Little Erna jokes

My years in a German community brought me into contact with a joke genre called the Klein Erna Witze.  Most cultures have jokes of this type — either someone arrogantly stupid like Van der Merwe in South Africa, or the Polak jokes in the USA, the Little Lulu jokes in England, the Dupont- Durand  jokes in France or the Schutz jokes in Germany.

Innocent versions for children

The Klein Erna jokes are characteristically risqué, sometimes outrageously so.  They are associated with Hamburg where they originated, based, as sources have it, on the life of a real person, and then morphing by the 1920s  into a distinctive form of risqué naïvity.  The jokes have been refined by the acidic or even dark humour of Berlin.  In the film Downfall, the first German-produced film of Hitler’s last days in the bunker, a man tells a joke, referring to the bombed city, a joke which skillfully renders in English the spirit of Berlin humour:   “Berlin is a warehouse!  Where is your house?  Where is my house?”

Cultural patrimony


The internet offers examples and I share three:

Granny is preparing to go somewhere in the car.  Little Erna says, “Where are you going to, Granny?”

“Just to the cemetery, my child.”

Little Erna ponders this. “But who will bring back the car?”

A media portrayal of Klein Erna

A second:

Little Erna asks her mother, “Is it true that storks bring babies?”

“Yes,” says her mother, “it is true.”

Little Erna ponders this.  “But who bonks the storks?”

A third, in true Berlin vein, and in my opinion, darkly cathartic:

After the war, friends come urgently to Little Erna.  “Is it true that the Russians raped you, little Erna?”

“Yes,” little Erna says. “Nineteen times.”

“But that is shocking.  It’s terrible.  And your sister?”

“Nah,” little Erna says, “she didn’t want to.”


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



The Flockemann family

Wikipedia: Klein Erna Witze

Klein Erna Witze



A media image of Klein Erna








“The Day before you came”

If life is a journey, one of the regions I revisit is music.  My musical taste has a range that bewilders me.

The Day before you came was a song produced by ABBA in 1982.  It did not achieve great sales as had their other music.  It was different from anything they had done and it fed my suspicion that ABBA were probably better than they appeared to be.  In Frida’s opinion this song was the best lyric that Benny ever produced.  And I was amazed at the range of critical speculation about the meaning of that lyric.

For me, the song is a ballad of Miss Everyone, living a life of routine, probably meaningless, doing what a person would do in the last 25 years of the 20th-century,  almost a time-capsule — she catches the train, reads the leader article in the newspaper, buys “Chinese food to go”, watches Dallas on TV.  But it is all set against the backdrop of her reverie — “I must have … I must have …  I’m sure I …” and so on.  It is as if, in her vulnerability, she is not sure of anything she did on the day “before you came”.  For me the “you” is a lover, if I have to judge from their oeuvre, though there are some surprising, even disturbing, speculations.  One of these speculations is that the “you” is end of their time as a group.


The poignancy of the song, with its hypnotic verse motifs, is intensified by Agnetha’s solo performance, not obviously supported by the operatic Frida.    The “rain” image, mentioned at the beginning, is in the last words:

And turning out the light 
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
The day before you came

 The recurring three-note embellishment on the electric piano plaintively seems to suggest this rain.

Unusually, the song ends by rising into a light wordless chorus that takes the sadness into the night sky.

A few other songs come to mind that have a similar effect on me — a healing catharsis.  They are Autumn Leaves (Kosma/Prevert);  Eleanor Rigby (Beatles);  Melancholy Man (Moody Blues) ;  Once I loved (Jobim); L’Ete indien (Dassin).  I’m sure that everyone has their collection of songs or instrumentals that touch them.   The Day before you came does that for me and it does not date.  There is one critic who feels that this song may be the saddest in pop repertoire.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



Wikipedia: “The Day before you came”

 You Tube:  “The Day before you came”  








THE STATUE OF LIBERTY — the stormy visage

I have never seen the Statue of Liberty, though, in a strange way, it is part of my world as are the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum of Rome, the Eiffel Tower of Paris and Table Mountain of Cape Town.

Given to the United States in 1886 by France 21 years after the divisive Civil War, it has been a reminder to all — in America and beyond — of political freedom … at certain times more than others.

Nine Eleven

I recently saw two 19th-century photographs of the Statue, close-ups of the face that one is not necessarily aware of, from a distance.  These photographs were taken as the Statue was being erected in 1886.

What struck me about the expression of the face was its severity,  dare I say, even moodiness, touching on inner turmoil.  Could there even be resentment and anger lurking there?  And yes, maybe I’m doing a Rorschach test.

Some might say the expression is one of determination, the quality needed when political liberty is in question.  In France, I see many portrayals of Liberty, from the painting of Liberty leading the People by Eugene Delacrois (1830), to the ubiquitous images on official letters.  The expression here is closer to serenity and even angelic radiance.  Perhaps the French sculptors of the time still had the coppery taste of French Revolution blood in their mouths, one hundred years on, when they carved this visage.

