Friday 14 December 2012

Water Wars

Flushed with the success of my well digging exercise, I had flowed it for several days, drunk the water myself without any ill effect, allowed some of the neighbors to collect water there, so yesterday I thought it was about time I restarted the water runs I used to run from the river that had stopped as a result of the land wars which started when those venal fucking bastard Co-coordinators suddenly denied me access to the river.

I loaded my 1000 litre water container onto the back of the truck, drove to the house/shop site and filled my tank.  I had Jamie with me.  He runs a shop in the Comuna.  The Comuna is a village about five or so kms away on top of the escarpment overlooking the Barro de Kwanza.  He is a nice bloke and we help each other out as need arises.  Yesterday, I needed diesel for my truck.  Angola may be a country floating on oil but it can’t keep its gas stations supplied so I was out of diesel.  Jamie brought me ten litres.  He needed wood (I have loads of that recovered from the cottages smashed by the floods earlier this year) and water of which I now have plenty.  In fact it is the only supply of pure water for miles.

Jamie and I are men.  This means, to the frustration of our women, we are generally a bit dizzy and often bloody disorganized.  I had run out of whisky, serious for me, I understand there could be medical implications resulting in me hiding under the bed burbling about green beasties intent on eating me.  I also needed petrol for the generators.  The pumps on the main road may not have had diesel, but they had petrol so the plan, now that I had Jamie’s diesel, was to load the truck with wood, stop off at the well and fill Jamie’s containers and my big container, continue to the pumps to get petrol, run up to the comuna, drop off the wood and Jamie’s water, buy whisky and return.

We got to Jamie’s place and naturally had to have a few beers.  My pump at the well is not strong enough to pump up from out of the well, all the way up to the road, and then into the top of a container sat high upon the back of a truck.  So what we had to do was fill Jamie’s 20 litre containers at road level, then lift the containers up onto the truck and then lift them again so we could tip them into my container.  We did this 50 times and then another six times to leave his containers full.  Having between us just hoiked over a tonne to head height twice, once from ground level to the truck and then from truck bed to the top of my container meaning a tonne each, we felt we deserved a few beers after such a jolly good work out under a hot African sun.  And please don’t forget we started the day loading the truck full of wood and had just unloaded it all into his yard.

As we left the Comuna and hit the main road two guys flagged us down.  Their car had broken down and they needed a lift to the Gas station.  ‘Hop on’, I said.  I dropped them off.  ‘Aren’t you going back?’ they asked.  ‘Nope’, I replied.

I had just turned off the tarmac onto the potholed piece of shit called the road to my place when Jamie said, ‘I forgot to take the water off’.  I looked at him.  ‘Forget it’, he said, ‘I’ll find a way to collect it in the morning.  ‘Bollocks to that, Jamie, let’s turn round’.

We picked up the guys we had just dropped off on the way and headed back to the Comuna, dropped the water off and set out for home again.  By now I was dreaming about a tumbler full of amber nectar.  Whisky!  I forgot the bloody whisky!

See?  If a woman had been in charge of what, let’s face it, was a simple operation in logistics, she may have been a tadge authoritarian, definitely cynical, but she would not have burned up ten litres of precious diesel on three laps of a cross country circuit.

As we were driving back for the third time, Jamie was waxing lyrical about my water.  Water supply, that is, not MY water; we are mates but not THAT close.  I always wanted to give clean water to the citizens of my village.  I had finally found a source but unless I bought a more powerful pump, there were still delivery problems.  I explained this to Jamie.

Genius is not necessarily coming up with some world beating vacuum cleaner or hyper efficient fuel.  Sometimes it is merely being able to see the bleeding obvious.  Jamie had just filled his 20 litre containers at road level.  The same type of containers all the population used to transport water.  So why did I need a special pump?  Like I said, bleeding obvious.

Well that saved me a thousand bucks so I was feeling pretty bloody chuffed, magnanimous even.  We decided that on the way back, we would stop at the main population centres and tell them to get their water containers out on the road side ready for collection.  I would drop Jamie off at my place so that he could collect his car and then I would do the water run.  An excellent plan.

The village is actually two villages separated by about a kilometer.  One is called the Voz do Barro de Kwanza, the Mouth of the River Kwanza (where I live somewhere near the tonsils), and the other is called Mundo Verde, Green World.  The only things that are green there are the empty cans of Heineken littering the roadside.  And a few trees, I suppose.

I made the first stop, no water cans in sight.  I bipped the horn.  A woman came out and walked slowly to the truck.

‘Didn’t I just pass by asking you to dump your water containers by the road so I could fill them for you?’ I asked her.

Jamie speaks better Portuguese than I but I understood what he was saying when we made our stops.  Clearly no one had believed in such a thing as free water, delivered as well.  I am sure a lot of locals think that White Men, especially oil company executives, have lost the use of their legs as they are only seen being chauffeured around in air-conditioned Landcruisers.  Here was a white man covered in road dust driving a truck offering free water.  There must be a catch, surely?  No, there’s no catch.  Does he want our virgin daughters?  Only if they are over eighteen and Marcia never finds out.  Is he trying to poison us?  Only the two Coordinators if God gives me the chance.

