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More by user: B4nafter
Created: 4th Mar 2009
Modified: 4th Mar 2009
South Africa
South Africa
Razor Bill
John Van De Ruit

It’s 1990. Apartheid is crumbling. Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison. And Spud Milton—thirteen-year-old, prepubescent choirboy extraordinaire—is about to start his first year at an elite boys-only boarding school in South Africa. Cursed with embarrassingly dysfunctional parents, a senile granny named Wombat, and a wild obsession for Julia Roberts, Spud has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home.

Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes readers of all ages on a rowdy boarding school romp full of illegal midnight swims, raging hormones, and catastrophic holidays that will leave the entire family in total hysterics and thirsty for more.

Winner of South Africa’s Booksellers’ Choice Award 2006


Monday 17th January

04:30   I am awake. The first streaks of light peep through the sides of my old-lady curtains. I think I feel nauseous. The sheet under my legs is sticky and my heart is beating like a bongo drum. I can’t get up yet.

04:48  The neighbors’ dogs seem to be the only ones awake as they bark savagely at the rising sun.

04:50  Dad’s awake. I just heard a loud shout come from his bedroom window. The dogs bark even louder. Dad stomps down the passage muttering to himself. (He hates our neighbors because they never seem to notice their dogs barking all night. He’s always threatening to sue them or thrash them within an inch of their lives.)

05:00   The neighborhood erupts as Dad fires up his supersonic heat-seeking rose sprayer (which sounds like a ski boat hitting a sandbank at full throttle). The machine is so powerful that it blew Wombat’s (my grandmother’s) Queen Elizabeth rosebush out of the ground on its first tryout. Dad, wearing only his Cricketing Legends sleeping shorts (my Christmas present) and a surgeon’s mask to protect himself from the deadly chemicals that he’s now spraying into the atmosphere, points his machine at the neighbors’ yard and dances like a loon on the lawn in front of my bedroom window. Maybe boarding school won’t be so bad after all.

05:01   I watch from my window as my mother stalks into the garden in her faded lemon nightgown and screams something in my father’s ear. He stops his loony dance and switches off his supersonic rose sprayer. He follows my mother inside. Seems like the neighbors’ dogs got the last bark after all.

05:30  My father’s exhausted after his early morning madness. I can hear him snoring loudly while my mother verbally abuses the policemen at the gate. The sight of my mother in her passion fruit nightgown must have frightened the policemen because they end the discussion by heartily apologizing to her and scuttling off to the protection of their police van.

06:00  It’s time. I get out of bed. Next to the door stands my huge metal army trunk, my cricket bag and my trusty Good Knight duvet. My uniform hangs from an old wire coat hanger. I reach for the blazer—it feels hot and heavy.

08:00   I’m courageously trying to swallow a mouthful of greeny scrambled eggs (including shells). I would have thrown it out of the window but Mom was watching me like a hawk. She said I should have some nourishment before leaving for boarding school. Mom’s notorious for her dreadful cooking—Dad refused breakfast because he’s nursing a bout of the runs after last night’s roast pork. (I think it was roast pork.) I’m too nervous to eat anyway and manage to scrape most of the egg into my napkin, slide it into my pocket, and then flush it down the toilet.

08:30  Dad’s put his back out trying to load my huge metal trunk into the car. He clutches at his back like he’s just been stabbed, collapses on the grass, and then squirms around in agony. With the help of Innocence (our trusty maid), I lug my trunk to the car and squeeze it onto the backseat. Mom gives Innocence a shifty-eyed look when she plants a big goodbye smooch on my lips. (Mom’s convinced Innocence is running a brothel from her quarters in the back garden.)

08:36  My father’s ordered to change his clothes as it seems he’s rolled in something smelly during his dramatic writhing on the grass.

We’re now running late. Mom taps at her watch and glares at me like it’s my fault. Suddenly my terror overtakes my excitement and I start wishing that we could just cancel the whole thing and all go back to bed.

08:42   All set—Mom in her bright red smock, Dad in a tweed jacket and bow tie, and me in my new blue blazer, charcoal pants, red tie and white shirt (which felt too big in the shop but now seems to be strangling me). Dad blasts the hooter as he reverses our 1973 Renault station wagon into the road—the neighbors’ dogs hit back with some ferocious barking. Dad throws his head back and laughs maniacally and then screeches us down the road into the oncoming traffic. There’s no going back now.

“ An instant laugh . . . Meet Spud, and expect the unexpected.”

“A rare book that men and their sons can laugh about together.”
Best Life

“A deeply funny chronicle of male adolescence. B+”
Entertainment Weekly

“Achingly funny.”
Times Lifestyle (S.A.)

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