Avoiding the matriarchal monsoon

The Mother City is a terrible place for a man to be during Women’s Month. Whenever it rains, the gutters run pink with oestrogen and the bars fill up with jackbooted lesbians. And there are still three weeks to go.

Now, more than ever, problem wives and difficult girlfriends need to be isolated from the herd. Once they get wind of a movement, there is no stopping them. They will sweep through our cities like a great growling tsunami, pausing only to get their hair done before laying waste to the country’s confectionery stocks. This doesn’t bother me. Let them eat cake. But I know that once the gateau has been decimated, they will turn on us.

I had to get Brenda out of town fast, so I offered her an all-expenses paid trip up the West Coast. This is a region where women have long since won the struggle for equality. They do most of the work and bear the burden of responsibility admirably. Some of the most liberated men in South Africa can be found in these parts, sitting beneath trees gossiping and drinking like the women did before they freed themselves from the yolk of oppression.

We hadn’t even reached Melkbosstrand before Brenda began demanding to know where we were going. I told her it was a surprise. Women love surprises, yet you wouldn’t think so considering that most divorces are filed by women.

Passing Saldanha, Brenda held my last six-pack out of the window and insisted that I tell her. Faced with a hostage situation, I was left with no alternative. “Bosluisbaai,” I said, watching the beers explode in my rear-view mirror.

“Bosluisbaai is in Namibia,” Brenda barked, snatching the sole surviving Tafel from between my legs. I was outraged and called her a communist sympathiser.

“FW de Klerk,” I barked back, “sold South West Africa to the terrorists for a dozen cows, five guns and a Nobel Peace Prize and to me it was and always will be a province of this great country!”

There are few things worse in this world than driving to Bosluisbaai in a rusting Hyundai with an angry woman and no beer as company, so I turned off at Paternoster.

If you are into fishing villages full of deserted whitewashed cottages, fat unwashed policemen and motherless, quota-less fishermen with murder in their eyes, Paternoster is where you want to go.

I suggested we drive another few kilometres to Tietiesbaai. It seemed like a good place to spend Women’s Day. Brenda was less sure and made me stop alongside the first white man we came across. He told us there was nothing at Tietiesbaai. Just another broken promise in the new South Africa.

Paternoster is a self-catering town without the catering. The shop sells ice, coffee and tins of hangover food. The bottle store is an alleyway that ends with a hole in the wall. It would have taken hours to pass my order through the burglar bars, but I pressed the buzzer regardless. Then, all of a sudden, nothing happened. So I went back to the car.

After much banging on doors and shouting in fractured Afrikaans, we occupied a cottage much like the Germans occupied Paris.

Suffused with spontaneous romance, I tried to invade Brenda but she put up the French resistance so I offered to take her out in the hope that food would enhance her mood.

There is only one hotel in Paternoster. Any more and there would be trouble. I suggested a pre-dinner drink in the bar. Brenda was reluctant. “Come on,” I said, “one drink can’t hurt,” knowing very well that hospitals, mortuaries, rehabs and maintenance courts are full of people who said the same thing.

That bad old moon began rising the moment we walked into the bar. “Look at this amazing floor,” I said. Brenda looked at the stained parquet. My diversionary tactic lasted all of four seconds. Then she looked up at a ceiling decorated with women’s underwear. Bras and panties, as far as the eye could see.

Brenda was speechless just long enough for me to order her a double gin and tonic, which quenched her outrage much like petrol quenches a fire. Not that this country has any petrol.

Trying not to blow our cover altogether, I ordered a triple klip ‘n coke. The barman, a misunderstood poet trapped in the body of an insensitive oaf, happily complied. Actually, that’s not true. I could see that happily had never been a part of his emotional vocabulary. Primordial grunting, on the other hand, was right up there.

Brenda said the bar epitomised everything she found hateful in men. This wasn’t at all what I had planned. I quickly pointed out that the low-flying lingerie bore the evidence of drunken signatures, indicating that the female clientele had voluntarily parted with their unmentionables. In that case, she said, the bar epitomised everything she found hateful in women.

This wasn’t good. Now she hated men and women. I asked the barman for a shooter to calm things down. A Bob Marley was clearly out of the question. “How about a Springbok,” I said. He offered a Gemsbok instead. I told him that I was game. He didn’t get it, but we did. Over and over again.

After the shooters, Brenda passed into the eye of the storm and all was right with the world. Later, the barman made us something called a Jelly Baby, which sent Brenda plunging back into the vortex. “What if,” she said in a very loud voice, “this bar were decorated with men’s underwear?”

It was a horrible image that stayed with me right until I went outside and aborted my Jelly Baby. Then we went back to our cottage and celebrated Women’s Month by sleeping in separate beds.


