Jani on Jani

Twenty five years ago on January 8th I was told by my editor to write a front page interview which was to be entitled Jani by Jani. In those days the Sunday Times cost R1.61 +19c tax. Many of the key players in this storm in a thimble are dead. Hopefully the other haters are dying off. I write this for a different generation and for those with a sense of the ridiculousness that has always been a hallmark of many things South African. Cf Nkandla, Malema, Zuma etc. 

Jani by Jani

Hot on the trail of South Africa’s most wanted journalist.

Roll up! Roll up! It’s the Jani and ET show. BOM. Bring own mud.“Broedertwis! Blondine!”

Credited with the honour of single-handedly destroying the weerstand of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging is the liberally loathed, much adored but alas not ignored Sunday Timescolumnist, JANI ALLAN. The mask of theatre never drops – even in journalism. Behind one mask there will always be another. Unless Jani Allan – sound of ripping canvas, interviews Jani Allan Face to Face.

I track down the Bitch to her lair.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! Better still unleash the baying newshounds. They’re far more vicious. Skewered on a spotlight, the private muse – at last! – is public domain. It’s open hunting season. Track the bitch to her lair in the Diamond Building in downtown Diagonal Street, Johannesburg.

Her kennel is of such modest dimensions that if a dog were to occupy it, it would have to wag its tail up and down.

Glamorous building. An architectural hybrid, part Gothic cathedral, part Gothic cathedral. The painted pariah herself looks glamorous too (I grudgingly concede).

A human hybrid, part Gucci, part Guinevere, she is wearing – sharp intake of breath – hautekhaki and colour co-ordinated Polyfilla. Is the haute khaki courtesy Out of Africa. Or…raise one eyebrow – Allan with ‘Blanche?

She’s a dangerous woman. A gevaarlike vrou, they say.

Ask Magnus. (Malan. Minister of Defence.) Or ask Pik Botha. The Foreign Wotsisname. Thing. She’s interviewed them. Or you can ask the big Huge. Euge…well perhaps not now, not so soon, not at this time.

Anyway. I’ve never liked her. Not that I’ve met her. People who know her slightly say that she has a surprising sweetness, gentleness, that she always makes everyone laugh.

The few who know her better say she’s actually shy and vulnerable. Poignantly solitary. Children and animals adore her instantly.

But you can’t trust children and animals. Can you?

Jani is sitting cross-legged on a swivel chair in front of a computer. The asana she’s held for ten days in the eye of the storm that has raged about her since the alleged affair with the AWB chief hit the headlines.

The pressure has been daunting. Even to a virtuoso in survival. Reporters and photographers have kept vigil outside her Sandhurst apartment. Local and international television and pressmen have jammed the switchboards of the Sunday Times. Paparazzi lie in wait when she leaves the building. Floods of abusive letter have poured in. Demands that her editors ‘take action’ against her.’ Continue reading here.

Death by Tabloid

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Dear Nigella,

You probably won’t remember me. We met briefly in Londinium when you were still married to John Diamond. I was an avid reader of your restaurant reviews in The Spectator.

I have seen your star rise and scintillate. You truly are a domestic goddess. Actually, make that just a goddess.

But goddesses are on pedestals and how delightful it is knock something from a pedestal. How the public enjoys to see a fall from grace. This is the theatre of schadenfreude. How they love it! Why, the scribblers are filled with such joy as rises like the aroma from the bœuf en daube!

I have been reading about your trials in the court and my einüfhlung is at full throttle.

You see, Nigella, I also mistakenly believed that one could expect justice from a court.

I read that the jury at London’s Isleworth Crown Court rejected prosecution claims that sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo had used credit cards loaned to them by you and Charles Saatchi for household expenses to run up unauthorized charges of 685,000 pounds (more than $1 million) on luxury clothes, designer handbags and high-end hotel rooms.

So the take away (as they say in the States) is that you did indeed authorize their high spending partly in exchange for their silence about your drug use.

Why are there juries anyway? Twelve digestive biscuits would be able to give more informed opinions.

