Airplanes, Wedding Trains and the CAR

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments – John 14:15.”

And so it is with Trovato 07:45. Or, if I oversleep, 10:30. President Jacob Zuma is also big on this parable or homily or whatever the hell you call it.

When I saw our fearless leader come lumbering out of the Mahlamba Ndlopfu presidential residence in Pretoria, with CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye two steps behind him, I felt a pang in my chest. At first I thought it was love. My president. So powerful he didn’t even bother changing out of his pyjamas for the meeting. But it wasn’t love at all. It was the after-burn from a shot of Mexican heart medication.

Zuma cleared his throat. All the birds and beasts fell silent. The sun glinted off his burnished dome, momentarily blinding a 747 pilot high up in the sky.

Tiangaye looked contrite, as well he should. Zuma squared his massive shoulders and said, “We have accepted on behalf of South Africa …” Here it comes, I thought. The apology. About time, too.

“ … their condolences.” What? The rebels gun down half our combat-ready army and all they offer are condolences? Not an oil field or even a million cows? Hell, I’d sooner we got flowers and a “Hope your army gets better soon” card than mealy-mouthed condolences.

Tiangaye said it was regrettable that there had been “a personalised relationship” between South Africa and the skunk-faced former president Francois Bozizé.

I don’t know about you, but I almost certainly wasn’t having a relationship with Bozizé. I’m not ruling it out, mind you. The Mexican heart muti has made me do a lot of things I’m not proud of. Things I don’t always remember the next day.

I think we can accept, though, that what Tiangaye meant was that Zuma and Bozizé had a personalised relationship. But because Zuma was standing right there, yawning and scratching his crotch, he had to say it was not the president’s fault.

Just over 600kms away, in a luxury home-based intensive care unit incorporating a well-stocked drinks cabinet and indoor putting green, Schabir Shaik nodded and smiled.

“Jacob, my man,” he said softly to himself. “You’ve pulled it off again. Nurse! Bring me the 18-year-old!” The nurse did as she was told. “No, you idiot. Not her. The Johnnie Walker!”

Anyway, now that the CAR is no longer Zuma’s dirty little secret, I would like to wish the happy couple all the best for the future. Maybe he should give the Seleka rebels free access to the national key point of their choice.

The Guptas have dibs on the Waterkloof Air Force Base so it will have to be something else. Use of the Simonstown naval base as a private marina, perhaps? Or how about converting Genadendal into a B&B for anyone else who might have a personalised relationship with the president? It could be run by Mac Maharaj and his wife. I expect they will have to learn Mandarin.

So how about them striking teachers, eh? Pity Maggie ain’t around no more. She would have sent in the horses by now. After the teachers had eaten their fill, more horses would be sent in to trample the indolent swine underfoot and give them a damn good lesson in civil etiquette.

Karl Marx once said: “The working class can kiss my arse”. I used to agree with him, but now I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy having my arse kissed just as much as any other insufferable middle management moron, but I am starting to feel twinges of sympathy for them.

I’m not talking about teachers or bus drivers. To be a member of the working class, you actually have to work and not spend your time dancing in the street, chanting incomprehensible gibberish and frightening the children.

Earlier this week I took my Land Rover for a drive through the sugar cane fields near Ballito. I wasn’t going anywhere in particular. Just driving. I kept passing clumps of workers – the real kind – trudging along the dirt road into the sunset. Some waved, some ignored me. All of them choked on my dust. There was a group of seven or eight up ahead. As I drew level, one turned and looked at me. It was a woman. Like the men, also in overalls and gumboots. She smiled.

“Hmm,” I thought. “She likes me.” I quickly pulled over. No, of course I didn’t think that. What kind of lunatic white man would drive alone through the cane fields of KZN at dusk hoping to catch the eye of a beautiful maiden and take her back to his palace and make her his possession? I’m not King bloody Mswati, you know. Not that he would ever take the Maybach on a dirt road.

I pulled over to give them a lift. Eight quickly became fifteen. People who were walking in the opposite direction got in. In this province of a thousand hills, nobody turns down a free ride. Where you’re headed is irrelevant.

Sure, I knew there was a chance I’d get my throat slit. It’s a risk you take when you pick up strangers. But I was prepared to die for the sins of the white man. Perhaps someone would start a religion in my name. Followers would wear tiny silver Land Rovers around their necks and baptise their children in beer.

But it was not to be. They had no interest in martyring me. All they wanted was a lift after a day of backbreaking work in the filthy Durban heat. I drove for five kilometres before a dude with menacing tribal scars tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to stop. It wasn’t a town or even a village. Just a jumble of wood and iron shacks in a clearing in the bush.

