An interview with the author


How did you get into writing?

When I was around five years old, I was sent to this building that had lots of rooms. A strange woman gave me and some other children coloured pencils and made us copy the alphabet. It just kind of snowballed from there. The army went some way towards helping me choose a career in writing. As a signalman, I had to learn how to type. When I came out of the army, the only thing I could do was type. That’s not strictly true. I also learned how to drink and how to shoot a gun, neither of which helped me much when it came time to choose a career. Being able to type like a demon meant that journalism was an obvious choice. I knew writing was for me because it’s one of the few professions you can do while lying in bed drinking beer.

How many words do you write in a day?

It all depends on whether or not I have a deadline. I am not one of those writers whose heads will explode if they don’t do ten thousand words by lunch. I write for money. I am a complete whore and I can’t believe I’m doing this interview for free.

Describe a day in your life?

They’re all the same, really. Wednesdays, for instance, are no different to Sundays. That’s one of the curses/blessings of being self-employed. That’s a euphemism writers use. It sounds better than ‘jobless’. I wake up early, around 10am, and look out the window to see which way the clouds are blowing. This tells me if the wind is offshore at Muizenberg or on the other side of the peninsula at Kommetjie. I will then put on my wetsuit, strap my surfboard to the roof of my car, and head out in search of waves. Surfing helps keep me sane. It also helps me to avoid doing any work. I’ll surf for a couple of hours, then go for a pub lunch. That takes me up to sunset, at which point I go somewhere else for sundowners. I prefer to start writing just as the sun has sunk below the horizon. There is something in that soft light that I find very inspiring. There is also something in beer that I find very inspiring.

Advice for people who want to become writers?

They don’t need advice. Everyone is already a writer. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites. Everyone old enough to figure out a computer keyboard is a writer. Some are good. Most are appalling. If you want to become a serious writer and make serious money, you will need to emigrate. Or, at the very least, find a publisher overseas. There are only seven people left in this country who read, and four of them would rather buy a case of beer than a book.

How is writing a column different from writing a book?

A column takes four hours to write. A book can take anything up to four days. That seems to be the case with some of the drek I’ve seen on bookshelves lately. Also, writing a column is a lot more fun. You can play loud music, carry on a conversation and drink heavily. Columns are written by the attention deficit for the attention deficit. Books are utter bastards to write. You need to concentrate for long periods of time and work in complete silence and isolation. If you are an alcoholic misanthrope who knows how to spell, the odds are you’d make a great writer.

What do you think of social media?

Antisocial media suits me because I prefer communicating with people from a distance. It’s also a voracious consumer of one’s time and has the capacity to turn bright, ambitious people into dribbling vegetables in an alarmingly short period of time. One does on occasion stumble across nuggets of moderate genius, but trawling Twitter and Facebook is by and large an overwhelmingly depressing experience because one is constantly reminded that the world is populated almost entirely by ill-informed halfwits not bright enough to realise how dumb they are.

What do you think of all these literary festivals?

I think they should be banned. If you want to know what’s in a writer’s head, buy his or her books. That’s where you will find the valuable stuff. People too often mistake writers for performers, for celebrities. We’re just conduits. Words pass from our brains, through our fingers and into our computers. If they’re good enough, they get published.

It is all very well writing a book but how do you market it, how do you get those sales rolling in?

“Rolling in” might be pushing it. Unless you write a book about rugby or a kid at a snooty private school in the KZN Midlands, it’s going to be more a case of royalties trickling in. Publishers are meant to do the marketing, but all too often their budgets are limited to three bottles of wine and a plate of snacks at the launch. Authors are increasingly expected to help with the marketing. That’s why I’m doing this interview. Hopefully tens of thousands of people will read this and rush out to buy my new book. It’s not easy marketing a book in a country where most people are only interested in things they can drink, drive, eat or wear. We need to find a way to turn books into status symbols. Or authors into celebrities. I know I said earlier that authors shouldn’t be regarded as celebrities, but I’ve changed my mind.

How can people buy your latest book?

The best way is with money. Cash or credit cards, I don’t mind. They can find it in bookstores. If they’re not sure what a bookstore looks like, it’s the shop with nobody but the staff inside. They can also order it online, either in book form or as an ebook. It’s probably safer than going out.

Dear Barman

“Two Windhoeks and a Jack on the rocks, please.”

“Sorry?”

“Two Windhoeks and a Jack.”

“Sorry?”

