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.”

How to survive

‘Tis that time of year when the have-nots begin stepping up their unannounced visits to the haves and they don’t always knock at the front door. Sometimes they come in through the windows.

If you need advice on how to repel intruders or not die while celebrating the end of 2018, you need to read my book, Art of Survival.

It’s available on my website as a download for the ridiculous price of R50. This makes it an ideal gift for people you don’t want to spend a lot of money on. There are eight of my books available, all as PDF downloads. Which means you can simply email the gift to whoever you wish. After reading it yourself, of course. No need to wrap. No need to even see the person. Perfect.

Contraband

Here is an excerpt from Art of Survival explaining how to get the best out of your dog.

………………………….

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 half a dozen 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 kick in the ribs usually turns them off.

Breeds

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 God’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 off its head 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 little 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 a chance to dabble in genetics, I am going to cross 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 a Zulu.

Get dolled up this Xmas

I suggested to my ex-wife once that instead of giving each other gifts at Christmas, we should rather exchange bodily fluids.

She seemed to think something more substantial was in order so I gave her a rough, uncut emerald I found in the driveway. She said it was a piece of broken beer bottle and threw it away. How very ungrateful. It was the last time I gave her jewels. That was also the Christmas I gave my loinfruit a beautiful picture of the Maldives which I tore from a magazine in the toilet. He was so overcome with gratitude that he wept for days.

Then there was the Christmas I gave her a very valuable petrified dinosaur tooth. A few days later she was digging a trench at the bottom of the garden – it might have been a shallow grave – when she came across a whole bunch of them. I told her it must be where old Tyrannosaurus Rexes went to die fifty billion years ago. She said it looked very much like a pile of builder’s rubble. I said many archeologists had made the same mistake.

I remember the last time we went to a mall to do our Christmas shopping. At first glance it appeared as if the complex has been designed by Dante Alighieri himself. Cerberus tied up outside. The sign at the entrance, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Inside, nine levels of hell, jam-packed with opportunists, adulterers, gluttons and greedheads, hypocrites, thieves and sodomites, the sullen, the slothful and the suicidal. It sounds a lot more fun than it was.

Let’s split up,” she said.

I’m sorry you feel that way,” I replied. “I’ll have my stuff out by the weekend.”

She gave me the lazy eye. “I meant split up and shop separately.” Then she was gone, swept away in a raging torrent of hoarders and wasters, deceivers, flatterers and sowers of discord.

I had some sort of asthma attack in a shop that reeked overpoweringly of the stuff women put in their underwear drawer to repel their husbands. It seemed to be some sort of biological agent. Nerve gas, probably.

I sought refuge in a shop called Dad’s Toys. It was either that or CUM Books, a shady outfit that looked like it might sell Christian porn to happily married couples. The shop wasn’t, as one might think, filled with model aircraft and puzzles to stave off Alzheimer’s.

I walked out with a crossbow, a knuckleduster, two throwing knives, a pair of nunchucks, a bulletproof vest and a riot shield. Ready for the white genocide.

There seemed to be some kind of drama unfolding in Game. They had run out of trolleys and frantic appeals were being made over the public address system for shoppers to remain calm. People were rampaging up and down the aisles grabbing armloads of stuff as if preparing for Armageddon rather than Christ’s birthday.

Ripping through the mayhem like a circular saw through the occipital bone came the most dreadful sound of all. If Christmas is such a happy time for children, why the fuck were they all crying? Why were they lying on the floor thrashing about like epileptics?

The subsonic scream of a thousand ill-tempered babies rose to a deafening crescendo. Right in front of me a toddler plummeted from his mother’s arms as she reached for her fourth box of Christmas crackers. A wild-eyed woman with a face covered in nervous tics ran into me and began making high-pitched gibbering sounds that were straight out of the shower scene in Psycho.

Right there and then I decided to buy toys for everyone. It seemed easier. The first toy shop I walked into, I was bitterly disappointed to see how few guns were being sold. When this generation grows up, how are they going to know what to do to protect themselves?

Wake up, there’s someone in the house!”

Relax, honey. I have my Delta Squad Megazord Power Ranger right here.”

Instead of guns, China is flooding the world with remote controlled Apache helicopter gunships, M1 tanks and amphibious assault vehicles that come with flashing lights and fabulous sound effects including machine gun fire, explosions and wounded civilians screaming in Arabic.

