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


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.


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

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

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

Or count up the
speckles on a
woodchipped wall?

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

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


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.


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.

The Bush Says No To Bush

Those of you who pay attention will remember my link to this gem in the Guardian, whereby UK citizens were asked to write to US voters re the Presidential election. You really ought to read some of the replies. Un-fucking-believable. There is no hope for that country. I have just finished reading an article (on actual paper, so no link sorry!) about the effects George Bush has had on family planning in the developing world. One of the first things he did on coming to power was reinstate the rule that no NGO could receive funding from USAID if they so much as mentioned the word abortion. Didn’t matter if they provided a service, information, whatever, or not. Couldn’t mention the word. Not even acknowledge its existence. As a result a huge swathe of reproductive health clinics have had to close down. Women have been left without contraception. So they can just keep on breeding and having more children. To the detriment of their health. Children they can’t feed. AIDS babies, given how prevalent the disease is. THANKS George Bush, women of the world salute you. I so hope I am around when China and India take over the world and the US lies cowering in a corner.

Thursday, 14 October 2004

Do Mice Eat Trampolines?

See, when Oscar jumps out of the trashcan and shouts a lot, things happen. Sometimes near-miraculous things happen. Just as the light was fading yesterday, at about 6pm, a pick-up truck came tearing across our lawn. I recognised a giant discus on the back as my rebounder. It was our STUFF! Seems like The Husband’s snotty emails finally got somewhere. From mucking us about and yadda yadda about paperwork, suddenly the agents were able to clear it all themselves. And deliver it. Free of charge. Two guys got out and told us they had been driving around in the bush looking for us for hours. No shit Sherlock. Random stuff is missing. Every single box has been opened. Except the rebounder. They were probably scared of that. Don’t ask me why I have shipped a mini trampoline. It’s fun. And I need some exercise or else I will end up like Fat Patsy. God I could murder a pie now. Anway, some random things are missing. Like loads of bubble wrap. What the??? I had packed everything really carefully with bubbles to pad out the boxes. I couldn’t figure out why the boxes were all wrecked and squishy, until I took the bubble wrap off the pristine rebounder and suddenly thought, hmmm, I’m sure this stuff was everywhere when the boxes left the UK. An entire box of camping equipment is missing. Also, my dictionary. It’s like they knew or something. Hey, this chick likes words, let’s take away her magic spelling book. I opened a box of books and there, next to the thesaurus, was a dictionary shaped hole. A camcorder has also been stolen. Maybe we should have taken it as handluggage, but, you know, where do you draw the line? It’s really annoying because a little old man in the UK donated it to the project because he said he was too old to use it anymore. We were all set to make some publicity videos with it. Not now. ‘They’ also opened every single bag of clothes and then crumpled them back in a box. Our lounge looks like a bomb has gone off in Oxfam. There’s a lot of stuff though, two local community schools are going to be very happy with their new uniforms. An Evil Cradling has been stuck back on the bookshelf, and I am happily reading Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years. It doesn’t seem as funny as the others though…

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Enter The Realm Of The Ridiculous

I have abandoned Catch-22. In fact I flung it across the room in a melodramatic moment. Hey, it’s a little uneventful here at times. One of the characters was described as knowing ‘everything about literature except how to enjoy it’. Well I wasn’t enjoying that book. Actually I think that quote could have been used by me in my Jacques Derrida post. I also could have said he ought to be called Jacques Derridla, it being more of a play on his name than the really obvious Jacques the Riddler. But I am always too late with the punchline. Now I am reading An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. That’s a laugh a minute I can tell ya. I am going to stab someone if my shipping doesn’t arrive soon. I haven’t elected the stabbee yet, but I can practise on the chickens. That’s practise with an s. Because it’s the verb word, not the noun. Stabee with one b or two? I really am going mad. Blogging is nothing more than talking to yourself but with pictures.

Before I came out here I escaped from my horrible job every lunch time to the comfort of the second hand bookstores, where I bought lots and lots and lots of books for cheap. I stockpiled them. There is at least a year’s worth if I read slowly. I can live without many things, but not books. My books are in this shipment. And where is this shipment now? I don’t know. And my books? Probably wiping the ass of some customs official. I am reading the dregs of what our predecessors left behind. Wild Swans is also staring at me. I had that book back home. For years. I never read it, couldn’t get into it. Finally one day I leapt up and grabbed if from the bookshelf along with Captain Corrrelli’s Mandolin which had suffered the same fate, and ran to Oxfam where I abandoned them. I should write a book. The book. The one I’ve started and ignored ever since I got here. I am becoming addicted to the internet. It’s not healthy.

