The End?

There is a reason more and more people are reluctant to answer their phone if they don’t recognise the number. It’s because they know the odds against it being good news are staggeringly high. You have more chance of winning the lottery than of being pleasantly surprised upon answering a call from an unknown number.
I tend not to answer even if I know who is calling. Not because I am becoming increasingly reclusive and misanthropical, but because … no, that’s it. The only real chance you have of me answering your call is if I was in some way responsible for your birth and those odds are literally one in 7.6 billion. Not good. Don’t even bother.
So when my phone rang the other day and I didn’t recognise the number, I looked at the cat and we laughed and laughed and fetched another beer. I got the beer. The cat pretends not to understand about fridges. Smart cat, that.
But then there was a beep. I wasn’t expecting it. Nobody does. Random callers aren’t meant to leave messages. They are meant to give up and never try to contact you again. It’s far easier to ignore calls than messages. Something to do with the way the human brain is wired, I suppose. I’m not so curious that I’ll answer my phone, but leave a message and curiosity will gnaw away at my resolve until I cave in. I always regret it. The game changes the moment you listen to the message. Suddenly you are forced to make decisions and take steps and the chances of everything ending badly are magnified immeasurably.
I don’t always listen to a message right away. If it’s from an unknown number I might run it through Google to identify the caller. In this case it turned out to be my employer, the Sunday Tribune. I didn’t recognise the number because I’ve only been writing for the paper for five years and nobody has ever called me from there before.
The message was from the editor’s secretary asking me to ring him back. My first thought was, this can’t be good. My second thought confirmed my first. To cut a short story even shorter, I have been “let go”. That’s the term management uses when we freelancers get the boot. It’s as if we are caged animals that, through an act of great generosity on our captor’s part, are released back into the wild.
My column, Durban Poison, is no more.
Not having a weekly deadline for the first time in years has left me feeling light-headed. Okay, fine. It’s the alcohol that’s making me light-headed. Like all red-blooded South Africans, I drink to celebrate as well as to grieve. In these harsh economic times, losing a steady income is reason enough to grieve. Plus I have a potentially fatal skin condition which makes it even harder to get hired. There is no known cure for the Whiteness.
On the flip side, not having to put fourteen hundred words in the correct order every Wednesday night is cause to celebrate. My brain seems to think so, anyway. Then again, it’s been wrong before.
But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Are you going to miss the columns I post on my blog which inexplicably appear in triplicate on Facebook and Twitter? If not, you should absolutely email the editor at and congratulate him on his decision to let me go.
What? You’re asking why I wouldn’t keep writing a weekly column just for you? Look. I’m not against the idea in principle. Thing is, I lost my day job in 2004 and accidentally became a columnist shortly afterwards. Ever since then I have struggled to write anything without some sort of incentive. It needn’t even be financial. I’m not a complete mercenary. It could be in exchange for beer, seafood, a modest beachfront property or what-have-you.
Let me know.
Pirate Ben

33 thoughts on “The End?

  1. fartsoup1976 says:

    Hey man, durban poison is now a type of marijuana strain. Come to mass and smoke some, forget about the bondage and go fishing at the ocean with your durban poison and your red label. Lifes too short but you only find out how short the day you die, dont wait till then, might not work out.

  2. Trouble says:

    Dear Mark aka Ben
    You cannot allow short-sighted people (management) to bring an end to the joy you bring to so many people. As noted above, you have a huge fan base which stretches around the world. Please do not stop writing. Take up the suggestion of asking us to pay for the privilege of you entertaining us. I am sure many of us will do that, yours truly included. Who knows, perhaps that is the next door that opens. Otherwise who am I going to turn to for some excellent sharp wit, sarcasm and who will make me laugh till I almost choke. I learnt a lot through your articles as there were times I needed to Google some of the things/terms you referred to. The books I bought were stolen by my “friends” never to be seen again – this is testimony to the fact that people enjoy your writing …. enough to commit crimes against “humanity” 🙂

  3. Jenni says:

    Daily Maverick comes to mind….you are as intelligent as all their journalists put together…hope they approach you
    will start ‘crowd funding’ if you run out of beer……live in vibrant(haha) Knysna, so don’t ever see the
    good old Tribune anymore…..probably gone down the drain like the godawful Cape Times & Argus…

    1. Thanks Jenni. I’ll probably run out before the beer does.

  4. Esther Jordan says:

    Oh No! Your column is wonderful. You always make me laugh. Love your satire. We need you to keep our spirits up amid the gloom and doom in the media! Mr “Ex-editor” you have made a big mistake!

  5. Cecile Joyce says:

    SAB will have something to say about this, when their sales drop, the economy suffers, beware mr editor

  6. says:

    How? Why? You are so sooo funny. And very intelligent and very funny. ( I said that) Please do not go. I need my weekly fix
    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

  7. Neville says:

    You selfish bastard. It’s all about you !!
    What about all of us happy followers ?

  8. Hi Ben. Now that just ruined my morning. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity apparently (on the part of the paper, to be clear, not you… just in case…) Carry on regardless I say. Fingers crossed. Onwards and upwards. May the force be with you. Over and out.

  9. Shawn Driman says:

    Hey Ben, I have no more words…..letter duly sent. Like the powers that be; short sighted, completely irrational decisions that leave everyone disadvantaged. More power to you.

