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Thursday, 23 December 2004

Happy Hiatus

LET THE GAMES COMMENCE!

Right, enough already. I'm off on holiday to Cape Town. Raaayy! Should return about 17th January. With Stories. Feel free to chat amongst yourselves in the meantime.

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Wednesday Weekly


Wee

A Parcel For Me, Surely You Jest?

So when we went to the doctor in town last week, we also went to the post office, clutching a Little Green Slip, which indicated that there was a parcel for me awaiting collection. In fact, anything bigger than a DL envelope gets locked away in The Parcel Vault, so it’s best not to get too excited about the Little Green Slip.

There are two counters in the post office where you can collect your goods. The signs are not really helpful – after all, how can you know if you should be in the line for the ‘small packets’ or ‘registered parcels’ when the Little Green Slip doesn’t tell you? Generally though, if you pass your LGS over to one of these two counters, someone will fetch your parcel for you.

The first counter has a big ‘Closed’ sign on it. I queue up at the other one. For half an hour. I finally come face to face with Big Bertha and I know I am on to a losing streak. I can almost hear the clang of bars as Bertha slams shut her Friendly Face and opens up Screw-You Central. I push the LGS across the counter.

“Good afternoon, how are you, can I have this parcel please?”

Big Bertha pushes the LGS back across the counter at me. "This is for the gentleman at the next counter.”

“Yes, but it’s closed. Can you get it please?”

Menacingly “He is the only one with the key.” We lock eyes.

I have met many Big Berthas on my African travels. Giant ladies working in Public Service who sit Buddah-like on their petty thrones, their sole aim to move as little as possible throughout the day and piss off as many customers as they can. Actually, no, as few customers as possible. To say ‘many’ implies that there might be speed involved.

I look at Bertha. She looks at me. I know damn well she probably has a key but is too lazy to get off her ass and go to The Parcel Vault. But I know which battles to fight and when to withdraw. You don’t cross Bertha, you have to go round her.

“When will this other gentleman return?”

“He’s at lunch. Come back at 14.30.” It was now 14.00.

The Husband and I decided to go to the supermarket to pass the time. We like hell, we do.

We know that 14.30 is an African estimate so we return to the post office at 15.00. Counter 5 is still closed. Big Bertha is still ensconced at Counter 6. I am not going there. There is a weird prefab-style mini office plonked in the middle of the post office lobby. A hand-written sign declares ‘Customer Service Agent’. It looks promising. I knock and go in.

“Hello, how are you, is this Customer Services?”

MARIA hums and haws. “Not exactly.”

I press on, regardless. I ask her to find someone to fetch my parcel. Maria is very nice. She goes off to find someone.

A queue of men with briefcases line up outside Maria’s door.

“Has she gone to get you money?” one of them barks at me.

“Er…no.”

Maria returns, talking animatedly on her mobile phone. In one deft movement she snatches a bundle of papers from First Briefcase Man, motions for me to sit down, tells me that someone is getting my parcel, and proceeds towards a white machine in the corner. It dawns on me why Maria was reluctant to accept the tag of Customer Service Agent. She is The Photocopy Lady. Maria carries on an extremely lascivious conversation with a bloke on her mobile. I try to tune out as she discusses the things they can do to each other online later. The photocopier whirrs, but doesn’t interrupt her flow. Maria is polite and lovely, but as the minutes turn into half an hour I begin to doubt the loveliness of her colleagues, in particular the mystery man who is fetching my parcel. He wanders past.

“There he is!” yells Maria.

I thank her and rush out after a man who is wearing a woollen waistcoat in the searing heat. It is not a good omen. He runs away and hides behind the steel bars at Counter 4. I repeat my request to collect my parcel.

“The man at Counter 5 is at lunch.”

“Yes, well how long exactly does he get for lunch? He was missing over an hour ago.”

“Er…let me just check.”

At this point The Husband has decided it is too hot to wait in the vehicle and has wandered in to the post office. I bring him up to date. The Husband is the world’s biggest stirrer in situations like this, and delights in pointing out the absurd.

“Hold on, are you telling us that only one person in this building has the key to The Parcel Vault?”

“Er…”

“And he’s left the premises with it?”

“Er…”

“What happens if he gets run over?”

“Er…”

“Or runs away?”

“Er…”

“Or loses the key?”

“Er…”

“Or steals the parcels and then runs away?”

“Er…”

“Surely there is another set of keys?”

“Well yes. But they’re not kept at this premises.”

“Well send for them.” Someone is despatched.

We wait. And wait. I lay my fevered malarial brow on the counter in front of Woolly Waistcoat and tap my passport loudly on the counter, hoping to drive him as insane as I feel.

Back at Big Bertha’s counter there is a twisted version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire going on. A well-spoken young man has come to collect some money via the SwiftCash system. He has dubbed it GoSlowMoney. He has been at the post office longer than we have. His name is listed as a recipient of wired cash. He has proper photo id, the amount due to him, and the post office that it’s coming from. But the sender’s name doesn’t tally. He argues the point that his aunt, the sender, may have sent someone else to do the transaction, but what does it matter as long as he is the genuine recipient? They refuse to give him the money.

“My aunt’s name is Gwendoline Kasunga.”

“No, wrong name.”

“Ok, maybe she used Gwen. Gwen Kasunga.”

“No, guess again.”

“Maybe she sent her secretary.”

“Sorry, try again.”

I have a sudden urge to leap across the counter and snatch the paper from Bertha. The argument goes on, back and forth like slow tennis.

There is no sign of either the second set of keys or The Man From Counter 5. I disturb Woolly Waistcoat who is very busy dusting his pens.

“Ok, there’s no sign of these other keys, seriously, when is this Man From Counter 5 due back from lunch?”

“Oh he’s not at lunch.”
Count. Calmly. Do not shout. “Where is he?”

“He’s in a meeting.”

“Where?”

“Upstairs.”

Breathe. No shouting. “Well, why don’t you go upstairs, knock on the door, go into the meeting, get the key, and then fetch my parcel?”

Woolly Waistcoat disappears.

Another half hour passes. The post office is now deserted, apart from the young man battling Big Bertha. The post office has long wide counters near the windows for customers to sort their post on. The malarial fever is bad at this point. I contemplate draping myself over one of the counters, in the manner of one of those ridiculous Vogue photoshoots where they go to a ‘Third World Country’. I don’t though. I am not a model. Nor do I want to see the inside of a Zambian insane asylum. Although, thinking about it, it’s probably not much different from the post office.

Two new customers arrive, clutching Little Green Slips. I vainly hope that extra numbers will increase the pressure. The Husband has had enough. He goes upstairs to see The Manager. He takes the GoSlowMoney boy with him. One of the new customers wails that he has been trying since 9.00 with his LGS. I daren’t ask him which day.

A sheepish looking man then appears behind Counter 5. The key, the key!! Both 9am Man and I shove our LGSs over the counter. Sheepish Man goes to The Vault. He comes back with a small padded envelope and a large box covered in my mother’s handwriting. He is in such a flap that he mixes up the LGSs and pushes MY box towards 9am Man. It is the last straw.

I clamp down on my box and run. As I left, 9am Man stretched for his envelope.

“Oh, I’m sorry sir. You can’t have this. It says ‘Mrs’ on the envelope and clearly you are a mister.”

The Husband reappears. I wave the box at him. The Manager has released the boy’s GoSlowMoney. We all beat a hasty retreat.

Congratulations! If you have read this far without slitting your wrists from tedium, then you have the stamina to survive in Zambia. Welcome! ZamPost welcomes you!

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

The Toe

I am afeard for The Toe. How can a digit be both numb and howlingly painful at the same time? Perhaps it is the physical toe which has departed, while the soulful toe lingers in agony. Either way, the bandage has got to be changed. And soon. Been avoiding it all day. Well actually Doctor Husband has been avoiding it. It has taken on the lovely coppery-red hue of the forest clay. Which is nice as a shade of hair, but not a great look on a bandage. I probably should check it out. It might be gone gangrenous. Slight concern about (a) ability to go clubbing in Cape Town due to malingering toe and (b) ability to drink many many cocktails due to malarial-damaged liver. Hmm.

Unseen rock attack
Big toe now howling redly
Dancing unlikely

Mosquito bite me
Now liver ravaged badly
Cocktails sit lonely

Monday, 20 December 2004

Hello, And Welcome To Animal Hospital

It really does indicate the fact that human kindness is alive and well when a whole group of people I have never met are sending me get-well wishes. Thank you all, you're lovely. However, I think I may have left the malarial bed too soon. Coming in to the office today I was attacked by a rock. So as well as brain fever I am now missing a large portion from the top of my right big toe. Bah!

Well, I've read some great books while ill, all about Afghanistan. For something that will break your heart and take your breath away read the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. And a non-fiction which is both shocking and fascinating in equal measure is The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad.

Ok, I'm retiring now, hobbling offstage...

Friday, 17 December 2004

Anyone Would Think This Was A Medical Blog

It is a truth universally acknowledged that just when you think you have beaten off malaria it will return to bite you on the ass, kidneys, liver, brain etc. Meh! In the words of Homer Simpson - 'Ooooooh, liver hurts.'

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Wednesday Weekly


Chocolate

Presents For Everyone

Blogging today will be limited to an avant-garde cartoon strip, the humour of which is only evident to the enlightened.

For anyone would think it was Christmas, such is the mountain of gifts I am surrounded by. Yes, The Husband is back. With booty. I love that man. Over 4kilos of the finest chocolate, lovely smelly things from Lush, Booooooks, so many boooks, CDs, parmesan, risotto rice, caper berries...and the list goes on.

