From now on I will precede all the titles to my posts with, ‘Time for Coffee’ if they are longer than a couple of thousand words. I really wish, and am still looking for some function linked to blogger which would allow me to place a button on my post saying, ‘Would you like Hippo to read this to you?’ One click and you could be settling into your wingback, favourite beverage to hand and listen to yet another long letter from Angola.
Last night I was writing out a recipe for preparing German style red cabbage when I heard Marcia scream. She came running into the jango closely followed by three blokes, one of whom was shouting obscenities at Marcia.
‘Oi!’ I shouted, ‘What the f*** is going on!’
It took a while to calm everyone down by which time there was a bigger audience. Actually no-one was really calm, the simmering anger was palpable but at least I got the story. It appeared that this likely lad had tried to make a payment in Marcia’s shop using a swipe card. We are the only place around here that has a machine like this and sometimes we act as an unofficial cash point which helps keep the quantities of cash in the shop down. Too much cash and you are likely to be rolled.
For the last week, the Movicell network has been pathetic. I use Movinet for my internet access and I have been unable to access emails or post on my blog. To do so I have had to nip over to Rico’s place and log onto his Vsat system. I have seen this sort of situation before. It is usually caused by Angola being late to pay for its communications satellite bandwidth.
The poor communications meant that the link to the bank is down more than it is up and all too often, payments don’t go through, as was the case with this guy last Saturday. On Sunday he came round saying that the 5,000 Kwanzas he had tried to get authorized in our shop had come off his account after all so he wanted his money. Marcia wasn’t there but I was present on that Saturday when Marcia had tried, by walking to high ground in the hope of a better signal, to process the transaction. I thought it unusual that Marcia would draw my attention to the fact that the transaction had failed (success is evidenced by the machine spitting out a printed receipt, it hadn’t) but never really thought about it. Now I realized that this guy must have been behaving like an arsehole on Saturday already. Furthermore, I was intrigued. He lives in the village. I was very confident he didn’t own a computer let alone enjoy on-line banking so how the hell, over a weekend, did he know the money was off his account?
I told him that Marcia was in town so he should come back later. I also advised him to bring a statement from his bank showing the deduction. When communications are erratic all sorts of things can happen so if he could prove the money had come off his account, then it was up to us to honor the transaction and argue with our bank why the amount had not been credited to our account, which I was confident it hadn’t. That was about as reasonable as I could be. I was certainly not going to hand him 5 grand of Marcia’s money on his say so. We are talking US$50 here, hardly bloody earth shaking.
Now here they all were, Monday evening, trying to force Marcia to hand over the money.
‘Do you have the statement?’ I asked him.
He thrust three sheets over to me. I asked him to point out the debit on his account. It was for 2000 Kwanzas. Naturally I was confused and pointed out to him the obvious discrepancy between 2000 and the 5000 he was claiming. Then Marcia dived in and told me to look at the date of the transaction. I realized the statement he had given me was from December 2012. This guy wasn’t just stupid, he was certifiable and he proved it by leaping off his chair (I had invited him to sit down next to me so we could sort everything out), taking a swing at Marcia and then grabbing her with both hands around her throat.
Back in the old days I boxed. I never lost a fight. I boxed light middleweight but at Sandhurst, I boxed a class higher because I could beat all the genuine middleweights on our boxing team. I fought southpaw but could comfortably switch, much to the irritation of my opponents.
I don’t know how other boxers felt, it wasn’t the sort of question you asked them but for my part, before I got into the ring, while the seconds were taping up my hands and fitting my gloves, I was always shit scared. I was a lanky skinny freak and it was the fact I was so lightweight for my height that gave me the reach. I was also a skier (I won a silver medal in a Downhill Open in Austria back in ’82) so while the rest of my body didn’t necessarily have extraordinary stamina, my legs did and they never let me down. I took plenty of standing counts but was never knocked to the canvas. As my coach explained to me, I didn’t have to kill them, just avoid getting damaged and keep banging out the point scoring hits. It was a tactic that worked because although I never knocked anyone out, I won every fight on points and always by a unanimous decision.
My last fight was memorable because it was the most painful. I was up against an Oxford Blue. We are always told not to look at our opponent as we get into the ring. Just get in and sit in your corner and look your second in the eyes. The first time you look at your opponent is when the referee calls the boxers to the middle of the ring to give us the, ‘Let’s have a clean fight’ and ‘Break when I tell you and move to a neutral corner if there is a count’ pep talk.
This time, however, inexplicably as I climbed into the ring I looked over to my opponent’s corner. He had his back to me resting his gloves on the top rope either side of the corner. He looked like an inverted pyramid. He was taller than me and his muscles rippled. He had a tight bum surmounting Tour de France winning biker’s thighs.
Once again, I was boxing over my weight.
‘If he’s fucking middleweight, I’m a fucking flyweight!’ I said to my coach.
