Monday 9 July 2012

Turf Wars

Oh for Goodness´ sake!  It must be Tea Time by now!
From my last post readers will be aware that there is a little bit of a turf war going on at Fat Hippo´s.

I cannot say there are two sides to this, there are instead many facets to a rough diamond that will either turn out to be FL or one with all sorts of irritating and expensive internal characteristics. Expensive in the sense you paid for flawless but got screwed.  

A week ago, it looked to be Included.  After yesterday, William Hill are giving favourable odds on Slightly Included but I have the inside knowledge that the Soba, who just stuck his head round my door and told me that he had spoken to the protagonists, hinting at a possible solution, has been working on my behalf so I reckon anyone betting on VS1 could enjoy a windfall.  I am still holding out for FL but, having endured a negotiating skills course in Dubai of all places, have already decided that I would go to VVS2, the difference between that and FL coming, inevitably, out of my pocket.

Being white, I thought I had best keep as low a profile as I could and leave the negotiations to Marcia.  To say that Marcia was incandescent with rage when these locals came onto our land while she was away in town and planted their posts would be an understatement equivalent to describing the nuclear test programmes in the Pacific as a ´bit of Cumulo-Nimbus´.

A couple of years ago, another piece of land we owned was occupied by primarily discharged Angolan Army veterans.  Now, as an ex serviceman myself, I had a degree of sympathy for them for, as any ex serviceman knows, once you are out, you are pretty much on your own and pretty much unemployable.  In a place like Angola, you are stuffed.  I did help a former employee of mine, also an ex serviceman, set up a security company getting him his first contract which employs only ex servicemen.  They are disciplined, paid well by local standards and intensely loyal.  A fact that is increasingly being recognised and the company´s client portfolio is growing.  And my old, loyal employee is now building his second house having moved out of his rented shack a year ago.  I feel that friends should stick together as tightly as do Asian families in UK.  They do seem to do rather well, don´t they?

Still, losing the serious investment the land represented was a bit of a kick in the guts but Marcia said she would deal with it and left immediately.  An hour or so later, having heard nothing, I rang her.  I could barely hear her over the noise of automatic gunfire. ´I can´t hear you, Darling,´ she said, ´because of the gunfire… the land is being cleared now, though, so don´t worry!´

I tried to picture the mother of my son standing, Rommel like, in the turret of an armoured car calmly directing machine gun fire on those foolish enough to occupy her land.  Shortly afterwards, this time me behaving like Pontius Pilate, I sold the land and washed my hands of it and bought the land here at the Barra de Kwanza instead.

I want to retire to the Barra do Kwanza.  I want to spend my days in peace and harmony with my new neighbours fishing and trying to write like Hemingway.  I don´t want to spend the rest of what could be a considerably curtailed life passing backwards and forwards through the village in an armed convoy and manning the balustrades at night.  Of course I am angry.  Of course I´d like to tie the guy responsible to a tree and rupture his internal organs with relentless blows of a rubber hose.  Yes, it would be nice to see one of Marcia´s infantry firepower demonstrations and even nicer if I was allowed to give a demonstration of my marksmanship but, unlike the land at Benfica, I want to live here.  In peace.

I agreed with Marcia that we have legal title to the land.  I agreed with Marcia that she had every right to throw them off.  I agreed with Marcia that we would win any litigation.  I agreed with Marcia that ´they´ didn´t deserve any of our largesse (she has stopped credit in the shop and banned me from doing the water runs or giving a lift to anyone but I got round it by giving old Joaquim the keys to my truck so it isn´t technically me that is giving them lifts although it is my truck.  A decent lawyer would have me off in no time.).  I tried to tell her that I did understand.  After all, how homicidal would you feel if, leading your three year old down to the river at the bottom of your property you came across some git manning an improvised checkpoint, a bit of rope strung between two posts supporting a crude stop sign to be told that this was now private property?

Asking Marcia to be reasonable was like asking the Americans to adopt an equable and democratic foreign policy.  My fear was the knowledge of what impetuousness by the Western Powers has done for their homeland security.  Seeing the Queen shaking hands with Martin McGuiness must have stuck in many a craw but it was better than bombing the crap out of Afghanistan and all its consequences.  A sort of firm patience and skilful diplomacy by the British resulted in a handshake that implicitly acknowledged the sovereignty of the Queen over Northern Ireland.  The six counties are more or less at peace so who won in the end?  Well, everyone involved really, and isn’t that a nice outcome?  But I realised I would have a job on to convince Marcia to wait generations for an equable solution.  It took so long in Ireland because there were some serious wounds on both sides that were suppurating rather than healing.  What I needed to do was avoid the wounds in the first place.  After all, we had only suffered a minor nick in the flesh.  As an ex soldier and then irregular, I know all to well the consequences of war and was keen that Marcia should at least grasp that.  We weren´t talking about Right or Wrong as Mr Blair so glibly quipped before launching Britain into an un-winnable conflict that would contribute so much to the country´s financial and moral bankruptcy, we were talking about the future harmony we could enjoy within this impoverished community.

I asked her what the roof of our restaurant was made of.  I asked her how much it had cost.  I asked her how much it will have cost us once it is all wired and plumbed in and full of equipment and furniture.  ´But we will earn all that back in less than a year´, she said.

