Monday, 31 January 2005

Pants - Of Both The Inside And Outside Variety

*Warning: This story contains tracksuit bottoms. Or more precisely 'Yoga Pants'. Which are tracksuit bottoms for those who used to live in Islington.

**Disclaimer: I do not look like Britney 'ChavHo' Spears in my Yoga Pants. Yes, I realise Yoga Pants are nonetheless ugly. They are however, v v comfortable.

***Note: Some people call pants for the outside 'trousers'. Others call them 'pants'. This can lead to confusion. Just to clarify, Yoga Pants (Tracksuit Bottoms) go on the outside. Some people call pants for the inside 'pants'. Other people call them 'knickers'. I hope you are following.

****Note 2: In this instance the 'washroom' is a brick construction with a bucket inside for throwing water over yourself and going splish-splosh. It is not to be confused with a Western™ version of a washroom, restroom, bathroom, cloakroom, loo or any other variation on the above.

Let Us Begin....I drag myself bleary-eyed to the washroom. The cold muddy water does little to wake me from my half-sleeping state. I fumble about for my clothes, hopping and bopping trying to get into them. It's dark in there. Mushrooms grow out of one of the walls.

I am walking the 50m back to the house through the wide open plains of knee-high grass. I feel something in my Yoga Pants. Something which shouldn't be there. Something big and hard and suspiciously critter-like. Possibly some horrible beetle-thing. It's bumping off my thigh as I walk. What to do?

The house is still too far away to wait till I get home for examination. But I am in full view of all and sundry walking past. I cannot pull down my Yoga Pants in public. But the thing, the thing! The weird hard beetley thing which JUST SHOULDN'T BE IN MY PANTS oh hell what did I do to deserve this?

They have to come down. Screw it, they all think I'm mad anyway. What's a little flashing on a Sunday morning? And at least I am wearing cute knickers.

I yank down the Yoga Pants. And there, tapping away at my thigh, is the toggle from the drawstring of those self-same Yoga Pants, which I have put on inside-out. I yank them back up and run away. Very quickly.

Thursday, 27 January 2005

Spam Tips

I hate spam. I hate marketing emails of any kind. I hate e-newsletters, bulletins, announcements or anything similar.

In particular if I could get hold of whoever is Head Of E-Business (In Charge Of Spam) at Sofa Workshop I would bury them in one of their creations and sew it up tight.

But here's a thing. About 5 months ago I was browsing on Amazon. Sign up for personal recommendations by regular e-bulletin it said, over and over again on flashy things. I got to thinking that actually this might be one bulletin I might like to receive. I have no access to papers or magazines with book reviews, or friends' recommendations, and I'd hate to think I was missing out on a good book.

So I signed up. 5 months ago. I haven't heard a dickie bird since. Nada, zip, zilch, nothing. Seems like if you actually want something everyone runs away rather than give it to you. Wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member and all that jazz.

*UPDATE 28 Jan 05 - You couldn't make this stuff up. E-bulletin from Amazon in my inbox this morning. Their top book recommendation for me? The Complete Guide To Scrapbooking: 100 techniques and 25 Projects Plus a Swipefile of Motifs and Mottoes. Gee, I've really hacked somebody off!

Anything Is Possible

Concrete Jungle

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

For The Love Of Language

The English Language. Constantly mutating. Can someone please tell me what deep discounts are? As in:

"Eurotunnel is planning to copy budget airlines' policy of offering deep discounts to customers who book early."

Is it because it's a tunnel? Because they're deeply-indebted?

Any More For Any More?


Ooooh a war. A bidding war. Excellent. Do I hear any higher offers?

*I've just lifted this from the Guardian. Shouldn't there be an apostrophe?

Wednesday Weekly


Tuesday, 25 January 2005

For Your Perusal

Those of you who got your knickers in a twist at my post yesterday which said that all was not well in the world for women, might like to read here about the difficulties little girls have in getting an education, or this article which demonstrates how wonderfully UK female politicians are treated, or here how men treat their wives and money. Of course if you're bored by all this talk of women, Monbiot is today talking about Mercenaries, a far more manly subject.

And whatever you might think of Microsoft's monopoly and stranglehold on the software market, at least Bill Gates is doing something with the profit.

Grover & Mubs Special Announcement

Bloggies 2005

Beware The Bandwidth Bandits

There is a rumour going about that I am a finalist in the 2005 Bloggies. I wouldn't know, as mysteriously all their bandwith has gone too and I CAN'T ACCESS THE SITE. How annoying is that?

Anyway, if it is true, and if anyone manages to get on there, it would be cool if you voted for me.

