Thursday, 31 October 2013

I am doing the Night Shift

What the Excel spread sheet and the manufacturer of the expensive ice cream machine I bought did not tell me is that there is a lot of wastage. especially in the beginning.  Get the mix wrong and the freezing barrels freeze.  What's wrong with that?  After all, aren't freezing barrels supposed to freeze?  No, actually they are not.  They are supposed to churn and cool to the 'ice point' which, according to the operator's manual I can set anywhere between 1 to 10.  I'm ex Army and thrice married.  I am comfortable with orders, not choices.

To be fair to the manufacturer, they have stated in their manual that with an air cooled machine, as mine is, the ambient temperature will make a difference.  It gets damn hot here.  'Bugger' I thought, I should have bought a water cooled machine but, at the time I ordered my air cooled machine, I did not know I had enough water only a few metres beneath my feet to create ice bergs.

Couple my inept handling of the machine as I got to know all its foibles with a desire to experiment with the mix and you can imagine I ended up pouring a lot of my profit down the drain.  Get the mix wrong and the freezing barrels will freeze and jam the stirrers.  The machine will then start to scream and make all sorts of other horrible noises until a safety device (well over used in my case) operates and switches the machine off.  All you can do is leave it switched off and let it thaw out, then dump the contents and start again.  I may not know how to make a perfect mix but I have become a bloody expert at dismantling, repairing and cleaning the machine before I fuck it up again.

It is like anything though. VW make the best people carriers in the world but stick a novice in one and they are going to stuff it into a shop window.  Hardly the fault of VW but pretty damn frustrating for the owners of both car and shop.  I bought an imported ice cream machine in Africa.  What the hell do I know about making ice cream?  I just thought it would be nice to make ice cream.  I like ice cream.  But that's like some kid suddenly deciding he wants to be a taxi driver, going out and buying a car and letting himself loose on the Queen's highway with a screaming passenger.

As a result, my spread sheet is pretty bloody useless.  I know what I am paying for the ingredients but I am either pouring  the product down the drain or, if it actually squirts out the nozzles into a cone, giving it away free to any passing kid so delighted am I that the bloody machine did what it said on its very expensive tin. 

I have this gut feeling a dollar a cone is about right.  At the moment, as far as I can tell, I get back what I am putting in and Excel confirms this, I am giving ice cream away for nothing.  Well, at least I am not losing money and the local kids are very, very happy.  Let them laugh, one day I will work the damn machine out and start to make a profit on a dollar a cone.

For the first time in over six months, we have had rain.  Rain is good on so many levels.  Obviously it waters the parched soil, heralds the start of the planting season and freshens the air.  But it also improves the fishing.

A few fish suppers.  They're bigger than the kid.

Sadly I didn't catch these, I can't walk so haven't been out on the water in a while, but it is good to know the fish are out there and willing to be caught again.

There are six fish there and they weigh around 14-16 kilos apiece so the lot amount to about a hundred kilos.  I paid ten thousand Kwanzas, one hundred US bucks; a dollar or 100 kwanzas a kilo.  Gutted and properly frozen, I can move them on for 600 Kwanzas a kilo. Dressed and filleted, they're worth 1,800 Kwanzas a kilo.  I will only get about 50-60 kilos out of dressed fish but a lot of good meat and bone to make fish stock. 

Guess what I will spend the rest of the night doing?  Absolutely correct, I shall  put a bit of effort into turning one hundred bucks into around a thousand bucks. 

I'm doing the nightshift but at least Marcia will let me hook up the speakers to play my music and I can drink myself to death while I do it.

At least my effort will help pay for the ice cream machine which is, according to Excel, an indulgence.  Mind you, I did not see anyone complain last night when I served them, as a dessert, tinned peaches poached in their own syrup reduced with real vanilla pods, mixed spice and cloves gently ladled over my ice cream.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A thoroughly decent chap.

Kitchen Master Frank

A Gentleman engaged an employment agency to find for him the perfect Gentleman’s Gentleman.  Our American cousins refer to these stalwarts of any decently managed household as ‘Butlers’.

Our Gentleman was offered many Gentleman candidates for this honourable position, all of whom proved dissatisfactory in one way or another.

Having been given one last chance, the Agency sent to their frustrated Gentleman client a certain Mr. Hoddle

On his first day, Mr. Hoddle created upon the mind of his potential employer the most gratifying impression.  Polite without being servile.  Attentive without being intrusive.  Notable for our Gentleman was the skill with which Mr Hoddle had motivated the other household staff to produce a most excellent supper, the loving care with which he had decanted the wine and the inoffensive manner by which he had ejected the ‘hanger’s on' from his Gentleman employer's house.

Our Gentleman was satisfied he had finally found his perfect Gentleman’s Gentleman.  All that remained for the man under scrutiny to do to secure a lifetime’s gainful and most honourable employment was to draw a bath for his Gentleman.  Unsurprisingly, it was perfect.  The water, the correct temperature and laced with just the right amount of salts.  As the Gentleman sank beneath the steaming, beautifully scented waters, grateful on so many levels, he let out the most enormous sub-aqua fart.  Suffused with embarrassment, he glanced at Hoddle who merely fluffed up a towel preparing it for his Gentleman’s inevitable exit from his bath and retired from the room.

‘Fuck Me!’ thought the Gentleman, who was nouveaux riche and inclined to such outbursts, ‘I am going to employ this guy!’

A little while later there was a discreet tap at the door.  ‘Your hot water bottle, Sir’, said Hoddle entering clutching the same.

‘But I never asked for a hot water bottle, Hoddle,’ protested our Gentleman.

‘Begging your pardon, Sir, as you climbed into your bath, I distinctly heard you say ‘whataboutahotwaterbottlehoddle’.


Frank is fourteen years old.  Frank isn’t his real name but it is close to his real one and he seems happy with the moniker I have given him.  His real name is Francisco.  My Father was called Francis but everyone called him Frank.  So I called Francisco Frank.

Frank’s father is a serious alcoholic.  Coming from me, that is saying something. Two years ago, Frank’s mother died, of exhaustion presumably.  That left Frank, at twelve, effectively in charge of the household.  I did not know any of this when I met him.  To me he was just another kid on the street.

I have had many maids in my time and despite the unending Dor de Cabeça (headache) they have caused me, I only change them out when I move house.  Even though they steal like magpies, I always thought along the lines of better the evil you know.  The only things I had of my Grandfather were a pair of gold and onyx cufflinks and a tie pin.  All I had left of my Father was a gold watch and a pair of gold cufflinks.  I had to travel light so was happy with these small tokens.  No-one knows what became of them, everyone denies knowledge.  Suffice to say, they have gone.

