Category: On The Run

Breaking news!

Right, then.

Thanks to the Sunday Tribune’s decision to axe my weekly Durban Poison column – a move right up there with Decca Records’ decision not to sign The Beatles in ’62 – I have spent the last couple of weeks gathering my thought and getting my duck in a row. I have only one thought and one duck, both of which involve finding something to keep me from drifting off the freeway and down the boulevard of broken dreams.

When I posted my farewell column, many of you were outraged and threatened to cancel your subscriptions to the Tribune, destroy Independent Media and make the country ungovernable. I was deeply touched by your messages of support and even offered to read some of them to my landlord in lieu of rent. He said he’d prefer money.

Craig was one of the first to suggest a viable alternative. “Simple solution,” he wrote. “A site all of us who appreciate Ben’s work can subscribe to. He has a huge following and rightly so. I suggest a stipend a month to read his incredible wit. Whatever you think it is worth. Cheaper than the paper and it is the only thing in it worth reading. Will keep him in beer and all of us highly entertained. I hope everyone is in.”

I thought he’d be shouted down by the anarchists and the tightwads, but the idea proved more popular than I expected.

Mark said he’d “happily pay a couple of bob, maybe even a pickled egg as well”. Anthea offered a case of beer a month. Dan said “We’ll pay” and Dave said he’d be happy to “sign up to some funny shit weekly”. Jennifer said she’d pay to get her “weekly chortle/eye roll/guffaw fix” while Penny, Sandy, Pamela and Sherry all said they’d be delighted to subscribe to my online posts. Penny also said she couldn’t live without my column, so we do need to keep her wellbeing in mind.

Matthew said he’d pay to read my stuff and he’s a lawyer. It’s almost unheard of for a lawyer to offer to pay for anything. Rigid (possibly drunk) said, “You’re one of my favourite thinkers. I’d pay to read your columns. Not what they’re worth, of course, but I’d pay. Let me know how.”

So now I’m letting you know how.

You will soon notice that my blog looks different. That’s because it has grown up, left home and become a website. I started my blog in 2011 and began using it as a kind of retirement home for my writing. During that time, it has attracted 50 000 followers. That’s more than even Jesus scored in his first seven years. He has overtaken me since then, obviously.

My 657 posts have been viewed a staggering 943 500 times. I say staggering because that’s the condition I was in after writing most of them.

In the past year, my blog has been visited by people from every country in the world apart from Central African Republic, South Sudan, Western Sahara, Iran, Turkmenistan, Greenland, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and North Korea.

When I told my friend Ted that I have readers in 186 countries, he projectile snorted beer through his nose with such force that a hadeda in the neighbour’s tree was knocked from its perch. WordPress fortunately provides very detailed statistics and he was forced to withdraw his claim that my relationship with the truth made Donald Trump look honest.

In what appeared to be an attempt to make amends, he said, “You should capitalise on your brand and monetise your content.” I thought he’d had a stroke because none of that made any sense to me so I slapped him hard across the head, which is apparently what you need to do if you suspect someone is having a brain attack.

After calming down, he used simple words and diagrams to explain. I have to admit that it made sense, although I did warn him to never again call me a brand. “I am a man!” I cried, rising to my knees and attempting to strike a noble pose.

Let’s not get sidetracked.

Editors haven’t exactly been beating a path to my inbox since the Tribune released me back into the wild. In some ways, I am relieved that I haven’t been sucked right back into meeting brutal deadlines and complying with the plethora of draconian editorial restrictions that come with writing for a mainstream newspaper.

On the website you’ll find a PayFast button. Or something like that. I appreciate that not everyone will be in a position to contribute and that’s fine. But if you are, that’s even more fine. You will also be able to buy books and posters and other contraband.

You, the people, are now my new employers. Congratulations!

PS. I’m taking you all with me to my new home and you should get redirected to the new site. But if you’re not, please make a note of my new address – – and subscribe to the site.

It’s not active just yet but it should be up and running first thing Monday morning. Unless my web guy has a nervous breakdown.

Here it is again –



Psst! Wanna book?