They worked for a landscaping company with clients like the Tongaat-Hulett Group, Moreland, Zimbali and the provincial government. The company’s website says the owner’s “upbringing in Northern Zululand has allowed him to speak the Zulu language and
understand their cultures which have benefited all staff and contracts”.

I’m sure the workforce deeply appreciates being told, in their own language, that because the company has a turnover of only R30-million a year, it would be unreasonable to expect transport to shackland or the Ballito taxi rank at the end of each day. After all, you’re looking at a monthly petrol bill that could easily run into the hundreds.

Speaking of bad ideas, Microsoft’s evil genius Bill Gates wants to put a video camera in every classroom in America to monitor the performance of teachers.

Given the fact that around 90 000 South African schoolgirls fall pregnant each year, I imagine the footage could be tastefully edited and sold to TopTV for screening after the kiddies have gone to bed. It could be called A Broad Banged Up. People with DStv will understand the reference. Next week, I’ll try to slip in a joke for those have access to SABC channels only. Poor bastards.

And finally. Ex-police commissioner Bheki Cele had a couple of bottles of expensive whisky stolen out of his car a few days ago. Because that’s where everyone keeps their best hooch.

Good for him, I say. I like the image of a former police chief thundering through the city streets late at night, hurling abuse at the citizenry and sucking savagely on a thousand rand bottle of whisky.

Give him his job back at once.

Here’s To Alcohol: The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems

Instead of trying to find a cure for Aids, medical researchers should rather concentrate on finding a cure for hangovers.

Sure, most hangovers won’t kill you, but more of us suffer from them. And when the majority suffers, it’s bad for democracy. Something needs to be done before the situation spirals out of control. Anyway. There’s no point in talking about it. The government never listens until it’s too late.

It has come to my attention that the provinces are once again fannying about with the liquor laws. This is good news. If there is any law that needs a swift kick in the nuts, it’s this one.

For too long we have been denied our right to drink whenever and wherever we please. And I, for one, am looking forward to the day that I can buy a lolly and a half-jack of rum from a vendor on Camps Bay beach at 9am on a Sunday.

KwaZulu-Natal is leading in the pack with moves to allow bottle stores to open on the one day of the week that people need alcohol the most.

Chief executive of the KZN Liquor Authority, Stella “Artois” Khumalo, correctly pointed out that the fascist regime had prohibited sales because they regarded Sunday as the Sabbath. Back then, when Ozzy Osbourne heard what was going on in South Africa, he formed a band called Black Sabbath and toured the world calling for an end to unjust laws governing the sale of booze.

Gauteng is considering a total ban on alcohol sales on Sundays – eight years after it was unbanned. This is inexplicable. Sundays are depressing enough, but to have to live in Gauteng and then not be able to drink on the most deathly of days constitutes cruel and inhuman punishment.

This is a clear breach of Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. South Africa is also a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. We are in violation, people. My advice to Gautengers is that they approach Amnesty International.

Premier Nomvula Mokonyane also wants cars to be replaced by ox wagons and a moratorium on electricity to allow cooking fires to resume their rightful place in the home.

I suspect the situation in the Western Cape is even more dire.

When it comes to matters of health and safety, the people running that province make the Taliban seem like the Teletubbies. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that city councillor Oberstfuhrer JP von Schmidtundwesson was backing the introduction of sharia. There is nothing he would like more than taking the family to a public beheading in Greenmarket Square on a Saturday afternoon.

Alcohol is the great leveller.

Once we’re all in the gutter, this country will be the better for it. I want to be able to crawl to a park bench late on a Friday night, only to find that it is occupied by Patrice Motsepe. I will offer him some of my Tassies and, in return, he will allow me to wet my lips on the neck of his crystal decanter. We will end up fighting over some toothless old hag from the Oppenheimer family but will have a good laugh about it during our morning vomit.

We are a nation of drinkers and the last thing we need is the government making us feel bad about it. Our self-esteem is already lower than Julius Malema’s credit rating. We need to be picked up. Quite literally, more often than not.

Why do we have to be proudly South African only in areas like sport, commerce and industry? Why can’t we be proudly South African when it comes to being alcoholics?

We have everything it takes to make any kind of alcohol right here in this country. Why are we importing anything? Look at Amarula. It’s made from crushed elephants, sugar and cream. How easy is that? And it’s so tasty that I have never been able to stop at just one bottle.

We are blessed with an abundance of plants and animals that can be converted into alcohol. Springbok shooters, for instance, would be a lot more appealing if they were made from real springboks. It could be the sponsored drink of the national rugby team. Instead of having water at half-time, a dozen girls dressed as slutty cowgirls could gyrate into the change room and use water pistols to fire shots into the mouths of the players. Rugby fans are generally motherless by the second half, and it would make the game more interesting if the players were, too.

Another drink I have in mind is the Amabananadaquiri. It’s made from bananas, banded mongoose and unleaded petrol.