“TWO WINDHOEKS …”

And so it begins. I have just walked into your bar and already my idea of a fun evening is clashing heavily with your staggering inability to make the connection between the volume of the music and the fact that nobody can hear anything anybody else is saying.

All around us, people are communicating in sign language. Girls are screaming into each other’s ears. Boys have given up and are staring at the floor, slack-jawed and drooling. But none of this is important. The main thing is that you are having fun. And are you having fun? By golly, you certainly are.

Stripped to the waist, you are gyrating your hips and flipping vodka bottles through the air and catching them behind your back. How frightfully clever of you. I’m sure your parents are very proud. But while you are balancing ice blocks on your nose like a goddamn performing seal, I’m on the other end of the bar dehydrating faster than a dog in the desert. Flairing, my arse. The only things flaring are my nostrils as I hyperventilate and struggle to contain myself from leaping over the bar and smashing your gormless face repeatedly into the counter.

There are only two types of barmen. Which one are you? The alcoholic or the recovering alcoholic? Judging by the trouble you have remembering orders and working out the change in your head, I would say you were born with a touch of the old foetal alcohol syndrome. Thanks, mom.

I don’t care if you drink behind the bar. In fact, I am all for it. The more you drink, the more chance there is that I can stiff you on the bill. But what I do object to is your crass attempt at guilting me into giving you a tip. If I pay for a couple of drinks and I’m due R20 change, just give me a fucking R20 note. Don’t break it down into a whole bunch of loose change in the hope that I will leave some of it in that cracked white saucer you prod across the bar in my direction, you panhandling prick.

It’s not enough that you put a 300% mark-up on bottle store prices, but you still want me to cross your sweaty palm with silver because you went to all the trouble of walking three steps to the fridge? You can suck my cocktail shaker.

I don’t mind giving a tip to the waitress, because this rewards her for making the effort to come all the way over to my table. A tip also entitles me to sexually harass her in a light-hearted manner, which is something that I would not wish to do to you.

Hey! Look at that! For once you actually came to my end of the bar and took my order. But you know what? That tequila you just poured me? How come it slipped down my throat so easily? Where was the gag reflex? The watering eyes? You low-life son of a bitch. You cut the tequila with tap water, didn’t you? Unless, of course, my body has developed a tolerance for the stuff. In which case, I apologise.

To be fair, you do provide a valuable public service. And on behalf of millions of South Africans with a drinking problem, I would like to thank you for the good work that you do.

Why, then, must you spoil your chances of winning some sort of humanitarian award by adopting an attitude that suggests it is us who should feel deeply honoured to be served by you? Perhaps you aren’t the compassionate altruist I always thought you were. Perhaps you really are nothing more than a glorified sweatshop monkey trained to pull levers and press buttons and top up the peanut bowl.

This may come as a shock, but you are not some sort of deity that deserves to be worshipped. You are a barman. You are there to serve me, to bring me whatever I want. You are not there to look at me with hostile, hooded eyes because I have ordered something that involves more than two ingredients and maybe a small purple umbrella.

Most of the time, however, you do not look at me at all. You look at everything else except me. Even though I have fought my way through a crowd of angry dipsomaniacs standing seven-deep and am now pressed right up against the bar waving a fistful of banknotes at you, there seems to be something wrong with your peripheral vision. You wipe the counter, get more ice, wash a glass or two, check yourself in the mirror, take the orders of everyone around me. I begin to feel like a character in The Others. I start to think that maybe I died in the toilets and came back to get a drink but now nobody can see me because I am a ghost.

I pinch a girl’s bottom and she slaps me. So I am still alive. And now I’ve got your attention. But only because you think there’s trouble and you have been dying to use one of those fancy muy thai moves on a drunk customer. Well, buddy, you’re out of luck. I’m not drunk. And that’s because I have been standing here for the last hour shouting your name. Maybe I should start shouting: “Hey Batman” instead of “hey barman”.

Would you like that? You are, after all, a superhero without whom the evening would die an unnatural death as people stood about speaking among themselves in hushed tones, too self-conscious to dance, too shy to flirt, too sober to even go for a quickie in the loo.

As the designated pusher of the world’s most popular legal drug, you have the power to make people lower their expectations and shed their inhibitions. Without you, nobody would have any fun at all. Ugly people would never get laid. Tow truck drivers would be out of work. Casualty wards would stand empty. The divorce rate would plummet. The poor would have money for food.

No wonder you suffer from an overblown sense of importance.