But also, presents for everyone else. What a nice way to finish up the year. Over £500 for the kids in the creche - that's a lot of toys and educational materials and will be a fun spending spree, many thousands of pounds for an ambulance, more fundraisers going on right now, and a mountain of mobile phones. As I think I've probably mentioned before, there is no phone line here. But if you go deep in the forest and stand on a certain termite mound, you can get mobile reception (Seriously. Supervised by a guy known as Anthill Man). Of course mobile phones are expensive here, and although they are as prolific as buttons in town, tis not the case out here in the bush. So a big thank you to all those in the UK who sent us their old mobis, it will make things easier to run out here.

Well, I'm off for a chocolate-covered breakfast!

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Scary Spanish Subterfuge

This is just as freaky as the US Army in Iraq preventing doctors from communiciating with the oustide world, because they don't want the truth about civilian deaths and injuries getting out.

Monday, 13 December 2004

Shroom!

Ok, for y'all who thought I was exaggerating about the mushroom:


Shroom!

That is a regular sized bean tin, just to give you some perspective. Milly presented me with this specimen this morning. I can't bear to tell her I don't like mushrooms.

A Most Extraordinary Thing

Yesterday I saw
A most extraordinary
Thing

I was sitting in the cool shade of the mbalasa, reading. Actually I had only half an eye on my book, and the rest on the washing line, watching out for thieves attempting to steal my lovely John Rocha bedlinen.

A long thin black flying beetle thing landed in the dirt near my foot. I stared at it, for it was a peculiar shape, with a longer, fatter green tube on its underbelly. Then I realised, FlyBeetle was carrying a Green Caterpillar. FlyBeetle unceremoniously dumped Green Caterpillar out of his pin-thin legs/arms/antennae things. FlyBeetle then began digging a hole in the dirt, obviously intended for Green Caterpillar.

FlyBeetle’s pin-thin legs worked like fury. He dug so fast you couldn’t see the dirt flying out. Every so often he extracted a ‘rock’ of dirt the size of a thimble and carried it away. In the space of about a minute FlyBeetle had dug a hole about 2cm wide and 10cm deep. He did a better, faster job than most UK builders. I began to wonder, why was FlyBeetle going to bury Green Caterpillar? Was Green Caterpillar dinner, to be recovered later? Was Green Caterpillar FlyBeetle’s dead friend, who deserved a respectful burial? And then, something disturbing happened.

Green Caterpillar waved his tail in a rather pathetic way. He was not dead. So FlyBeetle was going to bury Green Caterpillar alive, in the hope that his deep deep hole would suffocate him and render him a late lunch. FlyBeetle dragged and hauled that Green Caterpillar over to the hole. He stuffed him in, neatly. Then those little legs began to speed once more as he whipped all the dirt and 'rocks' back in on top of Green Caterpillar. FlyBeetle smoothed the dirt over the top, patting and tapping it all down. Then he flew away.

Saturday, 11 December 2004

AIDS, Again.

Article about AIDS orphans in Mozambique, accompanied by photos.

Friday, 10 December 2004

Grover and Mubs - Cake


Cake

AIDS Again. Because It Won't Go Away.

What a Friday. I have just come out of a very depressing AIDS meeting, to read this in the Guardian.

Ok here is your AIDS pop quiz for the weekend. It is based on Zambia, and on rural areas in particular, which are most affected. Which of the following statements do you find most upsetting?

  1. Even where there are basic clinics there is no HIV testing facility available to people, thus leaving them to live in fear and unable to deal with the possibility that they might be infected.
  2. Even if there were testing facilities at clinics most people live too far from a clinic to get treatment. They cannot even afford a bicycle to take them there.
  3. ARVs and other drugs have not been a possibility. You know why? Because restrictive trade ‘agreements’ (enforcements) have forbidden countries like Zambia from locally manufacturing drugs, thus making them unaffordable to those that need them. In July this year Zambia was finally ‘allowed’ to begin manufacturing. Too little too late?
  4. Isolation and lack of information amongst rural communities leads to complete social breakdown. ‘Traditional’ customs say that a sick person must not ever be left unattended. So if the house is full of people with AIDS and their carers, who is farming and providing food for the household? No-one. They starve.
  5. ‘Traditional’ beliefs include the one that a man who has sex with a new-born baby is cured of AIDS.
  6. ‘Traditional’ beliefs encourage the start of sexual initiation rites in girls as young as 9.
  7. ‘Traditional’ beliefs would have it that a young girl who is raped and left with the HIV virus is to blame and thus shunned from her household.
  8. One in Five people is HIV+
  9. Zambia has the world’s second-highest population of orphans due to parents and guardians dying from AIDS. Child-headed households are unable to provide enough food for themselves. They do not attend school and have no access to medical care. They suffer from malnutrition. They die of hunger. They are completely vulnerable to abuse and thus the possibility that they too will end up with AIDS.
  10. Most of these problems should be solved by a country’s own government. But how can that government even begin to address these issues if it is crippled by debt repayments to Western countries. Isn’t it time to Drop the Debt and Make Trade Fair?

Thursday, 9 December 2004

Hold Those Theatre Tickets...

“Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go”

The US – world’s biggest abuser of human rights? What exactly are they so afraid of? Seems to me like you can’t exactly feel comfortable in yourself and your beliefs if your sole aim is to wipe out anyone who’s different…

Wednesday, 8 December 2004

Why?

This is just not acceptable.

An Open Invitation To Mr Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown urges aid agencies to hold ministers to account for progress made in writing off African debt. Would this be similar to holding ministers to account for going to war in Iraq? Because that’s proved really effective.

I’d like to extend an open invitation here to any government ministers wishing to witness poverty for themselves. Talk is cheap, come live it. You are more than welcome to visit our project.

We will set you up in a thatched hut. You will have no electricity so you’d better get used to being in darkness a lot and cooking over some coals. You can break a little sweat digging a pit latrine, but you’d better do a good job, cos when the rains come you don’t want sewage running in to your house.

You can walk several kilometres every day to fetch dirty water that will make you sick. You can live on a diet of maize porridge and the occasional bit of spinach and beans.

You can single-handedly look after a household of about ten people, including several orphans and a couple of people dying of AIDS. Oh, that’s without medication by the way. You can take charge of burying your babies that have died from malaria straight in a hole in the ground. Who can afford a funeral?

Of course you’ll have a lot of kids to help you with all this, because there’s no school nearby for them to go to. Don't worry about clothing these kids, you've got no way of ever getting to a town to buy new kit, so they can just wear rags. Maybe you can beat the depression by becoming an alcoholic?

When you’ve finished with that, maybe you’d like to visit some of the villages we have been able to help so far, just to show you that life doesn’t have to be like this. It can change. But you have to start giving a shit. Welcome, Mr Gordon Brown, any old time you like.

Your Daily Dose

The UK government has been called upon to hold an inquiry into Iraqi civilian deaths. I’d like to see their reply, if any. They have rejected a study on figures done by the Lancet. Jack Straw is quoted as saying that true figures are closer to 3,853 civilians killed and 15,517 injured between April and October 2004. What, and that makes it ok????

The US is still rejecting the Kyoto Treaty. Wonder how long it will be before they come running back, when they realise how much money is to be made from Carbon Trading?

African Paradise

This is what I woke up to this morning -


African Paradise Flycatcher

Beats a cold rainy commute on a squashed train any day.

Tuesday, 7 December 2004

The Cookbook

Milly has just presented me with a gift. It is a mushroom the size of my head. Suggestions please?

Monday, 6 December 2004

I Had A Dream

A friend of mine is getting married in April. Last night I dreamt that another friend of mine was getting married on the same day, to Jude Law. Man, that would have involved some complicated to-ing and fro-ing.

There were at least two moments of hilarity yesterday:
1. Watching an episode of Six Feet Under in which the mother runs through the forest off her head on E. Damn I’d like to see my ma do that.

2. An ‘excerpt’ from the film Alexander on the BBC World Service. It took me a few seconds to work out what was wrong, and then I realised. Colin Farrell was delivering his lines in his finest Dublinese. I don’t know why a British or American accent would have been better, given that Alexander was Macedonian, but Dublinese is just wrong. Example: “Don’t youse worry. We will fi-yet for ower freeeeedum, and no messin.” My brother says the only good thing about the film is that it ends. I can never understand those women who find Colin Farrell attractive. Personally I think he looks as though he ought to be soaked overnight in a scalding hot bath, and possibly have his nicotine-stained hands plunged into a bowl of Harpic, but I guess it takes all sorts.

You know what my new fear is? ‘Katie Mehlua, coming soon to a chicken bus near you’. It’s bound to happen. She also popped up in my dream last night, I don’t know why. I thought I’d put her firmly behind me when I left the UK. Was it some sort of sick joke that an ad for that ONE SONG was on every ten seconds on tv? Who buys that shit? You’d be a bit put out to buy the album and find it has that same song on it 20 times. Just like being on a Chicken Bus of Torture. Which is where I began I think…

Sunday, 5 December 2004

How Hard Can It Be?

Seeing as I'm heading to civilisation in a few short weeks now - Cape Town, yaaay! - I thought I would do a little pre-shopping on the ol' interwebbery. *Not Impressed* I've been looking at some interesting stuff in the South African fashion magazines, so I thought I would check their websites to see where their stores are located. Except none of the blighters list them! It's all swank, la di da, look at our lovely merchandise, but if you don't already know where we are, we're not going to tell you. So there. Hah! One site didn't even have email. It was 'Fax us for details.' Yeah right. So I gave up on fashion and looked for practical stuff. Like this torch that a lot of outdoor people rave about. They had an online order form but no price list.... And finally I decided I wanted one of these:


I wish...

But as usual I have champagne tastes and lemonade pockets. It costs R3895. That's a lot of earth money.

Dawn Raid on Congo Pt 2

There's a rumour out that Chief is 'going in'. Watch this space.

The Critter Parade

Here is a short list of critters that are ok. Just because I only ever bitch about the ones that are not. Like Ratty. Grrr.

