The Odessa File

So there’s been yet another mass shooting in America. Seven dead, twenty-one injured. This time it happened in Odessa, Texas. The name of the town rang a bell. Then I remembered. A hunter by the name of Tess Thompson Talley comes from Odessa. I wrote to the gun-lovin’ sweetheart earlier this year.


Dear Tess,

I had no idea someone as beautiful and brave as you existed in America until you posted that picture of yourself moments after executing an African giraffe. I don’t even care if you aren’t a real blonde. But if you are, praise the Lord! Which is exactly what you seem to be doing in one of the photos – thanking the Almighty for having guided this cloven-hoofed beast from hell into your crosshairs.

Your caption was so inspiring that it’s worth repeating. “Prayers for my once in a lifetime dream hunt came true today! Spotted this rare black giraffe bull and stalked him for quite a while. I knew it was the one. He was over 15 years old, 4000lbs, and was blessed to be able to get 2000lbs of meat from him.”

On behalf of Africa, thank you for ridding us of another giraffe. They are violent, arrogant creatures that strut about the bush looking down on all the other animals. It’s no wonder so many of the little ones, like warthogs, suffer from self-esteem issues.

Stalking a giraffe isn’t for the faint-hearted. They move so slowly that even an experienced hunter like you runs the risk of falling asleep and being unexpectedly eaten by a passing lion.

If it weren’t for people like you, the giraffe population would spiral out of control and it wouldn’t be long before they started moving into our neighbourhoods and sending their kids to our schools. That your giraffe was black is obviously a sign. Or bonus. Whatever.

As you say, these ones are rare. But rare only means there are others like him still out there. Thanks to your fearless efforts, his kind will soon be extinct and we will all sleep a little more soundly in our beds at night. Unless, of course, you mean that you cooked him rare.

Love the picture of you and the dead kangaroo. It can’t be easy shooting one of those brutes, what with all their bouncing up and down. And you got to do it on your birthday! It must be every little girl’s dream to shoot a kangaroo in the face when they turn 35.

Did you convert one of its front legs into a backscratcher like your buddy Dustin suggested? Here’s another cool idea. Use his pouch to store your ammunition in! You said your roo was going to make a great mount. Don’t you use husband Andrew for that sort of thing? I’m not judging. If you want to get jiggy with a dead kangaroo, that’s your business. The French do worse things.

I see hubby has a pic of himself kneeling next to a dead sheep. Bravery seems to run in the family. It’s a good thing he was wearing full camo. There’s no telling what a sheep is capable of doing if it sees you coming.

And you’ve been redecorating your new home! Love the pic of nineteen decapitated heads scattered on the floor. I spent a fun few minutes spotting game in your living room. I saw a warthog, wildebeest, plenty of buck, an animal that looks like someone’s dog and even a turkey. And you still had eight more coming from South Africa?

I can almost hear Andrew from here. “Hun, we’re gonna need a bigger house!” You ain’t gonna stop killing so, yeah, maybe you should build a second house just for the heads. That way you can visit them without having their glass eyes staring coldly at you the whole time. I hate the way dead animals always seem to judge you. Do you ever get the urge to shoot them a second time?

I loved the picture of the cookies you baked. Little doughy deer, each with its own bleeding bullet wound. What a fantastic idea for a kid’s birthday party. You should bring out a compilation of your recipes. Call it The Psychopath’s Cookbook. Guaranteed bestseller. In West Texas, anyway.

So you were in our very own Limpopo province not long ago. A place called Marken? Never heard of it. Judging by the carnage, you and Andrew must have been on your second honeymoon. There’s nothing more romantic than a woman and her man walking through the African bush and gunning down animals side by side.

Great pic of you with your dead Vervet monkey and Andrew with his baboon. Tabatha asked what you’re going to do with them and you said, “Full body mounts. These ya don’t eat.” There are animals you don’t eat? What’s happening, darlin’? Don’t get soft on us. You turn your nose up at monkey and the next thing you know you’re one of them snowflake vegan chicks driving a Prius and treating Mexicans like they’re real people.

Stephenia asked if your monkey had blue balls. For a moment I thought she was talking about Andrew but then you said, “Such a pretty color huh lol.” Glad you can still appreciate the beauty in nature lol.

You told Regina that the US don’t allow you to bring none of that meat home, not even the giraffe even though he had such a yummy sweet taste. “But everything piece of meat gets ate,” you reassured her in your own special ex-cheerleader way. How do you stay so thin after putting away 2000lbs of giraffe?

So, anyway. If my government ever starts taking conservation seriously and bans trophy hunting, you could always stalk the children of illegal immigrants right there in Texas. Trump will probably move the kids out of cages now and into open-air enclosures where they at least have a sporting chance of survival. It could be fun. Anyone who makes it to 18 without getting shot is given a Green Card. You can’t get more humanitarian than that.

Odessa must be so proud of you, Tess. Not only does your town have the highest rate of violent crime in Texas, but they also have the cutest killer in the whole damn state.

Yeehaa, baby.


Health, Wealth and Other Cardiac Events

I received a very polite email this week. “Dear Ben,” it said. Right away I was suspicious. The last mail which started off that way was from my wife. This was followed by five months of celibacy, a three-year separation and, finally, divorce.

I am more comfortable with messages that say, “Friendly reminder: Summons process initiated for traffic fine …” This is not at all friendly. It’s a classic example of passive-aggressive behaviour and whoever is behind these well-mannered threats should expect a cease-and-desist letter from my lawyers. If there is any initiating to do, I will be the one to do it. I am a sensitive person and shan’t take this kind of abuse lying down, even though in my experience abuse is best enjoyed from a supine position.

The email continued. “As a member of Discovery Health Medical Scheme, you have complete peace of mind at every stage of your healthcare journey, knowing that your health is in good hands.”

