Tag: Durban

To not swallow or split

Last Wednesday was International Migratory Bird Day and I speak for the indigenous avian community when I say we’re happy to see the back of those annoying ingrates. I have never seen such arrogance and entitlement. Disrespecting international borders, they come over here every summer, exploit our good weather and do absolutely nothing to uplift the local economy.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not good enough to fly in on a balmy October morning and start shouting about your brilliant sense of direction when some of us struggle to find our way out of shopping malls. We won’t even speak of the flitting about hither and yon in the hope that someone will catch a glimpse of your florid undercarriage and cry out in delight.

Who do they think they are? They come from dinosaurs, for god’s sake. They’re pterodactyls. Sure, they have a better attitude, but only because they know that if they started snatching our children, we wouldn’t hesitate to make them extinct. Like we did with the pterodactyls.

Then, at the first sign of a chill in the air, they close their nests and bugger off to somewhere warmer without so much as a thank you. I spent the entire summer throwing my bread and spilling my seed into the garden and making sure the little bastards had water to bath their filthy lice-infested bodies.

Living alone as I do, they were the only friends I had. I was learning their language. Do you think they ever bothered to learn mine? Of course not. They are like the British who spend hundreds of winters on the Costa del Sol and still the only Spanish they know is, “Una mas cerveza and a steak, egg and chips, pronto Tonto.”

I’m not asking for a debate on Rabelaisian architecture – quite frankly I’m not sure Rabel was an architect at all – but a simple good morning would have been nice. There was one bird who appeared on the telephone wire at sunset who had a lot to say. He’s gone, now. Probably to the Canary Islands, where, if there’s any justice in this world, he won’t be allowed in because he’s not a canary. I suppose there’s a chance he is a local and can’t afford to migrate, in which case his sudden disappearance is quite likely linked to the neighbour’s cat.

I prefer to think that he was concerned about my well-being and was advising me to leave post haste because winter was drawing dangerously near.

“But where should I go?” I shouted into the twilight.

“Durban,” he tweeted. It’s true. He has a Twitter account. All birds do. They’ve just learnt not to follow anyone after that nasty business with Alfred Hitchcock when nobody got paid even though they totally carried the movie.

My feathered friend had been with me for most of the summer, arriving at dusk every day to see that I was okay. Or, more likely, to gloat. If I could fly I would so gloat at creatures that can’t fly.

He saw my living conditions, there in my shack in the milkwoods of Kommetjie, and must have known I couldn’t afford to migrate to the warmer breeding grounds in the north. He wasn’t even sure I was capable of breeding at all. Nor am I, quite frankly.

I had already been thinking about migrating to Durban for the winter, so please don’t assume that I take my instructions from birds. That would be mad. Unless, of course, it’s crows. You’d be a reckless fool to ignore advice dispensed by crows.

And so it was that on International Migratory Bird Day I fled my shack ahead of looming frontal attacks by wild arctic storms and clawless otters crazed from the cold. I snuck through the crippled milkwoods under cover of darkness and folded myself into the Subaru, hitting the road at 6.15am, the earliest recorded motorised departure in human history.

Apparently it wasn’t. Apparently there are other people on the road at this godless hour. Not one or two, either. Hundreds. Thousands. The entire M3 was backed up for 30kms. It was still night. I wasn’t even able to make out the occupants of the other cars. They could have been flightless birds – ostriches behind the wheel with hysterical penguins gibbering in the back seat – all desperate to migrate to Durban. Boots stuffed with illegal emus and cassowaries who came over by boat but lost their money gambling and can’t get back to Australia or wherever the hell they come from.

What a terrible world this is becoming. I want you here by 8am. But sir, the taxis are on strike, the buses aren’t running, the trains are burning, the roads are jammed, the robots are out, a stoned dodo drove into me … I don’t care. 8am or you’re fired.

We need another industrial revolution but with a lot less emphasis on the industrial. The original idea was eight hours work, eight hours play and eight hours sleep. Heavy traffic, exploitative bosses, watered down tequila and barking dogs have screwed with this formula.

Anyway. I don’t care. I’m in a bar in Jeffreys Bay drinking gallons of The Bird lager. It’s made by a mob of east coast reprobates at Poison City Brewing. I see it as part of the essential refuelling process, much like what the red-faced warblers do when they stop off in Morocco for a hit on the hash pipe before shacking up with those cute Portuguese birds on the Algarve.

Besides, one doesn’t simply spend summer in Cape Town and return to Durban in winter without stopping off in Jeffreys Bay to acclimatise. By acclimatise, I obviously mean surf and drink and gird one’s loins for the hell run through the Transkei. I can’t call it the Eastern Cape because it doesn’t behave like a normal province. There’s no corruption because the entire budget is stolen within minutes of being allocated. The traffic cops are trained in new and unusual methods of soliciting bribes – “Sorry sir. On this section of road, you are forbidden from wearing seat belts”. Dogs run into the street hoping to be put out of their misery.