I stopped off at the girl’s toys aisle because some wives never had mothers who taught them to clean and cook and I believe it’s never too late for them to learn the basics. It was a relief to see that the men over at Hello Kitty were still doing their bit to ensure a steady supply of girls who will grow up unafraid of vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, kettles and similar domestic accoutrements so vital to a happy marriage.

I thought my ex-wife would appreciate the “My Little Home” range. It had everything from a plastic washing machine to a trolley fitted with a mop, broom and bucket. Next year, I’d like see a “My Little Broken Home” range where nothing works except a miniature crystal meth lab. Accessories would include paramedics and a social worker.

I didn’t get her the electronic kitchen set after discovering that it makes realistic sounds. The last thing I need is a toy that shrieks: “You’re not having another beer, are you?” and “You can also cook sometimes!’

Dolls were big. Bigger than ever. Much like real women. And they seemed to be getting smarter. Again, like the real thing. I prodded one in the belly and it said, “Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat.”

It is no longer politically correct to have dolls that say “Mama” and “Dada” because of the increasing number of Dadas who say they’re just nipping out to the shop and are never seen again.

I took a shine to Mia Bambina. She promised a lot. “I sneeze. I babble. My heart beat. I drink. I cry. I snore.” I related immediately.

Barbie was back, but, sadly, still no Junkie Barbie with her own cookin’ up kit or Greedy Barbie with advocate’s robes or Corrupt Barbie with her own seat in parliament. I came across a raunchy rock ‘n roll Barbie and took her out of her box for a quick inspection. A sales lady caught me looking up Barbie’s skirt and threatened to call security. I explained that I was in Thailand not long ago and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Anyway, for the price of a Barbie I could pay a woman in the parking lot to hoik up her dress and allow me a squizz at her frilly bits. Not that I would. I’m just saying.

I stared grimly at a Ken doll and cursed his stupid plastic hair and clean-shaven chest and mocked his “small parts” that apparently constitute a “choking hazard”. The warning is for the benefit of that synthetic slut, Barbie, I presume. I cannot imagine who else would be inclined to put Ken’s small parts in their mouth.

I was going to get my nephew an M-16 with pull-back breach action and realistic auto sound but I ended up buying him a kitchen play set and plastic vacuum cleaner instead. He needs to be equipped with survival skills because by the time he is of marriageable age, all the women will be riding Harleys and staging cock fights in the Kirstenbosch amphitheater.

I overheard an assistant say to a man with a troubled face, “I’m sorry, but Spiderman has sold out.” That was very disturbing news. Had our hero been bought off by the Green Goblin? Had Peter Parker finally discovered that it would be far more lucrative to become an estate agent and then use his superpowers to spin a web of lies and deceit instead?

I was distracted by row upon row of babies stacked up like prematurely born infants in cheap plastic incubators. There was Butterfly Doll with eight functions – five more than a real baby – and Kissing Baby, a favourite among visiting Belgian paedophiles.

Sippin’ Sue is a cute little thing “who lets you know when she wants more”. Yeah, she’s cute now. Wait until she grows up and starts demanding vodka and holidays on the French Riviera.

Then I spotted New Born Baby. “Look after me,” the synthetic sprog demanded. “I can drink and use my potty.” So can I, but you don’t see me lolling about in a cardboard box expecting people to pay R300 to see me do a wee, do you? Not that I wouldn’t.

There was also some kind of contraption that could accommodate seven babies. Of course. Why have one when you can have seven? It’s a valuable lesson for any girl to learn in a country starved of people.

Steffi seemed to have higher standards than Barbie but apparently liked nothing more than a nice bath (bath supplied). I stood there for a while, imagining Steffi in her little pink tub. It’s not what it sounds like. She’s six inches tall, for heaven’s sake. What kind of monster do you take me for?

There was another doll that promised “27 lovable phrases. Press my tummy!” Nothing happened. I felt cheated. It didn’t say a word, not even when I put it on the ground and repeatedly stood on its tummy. Things have come to a pretty pass when shop assistants order paying customers to step away from the baby or face expulsion from the store.

I think that’s what he said. I couldn’t be sure because the public address system was cranked up to supersonic levels. In Durban, you might expect to hear in-store announcements in an Indian or English accent. In Pretoria, it might be Afrikaans or Darkie. But in Cape Town, there’s only one accent. Look, some of my best friends are coloured, but when it’s deep Cape Flats pumped through a treble-heavy PA system, it’s like having a rusty blade hacking through your brain.

It’s hard to believe that toy shops are still selling microscopes and chemistry sets. This country needs more pole dancers, not scientists, goddammit. In the old days, this type of toy was sold because the state wanted to encourage an early interest in the noble arts of biological and chemical warfare. I bet Papa Basson bought little Wouter a lovely set for his fifth birthday.

