Woolworths gets fresh meat

News that the CEO of Woolworths has resigned reminded me of this column I wrote a couple of months ago.

……………………….

Poor Ian Moir. Who? That’s what I thought, too. Apparently he’s the boss of Woolworth’s. The sad news is that his salary has taken a big knock. The 59-year-old businessman is accustomed to pocketing around R30-million a year. Imagine his disappointment upon discovering a paltry R23-million in his latest pay packet. He didn’t even get a performance bonus.

Sometimes we care too much about the poor and not enough about the rich and we need to keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

I get upset when I lose seven rand. Can’t imagine how I’d feel losing seven million. It’s a slippery slope. Keep dropping at that rate and one day you’re going to end up wearing an orange bib and guiding EFF armoured personnel carriers into the Inanda Club parking lot.

Sure, he has netted around R190-million over the last five years, but if he is anything like me, he would have blown most of it by now. By shopping at Woolworth’s, I imagine.

Do you know who put Moir on this slippery slope? Australia. Never would have thought it. They seem so helpful to those in need. I’m not talking about asylum seekers and refugees, obviously. But when it comes to saving white South Africans, mainly from the genocide, they are usually first in line. So what happened to poor Ian Moir?

I suppose, technically speaking, it might not have been Australia’s fault altogether. In 2014 Moir bought David Jones, an Australian department store, for the knockdown price of R21-billion. I’ve regretted buying all sorts of things over the years but hardly anything on that scale.

Moir had a vision of dominating the entire southern hemisphere with a chain of upmarket department stores. It’s the kind of thing Hitler might have gone for had he been into mass merchandising rather than mass murder.

He now admits to having bought at the wrong time, paid too much and introduced too many changes way too quickly. These are the kind of mistakes I would make if I were in business instead of in, well, bed, really.

Over the past four years Woolworth’s shares have fallen more regularly than a one-legged drunk. They seem to be recovering, though, mainly because the company abandoned their move to what they coyly describe as “younger, trendier lines” and returned to catering for the group’s “traditional, older customer”.

I am nothing if not an older customer, but their message seems not to have filtered through to the branch in my local mall. When I insert my credit card at the clothing tills, I half expect the options to be straight, budget or bisexual. The men’s section has racks of cute short-sleeved shirts in a range of pastel hues and figure-hugging denim shorts with the bottoms turned up. Wear those in public and you won’t be short of bottoms turning up, I can assure you.

The shorts offer “more comfort, less chemicals”. I sighed heavily and rolled my eyes.

“It’s fewer chemicals, goddammit!” A shop assistant eyed me nervously. I once knew a guy who wore denim shorts. He obviously didn’t get them from Woolies because his pockets were always full of chemicals.

Inspecting the merchandise, I discover that I am looking at “Fashion that cares”. Things certainly have changed. I have always been under the impression that fashion doesn’t give a damn about anyone but its own fickle, narcissistic self. Fashion has destroyed too many young lives for it to start caring now.

Woolworth’s is big on virtue signalling. Massive. They are the Greta Thunberg of the retail industry. You can’t miss the signs. Even their chino pants have been “responsibly sourced with stretch”. I don’t know who Stretch is, but I wouldn’t want his job. What I would be interested in is a pair of pants that have been irresponsibly sourced. Pants that have been snatched by raiding parties of pant bandits under cover of darkness, leaving entire villages pantsless.

I also discover that the chino factory … did you know that chino is the Spanish word for a Chinese man? Perhaps that’s why there are 1.4 billion Chinese people in the world. It wouldn’t surprise me. They already make everything else.

Chino is also a type of cloth. It started off as 100% cotton but during the textile industry’s summer of love, chino got high, blended with the synthetics and nothing was ever the same again. Pretty much what happened to the hippies. The Bible prohibits the wearing of fabrics made from a mix of wool and linen. I don’t know what the deal is with chinos. I’m not saying you’ll burst into flames if you wear them. But I’m not saying you won’t, either. It’s up to you. Personally I wouldn’t risk it.

As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself. A sign in the shop says that Woolworth’s “slim-fit chino factory uses renewable energy, wombats …” What? No, wait. I haven’t got my reading glasses on. The factory combats deforestation and “helps improve water quality”. Bit of an extravagant claim, that. How would you even make pants without chopping down trees?

The underwear section, which, as a commando, I rarely visit, promised that the “trunks are made from organic cotton grown and harvested responsibly”. That’s a relief. Trunks are more than just a hammock for your privates. You don’t want to be having a one-night stand and before she gets her kit off she demands proof that your undies aren’t made from genetically modified cotton harvested roughly by insensitive meat-eating brutes.

I get the feeling that Ian Moir’s finances are closely linked to the company’s food division. Some of those ready meals are the price of a decent nosh in a good restaurant. There should be waiters in the refrigerated aisles taking your drinks order while you peruse the mains.

R259 for a bit of salmon? That’s ridiculous. This is a well-travelled salmon who grew up in the fjords speaking Norwegian. He is worth way more than that. Were he still alive, he would be insulted. If it weren’t for him paying the ultimate sacrifice, we’d all be eating South African salmon, a bitter, resentful fish known for its misplaced sense of entitlement.

I must say, though, I am impressed with one of their new products – mashed potato. It’s obviously bad for you because it tastes super yummy (that’s my new denim shorts talking). Men are genetically unable to make proper mash and as a result I have lived off Smash for years. This is a tremendous breakthrough.

