An open letter to Daddy dearest, Tertius Myburgh

You were hugely influential as the successful editor of the country’s largest newspaper. You were seen as a builder of bridges in a deeply divided society. Before we both become a footnote in history, let the record show I believe you used me as a cabaret turn.

Dear Mr Myburgh,

Almost 25 years to the day after you died, John Matisonn’s book God, Spies and Lies has been published.

Most journalists are doing a “yawn yawn snore”, pretending that everyone knew that you were an apartheid spy.

I remember our first meeting.

I thought you were handsome and debonair,

(Andy Garcia in the movie.)

You looked exactly as I thought an editor should look. Lots of thick wavy hair. Big strong teeth. Braces. You were vain about your clothes. Your shirts were made in Jermyn Street. Your…

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Life as a scatterling of Africa

 

In the early eighties two young men came to the offices of the Sunday Times in downtown Johannesburg on a Monday morning to be interviewed.

One was a Lancashire-born son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland; the other was a Zulu migrant worker. During the interview (which took place in the office while someone hoovered the newsroom) they were slightly awkward and most obliging.

It was transparent as cellophane that neither Johnny Clegg nor Sipho Mchunu were used to the adulation that they were receiving.

They met when they were in their teens and formed Juluka. Juluka went on to become one of South Africa’s biggest musical exports.  Their “Scatterlings of Africa” was first released in 1982 and remains the band’s biggest hit.

Although their albums were pointedly political, “Scatterlings” remains the track that all…

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Me? I’m on the shelf with the marmalade

Getting older is like being fined for something you didn’t mean to do.

There you are pootling along (within the speed limit these days) but there was no warning billboard saying “Steep Decline Ahead.” Or if there were you didn’t notice it until you were on the slip road.

Thereafter the signs come thick and fast.

But most of them fill me with deep relief and not inconsiderable joy.

The ideal American woman is the stepdaughter of a masculine society and as such lives with habitual sexualization and devaluation. In an ageist/lookist society, women over thirty are considered past it. We are at the mercy of a mass culture that only celebrates older women ‘who still remain youthful’.

The shine in the eyes of a fifty-five year old Hollywood fiancée is really the white stare of desperation.

Me? I am on the shelf with the marmalade.

What a relief.

I can sit quietly gathering dust having been ejected…

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Women are (still) commodities, beauty (still) skins deep and push-up bras are (still) required

The pilot of Amazon’s late-’60s feminist office drama Good Girls Revolt ends with a group of women gleefully telling their male colleagues that they’ve been to the kind of women’s meeting where women investigate their vaginas with their compact mirrors. This revolutionary act is a signal for us to know that they are (soi-disant) feminists.

The pilot, based on Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, is desperate to pick up where Mad Men left off, but doesn’t.

The new movie “Suffragette,” is a handsome and noble work. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep, it is a reminder that women used to be men’s property.

We are experiencing the Dawn of Feminism (or the Dawn of Third-Wave White Feminism,…

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Conversation Envy

This column appeared in the August 2015 edition of Fair Lady. 

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My secret envy

Kotel, Jerusalem – where my prayer was planted in the cracks two years ago. Earlier this year the journalist Caryn Gootkin was in Jerusalem. She said a prayer for me at the Kotel as I nervously prepared for my return to South Africa.

A couple of weeks ago I waited on a Jewish wedding party.

One of the women in the party gave me the challah (the bread eaten on Shabbat) and asked me to warm it in the oven. I was required to put it on a plate and bring it to the table covered with the traditional embroidered challot.

A young man said…

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6 books to read before you die

This review was originally published in the August 2015 edition of The Big Issue South Africa.

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Let’s go hunting – for Cecil the lion killer’s apologists

Earlier this year, Ricky Gervais found a photograph of huntress Rebecca Francis smiling like a carrion beside a dead giraffe.

“What must have happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal and then lie next to it smiling?’  he tweeted to his 8 million followers.