With an alcohol content of 94%, it will be legal to drink Amabananadaquiri and drive because if a motorist were involved in an accident, it could be used as an anaesthetic. This will help paramedics who have already drunk their morphine.

It could also be used in service delivery protests, helping to keep protestors hydrated while at the same time providing them with an affordable yet effective weapon.

Since KZN is showing itself to be the most enlightened province, I expect them to allow bartenders to give cocktail-suckers exactly what they want. If someone orders Sex on the Beach, a Screaming Orgasm, a Buttery Nipple, a Blow Job or an Irish Car Bomb, then that’s what they should get. Perhaps with a free drink thrown in.

But how about them Brits, eh? There are people on the other side of the pond who think there’s something wrong with shops selling booze that’s cheaper than bottled water and want the introduction of minimum pricing laws.

That’s police state stuff, that is.

Any country where it’s cheaper to get drunk than it is to eat, is my kind of country. Food is highly overrated. It certainly does nothing for me.

That chinless wonder of a prime minister, David Cameron, wants to stop cheap alcohol from being sold in supermarkets. But he also doesn’t want to commit to a minimum pricing policy. “Oh, what to do! What to do! Perhaps I shall ask Samantha for a spot of the old oral entertainment. I find it helps me think more clearly.”

The pointy-faced fun-haters say that a 45p (R6) minimum price on a can of beer could potentially save two thousand lives within ten years. Please. Two thousand people will have died in my neighbourhood by the time I finish this column. And none of them drink. I know because I have knocked on their doors on many a Sunday afternoon.

Sure, alcohol can trigger violence. But so can unemployment and corruption. Does this mean we should ban the government? Of course we should.

An Open Letter to President Jacob Zuma

Dear Msholozi,

I am a huge fan of yours and an even bigger supporter of the ANC, that glorious revolutionary movement to which I would dearly love to belong. Since you are the party’s number one member, I implore you to grant me entrance to this exclusive club.

I tried to apply online but was incapacitated with fear. Logging on to the ANC’s website is not a natural act for a white man. In the old days, my back door would have been kicked down and Kaptein Skok de Kock would be asking me questions while his sidekick checked my prostate with a cattle prod.

To be on the safe side, I created a false identity for myself – Abdul-Aziz Ben’t-Ariel Hlobongo. I was hoping that with a few quick clicks I could become an ANC member and start reaping the benefits first thing tomorrow morning. Easier said than done.

Are you aware that nowhere on the ANC’s website does it indicate how one can become a member? It does, however, provide the details of a Nedbank account into which I am invited to make a donation.

“Any information you provide will be treated confidentially,” it says. But I am not providing information. I am providing money.

I suppose in these treacherous times, information is as important as hard cash – both, for instance, can help keep one out of jail. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not talking about the missing arms deal tapes, here.

I found a link to ANC merchandise but was disappointed to find just two items for sale. The vibrant leather jackets are a bit out of my price range, but if I ever have a spare R1 620 and feel the urge to spend the evening in a gay biker’s bar, I’ll definitely come to the ANC first.

The other item is a poster of Nelson Mandela. I hope I am not speaking out of turn here, but don’t you think a poster that says: “Mandela for President – The People’s Choice” is a tad dated? Why not a poster of Thabo, saying: “Mbeki for President – The Poephol’s Choice”? Or one of you: “Zuma is President – No Choice”.

The only party that understands business might want to consider offering more than just a jacket and a poster on its website. What about handcrafted ebony and ivory backscratchers? Or jars of money-scented lotion to grease even the toughest of palms? How about a genuine doctor’s certificate that cadres can use should they need to get out of jail in a hurry? Give it some thought. The possibilities are endless.

Hang on. I do apologise. I’ve just come across a link explaining how one can go about becoming a member. It seems awfully complicated.

I was under the impression that all one had to do was have a passable singing voice, a reasonable sense of rhythm as it pertains to the national dance – the toyi-toyi – and a basic understanding of why socialism is not a viable alternative for South Africa.

I am concerned that you list only five rights but eleven duties of members. But perhaps this is how it should be. Duty comes first. Some of the rights remind me of the words of the prophet Joe Strummer: “You have the right to free speech – as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it.” You should put it out as a public service announcement. With guitar.

The duties are a bit off-putting, to be blunt. Are you even aware of the duties? They are outrageous. Here are just four of them. Behave honestly. Observe discipline. Combat harmful propaganda. Carry out decisions of higher bodies. It reminds me of my time in the army.

Being a member of the ANC should be an opportunity to make a lot of money and have a bit of a laugh at the same time. I really can’t see the point otherwise. And, comrade president, nor can you.

