Tag Archives: humour

Revelations

Revelation Bible Religion - Free photo on PixabayNow that the lockdown allows inter-provincial travel and family visits, Gertruida was happy to hear that a distant niece, Mathilda Grove, wanted to pay a visit.

‘Mathilda is the epitome of the classic Old Maid Syndrome. Last time I heard, she was working at an old-age home in Paarl, where she took care of some old and infirm patients. A heart of gold, she has. A real gem.’ When Gertruida told the group in Boggel’s Place about the upcoming visit, old Servaas brightened a bit. It’s been years since Siena died and the dearth of possible replacements contributed to his constant grumpy state. Gertruida says old men get that way due to a chronic psychological massaging deficiency. She says PMD is far worse than PMS.

***

Rolbos shares some realities with other towns. One of these is the fact that nothing ever turns out exactly the way one anticipates it would be. When the large 4X4 bakkie (in America they call it a ‘truck’) slowed down to a  stop in front of Boggel’s Place, the Rolbossers crowded the small window.

‘Look at that caravan,’ Vetfaan whispered.

‘Shees – look at that bakkie, man! And those tyres!’ Kleinpiet lets out a low whistle.

‘Who, in heaven’s name, is that?’ Gertruida points at the gentleman who scoots around the vehicle to open the passenger side door.

***

The gentleman turns out to be Albertus Visser, a one-time inhabitant of Sunset House in Paarl.

‘He used to sit beneath the old tree in the corner of the lawn. All by himself, see?’ Mathilda smiles as she strokes Albertus’s back. After all the introductions have been done, they are enjoying a cold beer on Gertruida’s tab. ‘Every day he sat there, morning till night, reading the Bible. We all thought he was a bit strange, you know? But in an old-age home you get all sorts of people and we nursing staff just let them be.’

‘Harrumph!’ Albertus clears his throat. In a voice that is strangely high-pitched, he continues: ‘An old-age home is the last stop. That’s where it all ends. So it makes sense to do a bit of reading in the Book, see? You know where you’ve been; but do you know where you’re going? So I was just familiarising myself…’

‘Yes he was afraid he’d never get through all the books in the Bible, poor man.’ Mathilda interrupts with a wink at her beau. ‘And I didn’t know his problem until he called me Mithald.’ Mathilda lets out a shriek of laughter. ‘Mithald! At first I thought he was stupid.’

‘Most people did. You weren’t the only one,’ Albertus smiled. ‘As far back as I can remember it’s been like that. And oh! The experiences I’ve had with teachers! Can’t even remember how many hidings I got.’

‘You see, Albertus tried to go to church in his younger days, but it just didn’t work out, did it, dear?’ The way she looks at Albertus makes him blush.

‘Thise little pamphlets were horrible. You had to fill in stuff on some of them. Others apparently told you what to expect in the next week. And then the dominee would tell you where to read in the Bible and finally, which songs to look up to sing. I nearly died.’

‘Now, now, dear, don’t get worked up all over again.’ Mathilda pats the old man’s arm. ‘It’s okay now.’

‘The problem was that that dominee once preached about going to heaven. He said nobody can make it without reading the Bible from cover to cover. So I was deep into Matthew when Mithald, er, Ma-thil-da,  got involved.’

‘Ja, shame, the poor thing. When he looked at my name tag and called me Mithald, I realised what his problem was. Can you imagine how hard it is to progress right through the Good Book if you’ve got dyslexia? That’s why he struggled all those years – figuring out one word at a time.

‘Well, I took pity on the poor man. So I started doing the reading for him. Every day a few chapters. Took us four months, it did, but we got through it all in the end. It was our own lockdown blessing! By the time we finished Revelations, we got to know each other rather well..’

***

Gertruida says Mathilda is no longer the epitome of an old maid. Once Albertus made it to the end of Revelations (with Mathilda’s help), he didn’t have to isolate himself every day to try to make sense of the words.  In fact, he realised that living love was better than reading about it. That, Gertruida says (because she knows so much) is the biggest revelation of all.

Old Servaas is still grumpy. He says Mathilda isn’t his type at all. He’s read the Bible already all by himself, so  what’s the point?

 

 

Happy Wind #1

 

Kate's skirt has a mind of its own as she speaks to soldiers as she arrives at Calgary Airport on July 7, 2011. Chris Jackson, Getty Images.

Wind and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Gertruida will tell you – because she knows everything – that all winds are not necessarily sad. There are, for instance, Happy Winds which are completely different to the Dismal variety. Happy Winds are frivolous and naughty. They get into papers and hair and skirts. You’d recognise a Happy Wind instantly, she says, simply because its effect will make you smile.

Happy Winds also bring relief and joy as it fulfills promises (like rain), which Dismal winds never do. When you get Gertruida talking about these winds, she always tells the story of Herman Viljee and little Susan Bothma. She says it describes exactly what a Happy Wind is capable of.

 

***

History – De Beers Group Susan Bothma was a petite young lady with an athletic body and a strong mind. Born to an older couple – after years of trying to fall pregnant – she was spoiled from day one. Her room was spacious and overflowed with Teddies, soft toys, lights of various colours and soft music. The Bothma’s were an extremely rich and clever family. Their fortune was built up over many generations, starting with some shares Great-great Grandfather Loser Bothma won in a poker game in Kimberley.