I read that you were “disappointed but unsurprised” by the verdict. And that “Over the three week trial, the jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible.”

“I have been put on trial here … and in the world’s press,” you said.

It was then that I decided to write to you. I too was put on trial – and continue to be by the haters – for something I didn’t do. Continue reading here.

Jani writes to Melissa Bachman

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Dear Melissa,

I have to hand it to you.

That pic of you sitting gloating triumphantly behind the huge male lion you killed has gone viral.

I’m not saying that people aren’t admiring your big strong teeth or even your big strong breast implants.

But your timing was all kinds of special. A week after we hear that the western black rhino is officially extinct, you post this picture of yourself on all your social media sites. Now you are front page news in many countries. Even the comedian Ricky Gervais has weighed in. He thinks you are a great hunt. Typo.

When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal. What then do we call a person who shoots a wild animal?

Not for food, or even for their pelt. Just for pleasure.

Help me on this. I want to understand what frisson of pleasure do you get when you see a creature toppling to its knees? Which do you prefer? A crocodile? Or a giant bear? Which turns you on more? Heaven knows you have killed enough species to be an expert.

Do you have any feelings at all? Apart from vanity, that is.

I see from all your pictures, you wouldn’t dream of going on a hunt without heavily mascara-ed eyelashes, a piece of statement jewellery, your glossy hair, neatly braided…

Perhaps that adds to the revulsion people feel when looking at you with your ‘trophies.’ Because you see, sweetie, equality of the sexes, like Communism, is great on paper. In reality it is something else. Biologically a woman is the giver of life.

When she takes life it is an aberration. When she takes life for fun it is perverse.

Your utter disregard for animals and nature is breath-taking.

I read that you desired to kill an adult male lion as it is the most sought-after trophy by wealthy foreign hunters.

The Maroi ‘Conservancy’ gang – Hannes, Laurens and Julious (sic), did your bidding and imported a lion to the area so that you could kill it. I know that you know that this is called canned hunting.

Trophy hunting is an obscenity beyond the obvious one. Trophy hunting for lion is killing healthy members of an imperiled species.

Do you know or even care that when an adult male lion is killed, the destabilization of that lion’s pride can lead to more lion deaths as outside males compete to take over the pride? Read National Geographic and learn a few things. I know I did.

Once a new male is in the dominant position, he will often kill the cubs sired by the pride’s previous leader, resulting in the loss of an entire lion generation within the pride.

Trophy hunting by definition is counter-evolutionary. It is based on selectively taking the large, robust, and healthy males from a population for a hunter’s trophy room.

These are the same crucial individuals that in a natural system would live long, full lives, protecting their mates and cubs and contributing their genes to future generations.

See why everyone thinks you are bloodless, callous and recidivist?

Your grinning happily behind a dead lion has shocked people in a country that is almost unshockable.

In South Africa rape and murder are commonplace. Let’s be more explicit. Baby rapes are prevalent. But it took your narcissistic exploits to energize a country that is compassion-fatigued.

Amid the sad and irritating news which leaves the populace numbed by your career of legalized poaching – murdering – animals touched raw nerve ends. Hunting for sport is bloody and antiquated.

In a mere four days the Stop Melissa Bachman Facebook page has had over 95,000 hits.

You awakened a vast tribe of anti-hunters who are intent on urging the international animal protection community to muster support for the plight of animals and the environment.

For that I thank you.

The website of the Maroi Conservancy – your enablers – has crashed.

When the site was up there was some feeble defense along the lines of ‘providing employment to the locals’ and ‘conservation’.

Since when does killing an almost endangered species count as ‘conservation?’ You’ve been drinking too many Klipdrifs and coke with the manne.

The money that does come into Africa from hunting pales in comparison to the billions and billions generated from tourists who come just to watch wildlife.

According to National Geographic, despite the claims that trophy hunting brings millions of dollars in revenue to local people in otherwise poor communities, there is no proof of this.

Even pro-hunting organizations like the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation have reported that only 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting ever makes it to the communities affected by hunting.