‘Bollocks, he’s a wuss!’ he said as he smeared my eyebrows with grease and stuffed my gumshield in.
They tell you to come out fighting but this guy came out with all the indications of a homicidal maniac. Within seconds I was taking a standing count trying desperately to hold my gloves up and look at least half conscious.
‘Box On!’ came the instruction.
Again he launched himself at me throwing a combination that had him over my guard, then under it and then a beauty straight into the middle of my face that snapped my head to the limit of its hinge. Fortunately by then my back was on the ropes so I didn’t fall over and could take another standing count. I felt the blood pouring out of my nose.
‘How many fingers?’ said the referee waving a hand in my face.
‘Phough!’ I replied. With a gum shield in my gob ‘phough’ could be interpreted as anything from two to five. I would have been stuffed if he was holding only one finger up.
By the time the bell went for the end of the first of three rounds, he had broken my nose and cracked two ribs. He knew I was hurt because he saw I was dropping my right arm to protect my ribs and that’s how he’d managed to get the nose breaker in.
‘You’re doing great!’ said my second as he swabbed my face. My left eye had opened up and was splashing a bit of port as well.
‘He’s going to kill me’, I sniffled. Having a cotton bud stuffed up the nostrils of a broken nose is eye watering I can tell you. With cracked ribs I didn’t even have breath left enough to scream.
Whoever trained this guy knew what he was doing. It was all I could do in the second round to stay on my feet. For such a big bloke he was dainty with the footwork and I wasted a lot of energy punching thin air. I took another standing count and the ref inspected my eye which had opened up again.
‘Do you want to box on?’ he asked me quietly, ‘I can call it if you want’. No I did not want to box on. I wanted to be tucked up in bed with Nanny sitting beside me passing a cool hand over my brow saying, ‘There, there, it will all be gone soon and I will speak to Mater and Pater and you'll never, ever have to go back to that nasty place where they make my poor little bunnykins do all that horribly brutal military stuff. Do you want me to kiss anything better?’
I was surrounded by my colleagues. Cadets and staff of the Royal Military Academy all in mess dress. It was a magnificent sight. I was boxing for the honor of the College and my company, Normandy.
‘I’ll box on, thank you Sir’, I replied.
He ordered my second to give me a quick wipe down with a towel as by then I was looking pretty gruesome.
Points, just go for points. For the last two minutes of that round I just went for it. I was exhausted and I was in agony but I landed more points scoring punches than he did so by the end of the second, we were even.
I was in bad shape and I was worried that my second might throw in the towel. I glanced to the side of him and took a look at my opponent. He was knackered. I was pleased. This guy really wanted to hurt me and hurt me bad. He didn’t want to box, he wanted to smash me. I saw it in his eyes the first round. This guy was basically mean. Boxing for him was more than just sport, it was a blood sport. Fine, I thought.
I like amateur boxing. There are limited rounds which means actual fighting time is only nine minutes (but believe me they feel a lot longer) and if in the spirit of the sport you go for scoring punches rather than a knock out, it is fun. Sure, a bit of blood might be spilt but blood gets spilt on any playing field. Nowadays they give them nice soft head gaurds. This bout, for the last round, was no longer sport, it was a fight.
The guy was so tired he could barely keep his gloves up. He’d burned himself out going for a knock out. Bugger the points, now I wanted to hurt him. It was his turn to take the standing counts while I champed at the bit in a neutral corner. It was me that came flying at him as soon as I heard, ‘Box On’. I wanted to smash this guy’s face in. He started clinching me, giving my bleeding eye a knock and a rub with his head which made me even angrier. Both of us were now drenched in sweat diluted blood. I dummied with a right to the left side of his head and he ducked away straight onto a left uppercut which I followed with a right to the back of his exposed neck as he staggered and he crashed to the canvas. He may accidentally have bashed his face against my knee as he went down. The gloves weren't really off but they were if you know what I mean.
I stood in a neutral corner and watched the count. He was on his knee by Three and sensibly used the rest of the count to get his breath back and clear his head a bit.
|Nothing personal me old son, but take that.
It's a classic left hook and the gentle tap with the right, now his gaurd is down, is on the way.
After that it was child’s play. He was dead on his feet and I hammered him. Not for a second did I feel sorry for him. I wanted to cause as much hurt as I could. I hoped the round would never end. Seriously, I wanted to kill him.
Afterwards, both of us were taken to hospital in the same ambulance. I had broken a bone in my right hand hitting him, suffered two cracked ribs and a broken nose. He was suffering from concussion so they kept him in overnight for observation.
The next day I did two things. I visited the first person I had ever wanted to kill in my life and discovered he was a really nice guy and studying Theology. What the fuck is a priest doing in a boxing ring?. My hands, especially the right one, were the size of boxing gloves they were so swollen. I could hardly breathe. His face was a mess. Second, I gave up boxing. Once you start getting to the higher levels I decided, it isn’t a sport anymore.
