Rage Against The Latrine

I hop from foot to foot. I’m in a pre-race queue for the toilet. No one says a word. What’s to say, in a queue with other people, all waiting to perform one of life’s most intimate acts?

It’s incredible. As soon as I arrive at a race, my body clock strikes ‘go’.




I hate public loos, which is one of the main reasons I can’t go to jail. Going to the loo before a race is the pits: wearing bibshorts means you have to strip, the floor is soaked with urine, and the strange things that exit cyclists’ bottoms and line the toilet bowl are straight out of the Apoocalypse!

A guy takes his place behind me.

I look at my watch. It’s 5.40am.  My group start is 6.20am. That’s 40 minutes.

Twenty people in front of me, four toilets in the men’s section, average evacuation time of four minutes a person including unbibbing and rebibbing, that’s, um… 16 minutes until my turn. Plenty of time to make it to my start chute.

There are three toilet sections to choose from: the virtually queueless women’s, a 20-person-queue men’s, and a single toilet the race organisers had opened specially, which in non-race times is reserved for disabled people. There are only five people in that queue.

I have to gamble on choosing the right queue – it’s Toilet Roulette. Although the women’s section is the jackpot, I don’t want to be chased away by the poolice. Some more mental maths, and I decide the queue for the men’s section is my best bet. Of course, as soon as I take my place in that queue, the other line moves.

5.47am – still enough time.

Then a guy in the men’s queue walks into one of the cubicles and immediately sprints out again, holding his nose and gasping for air. That toilet is clogged. We’re down to three toilets for 17 people. I recalibrate. No, the odds are still in my favour.

But then a rider steps out of the disabled toilet, and the person next in that line takes his place, and someone else leaves the queue altogether, making the queue for the single loo shorter by two – a saving of eight minutes!

I sense the guy behind me starting to head for the shortened queue. Before he can get there I make a dash for it, and join the line myself. Muttering darkly under his breath, he returns to the men’s queue. I’m now just two people away from relief.

What I haven’t counted on, though, is that the guy who’s just gone into the single loo is in it for the long haul. Four minutes go by, but he doesn’t emerge. Six minutes. Eight minutes. The stakes are high. Eleven minutes.

It’s 5.58am.

Then that curious toilet-line paranoia: maybe the guy slipped out when no-one was looking, and we’re queueing at an empty loo? No way, my eyes haven’t left that door. Maybe he’s been in so long, he’s embarrassed to come out? Hmm…

Then the guy who was behind me in the queue I left 11 minutes earlier emerges from one of the men’s toilets, a smug smile plastered on his face. Damn! Do I cut my losses, and rejoin the men’s toilet queue? If I do, then as sure as eggs is eggs the guy in the single toilet will finally surface. And it’s 6.03am – 17 minutes to the starter’s gun. I’m sweating bullets.

Never mind Toilet Roulette – this is Toilet Poker; but instead of a flush, I’ve got a full house.

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Standard Bank – it’s not me; it’s you

About eight months after I closed my Standard Bank account I receive a letter from The Card Collections Manager claiming I owe them R40.68 and if I don’t pay within 10 days they will see me in court. As if! It seems they are trying to steal R40.68 from all their ex-clients in an attempt to make up the R300-million that the phishers stole from them. I wrote this letter in reply.

Your Reference: 5221266465186483

My Reference: What Part of “It’s Over” Don’t You Understand?

Dear The Card Collections Manager


I received a letter today from your good self, informing me that you have cancelled my credit card, which is quite a surprise considering I cancelled all my accounts with Standard Bank last year – so I don’t actually have a credit card to cancel. Your letter is like a boyfriend who tries to save face by telling his girlfriend that he is breaking up with her – even though she broke up him and has already moved on to a much nicer and cleverer and more honest boyfriend. Let’s be clear, Standard Bank Card Collections Manager – I dumped you.

