Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Luanda Nightlife

Miss Universe.  Angolan.  A rather shabby example of what us chaps have to put up with here.

After a very promising start it suddenly and mysteriously died a couple of years ago.  Since their intrepid correspondents laughed in the face of danger as they risked all testing the food Luanda has to offer, I assumed they’d visited a dodgy place and all perished from food poisoning but no.  The original authors (Frenchmen desperate for culinary solace) finally came to the ends of their contracts leaving Luanda Nightlife bereft of authors willing to spend their evenings scouring the city for good food and then writing about it afterwards.

Until, that is, Claudio Silva, epicure and man-about-town, picked up the regimental colours discarded by the French, rallied his remaining troops and marched victorious once more into the Blogosphere.
Claudio Silva.  He is witty, intelligent, knows about food, can manage a website, his job, his own life and speaks perfect English.  And he is Angolan.  Fuck me.

Angola, and Luanda in particular is booming.  There are new restaurants opening all the time.  Nearly twenty years ago, when I arrived here, there were only about half a dozen places it was half safe for an expat to dine, the prices were generally eye-watering and the food uninspiring.  I kid you not, my colleagues and I preferred to buy chicken grilled by the roadside.  The food was no better but at least it cost bugger all by comparison, was served quickly along with a cold beer and we had loads of friendly Angolans to talk to. 

Now there are so many new and established restaurants, Luanda Nightlife can even categorize them according to ethnicity.  Fancy a Chinese? Lebanese? Italian?  Check Luanda Nightlife out.  I never knew that there are now Mexican and Nordic restaurants in town (what do Nordic restaurants specialize in? Pickled fish and whale steaks? I don’t know, I shall have to go and find out).  LNL also categorizes by average price (bloody useful if you are on a daily ration allowance or wish to avoid the gut churning feeling that fear of the final bill causes) as well as by name and offer decent directions to each place they review.  Finally, and this has to be all down to Sr. Silva, it is largely bi-lingual so Angolans are contributing to the review data base.

In the old days, routine and lack of diversion ground people down.  Sure, some went the disco/whorehouse route but the majority just sat in their staff houses going slowly stir crazy.  Now, with Luanda Nightlife, there is no need to be bored.

Claudio would love to collate the experience of other diners so even though Fat Hippo’s isn’t open yet, I am thinking of ghost writing my own reviews:

‘Fat Hippo’s!  Wonderful cuisine!  Now that’s what I fucking call fucking cooking and a fucking well run fucking restaurant.  Pity the owner’s a fucking twat.’  Some Scottish failed footballer who visited claiming to be an international Chef.

‘An epicurean delight and such value for money!  I even received a bit of change for a thousand dollars!  If the owner hadn’t been such a twat and our accounts department been so strict, I’d have given them a tip.’  Hewlett Packard Executive celebrating his company’s recent acquisition.

‘Friendly, well trained staff and the waitresses are so beautiful, if a little expensive, especially since the owner, who is a twat, refused to add them to the invoice’.  Visiting British politician on a tax payer funded fact finding trip to Angola, name withheld pending proposed Gagged Press legislation.

‘Fookin’ Ace!  I stoofed me gob, got pissed as a rat and puked up al oer mesel.  Owner’s a bit of a twat like but tisn’t his fault, he din’t go to a gud skool like what I did.  Nowahimeen?’  Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to Angola.

‘The food, if any lucid individual could describe biological remains spewed onto cheap Chinese porcelain as such, was barely this side of mediocre and the décor, appalling pseudo Africanesque favored by those devoid of all taste.  As far as the staff are concerned, if I wish to be reminded of the female form, I shall do what any Gentleman would and visit an art gallery.  Clearly, the owner is a twat but I confess to a certain fondness for his hat.’  Quentin Crisp.

Fat Hippo’s.  Opening soon.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Wanted: Ex Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) Farmers and a Decent Chef.


Chef: The successful applicant should be tall, slim, possess long shapely legs, firm breasts and a less than strict moral attitude to casual sex.  Being able to boil an egg an advantage.

