Month: August 2014

Beavers and headbutts

Last week I decided the mind was a lost cause, but the body was still in with a fighting chance. Acting on the assumption that transformation shouldn’t take more than one edition of Men’s Health, I purloined the magazine and began the metamorphisizational process. I ended up comfort eating, binge drinking and hating everyone but myself. That’s pretty much par for the course for a narcissistic misanthrope with self-destructive tendencies, so I can’t really say it worked.

Being exclusively in the company of men has always made me uneasy. Sure, they start off just wanting to chat about the rugby or compare notes on smacking their bitches up. But then they get some liquor down them and they want to either sleep with me or kill me. Or, if they’re German, both.

I think it would be beneficial for all concerned if women read men’s magazines and men read women’s magazines. We need to understand what the other gender is thinking. Get a handle on their needs. Their dreams. Their desires. Only then will we stop fighting and co-exist in blissful silence.

So I went out and bought a copy of Women’s Health. Standing in the queue, people glanced into my basket. I do it to their baskets, but I don’t judge them like they judged me. I could see their eyes labeling me. Pervert. Weirdo. Probably one of them intersex freaks.

It didn’t help that the cover shrieked, “Best. Butt. Ever.” Did the people around me seriously believe that I wanted to sculpt an A-list booty in just four moves? I thought I saw a man side-eyeing my bum. I gave him a look that under normal circumstances would have been a death stare, but now came across as a coquettish come-on. My feminine side was getting in touch with me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.


I hurried to my car, painfully aware that my hips were misbehaving, and raced off to a beachfront bar to regroup. The cover promised the advice of a Love Coach. “Stay single or settle? You decide.” That’s the first six-word feature story I’ve ever seen. Rock solid advice, too. You decide. Brilliant. That’s what I call empowerment. Nothing more to be said.

The cover also asked me if I could fit into my mother’s wedding dress. It seemed unlikely. Women who have been married for a certain length of time cannot look upon their wedding dresses without either smiling or weeping. And rarely do they pass them on to their daughters for fear that they, too, will be cursed.

Back home, I got into a scented foam bath and opened the magazine. The first thing I saw was two girls in tight Levi jeans. They seemed to be having a lot of fun without men being present. Fine with me.

I skipped ahead to the ‘Ask Women’s Health’ page. The question of the month was, “Is it okay to work out three days in a row to get in my weekly exercise?” The writer would have it that it depends on the type of exercise you’re doing. I would say it depends on other things. If you’re single, sure. Work out 50 hours a week, if you like. But if you have a boyfriend or husband (or a partner who is lesbian, bisexual, trangendered etc etc) then working out three days in a row is not going to work out. Meals will go uncooked, egos will go unstroked and genitalia will feel neglected.

Page 19 reveals that stressed women are 29 percent less likely to fall pregnant. One of the reasons women are stressed is that they know men like me are buying Women’s Health magazine to find out stuff like this.

I was astounded to discover a whole page devoted to sex. I thought there’d be a paragraph at most. Exercise apparently helps fight the libido-killing effects of antidepressants. What if you’re taking antidepressants because the idea of having sex with your husband is what’s depressing you?

A study found that women on “mood uppers” who did a 20-minute workout had double the genital arousal than when they hadn’t exercised at all. So there it is, guys. The secret is to pump ‘em full of Zoloft, Prozac or Cymbalta and make ‘em do a hundred push ups. You’ll have to beat them off with a club after that.

I discover that only ten percent of women know when is the best time to conceive each month. Seriously? Are they being raised by wolves? It’s like men not knowing that erections are caused by the pull of the moon.

“The sperm need to be inside the Fallopian tubes before the egg is released.” The only comparatively serious thing men need to know is, “You have to be inside the pub before last round is called.” I can see how it might lead to arguments among couples trying for a child.

“You released your egg yet?”

“How do I know if I’ve released my bloody egg? It’s not going to send me a text, is it?”

“I’ve got to get back to work.”

“So put your bloody sperm in my Fallopian tubes, then. Hurry up. Then take the dog for a walk.”

“It’s your turn to walk the dog.”

“Shut up and get on.”

Over the page, I discover that 59 percent of Women’s Health readers prefer shopping in warmer temperatures. The rest apparently prefer fighting their way through blizzards and ice storms. I don’t know what to say about this.

And on to The Daddy Diet. “Moms-to-be often pop prenatal frolate to protect the health of their unborn babies.” What the hell is frolate? It sounds like an optional extra at a frozen yoghurt stand. “Would you like some frolate with that, sir?” The very next sentence reads, “Now a Canadian study has found that nearly 30 percent of mouse litters sired by a father deficient in the nutrient had birth defects.” WTF? Are we mice or men?

“If a baby bump is your goal, tell your guy to aim for about 400mcg of the nutrient each day from the leafy greens, fruit and fortified cereals.” Listen, honey. If your guy worries about his intake of leafy greens, don’t be surprised when he runs off with your brother.

Then, page upon page of products. Wrinkles? Try this serum freshly squeezed from the pineal gland of a Kihansi spray toad. Dead skin? Use a peel made from algae scraped from the belly of a Vietnamese coughing crab and you’ll be sloughing like a snake in no time at all. Stinky? Daub a little essence of fruit bat on your wrists and make new friends instantly. Dry hair? Rub in a cupful of oil secreted by the rare albino killer whale. Too white for the night? Spread on a 24-hour bronzer made from the foreskins of an isolated Ethiopian tribe. Too dark for the park? Take a long, luxurious bath filled with Tippex.

I’d have to look like Elephant Man before turning to some of this stuff. Polyfiller would be cheaper and just as effective as L’Oreal Paris Nude Magique Blur Cream Instant Flawless Perfector. And as for the Black Pearl Prestige G-Mask Gravity Black Mud Mask (only R1 198!), well, I often wake up with a face covered in mud at no cost to anything but my liver. That’s why I have the skin of a 19-year-old. Tortoise.

The further I read, the more I get the impression that women worry far too much about their looks. It’s your minds we care about, girls. Ha ha. Just kidding. I know you’re not doing it for us.

