Monday, 27 May 2013

The Things That Really Matter

I scored two 'highly in demand' tickets for my girls to attend this live televised concert
and all I got was this lousy photo?

Rico has big plans.  He is my neighbor and for many years we hated each other.  We still do to be honest but we have learnt to co-operate.  Let’s face it, co-operating is easy and makes you feel good.  If you hate someone, all you are doing is giving him free lodging in your head.

A couple of weeks ago, Rico started building an island in the river.  Well, not exactly an Island but a bloody great wooden deck supported by piles driven into the river bed.  It all looked jolly industrious but I hadn’t a clue what it was for.  I just assumed Rico was trying to reclaim enough territory to declare his own dictatorship (I mean State). Then Rico sent one of his blokes over asking if he could borrow my truck.  Now, I was the one who had been banging on to him about neighborliness so I could hardly say no. 

Apart from the odd glimpse, I haven’t seen my truck since. 

A few days ago, one of my blokes had an accident on site and drove a disk cutter through his leg while cutting concrete so I had to send a runner to Rico’s to ask if I could borrow my truck to take him to hospital.  After all, the bugger was bleeding to death on my land which would cause all sorts of headaches not least the fact it was an excellent excuse for the rest of the crew to down tools.  The driver returned with an instruction from Rico that we should hurry up as he really needed the truck back.  Curious, why the desperate rush?

This kind of thing intrigues me.  I wasn’t going to ask Rico what he was up to building an island in the river.  It is his money and he is loaded so, so what? Let him spend it.  But I really wanted to know.  Trouble is, if I asked any of the villagers, word would get back to Rico that I was asking, betraying my curiosity.  Stubborn pride meant I would only accept him telling me.  Nothing else for it, I was going to have to go round there for a gin and tonic and give him the opportunity.

Bugger me if he hadn’t built a Montreaux style stage in the middle of the river.  Burly blokes were wheeling speakers the size of Brinksmat armoured cars onto it while others were erecting cantilever arches carrying more spotlights per metre than a rally car's bumper.  Cables as thick as a baby’s arm snaked all over the place.  Rico must have seen my face.  If he had given up on food and was turning his place into a disco, I was fucked. Angolans don’t have volume controls on their humungous sound systems, they have on-off switches.  With the death of anything approaching a peaceful night’s sleep at weekends, I would have no choice, since I could not beat him, but to sort of join him and turn Fat Hippo’s into a whorehouse.  I don’t think Marcia would like that, she is already concerned about me tucking into her bar stock.

‘It’s only for one night’, Rico said, ‘and it starts at 7pm and stops at 10pm’.

‘Oh yes?’ I ventured cautiously.

‘Some famous group are going to give a live performance and make a music DVD at the same time.  They’re called Kassav’

‘Never heard of them’ I replied, and I hadn’t but, judging by the size and quantity of the speakers and amplifiers, I knew I would.

I sank my G&T and by the time I arrived home, Marcia was there unloading stock for the shop.  Since I had run out of whisky the night before, the only alcohol I had drunk that day was the G&T so my blood was dangerously viscous.  The G&T may have been drunk but I wasn’t so I wired in and helped unload a truly impressive tonnage of stock, miles more than usual, but no booze whatsoever.

I hate to appear desperate in front of Marcia so I said, ‘MARCIA!!! There’s no whisky!  YOU FORGOT THE WHISKY!!!’

‘No I haven’t’ she replied sweetly, ‘it’s all on the second vehicle’.

Second vehicle?  Marcia’s shop was now being supplied by convoy?  She already had enough here to supply a battalion, any more and she would be able to cater for the whole bloody regiment.

‘Haven’t you heard?’ she asked me, ‘Kassav are doing a live concert at Rico’s.  They expect 1500 guests and will be turning people away, where else will they go for a drink other than us?’ She smiled angelically.  Wives only ever smile angelically, by the way, never smugly.  At least that’s what I told myself.

Clearly, everyone was in on this except me, I had to assert myself.

‘Right’ I ordered, ‘call the site, tell them I am on my way up there.  They should dig out the new coolers and freezers and get all the new tables and chairs out on the roadside ready to load up when I get there.  I also want the 1000 litre water container on the truck so that I can fill it from the well.  The Jango is going live!' I announced. '
Is there anything else you can think of?’ I asked Marcia with a smug smile.

