|He loves a good laugh as well|
Now that May has drawn to a close, I am reminded that the contractor responsible for building our new home, the new shop and finishing off the restaurant promised, when I paid him on the 4th January, to have the job completed in six weeks. This means he is now 20 weeks behind schedule.
This would drive a normally sane man wild with frustration, crazy with suffused rage. Anyone who knows me would hardly drop me in the category of ‘sane’, inclining their opinions rather more toward the psychopathic end of the emotional spectrum.
Clearly, there is something about the Barra do Kwanza that can stay a maniac’s hand, soothe a fevered brow and quench a raging thirst for blood because I have still not lost my temper. Quite the contrary. Not only have I maintained a for me, highly unusual sang froid, I am serene rather than irritable, have successfully given up whisky, have lost quite a bit of weight and am far more active than I have been for years. I have gone fishing and shooting and, together with Dominic the company of whom I have enjoyed for nearly two weeks, have more or less taught little Alex to swim. I have filled in and levelled a 25 x 50 metre plot for my seed beds, I now enjoy excellent relations with my erstwhile nemesis and neighbour Rico, and Doggy, the shameless hussy, has got herself pregnant the father being Rico’s very impressive and unusual tiger striped hound. In addition a German tourist company want to start using Flordita as soon as it is finished and I am only a hair’s breadth away from seizing control of my security company and ousting the two local directors. Both trucks are on the road and the shop is doing so well Marcia is on almost daily resupply runs. The sea is behaving itself and the weather is gorgeous.
Rather than fume at the delays and bemoan lost income, I have decided that life is good. There is no hurry, the family are well fed, happy and enjoying themselves and it is all miles better than living in the city and reporting at Oh 7 Hundred hours for tedious duty every morning.
Still, you can have too much of a good thing and I really would like to open so I was very pleased to see our new home, after much sawing and planing of rough timber, rise up out of the ground. Naturally, having approved the design and having admitted that it looks good so far, Marcia had to have a dig at me for positioning the house incorrectly. Apparently it is the wrong way round, whatever that means. I aligned it the way I did so that I could sit on my veranda and watch the sun sink into the palm trees. Marcia, evidently, would have preferred a view of the road. Happily, she realises it is too late to change and is looking forward instead to her fully fitted Bosch kitchen, complete with dishwasher.
An automatic dishwasher in Angola is rather like having an ice cube making machine in the Arctic. So far in Africa I have always managed to stumble along using the much more environmentally friendly ‘maid’. But I suppose a dishwasher would be handy on Sundays when maids have to go to church and enjoy a ‘rest day’ (legal idleness clearly invented by God and enforced by communists). Marcia did sell me on the idea though when she reminded me of just how little was left of my bone china dinner service which, wherever you buy it, is not guaranteed Maid Proof. Good point, well made I thought but if this is a cue for me to lash out on another load of expensive crockery to go with her smart kitchen, she can dream on, I can’t afford it. If it was up to me, we’d be eating out of army mess tins and everyone would get an issue of KFS and if they lost a knife, a fork or a spoon, tough shit.
The other day, Dominic told me that this had been the best holiday he had ever had. Considering we were both up to our elbows in blood and guts at the time, I was a little surprised but he insisted.
|You see, Chris? Even kids can catch fish here...|
He has been out fishing nearly every day. Last night he had his first go at night fishing, beach casting on a stretch of white sand he and his companions had all to themselves with a roaring camp fire over which they could roast their chicken legs. He is back on the beach again today, determined to catch one last big one before he goes back to his mother tomorrow.
