Tag: cars

Airplanes, Wedding Trains and the CAR

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments – John 14:15.”

And so it is with Trovato 07:45. Or, if I oversleep, 10:30. President Jacob Zuma is also big on this parable or homily or whatever the hell you call it.

When I saw our fearless leader come lumbering out of the Mahlamba Ndlopfu presidential residence in Pretoria, with CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye two steps behind him, I felt a pang in my chest. At first I thought it was love. My president. So powerful he didn’t even bother changing out of his pyjamas for the meeting. But it wasn’t love at all. It was the after-burn from a shot of Mexican heart medication.

Zuma cleared his throat. All the birds and beasts fell silent. The sun glinted off his burnished dome, momentarily blinding a 747 pilot high up in the sky.

Tiangaye looked contrite, as well he should. Zuma squared his massive shoulders and said, “We have accepted on behalf of South Africa …” Here it comes, I thought. The apology. About time, too.

“ … their condolences.” What? The rebels gun down half our combat-ready army and all they offer are condolences? Not an oil field or even a million cows? Hell, I’d sooner we got flowers and a “Hope your army gets better soon” card than mealy-mouthed condolences.

Tiangaye said it was regrettable that there had been “a personalised relationship” between South Africa and the skunk-faced former president Francois Bozizé.

I don’t know about you, but I almost certainly wasn’t having a relationship with Bozizé. I’m not ruling it out, mind you. The Mexican heart muti has made me do a lot of things I’m not proud of. Things I don’t always remember the next day.

I think we can accept, though, that what Tiangaye meant was that Zuma and Bozizé had a personalised relationship. But because Zuma was standing right there, yawning and scratching his crotch, he had to say it was not the president’s fault.

Just over 600kms away, in a luxury home-based intensive care unit incorporating a well-stocked drinks cabinet and indoor putting green, Schabir Shaik nodded and smiled.

“Jacob, my man,” he said softly to himself. “You’ve pulled it off again. Nurse! Bring me the 18-year-old!” The nurse did as she was told. “No, you idiot. Not her. The Johnnie Walker!”

Anyway, now that the CAR is no longer Zuma’s dirty little secret, I would like to wish the happy couple all the best for the future. Maybe he should give the Seleka rebels free access to the national key point of their choice.

The Guptas have dibs on the Waterkloof Air Force Base so it will have to be something else. Use of the Simonstown naval base as a private marina, perhaps? Or how about converting Genadendal into a B&B for anyone else who might have a personalised relationship with the president? It could be run by Mac Maharaj and his wife. I expect they will have to learn Mandarin.

So how about them striking teachers, eh? Pity Maggie ain’t around no more. She would have sent in the horses by now. After the teachers had eaten their fill, more horses would be sent in to trample the indolent swine underfoot and give them a damn good lesson in civil etiquette.

Karl Marx once said: “The working class can kiss my arse”. I used to agree with him, but now I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy having my arse kissed just as much as any other insufferable middle management moron, but I am starting to feel twinges of sympathy for them.

I’m not talking about teachers or bus drivers. To be a member of the working class, you actually have to work and not spend your time dancing in the street, chanting incomprehensible gibberish and frightening the children.

Earlier this week I took my Land Rover for a drive through the sugar cane fields near Ballito. I wasn’t going anywhere in particular. Just driving. I kept passing clumps of workers – the real kind – trudging along the dirt road into the sunset. Some waved, some ignored me. All of them choked on my dust. There was a group of seven or eight up ahead. As I drew level, one turned and looked at me. It was a woman. Like the men, also in overalls and gumboots. She smiled.

“Hmm,” I thought. “She likes me.” I quickly pulled over. No, of course I didn’t think that. What kind of lunatic white man would drive alone through the cane fields of KZN at dusk hoping to catch the eye of a beautiful maiden and take her back to his palace and make her his possession? I’m not King bloody Mswati, you know. Not that he would ever take the Maybach on a dirt road.

I pulled over to give them a lift. Eight quickly became fifteen. People who were walking in the opposite direction got in. In this province of a thousand hills, nobody turns down a free ride. Where you’re headed is irrelevant.

Sure, I knew there was a chance I’d get my throat slit. It’s a risk you take when you pick up strangers. But I was prepared to die for the sins of the white man. Perhaps someone would start a religion in my name. Followers would wear tiny silver Land Rovers around their necks and baptise their children in beer.

But it was not to be. They had no interest in martyring me. All they wanted was a lift after a day of backbreaking work in the filthy Durban heat. I drove for five kilometres before a dude with menacing tribal scars tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to stop. It wasn’t a town or even a village. Just a jumble of wood and iron shacks in a clearing in the bush.

They worked for a landscaping company with clients like the Tongaat-Hulett Group, Moreland, Zimbali and the provincial government. The company’s website says the owner’s “upbringing in Northern Zululand has allowed him to speak the Zulu language and
understand their cultures which have benefited all staff and contracts”.

I’m sure the workforce deeply appreciates being told, in their own language, that because the company has a turnover of only R30-million a year, it would be unreasonable to expect transport to shackland or the Ballito taxi rank at the end of each day. After all, you’re looking at a monthly petrol bill that could easily run into the hundreds.

