Category: Columns

Whale meat again …

“More than 120 pregnant whales were slaughtered in the latest Japanese whale hunt in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, reigniting calls for Australia to step up efforts to stop the annual killing spree. A further 114 immature whales were killed as part of Japan’s so-called “scientific” whaling program. Japan’s summer hunt stretches into Australian whale sanctuaries.” – News reports.

Here’s a column I wrote eight years ago.

JAPAN, Norway and Iceland have killed more than 30 000 great whales since 1986. And if you think that’s good news, wait until you hear this.

A new deal being negotiated behind closed doors could see a lot more whale meat on our plates come dinner time. To be honest, I haven’t sunk my teeth into a decent southern right steak since I was a child. As a special treat my mother would buy us whale meat. I remember it clearly. It came in a yellow box with a caricature of a blue whale on the front. The whale was spouting and grinning. It might even have been winking. It was the happiest whale I had ever seen. It was the only whale I had ever seen.

At some point I discovered that this tasty cetacean snack was meant as pet food. Thanks, mom.

I had no idea where the whale in my sarmies came from. I tried asking my mother the other day but she recently adopted a position of denying everything and it was hard enough getting her to acknowledge that she had a son at all. I never thought to enquire about the origins of my lunch at the time. I was just happy to have something to eat, even if it was cat food.

Then, one day, whale was no longer served in my house. I can’t remember what replaced it. Tortoise, probably. It was the end of an era. I lost 180kgs and girls stopped asking to see my blowhole.

The whaling station on the Bluff shut down in 1975 – 70 years after Jacob Egeland, the Norwegian consul in Durban, and his sidekick Johan Bryde, formed the South African Whaling Company. If you think the beachfront smells bad today, you don’t want to know what it was like when the Scandinavians were up to their elbows in sperm whale.

In their first year they harpooned 106 of the brutes. Always eager to please, a pod of whales got together off Umhlanga and voted to name themselves after Bryde, who they had grown particularly fond of as a result of his remarkably good aim. A clean head shot, every time. Whales appreciate this sort of attention to detail.

Meanwhile, a group of jersey-wearing jellyfish on the International Whaling Commission is at this very moment conniving with powerful interests who are just as comfortable with flensing knives as they are with numbered bank accounts.

For the first time since 1986, commercial whaling is poised to make a comeback and every budding Cap’n Ahab out there is dusting off his old harpoon and getting ready to sail for the Southern Ocean.

The carnage should be spectacular.

Speaking of large mammals, did you know that 50% of South African girls aged 15 to 19 are overweight and 30% obese? Boys waddle in at 29 and nine percent respectively.

Parents need to get their kids onto some kind of programme. I can recommend a good weight-loss tape. It’s called duct tape. You stick it over their big fat mouths.

28 March 2010

 

And here’s a letter I wrote to the Japanese ambassador seventeen years ago.

Dear Ambassador,

I see that one of your government officials has described Minke whales as the “cockroaches of the sea”. I could not agree more. Dirty great things cluttering up the ocean. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. Unlike land-based cockroaches, they at least don’t fly at your head when you least expect it. Getting struck in the face by an airborne Minke could ruin a good day’s fishing.

The Minke are vermin. Scum of the seas. They are forever lying there half-submerged waiting for unsuspecting yachts to come along. Many a sailor has cursed the smirking Minke while watching his boat sink. They are also far too big. Any fish that weights fifteen tons is a freak of nature. They upset the feng shui of the ocean and deserve to die.

I cannot understand why the members of the International Whaling Commission refuse to lift the ban on commercial hunting. We don’t even need them. They scoff all the shrimp and wallow about idly belching from their blowholes. And the whales are no better.

It was pure genius on the part of your government to tell the world that you are only catching Minke whales for “scientific research”. There is, after all, so much to learn from a dead whale. Made any exciting new discoveries lately.

By research, you presumably mean men in white coats inspect the meat as it is chopped into 1kg blocks and sold to fish and chip shops around Japan. Given the fact that 2500 tons of blubber are consumed in your country every year, I find it remarkable that there are so few fat Japanese. Do you feed it all to your sumo wrestlers?

As you know, whale season here in the Western Cape is around the corner. In fact, a few Southern Rights have already been spotted in False Bay. An old hand-held harpoon has been in my family for generations and I’ve been thinking of giving it a whirl. If I manage to bag a medium-sized aquatic cockroach, I can have it transported to the embassy in no time at all. What do you say to a thousand rand a ton? Translate that into yen and you’ve got a damn fine deal.

