|The last time I was in hospital with malaria in Angola
We were all recently invited by the Nice Americans to a barbecue on Mussulo Island this weekend. Mussulo isn’t really an island although it might as well be. It is a long bar, a sandbank only attached to the mainland some 50 kms south of the capital, Luanda. The only realistic way to get there is by boat across Mussulo Bay. When I first visited some twenty years ago, there were only a few old Portuguese built weekend chalets (some of which were rented and done up by oil companies), a few stick and palm frond fishermen’s huts, loads of palm trees and golden sand. If you had a boat, it was a great place to camp out for a weekend and barbecue on the safe, bay side and the sheltered waters were usually glass smooth and ideal for my favourite pastime, water skiing. With fingers missing from my left hand, I was never much good at slalom skiing. I could really cut myself a slice on the left hand side of the boat but everything, including me, let go when I tried to haul myself through a turn on the right hand side. What I was good at though, was speed skiing and, for a time, held a couple of unofficial records here for top speed and the shortest time taken to ski between Mussulo and the mainland. A couple of years after I arrived, a restaurant and lodge had been built. It was paradise. Lounging there in a deckchair, an ice cold Cuba Libre to hand, Luanda across the bay looked almost civilized.
Along with the invitation also came a request for lobster. No problems with the lobster but there were a couple of impediments to us attending the barbecue. The first was that Marcia is frightened witless by water. When I first met Marcia I lived in a shack on the Ilha de Luanda, also a long bar enclosing Luanda Bay but this one had a dual carriageway straight down the centre and was filled with bars and restaurants. I only had to walk a hundred yards in either direction and I was in the bay (not really a good place to swim) or the sea. On Sundays, I would lunch in one of the restaurants and then lie on a deckchair doing my best to free Cuba by drinking one rum and coke after another, cooling off between drinks with a dip in the sea. Now that I was with Marcia, who looked damn fine in a bikini, I would take her along. She would eat the meal, she would lounge on the beach. There was no way I could entice her into the water. Same with boats. If I organize a river fishing trip or even just a family run up the river sightseeing, she’ll pack sandwiches and stuff the cool box with drinks for us but no way will she come along. The second impediment was her condition. Poor Marcia is having a rough time of this first trimester.In addition to nausea, she overheats regularly and must lie down for a rest in cool shade. A day in hot sun would do her no good at all and the sight of someone clearly not enjoying themselves would be unfair to others. Marcia said I should take Alex and go, the Nice Americans had suggested precisely that on hearing of Marcia’s reservations and for a while, I was up for it. Alex would have had a whale of a time. Sadly, last Sunday I came over all poorly. Monday I felt better and then had a practice run at dying on Tuesday; you could have fried eggs on my forehead. From there, I became steadily worse so one of the Nice Americans, Rae Ann, drove down yesterday to collect the lobster. Knowing she was coming, I dragged myself out of bed and into some clean clothes and actually felt a little better, still rough as a badger but at least I was on my feet. Rae Ann came and went, very kindly leaving us three batches of her exceedingly good scones mix. There was no way I could make it to the barbecue so I asked Rae Ann to pass my best wishes on to Nancy and Don, the other two Nice Americans, whose birthdays would be celebrated at the barbecue.
I had not been up to watering the plants for a couple of days and I knew they were dying of thirst so I tottered into the garden and spent a couple of very uncomfortable hours watering all the beds, pleased to see that some plants, notably my carrots, watermelon (my watermelons have been entered into an international competition spanning both hemispheres, but more on that when I am feeling better), tomatoes, kohlrabi, aubergine, sage, Italian grape tomato, mango, avocado, fig and banana trees, nasturtium and zinnia were doing rather well all things considered, before collapsing exhausted and feverish onto the sofa. I emptied a one-and-a-half litre bottle of mineral water and three cans of Sumol, a fizzy orange drink and crawled off to bed. This was day three without food and the quinine sulphate was making my head shriek and churning my stomach. I had dragged my mattress and pillows out into the sun to dry off and replaced my sodden sheets but they were still damp. A couple of hours later when Marcia came home, they were sodden again. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably, I was freezing cold yet I was sweating like a Grand National runner. Some bastard had upped my temperature control from ‘medium rare’ to ‘decidedly well done’. Marcia tried me with some vegetable rice stir fry, something I usually love. I took one forkful, swallowed with difficulty and was immediately ill. Marcia suggested I went to hospital. I suggested she laced my water bottle with a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of sugar and the juice of a couple of lemons.
It was a bloody awful night. It was stupid of me, just as I was starting to feel better, to lug countless 25 litre buckets of water under a boiling sun to the plants out of reach of my ridiculously short hose. Just to ram the point home and to remind me He has a sense of humour, at four this morning, God made it rain.