Fitness seems to be important for both genders. I understand the need for men to be fit because we’re forever chasing women and on the rare occasion that we catch one, we have to do all the heavy lifting, in and out of bed. I don’t know why women need to maintain their fitness levels. They don’t even have to climb very far up the corporate ladder before hitting a glass ceiling and going home early with a headache. Maybe that’s why, under the section Get-Fit Tricks, they’re offered the “one-dumbbell solution”. It sounds like a starter husband and lasts about as long.

There’s a feature about how best to protect your heart, which, quite frankly, is ridiculous since everyone knows that only one in a thousand women has a heart.

“According to a US study, 40 percent of women rarely give their hearts a second thought.” According to a study done in my study a few seconds ago, 90 percent of women rarely give men’s hearts a second thought. Sorry. That’s the bitter lemon in my gin talking.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends cutting back on red meat. Hang on. Tim Noakes recommends we eat a lamb for breakfast, a sheep for lunch and a cow for supper. With bowls of steaming offal for dessert. It’s all so confusing.

“Light tippling may drop your risk for sudden cardiac death by 30 to 40 percent.” In South Africa, light tippling constitutes three bottles of wine, two tequila shooters and an Irish coffee.

“Just keep it to one drink or fewer per day.” Nobody who was born in this country has ever had just one drink per day. And, unless my maths is worse than I thought, less than one drink per day is roughly equivalent to no drink at all per day. You might as well kill yourself.

There are three pages on tea. I like tea. But I don’t trust it. My first wife was a tea addict. I’m not blaming tea for the collapse of the marriage, but something pushed her over the edge. If it comes down to tea or me, then, yes, I am blaming the tea.

A double page spread explains the transcendental complexities of the sell-by date. For the hard of thinking, pictures of common foods are provided together with their lifespans. Gherkins, for example, are good for up to a year. Probably less if they’ve been standing with the lid off under a tree outside Tripoli. I have fished food out of dustbins and eaten it after it was tossed out by women treating the sell-by date as if it were some kind of biblical injunction. I don’t mean dustbins in the street. I’m talking about in my home. Or their home. Whatever.

A more useful feature might have explained how a woman can tell when a man has reached his sell-by date. If he looks, smells or tastes bad, throw him away and get a fresh one.

Then, five pages on one woman’s struggle to lose six kilos in the 14-week run-up to her wedding. You wouldn’t believe the things I have lost in the same amount of time. Cars and jobs, mainly. Six kilos? Please. I want to know what she weighs after her first year of marriage. What’s that, darlin’? I can’t make out what you’re saying because your mouth is always full.


Readers are invited to learn the secret to the perfectly grilled steak. “Meat is an ideal source of muscle-building protein.” Damn straight. Nobody knows this better than the animal it’s coming off. We are told there is nothing better than meat grilled to perfection.

“On the other hand, there is nothing worse than wasting money on meat that is dried out and tough.” Yes, there is. It’s buying dried out, tough meat from a butchery in Baghdad, then getting snatched by an Islamic State terrorist and having your head cut off before you can eat it.

Finally, on page 83, we get to sex and love. How very whimsical to link the two.

Right away, we learn about the world’s first rotating couples’ massager. “They’re worn by the woman during sex …” My sphincter snapped shut. No thank you. Maybe after I’ve done a stretch in C-Max. And, yes, I do mean stretch in the worst possible way. Besides, I’m not interested in anything that comes with a difficulty rating of 4/5. That’s the same difficulty rating I give to fixing a leaking U-joint. Or, for that matter, rolling a perfect marijuana joint

We also learn how to upload our own porn videos to tasteful websites that offer videos of “real loving couples having real sex”. Share in the laughter and joy as “Wendy and Dave make love in their own bedroom with the sun streaming in from outside.” Voyeurism at it’s white-knuckled glassy-eyed best. Watching old movies of Vietnamese villages being napalmed is less repulsive.

And on to the glutes, the source of so much conflict in the world today.


From what I can make out, it’s harder to develop a good bum than it is to develop a good brain. A “strength and conditioning specialist” said the booty is like the final frontier. “The true test of a woman’s commitment to strategic eating and intelligent fitness is the quality of her glutes and hamstrings.” I don’t know what that means. I do know, however, that relationships based solely on glutes rarely last longer than an hour or two. I don’t know what the deal is with hamstrings. I don’t recall ever looking at a woman and thinking, “Hmm. Poor quality hamstrings on that one. Someone should have her put down.”

“Research indicates that a smaller waist and larger hip circumference acts as a magnet to the opposite sex across most cultures and multiple generations.” Only most cultures? I want to know more about the culture that prefers huge waists and tiny hips. And where do they find these women? Maybe they aren’t really women at all. Maybe they’re men with giant beer bellies and skinny alcoholic hips. As for appealing to multiple generations, if your boyfriend’s father, grandfather and ten-year-old brother are hitting on you because you’ve got a tight ass and childbearing hips, you’re probably hanging out with the wrong family.

Jesus. Does this magazine never end? There’s a feature that asks why so many women are struggling to concentrate. Two words. Facebook. Twitter. Luckily, there are drugs that can cure us of our addiction to social media. Call me.

Last week I wrote about Men’s Health magazine and now I have written about Women’s Health magazine. This brings to an end my contribution to the war for gender equality.

My conclusions in this comparative study will be published separately if and when I feel less drunk.

Fat is the new thin



My mother always emphasised the importance of developing the mind. “Be careful what you put in it,” she would say. From a young age, it was my second favourite organ – of course I was going to look after it.

Then the internet was invented and, over a relatively short period of time, my fit, healthy mind degenerated into little more than a grey lump of meat fly-blown with feckless trivia and irrelevant inanities. I try to read as much as I can but the rot is irreversible and contamination continues apace.

I am, therefore, giving up on the mind. Hopefully, this will be a temporary state of affairs. Once you leave the mind to its own devices, it can either lose itself or take you to places you do not wish to be. Right now, it’s just not doing enough to earn its keep. Where are the brilliant get-rich-quick ideas? Stupid, lazy mind.

My attention will forthwith be focused on the body.

