Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday 12 December 2013

Not playing with a full deck?

Many years ago, a friend of mine, who flew regularly with a Southern Africa-based airline, gave me a pack of their complimentary playing cards.

As our first game progressed, I noticed she was struggling with suppressed laughter, the reason for which became clear when she triumphantly played a fifth ace.

This was, she explained, standard for the airline's cards; there were 52 of them in the pack, but, instead of the usual run of four suits, they always seemed to be a random assortment - deeply frustrating for passengers trying to play anything more complicated than 'snap'.

We never found out why this should be - perhaps staff muddled them up during the manufacturing process, or maybe they were procured second-hand from a casino somewhere - but, according to my friend, they provided a strikingly apt metaphor for some aspects of South African organisation.

I was vividly reminded of this by the outcry over the bewildering inconsistencies of the sign language interpreter at the Mandela memorial ceremony:
Asked if he was pleased with his performance, he told South Africa’s Talk Radio 702: “Absolutely, absolutely. I think that I've been a champion of sign language.”
He now claims to have suffered a schizophrenic episode - though it's hard to see how that could have caused him to fail to complete such essential sign phrases as 'Mandela' or 'thank you' - which raises some interesting questions about what he was doing there in the first place.
The government, responsible for organising the mass memorial, said it had no idea who he was.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) also denied knowing about him – even though footage from two large ANC events last year clearly showed him signing on stage next to Zuma.
Accusations of being 'offensive' to the disabled are already flooding the internet; disowned by the event's organisers, his claim of mental illness may be the only way to avoid worldwide condemnation.

If you're publicly caught out with a random pack of cards, the only game you can play is Victimhood Poker.


  1. One important lesson to learn in life is how to spot and use a pack of marked cards. An uncle, a ships steward, taught me this and it paid my way through university. He was taught by the Duchess of Windsor who valued his mixing skills when cocktails were served.

  2. Demetrius, you have clearly been fortunate in your relatives - though you've now said enough to be forever barred from your local bridge club.

  3. Stamping my club foot in appreciation.

  4. Julia/JH, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Moderation is on as I’m having some technical difficulties with Comments