Africa

Eish!

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After my most epic online absence ever, all I can say really is, Eish! It’s been a little nuts. I live on a game farm now, way out in the bush, and the start of the rainy season brought a few not so pleasant surprises internet-wise. This is a beautiful, huge and rambling place, accessed via quite a long stretch of really bad sand road, which becomes pretty much impossible to drive on when wet, even with an SUV such as I have. The internet hub is situated in the main office, which isn’t a problem at all for me, except that in the past few weeks we’ve had power outages, the most horrendous computer malware attack, and an electrical short which knobbled us all until the electrician could wend his way here. The cherry on the top was that I got a little slack and stopped neurotically inspecting everything I eat and got royally glutened. Very sick puppy I was. Still far from a hundred percent as far as the poor old innards are concerned.

Happily though, I’m still kicking, and the power short/malware/internet/soggy road have all been overcome now. Before all of this rotten divil nonsense struck we had a rhino capture here, which was absolutely amazing (will share pics and proper story about that later), however, there was a documentary filmmaker along with the road crew who (I kid you not) made off with my laptop charger, and it took weeks before I could lay my hands on a new one. In the meantime I wasn’t too perturbed because my friend and owner of this paradise said that I could use her computer in the office. Not a problem then. All I had to do was transfer anything I needed to email by memory stick from my desktop in my chalet to that and tra-la-la. However, and without any delay at all— Enter malware attack and— Celiac attack— Well. You get the picture.

Lately the rain has meant that the cellphone signal has been zero, so VERY few emails have been got to. It’s clearing now and all is fabulous again. I’ll get to all your emails but will take a while, so if there’s anything I need to see now please zoom over a fresh email and I’ll get right on it. So, with all the devilish attempts to foil my scribbling career now properly squished, I shall attempt to move on with some small degree of decorum.

I’m incredibly grateful though. It’s been a pretty rough year—the roughest in my life so far. Terrifying and challenging, and a good couple of times it was very tempting to run and hide, and give up trying in general. I’ve had the most amazing love and support from my friends, who are all angels straight from Heaven in my book, and I reckon that now the worst is over. I could NEVER have done it without you guys. I’m also so grateful for the support of “my” authors who have given me the privilege of working on their books, thereby showing me the way forward, work-wise. Thanks for your support and patience during the growing pains.

I’m hoping to stay right here right through Christmas and in to next year, which I’m hoping will be epic for all of us, only in really good ways. Once I’ve made head or tail of my turgid inbox and appeased anyone who wants me drawn and quartered for my super long absence, I’m planning on getting a little festive in general. Festive and bookish again, with a bit of luck. Please give me reminders of anything I’ve missed of yours for sharing or generally catching up.

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The Best Medicine

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Image Credit: Zapiro

The loadshedding wasn’t as bad around here as it was in other places in South Africa this festive season. In Zimbabwe they switch you off every day for the whole day or the whole night without fail.

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At least here they let you know when so you can get backup lights ready. I walked into many a wall strolling around at night in Zimbabwe.

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Festive South African Light Bulb

I’m already so used to the comfort here I don’t often think of the discomfort up there much more. I still remember it though, and nothing will change my disgust at the suffering pure greed and the abuse of power is still causing.

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Image Credit: Zapiro

That’s not my point though. I was thinking about the ability of both of these nations to always find something to laugh at no matter how bad things get, and especially the ability to laugh at themselves.

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Monkey See, Monkey Run Like Hell

