Month: December 2014

Here’s to Pope Gregory

New Year’s Eve.

My liver huddles up against my spleen and whimpers at the mere mention of it. Come out, you lily-livered coward. I need you now more than ever.

To be honest, and I think honesty is important at times like these, I have felt uncomfortable about making a big deal 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 throughout 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 a 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 is prepared to suffer in relative silence. The poor could learn a thing or two from the liver. It must be said, however, that the liver is not as perfect as it likes to think. For starters, it takes its job way too seriously. The heart, on the other hand, knows how to have a bit of fun. It speeds up, slows down, murmurs to itself, does an Irish jig, stops altogether and then, just when you think you’re dead, starts up again. It is an impish organ that understands the art of comedic timing.

Simply put, the liver does not know how to have a good time. I find this odd, considering the amount of drugs, alcohol and nicotine that pass through it on an average Friday night.

Perhaps it’s not so strange. If we were to be really unkind, we’d be honest and say 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.

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 31 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 rosé 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, but, unless you enjoy that sort of thing, you should remind him that the constitution frowns on torture.

Do not attempt this if there are two of you in the car. Police are trained to spot suspicious behaviour and there is nothing more suspicious than an empty driver’s seat and someone sitting on your lap in the passenger seat.

Also what you can do is pretend to have a speech impediment. Most cops treat the disabled marginally better than they do the rest of us. But don’t lean out of the window and say, “Good afterble consternoon.” That is a speech impeded by vodka shooters as opposed to, say, blunt trauma to the head.

I used to get stopped a lot before I became a master of disguise and the cops would always ask me why my eyes were so red. “I have pterygiums, officer,” I would say, opening my eyes as big as they would go without me passing out. Cops don’t want to take your statement if they know 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. 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 length 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. That way, she won’t hurt herself when she plummets off the north face of her bar stool and the rest of the bar will happily join you in a game of Popping The Drunk.

If someone loses an eye, ask the barman for a glass of ice and stick it in there. It will be good for 24 hours. Make sure nobody drinks it.

Avoid amputations because they can be messy if you don’t have access to serviettes. A lot of people complain of severed arms or legs, but if you look closely you will often find the missing limb 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, go to the nearest restaurant and order a steak. Take your time with it. Saving someone’s life is not worth risking indigestion.

Right, that’s it. In the immortal words of Pope Gregory, “Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.”

 

The Agony and the Methylenedioxymethamphetamine

Men in white coats tell us that hangovers are caused by the excessive intake of alcohol. Funny, then, how it was men in white coats saying, “Can I bring you another?” that caused all the trouble in the first place.

They would have us believe that the first step towards avoiding a hangover lies in limiting the amount you drink. This is meaningless gibberish and does little to help the person battling to survive a hangover registering 17 on the open-ended Retchter Scale.

Your size, weight, metabolism and body chemistry all play a minor role in how much you can drink. The main factors that dictate consumption levels are financial and emotional. If you are happy and in a good mood, you may find nine beers, three tequila shooters and a double Irish coffee to be an elegant sufficiency. However, if you are feeling downhearted you could easily put away 15 beers, 10 shots, five double vodkas and fuck the Irish.

Some doctors try to tell you that hangovers are caused by dehydration. This is like saying drought is caused by rain and I, for one, will sign any petition that calls for these charlatans to be struck from the medical roll.

Dehydration is caused when the bartender ignores you because he is too busy catching bottles behind his back and flirting with all the pretty young things.

In rare cases dehydration is also caused when a girly little hormone, that is meant to tell the body to conserve water, can’t hold its liquor and passes out on the job. This results in you having to wee every few minutes. With the floodgates open, the body starts borrowing water from less important organs – like the brain. This causes the grey stuff to shrink, which goes a long way towards explaining why stupid people with small brains suffer worse hangovers than smart people with big brains.

All alcohol contains methanol. I would have thought this is a good thing since it is also the fuel used in motocross bikes, and those babies can go! The problem seems to be linked to yet another design flaw in the human body. Instead of using the methanol to accelerate the mind, the body inexplicably breaks it down into formaldehyde and formic acid. Deformed foetuses and pygmy brains are preserved in formaldehyde. Ants and bees secrete formic acid when they attack. What the hell are our bodies thinking?

Some hangover symptoms are in part due to magnesium depletion. As we all know, magnesium constitutes 2% of the Earth’s crust. So before you go drinking, take the time to step out into the garden and grab a handful of that damn fine crust. You will be glad you did. Just remember to wash your face before you walk into the bar. Not many drinkers can handle the sight of a grown man with a soil-encrusted mouth spraying bits of grass and earthworms as he shouts for another round.

A Japanese study showed that taking five grams of chlorella before drinking can prevent hangovers 96% of the time. From what I can make out, chlorella seems to be some sort of algae capable of multiplying faster than that Russian maths freak who turned down a medal and a million dollar prize after proving the Poincare conjecture which states that in three dimensions you cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it, although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a sphere. How would you like to go up in front of a crowd and explain your thinking on that one? No wonder he still lives with his mother.

If the chlorella does nothing for you, try an antioxidant called dimethylaminoethanol. If that doesn’t work, whip up a Bloody Mary and wash down a handful of methylenedioxymethamphetamine. That should cheer you up in no time at all.

Lord of the Piston Rings

Trovato-Wetbar

Now that Christmas is behind us and we have had our fill of the body and blood of Christ and no longer feel beholden to preach peace and goodwill to all and sundry, we can return to being the people we really are. Tightfisted. Churlish. Full of rage. And this is the way it should be.

What kind of a world would it be if we all walked around with blissful smiles on our happy, shiny faces, openly tolerating other people’s children and randomly patting puppies? I’ll tell you. It would be a terrible world. We would love ourselves to death and smother one another with good manners.