I was delighted, therefore, when as a result of this latest move, our old maid refused to move with us.  I can look a man in the eye and tell him he is a useless prick and that if he is still on my property in five minutes I’ll beat him to death with the soggy end of the arm I rip off him but I cannot sack a woman.  They get all emotional.  They bang on about the kids they have to feed, how near to death they all are and how it will all be my fault when they have to start burying the decaying fruits of their prolific wombs.  I did not have to sack my old maid, she refused to walk the extra half kilometre to work so I commiserated and paid her off.

‘What do we do now?’ Marcia asked me.

‘I’ll do it, Marcia,’ I said.  And for a month, I did exactly that.  I washed and ironed.  I sorted out electrical problems.  Every night there was a meal on the table, a table I had to restore.  I rebuilt broken machines and fixed stuffed up cars.  I washed and dried dishes and kept a clean house.  I finished off the kitchen installation, unpacked all the boxes and found homes for all our kit.  I sorted out the plumbing and realigned the satellite dish so Marcia could watch her soaps on the Portuguese channels.  Every day I was up at the restaurant site making sure the guys were working and had everything they needed to keep working.  Every evening, I bathed my poisoned foot in salt water and wondered when my toe would finally do the decent thing and fall off.

Back in the old days, before I had a pump installed and a generator to power it, in order to deliver clean water to the locals I had to haul the water up out of the well using a bucket, fill the twenty litre containers and load them up onto my truck before making the deliveries.  All that exercise has probably added months to my life so I shan’t complain.  It was during this time that I first met Frank.  He was the only one that would leap on board the truck and help me.  Everyone else took it as their natural birthright that a white haired wheezing old codger should deliver them free water without them having to lift a finger.

I wasn’t sure about Frank when I first met him.  He is a tall, gangly youth but decidedly thick, or so I thought at the time.  I know my Portuguese is not perfect by any means but Frank’s Portuguese, his mother tongue, was incomprehensible to me.  I found my self peering into his mouth wondering if he had a tongue in there so slurred was his diction.  Not being in any way politically correct and most mornings a tadge insensitive I decided he was a retard, mentally deficient.  Perhaps he had been dropped on his head as an infant or his Creator had not been kind to him when it came to issuing brains. Still, he could swing a 20 litre container of water off the ground and onto the truck and off again when we were making our deliveries through the village, and for a skinny kid like him, even if I had to shout at him and dig him in the ribs to make him understand, he wasn’t bad.  I could have 120 containers on the back of that truck but he knew to whom each belonged and exactly where they should be dropped off.  One volunteer is worth ten pressed men so even if he had mental issues, I was glad to have him along for the ride.  I respected him, realised that he had problems but he was a willing young man and certainly not one I would call stupid even if I could not understand a word he said.

Marcia always got very upset with me when she discovered I had been giving credit in the shop. Or sweets to the kids, powdered milk to poor mothers, tinned sardines and biscuits to fishermen under the usually unfulfilled promise of payment by a portion of their catch.  This was why she banned me from the shop.  Marcia could not understand why I was going to all the effort to deliver water to what she considered ungrateful neighbours so I could hardly reach into the till and pull out a few Kwanzas to pay this kid for helping me.  So I used to pay him with food from the shop.  Nothing exotic, just staples; a bag of rice or pulses, sugar, salt, dried meat or fish.  That’s all he ever asked for.  I’d give it to him when Marcia wasn’t around but usually slip in a few packets of biscuits into his plastic shopping bag.  Like I said, the kid wasn’t stupid and he’d figured out the score, I was scared shitless of Marcia so it was our little secret.

Now I have the pump installed on the well.  I have piped all the way to the entrance and installed a generator.  The locals can come with their containers and help themselves to clean water so my water deliveries have stopped.  There’s no need for me to cart water once a day, they can collect it anytime they want.  And this presented Marcia with a problem.  All the neighbours would see me hanging washing.  Visitors would find me rinsing dishes or cooking.  This was women’s work and Marcia was embarrassed so she employed another female maid. 
The maid lasted three days.  Like I say, I don’t like sacking women but I had taken an immediate dislike to this woman.  Now I know a lot of people would say that was wrong, a flaw in my character.  I just think that people disliking each other on sight is something that happens occasionally.  Of course she didn’t help her case by turning up late, leaving early, bitching half the time and spending the rest of it nosing through my stuff.  If I had complained to Marcia I know she would have taken my dislike of her choice of staff personally and put it down to me being a grumpy old sod, which I am.  So decided I would ‘Constructively’ dismiss the new maid.  I loaded the work onto her.  Do the dishes.  Mop the floors.  Do the laundry.  Rake the yard.  Wipe polish over the floors.  Dust the surfaces.  Iron the sheets and clothes.  Fold them up properly and lay them on the shelves.  Not like that, like that.  OK, that’s the house sorted, now start on the shop.  I wasn’t asking her to do anything I wasn’t already doing.

All my kitchen cupboards are neatly laid out.  Theoretically, I should be able to find the utensil or pot I need blindfolded.  Not with this one (or most of her predecessors either).  They’ll stick an open packet of milk under the sink with the detergents and wonder why I complain about the source of the smell.  They’ll jam pots in wall cupboards so the doors won’t close and mix crystal glasses in with cast iron ware and wonder at all the broken glass they have to clean up.  Last time I went to the city, the maid took the suit I wore to Marcia’s Mother’s funeral, the only one I could still climb into, and put it through an African hand wash.  To be fair, I have put so much weight on in the last couple of years, I need a new suit anyway.

‘She says it’s far too much for her’, said Marcia when I asked her why the maid hadn’t turned up for a week.

‘Fair do’s, I didn’t like her anyway’, I admitted; ‘just another one of those lazy cows who spends all her time emptying our fridges to cook herself a humungous lunch in-between nicking anything valuable’.  I could get away with saying that to Marcia now because the maid had left of her own bat claiming overwork and not enough pay as her reasons rather than my irascibility.  Here the standard excuse in any kind of labour dispute with a white employer is ‘racism’ so I was doubly grateful that I had not even a finger in her employment or the payment of her salary, and that my hand in getting rid of her had not been recognised.

‘I need a boy to help me clean up the garden,’ I told Marcia, ostensibly changing the subject, ‘I was thinking of Frank.’


‘Frank, Francis, Fransisco, whatever he is called, the boy who used to help me with the water, I like him.’

‘But he’s deaf!’

‘Is he?’ I asked genuinely surprised as hell.