1.Squirrels. Yes, I know they are rodents. But they stay outside. In the trees. Where they belong. They do not attempt to gain entry to my house. And besides, they spend most of their time kissing, what's not to love?

2.Fireflies. How can you not adore something that's got a giant green lightbulb up its ass? Sometimes these get into my room and I lie in the dark and watch the twinkling lights. It's cool.

3.Birds. They are the most amazing colours. We seem to have had an even bigger influx since the rains started. Yellow, orange, turquoise, red, green. Awesome. Why are European birds so brown?

4.Moths. As long as they don't flap in my face, these are great. Actually, dead ones are better, cos you can photograph them too. Even more beautiful than the butterflies, there are some real technicolour wondermoths here.

Bushtucker

One of the security guards came over this morning. He insisted on setting me up with some hot coals for this brazier thing, bless. I guess word got out about the crisp-eating frenzy. I wish he hadn't bothered though, because clearly these things are only suitable for making a pot of stew, and only then if you put it on in the morning and are prepared to wait all day for it to cook. They just don't seem to get hot enough. Not even when I thought I'd speed things up a bit with my circus act and throw some paraffin on there. It took three hours just to fry up what potatoes Ratty hadn't gotten to. Now where did I put those Doritos...

Thievery update: Someone has nicked The Dog's water bowl. What is up with that?

It's very cloudy today. This is bad, no solar power. I am in the office trying to charge up the laptop. I was watching the BEST episode of Six Feet Under last night when the battery died. Who writes that show? They have the sickest deaths. Well the funniest too, but I have a warped sense of humour. Last night some lady died cos she stuck her head out the sunroof of a car and got smacked in the face by a traffic light. Her whole head was like a pancake. Nyuk nyuk.

Saturday, 4 December 2004

Testing, Testing..

Hello, hello, am I on? Oh well, I guess it's an African kind of internet maintenance, it will begin six months after it's scheduled to. I am feeling fed up. But Guy Browning expresses it much better than I could, so have a read here.

I am fed up with people stealing things. Ridiculous things, but infuriating. Like the soap out of the bath-house. And clothes off the washing line. And my snake-stick!

Today I am going to place a bucket of disinfectant in the long drop and use that for washing my hands, instead of soap, which will be stolen. Now I have got a shiny new red bucket for this purpose. The kind of bucket that someone is likely to steal. Now, it seems a little (but not much) OTT to try and chain this bucket into the long drop shelter somehow, so I have devised another plan. Thanks in no small part to Google Images. It may be overly hopeful, but I am hoping that the skull and crossbones universal poison symbol is recognised here. I have printed off several of these images which I shall plaster on to the bucket. In the hope that these petty thieves will just sod off and leave my shiny red plastic bucket alone. I'm only trying to wash my hands! Enough already!

And while we are on the subject of thieves it is now WAR with Ratty. He has gnawed his way in to the dark cupboard and eaten my potatoes. This was an extremely stupid move on his part. You must NEVER, repeat NEVER touch an Irishwoman's potatoes without permission. He. Will. Die.

I might also die. From starvation. For woman cannot live on Doritos and Red Wine alone, however hard she may try, and however much money she may have spent on them in Spar, Lusaka. No gas yet. Allegedly they will get me some on Monday.

Friday, 3 December 2004

The Universe Conspires

Ok I give up. Now we have had notice from our internet suppliers that they will shortly be 'carrying out maintenance'. I'm of the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' school of thought myself, and I haven't noticed anything wrong. The phone company was to 'carry out maintenance' in July. We have been without phones for close to six months now. So, if you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I CAN'T CONNECT. Why now, while The Husband is away? No real person to talk to, no virtual people to talk to...Perhaps now is the time to handwrite my novel by candlelight and try to bump it up a little from the somewhat stagnant 20k words. I think I will go look for Ratty and try to murder him with a blow from a shovel. I saw my Dad do that once when I was little, it was quite impressive. And besides, the instructions on the rat poison packet say that the thing might take 12 days to die. No doubt up in the inaccessible rafters, and stinking the place out...

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Something Wicked This Way Grows

I like my fingernails short. Real short. I am a slapdash stompy kind of person and long nails just don't work for me. However I am really struggling to keep up with the nail growth here - I seem to be chopping them off every second day. Must be something to do with all that fresh air and lack of pollution, the general lack of all things nice, I mean, toxic, in the digestive system etc. Anyway, it must be a while since I attended to them. I have just noticed to my horror that my nails are getting long and starting to curl outwards in the manner of some old Manchurian guy with a beard as seen on the interweb. I could be famous. In the Guinness Book of Records even. But I think I'll just get the scissors...

Ok, posting overload for today. It will have to keep you going for now as I'm off to dump The Husband at the airport in Lusaka this afternoon and will not return until Friday. Or until I have procured enough wine and crisps to last me a while. The gas for the cooker has now run out and until it is replaced I am expected to cook in one pot over some coals. I can't even light a fire, where will I find hot coals? *runs away looking for Milly*

Gordon 'Scarymonster' Brown

Is it just me or does anyone else think The Guardian have it in for GB? Why else the pic that makes him look like an extra from Harry Potter?

The Animals Are Taking Over

A rat has moved in. My home is a veritable zoo. Why do all the rabies-carriers live in my house?

Good things about Ratty:
(1) He has scared all the regular mice away.
(2) Er...that's it.

Bad things about Ratty:
(1) He has frightened the squirelly-mice-things. Not so much that they've moved out, just enough to make them shit even more. Anyone need some manure?
(2) Well, it's a RAT.

We didn't get back from town yesterday until after dark. The last part of the journey was positively Hitchcockian (ooh, what a great word!). After some late afternoon rain the flying worm-things were out in full force, we drove through clouds and clouds and clouds of them. We were desperately hoping to see the Pterodactyl again but it didn't make an appearance. We did however see a large owl and some large bats, thus making us even surer that we are in fact The Chosen Ones - Dinosaur Witnesses.

The Morals Of Advertising - Discuss

Flyposter in Ndola:

"AIDS is a reality.
Do not share your razer (sic) blades with your loved ones.
Use 'Smooth Skin' hair remover cream to take the hair off your body.
Buy it now at your local chemist."

Monday, 29 November 2004

Fair Trade Chocolate

Hey Everyone. Thanks for all your good wishes. I'm not exactly fully recovered, but lying on a foam mattress for days on end really does your lower back in. So I thought I'd come into the office and sit in a hard chair hunched over a computer to do my upper back in as well. I took lots of funny yellow drugs and the flashy lights went away. Those squeaky squirelly-mouse things don't half ring around your head though when you've got the malarial fever.

To those of you kind enough to offer chocolate parcels - that would be great, but I would feel a little mercenary. Well I'd feel a big one but we only got child soldiers here boom boom. (joke) So, how about a trade off? It's almost Chanterelle and Mango season here, both food items which can be dried really well. Both Chanterelles and Mangos are hideously expensive in the UK, I'm guessing they might also be in the rest of Europe/North America/Oz. Anyway, will swap dried Shrooms and Froot for Chocolate and Paperbacks. Anyone interested drop me an email.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to retire to the sick bed once more with a stack of Six Feet Under dvds (thanks lovely bro!). Or at least I will do once I've built some sort of pedestal to put the laptop on so as not to set the bedclothes on fire again...

Friday, 26 November 2004

The M Word

Blogging may be postponed due to flashing lights and strange headspace.

Seems that 'feeling funny' thing I've had for the last 48 hours might just be malaria...


TGIF

The Husband is going back to the UK on business next week. Top of my Santa Wishlist: Rum-soaked dates covered in dark chocolate from Fortnum & Mason. Lest you all think I am a decadent hoor who has these on a regular basis I can assure you I have only tasted them once. A couple of years ago. And I'm still thinking about them. They're made even more attractive by their illicitness. They're not on display you see. You have to ask for them. And even then three or four staff will give you the runaround before finally someone caves in, gets the key, and produces them from a secret compartment under the counter. Just so you know.

Currently Reading: Depressing WDM report on Zambia being condemned to debt.
Currently Listening to: Amy Winehouse 'Fuck Me Pumps'. On loop. Genius. You know who you are.
Currently Thinking: When sporting headphones and plugged into music on laptop in the office do not, repeat, do not, sing along. Or worse, hum.
Currently Playing: Drums on the desktop with pencils.
Currently Drinking: Rooibos. With flies. Wishing it was a Moscow Mule.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Dawn Raid On Congo

1. EXT. AFRICAN BUSH. VERY EARLY MORNING.
Soundtrack: Some eerie whistly tune from an old Western. The mists are just clearing from the treetops as the engine of a truck is gunned in to life. The posse is ready. In the driver’s seat – CHIWAMBA, 49½ , false leg, thick glasses. In the passenger seat – KASUNGA, 57, Operations Manager, still half-asleep. The middle seat – eerily empty. Saved for Chief of Police Sam ‘Flatcap’ BANDA, so-called since an unfortunate incident between his headgear and a Nissan Pajero. In the back of the truck, some pigs. Destination: Town, followed by The Border. The truck makes its way across the forest track. They are almost at the dirt road when CHIWAMBA realises he has forgotten the spare wheel and that the tax disc is missing. The truck spins round back to the project and in doing so a pig is flung out of the back. It races off into the forest to be forevermore known as the Wild Boar of Kakashuti. Back at the project the spare wheel is loaded on to the truck. The safe is unlocked and a tattered piece of A4 paper is withdrawn. In pencil is a scribbled note from some random police officer asking that the vehicle be allowed to pass any roadblocks, despite being untaxed and without headlights. CHIEF appears looking agitated. He is a short man with a large stomach, and leader of the project.

CHIEF: What is this nonsense? You were directed to leave for town as early as possible to ensure the safe return of our machinery, not run about looking at sausage shops. Get those pigs out at once.

