Lockdown Extended – words to make you weep

My ungovernable publisher, Melinda Ferguson, has made good on her threat to bring out a new ebook by this weekend.

Lockdown Extended is now available for download on Kindle or Kobo (links below).

Ferguson describes the book as “an incredible collection of 30 of South Africa’s most hip, most talented, most interesting and most adorable writers … it will make you think, it will make you laugh, it will make you weep, it will make your heart sing and it will give you hope that despair is not all we can feel during these unprecedented times.”

Here are a couple of excerpts from my contribution:

“We are no longer the people we were two months ago. Our inner adolescents are crying out for someone to tell us that it’s all going to be okay. That it’s fine not to shave or wear deodorant. That nobody will judge us if we start drinking at 10am. Yes, we are turning into filthy, frightened children rapidly developing an alcohol problem. The problem being that supplies are starting to run dangerously low.”


“The government has left me no alternative. I am going to have to craft a new set of bowls using raw materials and brute cunning. Tortoise shells and monkey skulls come to mind. I am leaning more towards tortoises since they are easier to apprehend and the shells would be a decent size for breakfast cereal as well as soup. Monkey skulls, on the other hand, are easier to stack and would do well as receptacles for soy sauce and other exotic condiments. They are, however, almost impossible to catch. Also, there are no monkeys where I live. I would have to drive to the Eastern Cape, risking arrest and possible death at the hands of the Pandemic Paramilitaries. Seems a bit risky just for bowls.”



Coronavirus: Snitches get stitches

There seems little point in getting out of bed before 11am when you don’t have rabid children leaping on you or a wife standing in the doorway with one feral eyebrow raised, asking if you plan on lying there for the rest of the day.

I am still at the point where I think, “Right, let’s get up, get dressed and …” This is where the plan falls apart. And do what? Stand outside for a few minutes, then go back inside? It’s not enough of an incentive.

Some people have started exercising. I don’t have any equipment apart from a bicycle, which right now is about as useful as a Virgin Active membership. I could lift it above my head but I doubt I’d manage it more than two or three times. The chance of doing myself a mischief far outweighs the potential health benefits.

Suffering from an acute outbreak of Groundhog Day syndrome, I drove to the mall hoping for a high-octane battle of wits with a military unit manning the barricades to protect the population from people like me. Armed with a grocery list – the new dompas – I raced through the empty streets praying that someone would flag me down and interrogate me at gunpoint. No such luck.

The lockdown has revealed some interesting character traits in our fellow citizens. Right now, it’s Lord of the Flies on social media and people are turning on one another faster than ferrets down a Yorkshireman’s trousers.

Yes, indeed. There are a lot of sub-optimal humans out there, and I’m not even talking about the ones ignoring the lockdown. Or the security forces behaving as if they were trained by the Tonton Macoutes.

The suburbs are infested with the kind of people who, had they been living in Berlin in 1938, might have been inclined to whisper, “Psst, Sturmscharführer, there are Jews living in number seven.”

I have never seen white South Africans so demanding, judgemental and united in wanting to “do the right thing”. If only they had been this outspoken during apartheid. Facebook is awash in posts from self-appointed informants – people who were almost certainly prefects at school. In my area, a woman is asking if anyone has a drone to monitor the streets. Ideally, I imagine, a weaponised one capable of swooping in and firing poisoned darts into an errant cyclist’s back.

“Does anyone know this guy?” they shriek, posting blurry pictures of someone in the distance sitting alone on a park bench or paddling a canoe in the middle of a river. As we speak, people are dialling 10111 because they saw a neighbour walking their dog. Where I come from, snitches get stitches.

Nobody dare even mention that they miss being able to go for a jog for fear of being labelled a selfish, entitled mass murderer. The mob has wasted no time shutting down that particular award-winning whine. “There are poor people living in shacks who don’t even have legs and you want to jog what’s wrong with you JUST STAY INSIDE!!?!” they scream, rearing up in their imported Jefferson Chesterfield armchairs, spraying bits of Beluga caviar over the Persian (cat and carpet).

Remember when you were a kid and your mother forced you to eat your broccoli because there are children starving in Ethiopia? Well, Italy has become the new Ethiopia. “Don’t you think people in Rome would also like to walk their dogs but they can’t because they are DEAD thanks to KILLERS LIKE YOU??!!?”

When the national grid finally fails and the water supply runs out, these same manic street preachers will get on their impeccably groomed high horses and say, “Stop moaning, there are millions in this country who live in the dark and have never seen a tap.” And when men in Robocop outfits start smashing down doors and dragging away the artists, poets and intellectuals, they’ll say, “Just let the police do their jobs! Jeez people, the Rwandans had the genocide and they didn’t complain.”

As if we’re not in enough trouble, Moody’s scored the mother of all economic hat-tricks when they became the third ratings agency to kick us in the nuts. We have now swept the boards in the premier junk status league. The government says the downgrade “couldn’t have come at a worse time”. This suggests there might be another time when the government would be able to say, “There has never been a better time for a downgrade.”