Wherever I go, people are talking about Tim Noakes and the Banting diet. Noakes is either Caligula’s cousin or the next Jesus. It all depends who you speak to. One thing’s for sure, though. If the sheep and the cows and the pigs ever get together, Noakes had better double lock his doors.

I’m a firm believer in high fat food. I’m also a firm believer in food high in carbohydrates. The trick is to buy plates big enough to accommodate enormous portions of fat as well as carbs. It’s a balancing act. Carbs on one side, protein on the other and a wodge of pudding in the middle. Maybe, on a side plate, a loofah for fibre.

Noakes says it’s fine if you eat an elephant for lunch. The mistake big-boned people like Khulubuse Zuma make is that they have a slice of toast with their elephant.

Acknowledging that it would take more than a high-fat, high-carb diet to get my body back to the chunk of chiseled marble it once was, I went out and bought a copy of Men’s Health magazine. I struggled to get it out of the plastic wrapping but, after a little lie-down, I felt strong enough to start turning the pages.

Cristiano Ronaldo is on the cover. Shirtless, naturally. The photo made me wonder what it would feel like to rub baby oil on his hairless chest. Nice one, mind. I leave you alone for a minute and this is what you come up with?

Ronaldo was surrounded by shouty pledges of bigger muscles, better braais and hotter women. “Are you the next MH cover guy?” Sure. Why the hell not? I’m taller than Ronaldo. And I beat him on the scales, too. By a good 20kgs. Also, I have blue eyes and speak proper English. Squeeze me into a pair of tight denims, varnish my hair and spraypaint my teeth and I reckon I’m in with a fighting chance.

The magazine gets down to it quickly. Right off the bat, there’s a competition. You can win a smartphone, a watch, a fragrance or a black man in a checked shirt and skinny jeans. A fragrance? Don’t men wear deodorant or, at a push, aftershave? Apparently not.

“With notes of lime, green leaves and dark liquorice, this is the perfect fragrance for the guy who feels like making a statement.”

I still remember the days when men who felt like making statement would strap explosives (with notes of nitroglycerine) to their bodies. Quite frankly, I don’t know what’s worse. The day that suicide bombers start wearing a fragrance is the day I check out of here.

The smartphone has “a floating arc design that makes sure it rests comfortably in one hand”. Unlike other phones, which often take two hands and the help of a bystander to hold comfortably. I think the “floating arc” reference might be a subliminal message to the people in Cape Town who are starting to believe that the rain will never stop and someone will build a boat and they will only be able to get on it if they have the right kind of phone.

Over the page, the magazine gives voice to a question that crosses my mind every morning. “How can I give my cereal a nutritional boost?” Noakes might suggest you mix a packet of bacon into it and put it through a sieve. Then give the cereal to the dog, wrap the bacon around a block of cheese and eat it between two slices of steak. Have a sack of offal for dessert. You’ll lose weight in no time at all.

Someone called Jamie Chung says, “There’s nothing worse than a cute guy with really bad breath.” I may be wrong, but I think if you’re a cute guy with really bad breath and you’re about to behead someone because he’s not altogether sold on the Islamic State, then I think it’s probably worse.

A section called “guy food” tells me how I can punch up my brunch. No mention of magic mushrooms or hash browns made from real hashish. To their credit, they do provide instructions on how to make a proper Bloody Mary, which is nothing like the half a glass of tequila topped up with warm tomato juice I’ve been drinking all these years.

There’s a page on gardening. If you have a snail and slug problem, you’re advised to open a few cans of beer and sink them into the garden. Gastropods apparently love beer. “And when they go for a sip, they’ll slip in and drown.” Yeah! We don’t need no beer, let the motherfuckers drown! Drown, motherfuckers, drown! What a waste of beer. Wouldn’t tiny landmines be a better idea?

There’s an advert for a pill that promises to protect my entire gastrointestinal tract. Against what? If it doesn’t protect me against bullets and knives, I’m not interested. Furthermore, I do not wish to be reminded that something as vulgar as a gastrointestinal tract lurks within my temple.

What the hell is this? The Guide to Denim 2014? Hello, denim? 1984 is on the line. It wants you back. Denim jeans are fine. You wear anything else made of denim and you deserve to be hauled before the World Court on crimes against humanity.

Right. I’ve reached page ninety-something and it’s turning serious. “Get shredded! Fast!” Growing up, when me and my buddies decided to get shredded, the day wouldn’t end with us joshing in the gym showers and flicking towels at one another’s bare bottoms. It would end in hospital. Or the police cells. Or face down between a pair of obliging thighs.

Now, if you want to get shredded, you apparently have to do deeply unnatural acts like the barbell squat, the bench press and the box jump. The “instructor” for this section is Leigh Halfpenny. A bit of a girl’s name, if you ask me. He plays rugby for a living. He’s not doing this because he thinks a hot bod will help him pick up chicks. He’s doing it because if he doesn’t have a tackle-smashing torso, he may well end up in a wheelchair because a Maori madman took a chunk out of his fourth vertebra.

Us normal blokes? We just want to be fit enough to have sex without risking cardiac arrest.

Terrible things can happen in gyms. Personal trainer Tara Gadre has her own horror story that she bravely shares.

“I was in my local gym on the weekend and a guy started chatting to me while I was on an incline leg press in the middle of a set!” I only hope security got there quickly and broke his arms before he could break Tara’s concentration.

There’s a whole page devoted to the sit-up. Inexplicably, they make no mention of alcohol. Many men will recognise the words, “Why don’t you sit up?” and “Just try to sit up” and “If you don’t sit up, I’m leaving you here.”

And a picture of a grinning muscle man selling an “efficient amino acid delivery system”. I will probably go to my grave never knowing what an amino acid is or does. Don’t get me wrong. Me and acid, we go back. But I’d rather not end up in a bar next to Rictus Ronnie with him talking amino and me talking lysergic.

As I neared the end of the magazine, a headline barked, “Who’s making you fat?” I didn’t even have to read the article. There are only two possibilities. It’s either the woman who cooks for us every night or it’s the slack-jawed mouth breather at King Pie.

