Nik Rabinowitz on Juju surfing and racy hedgehogs

My "date", and his chaperone, writer Gillian Breslin, are reclining on an elegant couch when I arrive to speak to them at the launch of their "Youngsters" book, A Long Walk to a Free Ride. The coffee table between us holds a vase of pretzels, a box of matzos and a brass cow figurine. Maybe it's the cow that tips me off but I have a feeling the next eight minutes will be a date with a difference.

What's with the pretzels?
Nik: I don't do sex on first dates. I mean, what?! What's with the pretzels? It's a yoga thing. I don't do yoga, but they didn't have what I asked for.

Oh? What did you ask for?
Nik: Sugus sweets.

Since we're on a "date" and I know you can speak Xhosa, why don't you give us a convincing Xhosa pick-up line.
Nik: (sings) Amehlo akho ayandibulala!

And translate it?
Nik: Your beautiful blue eyes are killing me.

But my eyes aren't blue. So that's not convincing. 
Nik: I know, they're brown. But, my wife will find out about this. So I've got to keep it real.

If Blade Nzimande was a farm animal, which farm animal do you think he would be, and why?
Gillian: (Laughing) There is no way we can answer this without making ourselves look bad. Okay, if we compare it to [Animal Farm] ...
Nik: All farm animals are equal but ...
Gillian: Some are more equal than others.
Nik: So we'd have to go with pig. Because they squeak in the same way Blade does. "This is not going to work in the higher edu-CA-tion! EEEEE!!" Isn't that what pigs do?
Gillian: Pretty much. And they eat people. I found that out recently. That's scary.
Nik: And they make good pets.

So, does the "eating people" thing correlate with Blade? I'm just wondering how far to take the example.
Nik: No, it's the fact that [he would make a good] pet. 
Gillian: The "eating people" thing would only correlate if he started taking bath salts.
Nik: Actually, I would [say he is a] cow, because he likes to take work home in his B-OOOOO-T! B-OOOOOO-T!
Gillian: And he does look a bit leathery.

Nik, if you could go surfing with any political figure, who would it be?
Nik: Julius.

Why Julius Malema?
Nik: Because "we are going to nationalise these waves. These waves belong to the people!"
Gillian: And [we could use him for] shark bait.
Nik: That's unfair though. We [Gillian and I] are actually starting to like Julius. He's becoming statesman-like, and stuff. And that's confusing.
Gillian: It's terrifying.
Nik: Terrifying, yet gratifying at the same time.
Gillian: Yes, strangely reassuring.

How is he becoming a statesman?
Gillian: Well, he started agreeing with us! 
Nik: That's it, right there. And he bought two copies of the City Press
Gillian: Literally doubling the number of copies of City Press he had bought in the past.

Nik, your website says you learned to crochet your own underwear in school. Do you feel this should be adopted as a countrywide curriculum activity?
Nik: No, no, no. Look ... I think it should be adopted by the Jewish community. I think we spend way too much on expensive underwear which we send in care packages to Israeli soldiers. And I think crochet would just add a loving touch.
Gillian: And if the Israeli army learned to crochet their own underwear, I am sure it would provide stress relief. They would be less angry.

Do you foresee problems with chafing?
Gillian: [Laughing] Yes. You would need to use cashmere.
[The thought of Israeli soldiers in cashmere crocheted underwear pleases Nik, who roars with laughter]

How did the two of you meet?
Gillian: Jewish mafia.

Are you both members of the Jewish mafia?
Nik: She is an honorary member. 
Gillian: I am like the "bag lady" of the Jewish mafia.

If you could pick another country that has a similar political scene to ours, which would it be?
Nik: Southern Sudan. Next?

Nik: Uh, no, [now that I think about it], that was the wrong answer. [Both pause and think]
Nik: Argentina likes meat and rugby but I think that's where that parallel ends.
Gillian: And nationalisation. They're very pro.

That is true.
Gillian: We have been to ... where is Hugo Chavez from?
Nik: Venezuela! "Benezuela".
Gillian: We did send a delegation there to learn from them.
Nik: We sent Fiona Forde there, and she came back with a crocodile skin handbag that didn't match her shoes. According to Julius. Because he's a fashion expert.

Yes. I read the book. I saw him berating her for that. What life lessons have you learned from racing hedgehogs?
Nik: Racing hedgehogs?!

Yes, that's what you claimed on your website.
Nik: Look, we had porcupines at Eagle's Nest farm [where Nik grew up]. But we didn't have hedgehogs. That's a lie that I've put on my website. A lie.

Why did you lie about hedgehogs?
Nik: I don't know. I don't know why I lie.
Gillian: Hedgehog is a funny word though.
Nik: It is a funny word. It's got a sound to it. Hedgehog. But porcupine is also an interesting word. The Xhosa word for porcupine is Ncanda. Which sounds like the word for weeing. Chama. But it's not.
Gillian: And the life lesson we've learned from racing hedgehogs is basically: "If you're not careful enough, you can find a whole bunch of pricks."

I like it. That was sharp. What did you do last Sunday?
Nik: I actually did a number of things. I changed nappies, I burped ...

You burped? Or you burped a baby?
Nik: A baby. And ... It just kind of tends to blur ... It's like groundhog day when you have two kids. It's the same thing over and over. 
Gillian: [Prompting Nik] You read the Sunday paper, even though you didn't have to. Nik: I would have read the Sunday paper, yeah.

What does BEE mean to both of you? [The buzzer sounds, meaning I must move onto my next "date"]
Gillian: BEE is ... always the chance for a joke. That's pretty much what it means.

Nik and Gillian recently penned their book called A Long Walk to a Free Ride, which has been inclided in the Youngsters series published by Pan MacMillan.



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