There are a couple of things I need to clear up here. First of all, how long have I been on this journey and why don’t I remember packing or even leaving? Now I’m worried that I have passed the stage where I should have started worrying and haven’t realised it. I had a friend who was a member of Discovery Health who died of cancer not too long ago. He seemed not to have complete peace of mind for every stage of his journey. Perhaps his email was down.

I felt very relieved by your assurance, Discovery. Thank you for that. However, there are bits of my body that seem not to have got the memo. I have been receiving complaints from the hardworking detoxification department and one or two fairly important joints have raised objections. Is it possible that I am driving everything too hard in this healthcare journey of mine? Competitors in long-haul races like the Iditarod Trail whip their dogs to encourage them not to die before crossing the finish line. I treat my body the same way. It’s the only language it understands. Once you show weakness, it’s all over.

After scrutinising the email, I proceeded to instruct my brain to inform my liver and other highly stressed organs that there is no need for concern. I suppose there is a chance that one of them might send a message back saying, “It’s okay for you to have peace of mind because you’re the boss of us and just because you’re happy doesn’t mean we all are.” Quite frankly, this is something I wish to avoid. The moment the body develops a mind of its own, there’s no end to it.

“Excuse me, Mr Mind,” said Mr Foot via the internal server. “I seem to have a gouty toe and it’s fucking sore. I demand that you take us to the chemist for colchicine.”

“Dear Mr Foot,” replied Mr Mind. “Please inform Mr Toe we have recently been assured that our health is in good hands and there is no need to panic.”

In good hands. This is where things turn nasty. My hands, modest and unassuming – and yet quite proud at having been complimented on their dexterity beneath the sheets (complimented by people who aren’t me, mostly) – suddenly find themselves swamped by correspondence from the delicate squishy bits demanding some sort of guarantee from the grabby tools that they aren’t going to massively overdo things and spoil the fun for everyone. It is, after all, the hands that shovel all manner of filth into our gaping gobs. Without them, we’d be fine. Shoplifters in Saudia Arabia (post-sentencing) are among the healthiest people on the planet.

The email went on. “To get the most out of your chosen health plan, it is important that you understand exactly which benefits are available in 2019.” Being reminded that it was 2019 caused a minor cardiac event but I recovered quickly, eager to learn more about how I could get some bang for my R1700 a month buck.

I know this doesn’t sound like a lot of money to people with big families who are constantly getting sick or shot, but this is just me on my own. A boy standing in front of a medical aid asking it to not let him die because he can’t afford the Rolls Royce of covers.

I have a hospital plan. It’s pretty basic. No frills here, mate. Means exactly what it says. To claim, I have to be admitted to a hospital. And not just for a hangover, either.

I do want to get the most out of my chosen health plan. I really do. But this would mean losing a leg in a Great White shark attack and then being run over by a taxi while crawling to the nearest pub for a whisky to numb the pain. Even then, there’s probably something in the smallprint that deals with marine-based incidents.

“Unfortunately, Mr Trovato, you are covered for pyjama sharks only.”

I ignored the palpitations and clicked on the Understanding Your Benefits link. The images are of happy families glowing with health. They look like wealthy Mestizo models advertising a luxury housing estate in uptown Quito. They aren’t even in hospital. Wouldn’t pictures of normal fat people with tattooes posing in lightly soiled surgical gowns be more appropriate?

You might be terminally ill but, thanks to us, you have peace of mind and can now enjoy the final stage of your healthcare journey in this designated facility with three mediocre meals a day and a sullen nurse to scrub your giblets. Thanks, Discovery. It’s more than I get at home. I can hardly wait for the day I need surgery.

A requiem for Gavin Watson

The news that one of South Africa’s best loved white-collar criminals has died in a car crash reminded me of a letter I wrote to him and his brothers earlier this year.


Dear Gavin, Ronnie, Valence and Cheeky,

This is mainly a letter to Gavin, but I didn’t want any of you feeling left out.

Is it true that your father was a lay preacher? Given the size of the Watson family, he almost certainly got laid more than most men of the cloth. Maybe it’s a Port Elizabeth thing. Anyway, the world needs fathers who understand the importance of instilling solid Christian values in their children.

I believe congratulations and condolences are in order. Congratulations on proving that whities can be just as innovative as darkies when it comes to tapping into arteries of untold wealth using nothing more than a wink, a nod and a bag full of cash. Some of us were beginning to wonder whether white people could even get it together to plunder on a governmental scale. We were brilliant at doing apartheid, but then democracy happened and we all became a bit pathetic. Thanks to Bosasa and the ANC’s flooding of the civil service with an army of conscience-free cadres, our race can once again take it’s rightful place in the pantheon of villains.

Condolences, however, on getting caught. What the hell were you thinking when you hired an Italian? Couldn’t you find anyone more trustworthy? Was Glenn Agliotti busy? On the other hand, Italians do make the best mafioso. Also pasta. But when they squeal, and so many of them do, the reverberations are felt far and wide.

Angelo Agrizzi looks like a man made entirely out of Play-Doh who was once pushed off a table by a cat and landed face-first on the floor. He claims to have suffered a crisis of conscience and that’s why he decided to rat you out at the Zondo Commission. We now know that’s not true and he in fact suffered a crisis of being fired for stealing company money. He could hardly go to the CCMA so he reckoned the best way to get rehired would be to threaten you, Gavin. He didn’t just want his job back, though. He wanted the entire company for himself. He said unless you complied, he would tell everything and destroy you. And, in the process, himself. Like a bee. Or a horny male praying mantis. I’ve been married twice and I never came close to being as hated as much as Angelo hated you.

Did you think he was bluffing? Did you think that because you played rugby with black people in the 1970s you were untouchable? Struggle credentials can only be stretched so far before they snap. No, of course that wasn’t it. You thought you were untouchable because your pockets were bulging with politicians and prosecutors. My first wife once described me as untouchable but I couldn’t fathom out how to monetise it.

