Oi! Yeah, you. Australia. I’m talking to you. What’s your problem, mate? A travel advisory? Is this because we caught your cricket blokes cheating? Seems a bit harsh.
Our gummint reckons your advisory deters Australians from visiting South Africa and tarnishes our image. If anyone’s going to tarnish our image, mate, it’ll be us. You won’t beat us at that game. We’ve been working at it for years.
The advisory warns visitors to South Africa to “exercise a high degree of caution”. That’s a mistake right there. We don’t want anyone coming over here with a view to exercising. We’re laid-back and lazy and proud of it. You don’t believe me, check our GDP. You want to exercise, go to Germany.
According to Aussie rules, “This level means that there are more or bigger risks in this location than what you would typically find in a large Australian city.” Don’t make me laugh, mate. The biggest risk in any Australian city is that the pubs will shut before you can get rat-arsed.
You warn of robberies and say that “visitors to shopping malls should remain vigilant at all times”. I fear only two things when I go to the mall. Not being able to find parking is one. The fear of being jostled is another. We have a big emerging middle class and they tend to emerge all at once on a Saturday morning. You won’t get murdered or robbed, but you might get jostled.
You also said the advisory was issued because “there is a threat of terrorism in South Africa”. Ah, come on, mate. Play fair. The last terror attack we had was when Steve Hofmeyr released a new music video. Your National Security website, on the other hand, says, “Credible intelligence, assessed by our security agencies, indicates that individuals or groups continue to possess the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.”
Chuck in box jellyfish, wolf spiders, cone snails, tiger snakes, saltwater crocodiles and Russell Crowe and I’m starting to think we’re the ones who should be issuing a travel advisory. Perhaps we already do – if you don’t like it here, boet, we advise that you emigrate to Australia right away.
Moving on. Last week I was caught with my pants down in the first harbinger of Cape Town’s savage winter. I had expected to be back in Durban by now but something keeps coming up. Besides, I can’t find my pants. This happens more than you might think to men who live alone. This is because they are either recovering from a break-up or heading for a breakdown and tend to have a lot on their minds.
So I lit a fire with bits of milkwood I found lying around. Most of the bits were attached to the milkwood trees around my shack. Milkwoods love a good pruning and, by the look of them, these ones hadn’t been touched since Simon van der Stel stopped off in Kommetjie for a spot of raping and pillaging.
Anyway. Whatever other qualities it has, milkwood sucks as firewood. Or maybe my chimney’s blocked. Within moments of setting the wood on fire, the shack filled with dense smoke causing me to flee sans culottes, pantaloons or any other item protecting my delicate gentleman parts from hypothermia.
To the casual observer, not that there are any around here, the scene resembled one of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of hell. All the elements were there. Smoke, flames, naked tormented white man in a heightened state of agitation unable to reach the fridge for fear of asphyxiation. Everything but the giant blue bird sitting in an armchair swallowing a naked woman while swallows fly out of her bottom.
That this was happening on deadline made it all so much worse. I wrestled with the urge to set fire to my house and the barking dog’s house, buy a kilo of amphetamines and drive for fifty straight hours in any direction, then stop and live right there.
Then, in a moment of divine clarity, I realised this was a malignant spirit talking. Knowing that I had, through a weird set of circumstances involving fire, smoke and no pants, become possessed by the devil, or more likely one of his minor henchdemons, made it easier for me to rationalise the situation and thereby reject arson and a life on the run.
What I needed almost as much as a beer was an exorcism. I looked for a local exorcist on google but where I live, there is no salvation. We are damned. There are no priests in my village but there is a bottle store that doesn’t sell alcohol because the owner can’t afford stock. And there is no deliverance.
I wouldn’t have this problem if I lived in Rome. There are restaurants in the Campo dei Fiori that have been delivering pizzas since the Lions beat the Christians in the Colosseum Cup. As for the other thing, there are more than 400 trained exorcists in Italy alone. They do over half a million exorcisms a year.
If you suffer from demons, Ernest Simoni is the man you want on speed-dial. The 89-year-old cardinal was a big hit at the 13th annual exorcists convention in Rome this week. Seriously. It’s a thing. More than 250 exorcists from 51 countries came together to share ideas on how best to drive the devil from people whom he has possessed, or even just moved in temporarily while looking for something more permanent.
Simoni says he has come face to face with Satan hundreds of times. This says a lot for a man who has never been married. Because he lives in Albania, which is so far away that nobody even knows where it is, he can’t always make house calls. What he does do, though, is four or five exorcisms a day by phone. I imagine it’s like the reverse of telesales calls, where the person tries to plunge you into debit order hell.
Some priests criticised the cardinal’s dial-a-demon method because “the possessed person often writhes and levitates during the extraction of the devil from his or her soul”. I imagine the priest should be there to pin them down in a half-nelson and get them to submit. Given the number of exorcisms being performed, you’d think there would be more levitations on YouTube than just the one performed by Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
Simoni also performs frequent exorcisms on Albanian Muslims who want spiritual liberation from the devil because “the possessed aren’t just Catholics”. I like him, this Ernest Simoni. He doesn’t discriminate. I always thought of the devil as being a bit of a Christian, what with them believing so implicitly in his existence and all.
I wonder what the cardinal would do if he got a call from a member of the Church of Satan saying, yes, I did invite him in and I do have a pentagram tattooed on my forehead, but I’ve just become a father and need to get on with stuff that doesn’t involve sacrificing chickens on a Sunday night.
Simoni told the conference, “There was a very tall woman. It took six people to hold her down in a chair. After hours and hours of struggle, I was able to banish the evil. I cast out the demons.” I don’t know. I’ve been married twice to women who weren’t very tall at all, and I know for sure that six people would not have been able to hold them down when they were angry. They wouldn’t even have tried. They would’ve given me my money back and left. Were they full of demons? Of course they were. It’s one of the reasons I married them.
The cardinal also said that millions of people were possessed by Satan but that “when Satan hears the word of God, he is terrified”. What he seems to be saying is that Satan is a bit gay. That he doesn’t like confrontation and would rather be doing his satany stuff without anyone shouting and making a scene. I find this a bit implausible, to be honest. Ever since Satan was invented, he has been portrayed as a crimson-hued, cloven-hoofed, trident-wielding beast with horns, uglier than Donald Trump but less narcissistic. I imagine that Satan, like Patricia de Lille, is not easily terrified.
The Rome convention included seminars with titles like, “Angels and Demons in Sacred Scripture and the Teachings of the Church” and “People Who Buy Dan Brown’s Books –Mad or Possessed?”
There were also panels on African witchcraft “such as the JuJu curse”. I am not making this up. Their idea of the JuJu curse is probably different to ours, though.
Participants also heard from criminologists, medical doctors and psychologists “to help exorcists discern between genuine devil possession and mental illness or even creative criminals who claim the devil made them do it”. Ah, Hansie. You’re not alone.
Speaking of evil, the convention cost R4 400 to attend and another R3 700 if you wanted simultaneous translation from Italian.
Exorcizo deo immundissimus spiritus, indeed.