I’m back …

Here we go again. The Citizen newspaper has kindly and courageously offered me a home for my column. My first tabloid! This is tremendously exciting.

Cut & Run appears for the first time today but will in future be published on Wednesdays.

Part of the deal is exclusivity – meaning I can’t spread the column around. It’s not on the paper’s website and it won’t appear on my blog. So if you want to read it, and you’d be an idiot not to, you will have to either buy the paper or subscribe to the newspaper’s e-edition. You can even pay for just a single copy. On, for instance, Wednesdays.

Here’s the link http://thecitizen.pressreader.com


2019 – Your Stars

After a close encounter with a celestial body on New Year’s Eve, I had an epiphany so powerful that I had to go home and change my broeks. It was downhill from then on.

All indications are that 2019 is getting itself off to a very suspicious start. On Thursday next week, Scorpio enters Venus. They barely know one another. How I miss the golden era of the Big Bang. There was a sense of propriety among the astral bodies that is sorely lacking today.

It gets worse. Pluto will be doing unspeakable things to Uranus in February. If you are of a sensitive disposition, you may want to avoid looking at the night sky next month. And keep the children inside.

Having recently spent a night or two on my back at the bottom of the garden, I am something of an expert in the ancient art of astrology as interpreted through the abominable wretchedness of alcohol poisoning. Here, then, is your Horrorscope for the year ahead.

Aries – This is a fire sign, but you probably don’t need reminding because ever since you were little, people have been telling you not to play with matches. The good news is that this is your year to burn stuff. Don’t hold back. It can be anything from parking fines to office blocks. When the police try to arrest you, tell them you are astrologically impervious to their authority since you are governed by Mars alone. If they are fellow Aries, they will understand. If they aren’t, set them alight and run away.

Taurus – Your element is Earth. This year you are entitled to behave as if you own it. Get drunk and disorderly, drive slowly in the fast lane and park in handicapped bays. You are ruled by Venus and not, as you have always thought, your penis. Your symbol is the Bull. Act accordingly. Attack people who wear red and, when angry, paw the ground and snort loudly. On the career front, you will lose your job but will find happiness in other things. Heroin, mainly.

Gemini – Nobody likes a Gemini. Not even other Geminis. Your element is Air, which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. Your symbol is The Twins. Nobody trusts twins. Your ruler is Mercury, a gay little fellow who flitted around the heavens gossiping about Aphrodite banging half the pantheon and how wasted Dionysus got at last Saturday’s bacchanalia. This is the year you shut up for a moment and give someone else a chance to talk. Divorce is on the cards. The bad news is that you will marry again before the year is out.

Cancer – You killed my mother a few years ago, you cold-hearted bastard. Because you are governed by the Moon, you cannot help carrying on like a lunatic. This is the year your aberrant mood-swings drive the last of your old friends away. You will soon make plenty of new friends and share cold showers and long walks around the exercise yard. When you are released, you will emulate your astrological symbol and approach matters in a more circumspect way. Your manner of walking in a crablike fashion attracts the wrong kind of attention and you end up with the Crab People who have been living in the Earth’s crust for thousands of years waiting for an opportunity to take over the world.

Leo – Your ruling planet is the Sun. So, to your discredit, is your favourite newspaper. Much like your symbol, the Lion, your pride often stops you from straying into unchartered territory. You are compatible with anyone as long as they have their own transport, money and functioning genitals. Driven mad by your unrelenting good humour, a family member will try to kill you in March. Your massive ego suffers a blow but you quickly recover and go on to perform an improvised comedy/musical/dance act at the Baxter Theatre. Well, outside the Baxter Theatre. In fact, on a pavement outside a tik den in Woodstock. You will be a hit. Or be hit. Or take a hit. The oracle is murky.

Virgo – Forget Gemini. Virgos are the most disliked of the star signs. You are compassionate and caring, but not so compassionate that you’d have sex with a man who is down on his knees begging for it. I’m talking about a friend, here. You will be more popular this year if you raise your skirt and lower your standards. If you’re a man, let your willy and not your brain do the thinking for a change. Many Virgos are found in the service industries. Remember that prostitution not only provides a valuable service, it’s also a fun way to earn a little extra money.

Libra – Affectionate and romantic, you depend too heavily on your partner and friends for support. The Scales are your symbol, which suggests you also depend too heavily on drugs. Ambitious yet lethargic, you need to get some balance in your life. Less weed and more speed, perhaps. Make the year more interesting by saying yes when you mean no, and vice versa. Be careful of the number seven and avoid men who wear hats.

