Dear Ancestors …

ancestors

In times of great misfortune and uncertainty it is an African tradition to consult your ancestors and ask them to show you the way forward.

In the time of Zuma we have had misfortune in spades. These are also times of great uncertainty. This is a good thing. If you’re complacent in your job or comfortable in your marriage, you need to upset that applecart and get with the times. Forget certainty. It will stab you in the back as soon as sleep with you.

Change is in the air. Climate change. Regime change. Don’t be left behind. It’s a new year. Shed your old life and start anew. Sure, it might end in a homeless shelter. But it might not. Come on. Come and gamble with me. The odds are better than anything you’ll find in the Goodwood Casino.

First, though, I need to find my ancestors and shake their bones. I don’t even know if this works for whiteys. I assume it works for darkies. Last week Squirrel Ramaphosa, South Africa’s black Jesus, said the ruling party had been down and out, riddled with foreign tendencies and required ancestral intervention. Something or someone must have intervened because he was elected party president a couple of weeks ago. I’m virtually down and out and riddled with all sorts of things, so it’s definitely worth giving the ancestors a shot.

Thing is, Ramaphosa wasn’t consulting his own personal ancestors. He was reportedly shaking John Dube’s bones. And Walter Rubusana’s bones. Them be the bones of former ANC leaders. So the question I’m asking myself now, apart from why the waiter is ignoring me, is can one go about rattling bones willy-nilly when they aren’t in fact direct kin of the shaker and still expect sensible answers? Maybe it only works for people like Ramaphosa. After all, ANCestors, rights?

Can I go to the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris and shake Jim Morrison’s bones? Of course not. If I could afford to go to Paris why would I be sitting in this filthy bar writing rubbish for a pittance? Not to mention that the Lizard King would give me the most appalling advice in the unlikely event that we made a connection.

“Don’t take heroin. Don’t take a bath after taking heroin. Don’t date women called Pamela.” If he had told me this a few years ago, I would’ve listened to him on at least one of those counts. Too late. The damage is done.

It might make more sense to visit Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California, and rattle Steve Jobs’s bones. There are a couple of things that need clearing up. Like why do his laptop charger cables have the lifespan of a one-legged chicken in KwaMashu. Steve doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about any of us. He was meant to be immortal. He was meant to update his operating system, for heaven’s sake, not die.

A lot of other bones worth shaking can’t be shook because they got cremated. I don’t know what the ancestor worshipping business says about people who get burned instead of buried. Does shaking the urn have the same effect? Is it the same as praying with your eyes open or shut? Or, for that matter, not praying at all? Can I make a martini and shake it instead of the bones and expect the same result? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

So the challenge for me, apart from catching the waiter’s eye, is to find my ancestors. Maybe define them first. I think it excludes parents. You can’t go from mother to ancestor in the blink of an eye. Even grandparents might be pushing it a bit. If you’ve met them they aren’t proper ancestors. From where I’m sitting, and I use the word sitting loosely, ancestors are people who died before you could get the chance to thank them for their contribution towards making you the genetic miracle you are today. By thank I obviously mean strangle.

I’ve always been a bit subnormal when it comes to grasping family relationships. Anything beyond uncle and my eyes glaze over, my mouth falls open and my heart rate plummets. If someone tries to explain how my aunt’s brother’s cousin is related to me, I am clinically dead before they can finish.

When I think of my ancestors, I think Cro-Magnon. Not so much upper class as lower Paleolithic. I imagine them in skins but only because I can’t bear to imagine them naked. Perhaps I’m going too far back.

As a white South African I have no traditions other than those involving the denigration and exploitation of black people. Sadly, those days are over and now there are no traditions I can call my own. Braaing, perhaps. Even then, there are darkies who will claim they were cooking meat over open fires long before white people were invented. It’s outrageous.

Look. I’m quite happy to rattle the bones and communicate with my ancestors if it means getting an indication of what I should do with what little remains of my so-called life. Communicating with the living doesn’t seem to help much at all. Might as well try the dead.