At the ANC’s 101st birthday party in Durban the other evening – an event I was unable to attend due to previous commitments – you said a wise businessman would support the ANC because it meant he would be investing in his business. “Everything you touch will multiply,” you said, giggling endearingly.

The only thing I ever touched that multiplied was a calculator.

I want a piece of this action, compadre. I understand that, if I wish to benefit, I will need to join the ANC. However, the annual membership fee of R12 is out of my reach at the moment. Hard times have fallen upon me and I need every cent for beer and newspapers, neither of which I am prepared to live without.

If you can waive the membership fee, then I am prepared to meet you half way and form a business. I don’t know what it will be because I am a failure at almost everything. But you shall be my King Herod who bestows the Midas touch upon his loyal subjects. Or something. Hebrew parables are hard to fathom at the best of times.

To be honest (duty #7), it isn’t the membership fee alone I am struggling with. To become a member, I have to visit your offices. Having grown up in Durban, I thought it would be easy to find my way there.

Your offices are in Stalwart Simelane Street, according to your website. I don’t know where this is. I have tried asking but everyone I spoke to thought I was a plain-clothes cop. They either ignored me or spat on the ground. Perhaps they were IFP supporters.

This is how people get killed in this town. Merely asking for directions brands you politically and the next thing you know, you’re having your arms chopped off at the intersection of Problem Mkhize Boulevard and Swapo Avenue. Not that they intersect. I might be white, but I’m not stupid. I’m simply trying to make a point. I forget what it was.

Anyway. Don’t worry about the DA. Lindiwe Mazibuko might have said your remarks were deeply irresponsible, but she also used phrases like “leveraging of state resources”. This is a direct translation from the original Swedish and provides conclusive proof that she was raised by Scandinavian wolves who fled to the Canadian Rockies to escape the insufferable Nordic elitism that tore so many wolf packs apart in the late 1970s.

This means she isn’t even human, let alone African. Get your men to bring her in at once. Make sure they have a muzzle. She might be rabid.

Others are saying you can’t tell the difference between party and state. This is ridiculous. Sure, both words have five letters in them, which can be confusing, but most people can tell they are not the same. And you, sir, are not most people.

I think you should impose sharia law at once. Remember, you can do whatever you like in your last term as president. I look forward to seeing Helen Zille dancing in a burqa and Pieter Mulder begging for minority rights with no hands.

Good news! I have formed a business. Between writing to you and visiting the fridge, I have inadvertently fashioned a crude office for myself. From tomorrow, I will be buying and selling things. It could be shares on the stock exchange or it could be snoek. I haven’t decided.

Durban is hell at the moment, so I will be needing a fan. Please let me know the amount of “information” I should deposit into the ANC’s account in order to get a good deal from your people in the fan industry. I mean our people.

And if you want anything at all – uncut diamonds, second-hand crocodiles or unit trusts that fell off the back of a lorry – I am your man. Put the word out.

This is fun. It’s like being a Freemason without having to learn funny handshakes, attend secret meetings or exclude women.

No, wait. What am I talking about? It’s just like being a Freemason.

Cut Me, Baby, Cut Me Good

With Brenda gone and a new year unraveling before my bloodshot eyes, it seems an opportune time to take stock of my physical condition.

The degree to which men allow themselves to go to seed once they have pledged their troth is astounding. I have friends who went from strapping young lads with nimble minds to bloated wrecks with broken brains within just a few months of married life.

I thought I had been keeping it together rather nicely. Until Wednesday, when I made the mistake of glancing at my reflection in the door of the beer fridge at my local bottle store. I looked like some kind of yeti with a drinking problem. Years of marital discord had exacted a terrible toll.

Top of the list was an urgent deforestation operation. My head looked like a municipal plot – neglected and infested with alien undergrowth. I broke two disposable razors on my face before reaching for the panga. Shaving with a machete isn’t for the faint-hearted. One nick and you’re on your hands and knees spraying arterial blood like a cloven-hoofed animal on Eid ul-Fitr.

My hair, hanging halfway down my back like a snarl of angry serpents, was next. I would have gone to a barber if I didn’t mind looking like Steve Hofmeyr.

The choices were limited. Either I cut it myself and risked looking like an escaped mental patient or I went to a hairdresser. Tough call.

Hairdressers are more frightening than dentists. At least at the dentist there’s the possibility of being given drugs. With hairdressers you have to bring your own. Or, preferably, take them beforehand. It’s the only way to cope with their relentless questioning. “Where are you from? How would you like your hair cut? Have you ever explored the inner ring of Dante’s seventh circle?” It’s worse than the Spanish Inquisition.

I chose a hairdresser in a small coastal town which shall remain nameless. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of these people. Badmouth them and they won’t hesitate to cut your head off the next time you’re in the chair.

