Remember my Sunday Times column The Whipping Boy? Of course you do. Did you ever buy the book of the same name? Of course you didn’t. But now you can. It’s one of six of my books currently available as downloads. You’ll find the books under Contraband.
Who is Ben Trovato?
Nobody knows for sure – not even him.
“Metaphysically speaking, I have no idea who I am,” says Trovato. “Nor do I wish to know. Asking ‘who am I’ is the kind of crazy talk reserved for stoners and people with Alzheimer’s.”
His 10th and latest book, The Whipping Boy, is more than “just a book”. It is, says Trovato, a weapon in the war against terror, for which a user’s guide will be mailed upon receipt of the beer equivalent of money.
Along with Trovato’s much-loved and widely hated columns, it contains a bunch of fake news stories, hilarious letters to the rich and famous, and outrageous job applications that resulted in the author not receiving a single offer of employment.
Bianca Coleman spoke to him.
Where would you most like to live?
Mthatha. I drove through it the other day and was quite taken by its understated charm. However, it appears to be full so my next choice would be a stretch of coastline somewhere in Central America or Indonesia where the water is warm and the cops are asleep.
What is your best-kept Western Cape “secret”?
Where do you go to do your shopping and why? Speciality shops or malls?
I could not, in all honesty, answer this question without immediately going out and killing a small animal with my bare hands. Shopping, like marriage, is an oddly emasculating experience.
What are your favourite gourmet treats and where would you get them?
I would enjoy gourmet beef rotis, gourmet mutton bunny chows and gourmet gatsbies but I have no idea where to get them from. At home, getting any kind of meal is a treat, really. It doesn’t even have to be gourmet. Just edible.
What is your favourite restaurant? Where is it, what do you like about it, and what are your favourite things to order and why?
My favourite restaurant is Blikkie Pizzeria in Paternoster. I recently waited over an hour for a pizza and when I complained, the owner came out and screamed at me. They had run out of dough but didn’t tell anyone. He’s like an Afrikaans Basil Fawlty crossed with Stalin. Eating out is so much more enjoyable when there’s a violent confrontation with the management.
What is your biggest/most decadent indulgence and where would you get it?
Magic truffles. They are similar to magic mushrooms but if you have too many they make you invisible. I’m not telling you where they are. And there’s no point in you coming to look for me, either.
What is your favourite outdoor spot anywhere in the Western Cape – to walk, hike, picnic, view – and why?
I’m not much one for walking, hiking, picnicking or doing anything that doesn’t end in applause or payment. In fact, I think the outdoors as a concept is heavily overrated. My only contact with nature is when I go surfing, but this can hardly be considered outdoorsy fun considering that in these parts nature has a nasty habit of biting your legs off.
Where is your favourite local holiday destination, and why?
The Victorian Times tavern in Fish Hoek. I can walk there, stay as long as I like and almost walk back. The locals have fascinating stories to tell about the time they were captured at the fall of Tobruk. There’s also a pool table and tons of women whose faces have fallen off. It makes a fabulous holiday destination if you don’t mind sleeping in the bushes.
What is your favourite long or short distance drive anywhere in South Africa – passes, scenic routes, small town destinations?
My favourite short distance drive is to the bottle store. Long distance would have to be all the way up to St Lucia, with a few days at Jeffreys Bay for some epic waves and a panga fight with the insensitive brutes who are building on the dunes.
Where did you most recently go for a day drive and why?
I drove from Fish Hoek to Muizenberg on Boxing Day. It took me all day because the city council is digging up the coast road and a million Vaalies were occupying Boyes Drive. By the time I got there I couldn’t remember what I was meant to be doing and had to turn around and come back. That took another day.
Where is your favourite or dream international holiday destination, and why?
I am drawn to Thailand. The people there are very spiritual but at the same time they won’t hesitate to chop your head off if they don’t like you. They put a lot of the most dreadful things in their mouths, but not dogs. For this alone, they get my vote.
What are your hobbies/free time activities and where do you like to do them?
I am a collector. I collect mainly small change, speeding fines, parking tickets and bills from my post box in Sea Point. I once collected a butterfly when it flew into my study but I couldn’t bring myself to stick a pin through it and the little bastard escaped through the window before I could call myself a lepidopterist.
What makes Cape Town the most special/beautiful place for you and why?
Everything is so beautiful. The girls, the beaches, the trees, the penguins, the queers, the bergies, the N2, the perlemoen poachers, the 28s, Bontehuewel. I love them all.
What don’t you like about Cape Town, or what would you like to change about it?
Table Mountain. It blocks the view and is infested with muggers and fynbos. I would demolish it and build the world’s biggest theme park using a lot of chrome and face brick. I would also crank up the temperature of that big, frigid wet thing. And maybe build a few beach bars.
If you did not grow up in Cape Town but elsewhere in South Africa, please tell us your earliest childhood memory of that place.
I grew up in Durban. The earliest thing I remember, as I made my way down the birth canal, was the sound of my parents bickering. I tried to pull myself back up but my hand slipped and the next thing I knew, I was being held upside down by a man in a white coat. Instead of doing the decent thing and putting some clothes on me, he smacked me sharply on my naked bottom. I got a leg loose and kicked him in the face. “That’ll teach you, motherfucker,” I thought. I had paid close attention to what was going on around me for the previous nine months and, thanks to my mother, was born with a filthy mouth that has served me well to this day. I remember the doctor passing me to my father, who smacked me. Then he passed me to my mother, who did the same. I was also smacked by several orderlies and a security guard until someone covered up my shamefully small willy before the nurses could see it.
Where is the best place to take your children and why?
The best place to take most kids is straight to an adoption agency, especially if they are capricious, tantrum-throwing brats who aren’t so bright and won’t go to sleep at night. Whatever you do, don’t take them overseas because they will end up sitting in the row behind me kicking my seat all the way from Joburg to London.
What is the quirkiest or most unusual place you know in the Western Cape and why?
I would have to say parliament. For six months of the year it stands empty. The rest of the time it resembles a lurid convention of professional prevaricators, bogus democrats, pusillanimous poltroons, serial philanderers and an assortment of hypocrites, perjurers and profligate wastrels.
What, in your opinion, makes Cape Town unique?
Nowhere else in the country is one’s maternal genitalia so profoundly invoked as it is during the many wonderful al fresco debates that take place around the city.
Describe your perfect Saturday or Sunday.
I wake up.