***

Loser Bothma lived up to his name all his life. Nothing he tried ever worked or turned out to be even moderately successful. Maybe because he had nothing to lose and maybe because he was an eternal optimist, he was also a habitual gambler. The only certain thing about his gambling, was the inevitable outcome.

In 1891 he was 52 years old, digging for diamonds as a humble labourer in somebody else’s claim. (It is still unsure who owned that claim, although the family believes it was Cecil Rhodes himself). Top Spots For Gem Hunting In The US | Gem hunt, Diamond state park ...Loser knew he was way past his prime and that his later years would be spent in abject poverty. And then, one day, as he shoveled one dejected spadeful of dusty gravel after the other on to the sieve, a little gust of wind changed his fortune in the blink of an eye. He noticed the spark of reflected sunlight first and when he forced his aching back to bend a bit further, he picked up a pure blue diamond the size of his thumb. It was perfect in every way.

Of course, the diamond didn’t belong to him. But… the claim had delivered only a few, inferior quality, diamonds in the past. He was working alone. And nobody saw him pocket the stone. He went home to his dilapidated tent that night to sit down beneath the torn canvas and to consider what to do. There was no way he could claim the diamond as his own to sell; people knew him and who he worked for. A diamond that pure of that size would be impossible to sell without divulging its true origin.

For once in his life, Loser made the right decision. He buried the diamond under his mattress and continued working on the claim. He did find two or three small, insignificant diamonds, which he duly delivered to (the family believes) Mr Rhodes. And then, when his time was up, he folded his tent, stuffed the diamond in his pocket and left for the Witwatersrand, where gold fever was at its height.

Rand Club in 1888

The Rand Club in 1894

Loser was careful. He had a few pounds and the clothes on his back, as well as a donkey to carry the tent, his mattress and a few pots and pans. He reached Johannesburg, pitched his tent and started looking around. At last, he heard about the gentlemen at the Rand Club. They were rich, he heard, and had a penchant for gambling – especially poker. This was, as his name indicated, a game he was most familiar with.

And so, on the evening of a warm day in December, 1894, Loser presented himself at the club and asked if he could join the game.

***

Cecil rhodes & alfred beit00.jpg

Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Beit

‘One must bear in mind,’ Gertruida says – because she knows everything, ‘that Loser was dressed in the only clothes he had. He was dirty and dusty and his hair was all over the place. The doorman threatened to throw him out. Loser showed his diamond. At that precise moment Alfred Beit arrived at the door. He, Rhodes, Wernher and Herman Ecksteen was planning on a leisurely evening of friendly poker. He saw the diamond, the scruffy, down-and-out miner and immediately invited Loser in.

 

One game and one game only, was offered to Loser. ‘The highest hand wins. No comebacks, no second chances.’ Beit smiled the way a hyena would. Easy game, easy prey and easy winnings. And the buy-in, Beit said, would be £ 5000, just about the price for the diamond – quite incidentally. Loser was to hand over his diamond, but Beit said everybody else was good for the credit. When Loser objected, Rhodes sent the barmaid downstairs to fetch his valise from the safe, guarded by an armed employee. The man came back to check. Rhodes raised his voice. The valise was on the table a minute later.

‘There,’ Rhodes said. selecting a document from the briefcase, ‘satisfied now?” It was a share certificate was worth just over £ 5000.

Loser swallowed hard and nodded.

How to play Texas Holdem Poker? - 1mhowto.com

They sat down in plush chairs on the first floor of the building with a beautiful view of Marshall’s Township, Loser’s opponent was selected by drawing lots. Beit won and sat down opposite to Loser.

The cards were shuffled, Loser was offered the cut and the cards were dealt in a way Loser had never seen before – five open cards in the middle with two face down in front of both players.

‘Make up the best hand of five cards and decide if you’re in. Once both players are prepared to play, the highest hand will win.’  Ecksteen, the dealer, smiled so his gold tooth showed. ‘Mister Bothma?”

Loser checked his two cards, careful not to show them to the others. He had two Kings. It was a good hand. He nodded. Beit smiled.

Beit nodded and carefully replaced his cards on the table. Just then, a Happy Wind breezed through the open window, ruffling the cards on the table. Loser saw the two aces in Beit’s hand.

‘Gentlemen, show your cards.’

***

Gertruida knows more about Texas Hold’em poker than what Loser did. His two kings were weaker than Beit’s two aces. ‘He stood up to go, so used was he to losing, but in those days gentlemen played like gentlemen. It was Rhodes who pointed out that a third king was laying there, face up, amongst the five open cards. Loser had a triple to Beit’s double. He had not only retained his diamond, but he also had won the share certificate in the De Beer’s Mining Company – doubling his fortune.’

Beit was gracious in defeat. ‘He offered to buy the diamond for £ 5000, which Loser was happy to do. He wanted cash for the diamond and that’s what he got. Plus the shares. However, unbeknownst to him, Beit sold the diamond the next day for double that figure, ensuring everybody ended up winners.’

***

Vetfaan gets up, stretches, and smiles. ‘So that’s how a Happy Wind got its name?

‘No Vetfaan, not at all. That would only come years later. Sit down and I’ll tell you all about it.’

