Phyllis Tyne from Caledon was chosen from hundreds of teachers to represent South Africa at an international symposium commissioned by the World Health Organisation – Focus on Alcohol Related Tendencies (WHO-FART), titled ‘Why Teachers Drink’.

More than dentists, plumbers or even politicians, teachers are believed to consume 3.7 times more alcohol than normal people do while working. 

So the Duck ’n Fiddle’s diplomatic division was asked by WHO-FART to interview Phyllis before she flies off next week to testify at the hearings in The Hague. They suggested we try chatting to her when she’s already well oiled and more relaxed – especially her tongue. 

“Wine in – truth out”, WHO-FART claims, and they want the truth about why so many teachers start drinking from the 10am ‘tea’ break. 

Well, I pitched up a few days ago at Phyllis’s apartment, which is nothing out of the ordinary, except for Phyllis – who’s a bit of a stunner – and piles of folders everywhere. 

“Hi, come in,” she smiled. “Please sit… anywhere,” she said, waving the hand not holding her half-empty wine glass. “How about some Cardboardeaux?” she invited. There was a 5-litre box of red on the counter. (OK, it was school holidays, but it was also 9.30am!)

“No thanks, Phyllis,” I declined politely, wanting to get straight to the point. “I’ll get straight to the point,” I began. “WHO-FART commissioned us to help understand why you’ve become what’s categorised clinically as – and I quote: a soak, a lush, a grog-sponge, or in Latin, inebriatis perpetulatum.”

Refreshing her glass, and with more of a grimace than a grin, she pointed to a stack of exam papers she’d just finished marking. “If you knew what k*k I have to read, you’d also be reaching for the bottle… uh… box. It helps suppress the urge to jump off the roof. I’m gatvol! Up to here!” She indicated her forehead. 

Unfortunately the hand she used was holding the wineglass, so after we’d mopped up and rubbed her down (glass refilled), I could continue.

“That’s why I’m here, Phyllis,” I schmoosed. “What exactly drives you to drink? Maybe we can help.”

She picked up a folder of exam papers from her class of sixteen-year-olds and opened it disdainfully.

“Check out these answers,” she said forlornly. “My job’s on the line ‘cos I have to explain to the parents why these kids shouldn’t progress to matric.” She flipped through the papers. “For example, this question was: Name the four seasons?” She looked directly at me, but before I could get past summer, she interrupted. “No. The answer I got was salt, pepper, herbs and spices.” 

I wasn’t expecting that. Other questions involved anatomy. The fibula was deemed to be a small lie, and when asked what changes happen to our bodies as we age, we were told that when we get old, so do our bowels and we get intercontinental. Another bright spark maintained we actually had five bowels.  A, E, I, O and U.

“You see?” she fumed, nostrils flaring. “And how’s this one? We asked what steroids were, and an answer I got was things for keeping carpets still on stairs!” 

I began to appreciate her frustration and started to yearn for a glass or two myself. Another question: what happens to boys when they reach puberty? Answer: They say goodbye to boyhood and look forward to adultery; and apparently the most common form of contraception is to wear a condominium.

And after hearing that a terminal illness is vomiting at airports, and the best way to delay milk turning sour is to keep it in the cow, I fully understood her dilemma. But on learning that artificial insemination is when the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow, I threw in the towel and joined her for a few glasses – in solidarity.

Well, as it turns out, we got on swimmingly after that, and by lunch the box was empty. “I’m also a pole dancer you know,” she threw in casually, but that’s another story entirely.

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