Monday, 24 January 2005

This Is What 'Freedom' Looks Like

Good job Dubya on 'freeing' the women of Iraq.

How many of my female readers support a women's group? All of you, I hope. It is unacceptable to treat half the human population as second class citizens.

Equality Now

Venus in Furs

We go to a staff member's leaving party on Saturday. The rain is torrential, and someone has perilously erected some canvas sheeting over some poles to provide shelter outside. As the rain belts down the canvas sags lower and lower until it becomes obvious that we must leave or drown.

We rush for the small one-room house, which is lit only by a hurricane lamp. We watch as, like dominoes, first the barbecue collapses, shooting sparks into the night sky, then the canvas falls, spilling water everywhere.

Inside there is dancing. Every track on the portable cassette player sounds the same - monotonous kwasa kwasa. Party games commence. A woman is asked to name five things she likes about her neighbour. She begins, 'I like her because she is fat'.

Next is joke-telling. One after another five men take the floor to tell a joke. Although they speak in English, I don't get them. I think the humour is supposed to be found in the fact that they are talking about other tribes in the country and telling of their dull children and slow wit.

The Man In Charge Of Drinks comes round every five minutes trying to press another Coke on me. My teeth are already screaming in agony from the sugar, so each time I lie and tell him I already have a bottle. Then The Woman In Charge Of Food appears. She is magnificent. Her wig of choice that night is a braided turban-style. She sports hospital clogs and she is wearing a fur coat. She majestically passes round a plate of chicken. I like eating chicken, it is one less running around to annoy me.

Saturday, 22 January 2005

Heroes Day

Well now, doesn't it just break your heart when someone up and does something lovely for you? Huge thanks to my Other Brother who has just sent me not one, but four, wonderful books.

The books I got were Hidden Agendas, Globalization And Its Discontents, On The Justice Of Roosting Chickens, and Anarchy!.

They are especially welcome in light of the fact that Cape Town has the most frustrating bookstores in the world - packed to the hilt with amazing stuff, and an average paperback retailing at £14!!! Most of the population must never read at that price. The only thing I (painfully) forked out for was Stitched Up: Who Fashions Women's Lives?.

What intrigues me however is the fact that these and similar books have been on my Amazon wishlist for a long time now, and while I am very thankful to others who have also bought me books, there does seem to have been a trend of 'Oooh, scary political books with funny titles. Let's get her a novel instead'. When in fact it is those very books which are difficult to obtain, never available to grab dashing through an airport or whatever.

It's akin to the fact that if I post something funny about the animals which torment me here in the bush, there will be a barrage of comments, but often (granted, not always) a 'political' post will see tumbleweed blowing about the comments box. What is everybody so afraid of?

Although, having just read this article in the Guardian (where else?) I am glad that Genoa was one particular demonstration that my brother didn't make it to.

Anyway I am making today my own Heroes Day, dedicated to those people everywhere who are not afraid to speak out, to question, and most of all, to act, in pursuit of making this world we inhabit a better place to be.

Thursday, 20 January 2005

Where Once Was None

We finished building this dam back in November and it's filled up nicely as we've had a lot of rain. That blob in the distance on the dam wall is me, and yes that is an electricity pylon in the background - so near and yet so far. It goes to one of the big farms in this area. We're still campaigning for them to bring electricity to our project, and the reason it's stalled is a whole other story of in-fighting and corruption...

Building the dam should raise the water table, thus making it easier to dig wells for clean water. Ideally the dam will also help the community start new ventures - now that there's a water source they could graze animals, and also grow crops in the dry season as there's now a source of irrigation. Here's hoping.

On The Road Again

Yes, those two faint lines in the grass mark the 'road' to the new dam. It's fuzzy because a 40 year old Land Rover is not the smoothest ride.

Wednesday, 19 January 2005

Look Away If You're An Arachnophobe

Euw! The Husband reckons a spider has laid eggs in his 'puter, as hundreds of little spiders having come running out of his keyboard.

My Smartass Brother

Me: How long will it take me to learn Dreamweaver?
MSB: Dreamweaver - you'll be operational within two days I'd say.
Me: Really? I opened it and it was all confusing.
MSB: So is a piano, but you only need to hit the white bits.

Wednesday Weekly


Stop With The Stealing Already

Sheesh, what a night. Yesterday we heard that someone had broken into the school at the weekend and stolen their solar power and computer.

Then three guys had tried to steal the solar panel from the borehole at the clinic. One of the security guards chased them away with a catapult...