We just had some horticultural visitors. My brother says you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her like it. They didn’t drink these leaf-peoples. There’s something not quite right about people who don’t drink. Apart from alcoholics. And they’re normally happy to announce it and carry on partying. But people who choose not to drink, just because. It’s odd. You feel like they’re sitting there judging you as you fall into your margarita. They were holy peoples too. Can’t get on with them either, don’t see the point of it all. Have you ever noticed how many religious nutters have a blog? If you do that random blog selection thing 8 out of 10 are holymolys. 8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas too. Do you think there’s a link? If any of my friends are reading this you must email me at once. I think I might actually be going mad…Was it Jacques Derrida who said all the sane people were in the asylum and the nutters on the loose? Or was that Foucault? Didn't understand him either.

The Dangers Of Wishful Thinking

See, here’s the thing. If you sit and think that life is a bit dull, and that you’d like a bit of nuttiness to liven it up, the nuttiness will arrive. And it’s not always good. A rumour went out that the Chieftainess was returning to the project, to speak to the local communities. From 10am this morning people have been gathering under the trees. Some small wizened old men in khaki uniforms and peaked caps came into the office and stripped it of furniture. I asked someone who they were. HRH’s bodyguards. I don’t think so. The rumour about the Chieftainess turned out to be LIES, which is quite common here. It is a visit from some government ministers, to speak to ‘the people’ about anti-corruption. Now, I can see why this might be pertinent in the towns, but out here in the bush? These villagers have no money or means. Who are they going to corrupt? Hey Billy, I’ll give you two chickens if you get your sister to sleep with me. There are hundreds of people sitting under trees. And on the furniture they have nicked from the office. There is an overzealous man on the back of a truck with a microphone. Why is it that people on microphones are really shouty? They’ve already got amplification. He has nearly gone tits up. He yanked on the cable too hard. The cable didn’t come with him. This I know because I am in the office where they have plugged in the amps and things. Maybe he is a comedy act? This bloke is beginning to sound like a monkey. All I can hear is Oooo OOO hooOOO oo-hoo!! He has a band on the truck with him. This I am scared by. Men with drumkits, and I don’t mean djembes. A stray oompa poompa has interjected Shoutyman. Small children are beginning to wail. It’s practically carnival. The electric drums and electric guitars are crashing away. I have had the foresight to unplug the laptop; there will surely be a power surge. In fact it’s quite cloudy today, there might be an end to the power altogether, hee hee. Actually the music is not too bad. Typical African plinky plink music. It’s a bit like the Eurovision though. The tune might be ok, but you’ve no bloody idea what they’re singing about. And you’d feel a bit of plank dancing about to ‘Now, now ladies and gentlemen, don’t be trying to buy your driving licences. Take the test like everyone else. Don’t accept money from politicians for their vote. Ask for a gun instead. Woo woo anti-corruption!’ At least the music is not as bad as what my brother in Holland has to put up with. He says his neighbour plays stuff that is like ‘cabaret versions of Julio Iglesias, in Dutch, with extra poom-poom-poom and a voice like the guy has woken up with serious catarrh and his lad caught in his fly’.

Disco Dolly Beetle

Disco Dolly Beetle

I know I am normally waging war against the critters, so I thought for a change I would say something nice. Check this beetle out! Pretty awesome colouring. The beetle is only about the size of my thumbnail. The best bit though - which is not in the photo - is that underneath it looks like popcorn. This thing has a fat yellow shiny ass like a corn kernel, with a bunch of white fluff exploding out of it.

Yesterday was certainly a day for critters. Remember the millipede? Oh he fell off the rafters alright. He didn't fall down the back of my shirt, but I did stand on him in my bare feet. About an hour later I stood on a giant crickety thing. Made that horrible crunching sound. We tend not to wear shoes as it ruins the red polish (above) that Milly spends hours putting on the floors. Yesterday a hessian sack was draped on the verandah in the manner of a doormat. I think she's trying to tell us something. Like maybe even our feet are dirty as well as the shoes.

