The collected papers of …

Today is International Columnists Day when newspaper columnists the world over traditionally update a past column so they can knock off early and sort out their beer mat collection.
It gives me the opportunity to recount how, some years ago, I read that Princeton University was working on the collected papers of Albert Einstein. Time said it was “one of the most ambitious publishing ventures ever undertaken in the history of science”.
Ha! I tried to imagine what it would be like if somebody tried assembling the collected papers of James F Clarke when he finally parks his bicycle.
Actually, my papers are already in a collected condition – piled high in cupboards, on shelves and in boxes in the garage.
Finding material that might prove remotely interesting would be the challenge.
I can see it now – a two-man team from the new University of Ogies’ English department headed by Professor Fanie Phello.
The prof stands scratching his brainbone. He is dwarfed by a mountain of paper – cuttings, tear sheets, lists headed “things to do” and inscribed, “fix back door, replace hall light, sharpen knives, get Band Aid, get car serviced; cholesterol check; pick up post; Marmite; cheese; superglue; fix kitchen tap…”
Prof Phello speaks to his assistant, Thola Izibi: These lists of ‘things to do’ are endless and obviously he never got around to doing them. Take ‘Fix kitchen tap’ – it appears on lists spread over many years.
Izibi: Over here are drawers and drawers of papers and boxes all labeled “M”.
Prof: Yes, that would be his secretary, Threnody Higginbottom whom he insisted on calling ‘Miss Smith’. She filed everything under M for Miscellaneous.
Izibi: Well it’s mostly letters from readers whom, I understand, used to write his column for him. And lots from medical aid.
Prof: Medical aid? That could be interesting – they might tell us something about his health.
Izibi: The letters are mostly to inform him that his medical fund is not prepared to pay his Wine Club bills and that he must desist from trying to claim them each month. It appears he read somewhere that red wine was good for the heart and he felt it should be considered as “chronic medicine”. He also used to send them his bills for All Bran and …
Prof (interrupting): Ah, what have we here? A letter from Buckingham Palace! It’s from the Queen’s assistant deputy private secretary, Sir Percy Snodfellow, begging Clarke to stop asking the Queen to write a foreword for his proposed book titled Prince Charles and me,(or I). It appears he once met Prince Charles and shook his hand and said “How d’you do?” That, for a journalist of Clarke’s calibre would have been the basis for a thick ganglion-flattening book.
Izibi: We must surely find something that gives an insight into what sort of fellow he was. He rose, after all, to head the biggest society in South Africa – Densa, the club for those too stupid for Mensa, the society for the highly intelligent.
Prof: Yes, that figures.
Izibi: But, Prof, Densa had some great ideas. Imagine if Densans had taken over South Africa! Who knows – traffic lights might have worked again; traffic cops would have come out from behind the bushes to help motorists for a change.
The cops would have arrested bad taxi drivers and sentenced them to filling in potholes.
The government would have introduced capital punishment for anybody caught putting up posters on suburban trees… or saying “isit?” every time somebody told them something.
Prof: You seem to be impressed by Densa.
Izibi: (Cough. Cough.) My grandfather was a closet member.


Densa’s Extraordinary Annual Meeting

 I called the meeting to order.

It was not a very big turn-out – especially for a club with so many potential members and, after all, this was an Extraordinary Annual Meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of Densa.

Densa is the society for those whose IQs are within that exceedingly wide band between that of a cos lettuce and the average politician. Members’ IQs must be well below those of Mensa, the international society for those whose IQ’s fall within the top 2 percent of humanity’s.

I asked Threnody, who had kindly agreed to take the minutes of the meeting (providing, she said, everybody spoke very slowly) to once again count the attendance. She said it was still four – Neil Summink, Liz Simpson, Ray Henderson and Nolan Hasbean. At least we had a quorum if we counted the caretaker at the back of the hall and the fact that Liz had brought her little cross-eyed dog, Fluffy.

I adjusted my sash of office which is of a fetching purple material although, I noticed too late, it did need pressing. A dab of tetrachloride here and there would have helped too. It has “PRESIDANT” proudly emblazoned in it.

I then declared the meeting open. Everybody clapped and the little dog yapped.

I recounted our humble beginnings in an office at The Star on March 5 1993 and told how, eventually, Densa became far more powerful than Mensa. After all, we have a DAILY newsletter (called The Star) which is a cut above Mensa’s monthly newsletter that uses old jokes to fill up spaces.

I warned Densans of our growing responsibilities. Lots of high-IQ people have left South Africa because of crime and the way government people run off with our money, and the soccer. This brain drain throws an extra burden on us Densans because very soon there’ll be only us left (not forgetting Fluffy who could end up as Minister of something).

At this point I made a little aside to myself. THINKS: Secretly I welcome the brain drain because I have always found intelligent people difficult to understand. I recall driving on the M1 in the rush hour when a female member of Mensa was explaining something on the radio. I had to concentrate so hard that my car juddered to a halt in the middle lane.

But Mensans – the very name sounds as if their members come from somewhere far out in the firmament, like Pretoria, are very vulnerable.

For example, I recall a Mensa newsletter in which a mensan said that a meeting of the Academy for Future Science “nearly blew my mind”. Mensans are very susceptible to this kind of injury. They can read A Short History of Time while chewing gum but ask them something simple like, “What is the square root of the Shri Lankan XI?” and it can blow their minds as surely as one can blow an egg – phoop!

I drifted further into reverie and wondered what happened to a mensan whose mind had blown? I suppose a little ceremony is held and they get the Pointy Cap with the Big D on the front and are guided towards the door.

But what do you think it was that nearly blew this mensan’s mind? It was a scientist who said, “aliens are stealing humans to experiment on them. Some are returned. Some are not.”

This came as no surprise to me. For years I’ve suspected that aliens come in the night and steal people’s brains while they sleep. These are then pan-fried in Martian restaurants. When the victims wake up they are – naturally – none the wiser but, for some reason, become seized by a desire to enter politics.

Thus have aliens come to rule the world.

Now where was I? Hey, Threnody! Where’s our quorum gone? Threnody? Thren… Fluffy?