The problem is, I can’t afford to get to the graves of my ancestors. It would mean going to Italy, England, Australia and the Netherlands for a start. Those are just the ones I know about. Europeans spread their seed like wildfire in the early days. I’m surprised I didn’t turn out Catholic.

I’m a bit ashamed to say that I just googled Where Do White People Come From. What a mistake. I was dragged from Genesis to revolutions, from Australoids to Caucasoids, from the Semites to the Hamites, from the Third Reich to the Fourth Extinction. I could go on but it’s too depressing. It turns out that white people are little more than a concept.

Anyway. That’s enough about white people. In a few hundred years everyone will be brown. Or dead. I can’t do a global tour of my ancestors’s graves but I do need some direction so I’m going down to the bottom of my garden. There are bones there. Chicken and mutton, mainly. They must know a thing or two with the benefit of hindsight. Watch your back. Don’t trust humans. Have an exit strategy. That sort of thing.

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My kingdom for a Kwaai Lappies

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

South Africans who say they would rather spend their holidays here than anywhere else – because, like, it’s such an awesome country – should have their jaws permanently wired shut so that never again will they be able to lie through their stinking teeth.

Patriotism be damned. They are here because they can’t afford to go anywhere else. Two-thirds of the people who support the Proudly South African campaign are right now sucking back margaritas in southern Spain or slipping their CVs under the doors of employment agencies in Perth.

At least a quarter of our country’s population never go on holiday because they are otherwise occupied in one of our many elegant state facilities for the morally challenged. Others, like the unemployed, are permanently on holiday and are the least deserving of our sympathy.

The people who you should really feel sorry for are people like me. People who…

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Higher education makes you high

One of the challenges I have set myself in 2018 is to get off the couch quicker than last year. The springs – in both couch and legs – have slowly deteriorated and it takes an almost superhuman effort for me to go from sitting to standing in under five minutes. I want to bring it down to a minute. That will give me an extra four minutes of staring into the fridge wondering what I got up for.

This is not the only area in which I hope to up my game in the new year. I also plan on going to university so that I may add another string to my bow. What does that even mean? I can’t imagine anything more useless than a bow with a plethora of strings. Wouldn’t it make more sense to want to add another arrow to your quiver? That way, even if you didn’t have a bow you could still stab people with your arrows. But I imagine most of us go to university so we don’t have to make a living from stabbing. Diversification is key, though, and a little tidy knife-work on weekends could go a long way towards supplementing any student’s meagre income.

I’m not yet sure which university I shall attend. Or what degree I will do. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that, thanks to Jacob Zuma, it’s all free. And there’s nothing I like more than not having to work or pay for something.

Julius Malema says that if you can’t afford to study, you should just arrive at your nearest university and pull up a chair. Commandeer a locker, claim a girl, borrow a pencil and there you go.

Thing is, university only really appeals to me in the sense that all institutions of higher learning are hotbeds of sex, drugs and all-night parties. The business of studying and writing exams doesn’t particularly interest me. Besides, given the couch issue I’ll probably be late for most of my lectures, if I make them at all.

I have done my time in the hallowed halls of academia … okay, that’s not strictly true. There was nothing hallowed about the journalism department at Natal Technikon in the ’80s. I did find my first love there, though, and, not long after, the Normandy Hotel, which was a stone’s throw from Oldham House where the journalism students were kept isolated from the rest of the campus.

Right, then. This year there were 370 000 applications for 39 000 places at six universities. This was before Zuma did his Oprah impression at the recent ANC conference. “You get a university education, you get a university education … everyone gets a university education!”

The EFF leadership will be waiting to welcome you to the institution of your choice. When registration day turns into the battle of Stalingrad, Dr Ndlozi and his footsoldiers will take the blows and teargas on your behalf, giving you a chance to make it to the nearest lecture hall where you can plant your metaphysical flag of freedom, take a member of faculty hostage and demand he teaches you everything he knows.