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I can’t be messing around much if I’m going to get anything published at all this year. With things still being CRAZY hectic around here, and me not having much time to write, distracting me from my work is not a good idea when I’m hard at it in the little time I do have. Especially when I’m really getting a lot done quickly. These epic word rolls don’t happen often, and it’s particularly difficult to get my attention when I’m on one. Success at finally getting my attention at such a time is never going to be a good thing – for man or beast. Birds don’t count, because they’re generally attached to me, so part of the process. While I would be the last person to want to hurt any sort of creature on the planet, that doesn’t mean that every single one of them makes me come over all warm and fuzzy. Worms creep me out to the point of screaming and belting around the house with hair on end a couple of times if I accidentally grab one while whiffling through a bit of damp soil – as you do. Mortally venomous snakes in my house are not going to make me put anyone in it at risk by talking to it in a friendly fashion while attempting to pop it into a bag to transport to pastures new. No. It will unfortunately get to meet its maker early if it doesn’t get me first. And I absolutely loathe African bees after helplessly watching a swarm of them kill my animals in the most agonising and long drawn out way. No bees allowed around me. Yes I’m the only person on the planet who doesn’t think they’re lovely little things that should be decorating cakes. No child around here should think of bees as cute in any way as far as I’m concerned. Four year old twins were killed by them at a dam down the road from us in Zimbabwe. Now this brings me to monkeys.

Monkey Looking Innocent - Hah!

I’d love to see the people who abuse them in labs have their kneecaps shot to shreds and then have them dumped in the middle of millions of fire ants. I think monkeys should be left alone to get on with things in whatever wild parts remain to them. But I’m not particularly fond of them, and they’re most certainly not welcome to pop around to my house for any sort of snack. (NOT APES!!! WE LOVE STORY READING APES, WHO ARE ALLOWED ALL THE SNACKS THEY WANT!) Monkeys. I’ve had a running battle with the little sods for years now. Up in Zimbabwe, among other terrible acts of theft and destruction, they used to eat the baby weaver birds out of their nests. Not on my watch Dagwood! I never ever harmed a hair on one of their smelly little persons, but chase them away I did. Monkeys know what guns are, so all you have to do is point one at them or let off a shot in the direction of nothing at all, and they’ll hightail it out of there. They’re clever buggers though, so I got a lot of exercise warding off their various military style tactics to gain entry from different points.

Monkey Pretending to be Cute

Monkeys in suburbia are another kind of pain in the bum altogether. They know which day the rubbish is collected, and driving down the road on Tuesdays looks like a warzone after they’ve ripped and tossed everybody’s trash all over the place. Now I know a lot more about my neighbours than I cared to thanks to them. If you don’t have screens on your windows and doors they’ll pop in and destroy your house for you in their quest for snacks, while you cower in the toilet waiting for them to leave, and any yards with fruit trees are open season. They don’t delicately pick a fruit or two and munch on it either. They hoik off everything whether its ripe or not. Around here, they’re very interested in what my feathered horde have lurking around – and the horde have food of some sort all over the house. Every time you hear those demolishing beasties thundering over the roof, or one of their faces pops up at a window, my birds freak right out, and Button has flown into things a couple of times now, hurting his tiny little body, and almost knocking himself out. Apart from the constant distraction from my scribbling, I’m worried that one day the poor guy will hit just a little too hard to survive. Can’t have that. So war it is!

Jelly Munching

Now – you can’t go zooming around the yard in suburbia with a real gun letting off shots willy nilly. And you aren’t going to get very far with a broom either. Monkeys know what brooms are, they’re not scared of you, and if you try and interfere with them unarmed they’ll bite your face off. They really will – not fluffy cuties, monkeys. So – not a scribbler for nothing. Googled and googled. And now I’ve got me a nice little replica rifle that shoots plastic pellets. The lovely man at the shop is very clued up monkey-wise – they’re the terror of the area – and supplied me with some “special” little pellets that would most certainly sting without causing actual injury – just in case. I’ve been having a ball zooming after them now, after having them show me the finger all the time – not to mention some pretty serious looking dental equipment – buggers. They’re avoiding any sign of me now. *Grins* *Shows monkeys the finger* Jo 100 – Monkeys 0 – HAH! Anyway. Back to work.

Leaving Zimbabwe

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Leaving Zimbabe
Leaving Zimbabe

Next month it will be a year since we left Zimbabwe to come back home to South Africa. Although living up there for almost two decades it was also home to me, and I wouldn’t exchange the memories of it, both good and bad, for anything in the world. Apart from the fires – those were terrible, and were mostly started on purpose.

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For all of those years we lived in rural areas far away from any sort of town, which is why I used to go on my epic once a month shopping trips and stock up on everything needed till the next month. A couple of hours drive each way to Harare, being stopped by endless roadblocks along the way, being fined US$20 for having dirty tyres (truth).