Now that I am so near opening (so near is a relative term in Africa, but I live in hope), I need a Chef.  I like to cook and I like to think I am good at it but operating in a commercial environment is a whole new ball game.  With all the ill-gotten gains I have invested in this place it would be foolish to jeopardize the lot by being vain.  I need to employ a professional.

I like Angolan cuisine, to a degree.  It is a blend of Portuguese and ethnic African cooking.  I love Bacalhão com Natas, dried salted cod, soaked overnight and then baked in a cream sauce.  I adore Muamba da Galinha, tough local chicken braised for hours in a peanut sauce.  I have developed, after initial revulsion, a taste for Feijoada , a stew made with orange coloured palm oil, beans and all the fatty gristly bits of pork no-one in Europe eats.  I can even cope with Funge, the wallpaper glue-like paste made from powdered manioc.  I cannot stand the way they cook and serve steaks, wonderful cuts of meat fried to a grey leathery texture; chicken grilled to desiccation; tender fish fried in half an inch of oil, crispier and twice as deadly as high fat crisps; soggy chips served cold and clammy; sauces, grudgingly made consisting only of boiled up tinned skinned tomatoes and sliced onions.

The Angolan palate is becoming as sophisticated as that of the many expatriates working here so if Fat Hippo’s is to be a success, the menu has to be a little more inspiring than stews or everything else served dry or greasy without any sauces or gravies.  To be a hit here, I don’t need Haute Cuisine and especially not Nouvelle Bloody Cuisine, I need well prepared classics.  Venison medallions with wild mushroom sauce, spätzle and red cabbage; Pepper steak with salad and crispy chips; Chicken Ragout with steamed rice;  GrilledTuna steak with watercress and yoghurt salad and boiled new potatoes; Lasagne; an exotic curry; a selection of desserts.  Cro Magnon has just posted showing how easy it is to make paté.  As clients arrived we could put out a plate of petiscos for them to munch on while they slaked their thirst from the bar and made their selections.  With a decent chef, Fat Hippo’s could become famous for venison dishes as I can shoot as many bush buck and other game as I have rounds in the rifle.

But for this to work, I need to import a chef.

Yesterday, a mate of mine came to visit so I made up a load of lobster and a dill cream sauce.  He was outraged that I would build this restaurant and then not employ a local.  He said it was my duty to support the local community by employing as many of them as I could.  All well and good, my old German friend, but it won’t pay the bills if I go bust because the food is no better, just as crap, as everywhere else.  We got onto the subject of his coffee plantation which isn’t doing so well (he was visiting me to pay back, thankfully, the last load of money I lent him so he could pay his workforce until his harvest came in).

‘They are all thieving, ungrateful Schweine,’ he said.  ‘Every time I come up into town they steal everything and, and, DO NO WORK!’

‘Gosh’ I said pouring him another whisky and mixing it with Coca-Cola Zero (he is diabetic so has to be careful what he stuffs or pours down his throat).

‘I got back there this time’ he frothed, ‘and they have dug a Lavra (a smallholding) right across my perimeter road and into MY land!’

I could see he was outraged.  I felt for him, I really did.  I have a bit of a Land War going on as well.

‘You should buy a Gaz’ I said.

‘A Gaz?’

‘Yes.  You know, one of those big old Russian trucks weighing a million tonnes with six wheel drive.  Then all you have to do is drive straight through the Lavra’.  It was wishful thinking on my part.  I’d love to do the same to these bastards here so I was surprised when he took me seriously.

‘I have a friend with a Gaz truck, I’ll do that as soon as I get back’.

‘Is he Angolan?’ I asked.

‘Yes, why?’

‘Best let him do the driving, me Alte Kumpel, or you as a white man will be in heaps of shit.’

This man is in his sixties and is surviving by the skin of his teeth and the Grace of God.

‘What I really need,’ he continued, ‘is a decent farm manager’

‘I agree’ I said, and I meant it.  A decent farm manager is exactly what he needs.  Two thousand hectares is more than enough for a young, fit man.  Clearly it was far too much for an old man who, through his lifestyle choice, had no sons to help him shoulder the burden or to whom he could leave the not inconsiderable fruits of a lifetime of struggle.  I have heard stories of old men, happily married all their lives, losing their soul mates only to die themselves within months.  If this man lost his farm, I would be burying him just as quick.  I have known him almost as long as I have been in Angola. Longer than I have known any woman. A year short of two decades.