‘Just give me your cans,’ I said, ‘I will bip my horn on the way back’.

Then came something I didn’t understand but, I think, reflects the mentality of people who are so poor, even the cost of a water container cannot be taken lightly.  All the water containers used here are empty 20 Litre cooking oil containers made of yellow plastic.  They are all identical in every respect.  I thought I would sweep up the road collecting water containers at each designated stop, note how many containers I picked up at each stop and then once filled, drop the requisite number off on the way back.  Simple?  Not a hope in hell.  At every stop, they wanted an assurance they would get THEIR containers back.  How the heck could I guarantee that?  For Pity’s sake, a container is a container, isn’t it?  You give me five empty containers, I give you five full ones.  Who CARES if it isn’t the exact same container you gave me?  Well, obviously THEY cared.

What should have been a ten minute dash down the road hoiking containers onto the truck as I went, turned into an hour long stop, wait and start again as every single person giving me a container had to mark it as theirs by tying something around the handle.    When I reached Mundo Verde I had to tell them that they could not use palm fronds as the Catholic Church had used the same method to ID their containers (quite appropriately I thought).  Funnily enough, I appeared to be picking up almost as many kids as I was containers.  For them, this was an ADVENTURE!!!

What they didn’t understand (and why should they?) was that this was less altruism than sheer bloody mindedness on my part.  Those bastard Coordinators had tried to stop me giving free water by closing me off from the river.  They are running scared.  During their long and lucrative tenure, they have done nothing for the population the interests of whom they supposedly represent.  Now along comes a bloke who, out of his not terribly deep pockets, starts doing their job for them.  Of course they fucking hate me.  They also hate the fact that I tell anyone and everyone I meet that the only impediments to the development of this village are these two venal bastards.  Look, THEY started it, they threw the first punch.  When I boxed I took plenty of standing counts but was never knocked to the canvas and I never lost a fight.  I may be boxing out of my class now but if I go down, I’ll make ‘em bleed first.

Now you look at the following pictures and tell me it isn’t worth the aggro.
Afternoon Physical Training.  Physical Torture more like.  I had to lift every single one of these up onto the truck and, guess what? I was too dim (being a man) to drop the side of the truck.  Doh!
Yeah, yeah.  Laugh at stupid old bloke trying to hoik full water containers over side of truck he forgot to lower thereby making work much harder.
Please, please stupid old bloke!  Take my picture!  But this is MY container and I'll sit on it if I want to.  Note unlowered side of truck behind her.

Oi stupid old bloke who smokes too much and coughs his lungs out every tenth container!  You took her picture, now in the interests of proletarian egalitarianism, you have to take mine!  And yes, this is MY container. 
Gosh, she can't be more than ten and yet so lucid.  Says a lot for a socialist education system.  I never knew, for example, that the war in the Pacific ended when the workers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics drove the Japanese out of Manchuria.

Right you stinky little swabs!  Get yer filthy bodies under the shower! 
Will there EVER be a photo taken of me without a fag jammed into my ugly face?

Zebedee says, 'Time for bed!'
'Bugger Zebedee you little bandits!  This truck isn't going to move an INCH unless you are all inside it,  I want none of you little urchins surfing off the back!'
Bloody 'ell, kids are a full time job.

Water.  They say that one day wars will be fought over it.  Oh, I am already fighting a war over it.  Perhaps Santa will send me a water pistol for Christmas.  I have plenty of ammunition now.


  1. I suppose that those new-fangled degydrated water tablets are still too expensive to be practical?

    They're wonderful things, you just open up the little foil packet, expose the tablet to sunlight and glurp, there's a gallon of fresh H2O. How they do it I do not know.

    On a quick aside - you do have a Plan B for when the local mandarins get p*ssed off enough to come a-calling on you? Booby-traps and such? An elephant trap underneath the "Welcome" doormat and a few tree-trunks swung on ropes high above the path? If there's one thing about stupid people like that it is that they are consistently too stupid to ever stop being stupid, if you see what I mean.

    Make like a Boy Scout. Be prepared ...

  2. Oddly enough, Nice Paul is back from down South and he gave more or less the same advice. But, you think like an Englishman. Nice Paul was born and brought up here and I have been here long enough to know that he was right. He warned me to guard the well lest they poisoned it. A few dead or dying citizens is all they need to put an end to this and have me jailed.

    I did not want to turn an otherwise light hearted blog post into a polemic but on the first water run, one of the coordinator's side kick tried to stab me with a fisherman's knife. They are an evil bunch of corrupt bastards so I can't stop now.

    Marcia is mad as hell with me. She says the bastard village population don't deserve anything. They stole our generator, knicked everything out of the shop, stole two of my cameras etc. but this is a 'man' thing now. I promised I would arrange potable water for the village because I cannot bear to see the children suffer so I am bloody well going to fucking do it and no shitbag fucking corrupt black ape thick as fucking pig shit bastard nig nog is going to stop me. Cunts.