Also yesterday I witnessed two mice actually having a 'domestic'. Normally they just run about screeching and tormenting me in a random fashion. A mouse was up on the rafters trying to get out through a hole in the roof. Another mouse was outside actually on the roof, and it must have been his personal exit or something. Everytime insidemouse tried to get out, outsidemouse poked his head in the hole and started screeching at him. Insidemouse must have made 5 attempts to get out that way, before spinning around in a complete strop and racing over a beam and jumping out the window. 'Tis better than Eastenders and that's no lie!

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Bush Cartoon

Steve Bell in The Guardian

Steve Bell here in The Guardian for giggling.

Jacques Derrida

I LOVE the Guardian. I had read that Jacques Derrida died. I did not, however, read his obituary, as quite frankly I have better things to be getting on with. As part of my coursework for my English Lit degree I was supposed to read Jacques Derrida. I couldn't even understand the crib notes to the translation of the translation. He should have been called Jacques the Riddler. Anyway, the Guardian had the bottle to actually ask 'Did anyone really understand Jacques Derrida?' Read the article here, there are some cracking answers.

This Is Not A Spelling Bee

Yesterday I got the Christmas cards back from our printers. These are to be sent to the UK for selling and fundraising. Somewhere in between me signing off the proof and them actually doing the printing a spelling error has occurred. We have neither the funds nor the time to reprint; they must go out. I had to spend a couple of hours folding 500 Christmas cards - that’s looking at the spelling error 500 times. Do you have any idea what that is like to a grammatical pedant like me? It was like 500 paper cuts. The really nasty stingy kind. I got an email recently from a web host company. It said:

“…A company that neglects it's website may be committing commercial suicide.” wrote The Economist a few month's ago. Here at [company] we recognise the need for Company's to expand their Internet presence and to take full advantage of the domain name they currently own, which is why we have launched Premier Web Shop."

I sent them an email back saying that any company which sends out mass emails littered with grammatical errors is also committing commercial suicide. I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, once I’d folded and wrapped the cards, there was suddenly a mad rush to get them boxed up, as we got word that there was someone we knew in Lusaka who was going to the UK and would take them for us, thereby bypassing the idiocy that is the Zambian postal service (but not, unfortunately Royal Mail), but we had to get them to Lusaka before she left on a jet plane. There really are times when I miss a well-stocked office back home. And not just for the stealing. First off there were no suitable boxes. So I had to cut down a big one and try to tape it up. The stationery manager only had really weak sellotape. I tried lashing that on but after a few seconds everything started to lift up. I went and asked again for strong tape, because answers to questions here are random. If you ask for something and the answer is ‘no’, often if you ask the same question five minutes later the answer will be ‘yes’. I think they do it deliberately just to drive me crazy. Anyway, my repeat request for strong tape got a ‘maybe’. I was presented with a very old box. I delved carefully inside and pulled out something that looked a bit like packing tape, but not quite. Once I’d blown the dust and dead flies off I started to unravel it. It was like really thick brown paper, with one side gummed. I didn’t have any water to hand, so I wet the tape with the dregs of my hallucinogenic rooibos tea, and stuck it willy nilly all over the box. I have a horrible feeling that this stuff will do one of two things: either not stick and peel off completely in a wiggly octopus fashion, leaving our ‘courier’ with a bit of a mess on her hands, or set like cement, rendering the box unopenable except by use of a big knife. Sincere apologies to Office Smurf in the UK who will have to deal with this.

A Poem Today

There Are Too Many People

There are too many people on earth
insipid, unsalted, rabbity, endlessly hopping.
They nibble the face of the earth to a desert.

D H Lawrence

Monday, 11 October 2004

Mutant Flying Zebra

Mutant Flying Zebra

Is it a moth? Is it a termite? Is it a mutant flying zebra? I don't know. But it attacked me in the long-drop last night. I think this rooibos must have some hallucinogenic properties...

Sunday, 10 October 2004

Who'd Have Thought It Would Come To This?

I am in the office on a Sunday. This is not a good thing. The reason I am here is even worse.