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And being nearly squished several times by ancient, overloaded, but still very zoomy buses and taxis. It was all a massive adventure though, and I remember all these things now with a smile.

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After the farm invasions started and the economy collapsed there were several really lean years – years of fear too, because there was no rule of law. Large groups of youths went around beating people both black and white, and very often killing them. The currency was worth nothing, not that you could buy anything with it if it wasn’t though. Shops closed. The end. People in rural areas died of starvation and disease – hospitals had nothing. Power went off for days, sometimes weeks. No more water on tap in the capital, and sewage pipes left broken with effluent in the streets causing cholera, and more death.

I’ve never seen a people with more heart than the people of Zimbabwe though. Apart from those who had the power to harm whoever they felt like harming and did, the vast majority of Zimbabweans are a wonderful and very canny lot. Plans were made. There was a mass exodus of white people at that time, and not only farmers. Some got out in time to hang on to any cash they had, but when the economy collapsed those left behind lost everything including pensions, and any investments people had been building for their entire lives crumbled to dust before their eyes. So many were fearfully stuck there with no money to get out, but there were also quite a few of us who stayed because that’s what we decided to do. We knew that it was dangerous, especially out in the rural areas on farms, but I guess guardian angels were working overtime those days, so even though I had the daylights scared out of me quite a few times, nobody ever managed to physically harm me. Apart from all the hurting though, Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, and there was also lots of laughter and joy, even from those hurting. Regardless of whether or not you’d be munching on an old potato for lunch, or if you had “made a plan” and would be having something a bit more filling, the houses up there were always gorgeous. I do miss a couple of things. I miss my freshly picked veggies, and also seeing all the wildlife and birds that crept around the garden – although not so much the black mambas and the baboons lurking behind bushes waiting to scare the pants off innocent me. And I really miss looking out of my window and seeing shining tranquil water. Our front lawn meandered down a couple of terraces to a gorgeous dam.

If you fancied a swim, in you popped. Not that I ever ventured out too far because there was the meanest monitor lizard in the world who used to hang around on the wobbly old jetty that would hiss and leap at you without any provocation at all.

Still, it was a lovely place to watch the sun go down behind the fields of tea on the other side of the water.

I miss the palm trees loaded down with nesting weaver birds every year – especially the one right outside my office window.

Weaver Birds

Would I ever go back to live there? No – I don’t think so. There was so much hope a couple of years back. After seeing the misery and the hunger on the faces of those people who I came to love and respect so much for their strength and humility in the face of appalling abuses by their own, I actually used to grin like an idiot and shed a tear or two when I saw them happy, well fed, and hopeful again. Now things are going so badly again – I couldn’t bear to see that again.

For now I’m very happy in my sleepy little rainbow nation town. I certainly don’t miss that constant small feeling of not being safe, but I’ll always treasure my years in Zimbabwe, and strangely, the fact that the very hell that everyone went through brought us all so much closer, and I got to know and love so many people of that country in ways that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere or anywhen else.

Louis Trichardt

Rain

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I had to drive a way down the highway yesterday in the rain. I actually enjoy driving, and I’ve always been a fan of a big growly engine and lots of horsies under the hood, because I enjoy speed and the sense of freedom that zooming down a highway with just you, some cool music, and the control of a fast car brings. But stupid I’m not – mostly. People seem to assume that no matter what the conditions, they are absolutely obliged to drive at the top speed limit – at the very least. Bloody fools.

I stuck to mainly 100 kph when the visibility was bad, and made sure that I kept well away from the crazies as best I could, but I saw three cars barely manage to control skids as they flew past a petrol tanker up a blind hill, then succeed in avoiding an oncoming bus by what had to be inches, and then spend a minute slewing all over the road in some grizzly fast car ballet. Then – coming up to the town where I live I came across the aftermath of an accident. Humungous truck all bent and twisted on one side of the road, all his cargo all over the place, and a whole lot of cars in a bunch on the other side. Police cars, fire trucks, and people trying to clear the stuff off the road.

