The Ben Trovato Files

Who among us doesn’t remember satirist Ben Trovato’s outrageously subversive trilogy of letters to and replies from the rich, famous and downright dangerous? Well, the madness continues as the letters are reincarnated for the first time on video.

Featuring scenes of the writer himself, the letters come to life in a creative mélange of stop-motion animation, live action and a liberal dose of artistic craziness.

The episodes will be short and punchy, each featuring a letter and its reply, with durations ranging from ninety seconds to three minutes. The team has produced a pilot episode titled ‘The Two Oceans Aquarium’ from a letter Trovato wrote to the big house of fish. He got a reply without even having to bribe them.

Working on this project is a close-knit production team including cinematographer Dave Aenmey and animation artist Lindsay van Blerk. Dave has worked on many commercials, music videos, documentaries and feature films during his 30-year career.

Lindsay has directed and animated numerous award-winning films including The Velveteen Rabbit and The Chimes. He worked as storyboard supervisor and director of animation on the feature film Zambezia and has also directed and animated TV commercials and television series.

The material is drawn from the many letters and replies that appeared in The Ben Trovato Files, Will The Real Ben Trovato Please Stand Up and Stirred Not Shaken.

Anyone interested in helping to finance the series in return for a production credit is invited to contact Ben at bentrovato@mweb.co.za or leave a message right here on his site. Enquiries from producers and production houses are also welcome.

The pilot episode can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmafQMWDkrA

The fast and the furious, the fucked and the feckless

So parliament has approved yet another malevolent piece of legislation. The Aarto Amendment Bill will now be sent to the president to be signed into law. Its full catchy title is the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it.

Eleven MPs voted against it. Well done, whoever you are. Twenty-two abstained. Spineless cockwombles. If you don’t have an opinion, get the fuck out of parliament and make way for people who do.

Amendments are meant to be good, right? We look to the glorious United States of America to set the standard here. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech and the press. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Eighth Amendment deals with excessive bail, fines and punishments that are forbidden. And so on. This gives the impression that amendments are good things. A tweaking of laws so the people might be better served.

Not here, buddy. When you hear the word ‘amendment’ in South Africa, you sell your house and get to the airport as quickly as possible. Leave your family. There’s no time.

And when the word ‘amendment’ appears in the same sentence as ‘road traffic offences’, you should know it’s not going to be a sensible amendment that encourages people to drive stoned because they are unable to go faster than 50km/h. Or an amendment that allows men to drink and drive if they are taller than 1.9m because we, I mean, they, can obviously hold their alcohol a lot better than a 1.5m teenage girl.

Instead of making good laws better, we’re making bad laws worse. This is in line with government thinking on pretty much everything, really. There is good news for some, though. Once the president has signed the bill, traffic police will be able to demand far bigger bribes since the stakes are so much higher. I’m happy for them. There’s no reason bribes shouldn’t keep pace with inflation.

In KwaZulu-Natal, traffic officers have already been trained “so that they can adapt to the new law”. Fair enough, although I would’ve thought it more important to train us, the general motoring public, who seem utterly unable to adapt to laws of any kind.

From what I can make out, the amendment is designed to reduce carnage on the roads in the most brutal way possible. On top of being fined, you will have points added to your licence. This sounds like a good thing. But if you go around boasting that you have 97 points on your licence, you’re doing it wrong. The higher your score, the more your chances of losing. It’s like golf, except you’re playing against Tiger Woods off his face on amphetamines.

Will the demerit system reduce the number of accidents on our roads? Of course not. I’m willing to wager that most crashes are caused by people not paying attention. The proliferation of cellphones, social media and infidelity has taken away our ability to concentrate for more than three minutes at a time. Accidents happen when our minds are elsewhere.

So the demerit system is not going to make drivers any less attention deficit. All it will do is take a vicious financial toll on motorists who activate speed traps, don’t use seatbelts and park in loading zones, all of which I do regularly without anyone getting hurt.