Speaking of bad ideas, Microsoft’s evil genius Bill Gates wants to put a video camera in every classroom in America to monitor the performance of teachers.

Given the fact that around 90 000 South African schoolgirls fall pregnant each year, I imagine the footage could be tastefully edited and sold to TopTV for screening after the kiddies have gone to bed. It could be called A Broad Banged Up. People with DStv will understand the reference. Next week, I’ll try to slip in a joke for those have access to SABC channels only. Poor bastards.

And finally. Ex-police commissioner Bheki Cele had a couple of bottles of expensive whisky stolen out of his car a few days ago. Because that’s where everyone keeps their best hooch.

Good for him, I say. I like the image of a former police chief thundering through the city streets late at night, hurling abuse at the citizenry and sucking savagely on a thousand rand bottle of whisky.

Give him his job back at once.

Why Mickey Mouse Would Make A Better President Than Jacob Zuma

Mickey is black but he has a white face. This means he stands a good chance of being accepted across the racial spectrum.

Mickey is keenly aware of the importance of personal hygiene. For a start, you will never see him without a clean pair of white gloves. He takes precautions to protect his health in other areas, too. Cheddex, the Cheddar-Flavoured Condom for Randy Rodents®, is his preferred method of contraception. Mickey does not believe that a post-coital shower eliminates the risk of being infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

Mickey has mastered the art of getting people to laugh with him instead of at him. Blessed with the ability to sing and dance at the same time, Mickey brings joy into people’s lives as opposed to striking terror into their hearts.

Mickey is an independently wealthy mouse. Worth an estimated $15-billion, Mickey never has to rely on his friends to bail him out of financial difficulties. In fact, it is usually Mickey who lends money to cash-strapped losers like Goofy and Pluto.

Mickey can be trusted implicitly. It doesn’t matter whether you are a dog, a duck or a bird, you can run out of petrol in the middle of the night and one phone call will bring Mickey rushing to your aid. But don’t ask him to lie for you, because he won’t. Don’t call him up and say: “Yo Mick, Donald here. Listen, if Daisy calls, tell her I’m sleeping over at your place tonight.”

Mickey is not a homophobe. In fact, given his predilection for skimpy red shorts, there is a very good chance that he is latently gay. He might not come out openly and condone the homosexual lifestyle, what the prominence of his position and all, but he most certainly would not describe same-sex marriages as “a disgrace to the nation and to God”. And especially not if he happened to be the guest speaker at, say, Heritage Day celebrations in KwaDukuza.

Mickey is a one-woman mouse. Apart from a brief ill-advised flirtation with Daisy Duck in 1968, he has never cheated on Minnie and would never, ever consider bringing another wife into the Mouse house.

Mickey never shows his age. Even though he was born in 1928 and stills turns up for work every day, he always looks fit, young and happy. Almost human, in fact. Just the kind of president we need.

Watching The Defectives

The ANC has once again dipped its grubby little paws into a Checkers bag full of recycled careerists and come up with an interim board for the SABC.

“Comrades, we’re offering you this chalice.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing. Well, it’s poisoned. Apart from that, it’s fine.”

“Great! We’ll take it.”

The previous bunch of rats jumped ship when the broadcasting behemoth began listing dangerously to port. One of them, scurrying to catch the remnants of summer in Sea Point, paused only to bite Helen Zille on the toe.

I was reminded of the SABC recently when I tried to buy a television set without providing a salary slip, proof of political affiliation, original birth certificate, tax clearance, police records and a report from a mental health practitioner.

Nobody in their right mind would give the SABC any personal information whatsoever. To avoid a lifetime of being tracked down by the bounty hunters over at VVM Attorneys, all I had to do was find someone with a TV licence.

One option was to go around the neighbourhood pretending to be a licence inspector. I would explain that the Broadcasting Act entitled me to shoot them in the face if they refused to accompany me to Game to verify the validity of their licence.

Luckily, I didn’t have to go to those lengths.

My father is an old school anarchist and will jump at any opportunity to break the law. But he is also scrupulously honest. I don’t know why he’s not in jail.

“Here’s my licence,” he said to the salesman. “But the TV’s not for me, it’s for my son. That’s him over there, trying to put a remote control down his trousers.”

SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane and deputy dawg Thami ka Plaatjie – better known as Ratman and Nobbin – were first to bail. A trio of white women – one of them with actual broadcasting experience – was the last to go.

Suzanne Vos blamed the debacle on both Ratman and communications minister Dina Pule, whose academic achievements are roughly on a par with mine. If only I could say the same for our pay cheques.

Pule’s story sounds like a Shakespearean play written by one of Isidingo’s scriptwriters. I cannot even begin to unravel the convoluted plot involving a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes, a dodgy weave, serious buck-passing in the digital migration debacle and the hiring of an incompetent chief financial officer for the SABC, who, to be fair, wasn’t so incompetent that she wasn’t able to sign off on a sponsorship deal that helped make the minister’s boyfriend several million rand richer.

And when it comes to Telkom, Pule’s machinations make Hamlet seem like an episode of Friends.