It rained somewhat last night, early in the season and unexpected. A relief though. Living in 40degreesC and 65% humidity with not enough power to run a fan can be a little wearing; at least now that it’s rained there is a breath of fresh air. It also means that because it’s cooler my laptop is less likely to blow up. My laptop has a dvd player, unused to date because of the heat/power problem. Someone lent us some dvds. They’re pretty awful. I have spent the first of my waking hours today watching *cringes* Beaches. However the fact that it has been over three months since I have seen any kind of moving pictures means that I am compelled to watch it. I got precisely one hour and 12 minutes worth of Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey in hideous 80s fashion before the battery died. So now of course I have had to come in to the office (source of power) to finish watching it. And it’s only 10.30. How can the rest of my day compare to this wondrous delight?

Another good thing about the rain: someone has stolen our water! On the one hand you think, well if someone has to steal water they must really need it. But on the other hand you think tossers I needed that water too. I slavishly filled up an oil drum yesterday, yet this morning there is less than an inch of water in there. Just as well we have neat rum to drink eh?

Pickin' Cotton

I have to admit to struggling with Catch-22. Sometimes I find ‘classic literature’ a bit like cabbage. You know it’s good for you but you’d really rather be eating a mars bar. Anyway, as some respite, I have just read A Painted House by John Grisham. Which I really enjoyed. His descriptions of a poor cotton-growing family in Arkansas were in some ways quite similar to families here – at the mercy of erratic weather conditions and unstable markets, not knowing if they were going to survive from one year to the next etc. But it was his description of the labour they needed to pick the cotton – badly paid illegal Mexican immigrants - that got me thinking again about something I have been mulling over for a while. Just recently I visited a coffee plantation here in Zambia. About six months previously I had a tour of a tea plantation in India. Despite ‘modern advances’ an awful lot of the work involved in producing these commodities still needs to be done by hand. And in the parts where machinery is used, I can’t imagine how anyone could work there, in horrifically high temperatures and incessant loud noise. The same with producing cotton. Should we be encouraging production and sale of these commodities if it means people have to work in terrible conditions, enduring back-breaking picking work or the mind-numbing boredom of grading beans and leaves by hand all day long? Or is it better that they have some job rather than no job at all? Maybe working in a baked bean factory in England isn’t much better, I don’t know, never been in one of those. Anyway, having mused on Grisham’s take on cotton, I then read an astounding article in the good old GW. Now, I don’t know a lot about economics – although I wish I did – but this article seemed to be saying that a certain Mr Louie Perry, cotton farmer in the USA, receives so much money in subsidies from the US government that he is a millionaire. This cannot be right I said to myself, it is skewed journalism at best or my misinterpretation at worst. But having conferred with He Who Knows About Such Things (The Husband), apparently ‘tis so. What the ???????? Here is an extract:

“In the US the safety net (of subsidies) means the difference between Perry being a millionaire or not…But what about the poor west African farmer struggling against a global market flooded with excess and excessively cheap cotton from giants such as the US? Perry insists that the way forward is not by hobbling farmers like him. ‘If you look at my standard of living and that of the west African farmer – are you asking us to go backwards?’ he asks. ‘If you do not have a stable US economy, then I could be living in a mud hut. It will take them time to develop, like it took the US time in the past. You should not be given something just because you want it’…”

!!!!!!!!!!! Presumably Mr Perry wants the subsidies. So by his own admission therefore he shouldn’t be given them. And as for the African farmer, yes I think it really is greedy and out of order to ask for the right to put food and water on the table and a roof over his head. Tsk! I would dearly love to see Mr Perry banished to a ‘mud hut’ as he puts it. Wanker.

The Value Of A Life

So Ken Bigley has been killed. I cannot imagine how horrific an ordeal this whole thing has been for him and his family. But why is it that one person’s death can be so shocking, when hundreds and thousands are killed every day and we ignore it? Is it because focusing on one person forces us to realise that it is a human life being taken and not just a number? What if for one day all around the world television broadcasters were forbidden to show anything on tv apart from people being killed at war etc? Would we go mad? Would we try to do anything? What will it take stop the killing?

Saturday, 9 October 2004

Something To Think About

Well the donkeys finally made it back from town with a couple of Guardian Weeklys, (weeklies??), out of date of course. There is an interesting article in one of them by Martin Jacques, which you may or may not have read, entitled 'The Death of Intimacy'. I was never very good at précis (what is the plural of that word???) so apologies if it doesn't make sense, but here are some extracts:

"The very idea of what it means to be human is being eroded. The reason we no longer feel as happy as we once did is that the intimacy on which our sense of well-being rests - a product of our closest, most intimate relationships - is in decline. There is the relentless spread of the market into every part of society. The marketisation of everything has made society, and each of us, more competitive. The logic of the market has now become universal, the criterion we use not just about our job or when shopping, but about our innermost selves and our most intimate relationships. The credo of self, entwined with the gospel of the market, has hijacked the fabric of our lives. We live in an ego-market society.