Personally, I think it’s the ANC. The EFF will keep eating carbs until Jacob Zuma pays back the money. The longer he prevaricates, the fatter Julius Malema will become. And one day, when the NPA once again lets our leader off the hook, Juju will walk into parliament, ram a muffin into his mouth, give a muffled cry and explode. Even the backbenchers will be picking bits of red onesie out of their hair for weeks after.






























An evil game of snakes and adders

I caught a snake on my eleventh birthday. Not one of those scary big-ass mothers that can squeeze you to death and swallow you whole. I didn’t grow up in the Amazon jungle, even though my table manners tell a different story. It was a grass snake about as long as my fibula. I kept it in an empty fish tank and would take it out and play with it when I was bored. The snake, not my fibula. That’s the kind of crazy shit Oscar might have done as a kid. Not that he had fibula. He might have had a snake. I don’t know. You’d have to ask him. Even then, he’d probably lie about it.

They’re not much fun, snakes. For a start, they lack a sense of humour. You won’t find mambas playing with a ball or a puffadder chasing something just for the hell of it. I tried to teach my grass snake a few simple tricks but we never really got past “play dead”. I eventually turned him loose. He livened up considerably at that point, then made a sound in the back of his throat and disappeared into the shrubbery, never to be seen again. I like to think he was laughing. The bastard was probably swearing at me in Parseltongue.

I am very surprised that my contact with a snake at such a young age failed to lead me into the arms of Satan. Instead, I became a journalist. There are jaded cynics who would say that’s two sides of the same coin.

Snakes, as we all know, are the devil’s handiwork. Lucifer clearly has all the creative skills of a five-year-old child who, upon being given a bag of plasticine, is able to make nothing more complicated than snakes. Fat ones, thin ones, long ones, short ones. That’s about it.

Some disagree, insisting that snakes are entitled to their place on earth. Their minds have been poisoned by the shameless propaganda shown on Animal Planet and National Geographic.

The vital task of warning society of the perils posed by these godless, legless creatures falls to pillars of society like Suzette Farmer of Ocean View. I happened upon a letter she wrote to a community paper serving the residents of the Cape peninsula.

Suzette describes Ocean View as “a beautiful community lying in a valley surrounded by mountains and the sea”. Other people, undoubtedly possessed by the devil, might describe it as a rundown coloured township surrounded by gangsters and poverty. Luckily, Suzette knows what is behind the rampant crime and drug abuse. And even better, she has the solution.

“As a religious person, I believe all these issues are because of a serpent lying in the middle of Ocean View. He moves on his belly around Ocean View and he just ended up in Atlantic Heights with two more shootings last week.”

Snatching my camera bag from beneath the comatose cat, I pushed my car out of the garage, crash-started it and headed off to Ocean View. It’s only ten minutes from where I’m staying, but I had to move fast. This was a world exclusive. Once the sun went down, the tabloid reporters would start leaving their crypts. A giant snake moving through the township leaving a trail of murder and mayhem in its wake. They’d sniff out a story like that in no time at all.

Like most ‘suburbs’ developed in line with the public-spirited Group Areas Act, Ocean View becomes increasingly labyrinthine the deeper you penetrate. It wasn’t long before I was hopelessly lost. I couldn’t see the ocean and the only view I had was of a tin shack and a pit bull on a chain. I got out and went over to a huddle of people on the corner. I was offered tik, weed, heroin and ten minutes alone with someone called Fran or Shan. It seemed excessive, what with the sun still being up and all, so I declined.

“I’m looking for a snake,” I said. “A big motherfucker.” They took a step back, muttering and shaking their heads. A man with two gold front teeth and a spider web tattooed on his neck made the sign of the cross.

“Bless you too, dude. But I really need to find that snake.” He said he was giving me directions and that if he ever had cause to give me a blessing, I should know that it would swiftly be followed by a bullet to the head.

Ten minutes later I rounded a corner and saw it. Satan’s spawn was spread out on its belly, brazen as you please, in the middle of a playground. It was huge. Apart from in the movie Anaconda, I’d never seen a snake that size.

I pulled over and, leaving the engine running, got out with my camera at the ready. I was within fifty metres of the brute when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw three kids running towards it. I shouted and waved my arms, knowing that my actions could alert the serpent to my presence. Rather it turned on me than innocent children. The city would probably want to give me some sort of award. I hoped it wouldn’t be posthumous.

The kids ignored me and I watched in horror as they leapt onto its back and began running up and down its spine. It’s not going to like that, I thought, snapping off a few frames. On the other hand, a kid thrashing about in its powerful jaws would be the money shot. But the snake didn’t react. Was it dead? I walked over and gave it a kick in the mouth. Nothing happened. The girls laughed and jumped up and down. The boy told me not to kick his snake. He was about eight. Old enough to heft a 9mm Parabellum. I apologised.

I noticed graffiti on the snake. Of course. You build a concrete snake in an area like this, there’s going to be graffiti on it before you’ve finished the tail. Bitterly disappointed, I took a few shots and asked the kids what they thought of the snake. They said they smaaked it and demanded to see the pictures I’d taken.


I went back to the car and read the rest of Suzette Farmer’s letter. Was she hallucinating? How could a concrete snake – a badly made one at that – be responsible for the general menace and squalor that pervaded the area?

“What message do we pass on to our children?” she cried. “Is it not about time to get rid of this serpent?” I felt an unseen hand run up and down my spine. I turned around. A toddler had climbed into the back of the car and was frisking me.

“Why should children associate themselves with snakes? Churches are praying for peace, but the serpent still rejoices for what’s happening in Ocean View.”

I looked across the buckled, glass-strewn tar. The snake showed no signs of rejoicing.

Reaching into her evidence bag and pulling out the Bible, Suzette Farmer proclaimed: “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.’”

That seems a bit unfair on cattle. Perhaps they were different in those early days. Perhaps the cows banded together and fought against being turned into burgers and steaks.

Suzette’s implored the city to banish the serpent and replace it with a different animal.

“Why not use one of the sea creatures for children to play on?” A great white shark, perhaps? No. Too deadly. A seahorse? Too weird. A crayfish? Ocean View is full of poachers. Everyone is sick of crayfish. Wait. I’ve got it. A jellyfish. A non-suggestive lump of concrete with a few discreet tendrils. Perfect. Fun for the whole family.