Look, the notion of spending summers in Cape Town and winters in Durban appeals to me on a deep and primal level. Just don’t call me a swallow. Swallows are people who have a home in London and another in Hermanus. Swallows are wealthy and generally retired. I’m neither, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this.

It’s quite simple, really. After spending seventeen winters in Cape Town, nine of them in a terrible state of marriage, I never again want to be cold. Or married.

Small change makes big trouble

I’ve been wondering if xenophobia really is a phobia at all. I mean, it’s nothing like arachnophobia, for instance. If it were, people who suffered from it would run screaming whenever they saw a Congolese car guard heading their way. Instead, our xenophobics actively seek out foreigners, then run aggressively towards them. It’s an odd way of showing fear.

Everybody seems to have something to say about the fresh hell erupting around Joburg. Here’s an excerpt from Trevor Noah’s contribution. “I don’t see (my) fellow African as a competitor, but a fellow compatriot who is struggling to feed his family and have some comfort in this short lifetime.”

Yeah, I guess you won’t see many unruly mobs of Africans outside your Manhattan studio fighting to get application forms for your job, Trev. Not much competition from these parts, mate. And, yes, of course you can relate to your fellow compatriot struggling to feed his family. After all, you’ve just bought an apartment in New York for the knock-down price of $10-million. That’s R130-million in our rinky-dink currency. Or, in a language your struggling African comrade might better understand, a billion Happy Meals for him and his skinny-ass family.

Moving on to that wretched cybernated universe infested with cats, food and other people’s children – yes, Facebook – where a DA uMhlanga councillor earlier this week pronounced on our own itinerant colonies of fringe-dwelling gutterpups.

“Wanna know why vagrancy is such an issue in North Durban? Cause some people still continue to give beggars and vagrants money. Like the man who just gave a beggar R50 bucks in Broadway, Durban North. There are NGOs and welfare organisations who would love that R50. Instead he will go make the bottle stores rich.”

While we’re making wild assumptions here, I bet it was a white man who gave the beggar that red lion. I’m also willing to wager that the mystery benefactor is involved in one or other white-collar crime. No law-abiding, wage-earning office drone has that kind of cash to give away willy-nilly. I’d say our guy is likely up to his eyeballs in one or other commercial crime. Whiteys, even the compassionate ones, love tax evasion and fraud more than they love fishing and golf. No mess, no fuss. Hell, if he’s a genuine empath he probably turned to crime just to be able to support the destitute as well as his family.

I give money to beggars at robots, but only if they get to my window before I can close it. If they tap on the glass, I drum on my steering wheel to create the impression that I can’t hear them because the music is too loud. Sometimes they jump on the bonnet and bang on the windscreen. Then I have to pretend I’m blind, which is harder to do.

When I was growing up in the area, Broadway was lined with trees alive with millions of screaming, defecating Indian mynahs. You wouldn’t be able to hear a beggar if he exploded. You’d see it, though, and perhaps wonder why a beggar had exploded. The only possible explanation would be that the mynahs had driven him mad and he’d blown himself up.

The trees and mynahs are long gone and, if the DA is to be believed, have been replaced by marauding bands of mooching dipsomaniacs who, upon receipt of a modest sum, will proceed as fast as their suppurating legs will take them to the nearest bottle store instead of doing the sensible thing and using the money to enroll their bastard children at Kearsney College.

In the minds of some, seekers of alms will forever be associated with alcohol. Journalists, too. When I get paid for this column, I take the money directly to the bottle store. The only difference between me and the Broadway beggar is that I work for it. Okay, fine, this can hardly be called work. In fact, I’m drinking on the job right now – something you rarely see beggars doing. I’m worse than a beggar.

Beggaring is a lot tougher than my job, let me tell you. On your feet all day staring beseechingly into one impassive face after another, a curt shake of the head or a dismissive wave of the hand the only validation that you even exist. God help us if they ever sober up enough to form a militia.

I don’t know if the councillor happened to be passing by when he witnessed this evil money-giving thing happening or if he regularly patrols Broadway monitoring the indigent. Incidentally, councillor, it’s called Swapo Avenue now. And has been for years. If you go berserk at the sight of someone giving R50 to a man who has nothing, I imagine you’re still not comfortable mentioning Swapo unless it’s followed by the word ‘terrorist’.

The councillor’s post received 20 ‘likes’ plus four ‘Wow’ and four ‘Angry’ emoticons. Vishen was the first to suggest that vagrancy in Durban North wasn’t so much caused by people giving beggars money as it was by the failure of the government, NGOs and welfare organisations to deal with homelessness in the first place. Pamela and Cristina agreed with Vishen. Bloody communists.

Rick said beggars are there because they want to be there. On three occasions he had offered R200 on condition they came to his house and did yard work. He said they refused. Of course they did. I wouldn’t get into a car with a strange white man either. Well, I might. But he’d have to offer a hell of a lot more than R200. I’d also expect unlimited access to beer once we were there. And a guarantee that I won’t have to take my broeks off.