    Anyway, it is past 1500 hrs so I have to leave for the water run. I am half German, punctuality is paramount. I am half English, so I'll fucking nut anyone who tries to stop me.

    AND i've run out of fucking whisky again.

  3. True 'nough. In my cloistered nest in a sleepy corner of England I am apt to forget that Queensberry Rules are far from the norm, the mode or the average!

    Still, watch your back - please?

    Run out of whisky again? What are you doing, drinking the stuff? Put some water in it!

  4. Congratulations on your 'mission'. Making clean water available to villages is worthy of a gong. The Order of the Famous Grouse maybe.

  5. Yes, a woman would not perhaps have taken three trips when she could have made a short list, taken it with her, and ticked the items as she did them, but in the end, you got all the items, and have managed to give people clean water.

    Not to state the obvious, but if you don't want every picture taken of you with a fag hanging out of your mouth, stop smoking.

    It took me a number of times to quit cigarettes altogether, and the first several times when it didn't take hold, i was glad no one tried to cross me; i'd have strangled them without much effort and certainly no forethought.

  6. Just got back, more or less three hours later. Delivered 1,400 litres today. That's up 200 from yesterday. Might have to buy that bigger pump after all and maybe a bigger truck!

    Sir Owl,

    I can't trust the water here so I bathe in whisky and then drink the bath dry.

    Dear Cro,

    bugger the gong, a jar of your fine pickles would do me (or a slice of the wonderful cake!)


    "Blah Blah Blah blah but if you don't want every picture taken of you with a fag hanging out of your mouth, stop smoking.

    Come on Megan, this is me you're talking about! You will have to wrest my still burning fag and half full glass of whisky from my cold, dead hands.

    You can laugh now. I just tried to light one of my fags and they are all soaking bloody wet from the water run!

  7. Arise Angola's answer to Mother Theresa - distributing water to the needy but for how long do you intend to keep up this munificence? And as the Bee Gees might have sung "How Deep is Your Well?"

  8. all that to-ing and fro-ing.....
    It would have done my head in!

    looking at those photos, I must concede you are right.... it was worth it

  9. Tom, that's how i felt when i was smoking, too. If someone put a gun to my head and said, "Coffee or cigarettes, it can't be both," i'd have to wait a moment but in the end the coffee would have won out.

    Once the smoking cessation took hold, it took a LOT longer to stop thinking about cigarettes.

    Not laughing at the wet fags, i hated when something like that happened to me.

    At this point, i'm glad i don't have that addiction anymore; it ran my life, only i couldn't see it at the time.

  10. Nothing like a truck, a load, and a couple of mates, to bring out the square bottles.

    I remember a 'trash run' load back in Virginia. By rights, it should have taken a couple hours to load, dump, and return. But then we forgot about the stop to say hello to the old fella. The one who liked to pour three fingers of whiskey into juice glasses around his kitchen table.

    Should have stopped on the way home, but the truck wouldn't pass his driveway...

    Ended up rolling down the landfill bank, with the trash, trying our best to stand up again.

    Shit faced, but laughing our asses off.

    Be careful on those water runs!

  11. I share the fears of those who worry about your safety. I have no knowledge of living with Africans, but I suspect they are like the rest of us, (yourself obviously included), and hate to lose face, (a very Asian term), especially in front of their fellow countrymen. Whilst I am inclined towards the "bugger that nonsense" attitude, it has always been to my cost, here in Thailand. Watch your back.

    Amused to have stumbled upon your blog; a delightful stumble.

  12. YP

    I am feeling pretty bloody tired this morning! I need to get a stronger pump so I can fill the containers while they are still on the truck. I shall keep my fingers crossed about the depth of the well!

    Gay Raconteur

    You would club me to death? Is this you getting in touch with your masculine side?


    Like all smokers and drinkers, I wish I hadn't started.

    John D

    I have had some dangerous trips like that!


    Welcome! An art collector living in Bangkok, how very interesting! Finally, I have a cultured reader. I like your Gallery 33 (an easy read, all I have to do is look at the pictures) and Corinthian Column. I agree with you about Christmas kitsch. I doubt we will be having much of a Christmas as it is unlikely the builders will be finished for another month, bastards.

    I will try and watch my back, everybody but I am more likely to die of a heart attack lifting all those containers!

  13. Hippo 1 Entire Luandan Administration 0

  14. Claudio, I like that comment!

  15. ... and they do say that the Hippo is the most dangerous animal in Africa (excluding people).

    Perhaps you could change the name of the restaurant to the Savage Hippo - give it a dark, on the edge feel. The kind of place where the men have a dangerous past have and the women go to meet them. The owner has a darker past, no one dares ask about the scar... but unknown to all he has a heart of gold and secretly supplies the town with fresh water. Ok, Ok I saw too many of those crappy A-Team TV series

  16. Ah Niggle Bit,

    not such a daft idea but being far older than you I was thinking along the lines of dealing in dodgy visas, wearing a white tuxedo, beating up the DJ for playing songs I told him never to play and wandering around muttering through barely moving lips something about of all the bars in all the world, she walks into mine...


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.