I suppose it’s a hard tradition to break. Anyone who has ever been in charge of information in this country, going back to Rupert van Riebeeck’s time, has lied, schemed and connived. It’s what they are paid to do.

Is there a country anywhere in the world where the information minister speaks nothing but the truth? Maybe in the Netherlands, but only because you can get sodium pentothal in the Dutch parliament’s cafeteria. For weed, you have to go to Amsterdam. It’s only 50kms from The Hague, for heaven’s sake. Stop complaining. If I could do it, so can you.

President Zuma reluctantly accepted the board’s resignation – his first choice was to have them shot as part of the entertainment on Human Rights Day – and the ANC cherry-picked a fresh batch of sacrificial lambs. And these baa-baa black sheeple will report for duty with a yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir. One for the master, one for the minister, and one for the New Age reporter to make it look less sinister.

While we taxpayers were being taken roughly from behind, DA MP Marian Shinn politely raised her hand and pointed out to her fellow lawmakers that many of us had been scarred and embittered by political interference in the SABC and suggested that it come to an end. I suppose if one has never experimented with powerful drugs or threesomes that have gone horribly wrong, the occasional ministerial intervention in the affairs of the national broadcaster may well leave the more sensitive parliamentarian traumatised.

Personally, I don’t give a damn. I watch eNews Channel Africa for my news because I would rather be subjected to an endless loop than poorly pronounced propaganda.

Someone called Zandile Tshabalala is the ANC’s choice for board chair. Isn’t he the striker for Bafana Bafana? No, hang on. It’s a she. Don’t look at me like that. We whiteys recognise names like Betty and Beauty. We can’t tell our Zandiles from our Zwandiles. Give us time. It’s only been 700 years.

Tshabalala has extensive experience in banking and business, which makes me wonder if the ANC has trouble with its acronyms.


It’s all the same to them. Let’s make Riah Phiyega chairman of the SABC and put Oupa Magashula in charge of the police. They could hardly do any worse.

The ANC wants Noluthando Gosa to be deputy chair. This would be her third stint as a member of the board. I am almost certain that if she were allowed to decline the “offer” without fear of reprisals, she would. On the other hand, she seems to be some kind of high-flying estate agent and is probably impervious to threats and insults of any kind.

A lot of very bright people applauded Zuma’s decision in 2011 to appoint a commission of enquiry into the arms deal and only now are they beginning to realise it was a monumental set-up right from the start. I knew this all along, and I only have a matric. Thank god I didn’t waste any more time studying.

And it’s the same with the SABC board. The ANC will toss in one or two nominally independent names to appease the slavering dogs of democracy, but the rest will be the same malleable stooges they have always been.

And so the scene will be set for yet another gripping episode of Lawless & Disorder.

There is only one way out of this mess. Make me chairman of the board. I don’t give a hot damn who the minister is. I would tell him or her to fuck off every time he or she contacted me. I do that anyway, regardless of who is calling.

I wouldn’t even want a salary. They can put me on the dop system. The opportunity to broadcast real news, good movies and decent porn would be reward enough.

If Robert Mugabe can shake Pope Francis’s hand without one of them bursting into flames, anything is possible.

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 2

My holiday in Spain got off to a fabulous start. It began when our pilot woke up late or had a fight with his boyfriend or couldn´t start the car and consequently delayed our flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg by half an hour.

Not a particularly great amount of time in terms of evolution and the universe and stuff like that, but just long enough for us to reach the Iberia check-in counter eight minutes after it had shut.

“No,” said a yellow-vested man with the face of a stupid person. “You can´t get on the plane.” Even though it’s only leaving in an hour? Even though. But we have already checked our luggage through from Cape Town to Madrid, we said. The stupid face assured us that because we had not checked in, our luggage would not have been put on the plane.

“Take it up with SAA,” he said.

So we joined a long line of other unhappy people at the SAA counter and were told that they could put us on the next flight to Madrid – in two days’ time. Brenda was outraged and began threatening people who didn’t even work for the airline.

All they could do, said the man with the “do I look like I care about your problem?” expression, was to put us up in a hotel. But apparently all the hotels in Joburg are full so we’re going to have to stay in Pretoria. The hotels in Joburg are not full. This is simply SAA corporate code for “our R50-a-night rat-infested hovel in Hillbrow is full”.

We were handed a voucher for a taxi to the “hotel” in Pretoria and went off to recover our luggage from the bowels of the airport. A man who looked like a second-hand duffel bag checked his computer and said that our luggage was on the Iberia flight.

The next day we woke up in Pretoria and our backpacks woke up in Madrid.

I will spare you the litany of horrors that were inflicted upon us during the twelve hours we spent at Oliver Tambo International, but after much begging, pleading, threatening and weeping, SAA grudgingly agreed to put us on a flight to London.

Anything was better than another night in Pretoria, even if it meant arriving in a completely different country to the one we had originally planned on visiting.

I began to understand why Qantas had the longest queues of all.

After decompressing in the airport smoker’s lounge, a cheerful place where you could fall down dead and nobody would care, we were herded into our pens at the back of the aircraft.

We landed at Heathrow at dawn, dressed for sunny Spain. The temperature outside was three degrees. So much for global warming. Brenda shivered and cursed and every time she turned on me I gently deflected her wrath back towards SAA, where it belonged.

