Dear Gallows Humour (wherever you are)

Mbabane, Swaziland | 23 April 2014
Bill Snaddon
It was a sad day when I read that you would no longer be writing the Friday column in this newspaper. I haven’t been in Swaziland a very long time, but I truly enjoyed your writing.
I had come to relish opening the Friday edition and indulging in your weekly wit and analysis.
Your headline would set the reader up for what was to come – often just with a simple name.
Your column ‘Dear Vladimir Putin’ had me chuckling before the first sentence.
Isn’t Vlad a real nincompoop. I said nincompoop instead of idiot because I’d still like to travel to Russia one day. Though I fear Russia’s ever-watchful spies and censors will already be on to me. I can just picture the interrogation scene as I land at Moscow airport.
‘Mr Snaddon, we see that in a column you wrote for the Times of Swaziland in early 2014 you referred to our Dear Leader Mr Putin as a – how do you say – “nin-com-poop”. This word, as you would be aware, Mr Snaddon, is on the banned list, along with “fool”, “Fascist” and “democrat”. Though you can call him a Fascist-Democrat if you wish, he considers that a compliment.’
Each week I would look forward to see where you would aim your criticism (agh, I mean ‘commentary’). I remember a very funny column you wrote about a certain sport, though from memory not everyone saw the funny side. For what it’s worth, all those I spoke to thought it was hilarious.
I enjoyed your column because you didn’t spare anyone. Rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, interesting or boring – you had them all in your firing line. Your words and delicate wisdom were a true pleasure. And your criticism was always laced with respect (mostly) and gentle humour.
This might sound odd, but I learnt a great deal about respect from your writing. Us Antipodeans can be a tad direct with our tongues at times – some say it’s the convict past, I prefer to blame democracy, just like old mate Vlad.
On arrival to Swaziland I quickly found your column as a source not only of entertainment but education. I learnt several siSwati words from your musings. Mackhwapheni, in particular, has brought great delight. I once asked a friend what this word meant; all I saw in reply was a hand rubbing under an armpit. ‘Ohhh, now I get it,’ I exclaimed.
But more than anything else, it was your seemingly effortless humour which lightened my day. Your subtle jokes gave me hope of a media less worried about rigid style guides and protocol. It gave me hope of a media and a society more willing to laugh at itself, with respect of course.
All of this and I have no clue who you are. I was told once upon a time but I have since forgotten. I’m not always so good at remembering foreign names. I know that sounds weird – and disgustingly colonial – considering I am in your country. But I know you won’t sue me for causing offence.
But, if this is the end then this is the end. As someone once said, I won’t cry because it’s over, I’ll smile because it happened.
So, with a smile in my heart, let me say: Mr Gallows Humours, whoever you are and wherever you are, stay well and be blessed.

This column was published in the Times of Swaziland on 23 April 2014

#19_Dear Gallows Humour (wherever you are)_23 Apr 2014
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