“After you.”

“Thank you, but no. After you.”

“No, really, I insist, after you.”

“Absolutely not. After you.”

The Polite Police would have to monitor doorways to prevent the bodies from piling up.

Meanwhile, the orcs and Uruk-hais of the hinterland have managed to turn every coastal town into Mordor-by-the-sea. Locals, too sensitive to deal with anything less refined than money, have rented out their homes for R5 000 a day and fled to parts unknown.

Smart people don’t go on holiday at this time of year. They stay inside their homes, barricade the doors and keep well away from the windows. That was my plan. Make one trip to the shops to pick up nine cases of beer, five bottles of tequila, three chickens and a block of cheese. That’s all one needs to survive the ‘festive’ season.

However, the bad yellow-eyed woman insisted I take her somewhere. I suggested the train station.

Holidays are for the damned. And by the damned, I mean people with bestial bosses who begrinchingly allow them 15 days leave a year. A cruel and inhumane system designed to keep us in chains until we’re too old and afraid to fight back.

Still and all. The word ‘holiday’ does have a beguiling ring to it, especially when it comes from the mouth of a woman. Don’t get me wrong. Terrible words can come from the mouths of women, but ‘holiday’ is not one of them.

So I’m in a village midway between Durban and Cape Town. Looking at the potholes, it’s probably in the Eastern Cape. I don’t pay much attention to borders and boundaries.

Slaloming between the 4x4s and Venter trailers on the N2, I saw a turnoff to a place called Karatara. I liked the sound of it. Karatara. It evoked images of mist-shrouded waterfalls and unicorns rampant. A place of mystery and magic. The bad yellow-eyed woman scoffed at my fantasy. She said Karatara was known for nothing more mystical than being home to the country’s largest in-bred population. Fantastic. Mutants and unicorns. Even more reason to check it out.

We went from blazing sunshine to overcast and drizzling in the space of twenty minutes. The higher we climbed, the darker it got. We followed a rusted sign down a rutted track and there, looming out of the gloom, was Karatara. This didn’t feel at all like unicorn country. The houses, not so much pre-RDP as post-apocalypse, squatted sullenly on large, overgrown plots. Now and then a lace curtain twitched, suggesting sentient beings lurked within.

Up ahead we saw a man making his way down the road. He walked as if his legs were trying something new with every step. I slowed down and told the bad yellow-eyed woman to roll down her window and enquire as to the whereabouts of the town’s saloon. As I drew level, he turned and thrust his giant misshapen head towards us. His teeth, shards of tombstones, jutted from his oversized jaw. His bulging eyes stared in opposite directions as if they wanted nothing to do with one another and he babbled in a tongue known only to himself. Spittle flew from his smashed mouth. The bad yellow-eyed woman recoiled and tried to wind her window up with such violence that the handle broke.

“Drive! For God’s sake, drive!” I like to think that the moment we were out of sight, he turned into a handsome centaur and went off to make beautiful love to a girl unicorn beneath an arc of glittering rainbows.

When we reached the village which was to be home for as long as we could tolerate the sound of jetskis, screaming children and Neil Diamond, we deemed it prudent to repair to the local bar and assess the strength of the enemy. Near us was a table of what I took to be estate agents. They were drunk and loud and speaking English, a language I was to hear less and less as the village filled up with the heavyset servants of Sauron.

It wasn’t long before they insisted we join them. I don’t know why. Perhaps they sensed we were considering buying property in the area. Over millions of years, estate agents have developed receptors as sensitive as the great white shark’s ampullae of Lorenzini. Blood and money. We all need it to survive. Sharks, though, are more charitable than estate agents in that they only charge some of us an arm and a leg for the use of their home.

I must have been Mickey Finned because I woke up 24 hours later in a strange bed with my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth with what tasted like cannabis oil. Or what I imagine cannabis oil would taste like. The bad yellow-eyed woman had an even hazier recollection of events, although her tongue seemed to be in better shape than mine.

In our weakened state, we allowed ourselves to be bullied into looking at a few “choice properties”. They’re called that because given a choice between living in one of them or killing yourself, you’d reach for the razor blades without a second thought.

Burgundy carpets? Nice try. I know red wine stains when I see them. Cheap wine, too. I can see the green poking through in patches. Then there are the lavender and puce his-and-hers bathrooms and the gold chintz curtains and lime brocade pelmets blocking the sea views. And the signed Hansie Cronje cricket bats marking the entrance to Pa se Kroeg and its murderous collection of buck heads.

“Will you be buying before you leave?” one agent demanded to know. I laughed, thinking she was joking. “Sure,” I said. “I’ve got R3-million in a plastic bag in my boot. I’ll fetch it.” She stood there waiting for me to go to my car.

Another tracked us down and banged on our hotel room at the crack of dawn wanting to know if we’d found anything yet. I was half-naked, quarter-drunk and in no mood for conversation. She only left once it became clear that staying would have put her personal safety at risk.

The sensible thing to do would be to get into the car and point its snout in the direction of home. The bad yellow-eyed woman says we can’t go yet because she doesn’t want to miss something called Snotkop performing at the Dronk Dolfyn. She’s clearly taking the wrong medication.

Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

 

How to deliver a baby

At this time of year, it’s a good idea for all of us to have some sort of First Aid training. We – and not just the government – are a disaster-prone people and you never know when you might be called upon to deliver a baby or sew someone’s face back on.

Let’s stick with babies for now.

Say a virgin walking along Durban’s beachfront unexpectedly starts giving birth to Jesus II on Christmas Day. You would want to be able to help, right? Don’t laugh. It’s not impossible to still find a virgin in Durban.