It doesn’t particularly matter what degree you find yourself doing. The important thing is that after three years, or, if you’re easily distracted, eight or nine, you can put the letters BA after your name. The counter-revolutionary elites will say this stands for Bugger All. Ignore them. By the time you graduate it will mean Beast Alliance. You will be the awesome stormtroopers – the Orcs and Uruk-hais of the new new South Africa – providing by sheer force of numbers the opportunity for the elite Masters and the PhDs to storm the citadels of power.

Somewhere among the ravening hordes rampaging across campuses on their desperate quest for knowledge, maybe lurking on the fringes if not in the shadows, will be Nicholas Brinkmann and his ilk. I have not selected Nicholas for any reason other than that he appeared on Twitter at this very moment. There are others like him. To find them I would need to scour the internet and, as I have repeatedly pointed out to no avail, I don’t get paid enough to do research.

Nicholas is 18 years old. He has just finished up at St John’s College and is preparing for a bright future in Australia. Just kidding. I don’t know what his plans are. Given that he achieved nine distinctions, they probably don’t involve magic mushrooms and transsexual crack whores.

I am simply using Nicholas as an example in much the same way that he will in all likelihood go on to use others for whatever purposes he sees fit. As a very intelligent lad, this is his prerogative. It is ordained. It is the way of the world.

The well educated become wealthy, the poorly educated become poor. Then there is you and me – a little bit educated, a little bit poor, always money for beer. A bit of a generalisation, to be sure. Toss in an unexpected work ethic and a couple of genetic surprises and all stereotypes are off.

Nicholas is not a throwback. He is a natural. Or maybe a nurtural, given the massive amount of support his parents must’ve given him. As a school kid I supported the hands-off approach when it came to parenting. They persisted with a hands-on approach, which usually came in a parabolic arc down to my quivering buttocks.

Nicholas totally cracked top percentages in seven of his nine distinctions and it doesn’t matter that he is more fluent in Latin than isiZulu. With the government’s new Woodstock approach to education – free for all and anything goes but don’t take the brown acid – it’s quite possible that we’ll all be speaking isiLatin by the end of the century.

Nicholas is from Emmarentia in Johannesburg. I will never go there. Not to Emmerentia or to Johannesburg. Let’s give him a chance to speak. “I spent my whole high school career just trying to learn everything well. In a sense you could say that my whole high school career has led up to my performance in matric.”

Now and then one reluctantly finds oneself in the company of a professional melanchologist from the past and even though we might plumb the murky depths of our spluttering adolescence, we use words like “disaster” and “torment” rather than “career” when referring to our passage through high school.

Nicholas said that during his matric year he would wake up at 6am because he wasn’t much of a morning person. This makes no sense. If you’re not a morning person you have no business waking up before midday.

“For my whole life my parents have made it clear that they support me and my education and they would do anything in their ability to help me. In the morning‚ often my mom and dad would make me breakfast. I feel like they sacrificed a lot in order to help me perform at school.”

Breakfast! No wonder he got nine distinctions. I was given a light thrashing and a pebble to suck on before being made to crawl to school on my hands and knees.

Nicholas also played second team basketball and first team hockey, which must be reassuring for his parents because if he ever gets brain damage he can still earn a living. He said sport helped him perform better academically. “If you don’t exercise you sometimes struggle to concentrate well.” I don’t know about that. Ritalin is basketball for the lazily gifted. Or something.

Nicholas is taking a gap year and then wants to study mathematics and science in America. Better hurry, Nick, before Donald Trump bans science altogether.

  • I deliberately haven’t mentioned the half a million kids who dropped out between grades 10 and 12. Sooner or later they’ll turn up at the robots. We’re going to ignore them then so we might as well ignore them now.

2018 – Year of the year

2018 is going to be the best year. I don’t mean compared to last year. Or even the year before, whatever that was. Maths was never my strong suit. I’m talking about the best year in the history of time. Before dinosaurs even. Every year until this new one has been rubbish, starting from that nasty business with the cross on the outskirts of Jerusalem right through my second marriage and all the way to Donald Trump.

