Falling away at midnight

When I heard President Ramaphosa had declared South Africa was no longer in a State of Disaster, I felt a roiling sense of unease. For 750 days we knew where we stood – mostly outside locked bottle stores. Now we have been thrust back into an era in which we were never altogether comfortable in the first place.

You can’t just go on telly and say that “disaster regulations will fall away at midnight”. That’s too sudden. Many of us have developed Stockholm Syndrome. We need to be prepared. We need the right drugs. There should have been a referendum asking if we, the people, do in fact want to exit the State of Disaster. In any true democracy, the plebeians are consulted. Yes, their wishes are ultimately ignored, but still. At least have the decency to go through the motions.

We weren’t consulted when our liberties were removed two years ago and we weren’t consulted when they were returned two days ago. I have grown accustomed to not having liberties. Life is simpler without them.

In the days when we were treated like farmyard animals, I didn’t have to choose between going for a run or a surf or a roast chicken or a pair of open-toed shoes because a poorly trained homicidal policeman would have shot me in the face. To be honest, I have never gone for a run. I use the example purely for illustrative purposes.

Now the government has seen fit to return us to a time that no longer exists. Things have moved on. The world has changed. We have changed. We don’t want to go back to the way things were. We don’t want to sink to our knees weeping in aisle six because we can’t decide between 38 kinds of cereal. We preferred it when the shops were shut. We relished not being allowed to go to the gym or visit unpleasant family in other provinces. We want fewer choices, not more.

The reason communism was so successful in the Soviet Union was that people were given the option of a red car or a blue car, strawberry jam or no jam, freedom of speech or ten years in a gulag. Life was uncomplicated and the people were happy. Those who weren’t happy were given the choice of being shot or killing themselves. Good times.

I no longer enjoy being in confined spaces with strange people, and I don’t even care if they aren’t wearing clothes. Now the government is forcing me to once again fraternise with my species. I grew to love the curfew because it meant I had an excuse to leave a bar or a party before someone called the paramedics. Now it’s open season all over again and I am 750 days older, filled with anger and resentment at having people I never voted for toying with what little remains of my life.

Our president said in his Return to the Past speech that we should be grateful for the State of Disaster because it allowed poor people to receive R350 a month. Poor people, meanwhile, continue praying for a nuclear holocaust on the assumption that this would be worth at least R650.

Essentially telling us that we now have more chance of being killed by a falling coconut than by Covid, our fearless leader said “the pandemic will be managed in terms of the National Health Act”.

I thought I’d fortify myself with a stiff drink before googling the relevant legislation, but inadvertently over-medicated and ended up watching porn instead. It was more depressing than the National Health Act.

Ramaphosa assured us that “the draft Health Regulations have been published for public comment… and once the comments have been considered…” Rum spurted from my nose. Are there still people who fall for this ruse? Worse than the Tinder Swindler, this fella.

Apparently we will still need to wear masks in indoor public spaces for the next 30 days. That’s ridiculous. I have spent years swapping spit – 90% women, 10% dogs – and there is nothing wrong with me. Obviously I can’t speak for them. The dogs, I mean. I dare not speak for the women.

“A mask is not required when outdoors.” Not everyone will get this message. There are still Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima who don’t know the war has ended. We need to help people understand the new mandate. If you pass someone in the street wearing a mask, reach over and remove it. He may try to fight you as a drowning person does, in which case you are legally entitled to headbutt him or knee him in the groin. Tell him you work for the government and that it’s for his own good.

I am pleased that restrictions on gatherings will continue. There is no need for more than two people in a room, three if you include the barman.

More worrying is that there are no more Alert Levels. How are we going to know how to behave? It’s like learning to walk again. Perhaps it’s best that we do whatever we want and see if anyone tells us to stop. Remember, you don’t have to listen if they don’t have a gun.

The one thing that remains with us is the elegantly named Covid-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme. If you don’t understand what this means, claim anyway. Odds are you that will either get money or be prosecuted. Worth a shot.

Happier than a condemned kangaroo

I watched a video on Twitter from someone called Oleksandra Matviichuk. He was sitting behind the wheel of a van and looked like a rally driver – peak cap, teardrop sunglasses, overalls. Turning to the camera, he says: “Eight kangaroos were evacuated from the Feldman eco-park in Kharkiv region.” He jerks his thumb towards the back of the van. The camera pans to reveal eight kangaroos with WTF expressions on their pointy little faces.

Well done, mate. But whatever you do, don’t send them back to Australia. They’re bound to end up among the two million or so that get legally shot and killed every year. And be careful where you send them in Europe. Belgium alone imported over 700 tons of kangaroo meat in 2019. Also, the US trade in kangaroo products (springs, pouches, backscratchers) is worth $80-million a year. Truth is, they’d probably be safer in Ukraine.

You know where these ‘roos should go? Finland. Research by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which is almost certainly staffed by hippies who microdose on magic mushrooms throughout the day, found that Finland is the happiest nation in the world for the fifth year running.

Imagine living in a country where everyone is happy, year after year. It would be too terrible for words. I’ve been to Finland. If by happy they mean falling down drunk in the gutter, then yes, I can see how this might happen. Then again, that was thirty years ago, a time when Finland was headed for a crushing recession. Unemployment soared to 20%. We could be so lucky.

Finland shares a 1,340km border with Russia. They might not be all that ecstatic for very much longer. But the fact that they’re still so happy does seem to suggest that they have maintained their healthy drinking habits. One figure I saw said that Finns consumed 9.3 litres of pure alcohol per person. I don’t know if this is daily or weekly. Either way, it’s impressive. So it’s pretty much a case of happy, happy, happy, dead. Not a bad life.

Those free-spirited bohemians over at the UN surveyed 146 countries for their index. This year we staggered in at 91, looking as if we’d just been punched in the face but whistling through our broken teeth nevertheless. Could be worse, we said, giving the side-eye to Zimbabwe (144).