‘Look,’ I said, ‘a percentage of something is better than 100% of nothing.  Why don’t you get one of the farmers that Mugabe tossed out and do a deal with him?  These guys carved successful farms out of nothing, vacant bush, a bloke like that would be ideal and you could let them live in the villa’.  His house is magnificent.  It was comprehensively trashed during the war but he has steadily rebuilt it over the last ten years.  He was born there.

‘It was just a thought,’ I pointed out, ‘but you are not getting anywhere at the moment, why not offer a share to someone who can really turn the farm around?  Otherwise you had better sell it and retire to Germany’.

‘Can you help me find someone?’ he asked.

‘Sure,’ I said, ‘can you help me find a Chef?’

The whole of Europe is in a massive depression as the Eurozone goes into meltdown.  Great minds struggle to balance books but unemployment continues to rise, 25% in some countries, and unpleasant cuts to social welfare are recommended.  Those who are in gainful employment in Europe lose over 60% of their salaries in direct and indirect taxation.  There is talk of debt, mortgages in particular, being passed on to offspring.  Legalized usury. 

I need a decent chef.  My old friend needs a decent farm manager.  If the countries of the Eurozone really want to reduce the social welfare burden, why is it impossible for me to log onto a DHSS website and offer these vacancies?  I travelled to find gainful employment rather than go on the dole, I can’t be unique.  I am sure that if others realized these opportunities existed, they would leap at the chance. The UK Prime Minister has stated that he will maintain aid to some very dodgy regimes.  Funding that will arrive at the top and never filter down to where it is needed.  Aid agencies, with the exception of those providing immediate disaster relief, are generally a complete and utter waste of time and, of course, money.

Neither I nor my old German friend is asking for an EU handout.  All we are asking for is access to a generally skilled and willing workforce.  We will pay their salaries.  We will arrange their visas.  We will arrange their flights and accommodation.  OK, between the two of us we will only take two people off the European social welfare bill but if my restaurant works, and Hermann the German’s farm kicks off, we can employ dozens of unemployed Angolans far more effectively and sustainably than any ‘aid’ project dreamt up by some Eurocrat with brains bulging out of his forehead. By providing a freely accessible data base of available workforce, the EU could, at no cost, reduce their social welfare costs and provide the skills required for sustainable development in places like Africa all funded by small, expatriate business.  Sure, we will take a share of the profits.  But like I said to my mate, a percentage of something is a damn sight better than 100% of nothing, and guess where the rest goes, yup, local salaries and sustainable development.

So I need a chef.  If you are the kind of person I need and have read this far, you know what I want and clearly have the patience to work in Angola so get in touch with me.  I will pay a decent tax free basic salary and the usual, plus, after a three month probationary period assuming we are still getting along, a share in the restaurant profits.  If you are rugged looking, energetic AND can do Patisserie, my wife will hire you regardless of any objection my intense hatred for you could conceive.  If you are like the charming, sweet and obviously intelligent young lady pictured at the top of this post and can only boil an egg, I will do my best but don’t hold your breath.

 


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The next Tiger Woods? Hopefully with a sense of decency…

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.

Golf!

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!


Monday, 19 November 2012

Bye Bye Beautiful Little Boy, Please Forgive Me


I am sure there are those out there who can best me at this but I reckon I have seen pretty much the extremes of human decency and evil.  I have seen the kindness that tireless nuns provide the orphans in their care, others who risk their lives on a daily basis in the service of others.  Sadly I have also seen those for whom the sanctity of human life has no meaning and its awful result.  The booby trapped mass graves in Bosnia which, once I had cleared and opened up to UN inspection, left me with the recurring nightmare of fathers cradling their young sons in death.  The sight of women and children, frozen in the agony of fires of hell, who had been herded together in an Angolan cellar, had petrol poured over them and then been set fire to.  The senseless slaughter from which politicians distance themselves but soldiers are only a bayonet thrust away.  The deep personal tragedy of having to fly back to UK and help my youngest brother bury his two year old son who drowned in a neighbor’s swimming pool.