Last year, after about 25 years of being a Standard Bank customer and never once missing a payment or being in arrears, I walked into the Thibault Square branch and cancelled all my accounts. Yes, after a quarter of a century I finally had enough of being in a horrible relationship and wanted out. It was a give-take relationship. I gave, you took. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to break ties – I had to wait in queues, fill out forms and transfer debit orders. It was a pain, but I’d had enough – I was sick of your incompetence, of you not listening (and giving me the silent treatment), and of you dipping into my accounts. Of course, you didn’t want me to go – and you put up a fight – you kept calling me and begging me to reconsider. What can you do to change, you asked. But it was a case of too little, too late. I was adamant. It took about five phone calls or so but eventually, you got the message and agreed.

I thought that was – and then I got your threatening letter today, telling me I owe you money – and that my account is in default. It’s like you’re in denial, Mr Standard Bank Card Collections Manager. Just so we’re clear: We’re over. We’re through. We’re done. Get a grip, dude. Pull yourself together. I’m now with First National Bank – and we’re having a really good time. FNB  gets me in a way you never did.

You see, I left because of your indifference and your incompetence – and this letter just reinforces my negative view of your shoddy service. No, Mr Standard Bank Card Collections Manager, I don’t owe you R40.68. In fact, you owe me money. As I explained back then, and because I can tell that you are struggling to hear me, you started dipping into my account taking extra bank charges for a second time and when I tried to get answers I was just met with more indifference.

Your threats of court action, Mr The Card Collections Manager, don’t scare me.

So, do me a favour, amend your records – send me one more message apologising for your error, wish me well in my new banking relationship and leave me alone – and, if you don’t mind some constructive criticism, try to be a better bank.

With no regards whatsoever

Jonathan Ancer

PS: By the way, Standard Bank – it’s not me. It’s you. It’s definitely you.

Another PPS: Perhaps instead of worrying about the R40,68 you claim I owe you, I think you may have bigger phish to fry (did someone say R300-million?)

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Will the real Tim Noakes please stand up…

In the babbling Babel of the social-media era, sharing a name with someone famous can be a bit of a drag. Consider the harassed Twitter life of a carb-loving journalist called Tim Noakes – or the daily trials of Michael Jackson, a motivational speaker.

Mike Finch was on a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town when the pilot’s voice crackled over the intercom. “Welcome on board flight 214 to Cape Town, this is Captain Mike Finch,” he said.

Passenger Mike Finch was tickled pink. He handed his business card to an air hostess who give it to pilot Mike Finch, who was also tickled pink and invited (the other) Mike Finch into his cockpit. This was in the pre-9/11 days.

A few weeks later the two Mike Finches met up for a drink. “We ordered a beer and I asked the barman to put it on Mike Finch’s tab,” recalls passenger Finch. “The funny thing is we were very alike.”

As more and more people jump onto the internet, name confusion has created a glut of baffling and comic situations.

Every year around the time of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, for example, David Butler, a teacher in Plettenberg Bay, is tagged in countless Facebook photos meant for the actor David Butler, who has been in Generations, Binnelanders and starred as the detective Gabriel “Darkness” Harkness in the sci-fi series Room 9.

The game of tag prompted schoolteacher Butler to post a message on his Facebook wall this year: “Is it possible that I’m not the David Butler that you think I am? I readily admit that I might not be the David Butler that I think I am, but that’s not the point. I am not that David Butler. I act. We all act. But I make no money out of it and I’m not famous for it, unlike the other David Butler. The other (perhaps as far as you are concerned, “real” David Butler) is younger than me and better looking. I’m taller.”

Teacher Butler says having a famous namesake has only been an issue for him on Facebook. “I regularly put out warnings that I’m not actually the ‘proper’ David Butler, but no one takes any notice. On rare occasions someone looks at my page and squawks that I’m an impostor. It has been interesting to experience the ire of those disappointed people who thought that they’d finally got in touch with the real David Butler, who is famous for his privacy and eschewal of social media!”