The central site of intimacy is the family, as expressed in the relationships between partners, and between parents and children. Intimacy is a function of time and permanence. It rests on mutuality and unconditionality. It is rooted in trust. As such, it is the antithesis of the values engendered by the market.

There is an increasingly powerful tendency to judge love and sex by the criteria of the consumer society - in other words, novelty, variety and disposability. Sex has been accorded a status, as measured by the incidences of articles in newspapers, not to mention the avalanche of online porn, that elevates it above all other considerations. Unsurprisingly, love - which belongs in the realm of the soul and the spirit rather than the body - becomes more elusive.

So what is to be done, I hear the policy wonks say. Nothing much I guess. But the observation is no less important for that. What, after all, could be more important than our humanity? Perhaps if enough people realise what has happened, what is happening, we might claw back a little of ourselves, of what we have lost."

I find this an incredibly sad article, and for the most part that it rings true. In the same paper is an article about an elderly Italian gentleman who advertises himself as an available adoptive grandfather because he is so lonely. While just the other day we gave a grandfather here a lift in to town. He was incredibly old and extremely frail, his bones little more than matchsticks. He was accompanied by no less than four of his grandsons who were tending him with selfless love and affection. Perhaps this is an unfair comparison - people here have no jobs to go to so they have the time to look after their elders. But really, what are we in the West doing??

Friday, 8 October 2004

Can't Turn Your Back For A Second

Gastroenteritis: Bad. Sicky Icky Puky.
Gastroenteritis: Good. Avoidance of 5am monkey trip to Lusaka.

So I didn’t get to go. They’ve probably auctioned my work permit off to the highest bidder by now. The only downside was that I didn’t get to set off with the terribly cute lunchbox which The Husband had prepared for me, complete with saltandpepper newspaper twist. Aww!

I make a very bad patient. Being ill is so boring. I was feeling better by the afternoon so I decided to tackle the lunchbox. It was unbearably hot and I didn’t have the energy to get up, so I ate lying down. This is very very silly. First off it leads to indigestion, and secondly ruination of clothes by melting chocolate. The only clean items in my wardrobe yesterday were a pair of white trousers and a white flowy top thing. By the time I was finished I looked like Jesus, only with daisy flip-flops and an intricate pattern of food stains all down my front.

There is a new beast in the kitchen, but at least it is soundless. Is that a word, soundless? Do I mean silent? No, silent would indicate it was capable of making noise but chose not to. Or something. Hmmm. Anyway, The Husband is trying to make a sourdough starter for his bread. This involves putting a mix of things in a stone jar and standing back while it grows to ten times its size and spills over the edge. It is a creeping beast. Last seen heading down the worksurfaces and out the door. It smells of puke too. Like paw-paws. I don’t like paw-paws. People keep giving them to us. Initially I was glad to have them because, you know, it’s a fruit, and probably better for me than eating dried goods all the time. But even when you make jam with it, it still smells like sick. I tried to give some to Milly the other day, but even she wasn’t having any of it. Her broken English wasn’t that broken when I tried to give them to her and she said VERY FIRMLY ‘No, they are for you.’ Hurry up mangoes and grow. Mangoes is nice.

Anyway, I am away from the office for a day and so today I have to catch up on all my blog reads. Well, can't turn your back for a second, everyone's been busily posting away funny and interesting things. I am overwhelmed and cannot compete. Perhaps I am still ill and must go lie in a darkened room with a good book and a bar of chocolate...

Here comes the politics bit
You know I was just thinking the other day about how hard life is here for people – no water, no electricity, no transport, no money, little healthcare, etc etc – and that probably the only place worse to live would be somewhere like the slums of urban Brazil. Timely, here is an article on the BBC’s website.

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Cultural Differences

So my friend sent me this hilarious list of Micheál O Muireartaigh quotes. I am therefore going to conduct a cross-cultural survey. Does anyone out there who is not Irish (a) understand these and (b) find them funny? To be fair, I will give you some pointers. The guy’s name is pronounced Mee-Hawl Oh Mwirra Hur Tig. He was a sports commentator, but I think he’s retired now. Or maybe dead. He commentated on hurling and Gaelic football. He’s famous in Ireland. He has very rapid delivery.