So why has this recent incident affected me so deeply?  Is it because I thought I had retired to some sort of Nirvana, at least as close to it as I would ever get?  Is it because I am surrounded by nature so beautiful even the most cynical might begin to believe in a Great Architect of the Universe?  Is it because having buried everything so deep I felt I would never have to face the darker side of the human psyche again?  Or is it because that with hindsight, I realize I should have done more?

We were sitting outside the shop on the concrete stoop, me and a few clients.  It was a Saturday afternoon and, as usual, the churchy religious types were in abundance.  I am a Catholic but as far as I am concerned, the Catholic Church is just as bad as any of those sects run by deeply sincere preachers who shag the younger, evidently more desirable members of their flock while fleecing them all.

Since the weirder religions have taken over much of the beach front, the left footers now use a stretch of river bank up river from my place so to get there, they have to walk by my place and at weekends, they do so by their hundreds.  Not with children, though, and not this early in the afternoon.  This did cross my mind but, and this is a big but, I said nothing.  The little boy, about the same size and age as little Alex was holding a 200 ml plastic bottle of mineral water in his right hand.  He was dressed in little green shorts and a T-shirt with a Spiderman logo over a pale blue washed out background with the seam of his right shoulder coming undone revealing his small bony shoulder.  I noticed that because Alex is nuts about Spiderman.  His left hand was held by presumably his mother and he was walking along in his flip flops while looking up at her and chatting away like any four year old does when out for a walk.  They did not stop at the shop.  Had they done so, I would have given the kid a lollipop or maybe a sticky bun.  Marcia says she hates it when I do that.  She says I am giving away her profits but I know deep down she really doesn’t mind.

A little while later I saw the same woman coming back.  At least I thought it was her but she was alone so I couldn’t be sure.  I would be a miserable witness in court.  I would give evidence for the prosecution and then the defence would rise and ask me to confirm exactly how many units of alcohol I consume daily.  So I nudged the guy next to me and asked him if that wasn’t the same woman who shortly before had been leading an angelic little boy by the hand.  He, then Marcia, confirmed it was.

‘Well, where is the little boy then?’

One of the lads leapt off the empty beer crate he was using as a chair, caught up with her and asked her.  ‘She says her husband came along in his car and took the boy home as she will be staying for the night service’, he said when he came back.  Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?  And it did to us.  The Catholics have their Mass every Saturday night at midnight so maybe, this still being the afternoon, she was just looking after the boy until her husband pitched up and took him home so she could enjoy a night of reckless religious abandon.  None of us were paying any attention to the cars that occasionally swept by.

Marcia wasn’t satisfied.  ‘Get out there and look for him’, she ordered.

It is only five hundred metres to the end of the road beyond which is only river and jungle.  We searched down the river bank on the way back but there was no sign of him.  Marcia sent one of the lads after the woman but she had disappeared.  So we all went back to our beers.

Early Sunday morning the battered body of a little boy, estimated age four years, washed up on the bank of the river.

While history has demonstrated that Africans are not averse to creating them, they seem desperately squeamish about handling dead bodies so no-one was willing to fetch the poor little innocent sod out of the river.  Marcia, who can’t swim, asked me to.

I couldn’t.

A few months ago, a fisherman fell over board and drowned and I fetched his body out with no problem.  I lie.  Of course I felt sorry for him.  Compassion, a regret for the grief and uncertain future his family faced.  But please, Marcia, I beg you, don’t make me stare at another dead child.  Not one that has been so brutally murdered. 

What possible motive could there be for taking the life of a child?  What could a four year old have done in his pathetically short life to earn such terrible retribution?  Would his countenance be the one of someone finally at peace?  Or would it bear testimony to the terror of his last few moments on earth?  Would his eyes bear witness to that ultimate betrayal of trust?

‘Marcia, I am sorry, I can’t do it’, I sobbed.  ‘I will if there is no-one else!’ I called after her retreating back.  After all these years, I finally chickened out.  I could not face it anymore.  I can't.  What a fucking waster.

Marcia called Luisa from the lodge next door.  She was once a nurse in a trauma unit in Jo’burg.  She waded in and fetched the little tyke out.