I had to case the joint first. Weigh up the male-to-female and gay-to-straight ratio. You don’t want to be walking blindly into a situation that could end with you rethinking your sexuality. Redecorating is prohibitively expensive these days.

Luckily the place was empty. Some might think this isn’t a good sign. Not me. It’s bad enough having to tolerate the yelping and wailing of the abominable Nicki Minaj, but to combine that with the criminally inane chatter of a dozen sparkly-eyed Subaru-driving hockey moms having harlarts put in is altogether too much to bear.

The moment I walked through the door, the fear kicked in and my sphincter snapped shut. Everyone heard it. This is not like a trouser cough for which one can blame the dog, so I simply smiled and enquired about a haircut.

To their credit, they didn’t ask to see my money first. I only say this because apart from the tangled mess of vipers nesting on my head, I also have a smattering of premolars that have gone astray. I call it the Trovato Gap. Homeless chic, east coast style. By this time next year, everyone won’t have them.

Hairdressing salons always remind me of brothels, or what I imagine brothels to look like – a gimlet-eyed harridan at the till, a roomful of pseudo-solicitous ladies with enthusiastic breasts and a Zimbabwean woman waiting to wash your hair.

“Is the pressure too much,” she said, massaging my scalp. My mouth went dry. Was this her idea of irony? I’m lying down with my feet up while a black woman washes my hair. Of course the pressure was too much.

I wanted to switch places and wash her hair and weep and beg forgiveness for the sins of my forefathers and then, later, have a ménage à trois with the well-known Feminist-Tauist-NeoPagan-Post-Structuralist-Deconstructionist-Socialist Gillian Schutte and her black husband as a final act of contrition.

Instead, I said: “A bit harder would be nice.”

I don’t enjoy looking at myself in a mirror for too long, which is unusual for a narcissist. Perhaps there is something wrong with me. However, I prefer to think there is something wrong with the lighting in a hairdresser’s salon. It accentuates ones flaws – masculinity and a white skin being just two of them. A double chin the size of Perth being an obvious third.

The cutter was an Indian woman. Paying off a debt of some sort, I imagine. At least she wasn’t in shackles.

Once I was seated in the electric chair with an enormous pink bib lashed around my neck, making my head resemble a giant goitre, she asked what I would like. I thought for a moment, then said: “I’d like to buy the world a gram and garnish it with thrills, grow dagga trees and jail keys, and snow white Mandrax pills.”

She failed to recognise my playful homage to the old Coke jingle. Hmm. A classic case of indentured servitude. I nodded to myself. Well, not strictly to myself. Everyone in the salon saw me nodding. They probably thought I had that tropical nodding disease so many people seem to have on the KZN north coast.

“I want a haircut,” I said. Again, no response. Was this not enough information? Should I have brought photographs? Was I expected to procure a pencil and a piece of paper and sketch a rudimentary diagram?

In the end, she gave me a cut that, in medieval times, would have earned me the name Bob the Pageboy, the overgrown apprentice squire to Sir Snortalot, son of King Chopaline of the Kingdom of Ballito.

When I left, an elfish youth with dark eyes and harlarts in his hair took my money and said, “You look so hot.” Being a neophyte in the world of male-on-male compliments, I agreed on the humidity and said how nice it would be if we had a little rain in the evening. This appeared to be code for: “I’ll meet you in the parking lot in twenty minutes” because I found him leaning all louche-like against my car after I had completed my standard post-haircut double brandy-and-beer chaser procedure.

I just wrote an entire column about going to the hairdresser. I do so hope it’s not going to be that sort of year.

Looking for a Sign in 2013? Have You Checked Uranus?

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 2013 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 four months 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. I’m talking about a friend here.

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 they 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.

Up Yours, 2012

It has been such a fabulous year.

My mother died, Brenda ran off and shagged a welder in Hermanus and the appalling Jacob Zuma is with us for the next seven years. I can hardly wait to see what 2013 brings.

Perhaps I will be hit by a meteorite. Or, if I’m really lucky, a series of unfortunate events will wipe out my life savings and I will become a crack addict living off wharf rats and prostitutes. I don’t even want to get into the worst case scenarios.

Here are a few more predictions for the new year.

China takes an interest in South African real estate. After a traditional money-exchanging ceremony at Nkandla, a delegation from Beijing puts in a cheeky offer for Limpopo. President Zuma accepts on condition they take the Eastern Cape as well.

Squirrel Ramaphosa becomes deputy president and begins running South Africa like a business. Longer working hours, strictly monitored sick leave and a reduction in perks sparks a wave of resignations. GDP quadruples in six months.

SABC 3 launches a hard-hitting investigative programme aimed at exposing the government’s achievements.

The new Miss South Africa is Chinese.

Tourists begin avoiding Durban after the council takes over uShaka Marine World and celebrates the occasion by throwing a Ventersdorp family into the shark tank.