For a start, 2018 adds up to 11 – the smallest positive integer requiring three syllables and the largest prime number with a single-morpheme name. Sounds to me like 11 is a bit of a show-off. I prefer seven, an honest working class number you can count on when the chips are down. Eleven’s only saving grace is that it’s the atomic number for sodium. This is a clear indication that you should drink plenty of whiskey and sodium next year.

The eleventh sign of the Chinese zodiac is the dog and 2018 is the Year of the Dog. That’s pretty damn auspicious if you believe in signs and dogs. If you were born in 1946, 1958, 1970 or a laundry basket to a mother with eight nipples, you are a Dog. I am a Rat, “pleasant and seductive, possesses extraordinary abilities that allow him to emerge victorious from the most delicate situations”. I have put this in quotations to prove it’s not me saying it.

Notable Dogs are Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump and Justin Bieber. That says all you need to know about Dog people.

2018 is also, in a more general sense, the year of the Chinese. Expect to hear more Mandarin and see fewer natural resources.

So, the eighteenth year of the third millennium. Sounds impressive. It must’ve sounded downright impossible around this time in 1917 among shellshocked survivors of the Battle of Passchendaele huddled in Belgian bars necking flagons of foaming ale and wondering what the world would be like in a hundred years’ time. I can’t help feeling they’d be terribly disappointed.

What’s coming up in 2018? The Winter Olympics in South Korea, for a start. Pyeongchang will either be a winter wonderland or a nuclear wasteland. And the Commonwealth Games will be held in Queensland, Australia, where everything from box jellyfish and bull sharks to red-back spiders and Russel Crowe will kill you for no good reason.

After a rapid dwindling of interest in global affairs, the United Nations has decided that 2018 will be the international year of nothing at all.

Closer to home, nobody, thanks to the Machiavellian machinations of the ANC, is prepared to predict anything much beyond the weather. Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right, here we are, all 56 million of us, stuck in the middle. But I’ll give it a shot.

The minister of justice establishes the Jacob Zuma Court of Desperate Appeals in recognition of the president’s longstanding and generous support of the legal profession (defence).

An anonymous donor establishes the Jacob Zuma Rehabilitation Centre for Lame Ducks. It emerges that R300-million a month is being spent on a single one-legged duck. Sars and the Hawks decline to investigate on the grounds that every available member of staff is attached to the Jacques Pauw case.

The Jacob Zuma Foundation’s foundations begin sinking into a quagmire of allegations and the entire artificial edifice is ordered to be torn down for health and safety reasons.

China takes an interest in South African real estate. After a traditional money-exchanging ceremony at Nkandla, a delegation from Beijing puts in a cheeky offer for Limpopo. President Zuma throws in the Eastern Cape as a bonsella.

Police minister Fikile Mbalula is reshuffled out of the cabinet. As a reward for his loyal service, he is appointed deputy supreme commander of the Dubai traffic department and declared an honorary Gupta in a ceremony involving goats.

Duduzane Zuma is jailed on corruption charges. He is released on medical grounds two days later after developing a conscience.

ANN7 launches a hard-hitting investigative programme aimed at exposing the government’s achievements.

Finance minister Malusi Gigaba solves the issue of how to pay for free education by getting the Reserve Bank to print an extra billion R200 notes.

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union wins its members the right to work in a child-free environment three days a week.

Squirrel Ramaphosa becomes president and begins running South Africa like a business. Strictly monitored sick leave, a cap on expense accounts and a reduction in tax-free perks sparks a wave of resignations in the civil service. GDP quadruples in six months.

The unemployment crisis is partially alleviated when Telkom rounds up two million people from intersections around the country and puts them to work in their call centre. Time spent on hold is reduced to 25 minutes. The nation rejoices.

The rand rallies against the dollar. The dollar fights back. The euro gets involved. There are casualties.

Cape Town runs out of water. The DA launches a billboard campaign with the message, “Let them drink champagne.”

* Further afield, Russian president Vladimir Putin insists that everyone – players, coaches and supporters alike – must benefit equally from performance enhancing drugs during the Soccer World Cup. State-sponsored doping stations operated by tame Cossacks will be accessible to all.