The shelves were full of lies. Call it aspirational if you will, but I call it setting your kid up for a lifetime of feelings of inadequacy and failure. Here’s what I found in the toy car section: an Audi S7, a Range Rover Vogue and a Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet. I want to open a toy shop that stocks faded red Hyundais up on play-play bricks with small plastic hobos passed out in the back and dented Vauxhall station wagons with missing hubcaps and doors rusted off their hinges.

The same goes for My Happy Family, a lurid atrocity of a doll house. It comes with a double-storey home, a vintage convertible and better furniture than mine. There’s mom, dad and a little girl, all glowing with health and happiness. In my toy shop, I would sell My Horrid Family featuring a crack house covered in gang graffiti, a tattooed dad wearing a wine-stained vest and mom sporting a black eye. The kid, being an only child, would be weeping into a bowl of gruel. There would be no furniture, what with it having been repossessed and all.

I even found a battery-operated ATM machine. All it needed was a battery-operated skabenga in a balaclava blowing it up with some plastic plastic explosives. The sound effects would be awesome. First the blast, then the police sirens, then the bad guy in court being acquitted on a technicality, then the sound of him laughing all the way to the next bank.

Although I still hadn’t bought anyone anything, I knew it was time to flee when the PA exploded into life and the announcer screeched, “Mr Hartzenberg please eat your wife in front of the store!”

On my way out, I passed a fat bearded man in a tight red suit trimmed with white fur. He was sitting in a chair waving at small children. That didn’t seem right so I went over and asked if he was an employee of the Catholic Church. He said he was a Father, but not that kind of Father, so I offered him a hit on my hip flask and all was well with the world.

Mall makes Blood River look like a picnic

Today, 180 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River.

And in 180 minutes from now, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway Shopping Mall. The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. The Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight-abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking me out of the way with their meaty hips and big asses. I don’t stand a chance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And lava lamps are making a big comeback after weed was essentially decriminalised. You have to be on drugs to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As if there’s such a thing.

 

Jingle Hells

School holidays should be abolished.

Our creaking infrastructure and shattered nerves can no longer withstand the blitzkrieg of semi-educated savages at the end of every year. There should be new rules starting from next year.

Any pupil who scores an aggregate of, say, less than 90% in their final exams will be deployed to help the M23 rebels take the Congo. There is nothing wrong with children being soldiers. They are already halfway there, what with being accustomed to wearing uniforms and fighting among themselves. Then again, the rebels might not be able to put up with the constant cries of, “Are we there yet?” Never mind the convoys having to pull over every five minutes because someone needs to wee. It would take forever to reach Kinshasa.

But not everyone can afford to send their brat away to help topple a government. Here are some cheaper ways of keeping the ingrates entertained, while at the same time scoring a bit of payback for the twelve months of hell they have just put you through.

Shopping malls. Generally not a place for any sane, self-respecting adult, but exceptions can be made at this time of year. Decorations are up, tills are jingling and shops are getting more and more crowded. Consider, for a moment, that your child will probably only get a job if he is good with his hands. I wouldn’t normally suggest you encourage him to consider pickpocketing as a career choice, but with a pair of nimble fingers he could certainly help bring in some extra beer money.

Boys make the best pickpockets. If you have a girl, there’s no need to despair. Well, that’s not strictly true. If you have a daughter who is older than 13, you will know despair. In truckloads. But if she is very young – six or seven is good – take her to a mall that has a fat, white man wearing a red suit and fake beard sitting in a tawdry tableau fallaciously billed as Santa’s grotto.

He will encourage your daughter to sit on his knee and tell him what she wants for Christmas. Before she does this, whisper that Santa will only bring her presents if she jumps off his lap and screams, “He touched me inappropriately!” Tell her those are the magic words that will make all her wishes come true. Santa settles out of court and you get a new car.

If there is something wrong with you and you don’t want to make money but still want a bit of a laugh, take the kids into a department store and remove a bunch of electronic tags from some of the clothing. Each person gets a tag and you all leave the shop at the same time. The alarm is the signal to start running. Security guards will chase you through the mall. The first person to the car wins. Even if you get caught, you can’t be prosecuted because you haven’t actually stolen anything. It’s good exercise and fun for the whole family.

Theme parks. In Cape Town, you have Ratanga Junction. Some of the rides, like the Cobra, get the adrenalin pumping. However, I have always found that at this time of year, the real thrill lies in gambling on whether you will make it to the front of the line before the seizures and hallucinations kick in. Heatstroke gives you all the symptoms of a heroin overdose and, best of all, it’s free.

