Here I try my hand at writing in the vein of American humourist Frank Sullivan’s interviews with his fictitious cliché expert Mr. Arbuthnot, which appeared in the New Yorker magazine from 1935 to the 1950’s.
Unleashing the Cliché Expert.
Q. Mr Wiseman, welcome to our Cape Town studios as a renowned cliché expert. Are you quite prepared?
A. I’m as ready as can be, raring to go. I find myself restraining the cliché forces bubbling inside me. I’ve brought my A-game along. Expect stuff from the top drawer.
Q. You’re here to dispense clichés both classical and modern?
A. My cup runneth over, but to play it safe, I’d like to focus more on the classical than the modern today, so it’ll be largely blasts from the past if you don’t mind.
Q. Had the time to settle in and look around town yet?
A. Yes indeed, so glad to be in the bosom of the Mother City. Table Mountain is still a sight to behold, but the South-Easter got me in its icy grip, and to add insult to injury, it was followed by the rain! But in the end the wind blew itself out, out on its feet that is, and only ruffled a few feathers, leaving the city in a sea of tranquillity. The sea itself after that was as smooth as a mirror, and when the birds came out to preen, the beach was a sight for sore eyes.
Q. And the social scene?
A. Well, I went out with a drop-dead gorgeous blonde on Saturday. Her elevator didn’t quite go to the top floor, but that was water off a duck’s back as far as I was concerned. However, she kept me at arm’s length, saying she wasn’t into hanky-panky. She soon afterwards beat a hasty retreat and hit the road. But I said to myself; you can’t have your cake and eat it; here today, gone tomorrow and all that. However, there are many more fish in the sea, so hope springs eternal.
Q. Hmmm, perhaps you were a tad too hasty with that gorgeous blonde?
A. Perhaps I didn’t play my cards right; it takes two to tango after all. But I’m shrugging it off as life’s too short.
Q. I thought it goes ‘life is what you make of it’?
A. Life’s actually a breeze. Or a bitch. We cliché experts know all the permutations, you can’t trap us. In fact, our noses are put out of joint when amateurs like you tread on our turf. If you want to spar with us, stop sitting on the side lines. Put up your hand and throw your hat into the ring as a cliché contestant, else back down. But I must warn you that if you take up the cudgels, it’s a steep learning curve, and you’ll have a rough ride through the fierce winds of cliché competition.
Q. I can’t resist three quick test questions, please.
A. Fire away, I’m all ears.
Q. What sort of trouble is a troubled concern in?
A. It’s in all sorts of trouble. It might even be on its knees.
Q. And what must the directors of such an enterprise pull out of a hat in order to turn it around?
A. A rabbit, a rabbit. You don’t expect them to willy-nilly and without rhyme or reason pull a hare out of the hat, a hare, do you?
Q. By no means. And what do they stand to gain when the going concern is finally back on its feet again?
A. They stand to rake in the profits, and all things considered, if they exceed expectation, they might just end up rolling in the dough!
Q. So, how’s business nowadays, Mr Wiseman.
A. In the doldrums I’m afraid. We rolled out the red carpet for a wise guy straight from the ivory tower as our new CEO, against our better judgement. He played his cards close to his chest, all the while throwing a spanner in the works and upsetting the apple cart right behind our backs. He led us into a new venture without first bouncing it off the board. To make a long story short, it all went pear-shaped. I don’t know what went awry; but instead of taking the market by storm, it turned out to be a flash in the pan, and ended up being a damp squib. The next project, for which we had high hopes, also went down the tubes. Our company is as a result pulling in its horns and we have since shown him the road. But if we stick to our knitting we’ll live to fight another day.
Q. So sorry to hear that, Mr Wiseman. Now, changing the subject, how was your trip around the Cape wine routes?
A. Awesome! The experience was balm for the soul. The scenery was breath-taking. A few friends and I got into a minibus and had a whale of a time. Some of the wines were as smooth as silk, but others left a lot to be desired, which in and of themselves left a sour taste in the mouth. Luckily pounds go a long way around here.
Q. Have you tried any restaurants since your arrival?
A. Yes, we got vouchers for a song to a joint in Greenpoint. It wasn’t too shabby. I was so hungry I could eat a horse! So instead of having my square meal, I ended up wolfing down my pizza in a wink. Can’t say it was exactly mouth-watering like a dripping roast. Drat, apologies! In my enthusiasm, I’ve just incorrectly used one of my cherished clichés! Better not make it a habit, else people will suspect me of pulling the wool over their eyes with my supposed cliché expertise.
Q.I hear you’ve been following the rugby world cup around the sports pubs in town?
A. Oh yes, and I can’t say that England have exactly covered themselves in glory as the host nation! They should have known that their opponents were hard nuts to crack, but in the end their game wasn’t up to scratch – they didn’t have a clue. That last move of the match against Wales was the last straw, a decision so daft it boggled the mind, which allowed Wales to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. I was totally gutted.
Q.Our time is running out. Do you perhaps have any advice for aspirant cliché experts out there?
A. It would be a travesty of justice if I hadn’t. First – employ a progressive approach – don’t run before you can walk. Second, cliché order is all important: Don’t put the cart before the horse. And last but not least, to improve, you must keep at it 24/7. As a parting shot, I’d like to wish them the very best of luck and to never, never, never give up.
Q. Mr Wiseman, thank you for your superlative display of clichés today.
A. The pleasure was entirely mine.
Q. Do enjoy the rest of your stay in Cape Town and do pop into our studios when next you’re in town.
A. Many thanks. Let’s take a rain-check on that.