At the tills, huge signs alerted me to the fact that Woolworth’s gives away “hundreds of millions of rands worth of perfectly good surplus food every year”. That doesn’t sound like a particularly good business model. Too much food or too few customers? This is food that finds itself languishing between its sell-by and best-by dates. The sign says the food is delivered to shelters and charities. It must be an incredibly efficient system because there’s not much room for dawdling if you hope to beat the best-by date. Maybe they should take over from the Post Office.

Anyway, it’s a lovely story and it warms my heart to think that people in homeless shelters are right now tucking in to stuffed trout, chilli prawn linguine and caramel swirl gateau cake.

It gives me something to look forward to when the money runs out. Shouldn’t be long now considering that my best-by date has long since come and gone.

 

  • Moir will be replaced by Roy Bagattini, the president of clothing company Levi Strauss Americas.

You can’t burn a wet dugong

Dear Sasol,

Congratulations on your decision to go ahead and drill test wells on the outskirts of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. I have seen photographs of the area and, quite frankly, it makes me sick. If I can’t afford to go there on holiday, I’d rather see it destroyed.

Apparently it’s one of the last places in Africa where the dugong hang out. Have you ever seen a dugong? I have. Well, I’ve seen pictures of one. Obviously I can’t afford to go anywhere that has dugongs. And a good thing it is, too. Dugongs are ridiculous. They look like a dolphin crossed with a hippo crossed with my local councillor. They shouldn’t be allowed. I hear they are deadly creatures whose diet consists of small animals like goats and children.

My fear and loathing of dugongs is matched only by my disdain for the Mozambican government. I can’t believe that, ten years ago, they refused you permission to explore on the spurious grounds that the area is “environmentally sensitive”. Let me tell you something. I am nothing if not sensitive to my environment. But if it makes me sneeze or tries to kill me, I will have it annihilated. The environment must also learn to show some sensitivity to our needs. This is not a one-way street.

Your local subsidiary got exploration rights back in 2005 and started doing seismic tests. The blasts would have certainly given the dugongs something to think about. Then, in 2008, the government cock-blocked you on the grounds that they wanted to come up with an environmental assessment.

Something must have slipped through the cracks, or maybe into a bank account, because the report still hasn’t been published. Now you’ve hired Golder Associates, a Canadian company that cares deeply about profits as well as the planet and cognitive dissonance be damned. They have announced that Sasol has decided to “take the initiative” and resume Project Bazaruto.

I read that Golder has put together a hit squad of “consultants” and that public meetings have been held to “address concerns regarding future activities”. Well done. This is the way to do it. I might not have been to Bazaruto, but, like every other red-blooded brandy-guzzling fish-killing white South African man, I have been to Ponta do Ouro. You will have found, as did I, that when it comes to the addressing of concerns in the tropical nethers, there is no shortage of scrawny palms willing to be greased and the local populace almost always puts up less of a fight than a toothless barracuda.

Your spin-doctors over at Golder have been quick to reassure the locals that there are “no immediate plans to conduct seismic or exploration activities”. As you and I know, the word “immediate” has no accurate translation in Africa. Everything is open to interpretation, if not negotiation.

It was also smart to get Golder to finagle the details. “If hydrocarbon reserves are found to be economic, Sasol’s intention is to exploit those reserves to expand existing markets and develop new markets in both Mozambique and Southern Africa.” Damn, I love the smell of exploitation in the morning. This expanding and developing of new markets is a complex thing and anyone who starts looking into it will … oh, look! Cat videos! But you know this already.

The dugong-huggers are attempting to mobilise. The least stoned person in the drum circle recently sent a letter to Golder saying there should be no exploration in areas adjoining national parks. Especially not in areas traditionally used to get naked and high during full moon beach parties. They say they are worried about the dugongs. Really? Ancient mariners thought dugongs were mermaids. That’s some kind of ugly-ass mermaid right there. It’s clear that dugongs have been associated with drug abuse for a very long time and should be locked up.

Did you know that dugongs can live for seventy years and weigh more than 500kgs? I have seen the human equivalent on Durban’s beaches over Christmas and it’s not a pretty sight. They’re a seismic event all on their own. They are known as sea cows. The dugongs, not the holidaymakers. Isn’t there a way you can exploit them while you are exploiting the mineral resources? Like a side exploitation. Yeah, we got hydrocarbon. How much you want? Tell you what. Take a ton and we’ll throw in a dugong. Special offer. Cash only.

Apparently the nearby Sofala Bank is also Mozambique’s most important fishing ground. Well, sorry Beijing. You are just going to have to poach somewhere else. Unless, of course, the kind of fish you’re after aren’t bothered by explosions and shallow-water drills smashing their way two kilometres into the seabed. I don’t know what kind of fish that might be. Wouldn’t eat it myself, of course. Shan’t risk catching mad fish disease.

A bunch of grouper gropers have written to Golder pointing out blindingly obvious details about sound waves travelling long distances under water. This might upset the whales, they say. Oh, please. The call of the blue whale can hit 188 decibels and travels hundreds of kilometres. I don’t know what they’re whistling for. Another round of krill, probably. The clicks made by sperm whales are louder than five Xhosa women in an Engen shop. In fact, the whale is the loudest animal on earth. It’s about time they got a taste of their own medicine.