Johan said, “I had some Aussie friends over a while ago and they were not impressed when approached by a beggar in Broadway.” Shame. I hope they went for trauma counseling. Australia doesn’t have a problem with indigenous folk loitering in the streets because they had the decency to allow themselves to be decimated by the settlers before going walkabout into areas where respectable white Australians wouldn’t have to be offended by looking at them.

Lurching back into the fray, the councillor threw a second punch in case anyone had mistaken him for a bleeding heart altruist. “People who donate money to beggars in Broadway do nothing but encourage alcoholism and drug abuse.” I always thought unscrupulous employers, appalling working conditions and an intolerant, insular society which shuns the sick, lonely and weak was responsible for that. And, of course, marriage, which has done more than anything to encourage people to hit the bottle or reach for the meds.

Claire, who seems to be another avid beggar-watcher, chipped in. “There is a vagrant who sleeps on Savell Ave by the petrol station. And as he gets food etc he stays.‬” This is outrageous. Money is one thing, but food? What next? Silk pyjamas? Tickets to the ballet? Timeshare in Margate? You give these people food and all they do is put on weight. The next time you see them, they expect a gym contract.

Nkosinathi, who must be one of the DA’s black members I’ve heard about, had his own tale of horror. “I’ve just seen 3 guys outside the church in Broadway, they looked quite high on something, definitely not from juice.‬” High on Jesus, maybe? I prefer to think they were high on life, Nkosinathi. After all, Durban North is essentially Stepford without the submissive and impossibly beautiful wives.

Theo was clearly on drugs when he wrote, “I will rather give that beggar the R50 irrespective of what he spends it on than give it to some organisation who takes R40 to cover their expenses and only R10 goes to the homeless.” We don’t need your kind here, Theo. Humanitarianism is nothing more than satanism in a cheap suit. Once word gets out that there are kind, generous people in Durban North, it’s only a matter of time before the Syrians start arriving with their tattered children, crudely severed limbs and cheap plastic begging bowls.

But don’t for a minute think that’s where our problems end. Our fearless councillor posted this a day earlier. “Have been keeping track of people in public restrooms. Wanna know why everyone is getting sick? So many people do their business and just walk out without washing their hands. It’s disgusting!” Trumpian parallels aside, I’d also be reluctant to hang about and wash my hands if a creepy white guy was standing in the corner watching me.

A few days earlier, he posted this. “Who can help their poor long suffering councillor with some furniture for his office? Need a coffee table and a couch or two.” Begging for a handout, councillor? Hmm. How do we know you’re not going to pawn that couch and buy a bottle of vodka or a bag of weed? It’s a slippery slope, my friend. It starts with free furniture and before you know it you’re sucking on a bong and snorting cocaine off a Cambodian hooker’s belly.

shebeen

A licence to chill

I try to avoid carrying a bulging wallet in my pants pocket in case a jumpy cop mistakes it for a gun and shoots me in the teeth. Or worse, a woman mistakes it for massive genitalia and tries to marry me.

This means I carry only banknotes, credit card and driver’s licence. During the regular movement of cash from pocket to bartender, it’s easy for a piece of plastic to go astray. This time it was my licence. I don’t understand why we need a licence to drive but not one to have children.

I don’t know who has my licence. All I know is that it’s not me. And hasn’t been for weeks. I don’t know what the consequences are of driving without a licence. They certainly can’t be as severe as, say, breeding without a brain. And there’s a hell of a lot of that going around these days.

I’m a little upset that I still haven’t been through a single roadblock. Threats of immediate imprisonment forced me to spend the entire festive season drinking within a three-metre radius nowhere near a public road, church or school. It was great. Actually, not so great when the paramedics couldn’t find me.

Normally, I wouldn’t bother about replacing my licence because I drive perfectly well without it. Also, in many ways, going to prison is a more attractive option than visiting the vehicle licensing department. Or any government office, really. The queuing, the weeping, the suicide attempts. It’s all too dreadful for words.

I do, however, need my driver’s licence for ID purposes, even though I’m against a world where people have the right to ask you to identify yourself before giving you whatever it is you want. It should be enough that you have a functioning human face and can speak at least one language.

Hiding out on the Cape peninsula, far from the febrile incubator that is Durban in summer, I went to the licensing office in Fish Hoek. The glittering jewel of the deep south holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my second marriage exploded damply like an over-inflated puffer fish.

There were only four people in front of me in the queue, but that didn’t stop me from sighing and muttering and rolling my eyes. I lost my place in the queue when I had to retrieve them from the other side of the room.

I’ve had a driving licence since I was 18 and hoped the system would show that I had over the years complied with the multitude of requirements – eye tests, fingerprints, photographs, polygraph, DNA samples, ability to simultaneously pat my head and rub my tummy while repeating Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry and so on – enabling me to simply pay a modest fee and get a duplicate on the spot.

