I would like you all to imagine that I wrote and posted this five days ago. I didn't because I have been rather busy. Later on, when I get the chance, I will write about the intervening five days.
Five days since I first fired up the new washing machine and the last load has just gone in. Each cycle takes two hours so, starting at seven in the morning and knocking off at midnight, I have stuffed that machine 35 times. I have used 3 kgs of washing powder, 2,275 litres of water and the thumb and forefinger of my right hand have squeezed a clothes peg 2,100 times. I know the generator would have been running anyway but in that time it consumed 150 litres of diesel and I consumed 7.5 litres of DomTom, 25 cans of Sprite, 10 cups of tea, 10 litres of water, 3 litres of apple juice and 10 mls of E liquid as I puffed on my E cigarette.Why all these boring stats? Have you any idea how mind numbingly boring doing the laundry is? I am sure some of you do but multiply that 35 times and you can imagine I needed to be exercising my mind while the machine frothed like a thrashed horse (Marcia did buy the wrong powder) lest I completely lost my marbles and started blogging about doing laundry.
Necessarily tied to the house I needed to find as many odd jobs as I could to fill in the time between feeding the machine and hanging stuff out to dry. Being stone cold sober, such tasks were not hard to locate. All the timber offcuts left over from the construction of two substantial wooden buildings were lying in the garden amidst a pile of sawdust and chippings because ‘the builders still needed them’. Well bollocks to the builders, they had their chance so three months after moving in I sorted through the lot, salvaging anything useful and turning what looked like acres of an abandoned timber into three piles: definitely useful, might be useful and let’s have a big bonfire.
The wildlife I disturbed was incredible. Foot long millipedes thick as your forefinger (harmless), eight inch long centipedes an inch wide and only a quarter of an inch thick with vicious mandibles at the head end and flesh piercing pincers at the arse end. These centipedes are so tough you can stamp on them and they will just dust themselves off and carry on attacking you. Years ago I was sitting down minding my own business with bare feet. I felt something tickle the top of my foot so swept my other foot over it to sweep whatever it was away. Next thing I was off the chair howling like a slapped child. Clamped with all its pairs of legs onto my foot was one of these malevolent insects. Marcia whipped a sandal off and gave it a series of mighty whacks all the time screaming that they were deadly poisonous and that it must be killed or she would move out of the house. Like any good infantryman under artillery bombardment, the centipede dug in and held on for grim death. I hobbled over to the sideboard, grabbed a can of Sheltox and sprayed enough nerve agent over it, and my foot, to alert OPCW and still it hung on. I had to use a table knife to flick it off whereupon it flashed across the floor under Marcia’s renewed bombardment before slipping through the impossibly narrow gap under the front door. The top of my foot looked as though a skilled nurse had just removed a row of impeccably regular stitches. That incident reminded me of a bed time story Mother once told me, I suppose I must have been about five years old, in which an Indian friend of hers had one of these things clamp on her forearm the removal of which could only be effected by severing the creature’s body from its legs using a sharp knife. The legs, still embedded in the unfortunate lady’s arm festered and forever more, she bore the hideous scars of her encounter. In case I hadn’t found that story soporific enough, Mother went on to tell me that the lady had been lucky. These creatures seek warmth, she told me, but movement alarms them. Should they come across a sleeping human, they will make for the warmest part of the body. Now that bit of the story did make my botty twitch, after all, as a child I knew only too well where Nursy would stick her thermometer if I was feeling poorly but I need not have worried for, according to Mother, the warmest place on the human body is the skin above the jugular vein. Even a movement as slight as the pulse of a beating heart is sufficient to cause the beastie to snap its legs into the vein like a multi spiked gin trap, ‘and that’, said Mother closing mine, ‘is curtains’. Father always wondered why even on the hottest nights I wore my school scarf to bed.