Studies have shown that seismic testing causes hearing loss in several species. How would you even know if a fish is deaf? It’s not like they pay the slightest attention to us unless they are on the end of a hook, and even then they won’t look us in the eye. Would it really be that bad if the dugongs of Bazaruto had their hearing impaired? Why do they even have ears? They don’t talk to each other. They are like people who have been married for more than five years. You’re probably doing them a favour.

Drill, baby, drill. The world needs more hydrocarbon. Whatever that is.

A Survival Guide to New Year’s Eve

I have felt uncomfortable about making a big thing out of December 31 ever since discovering that our 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 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 move on to more important matters.

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 is 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 and alcohol 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. Tetrahydrocannibanol, eh? You’re coming with me. I’m going to detoxify and neutralise all the goodness out of you. Bastard organ.

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 31 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, some 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 have our bottoms 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 sundry psychos, then that is our choice. If you prefer to spend your New Year’s Eve clutching a glass of warm rosé and getting all misty eyed over maudlin rubbish like Auld Lang Syne, then stay 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.

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.

What you can also 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 encounter a state hospital this evening. The doctors will 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 a piece of cake if you have a fishhook, a length of gut and a half-jack of brandy. If you don’t have at least that in the boot of your car, you’re not a real South African and deserve to be deported.

If you lose an eye, ask the barman for a glass of ice and pop it in there. It will be good for 24 hours so you need not stop partying.

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, go to the nearest restaurant and order a steak.

A lot of people will be falling down tonight. The first thing you need to do when coming across someone on the ground is to ascertain whether they are drunk or dying. If the person is not breathing, it is your moral duty to attempt to revive them. It is not your moral duty to take their cellphone and quickly walk away.

There are a number of medically acceptable methods you can use to verify whether someone is still alive. First, check if there is a pulse. This can be done by lightly resting two fingers on his wrist or neck. If the person is a woman, you may check for a pulse by removing her bra and cupping one of her breasts in your hand. If she is not dead, she will let you know right away.

If there is no sign of a heartbeat, remove your jacket and roll up your sleeves. If you are on your way to work and you have a packed lunch, grab a quick bite to eat. It will give you the energy you need to bring this person back to life.

When you have finished eating, poke a stick down their throat to check that their air passage is not blocked. If there are no sticks lying about, go back to your car and fetch the dipstick from your engine. The oil will help it slide down the trachea.

Next, block their nose, cover their mouth with yours and blow as hard as you can. Try not to get aroused. You want to feel their lungs inflating like footballs. While you are blowing, hammer on their chest with your fist. After two minutes of punching and blowing, stop for a break. There is no point in giving yourself a heart attack. During your break, slap them around the head and shout, “Live, damn you! Live!” This won’t do much for the victim but it does make it more entertaining for the crowd.

If you are successful, you will notice the person beginning to breathe on their own. Ask someone to call the media. There is no point in saving someone’s life if only a few people know about it. If the person tries to get up before a journalist arrives, make sure they bump their head against the pavement and knock themselves out.

If your efforts are unsuccessful and the person dies, get someone to take a photograph of you with your foot on their chest. Later, you can tell your friends that you killed a mugger with your bare hands. Alive or dead, either way you look like a hero.

Right, that’s it. In the words of the great philosopher Homer Simpson: “To alcohol! The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems.”

The hive mind is braindead

Google thought it might be a fun idea to let the world know the top ten things people in different countries have searched for over the past year. Well, it wasn’t. It was a terrible idea. It might be fine for countries that have citizens who spend their days searching for truth, happiness and the meaning of life, but for a country like ours, it’s just downright embarrassing.

South Africa’s top trending question of 2019 was, “Why were cornflakes invented?” Look, I think it’s healthy that people ask questions. Don’t take anything for granted. Keep asking until you get answers. But cornflakes above what happens when you die? Or is there a god? Or why can’t you get a decent bunny chow in Cape Town?

“Why were cornflakes invented?” doesn’t strike me as a question that a mentally sound adult would ask the global hive mind. Please let it not be. I can only imagine that every ten-year-old with a smartphone has googled this question at least once. If I had had a magical device that answered everything at that age, I might have also wanted to know why my mother was feeding me cornflakes for breakfast rather than, say, a plate of chips covered in bacon and cheese and why it was even necessary to invent this abominable cereal killer.

A lot of children in our country are lucky to get a pebble to suck on in the morning and they wouldn’t have been among those asking this ridiculous question. Anyway, a pebble is probably healthier. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s yummy weedkiller Roundup, has been found in corn-based products made by Kellogg’s and other companies. Sugar disguises the taste of the cancer, but still. Perhaps it is understandable why so many people wanted to know why this crunchy poison was invented. I don’t know what the answer is and I’m not going to google it because then I’ll be just like the rest of you and, quite frankly, I’d sooner eat cornflakes.

Third on the list was, “How many votes for a seat in parliament?” This was googled multiple times with increasing frequency by Kanthan Pillay in May this year. The question is unlikely to trend again until the next general election.

Number 4 on the list was, “How did Cameron Boyce die?” I would have imagined that #5 would have been, “Who is Cameron Boyce?” But no. It was, “How long is a rugby match?” Guys, you might think your women are quite happy playing with their phones while you watch the game, but they’re trying to find out if they have enough time to slip out for a quickie with Dave who doesn’t have a telly. Please don’t google “Who the fuck is Dave?”