7 August, 2007


Knee-deep in whackos and nutjobs

The first time I heard the term “cray cray” I was in Paternoster, the West Coast centre of operations for petty pilferers, tik monsters and venal property owners. The person shouting “cray cray” at me was a kid of about nine. He had a plastic bag full of undersized crayfish. I bartered him down to almost nothing, then went to the beach and threw them back into the sea.

The next time I heard the term “cray-cray” it had a hyphen in it and was clearly meant to indicate that a couple of buttons in my brain were missing. Not because of what I did with the crayfish, if that’s what you’re thinking. In Paternoster, the bar for insanity is so low that sausage dogs step over it.

Watching the political phantasmagoria of the last few days, I began wondering if the likes of Helen Zille and Mamphela Ramphele had not, perhaps, gone completely bonkers. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

According to the department of health, one out of four South Africans has been or is affected by mental illness. That means around 500 employees at Addington Hospital alone are not well in the head. Going by what I can remember from my stay there a few years ago, they all work in the kitchen. With the possible exception of two, who might still be working in the orthopedic ward.

It also means that six or seven cabinet ministers are barking mad, but this comes as something of less than a shock to us.

More worrying is that thirteen million South Africans are on nodding terms with mental illness. This includes around a million white people, most of whom I expect live in Pretoria.

Oddly enough, the statistic of one in four doesn’t apply to ex-girlfriends. Certainly when it comes to women with whom I have dallied, that figure jumps to three in four. The deranged have always been drawn to me. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

What this country needs more than anything, apart from state-subsidised beer, is a method of mass diagnosis. Forget the census. It would be far more helpful to have psychologists going from house to house identifying the nutjobs and dishing out useful drugs. Of course, you’re going to get a lot of people pretending to be unhinged just to get their hands on a bag of free pharmaceuticals, but psychologists are trained to weed out the imposters.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. We can’t wait that long. By October, we might all be wearing straitjackets. We need to act now.

It’s important to remember that mental illness manifests itself in many forms. It can range from voting for Agang to putting an ad on Gumtree for someone to sever, cook and eat your willy free of charge. That’s more of a German thing, though.

There are certain illnesses common to all South African. If, for instance, you regularly read the newspapers, watch SABC or saw the photograph of Lindiwe Sisulu kissing Blade Nzimande, you almost certainly suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Millions of us also suffer from depression. But, thanks to the government, there are treatment centres in every city, town and village. The only link I can find between alcohol and depression is when you drive to one of these centres on a Saturday afternoon and find it shut. Luckily, the townships are full of informal treatment centres that stay open until the early hours of the morning.

We need to start diagnosing our politicians because the combination of power and insanity is a dangerous one. Once we know what they are suffering from, we can treat them by spiking their food with the relevant medication. On second thoughts, voting them out is probably easier. And cheaper than meds, too.

Here are some snap diagnoses based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fourth edition).

Jacob Zuma – Narcissistic personality disorder with hyperactive sexual desire disorder.

Kgalema Motlanthe – Catatonia.

Helen Zille – Dementia with delusions.

Mamphela Ramphela – Dependent personality disorder with delusions.

Fikile Mbalula – Tourette’s with hallucinations.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson – Histrionic personality disorder.

ANC backbenchers – Narcolepsy.

Civil service – Factitious disorder.

Julius Malema – Disruptive behaviour disorder.

Gatsha Buthelezi – Paranoid personality disorder with delusions.

Boeremag leader Tom Vorster – Intermittent explosive disorder with delusions.

Dr Wouter Basson – Dissociative amnesia.


Poltroons, Pizzas and Pangas

Who is Ben Trovato?

Nobody knows for sure – not even him.

“Metaphysically speaking, I have no idea who I am,” says Trovato. “Nor do I wish to know. Asking ‘who am I’ is the kind of crazy talk reserved for stoners and people with Alzheimer’s.”

His 10th and latest book, The Whipping Boy, is more than “just a book”. It is, says Trovato, a weapon in the war against terror, for which a user’s guide will be mailed upon receipt of the beer equivalent of money.

Along with Trovato’s much-loved and widely hated columns, it contains a bunch of fake news stories, hilarious letters to the rich and famous, and outrageous job applications that resulted in the author not receiving a single offer of employment.

Bianca Coleman spoke to him.


Where would you most like to live?

Mthatha. I drove through it the other day and was quite taken by its understated charm. However, it appears to be full so my next choice would be a stretch of coastline somewhere in Central America or Indonesia where the water is warm and the cops are asleep.

What is your best-kept Western Cape “secret”?

My identity.

Where do you go to do your shopping and why? Speciality shops or malls?

I could not, in all honesty, answer this question without immediately going out and killing a small animal with my bare hands. Shopping, like marriage, is an oddly emasculating experience.

What are your favourite gourmet treats and where would you get them?

I would enjoy gourmet beef rotis, gourmet mutton bunny chows and gourmet gatsbies but I have no idea where to get them from. At home, getting any kind of meal is a treat, really. It doesn’t even have to be gourmet. Just edible.