KASUNGA gets out of the truck and starts to unload the pigs. They immediately make a beeline for the door of the open office. A small boy falls out of a mango tree on top of a pig. It is unclear who is more surprised, the boy or the pig. KASUNGA weighs up the situation and then climbs back in the truck. Soundtrack: Theme tune to Streets of San Francisco. The truck once more sets off in the direction of Town. It is now two hours since they first set out.

2. EXT. DUSTY RUN-DOWN AFRICAN TOWN. MID-MORNING, BLAZING SUNSHINE.
Soundtrack: Crashing noises as used in bad Nigerian films. The posse have picked up Sam ‘Flatcap’ BANDA. He is a tall man, and sits like a giraffe between the other two. The truck pulls in to a dusty yard. The men get out and amble towards what appears to be a run-down office. Parked outside is a flashy 4x4.

3. INT. DINGY OFFICE, FLIES BUZZING ON CRACKED LINO.
Inside is a fat man on a mobile phone - TAHEMBO. It is clear that TAHEMBO is running this business. He waves his hand at the visitors impatiently and motions for them to sit down. Everything in the office is brown. It looks as though nothing has been changed since the 1960s. It probably hasn't. By the time TAHEMBO finishes on the phone, it is four hours since the posse first set out.

TAHEMBO: Good day gentlemen, and how are we? TAHEMBO stretches his hands across his ample belly.
THE POSSE: Fine, fine, and how are you? The posse chorus a reply.
TAHEMBO: Fine, fine. So what brings you people to my office, I am a very very busy man. A businessman. Hahahahahahahahahahahaahha. I see you are looking particularly fit, sir, Mr Banda.
The Chief of Police narrows his eyes menacingly at TAHEMBO but declines to speak. KASUNGA clears his throat.
KASUNGA: Now Mr Tahembo. As you well know we had an agreement. An agreement involving a piece of machinery. A piece of machinery which has not been returned to us. A piece of machinery which we believe has now been taken over the border illegally into Zaire, or Congo as it is now known. We-want-that-machinery-back!
TAHEMBO shifts his bulk in his faux-leather chair.
TAHEMBO: Aiieeeeee! Ah ah ah ah ah! Nnnnnnnnn. You see, the problem, my friend, is that it is not me you should be dealing with. If such a machine is not here, it must be the responsibility of my business colleague, Mr Ngoma. And he is slippery that one, he is not from here. He is from the other side there. So you see it is not for me to be involved in this matter.
TAHEMBO shuffles some papers on his desk and picks up his mobile phone again. KASUNGA is visibly agitated and annoyed. He stands up and places his hands on TAHEMBO’s desk, but the effect is comical rather than threatening, as his trousers are sagging round his bum and his hat has slipped to one side of his head.
KASUNGA: Now look here man, we must get that machine back. Today. That is why we have brought our esteemed and gracious friend, Mr Sam Banda, whom you know is the Chief of Police, with us. He knows the law.
Tahembo looks lazily over at BANDA.
TAHEMBO: Aiieeee! Yes yes yes, I know that one, Mr Banda. He is married to my cousin’s sister. The one that sells mushrooms. Down in Southern Province. A long way from here. TAHEMBO picks at the dirt under his one long fingernail, the little one on the left hand. KASUNGA looks apoplectic.
KASUNGA: Yes, and it seems we are a long way from getting our machine back Mr Tahembo. We have already made a turn there at the border and the guards are laughing at us. They want US$500 to allow us to go and fetch the machine.
TAHEMBO: Ah! These people! They are nothing but crooks! They will try to rob you even if you are just trying to be friendly. You must not get involved with crooks Mr Kasunga, it will only lead to problems. Indeed, as I’m sure Mr Banda will confirm, this kind of thing is tantamount to bribery. Tsssssttt! I cannot believe you are involved in corruption. Tsssssttt.
CHIWAMBA stifles a yawn and adjusts his false leg. KASUNGA sits down, defeated. BANDA rises, his flattened cap perched firmly on his large round head.
BANDA: Tahembo, you have in fact in your possession, is it not true, a vehicle? Hmm, yes. So we are proposing to take this vehicle to the border which is between our beloved Zambia and that lawless place Democratic Republic of Congo, and offer it to the guards in exchange for the machinery which is being withheld. This I believe is a fairer situation than the one in which my friends here currently find themselves.
TAHEMBO stares unblinkingly at BANDA.
TAHEMBO: Unfortunately that one vehicle is no longer working Mr Banda. It is very troublesome to me. In fact I do not even know of its whereabouts, it is my business colleague who deals with such matters.
BANDA: Then you are in luck man, because I have seen it just now with my own eyes, out there in the yard. BANDA seizes a truncheon from his belt and jabs it in the direction of the yard.
BANDA: And what’s more, our esteemed colleague Mr Chiwamba is not only a driver but also a mechanic. He will fix whatever bees are buzzing in that vehicle’s bonnet as quick as anything, I can assure you. CHIWAMBA sits up, nodding. TAHEMBO leans back in his chair and begins to pick his teeth with a pencil.
TAHEMBO: Well now…perhaps we are being a bit hasty. Perhaps, who knows, I might just be able to telephone my business colleague and discuss the situation with him. Then there is the matter of lunch – ag, I cannot work on an empty stomach. Besides, they will not be working now that side of the border during lunch hour, they are lazy ones those Congolese.

To Be Continued…

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

The Frog Chorus

Contrary to the popular belief espoused by Paul McCartney (oh is that ever a face I’d like to smack) the Frog Chorus is not a jolly little bum-bum-bum-ayi-ay. For a start it does not occur at a leisurely hour on a Sunday afternoon of kids’ tv. Nosir. It begins at 4am, waking you with a violent start, thinking ‘what the fuck now?’. Frogs actually make a rawk rawk sound, not unlike the chickens. Except the frogs are much much louder and have different pitches. I suspect it’s because frogs are more intelligent than chickens, although I’ve yet to have a conversation with either species. Actually that’s not true, I have had conversations with the chickens but they’re mostly one-sided. Which may or may not prove whatever point it was I was trying to make. I am very sleep deprived today.

I was trying to nod off again last night when I heard the flapping. Flap flap flap flap swoop! Flap flap flap flap swoop! Again and again. Bat. Batty bat. I guess bats are stupid too. What was it doing in our bedroom? I’m really living in the wrong place. Apart from snakes, crocs and sharks I hate things that flap. You know a flapping noise ought to be a fresh clean sheet on a washing line, or the sound of a crisp tablecloth being draped in preparation for a wild dinner party; not some horrible winged thing with rabies. The Husband tried to stun it into submission with a giant hi-beam torch (on special offer from Robert Dyas for about two quid before we left. It weighs a couple of kilos and could happily be used as a prison searchlight). By this stage of course my body decided that since I was awake I should use the opportunity to pee, so I raced off to the longdrop thinking ‘la la la’ and not thinking about snakes at all. On my return I was cautious about re-entering the room.

‘Warning, warning, I’ve stunned it, watch out.’
‘Where is it?’
‘I don’t know. I hit it, it fell somewhere.’
‘Should I get a sweeping brush?’
‘Yes. And a bucket.’
‘Will a bowl do?’
‘Yes. Hurry.’

Armed with plastic I enter the bedroom. The hi-beam is sweeping the floor. The bat is by the wardrobe. The husband is still in bed and the mosquito net is still secured.

‘How on earth did you hit it?’
‘Well it landed on the outside of the net so I lunged for it with the pillow’.

He does not specify whether he used my pillow or his. I don’t ask. I try to sweep the beast out the door. It flaps. I throw the bowl over it and sweep that out on to the verandah. I don’t want to sweep it off the step because I don’t want it to (a) flap at me or (b) lie on the path in front of my house. I ask The Husband’s advice.

‘Shall I leave it under the bowl to suffocate and die?’ In Withnail tones, the response –
‘Yes. Leave the wretched bastard to suffer, it has disturbed my sleep.’

Five minutes later – ‘Although the bowl won’t actually be airtight, so I suspect it will live’.

Now we have to try and sleep with the background noise of a bat under a bowl going flump flump flump trying to escape.

Reading Too Fast Part 9.5

Urine in turmoil over vote

Monday, 22 November 2004

Fiddling While Snakes Graze

Doncha hate it when your worst fears come true? I just came out of the longdrop to find a snake right across my path, with its head raised. Panic. What to do? Staying in the long drop not a great option due to trapped nature of that position. Do snakes wriggle away when you shout (Cautious about the shouting thing since it failed with the baboons)? The Husband is selectively deaf so probably wouldn't respond it I yelled for him. If I jumped over it would it up and bite me? I decided to do exactly what I did when faced with a crocodile and run like buggery and I think I broke the record for the 100 metre sprint on my race back to the house. Except of course with the crocodile it was paddling like buggery. Whoever said crocs don't like canoes lied. It wasn't a very big or fat snake, but you know what they say about size not mattering. I have a mortal fear of snakes, crocodiles and sharks. I think I would rather face down a lion or an elephant. A friend that we're meeting in Cape Town wants to go diving with sharks. On with ye boy. I shall be drinking cocktails in a swish bar at that time. Imagine willingly subjecting yourself to swimming with those things? Ugh.

Fiddle fiddle fiddle. I am a fiddler. Not in the musical instrument sense mind, although my Granny is. Although I think she's more of a violinist. Granny is 103 and I wish she had internet because I think she would be most amused by these goings-on. Although she is a fervent believer in God, so we would differ on that point. But to be honest she is the sort of Granny that would tell everyone I am out here 'on the missions' anyway. But I digress. I have the urge to fiddle.  I don't like this template. However being stuck in the bush as I am, I'm not really in a position to go hiring web designers and flashy host people. So I shall just have to fiddle with this one. I'm scared it'll all go wrong though and look a complete mess. Just to warn ya.