Not many people know that I have written twelve books. I imagine even fewer care. Be that as it may. The fact remains that I have, without even really trying, built up what writers and publishers refer to as a ‘backlist’ and what writers’ wives call ‘those bloody boxes at the back of the garage’.

Some of you might even own one or two of my books. Now you have no excuse not to own all of them.

I am doing this is a public service and not because I have been told to clean out the garage.

Books will not be sent via the Post Office, unless you specifically want them in time for Christmas 2015.

Here, then, are the Dirty Dozen listed in order of their year of release. Point and click.

Thank you.

Ben Trovato

Ben Trovato Files


Stirred not Shaken

Guide to Everything


Art of Survival

Hits and Missives

On the Run

Still on the run-2

Whipping Boy 2


Hearts and mines

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, fist fights, 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.

Oops. A snippet of a Philip Larkin poem just fell into my head.

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

and add some extra, just for you.”

Anyway. Heaven forfend that dead English poets distract me.

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 my mother 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 altogether. 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.”

Bad Friday

I was in Hermanus on Friday night when I stumbled across a rapidly forming mob at the old harbour. Sensing a fight, I began pushing my way to the front.

If you come across an outbreak of hostilities between rival gangs of perlemoen poachers, there is no point in hanging about at the back. You want to be close enough to hear the crack of teeth and the splinter of bone. You want to feel that whipspray of hot blood across your face. You want your words of encouragement to be heard by the combatants.

This was, after all, Good Friday – a day in history that is soaked in violence and steeped in shame.

Not for everyone, of course. The Rosicrucians, for example, treat Good Friday just like any other day of the week. Similarly, the day has little relevance to practicing Gymnosophists. Then again, so does food and clothing. For others, like the Rastafarians, every Friday is good.

Kicking ragged urchins out of my way and elbowing the elderly and infirm aside, I made it to a small clearing down by the water’s edge. In the middle were two burly bearded types wearing sheepskin car seat covers and carrying wooden shepherd’s crooks. They were nodding sagely at one another.

The crowd pressed in. The bearded men nodded some more. I have learnt through bitter experience that in Hermanus anything passes for entertainment, but this was just silly.

“Hit him!” I shouted. The men stopped nodding, glared at me briefly, then went back to their nodding.

“Use your crook!” I shouted, making hitting and thrusting motions.

Just then, a powerful spotlight snapped on. Thinking it was a police helicopter, I grabbed a young girl and, using her as a shield between the sharpshooter and me, I began fighting my way back through the throng.

“You’ll never take me alive!” I yelled.

An ancient person of indeterminate gender kicked me on the shin and told me to shush. I dropped the girl and she scuttled off like a giant crab. Maybe it was a crab that I had picked up. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

I raised my arms in the air and froze. Everyone around me did the same. It was like an extreme game of Simon Says, only this one bore all the signs of turning into a hideous bloodbath.

Then a voice boomed out across the harbour. It was as if God himself were speaking.

“Dawid,” thundered the voice, “kyk daar.”

I dropped my arms. God doesn’t speak Afrikaans, does he? Surely not! But what if the Boers are right? What if they really are God’s chosen people? But then where does that leave the Jews? The sheer heaviness of the moment made my head spin and I had to fall down for a bit.

When I got up, I was enormously pleased to discover that it wasn’t the Almighty at all, but a couple of out-of-work actors huddled on a grassy knoll looking rather more bibulous than biblical.

The spotlight picked them out like a pair of oversized dassies. Alongside them, a bright red laser burnt a star into the side of the cliff.

I looked around. There was no drunken brawl about to break out. No police ambush. My relief was swiftly tempered by the cruel realisation that I had walked slap-bang into the middle of a Passion Play, or, as they called it, ‘n Passiespel.

Ever since I was a little boy, I have only ever known Jesus to speak English. And I have yet to meet three wise men who can speak Afrikaans fluently.

I was shocked to my core. What I needed, far more than redemption, was a stiff drink. I could see the lights of the nearest bar twinkling far above me at the top of the cliff. But there was no way out. The crowd had closed in like pack ice in an Arctic winter. It was as if they knew.

Just then, the spotlight picked out a flock of faux Pharisees. One of them stood up and said: “We must stop this man before people start following him.” I assumed he was talking about Jesus and not me.