When you consider the full frontal horror show unfolding at the State Capture inquiry, I bet you wish you had never given Mr Potato Head the boot in the first place. Seems a bit odd that you fired him in 2016 for stealing. After all, corruption formed the very foundation of your business. I’m not judging you. I did a bit of shoplifting myself when I was younger. Perhaps, as a born-again Christian, you interpret the eighth commandment to mean that you shouldn’t steal from your employer. Everyone else is fair game.

You must surely be regretting not having taken the duplicitous deep throat’s “offer” (the things that throat must have seen). As far as offers go, it was a pretty good one. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill blackmail job. He was offering you ten million rand a month to never come in to the office again. You turned it down. There’s your insanity plea right there.

Mr Fatty Goombah told the commission that Nomvula Mokonyane, one of our favourite Teflon-coated ministers, was among the multitudes who lined up for their monthly benediction of the unholy sacrament. I understand that her blessing came in the form of R50 000. And she never even had to pick up the rand because it was delivered by you, Gavin. I like that. The personal touch is so often lacking in today’s corporate culture.

You also generously gave her a complimentary Christmas hamper every year that included four cases of whisky, eight lambs, forty cases of beer and 200kg of beef. She probably ordered extra if she had guests over.

When the Italian Rapscallion complained that Bosasa wasn’t getting much value for money from Mokonyane, you pointed out that she had a lot of clout and the company would find itself in trouble if it stopped the payments. That’s why I love this country. Bribe, by all means, but there will be hell to pay if you stop. Malice in Wonderland.

I laughed out loud when il ratto, a man weirdly unfamiliar with the noble concept of Omertà, told the commission that the bribe to correctional services went up from half a mil to R750k when Tom Moyane was appointed commissioner. Fair enough. Quality costs extra. Someone by the name of Sesinyi Seopela apparently distributed the cash among the more ethically challenged members of his and other departments.

Bosasa captured the prisons, man. That’s so cool. Big up to you. If there was a glossy magazine for criminals, you’d be a regular in the style section.

So, Gav. I understand you’re still open for business as African Global Group. Bosasa’s evil twin, basically. And you’re still leading the staff in daily prayers? That’s impressive. Even more so since your only defence, apart from insanity, is that the devil made you do it.

One thing I’m a bit curious about, boet. Did you or your corpulent whistle-blowing weasel ever encounter anyone in the public sector who refused one of your, er, incentives? Must’ve happened. There’s always one who wants to spoil the party for the rest of us. I think you should name and shame him. Or her. We don’t need their kind in this country. They can take their non-profit integrity and tedious moral rectitude and stick it up their permanently struggling fundamentals.

Funny thing is, the testimony of this double-crossing blabbermouth ratfink snitch bastard would be enough to bring down most democratic governments, let alone the god-fearing Watson dynasty. Luckily for you, Gav, our handful of incorruptible prosecutors will spend forever sloshing about waist-deep in denials and deviations and anything that does make it to court will be bogged down for all eternity in the mires and marshlands of the law.

Imagine if, at the end of it all, you and this backstabbing bean-spilling tattletale narc were allocated the same cell. Nah. Wouldn’t happen. There’s still too much Bosasa baksheesh floating about the system for that to happen.

Anyway, comrade. I’m missing happy hour. You might be a terrible Christian but you’re not a bad person. Maybe you are. I really don’t know. I’ve been married twice. I’m not the best judge of character. For that, you’d need a real judge. With any luck you’ll get one who’s on the payroll.

The time I was a food critic

Trawling through the malarkey I’ve churned out over the last couple of decades, I came across the first restaurant review I did for the Sunday Times. That was eleven years ago. Nobody has asked me for another review since.


Fish Hoek is not known as the food capital of the Western Cape. There are three or four restaurants, no bottle stores and two bars. So when one gets invited to the opening of a new restaurant in this slowed-up sliver of suburbia, one catches one’s breath at the excitement of it all.

The hour draws nearer. The terrible sound of bagpipes drifts across the valley. Has this something to do with the grand opening? Is it a Scottish restaurant? Is there even such a thing? I can’t be certain. What I will do, though, is take a concealed weapon. The Scots cannot be trusted at times like these. They are an excitable and unpredictable nation.

The Illicit Consort has misplaced the invitation and can’t remember what it said about dress code. “Never mind,” I say. “In Fish Hoek, smart casual means tracksuits.”

Some kind of circus ringmaster wearing a silver jacket and top hat welcomes us at the entrance. Spotting trays of champagne circulating within, I brush past him and bound inside. I am in mid-quaff when I hear a voice say, “Have you been invited?”

I ignore him and move swiftly in a crab-like fashion towards a quivering mound of oysters. He follows me. “I want to see your invitation,” he barks. I am instantly outraged that this character out of Deliverance is questioning my integrity. The Consort intervenes before things can turn ugly. Funny how the word ‘media’ turns fascists into fawners.

The Consort later said his attitude might have had something to do with the fact that I was wearing jeans, T-shirt, a black hoodie with splashes of red and a pair of slops three sizes too big that I found abandoned on Long Beach a couple of weeks earlier.

“Never mind that,” I snapped. “We are journalists and these people should be grateful that we’re wearing any clothes at all.”

Besides, the place is called The Bohemian Yard and I am dressed like a Bohemian. It takes several glasses of Pierre Jordaan before I am calm enough to look around the place. Despite management’s strong-arm tactics, I thought I’d give the place another chance.
Without the milling crowds, the Sartorial Police and four bottles of Pierre Jordaan inside me, the restaurant looks like a different place altogether. Elegant. Almost colonial.

As an accompaniment to the enormous tumblers of gin & tonic, the Consort orders dolmades with lemon (R12) from the mezze list. Other starters range from artichoke hearts (R18) to roasted pears wrapped in Italian ham (R30).

