Friday, 6 April 2012

Well, it started out as a good day...

It was supposed to be a wonderful end to a wonderful day. Three other guys and I had moved tonnes of wood, we had enjoyed a chicken curry for lunch, we had caught loads of crabs and were looking forward to them for supper and then we got that feeling, the one that says something isn’t quite right.

We stopped work, we were only really tidying up anyway, and drifted down to the shop where Joaquim had been in charge all day, Marcia being on a supply run. It was packed and there were more arriving every second.

‘What the hell is going on Kimmie?’

‘Bota’s boat is overdue’

‘Shit, Kimmie, he’s just shacked up with one of is girlfriends up river, he’ll be back and he better bring me the bottle of Maruva he keeps promising me’

‘No, Sr Tomas, he went out to sea’

Shit. I mean real shit. I served him breakfast at about ten. He left soon after. High tide would have been about three in the afternoon so he would have thrown his nets before that and been due back about four pm. It was now eight at night. Who but a maniac would risk these seas? Yes, the fishing is great with these high tides but with the storms, the rain and an onshore wind driving you into the cliffs? It just isn’t worth it. Well, perhaps not to me but clearly Bota thought it was. I spent the day stacking wood while Bota got himself into all sorts of shit.

Everything happened pretty fast after that. Bota’s mother pitched up, my place has turned into a bit of a community centre, and she was followed by all the other female members of the family who, clearly convinced that Bota was now fish food, rolled themselves in the dirt shrieking and wailing while his brothers argued about who had title to his Landcruiser still parked, ever so lonely, on my beach.

‘Kimmie, I guarantee his engine has stuffed and he is drifting up to Luanda, let’s get the boats out’

I turned over the petrol store I kept for the generator and all the torches and batteries I had in the shop before diving next door to beg the only boat in the neighbourhood that had a powerful searchlight and twin engines off the South Africans only to be fucked off. I told them that I would pay full sticker for a day’s charter but I needed the boat. They said no. I said there were three blokes out there and if we moved quickly we just might find them. They said no. I pointed out the maritime code, the sort of marine Hippocratic oath to save any seaman in distress. They said no. I told them they were Boer bastard racist shits. They told me to fuck off.

I doubled back and helped launch the local boats feeling like a right cunt. They all thought that white on white I would get the big boat. What could I say?

So we went out in our 7 metre chatas with our forty horsepowers on the back, waving our torches and criss-crossing the area we knew Bota was likely to lay his nets with me pushing further north which is where he would drift if his engine went tits up suddenly. Then we saw the big boat come out but it came no further than the break, sauntering up and down the river mouth uselessly and blinding us with the searchlight we really needed out at sea. Everyone in the village who had a mobile phone had handed them out. I had mine but Marcia’s was on the boat behind me. In the rush no-one had explained what numbers to ring so it was a while before the message got through to me that Bota had been picked up. One by one, we all headed in and joined a real beach party. One of the South Africans joined us.

‘Why didn’t you cross the break?’ I asked.

‘It’s Rico’s boat’ he said.

I wanted to ask him what on earth was the point of launching the big boat and burning all that gas just to run up and down the river mouth but then I would have made the fundamental error of assuming that just because a man is white, he is somehow superior in intelligence.

Don’t get me wrong, they generally are, blessed with better education and opportunity but clearly Boers are an inbred exception to the rule.

‘Fuck you, you bastard’ was all I said.

I had a great day and then a real scare. It is midnight and I am soaking wet having spent the evening bouncing about the Atlantic so you might excuse me for being a little crusty. I’ve got eyes like salt encrusted saucers, an adrenalin fuelled nervousness which has already taken me way beyond bedtime. You try standing up in the bow of a boat swallowing all the ocean can throw at you while frantically searching for a mate.

And do you know what the little shit did when we got him ashore? I told him I was only worried about him because he had an unpaid account at my shop. So he helped himself to a bottle of Champagne from my cooler and pissed off home.


  1. Sefrikanners give me the shits. The Brits should've let Harry Morant and Peter Handcock shoot more of the bastards - No! Shoot ALL of the bastards!

  2. Now that was a bit of a toss verdict, wasn't it? Poor bastards.

    But then it was Brit politicians that folded,

  3. Life is never dull chez vous.

    Glad Bota is okay. Did he bring the bottle of Maruva? Or is he saving that for another time?


  4. That's a major relief then Tom, that your guy's alright. Scary stuff being lost out at sea in high swells.

    This lack of moral code these days doesn't just apply to the seas, it's everywhere.

    You did the right thing Tom, and that's the main thing. Maybe (aswell as your clinic) you could start the Angolan equivalent of the RNLI?

  5. As always admirable action on your part, and that includes the swearing. However, let's take this down another road: It's a serious question, one I have often pondered on myself: Once we are a parent is it permissible to put ourselves at risk for a (relative) stranger? You may die a hero or heroine but - to your child - you'd still be dead.


  6. A very good point, Ursula but I prefer to think of it this way. If you weren't around and your kid fell into the sea, would you want me to dive in and get him or stand there watching? I hope that there would be someone around who felt the way I do if my lads ever got into problems.

  7. One nil. You got me there. Next time I'll think before I speak.

    To widen my reasoning a little further than the emergency you refer to: What of women(and, yes, to me it's a woman thing because men are destined to go for adventure)who deliberately put themselves at danger whilst having a litter back at home? Say, war correspondents, sailing an ocean, climbing a mountain - to prove what exactly? If you want to do those things fine - but don't do them whilst your brood is, emotionally, still totally dependent on you. I know it sounds harsh but I have no time for women like that; all I have is contempt. And spare me the tears when they find the "body", and the children are 'orphaned'. I know some people (probably women)will not like my being gender biased. But that's it, isn't it: Men will be men. And woman with child should rarely venture further than the vegetable garden outside the cave. Oh my god, Tom. Let's hope no one will read what I've just written. I'll be dead.

    And yes, I too will jump after your "lads" and anyone else in dire straits.


  8. Well I think you have reasoned this out perfectly adequately by yourself, Ursula. To wilfully place yourself in danger for personal gratification while abrogating the burden of responsibility for those who depend on you is vanity in its vilest form and hardly heroic, just irresponsible and contributes little to society. But which of us would think twice before running into a burning building to rescue a babe in arms?

    But what about those people who for whatever reason decide on a career that will benefit society and accept the risks inherent to their trade? Are they to forsake the joy of a family? Should they cease to serve society in their own highly specialised way the moment they get married and have children? If so, we are going to be awfully short of lifeboat men, firemen, policemen, trawler men, commercial divers and, of course, bomb disposal officers.

  9. Hippo, you are a man. I'm glad to hear Sr. Bota is fine.

    I'd rather my children know that helping others is the highest and best calling, even if it means sacrifice. Really, as I was raised, there is no other life.

  10. Josh,

    Sr Bota has cleared his slate at the shop so he can go and drown himself now. No, thinking about it, he is one of my best customers so I suppose I had better keep an eye on him. And he lends me his boat from which I caught all those fish...

    Ursula is right in one fundamental respect, though, our first priority, our primary duty, is to our family. A sudden emergency may call for extraordinary behaviour but, day to day, she is right.

  11. Megan, I did not get my Maruva. Mind you I have not reminded Bota of this but I will today.

    The reason I did not get it though has nothing to do with any lethargy on Bota's part but with Marcia telling him she does not want me to drink the stuff.

    It's just palm tree juice, what could be so bad about that? Wait 'til I tell her that I want to stop smoking forty fags a day and instead smoke Liamba 'cos it's healthier...

    That'll get her going.


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