A week later, I picked up the new edition of the community paper. Suzette Farmer’s letter had struck a chord. Abdullah Kamaldien, another Ocean View loyalist, agreed that the snake should be demolished because “it bears no positive image to our children”.

“With permission from the City of Cape Town, the community – young and old – should use chisels and hammers to remove it!”

While he made no mention of burning torches, they’d certainly come in handy should the exorcism continue into the night.

Suddenly I had a new story. A lynch mob descending on the playground, baying for the blood of the concrete snake. The sound of hammers hitting chisels, smashing into the snake. The cry goes up. Get the head! The head! Kill the head and the body will die!

Once the serpent from hell has been smashed to bits, Kamaldien would like to see a more suitable feature rise from the rubble. Unlike Suzette, he makes no mention of sea creatures.

“Concrete anchors would be a better theme. Anchors symbolize stability. Swaying flotillas need stability.” Yes, I can see the progeny of Ocean View having endless hours of fun with concrete anchors. As a child, I dreamed of someone building a concrete anchor in my local park. Sadly, it was not to be. And today, more often than not, I find myself adrift, swaying along with the fickle flotilla of humankind.

Kamaldien ends his letter saying, “More suggestions are welcome regarding the replacing of the serpent”.

How about a praying mantis? Or a frog? A bat? Perhaps we should forget about anything modeled on the insect or amphibian world. After all, it’s explicitly stated in the King James Version of Leviticus something-or-other that “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination”. Reading between the lines – which is really the only way to read the Bible – I think it’s meant more as a “ye shall not eat” these things that creepeth, but there is a paragraph that says “ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them”.

I expect there is a chance of coming away fairly unclean after spending a couple of hours rubbing up against a concrete snake. As far as the other is concerned, I have seen a lot of people making themselves abominable on a Friday night with no help from any creeping thing that creepeth.

Ocean View’s socio-eco-crimi situation is replicated in townships around the country. So my message is this. Find your concrete snake, people. Find it and destroy it. If Suzette and Abdullah are right, and there is no reason to think they aren’t, we can transform this country overnight. I’d suggest you use dynamite because, let’s face it, the hammer and chisel option takes forever. And there is no time to waste.

I feel like such a fool. All along, I have been labouring under the misapprehension that bad parenting, poor policing, ineffective teaching, misdirected preaching, municipal apathy and the after-shocks of apartheid are to blame for the poverty, crime and violence wracking our townships. Meanwhile, it’s all because of goddamn concrete snakes.

Once we are finally freed from the ophidian clutches of these viperous infidels, we will celebrate with magnificent communal braais across the country.

There shall be lamb chops and scapegoats for all!




Trannies without fannies

Men don’t really know how to celebrate Women’s Day without running the risk of being called patronising or sexist. All we can do, really, is dress up as a woman and feel what it’s like to walk in their shoes for a day. Obviously I couldn’t do this on my own for fear of being set upon by hordes of unshaven brutes demanding fellatio and other mouth-watering Italian dishes.

So I called old friend Ted, who I hadn’t seen since I was let go from my previous job, and said we ought to celebrate our inner women by pretending to be them. He agreed that this was what women would want men to do on Women’s Day.

An hour later he came stomping up my driveway in a lime green chiffon cocktail dress and a pair of bloodstained army boots. I explained to him that our objective was to resemble real women and not a pair of murderous transvestites.

I picked out one of the ex-wife’s evening gowns. The bottom part swirled agreeably around my ankles but the top half clung to me like a Jehovah’s Witness. We needed a boost in the boob department or our cover would be blown. I went to get something to drink, leaving Ted browsing through what used to be the bra drawer. Women always leave bras behind. It’s a way of marking their territory. At the end, though, they leave them as a way of reminding you of what you have lost.

Unlike the male organ, women’s breasts vary in size depending on their weight, marital status and mood. “Find me a 52B,” I shouted, mixing myself a suitably girly wine spritzer with a tequila gold on the side and two beers to chase.

While Ted was developing a cleavage, I perused the internet for Women’s Day specials. I was expecting to find sites with names like Gropeon offering lavender-scented pepper spray, well-hung Malawian houseboys and coffee table books featuring lipstick lesbians in a range of tastefully lit positions.

Instead, the deal-of-the-day websites were offering designer handbags, cryolipolysis fat freeze and ultrasound cavitation (yummy!), Egyptian cotton towel sets, aromatherapy massage candles, collagen face masks, Gordon Ramsay cookware, a range of blemish-clearing devices and a portable shoe storage cabinet for only R3 600.

This is what women want on Women’s Day? I felt deflated. “Here,” said Ted, “stick these down your top.” Feeling considerably more inflated, I wiggled my fake bosom, drained my tequila and headed for the car.

“Right,” said Ted, wedging his big chiffon-coated ass into the passenger seat. “Let’s celebrate Women’s Day.”

Our first port of call was the beautician. Before going in, I fixed Ted’s wig and he fixed mine. He was a blonde, I was a redhead. Earlier, I had come across an entire drawer full of wigs. They were probably the scalps of former lovers.

Her name was Xandra, according to the name-tag on her blouse, if that’s what you call a garment so sheer you get vertigo when it comes near you. I pronounced it with a Xhosa click even though she was a very white girl. “Akshally, it’s Zandra,” she said, smiling for one-hundredth of a second.

“So you wanna wax?” she whined. “Yes please,” said Ted, “and a polish.” Ted gets his humour from Top Gear. That’s why he never gets laid. I nudged his leg to indicate that he should lower his voice by several hundred octaves. He thought I was initiating some sort of silly game that girls indulge in when they go to the beautician and I had to play along until the nudging and pinching and giggling turned into slapping and punching and swearing.

“So,” said Xandra. “Do youse want the bikini, the moustache, the landing strip, the American, the Brazilian or the Hollywood?” Ted said he wanted the Kentucky Fried Chicken but she had never heard of it so I said we’d just get our nails done instead.

She looked at my hands and shuddered. “You bite your nails?” Of course I bite my nails. How else do men keep their nails short? She said there was nothing she could do for them. The look on her face suggested there had been a death in the family.