Safely ensconced with our backs to the wall, the Consort decides champagne is in order and asks what they have to offer. Moët & Chandon. That’s it. We laugh and wave the waiter away. Visiting the bathroom, I am so impressed with the warm ambience and creative décor that I could easily have my meal right there alongside the urinal.

On my return, I trip over something that hadn’t been there when I left. An ice bucket. And a bottle of Moët. The Illicit Consort bats her eyelashes. I restrain myself from batting the Consort.

Having no stand for the ice bucket is perhaps an indication that management never seriously expected anyone to order a R790 bottle of champagne.

The menu is a sheet of A4 paper covered in what appears to be Arabic. The Consort agrees that one would need the eyes of a sparrow hawk to read the small print, then rattled through the options without even squinting or holding it up to the candle.

Possessing the instincts of a carnivore, she orders grilled lamb cutlets with homemade chimichurri (R90) while I ask for the grilled linefish with parmesan cream and slow roasted tomatoes. Oddly, it’s listed as an SQ item. This is yellowtail, for god’s sake, not imported Maine lobster.

Each dish is accompanied by chips, salad or roasted pumpkin. The Consort has the chips, or, as the menu would have it, shoestring potatoes with lemon, garlic and parsley butter. I have the pumpkin with honey and sea salt.
I look for our drinks waiter and spot him settling in behind a piano. Then, from behind a curtain, Pearl emerges. The Diva. Built like divas should be built, Pearl is resplendent in a ballooning black silk dress and scarlet boa. I barely notice the Consort ordering a second bottle of Moët. Well, I noticed enough to say, “You’re paying”.

The diva hands the mic to another waiter who has the room spellbound with his version of Bette Midler’s The Rose. He moves like Bette. He even looks a bit like Bette. Then he plucks a white rose from one of the tables and hands it to the Consort, reducing her to jelly and me to jealousy.

The yellowtail tastes as yellowtail should while the Consort’s ample portion of chops, although done to perfection, are awash in a sauce that tastes more minty than chimichurri.

Dessert would have been pavlova with white chocolate yoghurt and fruit of the season (R35) but it wasn’t because the kitchen was closed. At 10.30pm? On a Saturday night? And we’ve just spent R1 600 on champagne alone? The waiter tries his best but the kitchen staff are standing firm. Must be one hell of a union they belong to.

We could, however, have Irish coffees. And we do. Repeatedly. Later, while the chairs are being put on top of the tables, one of the singing waiters brings me a dainty little handbag. “Courtesy of Madiba,” he says. I am thrilled. I tell the waiter to thank Madiba and ask for the bill. He gives me the lazy. “Not Madiba. The Diva.” The bill is inside the handbag. Without the ambrosia, it comes to R400.

The Diva thanks us profusely and personally escorts us to the door. I wee on the Dutch Reformed Church’s wall and we go home.


What would Jesus say?

There’s an Anglican church near me that often advertises upcoming events – cage fighting, mud wrestling, Russian roulette and so on. This week there’s a banner promising an upcoming series of sermons with the theme, “What would Jesus say to …” Beneath that are the mugshots of Elon Musk, Cyril Ramaphosa, Justin Bieber, Israel Folau, Harvey Weinstein and Caitlyn Jenner. Talk about the definitive guest-list for a dinner party from hell. It’s unlikely I will attend the sermons, but since the church has put it out there, let me take a stab at it.

Howzit, Elon. It’s not often I get to chat to someone from Pretoria. Like you, my father and I don’t have much to do with that region any more. Dad said that if I ever get around to the Second Coming, it might be best to avoid South Africa. This would mean that the ANC will rule forever. Sorry about that. So you want to establish a colony on Mars? There are more hospitable planets out there, you know. Oh, right. When Dad made the universe, he forgot to make it possible for humans to get much further than the moon. Maybe He just wanted to see what you did with the planet you were given. Bit of a mess, old chap. Can’t blame Him. Do us a favour. Don’t send any more Tesla cars into orbit. That one has already sideswiped a few of our best angels and we can’t afford to lose more.

Ndaa, Cyril. I like what you’re doing with your country. Well, thinking of doing. Promising to do. You are on the path of righteousness, my son. Quite unlike the man who came before you. It is a bit embarrassing that your predecessor has the same name as the original Jacob, a good man who featured prominently in my father’s memoirs. Our Jacob only had twelve children, though. It has come to my attention that, while your heart is in the right place, you lack testicular fortitude. People like me and my father can afford to play the long game. You can’t. Grow a pair.

Yo, Justin. Did you know that my father has a Twitter account (@TheTweetOfGod) and you are the only person He follows? Big up to you, bro. You must be some kind of special. I dig that your father was a carpenter like me. And also a mixed martial artist. I’ve kicked some ass in my time, let me tell you. Dude, I don’t have a whole lot to say, to be honest. I can’t even figure out why you are on this list. The church, like Dad, moves in mysterious ways. Anglicans are weird at the best of times. I like your tattoos, man. Don’t tell my father or he’ll be quoting Leviticus at me until the cows come home. Good move covering up the ‘Son of God’ tat you had on your tummy. You don’t want to be treading on my turf, homeboy. Love the new song you did with that ginger Ed Sheeran. Bodacious beat. Had me tapping my feet alright. Funnily enough, the song’s title, I Don’t Care, is one of Dad’s favourite catch-phrases. Don’t worry about what people say. Your voice is fine. My balls didn’t drop until I was 30. You still have a few years to go.