We spent our first night in Paddington and wondered how our bags were enjoying Spain. Reeking like homeless people, we went to a Lebanese restaurant and had a terrible fight after Brenda accused me of being transfixed by the belly dancer.

“What belly dancer?” I said, taking another mouthful of empty fork and knocking my beer into my lap.

The next day, reunited with our backpacks which were looking relaxed and tanned, I told Brenda that I was taking her to the East End. To a place called Rotherhithe where I used to live in a squat because back then I couldn’t afford to pay even the smallest amount of rent.

Our cab driver, born in England, oddly enough, warned me that the area had changed since I was last there. “Most of us cockneys moved out when the Pakis moved in,” he said. “We’re out in the shires, now.”

The shires? Isn’t that where the hobbits live? I dared not ask for fear that he had something against hobbits, too.

Rotherhithe had certainly changed. The slums where I lived had been knocked down to make way for rows of yuppy flats made of ticky-tacky. Where were the punks? The skinheads? The drug dealers? The people who once made this such a fantastic to live?

And so it was that in the space of a few years I went from staying in a filthy squat to staying in the Rotherhithe Hilton. Funny thing, life.

The next day Brenda suggested we get the hell out of London but I had received certain information that the Camden Crawl was on the go. Billed as three days of anarchy, it seemed silly not to be there.

Brenda was a bit tense at first but it wasn’t long before she was so relaxed that she ran off down the middle of the road and got her nose pierced by a girl with purple hair.

I remember being awash in beer, loud music and police sirens. That’s it.

London was killing us. We had to get out. So we caught the train to Dover, a town like Muizenberg but with even less hope.

For the first time, we had to shoulder our backpacks. After about thirty metres I started feeling like a tortoise walking on its hind legs with a giant shell made from lead. I complained and moaned and bitched non-stop until Brenda hailed a taxi just to shut me up.

Later we walked up some stupid mountain to get to a castle where posters pretended that Dover was on the frontline in World War One. I could picture the troops hunkered down in the Horse & Hare as the first wave of bombers came over on their way to London.

“Woz that a plane, mate?”

“Nah, that´s the number 19 bus, that is.”

“Orl right, then. Your round.”

No wonder Britain lost the war.

We holed up in the White Horse pub, a crumbling edifice built in 1345. The walls of the bar were covered in graffiti from people foolish enough to have swum the English Channel. This made me uncomfortable so we went out the back where a very drunk man told us that Mandela was a terrorist and should never have been released. This made Brenda uncomfortable so we drank up and left quickly.

Later that night we trawled desperate Dover for a little action. The Funky Monkey looked promising, what with its sign banning “chunky rings and heavy jewellery” but it was closed.

The Louis Armstrong was open and for possibly the first time ever, we were the youngest people in the bar. The patrons were there to listen to Bill Barnacle’s Jazz Band, drink sherry and reminisce about the war.

My notes stop making sense at this point because around midnight, Ricardo with a bandaged hand joined us and, when I wasn’t looking, slipped something nasty into my beer. By the time the bar closed it was as if my bones had turned to jelly. Brenda poured me into a taxi and we went back to the hotel whereupon I deposited my supper in the bath.

And the holiday was only just beginning.

Cut Me, Baby, Cut Me Good

With Brenda gone and a new year unraveling before my bloodshot eyes, it seems an opportune time to take stock of my physical condition.

The degree to which men allow themselves to go to seed once they have pledged their troth is astounding. I have friends who went from strapping young lads with nimble minds to bloated wrecks with broken brains within just a few months of married life.

I thought I had been keeping it together rather nicely. Until Wednesday, when I made the mistake of glancing at my reflection in the door of the beer fridge at my local bottle store. I looked like some kind of yeti with a drinking problem. Years of marital discord had exacted a terrible toll.

Top of the list was an urgent deforestation operation. My head looked like a municipal plot – neglected and infested with alien undergrowth. I broke two disposable razors on my face before reaching for the panga. Shaving with a machete isn’t for the faint-hearted. One nick and you’re on your hands and knees spraying arterial blood like a cloven-hoofed animal on Eid ul-Fitr.

My hair, hanging halfway down my back like a snarl of angry serpents, was next. I would have gone to a barber if I didn’t mind looking like Steve Hofmeyr.

The choices were limited. Either I cut it myself and risked looking like an escaped mental patient or I went to a hairdresser. Tough call.

Hairdressers are more frightening than dentists. At least at the dentist there’s the possibility of being given drugs. With hairdressers you have to bring your own. Or, preferably, take them beforehand. It’s the only way to cope with their relentless questioning. “Where are you from? How would you like your hair cut? Have you ever explored the inner ring of Dante’s seventh circle?” It’s worse than the Spanish Inquisition.

I chose a hairdresser in a small coastal town which shall remain nameless. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of these people. Badmouth them and they won’t hesitate to cut your head off the next time you’re in the chair.

I had to case the joint first. Weigh up the male-to-female and gay-to-straight ratio. You don’t want to be walking blindly into a situation that could end with you rethinking your sexuality. Redecorating is prohibitively expensive these days.