Anyway. If you do see a pregnant woman’s waters break, the first thing you need to do is panic. This is a big moment for her and the last thing she wants is for people to act nonchalant. She will probably want you to take a photograph. First make sure she is comfortable (put your shoes under her head) and then take the photograph. Do it tastefully. You have not been commissioned by Hustler.

Some people say that childbirth is the most natural thing in the world. Of course it is. What could be more natural than having a tiny human growing inside your body for months on end and then, once it has reached the size of a watermelon, squeezing through an aperture designed to accommodate nothing more robust than a cucumber?

It is inadvisable to rely too heavily on nature for a hand with the delivery. If it were such a wonderfully natural thing, you and her could share a couple of beers and chat about your favourite books while she popped it out right there in the bar.

When confronted with an emergency delivery, you will find yourself in the unique position of having a woman hoik up her skirt and open her legs without you having to beg or pay for it. Don’t make a big thing of it. However, the entire process is fairly personal so you might want to get her phone number before getting down to business. If it turns out that she doesn’t know who the father is, forget the phone number. You don’t want to end up a surrogate dad for some little bastard born on a pavement.

When it comes to the birth, follow these pointers and everything should be fine:

  • Refrain from commenting on her vagina, no matter how complimentary you mean to be.
  • Tell her to push.
  • Tell her that she has dilated by, say, half a metre. That will encourage her to push even more.
  • When you see the baby’s head appear, resist the impulse to shout, “Alien spawn!” and run away.
  • If the baby is taking its time to come out, stick your hand in there and give it a good tug.
  • If you don’t have a knife or pair of scissors, chew through the umbilical cord and tie a knot in it. Close your eyes and pretend you are on Fear Factor.
  • If the baby is not breathing, this means he has already started with his nonsense and should be reprimanded with a gentle smack.
  • He will then start crying. So will his mother. It is best that you cry, too. If a crowd has gathered, ask them to join in.
  • Wait a few minutes for the afterbirth to appear. I don’t know why it doesn’t just come out with the rest of the carnage.
  • Put the afterbirth in some sort of container. A lot of mothers like to take it home and use it as a conversation piece.
  • Give the mother gin, cigarettes, drugs – whatever you have in your pockets. She deserves it.

 

Useless gifts for dysfunctional people

The decorations in the mall seem to lack something of the Christian ethos this year. When I was growing up, you could barely move for cheerful scenes of the crucifixion and mawkish tableaus of ceramic wise men hanging around plastic mangers. Now it’s all designed to be as anodyne as possible so as not to offend the suicide bombers.

I’ve left my shopping a bit late, but Game is always a good bet at this time of year. The entrance was marked by a seething mob of people fighting to get in while a brawling mob of people fought to get out.

The idea of penetrating deep into the belly of the beast filled me with revulsion, so my plan was to buy anything that was within spitting distance of the tellers. The first gift I came across 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 to see me do a wee, do you? Not that I wouldn’t.

There was also some kind of pram-like buggy designed to 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. I got one for the brat, Clive, to encourage him to take more of an interest in matters of a heterosexual nature.

Barbie seems to have disappeared this year. She’s probably shacked up in a trailer park with Ken. The poor girl was never the same after she choked on his small parts. She’s been replaced by Steffi who seems to have higher standards but apparently likes nothing more than a nice bath (bath supplied). I stood there for a while, imagining Steffi in her little pink tub. It’s not what it sounds like. She’s six inches tall, for God’s sake. What kind of monster do you take me for?

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.

I think that’s what they said. I can’t be sure because the public address system was cranked up to supersonic levels. In Durban, you could expect to hear in-store announcements in an Indian or English accent. In Joburg, it might be Afrikaans or Darkie. But in Cape Town, there’s only one accent. Look, some of my best friends are coloured. But when it’s deep Cape Flats streamed through a treble-heavy PA system, it’s like having a circular saw slicing through your brain.

I had ingested a muscle relaxant in the parking lot and fortunately was able to deal with almost anything – even the Verimark aisle. It was like stepping into a future filled with home appliances designed by mad geniuses fed nothing but powerful hallucinogens and strong black coffee.

Talking vacuum cleaners with an incredible 22Kpa suction power! That’s enough to suck the eyeballs right out of your head. There was one that not only picks up dust mites, but also gives them in-house training so they can entertain you with tiny circuses and cabaret acts instead of freebooting on skin flakes and crawling up your nose while you’re sleeping.

I also bought a 5-in-1 male grooming set. I imagine it’s some sort of device that, once clamped to your body, shaves you, cuts your nails, brushes your teeth, cleans up your red-eye and squirts a shot of tequila down your throat.

The only thing I needed from the Glomail aisle was a giant box of Fat Attack. This is the ideal gift for the woman in your life and she will thank you in many new and interesting ways.

If you’re married to a somnambulist who drags your bed out onto the freeway while you’re asleep, I recommend the 5-in-1 sofa bed. It can survive the “massive force of two 20-ton trucks” and there’s a picture on the box that proves it. Of course, if you have a wife who weighs 20 tons, this probably isn’t the bed for you. It’s great if you live in the middle of the N2, though.

I stopped off at the girl’s toys aisle because some wives’ mothers never taught them to clean and cook and I believe it’s never too late for them to learn the basics. Brenda will appreciate the “My Little Home” range. It has everything from a plastic washing machine to a trolley fitted with a mop, broom and bucket. Next year, I’d like see a “My Little Broken Home” range where nothing works except a miniature crystal meth lab. Accessories would include paramedics and a social worker.

I didn’t get Brenda the electronic kitchen set after discovering that it makes realistic sounds. The last thing I need is a toy that shrieks, “You’re not having another beer, are you?” and “You can also cook sometimes, you lazy bastard!’