Here’s how it works. Do something naughty and you will receive an infringement notice ordering you to pay a fine. Ignore it and a month later you’ll get a “courtesy letter” – for which you will be charged – reminding you to pay up. Ignore that and 32 days later you’ll get an enforcement order notifying you of the number of demerit points against you and again ordering you to pay the fine plus the cost of the enforcement order. Until you pay, you won’t be able to renew your car licence disc. Ignore the enforcement order and a warrant of execution will be issued and the sheriff will come to your house and take your stuff. This is a way of getting rid of the junk in your garage. He is also allowed to confiscate your licence, immobilise your car and report you to a credit bureau, after which you may wish to emigrate.

Let me tell you about the demerit system. You start off with zero points. Skip a stop sign, fail to renew your car licence or use your cellphone while driving and it’s a R500 fine plus one demerit point. Exceeding R100km/h in a 60km/h zone – which even old mad blind people do – will get you six demerit points and a fine. Drive with more than 0.05g of alcohol in your blood – which absolutely everyone does – will also see six points added to your licence. Plus a fine. You will then be stripped naked, given a light stoning by clerks from the finance department and, once the Alsatians have finished with you, banished from your village.

When you reach 12 points, the game is over and your driving licence is suspended for three months. One point is taken off if you behave yourself for three straight months. But get three suspensions and your licence is cancelled and destroyed. If you ever want to drive legally again, you will have to undergo a “rehabilitation” programme. That’s right. You’re going to rehab. And don’t expect any yummy methadone, either.

It doesn’t end there. Get out of rehab and it’s off to the tribunal. Do you know who else appears before tribunals? War criminals, that’s who. But you’re not a war criminal. War criminals aren’t expected to have their hearing repeatedly postponed because the photocopier is broken or their file is missing. War criminals aren’t expected to walk for three days to reach the tribunal because their licence has been suspended. In fact, you are going to be wishing you were a war criminal by the time this is over.

If the tribunal decides that you have learnt from your mistakes – contrition is best shown by wearing sackcloth and lashing yourself with a cat ‘o nine tails – you will be able to apply for a learner’s licence. If you pass, you may take a driver’s test. I’m not making this up. They really think this is going to work.

Pregnant women will be applying for their unborn babies to write the K53 test in the hope that they’ll get an appointment by the time they turn 18. If you do get 12 points and lose your licence, you will be in a retirement home by the time you reach the front of the backlog.

On brave Americans and goats of darkness

Dear Bryan,

I do apologise. The world is full of inconsequential Bryans and I am sure the last thing a man of your stature would want is to be confused with the multitude of Bryans who lack the courage to shoot a wild mountain goat. I mean no disrespect. There is only one Bryan Kinsel Harlan in this world. Or in Texas, at least. Dallas, certainly.

I saw your video on social media and was blown away. Not in the same way your goat was blown away, obviously. But watching you scrambling through the rocky terrain of Pakistan’s northern Gilgit region with only a dozen or so heavily armed guides as backup, I felt my loins stir on more than one occasion. And when you raised your rifle and shot that goat, well, it was all I could do not to have an incident in my pants. I can’t begin to imagine how aroused you must get watching an animal through your telescopic sights, knowing it only has seconds left to live.

High-fiving the guides after pulling the trigger was a nice gesture. Americans all too often forget to give credit to the locals who help them hunt goats or Islamic insurgents or whatever happens to be on the list of things to kill that day.

I believe you paid a record price of $110 000 dollars to shoot your goat. You must be a very wealthy man. In my country, that kind of money gets you two cabinet ministers and the CEO of one of our smaller parastatals.

Sadly, not everyone is impressed. There are some people who think what you did is barbaric and cruel. I am outraged at their outrage. I can’t believe that the animal huggers at PETA not only condemned the hunt but went so far as to describe goats as “gentle individuals, not trophies”.

I am sure you know what it’s like to have a goat come on you … I beg your pardon. Come at you. They won’t hesitate to batter you mercilessly until you are forced to run away with your pants around your ankles. Or so I have heard.

And who can forget that the devil himself is portrayed as a goat? You are obviously aware that GOAT is an acronym for Greatest of All Time. How dare they usurp the title reserved for Jesus. This godless arrogance will not stand. I wouldn’t be surprised if this hunt wasn’t part of your broader Christian mission to punish Satan. Good for you. I, for one, will sleep more soundly tonight knowing there is one less evil, cloven-hoofed beast out there.