When asked why she feels the need to trophy hunt, Rebecca says ‘I’m gonna provide meat for my family, I’m gonna have an experience in nature. I’m gonna be one-on-one with the animal.”

Being one on one with the animal is getting a thrill from hearing the thwack as the arrow pierces the flesh, following the trail of blood and hoof prints of a fatally wounded beast – and then waiting for it’s death gargle.

How long is society going to allow this barbarism to continue?

As the sage said, all truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is…

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Letter to a Young Jani

 

 

 

 

 

This column was originally published by De Kat in August 2014. 

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come fly with me

 

This column was originally published in the July 2015 edition of The Big Issue South Africa. 

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The Little Shop of Horror’s Dentist

Johnny Rodriguez of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force is an heroic figure. I have known him and wife Cheryl for more than two decades. His life is under constant threat as he struggles to make the world aware of the corruption that is enabling the destruction of several species of animals. Every time I get an email from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force my heart sinks, heavy as a rusty anchor.

In a world, already leaden with bad news and cruelty, Johnny’s emails render me limp. The latest is no exception: Cecil the Lion is the latest high-profile victim of the trophy hunting industry. American dentist Walter James Palmer was taken to Hwange National Park by professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst.

Cecil survived Palmer’s callous crossbow shot. The lion suffered unspeakable pain for the following 40…

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Memories of an Irishman

John Carroll – or Seamus, as he was known – was an Irishman who used to call Cape Talk when I was on air.

He would say such politically incorrect things that he made for riveting radio.

He would bring flowers, home-made trail mix and interesting books and leave them at the front desk for me.

A telephonic friendship of a kind grew. One night my friend Kate and I went to visit him. He was the greenkeeper and Security Manager of a Golf Club in Cape Town.

He was impeccably dressed in his whites, often changing several times during a day. He claimed to hate golf but was conceived somewhere on a golf course, he said.

He had an immense family who had immigrated to South Africa from Ireland, that land filled with enchantment and…

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On Forgiveness

 

Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

Why are certain people’s repentance accepted and others not? Is one person’s apology, another person’s betrayal?

American news anchors are outraged at the news that Oscar Pistorius is to be released after serving ten months for the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

“This is unforgivable!’ bloviated one. “South Africa you should be ashamed!”

In a country heavy with terrible deeds, it is difficult to know what criteria a crime must meet before it requires public repentance by its perpetrator and forgiveness from its victim – or American news anchors.

I was pondering on these things in relation to Clive Derby-Lewis’ invitation to Chris Hani’s widow to visit him so that he could make a personal apology to her.

In papers…

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The post author book tour hangover

With Sarah Britten, Peta Eggierth-Symes, Wendy Machanik and Marika Sboros at Exclusive Books, Hyde Park.

Before I left for my author book tour of South Africa my friend Steven posted something by Anne Lamott on Facebook and said I should take note of number 7.

“Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published… Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won’t, it can’t.”

I sniggered….

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Homeland or Hurtland?

Then, Daniel 4:34 records the king’s response: “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.” Interestingly, the king said that his pride caused him to lose his sanity and that now, as a result of being humbled by God, his sanity was restored. In order to humble him, God humiliated him. Indeed, a humiliating experience will almost always humble someone.

Perhaps my sanity has been restored.

I will be in South Africa in the middle of April for my book tour.

That is if SAFFASTRACK works its magic and secures for me a passport in time!

A book tour. Hnh.That sounds about as daunting as going on an Iraq tour.

Everyone wishes to know whether I will return to South Africa.  Well, they keep humming “Should I stay or should…

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On Valentine’s day – then and now

When I was working at the Sunday Times in Johannesburg on Valentine ’s Day, my  office looked like a florist shop.

‘No one has the right to have so many admirers!’ adjudicated a reporter spitefully.

It’s a very South African thing to define someone by what they have, what they wear, what they drive and where they live.

