Potting the black

“Japanese conglomerate Hitachi has paid $19m to settle charges that it paid ANC front company Chancellor House a $1m “success fee” and $5m in “dividends” in connection with contracts to build two power stations in South Africa.” – News report 28/9/15

Here’s something I wrote five or six years ago. I tried to warn you of the Hitachi/Chancellor House/Eskom shenanigans but got distracted by a game of pool.


THE week started badly. First, I thought there might be some humour to be mined from a letter written by Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa. The institute for what in where? It’s a bit like having an Institute for Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia. But the really funny part was the way in which he explained the loving relationship between those who would happily cast us into the pit of eternal darkness.

“The (ANC’s) deployed cadres at Chancellor House ‘invest’ in Hitachi, the deployed cadres at Eskom give Hitachi the (R38-billion) tenders and the deployed cadres at Nersa decide whether to grant the huge tariff increases claimed by Eskom so that consumers can pay Eskom to pay Hitachi, thus enabling Hitachi to give a fat dividend to Chancellor House for the benefit of the ANC.”

Like you, I don’t generally read this sort of thing out of fear that the mental confusion could hasten the onset of dementia or, at the very least, that the violent yawning could dislocate my jaw. But if you sharpen your mental machete enough to slash a path through the tangled jungle of jargon, you will come to a clearing. In that clearing, if you half close your eyes and avoid looking directly at them, you will notice all manner of fantastic creatures dancing, drinking and laughing. All the way to the bank, mostly.

Ultimately, though, the Great Electricity Swindle is funny only in the way that a fat farmer slipping on a banana peel and falling into the blades of a combine harvester is funny. You’ll laugh, sure, but then you may throw up and want to lie down for a bit.

Let me rather tell you how I came to be writing this flat on my back with my leg elevated at a 45 degree angle.

Ted and Mary dropped by for a sundowner and it was around midnight when Ted suggested we have a game of pool. I have a pool table parked in my garage which means my car gets to sleep outside. Unlike our politicians, I at least have my priorities straight.

Brenda said girls against boys. “The way of the world,” said Ted, racking the balls all wrong. I nudged him out of the way and he fell over the pool dog whom I have trained to retrieve balls that often ricochet off the table and disappear into places where no human would wish to go.

Ted approaches pool in much the same way that he approaches his job – in a crablike fashion through the side entrance when no-one is watching. I, on the other hand, approach the game like I approach an open bar – fast and recklessly.

Brenda and Mary play like all women play – they talk, giggle, drink, lie and cheat from start to finish. It’s one of the reasons I married her. The only difference is that back then we would play for sexual favours and these days we play for the electricity bill. But let us not go down that filthy mugger’s alley again.

Like all good pool tournaments that go on until 5am, the margin of error was inordinately high. Three windows were broken from balls cannoning off the table and the dog retired to bed in disgust.

A nasty outbreak of new rules led to Ted challenging me to a duel. Pool cues at dawn. Up on the table. Instead of doing the sensible thing and separating us, the women took on the role of seconds and handed us each a cue. Mary helped Ted onto the table. I had to negotiate the climb on my own.

It was like a scene from one of the old classics. The Three Musketeers directed by Quentin Tarantino. The rattle and clash of wood against wood woke the neighbors who gathered in the road and placed bets among themselves. Drained from parrying, thrusting and drinking at the same time, I let my guard down and Ted ran me through with his splintered cue. My shirt turned crimson with blood. “Tis but a scratch!” I cried, leaping to my feet and felling him with a blow to the head.

Victorious, I turned to Brenda. “Catch me, fair damsel,” I shouted, and leaped into her waiting arms. Except her arms weren’t waiting. They were busy opening another bottle of mango-flavoured aviation fuel. I plummeted from the north face of the pool table and hit the floor with all the grace and agility of a blind skydiver.

I heard a loud crack and looked down. My left foot was inflating like a baboon. “Tis but a shattered metatarsal,” I cried, collapsing in a heap. Ted staggered over and put his foot on my head. The neighbours collected their winnings and shuffled home

I demanded to be taken to hospital at once. Not being able to walk into the casualty ward by virtue of a foot now the size of a silverback gorilla, Brenda suggested I hop. Not being a rabbit, I suggested she fetch me a wheelchair. The danger zone was awash with malingerers complaining of non-fatal bullet wounds and other random attention-seeking injuries.

A nurse, attractive in a way I imagine Eva Braun must have been before Hitler destroyed her with syphilis, helped me onto a bed and drew the curtains. I know from previous hospital experience that when this happens, you’re either about to die or have sex. I was disappointed when neither occurred.

She asked if I wanted something for the pain. Stupidly, I declined. Then, as she walked away, I came to my senses and shouted for pethidine. It’s a fabulous drug that one can take even when one isn’t in pain. The cold-hearted cow gave me the lazy eye and went off to fawn over a hypochondriac with an axe embedded in his forehead.

A 12-year-old doctor looked at my foot, nodded his head, whistled, shook his head, hummed the opening bars to Mozart’s Requiem, danced an Irish jig and went away. A disorderly arrived, manhandled me back into the wheelchair and took me to another suburb for X-rays.

The X-ray girl, cute as a button spider, smothered my giant foot in deadly radioactive rays while cowering behind a lead curtain.

Back in the disaster area, baby doc studied the X-rays, waggled his hips, sang a snatch of Madame Butterfly, did a couple of card tricks and told me that bits of bone appeared to have broken free from the mainframe. He suggested I see a specialist and moonwalked away, juggling two bedpans and a catheter.

The specialist, who had all the charm of Dr Cox from Scrubs, called up the X-rays on his screen. A purple vein pulsed in his powerful neck. He scowled, sighed heavily and told me there was nothing wrong with my damn foot. Apart from maybe a pulled ligament and a damaged joint in my big toe which wasn’t so much the result of a dueling injury as it was a lifetime of indulgence.

He told me to stop being such a baby. “Lay down your crutches and walk,” he barked. “Praise the Lord,” I said. Brenda told me later that patients in the waiting room began weeping when they saw me waltz right out of there.

It’s three days later and the waltzing might have been a mistake. The foot has deflated to the size of a squirrel monkey and Brenda is giving me home-based physiotherapy by moving the couch a little further from the fridge every time I get up to wee.

I might never play pool again.

Pool table
























































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One thought on “Potting the black

  1. Sharon McKenzie says:

    Good one.

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