Delivered in Afrikaans, the line sounded not so much post-Julius Caesar as it did pre-FW de Klerk.

It was around the time that Jesus was getting his feet washed by that tawdry harlot Mary Magdalene that I started having brutal flashbacks to the army.

I must have passed out because the next thing I remember, a young married couple was helping me to my feet. Their eyes shone and they made little murmuring sounds. I shook them off and began trying once more to break through the throng.

Then the lights went off. I was the only one who screamed. A fat lady wearing a purple tea cosy on her head clenched me to her heaving bosom. I couldn’t tell whether she was under the impression that I was having a religious epiphany or had become possessed by some kind of godless demon, so I had to put my foot down pretty sharply.

The snapping on of a battery of arc lights drowned out the snapping of her tarsal bones.

The crowd swivelled and gasped as one. There, on the far side of the harbour, were three crosses ominously illuminated against the night sky. I, too, might have gasped had I not still been struggling for breath.

The crucifixion was mercifully brief and I began applauding the moment the lights went off. Nobody else clapped, though. They probably knew that wasn’t the end of it.

We had to wait a few minutes for Jesus to get down off the cross and get ready for his resurrection, but by this stage I had given up all hope of ever leaving the harbour.

My Easter weekend went downhill from there.


Repo Man Is Watching You

Like most people in privileged positions, Ted and I have been meeting regularly to discuss ways of capitalising on the global financial meltdown.

Unlike some, such as my good friend Nicky Oppenheimer who lost R7-billion in the credit crunch, neither Ted nor I have lost a cent. I’m not saying I am better with money than Nicky is, but the facts speak for themselves.

What we do is get out the bottle of Dom Perignon from last Christmas, fill it with brandy and coke, toss a few second-hand perlemoen on the braai and see how best we can benefit from the misfortune of others.

Ted said it was a good time to buy low and sell high. I was thinking scrap metal but he had his sights set on something a little more ambitious.

“Britain,” he said, “bought Vodacom for next to nothing.” When I asked him for his definition of next to nothing, he pretended to choke on a piece of perlemoen and rolled around on the floor, eyes bulging comically while brandy leaked from his nose and the dog humped his leg.

This went on for so long that I had to give him the Heimlich Manoeuvre, which involved confiscating his drink and shouting at him in German.

After refilling the Dom Perignon and totalling up our combined worth, it was clear that we would be a tad short when it came to buying a controlling stake in MTN. Or even in the Nigerian cellphone repair shop next to Adult World.

“It is not possible,” said Ted, “that we cannot come up with a single way to make money from all this suffering and misery around us.” I had to agree.

Here God was, destroying the world economy to make it easier for people like us to get rich, and our pathetic pea brains were unable to come up with anything that didn’t immediately require money and a fair amount of effort.

Ted went to his car to fetch the emergency kit to help us think more clearly but returned empty-handed. “The car has gone,” he said. I was horrified. “And the emergency kit?”

Two minutes later he received an SMS from his bank informing him that the car had been repossessed. This was terrible news. “Can we get the emergency kit back?” I asked.

Ted stood up and slapped me with a half-eaten perlemoen. “That’s it!” he shouted. “That’s our get-rich-quick scheme.”

Repo men. Of course. We should have seen it before. The banks are taking everything – cars, houses, furniture, the lot. Some of the more sensible consumers are sacrificing their children rather than give up the flat screen television.

It was dead simple. We get in with the banks – the biggest robbers of all – and make tons of money by stripping families of everything they own.

God came through for us in the end, after all. We tried to say a prayer but couldn’t think of anything so we drank to His health instead.

The beauty of this job is that you don’t need much in the way of equipment. A baseball cap, a black bomber jacket, steel-capped boots and a car with a tow-hitch, all of which I already owned.

We began scanning the news for reports of people in our area who had lost their jobs or had default judgements granted against them. “The worse it gets for them, the better it gets for us,” said Ted. We raised our glasses to God once more.

By the end of the week we had repossessed half a dozen cars and the contents of two houses, an old age home and a crèche. It was exciting work. A lot of fun, too.

Then we called the major banks and asked if any of these people were behind in their payments. In typical intransigent fashion, the banks refused to give out personal information.