Can’t really blame Moody’s, though. The real culprit is in Nkandla, doggie paddling in his fire pool. There are others, of course, both in Dubai and the ANC’s national executive committee, where they continue to successfully maintain social distancing from prosecution.

I find it increasingly difficult to follow the news. The international channels are full of talking heads shouting numbers at me and I can’t watch the local ministerial briefings for more than two or three minutes without wanting to take my own life.

There are so many graphs, models and projections out there that I thought I’d do my own. After a lot of head-scratching and heavy drinking, my calculations showed that 4.2 billion people would be dead by Easter. And that was just in Durban.

Meanwhile, complaints are mounting that police act differently in the way they treat black and white people who violate the lockdown. This is making us look badder than we already are. We need whiteys who are prepared to go out there and provoke the cops into giving them a light whipping to show there is equality and injustice for all, regardless of colour.

Any takers?

It’s not a proper pandemic unless there are zombies

Lockdown is a prison term. It’s when there is trouble afoot and convicts are restricted to their cells. There’s trouble alright, but not from us inmates. No, sir, Mr Ramaphosa. We’re good, obedient citizens who will do whatever you tell us to do. Well, maybe not all of us.

Even though I have nowhere to go, I now feel trapped and desperately want to go out. I don’t know if it’s because I resent the government telling me what to do and how to live or if there’s something wrong with me mentally.

Before corona, I was happy enough to stay in with a cup of tea and a game of rummy with the cat. Now, forced to remain at home, I feel an overwhelming desire to have lashings of unusual sex with strangers while drinking heavily and experimenting with dangerous drugs. I think it’s something to do with the wartime syndrome – a reaction to the idea that we’re all going to die and have nothing to lose. In World War Two, everyone who didn’t go off to fight quickly turned into ravening beasts guzzling amphetamines by day and copulating like rats by night.

To be honest, I don’t really feel like death could be imminent. I do, however, feel a bit infantilised. I went to a friend’s house the other day to leech off her gin supply and she offered me a lesson on how to wash my hands. She’d watched a video, she said, and that if I wanted gin and maybe a small sexual favour then I had to cooperate. I meekly followed her hand-washing ritual and by the end of it I felt like I needed help going for a wee on my potty.

I see messages from people all the time saying they need to go to the supermarket and does anyone have any advice. It’s as if we are no longer confident enough to handle basic everyday stuff. We are going to be utterly helpless and completely malleable by the time this thing is over and we won’t even notice the Illuminati erecting millions of 5G transmitters to control our thoughts and make us slaves to the new world order.

I was hoping for this to be a coronavirus-free column, but when I began the usual ritual of pacing and chain-drinking while thinking of a topic, I found that my brain was coming up empty. Sure, that might have been the beer, but I like to think it was more because the pandemic has so completely overshadowed everything else that writing about local politics or the usual criminal shenanigans in government would seem like a wilful distraction.

On Sunday I wandered up to my local pub, careful to maintain the standard 300m distance between myself and the police. That’s the best thing about this virus. New rules of engagement insist on maintaining a gap to prevent possible arrest.

On a normal weekend, there’d be live music, laughter and braai smoke drifting through the milkwoods. The place was deserted and the gate padlocked. A hadeda looked at me as if to say, “Go home, you idiot.” All that was missing were four horsemen in black hoods cantering down the empty street.

We’ve been told to stay inside even if we are not sick. The point, apparently, is that we might catch it while we are out and give it to someone else. Someone old. I don’t know, man. The elderly shouldn’t be on the streets at the best of times. They’ve had their chance. It’s our turn now. Well, not any longer, obviously. The streets have been turned over to hamsters and chickens and dolphins. When we finally do emerge, it’s going to be quite a shock to find elephants instead of crack dealers loitering on the corner.

We are told that we need to look after the poor and the vulnerable. Let’s not forget that they only became poor and vulnerable because nobody has ever given a shit about them. The indigent don’t particularly care if they live or die, but they must be delighted with all the attention. They risk dying of exposure, disease or boredom every day of their lives, but now that people with cars, jobs and homes are affected, they have been swept up in a global dragnet of concern.

In London, people who sleep on the streets are being given hotel rooms. Here, our homeless are being given a wide berth. No change there, then. We don’t treat the destitute as real humans when there’s not a pandemic on the go and it would be cruel to raise their expectations now. Imagine when it’s all over and London’s dossers have been turfed out of the hotels. What do you say to them? “Now that we all have immunity, you can go back to your cardboard box. No, you can’t take the towels.”

Some governments are bending over backwards to help their citizens. Not ours. Not really. Yes, the president mentioned some numbers on Monday night, all of which pale against the R1.5-trillion lost in the feeding frenzy of greed during the Zupta years.

The corporate world hasn’t exactly been quick to offer a meaningful hand to businesses either. The Oppenheimer and Rupert families tossed some spare change into the effort. Telkom asked its customers to activate debit orders so they don’t risk infecting their staff who are already suffering from non-contagious ennui. A couple of banks have made token gestures. More importantly, though, nobody has asked me if I’m going to be alright. The self-employed are people, too.

