Tuesday 1 January 2013


The last sunset
Photo Dominic Gowans (aged 13). All rights reserved

Living in Africa at the end of the road to the Voz de Barra de Kwanza, I am used to surprises although one could quite reasonably wonder where all these surprises come from in such a relatively isolated and apparently benign location.  I was blessed with an enormous tonnage of surplus scrap wood when God, in the first month of the 2012th year since his only son’s rather gruesome death, decided to start that year off with a tidal wave to sweep away all the thatched cottages of mine that clearly did not comply with his strict planning regulations.  After only six day’s hard labour, He was knackered and needed a day off but, anyone with experience of building contractors seeing what God achieved in less than a week would agree He deserved it so one can hardly argue with Him if he dislikes sub-standard work and wipes the slate clean.

Naturally, I tried to file a claim for damages and loss of revenue since it has taken me a very painful income free year to recover (which meant no taxes; God moves in mysterious ways) and although I was amused by some of the Holy See’s lawyer’s suggestions as to exactly where I should file my claim, I failed to see how explicitly following my Roman Catholic advocate’s advice would provide the sort of relief I was seeking.  Frankly, I thought all they were offering was just more of the same and with piles the size of well-nourished Burgundy grapes the last thing I wanted was another eye-watering shafting, especially a self-inflicted one.  But that’s Catholics for you.

I have to make the distinction between ‘surprise’ and ‘shock’.  A shock is something a householder experiences in UK when reading his energy bill (or placing his fingers across terminals to ensure said outrageously expensive energy is still being fed to his house).  A surprise on the other hand is just as unexpected but rather more delightful.

2012 was a shitty year.  I made the mistake of paying the contractor up front and a year later I am still living with my family in a kitchen.  Having all your cottages washed away and realizing you have lashed out all your readies to a git is enough to upset anyone.  I am sure a decent lawyer would get me down to a manslaughter charge if (when) I go berserk with an AK and shoot the contractor three million times.  Three million times?  Listen, I wake at four in the morning and can’t get back to sleep again worrying about all this so I have had ample time to work out just how many rounds of 7.62 mm short I can carry on my truck.  I can do three million easy.  Trust me.  By five O’clock in my mind I have him dangling by his ankles over a charcoal brazier but these are just pleasant dreams.

So what’s the reality?  Well, despite the flood, despite the fact my brand new generator was nicked two days before I moved in, despite the fact some bastards attached a car and chain to the security grills of the shop and tore them out of the walls so they could nick everything down to the last plug socket and light fitting, despite the fact more bastards invaded my land and denied me access to the river, despite having to shoot my own dog, strangle a maniac trying to kill his wife, cop a ricochet just under the knee cap (damn painful, a shock and surprise all rolled into one), despite all those shocks,  I have rebuilt the shop and sell stuff I haul from the city at city prices (no gouging at Fat Hippo’s).  The kids get fresh bread and fresh vegetables.  They get fresh meat which makes a welcome addition to occasional catches of fish.  Much to Marcia’s irritation (after all, she is trying to run this all as a business) I tell the fishermen to help themselves from the freezers and pay me back in fish.  Ok, sometimes we have to wait a while to settle accounts but all us real fishermen know it is a precarious sport or, as in their case, livelihood.  I know it is bad for their teeth but the kids always get a lollipop or a packet of biscuits.  Dashed odd how the kids only appear after Marcia has departed for town and after I have had the morning pot of tea which they have realized usually induces a benign complacency in me they work to their advantage.  No surprise there then.
Russian 9mm short.
The experts say it couldn't shoot a hole in a wet blanket.  Given that in this climate we tend to wander around in shorts and T-shirts rather than wet blankets, all I can say is it fucking hurts.
 Look, that is just under my kneecap.  Missed the end of my dick by only six inches...

'So what did you do after you were shot, Daddy!'

'I fell over Son'

Leaves a neat hole though, doesn't it?

I wanted to build a clinic but I am now embroiled in a bureaucratic nightmare.  I did not want to make money out of it but was astonished (not quite a shock but more than a surprise) when the local medico bureaupoliticocrat told me I had to charge patients a ‘consultancy fee’.  I was outraged (as good as a shock but with a tadge more emotion involved) when another git in a suit told me I that I would not get permission to supply clean water to the population if I intended to give it away.  Something, apparently, to do with the difficulty the government has taxing something that is free.

I was achieving bugger all and if it wasn’t for the grief I would cause my two boys, I would have fired that last round from my old CZ straight through me old swede (the old Viking hates it when I do that).  But, as I fingered the pistol, I saw my dead Grandfather frowning at me.  I was understandably surprised.  This was a man who tried to follow in his father’s footsteps, become an architect and design some of the most famous buildings in Berlin and spend the rest of his comfortable life choking down Berliner Weisse and HB cigarettes on the shores of Wannsee.  Instead he was alarmed (surprise with hopelessly loose bowels) to find himself hoiked out of university and put in charge of a bunch of tanks the Russians were using to broil Germans and create their own recipe for Eisbein mit Sauer Kraut.  The frozen limbed Krauts thus broiled were understandably sauer.  He survived, became a famous architect and quite clearly was not someone you fucked with.  Naturally, if the guy is now finally dead and buried yet takes time out from wherever to come and visit me, I think you would agree that for an ardent catholic atheist this was bloody scary (a surprise with a just a dash of incontinence).  If he was on the other side waiting for me I was in for a good arse kicking so I decided to postpone our encounter, put the pistol back in its special drawer and dug a well instead.