To be continued…

Vrede’s Lump

Boggel is unusually quiet this morning. While the Rolbossers wait for the bar to open, he settles down on his cushion beneath the counter. He needs time to think and sort out his problem.

It all started a few days ago when Vrede, the town’s dog, chased a tumbleweed across the road. In itself, that chase was not unusual. Dogs do crazy stuff all the time. After all, Vrede is known to bed down on smelly things and to chase after the lonely gecko living next to the doorway. The run after the tumbleweed, however,  was different. Vrede seemed slower than usual and when Boggel whistled him back, he limped ever so slightly.

Funny how things sneak up on people. Time has a way of camouflaging details, masking changes and wrinkles and grey hairs…and the suddenly! One day we look and realise how much we haven’t noticed for the longest of times.

CHARLES LAUGHTON in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME ... And that’s how Boggel recognised  not only the limp, but also the lump on the back of the dog. A tumour? Now, if anybody in Rolbos understands spinal anatomy, it is Boggel, (read about Boggel’s father here; and his own history – in several episodes, here). His severe scoliosis has been a burden since birth, and, not unlike the tragedy surrounding Viktor Hugo’s famous character, has had a profound effect of his life. He simply could not bear thinking about Vrede with a spinal abnormality. People struggle to cope with it – how much more would a dog suffer? If you can’t ex[plain the situation or take regular medications, how does one cope?

Of course, in an old dog, the option of surgery may not be the best solution. What then? Euthanasia? Ask Oudok to send him on his final journey? No! Not that… Boggel feels the tears welling up. Having lost so much in his lifetime, there is no way he can imagine losing Vrede.

The loud banging on the door wakes up Vrede, who has been sleeping quietly at Boggel’s feet. His loud barking tells Vetfaan to stop making such a lot of noise. Boggel sighs: well, it’s time to face the day. Open the door, smile at the usual crowd, serve drinks and beam at his customers. Being a barman is one of the most demanding acting jobs there is.

Vetfaan,  as usual, is first through the door and first with his order.

‘Hi Boggel, a beer for me and a stiff Chivas for Doc.’ Boggel has been so preoccupied with Vrede’s dilemma that he only now notices Vetfaan’s companion. ‘Doc, this is Boggel. Boggel, meet Doc Wiener. He’s here to try to get my cow pregnant. If you serve that beer quickly, I’ll spare you the details.’

It is well known that there is no such thing as a coincidence. There is the dog, lump on his back. Here is the executioner. Add two and two together, and you get a canine funeral.

Boggel shakes his head. ‘Beer, you can have, Vetfaan. Your…friend…can wait outside.’I’m not serving nothing to a dog-killer.’

It takes time, of course. Doc Wiener is a large man with a short temper. Boggel is a short man with (when the planets get  their alignment wrong) a large temper. The shouting match lasted several minutes before Vetfaan slammed his huge fist so hard on the counter that the ice bucket fell over.

‘For goodness’ sakes, stop it you two! Boggel! What in heaven’s name are you upset about?’

Half an hour later, the three of them sat staring at Vrede.

‘It’s a lipoma, Boggel. Harmless and innocent little lump of fat. And look, you can see the little cut in the pad of that hind foot. Lump and limp has nothing to do with each other. Vrede might be getting older, but he’s as fit as can be.’

***

Gertruida – who knows everything – often says we are our own worst enemies. We anticipate the worst even if we say we hope for the best. ‘Have a little faith,’ she says, ‘and plan for the best. Some crazy pessimist may take pleasure in being right, but that’s sort of sick, isn’t it? Optimists do get disappointed at times – that much is true – but at least they smile more often.’

***

Vrede couldn’t care less;  but he has learnt something: whenever he wants a snack, he’ll limp up to Boggel. He’s an optimist, depending of Boggel’s pessimism.

 

Politics and Lemongrass

South Africa P.I.G.: Forty-nine schoolchildren crammed into 16 ...At last, a minister with common sense.’ Gertruida smiles brightly as she puts down the newspaper. ‘Maroela Moola – or whatever his name is – has made a very wise decision.’

When things quieten down in Boggel’s Place, somebody will do this. They’ll make a remark and leave it hanging in the air. They call it chat-phishing and it works every time.

Boggel does the honours and asks her why?

‘It’s the taxi windows, man. They can now legally overload a taxi as long as the windows are open by at least 5 cm.’

‘And that is wise because…?’ Vetfaan has been very critical of the government’s handling of the Covid situation. ‘Does he think that’d stop the spread of the virus?’

‘Oh shush! Nothing stops that microbe, especially when you cram 14 people into a minibus! Nope, this isn’t about Covid at all. Think about the great service the minister is doing for the people.’

This time, she gets a chorus of ‘why?’s .

‘Look, the average person produces about 0,6 to 1,8 litres of intestinal gas – mainly methane – every day. Average that to 1 litre per person per day, just to make it easy. Times that by 14 passengers and 1 driver, then a taxi full of passengers produces 360 liters of gas – mainly toxic methane – per day. But they don’t spend 24 hours in the taxi, do they? With the state of our roads in mind, the load shedding and the stolen traffic lights,  the average commuter spends at least an hour in a taxi every day. That means he gets exposed to 15 liters of methane per day. So, by forcing taxi’s to open windows by a fraction, the minister is saving lives. Pure logic, chaps, anybody who knows anything about intestinal gas production would have understood the minister immediately.’