National Geographic published a story in which Jeff Flocken, the North American director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare wrote; The United States government is considering whether to add lions to the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act. Such protection would ban the importation of dead trophy lions into the U.S.

A recent study led by a scientist from Duke University showed that as few as 32,000 lions are left. Approximately 600 lions are killed every year on trophy hunts – 80% are killed by Americans.

A few years ago I read about a South African woman who was attacked by a male ostrich. She engaged it in a fight to the death with her bare hands and managed to strangle it. An ostrich has a kick stronger than a mule and their toe-nails are sharper than a serpent’s tooth. She was knocked to the ground several times and suffered a couple of broken ribs and a punctured lung. Perhaps the whole of the human race would have celebrated your “victory” if you had been attacked by the male lion and managed to kill it with your bare hands.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of a bloke called Mahatma Gandhi. I don’t think his name comes up a great deal in the bomas you hang out in after a good day of killing. He once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Given this premise I am afraid you and your animal killing chums are egregious, recidivist and morally bankrupt.

Yours etc. Jani

P.S. Isn’t it deeply ironic that “Melissa” means honey and sweet?

ends

Read Jani Allan’s column on rhino poaching here

On Friendship

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Believer…

I think my Pomeranians have taught me much about friendship.

After a gruelling shift I walk down the lane in the violin case dark to my little apartment. My footsteps quicken. I peep through the window and there they are, waiting expectantly.

They are greeted in order of seniority. Breeze (aka Tallulah Wiggles), whirls like a top spins waiting to be picked up. China hasn’t quite mastered the full-spin so she does a ballerina three-quarter turn.

Molly, agitated with delight, runs into the other room and picks up a toy, squeaking it excitedly. She promenades around the apartment, beeping it while I prepare their late-night supper

After half an hour in the company of my pups – interesting how God is dog spelled backward – the cares of the day boil down to sediment. Often times I will look up from my computer keyboard or a book to see Breeze gazing at me with the consummate devotion of a Believer.

I am so humbled by her adoration that it makes me a better self to be. Those who know me will testify that I am the best Pom Mom in the world. While I wear schmattas from the Gap, my little girls have real shearling coats. At night, when the last tweet has been sent, the peace plant has been spoken to and I am about to switch off my bedside light, I look at the three small furry sleeping soundly on their designated areas on the bed, and I think my life is as beautiful as a Beethoven Sonata.

I may have made questionable judgements about those I thought were friends. I have, in main had rotten luck with men. But my pups fill me with a kind of constant ecstasy. Everything they do amuse, entertains or comforts me. How many people can you say that about?

In my self-imposed exile in America the silence from some of my soi-disant friends has been deafening.

Of course there have been rare exceptions. One friend and her daughter came to see me in America. They arrived shortly after 8.am on 9/11. As they drove across the Verrazano Bridge in New York they saw the Twin Towers collapsing. We will be forever friends – even if months go by without us speaking.

I am blessed to have a friend in Missouri. We speak three or four times a day. She is the remote witness to my life. As unselfish as the wind, she listens to the trivial details of my life and we laugh together. She is a friend for all seasons. My young friend (now a short gallop away from Blenheim Palace) continues to surprise me with his intuition and generosity.

Great friendships don’t happen in flashes. They ignite slowly and burn steadily until a great fire of warmth wraps you in its cloak.

Perhaps I have erred in my choice of friends because anyone can be a friend when you are at the top of your game and you can provide food and drink and amusing banter.

It is easy to find people who will kill time with you.

The trick, I think, is to find those who wish to live time with you.

On Monday night I took the Poms to my friends Dee and her husband. The plan was to let the pups run in Yang Chin meadow. Four Temple dogs and three poms… It was a sight to warm any dog-lover’s heart. We drank champagne at the fireside and Dee played the harp.

Later, much later, on arrival home, I thought I had lost China. Immediately I felt like a switchboard with all my nerves on Emergency Alert.

I raced up and down the sleeping streets calling her name. China! China! Chahooey! Chahooey!