And it has been worse. In 2016, when the ANC gave Jacob Zuma a stern warning that he only had another two years left to loot and pillage, we placed 116th. It was our lowest ranking ever. I don’t remember if I was particularly happy in 2016. Come to think of it, I don’t remember 2016 at all.

The Ramaphosa years have seen us hover between 103 and 109. It’s almost as if the president’s inability to decide who he is or what he should be doing rubbed off on us. We didn’t quite know if we were happy, sad, angry or just plain confused. Like the weather in Cape Town, the South African sense of wellbeing is subject to change at a moment’s notice. We can go from laughing in the morning to weeping at lunch to murdering at night. Seamlessly. It’s what makes us great as a nation.

You’d think that with so much cheap alcohol, easy women and a dysfunctional police force, we would be the happiest people in Africa, but you’d be mistaken. That honour goes to Mauritius, nearly 40 places higher than us. Coming in at 52 seems to confirm what I have always suspected – Mauritius is not really part of Africa. It’s clean, peaceful and well-run. The government isn’t even corrupt. How is that Africa? Also, it’s not attached to the continent. It’s in the middle of the ocean. That should disqualify it immediately. The only connection with Africa is all the South African estate agents trying to flog beachfront properties to crooked lawyers and bent accountants.

Do you know who else beat us? Libya (86) and Ivory Coast (88). Short of Afghanistan, it’s hard to imagine more of a hot mess of a country than Libya. The US State Department has issued a Level 4 advisory. Like cancer, there is no Level 5. “Do not travel to Libya due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict…” And yet the people there are happier than we are. Perhaps its because the Americans stopped visiting.

The bottom ten on the list of 146 countries are, with the exception of Afghanistan, all in Africa. Four of them are our immediate neighbours, including Malawi, which produces some of the best weed in the world, which immediately casts doubt on all the findings.

The Nordic countries once again sweep the top ten. It makes no sense. How is it remotely possible to be happy in any country where a beer costs R150, 5°C is considered beach weather and the sun sets at 3pm and rises four months later?

Right now, it’s 10pm on Monday night and I’m sitting shirtless beneath a palm tree on the Guanacaste coast of Costa Rica with a chilled Flor de Caña rum in hand. A few locals have made a fire on the beach. They are playing music, drinking beer and laughing. A couple of girls are dancing. There are good reasons this tiny Central American country is ranked 23 and we’re not.

Happy Halloween, you filthy pagans

It’s Halloween tonight and I, for one, cannot wait to put on my succubus suit and go creeping around the neighbourhood late at night banging on doors, shouting: “Trick or treat!” The real sport starts when the homeowner presses his panic button. You then have seven minutes to break into the house, tie the occupants up, find a treat and get out before an armed response unit can shoot you in the face. The kids love it.

Not all of us celebrate Halloween on the 31st of October. For a lot of South Africans, every night is Halloween. The only difference is that these perennial pranksters can’t be bothered to dress up. To be fair, though, some do make the effort and put on a balaclava. Traditionally, a treat is a handful of sweets or, if you hit a vegan house, an eggplant without the egg. Our year-round rogues rarely settle for less than cellphones, money and guns. Or, at the very least, a plasma TV. Anyway. Who are we to judge? A treat is mos a treat. I would advise against opting for the trick unless you want to watch someone juggling with your testicles or super-glueing your wife to the wall.

I have celebrated Halloween ever since I was dishonourably discharged from the Army of Christ in the early ’80s. Standards were higher back then. These days they take anyone. I would like to call myself a pagan, but I can’t. Worshipping nature is all very well if it knows its place. By this, I mean its place is not down my broeks stinging my bollocks to death. Nor does it have any business trying to crush me, drown me or bury me alive. It would be a far better idea if nature were to worship us. That way the ants would stay out of the butter and sharks would be a little nicer to us. Is that too much to ask?

Besides, I have grown weary of flappy-lipped adherents of monotheistic religions using “pagan” in a pejorative sense while relying on me not to over-do the sacrificial lamb at our Saturday night synod. Adding insult to injury, they are the ones who invariably bogart the bong. Bloody heathens. I generally refrain from defending my position for fear of inviting the fate met by Hypatia of Alexandria, a pagan philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who was killed by a Christian mob in 415CE.

Unfortunately for the employed, Halloween is not a public holiday in South Africa. If only the Soweto Uprising had taken place on 31 October instead of 16 June. Youth Day would be so much more entertaining if it were combined with Halloween. The horror is already there. All we would need are police uniforms, nitrous oxide grenades, a few dozen crates of cherry-flavoured vodka and some live music. And maybe some live ammunition. And a smattering of drug squad dogs all sniffed out and hoping to reach retirement age without any major drama.

At this time of year, carving vegetables into grotesque shapes is popular in some cultures. In my house it’s called dinner. In Ireland and Scotland they use scooped-out turnips. It’s that lack of imagination that allowed the English to oppress them for so long. In America they use pumpkins. In Israel they use Palestinians.

I don’t know what we can use here. If I tell people that instead of eating their madumbi this week, they should carve them so they look like little tokoloshes, they will think I work for the DA. And if I tell them to put a small candle inside the hollowed-out madumbi, they will think I work for Eskom. Either way I’m fucked.

If only we could make some kind of genetically modified clone of Julius Malema’s head and carve that, instead of wasting perfectly good vegetables. It’s the ideal shape and consistency. And scary as hell.

Halloween’s imagery is derived from horror movies and literature like Frankenstein and Dracula. Here, it can be derived from films and books like Bitch, please! I’m Khanyi Mbau and There’s A Zulu On My Stoep.

There are many overseas traditions that can be adapted to local conditions. Take apple bobbing, for instance. Instead of using your teeth to grab an apple from a bucket of water, you must use your political connections to win a tender wrapped in fly-paper and coated in honey. This creates a hilarious yet potentially sticky situation, especially if the Hawks find out about it.

The telling of horror stories is also a popular feature of Halloween. Gather the children around and, in the unlikely event that Eskom or the municipality hasn’t already done it for you, switch off the lights. Tell them about The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Man Whose Mouth Tasted of Wormwood or The Return of Jacob Zuma.