Then this morning I heard that a truck had been encroaching on the wrong side of the road, and had a head on with a minibus full of Zimbabweans, killing ten of them, including both drivers. What a totally unnecessary waste of life. People really need to get things into perspective. The possibility of killing anyone at all through wilful negligence should never be a possibility at all. Life is precious to every single one of us, and we shouldn’t have to risk it because some tool thinks that he has to do everything quicker and louder than everyone else.

And then there’s the other thing. The fact that the people of Zimbabwe have been turned into a nation of vagrants and forced world travellers by the selfish behaviour of the greedy few in control of their lives. I meet them here every time I go to town – people who have no way of providing for their families in their own country, and they come down here to work so that they can send money home. They don’t do it because they want to swan around the continent – in fact they have a lot of difficulties here because they are seen to be stealing work from local people. They do it because they choose to try their best instead of sitting under a tree and waiting to die of starvation, while their leaders get fatter and wealthier on what should rightly be theirs.

All of my Zimbabwean friends have said that there is nothing more terrifying than travelling in minibus taxis, but they don’t have any other choice because that’s the only way they can afford to travel. Pity that those bloody thieving politians don’t get to feel the fear of knowing that the pilot of the speeding vehicle you’re in decides whether you live or die with the choices that he makes. Although, having been directly responsible for the deaths of so many of their people for so many years now, even that wouldn’t make a difference. Pardon the rant. But really. No appointment is so important, and no destination will disappear because you get there a little late.

It got me thinking at any rate. There but for the grace of God, and that sort of thing. We go through our lives always busy. Busy doing, and planning, and fretting, and doing some more. Worrying about things that maybe aren’t so important in the grand old scheme of things. We get ourselves all in knots over some silly thing that we said, and worry about what people will think about us. We care so much about doing the right things, and the impressions we are making. Whether that be being seen as a ninny for driving “too slow”, or in the scribbling and blogging world, putting something out there that nobody will like. And while we’re agonising over that one truly rotten review, or worrying that we’ll be ridiculed for some scribble lurking around somewhere, those things could literally become the last thought we ever have. Right place at the wrong time is all it takes. So. I think that I’ll just have the rest of the day off, play with Bella and the horde, watch me some B-Grade movie – maybe Sharknado again – missed the end last time, and ponder what I’m up to in this life, the universe, and everything.

Rest In Peace Zimbabwean friends. I’m truly sorry that you had to leave this way.


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Happy Harare

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Just found this – and that’s why I fell in love with Zimbabwe. You guys rock!

Black Rhino Rescue Project

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Why is it that people get away with being allowed to continue to believe that legally killing one animal from an endangered species is justified because it will put money towards trying to save the rest of them from poachers? Ever heard of donations not requiring a death guys? With not many more than around four thousand odd black rhino left in the wild on the planet, the Dallas Safari Club plans the auction of a permit to shoot one. They further justify this with the fact that this particular rhino is too old to breed. So what? Why can’t he just be allowed to enjoy his old age in peace?
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In general terms, I personally believe that hunting for FOOD – not new boots – is a lot kinder than breeding animals for food. At least hunted animals get to live free to begin with. But there is nothing under the sun that can justify this. Why not just give some money to saving rhinos if you have so much to play around with? Why does one have to be shot?
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The poaching of these creatures is heartbreaking. As a species they have to endure being slaughtered in the most barbaric ways, often having their horns hacked off while they are still alive, whether they are mothers with calves or not, all because some tool somewhere believes that a bit of it will help him get his pecker up or something. Give these poor creatures a break!
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The purposeful killing of even one of these animals is a disgusting thing to even contemplate doing. There are a group of people trying to stop this from happening, and I for one hope and pray that they get it right, although that’s not a given. The group is called the Black Rhino Rescue Project, and they’re on Facebook and Twitter, just in case any of you scribblers would like to help this poor old wrinkly guy out. The power of some wonderful authors fan reaching tools is a much better way to go than trying to fight this with death threats, as some people have been doing. I don’t often ask for shares, but on this particular occasion I really would appreciate it.