“But we have their cars, fridges, defibrillators, children’s toys, bottles of expensive whiskey. Give us our cut and you can collect the stuff,” I shouted. They threatened to report me if I called again.

“Fine,” said Ted. “But until the banks come to their senses, I’m using Malema’s Range Rover.”

My 2008 European Holiday – Part 5

I had reservations when Brenda suggested we catch a ferry to Ibiza. Not the kind of reservations that sensible people make when they go on holiday, but more the kind that make you think twice about going to an island renowned for its wild sex and drug-soaked parties.

I was anxious. What if we couldn’t find the parties? Or worse, found the parties but weren’t allowed in because we talked funny and dressed like homeless people?

Brenda resolved my quandary by stepping through the doors of Iscomar’s office in the harbour town of Denia and buying two one-way tickets to this wicked isle of sin. One way? I raised an eyebrow and gave Brenda a quizzical look. She asked if my stomach was playing up again.

The ferry was oddly empty. So was Ibiza. When we landed, a chromium-plated platoon of bikers was waiting at the docks. As we disembarked a police siren cut through the air. Instead of making a run for it, some of the bikers hopped off their Harleys and started grooving to the mad, swooping sound. Then a cop joined in, waving his bullhorn in the air and howling like a dog.

“Yeehaaa!” I shouted, waggling my hips like Britney Spears. Everyone stopped and looked at me. Brenda made the international gesture for mental instability and quickly led me away.

The streets were virtually deserted and everything was shut.

“Maybe these fiesta fiends only get out of bed when the sun goes down,” I said hopefully. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Instead, we had once again run aground in the middle of a public holiday.

This kept happening to us. What were the odds, for heaven’s sake? After all, the country only has 342 public holidays a year.

Wherever we went people were either asleep or drunk in the name of either Jesus or any number of patron saints of flowers, horses, chickens, fish, wine and ham.

We sat down at a pavement café and, surprisingly, got served within five hours. This is the average length of time one spends trying to rouse a waiter in what the Spanish euphemistically call the low season. I think they left the ‘s’ off low.

“I don’t want a tortilla,” I said sulkily. “I want to gobble a fistful of methylenedioxymethamphetamine and dance like John Travolta from dusk to dawn.”

Being the sensitive man that I am, I left out the bit about wanting sweaty, semi-naked Balearic wenches to throw themselves at my feet.

Later, trawling side streets that hadn’t been upgraded since the Phoenicians were here in 654BC, we came across a shop renting out scooters that were last ridden during the Second Punic War.

I chose one that was relatively free of Carthaginian bloodstains and we spluttered off in search of hotbeds of abject hedonism.

Ibiza was bigger than I thought and we both ended up with sore bottoms for all the wrong reasons. Still and all, it’s a scenic enough island and most of the beaches have bars on them, which is more than I can say for our country where metro cops wrestle you to the floor and smash your head in if you open a bottle of wine anywhere outside a designated venue licensed by the state to sell alcoholic beverages.

We had only been there a couple of days when I discovered that the island’s autonomous government had introduced legislation forcing nightclubs to close by 6am. This was outrageous and I insisted we leave before the fascists put us under house arrest.

We fled to Formentera, a far smaller island half an hour’s boat ride away.

A cold front had moved in so we hired a car designed for midgets and set out on a voyage of discovery that took all of 20 minutes.

Formentera makes Craggy Island look like Borneo. I even saw the spitting image of Father Ted pass us on his bicycle.

“This place is deader than a stillborn sheep,” I said over a jug of sangria at a lonely beach bar. Brenda’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. I thought she was having some sort of chemical reaction to the sangria so I quickly polished it off. “Look behind you,” she gasped.

And there, willy a-flap in the breeze, was the reason people come to Formentera. He was hung like a convicted killer and strolling brazen as you please past the bar.

Quite put me off my tapas, it did.

I dragged Brenda back to the car and we found another beach. This one had naked women on it, which made me feel marginally less appalled.

I took my trunks off and stood there for a bit but the sensation that a police sniper was drawing a bead on the back of my head was too much to bear so I put them on again and went for a swim feeling like an overdressed pervert.