The important thing, comrades, is not to let your Halloween be co-opted by the Christians. We are more Nosferatu than we are Cosatu. No praying. No fasting. No skiving off to church. Deconstruct all that Celtic reconstructionist propaganda and unleash your inner demons.

No safe harbour for Gigaba – a flashback

Here’s a letter I wrote to the man of the moment two-and-a-half years ago after Ajay Gupta gave him the home affairs ministry.

………………………………….

Dear Comrade Malusi Gigaba, Honourable Upstanding Member, Minister of Affairs, Fighter of Tourism, Epitome of Sartorial Elegance.

Congratulations on your spectacular cinematic debut, even though it was very short. Needless to say, that’s the only thing about your appearance that was short. A week ago, critics were calling for your head and saying you should be bloody well hung. Then your video came out. That shut them up.

I had no intention of viewing your scandalous ménage à un, but a so-called friend mailed it, unbidden, to me. I am pleased to say that I never watched it. Not because I have Tanzanian tendencies when it comes to homoerotic flights of fancy, but because I find the male member an unsightly brute at the best of times. In my opinion, the best of times are when he is sound asleep, curled up like an infant pangolin. Besides which, should I ever desire to see a willy, I only need remove my trousers and look in a mirror. Or, if there is no mirror and the urge takes me, the glass frontage of, say, Mr Price at my local mall. For instance.

Unfortunately, my eyes did fall upon the frozen first image of the video. And even though I refrained from pressing play, it was enough. Having been led to believe that alcohol damages one’s short-term memory, I have been drinking heavily ever since. Not least to forget my inadequacies. My Sir Lancelot is a pale imitation. More pale than imitation, I am sorry to say. Do you have a name for that combat-ready heat-seeking missile? If not, might I suggest Mubi Dick?

Anyway. That is quite enough of that.

Of more pressing concern is your imminent political demise. By demise, I obviously mean promotion. It is a venerable ANC tradition to reward its most shameless and irredeemably exposed cadres with new career opportunities, usually in the diplomatic corps.

You appear to have upset some powerful people, my friend. I am obviously not referring to me or the other 57 million South Africans. We have no power. Well, we do, but we don’t really know what to do with it because we are saturated with either ignorance, apathy or alcohol. Oftentimes, all three. The unholy trinity.

No, I am talking about shadowy organisations like the Oppenheimer Cartel. These upper class thugs trade openly in diamonds while the rest of us go to jail if we so much as attempt to trade the last of our uncut emeralds for beer.

When you were in charge of public enterprises, you handed Eskom, Transnet and Denel to the Gupta Cartel. These Indians, they are not even dangerous men. My advice is that you do not mess with Don Nicky ‘Fireblade’ Oppenheimer. If he wants his own airport, give it to him. Give him whatever he wants. He is white and rich. History has shown that this an unbeatable combination.

Why on earth has Public Protector Busisiwe ‘Zuma Is Innocent’ Mkhwebane turned against you in the aviation matter? This is a woman who was trained to defend her comrades at all costs, and yet she has chosen to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds. Quite frankly, I don’t know if you are the fox or the hound. It’s a British expression. Nobody ever knows what they mean. It’s why we murdered them at Isandlwana.

Apparently a parliamentary portfolio committee has come up with a draft report saying you should be criminally investigated on suspicion of having been captured by the Guptas. This is outrageous. If the Guptas had indeed captured you, surely you would right now be tied up in a fur-lined dungeon in downtown Dubai while Atul the Dominator disciplined you with an ivory-handled camelhair whip. Instead, here you are, wandering about of your own free willy in the finest of suits, conducting government business, shaking hands, kissing babies, issuing denials and, in your evenings, remaking classics like Onan the Barbarian.

Somebody has poisoned our water supply with cynicism because nobody believes a word you say, but I drink beer, not water, so I believe you when you say there is an orchestrated campaign to ruin your career and prevent you from becoming president. To be hounded and condemned by much of the executive, a fair portion of the legislature, every level of the judiciary and virtually every man, woman and child in the country is the very definition of an orchestrated campaign.

I don’t know how they think they can get away with it.

Your response to this campaign of evil was sublime. “I am going to consult my lawyers in terms of how I am going to respond to this.” Even the most hardened of conspirators will tremble at the thought of your imminent consultations.

It is truly tragic when you consider that none of this would be happening if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma hadn’t been pipped at the post by Squirrel Ramaphosa. The man is a menace. Where does he think he is? Sweden? This is Africa, for heaven’s sake. A continent where every silver lining has a cloud, every dog its day and every cart its rotten apples. In flagrant contravention of tradition, Squirrel is giving every indication of being one of those aberrant leaders who think that upsetting apple carts is a good idea.

Is it true that you are refusing to resign? Of course it is. I would expect nothing less. To the barricades! No Retreat, No Surrender is not just a movie. It is the story of your life. You are the black Jean-Claude Van Damme of our time. All you need is better lighting. And maybe a plausible script.

You said you are “surrounded by militant comrades” who will defend you. I do hope you are referring to more than just the avocado-shaped Andile Mngxitama and his drunk, shouty friends.

If not, you might want to consider a Plan B. You are, after all, the Minister of Home Affairs. You get to decide who is a South African and who isn’t. Who may stay and who should leave. Do you see what I am saying? All you need do is declare your enemies persona non grata. Get a courier to take a letter over to the Union Buildings first thing in the morning, letting the president know that his citizenship has been revoked. Include an air ticket to Cairo. Economy class, obviously. The man should suffer at least once in his life.

Should you consider my advice sound and good, I hereby register myself as an enemy forthwith and request immediate deportation to a country with warm weather, cheap beer, good surf and plenty of sloths.

A darkies’ guide to whiteys

White South Africans, much like white sharks, are one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet. They have a reputation for unpredictable behaviour and non-Caucasians are often afraid to venture into their territory for fear of being attacked.