Question 9 was, “What is media?” I presume this was asked by people who live in caves and have never seen a newspaper or any kind of electronic device. I’d like to meet them some day. If you’re one of them and you are reading this, send a smoke signal. I’ll be along shortly with a bottle of tequila. And maybe a shotgun.

Coming in at #10 is this gem. “What is teenage pregnancy?” Quite frankly, I don’t know how all these people managed to type this into Google given the amount of drool that must have been dripping onto their device.

Bumping cornflakes into second spot, the top search of the entire decade was, “How to make slime.” I thought it would be obvious. Chop politicians up and feed the bits into a blender.

Countless South Africans also wanted to know “How to lose weight in 3 days.” My lifestyle is predicated upon leaving things until the last minute, but this is on another level altogether. Who looks in the mirror on a Tuesday and realises that terrible things will happen if they don’t lose 30kg by Friday?

Our troglodytes who struggle to grasp concepts like media and teenage pregnancies also wanted to know “How to grow hair fast?” and “How to draw eyebrows.” Making me slightly less ashamed to be South African, the 5th most asked question of the decade was, “Where am I?” It’s a question that frequently crosses my mind, but never to an extent that I have thought to google it. Perhaps I have never been drunk enough. No, that’s not it.

Topping the trending searches list for not only the year but also the decade is “load shedding”. No surprises there, then. It used to be that people were curious to know more about this fresh hell lurching into their lives. Now we know. And yet, we don’t. Schrodinger’s power station.

Thanos, too, features on both lists. Derived from Thanatos, the personification of death and immortality. South Africans are not complete morons after all. They want to know about Greek mythology. No, wait. This Thanos is a comic-book anti-hero. Sigh.

Coming in at #9 for the decade is Teacher’s Day, presumably searched by teachers under the impression that this is the one day of the year when they are legally entitled to come to work drunk and engage in sex-for-marks orgies with teenage girls who haven’t yet got around to googling what pregnancy means.

It’s hard to believe that nothing related to genitalia made it into the top ten searches. It’s just not possible. Not for South Africans. We are endlessly fascinated with our and other people’s bits. I imagine if you’re not very bright and you eventually manage to find out what teenage pregnancy means, you will sooner or later stumble upon Pornhub and go blind in a relatively short space of time.

This can only be a good thing.

Mayhem and merriment at the mall

All that is preventing hostilities from breaking out in shopping mall parking lots across the country are the Congolese and Rwandan car guards. They have seen some terrible things, and I’m not even talking about Brazzaville or Kigali. A low intensity uncivil war is brewing and there are still four days to go before Jesus’s birthday.

Hordes of rough beasts are slouching towards Bethlehem and other towns to be borne aloft on a whip tide of apex consumerism driven by fear and guilt. Armed with my credit card and a flick-knife, I joined the slavering pack. I found a parking bay in a neighbouring province and caught a train back to the mall.

The food court was at the entrance. Being perilously close to lunch time, the feeding frenzy was well on its way to reaching its depraved climax. People with the sad, frightened eyes of doomed cows chewed like cows on food made from cows.

There was a sign promising that whatever happens, the mall will have electricity. The next step is obvious. Set up border posts and announce a unilateral declaration of independence. There’d be a scramble for citizenship.

I walked into a shop selling shiny Christmas junk and saw a life-sized piñata in the corner. I always thought that was just a Mexican thing. Picking up a plastic hockey stick, I gave it a whack. Turned out to be a shop assistant dressed in a traditional Cape Malay outfit. I made her apologise for screaming and scaring the bejesus out of me.

There was a Santa with the eyes of a dead snoek. He looked like he was fresh out of Pollsmoor. Every time he saw a child he would ring a little silver bell, much like Catholic priests might do whenever winsome altar boys stray within range. I asked him to stop with the bell and he threatened to cut me.

There was a bottle store next to Checkers. A sign in the window said Ice Cold Beer Inside! I went in and asked for a window table. Apparently they don’t do that.

“Do you expect me to drink standing up?” I said indignantly. Get your hands off me. I’m leaving anyway. I shall report you to the hospitality board. Not being able to drink in a bottle store is like not being allowed to eat in a restaurant. No wonder everyone is emigrating.

There are a lot of seriously overweight people in this country and they shouldn’t be in malls at this time of year. They simply take up too much space. The rest of us shouldn’t have to keep veering sharply to port or starboard to avoid colliding with these supertankers. Perhaps there should be scales at the entrances. Anyone over 100kg can’t come in. Make that 105kg. But I’m also six-foot-four, so I wear it well.

Usually when I see a Verimark shop I cross myself and hurry past lest I be sucked into the dark side. This time I went in. One of the cult’s hollow-eyed apostles was demonstrating something called Smart Doggy. He dances, winks, shoots darts and tells stories. My kind of dog. A bit steep at R999, but you’ll never have to feed him. Best of all, he comes with adjustable volume, something the dogs in my neighbourhood could do with.

I watched a grown man trying out some kind of high-tech mop. I wish I could see his wife’s face when she unwraps it. If I were him, I’d stop off at Outdoor & Velocity and pick up something from their self-defence range. I fell in love with a devilishly cute pistol crossbow. Everyone should have one. Just imagine, no more gunshots waking you in the middle of the night. I also spotted a throwing axe, which brought out my inner Viking and it wasn’t long before I was asked to step away from the weapons. I threatened to return with my men. There will be plunder and looting, I shouted. I suppose that’s not much of a threat if you live in South Africa, where plunder and looting is a lifestyle.