I read that a gang of Pakistanis are also up in arms. Ha! If only. More arms would mean fewer depraved ungulates to lead our children astray. After seeing pictures of you and your dead goat, these cabbage-eating extremists called for a ban on hunting. Sure, this goat is their country’s national animal, but so what? Ours is the springbok and we can’t get their flesh down our throats, their heads on our walls or their skins on our floors quick enough.

Okay, so there are fewer than six thousand Astor markhors left in the world. But still. Goats. Right? To encourage more Americans to trophy hunt, your Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified them as threatened rather than endangered. Damn right, they’re threatened. By real men like you.

I thought it was very decent of you to give the local press an interview. After all, it’s a well-known fact that journalists are closely related to goats as a result of spending time in close proximity to one another on Noah’s ark and neither can be trusted.

A Pakistani newspaper quoted you as saying, “It was an easy and close shot and I am pleased to take this trophy.” This makes it sound like the goat was still woozy from the anaesthetic when you walked up and put a bullet into the back of his head.

You were obviously misquoted and I hope you are taking legal action. I have no doubt that your original quote was more along the lines of, “The battle between this vicious creature and me, a battle between good and evil, was long and brutal and I knew only one of us would get out of there alive.”

No, wait. What am I talking about? I saw the video. Your big boy goat was sitting next to a much younger goat. His wife? His lover? His child? Who knows. More importantly, who cares. Well, I suppose the other goat might still be wondering why her companion suddenly jumped up, thrashed about and then died in a pool of blood. Still, that’s not your problem. It’s not like she can sue you for loss of income.

At the end of your video, you encourage Americans to visit Pakistan. You say Mexico is more dangerous than Pakistan. Bloody Mexicans. Build that wall. I’m with you on this. Texans especially should check out northern Waziristan. The local Taliban guides will be happy to help out. Just watch out for the drones. You should be okay, though. They’re hunting Muslims, not red-blooded patriots like yourself.

MAGA! (May All Goats be Assassinated).

Care for a little whine with that?

South Africa has overtaken Britain as the world’s foremost nation in whining and complaining. Service is too slow. Crime is too high. Standards are too low. Too many taxis. Not enough sex. Too many white people. Too many black people. Not enough rain. Too much rain. On and on and on we go.

Sure, every nation complains. But many of them take it a step further. We complain, then sit back and wait for something to happen. And when it doesn’t, we complain some more. Then we shake our heads and talk of emigrating, but then we have a braai and get drunk and suddenly this is the best country in the world to live in.

Our newspapers devote acres of space every month to complaining. Pick up any daily or weekend paper and you are guaranteed to come across an editorial, column or letter written by a professional complainer.

How long will it take before the penny drops?  Hundreds of months? Thousands of years? The people you are complaining about could not give a rat’s arse. The only time anyone responds to a complaint is if when it’s directed at them by a person who has influence over their salary or their job security.

Everyone, with the exception of artists and the homeless (often one and the same), wants to make as much as money as possible by investing the least amount of time and exerting the tiniest amount of effort. I am one of those people. However, I work for myself and were I to shrug off complaints, I’d soon enough end up sleeping beneath a culvert with a toothless crone pawing at me for another suck on my tik pipe. Not that I get complaints. Or work.

There has to come a time when we complain and then, after a decent interval of nothing happening, we change tactics. We get rude. Death threats, whether issued by mail or telephonically, have been known to get results. If that fails, we step it up a notch and take to the streets. If you’re a whitey, ask a darkie to teach you how to make a petrol bomb. Give him some money to make one for himself. It’s that kind of bonding that will be the salvation of this country.

The British, who invented good manners, can change government policy by putting half a million people on the streets. We’ve got half a million people on the streets every day and the government barely notices.

Politicians throughout the ages have forced people to use violence to bring about change. If only they’d just do what we ask them to do, we could avoid all this bloodshed. Governments aren’t overthrown because they refuse to meet demands for free weed and beer fountains on every corner. They get their metaphorical heads chopped off because people want jobs and houses and affordable food and fuel and the people who are in a position to provide these things either can’t or won’t do it.

Fuck the Jabberwock, my son, for ‘tis nothing compared to the underclass. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the Juju bird!

You’d be an idiot not to have a vorpal blade in these tense times. I have not yet had cause to use mine, so I know not whether it goes snicker-snack. I hope it does. You can’t return a vorpal blade. Not in these parts, anyway.