Two days later we arrived in Barcelona. Well, not so much arrived as got sucked along in a raging torrent of cars, trucks and bikes and then spat out at Columbus’s statue at the bottom of the Ramblas.

We parked underground and I took Brenda to see where I had once holed up in the narrow back streets of the Barrio Gottica. I was horrified to see the changes.

“Where are the doe-eyed hookers? The hash dealers? Where are the Moroccan muggers in Nike running shoes?” All gone. Swept away when the city hosted the Olympics, an old man told me.

“It was better under Franco,” I said.

My 2008 European Holiday – Part 4

“Before we head for the forgotten island of Ibiza, we need to go to bull country,” I said to Brenda.

I have always wanted to stab a bull through the heart and slice off its ears so that I may nail them to my study wall as a conversation piece.

Like in every other city bigger than Fish Hoek, we got repeatedly and hopelessly lost seconds after taking the turnoff to Cordoba. If Columbus had hired a female navigator, Jamaica would be called America today.

Eventually we came upon what the Spanish laughingly call the “historic centre”. Brenda prefers to stay in these areas because they have “character”. Give me a break. Old buildings are like old people. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

I simply cannot stand before one more crumbling edifice heavy with statues of sad-faced people and say, “Hmm. That really goes back.” History has very little significance when one travels without guide books of any kind.

What did intrigue me in Cordoba was the Mesquite. When I first saw the name, I thought it was a strip joint and was wondering how I could give Brenda the slip for a couple of hours, but it turned out to be a giant, cavernous structure built, oh, I don’t know, about a million years ago.

It was constructed by the Moors and for a long time used as a place of worship by both the Jews and the Muslims. At some point the Knights of Santiago got wind of this unseemly arrangement and rode hell for leather to Cordoba where they killed everyone in the name of Christianity and converted the mosque into a cathedral. Today they charge tourists an entrance fee and warn them against being unduly impressed by the godless Moorish architecture.

Like the rest of Spain, Cordoba was stuffed to the gills with Catholics. There was no room at any of the inns and the sidewalks were overflowing. Apparently only a damn fool arrives in Cordoba in early May without reserving some sort of accommodation.

The city was gearing up for a marathon of festivals ranging from celebrating the cross, the onset of spring and, I think, the ham. These people love their ham. They string it up by its back legs right above your head, but it’s difficult to relax when you’re worried about the hindquarters of a pig landing in your lap just as you order your next beer.

The Spanish also love their children despite them being infinitely more worrisome than falling ham. Give me Spanish ham over Spanish children any day. Ham is at least disciplined and rarely speaks out of turn. In fact I would go so far as to say that Spanish pigs behave better than Spanish children, even as they prepare to sacrifice themselves so that we may gnaw on their scrumptious buttocks. The pigs, not the children.

In Africa, if you come across a lion cub in the bush, you run like hell because mom or dad can’t be far behind. In Spain, if you come across a couple between the ages of 16 and 50, you run like hell because their children can’t be far behind.

They will be shrieking or crying or doing something that will set your teeth on edge and make you want to commit unspeakable atrocities upon their swarthy little heads.

We have the pope to thank for this appalling state of affairs. Spain would be a far more pleasant country to visit if the men didn’t think they would burn in hell for putting a latex sock over their willies every time they felt the need to copulate.

Making matters infinitely worse, Cordoba was also full of latter-day Visigoths. These travelling barbarians might have swapped their swords for ice creams and prefer to think of themselves as Germans, but you only have to look into their faces to know that they come from a terrible place in history.

Seeking refuge in the restaurant at the end of the Mesquite, Brenda amused herself with a jug of powerful sangria while I fired off several frames from the old Nikon whenever something caught my eye.

A comfy chair, cold beers, warm tapas and an endless supply of sultry, underdressed Andalucían women in the cobbled roads. This was travel journalism at its best.

The sangria went to Brenda’s head and she asked me when exactly I planned on fighting a bull. “Fight?” I laughed. “Forget fight. Fighting is for sissies. I’m going to eat one of them wild beasts.”

I stared unflinchingly into the eyes of the waiter and said, “Bring me the rabo del toro. Pronto.”