In the meantime, here’s R10 in “development aid”. Use it wisely.

Let’s stamp out the whales!

Yours truly,

Ben Trovato

 

A few days later, the First Secretary of the Embassy replied.

He basically said they’d love to chat about the subject but that “it would be somewhat difficult to do so if one’s opinion is based on inaccurate information”. I assumed he was talking about me. This was followed by a pack of lies about their “scientific research”.

And my R10 was returned. “We are, unfortunately, not in a a position to accept the attached donation as the Government of Japan does not allow any of its bodies to accept any form of donation as worthy as it may be.”

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The breast and worst of Valentine’s Day

Most women on Valentine’s Day are quite happy to wake up and find a couple of hundred rand on the bedside table. But not Brenda. Oh, no. She woke up and wanted new breasts. “No problem,” I said, getting off the floor upon which I had inexplicably spent the night. “I’ll nip out to the shop and pick some up.”

By the time I left the pub, I had completely forgotten what she wanted so I sent her a Please Call Me. “Breasts,” she snapped. “Chicken or beef?” said I. She pointed out that cows did not have breasts. “On the udder hand, Darren,” I said.

Anyway. Turns out that I had cocked it up as usual. She wanted a completely new set of human breasts and not something smothered in honey and mustard sauce and nibbled on at lunch, although why we couldn’t combine the two was beyond me.

Most women, I imagine, choose the enhancement option in matters this close to the chest. Brenda, however, wanted quite the opposite. Unheard of, where I come from. Come to think of it, given where I come from most things are unheard of. Intellectual gigantism is one of the few conditions my so-called friends don’t suffer from.

To men, the notion of a breast reduction makes about as much sense as gobbling handfuls of Chinese medicine guaranteed to make one’s willie shrink. Ever since we are born we are conditioned to believe that bigger is better – the exception being the willie department. Here, men are more than happy to cling to the unusually charitable Cosmo myth that size doesn’t matter.

The first thing boy babies see when they open their eyes is a giant breast bearing down on them like some godawful Peruvian landslide. It has a tremendous impact on their outlook on life, especially if they are expected to swallow a nipple the size of a bricklayer’s thumb.

I had a friend who claimed that he refused to be breast-fed on the grounds that his mother’s numbies were too small, so he tried to suckle the domestic worker instead. We used to call him Jungle Fever until he started dating black girls. After that, we didn’t call him at all.

I tried telling Brenda that if she really wanted a pair of smaller breasts, there was a far less permanent way of getting them. She headed me off at the pass. “You will never have a threesome for as long as we are married.” I keep a very good divorce lawyer’s number on speed dial for moments like these, but he is only due for release in 2025. By then I expect I shall be more interested in philately than philandery.

And lo, it came to pass that I found myself helping Brenda into a backless gown in the gynae ward of a city hospital. Private, naturally. Go for a boob job at a state hospital and you risk walking out with a size 36C bum.

The week before, she had gone to see a couple of plastic sturgeons. Apparently it’s like getting your car panel-beaten. You need to get at least two quotes. She wasn’t that keen on the first doctor because he specialised in labiaplasty. Can’t blame her, really. Even I think there’s something a little odd about a man who sculpts designer vaginas for a living.

Nurses aren’t what they used to be. The guzzling of ethyl alcohol, the hideous screaming, the broken bottles and the stabbings. Perhaps they weren’t nurses at all. Come to think of it, they didn’t have white clothes. Or teeth. And they were falling about on the pavement outside the hospital.

So I got Brenda into her ridiculous medical frock, all the while trying to talk her out of it. “Listen to me,” I said. “It’s not too late to run.” It’s not as if Brenda had enormous bazookas lashed to her front. Sure, they were more than a handful, but then so is she. Her breasts were fine. It’s her brain that could do with a nip and tuck.

A nurse walked in and began filling in Brenda’s chart. Judging by her questions, I thought she might have been one of the girls I saw in the street. “Where are the pain?” she asked. Brenda explained that she was about to have a breast reduction. “Dids you call a doctor?” I began giggling like a schoolgirl but saved my face by feigning stomach cramps. “Please may I have some pethidine?” I begged. Unfortunately, the nurse had absorbed just enough training to know not to hand out awesome drugs to people who were sitting in the visitor’s chair, even if they were clearly suffering from some sort of paroxysm.