Curious to see what Barbie’s wearing this year, I walked into a toy shop with the confident stride of a man who has children. Or at least knows someone with children. A lot of babies in boxes. Most of them said, “Try me.” Where I come from, that’s a challenge. It usually ends with someone in the back of an ambulance. Bit triggering, to be honest. My instinct was to drop to the floor and curl up like a pangolin.

Baby Thando lay in her box daring me to push her stomach. Like most darkies, she can speak English and Zulu. A security guard watched me molesting her tummy while pressing my ear up against the box. I know now how to say, “Will you give me a kiss on the cheek?” in isiZulu. No chance of this ending badly.

Lego is big this year. The houses you can build look way sturdier than our RDP ones. Maybe the CEO of Lego should be invited to run the housing ministry.

I found a scale model of an A380 Airbus that “includes music and light-up function”. That’s more than you get on SAA. There’s also an airport play set but it lacks a little baggage handler cutting the lock off your suitcase.

I saw a white plastic VW Amarok that can go 3.8km/h – the national speed limit if the DA ever takes over. It’s good driver training if you’re the size of Little Baby Fun, who has nine functions – one of which might be to break up mommy and daddy’s marriage because they never get time to have sex which is why daddy never wanted a baby in the first place.

Disney is still doing their bit to keep girls in their place with My First Kitchen. I can’t wait for the follow-up. My First Divorce and His Last Meal. There’s also a supermarket “with electronic sounds”. Gunfire and screaming in Somali, presumably.

The doll section is more overcrowded than the maternity section at Chris Hani Baragwanath but with a lower infant mortality rate. “Kristal is sick, can you make her feel better?” She makes crying sounds and spots of light appear on her pale face. Looks like Ebola. I cover my mouth and move away quickly.

There’s a Barbie in jeans. She looks older than the others. Wider hips. Probably has a kid somewhere. Quite likely with the brown Ken doll on the shelf above. He’s wearing little more than a pair of tight shorts and a smile that suggests he’s up for anything. Especially when it comes to white girls. The box warns that Ken has small parts that might be a choking hazard. No doubt. Watch that gag reflex, Barbie.

Sweet Dreams Baby is the ideal gift for anyone in the National Intelligence Agency. “Press my hand and I record your voice for twenty seconds. Press again and I repeat back to you.” It won’t be long before one of these plastic impimpis is put into the witness protection programme.

I have to get out of here but can’t remember where I parked. I’m going back to the bottle store to reopen negotiations. Maybe I’ll pick up that crossbow.

A letter to the ‘General’

Dear Harry Knoesen,

I know you can’t see me, but I have just saluted you in proper military fashion. Because I don’t have a beret, boshoed or staaldak, I have a tea cosy on my head. Not ideal, I know, but it’s better than disrespecting you by saluting with nothing on my nut. That kind of sloppiness would get you a month in DB back in the good old days.

I am saluting you because you are an officer. A general, in fact. Even though you gave yourself this rank in your own organisation, the National Christian Resistance Movement, you are still a general in my eyes. Just this morning I started the Anti-Dishwashing Movement and, after a brief promotion ceremony in the garden, I demanded that my wife calls me Brigadier Ben and obeys my every command. Then she went off and had her own ceremony and made herself a Major-general and now everything has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Condolences on being arrested by the Hawks at your Middelburg home. They are not really known for doing arrests so it’s just pure bad luck on your part. Did you know they had been investigating you for the last two years? Probably not, otherwise you might not have been sitting in the lounge wearing your wife-beater and sleeping shorts. Not the best image for the head of a private militia dedicated to violently ending the scourge of democracy and returning the apex race to its rightful place.

The cops say they found an “explosives factory” and lots of guns and ammunition at your house. When I was a teenager, I had a catapult that I wasn’t allowed to have so I kept it at a friend’s house and only fetched it when someone needed to be shot. Don’t you have any friends? What about your soldiers? Couldn’t one of them have looked after your arsenal?

The communist-controlled media tells me that your organisation is nicknamed the Crusaders. I like it. Catchy. Reminds me a bit of rugby, for some reason. There’s also that other group, Cash Crusaders, but as far as I know they don’t have an armed wing. Cowards.

When you came up with the name you were probably thinking more of that time when the Catholics declared a holy war on them uppity Muslims. Then again, there probably aren’t many Catholics among you. In the old days, if you fought in the crusades you were automatically forgiven for your sins. It was a penitential exercise, unlike what you’re going through, which is more of a penitentiary thing.

I imagine your crusaders have a fair amount of sins to be forgiven for. I’ve done some terrible things with a head full of brandy. Okay, I never got around to blowing up national key points or driving black people into the sea. Sorry about that. The sad truth is, I get quite friendly with the darkies when I am drunk. Do you think I might be possessed by demons? Maybe I’m just drinking the wrong kind of brandy. I shall switch to something cheaper and have an exorcism just to be safe.

I heard you made a video saying the South African government hates whites and that we have to strike first. I don’t know, boet. From what I can make out, the government hates everyone. When it comes to plundering, looting and ruining people’s lives, they don’t discriminate. As for us striking first, well, I can’t speak for you, but I seriously lack rhythm. White men can’t toyi-toyi. I suppose we could try the langarm, but I fear the enemy might not take us seriously.

In the video you call yourself an “English Afrikaans Boer”. Are you related to the Knoesens of the Derbyshire Dales, perchance? They come from a long line of potters, painters and medieval mass murderers. Lovely people. Mostly.