Panic-stricken, I called Dee. I knew that although night’s shutter board was still down, she would hop in her car and help me search for my child. Now THAT’S a friend. 

In the end, China was found sitting placidly between the screen door and the wooden door. Of course we use the term ‘friend’ loosely. I have friends with whom I natter happily but would never dream of calling if I was in real trouble. It would be an imposition.

I have ‘’first responder friends’’ – those who are on speed-dial for when I have to be dragged to hospital.

I have a friend in Australia who has been my confidante for more than thirty years. At the outset of our friendship, I fancied I was something of a mentor to him. As the years passed the roles have reversed entirely. Although considerably my junior, now it is to him I turn for life-advice. It is his email addie that I search for and press send when I have good news.

I haven’t seen him since he lived in the marvelous villa in Bantry Bay and I lived in an apartment the size of a throat lozenge in Clifton.

But I know that when I see him we will take up like a piece of knitting those circumstances forced us to lay aside. Every stitch will be in place. We will remember the intricate pattern and our souls will continue to knit together.

If I were to draw up a manifesto on the rules of friendship it would start as follows:
1. Your friend is for your growth and for the deepening of your spirit.

2. If your friend intentionally damages your spirit this friend will also coil around your limbs and crush you.

3. Friendship is about sharing – laughter, pleasures and the little things because in the little things, ‘‘the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

Kahlil Gibran wrote one of the best explanations of friendship ever.

He wrote

Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger.

And you seek him for peace.

ends

You can also read this blog at janiallan.com

The return of Jani Allan

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Don’t forget to pick up a copy of this week’s Mail & Guardian where I give an exclusive interview discussing my (grilling) life and my interactive autobiography project.

Twenty-five years ago Jani Allan – in a poll directed at elite white suburbanites – was voted “the most admired person in South Africa”. She lived in a villa above Clifton beach and drove a Ferrari. She was a glamorous, towering former model, a major opinion-maker in her role as one of the country’s premier newspaper columnists, and one of its very first media celebrities.

Birthday Blues

I have always thought that making a fuss of your birthday is in poor taste. Why on earth would anyone be interested in the day you were born? Working in the restaurant I have come to recognise the kind of people who believe that their birthday is a special day – for everyone.

One is expected to smile benignly when told that ‘It’s Courtney’s birthday!’ (They’re all called Courtney.) One has to help festoon the table with hideous silver balloons. One trips over mountains of expensive-looking presents that are piled up in the passageway to the table. One tactfully tries to move the presents so that one can pour the wine.

Finally Courtney arrives looking ravishing. She is wearing the kind of Jessica Simpson shoes that are meant to be looked at not walked in. She is displaying acres of tanned, healthy skin and her hair, freshly $400 Keratined, looks like a commercial. When it’s time for dessert, one has to retrieve a huge hideous cake with loopy letters saying ‘Haffy Birfday Courtney’ from the walk-in. The cake is invariably tres leches with rococo cream icing and has to be cut into 43 slices. Courtney doesn’t eat a bite. You stay thin either by starving or waiting tables. In her case it is the former. All of which made me remember other birthdays in other countries.

My best birthday was when I was ten. I was given a small black pony. My heartbeat in my small chest was like the wings of a bird. Tears sprang to my eyes when I saw him in the paddock, tugging at the grass. I put my ear next to his while he drank water and heard the gulp gulp as it slid down his throat and thought that I would die of happiness. I brushed him with a brand new dandy brush until my miniature spaghetti arms were limp. When my mother refused to buy a fly sheet, I cut up a green candlewick bedspread and stitched a rug for him on my dolls sewing machine.

After school there was a little party with paper cups and chains and picture-hat biscuits. They were Marie biscuits with marshmallows in the center and pretty icing. As was the tradition in those days, all the little girls attending the party brought small gifts that were laid out on my bed. Handkerchiefs, Lakeland coloured pencils and Sharps toffees in a tin with a kitten on it. Time passed. I am twenty one. I am wearing a fabulous chamois dress and I am getting engaged to a chap called Roddy. We decided to get engaged on my birthday. Robert Hodgins, my painting lecturer from Wits is there. The party is to be held at a farmhouse near by. Unfortunately, while Roddy and his friend are trying are to burn fire breaks up the driveway so that they can put candles in paper bags on either side, a fierce wind blows up and flames from the fire engulf part of the house. The image of the farm hands running out of the house carrying furniture has never left me.