‘Ah..’ Boggel nods as he serves another round. ‘I think you stole that idea from America’s Burger King. They’re saving the world by combating global warming, aren’t they?’

‘Yep, you got me!’ Gertruida laughs. ‘That advert of theirs really got the people talking! Imagine people worrying about cow flatulence and the effect of the atmosphere.’ She allows the remark to sink in. In Rolbos Vetfaan has the only cow – their precious supply of fresh milk – and nobody has yet complained about her enteric contribution to the Rolbos environment.

‘Ja, I read that too,’ Boggel says, ‘and I saw that they plan to feed their cows with a lemon-grass supplement to diminish their …er…poop. They even have an advert out with a boy singing the praises of colonic flora. Not very socially sensitive, if you asked me. It’s like Oudoom preaching about politics. Or Sersant Dreyer doing breath tests on us.’

‘It does suggest a solution to our current state of the nation, Boggel. I know Potjies Curry, the head chef at the parliamentary restaurant in Cape Town.   If he starts adding lemon grass to his dishes, there’d be less hot air being vented on national TV. And that might just increase the logic to bullshit ratio we have to digest every day.’

‘You tell him that, Gertie. Save our country’s precious souls. Not from cow poop, no. From  methane overdose – the political type.’

 

 

The Curious Art of Celebrating the Sad Things

Johnnie Walker whisky to become available in paper-based bottle ...It’s been one of those rare, quiet mornings in Boggel’s Place where everybody is too angry to engage in superficial chit-chat. The news that Boggel’s most expensive drink is going to be sold in paper bottles, has been just too much. Vetfaan reckons  these bottles won’t withstand the stresses and shocks of Upington’s potholes.

‘Look,’ he said, ‘we can’t afford JW’s Black Label, and that’s cool. But I hear Coke is also looking at the possibility. What are we going to mix with brandy? It’s a disaster.’

Servaas breaks the reverie. ‘Ah, another disaster. Another celebration.’

Kleinpiet puts down his drink – cleverly disguised as Appletiser in case Sersant Dreyer pops in. ‘What are you talking about, Servaas? Celebrating disasters?’

‘Ja man, it’s a world-wide phenomenon. We simply cannot get enough of hardship, pain, disappointment, death and anything else that makes us sad. Or angry. Think about it: we remember 9-11. We celebrated Guy Fawkes in the past, just because he almost blew up the British Parliament. We remember Armistice Day and the millions who fell in the wars. Our own calendar is littered with names of people who died tragically.’

‘Jis, Servaas, that’s all true. But we must never forget the sacrifices people made to grant us the freedom we have today.’

Servaas sits up straight to wag a finger at Kleinpiet. ‘Freedom? You call this freedom? Remember Bobby McGee, my friend. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…’ When Boggel slides a fresh beer over to the old man, he calms down a bit. ‘Let’s not go overboard with that freedom idea, Kleinpiet. Ja, we must remember the past – the whole past, not just the bits promoting a specific ideology.

‘Whether we like it or not, there were – as there still are – many murders in the past. We had despots, kings, wars and even a period of cannibalism. Colonialism and slavery was something the whole world endured. History tells the story of mankind’s many mistakes and it is right that we learn from that. But why celebrate disasters when we can celebrate nice things – the stuff we learnt during those times?’

‘Like National Braai Day?’ Vetfaan brightens at the idea.

‘Ja, man! That’s the idea. Why celebrate a paper bottle when we can have a real party with the contents? If all of us who live in this beautiful country can have the guts to take a good, long, hard look at what and who we are, we might see progress at last. Instead of concentrating on the weak spots, why can’t we celebrate the good that we have? We have music, cultures, creative minds, sports, miles and miles of national parks, beaches, animals, whales – the list of things to celebrate, is endless. Why can’t we have a National Love-Thy-Neighbour Day?’ Old Oom Servaas suddenly runs out of steam. ‘Ag, I know. We love to argue. We don’t let the sun shine on others. Politics have been divisive in the past and will be so forever. We insist on complaining about the paper bottle and in doing so, fail to appreciate the contents.’

Boggel nods. ‘That’s what we call freedom, Servaas.’

 

Flat Curve, Long Curve

Why Staying Home Saves Lives: Flattening The Pandemic's Curve ...Punctual as usual, Vetfaan!’ Boggel smiles approvingly as he unlocks the bar.

Vetfaan get’s up from the bench on the stoep, stretches, and nods. ‘Old habits from the old-school days, Boggel. You know how it used to be? You did what you had to do and you did it right. If you didn’t, you got a hiding.’

Boggel rubs his backside at the memory. ‘Six of the best, eh? In those days when a good hiding was part of the education system. I was fortunate, though. The teachers were careful with my backside – I told them my scoliosis developed after some corrective treatment if Grade 1. Usually just got a slap on the hand, I did.’

Kleinpiet saunters in to sit down next to Vetfaan while Boggel fetches the beers from the fridge. ‘Ja, I remember those days. I had a horrible teacher. If you were naughty, you got three or four good whacks with a thin cane. But if you were particularly bad, you got one serious stroke every day for a week. Five painful whacks, spaced by a day, on exactly the same spot. It was so much worse than a one-time hiding; it spread the damage over a prolonged period to be far more painful in the end. And let me tell you: the fear for the next day grew and grew as time went by. That was almost worse than the pain.’