I wasn’t all that taken with the board games on offer. Games don’t really do it for me unless they involve tears and trauma. King of Cash billed itself as “the truly South African board game”. The box shows a drawing of a guy tossing money out of his convertible. The winner is the first player to buy the “Big 6 assets” – house, car, furniture, boat, audiovisual and clothing. The more companies you own, the more you make. Suitable for ages 8+. I don’t even need to say anything.

Too late, I realised I had drifted into the danger zone – the home gym department. A man with the body of a gorilla and the face of a granadilla came up to me and said, “You need help.” I was speechless with outrage. Only later did it occur to me that he might not have been trained in the use of vocal inflection when posing a question. Which is no excuse, really.

I found a shop called Dad’s Toys but it wasn’t, as one might think, filled with model aircraft and puzzles to stave off Alzheimer’s. I walked out with a crossbow, a knuckleduster, two throwing knives, a pair of nunchucks, a bulletproof vest and a riot shield. That’s Brenda taken care of.

Too weak to make it back to my car, I bought a bag of tartrazine flavoured carbohydrates and found a table outside next to a family built like bakkies who barked at each other in a harsh guttural tongue, wolfed a tray of burgers then lit up cigarettes and blew smoke over the baby in the pram. As it was, the creature barely looked human. Darwin was wrong. It’s the survival of the fattest. Maybe the dumbest.

 

 

Tips on drinking yourself to death

Although they are not always aware of it, most South African men regularly bring themselves to the point of death by drinking so much alcohol that it would induce organ failure in smaller men with more delicate constitutions. Swiss men, for instance.

However, the most serious thing that happens is that they are late for work on Monday. Over time, these men sustain varying degrees of brain damage, but since ours is a society highly tolerant of aberrant behaviour, nobody really notices.

If you have decided to drink yourself to death, first go to the video shop and take out Leaving Las Vegas. Nicholas Cage does it with style and panache. He also does it with a hooker, which is a lot more fun than doing it with a wife who keeps nagging you to stop drinking so much.

Next, go to the bottle store. You will already have seen how Cage does it. Fill your trolley with bottles of every shape, size and colour. Leave the beer. Nobody can drink themselves to death on beer. All that will happen is that you will get more and more bloated and possibly suffocate on your own gaseous emissions, which is a horrible way for anyone to die.

Go home, lock all the doors and draw the curtains. Set up the bottles so that they are within easy reach. Start with the vodka. By the fifth double, you will feel a lot less depressed. You will start thinking that maybe life really is worth living. This is just the booze talking. Ignore it and switch to brandy. After the first bottle, you may find it difficult to pour a drink without sloshing it all over the carpet. Don’t feel bad about making a mess. The main thing is to remain calm. Panic will cause your throat to close up. This will interfere with your ability to continue drinking and you will need a friend to come around and hook you up to a drip to enable you to finish the rest of the alcohol intravenously.

Drink as rapidly as you can. Don’t worry if you vomit. You won’t be around to clean it up. Depending on your size, you should be able to induce a coma after three litres of spirits. By the time anyone finds you, your brain should be in a vegetative state. Don’t be afraid that nobody will be able to tell. They will.

You will be rushed to the nearest hospital (if you are not on medical aid, you will be driven slowly to a rat-infested clinic in the next province). After a couple of weeks on life-support, a member of your family will be called on to decide on pulling the plug. If you are lucky it will be your wife.

She will ask for a few minutes alone with you. Then, when everyone has left the room, she will bend down, take you by the throat and whisper, “You low-down good for nothing drunken son of a bitch how can you leave me with unpaid bills you sorry-arsed selfish pig of a boozehound!”

By the time everyone returns, her tears will be genuine. Less honest will be her reason for taking you off life-support.

Good luck!

 

The Idiot’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays

After months of suffering the slings and arrows of corporate exploitation, millions of people are now free to do as they wish. Sure, we’ll give you a job. All you have to do is make sure you’re behind your desk by no later than 8.02am every Monday to Friday for 49 straight weeks. In return, we’ll let you off the leash for a whole three weeks. Woohoo. What a fabulous deal.

If you are among those who have chosen to live on your knees rather than die on your feet, it is vital that you make full use of your 21 days. This means no sleeping at all. Unconsciousness induced by anything other than alcohol or a sharp blow to the head is unacceptable and I urge the government to play its part.

Civil servants must be deployed to operate mobile pharmacies on the outskirts of every town. They must dispense polystyrene packs of amphetamines to needy motorists, much like fat people dispense bananas to runners in the Comrades Marathon.

My advice is that you gobble handfuls of speed at the first signs of tiring. You cannot afford to waste a moment of your leave. If you are driving from Johannesburg to Durban, you should be able to reach your hotel within two hours. Don’t worry about speed traps. With all the changing of street names, the summons will turn yellow and disintegrate long before the sheriff works out where you live.

A word of warning. Don’t be greedy. If you mix your phentermines with your dexamphetamines and then have a cup of coffee, you may be tempted to take the scenic route to Cape Town, via Egypt.

Meanwhile, hospital staff are bracing themselves for the annual outbreak of beach-related disasters.

A lot of people drown at this time of year. Nobody knows exactly how many because some of them simply vanish and their bodies are never found. In the case of white people, these are generally recorded as bona fide drownings. But if the person is from one of the poverty-stricken basket cases to the north of us, then he probably swam underwater for a bit, came up where nobody could see him and hitchhiked to Johannesburg where he is waiting tables in Rosebank by day and selling crack in Hillbrow by night.

In cases like these, police divers don’t even bother getting out of their cars. In their reports, they use the word “suspect” rather than “victim” and “disappeared” instead of “drowned”.