We don’t hear much about the underclass in this country. And for good reason. What? You mean there’s another class below the working class? Good god. Where are our passports? Chanteclaire, get the children into the Range Rover. Hurry! Bring the Faberge eggs! Leave the horses!

The underclass is allowed to vote, even though they pose the greatest threat to us all. This is why they say democracy eats its children. I don’t know who said that. Perhaps I dreamt it.

The existence of the underclass is the only reason the EFF has a presence in parliament. Even though their support base is more lumpen than it is proletariat, turn your back on them at your peril. France has plenty of second-hand guillotines they’d be happy to offload on a country with a 0.6% growth rate.

Unlike Britain, we don’t really have a class system. I’ve worked it out, though, and if we went down that road, we’d have eighteen distinctive classes ranging from lower underclass, through middle nouveau riche and all the way up to upper old money, also known as the Oppenheimer class.

Anyway. Where was I? Ah, yes. Complaining. You know what I hate? People who, when you ask how they’re doing, they say, “Alright, I s’pose. Doesn’t help to complain, does it?” I want to shout, “Look over there!” And when they turn to look, I sink my teeth into the fleshy part of their neck and shake them. You gutless drone. Governments love people like you. The given-up. The what’s-the-point brigade.

My job is to find fault with society but I’m not going to back it up with action unless you yellow-bellied bastards are prepared to back me up. I don’t want to be riding into battle against the riot squad and turn around to find you’ve all buggered off to the pub.

This week’s complaint, which requires no drastic action on my part, concerns one of my favourite pubs. I am outraged, not least because my opinion was never solicited before the sweeping changes were implemented. The yuppification of this former house of ill repute will go down as an atrocity second only to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

It was one of those bars with wooden tables, wooden benches and people you wooden want to take home to meet your mother. Rastas ran the bar, a giant TV played terrible music or sport and stray dogs came and went as they pleased. Neighbours complained regularly. It was great. Now it’s all chrome and glass and ergonomically designed plastic chairs.

Instead of lurking with intent against the far wall, the old bar now cocks its naugahyde hips and poses cheekily as a central feature of the room. The stairs leading down to the bathrooms, which take on Everest-like proportions the later it gets, and which have seen far more casualties than the mountain ever will, now have some kind of effeminate mosaic thing going on. It is now frequented by hipsters in ironically trimmed beards and, god forbid, families.

My waitress was a young white girl, all teeth and no brains. Her manner was awkward and her forced laugh set my eyeballs on edge. She said it was her first time. As a waitress or among people? I couldn’t be sure.

She waited until my mouth was full, then ambushed me and began enquiring about my pizza. It turned into an interrogation. My phone started ringing and still she wouldn’t stop. “It’s very colourful, isn’t it?” she said. Could she not see my mouth was stuffed with pizza? Could she not hear my phone ringing and that I was waiting for her to shut up so that I could answer it? Apparently not. Apparently my pizza was so vivid and exciting that we needed to discuss it as a matter of some urgency.

When I asked for the bill, she said, “Not a problem.” Are there restaurants where asking for the bill is a problem? “I’m sorry, sir. You haven’t eaten enough to warrant dirtying the cutlery and a napkin. You will have to order another course before we can allow you to pay and leave.”

She brought the bill and stood there while I fished out a couple of hundreds. Then she asked a question I’d never before been asked in a restaurant.

“How much change would you like?” Well, honey-bunny, I’d quite like all of my change, if you don’t mind, and then I shall decide whether or not to leave you a tip. Too polite to actually say that, I found myself being pressured into making lightning fast calculations using nothing more than my head. She didn’t try to help, either. I sat there going, “Ummm. Ummm.” She must have thought I was trying to come up with some sort of figure. I wasn’t. I was just going ummm because I didn’t know what else to do. Customers shouldn’t be put in this position. Working out twelve percent of R97.45 and then relating that to the change from a R200 note is the sort of thing you go to Harvard to learn.

King of Spades Screws Queen of Diamonds

Our well-padded mining minister, Gwede Mantashe, opened the 25th Mining Indaba in Cape Town today. Sadly, I wasn’t there to applaud his hollow assurances that South Africa was safe for investors and that corruption was being addressed. I was, however, there in 2014 and this is what I wrote at the time. I don’t expect much, apart from a few faces, has changed.