‘Not much, except we do not appear to have a truck. What are you going to do, walk up to the site?’ This was Marcia with her best saccharine voice (avec sourire angélique).  No barb could ever have been delivered with more grace or any less effectively.  Even the usual drunkards in the shop, normally oblivious to anything other than a meteor strike (although thankfully this remains untested) winced in sympathy.  Oh I knew where the truck was and could, with a mere phone call, intercept it before it fell back into the hands of Rico.  No, it was the implication I was too unfit to walk to the site that sliced so deep.  How grievous the truth?

‘Good idea!’ I exclaimed with enthusiasm so artificial had it been a drug it would have been banned by the Food and Drugs Administration Boards of India, Pakistan and China, ‘that way I can have everything ready for loading.  The boys can do the water run by themselves afterwards’. 

I trudged disconsolately back to my room under a blazing African sun, once again confounded by a bloody woman.  I have survived so far by being able to talk faster than people can think.  Marcia, whose grasp of English is precarious to say the least, appears to be able to do both; think and talk at the speed of a Gatling gun at the same time, and that is so unfair.  What chance does a mere man stand against a woman with WMD?  Weapons of Mass Diction?

I pulled off my dusty sandals, my shorts and T Shirt and wondered how long I could push the ‘getting changed’ ploy in the hope the second vehicle carrying the booze would arrive in time for me to squeeze in a snifter and fill the old hip flask before I embarked on my Trans-African expedition.  Well of course, this is Africa, isn’t it? So by the time I had tied my bootlaces for the second time and brushed my teeth for the third, Marcia was becoming a tadge suspicious, especially when she caught me trying to comb my millimeter long hair and quite unfairly suggested I was taking the piss. So I set off with no sign of the second vehicle or, more urgently, a bit of the amber nectar.

I’d gone about 200 yards, just around the corner in fact, when a pick-up pulled up alongside me.  It was loaded with crates of beer and, I could not help but notice, cases of Grant’s, Clan MacGregor, Famous Grouse, J&B, Johnny Walker, Passport, White Horse; I only enjoyed the briefest of glimpses so this list may not be exhaustive.

The driver leant out and asked me, ‘Where is…’, he consulted a piece of paper,  ‘...Marcia’s shop?’  He said this in Portuguese, which of course I do understand.

‘Just around the corner’, I said helpfully, also in Portuguese, ‘Look for the big Jango on the right’

‘Muito Obrigado’ he said and dropped the clutch.

‘No, NO!  WAIT!’ I screamed. 
Some highway robber I would make.  I can’t even hold up a truckload of my own whisky.

I was pretty disgusting by the time I got home but an hour or so afterwards the new freezers and coolers were all hooked up and filled, the tables and chairs laid out, it looked cool.  We were ready.

‘Who are Kassav?’ I asked.

Apparently, they were the band playing when Noah’s Ark ran aground on Mount Ararat.  For Marcia clearly, they were old hat.

‘So you are not going over to Rico’s to see them play?’  I asked Marcia, ‘After all, Angolan TV will be filming this’.  I had arrived back to find a bunch of slickly dressed guys in the shop claiming to be television guys.  I get lots of guys in the shop claiming to be anything from the President’s son to God and all they want is credit so I usually just give them a kick in the teeth or call the dogs but these guys seemed pretty credible, after all, you don’t get three guys turning up in your shop in the Barra de Kwanza all dressed in genuine Indian Armani suits with the same story.

I had no intention whatsoever of going over there.  One glimpse of the speakers had convinced me that I would stumble home with blood pouring out of my ears.  It was an all ticket event; entrance controlled by the marketing company who would engage a private Security Company and the police to control not only entrance but the surrounding area, which included my patch.

‘If you don’t want to go there, Marcia, and I certainly don’t, how about we get a couple of the older girls down?  They’d love it.  I was thinking of Cristina and Jolie.’

‘C’mon Marcia’ I insisted, ‘they will go to their first ever live concert, televised to boot, and we will only be five hundred metres away to keep an eye on them.’

So it was settled.  Cristina and Jolie jumped into a taxi and came down to the Barra de Kwanza.

They were terribly excited.  They were thrilled.  They were wholly inappropriately dressed. 

‘This won’t do, Marcia’, I told her ‘they can’t go dressed like that’

They looked like lollipop lolitas.