‘You mean you never noticed?’

‘No, I didn’t,’ I admitted, ‘I used to just slap him round the head when I thought he was ignoring me.  But I would like him anyway.’

‘How long do you want him for?’

‘Well, as long as it takes.  The garden looks like a building site and is strewn with builder’s rubbish and litter.  Also, we need to cut the dead palm fronds off the trees; they are a real fire hazard.  There’s loads he can do to help me.’

Marcia considered this for a moment.

‘I don’t need a maid, Marcia, I need an extra pair of hands’, I said, risking buying back the deal.

‘I think that is a good idea,’ Marcia said, ‘but I will pay him his salary in food from the shop.  He has two younger brothers and a baby sister to look after.  If I give him money his father will steal it to buy whisky.’

‘Now THAT is an excellent idea!’ I said, closing the deal.

So Frank came onto the payroll (food roll). 

Never mind all the other things this lad can do well (the garden is getting towards immaculate, his timekeeping perfect), boy can he keep a clean kitchen!  Everything is in its place.  There is not only a dustbin in the kitchen (a recycled 20 litre paint container he had the sense to retrieve), it has a plastic liner.  It is these little touches that count for so much.  He never greets me in the morning on his punctual arrival by enquiring (like a cloying sycophant) after my health or whether I enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  A fresh packet of cigarettes always appears on my desk yet I never seem to be able to either fill the ashtray or run out of whisky.  He ALWAYS knows where I have left my car keys, telephone or sandals yet I never see him!  How can a boy who I now know to be largely deaf, learn how to creep about the place the way he does? 

I hated it, you have no idea how badly I hated it, when maids helped themselves to anything I had in the fridge and scoffed the bloody lot.  If I complained, I was being unreasonable.  What right does an employee have to eat off my bone china using silver cutlery when we make do on a daily basis with Chinese porcelain and stainless steel? I wouldn’t have minded if they had fed me and Alex a slice or two but all of them happily watched the little boy starve. 
Frank asked for permission to gnaw on a day old bread roll.  I wasn’t having anything of that.  He likes eggs I discovered.  So does Alex and so do I.  So I taught him how to make scrambled eggs on toast.  Not the scrambled eggs they make here, merely tossing a few into a vat of oil, stirring them around a bit and then serving a heart attack on a plate.  No, I taught him how to whisk the eggs nicely in a bowl, adding a bit of salt and ground black pepper, a little bit of milk and then introducing the fluffy mixture into a pan only lightly greased with butter, banging the lid on and letting nature take its course while the bread, neatly sliced in half, crisped up in the oven.  I showed him what a cheese grater was and how with its product we could dust the omelette before slipping it out of the pan and serving it and how much nicer it all tasted if one was sitting at a table with a pot of decent tea, full cream milk, sugar and a bit of indulgent tomato ketchup.  I only had to show him once.  Goodness, if this lad can encourage Alex to sit at the table every morning and eat a decent breakfast he’s worth his weight in gold.  I might even be tempted to eat breakfast myself if he added a few mushrooms.

Entirely separately, Marcia and I had come to the same conclusions.  Maids are generally useless and this boy deserves a bit of a bunk up to look after his siblings.

As an aside, I am beginning to think Frank's deafness is psychological, a device against his abusive father and everyone else who took the piss out of him when he was a scared and very lonely little boy.  I have snuck up on him a couple of times and softly called out his name, ‘Frank’ I’m the only one who calls him by that name, and he has turned round every time.  Others can scream ‘Francisco’ until their lungs turn inside out. 

He knows I know.  But that’s Ok.  So long as he keeps my kitchen cabinets in order and sneaks the odd bottle of whisky out of the shop for me, it can stay our little secret can’t it? 

Being selectively deaf is a huge attribute for a Gentleman’s Gentleman.



Saturday, 26 October 2013

Muamba da Galinha. A Peasant Dish and one of my favorites.

How dare we kill an animal to eat its flesh and then throw half of it away?

I respect people who choose to be Vegetarians, Vegans or even Venusians (those who refuse to eat Cadbury's Eggs or pasta) but I feel sorry for their kids, who are just busting for a MacWhopper with Chips and a Milk Shake.

We raise our own animals here with the intention of killing and eating them.  Mainly chickens as none of us has had the guts to take a knife to Goosie's neck.  He's an ornery beast and will nip your ankles if you're not paying attention but he's part of the scenery now and keeps the dogs in line and unwelcome visitors from darkening my door.  As a recluse, I can thoroughly recommend a goose as a guard so I can't bring myself to eat him.  There are so many parallels between us.  He wanders the garden chewing everything and everyone in sight because he is on his own and I wander my lounge at night with a gutful of whisky suffused with the stark realisation I might as well be on my own.  Neither of us are getting our leg over.  At least I have TV.

So I kill chickens for food.

I have done a lot of hunting in my time and I have one hunting rule which I have passed on to my oldest boy and will, in due course, pass on to little Alex: 'Don't kill anything you aren't going to eat'.  Technically, by my simple rule and with a decent lawyer on your payroll, if you had the appetite and a big enough freezer, you could legally blow way an elephant and have enough ivory to carve a lifetime's supply of toothpicks but I think you all know where I am coming from.  As omnivores, we have to kill to survive but what we do kill, should be sustainable and we should use all of it.

I could say, 'They are only chickens'.  But I saw every one of them emerge into this world and every single one of them eats grain out of my hand.  They will sit on my shoulder or on my lap.  I don't have fleas but they will peck in my hair like female gorillas grooming an alpha male.  And then I select one and chop its head off.

If you are going to kill an animal, then be prepared to eat it.  From its arse to its lips.  Does Kentucky Fried Chicken offer packets of fried chicken lips?  I never died from eating a Big Mac or a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and by God I have enjoyed them.  We may question from where McDonald's get their ground beef and how Kentucky look after their chickens but there's no denying, if you are hungry enough to eat a horse (a non-endangered source of meat available in all good UK supermarkets), they're both finger lickin' good and although there might have been outbreaks of obesity and flatulence, I haven't seen any mass outbreaks of botulism.

So, here we go. If you have a few scrawny chickens running around, this is what you do.. 

First catch them, kill them, pluck them and draw them. 

(I spared you those images.  Unlike Cro, I was pretty bloody useless when it came to drawing fowl.  My art teacher always said my efforts were indistinguishable from Lowry paintings.  At the time, in the early Seventies, I took it as the insult it was intended to be.  I'd like to meet the bastard now and at least get my paintings back.)

