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Tuesday, 31 August 2004

Old Hat

Saw this article about Rooibos in the Guardian today. Not being funny, but they're so behind the times. It's been around forever, even in the UK. It's cheap as chips here by the way, so don't go paying £2.50 in Waitrose for it. Will gladly swap a box for some chocolate. Don't understand those people who agree with The Husband about it tasting foul - it's just hot water.

You Just Wouldn't, Would You?

I just found this. What the *!&$?? Is it for hiding nicely in your pocket because a small bottle is just too cumbersome? Do you pad out your clothing with sachets stuffed everywhere? What if you put it in your back pocket and sat on it and it burst? Could these catch on in clubs back in the UK? What about offices? Avoid that tell-tale clink when you open your desk drawer by using these silent sachets of strong spirit. Is there a whole untapped market? How much of an alcoholic would you have to be to use these? It’s like a sachet of emergency blood or something. Mind you, I say that. I’ll probably make use of it some day.


Monday, 30 August 2004

Sweeping Fever

I am struggling with Life of Pi. Did Martel win the Booker just because of the sheer number of words he was able to write about sitting in a boat? I have to admit I find it a bit tedious, not to mention gruesome. But I am one of those daft people who must finish a book once I’ve started it, unless it’s really awful. I had the whole day stretching out before me yesterday, and no desire to read. I became very bored. I must have been close to madness as well, because I decided in true African Styleie to sweep the garden. I swept all the leaves away from the long drop and the bath-house – paranoid about snakes. It’s amazing how meditative and compulsive something like sweeping can become. Or is that just me? I also had one of those ‘Doh!’ moments. I asked myself ‘Why am I bending almost double in an awkward manner under the lemon tree in order to enter the bath-house? Why not just prune the tree?’ Doh! So I hacked away at the lemon tree, it looks great. Also harvested about 20 lemons and made brilliant lemonade. And realised that there is a host of exciting things happening soon to look forward to:
1.My sister-in-law has sent me a package of gluten-free mixes for bread and cakes.
2.A friend of The Husband has sent us a mystery present parcel. (He will be killed if it is anything to do with Fantasy Football or Formula 1 Racing).
3.The project is having visitors next week from the UK; they have been instructed to bring proper chocolate.
4.Our shipping should arrive soon. More books, yay!
5.Next Saturday is the once-a-month trip to Ndola to stock up on groceries. GOOD.

Saturday, 28 August 2004

Carry On Camping

Once more woken up in the middle of the night. A mouse has chewed the rope holding the mosquito net frame and it cracked me on the head at about 4am. We are waiting for some of our things to arrive by sea(snail)-freight, including a tent. I shall take to sleeping in it in the garden, away from the mice. The house we are living in is a folly. The mice are getting in through holes in the roof. There are too many holes to patch up, especially as the roof is beyond the reach of any human being. Which begs the question, who built this thing, Giants? So what have we come to, and is it worse than what we left behind? Take the Quiz!!

About your dwelling place, would you rather have:

1. Chickens or pigeons?
2. Ugly winged termite things or seagulls?
3. Mice or crackheads?
4. Bats or bastard neighbours with too-loud music?
5. Free organic fruit on the trees or Waitrose?

Friday, 27 August 2004

Slow News Day...

Witness to a Very Peculiar Suicide
The long drop really does seem to be where a lot of the action is. So I go in, raise the lid, and then spot a lizard. He’s in the corner and I want to know where he’s going. We stare each other out for a while. Then he sets off running at a cracking pace and makes a spectacular leap right into the long drop, putting Olympic long-jumpers everywhere to shame. Except it is a long, long, long drop. Oops! Don’t think he’ll be coming out of there again.

Name That Ant
I thought I’d just stood on a rattlesnake. Except I don’t think they have those here. In trying to ascertain where the noise was coming from I guess I must have stood on an ant colony. Man were they pissed off. They looked like they were all fitting and spitting, and RATTLING. There must have been a hundred of them shaking like mad on the ground and rattling like a big old rattlesnake.

Well, The Bananas Are Ripe...
…but I may have killed the tree.  I normally get my bananas from the supermarket back home. I didn’t realise that big old stalk thing was so tough. So I went to break off the stalk only to have the entire tree bend over. It’s looking a little broken and sad. Maybe it will renew/repair/regenerate itself? Had a nice banana for dessert anyway.

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Word for Today

Today I am irascible. It is the school holidays and small children are swarming around like ants. At least with ants you can Doom them, or (my personal favourite) sit on the verandah with a G&T and set fire to them with a match. I haven’t dared try this with children. What I need is a sort of Pied Piper chap, one that will lead children, chickens and mice deep into the forest, never to return.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Mouse Cheekiness Raised to New Heights

I am having a distressing dream about shopping in a South African supermarket that doesn’t stock chocolate when I am awakened by a roar. It is not a lion, but The Husband has woken up to a mouse on the pillow, staring at him. Cue tumbling out of bed in a mass of mosquito net and trying to chase the little bastard (the mouse) round the room. The mouse is zig-zagging across the rafters like he’s on speed. It seems that in future we will have to hermetically seal the mosquito net to the bed before sleeping. They are still managing to steal the food without getting caught in the traps. Anyone out there want some supermice to do animal testing on?? Buyer to collect. Most welcome.

The Fear
Having been woken by the mouse at some ridiculous hour, I stumble to the washroom in a state of disorientation. I can hear Presuming Ed. It’s not right. It takes me a few moments to realise that it is Chief, singing. And it’s ‘My Yaweh’ not ‘Hare Rama’. I am a trained professional reduced to the status of the bewildered.

Monday, 23 August 2004

Silence is Golden

Our break at a game lodge was great. Helped by the fact that the Land Rover held it together this time and didn’t break down. The novelty of being somewhere with a (well-stocked) bar was too much, and we proceeded to drink pretty much one of everything they had. And we ate. All that food, yummy.

I don’t know what kind of birds they have there, but Sunday’s dawn chorus was the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard. There must have been over a hundred birds all singing different songs, it was great. Certainly better than the Westlife CD in the bar (they are taking over Zambia!), and miles better than the group singing hymns REALLY LOUDLY behind our chalet.

So on Sunday we had the options of fishing, taking a canoe out, swimming in the pool, playing volleyball, going on a game drive, birdwatching. We just about managed a brief game drive. We went to look for the two giraffes they’re supposed to have, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Perhaps they’re related to the blind men.

After a large breakfast we decided that actually the only viable option was to lie in the sun.  Although it took a few attempts to find just the right spot by the lake to read in peace. We had been sitting in the first place for about ten minutes when a large (in every sense)  South African family decided that they would like to sit right next to us and talk in REALLY LOUD VOICES. We did that thing of enduring it for about half an hour, not wanting to be forced to move, hoping they would go. They did, finally.

We had another ten minutes of peace which was rudely interrupted by a gang of teenagers in tracksuits swearing in REALLY LOUD VOICES. Enough, it was beginning to feel like Croydon. We moved. Then we were plagued by a group of tourists using their mobile phones REALLY LOUDLY.

Are none of these people familiar with peace, serenity and back to nature? We went right to the end of the lawns where the only other interruptions were from little monkeys throwing us some fruit. Bliss.


Can you see the giraffes?

Saturday, 21 August 2004

Mousetry 101

I get up this morning to more animal madness. Another mouse has snatched the food from the trap without being caught. He is running victory laps in the rafters. I go to the sink to wash my hands. There is poo in there. It looks like mouse poo but smaller. THEN I notice the bat in the corner of the sink flapping and squeaking. Gross. I make The Husband get rid of it.

Dr DoLittle
The Husband has kindly given me the nasty cold he has been carrying. There is nothing in our medical bag to deal with it. (It was The Husband’s job to pack it.) We have the whole kit and kaboodle to perform open heart surgery, but there is no Lemsip, cough medicine or throat lozenges. Grrr. I miss Boots. I take out my Advantage Card and think about how some day I will be reunited with my favourite store. We may not have a pharmacy but we do have fresh organic lemons from the trees, some ginger and honey, so together with some Rooibos tea I concoct a kind of potion to fight the cold. The Husband hates Rooibos tea almost as much as he hates fried egg and jam. How can you hate something that is practically flavourless?

Holiday Hurrah!
We are going away for the weekend. More on Monday.

From the Lemon Orchard


Not Available At Islington Farmers' Market

Friday, 20 August 2004

Why Is It That...

…no matter how smart and lovely your clothes are, once they’ve been washed and hung on a line they just look like sad raggy scraps? Hey, it’s great having a washing line though. No more flat-bound clothes-horse business. In fact we have inherited about ten washing lines. They are lengths of wire bound to the trees at various heights and points around the garden. One has to be careful to avoid decapitation. Unfortunately I forgot to take the clothes in when dry and now Milly has IRONED MY SOCKS!! Check out the iron. You have to put hot coals in it to make it go. Someone got it for us in town. I’m not sure if they chose the one with the cockerel on it deliberately. I wish my 103-year-old grandma had the internet, I’m sure she used to use an iron like this one.


Grandma's Iron

Thursday, 19 August 2004

Mad, It's All Mad I Tell You

Woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, having realised that my second tourist visa was about to run out. So I blagged a ride on the project’s trip in to Ndola, to see if my work permit has somehow miraculously appeared. When we left immigration in Lusaka at the beginning of August, they had promised to find the blessed thing and send it on northwards. Immigration in Ndola is also staffed by fierce ladies. One had a hairstyle like knitted barbed wire; she was very frightening. They nudged a handwritten exercise book of the latest permit arrivals from Lusaka across the table at me. Mine was not listed. I asked about getting my passport stamped again whilst waiting for the permit. Barbwirelady spoke the dreaded words about not being in the country while they’re processing it. Hang on, haven’t we already been here? Groundhog Day via Vic Falls?? I had dragged The Husband along together with his work permit (woo woo lucky him). I showed them my name listed as his wife in his permit (wow, is this emancipation????) and suddenly they were busy little bees madly stamping my passport. I am now allowed to reside here with The Husband. But not work. So clearly I won’t be doing any of that, as I wouldn’t want to be doing anything illegal now would I?

We try to buy a crate of Coke in town. Surreal conversation ensues. You can’t buy a crate of Coke unless you have a crate of empties. Where do we get the empties from? Well you drink the Coke, then bring us the empty bottles. Ok, can we buy a crate of bottles full of Coke? No, you have to bring us the empties. Where do we get the empties from? Well…

It probably would have been easier to procure some coke-coke.

We go to the garden centre to see if they have any plants. It’s a very nice shop but they only have cabbage. Cabbage seed, cabbage plants, cut cabbage, going-off cabbage, ornamental cabbage. Place smelt like a rubbish dump.

We go to the bank to get some money out of the ATM. Machines are broken. Go all around town trying different banks. All machines in town broken. Have to cadge money off Chief. It’s not much, so instead of waltzing round Shoprite chucking things in the trolley, we are totalling it up as we go along…potatoes 90p…ooh can we afford a bag of salt, it’s 10p? (I did sneak in some chocolate though).

On the way home Chief stops off at a mission. He is on a mission. To find three blind men (not a joke) to dig a well. This is the fourth time he has been to look for them. They’re not blind, they’re fucking invisible.

When we get home, Milly has left some paw-paws for us. I guess she found them lying around. As you do. They are a bit bashed, so I am going to attempt to make jam. I tell ya, that Nigella better watch out. There is a stonking cookbook on its way!

Wednesday, 18 August 2004

Zimbabwe Oddness

The Great Granola Swindle
I forgot to mention how very excited I got on our Adventure Trip of a Lifetime to Vic Falls, when I discovered boxes of wheat-free granola in the local supermarket. I carefully lugged them all the way back here, (ok, I hid them in The Husband’s bag) only to discover that it doesn’t really do what it says on the box. I did wonder about granola made solely from maize, but hey I was a willing believer. Imagine a Crunchy Nut Cornflake. Sweet huh? Now multiply the sweetness factor by a hundred. Yup, wheat-free granola. The only way in which this stuff resembled granola was the fact that there was so much sugar the cornflakes were stuck together in hard lumps. List of ingredients: Brown sugar, Honey, Molasses, Maize.

And Another Thing…
I also forgot to mention the glorious article on page two of the Bulawayo Chronicle we picked up in Vic Falls – Goat Born With Human Features. Except I think it said Kid Born With Human Features, so initially I wasn’t sure why it was a story. The local vet explained in some windy scientific way how it was very common, distorted head, would recover, blah blah. Meanwhile the local police have launched an investigation into the perpetrator of this obvious bestiality. Oh, you don’t find it in The Guardian!!

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

My Bananas!


Waiting For Dessert to Ripen

The Egg as a Neutral Foodstuff

The Husband is disgusted. The object of his disgust is my breakfast – fried/scrambled egg with peanut butter and jam. And this from a man who eats cheese and jam. I don’t see the problem. Surely egg is neutral, until you flavour it with either sweet or savoury? Chocolate pancake, pepper omelette. Cake, mayonnaise. The difficulty of course is that being a coeliac out here is a challenge. No toast for breakfast because there is no lovely supermarket with gluten-free food.

Monday, 16 August 2004

An Audience with an African Queen

A woman with a regal bearing, an enormous headpiece, and glittery clothes walks in to the office. I think it is the local Chieftainess. I think you’re supposed to crawl on the floor to greet her. As I’m working here in her queendom (?), does that make me one of her subjects? I cower behind my computer screen hoping not to be spotted (some hope, bright white Muzungu skin in a sea of black). She looks around the office. What should I do if she approaches? Stand up, sit down, crawl, smile, don’t smile, look her in the eye, don’t look her in the eye, shake hands (or is it rude to touch??). She moves off and I breathe a sigh of relief. She is looking for The Big Man, the Zambian Director here. AKA Chief. I call him that to preserve his identity. But now I see it might be confusing. He’s not a real Chief, and he’s not married to the Chieftainess. But it’s what I call him, so there you go. Her Royal Highness walks into Chief’s office, despite the fact that he is in the middle of a meeting. What HRH wants, HRH gets. The Husband is in the meeting. He tries to leave, but they make him stay. I wonder if he is crawling on the floor in there? I think that at least he will be able to tell me what HRH wanted, but then I remember that the demands will probably not be in English. He will be bored in there.

The Husband comes out; I have been summoned to meet HRH. I ask him how I should greet her. He says I should kneel and clap my hands. I can’t do it. I can’t do what I consider to be a subservient gesture, especially to someone I don’t know. I just smile at her and sit down. I will probably be bewitched. She is very beautiful with big apple cheeks, and so clean she is shiny. I have never seen anyone so clean. Her husband does all of the talking. She just sits and smiles and waves a bone-handled horsehair fly-swat. The conversation is in English, but riddled. They tell us they are building a new palace near to the project. There seems to be some suggestion that the project ought to fund HRH’s new community. Hmm…watch this space.

Sunday, 15 August 2004

Was There Life Before Google?

I have been googling the mosquito. I love Google. It’s in my top ten favourite things. I have no idea what the other nine are, but I’m sure Google is in there. I am wondering whether there is any point in having mosquito netting on the windows if there are holes in the roof. But I don’t know how high a mosquito flies. I have learned that biting mosquitoes prefer to fly at 25 ft or less. The roof is about 15ft high. So does this render the window netting useless? Bite on…here’s another poem for the niece.

How High Can A Mosquito Fly?
How high can a mosquito fly?
As high as a pie?
As high as your eye?
As high as the sky?
How high?
And why?

Saturday, 14 August 2004

I Am Your Local KFC

So we invite Chief, his wife, and young son round for dinner. We have a lovely wooden table, and six not-so-lovely wooden chairs. The chair seats are foam. Initially when you sit on them, it’s fine. But after about five seconds the cheap and nasty foam sinks, and you find yourself not quite reaching the table. Jo-jo the little boy has disappeared from sight. All we can see is the top of his head. After much fussing with a pillow (also made from cheap, sinking foam) we manage to arrange him so that he can at least see his food even if he can’t reach it. There is silence as everyone eats. Then I am paid the biggest compliment ever – our guests are loving the fried chicken and want to know how I cooked it. Coming from a group of Africans, this is really saying something. I want desperately to announce to Chief that it is actually one of his chickens that I have battered to death with a panga, which has resulted in the tender meat. But of course I don’t. And I’m not telling you how I cooked it either, because I am secretly writing the alternative Nigella cookbook. I may call it 101 Uses for Maize Meal. Or possibly How to Look Sexy in the Kitchen Whilst Wearing Flip-flops with Socks and Trying to Make Bread out of Raw Potato.

Friday, 13 August 2004

Signs of Life

I am loving the roadside signs here. When I lived in Namibia I thought nothing could beat the bottle store names – Hubbly Bubbly Shopping Centre No. 3 being a particular favourite – but here it is the juxtaposition of trades that’s so great. Butchery & Beauty Salon (I’ll have a leg and a half-leg please). Baabar (sp) & Cabbages (Cut ‘n’ Cook). Tavern & Supermarket. Ok, I suppose the last one’s not that outré, but I can’t exactly see it catching on in the UK. Swigging a Foster’s on your way round Asda maybe, but I can’t see them being too impressed with you cracking open your Hoegaarden in the middle of Waitrose.

Pretty-flower-in-garden


Thursday, 12 August 2004

It's The Wrong Lolly, Monty!