Luckily the place was empty. Some might think this isn’t a good sign. Not me. It’s bad enough having to tolerate the yelping and wailing of the abominable Nicki Minaj, but to combine that with the criminally inane chatter of a dozen sparkly-eyed Subaru-driving hockey moms having harlarts put in is altogether too much to bear.

The moment I walked through the door, the fear kicked in and my sphincter snapped shut. Everyone heard it. This is not like a trouser cough for which one can blame the dog, so I simply smiled and enquired about a haircut.

To their credit, they didn’t ask to see my money first. I only say this because apart from the tangled mess of vipers nesting on my head, I also have a smattering of premolars that have gone astray. I call it the Trovato Gap. Homeless chic, east coast style. By this time next year, everyone won’t have them.

Hairdressing salons always remind me of brothels, or what I imagine brothels to look like – a gimlet-eyed harridan at the till, a roomful of pseudo-solicitous ladies with enthusiastic breasts and a Zimbabwean woman waiting to wash your hair.

“Is the pressure too much,” she said, massaging my scalp. My mouth went dry. Was this her idea of irony? I’m lying down with my feet up while a black woman washes my hair. Of course the pressure was too much.

I wanted to switch places and wash her hair and weep and beg forgiveness for the sins of my forefathers and then, later, have a ménage à trois with the well-known Feminist-Tauist-NeoPagan-Post-Structuralist-Deconstructionist-Socialist Gillian Schutte and her black husband as a final act of contrition.

Instead, I said: “A bit harder would be nice.”

I don’t enjoy looking at myself in a mirror for too long, which is unusual for a narcissist. Perhaps there is something wrong with me. However, I prefer to think there is something wrong with the lighting in a hairdresser’s salon. It accentuates ones flaws – masculinity and a white skin being just two of them. A double chin the size of Perth being an obvious third.

The cutter was an Indian woman. Paying off a debt of some sort, I imagine. At least she wasn’t in shackles.

Once I was seated in the electric chair with an enormous pink bib lashed around my neck, making my head resemble a giant goitre, she asked what I would like. I thought for a moment, then said: “I’d like to buy the world a gram and garnish it with thrills, grow dagga trees and jail keys, and snow white Mandrax pills.”

She failed to recognise my playful homage to the old Coke jingle. Hmm. A classic case of indentured servitude. I nodded to myself. Well, not strictly to myself. Everyone in the salon saw me nodding. They probably thought I had that tropical nodding disease so many people seem to have on the KZN north coast.

“I want a haircut,” I said. Again, no response. Was this not enough information? Should I have brought photographs? Was I expected to procure a pencil and a piece of paper and sketch a rudimentary diagram?

In the end, she gave me a cut that, in medieval times, would have earned me the name Bob the Pageboy, the overgrown apprentice squire to Sir Snortalot, son of King Chopaline of the Kingdom of Ballito.

When I left, an elfish youth with dark eyes and harlarts in his hair took my money and said, “You look so hot.” Being a neophyte in the world of male-on-male compliments, I agreed on the humidity and said how nice it would be if we had a little rain in the evening. This appeared to be code for: “I’ll meet you in the parking lot in twenty minutes” because I found him leaning all louche-like against my car after I had completed my standard post-haircut double brandy-and-beer chaser procedure.

I just wrote an entire column about going to the hairdresser. I do so hope it’s not going to be that sort of year.

Looking for a Sign in 2013? Have You Checked Uranus?

After a close encounter with a celestial body on New Year’s Eve, I had an epiphany so powerful that I had to go home and change my broeks. It was downhill from then on.

All indications are that 2013 is getting itself off to a very suspicious start. On Thursday next week, Scorpio enters Venus. They barely know one another. How I miss the golden era of the Big Bang. There was a sense of propriety among the astral bodies that is sorely lacking today.

It gets worse. Pluto will be doing unspeakable things to Uranus in February. If you are of a sensitive disposition, you may want to avoid looking at the night sky next month. And keep the children inside.

Having recently spent a night or two on my back at the bottom of the garden, I am something of an expert in the ancient art of astrology as interpreted through the abominable wretchedness of alcohol poisoning. Here, then, is your Horrorscope for the year ahead.

Aries – This is a fire sign, but you probably don’t need reminding because ever since you were little, people have been telling you not to play with matches. The good news is that this is your year to burn stuff. Don’t hold back. It can be anything from parking fines to office blocks. When the police try to arrest you, tell them you are astrologically impervious to their authority since you are governed by Mars alone. If they are fellow Aries, they will understand. If they aren’t, set them alight and run away.

Taurus – Your element is Earth. This year you are entitled to behave as if you own it. Get drunk and disorderly, drive slowly in the fast lane and park in handicapped bays. You are ruled by Venus and not, as you have always thought, your penis. Your symbol is the bull. Act accordingly. Attack people who wear red and, when angry, paw the ground and snort loudly. On the career front, you will lose your job but will find happiness in other things – heroin, mainly.