Then chop them up and chuck them into a pan with a bit of water and stick them on the boil,

I could not find the chicken lips while dissecting the chickens but saved the breasts and thighs
for later and for this exercise in providing sustenance, just ran with the feet and wings,
plonking them in a pan with a bit of water, banging the lid on and boiling them up a bit.
In the meantime I collected a few simple ingredients.
A few garlic cloves beaten to a pulp with a bit of rock salt.
Roughly chopped tomatoes
an onion
and a couple of plastic sacks of beaten and pounded to hell peanuts.
Chop the onions up (you can see I took my time over this). Add the
tomatoes and garlic paste and fry it all up in a pan.
I squeezed out the peanut paste into a small pan of boiling water
and kept stirring it until it looked like milky breakfast tea.

I added the onion tomato mix to the chicken
and then added the peanut juice

Served with rice, and maybe a side dish of really hot local peppers and a cooling  cucumber salad
made with natural yoghurt and finely chopped mint, this is delicious.
Etiquette Tip:  Provide guests with crisp, clean, starched linen napkins, finger bowls and, as the host, dive in first so as to lead by example.  This really is finger lickin' good!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Leeches and Blood Letting! How Could I Forget That?

It wasn't just my toe any longer, it was my foot.

Again last night I was awake before four in the morning in absolute bloody agony.  Back in the Eighties, I was blown up in Northern Ireland and was back on duty inside six weeks.  I was stabbed in the Lundas (very painful, no seriously, it is a place in North East Angola) and although not completely mobile, I was back on duty in only four days.

I just got a nip on the toe while going across my garden to switch off a bloody generator and I have been off my feet for six weeks.  Now this was really starting to piss me off.  I was so pissed off, in fact, I was nearly ready to do a Ranulph Fiennes and saw my own digit off in the shed.  Every time it seemed to be getting better, it would suddenly swell up in a different place and ooze goo all over the place.  Marcia banned me from her bed unless the offending digit was bound tightly in a bandage encased in a pillow case and a plastic bag from the shop.  The trouble was, it was exploding.  At least if felt that way.  Binding it only made it worse.

So today I was delighted when my old mate turned up for a visit.  He is now a local police chief dealing, ironically, with illegal immigrants,  Since I have only really been legal for half the twenty years I have been here, we both have an excuse to share a drink and a laugh.  The thing is, we were in the bush together.  In the bush we had to look after ourselves, there was no health service.

He looks tired but he's had a hard day in the cellar

He had a look at my foot.  'It's a snake bite,' he said, 'you need to cut it'.

'There's some razor blades in the shop, do you mind?' I asked him.

Off he trotted while I heated up a bowl of water and threw loads of salt in it to soak the foot.

'Have you any Agua Oxigenada (Hydrogen Peroxide) or Alcohol?' he asked me when he got back.  I gave him a bottle of whisky.

I sterilised his surgical tools, laid them out on the floor. took a slug of the whisky (well, it is a shame to waste it), lit a cigarette and let him get on with it.

You know, every time I take a photograph of the floor I get pissed off.
I mean, what they hell did they sand it with...  Rocks?
I have seen this guy torture people in cellars so he had no qualms whatsoever about slashing deep into my foot.

Yes it was painful but technically I still outrank him so I could not betray even the merest flicker of discomfort.  So he had another slash saying the first cut wasn't the deepest, proving that Cat Stevens doesn't know shit and that rank may have its privileges but if you bang on about it, it doesn't half piss people off.

God, the relief!  It was instantaneous!  God the mess, that was instantaneous too!  I plunged my foot into the bowl and let nature take its course.  Over a gallon of hot, salty water turned to soup in front of my eyes.

Bleeding from all its new orifices.
Blue toes, all the rage in Angola

But for the first time in weeks, I am free of this incessant pain.  Maybe tomorrow I will be able to get my boot on again.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


A Peasant collecting Clams, God Bless her. 
She deserves more than four bucks a bucket.

Yesterday I decided I would prepare a fine chicken curry with a smooth peanut and coconut cream sauce.  I like curries with a spiciness categorised as ‘Burning Bum By Morning’ but little Alex’s palate is refined enough to sense chilli in his food even if the last time I touched the local very fiery hot peppers was a week ago.  Maybe I should try washing my hands more often.  Anyway, there was no way I could put chilli into it so I went for smoothness, a rich, creamy sauce lathered around chunks of deboned chicken ladled over rice.  Creaminess of texture takes time, so I started early.

Marcia was in town and Alex was off with his friends so I was on my own in the house.  Sometimes I like being on my own.  I don’t know about you but every now and then I think I could have been perfectly happy living as a bachelor in converted stables in some mews in London.  Looking back, I know exactly where I went wrong.  Shagging my farming neighbour’s daughter and accepting the gracious offer of the light of his life’s hand in marriage rather than two Ely cartridges discharged at point blank range into my guts.  With hindsight, of course, I would have dared the outraged father to shoot me.

I just wanted to clean.  Women have no idea how to clean.  Oh sure, they can wash dishes, do a bit of dusting and can run an iron over dhobi but clean?  Not a chance.  For a start, any dirt above eyeball level is invisible.  To fry one single egg they need three litres of olive oil, four frying pans, a casserole, a pressure cooker and about ten plates.  I have never yet met a woman who can pour herself a bowl of cornflakes and eat them without destroying a whole kitchen.  And, I know I have banged on about this before, ANY flat surface is a repository for icky feminine things.  What woman would accept her husband rinsing his kecks out in the sink and hanging them out to dry on the shower taps?  Steaming socks on the radiator, would they go for that?  At least this is a hot country so I don’t have to fight my way through dangling stockings to get to the shower.  Who washes stockings or pantyhose anyway?  I thought they were disposable, like nappies, another disgusting consequence of productive co-habitation between the sexes.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love kids, but like puppies they are just so bloody messy until they are house trained.

So today I could clean.  And having cleaned I decided to cook.

I took five chicken legs, dropped them into a pan with a couple of chopped onions.  I added very roughly chopped stalks of fresh coriander, a few bashed to shit garlic cloves and a couple of ripe, slashed tomatoes and a dash of salt.  I poured in about a pint of water and set the pan on a high heat to boil the crap out of it for ten to fifteen minutes.  I then fished out the chicken legs, checking to see there was no blood oozing from them as I stabbed them with a fork, and laid them on a plate to cool.  I strained the liquid and set it aside.

I finely chopped onions, garlic and fresh coriander stalks and fried them off in a heavy cast iron pan.  Just as they were caramelising I added two heaped tablespoons of Garam Masala, gave it all a stir to sear the spices a bit before adding a tin of skinned tomatoes, bashing them with the wooden spoon to break them up and thicken the sauce before adding a squeeze of locally produced peanut paste (you could use two tablespoons of unsweetened smooth peanut butter), stirring that in before adding some of the stock and giving it all a good stir to combine.