Hope, however, is an alien concept among those who inhabit the dark world of motor vehicle licensing.

“Third door on the left,” said the man at enquiries. There were only two doors. The mythical third door is actually a corridor that leads to, I don’t know, a portal to another world, perhaps. A world where nobody needs permission for anything and mermaids frolic in fountains of cold beer while happy chocolate cows graze in lush fields of fresh marijuana. I felt myself salivating and started off down the corridor.

“You can’t go there,” said a woman with the eyes of a snoek on a hook.

“Why not?” I said. “Because of the drunk mermaids and edible cows?”

The man at enquiries says, “Third door on the left” around 150 times a day. That’s 36 000 times a year. It would be an atrocity – a human rights violation – to tell him there is, in fact, no third door. Blocked from entering the corridor of eternal pleasure, I returned to the counter.

“There is no third door to the left,” I said. He didn’t look at me so much as through me. It was as if I never existed. “Next,” he said. I backed off and made my way to the second door on the left.

“Is this for the eye tests?” I asked a woman at the end of a longer queue. She pointed at a sign above my head. “Eye Test” it said. I laughed and said I hadn’t noticed it because it wasn’t in braille. She did something with her mouth. I couldn’t be sure if it was a smile or a snarl. A smarl, maybe.

My turn in the chair coincided with a shift change. This wasn’t good. The tired dude who didn’t give a damn was being replaced by a fresh dude who didn’t give a damn. There’s not much you can do to get your eyes ready for a test. I opened them wide, blinked rapidly a few times, then rubbed them vigorously, turning the entire room into a blur.

The tester, whose eyes were redder than mine, asked me to confirm something on one of the forms I’d filled out. I couldn’t see what I’d written. Bad start. I also couldn’t find my reading glasses because I was wearing a pair of camo shorts with a multitude of pockets designed to accommodate ammunition, condoms, grenades, flick knives, puppies and all manner of illicit substances. By the time I found my glasses, he had lost interest and was waiting for me to wedge my face into the machine.

The test was basic. When the letter m appears in the viewfinder, push the toggle in the direction it’s facing. It quickly became apparent that I was going to have to wing it. After a while, it didn’t even look like the letter m. It could just as easily have been a little man in a rowing boat fishing on a lake. I joggled my toggle valiantly, at one point laughing openly at the futility of it all.

“You failed,” he said. It seemed possible.

“My left eye’s pretty good,” I said. He shook his head. I went on to explain that I’ve never had any trouble seeing cars, people or animals in the road, hence my still being alive. But if I ever did encounter a teeny tiny m loitering in the breakdown lane, I’d just ignore it. I wouldn’t shout, “Oh my God, a teeny tiny m!” and wrench the wheel, rolling the car and killing everyone around me. He gave me a smarl.

Luckily, I had an ace up my sleeve. En route, I’d stopped at the mall and gone to an optician for an eye test. I passed with flying colours. Well, flying enough. That test involved reading half a dozen letters on the back of her door (a test that has been in use since 500BC) and another test involving peripheral vision. That was my best result. One doesn’t survive two marriages without possessing excellent peripheral vision.

Somehow, an optician’s eye test outranks a government eye test. An admission that certain things are best left in the hands of the private sector doesn’t come along that often. If only it applied to more things. Like ministries.

So I now have a temporary driver’s licence valid for six months. Presumably I will at some point get a message that my permanent licence is ready for collection. I will pick it up and go off to celebrate at The Vic, where the card will once more fall from my pocket and eventually be picked up by some cheerful punter and used to chop a line in the bogs.

RoadblockBen.jpg

Tap-dancing gorillas and tenants from hell

Did you know that gorillas make up “food songs” while they eat? A German scientist discovered this “fun new fact” while working with the primates in the Congo. I don’t think it’s a fun fact at all. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than coming across a silverback gyrating its hips and singing Purple Rain with a mouth full of bamboo shoots.

Oh, look. Here’s another fun fact. Come November, Donald Trump could well be the 45th president of the United States of America.

While we’re on the subject of fun facts, did you know that 42% of Americans continue to believe that God created humans less than 10 000 years ago? Understand this and you’ll find it easier to understand why that orange maniac is the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

I read somewhere that the world has experienced five mass extinctions over the last half a billion years and is on the brink of the sixth. Quite frankly, it can’t happen soon enough for me.

I don’t know what the hell this year thinks it’s doing. I went to Cape Town for Christmas and stumbled out three months later. I made an overnight stop in Jeffreys Bay and went to St Francis for lunch. Lunch lasted a month. Then, on my way back to Durban a few days ago, my biological GPS had a nervous breakdown and instead of driving past Rhodes University I found myself outside the University of Fort Hare in that glittering jewel of a town called Alice. Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?

I’m exhausted. If that’s what holidays do to you, then I need a proper job – one that restricts me to 21 days leave a year. It’s for my own good. Even heroin addicts live longer than freelance journalists. They at least have to move around to find money and drugs. We just need a laptop, a comfy chair and a running tab.