Ted said he’d heard there was some kind of acid they offered clients. Xandra perked up and began telling him about the acid options that would rid his feet of ugly callouses. He told her he was more interested in the acid options that would rid his mind of ugly reality. She pretended to laugh and offered us a seaweed wrap which made us think of sushi so we excused ourselves and sashayed off down the road to a nearby restaurant.

Sitting on the veranda guzzling aperitifs – if double brandies and Coke qualify as aperitifs – it soon became apparent that gentlemen of no discernible breeding were giving us the venereal eye and making remarks that fluctuated between the utterly misogynistic and the abysmally moronic.

Ted began acting like a total slut. He batted his ridiculous little man eyelashes, flashed a slab of hairy thigh and did something revolting with his tongue.

“WTF?” I said to him. While continuing to flirt with what looked like a meeting of the Boeremag’s dog squad, Ted explained that he was paying the ultimate homage to women on Women’s Day. Women, he said, wielded the most incredible power. He said he could feel it pumping through his veins like molten lava. I reminded him that he wasn’t a woman and that it was most likely the Klipdrift in his veins, but he was having none of it.

He stood up, flicked his wig, fluffed his dress, puckered his scrawny lips and said: “Fuck you all, you bunch of ignorant cock-sucking losers.” Then he took my hand and we flounced right out of there.

It felt so liberating to treat men like the filth they are, without any risk of getting my head kicked in, that I may well have a sex change.

A letter to God

Dear God,

Sorry to bother you while you’re on holiday. I just felt like getting some stuff off my chest. I’m sure your in-box is stuffed with requests, complaints and demands going back hundreds of years. That’s why I’m slipping twenty bucks into the envelope. Get Jesus something nice. Tell him it was from me.

Here’s the thing. I’ve lost my cellphone charger and I was hoping you could … ha ha. Just kidding. If I’ve been bumped to the front of the line, I wouldn’t dare presume to waste your time with frivolities.

I’m in Cape Town at the moment. Love what you’ve done with the place. But the weather? What in your name were you thinking? Were you perhaps under the impression people living here would enjoy spending half the year wearing oilskins and thermal underwear? To give credit where it’s due, though, you did get it right in Durban. You couldn’t find a city with lovelier winters. Summers you apparently subcontracted out. But to Lucifer? Sure, he works fast, but he does have a bit too much of a thing for hot curries and humidity.

I’ve just driven through the Transkei and couldn’t help noticing that it could do with a bit of a touch-up. I’m not suggesting you do it yourself, obviously. If you still haven’t got around to sorting out the Middle East, you’re clearly running a bit behind schedule. Perhaps you could spare one of your lieutenants, though. What’s Noah up to these days? He was always good with his hands.

I hope I am not coming across as too much of a pain in the butt. I know what happens to rude, arrogant people. You curse them by making them very rich. What a burden to bear. Every night I pray for you not to send money my way and every day I find my prayers being answered.

Listen. There are a few people I need to mention. I have a list, but for now let me give you two names. Julius Malema and Steve Hofmeyr. I know we are all hypothetically your children, but you must have been on some kind of transcendental medication when you spawned those two pieces of work. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but if you ever find yourself short a couple of sunbeams, do us all a favour.

By the way, about that earthquake on Tuesday. Were you trying to tell us something? There are easier ways, you know. Is your email down? Can’t you speak English? Or even Zulu? Everyone seems to have an opinion on the event and, given that one in three people in this country is mentally ill, it’s hard to know what to believe. Someone said you were punishing us because we abolished the death penalty and allow gambling, abortion and homosexuality. Given your reputation in the Bible, it may well be the case. I don’t care. I was in Cape Town and felt nothing. Most people in Cape Town feel nothing at the best of times. Well, most white people, anyway. But you’re not to blame for that. Or are you?

Do you have any clout with the Chinese or Vietnamese? Probably not. But on the off-chance that you do, could you get them to stop snorting our rhinos? I’m sure they’d rather have cocaine. Perhaps you could bring the street price down a bit. And please kill Facebook.

I know the Jews are your chosen people and you’ve done very well to fit a big country like America into a small pocket like Israel, but how does your boy feel about this? I would have thought he might still have hard feelings about that nasty business a couple of thousand years ago. Then again, he was always big on forgiveness. We have people like that here, too. A lot of parents forgive the men who kill their children and say it’s what you willed. They like to think they are emulating Jesus, but they aren’t really. They’re just not very bright.

Oh, before I forget. I have something for you – a token of thanks for all the times you’ve saved my ass. It’s a copy of my book Incognito – The Memoirs of Ben Trovato. I imagine you’re quite capable of purloining your own copy, but they’re selling out fast and the publishers in this country are reluctant to reprint once they have their pound of flesh. Meet me on the beach – being omnipresent you’re unlikely to go to the wrong one – at 3pm on Tuesday and I’ll give you a signed copy.

Yours truly,






Avoiding the matriarchal monsoon

The Mother City is a terrible place for a man to be during Women’s Month. Whenever it rains, the gutters run pink with oestrogen and the bars fill up with jackbooted lesbians. And there are still three weeks to go.

Now, more than ever, problem wives and difficult girlfriends need to be isolated from the herd. Once they get wind of a movement, there is no stopping them. They will sweep through our cities like a great growling tsunami, pausing only to get their hair done before laying waste to the country’s confectionery stocks. This doesn’t bother me. Let them eat cake. But I know that once the gateau has been decimated, they will turn on us.

I had to get Brenda out of town fast, so I offered her an all-expenses paid trip up the West Coast. This is a region where women have long since won the struggle for equality. They do most of the work and bear the burden of responsibility admirably. Some of the most liberated men in South Africa can be found in these parts, sitting beneath trees gossiping and drinking like the women did before they freed themselves from the yolk of oppression.

We hadn’t even reached Melkbosstrand before Brenda began demanding to know where we were going. I told her it was a surprise. Women love surprises, yet you wouldn’t think so considering that most divorces are filed by women.

Passing Saldanha, Brenda held my last six-pack out of the window and insisted that I tell her. Faced with a hostage situation, I was left with no alternative. “Bosluisbaai,” I said, watching the beers explode in my rear-view mirror.