I chopped into cubes a chunk of fresh pineapple and threw that into the mix along with a few roughly chopped coriander leaves.  Rather than swamp the mixture in the pan with all the chicken stock, I added it a bit at a time so as to keep the sauce thick as it reduced.

With the chicken legs cool enough to handle, I stripped the flesh off the bones.  I like the skin but neither Marcia nor Alex does (do? Help please YP) so the skin joined the bones in the bowl for the dogs.  I know that a lot of experts say one should not feed cooked chicken bones to dogs.  But they are not ‘dog’ experts, they are ‘soft fluffy pet’ experts.   Real dogs will eat the arse out of your pants as you are running and mine will happily gnaw on the skeleton of a bony fish as well as the bleeding bones of any intruder.  Cooked chicken and fish bones to them are just an appetizer and while I may have had a couple of them hack up spectacularly on my living room floor, none of them have ever choked to death and they look pretty damn healthy to anyone entering my property uninvited.

I finely sliced a couple of ripe but still firm red tomatoes and a couple of green sweet deseeded peppers, added them to the reduction giving it all a stir and then had a whisky and smoke break which allowed enough time to soften the peppers without them turning to mush, we want a bit of al Dente here.  I then chucked in the bite sized chicken pieces and added half a can of Coconut milk and half a handful of finely chopped coriander leaves, stirred it up again and left it on the heat until it started to bubble (not boil) before banging the lid on the pan and taking it off the heat.  This is why heavy cast iron pans beat everything else hands down.  There is enough latent heat in the iron to make sure everything warms through without the coconut milk curdling.  We’re going for creamy smoothness here and once again, free from distraction, I had not only achieved this, I had been able to accompany an episode of Midsomer Murders, choke down a few cigarettes and a couple of whiskeys.

I placed a pan of water, about a quart, on the burner to bring to the boil adding a good pinch of salt.

I very finely chopped a couple of Garlic cloves and half an onion and fried them off in a bit of olive oil in a heavy based pan.  I added two cups of rice and gave it all a good stir to make sure the rice was evenly coated with the oil before tipping in the boiling water (if it does not sizzle and scald your hand, you have chickened out and not roasted your rice) and banging the lid on the pan.  Like I said, my pans are heavy cast iron so it is hard to put their lids on quietly.  I turned the heat down to minimum and left it alone for the time it took me to smoke another fag and swig another glass of the amber nectar.

Lifting the lid off the pan, I could see no sign of liquid, just the steaming craters formed by water boiling through the rice so turned the heat off, banged the lid on again and left the rice to steam through gently.

My job was done.  The place was clean, the kitchen immaculate and the food was ready.

Half an hour later Marcia walked in carrying a bucket with Alex in tow.  A trip to town can be pretty unpredictable here so I was rather pleased with my timing.  My lovely family walk in, no doubt tired and hungry, and I can serve them immediately on the nicely laid out dining table.  I was pretty bloody chuffed.

‘Have you cooked?’ asked Marcia, sniffing the air, ‘Oh dear’

It's obviously a cultural thing, a sign of our vastly different backgrounds but most arguments Marcia and I have can be put down to a simple lack of mutual comprehension, things get lost in translation so, rather than take issue at her obvious dismay that her husband, housebound due to a rotting snake bitten foot, had cleaned the whole house and put food on the table, I asked her what she had in the bucket.

Quitetas’, she said.  Clams.  She had a whole bucket full of fresh clams.

‘We have to eat them now,’ I said, ‘I love Quitetas,’ I said, ‘It would be criminal to waste them.’

‘But what about your food?’ Márcia asked me.  I really hate her sometimes but she is such a love.

‘It’s a curry,’ I told her, ‘curries always taste better the next day.  I’ll stick it in the fridge and we’ll have it tomorrow.’

Márcia grabbed the last of the fresh coriander and tossed it into a very light, aluminium pan.  She chopped up an onion and added half a pint of white wine, threw in the rinsed clams and… carefully placed the wafer thin lid on so she didn't accidentally bend it.

So often, nowadays, people like to sit in splendid isolation and gorge their food in front of a TV.  I like to honour meal times by sitting at a table surrounded by family.  In what are sometimes arrogantly considered Third World cultures, food is served up in a communal pot, those choosing to absent themselves going hungry.

I delighted little Alex by showing him that to eat clams, he did not need to struggle with a knife and fork.  All he needed to do was suck the flesh from one shell and then use the original, pincer or tweezer like, to fetch the flesh out of the rest.  I crisped some fresh bread up in the newly rewired oven and made up a garlic butter dipping sauce.  We sat together around the table as a family for over an hour. 

The clams were delicious and a bucket full cost Márcia 400 Kwanzas.  That’s four dollars.  Talk about value for money.

My smooth chicken curry is, of course, outstanding.  But I’m glad we did not eat it last night and had communal clams instead.
I didn't do a bad job of restoring the table either, did I?

Sunday, 20 October 2013

This is England

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"

“Teenage girl admits punching frail Sikh pensioner, 80, to the ground, knocking off his turban and then SPITTING in his face in vile daylight attack filmed by shoppers” 

Quote from the Daily Mail yesterday.

Well, that says it all about community spirit, doesn’t it?

I’m not talking about the fact that someone would senselessly attack a poor old codger in the street just because he looked different, the English have been doing that for decades.  When I arrived in England with my younger brothers in tow, the natives abandoned Paki Bashing and added to their list of sports (the victories which, as they never failed to remind us, included one World Cup and Two World Wars) Nazzie Bashing.  As a youngster, therefore, and with what would now no doubt be classified in a detrimental light as Teutonic efficiency,  I quickly realised how useful a sock with a rock in it in one’s school satchel was compared with a pencil case and a geography book,  To my mind, the English were bloody animals and to defend myself and my brothers, I resorted to my own form of Blitzkrieg.  Nowadays, and with the benefit of years of experience, I would dispense with the rock and just stab them in the eye with a pencil.  But in those days I was still civilised.

What I am on about, in part, is the fact that passers-by would film the assault and presumably sell the footage to the Daily Mail, rather than step in and help the poor sod.  After all, the assailant was only a teenage girl.  Are there no men left in England with the courage to take on a teenage girl?  If my Mother had seen that in her younger days she would have told us kids to hang on to the shopping while she slapped the shit out of the assailant.  But then, she lived through Cristall Nacht and saw what happened to her neighbours who had, from one day to the next, been classified as legally different.