If you do find yourself drowning, there are two ways to catch the attention of the lifeguard on the beach. The first is to put on a blonde wig and scream in a high-pitched girly voice. Lifesavers rarely bother to rescue men unless they themselves are gay. I can’t speak for you, but I would rather drown than be dragged from the surf by a raving queen in a little red Speedo who then gives me mouth-to-mouth in front of a rowdy crowd shouting things like, “Get in there! Slip him some tongue!”

The second is to raise your right arm high enough for him to see the R200 note in your hand. When he swims out to you, he is going to want to slap you around a bit. This is what lifesavers do to punish bathers for distracting them from flirting with underage farm girls. The slapping will make you hysterical. To calm you down, he will then punch or even head butt you. It is important to remember that the Marquis of Queensbury rules do not apply on the high seas. Retaliate by gouging his eyes, pulling his hair and biting his face. Fight like a girl, if you have to. Nobody can see you out there.

Adrenalin will course through your body and you will begin to get the upper hand. Your assailant’s resolve will weaken and he will try to get away from you. Go after him. When you get within striking distance, dive down and swim underwater. He will turn around and think that you have drowned. Bite bite him hard in the fleshy part of his leg. He will believe a shark is attacking him and he will pass out with fright. Flip over on to your back and drag his body on top of yours. Use one arm to hold his head above water. Paddle backwards with your free arm. If he regains consciousness, tighten your grip and cut off his oxygen supply. It is not essential, but you may want to remove his Speedo before you get to the beach. By the time you hit the sand, a crowd will have gathered. If there are news cameras on the scene, pretend to give him mouth-to-mouth. Make sure the reporters get your name right and then leave the area the moment his eyes open.

My mother always told me not to go swimming right after a meal. When we went to the beach for a picnic, she would force-feed me giant ham and cheese rolls. I was the only kid on the beach who had to sit under the umbrella and digest his food while everyone else was in the water. I had no idea what was going on in my stomach. Nothing, as far as I could tell. But my mother knew. She could hear my salivary enzymes breaking down the roll. She knew when a mouthful would enter my oesophagus and how long it would take for peristalsis to force it down into my stomach. She knew precisely how much gastric acid was needed to convert my roll into chyme and exactly when it would enter my duodenum, jejunum and ileum. She could feel the moment the inner wall of my small intestine began secreting bile and pancreatic enzymes and she knew when my large intestine had begun removing water and electrolytes from the little that remained of my lunch.

She also knew the names of the Latin-speaking bacteria that came out to help. “Bacteroides, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella,” she would whisper under her breath, a faraway look in her eyes. Then up, up into the ascending colon went my roll. There was no stopping it now. It sped across my transverse colon and then, with barely a pause, rocketed down my descending colon and through my sigmoid colon. At this point, my mother’s breath would get heavy and ragged. It was as if it were she and not the roll that was on this exhilarating roller coaster ride through my abdomen. Then, sweating and trembling, she would cry out and fall back on her towel. Squeezed of everything good, my lunch had finally made it to my rectum. This was the moment when my mother would say, “You need to go to the toilet. Then you can swim.” My father would say, “Sharks feed at dusk. You can swim another day.”

Since then, the human body has evolved. When the children of today eat, the food proceeds directly from their mouths to their bums. This means that your kids can eat and swim immediately afterwards. Hell, let them eat in the water if they want to. Pack a floating lunch. They will be fine.

You may also safely ignore the fundamentalists who go around warning people not to drink and swim. I have never heard such nonsense. What are you going to do? Lose control on the backstroke and sideswipe a buoy? Burst a water-wing and roll? Have a head-on collision with a jellyfish? The ocean is by far the safest place in which to drink. For a start, it is impossible to fall over. That means no more inexplicable cuts and bruises the next day. There are no roadblocks to ruin your life. No chance of irresponsible sex with someone whose name you can’t remember. The only problem I ever encountered while drinking and swimming was my beer getting diluted with seawater.

Apart from sharks and the Congolese man selling beaded flowers, the thing next most likely to ruin your day at the beach is the bluebottle. This little scoundrel is also known as the Portuguese Man o’ War, although we are no longer allowed to call them that because the Portuguese say it portrays them as an excitable people who are always up for a fight. I thought that was the whole point of being Portuguese.

The only thing I remember about bluebottles from Mr Phipps’ biology class was that they are hermaphrodites and that reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, a type of polyp. By the end of the year, I was convinced that Mr Phipps himself was a type of polyp, such was his questionable fascination with anything remotely connected to the process of reproduction.

The tentacles of the bluebottle trail through the water with the intention of snaring plankton and small crustaceans. Whenever I go into the sea, they trail through my baggies with the intention of snaring my testicles. Growing up in Durban, I was stung so many times that my friends began calling me Welt Boy. Even when the ocean was seemingly free of bluebottles I would end up running from the surf, one hand scrabbling inside my shorts, the other clawing at my face.

One of the first times I was stung, a friend said the best way to make the pain go away was to wee on the affected area. Since I had been stung on my back, he volunteered to help out. Our friendship was never the same after that. Later, after leaving school, I heard that he had joined the priesthood. As I grew up, I heard more and more about people weeing on each other without even having been stung by bluebottles. As far as I could tell, they hadn’t even been near the beach. I found it all rather disturbing.

 

 

Of holidays past

I can’t remember who came up with the idea, but it was in the middle of one of those warm family moments when everybody is fighting over the last of the crumpets and tequila and someone shouted, “Let’s go camping!”

About 72 hours later, when the monsoon swept in and the mood was sullen and ugly, everyone except me agreed it had been my idea.

Camping as a bonding activity is heavily overrated. It almost always leads to excessive drinking, embarrassing confessions, outraged denials and, ultimately, fistfights, hair pulling and an unsportsmanlike gouging of eyes.