I tried to heed the caveat of my yogi raj Mani Finger: Take your work seriously, but not yourself. If you take your possessions seriously what will happen if you lose them.

What will happen if you lose them?

I thought about that when I took the roof off the car and drove home with Talking Heads blaring, the song-snatching wind blowing through my hair. At times like this it was easy to believe that I had hit three gold stars on the fruit machine of life. Did I deserve my good fortune? What gods…

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Mandy Rice-Davies – From High-life Scandal to High Life

I met Mandy Rice-Davies in the summer of 1989. 

We got on like port and nuts. She invited me to have supper with her and Ken Foreman, her husband, at Le Caprice in Arlingston Street, Picadilly.

She said she was interested in how my life was going to turn out.

It was with sadness that I read of her death this week.

This is the interview I wrote after meeting her.

The first thing you notice about Mrs Foreman, née Mandy Rice-Davies is that she looks innocently young. It’s been 26 years since that spot of bother with Profumo, Keeler and Co which led to the collapse of Harold Macmillan’s government. But the years have passed without leaving the barest trace.

Enviable figure, too, Wafer-thin and perfectly groomed, she looks exactly right in the opulent setting of her Knightsbridge drawing…

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The danger of gun control in South Africa

‘Terror rushes through my body and floods my brain, roaring in my ears.  He shoves the gun against my right temple.’

Scene of a crime, Clifton, South Africa

Jani Allan recounts her ordeal of when she was held up at gun-point outside her Clifton home in 2001. She also weighs in on the new debate surrounding gun control in the wake of the murder of Senzo Meyiwa. Allan contends that a licensed firearm is a viable means of protection. She continues to diagnose a ‘gun culture’ image problem in South Africa. 

Cape Town, 2001

It is one a.m. in the morning. I have just finished doing a radio show at Cape Talk in Cape Town.

I drive along Victoria Road in Clifton in the black, bandaged night.

As I turn…

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I refuse to be the poster child of slut-shaming

Slut-shaming is the act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity. I left the country in 2001. I live in a blaze of obscurity (sic) in America. I am a recluse by choice and a PONTI – a person of no tactical import in South Africa. Yet my epic humiliation and allegations about my sex life remain, it seems, an all-consuming story to certain South Africans.

 

On Friday, 19 September at the Open Book Festival at the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town, the Daily Maverick hosted a mini-gathering to debate the future of independent, free and intelligent journalism in South Africa. At one point…

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Kendall Jones – Evil in a Rah-rah skirt

Kendall Jones, 19, is a Texan cheerleader who sparked outrage on Facebook by posting pictures of herself with animals she hunted and killed in Africa.

Huntress, Kendall Jones.

She has responded to her online backlash, using President Teddy Roosevelt in her defense.

“He killed the same species that hunters now chase today under a mound of anti-hunting pressure,” she posted on her page. “Yet, how can it be possible that someone can love the earth, and take from the Earth in the name of conservation? For some folks, they’ll never understand.”

Kendall, don’t you realize that you capsize your own arguments by brazenly admitting that you are “looking to host a TV show.”

This is not my first rodeo with your kind. TV presenter,

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The Marquis of Debris

Jeffrey David Hamilton.

Not long after coming to the little river town in which I live I met an extraordinary man.

His name was Jeffrey Hamilton. He resembled a kind of Indiana Jones and was seldom seen without his trademark battered and greasy hat. His hands could open parking meters and with his craggy, tanned good-looks, he must have broken hearts like hickory nuts when he was younger.

His family was studded with over-achievers. His father, Jim, was a Broadway set designer. His French mother, an accomplished ballerina and cook.

One of his sisters, Gabrielle, wrote a best-selling food memoir “Blood, Bones and Butter” and runs a wildly successful restaurant in New York called Prune.

The other sister, Melissa, together with her colleague Christopher Hirscheimer publishes four cook books a year. Oprah rated the Canal House cook books as her favourites in the Christmas…

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