Some, however, are merely inquisitive and will circle warily before racing off in their Range Rover. Others, perhaps sensing their way of life is under threat, might go on the offensive. A lot of the time, though, this will be nothing more serious than a mock charge. Stand your ground and they will more often than not back off.

White people, particularly alpha males, are easily enraged. They have been bumped from their slot at the top of the food chain and are struggling to adapt to their new position.

In many instances, they can be calmed down with offers of raw meat and brandy. There is nothing a white South African likes more than a chunk of charred cow and a bottle of cheap liquor. If he has just eaten and is already drunk, he might show no interest in your offer. This is when he is at his most dangerous.

The best way to ward off an attack, verbal or physical, is to threaten him with charges of racism. He will retreat faster than Khulubuse Zuma confronted with a salad.

When the EFF says whites need to come to the party or their land will be confiscated, they are forgetting one thing. White people don’t just rock up at a party. They need an invitation. They also need directions. And even then, they are going to want to know who else will be there. I think if the EFF had to put white people on the guest list and tell them there would be snacks, spare girls, a free shooter at the door and a DJ playing hits from the 80s, they would almost certainly come to the party. Unless it was raining, in which case they wouldn’t.

We already have a fairly good idea of what white people don’t like. In the interests of fostering better race relations, let’s take a look at some of the things they do like.

Queues

White people like nothing more than an orderly queue. There are two rules governing the queue: no eye contact and no talking. Do not be alarmed if you are standing somewhere with your hands in your pockets idly wondering what to do with your day and white people spontaneously begin forming a line behind you. They will be too polite to ask if you are in the queue and will happily stand there for hours waiting for some of whatever it is they think you are waiting for.

Hiking/jogging/cycling

Even though every white person owns at least three cars, a boat and a private plane, they rarely use them for transport, preferring instead to get something they call exercise. If you see a white person running, do not assume he has been hijacked. Your offer of a lift to the police station will be misconstrued and things could end badly.

4x4s

Now that sjambokking the staff is frowned upon, white people have to get their jollies elsewhere. Riding roughshod over the environment has become the new urban aphrodisiac. White people also enjoy taking their 4×4 to the carwash, even though the trophy wife has only ever used it to drop her Aryan offspring at the private school on the corner. Don’t bother asking for a lift. There is never room because the back seat is for the Borzois. You would be missing the point if you mentioned that the dogs aren’t even in the car.

Sea views

White people have such a yearning for sea views you could be forgiven for thinking that if some of them were a bit brighter, they could be related to dolphins. But with burglaries and rates and taxes on the increase, second homes at the coast are becoming, much like the South African passport, a crushing liability.

Classical music

Apart from sausages, Vienna – the home of classical music – has little in common with Africa. White people are drawn to classical music for two reasons. It places them above the middle class – who spend their evenings listening not so much to the sound of Mozart as they do to the sound of gunshots and screaming – and it places them under no pressure to get up and dance.

Horse riding

Although horses are useful only for transporting marijuana out of Lesotho, many white families keep racehorses as a means of getting to the nearest airport in a hurry when the EFF take over the country and nationalise all private vehicles. In white culture, a pony for the youngest daughter is often a traditional gift. If you encounter a lady of the manor astride her mount down a leafy lane in, say, Noordhoek, doff your cap and fall to one knee. As they pass, you may want to whisper: “Neigh, my bru.” Unlike dogs, horses owned by white people have a fine sense of humour.

Wine

Wine was invented by white people for white people. They have much in common – both can be petulant, bitter and easily spoiled. And the cheap, nasty ones always worsen with age. If you find yourself at a wine-tasting on a farm in Franschhoek and a foreigner mistakes you for the sommelier, you might say: “I would recommend the Augusto Pinochet, madam.” Alternatively, you might want to say: “Go fuck yourself, madam.” Your call.

Complaining

We live in a country run by a government that makes it exceptionally difficult for those who don’t wish to complain. Over the past 20-odd years, complaining has developed into a lifestyle. White people love complaining almost as much as they love rugby and Woolworths. If you find yourself pinned down by a complainer, don’t be reckless and say something like, “So what are you doing to change the situation?” Rather smile, nod and back away slowly.

Weather

You might think they would be used to it by now, but white people spend much of their time talking about it. Being born in Africa with European genes plays havoc with their internal barometers. Deeply conflicted, they complain endlessly about the heat, the cold, the wet and the dry.

Pets

Because their families are frequently dysfunctional, white people collect cats and dogs and treat them as if they were the fruit of their own loins. Many white people even train their dogs not to attack strangers, but to rather sit at the table and eat with a spoon. Cats don’t care much for table manners, let alone white people, and they may well be the downfall of this great nation. If a white person’s dog goes for you in the street, tell him the animal has character and he might pay your medical bills.

Schedules

The only reason World War II was a success was because Germany invaded Poland on schedule. One of the reasons an African country has never tried to colonise the world is because most people don’t have watches and it would be impossible to coordinate anything. White people grow restless when things don’t happen on time, such as government programmes to house, educate and employ millions of people who might otherwise start blaming white people.

Minimalism

When Robert Browning wrote the immortal lines, “Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged” in his poem Andrea del Sarto, he wasn’t to know that 150 years later, pseudo-Italian architects with Arabian catamites and coke-encrusted nostrils would use it as a haute monde design philosophy. If you visit a white person’s home and they have very little in it, compliment them on their interesting use of space. If they say they have nothing because they’re poor, you should leave.

Antiques

White people like old things more than they like old people. They spend a fortune putting their parents in old age homes and then spend a bigger fortune putting old stuff in their houses. They think that having a 17th Century Parisian douche bag on a pedestal would be more rewarding than a father who can’t remember his name. If white people visit your home and take an interest in your furniture, tell them the chairs were carved by Taharka, King of Kush. They will probably think this is a drug reference and try to buy weed from you. Add on 25% and give them whatever they want.

Eating out

White people go to restaurants even when they have food in the house. This is because an entire generation of white mothers failed to teach their daughters to cook. The daughters don’t see this as a failure. They see it as a step towards the total emancipation of women. Really, darling? You won’t cook and you want to be free? Fine. See ya. Have a nice life. Hello, Mr Delivery?