You also say, “Yes, I am talking war. If Malema can say what he wants because he is black, then as a white general of my own movement, I can also say what I want.” Damn right. That’s the beauty of our Constitution. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech, equality for … hang on. Aren’t we meant to be against this whole treating everyone equally business? Are you saying you want the same rights that Julius Malema has? Isn’t that what the darkies used to say about us? I’m so confused.

You said on Facebook that when you take back the land, you will make sure all white South Africans get “a free piece of land large enough to build and live on”. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but could I please have a free car instead of a piece of land? I am useless at building things and growing stuff. I don’t know how to use a spirit level or a plough and if I want meat I would rather go to the Spar than shoot a lamb in the face. On the other hand, if you want to extend your war to the Indian Ocean islands – and I think you should – then I would like to put my name down for a piece of land in the Seychelles. Somewhere on La Digue might be nice.

I believe you were a member of the Middelburg council for the ACDP. That must have been frustrating for you. Did you leave because they were too liberal? Calling for the return of the death penalty is one thing, but why stop at hanging? For two hundred years, the feudal authorities in Japan boiled, burned, crucified and decapitated their criminals. We need to be more like the ancient Japanese. Unless you think Japanese are the same as darkies, in which case we need to be less like them.

So, listen. Tell me about this Riana Heymans woman who got arrested a few days after you. Is she one of your “special” Crusaders? You know what I mean. Praise be. She’s quite attractive in an unpleasant sort of way. Is she single? I once wrote some marital vows based on Blood River that would work well for her.

By the way, I read somewhere that you were in the army? Makes sense. I don’t think we met. I was a signalman. I told them I was colour-blind and they still put me in signals. No wonder we lost the war.

Good luck, ou pel. As they say, when days are dark and friends are few … sorry. I didn’t mean to say dark. Everything will be all white on the night. Vasbyt.

Rage against the naaiing of the lighties

After hearing about the Matric Rage going down this weekend, I knew right away I had to be part of it.

When I finished school, we didn’t have such a thing. On the last day of school, our teachers gave us a final farewell beating and sent us home to be beaten by our parents who sent us to the army to be beaten by our corporals. Good times.

I am delighted to see that school-leavers are finally venting their rage. They must be full of it. Rage against a derelict education system that left them ill-equipped for life on the outside. Rage against the puritanical purveyors of pedagogy who denied them the opportunity to experiment with sex and drugs and other essential rites of passage during break time. Rage against the parentals – against tyrannical fathers who maintain their tight-fisted grip on power by controlling the cash flow and cosseting mothers who merely extend instead of sever the apron strings. And, more than anything, rage against a government that has pocketed their inheritance and kicked them in the teeth.

I, too, am filled with unrequited rage and shall be expressing it at Plettenberg Bay. To be sure, I’d rather be at the Ballito Rage or the Umhlanga Rage because the constabulary in that region is a lot more laissez-faire and the weed is of a better quality. However, since I am passing through the Transkei, perhaps I shall purchase several kilos of primo from one of the mendicant vendors who traverse those dusty boulevards and share it among my fellow ragers. On the other hand, perhaps not. There is nothing that dispels a good head of rage more than a good head of Transkei rooibaard.

During my research, I came across a rage page on the internet. Instead of extending an open invitation to anyone with rage bubbling in their hearts, it said quite the opposite. “To attend you have to have finished school and be no older than 25.” What? For a start, it was school that damn near finished me. And while my behaviour frequently exhibits tendencies that fall squarely into the realm of the juvenile delinquent, my well-travelled face will betray me when it comes time to demand entrance to this elitist, ageist gathering of the doomed.

The website promised bands, DJs and “beach activities”. You can keep your bands and your DJs. I want to be part of the beach activities. No. I want to spearhead the beach activities. American troops pulled it off nicely at the Omaha Beach Party in 1944, even though several thousand died at the after party. Since then, security has improved considerably and I expect fewer casualties at the Plett Rage.

In fact, ragers were reassured that an experienced security team “with close ties to the local law enforcement” would be on hand. Yes, this is exactly what rampaging mobs of pheromone-crazed teenagers want – surly bouncers on braaing terms with the local cops trailing them through the vomit-stained streets and breaking their legs whenever they show signs of over-excitement.

The site also provided this coded message to ragers: ‘As you embark on your road trip to the paradise of Plett, say goodbye to exams, stress and deadlines and say hello to freedom!”

It must be code because if Plett is paradise, give me hell any day. As for entering a shiny new stress-free world full of fabulousness and frilly cocktails, well, I hate to pour acid rain on your dreams, but the best you can hope for is the chance to sign on the dotted line and work for 50 years.

And that’s if you’re lucky.

A survival guide to Black Friday

It’s that time of year when we all turn into gibbering idiots and experts take it upon themselves to advise us on the blindingly obvious. In the event of a thunderstorm, avoid standing in an open field waving a golf club at the sky while wearing a tinfoil hat.

The annual plummeting of the national IQ is exacerbated by Black Friday, a day upon which pornographic greed and an overwhelming fear of missing out come together and cause people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need.

Here’s how one news story started the week. “With Black Friday and festive shopping mayhem fast approaching, experts have urged consumers to stay alert and safe.” It’s not every journalist who can combine a harmless American tradition with Jesus’s birthday and still manage to strike terror into our hearts.