The Afrikaner resistance movement suffers a major setback when their new leader, Tos van der Tossboks, inadvertently submits the plans for their next coup attempt to the Johannesburg city council.

The DA government in the Western Cape introduces speed limits for wheelchairs and roadblocks in supermarket aisles to clamp down on drunk trolley-pushers.

SAA introduces cheap fares to London by offering limited seats in the wheel wells of their Boeings. They hope to capture the refugee market.

Flushed with success after its battle to prevent school inspectors from raising standards, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union wins its members the right to work in a child-free environment three days a week.

After having urged Africans to stop trying to be white by straightening their hair or keeping dogs as pets, President Zuma called on them to reject other crazy foreign notions such as overseas holidays, king-size beds, microwave ovens, air travel, telephones and computers.

Kgalema Motlanthe resigns as the poster boy for Gamblers Anonymous.

PigSpotter is nominated for a human rights award.

Eskom hikes electricity tariffs by fourteen million percent. We grumble for a bit, then cough up.

The labour ministry declares Sunday illegal and introduces a six-day working week. We hold a candle-lit vigil on Saturday and report for work the next day.

The president fires Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and replaces her with Chester Missing. We take to the streets but call off the protest after realising we’re missing the rugby.

North Korea donates a missile defence system to help protect Zuma’s Nkandla residence against a possible nuclear attack by war-mongering countries such as Malawi. Zuma shows his appreciation by replacing his Mshini wam’ act with a Gangnam Style dance. An outraged South Korea severs ties with South Africa.

Julius Malema is jailed on money laundering charges. He is released on medical grounds after developing a conscience.

The government builds a nuclear power plant in Thyspunt. People from the region are easily identified by their ability to glow in the dark. Three-headed kittens are sold on the roadside.

Bafana Bafana win the Africa Cup of Nations after immigration officials at OR Tambo International refuse the other teams entry because of insufficient blank pages in their passports.

The Hawks announce that swimmer Chad le Clos is suspected of being the mastermind of a drug and gun smuggling cartel with links to the Mafia, the Colombian underworld and the Chinese Triads. The investigation is shelved after investigators fail to find any evidence. They later concede to having been the victims of misinformation. They remain convinced, however, that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is involved in human trafficking.

On the international front …

Israel apologises for being such a bully and gives Palestine their ball back.

Prince Harry (codename Big H) destroys the Taliban with a single bullet accidentally fired while frolicking with three Cambodian prostitutes in a gold-plated Jacuzzi fitted inside his Apache helicopter.

Russian president Vladimir Putin steps down and becomes Pussy Riot’s new manager.

The National Rifle Association demands that every American has the right to drive tanks to work, make bullets for food and use Agent Orange as a weedkiller.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, gives birth to a three-toed sloth. The British people are beside themselves with joy and celebrations go on for weeks. The first pictures of the royal sloth are sold for millions.

With international cycling finally free of doping, a Nigerian wins the Tour de France in a record time of three months, two weeks and nine days.

In the wake of their ban on miniskirts because they encourage rape, Swaziland bans books because they encourage thinking, cars because they encourage travelling and voting because it encourages democracy.

It’s Blood River All Over Again

Today, 174 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated a Zulu army at the Battle of Blood River. And today, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway Shopping Centre.

The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. And the Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking us 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 grotto, although in Game you do have a slightly smaller risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

You’d think at this time of year the very least God could do is send down a few real angels to pretty up the city. Maybe we’ve been doing it wrong and everyone has gone straight to hell. Or perhaps this is hell. Perhaps heaven is another planet with mountains of marijuana and rivers of beer and beautiful women who don’t mind if you never call them but who will still whip up a hearty breakfast if you happen to drop by early on a Sunday morning, horny and bleeding.

Orphans are big this year. I saw several shops offering to donate a percentage of purchases over R100 to those who are 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 orphans in a village north of the Tugela will each get a tin of soup. Next year, if they are really lucky, they will get a tin opener.

As I made my way through the mall, hugging the walls and keeping to the shadows, retracing my steps to confuse the sniffer dogs and darting from doorway to doorway to prevent the snipers from drawing a bead on me, I saw a brawl break out in Dis-Chem. My money was on a geriatric with purple hair and no teeth. I got the idea this wasn’t her first Zimmer frame fight.

The war for drugs escalates at this time of year. Too many family reunions, dinners and parties mean that old and young alike are desperate for their meds. If you’re new at this, I recommend something from the benzodiazepine family.

Ativan and Librium will do nicely if all you need to do is get through Christmas lunch without cutting a sibling’s throat. However, if you’re worried about getting drunk and exposing Uncle Pervy for the paedophile 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 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 the repayments.