Scorpio – Your element is water and your symbol is the scorpion. This is stupid. Scorpions hate water unless it has a dash of whiskey in it. For the sake of compromise, let us make your symbol a Jamesons on the rocks. Ruled by Mars, a rubbish planet overrun by toy cars from America, the ever-contrarian Scorpio knows all the answers and has a prodigious passion for power. All Israelis are Scorpios. You are entering an exciting new phase of love, prosperity and the total annihilation of Palestine.

Sagittarius – As the Archer, you owe it to yourself to invest in a real bow this year. Your metaphorical arrows have failed you dismally in the past, either falling short or hitting the wrong target altogether. It’s time for the real thing. And think big. Instead of stealing the office stationery, rob a bank. No, not with a bow and arrow, you idiot. Use a gun like everyone else. You will once again be unlucky in love this year. With the Centaur as your astrological symbol, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. On the other hand, I know a number of women who think nothing of sharing their bed with a creature who is half-human, half-beast.

Capricorn – Goat-people often need to be push-started. You know that the first step on any journey is the hardest, especially when you’re very stoned, and sometimes it takes a little light whipping to get you moving. Once you’re climbing the mountain of success, you don’t know when to stop and often have to be brought down with a dart gun for your own good. You will have a decision to make this year. Good luck with that.

Aquarius – The Water Bearer is not much in demand anywhere outside the Sahara, and even then your average Tuareg would rather you were bearing a six-pack of Brutal Fruit. One of them clean-living veggie Berbers would probably be happy enough with water, though. Considered to be “special” people, there are more Aquarians in mental asylums than any other sign. For those who weigh less than 53kgs, it is going to be a good year for love. Or anorexia. Watch out for a tall man with red eyes and no teeth.

Pisces – The Zodiac’s most sensitive sign, which makes no sense because fish are easily the most insensitive animals on the planet. Pisceans are relatively easy to hook and they make good eating, but can become confused and belligerent when out of their element for too long. Their natural environment is happy hour at a wet bar. July will see dreams turn into reality. In August, reality will become dreams. Come September, there will be doctors, lithium and straps on your bed.

A guide to surviving New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve. My liver huddles up against my spleen and whimpers at the mere mention of it. Come out, you lily-livered coward. I need you now more than ever.

The Anno Domini system, which counts years from the death of Jesus, spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Big deal. A lot of things spread through Europe during the Middle Ages. The Black Death, for one, yet you hardly ever see anyone walking around with a long face moaning about the good old days when the plague was all the rage, so why should we continue using a calendar wielded by organised religion as a propaganda tool in the name of … ah, forget it. Let’s stick with the liver, shall we?

To be honest, and I think honesty is important at a time like this, I have felt uncomfortable about making a huge thing out of December 31 ever since discovering that the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Catholics have done some truly appalling things over the ages and for all I know the calendar is one of them.

               The Liver

There is one school of thought that says the liver is the human body’s largest and most complex organ. This is generally the opinion of everyone who hasn’t seen me naked. Yes, Mrs Worthington of Margate, I’m talking about you.

An unsightly and consequently rather shy organ, the liver is one of the few parts of the body that are prepared to suffer in relative silence. The poor could learn a thing or two from the liver.

It must be said, however, that the liver is not as perfect as it likes to think. For starters, it takes its job way too seriously. The heart, on the other hand, knows how to have a bit of fun. It speeds up, slows down, murmurs to itself, does an Irish jig, stops altogether and then, just when you think you’re dead, starts up again. It is an impish organ that understands the art of comedic timing.

Simply put, the liver does not know how to have a good time. I find this odd, considering the amount of drugs, alcohol and nicotine that pass through it on an average Friday night.

Perhaps it’s not so strange. If we want to be really unkind, the liver is little more than the body’s policeman. It’s a sullen cop manning a permanent roadblock. What’s this? Tetrahydrocannibanol, eh? You’re coming with me. I’m going to detoxify and neutralise all the goodness out of you. Bastard.

But there is more to surviving New Year’s Eve than merely letting your liver know that it’s not the boss of you.

When Pope Gregory established December 31st as the night upon which the faithful and the faithless join hands in drunken revelry, he probably never had roadblocks in mind.