The two David Butlers met briefly, in a lift in Grahamstown, about 30 years ago. “It wasn’t much of an event – but I seem to recall there were wry smiles.”

David Butler shares his name with a moderately famous South African actor, but try sharing your name with the most famous person on the planet.

Michael Jackson, a Johannesburg change guru and business-to-business speaker who markets himself as The Other Michael Jackson, says sharing his name with Wacko Jacko can be a blessing but it can also be bad (you know it – bad, bad; really, really bad).

Before the King of Pop’s death in 2009 Jackson had to deal with people’s disappointment when they realised he wasn’t the “real” Michael Jackson.

“I was booked into a 5-star hotel and was driven to the hotel in a fancy car. When we arrived all the staff had lined up, waiting to greet their hero. They saw me and thought I was Michael Jackson’s bodyguard.”

It was only in the early ’80s that Michael Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music so there was no name recognition when the other Michael Jackson was growing up but when he became an adult he had no choice but to officially become “The Other Michael Jackson”.

“It’s funny because when people think of Michael Jackson they don’t think of a middle-aged pale male – although when we met he was lighter than me.”

The two Jacksons met at a dinner party when the pop star came to South Africa on one of his many visits.

“He told me he lives his life 40-feet away from other people and said he was the loneliest man on the planet. It was really sad. He then asked me to tell him a Michael Jackson joke. I asked him: ‘How does Michael Jackson pick his nose? From a catalogue.’ He laughed like a drain.”

Jackson has learnt to live with people’s laughter when he’s introduced to them and has got used to people humming Thriller (he no longer tells them to Beat It).

Jackson doesn’t only share a name with a star, though. At an event a few years ago he shook hands with someone. “Michael Jackson,” the man said. “Yes, and you are?” “I’m Michael Jackson,” the other other Michael Jackson said. “And you are?” After their Michael Jackson merry-go-round, it emerged that the third Michael Jackson was a car dealer from Nelspruit.

“It’s an icebreaker but it can get tedious. For the most part it’s a laugh, but not when people phone at 3am and ask me to sing to them, which has happened.”

While sharing a name with Michael Jackson can be Dangerous, sharing a name with a controversial scientist can be heavy going, especially in the age of Twitter.

A certain Tim Noakes was minding his own business when a whole lot of South African tweeters started asking him for diet advice. This Noakes, a writer and radio host, is besotted with brutalism – an architecture movement – and doesn’t know an egg roll from his elbow.

Tim “But not The Tim” Noakes says he’s worried about the South African fitness fraternity, who still haven’t got the hang of Twitter. “Don’t randomly tweet. It can get you into trouble,” he says. “I generally ignore everyone who tweets at me about that Banting stuff. But I do occasionally offer up some free workout tips and diet plans, usually involving Vaseline, deep heat and a banana.” Just shows how much he knows – bananas are on Banting’s “Orange” list.

He doesn’t think he’s been name-jacked. “There are many more Tim Noakeses than just me and the prof. We’re everywhere. Watch out. I do hope that all of the prof’s disciples, who are following me on Twitter, are now buying grime music and books on brutalism.”

As the editorial director of Dazed, a massively cool music, fashion, arts and culture publication, Noakes has a significant public profile, but his fans haven’t asked The Banting Noakes for culture tips and music recommendations yet. Dazed Noakes hasn’t met Banting Noakes – although they have exchanged tweets – but he did hang out with Die Antwoord on the Cape Flats in 2010.

What happens when your namesake gives you a bad name. Poor (the other) Clive Naidoo.

Remember, Clive Naidoo from Bloubosrand? A video he recorded of Johannesburg Metro officer Laurencia Shitlhelana giving him a ticket (“for shooting a red robot”) went viral. He told the officer she worked for him because he paid her salary with his taxes and things went from bad to horrific from there. Instead of exposing her for being rude as he’d intended, he became a national joke.