‘It’s like this virus,’ Gertruida has been listening at the door. ‘This thing about flattening the curve is making me wonder.’ She points a finger at Boggel. ‘A gin and tonic, Boggel. I need quinine according to Trump.”

‘What about the curve, Gertie?’

‘Well, many things, guys. First of all: we’re all going to get it. Every one of us will be exposed to this damn thing at some stage. Flattening the curve simply means we’re facing a lower, longer curve. It’s like getting one whack a day for many days instead of one good and solid hiding. I think this thing should have been left to run wild for a month or three. After that the economy would have recovered. As it is, we seem to be aiming at lockdowns for six to eight months – even longer if there are more waves. People lose their livelihoods and the country slips into chaos.

‘Then we get to the really serious stuff. This virus is changing. At first it was a cough and fever story. Then they noticed blood clots, strokes and heart problems. Later they reported liver and kidney involvement. And now it’s the brain and neurological complications.’

‘The same virus, Gertruida?’ Boggel adds a slice of lemon to her drink.

‘The same, but changing. Mutating. The longer the curve, the more serious the mutation. It’s a diabolical virus, Boggel; it’s almost as if it’s been programmed to progressively wreak havoc. Longer curve equals more long-term effects.’

‘Ja, if not by disease, then by fear.’ Kleinpiet shrugs. ‘It’s like politics. Ask the Americans.’

The funny thing about Boggel’s Place is that – with the exception of Gertruida – nobody knows very much about everything. Kleinpiet can tell you about sheep and Vetfaan knows the veld intimately. Boggel understands psychology like all good barmen should. And yet, somehow, they understand complicated matters much better than some very educated experts.

Like them knowing that the way they were brought up had taught them to be punctual. And that flattening a hiding-curve was so much worse than the one-time spank.

***

PS: yeah, yeah, they know physical abuse is a sin and against the law. It’s okay for today’s kids to do wrong and have their phones taken away for a few hours. It’s just that they grew up in a different time…

Faultlines, quakes and the future

57110ec5c46188f6018b45f2.jpg“What will you do?”  Gertruida sits back with a wicked smile. “An earthquake is a distinct possibility, you know?”

Talk in Boggel’s Place has been slow recently. Discussing the government’s total lack of respect for the needs of ordinary citizens had become boring and the almost-daily political scandals have finally dulled the senses to such an extent that talking about them seemed superfluous and unnecessary. Vetfaan reckons that experiment with the frog in the luke-warm water now includes America, England, Europe, most of Africa and the Middle East. “People have become desensitised,” he said, “by being overloaded with crises and misery. We just don’t care anymore.”

That’s why Gertruida tried to get the conversation going again by broaching a new subject. So far, she’s not having much success.

“So,” Servaas takes up the bait, “you’re saying the Milnerton Fault runs through Cape Town, the Cape Flats and approaches Koeberg Nuclear Plant?”

“Yep. Koeberg is only 8 km from the fault. And that fault was the cause of the major quake in ’69 and a lesser one in 2004.  So, my question stands: what do you do when such a catastrophe hits Koeberg? It’d be similar to  Japan’s Fukushima disaster.”

“There won’t be much one could do, Gertruida. If there were a quake, there’d be  a probability of a tsunami and the potential for a radiation leak – even a melr down. Koeberg was built to withstand a Richter Scale 7 quake – but what about a 7.2 or more? They can’t predict these things, you know?”

“You’re right, Boggel.” Servaas holds out his glass for a refill. “I simply cannot understand why they built Koeberg where they did. Right next to the city and a densely populated area. And, to top it all, slap bang on a faultline.”

“There is some good news, though.” Vetfaan holds up his hand for silence. “The government and the Russians have agreed – in principle – that we need more nuclear power stations. For all we know, they’ve already concluded the most important part of the negotiations: which palms would be greased  and how are they going to fool the public into believing the deal is corruption-free.”

“I fail to see how that is good news, Vetfaan. Nuclear energy is going to cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars. Why can’t we go with renewable, cheap energy? We have a coastline with constant wind and the Karoo and Kalahari must rank as the most sunny spots on the globe. Why build nuclear stations?”

“They can’t.” Vetfaan’s smile almost reaches his ears. “There simply aren’t enough fault lines in South Africa – and those that do exist, aren’t near sufficient water supplies to feed the turbines and cool the core down.”

“You’re not making any sense, Vetfaan.” Gertruida shakes her head. The man has a tendency to go off on a completely skew angle.

“But nothing does, Gertruida. Why even plan a nuclear facility? Who benefits from that? Why the negative approach to renewable energy?” He leans closer to whisper: “I’ll tell you: because the private sector won the race for renewable energy. The government had been caught napping – again. So now, Escom tries to ignore these wind farms and solar installations, so they can  justify the building of nuclear stations. It’s a short-sighted, stupid approach.

“But…if they follow Koeberg’s example, they have to build these stations on geological fault lines. That’s why we’re establishing a new pressure group here, today.”

“Wha…?”

“Yes, my friends. Faultline Underneath New Nuclear Installations will petition the minister to remind him to build the new facilities near big cities, masses of water and on a major fault line. Once the movement has gained momentum, they’ll have no option but to pass the idea on to dear Mr Mugabe, who’ll be happy to build the station next to Kariba. There. Problem solved.”