B Movies

The Husband and I are thinking of opening accommodation in Lusaka, it really is the pits to try and find something that’s clean and where they’re not trying to rob you blind. We distracted ourselves by wandering through the two shopping malls, even venturing in to the cinema. I’d really like to meet the people responsible for (a) distributing books to African countries and (b) distributing films to same. Why do they get all the rubbish? Out of a fairly limited choice we elected to see The Village. What the? I thought Sixth Sense was great, even though I figured out the twist, but what was this?! The first appearance of ‘the monsters’ set off a fit of uncontrollable giggling on my part. Still, at least it was nice to be in air conditioning for a couple of hours. I picked up a new pair of trainers in the Converse AllStars style, but for a mere £3, and one of those bandana things for a quid, which retail back home for about a fiver. It almost made up for being ripped off at the guesthouse.

The coach back to Ndola wasn’t too bad, although I was only ever millimetres away from the sticky salivated-over biscuits of the baby in the seat next to me. No Nollywood either. We got to see – drumroll!- Anaconda. Anaconda is one of those films that I’ve seen bits of about ten times on tv, but never actually seen it from start to finish. So that part of my brain that’s been wondering for many years how this film began, how it finished etc, can finally rest. There was no sound to the film, but somehow this didn’t matter. And Jennifer Lopez really does have the biggest arse in the world. People have said she has a tiny waist. Er, no, just a really big bum.

Someone from the project met us in town. In fact there were two vehicles, and a lot of staff looking very shifty. The Husband wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the reason. Turns out they have ‘lent’ a very expensive piece of machinery to ‘some guy’. It was last seen over the border in Congo, so I guess we can kiss over ten thousand pounds worth of equipment goodbye. You really need a particular temperament to work somewhere like this and I’m not sure I have it. Is it unfair to expect people to know that it’s just really really dumb to ‘lend’ someone you don’t know some expensive machinery? Maybe in their culture they were just being neighbourly. Although I have had occasion to make the comparison between Chief and George Bush recently. Stopping deforestation is one of the major concerns of the project, but no amount of anecdotes, explanations, facts and figures make any difference. They just keep on chopping down trees and setting fire to them. The Husband tried to give an example of a neighbouring country, Namibia. They used to have trees, but the people chopped them all down and now it’s mostly desert and pretty impossible to farm. The Husband was trying to make the point that it would be better if Zambia didn’t do exactly the same thing. Chief replied ‘It is God’s will that different people live on different soils’. !!!!!!!!!!! You know, for the most part ( not everyone) religion is just used as an excuse for a complete abdication of responsibility. It’s nothing to bloody do with God if you yourself are willfully destroying your environment. I don’t believe in God, but if I did I am far from convinced it would be a white guy in a beard. I like to think that s/he would be more like a pot-smoking drag queen.

We got back home just after dark. I was looking forward to my bed. But horror of horrors, while we were away a spider had managed to get under the mosquito net and had spent the entire time weaving an icky sticky horribly web EVERYWHERE. And had littered the place with dead flies. G R O S S. I ripped all the bedclothes off and left them for Milly to deal with. Then I went for a pee and was frightened half to death by a posse of dogs who had decided to set up camp in the long drop shelter. Asking around we were told that the local Chief of Police had arrived one day, dumped three dogs out of his truck, and driven off again. Nice. I was all for shooting them, but apparently we have to keep this guy sweet because he might be able to get the equipment back from Congo. It’s worse than the Wild West. At least they had bars. I feel sorry for the dogs, but I know nothing about them. Now not only do I have to fear snakes when I go for a widdle, but also possibly mad, savage, rabid dogs. Also they are eating the food left out for Our Dog and being the sap that he is he just lets them away with it. Onwards and upwards as the MD of some awful place I used to work at used to say.

Saturday, 20 November 2004

Jesus And Nollywood

One finger one thumb one arm one leg keep moving…Our taxi races from the border and screeches into Livingstone at about two minutes after nine. There is a coach there for Lusaka, but the ticket office tells us it is full. The next coach doesn’t leave until one o’clock, so it will be a bit of a hot wait. While The Husband is purchasing the tickets a man tries to put our luggage on board the coach that is already there. I explain that there are no seats and we can’t get tickets. He tuts and runs over to the ticket office. Apparently there are spare seats. He wrenches my luggage from me while The Husband returns the tickets and gets new ones. We board the coach…and there are no seats. Frankly I’m happy to stand for six hours up to Lusaka rather than wait another four in the hot sun in Livingstone but they are having none of it. They consult their ticket book, their clipboards, each other, shouting and waving. They demand to see everyone’s tickets again. Finally The Husband is directed to sit next to the driver, and a seat is miraculously found for me at the back. We pull off.

They start to show a film, from Nigeria. I believe the industry there is called Nollywood. I’ve never seen a Nigerian film before, but I was subjected to watching the same one three times in a row on that journey. It was a bit like singalong Sound of Music – everyone knew all the words by the final showing. If you’ve never seen a product of Nollywood, don’t bother. Unless you are completely whacked out of your mind on drink or drugs, in which case it might be funny. I wouldn’t know, I was sober on the bus. It struck me as the kind of film-making Quentin Tarantino would hail as ‘classic’. I think Quentin Tarantino is a knob.

Why were they showing this thing on loop? Even some crappy music would be better. Or so I thought. After showing number three we had Enrique Iglesias on cassette. On loop. After a while ‘you can run you can hide but you can’t escape my love’ started to sound suspiciously like ‘you can cringe you can writhe but you can’t escape this bus’. No kidding. I had wanted the film to go away. Now I wanted Enrique to go away. He did. He was replaced by Jesus. It was truly the Coach of Torture. We were next subjected to a tape of some American ‘minister’ preaching and singing along with his banjo. I had to listen to him yammer on about how people shouldn’t worry about AIDS or Cancer because God would cure everything, la la la la la. I mean COME ON! I’m working with people living/dying with AIDS. They need retrovirals, not some bearded guy in a dress.

We got some respite from Minister Banjo at the ‘rest stop’. This is where everyone else gets off the coach and runs to the fast food stall. I can’t eat on coaches, it makes me sick. When they reloaded everyone around me was waving big fat greasy saveloy sausages. Bleurgh!

The next stop was to be sprayed with noxious chemicals. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently there is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Zambia. I’ve been through these checkpoints in Europe, and they usually make you wipe your feet and drive your vehicle through a puddle of something. Not here. The coach trundled along happily while we were all forced off in single file to queue up to have our hands sprayed. It took about ten minutes in the blazing heat. It felt like being on a chain gang or something. We all got back on, only to have to repeat the procedure about a kilometre down the road. And again a kilometre after that. Hold on folks, you still look healthy, we need to really hose you down with some poisonous stuff just to make sure. I’m not sure I have any fingerprints left, so if anyone out there needs a robbery doin’, just let me know.

Friday, 19 November 2004

And then...

Well if you’re going to get hitched then there really is no finer place to do it than on a palm island in the middle of the mighty Zambezi. At the end of the week all of us guests boarded a sizeable riverboat and set off for the island. Drink did flow, but mostly we were entertained by large pods of hippo. In fact the bride’s boat had to be re-routed due to too many hippo in the way – beats using the excuse of getting stuck in the motorway traffic. Before any of us were allowed to alight, scouts were sent ahead to check the island for elephants. Apparently elephants can swim, I didn’t know that. It was ele clear though, so we all climbed up a steep sandback and waited for the games to begin. The bride followed behind a traditional Zimbabwean singing and drumming group – way better than ‘Here Comes The Bride’. After the service we re-boarded the boat, and we all got a glimpse of what it is like to be famous and stalked by paparazzi. The Zambezi is always fairly full of riverboat tours, particularly at sunset. Most occupants of the boats come to watch the hippo and other wildlife. Today though they were intent on watching us. As we tried to pull away no less than four boats were lined up facing us, everyone on board snapping photos. Sorry to be racist but only American tourists would do that. Yes it was beautiful, yes it was an unusal wedding, but really – it was also private and personal. Luckily the bridegroom smiled and waved – he had thought about doing a moonie. The sun had set as we pulled up to the riverside where a banquet was about to be laid before us. A marimba band was playing, lights were twinkling, the dragonflies were out and then I spotted the wedding cake…very very big…and CHOCOLATE.

It was indeed a week of loveliness, but we had yet to face the journey home and the buffoonery which had occurred in our absence…

Thursday, 18 November 2004

Jackanory Story Pt2

Gosh it feels like I’ve been away for a month. That’s the power of a good holiday I guess. It was so good to be back in some version of normality for a while. It’s really been a flattener to come back here actually. Fear of snakes, having to wade through puddles in the dark to get to the longdrop at the end of the garden because all the batteries are dead in the torches; despairing of ever getting my clothes clean again because I’ve got to wash them in dirty dam water; eating lentils and soy mince. Ugh. While away I realised that it had been four and a half months since I:
-made a phonecall
-even saw a salad leaf never mind eat one
-had a haircut
-been in clean water


But enough of that, for I have been in the best bar in the world watching 22 elephants play at the waterhole, battling baboons and attending a fairytale wedding. Big hugs and kisses to N&J for accommodating us at Lokuthula Lodges. A whole bunch of us stayed in two of these lodges. They’re pretty normal buildings, on a split level, except at the back instead of a wall there is a canvas awning which rolls up like a tent, exposing the living room to the wild. It’s really beautiful but it keeps you on your toes. We spent a lot of the time chasing away the warthogs who were bent on munching their way into the kitchen. Initially we were wary of them and their big pointy tusks, but we soon decided they were pretty harmless. But complacency can sometimes lead to injury (or almost in my case)! I came downstairs one morning to find that someone had neglected to lower the canvas again and two big baboons were approaching me at a rate of knots. Now most animals will happily bugger off if you shout and wave your arms. So I did. But the baboons kept coming. And they were big and mean fuckers. The ringleader came right up to me, bared his yellow teeth at me (guess he has a British dentist ha ha) and growled. I think I was too puzzled to be scared. What do you mean grrr? I’ve waved my arms and shouted, you should be running away now. They carried on into the kitchen where the first one grabbed a loaf of bread and proceeded to eat it through the plastic. The second one grabbed a handful of packet sugar and proceeded to eat that, paper and all. But get this – paper and plastic is ok, but then they ran into the other lodge, stole a bunch of bananas and peeled them! Fussy moos. Anyway, a gin and tonic calmed my nerves, but we had to be more vigilant about shutting the canvas after that.