Gold Reef City is Joburg’s idea of a theme park. I have never been there, but I imagine it’s full of undercover cops, coke dealers, human traffickers and obese families sucking on ice-creams and racially abusing the dude in charge of the Jozi Express. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a member of the tactical reaction unit shooting the Wimpy staff for getting his order wrong. For a bit of light relief, pop in to the Apartheid Museum.

Durban has uShaka Marine World where dolphins leap high into the air in the hope that their buddies in the ocean will see them and mount a rescue operation. There is also a paddling pool area where you can take your child to have its hearing impaired by hip-hop music. And, if you are white, you will feel right at home among all the other whiteys on uShaka beach. Too much of irony, my bru.

Children also like to be taken to casinos. They might say they don’t but they are lying through their filthy teeth. I have seen many happy little faces pressed up against the barrier as they watch their mommies and daddies getting drunk and gambling away the last of the food money.

Zoos are also popular among the kids. When my loinfruit was small I took him to a petting zoo which turned out to be a brothel. Still, he learnt a lot that day. And that’s what is important. It doesn’t matter whether it’s watching a chimpanzee playing on a tyre swing or daddy haggling with a black-hearted harridan whose name clearly isn’t Jasmine. It’s all educational.

Children also like to make things. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or complicated. Petrol bombs, for instance, can be made by kids who can’t even spell mathematics. And they don’t have to be used on Christmas Day, either. Keep them for a rainy day.

Of course, the best thing you could do these holidays is go to Thailand. Put the telly on, shout to the kids that you’re popping out to the shop and drive straight to the airport. When you get to Bangkok, call home and tell the family that they can do whatever the hell they like.

It will be the best Christmas ever.

 

Relax, officer

’Tis almost the season to be jolly. Jolly careful. There are people out there determined to get us locked up over the festive season. Family, for a start. There’s always one asshole relative who insists on pushing our buttons until we lunge across the dinner table and club him to death with a chicken drumstick.

Should you be driven to this point, it’s likely that you will be filled with spirits stronger than the Christmas one. Even an attempted homicide generally requires a liberal application of the old social lubricant. If it weren’t for alcohol, we would all meekly go along with tradition and kiss rather than stab our racist cousins under the mistletoe.

In South Africa, as in most parts of the Christian world, we drink to celebrate Christmas. It’s what Jesus would have wanted. He did, after all, turn water into wine when the liquor ran out at a wedding in Galilee. This was his first public miracle and, quite frankly, I don’t know why he even bothered with the other six. You turn water into wine, you’ll have to get a restraining order to stop me from following you. I suppose it was also a nice gesture to heal the paralytic at Bethesda. Did he do the wine trick there, too? Quite possibly. I get very paralytic on wine but then have to heal myself. Jesus is never there when I need him.

Today there is always plenty of wine at weddings and everyone gets thoroughly trashed to commemorate his miracle on that hot summer’s day in the unoccupied territories. The heathens don’t care much for miracles and only join in because the liquor is free. In the end it all works out and everyone goes home happy.

Oh, wait. Not in Cape Town, they don’t. This is a city that goes the extra mile to ensure we spend a night or three on a horsehair mattress in a filthy cell rather than our own bedroom.

There is no mention in the Bible of a single wedding guest getting bust at a roadblock in Galilee, even though the cops must have got wind that someone was turning water into wine. If the DA had been in charge of the city, Jesus himself might have spent the night behind bars.

I have never been done for DUI. Have I driven over the legal limit? Of course I have. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. Virtually every car you see parked outside a bar, restaurant or club will later that evening be driven by someone over the limit. Sure, there might be one or two designated drivers among the crowd, but these are like unicorns.

It is the job of the barman to keep serving you alcohol even as it leaks from every orifice in your body, which makes no sense when you consider that it takes just two beers to put you over the limit. I need two beers just to get out of bed in the afternoon. Not really. My point is that the city of Cape Town’s obsession with roadblocks is ruining our social lives. Everyone is too terrified to go out at night for fear of ending up with a criminal record or having their bottom interfered with by a fighting general in the 28s.

Thanks to the police, it’s just not safe to be on the roads at night.

99.9% of people who regularly drive after a few social drinks manage to do so without veering into oncoming traffic or slamming into a lamppost. They might be breaking the law, but they get home quite safely without endangering their or anyone else’s life. And they have been doing it for years.

