Send the exorcists to Canberra

Oi! Yeah, you. Australia. I’m talking to you. What’s your problem, mate? A travel advisory? Is this because we caught your cricket blokes cheating? Seems a bit harsh.
Our gummint reckons your advisory deters Australians from visiting South Africa and tarnishes our image. If anyone’s going to tarnish our image, mate, it’ll be us. You won’t beat us at that game. We’ve been working at it for years.
The advisory warns visitors to South Africa to “exercise a high degree of caution”. That’s a mistake right there. We don’t want anyone coming over here with a view to exercising. We’re laid-back and lazy and proud of it. You don’t believe me, check our GDP. You want to exercise, go to Germany.
According to Aussie rules, “This level means that there are more or bigger risks in this location than what you would typically find in a large Australian city.” Don’t make me laugh, mate. The biggest risk in any Australian city is that the pubs will shut before you can get rat-arsed.
You warn of robberies and say that “visitors to shopping malls should remain vigilant at all times”. I fear only two things when I go to the mall. Not being able to find parking is one. The fear of being jostled is another. We have a big emerging middle class and they tend to emerge all at once on a Saturday morning. You won’t get murdered or robbed, but you might get jostled.
You also said the advisory was issued because “there is a threat of terrorism in South Africa”. Ah, come on, mate. Play fair. The last terror attack we had was when Steve Hofmeyr released a new music video. Your National Security website, on the other hand, says, “Credible intelligence, assessed by our security agencies, indicates that individuals or groups continue to possess the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.”
Chuck in box jellyfish, wolf spiders, cone snails, tiger snakes, saltwater crocodiles and Russell Crowe and I’m starting to think we’re the ones who should be issuing a travel advisory. Perhaps we already do – if you don’t like it here, boet, we advise that you emigrate to Australia right away.
Moving on. Last week I was caught with my pants down in the first harbinger of Cape Town’s savage winter. I had expected to be back in Durban by now but something keeps coming up. Besides, I can’t find my pants. This happens more than you might think to men who live alone. This is because they are either recovering from a break-up or heading for a breakdown and tend to have a lot on their minds.
So I lit a fire with bits of milkwood I found lying around. Most of the bits were attached to the milkwood trees around my shack. Milkwoods love a good pruning and, by the look of them, these ones hadn’t been touched since Simon van der Stel stopped off in Kommetjie for a spot of raping and pillaging.
Anyway. Whatever other qualities it has, milkwood sucks as firewood. Or maybe my chimney’s blocked. Within moments of setting the wood on fire, the shack filled with dense smoke causing me to flee sans culottes, pantaloons or any other item protecting my delicate gentleman parts from hypothermia.
To the casual observer, not that there are any around here, the scene resembled one of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of hell. All the elements were there. Smoke, flames, naked tormented white man in a heightened state of agitation unable to reach the fridge for fear of asphyxiation. Everything but the giant blue bird sitting in an armchair swallowing a naked woman while swallows fly out of her bottom.
That this was happening on deadline made it all so much worse. I wrestled with the urge to set fire to my house and the barking dog’s house, buy a kilo of amphetamines and drive for fifty straight hours in any direction, then stop and live right there.
Then, in a moment of divine clarity, I realised this was a malignant spirit talking. Knowing that I had, through a weird set of circumstances involving fire, smoke and no pants, become possessed by the devil, or more likely one of his minor henchdemons, made it easier for me to rationalise the situation and thereby reject arson and a life on the run.
What I needed almost as much as a beer was an exorcism. I looked for a local exorcist on google but where I live, there is no salvation. We are damned. There are no priests in my village but there is a bottle store that doesn’t sell alcohol because the owner can’t afford stock. And there is no deliverance.
I wouldn’t have this problem if I lived in Rome. There are restaurants in the Campo dei Fiori that have been delivering pizzas since the Lions beat the Christians in the Colosseum Cup. As for the other thing, there are more than 400 trained exorcists in Italy alone. They do over half a million exorcisms a year.
If you suffer from demons, Ernest Simoni is the man you want on speed-dial. The 89-year-old cardinal was a big hit at the 13th annual exorcists convention in Rome this week. Seriously. It’s a thing. More than 250 exorcists from 51 countries came together to share ideas on how best to drive the devil from people whom he has possessed, or even just moved in temporarily while looking for something more permanent.