KKK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No more pura vida

My holiday in Costa Rica is over and I am on my way home. Three months have flown by in the blink of a fish on a bicycle. Since the concept of time has become meaningless, feel free to make up your own way of describing the passage of whatever that thing used to be.

With less than a week remaining on my visa, filled with loathing at the idea of returning to a country that can’t keep the lights on, the Costa Rican government decided to extend all tourist visas by another three months. All I would have to do is buy additional health insurance and change the return date on my air ticket. However, this being a region where tropical brain rot is not an uncommon affliction, even among politicians, they forgot to extend tourists’ driving licences at the same time. 

This meant that while I could stay, I couldn’t drive. Since I had been using a Jeep belonging to Bloke, my son-in-law, I told him that I was quite happy driving without a licence. From what I’d seen on the roads, nobody in Costa Rica had one anyway.

Bloke prised the keys from my hand and said the police would confiscate the car if I was caught. My insistence that I could outrun any cops fell on deaf ears, largely because I couldn’t back it up with any realistic evidence. And also because he’d left the room.

A lot of expats do a border run every three months. Cross over to neighbours Panama or Nicaragua, pick up an STI and a fledgling coke habit, and come back with a fresh visa. Thing is, Costa Rica’s land borders are still closed. So you can stay, but if you want to keep driving, you’d need to fly somewhere and fly back. Sheer lunacy. I checked out the options.

A return ticket to Panama City – a mere 90-minute flight – would cost me upwards of R8000. I’d also have to take one of those disgusting nasopharyngeal tests to get into Panama. I was outraged and demanded to speak to someone. Anyone. About anything. But there were no takers and I was left to rant and rave to myself. Eventually, I ran out of energy and rum and attempted to approach the issue as an adult might.

Instead of thinking with my heart or willy, as is my wont, I used my head. It got ugly at times but I eventually decided that it made more sense to go home, regroup and return when either the world normalised or the Costa Rican government emerged from its siesta.

Bloke and my increasingly irascible loinfruit refused to take me to San Jose airport, so I had to get a taxi for the four-hour hell run. Having spent three months learning to drive like a local, I realised how much I still had to learn. Like how to overtake on blind corners while texting with one hand and eating chicharrones with the other. Or when to accelerate (always)  and when to brake (never) on a dangerous mountain road. Thanks for the masterclass, Diego, if that’s your real name.

My travel agent, who appears to have taken up crystal meth as a coping mechanism, said she thought I might require a Covid-19 test either for Germany or South Africa. Thought? Might? These are ambiguous grounds upon which to base a decision on whether to allow one’s olfactory apparatus to be rudely invaded by strangers.

My natural inclination to throw caution to the dogs was tempered by the fear of being labelled a deadly health risk and dragged from the airport, so I found a backstreet clinic that promised a test turnaround time of three hours. Perfect. Just in time for my Lufthansa flight. A woman with beautiful eyes, dressed seductively in a white hazmat outfit, lured me into a cubicle and asked if I’d ever done this before.

I sniggered like a schoolboy and wiggled my eyebrows. There was an awkward silence before she turned and reached for an instrument the size of a child’s jousting lance. I’ve had some dodgy things up my nose before, but this was perfectly unpleasant. So was I. On my way out, a growler at the front desk said, “Don’t come back.” I like to think she meant they’d send me the results, but I can’t be sure.

Three hours later, I got an email saying that I was negative. I assumed this wasn’t a reference to my attitude.

Anyway, it wasn’t an entirely wasted effort as the hombre at check-in asked for my status. “Single,” I said, with an exaggerated wink. He sighed and put his hand out. I decided against taking it gently in mine and handed over the evidence that I wasn’t going to kill everybody on the aircraft. Then I begged him for an emergency exit seat to accommodate my freakishly long legs. No problem, he said, seating me in a middle row in the section that’s always first to disintegrate on impact.

An hour before boarding, the loinfruit sent me a message to say the government had announced the extension of visitors’ driving licences. Gracias por nada, amigos.

I am currently at Frankfurt International Airport. It’s 7°C and I’m still dressed for Costa Rica. My body clock says it’s 9am but the clock on the wall says 5pm. I have overruled my body and ordered a brace of Heinekens which cost the same as a downpayment on a small house in Durban North.

Someone on the PA keeps screaming, “Achtung!” and I really wish they wouldn’t. I’ve just survived a sleepless 12-hour flight and I’m starting to feel like Flight Lieutenant Andrew MacDonald in The Great Escape, who is arrested after a suspicious Gestapo agent at a train station tricks him into speaking English. There were certainly times when flight LH519 from Costa Rica felt like Stalag Luft III. I should probably learn a few rudimentary German phrases just in case.

Achtung! A policeman has threatened to arrest me for not wearing a mask. I was going to explain that I’m in transit but feared he might think I was transitioning to a woman and arrest me anyway. Instead, I pointed at my neat row of Heinekens and said, “But I’m drinking beer.” He looked at me with his cruel, young face and said, “There is no beer.” It seemed inadvisable to point out that there very clearly was beer. I backed down and put on my mask, a cheap fashion number that protects nobody but is very comfortable to wear.

He said he’d be back, presumably with a Panzer tank, if he caught me without my mask again.

In a few minutes, I have to get on another 12-hour flight. This time to Joburg. Then another to Cape Town. By the time I get home, I will have gone at least 50 hours without sleep. That kind of thing is fine if you have access to high-grade amphetamines. All I have is a small stuffed sloth. It’s not going to be enough.

 

Let the vax speak for themselves

The global scramble for Covid vaccines is becoming a little undignified. Show some class, people. Let’s try to keep this fight clean.

Right now, vaccines are all anyone seems to care about. Well, that and whether the festering human groundhog in the White House will try to blow something up before being dragged kicking and screaming from the Oval Office.