G’day, Israel. Love the name. Good people, the Israelites. Well, they were back in the day. I can’t speak for now. The Jews didn’t order my crucifixion, and it doesn’t matter what Mel Gibson says. Everyone has their own personal Judas. In your case, it is Cameron Clyne of Rugby Australia. Your dismissal from my father’s second-favourite team is nothing short of sacrilege. All you did was post a warning to homosexuals, drunks and liars that hell awaits them. It’s the gospel truth, literally. Check out Leviticus in the old testament and Corinthians in the new. But of course, you already know this. I’m not sure about drunks, though. Sure, my father isn’t a huge fan of the sodomites, but He turned a blind eye when I did my water-into-wine trick at that wedding in Cana. Boy, was I popular after that. Anyway, mate, maybe you should calm down a bit. I’m supposed to love everyone but you don’t always make it easy. Chill out. You’re a fullback, not a disciple. Leave the consigning of sinners to professionals like my dad. He is on Sabbatical at the moment and isn’t expected back any time soon.

Shalom, Harvey. Many devout people model themselves on holy men who feature in the old man’s memoirs. Onan, the second son of Judah, might not be the ideal role model, though. My dad had ordered him to give his widowed sister-in-law a child. I don’t know if he ran it past her first. Onan went along with it right up to the climax, so to speak, upon which he withdrew and spilled his seed on the ground. This is no way to give a woman a baby and he was rightly slain by my father. With your seed-spilling, there is no danger of the woman falling pregnant because she is generally to be found cowering in a corner shielding her eyes and crying for help. Luckily for you, my father is no longer in the smiting business. The same can’t be said for the Manhattan Supreme Court.

Dear Sir/Madam. You were a mister and now you’re a sister! How things have changed. You wouldn’t have been able to do that in my time. Back then, if you were born with a willy, you were stuck with it. Even if there was such a thing as sex reassignment surgery two thousand years ago, it’s unlikely I would have considered it. The Daughter of God just doesn’t carry the same weight. And there’s no guarantee anyone would have listened to me. You know what men are like. Had I flounced into the temple in a summer frock and slapped the money-changers, people would have said I was being over-emotional. I would have been given a piece of cake to calm down and sent to a doctor to be treated for hysteria. My father is old school and probably wouldn’t approve of what you did. He’d say a transgender Adam would have meant no people in the world. I think that would’ve been a good thing. There are too many humans, many of whom are Kardashians.


Neigh, my bru

I have never seen the point of horses. They are little more than tall dogs with inappropriately long faces. But if you dare mention it in front of them, they will not hesitate to bite your arm off and then kick you to death. They don’t care if there are witnesses, either. I have never seen such arrogance.

Perhaps I am bitter because a horse tried to kill me once. I went out of my way to treat it as an equal, but the moment I climbed onto its back and told it what to do, it took off like a rocket and did everything in its power to get rid of me. Needless to say, it was a black horse.

This morning the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman began babbling excitedly about the Durban July. She thinks that because I grew up in Durban, I should have the inside track on a race that’s been run every year since 1897. I was raised in a miasma of marijuana and mosquitoes in a suburb devoid of anyone who wasn’t a reasonable facsimile of me and my family. I think I saw my first horse about the same time I saw my first darkie. It’s quite possible the darkie was on the horse. Or maybe stealing the horse. I seem to remember gunshots.

I might have been a juvenile delinquent, but I was also a political neophyte. “So they can’t have the vote just because they don’t look like us?” I asked my mother. “No,” she said. “They can’t have the vote because they are horses.” This seemed terribly unfair. “And the others?” My mother sighed heavily and explained about apartheid, which made even less sense than the story she told me about horses having to wear shoes.

Skipping ahead. The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman suggested this morning that we should have a flutter. This is code used by the upper middle classes. We don’t speak openly of gambling because, as far as sins go, it’s right up there with gluttony and coveting your neighbour’s ass.

I have never shied away from things that might consign me to eternal damnation because they are usually the most fun. Besides, I have survived many Durban summers. Hell will be a piece of cake.

The betting shop nearest to my home is in Muizenberg. The closest cheap drugs and whores can also be found there. This should be seen as a failing of my own area rather than a feather in Muizenberg’s cap.

Pausing only to pat Cerberus three times, I strode through the entrance like a lion from zion. One cannot show fear in the tote or the tab or whatever it is these godforsaken places are called. I helped the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman over the sleeping security guard at the top of the stairs and entered what appeared to be some kind of twilight zone for the living dead.

I felt right at home. It was like being in the grungiest bar at the most derelict end of the universe. I bellied up to the counter and ordered a brandy and coke. A woman with the eyes of a sedated panda shook her head, then opened her mouth and made a sound like someone shoveling wet gravel off a concrete floor.

The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman was standing at another counter marked “Fixed Odds” arguing with someone who looked like he might have been the trigger man in the Sea Cottage shooting. I shouted across the room that the odds didn’t matter since all the races were fixed, anyway. If the punters had the strength to get off their chairs, they would have lynched me.

We found a rickety wooden table etched in a shaky hand with someone’s last will and testament. I picked up a booklet containing information about the pedigree and bloodline of every horse, trainer, jockey and owner. It was very complicated. I didn’t know if I was looking at the animal’s age, weight or odds.

I went over to one of the betting counters and put it all on number 25, my lucky number. The bookie gave me the lazy eye and said there were only 20 horses in the race. “I knew that,” I said. “What about this 52kg three-year-old? Is that the horse or the jockey?” She ignored me so I asked if she thought Magnificent Seven had a chance, but she said he had been scratched for coughing. “Seems a bit harsh,” I said. “Maybe he was just a little horse.” She asked me to step away from the counter.

My concubine backed Eyes Wide Open for a win. I put everything on Do It Again. You would have to be retarded not to bet on the favourite. Even if you don’t make much money, you still feel like a winner. I don’t know if he was the favourite. I just liked the name.

We went home to watch the event in an environment free of decomposing geriatrics coughing up bits of liver and showering the room with flesh-eating bacteria. Watching horses is not like watching rugby, where one must spend the entire day drinking heavily and gnawing on the flesh of dead animals. The main race at the Durban July is like good sex – it’s over in two minutes.