People often think that the talk in Boggel’s Place is superficial and of no consequence. They’re wrong. While many of their arguments might rest on logical faultlines which often wreck what they considered to be brilliant debating points, some of their debates – often quite surprisingly – actually contain real solutions to very real problems.

Unfortunately, they react to the country’s problems much like you and I do. They scoff, try to joke their way out of worry, and then revert to the safe subjects, like the drought, the quota system in rugby or the SABC hearings. These, they agree, are serious matters and should not be joked about.

But if you want to see them laugh out loud, you may want to mention the famous leader who said the ruling party once had a membership of 100.2 million. That is quite an achievement for a country with a total population of approximately 55 million. That’s when Boggel will make his now-famous remark: you cannot build a successful political party on the faultline of stupidity. He says he doesn’t want to offend anybody and that the remark is neither racist nor Van Riebeeck’s fault – it’s just that he can’t wait for the results of the next election. He also says that, if that election goes wrong, it’d be worse than Koeberg melting down.

Free Giveaway: A troupe of Bumbledragons.

Whist_marker.jpg“You know, in these days of such racial sensitivity, gender questions and religious turmoil, one has to be careful whenever one opens one’s mouth. Calling somebody a donkey or an ape will force you to see a magistrate, and if ever – oh my! – you compared somebody’s intellect with that of some insect, you’ll end up in jail, I’m sure.”  Gertruida slaps down an ace on the pile of cards and collects the packet. “But really, Servaas, that was a stupid move. You cannot expect to win the trick with a king if you know the ace is still out there somewhere.”

Ever since the group at the bar became disenchanted with their endless discussions of current politics, whist has come to their rescue. This age-old card game is not as simple as it seems, and involves bit of concentration – something often lacking in most people when they consider the state of corruption in the country.

“Yes, but I thought…”

“Ag Servaas, you are the original Bumblepuppy.” Gertruida simply has to show off, knowing that the others will be puzzled by the ‘new’ word. Actually, it is not new, but has its origins way back in the 17th century.

“A what?” Vetfaan smiles – he knows he has taken the bait, but curiosity got the better of him.

“You don’t know?” With arched brows and a mocking smile, Gertruida puts down her cards. “Okay then, let me enlighten you.”

Bumblepuppy.jpgOriginally, Bumblepuppy was a game played on a slanting, flattish surface with nine holes at one end. Round pebbles  – or stones – were rolled from  the player’s end, to finish up in one of the nine numbered holes. Then the scores were tallied up and a winner declared.

“But later the word found its way into whist. You see, because they used uneven river stones to roll down that flat surface, they never could be quite sure where the stone would end up. You could score a 1 as easily as a 9 – so it really was a game of chance. In some ways, you can compare Bumblepuppy with today’s slot machines: the only thing you can be sure of, is that you have a chance to win. The odds, however, are stacked against you

whist_history.jpg“So, a Bumblepuppy is a gambler with money to burn – a careless  player about to lose. That’s why whist players took over the term a century later. When you play like Servaas, putting down your best card with the full knowledge that somebody else would trump it, you are a Bumblepuppy. Servaas could have taken the next hand if he played his 2. But no! He hasn’t been concentrating on the table, so he shot himself in the foot. His best card is now gone and he is doomed to lose this hand.”

Boggel gets up to fetch a new round. “So it’s just like recent developments in politics, then? Trump wins in America, Zuma bamboozles the public, Escoms’s people are resigning, Abraham’s got egg on his face and our ministers get manicures from rhino poachers?”

“Much the same, Boggel. Only they aren’t playing a game,  even though they are gambling.”

.Servaas slugs down some beer and  – quite uncharacteristically – burps loudly. “Bumblepuppy? Those guys? No way! They’re Bumbledragons and you can have them free.” Without apologising, he goes on. “Come on, Gertruida, deal the next hand. Give me some good cards for a change. I need them.”

“Yeah. You and a whole parliament of others. And you know what? A Bumblepuppy can never win. It takes time, but it cleans out your wallet, guaranteed. And once that happens, you have to leave the table – those are the rules.”

“So there’s hope for us? For the country, I mean?” Boggel’s hand is a good one – he’s going to win this one for sure.

“Give a Bumbler enough rope, Boggel, and he’ll lose his money…and his footing.”

Survival of the Fittest?

images (11)“That was most unpleasant.” Gertruida goes harrumph and finishes her beer. “Imagine that? We’re being investigated for being honest.”

“What did you expect, Gertruida. Those poor men have to investigate somebody – and if not the criminals, why not us? We’re exactly the type of people that disrupt the peace and quiet in the country. The baddies sneak around and do their thing in silence, and at night. We, however, tend to get rather rowdy within minutes of Boggel unlocking the front door.” Servaas goes tsk-tsk and orders another beer. “We certainly have a lot to learn.”

The watch the black BMW drive off, not quite managing to miss the big pothole. The crunch of the chassis on the road causes the patrons in the bar to relax  a little, The visit by the three men had been as unexpected as unpleasant. Dressed in black suits and sporting Raybans, Gertruida immediately recognised the secret service attitude. However, after the two-hour grilling, she still isn’t sure whether they are from the police or some other government agency. True to the nature of these things, the men didn’t bother to introduce themselves properly.

