We are a nation of bitches. I mean bitches in the sniveling dog sense, not in the be-nasty-to-ladies sense. We are constantly moaning and whinging. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, stop it, or I’ll throw you with stone. Yes, we whine a lot. I’m even whining now, about us whining. Oh god, the cycle of despair we find ourselves in. And I definitely include myself in that we.

Yesterday, I came home from my Easter holiday. Nice house in the countryside, nice food, nice beer, nice company. So what do I tell my colleagues about? How chaotic the kids were. How I wished we had a nanny. Jesus, what a bitch. You know who wouldn’t have complained like that? Our ancestors. My ancestors. Your ancestors. They were just happy to have kids. Kids that were alive, healthy, with two legs, arms, and a head. They didn’t even mind one or two fingers missing or a wonky eye; they were just stoked to have some extra hands about.

Sarah Britten wrote this thing about a national myth the other day. It was a well-considered question. And I’ve got an answer.


Because our ancestors were badass. They threw spears, stuck spears, shot bullets, rode horses, trekked, hiked, ran barefoot on thorns, cut cane, drank cane, ate hippos, smoked crocodiles on open flames, pushed ox-wagons up hills, beat the world’s biggest army, twice, survived malaria, dysentery, tsetse fly, tapeworms, threadworms, and pinworms. Yes, our ancestors were awesome, be they Zulu, Xhosa, Voortrekkers, cane cutters, or 1820 settlers. They were tough and hardy, and they did everything they could to make this place better for you. Ok, so that included doing a lot of weird stuff to each other, but this is a national myth, we’re focusing on the good bits, you whingy bastid!

I come from Durban, and, that place, for all its laziness, was founded by good stock. Like big daddy balls Shaka, who was so fearsome, he didn’t chuck spears; he stuck you in the belly with them. And then there was his buddy, Henry Francis Fynn, a man who liked nothing better than a stroll up to Mozambique. Bloody Mozambique! Who walks to Mozambique? I’m lying in bed, struggling to hit 400 words, never mind walk 400 kilometres. And after them came some small wiry fellas from the subcontinent, who, for the promise of a small bit of land, cut cane six days a week, 12 hours a day, in the sweltering heat of the Durban summer. I’m not sure if you cut cane in the summer, I wouldn’t know, I buy it from the shops in cubes. That reminds me; maybe I should make some tea. Can’t be arsed, the kitchen is downstairs.

Oh good, look, 459 words, what a bloody effort.

Roll like your ancestors. Their blood is in us, somewhere. It’s not a myth, I swear. And peace to my oldies, my grannies, my great aunties and uncles, and the other ones who came before them. I will try to honour your name.


  • David Smith is a world famous artist and a British Olympic hammer thrower. He is a curler for Scotland and Manitoba. A pro wrestler fondly known as the British Bulldog. A Canadian economist and a Mormon missionary they call the Sweet Singer of Israel. He is a British historian and a bishop. David Smith is the biographer of HG Wells, a professor of physics, a composer and a music teacher at Yale. He played rugby for Samoa, England and New Zealand. He created the Melissa worm, a deadly computer virus. He is the Guardian's man in Africa, he starred in a reality TV show and shot his way to silver in the 600m military rifle prone position at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. But this isn't that David Smith. This is the blog of the other David Smith. David J Smith. The one from Durban by the Sea. The one who lives in Amsterdam. Yes, him. The David Smith who likes to write about himself in the third person. To learn about all the other David Smiths: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Smith To contact this David Smith: [email protected]


David J Smith

David Smith is a world famous artist and a British Olympic hammer thrower. He is a curler for Scotland and Manitoba. A pro wrestler fondly known as the British Bulldog. A Canadian economist and a Mormon...

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