Three months later, “Ask Clive” is still an internet “thing” with people still asking, “On a scale of 1 to #CliveNaidoo how bad was your day?”

The first that (the other) Clive Naidoo knew of the saga was when his phone started pinging with notifications. He says people were threatening to beat him up and there were even death threats. He tried to clarify the mess by tweeting: “Apparently my name has been mixed up with the ass that was chatting with the cop. I don’t live in Bloubosrand. Stop tweeting me.”

Although he doesn’t think he was name-jacked (“it’s his name as well”), he thinks Bloubosrand Naidoo should have taken responsibility for his actions. “He started the problem then closed all his social media accounts.”

He has never met Bloubosrand Naidoo but if he did encounter him, though, he would tell him that he is an ass.

When David van Rooyen was appointed Finance Minister, @DavidvanRooyen, started trending. “I would just like to reiterate that I am NOT the new SA Finance Minister,” he pleaded. He was then accused of not being real. “I just happen to have the same name,” he responded. “I’m not a parody.”

Most South Africans breathed a sigh of relief when President Jacob Zuma unappointed Van Rooyen. (The other) David van Rooyen, a British PhD student, was probably just as relieved. Never mind the rand; he had his name back.

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Mamils, Wombats and other cyclists

There are as many types of Middle-Aged Men in Lycra (Mamils) as there are of mammals – and any two Mamils are about as similar to each other as a dwarf mongoose is to a reticulated giraffe. (Which, in case you’ve never seen a dwarf mongoose, is not so much.) Here are some of the different Mamil subspecies out there:

WOMBATS (Wild Old Men in Baggies and Trendy Socks)
These hard, gruff men of mountain biking are fit and fearless. They climb like mountain goats and descend like champions, and eschew spandex for much more macho baggies. They have three Cape Epics under their belt (how do we know? Because they’ve told us), and their wives have moved into the guest room to make space for the stationary bike. The females of the species are known as Mombats.


A Wombat is fit and fearless and climbs like a mountain goat.

WORMs (Wiry Octogenarian Racing Machines)
A Worm is the roadie equivalent of a Wombat – they’re the racing snakes of the masters category. Lean, tough and sinewy, these silver foxes just keep getting stronger and stronger.

SQUIRILs (SQUishy Idlers Rejoicing In Lycra)
For Squirils, it’s not about the bike – it’s about the fantasy of the bike. They’re nuts about all things bike. Except riding. Squirils are in it for the coffee, croissants and Lycra, which creates the illusion that they’re athletes. They avoid hills, and wonder every 10km about “When are we stopping for coffee?” They often miss rides (“My alarm didn’t go off” is their go-to excuse).

CoBras (COrporate BRAs)
These MDs, Chairmen, CE-Ous, and other Masters of the Universe executives are usually A-plus personality types. Typically, a CoBra is a racing snake – they just can’t help being competitive. For CoBras, cycling is not only about business; it performs a vital social function. They never pay for a post-ride coffee. 

RABBITs (Rogue Annoying Bossy Bad-asses In Tights)
Unlike Squirils, Rabbits can’t get enough kays or hills. Stagger off your bike at the end of a ride, and the Rabbit looks like a bunny caught in the headlights: “What? We’ve only done 140km!” He’s the guy who heads to the front and cranks up the pace. He’ll tell you how he could/would/should have been a pro, “if only…” Rabbits enjoy passing on their infinite wisdom – your saddle’s too high, your cadence too low, your crank too cranky – but above all, the Rabbit’s the guy rocking tights… because when it comes to compression, he’s a true believer, baby.

SHITS (Sulky Hipsters in Ironic T-Shirts)
Despite the fact that a fixie (fixed-gear bike) is a hipster accessory, these bearded, bespectacled counter-culture latte-drinkers are not a sub-species of Mamil. In fact, Shits, with their tight slacks and sandals, only ride their pastel-peach fixies from trendy coffee shop to trendy coffee shop, tarnishing the image of cycling. Most are too young to be Mamils anyway. Bastards.