The list of questions seemed endless. Who are they? Who funds them? Why are they constantly criticising the government in general and the president in particular? What are their plans? Do they have a stockpile of weapons? What’s this about them planning to declare their own republic? Did they not respect the high office of the president and other parliamentarians?

Oh, the men were friendly and never threatened the group at the bar in any way, except to discuss amongst themselves the expense of hiring a lawyer and how difficult it’d be for these backward people to meet such accounts. They also talked about the overcrowded jails, the gangs that are more powerful than the Minister of Correctional Services, and how popular a few white faces in the cells would be.

In the end they left, asking – nay, ordering – them to be more careful in their denunciation of the government that tries so hard to rule fairly over the obedient masses in the country.

“Well,” Boggel slides a cold one across to Servaas, “at least we never said anything about the president showering, the way he’s losing weight, or how one of his wives tried to poison him. If we start telling the truth, we’d be in deep trouble.”

“Stop moaning like that, Servaas. Lets concentrate on saying nice things about the way the country is governed. There has to be something….”

Silence.

“O-o-okay.” Kleinpiet scratches at his five o’clock shadow, staring at the ceiling. “Let me see. We can consider awarding prizes for the top performers in the higher echelons. Mmmm. Not a bad idea.”

Vetfaan catches on immediately. “Like the Order of the Hammer and Sickle for somebody who’s getting the Russians to build nuclear reactors here, and the plans to dump the waste somewhere in the Kalahari?”

“Oh. My. Word! Talk like that will see you sent to Siberia, Vetfaan! How can you make such statements? Those men will make a sharp u-turn in Grootdrink if they heard this.” Precilla is clearly upset. “It’s like proposing the De Klerk Medal of Courage to anybody who speaks out against the quota system in sport.”

“No, I’d like to see somebody brave enough to accept the Jan van Riebeeck Award for Responsible Thinking. You know? Somebody who can point out the cause of all the strikes, land reforms and Marikana.” Boggel smiles smugly at this brilliant suggestion. “And while they’re at it, they can have the ceremony to convey the Order of the Iron Bar – First Class,  to the architect who now has to bear the blame for the swimming pool at Nkandla.”

After this they consider the Weighless Award for the politician who loses the most weight, the Shower Award for the cleanest parliamentarian, and the Cirque du Soleil Medal for the best clown in the House. Surprisingly, they all go to the same person.

The group at the bar gets so deeply involved in the discussion that they fail to see the black BMW stop in front of the veranda again.

“These people are mad,” the man in the back says as he removes the earpiece.

“You are right, comrade.” The driver sets the air-conditioner to ‘Freeze‘.  “It is a common malady that occurs in such isolated places. These men and women have too much time to think, then they come up with these crazy ideas. Politicians try do it, too – but their ideas are harmless: they just talk. We’ll have to report this to headquarters.”

The man in the passenger seat remains quiet. He actually likes the drift of the conversation in the bar. Having a bit of fun amidst the chaos in the country shouldn’t be halted by the law. In fact, he’d want to see them encouraged; especially after the silly idea of establishing a university here. These Rolbossers, he reckons, could have had marvellous careers in Escom or Sanral. But, sadly, these people lack the drive and ambition needed to aim for such illustrious careers.

They’re just too honest to be employed, unfortunately.  And, since the survival of the fittest (or the most creative at factual gymnastics) is a law of nature and politics, these people won’t be a factor to consider in the near future.

He sits back to allow his compatriots to discuss – at length – their report. Let them talk, he thinks, and let them write that report. In the end nobody’s going to read it, anyway. The officials concerned have bigger fish to fry: like whose turn it is to pop out for KFC.

Hennie Kirstein’s Well

Credit: radionz.co.nz

Credit: radionz.co.nz

They still talk about Hennie Kirstein. About him and the girl and the way he disappeared.

Not often, though – simply because the story has so many endings and nobody is quite sure what had happened after the honeymoon. Some (like old Servaas) are convinced that leaving Hennie’s farm caused a fast exit in the Vertical Elevator; but others (like Precilla) believe differently. The ensuing argument usually ends in an icy silence in Boggel’s Place, something that the patrons prefer to avoid. Still, that doesn’t mean they don’t think about the handsome young man they used to envy.

Hennie, you see, had the midas touch, although it came to him by accident. He started with his small flock of sheep on the farm nobody wanted, It was haunted, they said, after Oom Ferreira fell down the well he was digging. He drowned in the middle of the driest, most desolate and isolated part of the Kalahari. Hard to believe? Maybe. But that’s what happened.

At the auction afterwards, only Hennie rocked up and bought the farm for a pittance. He had just enough money left to buy a few sheep and settled down to wait for the next lambing season. The farmers in the area predicted failure, but there must have been something in that water of the well that affected his sheep. No ewe had a single lamb. After the first season Hennie went to Upington to change the farm’s name from Alles Verloren to Tweeling. 

At the end of his second year on the farm, Hennie imported a  ram and a couple of ewes – prime stock everybody said would break him financially. Not so. Within the next two years he was able to host auctions that made his neighbours swallow their words. Hennie was on his way to becoming the richest farmer in the Northern Cape.