There are at least 40 governments that have started vaccinating their citizens. South Africa is not among them, for reasons which make perfect sense and no sense at all. This is how it should be. One of the good things about being South African is that we are so accustomed to being lied to and screwed over that we can no longer tell what is in our best interests. I don’t know why this is a good thing. It’s just a feeling I have. I’m sure it will pass.

Costa Rica, to which I might have inadvertently emigrated, gave the first shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine three weeks ago to a 91-year-old nursing home resident. Afterwards she said she was very grateful to God, which is a bit of a kick in the teeth for those who worked around the clock to develop the vaccine in the first place.

If I developed a vaccine, I’d want full credit and wouldn’t share it with a supernatural being who almost certainly doesn’t exist, but if he/she does, I have questions for him/her and I shan’t settle for any of this “works in mysterious ways” malarkey.

Come to think of it, I have developed a vaccine. It’s taken orally around 5pm every day and I need around two litres to start feeling better. Unfortunately, this particular vaccine is currently banned in South Africa. I am fortunate to be able to continue medicating in Costa Rica, a second world country blessed with no aspirations to join the increasingly unpleasant first world.

Even a developing country like Belgium has given someone their first dose. It went to a 96-year-old man at a nursing home in a town where Pfizer’s production facility is located. “I feel 30 years younger,” he said afterwards. What? That’s not how it’s supposed to work. I imagine they gave him a shot of something made of Viagra, vodka and Ecstasy. Now there’s a vaccine we could all get our teeth into.

A week ago I had the misfortune of booking myself into a casita in Playa Hermosa that had a TV with 45 channels of mad people shouting hysterically in Spanish. The only English language channel was CNN, a drug which I had been trying to wean myself off. Suffering from the side effects of a particularly extravagant dose of my special vaccine, I turned to it. The big story at the time was Trump’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state threatening him with dire consequences if he didn’t come up with a way to reverse Joe Biden’s victory, which seems a bit out of keeping in a state that has “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation” as its motto – three things utterly lacking in Trump’s toxic universe.

Even though the beast has less than two weeks left in office, CNN’s anchors smelled blood in the water and they were thrashing about in a full-blown feeding frenzy, all teeth and vengeance. Hell, why not. This is a man who deserves to be stabbed with many metaphorical daggers before it’s all over. On his last day, he must be stripped naked and whipped all the way into St John’s Church in Lafayette Square and be forced to beg for absolution. He won’t get it, but it would be lovely to see him beg.

You see? This is what CNN does to a person. One minute you’re having a rational conversation about vaccines, and the next you’ve got a flaming torch in one hand and a pitchfork in the other and you’re demanding violent retribution against a 74-year-old man who has clearly lost his mind. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

If you watch enough news, you come to realise just how little everyone knows about viruses and vaccines. Watch their eyes, these fakers and fabulists, blusterers and buskers. When I was a kid, I naturally assumed grown-ups had a firm grip on things. Now that I am one, I can see how mistaken I was.

From what I can gather, as I sit here in this rustic bar on a palm-fringed beach, the government has dropped the ball early in the second half of the game. Countries like Belarus and Romania, where people wear animal skins and speak languages that nobody, not even themselves, can understand, are in possession of vaccines.

The European Commission was quick off the mark when it came to negotiating for vaccines for EU citizens. The African Union, on the other hand, is still negotiating with Thabo Mbeki to return a djembe drum he “borrowed” while on a state visit to Ghana.

Thing is, we can’t have nice things. Give us the vaccine and we’ll dilute it with Oros and sell it to our neighbours for double the price. Our skills in the banditry business mutate faster than Covid ever could and the only reason there’s a delay is because the government is haggling for a bonsella. Or asleep at the wheel.

British scientists say they are concerned the vaccine might not work on the new strain in South Africa. Oh, so now you care about us? You’re 200 years late, mate. Besides, we’re used to things not working. We expect stuff to break or to be taken away from us. Over-promising and under-delivering is part of the fabric of who we are. We don’t want to live in a world where everything makes sense and the trains run on time. If we did, we’d move to Switzerland. Not that they’d have us.

And just because some vaccines need to be stored at -70°C doesn’t mean we can’t have them. We can strap them to Helen Zille, the coldest object in the country. Although we’d probably have to join the DA to get a shot. Might not be worth it.

Meanwhile, I think we need to start encouraging rather than criticising the anti-vaxxers. Let them have their stand. By all means, bro, don’t take a vaccine. It means more for the rest of us and, at the same time, all the mucky bits in the gene pool will eventually get flushed out.

 

A guide to surviving New Year’s Eve

Here’s something I wrote in happier times, when we were still allowed to drink and go out at night.

……………………….

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.”

The unbridled joys of Transport Month

Since 2005, South Africa annually observes October as Transport Month.

Let’s take a look at the themes.

2005: ‘Celebrating 20 years of delivering efficient, reliable and safe transport services’.

2006: ‘Transport – The Heartbeat of South Africa’s economy’.

2007: ‘Transport – The heartbeat of South Africa’s Economic Growth and Social Development.’

2008: ‘Transport infrastructure – Creating a lasting legacy 2010 and beyond.’

2009: ‘Safety in all modes of transport – air, rail, sea and road.’

2010: ‘Transport – the heartbeat of South Africa’s Economic Growth and Social Development.’

2011: ‘Year of Job Creation and Service Delivery in the Transport Sector – Moving South Africa to a Better Tomorrow.’

2012: ‘Working together to provide a safe and reliable transport system.’

2013: ‘Celebrating 20 years of delivering efficient, reliable and safe transport services.’

2014: ‘Together we move forward.’

2018: ‘Together we move South Africa forward.’

2019: ‘Together Let’s Keep the Service Delivery Momentum Going and Grow the Economy.’

2020: ‘Together shaping the future of transport.’

Forget the failure of imagination – at least the ANC has consistently maintained its sense of humour over the years. Of course, it’s only funny if you’re familiar with the state of public transport in South Africa today. Funny in a slash-your-wrists kind of way.