I saw another sign. “Gateway recycles 248 378 litres of fuel – enough to send a single car 87 times around the circumference of the Earth.” Hang on. Wouldn’t the carbon footprint of this car be worse for the environment than if the fuel hadn’t been recycled? More importantly – can this car turn into a boat? No wonder our children suck at geography.

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 also came across a very nice shredder for only R199. Guess what’s going to be the most popular gift in the Union Buildings this year.

And a box saying, “Magic fish – real living fish! Watch them hatch and grow before your very eyes!” We are expected to believe a lot of made-up stuff at this time of year, but I draw the line at magic fish. Or do I? Ah, what the hell. I’ll take one. They may even turn out to be talking fish, in which case I can stop this nonsense and buy an island in the Caribbean.

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 still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You genuinely 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 and to hell with the consequences.

I spent some time in the toy section because it reminds me of my childhood, none of which I can recall, although I must have had one.

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 as 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 short 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 Cape Flats 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, whether you’re a girl or a boy, 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 I can honestly say that in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk, 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 ones 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 all girls have a piece of hard plastic between their legs. Not that I have a nephew.

My Little Iron apparently makes realistic sounds. Like “I’m sick of slaving away for these ungrateful white bastards” and “Why doesn’t your useless father ever do this?” and “Open the safe or I’ll iron your face.”

I felt my masculinity listing badly and headed to a shop selling goodies capable of blinding, crippling or even killing your enemy, many of whom were jostling me and pushing their trolleys into my ankles.

They had a matt black rifle mounted on a stand at the entrance. Gamo Big Cats, it was called. I rather fancy myself as a big game hunter so I bought it. Knowing my luck, I’ll discover that it’s barely powerful enough to take out the feral tabbies of Umdloti just as the last white lion of the Kalahari lunges for my throat.

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.

An Open Letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

When I told my friend Ted I was writing to you, he asked whether I had recently suffered a severe blow to the head. He said any idiot knows that Santa doesn’t exist. This, from a man who believes the Bible to be a true story. Don’t talk to me about brain damage.

The thing is, Santa, I live in South Africa, a country where anything is possible. Take our president, for example. Here is a man so tainted by scandal that he would almost certainly either be in prison or the poorhouse if it weren’t for the power of political patronage – and yet millions of people will allow him another five years to well and truly finish the country off.

While this may sound like a grim fairy tale to you, the harsh reality is that it’s true. I can hardly believe it myself some days. This is why I don’t feel silly writing to you. If my fellow citizens can voluntarily do this to their own country – and to their descendants – then anything is possible.

Top of my Christmas list, then, is a shiny, new president. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Perhaps someone with the eloquence of Barack Obama, the integrity of Fidel Castro, the humour of Evita Bezuidenhout and the decorum of Queen Elizabeth. In other words, a highly intelligent socialist who appreciates satire and understands why one should keep one’s willy in one’s pants when it comes to the daughters of one’s friends.

Comrade Claus, I know this is a big ask, but I would also like you to put an end to poverty. I don’t particularly care whether you do this by making everyone rich or everyone equally poor. The important thing is that you rid my city of the beggars who fill me with shame and guilt and make me wind up my car window and pray for the robot to turn green before they can get to me. Damn their selfish homeless eyes.

I know I’ve been a very bad boy this year, but could you please do something about the price of beer? I paid R30 for a Windhoek Lager the other evening. It wasn’t even a particularly classy bar, either. There were no topless waitresses, for a start. Or even free peanuts. Many of us in this country survive entirely on beer. Without it we would have jobs and wives and that kind of foolishness never got nobody nowhere.

I also want you to get rid of the hadedas that are roosting in the tree outside my bedroom window. I know this is not the right season to be declaring war on wildlife, but these birds are the antichrist of the avian world. Yes, I know they scream because they are afraid of heights, but that’s no excuse. Please arrange for them to be relocated to Steve Hofmeyr’s house.

And I want a new car. My last one died alone, far from home, after being serviced to death by a supa kak garage in Fish Hoek.

My next one must be able to go from 0 to 200km/h in under four seconds and should be big enough to accommodate a double bed. Something in metallic blue with a matching duvet would be nice. Maybe with a sunroof. And a bar with its own barmaid. She must be able to go from standing to kneeling in under a minute.

By the way, are your elves unionised? If not, they could probably do with a break. You’re welcome to take some of our teachers and put them to work in your sweatshop in the North Pole. We have nearly ten thousand in KwaZulu-Natal who refused to comply with a government order to write competency tests before sloping off to cast a lazy eye over the matric exam papers. This means they won’t have any quality control issues and rubbish toys can be churned out in record time. It could even be a permanent arrangement. You keep the teachers and gives us your elves. They couldn’t do any worse, that’s for sure. And they won’t look down on the kids, either.