“Bosluisbaai is in Namibia,” Brenda barked, snatching the sole surviving Tafel from between my legs. I was outraged and called her a communist sympathiser.

“FW de Klerk,” I barked back, “sold South West Africa to the terrorists for a dozen cows, five guns and a Nobel Peace Prize and to me it was and always will be a province of this great country!”

There are few things worse in this world than driving to Bosluisbaai in a rusting Hyundai with an angry woman and no beer as company, so I turned off at Paternoster.

If you are into fishing villages full of deserted whitewashed cottages, fat unwashed policemen and motherless, quota-less fishermen with murder in their eyes, Paternoster is where you want to go.

I suggested we drive another few kilometres to Tietiesbaai. It seemed like a good place to spend Women’s Day. Brenda was less sure and made me stop alongside the first white man we came across. He told us there was nothing at Tietiesbaai. Just another broken promise in the new South Africa.

Paternoster is a self-catering town without the catering. The shop sells ice, coffee and tins of hangover food. The bottle store is an alleyway that ends with a hole in the wall. It would have taken hours to pass my order through the burglar bars, but I pressed the buzzer regardless. Then, all of a sudden, nothing happened. So I went back to the car.

After much banging on doors and shouting in fractured Afrikaans, we occupied a cottage much like the Germans occupied Paris.

Suffused with spontaneous romance, I tried to invade Brenda but she put up the French resistance so I offered to take her out in the hope that food would enhance her mood.

There is only one hotel in Paternoster. Any more and there would be trouble. I suggested a pre-dinner drink in the bar. Brenda was reluctant. “Come on,” I said, “one drink can’t hurt,” knowing very well that hospitals, mortuaries, rehabs and maintenance courts are full of people who said the same thing.

That bad old moon began rising the moment we walked into the bar. “Look at this amazing floor,” I said. Brenda looked at the stained parquet. My diversionary tactic lasted all of four seconds. Then she looked up at a ceiling decorated with women’s underwear. Bras and panties, as far as the eye could see.

Brenda was speechless just long enough for me to order her a double gin and tonic, which quenched her outrage much like petrol quenches a fire. Not that this country has any petrol.

Trying not to blow our cover altogether, I ordered a triple klip ‘n coke. The barman, a misunderstood poet trapped in the body of an insensitive oaf, happily complied. Actually, that’s not true. I could see that happily had never been a part of his emotional vocabulary. Primordial grunting, on the other hand, was right up there.

Brenda said the bar epitomised everything she found hateful in men. This wasn’t at all what I had planned. I quickly pointed out that the low-flying lingerie bore the evidence of drunken signatures, indicating that the female clientele had voluntarily parted with their unmentionables. In that case, she said, the bar epitomised everything she found hateful in women.

This wasn’t good. Now she hated men and women. I asked the barman for a shooter to calm things down. A Bob Marley was clearly out of the question. “How about a Springbok,” I said. He offered a Gemsbok instead. I told him that I was game. He didn’t get it, but we did. Over and over again.

After the shooters, Brenda passed into the eye of the storm and all was right with the world. Later, the barman made us something called a Jelly Baby, which sent Brenda plunging back into the vortex. “What if,” she said in a very loud voice, “this bar were decorated with men’s underwear?”

It was a horrible image that stayed with me right until I went outside and aborted my Jelly Baby. Then we went back to our cottage and celebrated Women’s Month by sleeping in separate beds.


7 August, 2007


Of vigilantes and jogging

I find it difficult to focus on any one particular subject this week. For that, I blame the early onset of a mid-life crisis, Vladimir Putin, Israel, Facebook, Twitter and Windhoek lager.

My weekly deadline ritual generally involves surfing in the morning, then buying the daily papers and retiring to a beachside bar to peruse the news. During this time, I hopefully come across something that inspires a thousand words. Increasingly, however, I come across things that inspire the formation of a private militia at best and emigration at worst. By the time I reach the sports pages, I am scarlet with rage and drenched in beer. My blood pressure is out of control and waiters are refusing to serve me. Those who know me keep the paramedics on speed dial.

Let me start with the police. They have searched me, chased me, fired teargas at me, hit me with batons and tossed me into their filthy cells. Not all on the same night, obviously. This is over a period of years.

When my house is broken into, my first thought isn’t to call the cops. It’s to call Paul Kersey, a man who makes his living hunting down and terminating all the scum on our streets. People have told me that he doesn’t actually exist. That he’s just a vigilante character Charles Bronson played in the Death Wish movies. I don’t believe it. He’s out there somewhere. I don’t have his number. It’s unlisted. And for good reason, too.

So. The latest from the crime-fighting front is that persons unknown broke into the Interpol offices in Pretoria and made off with a bunch of files and computers containing highly sensitive information about ongoing investigation into international and local crime syndicates. The burglars were in possession of access cards and key codes to the offices of three colonels and two captains. They had to leave early on Saturday, probably because of dinner plans, but they were back on Sunday to finish collecting the laptops, cameras and portable hard drives. They clearly knew that these high-ranking officers were unlikely to pop in for a spot of after-hours case solving. Pity Jackie Selebi isn’t still head of Interpol. He would definitely have been at work over the weekend, if only to sort Glenn Agliotti’s honorariums into bundles of fifties and hundreds.

For a bit of light relief, there’s a story about Michael, a nine-year-old boy from Gauteng who has been drinking beer most days for the last two years. When he runs out of beer, he smokes weed. I bet his parents are journalists. Stop making him watch CNN and he’ll be fine.

The papers this week are awash in studies and surveys. Journalists love this kind of thing. It means they can fill their quota of stories without leaving the office. Well, apart from sloping off to the cafeteria for a pie every hour or so.

Did you know that only 21.8% of households are “anchored well” financially? As for the rest of us, our anchors are dragging. As if we hadn’t noticed. Here’s a quote to chew on: “Real household disposable income growth is around 0%, indicating that prices of everyday goods and services are rising faster than incomes.” I don’t have a very good grasp of numbers, but I do understand 0%. Actually, I don’t. It’s a metaphysical conundrum and I want no part of it.

