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...


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

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.

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.

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.