In Britain and America, police generally need a reasonable suspicion to suspect a driver is intoxicated before requesting a breath test. In many countries you’re given three tests, including standing on one leg and walking heel to toe in a straight line. If you fail all three, you get breathalysed. Fair enough. We don’t get that option here. I might be marginally over the limit, but if I can close my eyes and touch my nose or the cop’s nose or any other body part of his choosing, followed by an arabesque and two grand jetés on the white line, I should be allowed to proceed unhindered.

In the US, thirteen states currently disallow sobriety checkpoints while others require police to provide advance warning of any checkpoints that are planned. That’s right. They have to take out notices in local newspapers notifying people where and when the roadblocks will happen.

Look, I’m not endorsing drunk driving, but I am asking the law to be a little more flexible when it comes to ever-so-slightly-tipsy driving. Nail the heavily wasted, by all means, but stop ruining the lives of the lightly euphoric.

If things carry on as they are, we might as well move to Saudi Arabia.

Or, worse, Australia.

 

An open letter to the president of Egypt #LegsMustFall

Dear President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,

Well done on your impeccable taste in chief prosecutors. When your top man decided to put that brazen hussy Rania Youssef on trial, I threw a spontaneous Egyptian-themed party in your country’s honour. It got a bit untidy around midnight when a pyramid we’d built out of beer bottles collapsed and one of my guests lost an eye while trying to mummify the cat. This probably happens all the time at your house, right?

I, along with every other decent God-fearing man in the civilized world, was shocked to see what Youssef wore at the closing ceremony of the Cairo International Film Festival. I have studied that photograph many times and each time I grow a little bit more aroused … I beg your pardon, shocked.

That dress was so revealing that I could see her legs. Her legs! Egypt cannot afford to allow harlotry on this scale. It starts with legs and ends with the fall of Rome. History is littered with civilisations that have fallen because women were allowed to reveal their legs in public places.

Quite frankly, the idea that women even have legs does not bear thinking about. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the legs themselves that are at fault. If these shameless limbs did not exist in the first place, we would not be experiencing this crisis. Even if women wear dresses that reach the floor, we are still painfully aware that legs are being concealed.

The solution is obvious. When a girl reaches a certain age, she must have her legs removed. She could keep them during her school years because we need our children to bring us beer and hash pipes. After that, though, it’s off with the legs.

Where do you stand on arms and hands? They, too, can be very provocative. Especially when they are not being used in the service of men. Idle arms are the devil’s handiwork. I say cover them up or lose them.

Of course, having a population of women with no arms or legs presents its own set of problems. They are going to have go out on trolleys when they do the shopping. Who will pull these trolleys? Not us men, that’s for sure. Perhaps they could have little engines mounted on the back. No, that would be tantamount to allowing them to drive. Next thing you know, you’re following in the footsteps of that liberal, backsliding nation Saudi Arabia.

So the charge against the Youssef strumpet is one of “inciting debauchery”. Are you sure this goes far enough? What is the sentence for a crime of that nature? Probably little more than a light stoning. You might want to consider adding a charge of treason. Maybe even murder. Sure, she hasn’t killed anyone yet, but with all that wanton flashing of legs it’s only a matter of time before someone dies.

Besides, men are very easily incited to debauchery and it is not our fault. As the famous faith healer Lady Gaga said, we were born that way. I personally can’t even look at a table leg without my loins stirring. I assume people in Egypt are expected to cover up their table legs. It seems the right thing to do.

Flowers should also be banned. I suffer the most embarrassing reaction if I happen to catch sight of an orchid with its soft petals and dewy inner … excuse me, I have to go and lie down for a bit.

Okay, that’s better. So this nymphomaniac is an actor? That is no excuse. Thank goodness the Egyptian Actors Guild has said it will discipline anyone who wore attire that clashed with the “traditions, values and ethics of society”. The last thing you want is an organisation that represents artists to start defending the creative and personal freedom of artists.

I am sure your chief prosecutor is a competent man. Unlike our former chief, who was known as Shaun the Sheep although his mother called him Little Penguin, but the less said about him the better.

Fortunately there are legal precedents for a tough sentence. As you know, Laila Amer was sent to jail for two years for appearing in a risqué music video while Sherine Abdel-Wahab got six months for telling a joke about the Nile River. This latest Jezebel should get fifty years at least. Failing which, send her to me. I’ll show her a thing or two.

Anyway, best of luck with your efforts to return Egypt to the glory days of the 7th century. Those were the days, my friend.

Yours in the fight against legs,

Mustafa Ben Trovato