Instead of the headline the Daily Mail posted perhaps they could have, unusually for them, been honest and simply stated,

‘Uncaring, Cowardly and Venal English People Watch Old Foreign Looking Person Who Has Lived In England All His Life and Made a Contribution to Society Being Beaten by Uneducated Dopey Stupid Kid Redolent of English Youth and Do Nothing Except Ring Us to a Cut Lucrative Deal for the Vídeo Footage and Photos!’ 

To be fair to the Daily Mail, they did describe the attack as ‘Vile’, which it was.  But the Daily Mail missed the point (again).  These sorts of mindless xenophobic assaults occur daily.  How about all the Homophobic assaults?  How about the assaults on people with pink dyed spiky hair?  The story the spotty faced youth who penned this article, typically shallow, failed to appreciate was the deeper sickness, the evil virus infecting a society that allows one member of it to beat another, just because he is in non-compliance with their norm, while others just film it.

I am sure a decent Editor could tighten my strap line up a bit to something like: ‘Oh, The Shame!’

This reporting by the Daily Mail made the news in Angola.

The Angolans immediately picked up on the fact that English shoppers stood by as this poor old non-English looking guy was beaten up on an English high street and instead of diving in to help him, the natives just filmed the attack.

For the Angolans, the story wasn’t that someone got beaten up in the street, that happens all the time.  For them the story was that everyone would stand around watching it happen.

And do nothing.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Meet Eddie

Charlie's brother out of Doggie fathered by Kizomba.

Of the thirteen puppies from Doggie's third litter (she has now given me a total of 35 puppies) I had to keep this one.  I was in amongst the pups helping a prospective new owner to select a couple when this one snuck up on me and bit my toe.  Yes, that toe.  Clearly the dog has a bit of character and is not intimidated by our difference in size.  Clearly the couple looking for a puppy thought so too for they immediately dumped one of the two puppies they had selected and demanded him instead.

Bitches can, and do, mate with more than one dog and can store sperm until they feel the time is right to get pregnant.  I can see at least three fathers in the mix but I prefer the obvious isssue of Kizomba.

Kizomba is my neighbour's dog.  He was fished out of the river years ago with a badly lacerated leg.  Against all odds, he not only survived but made a perfect recovery to become the Alpha male of the neighborhood.  As Doggie came on heat for the second time and Charlie, his son, started to go a little wild eyed and crazy with hormones, Kizomba beat Charlie up so bad he damn near ripped his balls off and I had to suture Charlie's ball sack if he was going to stand any chance of fathering his own puppies.

Unlike most feral dogs, Doggie included, Kizomba is inteligente and comfortable around humans.  He was willing to be trained and obey his master in exchange for a decente bunk and regular food.  Charlie, his son by Doggie is the same.  Oddly enough I chose to keep Charlie, out of Doggie's first litter, because when I had finally tracked down the hole in the ground that Doggie had dug to give birth in and was stuffing the puppies into a pillow case to transfer them to the box I had made up, he bit me.

Charlie will sit when he is told to and come back when he is called.  I can put a plate of food in front of him and he won't tuck in until I tell him he can.  He won't climb up on the furniture or nick food off the table.  I once caught Doggie on the table tucking into our Sunday roast, na opportunity she had seized just because I had turned my back to make the gravy.  Charlie will also dog Alex and get extremely viscious if he thinks the boy is under threat.

Between here and the restaurante site is a pack of feral dogs.  I have to drive between the two almost daily and Charlie will not stay at home.  He just has to gambol alongside the Jeep.  The one thing he does not do well is ride along in vehicles.  And every time he gats beaten up by this pack of feral dogs.  One on one I am sure he would murder them but faced with such a co-ordinated attack by so many, it is hardly surprising he always comes off worst.  On more than one occasion, I have been tempted to ride down the middle of the road at night and shoot these dogs but I just know I would get into all sorts of trouble.  What Charlie needs is some back up.

'This puppy is special', I told the prospective owners.


'Yes.  This one is a pure bred Tiger Dog, look at his stripes.  Look at his brother Charlie over there.  This one will come out bigger and meaner than him'.

'I want him,' said the guy.

'It'll cost you,' I said.

The guy picked up the puppy and it struggled manfully before sinking its sharp little teeth into his thumb.

'I'll give you a hundred bucks,' he said.

'Not even close,' I countered, 'How many real Tiger Dogs have you seen?'

I can see this guy really wants this puppy but I want to keep him too so I throw out a ridiculous figure.

'OK, 500 bucks', I say.

'Done,' he says.

Now that wasn't supposed to happen but 500 bucks, US mind, is not to be sniffed at and, after all, I hadn't really earned it, Doggie had done all the work.

Just then, Alex pitched up.

'Daddy! What are you doing with Eddie?'


'Yes Daddy, Eddie.  Eddie is MY dog!'

The guy's wife looked at Alex's trembling lip and, no doubt with a mixture of maternal pity and the thought of what she could buy with the five hundred her husband was willing to toss, persuaded him to hand Eddie back to Alex.

To train a puppy to be loyal the first thing you have to do is stop bathing.  Dogs rely on scent so if you shower regularly, it just confuses them.  Now I have no problems eschewing running water and soap.  For a start, unwelcome visitors are suddenly less inclined to darken my doorway but wives, whose bed husbands are expected to share, take a diferente view.  Anyone who came off the tit and was immediatley packed off to boarding school will understand the trauma of being seperated from Nanny.  Eddie felt the same way.  He had lost all his siblings and his mother, Doggie, was kicking him off her teats.  Clearly, Eddie needed to be introduced the the inside of the house and learn to eat the meat he would need to build up his muscles so he could back up his brother. 

And this is where sweaty, unwashed clothes come in.  At night, I peel off and make a bed up for the puppy with my stinky garments.  It gets used to my smell and the fact that I feed it.  We become inseparable.  It's all over my feet and biting my toe to get attention.  If I am working late at night it whines piteously so I pick it up, stuff it inside my shirt and it calms down as I type.  Then it wakes up, struggles out of my shirt and settles down  right between my eyeballs and whatever it is I am doing.

Can we go to bed now Daddy?  I'm tired and so very pissed off, oh so pissed off with this blogging lark,
Can't we go hunting instead?.
Marcia hates animals in the house.

'Isn't your best friend called Eddie?' she pointed out.

Oh, so that's where Alex got the name.