Here’s something I wrote 17 years ago today. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see how much – and how little – has changed.

……………………………

I was beginning to think there was nothing worth living for when it suddenly occurred to me that today marks the start of Transport Month. Oh, what joy! Hurrah! Hurrah! A chorus of angels sounded their trumpets and a squirrel darted through an open window and handed me a nut. With a new lease of life, I sang like no one was listening and danced like no one was watching. It’s easy when you live alone. Startled, the squirrel ran across the road and got hit by a Golden Arrow bus. It was somehow fitting, coming as it did at the start of Transport Month.

Each province is celebrating Transport Month in its own unique way. In the Northern Cape, long-distance drivers have elected to wear condoms while entertaining their teenage guests in the tastefully decorated cubicles conveniently located behind the front seats.

In Gauteng, the Bombela Concession Company is allowing non-gay married couples to have a maximum of three minutes of sexual activity on the Gautrain. However, the chewing of gum will remain a criminal offence.

In the Eastern Cape, traffic police are waiving their usual Friday afternoon cash donations and will be accepting gifts of small livestock instead. If all you have on you is a sheep or a cow, the officer will, in keeping with the spirit of Transport Month, issue you with a chicken in lieu of change.

In Limpopo, truck drivers are being encouraged to enter win-a-tender raffles at the province’s many stop/go roadworks. With waits of up to three hours, motorists are invited to participate in the festivities by putting money into a hessian sack. The more you give to the Julius Malema Defence Fund, the more chance there is of getting to Polokwane alive. Fun for the whole family.

In KwaZulu-Natal, prizes will be given to truck drivers who can keep up with King Goodwill Zwelithini as he races between five star hotels and his palaces. In a gesture of, er, goodwill, the king has agreed to forfeit his regular blue lights, sirens and escorts. Instead, he will travel by helicopter. The first driver who beats the king to his secret destination will be taken away and questioned.

The Free State transport department will place koeksusters and nips of brandy along the N1. The first 500 truck drivers to make their way out of the province will be given assistance in emigrating. This is open to white truck drivers only. Black truck drivers can continue doing whatever they like.

And in the Western Cape, Her Royal Highness, Helen Zille, has decreed that the Sea Point promenade shall be opened to cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers and other assorted riff-raff.

Previously, use of the promenade was restricted to wheelchairs, walkers, pram-pushers and drug-pushers who may well be on wheels judging by the speed at which they disappear on the rare occasion a policeman hoves into sight. Maybe that’s just how the Nigerians roll.

Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport, roads and stormwater (in terms of incongruity, a poor second to Durban’s parks, recreation and cemeteries), said the move is part of the city’s efforts to “build an inclusive city”. Luckily, this excludes those who might otherwise spoil the whole inclusivity vibe for the rest of us. In other words, those who cannot afford a square meal, let alone a skateboard. And even if they could, they are so full of TB and tik that they wouldn’t make it to the edge of the Cape Flats, let alone all the way to Sea Point.

You’re not a proper Capetonian unless you use a bicycle like you use your drugs – for recreational purposes only. A drug stops being recreational when the gentleman to your left stabs you in the face because you didn’t leave any for him. This hardly ever happens in Constantia.

Releasing a statement into the wild, Herron said: “We will be monitoring the situation very closely during the trial phase. However, I am confident that the experience will allow us to overcome some of our misperceptions and prejudices around users of alternative transport methods, also known as Active Mobility.” What? This is how lawyers talk. I am astounded by the … oh, he is a lawyer.

Herron assures us that this revolutionary step, taking the DA ever closer to governing the country, has the full backing of the Sea Point Residents’ Association. Without their approval, nothing but the sun goes down in Sea Point. The accountants, attorneys, stockbrokers, human traffickers, crack whores, pimps and paedophiles are hostage to the whims of the association. Mossad takes instructions from them. They have access to an arsenal of weapons ranging from fragmentation bagels to self-detonating seagulls. I’m serious. You trifle with the Sea Point Residents’ Association at your peril.

Herron points out that this is not an invitation to professional cyclists. That’s where he is wrong. If you’re training for the Tour de France on the Sea Point promenade, then you’re doing the wrong kind of drugs and deserve to be there. Anyway, I’d far rather they were on the prom than clogging up Chapman’s Peak or inciting the Camps Bay rent boys with their shrieking Spandex shorts and ululating calf muscles.

Herron also says skateboarding tricks will be frowned upon. So, kids, no turning pensioners into frogs. The same goes for rollerblades. They are to be used for “leisurely transportation purposes”. The DA simply cannot bring itself to use the f-word. Fun. And a good thing it is, too. Fun leads to early pregnancies, school dropouts, higher unemployment, service delivery protests, famine, madness and death. Somalia used to be a fun place. Look at it today.

Herron says: “We have consulted local representatives for the various types of non-motorised transport, who have offered to launch Twitter and Facebook campaigns to remind their members of the basic rules of etiquette expected from Active Mobility users on the promenade.”

Translation: “We made a skyf with a couple of okes with dreads and they said they’d hit the web and choon their chommies to chill on the strip.”

I do so enjoy it when white politicians talk of the basic rules of etiquette. It reminds me of Kenya before the Mau Mau came along and ruined everything. We all need distractions from the murder and mayhem of everyday life, and it matters not whether it comes from the Fish Hoek Bowls Club or a gentle non-threatening perambulation along the Sea Point prom of a Sunday afternoon.

Herron also said that flooding the area with cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers would “have a slowing down effect on the general speed of traffic”. Indeed it would. The city has already tried traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, bergies and speed bumps. So why not try Active Mobility practitioners? Nothing discourages speeding more than a stream of ambulances racing back and forth between Mouille Point and Bantry Bay.

The new signs going up on the promenade depict three figures engaged in Active Mobility. All of them, apart from cycling, are known as gateway pastimes that lead to far more dangerous activities like unprotected sex, intravenous drug use and voting.