They came back.  ‘His head has been bashed in at the back’ Marcia said.

‘Marcia, for God’s sake please!’ I begged.

At this point, seeing my discomfort, and I know she did, Luisa could have quickly changed the subject but what alternative topic could have sprung to mind faced with such a senseless and brutal death of a child?

I knew it was a bit odd to see a woman in church rig leading a child down a dead end, for it is a road that leads to nowhere.  Yet I did nothing.  We more or less accepted her explanation so the search Marcia insisted we conducted was very cursory.

Perhaps what I was really too cowardly to face was looking down at the battered earthly remains of the sweet boy I had last seen clutching his little bottle of water trusting in an adult, as all kids must, knowing that I was suspicious of that adult yet did NOTHING.  And then, then I did not even have the balls to get in the river and recover his poor little body,

God Curse Me to Fucking Hell.  But, sweet little boy, I am so terribly sorry.  I really am.  If only I had jumped off my beer crate when I first got nervous.  And then I didn’t have the courage to pull you from the river so I could cradle you in my arms and tell you how sorry I was but I am sure God will.  I can’t hold you because the Police have taken you away but I am very, very sorry.

I am so ashamed.  When I saw you being towed along past my shop, I was curious.  If only I had been arsed to put down my beer to satisfy that curiosity.

I now know that it wasn’t your Mum leading you with your little bottle of water down my road so I feel even worse.  It will be no consolation to you dear little boy but we found the lady who took you away and she won’t do it again.  Trust me, we will find your Mum and she will hold you just once more like I should have done and am so desperately sorry I didn't.

You poor little bugger.  I am not sure God will value my prayers but I have prayed for you every night since. Poor little boy in your flippy floppy flip flops and Spiderman T-shirt.  I only saw you so briefly but you looked like an angel.  I really hope you are one now.

Deus meus, ex toto corde paenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum,

eaque detestor, quia peccando,

non solum poenas a te iuste statutas promeritus sum,

sed praesertim quia offendi te,

summum bonum, ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris.

Ideo firmiter propono,

adiuvante gratia tua,

de cetero me non peccatorum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum.

Amen

 

I just hope God believes me this time.  Like I said, damn ME to hell but may He please look after this little boy whose soul, through what I failed to do, I can now only offer into His Gracious care.

Dear God, he passed within three feet of me.  Five minutes later he was beaten to death.


 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Relaaax!

Why do my spliffs always fall apart before I get the chance to light them?
Meet Rastaman.  He is thatching the roof of my barbecue area and he is also a sculptor.  He is going to carve the pillars of my Jango and across the lintel over the bar, he is going to carve a row of marching Hippos.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs ...


…. go fishing, preferably with a bunch of caustic, piss taking old bastards.  The kind of mates who will spot an open festering wound, stick their fingers in it, wiggle them around a bit and ask you if it hurts.  Nothing like a bit of non-sympathy to get you back on the plane.

So early yesterday morning we pulled out of the Barro de Kwanza at about twenty knots and headed west.   The sea was rough and as leaden as the sky.  A few squalls saw us all wet through and wondering what sort of day it would be.

Well, it turned out bloody fantastic.

It wasn’t just the company, it wasn’t just the fishing; see below, I was not the only one to haul in a few prize specimens (it is a big video file so if you are bored with seeing fish jumping on the end of a line, don’t bother).  It was everything else.


video

We saw Dolphins running along side the boat.  We saw flying fish.  We saw turtles.  And then for the first time ever in my life, I saw whales.  A mother and her calf.  Whales are big.  If you are in a twenty eight foot plastic tub in the Atlantic ocean they are absolutely bloody massive.  I am sure that there are plenty of Japanese and Norwegian whalers who are quite blasé about such a sight but I was dumb struck.

video

It was just the sort of break I needed.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Prelude to Barrack Room Ballads by Rudyard Kipling, the soldier's poet.



I have made for you a song    
And it may be right or wrong,
But only you can tell me if it's true.    
I have tried for to explain    
Both your pleasure and your pain,
And, Thomas, here's my best respects to you!    