That was 25 years ago. Nearly three years ago I had the second of my two heart attacks and since then have had what can best be described as a sedentary existence. I smoke too much and drink far too much. Whereas in those days I could run three miles in fifteen minutes, it now take me fifteen minutes to walk a mile, if I push myself.
But seeing some bloke take a swing at my wife and then plant his hands around her throat meant that there was little else I could do but lead a right followed by a very hard left.
They say bones get brittle with age but I never realized that at such a relatively young age my bones had turned to chalk. The bones in my left hand shattered. Still the guy didn’t go down and went for Marcia again. Throwing only right handers would be a waste of time, clearly the guy’s head was a hard as granite so I swiped my ashtray off the table, made from a cut down 105mm cartridge case fired in the Falklands weighing about two kilos, and glanced that off his skull. He went straight down, British engineering having left a severe impression on his mind.
The guy bled like a pig. There was a deal of confusion. Joaquim pitched up and took the guy to hospital in my truck. I had to cough up 20,000 kwanzas to pay for his treatment (he only needed four stitches the wimp). But now I am in the shit.
A few hours later the Soba came round. He is basically the head honcho maximum elder. I was in no mood to be polite. He said that there was no need for the Police, this could all be resolved amongst the ‘Family’. No need for the Police? This guy basically came into my albeit open plan home and assaulted my wife and you are saying there is no need for the fucking Police?
‘But you weren’t trying to kill him’ said the Soba.
‘Yes I was’
He seemed a little taken aback so I told him that if anyone lays a hand on any member of my family, of course I would kill them if that’s what it would take to stop them. I then went on to say I only used the ashtray because I realized I had broken my hand, my LEFT hand which, for a south paw is the main one, and I needed to take the guy down quickly because he was younger and fitter than me.
‘But you could have killed him’, the Soba pointed out.
‘Exactly’, I said.
‘Let me put it this way’, I continued. ‘If someone had come into your house, with two fucking Gatunos backing him up and attacked your wife and you did nothing, would you have any respect anymore? Would you be able to walk through the village without hanging your head in shame?’ Would the women of the village not spit on your shadow?
He didn’t have an answer for that.
‘Right then. So I admit I hit the guy with an ashtray and bust his skull and if I have to go to court for it, so be it. The guy assaulted my wife so let’s allow twelve good men and true to decide.’
I showered and changed into clean clothes.
I lay on the sofa so that Alex wouldn’t wake up and see the police arresting me. I could not sleep a wink because my hand hurt like bloody hell. No-one came for me. The next day a Policeman came and handed me a handwritten scrawl saying I had to appear in front of a Community Council at 15.30 hours. I told the policeman I wanted to press charges against the guy for assaulting my wife and that it would be dealt with in a proper court, not some community council. He went away again.
Some of the villagers started to gather in the Jango, mainly to see how Marcia was and give me advice how to treat my hand. ‘He is a maniac’, they said. ‘He beats his wife’, they said. All the way through my sleepless night I had felt appalled at my unforgiveable loss of control. Not that I had hit the guy, but because I had used a weapon. At the time I just wanted to get the bastard off my wife. If you decide to fight, then it is no longer a game, it is war and the loser is the one unconscious on the ground, the winner, and the one who can write history, standing over him. There can be no half measures. During the inky blackness of a tropical night, its silence only broken by the weird shrieks and calls emanating from untamed jungle, the full implications of a white man trashing a black man invaded my consciousness. Listening to the villagers now, most of them women, I felt a little better. I may yet go down for this but by bashing his skull, in the minds of these ladies, I had settled a lot of the debts he owed. Other villagers passed by the jango on their way to the shop, all of them wishing me a Good Morning and giving me the thumbs up. The Soba pitched up again. The guy I had brained was his youngest brother. ‘Oh shit’ I thought. The women dived in. ‘You remember when Sr. Tomas stopped Toto from beating his wife?’ they chorused. I had forgotten about that incident. ‘Do you remember when Sr. Tomas was delivering water and he saw Carlos beating his boy with a mangueira (rubber hose) and he stopped him?’ I remembered that one but that was easy to deal with. I just took the hose off him and told Carlos that if I ever heard of him beating his kids or wife again, I wouldn’t deliver water to his house anymore.
The 15.30 meeting, apparently, was a gathering of the Soba’s family. I wasn’t going to face them alone (Marcia would have been with me but it was me they were after) so I told the Soba that the meeting would not be at his place of choosing. It would not be at the time of his choosing. His brother had criminally assaulted my wife in her own home. The offence took place in my jango. I told the Soba that the meeting will take place in my Jango on Saturday and my lawyer and a senior police officer would be present. Everything they said would be recorded and, if an equable solution were not agreed, used as evidence in the criminal proceedings I would initiate.
I am fucking tired of these racist women and children beating bastards thinking they can intimidate me with the threat of incarceration just because I am a foreigner. The Rumble in the Jungle is on Saturday so bring it on.