I congratulate the DA on taking this courageous step. And, when Transport Month is over and the wreckage has been removed, I will applaud them for returning the promenade to its rightful owners – decent god-fearing folk who seem harmless enough but who, if provoked, will not hesitate to call in an Israeli airstrike at the push of a panic button.

5 ways to get the perfect pandemic body

Lockdown has gnawed away at my fitness levels and I need to remedy this in case we become a proper police state. I don’t want to have Cele’s boys after me and find myself having to stop every couple of minutes to catch my breath. Mind you, they’d be doing the same. It would be the least dramatic foot chase ever. If our rest periods coincided, we could keep going for months. We’d have to go in circles because of the inter-provincial travel ban.

I got more exercise during Level 5 then I do in this latest turbocharged 24-karat deluxe version of Level 3. That’s because we were told that exercise, under Level 5, was not allowed. If you tell me not to do something, you can be sure I’ll do it. My parents realised early on that I was a prime target for reverse psychology. My mother would tell me that under no circumstances was I to tidy my bedroom while she was out. And if I dared do the dishes, there’d be trouble. The house would be sparkling when she got back.

It got worse as I grew up. People would tell me not to binge drink or take drugs. Don’t study journalism or sleep with other men’s girlfriends, they’d say. And never, ever get married. I showed them, alright. Oh, yes.

Then, many years later, someone in China eats a dodgy bat and coughs on someone else and the next thing you know, Cyril Ramaphosa is telling me I’m not allowed to exercise. I am, however, permitted to go to the supermarket should food become absolutely necessary. I would then go to Checkers and do push-ups in the canned goods aisle, sit-ups in the dairy department and jog between the baked goods and fresh produce sections. Take that, government. I’ll see your Level 5 and raise you Level Kiss-My-Ass.

They must have got wind that people were illegally exercising while shopping and subsequently brought us up to Level 4. The moment they said we were allowed out to exercise between 6am and 9am, I lost all interest.

Then came Level 3 version 1.0 and we were told we could exercise whenever we liked. That was the beginning of the end. It was as if they no longer cared about people who could only do something in reaction to being told not to do it.

I was devastated and stayed in bed for … well, I’m writing this from my bed now. I get up occasionally to visit the bathroom and kitchen, but it’s not much as far as cardio workouts go.

The moment I heard we were no longer allowed to buy alcohol, I put in an order with my local bootlegger for seven bottles of gin. I don’t even particularly like gin. It makes me cry. Then again, right now cat videos make me cry. Show me a crippled labrador splashing in a puddle and I’m a mess for days.

But there’s little joy to be found in illicit gin if one is unable to muster the strength to remove the cap from the tonic, let alone find the motivation to refill the ice trays. As for locating a knife sharp enough to slice the lemon that you don’t even have, the less said the better.

Flicking through Facebook with my last functional finger, an advert for a fitness website popped up. “Highly effective core exercises for seniors – no equipment needed.” What? I’m not a … am I? Zuckerberg’s androids must be mistaking me for someone else. Someone old.

Anyway, what exactly is a senior? I might be a little delusional at times, but I do know that I’m not a junior. The picture on the website is of an old man standing on one leg with his eyes closed. Please. I can do that. I did karate when I was a kid. My sensei, who carried a gun in his briefcase, told us the trick was to picture yourself as a tree with roots in the ground. I would practice in the garden at home and my sister would sneak up and water me. That explains why I grew half a metre in Grade 9.

“The core exercises in this article have been tested by over 1000 seniors!” They don’t say what happened after that. Did anyone die? Were there lawsuits?

They give a dictionary definition of the word “core”, which I found unhelpful, and explain how a strong core helps reduce the risk of falling. Thanks chaps, but the ban on alcohol has taken care of that already.

Then it starts. “Pretend I’m standing in front of you. Now imagine I have my hands on your shoulders and I trying to push you away. What would your reaction be?” Well, my first reaction would be to correct your grammar. Then, if you were a bloke, I’d knee you swiftly in the testicles. If you were a woman, I would, like any red-blooded South African man, take it as a sign that you fancied me.

The correct reaction, apparently, is to brace all my muscles and make my body stiff. And that’s what it feels like to engage your core. It also feels like rigor mortis prematurely setting in.

I am told to brace my core while walking, taking stairs, moving objects and picking things up off the floor. That’s ridiculous. I pay other people to do those things for me. Anyway, I don’t have any damn core muscles to brace. That’s why I’m doing this. If there was money involved, I’d ask for it back.

Now we get to the “highly effective core exercises for seniors”. Maybe they mean señors. It’s probably a Mexican thing. Make strong for to Rio Grande cross.

The first exercise is to bring your knees to your chest while standing. Not at the same time, obviously. You are allowed to hold onto a chair, presumably if you’re very hungover. The recommendation is: “x2 sets of x5-8 repetitions”. What does this mean? If I wanted a maths test, I’d go somewhere else. It almost made me give up.

Exercise #2 is basically sitting on a chair, then standing, then sitting, then standing … if you do this in public, men in white coats will come to take you away.

#3 is Heel Raises. In which you raise yourself on your toes. “Once you get as high as possible, pause for one second…” I don’t think anyone’s ever got as high as possible. New limits are being set all the time. Worth a try, though.

#4 is Bird Dog. I liked the sound of this one. Scampering about the neighbourhood, picking up dead pigeons with my mouth and giving them to the needy. Sadly, not. It does involve going down on all fours, though, but that’s where the fun ends.

#5 is Bridges. You lie on your back and repeatedly thrust your hips into the air. I felt comfortable with this one and kept going until I started having flashbacks to my first honeymoon and wound up in the foetal position whimpering like an abandoned chimp.

We are told to do this routine three times a week. Well, that’s ruined it. If they had instructed me to never try it again, I’d be at it all the time.

I felt a little better the next day when I read a headline that said, “Fitness industry on the verge of collapse.” I’m no virgin and I might not be very active, but if an entire industry can collapse without anyone caring, then so can I.

 

  • This column first appeared in The Citizen on 22 July. More every Wednesday. Subscribe here: https://citizen.co.za/bundle-subscriptions/