The authorities said I could not dig a public well on public land.  So fuck ‘em, I would dig it on my land and save the box of CZ ammunition for the next guy in a suit that trespassed on MY land.  As I dug I sensed my Grandfather the Architect leaning over my shoulder.  ‘Dig more to that side, keep the shaft vertical’, he advised.  ‘Are you sure there’s water here?’ I asked.  It was bloody hot down that hole.  ‘Trust me’ he replied, ‘just put your back into it for goodness’ sake.  Jesus, you want to see how fast we could dig a hole deeper than that through perma-frost when Ivan was coming!’  Nice to see that death hadn’t robbed him of his sense of humour but I have to admit that in his ethereal form he was bloody useless at hauling buckets of spoil up out of the pit.
A very expensive bonfire
Photo Dominic Gowans (aged 13). All rights reserved

As I tried not to dwell upon how expensive the bonfire on the beach was as I watched the last remnants of my cottages go up in smoke it occurred to me that in 2011, seven children under five died in the village of water borne disease.  In 2012, the year we were seeing out, not one.
No Elf & Safety here, sparklers are fucking sparklers and do exactly what they say on the box.  And in Uk they say not to let children play with matches...
Photo: Tom Gowans.  Copyright:  Fill yer boots, it is the First of January, I am still too pissed to care.  Can't you see I am letting my kids play with pyrotechnics?

So no matter that for me personally 2012 was the worst year of my life, maybe it wasn’t such a wash out after all.  Now that’s a surprise.


  1. I look forward for the Quattro de fevereiro airport having it's name changed to sir Tomas gowans memorial airport, in honour of your public spirited work x

  2. Never understood this notion that "governments" get that they own everything and have the sole right to dole out rights to do anything and everything. They're just jumped up caretakers as far as I am concerned.

    Lastest tosser in England just stood on his hind legs and announced that he was happy with the 10% increases in rail fares because, and I quote, "he'd like to see the public paying more of the cost of sevices and less government subsidies" ... I wonder where this plonker imagines that H.M. Government gets the momey for those subsidies, if not by gouging taxation from the public!

    You just can't argue with brainless stupidity - all you can do is what you are doing, which is work around it.

    Well done, watch your back and annoy the hell out of 'em.

  3. JG,

    That will happen when they rename Trelawnyd 'That rather charming gay raconteur from Wales'

    I would love to see you pull up that translated into Welsh!

    Sir Oily,

    and then there's those gits who say that just because you have worked hard all your life, scrimped and saved for your eventual retirement and are now 'comfortable' you should donate your winter fuel allowance to charity. Why? Do not the sensible have the same rights as the risible masses?

    Time for another Guy Fawkes, methinks, but this time I will be earning the huge consultancy fee and I have never failed to provide value for money...

  4. Well, you deserve congratulations for surviving all those misfortunes. I'm just glad they were caused by humans rather than animals. As regards the consultancy fee, can't you charge some tiny nominal amount that would enable you to settle your tax bill by handing over the loose change in your pocket?

  5. Your 2012 was certainly not "boring" was it? Why not return to Blighty? Get an apartment in Bexhill-on-Sea and a cardigan. Listen to Radio 4 before venturing out to the newsagents before a quick snifter in "The Red Lion". Marcia can stay home watching daytime TV while the boys play computer games. And at the end of the day, cheese on toast and a cocoa before bed. Dreamlike!

  6. A year to remember indeed. Have you now remembered why the jeep is on a beach, or where you left the wife? I hope 2013 brings you better fortune in your dealings with bureaucracy, and no one takes a dislike to you for your good intentions; be careful. You're only making them look as bad as they really are!

  7. You make my life seem tedious. Of course, they're right about giving stuff away for free; otherwise how would all those 'politicians' afford their Paris apartment blocks?

  8. Mr Bananas,

    If everyone behaved like animals, I am sure we would all be better off. I know you do your bit to educate the naked ape.

    Sir Pud,

    Dreamlike indeed! Except that after paying my taxes I would not be able to afford the TV licence, let alone frequent the Red Lion!

    5th Columnist,

    Truck still on the beach. I honestly have NO idea how I managed to get it that far and what was going on in my tiny mind! Witnesses say I was trying to bring more wood for the bonfire but if that was the case, why was there no wood in it? I found the girlfriend. From experience, it is always better not to ask, I reckon she will start talking to me again in a few days. Faced with the choice of being cruelly done to death by natives or dying of liver failure, I'll go for the former. It'll make my obituary in the Telegraph that much more interesting reading. Since no one else around here appreciates her, I will leave my Art Deco lady to you so she gets a good home. That way every time you look at her you can think to yourself, 'that Hippo, a bit of a twat but he had good taste'

    Dear Cro,

    I would swap lifestyles with you in a heartbeat. I just read your school report and had to laugh. The ONLY thing I was good at was art. Many of my early daubs graced the walls of the school and I had two exibitions sponsored by the local council and sold enough paintings to Times Furnishing for their furniture displays to pay for a holiday in the West Country for my family yet my parents STILL insisted I study Mathematics, Physics etc at A Level with a view to me becoming an architect. I failed my A levels (I scraped physics) so joined the Army as a Rifleman in the Light Infantry and never painted again. As far as my parents were concerned, art students were all poverty stricken communists. Now in my fifties, I am a poverty stricken socialist.

    Actually, that isn't quite true. I did one more painting in Germany to prove the point that you do not need all the high tec painting kit to produce art by painting a subsequently displayed rural scene on Dahler board using only a kitchen knife. But that was over twenty years ago.

  9. Not a dull year for you in the least! I got tired just from reading the recap.

    Here's to hoping that 2013 treats you far better.


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