Brexit negotiations plunge into chaos when a hotel security camera reveals British Prime Minister Theresa May to be a reptile of sorts. Tests are conducted to determine what galaxy she is from. “I told you so,” a spokesman for Northern Ireland says.

Bitcoin reaches a million dollars a coin in March but slumps to three dollars in June. The cryptocurrency recovers and soars to a billion dollars in October. By early December bottle stores are charging nineteen bitcoin for a six-pack. Psychiatric hospitals report severe overcrowding.

Kate Middleton gives birth to a three-toed sloth. The British people are beside themselves with joy and celebrations go on for weeks. The first pictures of the royal sloth sell for millions.

After suffering from prolonged exposure to an American accent, Prince Harry gets divorced.

Elon Musk’s South African genes kick in. He sends black people to the moon to mine it for precious metals.

Addiction to social media is included in a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg admits he is the Devil. Apple’s Tim Cook claims the title is his. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey smiles and winks.

New Year’s Eve

My liver huddles up against my spleen and whimpers at the mere mention of it. Come out, you coward. I know you’re in there. I need you now more than ever.

To be honest, and I think honesty is important in times like these, 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 Anno Domini system, which counts years from the death of Jesus, spread through Europe during the Middle Ages. Big deal. A lot of things spread through Europe during the Middle Ages. The Black Death, for one, yet you hardly ever see anyone walking around with a long face moaning about the good old days when the plague was all the rage, so why should we continue using a calendar wielded by organised religion as a propaganda tool in the name of … ah, forget it. Let’s stick with the liver, shall we?

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’s 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.

The liver, on the other hand, 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. What an utter 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 tonight 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. Unless you enjoy that sort of malarkey, 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 hang out of the window and say, “Good afterble consternoon.” That is a speech impeded by vodka shooters as opposed to, say, falling on your head as a baby.

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 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 pop 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.”

newyearpic

Invasion of the data snatchers

A tsunami of want is once again engulfing the country. I want to go on holiday. I want a new car. I want a divorce. Everyone wants something at this time of year. From selling bits of seaweed tied together to vaguely resemble a crucifix to putting your house on Airbnb and sleeping in the bushes, people are trying their damnedest to get whatever they can out of the season of giving.

I’m no good at handicrafts so I put my house on Airbnb. I’m sleeping in a shack in the bushes, which is a step up from the bushes themselves. I provide guests with two complementary beers and a bag of nits … not nits, nuts. They get plenty of nits from sleeping in my bed. So beers and nuts, then. Plus free wifi.

This is fine when the guests are a Baptist couple and an oddly silent child. It’s a different story when enormous sprawling Netflix and porn-addicted families occupy my home like German troops occupying Paris. But the German didn’t use up all of France’s bloody data in three nights, did they? Or smash the ornamentals in running battles between the triplets and the twins. Or offend the neighbours with their drunken carousing. Well, I suppose Holland was a bit offended.

I was under the impression I had uncapped wifi until the Visigoths checked in. Apparently not. Apparently I am approaching my limit of 20GB. Very soon I will enter SoftCap mode. It sounds rather lovely. I imagine SoftCap mode would entail a gradual slowing down of things. A blurring of the edges. A gentle hushing of harsh sounds. But, like so many weasel words in the corporate world, it means quite the opposite.

Within moments of SoftCap engaging, the Visigothlets will begin howling and flinging their iPads across the lounge. There will be at least one decapitation. Later, moans of displeasure will emanate from the master bedroom – my bedroom – as Mr and Mrs Visigoth hunch over a poorly lit video of seven naked people and a barnyard animal endlessly shuddering and buffering until they can take it no more and are forced to turn to one another and use their depleted imaginations, for better or worse.

I don’t care, quite frankly. But since I do offer wifi, at some point they, or the people who come after them, will complain. Why’s your wifi so slow? Darryl can’t watch the rugby. Yes, he can. There’s a television set in front of you. With full DStv. Ja, but he likes to livestream it while lying in bed. I swear, I’ll come over there and burn my own house to the ground. With you and Darryl inside.