It’s my opinion that mayhem is best experienced suddenly and without warning. You really don’t want to see it coming. You want to be yawning and scratching your crotch when it heads your way. Be unprepared. That’s my motto.

One of the experts trained in the art of staying alert and safe urged shoppers to be vigilant at malls and shopping centres. I remember a time when it was the streets that weren’t safe. A time when you would seek refuge in malls to avoid getting hit by crossfire, recruited into a biker gang or offered stolen goods you couldn’t afford.

Now, the streets are full of unemployed humanities graduates whose accusing stares fill us with guilt, damn their selfish hollow eyes, but they are mostly harmless. The real danger lurks where the ravening beasts of capitalism have made their loathsome lairs. If it’s sanctuary you’re after, you are safer in a crack house than a mall at this time of year.

The expert urges us to “be aware of the general spike in follow-home incidents”. If I ever start a rebel army – it’s on my bucket list – I shall demand to be called General Spike. Are you listening, Julius? The name is taken. You can have General Dealer, unless my rebel army rebels against me and I start a cannabis farm, in which case it’s mine.

One of the main reasons I go to a mall is in the hope that someone will follow me home. Don’t judge me. I live alone. I’m not the only one who does this. Look around the next time you’re at a mall. Almost everyone who is on their own is hoping for a follow-home incident. Not necessarily by four armed men in a BMW with tinted windows and no licence plates, admittedly. But nobody shops solo with the singular intention of buying things. It’s a deeply unnatural act. How would you even decide what to get without having a second person to consult? After one of my many break-ups, I made the rookie mistake of going to a flea market on my own. I was never the same after that.

The expert says criminals are in the malls watching what you buy. The trick is to have a decoy trolley filled with nappies and bottles of Purity. Not even burglars want to break into a house infested with the freshly born. Your real trolley, full of expensive gear, will have to be pushed by a decoy person. Maybe a friend or relative you don’t particularly like. Get them to take it to their house. You can pick it up the following day, if they’re still alive.

The expert advises that if you think you’re being followed, “drive immediately to a police station”. This is where it gets tricky. What if you are drunk or high? I can’t imagine shopping any other way. The last thing you want is to reel into the charge office babbling about imaginary bandits on your tail. “They were right there, ossifer. I swear.” Brazen it out. Demand a police escort. Then, when you get home, threaten to report them for abusing state resources unless they give you money.

The expert also suggests that when you get home, you should “wait in the road for the gate to open before driving in”. Are there people out there who drive in without waiting for the gate to open? Their gate budget must be ridiculous. We don’t all have gates, though, and I’m certainly not going to wait in the road until the gate people can come around and put one in.

Another piece of advice is to “carry as little as possible in your handbag or pockets”. Has this expert even met a woman? Can you imagine the carnage if husbands had to insist on wives emptying their pockets and handbags before going shopping?

Besides, do we still have pickpockets and bag-snatchers? Bit Dickensian. I suppose you could put scorpions in your pockets and a small improvised explosive device in your bag capable of being detonated remotely. Also useful if your bloke goes into your bag without permission. Then again, if he loses his hands, your workload in the bedroom doubles. Might not be worth it.

Another expert, valued for his razor-sharp acumen, warned against over-spending. Thanks, mate. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be in a homeless shelter. I have no self-control whatsoever. I can’t tell the difference between income and expenditure any more than I can boil an egg without adult supervision.

He also suggested we save money by eating at home instead of in restaurants. I don’t know, bro. Pravin Gordhan is poisoning a lot of people these days and you never know when he might get the address wrong.

The expert said that instead of maxing out your credit card, “rather save up over time for that big-ticket, luxury item”. I’m not so sure. We don’t have a whole lot of time. The country is flying on one engine. If that flames out, there will only be little-ticket items available. Like bread. And maybe a chop if you’re lucky. I say go big now.

The expert also suggests that you put your wallet in the front pocket of your trousers. I’ve tried that but I find it attracts a fair amount of unwanted attention. I have to stop myself from shouting, “My eyes are up here!” Girl, you’re already holding hands with a dude. Behave yourself.

We should also leave “unnecessary bank cards and large amounts of cash” at home. Who are these people with unnecessary bank cards and large amounts of cash? Drug dealers? I suggest you follow them home and steal their drugs. Give you a taste of their own medicine.

Apparently people who get year-end bonuses are most at risk of being robbed. It’s a good thing I’m a freelancer, then. I haven’t had a bonus in fifteen years. No wonder I’m still alive. What extraordinary luck.

Buy buy baby

Hark, the Christmas tills do ring. The season of giving, taking, looting, stabbing and shooting is almost upon us. The Little Drummer Boy has already driven me from at least two malls.

All you can do is laugh. You have to, otherwise you’ll cry. This is where my new book is useful.

As you know, if you’ve been paying attention, Durban Poison is available in proper bookshops like Exclusive Books and Wordsworth. Other shops might have it, too. If they don’t, burn them to the ground.

If you want your copy scribbled in, you’ll have to buy it right here on this site. Just click on the Contraband link. You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, I’m on my way to the Post Office right now to despatch the first bunch of orders. I have even provided photographic evidence in case you think I’m lying.

Stock is limited, as is my enthusiasm for continuing to pay for packaging, postage and driving to the Post Office.

