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…

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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 room….

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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…

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Conversation Envy

Anaïs Nin once observed that life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

I have pondered this for some time and am bound to disagree. Life shrinks or expands, at least to me, in proportion to one’s conversations.

Last night I had an acute episode of Conversation Envy.

I can tolerate the drivel most of the time, but deep down I secretly yearn for a philosophical argument and a fresh point of view with the odd bon mot thrown in the mix to keep things fresh.

Living in a blaze of obscurity has its drawbacks. One is the quality of chat to which one is exposed.

Quentin Crisp said that the key to speaking with style is to command of a vocabulary large enough to give you both flexibility and precision in expressing yourself. The more words you have the…

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Jani on Art

‘Art has been the needle that has pulled the tapestry of my life together’

Jani Allan at home, Kallenbach Dr, Linksfield Ridge. Painting ‘Apartheid’ by Norman Catherine (Gordon Schachat Collection).

I started Art lessons when I was 9. I was taught by Betty Clur in Linden in her tiny dining room. Margaret Brewer, another little girl in the class has gone on to become a famous botanical artist and lives in Canada.

One of my drawings – a dog and a kitten entitled ‘Me and my tiger’ was published in the Blairgowrie school yearbook – along with an essay I wrote about ‘Road Safety Depends on me.’

The latter was a bossy little tract about how you…

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LETTER TO OSCAR …

Dear Oscar

Many years ago an Afrikaans man fell in love with me. It was a complicated situation. I was a journalist and he was a story.

Things became as messy as a cat’s sandbox. When he drove into the gates of the monument at Paardekraal he was taken to court. I was called as a witness. The man whom I thought was a leader and an inspiration to his people took to calling me obsessively and crying noisily on my answerphone.

Once he drove to my apartment in Sandown in the middle of the night. When I refused to let him in he fell into a drunken stupor outside the door. Another time, he and his wife turned up to beg me to testify favourably and to ‘stop the press’ from writing about us. His young daughter was with them. I implored his wife to make him realize that it was his…

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MEN vs WOMEN REDUX

And so, praise the Lord, another Restaurant Week has come to a close. Restaurant Week is the week when most of the regulars stay well away and people we have never seen and may never see again descend on the restaurant. Why not?

A mere $29.95 (tax and gratuity additional) will get you a three-course meal at a restaurant that you would traditionally reserve for a special occasion. Like announcing you want to consciously uncouple. Or propose marriage.

Last week on Monday night a female co-worker – let’s call her Miss Bunny – and I served about 50 people. No hostess, no bus, just the pair of us. (Sounds like a Cole Porter song right there, I know).

Miss Bunny and I hardly needed to speak to each other. We anticipated each other’s…

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Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Frankly I am not interested in what two consenting adults – or three or however many are up for it – do in order to obtain sexual gratification.

However when I read that there is a flourishing business in Denmark in which people pay in order to have sex with animals, I am moved to write a few words about the repugnant practice. Call me a keyboard warrior, if you must.

The law (in both Norway and Denmark) states that bestiality is perfectly legal “so long as the animal involved does not suffer.”

This is a statement so broad as to be comical. The animal must be restrained and is unable to talk. How does one gauge how much suffering is involved or what implements are used in the process?

According to the Danish newspaper 24timer, this “interesting gap” in the law has led to a flourishing business.

On the internet, several Danish animal owners…

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