It’s okay, though. I’m not going to tell guests to control their urges because my wifi is capped. I’m not one of those people who gives R10 to a beggar and tells him not to spend it on drugs. Do these tight-lipped self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong even know how much drugs cost these days?

I don’t mind topping up my data to feed their filthy addiction to the internet. I do, however, mind having to deal with Telkom. I mind on a massive scale. In theory one can do this topping up of data by visiting the mythical online Customer Portal. In reality this is a portal to the very bowels of hell itself.

After being sent from pillar to page reconfirming one’s identity, one eventually comes up against the electronic equivalent of Charon, the boatman who transports the souls of the freshly dead across the river Styx. He doesn’t recognise your username or your password. Laughing cruelly, he gives you a number to call. People think 666 is the number of the Beast. It’s not. The number is 10210.

I crossed myself, sprinkled a little holy tequila on my hands, had two Bloody Marys and plunged in. After negotiating a menu more confusing than anything you might find in a Cambodian restaurant, the music began. Deceptively upbeat for a funeral dirge. Who died? Hope. That’s who. Hope of ever getting through to someone capable of giving you a happy ending. I bought half a million rand’s worth of airtime and made myself comfortable. Telkom shouldn’t assume I’ll be the first to crack. I can stay on hold for nine years.

And moving on to that other nasty business which occurred in the enchanting suburb of Nasrec. Well done to Squirrel Ramaphosa, then. To the presidency born, albeit through a relatively painless caesarean section. For the easily confused and those with the comprehensive skills of your average grade four pupil, I use caesarean here as a literary device analogous to not only the portentous birth of Julius Caesar but also the political assassination of the Roman dictator who, in this case, is represented by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with the opportunistic quisling Brutus being David Mabuza or Ace Magashule and the conspiratorial senators the delegates from KZN. Obviously.

This human melodrama that unfolded on the boulevard of broken dreams has sparked a wildfire of polemical pontificating and there isn’t much I can add. Well, there is. I choose not to. A couple of things caught my eye, though. The ANC has resolved to press for the full decriminalisation of prostitution, for both buyers and sellers alike, and have promised a national debate on the issue. A mass debate, if you will. I apologise. I am possessed by the Christmas spirit and will in all likelihood require an exorcism when this is over.

There was talk of new mechanisms to regulate the media and a scuffle in the plenary over a proposal for the expropriation of land without compensation. It’s understandable. A lot of the delegates were going into withdrawal by then. Daytime drinking is what makes this country what it is and it was nothing short of a human rights violation to deprive those brave men and women of their traditional muti.

So there you have it. Free education, loads of land, a muzzled media and hookers for all. The ANC National Executive Committee – making South Africa great again.

As for Telkom, I’m still on hold.

How much for that Baby Jesus?

The best part of Christmas shopping is driving into one of those monstrously phallic parking garages and discovering that it ascends in tightly wound spirals. The secret lies in steadily increasing your speed without allowing the G-forces to send you crashing through the passenger window.

By the time you reach level six you should be doing at least 90km/h and your eyes should be sliding off your face. It might make you laugh, it might make you cry, it will definitely make you feel like you’ve ingested a Schedule 9 drug. On the down side, you won’t remember where you parked and it will have worn off by the time you reach the escalators.

I usually do my Christmas shopping on the 24th but the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman said she would punch a new mouth in my head if I didn’t get her a proper gift. Last year I gave her a very valuable fossilised dinosaur tooth. A few days later she was digging a trench at the bottom of the garden – it might have been a grave – when she came across a bunch of them. I told her it must be where old T-Rexes went to die fifty billion years ago. She said it looked very much like a pile of builder’s rubble. I said many archeologists had made that same mistake.

This morning she smiled at me. “Please don’t give me another piece of concrete this year.” The hair on my buttocks stood up and my sphincter slammed shut like a startled clam. The look in her eyes was enough to make a grown man soil his broeks. Luckily, I am not yet fully grown.

She said that shopping for your loved ones was meant to fill your heart with joy. I don’t know about that. All I get is angina pectoris.