Some idiot once said that with great freedom comes great responsibility. This is absolute rubbish. With great freedom comes great freedom. That’s all there is to it.

Freedom is great. I would venture to say that freedom is greater than God because freedom doesn’t threaten to consign your soul to the eternal hellfires of damnation if you covet your neighbour’s ass. But it can be tiring.

So anyway, after eight hours of dodging Transkei road-kill and bent cops, I get home to find my refuge trashed. Not by burglars, but by the people who stayed here last. The thing with Airbnb is that you’re allowing complete strangers to abuse your house in return for nothing more than money. It’s a form of prostitution, really. It’s also a devilishly easy way to make money. This is something that speaks to me. Whoring my home comes naturally to me. I am a property pimp. There are worse things to be. At least I’m not a member of parliament.

Usually there is a domestic worker who gets dropped off by helicopter after a guest leaves, but this time she had been called away on urgent business in the Bahamas and failed to turn up. This meant I had to deal with the situation with no backup whatsoever.

I pulled in to the driveway saturated in road rage, the Land Rover bucking and snorting, and bellied up to the front door with my key in one hand and a Balinese fighting sword in the other. That’s my weapon of choice when I traverse the Transkei. Chopping off an arm here and there sends a clear signal to the local banditry. I learnt this from my Saudi Arabian friends.

The guests, luckily for them, had departed. Less luckily for me, they had left a mound of soiled cutlery and crockery in the sink, three pots of semi-cooked gunk on the stove and bits of half-eaten food in the fridge. I also found a packet of King Size Rizlas and an empty eyedropper of something called Ruthless. I don’t know what it is. The print on the bottle is too small to read. And my bedroom looks like Charlie Sheen was here. This guest from hell was an Afrikaner currently living overseas. He brought his girlfriend, his baby and his mother. It sounds like a sitcom written by the Marquis de Sade.

I suspect this is why Berlin has introduced a law banning homeowners from renting out their properties on Airbnb, although a more plausible reason might be that the city wants to keep random acts of cannibalism under control. Germans like nothing more than getting together on a Saturday night and eating bits of one another over a bottle or two of chianti. The new legislation is called Zweckentfremdungsverbot. Such a mellifluous language.

I returned to not only terrible scenes in my home, but also in parliament. A debate on the Presidency budget vote? That’s not what I saw. I saw a bunch of pot-bellied revolutionaries getting their arses handed to them by a plainclothes posse from the parking lot. Surely the whole point of wearing red is that you don’t care about getting blood on your clothes? I want to see some real fighters in the EFF. I want to see Mikey Schultz and Radovan Krecjir sitting behind Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu. Then we’ll see who gets thrown out of parliament.

Finally, let us not even speak of Matthew Theunissen, Cape Town’s latest contender for a Darwin award. After posting an ill-conceived anti-government diatribe on Facebook that would have made a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan blush, he said he “didn’t intend to say those words”. Fair enough. I didn’t intend to drink a dozen beers while writing this column either, but it happened nevertheless. Evil forces are clearly at work. Matthew has a Masters from Stellenbosch University, that shining beacon of progressive thought. I wasn’t aware that Maties offered post-graduate degrees in white supremacy. Maybe he thought you needed a Masters to be a fully-fledged member of the master race.

Matthew insisted that he wasn’t a racist; that he had “friends of colour”. By colour, I imagine he means the different shades of red his white friends turned when they realised what an utter fuckwit he is.

Bring on the sixth extinction.

 

 

 

Rent boy goes west

Mosquitoes have begun sending out the recces early this year. They’re coming in at high altitude late at night – not in packs, but in pairs. They split up once they’ve gained entrance to the bedroom. One makes for the head, the other the feet.

Being a reconnaissance mission, they are meant to check out conditions ahead of the summer advance, then leave quietly. But there are always one or two who can’t help themselves. Like some of our recces in 1976 who just had to push on to Luanda, these little suckers are hanging for a hit of blood so bad that they throw caution to the winds and embark upon a frolic of their own. Let it be said that they don’t always make it back to base.

Soon the mosquito queen – there hasn’t been a king since the Great Slapping of 1984 – will summons her wing commanders. The chief spokesmozzie will read out the reports from the scouts who have travelled from Port Edward to Kosi Bay, from Durban to wherever Kwazulu-Natal ends and Mordor begins.

The queen will put it to the vote. Is it properly summer? Are the targets slow enough? Drunk enough? Mosquitoes are easily excited – especially when their blood-blood levels are low – and the vote, conducted by a show of proboscises, will be unanimous. We attack at 3am.

I need to get out before the onslaught begins. Cape Town has three mosquitoes and a summer that doesn’t leave you perpetually drenched in sweat. I spent seventeen years there and only returned to the east coast after Brenda showed signs of being a lot colder and madder than all the winters put together.