Now these two girls did not set out to dress like teenage sirens hunting a Sugar Daddy, all they were guilty of was copying the mode of dress they see every evening on the Brazilian and Mexican soaps in which it is de rigueur for all females, except the handful of obligatory black clad embittered widows, to dress like a King’s Road Tart.

Marcia has decided, by the way, that she wants a daughter.  I am 54 years old and not exactly in the best of health.  This alone should not necessarily be an impediment to the consummation of her desire but I haven’t exactly got a tap on my testes marked Male-Female according to which direction it is turned.  If I get it wrong, I’ll have to do it all again in two years’ time.  The idea of a daughter at my age horrifies me.  By the time she is fourteen, I will be seventy.  Assuming I am still alive, which all medical evidence suggests is something you shouldn’t bet on, what am I supposed to do, beat off unsuitable suitors with my Zimmer frame?  What the hell kind of advice can a bloke like me give to a fourteen year old girl on the cusp of womanhood without destroying her confidence in men, the majority of whom, based on the example I set, are bastards? 

When it comes to beachwear, the Brazilians say ‘Less is more’ and I agree.  On the beach, why not be unashamed of your body?  It doesn’t matter how big or skinny, how young or old, we are all on the beach enjoying the sun, sand and sea.  When it comes to an evening function such as the one the girls were about to attend, less is more also applies only in this case the less flesh they expose, the more sophisticated and attractively enticing they are.  My problem was how to explain that to the girls without upsetting them.  After all, they may only be fourteen or fifteen but like all women, if they ask you what they look like in a particular dress or wonder what you think of their new hairstyle, they really do not want to hear, ‘Awful’.

It was actually surprisingly easy.

‘Eek!  Cristina!  There’s a seam on your skirt that has opened up!  You can’t wear that!’

‘Jolie!  Your hem is loose and there is a bleach stain right there!’  ‘Where?’  ‘Right there!  Never mind, if I can see it everyone else can’

‘Girls!  Both of you have VPL’s, that’s terrible!’

‘No, No, No!  You’ll be walking on decking, those heels will jam in the gaps and you’ll fall over, you need flats’

‘I’m sorry, I have to put my foot down.  If you want to carry your smart phones, you don’t stuff them in your bras ruining the lines of your dresses, you carry a clutch bag’

It’s true.  The girls dress so skimpily they have nowhere else to carry their mobile phones other than stuffed in their bras if they are even wearing one.  I have seen plenty of deformed bums.  I mean what, as a bloke, are you expected to do?  Dial ‘Nipple’ for an emergency service?

I realize I was behaving a bit like Gok Wan but preparing the girls as I was would avoid me having to behave like Jean Claude Van Damme later on in the evening. 
I used to look at women and undress them with a single glance.  Why should any other bloke be different?  There is a huge argument on at the moment about the right of women to dress in public as provocatively as they want.  Fine, the more of them the better and a correspondingly lesser chance one of my girls will be assaulted.
Marcia rose to the challenge, raided her wardrobe and the girls left for the concert looking like two very elegant young ladies.
That was two days ago.  Haven't seen them since.
Just kidding.  They were back by midnight having had a fabulous time (I thought the music was crap, obviously I could hear it at my place) but they were thrilled and I have to confess, the girls looked fabulous too.  They were radiant, full of Joie de Vivre and I shed a tear imagining myself as Maurice Chevalier but refrained from singing, 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls'.
God, they were so small and fragile when they came to me, now they are really quite beautiful.
Why no photographs, I hear you cry!  Well, I took several before they left for the party.  Beautifully framed, well lit, exotic. I wanted Gok Wan to eat his asian heart out. Then I thought I would give the girls my expensive digital SLR so that they could take some more photos on site as it were. 
They lost it.
I ask you, what is more important?  Two girls who I adore and have just enjoyed their first live concert dressed up to the nines in Marcia's finest or a bloody digital camera?
Well, it is the camera, of course, but I didn't tell the girls that.



  1. I enjoyed all that
    Your writing can be so clever

    I especially liked the line
    "I have survived so far by being able to talk faster than people can think"

    1. Try it next time a Doctor is on the ward giving you a hard time.

    2. Birthday Yard Signs offer flexibility in delivery times and later pick up for special  parties of all kinds . Or for an extra 10 dollars why not keep the birthday lawn signs and ornaments an extra day.