She mentioned something about my licence before we left. “I have ze licence,” I said. “Ze licence to thrill.” I jiggled my hips sensuously but my pants fell down and ruined the moment. “La Senza, you idiot,” she said. It turned out to be a shop full of feather-trimmed negligees, star-spangled panties and brazen bras begging to be filled. It was like offering a starving man a rubber hamburger. I stood in the doorway, slack-jawed and drooling, my imagination running amok like a wild horse of the Camargue.

Then I had some sort of bronchial attack in a shop that reeked overpoweringly of the stuff that women put in their underwear drawer to repel their husbands. If seems to be some sort of biological agent. Nerve gas, probably.

Right there and then I decided to buy toys for everyone. When one thinks of sex, a toy is generally the next thing that comes to mind. Well, not in my case, obviously. When I think of sex, I instinctively crouch low and avoid eye contact. Sometimes I lie down and pretend to be dead. A security guard nudged me with the toe of his boot and asked if I needed help.

Outside the toy shop was a mob of elves knee-deep in fake snow. I think it was fake snow. It could just as easily have been a couple of kilos of cocaine fallen from the top floor during a scuffle between rival gangs. I stepped over the plastic picket fence and was getting down on my hands and knees for a closer look when another security guard asked what I was doing. I told him I was an elf inspector from the department of sport and recreational drugs and that he needed to give me room to do my work. He gave me the lazy eye and told me to move along.

Once inside the shop I was bitterly disappointed to see how few guns were being sold this year. When these kids grow up, how are they going to know what to do to protect themselves?

“Wake up, there’s someone in the house!”

“Relax, honey. I have my Delta Squad Megazord Power Ranger right here.”

It’s good to see that the men over at Hello Kitty are doing their bit to ensure a steady supply of girls who will grow up unafraid of vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, kettles and other cooking and cleaning accoutrements so essential to a happy marriage.

Dolls are big. Bigger than ever. And they seem to be getting smarter. I prodded one in the belly and it said, “Ridentem dicere verum quid vetat.” Apparently it is no longer politically correct to have dolls that say “Mama” and “Dada” because of the increasing number of dadas who say they’re nipping out to the shop and are never seen again. Also, the increasing number of mamas who prefer the company of other mamas and are quite happy with dada’s role being limited to that of anonymous sperm donor.

I took a shine to Mia Bambina. She promised a lot. “I sneeze. I babble. My heart beat. I drink. I cry. I snore.” I related immediately. I do all of these things and yet the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman still won’t play with me. Perhaps I should wear a pink jumpsuit to bed. Hold on. Mia Bambina comes with a stethoscope, thermometer and syringe. What the hell is wrong with this baby? Maybe she’s Mexican.

Most shocking of all was a doll I tripped over. He was lying on the floor with a tag saying R89. A real bargain in the child trafficking business. He was a white baby and he had no clothes on. Nothing. Nada. As naked as the day he was moulded. I picked him up, studied his anatomically correct willy – small, as you might expect a whitey’s willy to be – and made a few hasty notes. Mothers looked at me with narrowed eyes and shielded their young. I dumped the little nudist and moved on to the next aisle.

I thought the Bad Yellow-Eyed Woman might appreciate the ‘My Little Home’ range. It has things she’s never set eyes on before – a plastic washing machine, mop, broom, bucket. Next year I’d like see a ‘My Little Broken Home’ range that comes with a miniature crystal meth lab. Accessories will include paramedics and a social worker.

I didn’t get her the electronic kitchen set after discovering that it made Realistic Sounds. The last thing I needed was a toy that shrieked, “You’re not having another beer, are you?” or “You can also cook sometimes, you lazy pig bastard!”

‘My Little Iron’ also made Realistic Sounds. Like what? “I’ve had enough of working for these ungrateful mlungus” or “Open the safe or I’ll iron your face.”

I was distracted by row upon row of babies stacked up like prematurely born infants in cheap plastic incubators. There was Butterfly Doll with eight functions – five more than a real baby – and Kissing Baby, a favourite among Belgian paedophiles. Sippin’ Sue was a cute little thing “who lets you know when she wants more”. Yeah, she’s cute now. Wait until she grows up and starts demanding imported vodka and an iPhone 15.