So. What else. Oh, yes. Will you bring Kgalema Motlanthe a pair of balls?

Let’s talk about you for a bit. I think you are ready for an image overhaul. The first thing you need to do is lose the white fur trim on your outfit. You’re not a male stripper, for heaven’s sake. You’re some sort of saint. Dress accordingly.

Maybe hold on to your black leather boots and the whip you use on the flying reindeer. It won’t be long before someone writes 50 Shades of Santa and you can market your own range of festive S&M gear.

Speaking of which. Something must be done about those reindeer. With names like Dancer and Prancer, your team runs the risk of becoming gay icons in the animal kingdom. The rabbits won’t like that one bit. And what’s with Donner and Blitzen? You have Germans working for you? Get rid of them. They can’t be trusted. Replace them with dogs.

While I’m at it, you might want to lose some weight. Plump is one thing, but obese is just plain wrong. Imagine how it would look if you had a cardiac arrest in someone’s house and the paramedics defibrillated you right there in front of the children. Not nice.

See you on the 25th. Don’t forget the car.

Regards to the missus.

An Open Letter to Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education

Dear Comrade Angie,

Well done on getting the league to nominate Jacob Zuma for a second term as coxswain of the national gravy boat. Without him leading from the stern for another five years, the good ship RSA would run aground in no time at all.

To be honest, and I think honesty is important at times like these, you scare me a little. I don’t know if it is because you are black, a woman or a teacher. During what I laughingly call my life, I have been frightened by all three demographics at one stage or another. Truth is, you are the first black female teacher I have encountered. Not that we have ever had an encounter, of course. We need to clarify this because people like you and I have enemies who would relish the opportunity to destroy our reputations by leaking a doctored sex tape implicating us in a four-in-a-bed romp with Eugene Terreblanche’s widow and Steve Hofmeyr. I can’t afford that kind of scandal.

I cannot get over the nerve of these bloody counter-revolutionary agents in the capitalist running dog media suggesting that you only endorsed Zuma because any other president would fire you for doing such an appalling job as education minister. I think you have acquitted yourself remarkably well. Just the other day I met a child who could almost count to a hundred. Well, he got to 34. And he was 19, but small for his age.

I enjoyed the way you apologised for the late delivery of schoolbooks in Limpopo while denying liability at the same time. It is a wise fish who knows its way around a hook. I say this with the utmost respect. Or, as the matrics would have it, respek.

I must also congratulate you on never having once nominated a woman for the position of president of South Africa. Who among us will ever forget your words: “We are not a feminist organisation. We are a women’s organisation.”

Bravo, madam! Bravo! I applaud not only your courage in drawing a clear distinction between conventional red-blooded womenhood and the mental illness known as feminism, but also your implicit recognition that South Africa is nowhere near being ready to have someone who is not a man running this country.

Women tend to hire other women and it wouldn’t be long before the Union Buildings were overrun by civil servants in skirts and ugly shoes. You have obviously given some thought to the hazards of menstrual synchrony. I know I have. The country would be thoroughly ungovernable for three to five days a month. If they got their timing right, Swaziland would be able to colonise us.

If I were a woman, I wouldn’t want a president who has only ever dabbled in a single wife. I would want one who dives into women head-first. Wallows in them. Marries them. Impregnates them. Puts them on a roster so they all get their turn to appreciate the executive member. That’s what I call democracy, even though it may sound like a dicktatorship.

As a woman who clearly knows her place in the pecking order, you were obviously instructed by someone wearing trousers to nominate Squirrel Ramaphosa for the position of deputy-president. Whatever happened to that Motlanthe fellow? He got 13 votes to Squirrel’s 62. I expect you will be hunting down the dissidents in the days to come. You cannot have independent thinkers in your ranks. That’s where the rot sets in. Next thing you know, your members will be demanding the right to stand at the braai instead of in the kitchen.

And that, comrade, is a slippery slope.

Aluta continua. Up to a point.

What To Do With The Feral Ingrates

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 suggest you encourage him to consider pickpocketing as a career choice, but with a pair of nimble fingers he could certainly bring in some beer money while at the same time increasing his chances of getting hired as a cashier.

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 girl who is older than 15, you will know despair. In truckloads.

But if your daughter is young – six or seven is good – then 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. Your daughter will want to sit on his knee and tell him what she wants for Christmas. Before she does this, tell her 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 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 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 on uShaka beach. Too much of irony, my bru.

Casinos. Children like to be taken to them. They might say they don’t, but they are lying through their crooked 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. Popular among the kids. When Clive 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 is watching a chimpanzee playing on a tyre swing or daddy haggling with a black-hearted harridan whose name clearly wasn’t Jasmine. It’s all educational.

Arts and crafts. 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 maths. 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.