……………………

With a little help from a former colleague living in early retirement in Port Nolloth, I managed to get myself on to the list of delegates attending the African Mining Conference at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town.

I wasn’t a delegate, per se. It wasn’t as if I was going to make any speeches. To be honest, I was there primarily for the free lunches. And maybe to pick up a small concession in Sierra Leone. There is something about blood diamonds that sets them apart from the common or garden stone.

Any fool can walk into a jeweller’s shop and pick out something cut and polished and glued into a ring. But it takes a special kind of man to go into the heart of darkness and bring back a bag of gems that could have prolonged a civil war by at least another few days.

My plan was to mingle unobtrusively with the other delegates and eavesdrop on private conversations so that I might gain a better insight into the situation under the ground, as it were. My plan went to hell the moment I walked through the doors. I had never seen so many men in one place sporting dark suits and greedy eyes. I had taken my suit to the dry cleaners, but that was in 1987 and it had probably been sold to defray expenses. In retrospect, it might have been a mistake to wear a traditional garment that looked like it had been put together by a blind tailor on a street corner in Banjul. I thought this would help me to blend in with the investors, so you can imagine my embarrassment when I saw that everyone else was wearing Pierre Cardin.

After a little trouble at the metal detector, I managed to find my way to the conference hall where mining ministers were lining up to sell their country’s mineral resources to the highest bidders.

Some of the smaller countries never really had much to put on the table. However, if nobody else was interested I was more than prepared to put in a cheeky offer to tap that shrunken vein of tanzanite. I kept putting my hand up until a delegate wearing the last of Ghana’s gold around his neck told me this wasn’t an auction and that if I was interested in investing I needed to be a little more discreet.

That’s when I saw Dali Tambo in one of his peculiar oversized Sgt Pepper outfits standing off to one side oozing schmooze all over a couple of delegates. I waited for him to whip out one of his quaint embroidered pillows but he seems to have stumbled into something far more lucrative than presenting talk shows.

While waiting for lunch, I got talking to one of the security guards who was keen to get involved in my project. Not wanting to hurt the poor fellow’s feelings, I explained that the word “mine” is an abbreviation of “mine, not yours”, a phrase that helped to popularise early capitalism. This also effectively ended the conversation, allowing me to be first in line at the buffet. And a fine feast it was, too.

While wolfing my third plate of fish and pasta and curry, I sidled up to a white man with silver hair. He smelled of money. It turned out that his company was about to begin strip mining along a pristine piece of coastline on one of the Indian Ocean islands. I think he took my silence to mean disapproval, but my mouth was so full of free food that I could barely breathe, let alone conduct a decent conversation. He quickly went on to explain that local conservation groups were fully behind his project because they saw the potential benefits to the community. At that moment my mouth became empty and I used it to laugh harshly. “So you paid them off? Good job,” I said, shovelling half a chicken into my gaping maw.

It was probably for the best that I never got the chance to discuss matters further, because the next time I saw him he was on his knees giving the mining minister of an obscure central African dictatorship a big fat injection of foreign direct investment.

I spent the rest of the day conducting business from the lavatory. It was only the next day I read in the paper that I was among a group of people who had eaten the toxic trout. Some of the more delicate delegates were apparently treated at the scene. At the time I thought my body was simply reacting to years of abuse. It does that sometimes. But it seemed more likely that it was reacting to the sight of Africa once again being gang-banged by a bunch of rapacious thugs in three-piece suits.

One for the road – do it for your country

I long for the day that we are number one in the world. I’m not talking about jejune frivolities like rugby or cricket, but something far more significant. Not too long ago we were almost hailed as the country with the world’s highest murder rate, but the bloody Colombians beat us to it by a miserable dozen or so deaths a day.

When I heard about the World Health Organisation’s latest global survey on drinking habits, I thought we at last had it in the bag. If there’s one thing we can do, it’s chuck buckets of booze down our throats whenever the opportunity presents itself. And when I say opportunity, I mean whenever we are not in hospital or prison.