The same man who is confusing and scaring us with these figures – a company CEO – said that used cars were becoming more popular as people struggled to afford new ones. You know what’s even more popular than used cars? Stolen cars. These are particular popular among households that struggle to afford food.

Moving on. Residents of Cape Town’s trendy Green Point suburb are complaining. They say there’s a siren on a shipping buoy that keeps them awake at night and too many helicopters flying overhead disturbing them during the day.

“It’s worse than fucking Gaza out there,” said nobody in particular to someone who wasn’t listening. Poor bastards. I don’t know how they cope. First they get a filthy great World Cup stadium blocking their sea views, and now this? Residents have written to Cape Town’s harbour master about the noise but their complaints have “fallen on deaf ears”. He’s the harbour master, you idiots. He can probably see the buoy from his office. Of course he’s going to be deaf.

Meanwhile, researchers have found that a little light running for five to ten minutes a few times a week could add three years to your life. No thanks. When I’m a gibbering 95-year-old wreck, I don’t want to think to myself, “Thanks to that filthy jogging, I’ve got another three years of this hell.” Sometimes I walk quickly from the bedroom to the kitchen and back. That’s going to have to do.

On a happier note, a new study has found that South Africans can’t get anti-depressants down their throats fast enough. Medical aids are forking out huge amounts of money to cheer people up. Good. I’ve paid a fortune to my medical aid over the years and I’ve only claimed once, for a small operation on my Surfer’s Ear. They owe me big time and I really hope that I don’t live a long and healthy life and die in my sleep. I want my money back, even if it means suffering a series of crippling illnesses.

The report said that medical aid budgets were “under strain” as a result of claims for drugs for “rare diseases”. Sure, they might be talking about smallpox and the Black Death, but I suspect what they really mean are the 200 or so different types of cancer. Medical aids prefer to regard cancer as a “rare disease” because it gives them the chance to weasel their way out of paying for treatment.

The report – produced by a company that manages claims for 50 medical aid companies – encouraged the use of cheaper, generic medicines. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Got leukemia? Here, suck on this piece of tree bark and have a nice cup of tea. Don’t call us in the morning.

Lower down in the same story, a spokesman for the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (I get sad and anxious just knowing there’s a special group for these people) said that one in three South Africans has a mental illness. Our government comprises 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers. Work it out for yourself.

And in other news, thirty students have been selected to study pharmacy in India. The KwaZulu-Natal health department is largely footing the R20m bill. It seems only fair, then, that the province’s MEC for health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, would insist that the twelve female students be given a contraceptive implant before they leave.

The department, you see, doesn’t want to spend all this money on these girls only for them to be impregnated the moment they land in New Delhi. You know what medical students are like. Can’t keep their broeks on for longer than an hour at a time. Luckily, the 25 male students are free to add to India’s sparse population however they see fit.

On the photographic front, I was impressed with the picture of FW de Klerk sitting back and smiling while a black man washed his feet. Well done, FW. It’s not easy for a whitey to pull that kind of thing off these days – especially not one who once led a government second only to the Third Reich in its commitment to humanitarianism. Okay, so you had just stuck your feet into a tray of clay at the Cradle of Humankind heritage site. But still. You might want to wash your own feet next time. It would make you look a little more evolved.

I also liked the photo of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, at the Commonwealth Games playing what was described as “a traditional South African game”. She was pictured jumping over three cans of what looked like pilchards or maybe dog food. Apparently it’s called “Drie Blikkies”. I have never heard of it, let alone played it. Perhaps I went to the wrong school. I have, however, used the phrase “drie blikkies” on occasion, usually at the bottle store during the week before payday. The game involves knocking the tins down with a ball before restacking them and then hopping over them three times. Almost as much fun as apartheid.










Mother of all reviews

Incognito: A Breathless Read for All the Right Reasons



Writing vigorous material is not easy. And documenting a life from within a first person perspective can be a pit of snakes: what you might consider utterly fascinating about your own life might not be enough to get your reader to turn one page before soporific murkiness pulls in. Vigorous, funny, real and in the first person, Mark Verbaan’s Incognito is unputdownable.

If for the past decade or so, you looked forward to his various print media columns under his pseudonym Ben Trovato, which ruthlessly and relentlessly pulled opened the blinkers and poked into the sensibilities of South African crass stupidity and governmental mediocrity, you will completely relish this book which gives the back story of how the name and the idea of the pseudonym grew.

Admittedly, this element of the rich life Verbaan has lived, in, under, over and alongside the proverbial radar, only crops up from chapter 18, but the writing has so much wisdom and magnificent ability that it is not only a book about a pseudonym explained and set free, as it were. Or one about a columnist and sub-editor who was given short shrift by the newspapers he wrote for, or gave them the finger when he’d had enough of their petty politics. It’s not even only about a young man sailing, traipsing and gingerly wading through the poisonous contradictions and heady nuances that being young and white and articulate in a country rotten with apartheid values was like.

It’s about all of these things, but it is underpinned with such flawlessly crafted writing that you will want to eat this book from beginning to end, and will have difficulty not reading it all in one night.

Resonant with the kind of breathless pace in Jack Kerouac’s On the RoadIncognitomight remind you a little of the focus of JH Thompson’s An Unpopular War, as it offers a running commentary on life, love, loss, letting go and bewilderment in a manner that reeks with such honesty and genuineness that you will laugh – and at times cry – out loud. Never sinking into the maudlin, it’s a breathless read for all the finest reasons, but the laughs conjured up are never hollow. Cynical, yes. Obscene, certainly. Amoral, indeed. And totally laden with drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll. But as you read, the rhythm of the language is audible in your head, and it’s cast with such unselfconscious capability that it leaves you reeling. And makes you fall a little bit in love with a man who can write with such rigour.

This is a lovely book which keeps the mystique of Trovato behind his dark glasses and black Fedora intact as it celebrates Verbaan with all his flaws and graces, offering simultaneously, beautiful, brave and critical insight into the monstrous incompetence that makes our world turn.

Incognito: The Memoirs of Ben Trovato by Mark Verbaan (2014: Macmillan, Johannesburg)