Dashing through the snow on race horses were the jockeys taking part in the Grand Prix Guardaval Immobilien at the White Turf races in St Moritz, Switzerland, at the weekend. Picture: AP

NOW we have Plebgate. Ever since the Watergate scandal in the US – when then president Richard Nixon tried to cover up a break-in by Republican Party operatives to the Democratic Party offices in the Watergate Hotel, in Washington – the suffix “gate” has been affixed to any kind of political scandal.

In South Africa in the bad old days we had Infogate/Muldergate, when the Information Department funding scandal brought down John Vorster and Connie Mulder. More recently we have had Oilgate, Travelgate and Nkandlagate.

Now in Britain they have Plebgate, where the Tory chief whip was alleged to have called the police on duty in Downing Street “plebs”. (He had to resign, but doubt has now been cast on the story).

So many gates. Let us hope nothing untoward happens again at the Watergate Hotel, otherwise we’ll have Watergate-gate. Can the lexicon stand it?

Golden guineas

A STASH of 81 gold coins – mostly guineas and half-guineas – has been discovered under a floorboard in an old pub in Ireland.

The coins date back to the 17th century and depict the reigns of Charles II, James II and William and Mary. They were discovered by builders making repairs to the fire-damaged Cooney’s Bar in Carrick-on-Suir, in County Tipperary.

A guinea was nominally worth £1. 1s (one pound one shilling) but the price of gold plus the rarity value have put the hoard in the stratosphere. The coins are now the property of the National Museum of Ireland, which has put them on display.

They are trying to piece together how the coins got there. The guess is that in the 17th century the pub was probably the home of a wealthy merchant.

Cash repository

IT SEEMS the floorboard is a favourite cash repository of the Irish. In days of yore I worked as a farm labourer in England. One of my fellow farmhands was a delightful old Irishman who used to repair to the pub after knocking off, where he would drink copious pints of Guinness.

One evening he found he was running short of cash, though the thirst was still raging. He phoned the farmer’s wife.

“Oh hello, ‘tis me, Paddy. Oi’d be most obloiged, m’dear, if you could go to my cottage. Just inside de front door you’ll find a loose floorboard. Under it you’ll find a £5 note. Oi’d be obloiged if you’d bring it to me at de King’s Head.”

Next thing the farmer’s wife was there in the bar and leading Paddy out by the ear. It seemed most unreasonable. It’s not as if she was married to him.

Most evenings Paddy used to stop off at the pigsty on his way back from the pub and sing to the pigs. Sometimes he would get right in there with them and sleep on the straw until morning.

But that evening the pigs missed their serenade and the £5 note stayed under the floorboard. I still think that farmer’s wife was being unreasonable.

Politicos for sale

NEWS from the US, where gun control lobbyists are going head-to-head with the National Rifle Association.

Satirist Andy Borowitz enters the fray with a piece in which he quotes the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre saying they will vigorously oppose any legislation that limits the sale, purchase or ownership of politicians.

“Politicians pose no danger to the public if used correctly,’ said LaPierre, who claims to have over 200 politicians in his personal collection. “Everyone hears about the bad guys in Congress. Well, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a vote is a good guy with a vote. I’m proud to be the owner of many of those guys.”

LaPierre’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Carol Foyler, a politician-control advocate who has spent the past 12 years lobbying for stricter limits on the sale of politicians. “Right now, a man like Wayne LaPierre can walk right into Congress and buy any politician he wants,” she said. “There’s no background check, no waiting period. And so hundreds of politicians are falling into the hands of people who are unstable and, quite frankly, dangerous.”

Lovely stuff!


A NEW CHARITY has been formed to counsel compulsive talkers. It’s called On and On Anon.

Last word

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. – H L Mencken