My parents started taking me on camping trips when I was little more than a foetus. As soon as I was old enough to get a word in, I asked them, “Why are you doing this to me?” They would look at each other and say, “Ah, cute. He’s talking.” This hardly boosted the confidence of a nine-year-old.

Leaving Durban on any kind of trip is never easy. It is impossible to get away early because the first hour after waking is spent yawning, the second hour is spent sponging sweat from your face, the third hour is spent handing bananas to monkeys dangling from the burglar bars and the fourth is spent scratching mosquito bites and crotches which aren’t necessarily always your own.

Move too quickly in Durban and you run the risk of cardiac arrest. Or worse, being mistaken for someone from Joburg.

Going camping as a kid, my parents would shout at me to hurry up because we were leaving in five minutes. I would then spend anything up to three days waiting for them in the car.

This time it was different. I lay in bed until I heard my father hooting and shouting, then I gave it another two hours and got up. Brenda was already dressed and waiting. She prefers to get out of bed before I wake up. I once pointed out to her that this wasn’t doing our sex life any favours and she said, “Yes, it is.”

Four hours behind schedule, my parents were anxious to get on the road. They were sitting in their enormous white trash motorhome, my father revving the engine, my mother looking for fleas on a Maltese poodle on her lap. The dog is called something like Shpleedle, but I can’t swear to it because its name is only ever spoken in an incomprehensible, high-pitched baby-talk voice.

Brenda and my irrevocably gormless offspring, Clive, were waiting in the Land Rover that my father has offered to sell to me for a suspiciously low price. I am beginning to fear this National Front thug of a car constitutes the bulk of my inheritance.

The plan, if you could even call it that, was to drift down the South Coast and meander along the Wild Coast. Brenda was far from convinced that the Transkei was the right place for meandering, but I assured her it was perfectly safe now that it was called the Eastern Cape.

“Don’t we all feel a lot more secure driving down Broadway now that it’s called Swapo Avenue?” I said, patting Brenda on the knee. “Well, this is the same thing.”

Drifting down the South Coast is one thing; contending with Margate is another. This malignant tumour of a town makes ‘holiday’ sound like a dirty word and the place is best negotiated with eyes tightly shut. Don’t worry if you hit something. It can only improve the aesthetics.

Port Edward finally hove into view, dirty, dusty and full of Mexicans trying to sneak across the border.

“Those aren’t Mexicans,” said Brenda, winding up her window. “Those are Xhosas.”

Clive started sobbing in the back, begging me to turn back before we were all murdered in our beds. I took the whelp by the jugular and reminded him that we hadn’t even found a bed yet. Besides, I said, now is the time of the Zulu. The Xhosa is done.

The brat began babbling about no-one knowing who was in charge because the legislature kept batting the course of history back and forth as if it were a cheap plastic volleyball, forcing me to slap him sharply upside the head. Rum and guava juice aside, there is nothing worse than a badly mixed metaphor.

“Now is the time to deploy the warriors in a pincer movement and strike while the nomads are weak like chickens!” I shouted, swerving for a goat.

Brenda said we should rather go to the Spar and get something for the braai. Coming from a long line of European vegetable sellers, I nodded meekly and took a sharp left.

Later we joined up with the elders at a campsite on the banks of the Umtamvuna River which, not too long ago, was under 20m of flood water. Swatting at mosquitoes the size of footballs, I told a passing kid that if he hoped to live long enough to see his 10th birthday, he would surrender the paddle of the resort’s sole canoe and say not a word about it.

I hid out in the reeds drinking beer until Brenda grew tired of waiting and put up the tent on her own.

“Nice timing,” she said as I paddled back, feigning exhaustion. “I was fishing for our supper,” I said.

“Without a rod?”

“I don’t need a rod.”

“Well then, where are the fish?”

I told her that after reaching in and grabbing a giant barbel by the throat, it overpowered me and capsized the canoe, almost drowning both of us in the ensuing struggle. Brenda, Clive, my mother and my father laughed as one, so I put on my hurt face, fetched my bottle of Jose Cuervo and stalked off.

Having punished everyone by depriving them of my company, I headed back at around 3am. It transpired that while I was gone, somebody had changed the layout of the campsite and I was forced to spend the night in a caravan that smelled as if it had been abandoned by a family from the unwashed end of Ventersdorp.

Morning broke to the sound of godless heathens racing up and down on their turbo-charged jet skis. My father suggested stringing a length of fishing line across the river but nobody was prepared to take it across to the other side. Anyway, we wanted to swim and the severed heads would have attracted every flesh-eating parasite in the area.

More and more big-boned Anglophobic meatheads began arriving in their Toyota Hilux double-deluxe-overhead-cam twin-shaft V12s trailing purple glitter power boats, the sole surviving reminder of a once-glorious era of white domination.

Meanwhile, their big-breasted, bony-arsed wives and genetically challenged spawn scuttled about setting up cheap plastic umbrellas and ferreting in cooler boxes the size of Benoni as if nothing had changed since 1982.

It was time to water the camels and hit the road. Time to forge the great divide and gaze upon the glittering jewel in South Africa’s proud provincial crown.

Indeed. It was time for the Eastern Cape, that magnificent example of what can be accomplished when politicians put aside their petty rivalries and say with pride: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for me and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

Adopt the brace position

 

This must be a terribly confusing time for the children of dyslexic parents. “If you’re good, Satan might come down the chimney on Christmas Eve!” What a horrible thought. And yet he brings presents for everyone. How bad can he be? This is how Satanists are made.

Meanwhile, across this darkened land, engines are being fired up. I’m talking about car engines, not generators. The savage beasts of the hinterland are preparing for their annual migration to the coast. We sea people, on the other hand, are sharpening our braai forks and readying ourselves to repel the unvarnished hordes.