Gemini – Nobody likes a Gemini. Not even other Geminis. Your element is Air, which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. Your symbol is the twins. Nobody trusts twins. Your ruler is Mercury, a gay little fellow who flitted around the heavens gossiping about Aphrodite banging half the pantheon and how wasted Dionysus got at last Saturday’s bacchanalia. This is the year you shut up for a moment and give someone else a chance to talk. Divorce is on the cards. The bad news is that you will marry again before the year is out.

Cancer – You killed my mother four months ago, you cold-hearted bastard. Because you are governed by the Moon, you cannot help carrying on like a lunatic. This is the year your aberrant mood-swings drive the last of your old friends away. You will soon make plenty of new friends and share cold showers and long walks around the exercise yard. When you are released, you will emulate your astrological symbol and approach matters in a more circumspect way. Your manner of walking in a crablike fashion attracts the wrong kind of attention and you end up with the Crab People who have been living in the Earth’s crust for thousands of years waiting for an opportunity to take over the world.

Leo – Your ruling planet is the Sun. So, to your discredit, is your favourite newspaper. Much like your symbol, the lion, your pride often stops you from straying into unchartered territory. You are compatible with anyone, as long as they have their own transport, money and functioning genitals. Driven mad by your unrelenting good humour, a family member will try to kill you in March. Your massive ego suffers a blow but you quickly recover and go on to perform an improvised comedy/musical/dance act at the Baxter Theatre. Well, outside the Baxter Theatre. In fact, on a pavement outside a tik den in Woodstock. You will be a hit. Or be hit. Or take a hit. The oracle is murky.

Virgo – Forget Gemini. Virgos are the most disliked of the star signs. You are compassionate and caring, but not so compassionate that you’d have sex with a man who is down on his knees begging for it. I’m talking about a friend here. You will be more popular this year if you raise your skirt and lower your standards. If you’re a man, let your willy and not your brain do the thinking for a change. Many Virgos are found in the service industries. Remember that prostitution not only provides a valuable service, it’s also a fun way to earn a little extra money.

Libra – Affectionate and romantic, you depend too heavily on your partner and friends for support. The scales are your symbol, which suggests you also depend too heavily on drugs. Ambitious yet lethargic, you need to get some balance in your life. Less weed and more speed, perhaps. Make the year more interesting by saying yes when you mean no, and vice versa. Be careful of the number seven and avoid men who wear hats.

Scorpio – Your element is water and your symbol is the scorpion. This is stupid. Scorpions hate water unless it has a dash of whiskey in it. For the sake of compromise, let us make your symbol a Jamesons on the rocks. Ruled by Mars, a rubbish planet overrun by toy cars from America, the ever-contrarian Scorpio knows all the answers and has a prodigious passion for power. All Israelis are Scorpios. You are entering an exciting new phase of love, prosperity and the total annihilation of Palestine.

Sagittarius – As the Archer, you owe it to yourself to invest in a real bow this year. Your metaphorical arrows have failed you dismally in the past, either falling short or hitting the wrong target altogether. It’s time for the real thing. And think big. Instead of stealing the office stationery, rob a bank. No, not with a bow and arrow, you idiot. Use a gun like everyone else. You will once again be unlucky in love this year. With the centaur as your astrological symbol, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. On the other hand, I know a number of women who think nothing of sharing their bed with a creature who is half-human, half-beast. I’m talking about a friend here.

Capricorn – Goat-people often need to be push-started. You know that the first step on any journey is the hardest, especially when you’re very stoned, and sometimes it takes a little light whipping to get you moving. Once you’re climbing the mountain of success, you don’t know when to stop and often have to be brought down with a dart gun for your own good. You will have a decision to make this year. Good luck with that.

Aquarius – The Water Bearer is not much in demand anywhere outside the Sahara, and even then your average Tuareg would rather you were bearing a six-pack of Brutal Fruit. One of them clean-living veggie Berbers would probably be happy enough with water, though. Considered to be “special” people, there are more Aquarians in mental asylums than any other sign. For those who weigh less than 53kgs, it is going to be a good year for love. Or anorexia. Watch out for a tall man with red eyes and no teeth.

Pisces – The Zodiac’s most sensitive sign, which makes no sense because fish are easily the most insensitive animals on the planet. Pisceans are relatively easy to hook and they make good eating, but they can become confused and belligerent when out of their element for too long. Their natural environment is happy hour at a wet bar. July will see dreams turn into reality. In August, reality will become dreams. Come September, there will be doctors, lithium and straps on your bed.

Up Yours, 2012

It has been such a fabulous year.

My mother died, Brenda ran off and shagged a welder in Hermanus and the appalling Jacob Zuma is with us for the next seven years. I can hardly wait to see what 2013 brings.

Perhaps I will be hit by a meteorite. Or, if I’m really lucky, a series of unfortunate events will wipe out my life savings and I will become a crack addict living off wharf rats and prostitutes. I don’t even want to get into the worst case scenarios.

Here are a few more predictions for the new year.

China takes an interest in South African real estate. After a traditional money-exchanging ceremony at Nkandla, a delegation from Beijing puts in a cheeky offer for Limpopo. President Zuma accepts on condition they take the Eastern Cape as well.

Squirrel Ramaphosa becomes deputy president and begins running South Africa like a business. Longer working hours, strictly monitored sick leave and a reduction in perks sparks a wave of resignations. GDP quadruples in six months.