'That's alright,' I assured her, 'I'll just tell Ed I am naming my dogs after English Princes'

Thursday, 17 October 2013


"All I wanto is a beero, understando!!!!
Blogger has decided that I am Português.   It has analysed my laptop, recognised that I have a Pork and Cheese version of Windows installed and anything I posto originates from dodgy, third world servidores.

I ave tried to override the default spell checker but doing so changes my keyboard to English as well, which is a bit of a bugger as it is a Português keyboard and changing it to English, which it clearly isn't, screws everything up.  The keys representem the letters of the alfabeto remain the same (more or less) but every other key assumes a new, incompreensível idêntico.   Try having to press Control-Alt-2 to get @.  Try figurem that out in the first place when all you are trying to do is send a bleeding email!

I thought, perhaps, I could change the default linguagem for Blogger and confirm that I am indeed writing in English but while Blogger admits I am English, it insistas on spell checking using a Portuguese dicionário.  Now I wouldn't mind if all I had to endure were loads of red wiggly lines beneath every word I typed but no, to add to my woe, whatever malevolente programa there is running in the background automaticamente respells whatever it is I have written.  Since I am half blind, I need to tip the screen down so it iluminares the keyboard, meaning I cannot see what I am writing on the screen.  When I lift the screen to proof read what’s displayed, I am sometimes left bewildered.

I'll give you a few exemples: (I mean, examples)

Na (this is supposed to be 'an' as in 'na exemple'. Oh, for goodness' sake, AN EXAMPLE!)

Restaurante.  Yes, just add na 'e'.  AN 'e'.

Distante, instead of distant. They love their E's

Arrogante.  Yet another extra 'E'

Then there's the accents.  If I write taxi, lo and behold, it appears as táxi.  Ç’s appear randomlçy as far as I can see.

This means that what should take only a minute or two, writing a comento on one of your postas, for exemplo, can take ages as I arguir with a machine that insistes I cannot spell.

So I ave had na ideia.  I am not going to bother anymore.  I shall justo type away in English and if the sistema changes things, well then it will give you all a little brainteaser working out what the hell it is I am on about.  I shall invente a new língua: Porkinglês.

I thought I would share this because I had this imagem of you wading through all my typos thinking of me slumped half comatoso over my keyboard, fingers numb with álcool unable to hit the correcto key.  Nothing, I assure you, could bê further from the truth.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Toe Update

A couple of the boys from Rico's place came to see me yesterday.  Since the toe issue, I haven't been as mobile as I usually am so not having seen me propping up their bar at Rum & Coke time for a few weeks, they decided to ride down and see how I was getting on, and get one of my increasingly famous ice creams each for which they very decently swapped a bottle of scotch.

I promised the Fifth Columnist I would not display any more gory photos on the blog but I am sure he will indulge me this, hopefully, last time.

I suppose I have become a bit blasé about injury confident, as I have always been, that if you survive the first couple of hours, you're probably going to be OK.  Pain, to me, is something to be borne rather than complained about.

In my last fight my opponent broke my nose and a couple of ribs in the first round.  In the last, I broke a bone in my hand returning the compliment.  Afterwards, both of us were loaded into the same ambulance and taken to hospital.  I was most of the way through training at Sandhurst and knew that if I took the medical ticket, I would be back termed and have to do it all again so I made damn sure I passed my medical knowing that any drop in the standard of my performance due to injury would not be considered a valid excuse.  It was called 'Soldiering On' in those days.

I was burned in Northern Ireland and ended up in the appropriate unit of the Military Wing of Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast.  Due to the very bad reaction I had endured to the morphine with which I had been injected immediately after the incident, I refused any pain killers whatsoever and to this day, will not take even a headache tablet. After I left the Army, I obtained my medical records and note from that time the consultant's hand written remarks stating that my recovery rate was faster than expected and I had a 'well above average tolerance of pain'.  I don't know what that means really.  I was in agony when twice a day they peeled off congealed dressings and sliced away dead and often, not so dead flesh.  Of course my recovery rate was faster than expected.  I couldn't smoke, I couldn't drink, I couldn't sleep (I so desperately wanted to shag one of the nurses looking after me and you know what the difference between 'light' and 'hard' is?  You CAN go to sleep with a light on).  I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could, hook up with anything remotely female and unload a few gallons of dirty water; you try wanking with burnt hands encased in plastic bags filled with Eusol.  I honestly think that the idea of having strip shows with a strictly enforced no touchy feely rule on the wards would do much to free up scarce NHS bed spaces as, the chaps at least, discharged themselves and waddled off with a John Wayne swagger back to waiting wives.

I had my fingers chopped off in Belize.  I knew I was a day's march away from any sort of medical attention so there was no point whining about it, all I could do was bind the hand, pop the fingers in my shirt pocket and start marching north.

I bust my ankles on the Nurburgring when I highsided a Ducati.  By then I was self employed and no, my personal injury insurance did not cover motorcycle racing.  Every day I spent in hospital was costing me my savings.  Every day I wasn't in the shop selling 'bikes, I was losing income so four days later, I was hobbling around on crutches doing what I did best in those days (certainly better than racing 'bikes), flogging motorcycles.  I even sold my trashed Dainese leathers for twice the sticker price to a client who clearly wanted to pretend he was a motorcycling hero.  I didn't care, I had just tossed a 'bike worth 25 grand down a track comprehensively destroying it so I needed to make up the bottom line.

In Moçambique I was contracted to clear a road from Quelimane to Malawi of land mines in six months and within budget.  I got sick with Malaria but carried on.  I finished the job, on time and within budget, but was then evacuated by air to a hospital in Jo'burg suffering from pneumonia and acute malaria; pulmonary oedema being a complication of long term malarial infection.  I arrived in Africa weighing eighty kilos.  When they weighed me in hospital, I was fifty-seven kilos.

I was on a 'Juice in, Smarties out' run to Lucapa in North East Angola during the war.  A juice in, smarties out run was where I flew in a Beechcraft to one of the Diamond buying offices up country bringing the buyers cash to by more diamonds (juice) and to carry the diamonds they had bought out (the smarties).  This time it didn't go so smoothly and by the time I had managed to pull the door of the aircraft closed and the fans where spinning for a shortfield, downwind take off, some of my guts had spilled out into my boxer shorts as a result of quite a nasty stab wound that missed the one organ I really cared about by only a matter of inches.  Instead of electing to be flown back to Jo,burg, I allowed myself to be operated on in an Angolan clinic and 24 hours later walked out of it, minus my handmade brogues which had been nicked while I was under the knife.