For a few days we enjoyed the company of Marcia’s nieces which was fun even if the numbers meant we had to turn the shop into a dormitory at night but for the kids it was brilliant. Fancy a midnight snack? The little beggars must have hoovered away half Marcia’s biscuits and sticky buns and no wonder they were all hyper and up at six in the morning with all that fizzy pop inside them.
|Dominic, Dead Bambi and Mad Dog|
They made up for their insatiable greed for sugary snacks when Dominic and I shot a Bushbuck and I needed able bodies to carry water and sluice down cutting tables and floors. There were very good reasons why I could not gut it in the field, instead having to get the hell away from the scene of the crime as fast as possible (note to self: it is all very well trying to drive away in tactical mode using moonlight instead of headlights but remember to fill the windscreen washer bottle first and then you might not run slap bang into the tree that wasn’t there on your way in), so I performed the grisly task in the Jango when we got home.
|Yes kids, this is where your food comes from...|
|Through the initiative of Dominic, this job was gory but none too arduous|
The bugger was too heavy for me to haul over a beam so I asked Dominic to nip down the shop and see if there were any drinkers there who could lend a hand on the rope. Mindful of the need for a bit of discretion, an attribute which my feebleness at hoisting had encouraged me to abandon, he instead unhooked the chain block and tackle from the engine hoist and dragged it back to the Jango. This lad shows real sparks of brilliance at times but then I remembered there had been a generator hanging off it waiting for new engine mounts. It’s alright, Dad, he assured me, I blocked it up before letting it down. The sump isn’t on the ground? No Dad. You know what a sump is Dominic? He sighed. That expressive measured inhalation followed by a slow release accompanied by rolling eyes scanning the heavens or, as in this case, the thatched roof of the Jango. A sump, Dad, he said, is a reservoir, a low point which collects a liquid. In this case the sump is what we, translated from Portuguese, call an oil pan.
I could only stare at him dumbfounded.
|Halfway there? That loony hippy HFW would be proud of me.|
|How's that for a chunk of venison?|
I have been busy clearing away the last remnants of the huts that were destroyed by the apocalyptic flood God visited upon me when he decided that a lifetime’s worth of savings were nothing more than grounds for a test of character. As I watched the front loader tear up the Eucalyptus posts that until a few months ago had supported cottages, I had to have a hearty ‘wipe moist tears of mirth from eyes’ laugh. Like most blokes, I do enjoy a good joke. The wood I could salvage and I have a big pile of it now but the bordão, the stalks of massive palm leaves I had used to clad the buildings for a bit of ethnic authenticity, were shot. So that was all stacked in the burning pile.
I can’t remember what I had been doing that was important enough to allow Dominic and his cousins to drop off my radar but when I suddenly got missile lock I realised they had barricaded themselves into what will be the bar of the restaurant and had a bloody disco going. I have cleared minefields and been shot at countless times so the last thing I was going to do was to push my luck by barging in on a load of teenagers so I asked Marcia what was going on.
Every weekend we get loads of visitors from Luanda to the Barra do Kwanza, all of them eager to escape the stress of the city and enjoy a bit of unspoilt nature, rare indeed in Angola. While the sun is shining, not one of them pauses to wonder what will happen once it gets dark, the rather chilly onshore wind starts to blow and the sound of the surf, so soothing as the waves sparkle in the sun, at night turn into monstrous masses of water beating inexorably at the sand which, all too late they realise will be their bed for what promises to be a night somewhat less romantic than that portrayed in the films. I have been woken up at two in the morning by people begging for a bit of floor space in the Jango or at least a few scraps of wood with which to make a fire.
Marcia, who had been busy in the shop, had no idea what the kids were up to. She did say they had come in and bought loads of cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks. Now this was quite remarkable since, as far as I knew, none of them had any money so I was mildly concerned I might, Fagin like, be host to a bunch of pubescent kleptomaniacs. On this point, Marcia was quick to reassure me. The kids had been selling my bordão to the weekend’s usual crop of itinerant beach dwellers.
To me it was scrap. To anyone faced with a cold and gritty night on the beach, it was a building material. To the thirteen year old issue of my loins, it was a business opportunity.
I was so proud.
|And so sun the sets on the Happy Campers of the Barra do Kwanza|