Other creatures included land crabs, African house snakes, Goliath beetles, a couple of scorpions but no puff adders. I was really looking forward to finding a puff adder. I was wearing my boots and gaiters and had this weird idea that I was going to catch one and make it bite itself. I’ve seen venomous snakes being milked so I was going to force its jaws open, stuff its tail in and hammer its gob shut. I know I have just upset any yoghurt knitting foxy woxy cuddlers reading this but fuck ‘em, my love affair with deadly creatures has long since waned and now that I have a family to look after, if I see anything dangerous, it is dead. Really enchanting were the normally shy birds. They fluttered down out of nowhere and plucked insects and whatever else took their fancy from the disturbed wood piles: Golden Breasted Buntings (Emberiza Flaviventris), Common Waxbills (Estrilda Astrild), Blue Waxbills (Uraeginthus Angolensis a favourite of mine, loads are nesting under the thatch of the restaurant roof), another favourite, the Pintailed Wydah (Vidua Macroura) with its incredibly long tail, the bright yellow Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus Velatus), loads of sparrows, a Red Bishop (Euplectes Orix), iridescent green Glossy Starlings (Lamprotornis Splendidus) and loads more I could not find in Dominic’s pocket guide to Southern African birds. He left it behind last visit, how else do you think I worked out what they were all called!The burn pile was massive but perilously close to the litter pile and surrounded by palm trees that hadn’t seen rain in nearly a year so I had to wait until evening when the sea breeze switched between onshore to offshore providing a brief window of listless air. The presence of litter annoyed me. The builders had been on site a year and during that time had half-heartedly buried all their waste in shallow graves all over the plot. Only inches beneath sand were hidden broken bottles, rusty cans, bits of wire, bent nails, plastic containers and other foot piercing or non-biodegradable detritus. I had to rake every square metre of land and sift all this shit out. It took me three days (in-between laundry duties) and by the time I had finished, I had a truck load piled up at the end of the driveway. Worst was where instead of just burying it, they had set fire to it first. All the bottles had shattered with the heat and the super-heated sand had set hard enough to defeat a rake leaving me with no option but to shovel the contaminated soil into a wheel barrow and cart it away to the litter pile. You try pushing a laden wheelbarrow through sand on a bloody hot day. When I started the job, I was convinced it would be an easy litter detail, light duties, but soon I was reminded of that old saying much loved by expatriate project managers in Africa which said that when you are up to your arse in crocodiles, it is hard to remember that the original intention was just to drain the swamp. But I was damn well going to drain this metaphorical swamp as I was determined that my boy can run safely in bare feet across the lawn I will plant.
Given I had a decent pile of combustible material, it seemed a shame to waste it. Weeds are quite awkward to burn efficiently and I had loads of weeds and scrub in that area of the garden so far unused and shaded by over thirty palm trees. The trees, untended and unkempt as a result, not only looked horrible with their dangling desiccated thorny fronds, they were a fire hazard in themselves and jolly painful if brushed against. So I decided to get rid of all the weeds and scrub and then, with axe and ladder, chop off as many of the dead fronds as I could reach. At least I was working in shade although I would urge those tempted to use a tall step ladder on soft sand to have a little think about it first. I didn’t. Oh the ladder is stable enough as you climb up, the feet sink comfortably into the sand and all seems well, right up until you swing a bloody great axe over your head. Mind you, if you are going to do something stupid, soft sand isn’t a bad place to do it.
|A 'before' picture|
|Another before picture. In amongst that lot I was reasonably confident I had some nice palm trees|
‘Can you believe it?’ she snarled, ‘even eggs are over twenty dollars a tray, if you can find them!’Eggs! Of course! I would build the mother of all hen coops. If I made it big enough, I could even raise Guinea Fowl. If I made it even bigger, I could house Goosie and get him a couple of geese to hump. I asked Marcia how much live geese were.
‘Four hundred dollars’, she said, ‘if you can find them.’Four hundred bucks! Bloody hell, I’d start raising geese! After all, it can’t be hard, even affable gay Welsh raconteurs were successfully raising geese. I’d have to dig a pond, of course, but I like digging ponds and I already had my well so fresh clean water was no problem. Fresh eggs daily, Guinea Fowl for the pot and geese for my wallet. Ducks! Duck eggs are great; I’d need some ducks as well. I re-paced the outline of my coop and added another twenty square metres. I’d make it three metres high so the Guinea fowl could fly around and roost up high, and roof it with shade netting so they did not fly off. All this time I had been thinking out loud. Marcia rolled her eyeballs and walked off to the house.
The breeze petered out along with the setting sun. Bloody hell, I come up with some good ideas, I thought as I set light to some kindling and tossed it on the bonfire. The flames sputtered and fluttered for a few minutes, flickering through the scrub which popped and crackled and then suddenly the inferno took hold. Flames shot twenty, thirty feet into the air, the whole garden, the wood built house and shop, all lit up by the orange glow. Alex came running out of the house and stood wide eyed. Clients from the shop came out to look. Cars stopped on the road their drivers thinking the shop was on fire. Just as quickly though, the fire settled down again and then quietly burnt, with me in nervous attendance, until one in the morning.The following morning, Marcia and I surveyed my handiwork of the last few days. I was really pleased. I had a weed and litter free clean canvas with which to work. All our clothes and linen had been washed and neatly folded. Surely now a few encouraging words from Marcia would be mine?
‘Did you fix the cistern on the toilet?’ she asked.Bollocks. The one thing I forgot to do.
|I need a taller ladder to get the last of those dead fronds|
|Now all I need to do is turn cleared ground to green lawn|
|It is going to look so nice!|
|So glad to get my boots off. (toe is looking miles better)...|
|...and finish the day with a real stick-to-yer-ribs stew!|