Then there was New Born Baby. “Look after me,” the synthetic sprog demanded. “I can drink and use my potty.” So can I but you don’t see me lolling about in a cardboard box expecting people to pay R300 for me to do a wee. Not that I wouldn’t.

There was also some kind of contraption that could accommodate seven babies. Of course. Why have one when you can have seven? It’s a valuable lesson for any girl to learn in a country starved of people.

There was another doll that promised “27 lovable phrases – press my tummy!” Nothing happened. I felt cheated. It didn’t say a word, not even when I jumped up and down on its tummy. Things have come to a pretty pass when shop assistants order paying customers to step away from the baby or face expulsion from the store.

Barbie was back, looking more desirable than ever. Her old metrosexual buddy Ken seems to have been dumped and replaced by a limp-wristed prince who comes with the warning, “Choking Hazard – Small Parts.” I can’t imagine who, apart from Barbie, might want to put the prince’s small parts in their mouth.

There’s still no Junkie Barbie with her own cookin’ up kit or Greedy Barbie with advocate’s robes or Corrupt Barbie with her own seat in parliament. I came across a raunchy rock ‘n roll Barbie and took her out of her box for a quick inspection. A sales lady caught me looking up her skirt and threatened to call security. I explained that I was in Thailand not long ago and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Anyway, for that price I could pay a woman in the parking lot to hoik up her skirt and allow me a squizz at her frilly bits. Not that I would. I’m just saying.

Lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You genuinely have to be stoned to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison and to hell with the consequences.

There was also a talking octopus. What can it possibly have to say? I once met an octopus while snorkeling and I can honestly say that in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk I expect they would say, “Please take that pointy stick out of my head and return me to the rock pool from whence I came.” Well, the educated ones would. The more common octopi would probably squirt ink everywhere and try to strangle you with a tentacle.

It’s hard to believe that toy shops are still selling microscopes and chemistry sets. This country needs more pole dancers, not scientists, goddammit. In the old days this type of thing was sold because the state wanted to encourage an early interest in the noble art of biological and chemical weapons manufacturing. I bet Papa Basson bought little Wouter a splendid set for his fifth birthday.

I found an Ant Mine but don’t tell Malema or he’ll want to nationalise it.

The shelves are full of lies. Call it aspirational if you will, but I call it setting your kid up for a lifetime of feelings of inadequacy and failure. Here’s what I found in the toy car section: an Audi Q7, a Range Rover Sport and a Mercedes G55 AMG. I want to open a toy shop that stocks faded red Hyundais up on play-play bricks with small plastic hobos passed out in the back and dented Vauxhall station wagons with missing hubcaps and doors rusted off their hinges.

The same goes for ‘My Happy Family’, a lurid atrocity of a doll house. It comes with a double-storey home, a vintage convertible and better furniture than mine. There’s mom, dad and a little girl, all glowing with health and happiness. In my toy shop I would sell ‘My Horrid Family’ featuring a crack house covered in gang graffiti, a tattooed dad wearing a wine-stained vest and mom sporting a black eye. The kid, being an only child, would be weeping into a bowl of gruel. There would be no furniture, what with it having been repossessed and all.

I even found a battery-operated ATM machine. All it needed was a battery-operated skabenga in a balaclava blowing it up with some plastic plastic explosives. The sound effects would be awesome. First the blast, then the police sirens, then the bad guy in court being acquitted on a technicality, then the sound of him laughing all the way to the next bank.

On my way out of the mall, empty-handed and emotionally crushed, I passed a fat bearded man in a tight red suit trimmed with white fur. That’s a bit gay, I thought. He was sitting in a chair waving at small children. That didn’t seem right so I went over and asked if he was an employee of the Catholic Church. He looked at me with Bride of Chucky eyes and said he was a Father, but not that kind of Father. We shook hands, agreed on our mutual loathing of children, and went for a drink.

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