Contraband

‘Durban Poison: A Collection of Vitriol and Wit’ by Ben Trovato is the funniest book I’ve read all year

The dark side of change

It’s unlikely I was the only one suffering from a minor medical emergency last Sunday. Having tried all the regular remedies – aspirin, fried food, suicide – I dragged my shattered carcass off to the shop and bought a few cans of Coke.

I don’t usually drink this filth for political reasons, which, at this point in time, are a little hazy. I think it had to do with the bottlers in Columbia hiring paramilitary thugs to murder employees caught drinking Pepsi. Or something. I don’t know why I cared. I might have been going through my social justice warrior phase before discovering it doesn’t pay very well.

On Sunday I couldn’t have cared less if Coca-Cola turned out to be the official sponsor of the Trump family. I needed to dilute the massive amount of post-World Cup beer that had caused my blood to stream about as well as Telkom Wi-Fi on a rainy night in Diepsloot. Coke can adulterate, corrode or kickstart just about anything and it was my last shot.

I ripped the can open and guzzled it right there in the shop. There was a moment when everything went quiet. Like that scene when a bomb goes off in Saving Private Ryan. Instead of being stricken with temporary deafness, like Tom Hanks, I clutched my throat and, eyes swiveling wildly in my head, retched clumsily into a conveniently placed ornamental palm. Like Gary Busey in, well, real life.

I thought I’d been poisoned. It tasted as if the paramilitaries had spiked it. Once my internal organs calmed down, I inspected the can. “Plus Coffee” it said. And, in the event that one’s hangover was affecting one’s vision, in bigger letters, “Real Coffee From Brazil”. To make absolutely sure the customer knew what was happening, there was even a picture of coffee beans on the side. I didn’t notice any of this when I bought it because nobody in their right mind pauses to check if their Coke has been contaminated with anything other than the usual cola-related toxins.

What kind of crazy person would come up with such a terrible idea? This is not the work of a normal crazy person, that’s for sure. This is off the charts. Have people built up such a tolerance that they now need a caffeine boost with their sugar?

We have all, at one time or another, been exposed to children speeding on sugar in a confined space. I have been on long-haul flights with children who were given Coke to drink. They react as if they are being electrocuted. Now imagine them having the new Coffee-Coke twenty minutes into a thirteen-hour flight. They would kick the back of your seat so violently that you’d end up with a splintered coccyx and, a month after disembarking, a kidney transplant. The runty savages would be fighting among themselves to get into the cockpit and everyone in economy class would spend the night praying for engine failure.

My point is that people should just leave good enough alone. Remember that old slogan, Coke adds life? Okay, it doesn’t if you work for a bottling plant in Bogota. But for those of us far downstream of the production line, Coke has done its job adequately.

What would happen if someone had to drink a Klippies and Coffee-Coke? I shudder to think. Actually, I’ve been shuddering for three days. I wish it would stop.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t want things tampered with. Take Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of the EFF, for instance. An educated and sensitive man, he was deeply conflicted when the Springboks won the World Cup. There are black and white players in the team, which meant he could only voice his support whenever a darkie had the ball. The moment it was passed to one of the neo-colonial, counter-revolutionary puppets of the West, he had to shout “Phansi amaBhunu!” or look away and pretend he hadn’t seen. It couldn’t have been easy for him. The final whistle must have been particularly awkward. Not everyone can make it clear that you’re cheering the black players only. You’d need a PhD in political science to pull that off.

Simultaneously angry, happy and sad, Ndlozi turned to Twitter and offered his congratulations to Siya Kolisi. The white players, he suggested, should get their congratulations from Prince Harry. The prince, who has made it abundantly clear that he has had quite enough of white people in general and his family in particular, was off drinking beer in the Boks’ changing room. Harry would have noted that Faf de Klerk, while possessing the instincts and agility of a Miniature Schnauzer, is developing a bit of a boep. Being a gentleman, he refrained from pointing and laughing.

Our benign president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is also encouraging change. He said we should do like Siya says and work together. That’s fine for Siya to say. His house is a hotbed of racial unity. Personally, I’ve only ever known blondes to be nothing but trouble. Brunettes, too. And redheads.

Comrade Ndlozi’s political doppelgänger down at the shallow end of the gene pool, Oberstfuhrer Steve Hofmeyr, offered to translate Cyril’s message. “Let the Siya injection make you numb so you don’t fight back when we grab your land from under your arse because you’re white.” Translated from the original Afrikaans, obviously.

Steve bravely left his land unguarded and went to a friend’s house to watch the final. He couldn’t watch at home because he destroyed his DStv decoder a few months ago. I can’t remember why. Perhaps because it was black.

So that’s the thing. We don’t want change in this country. Not really. If we did, we’d do like the Ecuadorians and Chileans and take to the streets in our millions and refuse to leave until someone did something to fix the economy. If Eskom started working and Jacob Zuma stopped appealing, we’d have nothing to complain about. We would be lost without our healthy sense of fear and loathing of those who look, think and talk differently to us.

#ImStaying because I can’t wait to see what Cyril doesn’t do next. I also want to feel what it’s like to live in a country that’s been accorded junk status by all three major ratings agencies. Not every nation can achieve it, you know. You have to really not work at it. So far it’s only two out of three. Hopes are pinned on Moody’s delivering the coup de grâce in three months’ time.

For now, though, let us link arms with the likes of Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Irvin Jim and Helen Zille and go laughingly backwards into the future.

 

 

  • Don’t forget to visit the Contraband page and order your signed copy of my latest book, Durban Poison.