Then the anaesthetist burst in, full of piss and propofol. He offered me a cursory handshake and proceeded to focus all his attention on Brenda. How very dare you, I thought. Why don’t you ask how I’m feeling? Maybe take my blood pressure? For all you know, I’m about to have a stroke. Brenda said later that he seemed nice. Yeah, right. To the bedside manner born.

I swallowed Brenda’s pre-med when she wasn’t looking and slipped out before Dr McDreamy swaggered in, flashing his scalpel and telling my wife to get her babylons out.

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A day at the races

I see the J&B Met is being run in Cape Town today, except it’s not called that any more. It’s now the Sun Met. I don’t know what happened to the whisky people.  I attended the race twice. Once in 2007 and again in 2009. Here’s what happened the first time.

 

I awoke late on Saturday and drove out to Kenilworth Race Course for the J&B Met, eventually finding parking in a side street on the outskirts of Darling.

Arriving thirsty as seven stoned camels, I made for one of the makeshift bars on the lawn in front of the grandstand. Gallons of vodka, brandy and whisky. But no beer. That’s a good idea, I thought. Pump this white trash crowd full of high-octane spirits in the middle of one of the hottest days in living memory, then rig the main race and take all their money.

Earlier, while researching the history of the race, I got sidetracked by the history of J&B and researched the whisky instead. One line stood out: “J&B Rare has a youthful personality and is drunk as a refreshing drink during the day and throughout the night.”

Being a youthful drunk with a refreshing personality, I knew right then and there that I had met my soulmate.

I ordered a double and the callow youth behind the counter tried to charge me a small fortune. I looked him in the eye and flashed my media tag. “I’m a journalist,” I said. He nodded and offered to make it a treble. “Forget it,” I said, “I need my money for gambling. Where are the rich and famous?” He pointed towards some sort of tented village on the opposite side of the track. Within minutes I was out of the refugee camp and among my people. All around me, packs of half-naked women and silver-coated freaks of no discernible gender wafted in and out of air-conditioned marquees.

I marched up to the J&B tent and flashed my tag at the security goons. They stepped aside and waved me through. This was more like it. Free food and as much whisky as any sane man could ever hope to drink. And a quiet area to place your bets without being jostled and spat on by a heavily tattooed desperado trying to win enough to feed his chronic tik habit for another week.

It was like heaven. Well, that part of heaven reserved for black people, anyway. I was the only whitey in the area. Either J&B are way ahead in the affirmative action stakes or whiskey has become this year’s umqombothi.

The company claims that its Rare blend is the most approachable whisky in the world. And they are right. I approached it time and time again, from many different angles, and not once did it turn its back on me.

Sauntering over to the bookies, I studied the stats for the eighth race. There was something called a swinger pool but my body clock told me it was way too early in the day to strip down and start hitting on another man’s wife.

I couldn’t work out if I was looking at the horse’s age, weight or odds, so I put R100 on number 18 for no real reason at all. The bookie gave me the lazy eye and said there were only 13 horses in the race. “I knew that,” I said. “What about this 50kg three-year-old? Is that the horse or the jockey?” She ignored me so I asked if she thought Wonder Lawn had a chance, but she said he had been scratched for coughing. “That’s a bit unfair,” I said. “Maybe he was just a little hoarse.” She asked me to step away from the counter.

My media tag was like a magical passport to pleasure, a free pass for freeloading. I was welcomed into every corporate tent I went up to. Except Standard Bank. I was determined to recoup some of the trumped-up charges they have inflicted on me over the years but a thug wearing an earpiece turned me away in no uncertain terms.

Seeking refuge inside a less hostile tent, a woman spotted my media tag and rushed over. “Marc Lottering is here,” she said breathlessly. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this so I didn’t. “He said he doesn’t want to be bothered by the press so we would appreciate it if you stayed away from him.” Why a joker from the Cape Flats with a drunk driving conviction and a hair-do the size of Athlone stadium would come to the races and demand to be ignored was beyond me.

How to place a bet without making a complete fool of myself was also beyond me, but I wasn’t about to leave without a substantial win on the big race.

All of it on Badger’s Gift for a win,” I said, seconds before betting closed. She was the only filly in the race and hadn’t seen a track in three months. This was a good sign. She had to be hungry for a flat-out run.

Pressed up against the rail, I couldn’t see the start. Actually, I had no idea where the start was. For all I knew it was in Milnerton.

Then I heard the commentator mention my horse. The crowd erupted and I spilled whisky all down my shirt but I didn’t care because my horse was winning and soon I would be able to buy a thousand new shirts. Badger’s Gift crossed the line so far ahead of the others that I couldn’t even see them. I dashed back to the bookie to claim my winnings but she said it only counts if the horse has a jockey.