I am 29. I am at the St Geran in Mauritius. I am surrounded by strangers who have become instant friends – just add Indian Ocean. People called Gaetan are wishing me happy birsday. (sic) I am 30. My office at the Sunday Times is so filled with flowers it looks like a florist shop. Or a funeral parlour. My success is measured by how large the arrangements of St Joseph’s lilies are.

Five years later the beat is still going on. I am collected from my apartment by in a limo. My escort calls the radio station as asks the DJ to play ‘Give me All Night’ by Carly Simon, because, he says ‘That’s how long it is going to take to celebrate my birthday. My friend Barbara has arranged a party for me at a chic supper club. I am wearing Errol Arendz and high heels.

More time passes. I am in London on my 40th birthday. Alone. I walk around Hampton Court Palace alone and linger in Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal. I am alone but not lonely. Something in the spiritus loci resonates with me. I commune with the ghosts of the great writers who lived on this sceptred isle. I meander down the Long Water, the stretch which Henry created specifically so that barges coming from Chelsea would have a glorious first view of the Palace as they arrived.

Pootling around Surrey I come across a village – well, its only a couple of hamlets – called Friday Street. Nearby is the Silent Pool. It is said that Guinevere was bathing in it when some knights came upon her. She submerged herself to avoid detection and since then the pool has remained without a ripple…. I explore my amazement at this green and pleasant land. Everything pleases me. Even the fact that the local Hedgehog Hospital is called Miss Tiggywinkles, after the Beatrix Potter character. But that was England.

Usually birthdays are a time of melancholy. They remind one of one’s mortality and what one has yet to achieve… The wounds which haven’t yet healed and that which is no longer within one’s reach…

My memory is indeed a misty landscape in which shrubs of the heather of recollection crop up from time to time. At times there are memory banks of lilac heather, at times, sparse, spiky fingers of memory-nightmares that poke through my gauze-thin skin.

These days the only family I have are three girls, who have a leg at each corner. How does one celebrate when one is a stranger in a strange land? My first year in America was the fateful 9/11/2001. At first it was something of a relief to have a reason not to celebrate, but gradually, as I became, for better or worse, part of a small Norman Rockwell community, my birthday was allowed to resurface.

Last year there was a garden party in the park-like surroundings of a friend’s home. This year I spend most of the day being interviewed by a journo from Boston. We meet with one of my best friends whose two little boys have my heart captive. The five year old gives me rosemary and a spray of foliage from the garden. An Elizabeth Lock ring wouldn’t have brought me any more joy.

I get dressed up in a tulle skirt and combat boots (to keep it real). About ten of my friends have gathered at a local restaurant. Veuve Clicquot does indeed flow and yes, there is even a ridiculously wonderful champagne cake which Abby Wabby has baked. I shriek and giggle and blow out the candles. For a few hours I turn into Courtney! Why, there is even a present table. Later we wander through the deserted streets of the village singing at the tops of our lungs. There was a small incident when Matteo, the beautiful, leaned against a picket fence which promptly collapsed. But that’s a detail. I write this demi-blog, dear readers, because I have turned (yet another) corner in my life. In these sunlit uplands, I am learning that if you are with people who feel affection for you its OK to admit it’s your birthday. In fact it IS cause for celebration.

Praise the Lord and pass the Pommery.

Money can’t buy you happiness

….or can it?

Last night Bernie Madoff and his wife came to the resto. Well, a pair of Mr and Mrs Madoff lookalikes He is wearing a monogrammed shirt. Why do people have to monogram their shirts? Are there other people in the household who may accidentally wear their shirts? Labelling your shirts is for boarding school, surely. Anyhoozlebees. The wife is carrying a fabulous Bottega Veneta handbag, or purse as they call it here.