´Not if someone comes along during the night armed with five litres of petrol and puts a match to the thatch,´ I pointed out.  It would take too long to explain what a Pyrrhic Victory was but I think she got the idea.

So yesterday the Soba pitched up with two intermediaries.  One which he hoped would be acceptable to Marcia and I, and another clearly there to represent the antagonists.  I noticed, with regret, that the Soba was pissed as a rat but had dressed himself up in my old No. 4 Dress uniform jacket that I gave him a while back (very Daktari and colonial British Administrator).

Marcia quickly eliminated any doubt as to title.  She then went on to confirm that the president of the Angolan Council of Barristers was a relative and that I had the money to pursue litigation into the next century.  All of which I reluctantly acknowledged but made a mental note to ask her for a squint at the bank statements as clearly, I was flusher than I thought.  When it comes to family, you cannot allow your wife to lose face so have to at least publicly agree even if you are silently begging God to strike her dumb.

The woman sat at the other end of the table from me was the mother of the man who had brokered the deal.  I could see why she was there.  Obviously if, as the antagonists were now contending, the sale of the disputed piece of land was illegal and we had lost our money, her son was in my sights at least.

I thought she was gorgeous.  Petite, perfectly formed and with beautiful teeth.  Look, I wasn´t sizing up a horse but in a country where dental treatment is even worse than that offered by the NHS in UK, it is rare to see such a stunning smile.  Even if her son (coincidentally the one who tried to kill his girlfriend outside my shop the other day causing me to throttle him half to death) was her first, and they do start young here, I figured she must be knocking on her half century. 

Everything she said made sense.  Every time, in her own very calm way she made a point, the Soba, now sticking into a bottle of my wine would interrupt.  As soon as he did, she would stop speaking immediately and lower her head and eyes in respect.  I wondered what she would have made of herself in a different environment, one where she was treated as an equal and had good access to a decent education.  I wanted to brain the Soba, knock him out.

I interrupted the Soba.  ´I need to go for a walk with this young lady´, I looked directly at the woman opposite me, ´Do you mind?  Just a hundred yards or so…´

As we walked the short distance so I could show her what I thought was mine and what had been taken from me, I asked her name.

I had a girlfriend called São, I said, she looked just like you.  In fact, had I married her, she´d be the same age as you.

I didn´t marry my São, I replied to New São, because her Padre said she could not marry anyone outside her Church and that kind of religion scares me.

´Did you love her, Sr Tomás?´

‘Yes I did, Donna São, very much indeed but it was all a long time ago´

´Was she a baixinho (shortarse) like me?´

´You are exactly as I remember her´.

I showed São the marker post they had knocked down, the amount of my land they had taken but really I was thinking about my São.  This, I said standing on the old marker post and indicating towards the fallen tree, was where I wanted to put my fence in.  Everything to the left, I would give to the Povo to use as their port.  To the right, that would be my bit.  I didn´t mention the clinic or the water, Marcia had done that I was sure.

Today the Soba pitched up saying that the intermediaries had spoken to everyone and now they all wanted to talk to us.  I told him to wait until Marcia got back from town.

I really love Marcia.  I have been with her longer now than any other woman and she is the mother of my beloved Alex but right now I hope that São, or her unexpected reincarnation at least, can quench the embers of bloody warfare because at my age, the last thing I expected to be doing was polishing the edge of my sword with a steel.

São, arguably the most beautiful woman in the world.  All 5´2" of her.

After all, I am bloody tired of prejudice and extremism in all their forms.

Marcia has just arrived and seen São´s photo on my laptop as I write this.  If I fuck up the next five minutes, I could be fighting on two fronts... and as so manycommanders in the past have realised to their cost, such a position is almost invariably untenable.


  1. I WOULD not get on the wong side of Marcia EVEr

  2. No John. She just nips them by their tails, flips them into the frying pan and has them for breakfast...

  3. By the WAY jOHN. i sEE you have PROBLEMS wih the cAPSLOCk kEY!

  4. São or Donna São is stunning.

    I do hope all can conclude peaceably.


  5. Megan, I thought so too and then, just when I thought it was all going swimmingly, I had some preacher on my doorstep telling me to join his congregation or get lost and leave her alone. The little shit. That was donkey´s years ago.

    I was in the middle of a turf war and as far as I was concerned the gloves were off and then they send Donna Sao as an intermediary so instead of cracking heads I thought,´that could have been us´.

  6. So Tom, Is it the original Donna São?

    Some military leaders have used changing or joining a religion as a strategic option.

    When you said, that if you had married her, she would be the same age as Sao-nova, does that mean that by not marrying her, she aged quicker, slower or unfortunately passed away?

  7. Did you meet with everyone, has the turf war come to a truce?

    Did you (or more likely Marcia) have to blitzkrieg their Maginot line?

    Has the soba set up Checkpoint Charlie to manage interactions between the forces?

    Sorry, I have run out of very bad military analogies but please let us know what happens next...

  8. Well, the beauty of Angolan women is indeed undisputable....i tried hard not to have my wife notice the gllimpses I took of them. Hehehe...



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