and provide them with your secret code and a detailed schedule of your movements.
Let us be clear on one thing. Dogs are animals. They are not meant to be kept as pets. We have all been to the beach or to a park and seen someone throw a ball for a dog. Perhaps you have even done it yourself. You people make me so angry. Why in god’s name are you encouraging your dog to chase balls when it is blindingly obvious to all who care about these things that he should be chasing criminals? Every time your dog runs after a ball, somewhere out there is a criminal not being chased.
And you, you with that fur-covered beach ball. Oh, it’s a Labrador, is it? Shame, give him another piece of cake. Watch him go into cardiac arrest through the sheer effort of wagging his anaconda-like tail. You, madam, are doing your dog and this country a great disservice. Your Labrador should be a lean, mean killing machine. He should be at home patrolling your perimeter fence, fangs a-slaver and barking mightily at anything that moves.
Big dogs are the infantry in our fight against crime. Their position is at the front. If you only have one dog, get another to watch the back. They are the first line of defence against those who wish to take our stuff and our lives.
Little dogs are signallers in this war. They form part of an early warning system and should be scattered about the property. Their job is to alert the big dogs that something might need checking out.
It is also useful to keep a supply of miniature breeds inside your house. If a burglar does gain entrance, one of the more effective methods of slowing him down is to throw them at him. Do not waste your dogs. Use them wisely. If you have done your job properly, your handheld dogs will have been trained to bite on impact. There are very few burglars who feel comfortable robbing you with two or three lapdogs hanging from their face. On the down side, small dogs frequently come with a manufacturer’s defect. Once they start yapping they frequently forget how to stop. A finger up the bum usually turns them off.
Alsatians make the best guard dogs. Originally bred as all-purpose working dogs, they have a proud history of keeping darkies out of white areas. They also spent a lot of time on Jesus’s side of the Berlin Wall helping to fight communism.
They are handsome hounds, even if a bit right wing, and you will have to watch out for those neighbourhood bitches slipping in for a quickie while your dog is meant to be working.
If you are in the market for an Alsatian, pop in to your local police station and see if there are any on special. Try to get a dog from the drug squad. That way the days of misplacing your stash will be over.
Alsatians have their own governing body called the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde. Being German, the dogs understand what this means but they are often reluctant to talk about it. Perhaps it is like belonging to the Freemasons.
Some famous Alsatians are Hitler’s dog, Blondi; Rex the Wonder Dog; Rin Tin Tin and Orca of the SAPS KZN Midlands K9 Unit.
Bull terriers would make ideal guard dogs if you could only get them to open their jaws and let go. Nobody wants to pay top dollar for a pedigree dog and then have to cut its head off so the burglar can be thrown into a police car/mortuary van/hole in your back yard.
Whippets are faster than cheetahs in built-up areas. Obviously, out on the plains the cheetah will whip the whippet’s ass any day. When it comes to protecting your house, the whippet isn’t much good. Nobody is likely to be deterred by the sight of its tiny head, huge chest and ridiculously long legs. That its tail is permanently wedged between its legs is also less than intimidating.
A whippet will only care about whether the strange man climbing over your wall has any food in his pockets. Look at him in a friendly fashion and he will grin gratefully, roll over onto his back and open his legs. If I ever get the chance to dabble in genetics, I am going to cross breed a whippet with a woman.
Your whippet comes into his own when the burglar tries to flee. To see some real sport, tie something soft and furry (a pair of bunny slippers would work) to the burglar’s ankles and give him a 30-second head start.
Dachshunds are a bit of a gamble insofar as security is concerned. If the burglar does not incapacitate himself with laughter, you might want to have a back-up plan.
Zulu hunting dogs only work if the intruder is Zulu.
With all this talk of farm murders and other crimes of a less savage nature, I thought it a good time to share a chapter from my book Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival.