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Thursday, 30 September 2004

Welcome To My Menagerie

I live in a Menagerie, where I am Ringmistress without a whip.

Something in the byre has been going Maaaa Maaaa Maaaa Maaaa Maaaa all night long. A cow-sheep? I didn’t realise we were hosting the Zambian Genetically Modified Animals Programme.

The mice have been strangely quiet recently. Now I know why. They have been usurped. They have been taken over by a bunch of critters what look like mice but have squirrelly tails. (I did try and find a picture on Google, but got distracted by some guy selling monkeys, complete with shopping cart icons, so I had to leave). They don’t squeak like regular mice either, but emit a sound like a laughing cartoon Mickey Mouse on acid and breathing helium. Neither are they shy or frightened, but poke their heads in and out of the rafters laughing at me. It’s a bit like having Alvin and the Chipmunks to stay. I fully expect to wake up to them one day, standing in a row dressed in too-large t-shirts and singing a terrible song.

There is another bat stranded in the sink this morning. Why do the stupid things fly in there if they can’t get out again? Perhaps it was pushed in by the squirrel-tailed mouse things. I can’t face removing it. Neither can The Husband. We are naughty, and leave it for Milly. She will probably wash it and hang it out to dry.

Inside The Mbalasa


Inside the Mbalasa

An Mbalasa is traditionally an open-sided structure with a thatched roof. It’s where the Chief, Headperson, Big Cheese, holds their important meetings. We have one outside our house. The Dog sleeps in it.

Do Something Nice

It would be really really nice if this took off. So why does the cynic in me suspect it will die a death?


Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Hope For Men Everywhere


Hope For Men Everywhere

I know, I know, it's mean and bad. He has an amazing mind. He's probably a wonderful person. Posts like this don't even belong on here. But I couldn't help myself. Am I the only one who looks at her, looks at him, looks at her, looks at him, and just, you know wonders? I think not.

Today's Pretty Picture


Pinkus Flowerus

How To: Make A Cup Of Tea

1. Take kettle to ‘tap’ in kitchen. Turn on tap. Listen to air whooshing through.
2. Take lid off bucket of emergency water. Stare at dust and leaves at bottom of empty bucket.
3. Go to standpipe outside house. Turn on tap. Get drenched by 2-second burst of water and shat on by a chicken, then listen to air whooshing through empty pipe.
4. Take kettle to old oil drum outside bath-house. Peer into bottom of drum at 4 inches of water. Lean over drum taking care not to fall in. Dip kettle in water then haul back into daylight.
5. Remove leaves and dirt from kettle and return to house.
6. Place kettle on gas ring. Strike 6 Zambian matches in succession watching them all flare and die before reaching the gas. Light 7th match which breaks in two, lights gas, and ricochets back to burn arm.
7. Take pliers to metal thing on hob which controls gas (plastic knobs no longer present). Try to reduce gas from bellowing furnace to moderate flame. Listen to gas go ‘phtup’ and go out.
8. Repeat step 6 and leave gas on furnace setting. Wipe sweat from brow.
9. Take mug from hanging place on rusty nail. Empty out dead spider.
10. Go to tap to rinse mug of spider remains, remember (a) no water and (b) water dirty, don’t want in mug.
11. Go to tea caddy. Fish around for teabag and find none, because Husband has finished them off and neglected to tell anyone so that more could be bought. Empty dust and stray tea leaves into mug.
12. Decide spoon of honey would be nice. Take jar down from shelf, brushing off ants stuck to drips, unless extra protein is needed.
13. Put honey in cup. Take sticky spoon to tap to wash it. Remember no water. Put sticky spoon down on work surface. Watch 9 million ants approach.
14. Pour boiling water in mug. Enjoy tea!

Daily Dose Of Rantage

I’m sure most of you will have seen this little news item about Jack Straw and Robert Mugabe. Now, there are several flabbergasting things going on here. First off, what kind of a numpty is Jack Straw, for giving the excuse that he did? Is he implying (as most people will interpret it) that he couldn’t see Robert Mugabe because he is black? And also, are we really to believe that the UN can’t afford electricity and there were no lights? That aside, didn’t we have all this furore a couple of years back when Mary Robinson shook hands with Gerry Adams? Now, I would NEVER defend Robert Mugabe, what that man has done to the country and citizens of Zimbabwe is despicable. But, isn’t a handshake a universal greeting? A sort of multi-lingual hello if you like. And isn’t it better to sit down and talk to the enemy, in an effort to make the world a better place? Oh no wait, hang on, we don’t do talking do we? No…just send the US Army in, no need for discussions. Oh no, just a second, wrong approach. No oil in Zimbabwe, is there. Guess the citizens there will just have to rot in hell while the Western politicians sit and bite their thumbs at Mugabe. I’m not surprised Mugabe pissed himself laughing on finding out it was Jack Straw who had approached him. He really is having the last laugh.

Now read this about a national volunteering scheme. I’ve always thought this should be implemented. I’d make it compulsory though, and send people to the darkest, most poverty-ridden corners of the earth. Might shake a few people up. We need change.

I am so glad I am in the bush and far away from this nonsense.

Tuesday, 28 September 2004

An Englishman, An Irishman, A Scotsman

I think at this point of the day I need to post some light relief. So here is one of these dumb three-nationality jokes, which I haven't seen or heard in a long time. Interestingly the 'Paddy' bits have disappeared. I've always wondered why the Englishman has to be listed first too. Anyway, this made me chuckle. Is it racist? I don't know. But it's funny.

One day an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walked into a pub together. They each proceeded to buy a pint of Guinness. Just as they were about to enjoy their beverage a fly landed in each of their three drinks.
The Englishman pushed his beer from him in disgust.
The Scotsman scooped at his beer until he washed the fly out and then continued drinking.
The Irishman carefully picked the fly out of his drink, then held it out over the beer and started yelling "SPIT IT OUT YOU! SPIT IT OUT!!!!"

Does Anyone Have The Answer?

George Monbiot in The Guardian on tax evasion in the UK. This is disgusting. I wish someone could explain it to me. What makes the vast majority of the human population so selfish and greedy? I mean, how rich can you possibly be? What is the point of it? What can a person possibly get from it? I just don’t understand it. I’m not advocating communism, or saying that people shouldn’t aspire. I would much rather live in a three-bedroomed house with a garden and a car, than a high-rise council flat with a bicycle. But I have no desire to have 60-bedroomed mansions around the world and a fleet of private jets. If individuals will not take responsibility then the government must. There must be a cut-off point, where the government says ‘Right. You’re up to a million (or whatever) in earnings this year, we’re taking everything else in tax.’ People are dying every second of the day because they don’t have clean water or food. How long can this go on being ignored?? If anyone has any answers as to why people behave like this, I’d love to hear it. Unless you trot out ‘natural instinct’ which I think is nonsense. We have the intellect to rise above any pre-programmed genetic urges.

Night Of The Long Gins, Part 2

I am just settling down to resume my reading, when a black mark on the whitewashed wall up by the rafters catches my attention. The black mark is about a foot long, and two inches wide. The black mark moves. It is a giant millipede. It has a slow, thick crawl, like the sly lift of an oily eyebrow. Where is it going? What is it doing in here? Why must all these bothersome and icky things live in my house? Surely they belong outside, next to nature, in the bush? I stare at this ugly thing, shuddering at the thought of it falling down the back of my shirt some day. You will be the first to know if it happens.

Tomorrow sees the start of a new and occasional series called ‘How To’. And I’ve just this second realised that I’ve completely stolen that from Guy Browning in The Observer. Bollix. Never mind, mine will be different and unique. Stay tuned!

Monday, 27 September 2004

Snake Tree


Snake Tree

Night Of The Long Gins, Part 1

Yesterday was Hornet Invasion Day. I guess they have it every year, but I forgot to mark it on my calendar. I am sitting down at home reading a book, with a hornet hovering about a centimetre from my left eye. I wave him away about five times, but he persists in returning. The waving effort is making me hot and cross. Finally I snap and reach for the luminous red flyswat. I lunge for the hornet but miss. Suddenly he is joined by all of his extended family and there are about 20 of them buzzing around me. I swat and chase, duck and weave, but fail to make contact. I am now even hotter and crosser. I catch sight of my reflection in the window. I look like a complete mentalist. I quietly put down the flyswat and slink away to the bedroom and the relative safety of the mosquito net.

Saturday, 25 September 2004

Just Not Good Enough

Gordon Brown’s offer to alleviate debt from poor countries is a nice idea, but it’s not enough. In fact it seems like little more than a PR exercise for him. I also think that this article is sloppy journalism, with misleading figures, and I would expect more from the Guardian.

Brown is offering to pay off debts owed to the World Bank and the African Development Bank. What about the rest of the debts? Owed to governments and other corporations? Thinking about it, I wonder if in fact this article has got its figures right? GBP£100 million a year might sound like a lot, but divvy that up between 30 countries – GBP£3 million a year? It’s like pissing on a forest fire, but not as effective. Zambia is indebted to the IMF and World Bank to the tune of GBP£1.6 BILLION.

The Jubilee Zambia website gives total Zambian debt figures of GBP£3.2 billion. These are from 2002, so no doubt the figure has escalated wildly in the intervening years as they struggle to actually calculate the debt because it’s so big.

‘Qualifying’ for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) status brings only more problems. From the WDM website:
“Since 1991, in order to qualify for debt relief, Zambia has implemented (been forced to, my italics) such economic policies as privatisation, trade liberalisation, subsidy cuts and public sector wage freezes…Following public opposition to the privatisation of Zambia's state electricity company and state bank, the IMF announced that Zambia risked forfeiting US$1 billion in debt relief if it did not go ahead with the privatisation...WDM's report clearly demonstrates that the IMF and World Bank's involvement in Zambia has been unsuccessful, undemocratic and unfair. The country has been condemned to debt.”

Oh and watch the UK public at large whinge and whinge about even giving this miserly amount of taxpayers’ money away.

Friday, 24 September 2004

Benny


No, I won't come out to play.

This is Benny, one of my Tigers, enjoying the sunset. He lives in the coffee grove with his brother Joon - they're twins. At first I thought I'd had too many G&Ts, but no, there are two of them exactly the same, 'cept for Joon's got a white tail. They are wild and supercilious and refuse to interact with me, but I snuck up on him to take this fuzzy shot.

Dawn, Dusk And Middle Of The Day Chorus

Most of the time, having a beautiful, harmonious African gospel choir practise right by your house, is a joyous and uplifting thing. Sometimes though, like if you've had a bad day at the office and just want some peace and quiet, it can be really fucking annoying.

Thursday, 23 September 2004

How Many Words For You?

So the Guardian is running an ad for the Guardian Weekly on their website. Their strapline is “A compact digest of world events delivered to your door, even if it has to be delivered by donkey.” Well, we’ve been sending the fucking donkeys into town for weeks now, and there’s still no sign of it.
I’ve taken one of those ‘really professional and absolutely true’ online tests to see how quickly I read. Apparently I can do 350-400 words a minute, which is more than the average person’s 250 - 300. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe not. Sometimes when I read things quickly strange headlines pop out. A sample from today:

“Four months ago, fire swept through an east London whorehouse rented by the storage company Momart. Hundreds of works by leading British artists were destroyed.”

More as they happen.

The Red


Miracle Flower

This little beauty has literally popped up from nowhere. Where yesterday there was nothing but dirt, today there is a cheery splash of colour. Just need to keep The Dog from peeing on it...

Stone Soup

I have just caught The Husband boiling stones.

Being in the bush as we are, there is minimal food unless you bring it in, grow it, or make it yourself. The Husband likes bread. He has taken to making it. In theory we have an oven to bake it in. However, it is banjaxed, and about as warm as a sparrowfart, no matter how high you turn it up.

So far The Husband has been baking the bread in a tin pot, balanced on a metal plate, inside an empty saucepan, on top of a gas ring. ( I know, first time he did it I ran away expecting fire).

Anyway, he decided that stones would work better in the saucepan than the metal plate. So he washed the stones. But that wasn’t enough. He BOILED them. Because he thought that ‘maybe dirt and bacteria will evaporate and get into the bread’.

Now, I’m no scientist, that’s his forte. But I’m pretty sure that evaporation can only occur if there is liquid. Stones are dry, and solid. And the dough wasn’t even touching them. This is the kind of hysterical drama queen behaviour I expect of myself, not some MAN. Especially not a man whose clever scientific brain has spent the morning looking at a giant page of squiggles and dots, and seeing dam walls, spillways and construction plans, where I can only see squiggles and dots.

He has now run out of the office to check on the bread which he has left unattended back home. I vote FIRE.
He is back, smirking. Clearly no fire. But I will be right some day soon, oh yes…

Wednesday, 22 September 2004

Fame At Last

I am in the Guardian. I guess it's true what they say about no such thing as bad publicity.

Sense Of Humour Failure

So Blogger have done this A-Z profile of blogs around the world. And mine was chosen under Z. It was a bit of a shoo-in really, as there's not much of a blog community in Zambia, and all the ones in Zimbabwe are pornographic.

Sadly it would seem as though the reviewer Biz Stone has had a sense of humour bypass. This is how the great African adventure is described:

"She's writing publicity material for a non-profit organization there. She's also eating loads of chocolate and complaining about something in just about every one of her posts. I really don't think Claypot is having a nice experience in Africa (and I feel sorry for those chickens). After trekking through much of this last blog on our tour, I'm reminded that we have a long way to go before we arrive in Roddenberry's universe. "

The posts are not complaints. They are merely illustrating life in the bush, far away from McDonalds and Drive-thru plastic surgery. I am having the time of my life here.

Tuesday, 21 September 2004

Toxic

"I've always thought that under populated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted." Lawrence Summers, ex-chief economist of the World Bank, explaining why we should export toxic wastes to Third World countries.

Winged Things

I have a bruise on my nose. Caused by a giant hardbody winged thing flying straight into me at about 60 miles an hour. Bastard! Sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) being here is like being on some weird drug.

Yesterday I saw a butterfly the size of my hand that looked like a cabbage. I mean the butterfly looked like a cabbage. Not my hand. Obviously…at least I don’t think my hands look like cabbages. Those of a 90 year old crone, perhaps, but not cabbages.

What I do have, however, are hobbit feet. The red polish that Milly puts on the floor has mixed with the sand and the dirt and lodged in the cracks on my feet caused by the extreme heat.

Also, I have no ankles.

The last time I had no ankles was when I was on a bus with the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted for 3 days, but that’s for another time.

I am covered in black smuts. So is my laptop, my desk, my chair, the entire office, my house, the garden, ad infinitum. There is always someone burning something here.

Monday, 20 September 2004

Stunned Bird


Stunned Bird

This is just one example of the beautiful birds we have flitting about here. The only reason I got close enough to take this is because the silly twit flew into a window and stunned himself. He's alright though, I gave him some water and then he flew away.

In Praise Of Gloria

Over the weekend I had the great fortune to meet Gloria, an urban-resident Zambian. She is one of the spikiest, funniest women I have ever met.

Her husband is currently unemployed. In traditional Zambian culture, despite the fact that Gloria is out working every day, she would also be expected to do everything around the house. Even though her husband doesn’t work.

Not so Gloria. She delights in telling me how her husband has to clean and sweep and wash and cook, and that she puts her feet up and has a drink when she gets in from work. She tells me that her in-laws are convinced she has performed ‘ju-ju’ (black magic) on her husband.

Then ensues an enlightening conversation where Gloria informs me that a traditional healer – Inganga, – is separate from a witchdoctor – Indoshi. In some cultures these are one and the same. She explains which one I would need to go to for any particular potion.

Unfortunately the conversation then tangentially degenerates, and concludes with her recommending that I watch a Nigerian film called The Beast, which sounds very much like a bad West African version of The Exorcist.

Sunday, 19 September 2004

Five A-Yem In Zam-Bee-Yah

Flap-flap flap-flap flap-flap,
flaps the bat circling the bedroom.
Sqreek sqreek sqreek!
sqreeks the beam-dancing mouse.
Aaah-ooh Aaah-ooh Aaah-ooh
wail the Hallelujah Singers, while
BOOM-de-de BOOM-de-de BOOM-de-de
boom the drums outside the house.

Rawk-rawk rawk-rawk rawk-rawk
is the chickens’ contribution.
Yip yip rustle,
from the wild dogs in the leaves.
The mad gunning of engine,
from a late-returning truck, and
POPPITY poppity poppity POP!
There’s a woodpecker in the eaves.

Immersed in all this noise,
there's nothing to be done.
But tomorrow’s bedtime tot
will be a quadruple shot of rum.

Friday, 17 September 2004

Extremities

I have just nipped back to the house to make myself a lovely coffee with cinnamon and honey, only to witness on my way one of the female grazers whacking her cows in an exaggerated fashion. I have never heard such a ‘Wharummph!’ before. Perhaps she was wishing it was her husband.

While I wait for the kettle to boil yet another new and strange creature whizzes past my head. It is an insect. The size of a small bird. With rapidly whirring wings and the sound of someone imitating an aeroplane. It’s like a kid's toy, all bright green and yellow.

As I drink the coffee I notice something is amiss about the house. Finally I realise that the netting The Husband has placed over his lovingly tended plants has been stolen. Bastards! They have obviously used the opportunity afforded by Milly’s day off. The netting is the third thing to go, the others being an iron and a brush. Clearly we are harbouring an extreme ironing champion in our midst.

The Candle Light Nite Club

So this town we went to had a nightclub. I had thought that the pinnacle of my African club-going was reached in Club Fantasy, Namibia, circa 1997, but I was wrong. I hadn’t been to Candle Light Nite Club in Zambia, circa 2004. I hereby extend an invitation to our friends DJ Dan and Dr Emily to join us some time at this illustrious place - the DJ is secreted away in a high high crow's nest box thing at the back. Safe from fans, oh yes!!

Candle Light does not have screaming red walls, which is a disappointment. It does, however, have more than its fair share of mirrors. All the local chaps line up in front of the mirrors to watch themselves move. There is even some, ahem, breakdancing. I am itching to start up The Macarena (not really).

The middle of the dancefloor is empty. This is a prime target for a dancefloor terrorist like me. Some local ladies try to show me the African booty shake. It’s too slow for me. My arse is big and wants to go faster. The glitterball can’t keep up. Neither can the chap who appears next to me who is intent on translating every word of the Zambian song on the turntable. He tells me the refrain is ‘How happy I am to have met you’. Later he comes by to tell me that actually it is ‘How lucky I am to have met you.’ By this point I am so many vodkas into the night that I can’t tell if he’s talking about me or the song.

Fifty of us pile into a wrecked saloon car, to drive ten metres down the dirt road to where we are staying.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Yawn, Another Terror Alert

Having recently finished A Dry White Season by Andre Brink, this quote has stayed with me:
"Terrorism. And I'm not referring only to the actions of the trained terrorist but also to those of an organised state whose institutions endanger one's essential humanity".
Something for Dubya to think about? If he could think, that is.

A Dodgy Road Trip

We went to a nearby town last weekend, to drink with some other Mzungus. I have only just recovered from the trip. It was an hour and a half drive over some of the foulest ‘road’ I have ever seen. It is nominally an ungraded dirt road, but in many places it is just bedrock.

On the way all I could think was that these people better be worth visiting. Luckily they were, as by the time we got there my intestines were coming out my ears.

The Europeans mostly work at the hospital. The road in to the hospital is full of potholes, many of them several feet deep. The hospital has just been donated a new Land Rover ambulance, complete with flashing blue light. I dread to think. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Eat Your Heart Out Beaker

The Husband’s inventive spirit is alive and well. He has just announced that he wants to make a giant outside thermometer from a round bottomed flask and some meths. I am too hot to ask how/where he is going to get these things from. He asks me if I remember the flasks from Chemistry class. Oh yes, I remember. You mustn’t absentmindedly put the flask down on the desk…My fear is that some passing drunkstrel will upend the thermometer and drink the meths.

Rats!

I IM my brother to tell him I am having bushchicken for dinner. He wants to know if this is some kind of rat. Bushchicken is what we call those scrawny scraggy loud things that run about, not really being looked after and making lots of noise and keeping us awake at night. Basically, to eat one is like chewing a boiled shoe. That’s still attached to a foot.

I collar Chief and ask him how I should cook this thing. He wants to know how strong my teeth are.

I decide to ask Milly to cook it for me. My Lamba is not very good, nor is her English. Mostly we communicate by smiling and pointing. It’s a bit Monty Python. Although at this stage the chicken is quite Withnail & I – we even have that kettle. I gesticulate at the chicken, the pot and the cooker. Milly smiles. Yes Madam. Hurrah, I think, we’re making progress.

As I am walking out the door Milly enquires, Madam, pieces? Yes please, I say, and carry on back to the office. It is only as I sit here that I realise that pieces will probably mean the inclusion of skull and claws in the pot. Where is The Dog…

Chicken Tonight

Even Chief has had enough of the damn chickens, and made a decision to murder a few. He asked Lovely Milly to dress one for us. I’m not sure why that term is used – I came home last night to find a naked chicken propped up in the kitchen staring at me. It looked like something out of The Muppet Show. I made soya mince for dinner.

Saturday, 11 September 2004

Not The Nine O'Clock News

Just as well the vegetarian thing hasn’t started yet; last night there was a work barbecue, where one of the little piggies met his end. As with all true African barbecues, we spent the night in complete darkness while tin plates of unidentifiable pieces of animal were passed round. Mostly it was good, although I did spend a large portion of the evening praying that I wasn’t going to pick out an ear or a piece of intestine. Such things are surreptitiously thrown to The Dog. The Dog is not well today; he has overindulged.

This morning I had to do a vegetable appraisal. Everything is rotting. In the fridge, out of it, in dark cupboards, in cardboard, in plastic, in the open air – doesn’t matter. Rot, rot, rot. I started with the sweet potatoes. The first one I picked out had a hole in the top. Not a big one, but noticeable. So I look at the hole, and a wormthing looks back at me. He is not much bigger than a pin head, but I can see two black eyes on his sickly white body, and two little horn things on top of his head. He starts bobbing in and out of the hole like a meerkat. I am repulsed and fascinated in equal measure. I put the potato to one side, and start dealing with the others which have grown black furry beards, but every five minutes I am compelled to pick up the first potato and watch wormthing bobbing in and out. It is sickening, but riveting.

We are teaching people here how to make preserved foodstuffs, for when times are lean and there’s nothing fresh. The Husband has made several jars of chilli and chutney for our house. It is all fermenting. Shall I just stop eating altogether?

Friday, 10 September 2004

Vegetarianism

Mmmm. Yes. Once I’ve had that last piece of steak I am going the way of the lentilburger. For two reasons – chicken and something unrecognisable to humankind.

Despite being in the fridge and not past the use by date, the chicken we bought in town has gone off. Have you every smelt really really gone off meat? GAG.

Also, The Husband did his usual trick of putting something on to cook and then running away, in the hope of starting a large fire (he is a pyromaniac), so I was left to remove The Dog’s offal from the brazier outside. I don’t know what was in that pot, but it looked like no part of any animal I’ve ever seen. I think it came direct from Roswell. MORE GAG.

Still Hot. Even the fridge is sweating, and making my courgettes all furry.

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

More hot

It’s so HOT.

Today is not as good as yesterday.

Yesterday I spent the day on the back of a motorbike driving through the forest taking photographs of trees. That was a good day.

Also yesterday I had steak. Yum. They killed one of the cows here. I must admit there is something a bit odd about living on a farm and eating meat. I might be convinced to turn vegetarian if it weren’t for the fact that we were reduced to eating so many lentils last month.

We were supposed to have the steak on Saturday but when we got back from town someone had put it in the freezer and it was rock solid. Chief suggested that The Husband could hack pieces off it with his Global knife. I caught The Husband just before he fainted.

Tuesday, 7 September 2004

Hot Update

It's not that the update itself is hot, or in any way interesting. Just that it's HOT HERE.

South Africa, Take A Bow

The latest news on our shipping stuff is that it is still stuck in Durban because of some OFFICE NUMPTY.

Along with our personal things are a couple of boxes of goods donated to the project. They include school uniforms kindly donated by some people in the UK for the school here. Our shipping agent has told us that he has been fined USD$1800 (yes folks, you read that right) for ‘misrepresentation’.

Apparently South African customs no longer accept labels such as “50kg of donated school uniforms”. No sirree, you must account for each and every single item in the box. Size, shape, colour, material etc. In the manner of “One boy’s school tie, blue, 60cm, rayon, slight stain on front”. For every single item. Like that’s an appropriate use of anyone’s time.

Should pose some interesting problems when we next want to ship out tractor parts. One bolt 10cm steel. Another bolt 10cm steel. And another one. Well done, RSA, you are this month’s prizewinner in the ‘How Best To Screw Up Humanitarian Aid” competition.

Although Honourable Mention must go to the fine staff at Barclays Bank in Ndola, who have been siphoning money out of the project account and denying all knowledge of it. Luckily this has been rectified. I was threatening to go to the bank myself, and I can make bank tellers cry. And call centre staff. But that’s another story. Which involves wine. Nice wine. Not like the gnat’s piss I inadvertently bought in Ndola at the weekend.

Monday, 6 September 2004

I Am Like Einstein

Apparently I am an intellectual after all.

Here Is The News

Some snippets from the Zambian newspapers at the weekend: The government has declared HIV/AIDS an emergency to allow ARVs to be manufactured in Zambia. (Currently only 7% of people infected are being treated.)

Local Authorities are issuing housing bonds through the Lusaka Stock Exchange because they are unable to provide basic housing due to lack of funds.

The recommended changes to the Zambian Constitution will be ready in April 2005. Submissions have been accepted from the populace. The chairman of the Constitution Review Committee was quoted thus in the Saturday Post: “The numbers of people who submitted reflected the temperature of the nation. The blind came to submit and even mad people have come to submit”. (How did they know they were mad? What were the mad people’s submissions??)

Most Lusaka lodges are being used as brothels.

The State is worried about the rate of deforestation in the country.

Ticks can be quite deadly to goats.

Elephants are classed as key-stone species, one of the three natural architects of the bush. The other two are fire and water. (Go the elephants!)

Zambia has the second-largest number of orphans in the world.

Chief Matipa of Chilubi has been ordered to stop thrashing his subjects with a cane.

The secretary of the Christian Council of Zambia is quoted in the Zambia Daily Mail as saying that “education should be based on Christian principles so as to build a God-fearing nation”.

The World Bank country manager is quoted as saying that as a bank they “pride themselves as fighters of poverty in the developing countries”. (I wonder how many people would agree with that???)

Prof. Emma is back with good medicines. Will cure many things including ‘things moving in body’, ‘power failure’, ‘sugar problems’ and ‘paining tongue’.

Friday, 3 September 2004

Sleep, Sleep, My Queendom For Some Sleep!

Despite the LARGE earplugs sleep has been denied me again. And I’m not good when I haven’t had any sleep, as The Husband who is sitting in the bottom of the garden far far away from me will testify to.

For some reason it seems to be the season of setting fire to things in the middle of the night. I am reliably told that it’s a legit form of clearing the land for agriculture, but have yet to figure out why they can’t do it in the daytime. Anyway, someone lit one of these things real near by. So at 1am I think I can hear rain, because of this loud spitting noise. Impossible (and I love how you can say that with surety here!). So I get up to investigate and discover a large blaze. It continues until about 7am.

Throughout the night the fire is joined first of all by cows. Can I just wonder out loud, who first said that cows go ‘Moo’? They don’t. Bloody things go ‘Myrrh’ deep down in their chests. It’s not a sweet little delicate ‘Moo’ at all.

Then the cockerels wake up. The full moon has rolled around again, and so they start yodelling at what they think is dawn. The wild ginger tom that lives in the coffee bushes (mmm, kids’ storybook character there…) decides he won’t be left out of the chorus, so he starts wailing. It’s rounded off by another hymn-singer out there somewhere.

I’m off to raid the Medical Kit. I’m sure my sister-in-law must have put some heavy-duty sleeping pills in there...

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

How To Throw A Party

So my friend J asked me for my thoughts on how to throw a successful party. Which led to a top ten tips (except there are only nine). But essentially I was considering the fact that she was throwing the party in a fancy apartment in London. Which got me thinking of the top ten tips for throwing a party here. So taking a list for a soiree in Hampstead, London, what would that list look like for a gathering in the African bush? Compared and contrasted below…
1. Make sure you yourself are at least tipsy before anyone else arrives.
2. They will all be late, so don't panic if you said eight and no-one has showed up at ten. They will.
3. Have one fabulous thing that everyone will remember. I recommend a good jug of cocktail.
4. Make sure you have lots of loo roll. In fact, hide an emergency one in your room for your own personal use. No matter how much you buy it will run out.
5. Have lots of bowls of nibbly things scattered around the room so that people have something to do with their hands. Doesn't have to be anything fancy, Pringles will do. Or Twiglets.
6. At the very beginning when it is just you, Colin from Accounts and Kevin the doorman, be very busy so that they are forced to talk to each other and not look to you as 'the entertainment'. That way when everyone else arrives you are not frozen in the spotlight like a rabbit in headlights.
7. Have good music. Don't be a stereohog, and actively discourage it in others too.
8. Wear fabulous shoes.
10. Have fun!


1. Make sure you yourself are at least tipsy before anyone else arrives.
2. They will all be late, so don’t panic if you said six and no-one has showed up at eight. They will.
3. Calculate how many crates of beer you need, and then multiply by a factor of at least ten.
4. Say goodbye to any plants in the garden that you might be fond of. The men will spend the night pissing on them. (The women will simply increase the power of their phenomenally strong bladders.)
5. Don’t bother making food. Unless it is a whole roast animal, no-one will eat it. Mostly they will poke it about, laughing at what Muzungus eat.
6. You are the entertainment. Drink more, so that you will be able to converse with everyone, despite the language difference.
7. No matter how drunk you get, do not – I repeat, do NOT – treat the fact that you have no stereo as the ideal opportunity to unleash your (awful) singing voice. You will be drowned out by everyone else there, all of whom could give the likes of Charlotte Church a run for her money.
8. Wear tough leather boots to repel snakes, scorpions and stray puddles of wee.
10. Have fun!