Unless, of course, you own a restaurant. In which case, you would already have laminated the menus, doubled the prices and halved the portions. Gouge and smile.

I went to a mall a couple of days ago. I was lightly drugged and heavily armed. You’d be a reckless fool to shop any other way at this time of year. The decorations were beyond contempt. Bits of shredded plastic drooped listlessly from the roof. Some fake snow that looked identical to raw cocaine but which, to the detriment of my septum, turned out to be crushed polystyrene. There wasn’t even a Satan Claus to scare the kiddies.

Malls are treacherous places to negotiate at the best of times, but now there are tables set up outside the shops selling stuff that isn’t even related to the stuff in the shops they’re in front of. It’s as if anyone is allowed to walk in off the street with a plastic table and set it up wherever they please, slap a tawdry beaded angel on it and start selling “unique homemade gifts for the whole family”.

Sir, could I interest you in this awesome post-modern sculpture of a giraffe at rest?”

That’s two pieces of driftwood glued together.”

Not at all, sir. It’s a giraffe at rest. I swear on the life of my children.”

There was a sign up in one shop that read, “The best gifts are unexpected.” In that case, none of us should bother getting anyone anything this year. You can’t get more unexpected than that.

I overheard one woman say to another, “I dunno, you know. He’s not a very materialistic person.” I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and say, “What you really mean, madam, is that he has no money. Or he’s a penny-pinching tightwad. Either way, you’re better off without him. Come with me. Let us run away to India and live in a gilded palace surrounded by peacocks and tigers and beautiful eunuchs on leashes pandering to our every whim.”

I hadn’t been in the mall for ten minutes before I felt a pressing need to drink. I would have had better luck finding a bar in a mosque in Saudi Arabia. Had I instead felt a pressing need to buy a pair of water wings, a 700-inch television, a tin of butter beans, a rubber chicken or a can of pepper spray, I would have been sorted.

Men might be less reluctant to go to the mall if they knew there was a place where they could get quietly cut while someone else did the shopping. And by someone else I mean women, but I can’t say that because it’s gender stereotyping and the hairy-legged lentil-eaters would demand nothing less than my scrotum in compensation.

Toyshops always look as if they might sell beer in a room round the back. It makes sense. Toys are fun. Drinking is fun. I can’t imagine a more fun place than a toyshop that sells beer. Children already behave as if they are drunk so they wouldn’t notice a thing.

So I went into a toyshop and walked to the back and began tapping at the wall to see if there was a secret door leading to the bar. One of the sections sounded hollow so I banged on it. Lo, it opened.

One Tafel lager, please,” I said. A woman with a face that would have scared the Gorgon stared me down. “This is the secret portal to the bar, is it not?” Apparently it was the door to the stockroom.

Since I was there, I thought I’d take a look around. Lego seems big this year. When I was a child, the options were limited. You could build a small red house with a green roof and a yellow door. Today, you could build a life-sized replica of Nkandla for a fraction of the cost. In fact, this country wouldn’t have a housing backlog if Lego were in charge of the ministry of human settlements.

Something called a Belch & Barf Power Dragon caught my eye. I liked it. It reminded me of me on a Friday night, except this one came with a Rolling Flame Attack. If I had this fantastic feature, nobody would ever again reprimand me for coming home at an hour ill befitting a man of my age.

I also liked the Airbus A380 with detachable wings. Perhaps for the child who enjoys living dangerously by pretending to fly over a disputed territory within missile range of Russian airspace. There’s nothing like realistic debris to crank up the fun. The box says, “Humane design for children.” And, “The more you play with me, the happier I will be.” I’ve tried that line before. It doesn’t work.

In the weapons section, there’s a die cast metal 8-shot revolver for R139. What a rip-off. I can get a 9mm Parabellum on the Cape Flats for less. Almost new. One careless owner. Slight damage to the serial number.

For the boy (or girl) who dreams of one day going to war, there’s a section devoted to military hardware and personnel. Since it’s all made in China, you’d think the Red Army would feature prominently. Inexplicably, it’s all Navy Seals and Special Forces from America. The soldiers are very lifelike and their intelligence-gathering capabilities are quite likely on a par with the real troops who keep rescuing hostages by getting them killed.

Listen, buddy. Thanks to us, you are no longer being held by Yemeni terrorists.”

Yes, but I’m also dead.”

Oh, I see. You want your freedom and your life. Next time we won’t bother.”

Indeed. There’s no pleasing some people. I suspect that’s why you get parents who bring their children into toyshops two weeks before Christmas. Mom is terrified of being woken on Boxing Day by the little psycho bastard stabbing at her jugular with the sharp end of a Power Ranger because he didn’t get the Ninja Turtle he asked for.

But the kids just don’t get it. Why are you asking me if I want the dune buggy or the radio controlled tarantula? Obviously I want both. What? I must point to just one? Fine. I’ll take the spider. What do mean I can’t have it now? Why the hell not? What’s that you’re writing down? Who do you work for? Fuck this. I want new parents.

Since they’re barely old enough to articulate the need to poo, they register their protest by dropping to the floor and thrashing about and screaming as if a sniper got them in the leg.

I moved to another aisle and found a self-service gas station with a grinning white boy operating the pump. There was also a cash register with a white girl behind it. These are not things you see every day, but when you do, you’ll know the country is going down the tubes. Or headed for greater things. I can’t tell any more.

Disney, Barbie and Dream Dazzlers are going head to head on a range of, well, heads. Styling heads, they’re called. Dolls that have been amputated below the shoulders. Each comes with 14 implements one can use to style the hair on one’s disembodied head. In fifteen years from now, the unemployed will consist largely of women with perfectly coiffured hair standing at the robots waving curling tongs at us in a vaguely threatening manner.