Obviously my horse won. One of the animals broke its leg and was shot in the head. Somehow it was my fault. She vowed never again to support this filthy bloodsport. “If lame horses get shot, why don’t they shoot lame jockeys?” she shouted.

Now that I am a winner, I want to see a lot more racing going on. Why stop with horses? Our game reserves are full of animals with nothing to do. Let’s saddle up the rhinos and unleash them at Greyville next year. We can even have animals riding other animals. Like meerkats on warthogs. Or aardvarks on lions. I’d put money on that.


Whale Meat Again

Japan this week began killing whales for money for the first time in 31 years. The commercial hunt is different to the whaling they usually do for “research purposes”. The fisheries ministry has set a kill cap of 52 minke, 150 Bryde’s and 25 sei whales.

Here’s a column I wrote a few years ago.

Japan, Norway and Iceland have killed more than 30 000 great whales since 1986. And if you think that’s good news, wait until you hear this.
A new deal being negotiated behind closed doors could see a lot more whale meat on our plates come dinner time. To be honest, I haven’t sunk my teeth into a decent southern right steak since I was a child. As a special treat my mother would buy us whale meat. I remember it clearly. It came in a yellow box with a caricature of a blue whale on the front. The whale was spouting and grinning. It might even have been winking. It was the happiest whale I had ever seen. It was the only whale I had ever seen. At some point I discovered that this tasty cetacean snack was meant as pet food. Thanks, mom.
Then, one day, whale was no longer served in my house. I can’t remember what replaced it. Tortoise, probably. It was the end of an era. I lost 180kgs and girls stopped asking to see my blowhole.
The whaling station on the Bluff shut down in 1975 – 70 years after Jacob Egeland, the Norwegian consul in Durban, and his sidekick Johan Bryde, formed the South African Whaling Company. If you think the beachfront smells bad today, you don’t want to know what it was like when the Scandinavians were up to their elbows in sperm whale.
In their first year they harpooned 106 of the brutes. Always eager to please, a pod of whales got together off Umhlanga and voted to name themselves after Bryde, who they had grown particularly fond of as a result of his remarkably good aim. A clean head shot, every time. Whales appreciate this sort of attention to detail.

And here’s a letter I once wrote to the Japanese ambassador.

Dear Ambassador,
I see that one of your government officials has described Minke whales as the “cockroaches of the sea”. I could not agree more. Dirty great things cluttering up the ocean. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. Unlike land-based cockroaches, they at least don’t fly at your head when you least expect it. Getting struck in the face by an airborne Minke could ruin a good day’s fishing.
The Minke are vermin. Scum of the seas. They are forever lying there half-submerged waiting for unsuspecting yachts to come along. Many a sailor has cursed the smirking Minke while watching his boat sink. They are also far too big. Any fish that weights fifteen tons is a freak of nature. They upset the feng shui of the ocean and deserve to die.
I cannot understand why the members of the International Whaling Commission refuse to lift the ban on commercial hunting. We don’t even need them. They scoff all the shrimp and wallow about idly belching from their blowholes. And the whales are no better.
It was pure genius on the part of your government to tell the world that you are only catching Minke whales for “scientific research”. There is, after all, so much to learn from a dead whale. Made any exciting new discoveries lately.
By research, you presumably mean men in white coats inspect the meat as it is chopped into 1kg blocks and sold to fish and chip shops around Japan. Given the fact that 2500 tons of blubber are consumed in your country every year, I find it remarkable that there are so few fat Japanese. Do you feed it all to your sumo wrestlers?
As you know, whale season here in the Western Cape is around the corner. In fact, a few Southern Rights have already been spotted in False Bay. An old hand-held harpoon has been in my family for generations and I’ve been thinking of giving it a whirl. If I manage to bag a medium-sized aquatic cockroach, I can have it transported to the embassy in no time at all. What do you say to a thousand rand a ton? Translate that into yen and you’ve got a damn fine deal.
In the meantime, here’s R10 in “development aid”. Use it wisely.
Let’s stamp out the whales!
Yours truly,
Ben Trovato

A few days later, the First Secretary of the Embassy replied. He said they’d love to chat about the subject but that “it would be somewhat difficult to do so if one’s opinion is based on inaccurate information”. I assumed he was talking about me. This was followed by a pack of lies about their “scientific research”. And my R10 was returned.

“We are, unfortunately, not in a a position to accept the attached donation as the Government of Japan does not allow any of its bodies to accept any form of donation as worthy as it may be.”

Such honourable people, the Japanese.

Happy Drug Awareness Week!

Did you know that more than 60% of all crimes in South Africa are committed by people under the influence of drugs or alcohol? This leaves a staggering 40% who are doing unspeakable things without even a drink to help them conquer their shyness. Either there is not enough booze and drugs to go around, or we have some of the cleanest-living crooks in the world. I reckon a police raid at the local Virgin Active is long overdue.

A more likely scenario is that, given the levels of multi-skilling among the criminal community, nobody wants to take the chance of smoking a little ganja ahead of a lazy afternoon of pickpocketing only to find themselves in a high-energy situation where they are compelled to kill someone. And what could be worse than getting all amphetamined-up for a bank robbery only to get there and remember that it’s a public holiday and the best you can hope for is a couple of car stereos?

Drugs are as popular in South Africa as anywhere else in the world. However, nobody here knows for sure why they are illegal. Drugs brighten up a miserable day and give your self-esteem a boost. Is that so terrible? In a free market system, adults should be permitted to sell drugs to other adults. Kids should have to get theirs from somewhere else. In the spirit of Drug Awareness Week, here are some examples of drugs and the effects they have on the police.