               Roadblocks

When I am president, and I will be one day, I shall give every police officer the night off on New Year’s Eve. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to party with the rest of us? After all, cops are people, too. Well, most of them are. Sort of.

All I ask for is one night of the year in which we can go out without worrying about getting slammed up against a van full of snarling dogs, cavity searched and tossed into a stinking cell to be remorselessly ravaged by a diseased convict. Is it too much to ask that we be allowed one night free of fear?

We are all adults, apart from those who aren’t, and if we are prepared to take our chances with motherless drivers, desperate divorcees and psychos on tik, then that is our choice. If you prefer to spend your New Year’s Eve clutching a glass of warm Pepsi and getting all misty eyed over ridiculous songs like Auld Lang Syne, then stay at home. By going out and expecting Mr Plod to keep you safe, you are ruining it for the rest of us.

Since I am not yet president, we have to face the reality that state-appointed arbiters of appropriate behaviour will be out there looking to ruin our lives and reputations. As if we can’t do that all by ourselves.

Fact is, even if you haven’t touched a drop all night and then you kiss someone whose blood alcohol level is above 00000.01, this would put you over the limit and you will be dragged behind the police caravan, pistol-whipped and read the last rites in a language you don’t understand.

Roadblocks can be dealt with in several ways. One is to slip into the passenger seat and tell the officer that your driver ran away. The officer may wish to attach electrodes to your testicles to determine the veracity of your story, but, unless you enjoy that sort of thing, you should remind him that the constitution frowns on torture.

Do not attempt this if there are two of you in the car. Police are trained to spot suspicious behaviour and there is nothing more suspicious than an empty driver’s seat and someone sitting on your lap in the passenger seat.

Also what you can do is pretend to have a speech impediment. Most cops treat the disabled marginally better than they do the rest of us. But don’t lean out of the window and say: “Good afterble consternoon.” That is a speech impeded by vodka shooters as opposed to, say, blunt trauma to the head.

I used to get stopped a lot before I became a master of disguise and the cops would always ask me why my eyes were so red. “I have pterygiums, officer,” I would say, opening my eyes as big as they would go without me passing out. Cops don’t want to take your statement knowing they are going to have to ask you to spell whatever the hell it was that you said you had.

You may be asked to provide a urine sample. “But I just went,” is not a valid excuse. What you need to do is invest in a fake penis. Adult World is full of them. Or so I have heard. Drill a hole down the middle of it and fill it with your dog’s urine. The cop will be so impressed by the size of your willy that he will shake you by the hand and send you on your way.

               Medical Treatment

A basic knowledge of First Aid is essential for anyone who plans on celebrating New Year’s Eve properly. There will be injuries and you need to be prepared. Under no circumstances do you want to have anything to do with state hospitals this evening. The doctors have been working for nine straight days and the nurses earn R2.50 an hour. They will not share your sense of humour no matter how much you laugh and poke your finger into your gaping head wound.

Stitches are piece of cake if you have a fish hook and a piece of gut. If you don’t at least have that in the boot of your car, you’re not a real South African and you deserve to be deported.

Carry a roll of bubble wrap in your car. The moment your girlfriend gets the wobblies,  wrap it around her. She won’t hurt herself when she plummets off the north face of her bar stool and the rest of the bar will join you in a game of Popping The Drunk.

If someone loses an eye, ask the barman for a glass of ice and stick it in there. It will be good for 24 hours.

Avoid amputations because they can be messy if you don’t have access to serviettes. A lot of people complain of severed limbs but if you look closely you will often find their leg bent behind their head.

Open heart surgery is easily conducted with a bottle of whisky and a steak knife. If you don’t have a knife, rush to the nearest restaurant and order a steak.

Right, that’s it. In the immortal words of Pope Gregory, “Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.”

Mall makes Blood River look like a picnic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As if there’s such a thing.

 

Jingle Hells

School holidays should be abolished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will be the best Christmas ever.

 

Relax, officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, worse, Australia.

 

An open letter to the president of Egypt #LegsMustFall

Dear President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in the fight against legs,

Mustafa Ben Trovato

 

Shedding loads and spreading lies

Eskom has been fucking with us for years and there’s no end in sight. Here’s a letter I wrote to the boss of the power utility in 2011. This was before the Guptas even got their claws into it.

 

Dear Sir,

This is the fourth time I am writing this letter to you. The first three times you turned the power off before I could press save. I was angry before. I am now incensed.

I live in Cape Town, supposedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but what the hell good does that do when I can’t see anything for most of the time? Oh, sure, the sun still works, but how much longer can it be before you find a way to switch that off too?