"Anthony Lynch the Cork corner back will be the last person to let you down - his people are undertakers."

"Colin Corkery on the 45 lets go with the right boot. It's over the bar, this man shouldn't be playing football. He's made an almost Lazarus-like recovery from a heart condition. Lazarus was a great man but he couldn't kick points like Colin Corkery.”

"Pat Fox is on his hurl and is motoring well now... but here comes Joe Rabbitte hot on his tail... I've seen it all now, a Rabitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park

"Teddy looks at the ball, the ball looks at Teddy."

"Danny 'The Yank' Culloty. He came down from the mountains and hasn't he done well."

"He grabs the sliotar, he's on the 40.... He's on the 30.............He's on the ground."

"In the first half they played with the wind. In the second half they played with the ball."

" He kicks the ball lán san aer, could've been a goal, could've been a point..... it went wide."

"Sean Óg O Hailpin.... His father is from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold."

"Teddy McCarthy to John McCarthy, no relation, John McCarthy back to Teddy McCarthy, still no relation.”

No H20

Foo foo fuckety woo. We are officially out of water. The open well from which water is pumped to the various standpipes on campus has run dry. The oxen cart has been sent to the dam a couple of kilometres away to collect some water. I don't imagine it will be a lot though, once it is split between a thousand people. This is going to make difficult many things. Such as drinking. Teeth brushing. Bathing. Clothes washing. Cooking. Pot washing. Cleaning of things in general. The rains are a couple of weeks away if we're lucky. Ho-hum.

Funny Face

It is indeed a funny day for fashion. The little shop here has obviously gotten in supplies. Today, as well as glycerin and sugar, it has on display items of clothing and some sparkly yellow nail polish. This is an exciting retail moment. I select a pretty chitenge but avoid the polish. The girl in the shop collapses with laughter when I tell her the chitenge is for me. There’s a lot of that about. Then I return to the office where the agricultural officer – who is normally dressed in wellies – is sporting a purple velvet evening dress complete with thigh-high split. It's only 7.30 in the morning. I smell a rat. Oh no, it’s just The dog farting.

I may not be here tomorrow for posting. There is a rumour that I am being sent on another wild goose chase, as I did not suffer enough last week trying to collect the shipment. I have to go to Immigration in Lusaka to see if my work permit has been found. Apparently we leave at 5 in the morning. Great. Not.

Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Mini Mangoes

These little things are teeny tiny thumb-sized right now. But we should have some delish fruit in a couple of months. Not without some hard work though. Harvesting will depend on ChildWatch. The kids here run about bashing hell out of all the fruit trees, and eat everything when it is unripe and not fully grown. We shall have to take turns watching over the mangoes and hurling stones at any small people that appear in the vicinity he he he.

Spam Spam Thank You Ma'am

Am I the only one that gets bombarded with spam porn email from Cristy Creme? He/She/It is bloody persistent. Every day they invite me to have a look at their 'new' website. Thing is, I actually know someone who works for Krispy Kreme donuts, so I always have to double check the subject line...

Reading Too Fast Part 3

From a webpage advertising online chat:

Contact Dr Jones for a live wheelchair.

Cloud Cover

It's quite cloudy today. This is good, because it means my laptop won't overheat and blow up.

It's quite cloudy today. This is bad, because it means there isn 't enough solar power to run my laptop.

Hard Times

I feel like I am in a Charles Dickens novel. There is an 'engineering' room right behind my desk, full of ancient equipment. The thuckety whackety clangety bang sounds are scaring me. I fully expect at knock-off time to see a gaggle of stunted soot-covered orphans emerge.

Friday, 1 October 2004

'Tis Allegedly So

Allegedly our shipment has arrived in Ndola, only two months late, allegedly. Allegedly we are going in to town to pick the stuff up. Allegedly. Then we are allegedly going away for the weekend. So there will be no more posting until Monday. Unless there is trip cancellation/vehicle breakdown/other general muppetry, none of which is unlikely. In which case I will be back shortly, for ranting. If I do not return by Monday you must send in troops armed with chocolate with which to beat back the Zambian Bur-rot-racy. Thank you and goodnight.