And yet, we still somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Top of the log is the Republic of Moldova – the world’s biggest vineyard. Moldovans drink a respectable 18.2 litres of pure alcohol each year. That’s without the mixers. Picture an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with vodka and orange. Now picture yourself living in Moldova. Tempting, isn’t it?

We staggered in at a pathetic 9.4 litres per person. Diluted, that wouldn’t be enough for sundowners at my place on a Friday night.

You would think, then, that at least the binge drinking category would be ours for the taking. The only good thing we learnt from the Germans was how to open our throat valves and pour the filth straight into our bellies without having to waste time swallowing.

Again, we rolled over. Ahead of us are Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and, shamefully, Mexico. Pathetic. If you are not already hanging your head in some seedy bar or over the rim of the toilet, then hang it now. The embarrassment of it all. Those appalling eastern countries I can understand. Life in Kazakhstan, for instance, must be utterly intolerable without being permanently gevrotteled. But Mexico? This is a nation that goes to sleep every afternoon and yet they still managed to out-binge us.

The fact that binge drinking is on the decrease in this country is a symptom of a much deeper malaise. The worse things get, the happier people seem to become. And the happier they become, the less they drink. We may very well one day be crowned the country with the lowest collective IQ, but it’s not a title I would be particularly proud of.

There was a time when drinking was a sport for the whole family. Even the children could be relied upon to get involved. Not any more. Kids today won’t touch a drink that’s not laced with methylenedioxymethamphetamine or some other fancy-pants chemical. Spoilt brats.

Binge drinking takes commitment and dedication, qualities that are becoming increasingly hard to find. It’s not unusual these days to walk into a bar and find grown men and women sitting with just one drink in front of them. These are the sort of people who would sooner run out of petrol than fill up while there’s still a drop in the tank. Many of these dilettantes will even be chatting and laughing as if there were no such thing as closing time.

When I was young (last Tuesday), drinking alone was preferred since company could lead to talking. I have never grasped this obsession with conversing in places expressly designed to encourage intimacy with the astonishing range of mind-altering beverages which mankind has been generous enough to invent.

Now and then I catch myself inadvertently eavesdropping in taverns frequented by congenital babblers. This distracts me from the job at hand and what starts out as a promising binge session often comes perilously close to ending in that middle class masquerade known as social drinking.

The only person you need to communicate with in a bar is the waiter or the barman. If you have to talk, please stay at home or find a park bench where nobody else has to listen to your witless gibberings.

Moving on. In its report, the World Health Organisation claimed that alcohol causes nearly four percent of deaths worldwide. Upon reading this, I issued a far more positive report claiming that more than 96 percent of deaths worldwide were not caused by alcohol. When my friend Ted heard the good news, he rushed over with four bottles of homemade rice whiskey and a small can of soda water.

We agreed there were far too many people in the world and that somebody must be watering down the drinks otherwise surely there would be more deaths. This planet needs to be saved and there is not a moment to waste. The world must be flooded with powerful UN-subsidised alcohol and the drinking age immediately lowered to seven. Police manning roadblocks should be required by law to provide sober motorists with sachets of industrial ethanol which must be consumed in front of the officer before they are allowed to continue on their way.

The report also found that men outnumber women by four to one in what they coyly describe as “weekly heavy episodic drinking occasions”. Ted and I did our own research and discovered that women outnumber men by four to one in rejecting offers of sex with strangers. We may be wrong, but there could be a correlation here.

Alarmingly, there are at least 25 countries that have an annual alcohol consumption rate of less than 1%. These shining examples of what a country can achieve without the deleterious effects of alcohol include Afghanistan, Iraq, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Yemen and Somalia. Someone give them a drink, for God’s sake. How could a couple of cold beers possibly make things any worse than they already are?

Meanwhile, health ministers from 193 states have agreed to try to curb binge drinking through higher taxes on alcohol and tighter marketing restrictions. All this will do is create an entirely new stratum of well-spoken indigent alcoholics and an outbreak of perforated septums as advertising execs are forced to hoover up the dangerously cheap shnarf.

SABMiller, the wheel-greasers of this great nation, warn that higher taxes will force us all to start making toxic moonshine in our own back yards. Thank you, SABMiller, for your concern. I’m sure we would all prefer to drink the legit stuff and risk developing neuropsychiatric disorders rather than ulcers.

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


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.