The crowd in the restaurant fell silent. Somewhere in the back streets a fiery-tempered flamenco dancer rattled her castanets and an old war hero plucked his 12-string Ibanez.

Buzzards circled overhead and a boy with a goat stopped to watch.

Ten minutes later the waiter returned. He set the mound of steaming bull before me and moved quickly for the safety of the bar. As the guitar solo reached its dizzying crescendo, I fell upon my plate and devoured the animal with consummate skill and courage. Not to mention relish and gusto.

Rising up to my full height, not easy in a sitting position, I stabbed my fork into the last fist-sized chunk and fell back, exhausted.

Olé!” I cried.

Torero!” responded the crowd.

La cuenta!” shouted Brenda.

After the bloodied remains of my conquest had been removed, I offered to buy Brenda a pair of boots. “We have to eat them and wear them,” I said. “It’s the only way to get any respect around here.”

I found the perfect pair in a seedy shop down a blind alley for just 15 euros. Brenda said she doubted they were made from real leather.

“Nonsense,” I said. “I’m talking genuine bull, here.”

I explained to her that her bull had probably taken one look around the ring and said “you want me to do what?” then promptly died of fright.

Boots made from gay bulls will obviously be cheaper than boots made from bulls that kill three matadors and two horses and then jump into the stands and start goring the crowd.

I could see Brenda was uncomfortable with the idea of wearing boots made from an effeminate bull so I changed my story rather than risk paying more.

“Or,” I said, “it’s more likely that your bull walked up to the matador and said: It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?’ Then he refused to fight and was dragged around the back and shot in the head because nobody likes an uppity bull.

“Think of him as a Martin Luther King bull,” I said.

My 2008 European Holiday – Part 3

It was a relief to leave Dover, a nasty little town full of white supremacists and sociopaths who slip date rape drugs into your beer and then send you home with your wife.

Ferried into Calais, we hefted our backpacks and set off in search of a brave-ish new world. We hadn’t gone more than 20 metres when Brenda said, “Whose idea was this?” I was staggering under the weight of my pack. Any attempt to speak would have left me utterly drained.

We reached the bus station and while Brenda was studying the timetables I slipped off and hired us a car. From then on our backpacking holiday consisted of us parking outside hotels and backpacking to reception.

Brenda was delighted when I told her that our days of roughing it were over and we made for the parking lot. “What the hell is that?” she barked. “I thought you said we had hired a car.” Apparently in Brenda’s world, a Renault Clio doesn’t qualify as a car.

The only way to drive a gay car is hard and fast and soon we were barreling down the road to Paris while our fellow motorists waved their arms about and shouted words of encouragement.

“I love the French spirit,” I said.

“You´re on the wrong side of the road,” Brenda said.

My plan was to park in Versailles and catch a train in to Paris. “You would be a damn fool to take a car into the centre of Paris,” I said.

“Isn’t that the Arc d’Triomf?” said Brenda.

Versailles, like so many towns to come, was simply not where the map said it would be. With Brenda playing the role of Henry the Navigator, I’m not surprised.

I drove straight into 15 lanes of traffic rotating at high speed around the Charles de Gaulle circle. There were no visible markings on the road and no form of traffic control whatsoever. There are motorists who have been trapped in the inside lane at the Arc d’Triomf ever since the Americans liberated Paris from the Nazis.

Brenda said we should get out of the mayhem and head for the hills but I said I wanted to spend one night in Paris. “I bet you do,” said Brenda, giving me the lazy eye.

All the on-street parking in Paris is taken by residents who use public transport and only move their cars if someone in the family has to be rushed to hospital for open-heart surgery. Everyone else parks underground.

After numerous verbal incidents with excitable French drivers, we found an underground parking outside some kind of old church.

“That´s the Notre Dame Cathedral,” said Brenda. She knows these things.

After we had parked in the bowels of France and returned to the surface of the planet, I saw an old man pretending to be a hunchback. I laughed and laughed. “Good one,” I said, pointing at his hump. He tried to spit on me. Brenda said, “I don’t think he’s pretending.”