We spent most of the week at the most beautiful bar in the world at Safari Lodge. You can drink cocktails on a deck overlooking the plains and a waterhole. Spying on crocodile, antelope, hogs, elephant and buffalo. Bliss. Also blissful was the swimming pool. Man it was great to be in clean water. Ok enough already – more wildlife and twinkly lights tomorrow kids.

Some Piccies

I was far too lazy to take any pics of my own so here are some I've nicked from various websites. They don't really capture how fabulous the place was, but it might give you some idea.

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

I'm Back!

Well, I’m back, from outer space, or something like it.

About an hour before we were due to leave I suddenly decided that it would be nice to read a funny poem at our friends’ wedding. I had in mind one I’d heard at another wedding, by Wendy Cope. As time ticked on I still couldn’t locate the poem on the internet. I cursed Google – how could it let me down at such a crucial moment? I tried all sorts of search words including marriage, relationships, funny, poems etc. Up popped a link to the Manila Married Swingers Club. I tried Amazon. Up popped an ad for a home defibrillator. I know weddings are stressful, but really… Then just as I was about to be dragged out of the office I found the poem. Written by Pam Ayres. Ahem.

One of the project vehicles was supposed to take us to Kapiri, where we would hopefully pick up a ‘proper’ coach to Lusaka. Of course the vehicle broke down just as we reached the tarmac. I am too old now for hiking in 40degree heat with a giant backpack. We got in a minibus that was going as far as Kapiri. We hadn’t been going for 10 minutes when we picked up our first animal. A woman with a live chicken wrapped in a plastic bag got in, and despite the fact that the bus was relatively empty, plonked herself and the bird down next to me. I feckin’ hate chickens I do. The feathers had been plucked from the neck to reveal pink wrinkly skin. It looked like a penis with a beak. We took a series of speed bumps too fast and almost rammed the car in front. Its licence plate began with ‘AAH’. Then the driver decided to put on a shirt, despite the fact that he was already wearing one. He scrambled into it, already buttoned and completely covering his face, and for about 30 seconds it was actually the shirt which was driving the vehicle. We zoom over another speed bump and all of the seats leave the floor. Not the cushions on the seats mind, the actual metal frames. We are airborne for a while before crash landing back to reality.

At Kapiri it is slow because it is a Sunday, and there are no big coaches going to the capital. We reluctantly get into another minibus. These vehicles are not for the claustrophic. There are maybe 60 people in a space meant for 20. We pull out of Kapiri and head south. For 10 metres. Then the bus stops again and everybody has to get out to allow two fat ladies from the back to get off and do a wee. Why they couldn’t do this back at the bus stop I don’t know. We wait. Other passengers wander off to buy drinks. More people get off to wee. At this rate it will take us months to get to Victoria Falls. Finally after half an hour we pull off. The crosswinds inside the vehicle from the open windows are horrific, and by the time we reach Lusaka my hair has been blown out to the side of my head in a point. An old lady laughs at me, but then her hair has been braided upwards into a point on top of her head, so I’m not sure what’s so funny. As we pull into the minbus station in Lusaka the heavens open. It is still 40 degrees heat, and holding an umbrella, a backpack and a daysack is impossible. We get wet. We also stay at a very weird guesthouse and almost look forward to the 6am bus next morning to Livingstone.

Saturday, 6 November 2004

Nobody Here To Take Your Call

I’m sorry I can’t come to the blog right now, I’m on vacation. Return ETA chocolate o’clock, 16th November. Please leave a message after the post. BEEP!

Friday, 5 November 2004

Here Is The News

Hello and welcome to today’s edition of Friday! This morning we are broadcasting live from the Jungles of Zambia, twinned by satellite with Knoxville Tennessee, and a country best known for Mosi beer, Mosquitoes, Mosi-o-Tunya and strange roadside stalls selling copper elephants.

It’s only 7 am here and already the air temperature has reached 'really unbearably hot and unable to breathe' on the thermometer. In traffic news we can report that today, as normal, there is none.

And so to other news. Asked by her employers if she would reconsider her refusal to eat pawpaws, in the face of the mountains of them piling up in the kitchen from an unknown benefactor, Milly laughed maniacally before uttering a resounding ‘No’.

In a special report on alleged Chicken Rustling we interviewed Chief on the matter.

‘Well, it’s like this, you see, a village chicken is a dumb chicken. They are not like town chickens. These village chickens will even sleep in the trees.’ 

Chief emphatically denied earlier reports that a Mzungu with a pickaxe had been seen chasing them round his garden.

We enquired as to the health of a member of staff here who has not been well. Unfortunately our investigations were inconclusive; to the question ‘How is your father?’ the man’s son replied ‘Yes’. Existentialism is alive and well here in the Jungle.

And a report just in – a man who was cycling to town on his bicycle, loaded up with 20 trays each carrying 36 eggs has fallen off. ‘Normally I boil them all first,’ he said, ‘now today I am really left with egg on my face.’ 

Thursday, 4 November 2004

Watch Out For Falling Showers

Ok enough with the elections. Time for some light relief.

We have been sent an email by our internet service providers advising us not to use the internet in the rain -canned laughter


The NASA type satellite that beams us the interwebworld is outside, and has been for some years now -more uncertain giggles

The full-on rainy season is almost upon us and will stay for some months -sharp intake of breath at thought of no connection at all with the outside world, and palpitations at the idea of not being able to read the Guardian online

We have no idea what these muppets are on about. Unless...The Husband wonders if perhaps they are confusing rain and lightning. It's easily done, I know. One is a great big flash in the sky, the other is very wet clothes. Very similar. So The Husband emails these people to double check. Here is the reply:

"Thank you for the mail.
Please be careful when to use it, you will be able to tell what kind of rain
could suddenly come with lightning and harm your equipment.
Enjoy the service."

Indeed we will enjoy, indeed we will. A small boy is climbing the satellite mast with an umbrella as we speak and will be posted there until some time next year. Food parcels may be raised and lowered with some string. But not if it's raining, because the string might get wet.

Welcome To Democracy

Welcome to Democracy, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is freedom. The freedom to vote for whomsoever you want in an election. And The Chimpgimp secured the popular vote by over three million. That’s a helluva lot of hillbillies. You would think that Democracy was a good thing, that it allows people to elect whom they want to govern them. You would hope that people would use this freedom wisely and choose a good leader. So what does the rest of the world do when a country chooses a despot? We may well be looking at the next Hitler. To say Hitler did a lot of damage before he was stopped is somewhat of an understatement. What will George Bush be allowed to get away with? Are the people of Iran and North Korea bracing themselves? For surely that is where the war will go next. What can be done to show those Bush supporters the error of their ways? They just don’t care. They don’t give a rat’s ass about his foreign policy, because it doesn’t affect their trip to McDonald’s. That Bush’s foreign policy is directly responsible for a huge number of deaths of innocent people is immaterial to them. It would be nice if someone had the answers, but it seems to me that the majority of people in this world don’t care about anyone but themselves. I don’t know what can be done to change that. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in religion, but those right-wing Christian Bushites do, and it gives me some comfort to think that they will burn in hell. Enjoy your Dunkin Donuts while there are people on this planet literally dying of starvation. It is a truly truly depressing day.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

Beware The Mark O' The Beasts

It was a particularly long and unproductive day yesterday, so The Husband and I decided to go for a drink after work at the new ‘club’. It was deserted on our arrival, but gradually some teachers and nurses appeared, and once again I found myself propped up at the bar, a lone female in the midst of a blathering group of men. I was quite happy to leave them to it, honest, I wasn’t looking for attention or anything, really. Clearly they are just not used to the sight of a white woman yelling ‘HOLY FUCK!’ at the top of her lungs while simultaneously ripping open her shirt in the manner of Clark Kent, to reveal a giant cockroach crawling towards her bra. Thank heavens it was candlelight, that’s all I can say. We gave the assembled gentlement some time to recover before slinking away home.


Sometimes the no-water thing can be downright dangerous as well as inconvenient. Especially when you get burnt all up your arm by boiling oil because the shitty gas cooker is uncontrollable. I run screaming to the tap but of course there is no water. By some miracle there is water in the emergency bucket and I plunge my arm into that. While I am kneeling on the floor I remember that my arm was covered in insect repellent; thus I have rendered the only water we have unfit for consumption. After about 5 minutes the arm-throb subsides. I get up, and promptly slip on the water I’ve spilled on the highly polished floor (thank you, Milly). I leave the evil chicken hissing in the boiling oil and set about the less dangerous task of making some mango salsa.


I have no idea what goes in mango salsa, but I vaguely think it is just chopped mango and red chilli flakes. The Husband will beg to differ, being a Top Chef as well as a Keen Gardener.
“What are you putting in the mango salsa?”
“Mango and chilli.”
“What about some coriander? Parsley?”
“Nooooo. Just mango and chilli.”
“Some Thai basil? Will I get some garlic?”
“Mango and chilli is fine.”
“Really? Not even some mint?”
It’s worse than being interrogated. I give in.
“Well, maybe some coriander.”
“What about the parsely? Do you want a sharp knife to chop that?”
No, because at the rate I’m going I will slash open my fingers with it.
“No thank you.”