  2. Good heavens! You hadn't heard of Kassav? As everybody else knows - Kassav was formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus (former musicians from the Les Vikings de Guadeloupe) and Paris studio musician Jacob F. Desvarieux. Together and under the influence of well-known Dominican and Guadeloupean kadans or compas bands like Experience 7, Grammacks and Exile One, they decided to make Guadeloupean carnival music and record it in a more fully orchestrated yet modern and polished style. In the 1980s they took Caribbean music to another level by recording in the new digital format. There's so much more to be said about Kassav but I think I'll stop there. Don't want you to suffer from information overload!

    1. Don't know about 'Thank heaven for little girls' more a case of thank heaven for Google? and to think I thought it was Antillean Creole for a local dish made from cassava root!


    2. Google? What is that Madam Lettice? Never heard of it.

    3. Er... Right. I've never heard of any of the other groups you mention either! I have heard of Guadaloupe and the Dominican Republic though. And Google.

    4. Guadaloupe... isn't that melon? Dominican Repubic; that is an island near St Kilda were monks go to pay their NUM penance dues.


  3. Kassav (if it's the same band) were very well known here in France in the 1980's; I seem to remember them being rather good. Is the island still there? No doubt Rico will wish to repeat the event; music makes money!

    1. It was the same band, Cro. The music was quite nice but I do not think Rico made a killing. He catered for 1500, only about 200 turned up. He now has several tonnes of groceries spare so I have told him we can unload a load in our shop for him so that he can recoup some of his losses. Obviously, we didn't make anything either as there were insufficient guests to start turning them away to my place.

      The mistake the event organisers made, which Marcia pointed out, was to sell tickets at the gate rather than pre sell them in town. No one is going to risk a 200km round trip on the off chance they can still get in.

  4. "If you hate someone, all you are doing is giving him free lodging in your head." I like that expression, and it's so true. Unfortunately I exercise too much angst about the guy who used to be the chairman of our committee here, and still behaves as if he is. I don't hate him, but I don't know how to deal with a sociopath.

    1. I can lend you a very heavy ashtray...

    2. Better still could you come over here and apply that ashtray to his head? (I'm too wimpy to be physically violent.) And I know how good you are at these things.

  5. I shall have to go to YouTube to catch up on Kassav.

    Your posts are always a great read...but I always need to grab a coffee first...shame about the camera, but replaceable I guess...

    1. Amazingly, the camera was returned to me this morning. Apparently it was found on the floor under one of the sofas in the lounge. It was only when Nice Paul heard yesterday that I had lost it he realised who it belonged to. Having checked the memory card, I see the girls had obviously misplaced it before taking a single photograph.

      Still, I am glad the girls had a nice time seeing a world famous group play and getting my camera back as well.

      Yes, I did forget to give the 'Time for Coffee' warning in the title.

  6. Well, Hippo, you won't undress ME with one look. Vive la Resistance!

    Interesting scenario: Your seventy year old skeleton (think Keith Richards - though he is better looking than you) ably assisted by your Zimmerframe (how will you hold on to a bottle at the same time? And a cigarette?) defending the apple of your eye against the evil you know so well. Good luck. Mind you. You could always pull in the second brigade (her brothers). My mother had five brothers which, no doubt, accounts for the fact that she lost her senses and virginity despite my father's chiselled beauty at a (relatively) advanced age.

    By all means go down the route Marcia has already mapped out for you. And if you need to cry at my shoulder a few further sons down the line please do so till you deliver the goods. I do not crack under pressure.

    By way of anecdote and to help you along the way: My sister, the model you volunteered to employ before examining the goods, had set her eyes on a large family at age 12.That comes from falling in love your vicar before confirmation.. Never mind. And so it came to pass that a man who all he wanted it in his life was peace and quiet fell in love with her. A few sons down the line number five emerged as the red haired drop dead gorgeous Chiara. Such is my brother-in-law devotion he has volunteered to reverse his last chance choral (vesectomy).



  7. I used to love going to gigs and festvials but now I'm far to boring for all that. It always seems like such a lot of effort. Mind you I've never had a gig as close as the middle of the river by my house!
    As for having a daughter I'm sure your manage, hey it's not like you have a choice! We're the other way round, I'm the one that wants lots of kids , Claire wants to stop at two(for the next one I'm considering changing her pill for tic tacks!)


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