In a previous post I made mention of the sunset looking like a 70s ice lolly. Still haven’t managed to remember what it’s called. I have had a helpful suggestion from a friend, but the more I think about it, the less sure I am that she’s right. I like to kid myself that this blog is somewhat anonymous (names have been changed etc) so in keeping with that, we shall call the friend Lord Monty. Lord Monty has suggested that the ice lolly – actually dammit, I’m Irish, ice POP – is a Zoom. I have spent some time Googling and I think that in fact it would have been either a JR or a Scribbler. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any web photos available, so I can’t confirm it.



Wednesday, 11 August 2004

Things That Go Bump in the Dark

Someone must have left the lid of the long-drop open yesterday. I had just finished my business last night when a BAT flew out of there! Sheesh, seconds away from BOTTOM RABIES!!!! Between that and the sighting of yet another snake hanging around the john (no jokes about a certain rock star please), a chamber pot is beginning to seem really attractive right now.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Revenge on the Chickwidgeons

Ha ha, revenge is sweet. Batty hens are laying their eggs on our verandah. Good exchange methinks for all the blessed noise.

One of the drivers has run over The Dog. He is yelping and whelping, obviously in a lot of pain. There is no vet on site. We wonder if you can give an animal human painkillers, or if that would just kill him off altogether. After careful consideration of the very serious medical kit donated to us by Doc Sister-in-Law (amputation anyone?), we choose something. We decide that The Dog is about child-sized and try to give him half an ibuprofen. He spits it out. An hour later the dog is running around and wagging his tail. Attention-seeker!

Monday, 9 August 2004

Dancing to the Spaces between the Beats

Living in the forest with nothing but your own thoughts has the wonderful effect of sliding dross-like information such as what’s happening in Eastenders to the back of your brain, and bringing to the forefront things that are either useful or enjoyable. I find myself remembering poems learned once upon a time, song lyrics from the past, big juicy vocab that I’ve always been too rushed to use, the A-Level physics and chemistry learned decades ago. Stuff that matters. It’s enough to make you feel practically intellectual...

Sunday, 8 August 2004

After Kierkegaard

Wake up entangled in the mosquito net yet again. This time it’s not the mouse who has chewed through it, but there was a bat in the room last night, so who knows. The mouse has been squashed in a trap and is taken away to be ceremoniously burnt. Hurrah!

The Husband decides that the mosquito net needs a frame and so sets about building one from the branches of a tree. He is helped by Loveness, a small boy who seems to have chosen our house as the place to be from dawn till dusk every Sunday. He appears to have no friends and his father is an alcoholic, so he probably hasn’t got a great home life. But all day, every Sunday? I need my day off too.

Saturday, 7 August 2004

I Love Being Right

Log on and read a fabulous article about idleness being close to genius (my interpretation) on the Guardian website. Ha! I have always advocated the languorous approach to life. In fact I wrote a poem myself whilst dawdling in bed before arising. I appreciate it is no Walt Whitman, but I think my small niece will like it:

Don’t Dangle Your Foot Out Of The Bed
Don’t dangle your foot out of the bed
- they’ll have it!
A rat or a bat
A mouse or a louse
Or one of those weird winged creatures.
They like a nice toe to chew on,
so –
don't dangle your foot out of the bed!

Friday, 6 August 2004

Billy the Liz

Today I meet a wonderful lizard-creature whom I christen Billy. He is a big fat bastard and the most astonishing shades of blue and red. He hurtles himself down a tree, sits for a while, races across the grass and then bounds up the next tree.

Note to self: check difference between lizards, geckos, chameleons etc, and astound others with marvellous zoological knowledge.

Thursday, 5 August 2004

Oh Lovely, Lovely Immigration

So apparently this is the day it all goes according to plan. Ha ha. Delboy meets us, about 5 hours late. He assures us that everything is approved and sorted at Immigration; we merely need to go and sign for our papers. We get to Immigration. They produce The Husband’s work permit, but mine is lost. There is much tutting and frowning by the brutal-looking ladies in charge because I have not taken The Husband’s surname. They are pretty much saying that it’s my own fault the permit is lost; if I wasn’t using my own name it wouldn’t have happened. Ironically I am listed as The Wife on The Husband’s permit, so it looks like I can stay in the country anyway. But of course without my own work permit I can’t possibly do any work…

Chicken Bus Supreme

Unfortunately our return coincides with the school holidays. All of the buses in Livingstone are full of kids going back to Lusaka. We pass the time eating chips. I need the toilet and am directed to a bar round the corner. The bartender is snippy and tells me it is a fee-paying toilet. I wave my 500kwacha (5p) at her. I am told that ‘Henry has the key’. Clearly Henry is very important. An old man leads me up some steep steps at the back, and with a flourish unlocks a broken-down door. The toilet is foul and there is no water. Where are the 1,000kwacha fee-paying toilets when ya need ‘em?