My plan, if you can even call it that, is to spend summers in Cape Town and winters in Durban. However, due to the sudden but not altogether unforeseen change in my marital status, I no longer have a home there. This would mean having to rent. Given my budget and the feeding frenzy of greed around Cape Town’s property market, I’d be lucky to get an asbestos box downwind of Koeberg.

I am going to have to rent out my Durban spot and use that money to get something a bit closer to the action. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my place isn’t fit for human habitation, but it will certainly take more than a rug to pull the living room together.

I have four dining room chairs that were ripped to shreds by the cats formerly known as ours but which were really hers. I assume it was the cats. It could just as easily have been the ex sharpening her teeth late at night when the full moon was out. When I took them in to be reupholstered, the dude asked me what colour material I’d like. I told him it didn’t matter because I lived alone. He seemed to understand.

I don’t have a colour scheme. Or a scheme of any kind, really. I bought a microwave oven that’s too small to accommodate a dinner plate. All my meals are on side plates. The bathroom hasn’t had a light for months because I can’t get the cover off. None of the windows have curtains. I hung two metal elephant heads on the wall, knowing their protruding trunks would almost certainly put someone’s eye out. The beds are pushed up against the wall like prostitutes and their bases are naked. The local monkeys seem to think the place is theirs.

I want to advertise it on the accommodation site Airbnb since this would give me the flexibility to return should something unexpected happen, as I fully expect it to. It also means having to make an effort to get it looking more like a B&B and less like the result of senile squalor syndrome. The thing is, I can’t do it on my own. I need a woman. Studies have shown that women are genetically predisposed towards interior decorating. They understand what goes where and why. They understand colours. They understand concepts like flow, light and space. I don’t even understand how my stupid miniature microwave works.

I am, however, currently between women. And should I solicit advice from those with whom I have had dealings and dalliances, I’d be lucky to get more than a two-word response. One of them obviously being ‘off’.

So I did the unthinkable. I had a sex change. No, I didn’t. That wouldn’t help at all. I’d still have my useless man brain. On the other hand, it would allow me to become a lesbian and have sex with women. Hang on. I haven’t thought this through properly.

Anyway. I did the next most awkward thing. I went to the CNA and looked for a home décor magazine. Inexplicably, many of them insist on featuring gardens. I live in a complex. The garden is not my responsibility and plays no part in my life. I have a vague sense it’s out there somewhere, but beyond that I don’t really care what it does.

I wanted ideas on fairly basic stuff. Like how to make a bed look as if Charlie Sheen hadn’t just spent a week in it. And how to use scatter cushions without making Liberace seem butch. Also, where to put two enormous couches and a wooden table that were removed from the huge marital home in a fit of pique but which aren’t altogether suited to the new, reduced circumstances.

There were at least thirty magazines dealing with homes. In the end I settled for a pack of three. One of them was called Beautiful Kitchens. Every one of its 146 pages has to do with kitchens – a room most women hate being alone in and which most men know only as the place where the fridge lives.

I got home and saw they were all British magazines. That’s no good at all. Ooh, what a lovely lamp. And it’s … let me get my calculator … only R48 000 excluding shipping! What a steal. I’ll take a dozen.

After flipping through these magazines, I realised two things. One, that I’m not gay. And two, interior decorating has more to do with the actual structure than it does the decorations. For a start, it helps to have a fireplace, high ceilings, a staircase, wooden floors and bay windows overlooking two horses in a field.

People who peruse these periodicals are presumably looking for ideas. Well, I had one. It involves flying to London, catching a train to Wiltshire, going around to Andrew and Amanda Bannister’s converted 19th-century Baptist chapel, ringing the bell and, in the unlikely event that they open the door instead of unleashing the hounds, saying, “Love what you’ve done with the place. May I have it?”

I found this decorating tip. “Paint all the walls white, then wait a while before choosing a colour. That way you get used to the effect of the changing light.” You would have to be mental to follow this advice, and not only because it’s utter gibberish. I repainted my bedroom a couple of years ago. There was so much screaming and swearing that the body corporate sent someone around to have a word.

I can only assume advice like this is given by people who can afford to pay others to do the painting.

I don’t want to read about “intimate seating areas where you can curl up with a good book”. If I’m going to get intimate, it’s damn sure not going to be with a book. And at my age I want to be able to stretch out on my back at the first signs of intimacy.

“Jane and Roger have a Buddha from Nepal that creates a beautiful focal point.” I have an aggressive gecko from Westbrook. It creates a terrifying focal point for herpetophobics.

Decorating tip: “If you’re unsure about choosing colours for a room, just pick out an accent from a cushion and build the scheme around it.” Bru, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but if your cushions are talking to you in any kind of accent, regardless of what scheme you’ve got going, you need help.

“An off-white wall makes the perfect backdrop for a set of antlers.” Indeed. There is nothing quite like the skull of a dead stag above your bed to get you in the mood for love. Especially if you’re wearing pyjamas made from the foreskins of baby otters.

