|Cor! I heard THAT one connect!|
Although for a child the lifestyle here at the end of the road to the Barra de Kwanza is idyllic, a child could still become bored. And bored children get up to mischief. The devil just loves idle hands.
I have about half a dozen boats stored on my land. I remember when I had a boat and the awful hassle to trailer it all the way from the city to here and then, knackered after a day’s fishing, trailer it all the way back again. So naturally I was delighted to let first one and then, as word got around, more keen sportfishing boat owners park their boats here. I don’t charge them anything. For a start, they will form the kernel of the client base for the restaurant so I will get paid in kind. They also take the boys and I fishing regularly. When you consider that to charter one of Rico’s boats next door for a day costs between $800 -$1200, I think their parking fees are more than adequately met. Still, even though the boats are parked here at owner’s risk, I bear a responsibility.
I had a ten year old boy staying with me. He is the son of the Filipino foreman building the house and new shop. I ran into him when I was visiting the site to check on progress (glacial) and was concerned when I realized he was living on site with his father. In this malarial environment, a half-finished house with no glass in the windows is hardly the place for a ten year old. Besides, building sites aren’t playgrounds, they are dangerous places. Now I didn’t know, or cared to know, about the personal circumstances of my site foreman that would leave him with no alternative but to accommodate his boy at his place of work but clearly, such a situation was unacceptable.
At the moment there are three of us living in the 16 square metres that will, once the house is built, be the kitchen of the new restaurant. Squeezed in there is a shelf unit for our clothes, a chest of drawers, a double bed, a sofa, a coffee table, a fridge, a freezer, an antique hall table on which sits the TV and my desk and chair. Never mind not having room to swing a cat, you couldn’t jam a cat in there.
So I told the foreman the boy could stay with us. There was a mosquito net over the sofa so he could sleep there. He would also be fed properly rather than surviving on the slops the building crew brewed up every night. I didn’t say this to the foreman but we could also give the boy a wash and a badly needed change of clothes. I saw the bright side. At least little Alex would have someone to play with instead of the urchins from the village who have turned stealing all his toys and anything else not bolted down into an art. What I should have realized, of course, was that keeping an eye on one little bandit is hard enough. Maintaining radar lock on two at the same time is damn near impossible.
I was sitting at my desk typing away when suddenly I heard a loud bang followed immediately by a whoosh and then an intense hissing noise.
I have not been on active service for many years now but there are some noises you never forget.
I was asleep at two in the morning on the first of the ten electricity generating plants I would build in Angola when I awoke with a start, pulled my trousers on and ran out of my accommodation unit and onto the site. Well illuminated as they were, I could see all the way down the two lines of generators and everything appeared normal. A night crew were busy pulling an alternator out for servicing and one of them, I noticed, was smoking. Bosses usually do not go for walks in the middle of the night so I guess I gave him a bit of a guilty start. I continued down the line until I got to the fuel farm, four big above ground tanks and that’s where I found the guard. His arm and leg had been shattered and he was covered in shrapnel wounds and bleeding profusely. The noise that had woken me up at the other end of the site, even with forty 1 Megawatt generators screaming away was the sound of the grenade, that someone had thrown over the security wall into the tank farm, going off. We had trauma packs on site and I knew how to use them so the poor lad survived and will be able to tell his grandchildren how a grenade exploded right next to him.
The noise I had just heard this time was a parachute flare going off. I wasn’t properly dressed, it was still early and I was only half way through my morning cup of tea. I had boots on but the laces weren’t tied. I ran so fast out of the room and towards the burning boat I actually managed to run out of my boots. As the tarpaulin covering the boat disintegrated into a plume of smoke and flame I saw Alex stand up, arms raised like little kids do when they want to be picked up and heard him scream, ‘DADDIIIIE!’. And I could hear others screaming too.
I hauled the tarp away and hoiked the kids out of the boat. The little bastards had climbed into the boat, discovered an interesting looking locker containing an interesting looking container containing interesting looking tubes and, well, we know the rest, don’t we?
Clearly, these kids needed something to keep them occupied. Some organized activity.
I tried to think of anything I was really good at. Then my brain started to hurt so I stopped that fruitless activity and tried to think of anything that anyone else within striking distance was good at.
Alex now gets four hours of professional golf lessons per week at the prestigious Mangais Golf Resort (the cheapeast meal in the restaurant there is the simple buffet at $100 per person). When I first went up there to ask about lessons the pro, Sr Gonçalo, said Alex was too small. So I made a donation and Alex grew suddenly. Sr Gonçalo likes Alex and spends a lot of time with him and it shows. I still have the clubs I bought for Dominic all those years ago. They are too big for Alex but he uses them to practice his swing at home. He is so keen he can spend the whole day knocking golf balls up and down our road. Right now we are sitting over at Rico’s place so Alex can stuff his face full of Spaghetti Bolognese and boiled cabbage, an unlikely combination I agree but his particular favorite, to give him the energy to knock balls around through the afternoon.
He is only four so it is hard to have a serious conversation with him but I think he would agree, golf is miles better than setting fire to boats.
|Blimey! It's gone miles!|