We wait 4 hours before finally getting on a bus with some free seats. It cannot leave until the luggage from the previous passengers has been offloaded. Someone has wiped out the entire Lusaka knicker supply. I have never seen so many giant shiny red pants with gold stars. A woman is parcelling up these thousands of knickers. I guess she’s going to sell them on. I hope Livingstone has enough big bottoms to fill them all. A fight breaks out between two men; they begin rolling around on the giant packets of pants, like overgrown kids on some perverted bouncy castle.

Our bus is not as luxurious as the one on the outward journey. And there are at least five crying babies and ten packets of dried fish. No chickens though. Also it leaves late which means that it will be dark before reaching Lusaka. The journey is interminable and our only hope is that all the food-serving establishments in the city won’t have closed before we get there.

The sunset is, as always, stunning. Tonight the sky reminds me of an ice-lolly you could get in the seventies, but the name eludes me. And that annoys me…It will hit me in the middle of the night when I'm least expecting it. Must google it - I'm sure there's a website about ice-lollies of the 70s.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

Tout Capital of the World

Well we get out of Zam and into Zim. So far so good.

Some friends of ours are getting married on an island in the Zambezi this year. Purely for research purposes we make it our business to thoroughly vet Vic Falls and check out all the eating and drinking establishments. After all, we don’t know how long we are going to be here…waiting for someone to bring us our work permits…so that we can re-enter Zambia…etc. At A Certain Lodge I am presented with the best cocktail ever, with (à la Enid Blyton) heaps of ice and lashings of ginger beer. It is duly noted on the recce detail. It is some seven years since either of us has been here. Not a lot has changed. We discover Some Weird New Hotel – it is like something out of Sun City or Las Vegas and looks completely incongruous. By mid-afternoon we have been beaten into exhaustion by the relentless touts. They don’t understand that not wanting some carved wooden bowl at 10am means also not wanting it at 12pm, 2 pm, 6pm or the next day. We go in search of an internet café to see if there is any news on our work permits. There isn’t. But an hour later Delboy phones us to say that he has been to Immigration to pick up our permits, but they won't give them to him. Apparently we never had to leave the country at all, and could we please return at once to Lusaka to collect them ourselves. Gaaaah!

Monday, 2 August 2004

All Aboard For Victoria Falls

There is no way that the LR will make it to Katima, so we switch to Plan B. 6am Chicken Bus to Livingstone, and on to Victoria Falls. Great. Actually the bus is fine. Lusaka bus station has not yet turned into a heaving wracketing mob mess, and the bus is actually a double-decker coach. There is not a chicken or a goat in sight amongst the luggage. We settle in. About half an hour into the journey I am very grateful for the ‘large’ earplugs I have brought with me. Eardrum-busting music is blared out at full volume throughout the coach. I spend the first half of the journey being forced to listen (albeit muffled) to The Greatest Hits of Westlife. Except it’s not Westlife, but some band imitating them – something to do with copyright and broadcasting no doubt. Thing is, none of Westlife’s greatest hits seem to be anything to do with Westlife either.

Once ‘Westlife’ have been aired we are subjected to some awful awful American C movie about bombs, assassinations, car chases and conspiracy. And to think I could be in the UK watching Fahrenheit 911…

The Great Escape

Of course the Land Rover wasn’t repaired properly. It ate up a horrendous volume of petrol on the way to Lusaka, chugging and sputtering its way in. When we parked it up at The Backpackers it chundered oil all over the driveway. Nice.

We go inside. There is a really obnoxious ‘man’ (I use the term lightly) in there, shouting at the staff about his bags. Then he gets out a laptop and starts boring everyone, within earshot and without, about his plans to set up a farm. Thing is, his shoutiness and social ineptitude serve only to highlight how spectacularly ugly he is. He is like something envisioned by Tim Burton, only without the cute factor; a rancid little matchstick.

Our room is foul, the washrooms are grim, the noise unbearable. Having spent many years having fun travelling and staying in such places, I wonder what’s wrong. I come to the conclusion that one must be (a) young, (b) single, (c) completely hammered, to enjoy staying in a backpackers. Given that I am none of the above I am in the wrong place. Where I really need to be is in some luxurious lodge drinking a cocktail. But I have champagne tastes and lemonade pockets so here we are.