This drug, well, it is more of a weed, really, induces a sense of hostility in policemen even though it’s sort-of legal. Their eyes narrow and they tend to speak louder than normal. There is a strong possibility that they will turn violent for no apparent reason. Humour them. Play along. Never assume that they know what they are doing.


Coke makes policemen very jumpy. Symptoms include an inability to sit still and relax. They become restless and fidgety. Often they will tell you to keep quiet and let them do all the talking. They will come up with lots of unrealistic notions and ideas, like sending you to jail for the rest of your life. Nod and smile. That’s all you can do, really, until they have got it out of their system.

Tik (crystal meth)

Police become very self-assured when exposed to tik. They exude confidence. Their positive demeanour can lead to them slapping one another on the back and, in extreme cases, hugging. The comedown can be dramatic, especially when they spend two weeks testifying only for the magistrate to acquit the accused because the evidence has disappeared.

Acid (lysergic acid diethylamide)

LSD has a dangerously unpredictable effect on the police. Either they are happy with a couple of caps, or they will tear your house apart in desperation to get their hands on more of the stuff. Even if you swear on your mother’s life that there is no more in the house, they will not believe you. These hallucinations are quite normal. Do not make any sudden moves. Their imaginations are already in hyperoverdrive and the last thing you want to do is startle them. When they fire irrational questions at you, reply in low, soothing tones. They will soon be back to normal. Well, as normal as any policeman ever can be.


Nursery crimes and other filth

No matter how much I drink, I am unable to find any humour in President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address. The problem is, nothing else strikes me as being particularly funny right now, either. But I ought to write something.

So. Dum de dum. Yabba dabba doo. Now is the time for all good men to … oops. Beer foaming all over the desk. Mop it up with unpaid traffic fines. Heigh-ho. Toenails could do with a clipping. Oh, look. The cat just walked into the room. There must be something funny in that. C’mon, you cold-hearted queen. Work with me here. Licking your privates is clever, but it’s just not enough. I need more. Do you understand English? Would you rather have feathers or fur? Chicken or beef? Talk to me, dammit.

Hey, there’s a dove on the balcony. Funny things, doves. Not really. They’re not funny at all. Hang on. A second one has just landed. This should be interesting. Do they know each other? Is this some kind of avian suicide pact? I hope so. I want to see them jump and then resist the impulse to fly. Maybe they’re going to have a fight to the death. Beaks at dawn, except it’s nowhere near dawn. Being the international symbol of peace and love, it’s more likely they are going to want to have sex. Yes, there they go. The small one up on the big one’s back. That doesn’t look right. I can’t watch. Reminds me of the time I was … actually, that wasn’t funny, either.

Crippled with boredom, I was unaware that I had been singing Dubul’ ibhunu while picking ticks off the dog. The Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman said she would have me arrested if I didn’t stop. I was outraged. Since when was tick-picking illegal? Not that, she said. The inciting people to go out and kill decent god-fearing men of the soil.

Oh, please. That old struggle chestnut is nothing compared to the violent, homophobic, racist, sexist songs we were made to sing as children. There are mothers out there who should be rounded up and made to answer for what they did to us.

Some darkies might not recognise these words because they grew up on nursery rhymes about driving wooden stakes through PW Botha’s heart and setting fire to collaborators but anyway, here are just a few examples of the dangerous filth us whiteys grew up with. No wonder we’re so full of hatred, confusion and cheap brandy. And that’s just the English-speakers.

“Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. One for the master, one for the dame, and one for the little boy who lives down the lane.”

This led us to believe that black sheep were not the same as normal sheep, not merely because they could talk, but because they were black. The subservient tone and alacrity with which the sheep responds to demands for its wool suggests that it has been oppressed for some time. Furthermore, no effort is made to ascertain the sheep’s name. It is unlikely that its parents called it “Baa Baa” at home. This dehumanises the animal. Must be banned immediately.

“Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry. When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”

Once I realised that I could get girls to cry simply by kissing them, it took years of therapy, a restraining order and several beatings to get me to stop. I understand now that the girls were crying because they were lesbians. Either that, or I was a truly appalling kisser. I’m going with the lesbian theory. It also taught boys that running away is a better option than sticking around to face the consequences and today I still have difficulty in taking responsibility for my actions. This nasty piece of work incites gender violence and must be banned.

“Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander, upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber. There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers, I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.”

Osama bin Laden’s attitude towards religious tolerance was formed at an early age when his mother read this to him in his crib. As soon as he could walk, Osama would visit nearby homes to check that people were saying their prayers. After spending his youth throwing old men down flights of stairs, he rounded up a few friends to fly airliners into the World Trade Centre which was full of old men who weren’t saying their prayers, and even if they were, they were the wrong kind of prayers and deserved to die. This misanthropic jingle promotes religious superiority and must be banned in a secular state.

“Cry Baby Bunting, Daddy’s gone a-hunting. Gone to fetch a rabbit skin to wrap Baby Bunting in.”

This is nothing but a pack of lies. There are countless grown-up babies out there today who are still waiting for Daddy to get back from a-hunting. Truth be told, Daddy said he was popping out for a packet of smokes and never came back. No wonder Baby Bunting was crying, what with having to settle for a Huggies instead of a rabbit skin covered in gristle and blood. Ban it.

“Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon.”

Popular in the 1960s among people of all ages, particularly those who were partial to a cap or two of lysergic acid diethylamide in their afternoon tea. Promotes drug use and needs to be banned.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Couldn’t or wouldn’t? This is hate speech directed squarely at fat people. For all we know, genetics were to blame for Humpty’s size. But even if his obesity was caused by fried chicken and Heineken, this is no reason not to at least attempt to put him back together again. It undermines human dignity and deserves a place on the banned list.

“Hush a bye baby, on the tree top, when the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”

This cruel ditty proved exceptionally popular among mothers with colicky babies. Today, it is rare to come across a cradle wedged into the branches of a tree. Mothers find it easier to leave their surplus babies at drop-off points around the city. Ban it on grounds of incitement to commit infanticide.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. Up got Jack and home did trot as fast as he could caper. He went to bed and bound his head with vinegar and brown paper.”