Salsa done I retire to the lounge. It is a regular bug convention in there. I am having an extreme allergic reaction to something which is biting me, as golfball sized lumps have started to appear all over my body. There is a particularly fetching one in the middle of my forehead. I vainly hope it disappears before the wedding. I can just imagine the introductions: “I’d like you meet my friend, Golfballhead.”

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Dr Livingstone, I Presume?

Oooo I've come over all Intrepid Victorian Explorer.  The mystery of the pterodactyl has been revealed. What is extra spooky woo woo is that the most recent recorded sighting is in Namibia, where I used to live. Perhaps they are following me. I must alert the press at once. Except they won't be interested; too busy watching a fight between a chimp and a wig. I saw a dinosaur, na na na na na!

Busy Yourselves Elsewhere

I think the Squirelly-Mice have got visitors. There was the distinct sound of castanets and harmonised singing last night. It may actually be Alvin and The Chipmunks. After the great pterodactyl sighting I am willing to believe anything. There is now also a bird in the garden that makes the sound of a ringing telephone. It's very disconcerting when you think - 'Oh let me just get that' and then remember there is no phone line. I thought I had left the world of lists behind me in Blighty, but no. Here is a list of things to do today:
- Help the editor of the local newsletter to produce this month's issue. Problems will include getting the template off my laptop and on to his computer in the face of me not having a floppy disc whatsit and him not having a cd whatsit. And kicking the butt of the 'translator' who is no doubt drinking under a tree somewhere.
-Persuading The Husband that our next fundraising appeal is better done on a small card and not an A4 longwinded thing which no-one will read.
-Yeah, still have to do the entire website thing.
-Somehow book accommodation in Lusaka for this weekend in the face of most places not having email and me not having a phone.
-Chase some people in the UK by email who are supposed to be helping me with this website and do not understand the concept of not having a phone.
-Have breakfast.

Sheesh, it's too much. Be off, busy yourselves elsewhere, I can't be blogging today. Try this, there's bound to be something to amuse you.

Monday, 1 November 2004

I Am Bored Dot Com

I am really really really really bored today. I have an entire website to write by Friday, and the novel word count needs to be nudged up to at least 20,000 by then also. Oh God and a donations appeal whatsit as well. I can’t be arsed with any of it. Perhaps I should lower the bar. Oh, a bar, yes please, make mine a Moscow Mule. I am so bored I have been randomly surfing the web, discovered someone’s wedding photos and actually looked at them. They did make me chuckle though. They had the bridesmaids in too-small shit-brown silk numbers, stretched across their broad thighs. Eeeevil I tell you. Now I need to find a little clocky thing somewhere. I thought I had the UK finally sussed but then they messed with the clocks again. Less said about the rest of Europe the better; it may even be a different day up in the Scandinavian Tundra. Here in Zambia the time never changes. Daylight at six am, dark at six pm, all year round. The time zones are wrecking my head, in particular with postings and commenting on blogs, but also I need to know about the election. Who is awake? Who is asleep? Who’s winning?

From The Bad To The Truly Ugly

John Kerry might not be the most dynamic or wonderful of presidential candidates, and I'm sure a lot of voters will be rooting for him because they are thinking, 'Well, no-one could possibly be worse than Bush'. But I have some bad news. Arnold Schwarznegger has announced that he would welcome a change to the constitution so that he could run for president. Oh he's nothing if not articulate about it:

"I think, you know, because why not? I mean, you know, anyone with my way of thinking, you always shoot for the top"

He probably couldn't even find Austria on a bloody map. Anyway, the elections. It will be a day of mourning round the world if Bush gets back in, so the Americans out there who've got a vote, you know what to do.

The Smell Of Loneliness

So I spent some time over the weekend blog-hopping, lingering here, commenting there, like a bee pollinating the flowers of the universe, like the Billy Goats Gruff going trip trap trip trap trip trap over the bridges of the blogosphere. There’s a lot of weird and wacky stuff out there. And yes, I met some trolls.

Have you ever met those people whose loneliness is so palpable that it almost emanates from them like an odour? I found this poem I wrote about someone I used to work with back in the UK. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up the day job.

Yellow Hair
A thick curtain of brittle yellow hair
drawn across windburned temples.
Foils every six weeks
half head every six months
and the whole shebang for Christmas.

Cup after cup of tea, and maybe a slimasoup;
click your heels together hard enough you might find you can fly.
Corrie, The Bill, more tea, but no biscuits.
Nails neatly filed,
M & S meals in the fridge,
must meet the girls on Friday.

But Sue’s with Paul
and Jane’s depressed
and the heel’s snapped on your best shoe.

Never mind eh, good telly on.
Settle down,
draw the drapes, shut the world out and yourself in.

Living Beyond Your Means

I've dropped my ipod. It no longer works. Fuck fuckety fuck fuckit. I guess one shouldn't own things one cannot afford to replace.

Sunday, 31 October 2004

Things One Shouldn't Admit To

I have a bit of a thing for Bill Nighy. Even though I feel I shouldn’t. He’s one of those people I quite like but don’t want to admit to anyone. Like John Malkovich. And even, heaven help us, Gordon Ramsey. (The Jon Snow thing doesn’t count, I’ll happily admit that to anyone). You know if you said you wouldn’t kick Brad Pitt out of bed for making cracker crumbs, no-one would bat an eyelid. But Bill Nighy? Anyway, it’s a lovely interview with him in the Observer and you can’t beat a man who gives good quote. I particularly like this one on suit buttons:

“Middle: always. Top: sometimes. Bottom: never. Younger men do this unbearable thing where they do all three buttons up, and you just want to kill them.”

Friday, 29 October 2004

Town Things

We got a lift into town with the project vehicle, as I needed to get some hard currency for our impending trip to Wild West Zimbabwe. Let’s just say I started the process at 9am, and didn’t get anywhere until 12.30. None of the banks will change foreign currency unless you hold a hard currency account, which I don’t. (Don’t even go there with asking me why I haven’t opened one of these. Question One on the form asks for proof of residential address, such as a utility bill. Aha. Ahahahahaha. If I bring you a dead snake and some wild fruit will you just take my word for it that we live at The Bush, Bushville, Bushland, Bushy, where the utilitites companies fear to tread?) We tried the Forex desk at the Post Office. There was tumbleweed blowing about in there, I don’t think they’d seen hard currency since about 1952 when you could have gotten shillings. We tried the Bureaux de Change. Nothing. Then I gave up and decided to go the corrupt route and see if I could bribe someone. I went back to A Major International Bank where I bumped into Chief and told him the story.

Chief knows the bank manager very well, as, if you remember, A Major International Bank were the nice people who stole money from the project account. So Chief does the Big Man routine (another post on this later) and I am trailing him round the bank red-cheeked as he wanders about demanding to speak to whoever is in charge. The bank won’t budge and change the money for me. Then Chief remembers that the project has both a sterling and a kwacha account. If I give him the kwacha, he will give me the sterling. This is not ideal, as I don’t think Chief needs to know how much money I am taking on holiday with me to spend on getting totally bladdered at my friends’ wedding, but it seems to be the only option. Chief then cuts in front of the huge queue and goes straight to the teller. By this stage my head is in my boots as I am sure all the people in the queue are pissed off at this Mzungu queue-jumper. Next the teller tries to charge Chief £10 commission for withdrawing the sterling from his own account. Grey hairs appear in the time it takes to argue the toss on that one. Finally the necessary forms are signed and I think we can leave. But no. Apparently the teller now has to send ‘someone’ to fetch the cash. My heart sinks. No doubt the cash is kept in some secret vault 20 kilometres away and I will be at the bank waiting for the rest of my life. Chief obviously thinks so too, as he heads off to do some business with The Husband and they say they will come and pick me up later.

This leaves me about an hour or so to observe the bank. And it is indeed a strange bank. Full of weirdly quiet chaos. I go and sit by the door. I am used to African institutions that are full of pushing shouting people. In such cases it’s a free for all, and I can push and shout like the best of them. In this bank though, the chaos is silent and it’s very unnerving. There is a queue for the tellers. Fine. Apart from that the bank is about the size of an airport lounge. Dotted around this lounge are large desks with computers and comfy chairs. They look as though bank staff should be working at them, but they are all empty. Apart from the customers. Who are draped all over this funiture. Nobody says anything. Are they waiting for a member of staff? For Godot? How do they know which desk a member of staff will appear at? Who is head of the queue in this randomness? Maybe these people have just come in off the street for a quiet sit-down? Are they models, posing, -‘See, if this were a real bank people would be sitting at desks, like this.’ ? The tellers back at the cash counter are all on their mobile phones. I can’t figure out if it’s ok practice here to just natter to your mates on the phone all day at work, or if they are actually inter-departmental phones. The national phone system here is so rubbish that it wouldn’t surprise me. Five chapters of my book later and there is some light tapping. I look up to see the teller beckoning to me. By this stage the people in the original queue who saw me jump to the front have all left, so now a new line of people watch the only white person in the building go to the front. I get the money and slink out the door. That’s one job ticked off my list. These trips to town are interminable.

Thursday, 28 October 2004

Timber!

Remember the tree that was going to fall on the house? We have been evacuated. Milly doesn't know what to do with herself. The tree is enormous, about 25m high. It's a hardwood. It's very hard. They don't have chainsaws here or any fancy equipment. It's much too big and hard (fnar fnar) for axes. They are pulling it down. Ok, it is on its way, I mean the roots are showing and stuff, but pulling it down...? I daren't go and look.

Jurassic Zambia

Oh my God I can’t believe I forgot to post this. This article kinda reminded me. We were driving home in the dark from town last night and we saw a pterodactyl. Word. The Husband saw it as well, and he is a sensible scientifc kind of chap and not prone to the wild imaginings I have, so it must be true. We could see this bird thing in the headlights and then it swooped right in front of the vehicle. I don’t know how to describe it because it looked exactly like a pterodactyl. So there. They’re not extinct. They are alive and well and living in the Zambian bush.