What is your favourite restaurant? Where is it, what do you like about it, and what are your favourite things to order and why?

My favourite restaurant is Blikkie Pizzeria in Paternoster. I recently waited over an hour for a pizza and when I complained, the owner came out and screamed at me. They had run out of dough but didn’t tell anyone. He’s like an Afrikaans Basil Fawlty crossed with Stalin. Eating out is so much more enjoyable when there’s a violent confrontation with the management.

What is your biggest/most decadent indulgence and where would you get it?

Magic truffles. They are similar to magic mushrooms but if you have too many they make you invisible. I’m not telling you where they are. And there’s no point in you coming to look for me, either.

What is your favourite outdoor spot anywhere in the Western Cape – to walk, hike, picnic, view – and why?

I’m not much one for walking, hiking, picnicking or doing anything that doesn’t end in applause or payment. In fact, I think the outdoors as a concept is heavily overrated. My only contact with nature is when I go surfing, but this can hardly be considered outdoorsy fun considering that in these parts nature has a nasty habit of biting your legs off.

Where is your favourite local holiday destination, and why?

The Victorian Times tavern in Fish Hoek. I can walk there, stay as long as I like and almost walk back. The locals have fascinating stories to tell about the time they were captured at the fall of Tobruk. There’s also a pool table and tons of women whose faces have fallen off. It makes a fabulous holiday destination if you don’t mind sleeping in the bushes.

What is your favourite long or short distance drive anywhere in South Africa – passes, scenic routes, small town destinations?

My favourite short distance drive is to the bottle store. Long distance would have to be all the way up to St Lucia, with a few days at Jeffreys Bay for some epic waves and a panga fight with the insensitive brutes who are building on the dunes.

Where did you most recently go for a day drive and why?

I drove from Fish Hoek to Muizenberg on Boxing Day. It took me all day because the city council is digging up the coast road and a million Vaalies were occupying Boyes Drive. By the time I got there I couldn’t remember what I was meant to be doing and had to turn around and come back. That took another day.

Where is your favourite or dream international holiday destination, and why?

I am drawn to Thailand. The people there are very spiritual but at the same time they won’t hesitate to chop your head off if they don’t like you. They put a lot of the most dreadful things in their mouths, but not dogs. For this alone, they get my vote.

What are your hobbies/free time activities and where do you like to do them?

I am a collector. I collect mainly small change, speeding fines, parking tickets and bills from my post box in Sea Point. I once collected a butterfly when it flew into my study but I couldn’t bring myself to stick a pin through it and the little bastard escaped through the window before I could call myself a lepidopterist.

What makes Cape Town the most special/beautiful place for you and why?

Everything is so beautiful. The girls, the beaches, the trees, the penguins, the queers, the bergies, the N2, the perlemoen poachers, the 28s, Bontehuewel. I love them all.

What don’t you like about Cape Town, or what would you like to change about it?

Table Mountain. It blocks the view and is infested with muggers and fynbos. I would demolish it and build the world’s biggest theme park using a lot of chrome and face brick. I would also crank up the temperature of that big, frigid wet thing. And maybe build a few beach bars.

If you did not grow up in Cape Town but elsewhere in South Africa, please tell us your earliest childhood memory of that place.

I grew up in Durban. The earliest thing I remember, as I made my way down the birth canal, was the sound of my parents bickering. I tried to pull myself back up but my hand slipped and the next thing I knew, I was being held upside down by a man in a white coat. Instead of doing the decent thing and putting some clothes on me, he smacked me sharply on my naked bottom. I got a leg loose and kicked him in the face. “That’ll teach you, motherfucker,” I thought. I had paid close attention to what was going on around me for the previous nine months and, thanks to my mother, was born with a filthy mouth that has served me well to this day. I remember the doctor passing me to my father, who smacked me. Then he passed me to my mother, who did the same. I was also smacked by several orderlies and a security guard until someone covered up my shamefully small willy before the nurses could see it.

Where is the best place to take your children and why?

The best place to take most kids is straight to an adoption agency, especially if they are capricious, tantrum-throwing brats who aren’t so bright and won’t go to sleep at night. Whatever you do, don’t take them overseas because they will end up sitting in the row behind me kicking my seat all the way from Joburg to London.

What is the quirkiest or most unusual place you know in the Western Cape and why?

I would have to say parliament. For six months of the year it stands empty. The rest of the time it resembles a lurid convention of professional prevaricators, bogus democrats, pusillanimous poltroons, serial philanderers and an assortment of hypocrites, perjurers and profligate wastrels.

What, in your opinion, makes Cape Town unique?

Nowhere else in the country is one’s maternal genitalia so profoundly invoked as it is during the many wonderful al fresco debates that take place around the city.

Describe your perfect Saturday or Sunday.

I wake up.