Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Famous Grouse: February 19

Saturday's Weekend Argus column, as submitted. -- AD

IT is no small blessing that the rugby season is on us, and at Mahogany Ridge we can perhaps move on from the heated arguments about Bono, the Irish rock star who has taken time out from saving the world to sing us some tunes.

It’s not as if there weren’t more pressing matters to discuss. This week, for example, the village was threatened by fire and some homes had to be evacuated, the flames were that close.

Plus, there were the baboons who climbed through Wilma Bothma’s bathroom window and ate everything in the medicine cabinet, including her chocolate laxatives and anti-depressants. The mess was terrible, but the baboons seemed pretty chilled.

And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the goiter on Jan Spoelstra’s neck has swollen to such an extent that it looks as if he’s got a second head. To which we could say, well, just as long as it doesn’t have a mouth as well, he speaks enough rubbish as it is.

So quite why we have instead continually moaned on about Bono and that silly news report last weekend that suggested he supported ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and the Kill the Boer song is a mystery. You’d have thought the man had screamed it from the rooftops: “Go on! Slaughter them all! In their beds!”

It was obvious that he had been horribly misquoted by sections of the media. Yet the hysteria continued, and the rivers were choked with U2 concert tickets.

Here at the Ridge we don’t do rock concerts. Our idea of fun is . . . well, for the past week it’s been retelling that chestnut about the concert where Bono clapped his hands together every few seconds, saying, “Every time I do this, a child in Africa dies.” To which a heckler responded, “Well, don’t do it then, you bastard!”

It’s an old joke -- it harks back to the 2005 G8 summit in Scotland and the anti-poverty campaign which focused on the claim that children in Africa were dying of preventable diseases at the rate of one every three seconds -- and I’m only repeating it here in case you have just landed on Earth after a long flight from Mars. And now that we can bait one another about the Stormers and the Sharks, it’s a joke that, hopefully, I will not hear again -- at least not this year. What does bear repeating, however, is this remark from the wonderfully mordant songwriter Randy Newman: “I used to be against world peace. But then Bono came out for it and the scales just fell from my eyes.”

And that brings us neatly to the other fool in this nonsense -- Steve Hofmeyr. As my friend Willem has suggested, it may be some time before Bono throws his Steve Hofmeyr concert tickets in the river.

A few years ago our Steve emerged as a social activist campaigning against the proposed renaming of Pretoria to Tshwane. He argued that there was no historical basis for the change, as Tshwane, a pre-colonial chief, never actually lived in the area, although, as he put it, he may have wandered through the Fountains Valley with a few goats, pausing only to urinate against the nearest thorn tree.

So outraged was he, that -- irony of ironies -- I dubbed him “the Boer Bono” in a newspaper article at the time, and the reference found its way into a dictionary of South African quotations.

I don’t think he was very happy -- perhaps I should have pointed out that it was Bono who was, in fact, the Irish Steve Hofmeyr -- and I rather dreaded running into him again.

He did confront me, one night, in Johannesburg. Instead of punching me in the mouth, though, he gave me a slab of chocolate. It was a puzzling and suspicious gesture, but I did accept the gift.

At the time, I had yet to up sticks and relocate to the village and knew nothing of Wilma Bothma’s medicine cabinet, but I was wary enough to throw the chocolate away. Who knows? It may have been drugged. You know what these musicians are like.

But now Steve has threatened to include “Afrikaans struggle words” in his recordings if the Kill the Boer song is legalised. 

He told a reporter: “There are lots of Afrikaans words which we’d like to use again and bring back into the Afrikaans dictionaries but, because they are hate speech, we are all trying very hard to avoid those words.”

That, presumably, is why they’re struggle words -- because of Steve’s difficulty in not uttering them.

But please, no more songs, Steve. Enough torture. You’ve done quite enough as it is, and we must all move on.

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