My friend Johann, who followed the teachings of my wee book ‘WineTime’ and, consequently, now makes a very nice wine on his farm Keisseskraal near Botriver, Cape, asked me for a story that would make my readers laugh. You know, such stories seem to become much harder to get hold of and I don’t know whether that is a sign of the times or of my own time. Maybe I’ll think of something but I first want to tell you what I found the most amazing human blunder of the last 50 years and which became exposed this year. I’m talking about the Japanese nuclear power station destroyed by an earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. As this story became clearer after a few weeks I learned to my astonishment that about 56 of those nuclear stations have been built on islands that are situated in the greatest earthquake zone of the world.

Of course, the Japanese don’t have much space on their islands, maybe they should have stuck to agriculture but probably that didn’t satisfy their aggressive tendencies of which they gave us a splendid example 60 years ago. Like the Germans they wanted to turn their military defeat into an industrial success story and for that you need lots of electricity. Resources, except brainpower, are thin on their islands, even so, I would never have imagined that their ruthlessness would drive them to stick these most unstable bits of real estate on earth full of nuclear power stations. For me, it’s the greatest gamble I’ve ever known about and it came as a great surprise.

All very well to talk like that, some people might say, but if you want to have great shipyards and car factories there’s not much else you can do. I don’t see it that way and although I have no Japanese friends, I’ll give them a tip how to build their nuclear things.

These people are surrounded by seawater and they didn’t think how to use it. All you do is float those power stations in bloody great rafts that you anchor way out in deep water so that a tsunami just rolls quietly underneath. These fellows can build great oil tankers that hold a million tons and a floating power station will not be beyond them.

Then their islands can be quaked and soaked in tsunamis, nothing will happen to their power stations. 


Well, Johann, what follows is not all that funny, it’s a bit of a silly story which happened to me about 60 years ago.

          I had been out fishing that day from the Hermanus Old Harbour. Oom Daantje Woensdrecht had given me a site in one of his boats and we had done quite well with kob and Cape Salmon. We came in quite late and after a mixed grill in the Princess Cafe I went to the pub where Oom Daan was to pay me for today’s catch. He was already well on his way when I arrived there, because all his boats had brought in fair catches and, for once, prices had been good. My friend Brian, who had the abalone-canning factory to whom I sold my abalone diving catch, was also there and it didn’t take long for a lively party to be born. By the time the barman started his “Time, gentlemen” business, oom Daan was well on his way, bullshitting us about his war experiences which I said couldn’t be true because the bugger was around seventy. “Not that stupid little last war, Nicky, ” he explained, “the real one before that. “  Then he turned to Brian and suggested they ought to do some shooting again. “Let’s go to Stanford, Brian and get us a few buck..” Brian pulled a bit of a dubious face but Oom Daan was a powerful orator in a convincing mix of english-afrikaans and not much later I was driving Brian’s jeep with my two older pals equipped with shotguns and head lights. It must have been midnight or so when we arrived at a place in the veld where Oom Daan was sure to find buck.. Brian, with a fine sense of distinction suggested, “Nick, go with the old boy, let’s give it an hour.”

We split up and obediently I trod in Oom Daan’s tracks for quite a while as he was scouting with his bright head light. Then I heard him whisper, “Oh donner, Nick, come look!” I never saw a bigger pair of eyes in the night. “Can’t be a bokkie, oom, too big!”

“Not a damn,” whispered Daan, “This is a fokken bontebok!” And he let fly! I had also seen the white nose below the eyes but when we approached Daan’s victim we saw that a Hereford bull also has a white nose. Brian soon pitched up and he figured out that it had to be Jannie’s prize bull that he had bought a month ago because he had become interested in Hereford cattle. “I think he paid a thousand quid for that bull,” reminisced Brian with a quiet chuckle. In those days you could buy a brand-new Chevrolet for 600 pounds.

Oom Daan had quietened down wonderfully but then said, “Kom, we’ll go and see him now.” Which we did. At half past two in the morning! We settled with Jannie, Daan didn’t want me to pay because I had warned him and a week later we had a fine braai with Oom Daan’s prize bull because one of Daan’s conditions for payment was that he would get the meat! “I don’t shoot for fokall.” he told me.

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