Anyway, last night I went into the bedroom to get a book and found some strange man searching the room with a torch, no doubt looking for booty. I shut the door on him and held it while I yelled for The Husband, but I guess the guy's desire to escape was stronger than my desire to capture him - he wrenched the door open, giving me a nice gash on my arm in the process, and ran off. It doesn't appear that he's stolen anything, but you never know with burglaries. In a month's time I'll be like 'Hmm I'm sure I used to have a watch...and didn't we used to own a calculator?'

Monday, 17 January 2005

Stream of Consciousness

Well I'm back.

Cape Town was great. So great that it makes coming back here a bit depressing. I have gained many many pounds and also spent many many pounds. Mostly we just ate for three weeks, food being a novelty and all. I had resolved to try and be a bit healthier on my return, but there was a parcel of chocolate waiting for me, and I couldn't leave it sitting there all lonely and sad in its wrapper.

And what about that Tsunami eh? Not to denigrate a horrific occurrence, but approximately 165,00 people died in the Tsunami. Worldwide in developing countries 210,000 people die EVERY WEEK because of POVERTY. Unlike a Tsunami, poverty is preventable. Go here now.

I think I've forgotten how to write, hence the title of this post. Random stuff as it occurs. Sleb Factor - Kenneth Kaunda was on our plane on the way home. He didn't have to stand in line to get through customs and immigration.

On our return I had to sweep two dead bats being eaten by maggots and a kilo of voleshit out of the bedroom. Someone has been using our longdrop in our absence in a most unhygienic manner. It is bluebottle hell in there.

I have two green slips. I think there are presents waiting for me from my brother, but can I face The Post Office...?

It's a very segregated place, Cape Town. We got stared at in clubs for being the only white people, stared at in clubs for being the only straight people, stared at in clubs for being the only people not covered in bling.

I thought about doing a tour of the Cape Flats, but then felt that it would be a bit like a busman's holiday.

We went to Robben Island though. I have to say it left me very underwhelmed. I visited the site of Auschwitz many years ago, where visitors were allowed to browse the writings, photos, exhibits, wander around etc. It's a haunting place and the magnitude of the horrors committed there is palpable. On Robben Island you are put on a bus and driven around accompanied by a tour guide. When you get to the end of it you are rushed on to the ferry again and taken back to the mainland. There is no time to ponder, wander, take time to think about it.

The thing that most struck me was the beautiful view! You look off the island onto blue sea and sky and the white beach of Bloubergstrand. There are no writings or displays talking about the ANC, the political situation, their motives, etc etc.

We saw Nelson Mandela's cell. Sure it's small, it's cramped, I wouldn't like to live there for 20 years, but to be honest it didn't look much different from any other prison cell. I doubt it's any worse than a cell in a UK prison today. The guy who showed us round the cells was an ex-prisoner. He said he was incarcerated for blowing things up. I should imagine most people would be locked up for setting off bombs.

Where was the context? A philosophical look at how to differentiate between Freedom Fighting and Terrorism? Nothing about the Namibians who were also incarcerated. Interesting fact - another reason Zambia is so poor is that it has spent millions on supporting refugees from surrounding countries, in particular ANC members. Might be nice if they could get some payback for their support for fighting apartheid. Also, something not quite right about being on Robben Island and saying 'how awful' when no-one is doing anything about Guantanamo Bay.

Cape Town has a real creative buzz about it. Everywhere you go people are selling really cool works of art and craft, nearly all of them going to support projects to do with poverty alleviation and AIDS work. I haven't seen anything like that in Zambia. The Husband wonders if a people has reached rock bottom maybe they can never get up again. Even just walking into a shop in Lusaka, everyone is so sour and miserable. They can hardly be bothered to meet your eye or answer your question.

We had a top night at a drum club - nothing like pounding away on a djembe to get your spirits up. Might be time to dust off my own djembe and get drumming again. I went to a CD store to get some good drumming CDs, and what was the first thing that assaulted my eyes when I walked in the door? Katie Mehlua. Hoor.

Hey, the sawmill is back! Apparently Chief went with some guys across the border and got it back no problem. And the guy who gave it away in the first place, and then claimed he would need thousands of pounds to get it back from Congo, is still working here. Don't ask me about Zambian employment law - it would probably be easier to shoot the guy dead than to try and sack him.

While we were away one of the teachers died from 'sickness' (AIDS). Obviously it's sad when anyone dies, but it is a blow to the school. It is so hard to recruit teachers - nobody wants to live in the bush. Our creche teacher has gone on maternity leave, and we can't replace her because there is no spare housing. No matter how much we fundraise no-one will give money for housing or vehicles, the two things we need desperately and can't function without. Any readers know any rich people willing to give some of their cash away to a good cause?

Oh I'm sure there's more, but I'm equally sure it must be lunchtime.