SABC 3 launches a hard-hitting investigative programme aimed at exposing the government’s achievements.

The new Miss South Africa is Chinese.

Tourists begin avoiding Durban after the council takes over uShaka Marine World and celebrates the occasion by throwing a Ventersdorp family into the shark tank.

The Afrikaner resistance movement suffers a major setback when their new leader, Tos van der Tossboks, inadvertently submits the plans for their next coup attempt to the Johannesburg city council.

The DA government in the Western Cape introduces speed limits for wheelchairs and roadblocks in supermarket aisles to clamp down on drunk trolley-pushers.

SAA introduces cheap fares to London by offering limited seats in the wheel wells of their Boeings. They hope to capture the refugee market.

Flushed with success after its battle to prevent school inspectors from raising standards, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union wins its members the right to work in a child-free environment three days a week.

After having urged Africans to stop trying to be white by straightening their hair or keeping dogs as pets, President Zuma called on them to reject other crazy foreign notions such as overseas holidays, king-size beds, microwave ovens, air travel, telephones and computers.

Kgalema Motlanthe resigns as the poster boy for Gamblers Anonymous.

PigSpotter is nominated for a human rights award.

Eskom hikes electricity tariffs by fourteen million percent. We grumble for a bit, then cough up.

The labour ministry declares Sunday illegal and introduces a six-day working week. We hold a candle-lit vigil on Saturday and report for work the next day.

The president fires Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and replaces her with Chester Missing. We take to the streets but call off the protest after realising we’re missing the rugby.

North Korea donates a missile defence system to help protect Zuma’s Nkandla residence against a possible nuclear attack by war-mongering countries such as Malawi. Zuma shows his appreciation by replacing his Mshini wam’ act with a Gangnam Style dance. An outraged South Korea severs ties with South Africa.

Julius Malema is jailed on money laundering charges. He is released on medical grounds after developing a conscience.

The government builds a nuclear power plant in Thyspunt. People from the region are easily identified by their ability to glow in the dark. Three-headed kittens are sold on the roadside.

Bafana Bafana win the Africa Cup of Nations after immigration officials at OR Tambo International refuse the other teams entry because of insufficient blank pages in their passports.

The Hawks announce that swimmer Chad le Clos is suspected of being the mastermind of a drug and gun smuggling cartel with links to the Mafia, the Colombian underworld and the Chinese Triads. The investigation is shelved after investigators fail to find any evidence. They later concede to having been the victims of misinformation. They remain convinced, however, that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is involved in human trafficking.

On the international front …

Israel apologises for being such a bully and gives Palestine their ball back.

Prince Harry (codename Big H) destroys the Taliban with a single bullet accidentally fired while frolicking with three Cambodian prostitutes in a gold-plated Jacuzzi fitted inside his Apache helicopter.

Russian president Vladimir Putin steps down and becomes Pussy Riot’s new manager.

The National Rifle Association demands that every American has the right to drive tanks to work, make bullets for food and use Agent Orange as a weedkiller.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, gives birth to a three-toed sloth. The British people are beside themselves with joy and celebrations go on for weeks. The first pictures of the royal sloth are sold for millions.

With international cycling finally free of doping, a Nigerian wins the Tour de France in a record time of three months, two weeks and nine days.

In the wake of their ban on miniskirts because they encourage rape, Swaziland bans books because they encourage thinking, cars because they encourage travelling and voting because it encourages democracy.

It’s Blood River All Over Again

Today, 174 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated a Zulu army at the Battle of Blood River. And today, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway Shopping Centre.

The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. And the Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking us out of the way with their meaty hips and big asses. I don’t stand a chance.

William Butler Yeats wrote, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Here, they’re slouching out of Bethlehem (there by the Free State) and into Durban.

Quite frankly, these people scare me. If I had the space, I would explain how one can tell the difference between trolls, homunculi and troglodytes.

I did a recce at Gateway earlier in the week to check out the exits and locate the shops that sell weapons. If it was going to turn ugly, I wasn’t going down without a fight. To hell with reconciliation. At this time of year, it’s every man for himself.

The first thing I noticed was that Christmas decorations aren’t as Christian as they used to be. In the old days you could barely walk through a mall without smacking your head into a simpering polystyrene angel swinging from the rafters. These days it’s all disco balls and plastic dross swaddled in fairy lights.

It’s not so much Santa’s grotto as it is Hugh Hefner’s grotto, although in Game you do have a slightly smaller risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

You’d think at this time of year the very least God could do is send down a few real angels to pretty up the city. Maybe we’ve been doing it wrong and everyone has gone straight to hell. Or perhaps this is hell. Perhaps heaven is another planet with mountains of marijuana and rivers of beer and beautiful women who don’t mind if you never call them but who will still whip up a hearty breakfast if you happen to drop by early on a Sunday morning, horny and bleeding.

Orphans are big this year. I saw several shops offering to donate a percentage of purchases over R100 to those who are lucky enough not to have parents. They never say how much goes to the orphans, though. It could be 0000.2% of each purchase. This means that by the end of the holidays, three orphans in a village north of the Tugela will each get a tin of soup. Next year, if they are really lucky, they will get a tin opener.