The Madness of People

I know I probably say this a lot, but really, really, what is going on in people’s heads? Have they completely lost their minds altogether? This article from the Guardian is about the new low-carb food industry. I’m sorry, but wtf? Have people just forgotten what food is? Vegetables. Fruit. Meat. Pulses. Grains. IT DOESN’T COME IN A BOX. Why do people think they need this stuff? I cannot believe that this nonsense goes on when there are people in the world dying of starvation. The Guardian estimates this new industry is worth £280 million pounds. Well that £280 million quid could be much better spend on saving human beings from dying because they have NO FOOD AT ALL. And why, why would you want to eat fake horrible low-carb ice-cream, chocolate etc? Why not eat the real thing? Oh, because you are a fat bastard with no self-control who likes to eat all the pies and you figure if you eat the low-carb stuff you can have 100 pies instead of your usual 80. I mean £1.49 for a packet of Rolos!  This kind of thing makes me so angry, and so reluctant to ever return to the ‘real’ world for fear I shall just turn into one of those ladies with a shopping trolley and long grey hair who drags placards around town all day. Grrr.

Monday, 25 October 2004

360 Degrees of Sky

Can there be anything nicer than dancing outside in the forest on a balmy night under 360 degrees of sky with a big moon and stars till eternity? The braai was a roaring success. The project has been badly lacking a social club, and it looks as though this new venture is going to take off. The only issue I had was with the drink, or rather the limited choice available. For reasons I won’t go into I can’t drink beer. I like beer but it doesn’t like me. And after two soft drinks I can literally feel my teeth rot. Plus they don’t get me drunk. The bar committee had gotten in specially for me a crate of Whiskey Black. WB is basically a bottle of alcohol with a bit of tooth-rot flavouring thrown in. The stuff is evil. So evil even Google can’t find it. It is 8.5%. I haven’t drunk anything that strong or that vile since uni when a bunch of us drove up to Northen Ireland to avail of cheap cases of Diamond White cider. Needless to say that was a one-off event. After two bottles of the liquid lava I felt ‘like a pig shat in my head’. Perhaps I shall have to purchase my own liquor to place behind the bar. Anyway, a great night was had by all. AND they played Dancing Queen. Result!

Ear Ear

A lot of the time a post on someone else’s blog will trigger off a funny memory of my own. When I was about 7 years old I woke up one morning and found I had no hearing in my left ear. As you can imagine, this was quite traumatic for a small child. The short version of the story is that there followed about a week of hospitalisation, tests, yucky medicine and so on, and eventually the hearing came back. Anyway, about two days after I got home I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. I switched on the light. There on the pillow next to where my head had lain was a sizeable round black thing. Petrified that this had come out of my ear and that the deafness was about to return, I raced into my parents’ room howling and brandishing the strange black thing. I presented it to my mother and told her I was worried about my ear. Clearly at 3 in the morning my mother was not so worried. She took the black thing from me, looked at it, and in her most withering tone of voice said ‘It’s a raisin’. Then I remembered I had been eating fruitcake in bed earlier.

Are You Bush-Tastic?

There is a saying here 'Coke-Tastic'. It means great. We think it's a (bad) pun on Fantastic. Or possibly a reference to Tastic Rice. 

Reading Too Quickly Part 4

We are nobody’s prawns.

Saturday, 23 October 2004

Titular Block

I have set myself the challenge of posting, with restrictions. The aim being to write a post which:
(1) doesn’t mention or link to The Guardian,
(2) has no reference to insects, critters or animals,
(3) desists from talking about food in general and chocolate in particular,
(4) is not full of political rantings.

Hmm.

Dum de dum.

Da da da.

No, can’t do it. Does that look like a weird set of hobbies? The Husband says that to write something funny/interesting every day is hard work. That would be why I wouldn’t recognise it then.

“The late actor Christopher Reeve is continuing to campaign for human embryonic stem cell research from beyond the grave.”
Headline from Sky Showbiz (I know, what do I expect, but the Guardian site is down). Seriously if stem cell research is allowing people to talk from the grave then it must be stopped at once!

An ad has gone up in the office to say that someone has organised a braai (barbeque) for tomorrow, to celebrate 40 years of Independence for Zambia. It is for members only, and applicants must be mature and well behalved. I shall chop myself in two and head on down then.

The house is under threat from two enemies, and it is a race to see which one will win. Yesterday a large branch came crashing down on the house. Fell off a hewage dead tree. Hmmm. Methinks best not to be in the house if that’s gonna come down. Absence or deadness. The house is also under attack from ants. There is a growing pile of sawdust in the living room where they are marching along chewing on the rafters. Milly sweeps it up every day, but in the morning, there it is, back again. Piffle! you think, what can ants do? Well, I have seen them fell trees. They probably killed the one that’s about to fall on the house.

The Husband stood on a black mamba. Fortunately it was a baby and he was able to kill it into submission with some well placed rocks.

Yesterday I was Saviour of the Garden. I was skiving off work when I saw the ox cart approaching the bath-house to fill us up with water. Then I saw it heading straight for the bed of newly-planted bamboos that The Husband has been working on. After that they were going right through the deckchairs and table, and quite possibly taking out the Mbalasa as well. Halt! I cried. Please can’t you just take the path over there like any sane person? Cue huge kerfuffle and turning around of ox cart. Thems is BIG beasts.

The urchins have already started stealing the unripe mangoes. I fear we will not get any from the tree. In a somewhat timely move a package has arrived today from the MIL which contained, amongst other things, dried mango. The Husband is planning to share them out in the office. Err…might have to be more of a ‘telling’ demonstration than a ‘tasting’ demonstration though, I seem to have eaten them all. The package also contained paraphernalia for The Husband for making ginger beer. I’ve never seen someone look so happy to receive great lengths of plastic tubing.

The above reads either like a bad stand-up routine or A Letter from my Aunt.

Well, now I have used up a week’s worth of news, so Monday will be back to pilfering from the Guardian again. I am off to read a lovely non-taxing John Grisham book. Have a good weekend!

Friday, 22 October 2004

Friday Poem

D’ya Ever Have One of Those Days Tommy?

When even sticking on
the telly for lunchtime
neighbours is a bit of an
effort?

When you guzzle
milk
instead of tea ‘cos
you can’t be arsed
to wait for the
kettle?

d’y’ever just sit
in an armchair for a whole
afternoon and think
how it felt to be cast in
ironside?

Or count up the
speckles on a
woodchipped wall?

sometimes after
casualty I think I’ve got
cancer,
I think that I’m dying,
when really I’m just
bored.

Paul Summers

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Writer In Wonderland

I may seriously have to leave the country. I can deal with the lack of water, lack of food, lack of transport, lack of medical care, bush latrines etc, but these fucking worms are doing my head in. I was sitting down reading last night and they were everywhere. What a ridiculous design flaw these things have. Enter house, flap about light for a minute, lose wings, fall on room and wiggle. I have been picking them out of my hair, my clothes, my dinner, everything. Is GROSS. There are worm carcasses all over the furniture, and the floor is littered with shiny wings. I tried Dooming them but all it seemed to do was make them stick to the lampshade. The Husband thought the worms were funny, but then he had been drinking. I should have given him worm stew. His efforts at helping with dinner resulted in a fire. I knew there would be one sooner or later. He did it while I was out of the house. On my way back in I didn’t know which was puzzling me more, the fact that a lawn had suddenly appeared where previously there hadn’t been one (rains) or the fact that there was a pair of giant orange underpants on said lawn. I went over to investigate. ‘Twas not in fact pants, but one of our teatowels with the bottom two corners burnt off in a circular manner, thus giving the towel the appearance of pants. Albeit pants with the back missing. Or the front I suppose. I went into the house to find The Husband giggling, the worms wiggling and a distinct smell of char. Hunter S Thompson eat your heart out.

Thank God I'm An Atheist

Interesting/frightening article in the Guardian today, about the religious right in the US. It’s laughable, they are no different from the Islamic extremists they are so determined to wipe out. You know what really galls me about  religious extremists? They are not religious in a true sense. Everything is about themselves. My understanding of religion is that it is about loving your neighbour, respecting others, being tolerant, being kind, etc etc. This lot don’t have an ounce of humanity between them. As long as they can drive their environment-destroying SUVs to the WalMart they don’t give a shit about anyone else. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

This Is Your Conscience Shouting

I don’t for one second imagine any rabid rightwing Americans read this blog, but if they did, a quote for them to ponder:

“Patriotism is proud of a country's virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country's virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, 'the greatest', but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.” - Sydney J. Harris

Monday, 18 October 2004

NotWar


Blueus Bloomus

Is a picture of a flower. A blue one. Is not anything to do with George Bush, war, corruption, starvation, denial of human rights, censorship, oppression, thievery, etc etc. Good.

Rain

No Rain. It’s Raining Men. Why Does It Always Rain On Me? Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Singing In The Rain. Bored now…Yeah, so there’s been some more rain. The rain has brought many exciting things. Not least my new umbrella – “The Poppins”. Yes, it is actually called that. It’s big and black with a curly handle and an alarmingly efficient automatic pop-up mechanism. I feel like something out of Get Smart. The rain has also brought frogs into the menagerie, frogs which make a funny noise and sound like someone retching down a long pipe. It has also brought flying worm things. These get into the house via any teeny hole they can find and swarm around the light source. After a few minutes their wings fall off and then they wiggle around the house. They are gross. What was really gross was that these things somehow found their way through the mosquito net. We sat in bed the other night thinking, hmm, something’s different about this blanket. Oh look, it’s moving! It’s covered in worms! Niiiiiice. The rain also brings mosquitoes. And malaria. I hope I don’t get malaria and have to be taken to hospital, because the rain also washes away the roads.