I overheard one not-black kid say to his mother, “But it’s only R399!” Spoilt brat. I once got a peach pip and two chicken feathers for Christmas and I was so grateful that my mother allowed me to invite an imaginary friend over to play with the piece of bark I got for my birthday.

My Friend Cayla is blonde, blue-eyed and costs R999. “The smartest friend you’ll ever have!” says the box. Given our education system, there’s no reason not to believe it.

All the baby dolls except one were white. The black doll was called a Waterbaby. Obviously the instructions weren’t the same as those for white babies. No dummies or bottles for this little imp. “Fill baby with warm water.” Are all black people full of warm water? I think the men might be, judging by the numbers lining the freeways with their willies out. We should call them weeways.

Eventually I was asked to leave the toyshop. Not because I got caught looking up Barbie’s dress to see if she wore underwear. I had simply overstayed my welcome.

The rest of the mall was full of people with unhappy mouths, empty eyes and all the sartorial flair of your average pig farmer. Aware that their shopping experience might include being stabbed or shot, nobody puts in any effort when they go to the mall. Why risk the good clothes? Blood is damnably hard to get out. Let’s all dress like factory workers from Uzbekistan and to hell with it.

The very old seem to be allowed out at this time of year in greater numbers than usual. They have a lot of questions about stuff that doesn’t concern them.

But what does it do?”

It’s a dongle, madam.”

A what?

A DONGLE! It connects you to the Internet.”

Internet?”

At this time of year, it’s quite acceptable to elbow aside the elderly and infirm. Some of them probably still enjoy a bit of the rough stuff.

In the meantime, I’m taking up a defensive position at the bottom of my garden. I’ll be armed with a crossbow and a cooler box full of beer.

Park in my driveway. Go on. I dare you.

Leave your carbon footprint on Eskom’s dumb ass

Operating under cover of darkness, thanks to those godless incompetents at Eskom, I knocked over the Weber after staging a one-man protest braai. The bad yellow-eyed woman woke me up several hours later. She was shouting at me about the carpet. I thought I was back in Angola and brought her down with a textbook scissor kick. Okay, that part isn’t exactly true. I pulled the duvet over my head and lay there whimpering.

She reached in and took me by the ears, dragging my head within striking distance. She pointed my face at the carpet. I thought she was going to rub my nose in it, like you do with a naughty puppy.

“What the hell is that?” she barked.

“I can’t see anything,” I said. Being half-blind with alcohol poisoning I could barely see the floor, let alone what was on it. That was when she rubbed my nose in it. It came up black.

“Do the rest of me,” I said. “I’ll qualify for a government tender in no time at all.”

She demanded to know why I had tracked soot across the carpet. “It wasn’t me,” I said. She got me into a half nelson and gave me a misguided tour of the house. The tracks led from my side of the bed to the fridge and then to the overturned braai. The tracks between the fridge and the braai looked like the aftermath of the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.

Later that evening a friend came around and made unhelpful jokes about my carbon footprint. Once everyone except the bad yellow-eyed woman and I had stopped laughing, he put on his serious face and started talking about climate change. It’s this kind of conversation that turns normal people into narcoleptics and I tried to change the subject but he was having none of it.

“Did you know,” he said, causing me to yawn so violently that I almost dislocated my jaw, “that Gisele Bundchen is the UN’s advocate for environmental awareness?” That stopped me in my tracks. The same Gisele who had scorching monkey sex with Leonardo DiCaprio for three steamy years? This Brazilian babe is way hotter than global warming could ever be. She would have exploded by now if she didn’t have some German in her.

He said we were making a terrible mistake by relying so heavily on coal for our energy. I couldn’t have agreed more. My carbon footprints wouldn’t have been all over the house if someone had bothered to invent a Weber that could cook two chops and a bunch of boerewors using a picture of the sun and two wind chimes instead of 10kg of Glomor Anthracite Large Nuts that don’t even burn properly anyway.

I felt a build-up of greenhouse gases and went outside to deflate. The ozone layer looked just fine from where I stood. He followed me out and said we owed it to our children to stop burning fossil fuels. I laughed. The only things that stand a chance of surviving a planetary meltdown are Durban’s cockroaches and Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Besides, the last fossil I burnt was the spine of a baby brontosaurus dug up by my dog dug outside Langebaan. I may as well have built the fire out of wet asbestos. I won’t braai with fossils again in a hurry, I can tell you that much.

I told the assembly of two that the government must have a plan to deal with climate change, even if it does involve Blade Nzimande condemning it as white patriarchal class-related conspiracy and Julius Malema demanding that the racist climate must adapt, not us.

The bad yellow-eyed woman laughed, but on closer inspection I saw she was choking on a piece of lemon. My so-called friend began giving her the Heimlich Manoeuvre and I had to step in and separate them after it went on for too long and started appearing inappropriate.

With another filthy cold front sweeping into the Cape, I fetched some of the woman’s aerosols and sprayed the atmosphere in the hope of raising the Earth’s temperature. I don’t care if the South Pole melts. I grew up in Durban and I need to be warm.

 

Tips on cutting emissions:

  • Walk, cycle or take public transport. Carry a 9mm pistol made from compressed cannabis (R99 from GanjaGuns R Us).
  • Install energy-saving light bulbs and buy reading glasses made from twigs and shards of discarded beer bottles.
  • Place a blanket around your geyser. At night, put it to sleep by stroking its thermostat and singing to it. Anything by Cat Stevens works a treat.
  • Hang your clothes outside instead of using the dryer. Buy an eco-friendly Rottweiler to watch the line.
  • Eat genetically modified foods. This may not work if you plan on starting a family as two-headed children are known to be voracious eaters.
  • Steal other people’s stuff.