Perhaps the Statue of Liberty is only a political gesture and that the sphere of politics is fragile, needing warriors.  There is no inner resolution or happiness in this expression for me, the by-product of liberty.  For that I have to seek out an image of Nelson Mandela’s face.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



Nine Eleven – source lost






BOVINE FLATULENCE :  news from the Pyrenese

It was an inset on 13 Heures, the lunchtime news hour on France 2 television.  And I quote the source in support of this addition to the Facts override Fiction archive.

In a certain region of the French Pyrenese mountains, it was reported that a lobby had formed against farmers with flatulating cows.  The complaint was made on grounds of health, but in the tone I could detect discomfort distinct. (No pun for the box)

From what I could gather, the complaint has been seasonal.  It would seem that a certain springtime grass variety contributes richly to the offending vapours that waft over the green slopes.  The problem, it seems, is perennial with no solution in sight, if “sight” is the word to use for an experience olfactory.

Let me assure readers that it is not for the lowliness of the subject that I embrace it.  And I’m sure that there are too, more solid ramifications in the narrative.  It is for the reason that I have seldom come across anything quite so bizarre – and, for me, funny – in my life.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



13 Heures, France 2



Graphic – source lost





The death of a clown:  Jean Rochefort  (1930 – 2017)

There is poignancy in the death of a comedian, one who made people laugh for more than 50 years.  I remember him in films I saw as a child in the rural outback of South Africa.

There is grief in the media, retrospectives and lavish praise for his achievement.  It is the ironic twinkle I remember, eyes that seek an accomplice to mischief.  He was a slender man with a nonchalant elegance which made him particularly French.

                  As Don Quixote

A journalist has selected film titles that serve as epitaphs for him:  The Great Blond with a black moustache;  Salut l’Artiste; We’re all going to Paradise – a few from the 150 films that he made.  A frequent visitor to the Cannes Film Festival, he himself was awarded three Césars in his time.  Where to begin with a career this rich?  The history of comedy in France will hold him in high esteem.

In one film he finds himself on a horse that he can’t control.  The animal leaps with him over the startled picnickers at a table in the forest and plunges into the river.  The horse with him still in the saddle swims past a flabberghasted man in a boat.  “Bonjour,” he says offhand to the man.  A moment of great absurdity.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017












The Louvre: three works

Visitors to Paris usually make sure that they see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.  With the museum, you quickly realise that you can’t take in everything in a short time.  People zoom in on the Mona Lisa, perhaps the Venus de Milo and a few other things.  We can begin expressing our admiration for what we see, but we won’t reach the end of doing that, not in one lifetime.

The first thing that struck me about the Mona Lisa was the size.  In the thousands of copies that one sees, the image in our mind seems to grow larger.  For brief seconds, I went up to it, seeing the filigree cracks in the paint before I was firmly told to stand back by a guard.  She is still there, after 500 years, intriguing and fascinating her viewers.  I looked at the river stream behind her and no, I couldn’t see whether it was flowing upwards.  And is that woman smiling?  She could be, but then again …

The Winged Victory of Samothrace must hold the most striking place in the museum.  It is at least 2200 years old and near or far from it, I think to myself, Were their sculptors better than ours?

The figure seems to be poised to leave the earth, to rise from curve of the planet.  And what makes it enigmatic is that it has no head.  Even if the original sculptor had not intended it that way, I (we?) receive it with profound paradox.

The Raft of Medusa, painted by Théodore Géricault in 1818-19, was prompted by the real-life event of the raft used in 1816 to save the crew of a sunken French frigate.  The few survivors had horrendous tales to tell.  The painting proved controversial, but its worth was soon recognized, its influence burgeoning.

Five metres by seven metres, this huge painting was a break-away from the ethos of the calm rationality of 18th-century painting, The figures in the painting are mostly life-sized.  I was moved by the twisted torment of bodies which seem to surge up, from the dead and dying, toward the weak, the brave survivor, waving his desperate hankerchief at the distant ship.


Three works … beyond them treasures one can’t imagine.  In one place!  May none of us commit the sin of boredom.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



Wikpedia: Mona Lisa,Winged Victory and Raft of Medusa



Mona Lisa – Wikipedia

Winged Victory – justfunfacts. .com

Raft of Medusa –







Will will travel

I am a part of all that I have met

Ek is deel van alles wat ek ontmoet het

Je fais partie de tout ce que j’ai rencontré

Είμαι μέρος όλων αυτών που έχω γνωρίσει

Soy parte de todo lo que he contrado

Ich bin ein Teil von allem, was ich getroffen habe

나는 내가 만난 모든 것의 일부이다.

Sono parte di tullo quello che ho incontrato

Ik ben onderdeel van alles wat ik heb ontmoet

Namibia from space


I am a part of all that I have met; 

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ 

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades 

For ever and forever when I move. 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! 

From Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1833


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



The earth




Space Panorama NASA 1969





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