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Amabookabooka – a novel podcast about books and the people who write them

Listen to two recent episodes of Amabookabooka shorts, which were recorded at the recent Open Book Festival. The latest is an interview with Judge Chris Nicholson (Remember him? He’s the judge who found there had been political plotting in Jacob Zuma’s corruption case, which led to Thabo Mbeki’s Total Recall.) As a judge he dished out sentences to the guilty and as an author he’s been guilty of writing long sentences – he’s published five books, the most recent being “No Sacred Cows”, which is a collection of courtroom short stories. From punishment to crime, in a previous Amabookabooka episode we interviewed crime writer Michele Rowe, who has published “What Hidden Lies” and “Hour of Darkness”.

Click here to go to the Amabookabooka podcast on iTunes.


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Boks on Bikes

I wrote a feature for the October issue of BicyclingSA magazine about why so many rugby players are becoming hardcore mountain bikers. I had great fun with this sidebar, a DIKtionary on rugby terms that may confuse cyclists.

Bicycle rugby mashup

Bicycle rugby mashup

Fullback/Fool Back
Rugby: the last line of defence between your opponents and the try line
Cycling: the guy behind you shouting “track, track!” – and after you let him through, he creates a bottleneck at the first bit of technical singletrack

In Touch
Rugby: when the ball is kicked out of the field of play.
Cycling: when you’re in the bunch, and the guy in front of you brakes suddenly

On The Full
Rugby: when the ball is kicked into touch without first bouncing inside the field of play, it’s been kicked out ‘on the full’.
Cycling: when you decide not to ride your hardtail and go out on your dual-sus MTB instead, you are ‘on the full’.

Rugby: the worst thing ever, because you’re behind on points
Cycling: the best thing ever, because it’s time to carve up some flowing singletrack.

Rugby: Eben Etzebeth
Cycling: Santa Cruz’s fast and fun 29er

Lock Out
Rugby: when Eben Etzebeth gets sent to the sin bin
Cycling: when you disable your bike’s suspension to make it rigid

Rugby: A game played with only 29 players, because of a lock out
Cycling: an MTB wheelsize that sparked a war

Rugby: Kobus Wiese
Cycling: A brand of reliable, rugged and affordable bikes

Rugby: what giants sing, with hand on heart, before a Test.
Cycling: a Giant (that makes your heart sing).

Shock decision
Rugby: Any time a ref’s call doesn’t go your way (or anything Bryce Lawrence says)
Cycling: When you realise it’s time to send your suspension fork in for a service

Rugby: two points, from a kick through the posts after a try
Cycling: when you puncture-proof your bike by going from tube to tubeless.

Uphill Battle
Rugby: when there’s a lock out, and Bryce Lawrence is reffing, and you’re 15 points behind, and there’s two minutes left in the game
Cycling: Suikerbossie

Charge Down
Rugby: when an opposition player blocks a kick
Cycling: when your Local Bike Shop gives you a discount because you’re a regular.

Cross country
Rugby: What happens when your team loses to Australia in a World Cup quarterfinal (we still hate you, Bryce) or to Japan.

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Lance Armstrong was right. It’s not about the bike. It’s about the book.

We are about to launch our brand new podcast series called Amabookabooka– it’s a series about books and the people who write them. Because sponsors have not yet got with this dynamic platform we have decided to do some crowdfunding and have started a Thundafund campaign (which you can check by clicking here).

We’ve got the content (7 episodes recorded already) which we have financed ourselves – and we want to produce 20 more) so that we can have a full 6-month season. We’ve got the hosts (eNCA & iTunes), now we need the funding!

Watch the video, listen to the “prepodcast’, and make sure you have a look at the great Rewards!

But it’s not only about funding. We’re appealing to you to spread the word – visit our page on Facebook, and like us, and follow us on Twitter (@AmaBookaBooka). You can also  subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (it’s free – search for amabookabooka).

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