I have been trawling the local news outlets for a couple of days, looking for something interesting or different to write about. It’s been a depressing exercise. I’m obviously in the throes of one of those phases which I go through every now and then when I get news overload. It’s all just the same, every day. Out in the world, it’s Syria, Syria, Syria, the economy, gay marriage in the States, gay existence in Russia, Syria. Back home it’s corruption and strikes, racism and violence against women and children.
Each of these stories on its own should command my attention. But they’re not on their own. They’re together. They pile up on top of each other to form a tidal wave, the same things every day, over and over again, with no end in sight and no solution at hand.
But I have the solution. Not to the problems of the world, but to my disaffection with the news. I go out and buy a newspaper. This might seem like a rather silly thing to do, like eating more bacon because I’m feeling overweight, but it’s not. I am not, you see, buying just any newspaper. I’m buying the Daily Sun. This is why;
And just to prove that gay people are in the media worldwide at the moment, this;
The Daily Sun is not for me. It is the paper of the working class. Or the desperately out of work class. It is the paper of South Africa’s poor. And reading it is a fascinating exercise. It offers just a fleeting glimpse into a world that people like me know almost nothing about.
I did not, for example, know that it was common practice for roaming pastors to board the 4am bus from Malalane to Mbombela and then spend the journey preaching. And taking collection. This seems like a rather unsporting thing to be doing; I would imagine taking the 4am bus from Malalane to Mbombela must be a rather harrowing experience all on its own, but to have some random freelance pastor leap up and start brandishing a bible and shouting about salvation must kick things up a notch.
But this morning, it must have all seemed worthwhile. Two roaming pastors boarded the 4am bus from Malalane to Mbombela. Heated words were exchanged between Pastor Ndlela and Pastor Nyundu. By all reports, it was Ndlela’s bus. The interloper Nyundu simply leapt up and, without so much as a by-your-leave, began preaching.
Pastor Ndlela, however, seems to be nothing if not practical. While Nyundu spread the word, Ndlela busied himself with taking the collection. And then he wouldn’t share it. The swine. He even had the gall to look at the unfortunate Nyundu “in a bad and bitter way”. Yup. When roaming bus-pastors go to war, things can get pretty damn ugly.
I need to take public transport more often.
But it wasn’t a news story that made me happy this morning. The Daily Sun has been running a competition. One with an awful lot of rules. This may not seem unusual to you; all competitions have rules. What made the Daily Sun competition stand out is that most of the rules applied after the competition was over. The prize, you see, was a live sheep.
Or rather 135 live sheep. Why a daily newspaper should decide to hand out 135 live sheep rather than, say, 135 microwave ovens was never adequately explained. Maybe they had them left over from a team-building exercise. But it has obviously dawned on them at some point between the launching of the competition and the handing out of the prizes that not everyone knows what to do with a live sheep. I don’t. Do you?
Not? Have no fear. The Daily Sun has got your back. Here, then, are the Daily Sun’s rules for what to do when presented with a surprise live sheep. Print them out and keep them on your fridge.
1. Your animal may not be tortured, maimed, kicked, or terrified.
This is a tricky one. Not torturing, maiming, or kicking a live sheep seems pretty reasonable to me. But I cannot help but think that being hauled out of your field and handed over to a complete stranger who has never been confronted with a live sheep before must be pretty damn terrifying, rule or no rule.
2. It may not be tied up or confined in a space that causes it suffering. In other words, DO NOT put it in the boot (trunk) of your car! Rather arrange to pick it up by BAKKIE! (TRUCK!)
This seems like an oddly specific and EMPHATIC rule. This is the sort of rule that people add after learning the hard way. I would have given anything to have been at the prizegiving of the Daily Sun’s first live sheep competition. I can see it now. The stilted speech by the sponsors. The smattering of applause from the tiny rent-a-crowd. The supremely awkward photos of the winner posing with his prize. And then the stunned silence from the assembled worthies as he strolled over and crammed his prize into the boot of his Toyota Cressida. Do you think you could get away with popping it into the back seat?
3. Your sheep must not be starved, kept in dirty conditions, attached or tied to any equipment or vehicle, or transported over a long distance exposed to exhaust fumes.
If feel the organisers are being a little naïve here. As appealing as the idea may be, I don’t think that any of these sheep are going to be taken home as family pets, and sheep are not famous for their abilities as watchdogs. Starvation takes time, which is a luxury I don’t think these sheep have.
Am I the only one who finds the reference to “equipment” sinister? Do you have any equipment? And not just any equipment. Equipment big enough to hold back a determined sheep. I did, I suppose, have a rowing machine a while back, but Mrs 23thorns made me sell it because she was scared I would get too buff and start attracting all those Russian singles Facebook keeps telling me are in my area. But I would never have tied a sheep to it. The bleating would have made me lose focus.
I smell lawyers here. The Daily Sun legal department was obviously told to cover all of their bases to avoid any liability should something go wrong. “What if”, says one of them, looking around at his fellows, “someone takes their sheep home, and ties it…” He pauses. Looks down at his notes. Looks up again, his face a picture of brooding foreboding “… to his equipment?”
4. You cannot abandon your sheep or help anyone else to break the law.
I am not easily impressed, but that’s one hell of a legal department. “What if”, says lawyer number two “someone helps someone else break the law?” He sits back, a look of smug satisfaction on his face. “You mean with one of our sheep?” asks a fresh-faced new guy at the end of the table. “No.” replies lawyer number two, will the air of a chess Grand Master declaring check mate, “I mean just generally.”
5. When loading or offloading, remember:
Ramps must be used for bakkies (trucks) etc. and platforms must be non-slip with no loose objects. There shouldn’t be any gaps through which it may fall.
Seems reasonable enough to me. I would have thought that the journey would be safer for the sheep if you tied it to some equipment, but I’m clearly no expert. Just avoid any sudden stops.
6. Don’t pick your sheep up by its wool or in any other way that might injure it.
It’s the Toyota Cressida guy again. It has to be. That’s not something you would even think of unless you’d seen it with your own eyes. They gave him his prize, took their pictures and then watched in dismay as he leant down, grabbed a handful of wool, and then picked his sheep up like a suitcase before strolling over to his waiting boot.
This whole concept might seem completely bizarre to you. It’s not. Or rather it is, but only because it has to be. All brands have to cultivate their own particular “look and feel”. The Daily Sun can’t hand out microwaves or weekend getaways for two. It just wouldn’t feel right. No. The Daily Sun has to give away prizes that are in keeping with these sorts of headlines;
To be honest, I kind of like their style. They’ve inspired me. Next week I, too will be running a competition to boost my readership. First prize will be a large hadron collider (the winner will be required to provide their own 27km tunnel). Remember that, should you win, DO NOT try to put it in the boot of your car. Rather arrange to pick it up in a BAKKIE! Helping anyone else to break the law will result in immediate disqualification.