The first time Eskom plunged the province into darkness, you kept very quiet and hoped nobody had noticed. Truth is, we weren’t too bothered. Unless you were on a life support machine. But it was a novelty. The power cut forced married couples to go to bed early where, without the option of reading or television, they were left with no alternative but to have sex. Apparently this helps to keep couples together. Or at least from killing each other.

Then you turned the power off several more times over the next few weeks. Suddenly it wasn’t such fun. Weeping women, saturated with sex, begged their husbands to sell up and emigrate to a country with electricity.

People began going hungry, fridges defrosted, beers got warm. The only thing moving in the streets were four men on horseback riding from town to town shouting in what sounded like Aramaic.

You, in the meantime, denied that anything was wrong. “Relax,” you said. “Everything’s under control.” The rolling blackouts got worse. Suburb after suburb, town after town, became engulfed in darkness.

Your men in suits went into a huddle. “The masses are revolting. What are we going to call this thing?” A middle-ranking executive blew his chances of ever getting promoted by replying: “An unmitigated fucking disaster?” But the truth is not something to be bandied about at times like these, is it?

“Let’s call it load shedding,” you said brightly. “That makes it sound like we are getting rid of something that we have too much of. People will want to thank us.”

Apparently not, though. Instead, people wanted to hunt you down and ram a syringe full of sodium pentathol, or any kind of truth serum, into your fat lying capitalist arse.

Once the ANC had pointed out that your incompetence was going to lose them control of Cape Town, which it subsequently did, you said sorry in a very small voice and pretended to cry.

The then public enterprises minister, Alec Erwin, felt so bad for you that he made up a story about a bunch of imaginary warlocks throwing a bolt into one of the Koeberg nuclear power station’s generators, damaging a rotor and causing a serious power shortfall in the Western Cape.

Since Koeberg is your baby, and a potentially lethal one at that, the last thing you wanted was the government suggesting that just anyone could walk up to the facility and gain entrance by scaling a wall. Oops, sorry, Greenpeace already did that several years ago.

So you dismissed Erwin’s claim. Erwin, under the mistaken impression that you were right behind him, quickly denied ever mentioning the word “sabotage” or even knowing where Koeberg was. “Look,” said Erwin, “I don’t even use electricity. I’m a gas man, myself.”

So not only were we surviving on tins of baked beans heated over cheap candles, but we now also knew that our shivering bodies could be incinerated in a boiling tsunami of radioactive particles at any moment.

Then, once businesses hit the magical mark of R500-million in losses, you began publishing a load shedding schedule in the local newspapers. But even then, you never lost your keen sense of humour. I bet you found it hard to stifle a giggle when you tricked people into thinking that they would be without power from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Wednesday, only for the lights to go out from 7pm to midnight on Thursday. You did this, with a twinkle in your eye, in towns around the Western Cape. And sometimes even in the Northern Cape, although it’s not quite as much of a laugh for you because the folk in Kimberley don’t even notice these things.

Sometimes, in the middle of a spot of load shedding, you would switch the power back on and then, a few seconds later, turn it off. What’s the point of earning R13-million a year if you can’t have a bit of fun? If you have the ability to make millions of people go “yay!” and, moments later, “fuuuck!” in perfect synchronisation, then you should go right ahead and do it. I know I would.

In the unlikely event that you decide to do the decent thing and resign, I would like to be the first to propose that Homer Simpson takes your place. He has worked at the Springfield Nuclear Power Station and will cause far less mayhem than you already have.

Apart from the loose bolt, short circuits caused by mist and soot, an unusually high tide at Llandudno beach and the gay pride parade, the power crisis is the result of you believing in 1998 (accurately, as it turned out), that South Africa was doomed to become just another corrupt debt-ridden crime-ravaged basket case and consequently there was no point in maintaining your power stations or even building new ones because they would just be taken over by squatters or stripped down and sold on the black market.

In the intervening years the population has grown and a lot more boys have reached drinking age. More shebeens means more fridges to keep more beers cold. Now there is simply not enough electricity to keep all those new fridges running. This is how countries descend into civil war.

Now you are asking us to help you by bathing in cold water, cooking over primus stoves, washing our clothes in the river and eating by candlelight. It’s fine for the majority, but we white folk are simply not accustomed to this lifestyle.

Vote Homer Simpson.

Yours truly,

Ben Trovato