From the get go they are joyless. How is it possible to drink Gosset Rose joylessly? They don’t even have the boredom default – iPhones. Its a glorious, late summer evening with a full moon grinning down like a lottery winner. The evening air is filled with the silly, happy chatter of people enjoying themselves.

Mrs Madoffy orders the fish. He orders the filet. “And here is your lovely – your lovely fish.” The fish looks as though it should be on the cover of a food magazine. The plating is perfection. Mrs Madoffy pokes at the tricolour pepper salad. She gouges several forkfuls (Americans eat everything with their fork.) Then she rolls her eyes. “It’s luke warm. At best.” I am SO sorry. I scuttle back to the kitchen. The fish has to be put back on the grill to be reheated and is then, again, beautifully plated I take it back to her. “Is this a different piece? Why is it so small? This piece is smaller than the piece I had!” I assure her that the fish is indeed the exact same piece. “I’m telling you its smaller.” “Well, let me see if there is a spare piece of fish lying around,” I say foolishly. (That’s like saying ‘I’ll see if there’s a spare lobster lying around.) “Someone in the kitchen has eaten some of my fish! The evening is ruined.” Now is the time to switch to my snail under a harrow mode. I am so sorry, so vair vair sorry. I DO understand your displeasure etc etc. Would you like another piece. “No! My husband has already eaten his steak!” she snaps. The offer of free desert is met with stunning unenthusiasm. They pay no attention to me and have a convo in undertones in which shoulders are raised along with eyebrows.

Pontius Pilate had less indecision. Finally they choose the blueberry pie. I go into the kitchen to find that there it no blueberry pie left. Now they are even more without gruntle. I take out another desert which is accepted with bad grace. Then she needs to go to the bathroom. Of course the bathrooms are occupied. When she leaves the restaurant, a vision in designer labels, her face is tight as bound broccoli.

I am the first person to admit that I have been tainted by appreciation of the better things in life. Once you know what the good stuff is its hard to go back. Some vestiges of my snobbery remain. I would rather pay three pounds for an apple from Harrods than go to Tescos. (Its the experience I am paying for, I reason.) I never drink tap water. (My water of choice is Welsh Tynant, although one can’t find it here.) Hershey’s chocolate is tragic. I would shoot myself before I went to Walmart. I have a decade-old Yves St Laurent Mombasa bag. which I use instead of an orange-is-the -new-black $20 faux leather hobo made in China. I would rather buy gently worn Ann Demeulemeester than brand new H and M. I dislike faux – everything. Fur, jewels and friendships.

I wear a plastic watch on one wrist given to me by a co-worker. On the strap is written ‘Princess Loved-a-lot.’ On the other I wear my ancient Cartier Santos. Somewhere on the swings and roundabouts of my life I have learnt that excess of money is the ruin of most people. From what I hear, being a Black Diamond is not a guarantee of happiness.

Yes, I adore Veuve Clicquot (who doesn’t love to have the Widow Clicquot at one’s table?), but the notion of spending $200 on a bottle of Armand de Brignac is, to my mind, unattractive excess. So is spending the GNP of a LTPC – Little Tin Pot Country on your birthday party. Having seventy pairs of Henri Bendel loafers (as one client has boasts she has) is deeply unattractive. Interestingly or predictably, the people who show off about their possessions are chintzy tippers. Occasionally I come across someone with money and generosity. One such is a gorgeous Borzoi of a woman. (Think Ireland Baldwin in twenty years.) She and her partner have an apartment in New York, a farm in New Jersey and a yacht wherever they want it to be. When she celebrates her birthday she brings a bottle of champagne for us underlings. That’s style. That’s kindness. That’s unusual.

Never base your currency on your looks, my mother told me. Your looks will fade, but your character won’t.

Basing your currency on your currency is equipollently foolish.

If money is all you have to offer, if boasting about your possessions is your preferred conversation, then here is an echoing emptiness in your corroded soul. New Rule. Share the wealth or shut up.