Simoni says he has come face to face with Satan hundreds of times. This says a lot for a man who has never been married. Because he lives in Albania, which is so far away that nobody even knows where it is, he can’t always make house calls. What he does do, though, is four or five exorcisms a day by phone. I imagine it’s like the reverse of telesales calls, where the person tries to plunge you into debit order hell.
Some priests criticised the cardinal’s dial-a-demon method because “the possessed person often writhes and levitates during the extraction of the devil from his or her soul”. I imagine the priest should be there to pin them down in a half-nelson and get them to submit. Given the number of exorcisms being performed, you’d think there would be more levitations on YouTube than just the one performed by Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
Simoni also performs frequent exorcisms on Albanian Muslims who want spiritual liberation from the devil because “the possessed aren’t just Catholics”. I like him, this Ernest Simoni. He doesn’t discriminate. I always thought of the devil as being a bit of a Christian, what with them believing so implicitly in his existence and all.
I wonder what the cardinal would do if he got a call from a member of the Church of Satan saying, yes, I did invite him in and I do have a pentagram tattooed on my forehead, but I’ve just become a father and need to get on with stuff that doesn’t involve sacrificing chickens on a Sunday night.
Simoni told the conference, “There was a very tall woman. It took six people to hold her down in a chair. After hours and hours of struggle, I was able to banish the evil. I cast out the demons.” I don’t know. I’ve been married twice to women who weren’t very tall at all, and I know for sure that six people would not have been able to hold them down when they were angry. They wouldn’t even have tried. They would’ve given me my money back and left. Were they full of demons? Of course they were. It’s one of the reasons I married them.
The cardinal also said that millions of people were possessed by Satan but that “when Satan hears the word of God, he is terrified”. What he seems to be saying is that Satan is a bit gay. That he doesn’t like confrontation and would rather be doing his satany stuff without anyone shouting and making a scene. I find this a bit implausible, to be honest. Ever since Satan was invented, he has been portrayed as a crimson-hued, cloven-hoofed, trident-wielding beast with horns, uglier than Donald Trump but less narcissistic. I imagine that Satan, like Patricia de Lille, is not easily terrified.
The Rome convention included seminars with titles like, “Angels and Demons in Sacred Scripture and the Teachings of the Church” and “People Who Buy Dan Brown’s Books –Mad or Possessed?”
There were also panels on African witchcraft “such as the JuJu curse”. I am not making this up. Their idea of the JuJu curse is probably different to ours, though.
Participants also heard from criminologists, medical doctors and psychologists “to help exorcists discern between genuine devil possession and mental illness or even creative criminals who claim the devil made them do it”. Ah, Hansie. You’re not alone.
Speaking of evil, the convention cost R4 400 to attend and another R3 700 if you wanted simultaneous translation from Italian.
Exorcizo deo immundissimus spiritus, indeed.

What? Me worry?

I have begun worrying about things. This is unusual for me. I have worried very little ever since leaving school.
Worrying has an effect on one’s health. It also has an effect on one’s financial status. If I had worried more in my formative years, I might be a rich man today. Or dead. I prefer to think I’d be dead.
Men and women worry about different things. Men worry about going bald. Women don’t. And neither do I. Not because I am a woman in a man’s body, but because my 75-year-old father still has plenty of hair. I might be wrong, but I think hair loss is inherited from the paternal side and, for a lot of men, it’s the only inheritance they’ll get because when fathers lose their hair, they very often go mad and spend their life savings on fast cars and cheap women and leave nothing for their sons. The daughters needn’t worry because they will have married for money.
I found a grey hair the other day. It was lurking in the downstairs department. Upstairs I have about a million grey hairs. Well, people tell me they’re grey. I like to think of them as dusky blond. Grey hair can, I suppose, look distinguished. Take Richard Gere. Then again, he did unspeakable things with gerbils. I can’t even imagine what colour the gerbils were after that little experiment.
I don’t worry much about crime. I have never been mugged, molested or murdered. Like most white people in this fabulous country, I only start taking an active interest in things once I have been personally affected. Otherwise you can all go to hell.
I worry that Zambia has a white president. Guy Scott was thrust into the position, albeit in an acting position, after Michael Sata flew to London earlier this week to allow his chain-smoking habit to collect its lethal dues in a more relaxed environment.