I was appalled. The stupid cow had thrown her silk-coated homunculus and made straight for the stables for a bit of hay and a little lie-down.

If lame horses get shot, why don’t you shoot lame jockeys?” I shouted, trying to reach into the till to get my money back. I was escorted to the door and asked not to come back.

Outside in the cruel heat, the beautiful people were starting to melt and stagger. Having spent the rent and developed a lifelong addiction to whisky and gambling, I sensed it was time to leave.

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My kingdom for a Kwaai Lappies

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

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

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

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

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

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A letter to our next president

A flashback to a letter I wrote to NDZ six months ago.

BEN TROVATO – Durban Poison

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Dear President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,

I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on your election to the highest office in the land. Please do not panic or consult a sangoma. I am not back from the future. Yes, I am fully aware that the election is only in 2019, but there is no reason to think that you won’t be our next president and my name will go down in history as the first person to congratulate you.

If, for some bizarre reason you don’t win, I shall withdraw my congratulations and deny ever having written to you. I would also prefer it if you did not attempt to contact me. However, this unfortunate situation is unlikely to arise since you are blessed with the magical name of Zuma.

Marrying Jacob was the smartest thing you ever did. Well, second smartest. The smartest thing you ever did was divorce…

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Dead elephants tell no tales

US President Donald Trump is reversing an Obama-era ban on hunters importing trophies of elephants killed in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Are his sons planning another hunt? Here’s a letter I wrote to the little fuckers in 2012.

 

Hey boys!

Just wanted to congratulate you on your successful hunting trip to Zimbabwe.

Our papers have been full of pictures of you guys holding up dead leopards in a pink mist of vapourised waterbuck. You’re real heroes in these parts, let me tell you. There has been a bit of criticism, but it’s coming mainly from white bunny-hugging do-gooders who think wild animals are there to be photographed instead of destroyed like the vermin they are. Bloody liberals.

I see you managed to bag three of the Big Five. Well done! But what stopped you from going for a full house? You got the buffalo, elephant and leopard, but missed the rhino and lion. And you call yourselves Trumps? Just kidding.

I’m sure it’s not your fault. I bet the organisers of the hunt failed to tether them securely and they escaped before you could drive up and shoot them in the face.

Donald Jr., I particularly enjoyed the picture of you holding an elephant’s tail in one hand and a knife in the other. You can even see the legs of the elephant lying on the ground to prove that you got it off the animal and not from a curio shop.

I bet you also cut off its trunk and poked it through your zipper and pretended you had a giant willy. I certainly would have.

I liked the shot of you guys posing next to a crocodile strung up from a tree. It reminded me of those old pictures from your Deep South. Now that the darkies are off-limits, croc-lynching could be the next big thing in Alabama. Wanna be partners? You gun ’em down, I string ’em up.

By the way, did you know that we also have a Small Five that are tremendous fun to kill? Meerkats are my best. If you’re quick, you can run up and kick them before they bolt for cover.

Your brother, Eric, could have been waiting in an imaginary end zone to catch the flying ‘kat. Touchdown! American football, Africa style. What’s not to love?

Another of my favourites is the tortoise. Hunting tortoises is usually done when you have a hangover. I’m sure you had lots of those on your trip because the only way to survive Africa is to drink heavily while firing blindly into the night.

So what you do is set up your chair within shouting distance of a reliable servant – you don’t want to run out of Bloody Marys – and wait for a tortoise to come along.

Put your foot on his back to stop him from getting away. This is where it gets tricky. He will have retracted himself, making a clean head shot impossible.

Don’t shoot him in the shell if you plan on using him as a paper-weight. They shatter easily. Rather take a leaf out of your father’s book: cut off his lights and water and starve him out.

You said the local villagers were overjoyed at getting the meat from your hunt. And why wouldn’t they be? Leopard carpaccio garnished with a sprinkling of civet cat and drizzled with crocodile jus doesn’t appear on the menu in the Matetsi area all that often.

When I read that the hunt organisers were called Hunting Legends, I thought they were offering legends like President Robert Mugabe. Now there’s a trophy you should have on your wall.

But I suppose he would put up too much of a fight. Not that you lads aren’t bok for a fight. Far from it. A kudu is a hell of an adversary. You were just fortunate to come across one that was drugged.