These magazines are full of attractive white people with perfect teeth and matching dogs and children called Jay, Poppy or Milo. They are constantly stumbling upon run-down farmhouses or barns and turning them into paragons of gorgeousness awash in Louis XIV couches. Here, we have run-down farmworkers sleeping on couches from Louis Fortuin Furnishers there by the bottle store.

Meanwhile, let me know if you want to spend summer in an eclectically furnished simplex on the north coast. Bring your own side plates. And mind the elephants.

Hovel

Ben Trovato takes a break from protesting to redecorate his home.

Crafting a new revolution

There is so much to write about this week. The crisis at the country’s universities. Oscar Pistorius’ release into controlled captivity. Britain’s unseemly fawning over the president of one of the world’s most repressive and undemocratic regimes – no, not Syria. China. So I thought I’d write about beer instead.

The poetically named Anheuser-Busch InBev has put in a cheeky offer to buy SABMiller for $104-billion. Big deal. That’s my monthly tab at the pub.

I’m not usually a fan of megalithic corporate conglomerates, but this one will be able to penetrate deep into Africa, Asia and Latin America. If there’s one thing the poor need, it’s greater access to fresh beer.

Unlike some people I could mention, beer has always been there for me. That’s not strictly true. It hasn’t been as loyal to me as I have been to it. I have spent many nights in its company, only to wake up the next morning to find that it has stabbed me in the brain and made off with my cellphone.

I am not alone in this. Many of my compatriots are in a committed relationship with beer and yet South Africa is not even in the top 24 countries that love beer the most. This is pathetic and I, for one, am deeply ashamed. I know I’m doing my bit. It’s you people out there – drinking wine and other rubbish – that are letting us down.

At the bottom of the list, 67% of Ecuadoreans drink beer. We can’t even beat that. Fiji, for heaven’s sake, drinks more beer than we do. Namibia at least does the continent proud, coming in third with an unhealthy 96.7%. Bhutan, of all places, takes top honours. There, the entire population drinks beer. They score a perfect 100%. Those Buddhists sure could teach us a thing or two about commitment.

Anyway. At least it’s still October, a month in which beer is worshipped around the world. Not so much in Saudi Arabia. The northern hemisphere traditionally pays tribute to beer at the height of the fall. The height of the fall often depends on where you are and how much beer you’ve had. America named this season after the Pilgrims developed a taste for Wampanoag homebrew and spent seven months struggling to get to their feet. We call it autumn although we also fall a fair bit. It’s very confusing.

The Germans gave us Oktoberfest. However, they also gave us the Third Reich. Then again, they gave us the Easter Bunny. But they also gave us the accordion. On the other hand, they gave us aspirin, essential to any serious beer-drinkers’ survival kit. So it all evens out in the end.

Many countries have followed Germany’s example and celebrate their own version of the Oktoberfest. According to my research, “the southern Mexico City borough of Xochimilco hosts an annual traditional German knees-up complete with beer and bratwurst, all served up with a fiery Mexican twist”. The twist presumably comes when the Los Zetas cartel crashes the party and kills everyone.

Durban doesn’t have an Oktoberfest because it’s held in September so they have to call it the Bierfest. It’s quite understandable. It’s hot, the venue is available and the beer is on ice. What the hell difference does it make what month it is? We’re going to be drinking beer solidly every day until the end of the year anyway.

The first mistake the organisers of the Bierfest made was to introduce a European element to the festivities, offering oompah bands, ‘Bavarian’ barmaids with their chests hanging out, weird German sausages and so on. Their second mistake was not to invite me.

With October running out of days, I was becoming anxious about missing the few remaining opportunities to celebrate the month of beer. Of course I had been celebrating all along, but slumped on the couch throwing peanuts at the monkeys and talking to a dog I don’t have isn’t much fun. I wanted to be among fellow aficionados, or, as my mother used to call them, drunks.

After going for a surf at Umdloti the other day, I was standing under the shower when this guy joined me. It’s not what it sounds like. For a start, he had his own shower. And he didn’t just come out of the bushes, either. He had also been surfing. Surfers in Durban don’t generally talk to each other unless they’re related or have known each other for at least twenty years.

This dude broke with tradition and said he’d seen me around. Asked who I was. I gave him a fake name because I don’t trust anyone, least of all myself. Next thing you know, I’ve been kidnapped and sold off to a gang of degenerate white slave traders operating out of the Bush Tavern. It can happen.

A few days later I saw his picture in the paper. He wasn’t involved in human trafficking at all. What he had done, though, was start his own brewery. I cursed myself for being such a fool. It was as if I had allowed a soul mate to slip through my fingers. The company is called Poison City Brewing. My column is called Durban Poison. The logo is five surfboards positioned to resemble the leaf of one of Durban’s most popular herbaceous plants – the Cannabis sativa. I have five surfboards and … well, I needed no further proof that the invisible hand of Jah was trying to bring this brewery and me together.