Forgetting about FW de Klerk for a moment, which can’t be easy if you’re a DA supporter, Scott is the first white president in Africa since … I don’t know. Inexplicably, there’s nothing on Google relating directly to white presidents in Africa. I find this odd, given the mayhem they have caused. Scott may well be the most dangerous of all – a white president who thinks he is black. Given a free hand, his government would be a bastard hybrid of the Mau-Mau and the Ku Klux Klan.
Luckily, his parents were born in Britain, which pretty much excludes him from running for president when elections are held in three months’ time. Unlike Scott, at least most of our white people have parents who were born here. And if they weren’t, well, voetsek, first generation whities, voetsek! And I’m not just saying that because I’ll be the perfect age for minister of defence by the time Julius Malema becomes president. Viva EFF, viva!
What else do I worry about? Well, I worry about the Catholics. Actually, I worry specifically about Pope Francis. Catholics in general couldn’t give a damn if all non-Catholics were consigned to burn in the hellfires of damnation for all eternity. Which is only fair.
I worry that this pope could be the antichrist. A comment like this might well go down in some giant celestial book of judgment, but it probably won’t. When it comes to tossing the dice against organised religion, I’ll have a go every time.
Just the other day, Pope Frankie suggested that gay people might not be the spawn of the devil after all. Then Elton John went and ruined everything by calling the pope his “hero”. While I initially supported the pope’s homo-friendly position, my feelings for Elton John left me with no choice but to torch my local Catholic church and two gay biker bars, which turned out to be normal bars frequented by bikers. Funny thing, leather. You never can tell.
Il Papa now says that God was responsible for evolution. Basically, He organised the Big Bang, set the process in motion whereby we’d eventually become Humans, then left us to our own devices. God then makes an increasingly rare appearance, the last being at Newlands when He stepped in to give the Stormers a hand.
Addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican, Frankie shattered the cherished beliefs of millions of people by saying, “God is not a magician with a magic wand able to do everything.”
You tell us this now? If Pope Petrus had cleared this up back in 64 – and I don’t mean 1964 – a lot more people could have gone to the beach instead of wasting their Sundays in church. Those were the lucky ones. The others had their limbs lopped off or had the Pear of Anguish inserted into their orifices. The early Catholics were nothing if not inventive when it came to creative new ways of encouraging people to embrace their god as not only the best, but also the only one on the market.
I also worry about the organs occupying my thoracic cavity. They are not to be trusted. Late at night, I hear them muttering and burbling among themselves, plotting my downfall for when I least expect it.
And I worry that No. 1 on the local fiction bestseller list for October was the new Wilbur Smith and No. 2 on the non-fiction list was Oprah Winfrey’s What I Know For Sure. The blurb on the list said, “‘The Universe will rise to meet you.’ I deeply believe. My all-time favourite quote.” The universe is expanding at 74 kilometres per second per three million light years. You might think there are one too many ‘pers’ in there, but you would be wrong. The point is, if the universe had to rise to meet you, you’d better be wearing more than a vest and tracksuit pants.
Yes, I know she’s speaking metaphorically. Although with Oprah it’s sometimes hard to tell. But I worry that people genuinely believe Oprah will impart a rare nugget of wisdom that will change their lives. Haven’t you people ever watched Oprah? There are no secret nuggets. There are only McNuggets. And you’re not going to get a free car, either.
Not many people know this, but Oprah and I have a lot in common. For a start, we share the same publisher, who will doubtlessly be delighted at my efforts to discourage you from buying her book. They will, I hope, forgive me my trespasses if I encourage you to buy my book instead, even though Oprah needs the money more than I do.
My latest, and possibly final contribution to the literary pantheon, is called Incognito – The Memoirs of Ben Trovato. However, me being marginally less sought after than Oprah as an oracle, you might struggle to find my book on the shelves. I was informed this week that bookshops probably won’t be ordering more stock because mine is an “old” book. It came out in June.
Great Expectations is an old book. War and Peace is an old book. Would you struggle to find them in a reputable bookshop? Of course not. Then again, I’m no Dickens or Tolstoy. But neither is Oprah or Wilbur.
If you don’t find my book on the shelves, ask the idiot savant behind the counter to order it for you. If he or she refuses, set the shop alight. Then go home and order it online. Or not. I’ve spent my advance. I don’t care.
Incognito cover