Children have no business climbing hills to fetch water. This is a clear endorsement of child labour and must be banned. A favourite of one-time health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Jack’s unique method of treating a gaping head wound gave her the idea that garlic, lemons and beetroot could cure Aids.

“Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, eating his Christmas pie. He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said, ‘What a good boy am I!’”

This has poisoned young minds by creating an unwarranted sense of entitlement. South Africa is full of indolent youngsters expecting to be praised for nothing more than using their opposable digits to thumb a free ride to the trough. Must be banned if only to encourage genuine entrepreneurship.

“Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow; And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.”

Aside from the gynaecological impossibility of Mary having a little lamb, the entire premise of this racist diatribe is based on the lamb having white fleece. One is compelled to ask whether the lamb would have been treated any differently if it had black fleece or, indeed, if Mary herself were black. The answer is yes. The lamb would have been eaten chop-chop. Ban it on the grounds of racial discrimination.

“Pat a cake, pat a cake, baker’s man; Bake me a cake as fast as you can; Pat it and prick it and mark it with a B; And put it in the oven for baby and me.”

This clearly perpetuates systemic disadvantage, encourages the exploitation of the working class and is a violation of the democratic values of social justice. Since the instruction is directed at the baker’s man, one can only surmise that the baker himself is off spending the profits in the Seychelles instead of giving his assistant a wage increase. Even though he is alone in the bakery, the baker’s man is instructed to bake a cake as fast as he can. Why the hurry? Are there starving people waiting out in the street? Probably. But in this instance the cake is for “baby and me”. Nobody else will get any. This song has no business still being sung and Cosatu will back me when I say it needs to be banned at once.

“Peter Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well.”

As far as domestic violence goes, this takes some beating. In South Africa, abuse of this nature is not widespread since few men have wives small enough to fit into pumpkin shells. Some men – Austrians, mainly – find that secret soundproof rooms are more effective than pumpkin shells. Most men find divorce to be less complicated. Others find that dismemberment works if the pumpkin is unusually large. This exhortation to commit uxoricide, posing as a nursery rhyme, must be banned on the grounds that women do not belong in pumpkins. As our constitution clearly stipulates, they belong in the kitchen. Ban the song. Or whatever the hell it is.

“Half a pound of tuppenny rice, half a pound of treacle. That’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel.”

This anti-weasel propaganda falls into the category of hate speech and must be banned immediately. Weasels are people, too.

“Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair; Said Simple Simon to the pieman ‘Let me taste your ware’. Said the pieman to Simple Simon, show me first your penny. Said Simple Simon to the etc etc.”

This so-called rhyme goes on to make Simon look like a complete retard, which he undoubtedly was. Having said that, however, there is no good reason to mock the mentally challenged. Thanks to our bill of rights, simple people are no longer discriminated against. In fact, some of them hold powerful positions in government today. However, we should avoid encouraging them and therefore this evil chant must be banned immediately.

“Three blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run, they all ran after the farmer’s wife, who cut off their tails with a carving knife.”

This is not only blatantly anti-rodent, but it has a clear bias against disabled rodents. It also incites harm by encouraging pro-rodent militant groups to take revenge on farmers’ wives who labour under the misapprehension that it is somehow acceptable to mutilate sight-impaired mice. Rodents have rights, too. Ban it.

“The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat. They took some honey and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note. The owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar, ‘O lovely Pussy, O Pussy my love, what a lovely Pussy you are …”

This sick animal porn thinly disguised as prose poetry degenerates quickly, with the cat and the owl being married by a turkey in a land where the Bong tree grows. Many young lives have been ruined by this pro-marijuana interspecies malarkey and it must be banned at once.

“There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile, he found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse. And they all lived together in a little crooked house.”

These words send an unequivocal message to the youth that being crooked is no hindrance to success in later life. The fact that the cat and the mouse coexisted seems to suggest a solidarity among the crooked and countless children have deviated from the straight and narrow in the misguided hope of achieving happiness without having to suffer first. Must be banned right away.

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn’t know what to do. So she gave them some broth without any bread, and she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.”

This vile piece of pro-life propaganda deliberately fails to inform girls that Marie Stopes provides them with a viable choice should they find themselves repeatedly falling pregnant. It also encourages child abuse which, in this case, is probably warranted. Ban forthwith.

“Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are? Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky …”

This is possibly the most subversive of them all. It suggests that stars might be something other than fiery balls of gas. Who, besides children raised by wolves, wonders what stars are? Clearly propagated by organised religion, this seemingly harmless nursery rhyme encourages children to question science and start believing that some kind of omnipotent being created the universe. Ban it before they turn to Scientology.

“Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town, upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown, tapping at the window and crying through the lock, are all the children in their beds, it’s past eight o’clock!”

Adolf Hitler was exposed to this story from an early age. He snapped on the evening of November 9, 1938, and sent the Gestapo running through the towns, upstairs and downstairs in their jackboots, smashing all the windows and shooting out the locks, all the children out their beds, it’s past Jew o’clock! Apart from evoking memories of Kristallnacht, this narrative has disturbing homoerotic undertones and as a final solution it should be banned.

“What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice.”

The only point of reference I have here is my increasingly eccentric loinfruit. When he was smaller and more malleable, I asked him what little girls were made of. He said, “Meat and bones.” I didn’t know how to react so I bought him an ice cream and then beat him soundly. The point is that this piece of feminist propaganda must be banned on the grounds that it portrays boys as being full of terrible things, which they are, but it is better that girls find this out for themselves.

“Remember remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.”

This is quite obviously an incitement to blow up parliament and South Africans have once again failed dismally to rise to the occasion. Does not need to be banned.