A child looks across Russias frozen Yenisei River in the Taiga area, 50km south of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Picture: REUTERS

IF MUSIC be the food of love, play on… a pianist has been playing romantic music to Galapagos tortoises at London Zoo, hoping to encourage them to mate.

The pianist is French virtuoso Richard Clayderman, and his audience are tortoise Dirk, aged 70-plus, and his female companions Dolly, Priscilla and Polly – all 17 – and 13-year-old Dolores.

Says Clayderman: “Music is a powerful thing, and I would like to believe it has a positive effect on animals as well as us. It certainly is an experience to play in such a well-known and romantic place as London Zoo.”

The outcome of this exercise is awaited with interest, not least in the Street Shelter for the Over-40s, where various gents of 70-plus would be most gratified by a jollying-up of various younger gals with names like Dolly, Priscilla, Polly and Dolores.

If the management should hire Clayderman for his next gig, he’d find the Street Shelter knocks spots off London Zoo as a romantic setting.


FORGET the monkey. Now they say we’re descended from a small, furry shrew-like creature that had a long tail and a voracious appetite for bugs. An identikit picture of the small furry ancestor that supposedly gave rise to humans and most other mammals has been pieced together by scientists in Florida.

It evolved about 200 000 years after a massive asteroid impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, they say. From this small beginning sprang every “placental” mammal that gives birth to mature live young, including dogs, cats, rodents, whales and humans. An artist’s impression of this earliest placental ancestor shows something that looks like a miniature badger with a long snout and sharp teeth for snatching the bugs it lived on.

Oddly enough, the scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History appear not to have given a name to this theoretically reconstructed creature. Long snout? Voracious appetite?

Snatching? How about Rodentus kleptopoliticensis?

For bugs substitute contracts, blue label whisky, sushi and Lamborghinis and we have the throwback. They are among us everywhere. Rodentus kleptopoliticensis walks tall.

Proudly SA

MY OLD associate Tom Dennen hails originally from Maine, in the US, but has been here so long he feels he is able to define being Proudly South African.

This is the case, he says, when:

l You call a bathing suit a “kozzie”.

l You call a traffic light a “robot”.

l You call an elevator a “lift”.

l You call a car hood a “bonnet”.

l You call a car trunk a “boot”.

l You call a pick-up truck a “bakkie”.

l You call a barbecue a “braai”.

l You produce a R100 note instead of your driver’s licence when stopped by a traffic officer.

l You have to hire a security guard whenever you park your car.

l “Now-now” or “just now” can mean anything from a minute to a month.

Whoa there! A quibble. Those terms, “lift”, “bonnet” and “boot” are used the way they are, not just in South Africa but in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, the West Indies and every Anglophone country in Africa.

Yankee go home! (Though Tom seems to have settled in so well I guess we’ll let him stay.)


A WOMAN brings in a very limp duck to the vet’s. He pulls out his stethoscope and holds it to the bird’s chest. He shakes his head: “I’m sorry, your duck has passed away.”

She wails: “Are you sure? You haven’t done any tests. He might just be in a coma.”

The vet leaves the room and comes back with a Labrador retriever. The dog sniffs at the duck. Then he looks sadly at the vet and shakes his head.

The vet goes out again and comes back with a cat. The cat sniffs delicately at the duck. Then it meows and sadly shakes its head.

Vet: “I’m sorry, but, as I said, this is most definitely, 100 percent certifiably, a dead duck.”

He hands the woman a bill for R600.

“R600? For telling me my duck is dead?”

“I’m sorry. If you’d just taken my word for it, the bill would have been R20. But you see there was also the Lab Report and the Cat Scan.”

Last word

THE true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. – Samuel Johnson