I came out of Sarajevo suffused with Malaria (once you've had it, you never really get rid of it and in cold climates it really can flare up and, believe me, Sarajevo was bloody cold) as well as a toothache that was driving me wild.  At 7.30 in the morning I was due to give a presentation of all my findings to those interested in clearing booby trapped mass graves in the Balkans and gathering enough evidence to convict the guilty of war crimes at a smart office in Central London.  At four in the morning, unable to stand the pain any longer, I was in a dentist's chair somewhere in Docklands being told I needed a root canal job and that the anaesthetic would take half an hour to take effect and the job itself would take another two.  The presentation was at eight, would take about an hour plus one more for questions, I then had two to get to Heathrow and catch my 'plane.  I still had to go back to my digs, collect the files and my bag.  'Forget the anaesthetic', I told him, 'you've got an hour.  I’m not an NHS client, I'm paying cash.'  The dentist was a Pakistani, a Muslim, but he let me take a swig from my hip flask every now and then but I did have to go outside for the one smoke break I needed.

I had my first heart attack and when I woke up, alarmingly in the same clinic of which I had so many horrible memories, I unhooked myself from the drips and monitors and had made it barefoot half way down the Ilha before hospital security staff caught up with me and brought me back in handcuffs.

I had another contract in Uganda to dismantle an oil rig, load it onto a three hundred and fifty tonne barge which had to be assembled from bits arriving by the truckload from America by the side of Lake Albert accessible by roads that I had to build and serviced by light aircraft landing on a runway I had to build.  Bilharzias is endemic to Lake Albert, as is malaria.  The only way I would be able to build the jetties capable of handling a 350 tonne barge was to get into the water, plant my surveyor's poles and encourage the local labourers to do no more than I was obviously prepared to do myself and, since I was the only one present who appeared able to swim, this included free diving with the cables and straps of the crane to hook up and haul out great rocks that were in the way.  The job was a success, part of which is down to a chap called John Lawrence.  He taught me to sail and, thanks to him, I could tie a bowline underwater in zero visibility.

Once again, I left an African country desperately sick and a fraction of my normal weight but went straight back to Angola to build power stations.  As usual, it was a project desperately behind schedule yet politically imperative it was delivered on time.  The last 72 hours I worked my team without any sleep whatsoever and at nine in the morning, Christmas day, the lights went on in Cazenga, a suburb of Luanda, Angola's capital city.

For the three years I worked for a Private Military Company I took only three weeks leave.  I took no leave at all while on the Uganda job.  I worked for three years building power stations here and again, took only three week's leave even though a typical expatriate contract gave me an entitlement to one month off for every two worked.  For years I lived with radios strapped to my hips.  I could sleep through all the chatter but awoke immediately when I heard my callsign, Delta Three.  Even now, I can hear a mobile phone ring a mile away.  If the dog barks in the night, I am awake.  If I hear a car pull up or an engine stop before its noise has faded into the distance, I'm awake.  If the generator just coughs, I'm awake.

Pushing the envelope of physical tolerance that far I suppose it was hardly surprising that I would keel over in a site office with another heart attack.  Lying there in that same Gottverdammte clinic strapped up to drips and monitors did make me wonder, ever so briefly, whether the salary they were paying me was worth it.  So I unhooked myself and walked out.

I am not a rich man by any means.  I am not even comfortably well off.  I don't even have a debit card anymore.  If I flew to Germany, I wouldn't be able to hire a car or book a hotel room.  Amazon on the internet leaves me feeling like a penniless kid with his face glued to a toy shop window.  At the two divorce settlement hearings I have attended, based on the evidence presented by the expensive lawyers my estranged wife had engaged and I was paying for, I recognised that living with me must have been truly awful so never argued.  If a wife really felt that way, enough to have such testimony transcribed publicly in a court of law and sleep with her work colleagues while I was away, I knew our differences were irreconcilable.

As a contractor, my income was sometimes spectacular but generally irregular and not something a spouse bereft of patience could count on for her fair share of in the future, ad infinitum.  So skilful lawyers always concentrated on something far more concrete, my assets.  In my time I have signed over three houses, furniture, cars and objets d'art.  I have to admire the lawyer’s arguments.  While recognising that my income was erratic, they averaged out what I had earned during the relationship and projected that forward to a highly optimistic retirement age of sixty five.  Then, as a concession sympathetically received by the court, admitting that all this poor woman required was a degree of security representing only a fraction of my projected future earnings best satisfied by the liquidation of my current assets.  The courts graciously allowed me to keep all my future earnings in exchange for all my current assets.

Twice I have walked away clad only in the clothes on my back and a half empty rucksack.  I have slept in ditches and beneath starlit skies scarred only by the branches of the trees beneath which I was resting.  I have taken comfort where I could find it and have even paid for it and felt no shame.

So perhaps it isn’t so surprising that something as minor as an irritating little snake bite would do no more than, well, irritate me.  Actually, I lie.  It annoyed me beyond belief.  After everything I have been through, after everything I have done, don’t I deserve a decent break?  I have built and opened the new shop.  I have built and moved the family into the new cottage.  The build of the new restaurant and cottages is cracking on.  And now I was to die horribly of a snake bite while engaged in something as innocuous as walking across my garden to switch the generator off?  Well, Fuck You, whoever you are in charge of the Greater-Scheme-of-Things, I won’t.  Not until I see the whole business up and running.  Only then can you come and get me and contract me to widen the highway to Hell and sort out an improved calorific return for burning souls.

‘Let’s have a look at the toe, then,’ my visitors implored, helping themselves to my present of scotch.

‘Eek!’ they said when I showed them.

That’s when they gave me their other present, John Visser’s and David Schapman’s book entitled ‘Snakes and Snake Bite’ subtitled ‘Venomous Snakes and Management of Snakebite in Southern Africa.’

After they left, I had a quick scan through it and decided I had been bitten by a juvenile Puff Adder.  Clearly, that's what they reckoned too as they had 'dog-eared' the appropriate page.

Looking at the blisters, I can see a resemblence here.
The thing that concerns me is that the poor bastard's índex finger in the top photo was amputated SIX months after the bite!
This begs the question: How long does it take to recover?

It's all in the mind, though.  Don't you think that looks much better?
And I was no burden on the local health service.
I will lose the nail but, so what?  They grow back better than amputated toes.

I think I still have a way to go.  I finished typing this post, uploaded it and then looked down at my foot.  This is what had oozed out of it while I was typing... I'm really pissed off about the substandard finish of the floor.

Trust me.  If you can possibly avoid it, don't get bitten by a snake, even a baby one.
You know the instant relief you feel when an inflamed boil finally bursts or is lanced by a sadistic nurse?
Well that's how I feel now.