As I made my way through the mall, hugging the walls and keeping to the shadows, retracing my steps to confuse the sniffer dogs and darting from doorway to doorway to prevent the snipers from drawing a bead on me, I saw a brawl break out in Dis-Chem. My money was on a geriatric with purple hair and no teeth. I got the idea this wasn’t her first Zimmer frame fight.

The war for drugs escalates at this time of year. Too many family reunions, dinners and parties mean that old and young alike are desperate for their meds. If you’re new at this, I recommend something from the benzodiazepine family.

Ativan and Librium will do nicely if all you need to do is get through Christmas lunch without cutting a sibling’s throat. However, if you’re worried about getting drunk and exposing Uncle Pervy for the paedophile that he is, you might need one of the neuroleptics.

Thorazine works well, but get your timing right. You don’t want to be slack-jawed and drooling into the turkey with your paper hat over one eye while everyone else is pulling crackers.

I saw a sign saying, “Add more sparkle to your festive season – shop with American Express!” Yeah, sure. It’s all fun and sparkles now, but what happens next year? It’s bad enough what the local banks will to do to you, but you fuck with the Americans at your peril. I’ve heard Guantanamo Bay isn’t a prison for political detainees at all. It’s for people – Muslims, mainly – who have maxed out their American Express cards and are late with the repayments.

I saw another sign. “Gateway recycles 248 378 litres of fuel – enough to send a single car 87 times around the circumference of the Earth.” Hang on. Wouldn’t the carbon footprint of this car be worse for the environment than if the fuel hadn’t been recycled? More importantly – can this car turn into a boat? No wonder our children suck at geography.

A 10-piece nativity set caught my eye. It was rather nicely done, if a bit outdated. If it were today, the three wise men would be unemployed academics with substance abuse problems, Joseph would be out working overtime to pay for the new baby and the shepherds would be on strike.

I also came across a very nice shredder for only R199. Guess what’s going to be the most popular gift in the Union Buildings this year.

And a box saying, “Magic fish – real living fish! Watch them hatch and grow before your very eyes!” We are expected to believe a lot of made-up stuff at this time of year, but I draw the line at magic fish. Or do I? Ah, what the hell. I’ll take one. They may even turn out to be talking fish, in which case I can stop this nonsense and buy an island in the Caribbean.

I saw television sets so big you would have to sell your house, buy a piece of land and build a new house around the telly. Where will it end, this race for the biggest television? Will new homes eventually offer plasma screens instead of walls? I hope so. I already spend hours staring at the wall. I may as well be watching something.

And lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You genuinely have to be on drugs to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison and to hell with the consequences.

I spent some time in the toy section because it reminds me of my childhood, none of which I can recall, although I must have had one.

There’s a doll that speaks six lines. Or does six lines. I can’t remember. Cocaine Barbie, perhaps.

For the boys, there are millions of heavily armed action figures that don’t look as macho as they do gay. This is a good thing. If you want your son to grow up believing he can kill with impunity, rather he does it wearing nothing but short hair, a moustache and a pair of tight red shorts. At least that way we’ll see him coming.

I found a paramedic’s kit but it lacked a plastic handgun for when the ambulance has to go into the Cape Flats on a Friday night.

Then I came across a whole series of things you can do in the tub. “Shaving in the tub” was one. This is a filthy habit, whether you’re a girl or a boy, and you should only get this for your child if you have someone other than yourself who cleans the bath. Everything on the box is in French, which makes sense when you consider what these people regard as acceptable behaviour.

What next? Wine in the Jacuzzi? Frog’s legs in the bed? Pissing in the pool?

There’s also a talking octopus. I once met an octopus while snorkelling and I can honestly say that in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk, I expect they would say, “Please take that pointy stick out of my head and return me to the rock pool from whence I came.” Well, the educated ones would. The more common ones would probably squirt ink everywhere and try to strangle you with a tentacle.

A shop assistant has just caught me looking up a doll’s skirt. Awkward. I simply wanted to ascertain whether it was anatomically correct. With the education system as it is, I wouldn’t want my nephew growing up thinking all girls have a piece of hard plastic between their legs. Not that I have a nephew.

My Little Iron apparently makes realistic sounds. Like “I’m sick of slaving away for these ungrateful white bastards” and “Why doesn’t your useless father ever do this?” and “Open the safe or I’ll iron your face.”

I felt my masculinity listing badly and headed to a shop selling goodies capable of blinding, crippling or even killing your enemy, many of whom were jostling me and pushing their trolleys into my ankles.

They had a matt black rifle mounted on a stand at the entrance. Gamo Big Cats, it was called. I rather fancy myself as a big game hunter so I bought it. Knowing my luck, I’ll discover that it’s barely powerful enough to take out the feral tabbies of Umdloti just as the last white lion of the Kalahari lunges for my throat.

With my blood-alcohol levels dangerously low, I repaired to the restaurant area where several companies appeared to be having their get-togethers. Christmas parties used to be held at night. There would be carousing and fornicating and the company would happily pay your bail the next day. Now the grinches offer their employees a free lunch.

As if there’s such a thing.