Brenda insisted we check into the Notre Dame Hotel because it was on the Boulevard San Michel and she wanted to feel like she was the one Peter Sarsted was singing about. I gave a hollow laugh. “I suppose next you will want to study at the Sorbonne and get the Aga Khan to give you a racehorse and show off your topless suntan …”

Brenda said I was being ridiculous, which I take as a compliment these days. We went for dinner at a restaurant staffed by waiters so inconspicuous and guarded that I wondered if they thought we were Germans and they were still in the Resistance.

For reasons which make no sense, our drive through Europe turned into something akin to the Paris to Dakar Rally. Right through France, ours was the fastest car on the road. Not a single person overtook us. Well, one or two tried but I managed to shut them out.

By the time we reached the Spanish border I had a renewed respect for the Clio. Brenda showed no signs of renewed respect for me.

I was relieved to see that all borders had been scrapped between European Union countries. The last time I was here, I was travelling with a couple of South Africans who duped me into stuffing a bag of contraband down the front of my trousers. I was frisked by a border guard and literally came within a finger’s breadth of a Spanish jail, deportation and, ultimately, a crushing look of disappointment on my mother’s face.

San Sebastian is the first Spanish town you hit after leaving Biarritz. It seemed to have grown enormously since I last set foot in the place. “So have you,” said Brenda.

Spain has a rich history of colonisation, invasion, conquest and reconquest by everyone from Phoenicians to the Visigoths to the Moors and, finally, the Christians who seem to have dug in for the long haul.

In Spain there are no new parts of cities. There are only old parts and really, really old parts. These are the ones we stayed in.

After checking in to a pension that looked as if had last been inhabited by a collective of anarchists on the run from General Franco’s thugs, we hit the tapas bars with a vengeance.

Brenda tried to teach me some Spanish but it started off badly. “For example,” she said, sighing heavily, “whisky has a different gender to beer.” I laughed like a love-sick goat. “After drinking the stuff, so do I.” She seemed unimpressed by my sparkling wit.

Keen to sink my choppers into a Spanish fish, the waiter said there was only hake on the menu. Of course. You have depleted your own stocks and now you want to give me a South African fish that was caught by Spanish pirates plundering our waters. I drew myself up to my full height, which wasn’t much since I was on my knees.

“How dare you?” I shouted.

“Que?” said the waiter.

“Exactly,” I said, knocking my beer into Brenda’s lap.

The next morning we did a high-speed dash across northern Spain, stopping only to slap and kick a petrol pump that refused to give us fuel. They have a peculiar system in Spain. You fill up your car and they trust you to go into the garage and pay. That would work really well in South Africa.

We reached Santiago de Compostela at dusk. This ruined city is ruined ever further by dozens of shops selling Jesus on a T-shirt, Jesus on a mug, Jesus on many different kinds of crosses. Plastic Jesuses. Silver Jesuses. Wooden Jesuses. Every kind of Jesus you can imagine. Except smiling. Nobody ever makes a smiling Jesus.

Someone else who is big in Santiago is St James. So big, in fact, that Christians will often walk 800km just to get their hands on a plastic version of their hero. They call it “walking the Camino”. Personally, I would rather walk the plank.

On closer inspection, it turned out that the Christians hijacked the walk from the pagans who would make the trek to the coast to copulate on the Rocks of Fertility. Christians will say this is a pack of lies but there must be a reason why the gift shops are also full of plastic witches on broomsticks.

We found a hotel next to the cathedral. Brenda said she liked it because it used to be a convent and she used to be a convent girl. That night, Brenda asked if I would help purge her of all the Catholic guilt she had accumulated over the years. I had my trousers around my ankles before you could say, “Hail Mary”.

Standing at reception the next morning, I overheard an elderly American tourist ask the desk clerk if an exorcism had taken place in room 307 the previous night.

“In a way,” I said softly. “In a way.”

It seemed only right to leave at that point, so we shimmied into the Clio and pointed our noses in the direction of Portugal. We wanted to spend a few days on the Algarve but when we got there we couldn’t find any parking so we carried on driving and before we knew it we were at the end of the country. The British have annexed the Algarve. I cannot understand why the UN is doing nothing about it.

Henry the Navigator bent over her map and said, “Look. An island. I bet it’s deserted. We should go there.”

“What’s it called?” I said.

“Ibiza,” she said.