O there'll surely come a day    
When they'll give you all your pay,
And treat you as a Christian ought to do;    
So, until that day comes round,    
Heaven keep you safe and sound,
And, Thomas, here's my best respects to you!

God bless those who died in the service of their country.  God help those who survived.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Simple messages


Subject: Hope you're all right-it's megan from meganblogs

 Dear Tom,

Subject line says it. I can't say why, but you've been on my mind a lot recently, and i just hope everything is okay.

Best,
Megan

John Gray said...

tom
no blogs for a while
u ok?


 

I will admit, the shit has hit the fan for me over the landwars.  I don’t want to bore you all with a bitter tirade but I really did want to do something for the community here.  Clean water, a clinic, help with the school.  I have already arranged for all the kids to have four free hours of golf lessons per week to keep them off the street and out of mischief.  Instead the Administradora, the Co-ordinador and the Vice-Coordinador have decided that all my access to the river belongs to them.  This seriously screws my project.

So I am fighting, and will go down fighting but I am depressed.  The single greatest impediment to progress in Africa is corruption.  It does not matter how many bits of notarized bits of paper you have, someone will come along and say, ‘Oh, he did not have the authority to sign that document so you have lost your money’.

Of course I am depressed.

Then there is the petty theft.  Anything that isn’t bolted down WILL be stolen.  I have lost my brand new 45 Kva generator, everything in the shop including the shelves, light fittings and plug sockets, two cameras (so no pics on the blog anymore), a mobile phone, some of my shoes, all of Alex’s shoes and, bizarrely, all my underwear, socks and handkerchiefs. The rough seams of Chinese made cotton shorts really rip into your nuts if they aren’t protected by a decent pair of Y Fronts.

Of course I am depressed.

And yet if I say that Africans are the most disgusting, shortsighted, stupid, venal, vile dishonest creatures on earth I would be accused of racism (as well as a huge generalisation but bear with me, I am stressed so somewhat irrational, after all I am married to an African and she is great). As a foreigner, I can’t even punch them out (everyone else except my wife) which would at least make me feel a little better, until they turned up with the police who would give me the blunt choice of coughing up some serious dough or letting them kick the shit out of me.

Of course I am depressed.

But then we must not forget that I paid an Englishman on the 4th of January this year to complete my project and he promised delivery in six weeks.  Eleven months later I am still living, with my family, in the 16 square metres of what will be the kitchen of my new restaurant.

So of course I am depressed.

Realizing that if he, the Englishman who I trusted, went bust there was absolutely no way I would get my money back I used my industry contacts to get him a half a million dollar contract to sort out his cash flow problem and he still has only five guys allocated to my project.

So I am depressed.

Marcia pointed out that no-one with even the most tenuous grasp of his senses would pay a contractor up front and accused me of doing so only because the guy was English and in spite of tropical temperatures has been icy in bed with me ever since.

Of course she is absolutely correct so I can add shame and sexual frustration to my depression.

A German friend of mine got into difficulty and needed a bung of five grand.  All I had was two and a half.  He promised to pay it back within a week.  That was three months ago.  I have not heard from him since.

This depresses me.

Ten years ago, another friend had problems and needed to pay his kid’s school fees in UK so I coughed 25 grand.  He fucked me over.

That really depressed me.

I have a pistol in my desk drawer.  I was seriously thinking about using it.  Not to slot myself, but all those bastards who have either let me down or screwed me.  I took it apart, cleaned it and oiled it up nicely.  I even serviced the truck so it was guaranteed, as far as you can guarantee anything built in China, to get me into town.  I hadn’t considered getting back.  I was that close.

Then I get a couple of messages through the blogosphere from Megan and John.

The gun needed a good clean anyway so it can now continue to rest comfortably in its drawer.  The truck is breathing easier through its new filters and with fresh oil, there are a few moving parts blessing my effort.  Alex seems to have picked up a bit of a cough so I will now make him some German Brust Tee. Marcia is busy cooking a Portuguese Feijoada with rice which you would have to be an absolute philistine not to enjoy, especially with lashings of ultra spicy local gindungo.

Tomorrow is another day.  So I shall just wake up and face it.

Funny how a couple of simple messages can make all the difference.