They can all suck my stimulus package.

Read it and weep (with laughter)

Right. Since we are all essentially trapped in our homes, we’re going to need to find things to laugh about if we aren’t going to turn on each other like rats in a cage. Making fun of each other’s shortcomings is fine, but sooner or later it will end in tears or violence.

Alcohol and drugs can keep you amused for only so long before they run out or you build up a tolerance. Or you become a full-blown addict and your family pushes you outside and locks the door.

My advice is that you read. Books are harmless unless used to bludgeon your partner in his sleep. Reading, unlike Facebook, can’t make you more stupid than you already are.

If you are going to read, you might as well laugh at the same time. As my contribution to helping others in this weird and dark time, I am offering eleven of my books to download. Obviously not for free. This is not a charity. However, some may say that it’s pretty damn charitable to only charge R50 for nine of the titles.

Click on the Contraband link on this page and you can choose which books to download to read as a PDF on your device. Payment through Payfast or EFT is safe and reliable.

Have a happy isolation.



Coronavirus – No Laughing Matter

There is a giant killer asteroid heading our way. The bad news is that it’s going to miss us by six million kilometres. We desperately need something to put this coronavirus fiasco into perspective, and I can’t think of anything better than a massive space rock smashing into the earth somewhere in the vicinity of, I don’t know, the White House maybe.

Like most decent South Africans, I tend to suffer a spontaneous gag reflex and break out in hives when I see the name Gupta, but this was a message on Twitter from CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta (no relation) saying, “You will notice that starting today CNN will describe the ongoing coronavirus situation as a ‘pandemic’. This is by no means to panic, but to prepare.”

Prepare for a sudden jump in the Nielsen ratings? Possibly. I don’t care. Donald Trump can’t pronounce words of more than two syllables so he pretends Covid-19 is just flu with a fancy name. In this case, I’d sooner trust a Gupta.

Experts keep saying we shouldn’t panic but they are wrong. Panic is exactly what is needed right now. Other experts say we need to work together to combat this thing. Nonsense. We need to do the exact opposite. It’s the togetherness of things that causes the virus to spread.

I’m okay. I avoid people as a matter of course. Self-quarantine is a lifestyle for me. It’s you married folk with jobs, children, hobbies and social lives who need to make some serious changes.

We can’t be having big groups of people anywhere. Soldiers tend to congregate in large numbers around the world. All wars must be cancelled immediately. Bring the troops home. Send them to their rooms.

There’s no end of advice on what to do to avoid contracting the virus, but there’s very little information available on what to do if you want to catch it. If you have nasty kids, a miserable spouse and a horrible job, Covid-19 presents the ideal opportunity for a break from it all. However, catching it is harder than you might think. At the time of writing this, only seventeen people in the country had tested positive.

When I was a teenager, a friend and I would have a thing where we’d sneeze directly into each other’s faces. The trick was to not let the other one see it coming or he’d run away screaming. You’d have to mask the build-up, then quickly turn and let rip. Good times.

To get a couple of weeks off school or work, you’d need to find someone who is infected and get them to sneeze on you. Forget about the seventeen who are infected. They are already in isolation and will probably raise the alarm if you sneak into their room and ask them to cough into your mouth. Anyway, it would be difficult to track them down.

A better idea would be to keep an eye out for people who look like they might be feverish. Go up to them and tell them they are having a heart attack. Start giving them mouth-to-mouth. Bite their tongue if they try to fight you off.

If that’s not for you, then you could try touching their faces. We’re told not to touch our own, but there’s been no mention of not touching other people’s faces. You could pretend to be blind and say, “Is this the bus stop?” while slipping your fingers into their mouth. Don’t let them see you licking your hands afterwards otherwise they might think you’re crazy instead of blind. Not that it’s any of their business.

Obviously you should avoid washing your hands at all costs, especially after touching surfaces that get a lot of human traffic.

If you see someone coughing or sneezing, don’t waste the chance to get up close. Rush over and breathe deeply. Bodily fluids aren’t going to come to you. You have to go to them. Don’t be shy. Stand close to people at every opportunity. Press yourself up against them. If they seem uncomfortable, tell them you were under the impression this was the queue.

If, however, you are single, self-employed and loving your life and would rather not contract the virus, you need to carry with you a bottle of vodka and sprinkle it on everything, including people, food and pets. Young women are immune to the virus so don’t waste your vodka on them. Unless you want to offer them a drink in return for a kind word and a bit of a cuddle.

The World Health Organisation suggests we follow advice given by our healthcare provider. I don’t know about that. The only advice I ever got from Discovery was to pay my premiums on time or risk dying alone in the gutter.

I read a BBC report this week that said, “Researchers have developed vaccines and are starting to test them on animals, and if that goes well there could be human trials later in the year.” Good news for people, bad news for rats and rabbits. On the other hand, it was animals that caused the virus so it’s only fair that they help find a cure.

Anyway. Everyone needs to stop overreacting. This thing has a mortality rate of 3%, which is what I got for maths in matric and I turned out just fine.