Everybody agrees that Hennie should have stuck to farming: then the outcome might have been a happy one. However, Hennie noticed a strange phenomenon, long before it became the subject of so much speculation. He naturally considered the fact that his prize ram – now valued at many times the original cost – would eventually cease to be the magnificent fertile animal it used to be. (This is true for humans, as well). At the age of four, the ram had it’s full set of teeth (four pairs of incisors, neatly stacked close to each other) and Hennie expected the decline to become evident as soon as the teeth started chipping and falling out – which should have happened in the next four years or so. That, he decided, would be the time to sell the ram.

But it didn’t happen. His ram – affectionately called Pumper – not only kept his teeth, but he also continued with unabated enthusiasm to do what he did best. The ewes of the flock seemed to adore the ram, bleating sadly around the sturdy pen Hennie had built to protect Pumper from being overwhelmed by the anxious mothers-to-be. At the age of 11, when even the strongest rams pack up to depart to the pasture-in-the-sky, Pumper was still fathering twins in most of his amorous relationships. (Which Hennie applauded as a work of art. He often boasted that his ram was a master seducer, even to the point of baa-ing softly to his conquests after the act – like a real gentleman should.)

Hennie wondered about his ram a lot. His virility, his fertility, his refusal to grow weary and old…and then he thought about old Oom Ferreira’s well. And then it dawned on him…

It happened when he attended the yearly auction in the eighth year of his farm. Not given to frequent visits to Rolbos or Upington, Hennie lived quietly on Tweeling and rarely saw the other farmers of the district. That year, as he stood listening to the auctioneer’s rattle driving the prices sky high, he looked at the other farmers. Stared intently. And went inside to look at the mirror above the washbasin. And gasped.

The other farmers were getting older, with wrinkles and bald heads and liver spots. He, on the other hand, looked like he had just come out of school. His beard was still fuzzy, his skin as smooth as the day he fantasized about the pigtailed girl in Standard 8, and his stomach as flat as it was when he played wing for the first team. In short – he wasn’t showing the signs of aging the other farmers endured so stoically.

It had to be the water from the well. What else? By the twelfth year his observations were more acute than ever. Pumper was in his prime. And yes, he, Hennie, was still as handsome and as young as ever. His neighbours, sadly, were getting about with replaced hips, used canes to lean on and had servants bring chairs to the auctions. His well – where Oom Ferreira drowned – was the source of….everlasting youth? Could it be?

But, since the well only provided enough water for him and the sheep, Hennie kept quiet and watched his bank balance grow,

This, as every handsome and wealthy bachelor knows, is a very bad thing. There is no stronger aphrodisiac to a would-be spinster than the number of zeroes on the little piece of paper the bank sends out every month to such rare gentlemen. Hennie later considered Pumper to be lucky to be kept safe in his sturdy pen – he, Hennie, didn’t have  that privilege. The buxom ladies came a-calling in droves and he had to be rude at times to get rid of them.

Until Bessie Cronje rocked up. She was different. Shy, demure, pretty, only slightly curvy and the greenest eyes you ever saw. What tipped the scales in her favour? Who knows? Gertruida reckons it was because Bessie wasn’t interested in money – she had inherited the Cronje millions; money made by printing T-shirts for the various political parties in South Africa. (No self-respecting political gathering is complete without T-shirt handouts and free food) Anyway, Bessie arrived in her Bentley, dressed in jeans and a high-necked blouse, and told him she wanted to settle down, make her husband happy and generally be a pleasure to have around.

So, her approach was unpretentious, honest and very, very effective. Hennie fell for her faster than Oom Ferreira descended down his well. The two of them were married by Oudoom in a very private ceremony on the farm, attended by Gertruida and Precilla as bridesmaids and witnesses. Gertruida, who never lies, says that Hennie looked more handsome than ever on that day.

It was the postcard that set the tongues wagging. Taken on the beach in Mauritius, it shows the honeymoon couple tanning happily, each with a tall glass festooned by a little umbrella. If you looked closely, you’d see a little worried smile on Bessies lips. And Hennie? Why is his brow furrowed so deeply, his hair suddenly tinged with grey?

“I tell you, that man needed his farm’s water. Stopping drinking it caused his body to age at a rapid rate. Mother Nature had been tricked for a while, but as soon as he stopped drinking from that well, the years took their revenge. I’m sure he never made it back – probably ended up in a geriatric institution somewhere.” Servaas runs a tired hand over his withered face. “You can’t fool Time, my friends.”

“Ag no, Servaas. I’m sure Bessie had twins and they settled somewhere peacefully. Why stay in the Kalahari if you can lounge around in luxury somewhere? Yep, settled down and lived happily ever after, that’s what happened.” Ever the romantic optimist, Precilla’s emphatic statement sounds a bit desperate even to herself.

Hennie’s farm is still out there, lost in the arid landscape of the vast Kalahari. The flock had been sold, except for the ram which disappeared mysteriously on the day before the sale. Kleinpiet says that, on some full moon nights, you can hear the bleating of a young ram near that well – and that usually makes his listeners laugh.

Not happy laughter, mind you – more like the impolite grunts people make upon hearing a bad joke. Just like we do when the president tells us that the ANC will rule until Jesus returns. One thing is sure, however: Uncle Zumzum would like to know about that well – he’s certainly aging too fast to still be around when that happens.