  10. Josh Triegart says:

    Your readers would like to know WHY they fired your ass Mark. Talent is not the issue here. So spell it out for those who didn’t get it. Time to move to Bali bru.

  11. Julia Uys says:

    I live in the USA and live for your posts. You keep everything in perspective in a fun yet informative way. I can not believe some short sighted ass is doing this. You have a huge fan base please find another way of keeping us in the loop. I have followed you from the old Sunday Times days! You will be so missed!!!

  12. Deborah says:

    So sorry Ben. Are you looking for a bit of a cuddle? Well that’s all I can offer i m afraid. I m feeling pretty low myself right now. Keep on keeping on cause you are great. Xxx Deborah xx

  13. Carol Ann Jackson says:

    Sent letter to paper. Good luck.
    “I am a Canadian woman, of a certain age, who looks forward to reading Durban Poison by Ben Trovato. And I was shocked to hear he had been, well, for lack of a better word, sacked.
    You do understand that if we don’t laugh, we shall have mascara drizzling down our cheeks? Well at least that is how half of the population will look. Not a pretty sight.
    And our half of the population are keen observers, given our uncertain tenure over the centuries. We know when things are rotten but sometimes laughter can be a tool for change. And we all know that’s better than the alternative.
    Then of course, there is hope. We Canadians gave up a lot during our boycott of SA during apartheid; sherry springs to mind. And we were and are keen supporters of Nelson Mandela and his policies. Which did not include corruption.
    We visit SA because of his vision and because it is a beautiful country. And has the potential to be a great country. Sadly, his vision is becoming skewed. Hence we laugh through our tears. Messy business.
    Please reconsider your decision on ending Ben Trovato’s column. I understand it is edgy. But if a woman of a certain age, and a Canadian at that, gets it, then think of the audience of young, disenfranchised South Africans it is reaching. Unless of course, that is the point of his dismissal.
    In which case, Nelson weeps.
    CA Jackson
    Vancouver, Canada

  14. Simon Bloch says:

    Look on the bright side, fella – the Tribune will no doubt suffer a huge drop in circulation, the editor will probably die of a massive brain fart when he receives the hate mail, and you still own your loyal following.
    Nobody wants to roll a majut, when they can score hi-grade DP, capice?
    Remember this next time the weed of wisdom kicks in:
    “When one door closes, another one opens………………”
    Best of luck

  15. Ross Ian Fleming says:

    It was once suggested that the royal family set up as a privatised company when it all went west in the eighties. I’m sure I’m not alone in being willing to pay for the privilege of being entertained into the long twilight of the soul by rapiered wit and blinding observation. If Netflix can do it so can you. Set up a paywall to test the system. You are the only sane person I know.

    1. Susanna says:

      *one of only two sane persons……

  16. Clive says:

    Shared and e-mailed Tribune. Keep the blog going and have banking details for donations.
    Clive ReadHand Made 825705364

  17. badensworld says:

    It surely cannot be, the end?

  18. stephanie blair says:

    Dear Ben,
    Your writing is the highlight of my week. The Editor is a twit.
    Writing to him now.
    Looking forward to your online column/s.
    Regards Steph Blair

  19. Dave says:

    No man
    Your posts, which I read via email, are surprisingly (sadly?) on point.
    Makes us realise we’re not the only ones who see this and think to ourselves “guess I’ll have that fourth glass of chenin after all”.
    Stick around, pudding. I’d miss you, at least briefly. Kisses.

  20. Well I’ve written to that snivelling cove who passes for the editor and insisted that he reinstates you and doubles your free beer allowance. No doubt he/she is a miserable, brain-dead Marxist without a humorous fibre their entire corpus. But listen here, Mr Happily Invented. You have nearly 50,000 followers apparently. Ask us all to lob in a buck a week to subscribe to your weekly output and, if only half of us fall for it, you’ll be on a decent wicket. Not quite as much a cabinet minister earns but enough to keep you in cat food and grog for a while. Think about it, if you can be arsed.

  21. educadoresurbanos says:

    I love what you write. Delicious English and creative ideas. It´s a pity. But I feel you strong enough to look for another Editor. What about that?

  22. val says:

    I hope you keep writing. I relish your Durban Poison posts. they represent a somewhat uplifting view on our otherwise catastrophic headlines. If you do, please keep me on your mailing list. wishing you all the best in dealing with your skin condition.its no uncommon. Thank you and regards

  23. Sally Chapman says:

    I’m cancelling my Sunday Tribune subscription immediately…

  24. Francois says:

    Dear Editor,
    Thank you for letting Ben Travato’s Durban Poison stop.
    There is a limit to how much truth and downright honesty we can handle and I would much rather read poorly written, badly edited script than any kind of thought proving sentiment.
    Have a great life…

  25. Winsome says:


  26. elran2014 says:

    Just devastating. Big mistake, Sunday Tribune.

  27. ginnyswart says:

    Seriously? That editor is insane. On the other hand, do you want to cast your literary pearls before a swine like him? Find a paper with a more discerning readership and carry on

    1. Julia Uys says:

      Agree with this comment! Don’t waste your talent!!

  28. Dusty says:

    Email duly sent to Tribune Letters. You’re fantastic! I hope a far better opportunity arises soon.

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