Using my finely honed investigative skills, I tracked him down and insisted that he introduce me to his beer. It’s a lager called The Bird. I hoped he would leave us alone for a while so that we might become better acquainted. Instead, he invited me to a mini Oktoberfest at his home. After making sure that nobody would be wearing lederhosen and I wouldn’t be expected to do the ridiculous Chicken Dance, I agreed to attend. He said that, as a nod to tradition, his German wife would be there. Blonde? Yes. Okay, then. Dark-haired German women terrify me. It doesn’t feel right. Like tall clowns. Or talking sheep.

It turned out to be way better than a normal beerfest because the beer was free. Obviously it had to be an invitation-only affair. Open something like that up to the public and you’d have to get the riot police in. Especially on the north coast.

Being a Sunday I was dressed casually – much like a homeless person dresses casually – and was relieved to find myself in good company. This wasn’t the kind of crowd one might expect at, say, a wine-tasting soiree. I suppose a beer made by a company called Poison Brewing, with a logo that might get you searched at a roadblock, was never going to attract a conventional crowd. I might have been the only person there without a tattoo. Or, oddly, a young child.

And that’s the point, really. Anti-establishmentarianism might be damnably hard to say when you’re off your face, but with a bit of effort it can become the new zeitgeist.

If this Anheuser-Busch-SABMiller merger goes ahead, they will control a third of all global beer sales and rake in $64-billion a year. And they’ll pay tax in Belgium. I’m done with making rich people richer. Anheuser-Busch chairman Olivier Goudet and his accomplices have quite enough money.

If craft beer is the Che Guevara of the brewing industry, carry me to the barricades.

BenBeer

SUCK ON  THIS: Ben Trovato has found a crafty way to deal with giant brewing monopolies – show them The Bird.

 

 

 

No wealth and common as dirt – Durban takes the lead

Parties exploded across Durban last week when Edmonton withdrew its bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, leaving this glittering jewel of the east coast the sole bidder.

It should be said, though, that Durban people have a reputation for partying first and asking questions later. Often there is no time to even ask questions because we have to move on to the next party or risk falling behind. Nobody wants to be the Arsenal of the party circuit.

But on Wednesday, as I raced like a degenerate white Lewis Hamilton from braai to soiree to crack house, partying my ass off, I began wondering if Edmonton’s wussing out was more of a curse than a blessing. Had these Canadians just handed us a poisoned chalice? Was I onto something? I had been smoking poison and drinking from chalices all night. Did any of this really matter? Why was I having these thoughts? Why was I having any thoughts at all?

I shook my head violently. It fell off and rolled under a table. A woman dressed like Peter Pan – it might have been Peter Pan dressed as a woman – retrieved it and screwed it back on.

“Thank you,” I said. I was going to make a cheap joke about giving me head but she said her darling Wendy was waiting for her and disappeared through an open window. Might have been Tinkerbell, but that wouldn’t explain the … forget it. For the record, I don’t have a problem with fairies or lesbians.

I might, however, have a problem with Canadians. The ones from Edmonton, in particular. So why did you withdraw your bid for the Games? What was tha’ all aboot, eh? You wanted ’em bad enough when you tossed yer hat into the ring back in whenever it was, diddencha?

Oh, I see. Financial reasons and a global fall in oil prices. Well, that makes it even cheaper to hold oil-based events like women’s wrestling and … that’s about it. As for financial reasons, are you saying you had the money but now you don’t? Where the hell did it go? Do you have a South African in charge of the treasury?

Durban also doesn’t have the money but, unlike you, we don’t put the selfish needs of our own people above something as important as the Commonwealth Games.

Studies have shown that the underclass is less likely to rob and murder others if one of their countrymen wins a gold medal. Our people might have no work or food but they do have civic pride. And that’s what important here.

This seems to be turning into a letter. Well, it’s too late to stop now.

I think you’ve played us, Edmonton. I think you’re like the cash-strapped drunk who sits at the back of an auction raising his hand on every bet, forcing the serious bidders to pay more than they would otherwise have done. Sure, it’s fun. But you’re older than I am and you should know better.

Glasgow hosted the games last year and it cost them 575-million quid. Or, as our president would say, seventy-eleven trillion, nine hundred and thousand billion rand.

So what you’ve done is effectively bankrupted Durban. Where the hell are we going to get that kind of money from? We were bargaining heavily on you winning the bid. We can’t pull out now. That would leave nobody wanting to host the 2022 games. Queen Elizabeth would have a conniption, Charles would become king and we’d all have to burn our cars and travel everywhere by camel.

Be honest, Canada. You don’t really want to be in the Commonwealth, do you? Half your country speaks French and the other half hardly speak at all because if they open their mouths their tongues freeze solid and their teeth crack and fall out of their heads.

So it is left to us to hold high the flag of the Commonwealth. And let me tell you something, Edmonton. The opening ceremony of the first-ever African games, performed by torchlight, gas lamps and bits of burning wood, will be the best ever.