Monday, 13 January 2014

Sorry I am late, I got caught up in the bush...


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
I was really pleased with the end result.  So were the two lost missionaries and Japanese soldier I found.  It was pleasantly cool walking under the trees and the garden seemed so much bigger.  I had all this wood salvaged including six eucalyptus logs so I started wondering what I could build out of it.  The wood was all good and well-seasoned but unless I went to all the trouble of running it through a planer thicknesser, it was no good for anything other than very rustic.  Besides which, I am not a carpenter and I know my limits.  Just then Marcia arrived home.  Any thoughts I had of ardent praise and sympathy for cuts and bruises sustained evaporated as she launched into a tirade about gouging Lebanese importers deliberately restricting supply of staples to maintain inflated holiday season prices.

‘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!






47 comments:

  1. Going off likker and nicotine has made an even witter writer of you. Please carry on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two black Mammas sitting on the porch. One turns to the other and says:

      'Why you call yo man Drambui, ain't that some kinda fancy liquor?'

      'Sure is...'

      Delete
  2. What a busy chap you have been. And the best bit, you finished off with real man food. The yard doesn't look too bad either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The trees even look the right size and distance apart to sling a decent and comfortable hammock to contemplate your empire from.

      Delete
    2. Oh yes! A hammock, a pretty maid and ice cold DomTom...

      Delete
  3. So glad you're back. I was getting worried.
    Gotta admire your industry.
    And especially your optimism: right after your catalogue of deadly native insects and vipers you paint an idyllic picture of your son running barefoot through your future lawn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait til I start digging the pool!

      Delete
  4. wow your worked your butt off! Cant wait to see the chicken coop. toe looks so much better.

    need to make some DomTom for myself to finally get rid of this lurgy that I have it wont shift. I think it is a cure all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try having it massaged into your chest. It really should be an expert doing it, do you want me to check my diary?

      Delete
  5. And there we thought you were abducted by martians or something.
    Forget about the taller ladder. Old geezers, and I include myself have brittle bones and we wouldn't want you taking a spill. A broken hip might cramp your style. Just get a pole saw and hack away at the fronds from the ground.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't got a pole saw so I will use child labour instead...

      Delete
  6. with one eye squinted shut, I can almost...almost picture you as the feral version of Gerald Durrell in Angola...well, except for the stories... okay. maybe all you have in common is the critters, but I really enjoyed reading this. You have a way of putting us right next to you, your words pointing like your index finger at what you are working on, looking at, musing on... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After a day working in the garden under a hot sun, you would not want to be sitting down wind of me!

      Delete
  7. I was worried you may have fall off your mountain of laundry and injured yourself. Glad to hear you conquered it :-)
    Well, I consider myself a yogurt eating, knitting, foxy whatever cuddler, but I would be the first to stomp a poisonous snake, or equally poisonous bug. I usually like to let the non-poisonous stuff live though-hope that is ok.
    Here the dangerous stuff is considerably bigger -bear and moose. We have no poisionous snakes in northern BC-thank goodness.
    Barb

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't try stamping on a poisonous snake, it makes them very cross. Try beating them to death with a long piece of angle iron...

      Delete
    2. Good to know. I had a friend who ran a rattlesnake over with a lawn mower-that works too apparently :-)

      Delete
  8. How could a goose cost that much? They are $8. per gosling here. A chicken coop will be great. The guineas are the lawyers of the bunch, boss the chickens around and when they get them, they go after them again to make sure the chickens got it the first time. Best to lock them up in a separate coop. They will sure clear the place of bugs. You can even buy weeder ducks and geese. Guineas eat snakes too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess it is because we are close to the city here and geese are as rare as, well, hen's teeth. Down south they are 100 bucks for a breeding pair. I brought this goose back from Lubango as hand luggage on a domestic airline flight,

      Delete
  9. I came across those centipedes in my hotel room when I stayed in Mombasa, and I thought they looked pretty scary, which is why I never slept the one and only night I stayed there. Moved to another hotel the next day.

    Your garden will be lovely, although the soil looks like sand. I'm not amazed at your industry, given both your outlook on life and your newly acquired sobriety. Well done.

    Have you fixed the cistern yet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cistern is sort of fixed but it has one of these new, water saving mechanisms which cannot easily be dismantled, I think some sand from the well has been sucked into the valves. I much prefer the old ball, cock.

      Delete
  10. A friend of mine from St Kitts awoke one morning to find one of those centipedes lying across his chest. He told me that he'd had to lie without moving for several hours before someone came to deal with the situation.

    I know what you mean about those bloody palms. I put a couple by our pool, and every year I have to climb up and cut off the yellow flower/seed pods, otherwise they fall and get everywhere. I have scars all over my arms. Your tidied 'grove' looks wonderful.

