Bump, blow and bong your way to the dream life

Some say I’m illiterate. And they’re probably right. I cannot understand the never-ending pursuit of Ernest Hemingway.

For me it just never got beyond “drinking a little bit more than a good man should”. Hemingway himself would probably have put it all down to “booze, birds, boats and bullsh*t”. Perhaps it was all about the lifestyle most men want but will never have.

The best retirement plan of all time was Ron Harvey’s. He retired to Kenton-on-Sea years ago on a meagre pension and kept himself busy brewing beer. He never lacked company for it was fine stuff. Just two of Ron’s best was a good innings and six were enough, as Twain put it, “for two good drunks and one delirium tremens”. Ron even made ginger beer to keep the kids happy while the dads got plastered.

Ron’s retirement plan wouldn’t work today as visiting spouses are forbidden to drink, smoke or fish with the locals. Instead they must ride bicycles and eat steamed chicken and lentils – so they can stay married longer.

Even SABMiller would rate Ron’s brewery as de minimis. But today’s customs and excise inspectors would probably nail Ron 91.75c a glass in sin tax, payable when bottled. Given that Ron never charged a cent, he would have soon been flat broke.

It is prickly pear season down in the Eastern Cape. So instead of filling potholes for the public works programme, the unemployed line the road, desperately trying to sell buckets full of the fruit for just R5. They will even peel them for free. Few ever succeed because the fruit, although delicious, causes more flatulence than a Munich beer hall.

We could buy all their prickly pears and brew them up into rocket fuel. And name it after some local hero, like Ndlambe’s Nemesis or Makana Moonshine. Think of the employment opportunities. Especially if we ever got that long-promised government wage subsidy.

But no. Zwelinzima Vavi hates the wage subsidy proposal and SA Revenue Service inspectors would soon stiff the adventure with 97c a tot sin tax, plus VAT. And if the brew went above 42% alcohol it would be even more. So an opportunity to turn an invader species into opportunity is lost to all.

Wait. Nearby Port Alfred has recently been elevated from an above-ground-cemetery to SA’s drug capital. And it’s overflowing our way. A “bankie” of the best “skunk” now costs just R200, delivered to your doorstep, 24/7. The local constabulary doesn’t seem to care and there is no customs and excise tariff code. Even the VAT inspectorate stay away if turnover is below R1-million a year.

If Hemingway was around he would delete the “booze and birds” from the dream life. And substitute “bump, blow and/or bong”.

Originally published in the Sunday Times Tax Talk column.

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