It has been raining a lot here recently. This is good, we haven’t had decent downpours in years. As well as knocking out all communications and the satellite TV, rain clears the air, brings out the flowers which in turn bring out the butterflies and humming birds. Sadly, it also brings out these:
I killed three today. Charlie is a bloody useless ratter. He’ll catch them but not kill them, he’ll just stand there like a dope with the thing shrieking in his jaws and then, just as I get to him, he’ll drop the bugger. If I arm myself with a club so that I at least stand a sporting chance of being able to twat the bastard thing as it scurries off, he drops them all the sooner. I have never beaten Charlie but clearly the sight of me approaching him swinging a 3 wood has made him decide against taking any chances. Rocky seems keen to have a go but I can’t blame him for backing away from a cornered rat, especially rats this size.
Rocky has settled in well and is beginning to obey simple orders such as ‘Drop that shoe NOW you little shit!’ and when it comes to food, he is a walking swill bin. Do you remember this photo taken soon after I had found, scrubbed and fed him?
He is still very fond of what was supposed to be his temporary basket and sheet and when I make up a larger bed for him and take the basket away, I can hear his little nails rattling to and fro across the floor all night as he searches for somewhere he wants to lie down. Between circuits he will stop, scratch on the bedroom door and whine piteously. I always crack, return his basket and give him a bowl of milk to shut him up. His diet of beef, chicken, liver, heart and milk seems to be working for him, look at him now just three weeks later:
A few posts ago I came in for some real ribbing. Some of you suggested I looked a bit of a state so I decided to do something about it and get a haircut. Unless you were transfixed by the rat above, you may even have noticed.
|Two Germans and a Boy|
Harald Klein came for lunch. Alex really likes Klein. He thinks Klein is such a nice man who always lavishes plenty of attention on him. Klein also always brings Alex a big bag of chocolates which I am sure have nothing whatsoever to do with Alex’s affection for the man. Klein is a German, born in Angola soon after Diogo Cão discovered the place, who owns a few thousand hectares in Kwanza Sul, most of them covered in the Silky Oak trees I am going to chop down and stuff through my workshop. For a long time during the civil war, Klein did what most of the white farmers who hadn’t been killed and buried on their own land did and retreated to Luanda which was where I met him. At the time I had access to vehicles and men armed to the teeth so we decided we would take a peek at his farm and try and find out what happened to his neighbours, also German. Sadly, both had been trashed, only the mute remains of derelict buildings and a small mound of stones beneath which lay his neighbours.
Now that title to his land has been restored to him, he is trying very hard to make a go of what was once a coffee plantation (hence all those Silky Oak trees which were imported to provide shade to the coffee plants). It is the same old story, though. Farms do not spring to life overnight, they require years of effort and tons of investment. Klein has neither time left nor cash and he knows, with no descendants to whom he can pass the farm, the locals already encroaching his land are just waiting for him to die.
Another neighbour of his owns the sawmill local to his plantation. We saw that too as we made our incursion deep into UNITA territory all those years ago. The rebels had destroyed everything they could not steal, it was bloody heart breaking. Amazingly, after hostilities ceased in 2002, he returned there and got the mill going again but without the proper investment, all he could do was enough to stop himself starving. Klein tells me he wants to throw in the towel, get what he can and bugger off back to Europe.
Klein has the trees so owning a mill as well seems a good idea on paper. Klein went to the bank to see if he could raise the capital needed to buy his neighbour out. This would require a lot less capital and provide a far quicker return than buying everything he needed to get the land tilled and replanted with coffee plants, and then wait years for the crop to build up. Interest rates are a lot higher in Angola than they are in Europe but it wasn’t this that put him off. I am quite surprised he wasn’t aware of this but then again, if he has never approached a bank here for a loan before, there is no reason he should.
I think that’s why he came to lunch. He needed someone to listen to him vent his spleen who wouldn’t immediately report him to the racism police. Whatever amount you borrow from the bank, a percentage of it goes into the pocket of the bank official who authorized the loan. If you aren’t willing to pay, you don’t get the loan. So the only people who are willing to take out a loan are those who don’t mind being stung because they have absolutely no intention of repaying it. The bank officials don’t care, it isn’t their money they’re losing and they are on a roll.
I’d have been bloody angry in his position too; they demanded 20% so obviously considered him desperate. If you tell them to get stuffed and then negotiate hard, you can get them down to 5%.
|Two Germans and a Puppy sitting to table|
The Euro has taken quite a bashing recently but I think parity with the dollar is about as far as it will go so wanted to get some dollars out and into a Euro account in Germany. The bank told me that I could send money out for personal reasons, say to support a relative, but the limit was $2,000. If I wanted to send it to a commercial account, I could send as much as I had in my account but it had to be against a commercial invoice for which I had obtained, and paid the tax on, an import licence.
Doing business here is like trudging through treacle.