To be honest, a lot of the wild animals in southern Africa are on drugs these days. They also lack any real work ethic and spend most of the day sleeping. Smelly freeloaders. No wonder we kill them.

You were also lucky to have survived shooting a tusker. Many elephants, particularly in Zimbabwe, are known to explode without warning and, even from a distance of 300 metres, you could easily have lost a leg. Or worse, had your hair messed up. Gel is hard to come by in the bush.

I’m not much of a hunter myself, but I think I know why you boys enjoy it. For a start, Eric is a girl’s name and he has a lot to prove. And your name is Donald Jr., and yet it is Eric who looks more like your father. No wonder you’re angry.

You said the money you paid for the hunt will be used to fund nature conservation in Zimbabwe. I presume by “fund nature conservation” you mean “arm Zanu-PF veterans”. That’s okay. We understand code in these parts. No names, no pack drill.

My wife, Brenda, says you’re both latent homosexuals. As my Uncle Pervy used to say, “Better latent than never.” Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that I beat her soundly for her insolence.

I must say, though, Eric, you do look pretty damn sexy with that leopard draped over your shoulders. It brings out your eyes.

And Donald Jr., seeing you straddling that dead buffalo makes doggie style seem positively Christian.

Y’all come back again!

Unknown-1Unknown

Amazing Grace

Dear Comrade Grace,

Congratulations on achieving what nobody else has been able to in 37 years – get Robert Mugabe to stand down. This is especially remarkable at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to get him to stand up.

Looking back, it might have been a tiny miscalculation on your part to get your husband to fire vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Who would’ve thought a war veteran with strong military ties would have had the army in his corner? I’m no political strategist, but it seems to me that you might have moved a little quicker with your plan. If Bob had abdicated last week and installed you as president, you could have had your defence force rounded up and jailed by now. You could have borrowed our army to imprison your army. We’re not using ours at the moment. Give our soldiers a mutton curry pie and a Coke and they’ll do anything.

I was astounded that half a dozen armoured personnel carriers could simply drive into Harare and instantly put an end to life as you know it. Is it possible that Bob himself was behind the coup-that’s-not-really-a-coup? I read somewhere that you had started beating him. I always assumed he enjoyed it. Perhaps he only said he did to keep you happy. Some husbands are like that.

When President Zuma called for calm and restraint, do you think he was talking directly to you? After the awkwardness of having South Africa captured by an overweight immigrant family from Uttar Pradesh, the last thing the region needed, as the Zimbabwean army gently eased the passage of the new national democratic project, was to have you burst from state house shrieking and swinging a nine-plug extension cable at anything that moved.

I believe Zuma is sending his state security minister, Bongani Bongo, to have a chat with Bob and the new boys. Try to get in with Bongo. He’s a good man to have on your side. His predecessor loved massages. You must have all manner of oils and unguents lying about the palace. Bob doesn’t get to look like that without lashings of intensive skin care. Roll up your sleeves and give Bongo a bit of a rub. You don’t even have to pretend to enjoy it. Talk about espionage when you’re doing it. He likes that. Slap him around a bit. We’d like that.

Apparently Zuma spoke to Bobbles this morning. He said he was fine. Or fired. Or on fire. It was a bad line. I don’t suppose his health matters much to you any longer. What a tremendous weight off your mind, let alone your hips. It couldn’t have been easy being married to a 138-year-old man. Does he still wake up in the middle of the night and order Winston Churchill to be shot?

I hear you’ve, er, gone off for a bit of a holiday. You certainly deserve a break. One minute you’re shaking your booty to a North Korean marching song on ZBC while picking out an outfit for your inauguration and the next you’re in the boot of a loyal lackey’s car racing for the Vic Falls border.

Apparently you have a farm in the south of Namibia. You’ll love it there. Okay, Keetmanshoop isn’t exactly Singapore in terms of shopping and health care, but there are a lot of bottle stores and, well, that’s about it.

Do your two gorgeous boys realise they’re going to have to get real jobs now? Poor little things. They must be devastated. Still and all. Keetmanshoop is a far healthier environment for Robert Jr and Bellarmine than, say, Chikurubi Prison. Try to interest them in sheep farming. It’s better than alcoholism. Not really, but don’t tell them that.

Anyway. Don’t let the fire go out of those crazy black eyes of yours. I’m a big fan. Not big enough for you to come and live with me, I should point out. I am partial to the mad ones, but, Grace, you’re next level and I’m just not ready for that right now.

Pamberi ne chimurenga! Pameberi ne karakul farming!

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