    Good to see the toe still in place, and looking roughly the right colour!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I much prefer coconut palms, at least what falls from them is useful, All the fruit of these trees is good for is fuel for barbecues when dried.

      I have had plenty of 'hat on, no coffee' interviews where I have had to lie for several hours...

      Delete
  11. Your absence after such regular posts was making me a tad worried - I was beginning to think the acidic DomTom had burnt a nasty ulcer in your stomach and you'd been carted off to hospital (my vivid imagination gets me in all kinds of knots!) Pleased to see you have been working hard and the fruits of your labour look great. Did the ash/smoke from the fire make your clean washing dirty again?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same thought here, Addy. One moment our host is drinking himself into relative death, the next he devises Dom Tom. If I were a cat I'd slink off and leave him to it. The proof (Vol 75 %) is in the oesophagus. Unless Hippo goes blind first.

      U

      Delete
    2. Typical woman, automatically assuming that, because I am a man, I would have forgotten to take the laundry down before lighting the bonfire. Well, actually I did forget to take the laundry down but fortunately there was no wind so the smoke and ash went straight upwards. Acidity as a cause of ulcers is another feminist inspired urban myth. Wives and girlfriends cause ulcers. Why do you think it is mainly men who are so afflicted?

      Delete
  12. Wow, you certainly have accomplished a lot in that time. The yard looks great and I guess the palms must have been growing there already 'cos you would never have planted the thorny variety that doesn't self clean (shed their fronds when they die off). It will certainly look great with some grass there and now might be a good time to plant some different palms so that eventually you can get rid of those spikey, labour-intensive ones - perhaps coconuts?? I imagine they grow quite quickly in your climate. The whole place is beginning to come together nicely isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A few coconut trees definitely. They do take their time to grow to fruit, though. I also want to plant avocado, citrus, sweet fig. papaya, mango and cashew. The trees I have look nice for the time being but they are just weeds and a fire hazard so I will cut them down eventually.

      Delete
  13. I like your mother, Tom. In the olden days there was no nonsense. You read (or told) your child a grim tale. Years later your offspring leaves home in the spirit of "Von Einem der auszog das Fuerchten zu lernen" (translating for your English and uneducated readers into 'one who left home to learn how to be frightened'). You have done well in that respect. Took more than a cold fish I expect.

    Other than that I wish I had your problems. My dining room table wobbles.

    U

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would swap my problems for your wobbly dining table in a flash. I shall wish for that tonight. You will know if it came true when your dining table disappears and Inland Revenue kick your front door down.

      Delete
  14. Been away over the Holidays - saw the DomTom reference and ran the Older Posts to discover the miracle of its creation - Glad you found some of that vinegar and sorted through the chaff to find a kernel of magic.

    Amazing, simply amazing - DomTom is some high octane home brew. A Snake Oil cure birthed where the River meets the Sea!

    Based on your progress on the yard, laundry, sobriety, plus a nearly 'good as new' toe (by the looks of it) - those are impressive credentials.

    Gotta say that what makes the sublime difference between acid reflex and epic recovery, (the most important part) is who you pour it into.

    It's a great life when you don't weaken.

    Vive le difference - Cheers, and Happy New Year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and congrats on the blogger award - well done.

      Delete
    2. It is good stuff. I have run out of the vinegar and it really isn't the same.

      Delete
    3. If need be, you can make your own or grabbing the bull by the horns, use wine to make it. http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/how_to_make_apple_cider_vinegar.html

      Delete
  15. The image of you making a puff adder bite itself cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably just as well I did not find one or you would have had to endure photos of rotting fingers...

      Delete
  16. "I was really looking forward to finding a puff adder" - that's what I like about your blog. Most informative. Until I read this I had no idea that you have homosexual snakes in Angola. But why so violently homophobic? Another rollicking good read. It is obvious now why Marcia married you - it must have been your manic handyman skills!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marcia knows that it is not a requirement for her as an owner to marry her slave.

      Delete
  17. Gadzooks, you are industrious. Congratulations on your blogger award, well deserved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The novelty of hard work will wear off. Either that or my back will give out.

      Delete
  18. I began to make a sexual innuendo about you being stuck in the bush, read past your preference for the ball cock on my way here, and have decided against the whole thing.

    Please keep writing - thanks.
    Norman

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps just as well, it is all to easy to cock up innuendo.

      Delete
  19. Gentle John has a couple of spare geese I think...they'd certainly keep the predators away. So glad I read this at the start of the day rather than during lunch as I usually do...all those creepy crawlies...so please for the missionary!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your start to the day is at 11.27! Crickey, I am already on my lunch break! OK, you are an hour behind but nevertheless! Or are you a very slow reader?

      Delete
  20. I'm looking forward to seeing this chicken pen!

    ReplyDelete
  21. An interesting post with some nice pictures.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

    ReplyDelete

Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.