Friday, November 30, 2012

Seekin' Jerry!

This blog has an average of 25 hits per day.......and only 2 "followers". How does that work? But if you are enjoying it - please pass it on!

Today was a fairly mundane day at La Rochelle - and in fact would have been downright dull if it hadn't been for the discovery of a mouse living in one of the cottages. I was checking the rooms to make sure they had been cleaned properly and had my two sausage dogs in tow. When we got to Virginia Cottage, they showed keen interest in the settee - sniffing underneath it and whining. I lifted the front of it......and out shot a tiny little mouse - no bigger than my baby finger from tip to tail. He was so fast that I only caught a glimpse of him - but that was enough for the dogs.

Game on!

With Preacher, the maid, and myself lifting the furniture as required, the dogs had a field day chasing the mouse all over the cottage. We upturned chairs, tv cabinets and dressing tables - only catching sight of our quarry fleetingly as it scurried from one hiding place to another. The dogs went ballistic - tails wagging furiously and they were so excited they were almost incoherent. They very nearly managed to catch it a couple of times - but failed. However, the net result was positive for everyone in that:-

The dogs had a lot of exercise, it was really entertaining for me, the mouse survived, and Preacher was introduced to sections of the carpet that she didn't even know existed - and she has promised to clean them properly from here onwards!

In fact - it was SO much fun that I may go and buy of box of mice and set one free each day and see if the dogs can find which room it is in!


Tonight we are hosting a dinner for 50-odd folk, so need to get on.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

make like a snake

Interviewed another 2 kids for our little school today - and they both start next year in classes where we are short of children. Good thing!

Back to the recent rains - most amazing things was that one heavy downpour was enought to uproot 5 trees in the garden. I think the root systems have become so stressed from lack of rainfall this year that they simply can't hold the trees up once the leaves get heavy with water. The first pic is of a tree across the pathway to Small Rondawel - simply closed it

The showers also brought out they "flying ants" - down at the school this afternoon there were at least two thousand over the soccer field. Missed that with the camera - but the ones that managed to get into my bathroom a couple of nights ago were caught on film. The amazing thing is that - once they lose their wings, they travel in a continuous line - one after the other, so that when they are on the move and are pretty much defenceless, they look like a moving snake. Not only that - but as they move, they 'undulate'. Here are a couple forming up!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's a wrap!

I have had an email from a regular reader saying they always try to guess what each blog is about - and they have never been right yet. But once they have read through - it all seems so obvious! Ha!

The recent rains, there have been many developmnents - but the most startling is the sudden appearance of hundreds of tsongololos.

There are many spellings of the name - from shongololo (from the Zulu) to chongololo, but basically they are millipedes. And we all call 'em chongies! The ones we get here grow from a light 'orange' to a deep pitch black. When touched, they curl into a defensive posture, and, as every kid knows, they 'poop'. They have a bunch of legs (though obviously not a thousand!) and I think I recall reading somehwere that they all have an odd number of legs. Which is indeed odd!

But it is not actually pooping - the substance they exude contains cyanide - this being a defense mechanism for the poor old chongies, who are not very fast and who tend to live out in the open because their food is fungus and plant matter. This stops the birds eating them into extinction.

Today - walking to my house, I saw a fine specimen, and so picked him up to photograph him. When I put him down again - I placed him fairly close to a baby chongie - and he made a beeline for it. Grasping the youngster by the head, he wrapped himself around it, and then caught him in a vice-like grip, all the while biting on the head of the poor widdle baby chongie.

I have left out the final pics - the decaptiation and evisceration. Just too graphic.

Death lurks EVERYWHERE on this jolly continent of ours!

So I put him down near the baby........and he bit him on the head.........

and things went from bad to worse to worser...

Monday, November 26, 2012

A night of hard clubbing!

We have had some wonderful, wonderful rain over the past day or so - and there has been much that has happened as a result - trees falling over, and a plague of flying ants. However, all that will be touched upon in another blog because..............

Last night the Robbers came a-calling!

It is getting towards Christmas now, and the number of burglaries seems to increase at this time of year. I have a Security Guard at the hotel called Takawira, and he came to my house just after midnight - covered in mud and blood. Apparently he had been on the hotel verandah and had seen and confronted a fellow walking about in the shadows. It turned into a fight, with lots of kicking and punching, with Takawira wielding the stout stick (a thing of beauty - made of hardwood, it was obviously extracted from a chair or ornate table, with a carved head and nicely varnished) that he usually carries for such eventualities.

It turned out that there were five of them, and he managed to land a few lusty blows before they ran away. Before he got the better of them, however, they punched him in the face - this being the source of all the blood, and they all apparently rolled around in a flower bed at some stage or other. Once he was cleaned up, it turned out that, apart from a thick lip and two small nicks - on his cheek and above his eyebrow - there wasn't too much damage. Apart from to his pride. We stuck a fairly large plaster over the cut that was bleeding the most, and by morning he had stopped leaking and was well on the road to recovery.

He seems to think he inflicted some fairly substantial damage upon two of the Ali Babas - and the chances of them returning for seconds are apparently fairly small

Unfortunately he threw his stick at them as they fled, and one of them picked it up, and ran off with it - this being in his opinion the most unsettling part of the incident. I gave him a golf club (7-iron - steel shaft and perimeter-weighted blade) and he seems very happy with his new weapon.

However, when I cam to work this morning he was still very grumpy. Below are three pictures of........ happiness? Not!

 It would be a very silly robber who decided to try and visit us again any time in the next couple of months, I think!!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

inside-outside, you decide

Today we had a revelation. I decided that the time had come to take off the cushion covers from the cushions used on the chairs on the lawn so that we could wash them. However, once we had taken them off, we realised just how faded the material had become in our Zimbabwean sun. All the covers were given to Preacher, and she is going to unpick every stitch and sew them back together again - inside out. We'll see what happens, but below is a picture of David the waiter holding the same cover - one as is, and the other inside out. Guess which of the two is slighly sun-faded?

The other thing to note is just how dry the grass is! Today we had....rain! Great big fat blood-warm drops, and though it only lasted about half an hour, the smell of it was heavenly. Hopefully this is the start and we will have a few decent soakings over the next week to get everything perked up a little.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Anna 'nother spider!

After my last 'spider' blog I got several messages saying how ugly the poor little incy wincy was!

Actually he was quite a beautiful one - but reading up on Baboon Spiders later, I realised that I had, in fact, made a mistake with the age. They live to anything up to 25 years old - so the one I had walking around on the Reception Desk must have been about 16.

Here is a truly pretty one - he (or probably 'she'?) has been walking around my own desk at the back of Reception - attracted no doubt by the bugs that fly around my light at night.

Zimbabwe is kind of special with all the critters we have here. You just have to look for them!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Q When is a balloon not a balloon? A When it is a hat!

Amazing how it happens!

Yesterday I was talking about how dry it has been this year, and we woke this morning to thick mist - so thick that it wet the ground - almost like a light rain. The other thing it did was bring out the finest fashion statement seen in Zimbabwe for a while!

We have had a guest staying in Virginia Cottage for the last 5 nights, and this morning they gave a couple of the children living here balloons - the long thin ones that can be tied up into dogs and other shapes. They also gave a balloon to Joseph - the very same Joseph who so carefully weeded the concrete in the carpark the other day. He used the balloon to keep a plastic bag on his head so that he wouldnt get wet. And no Paris haute couture has ever been worn with more pride!

I have no other comment to make on his adaptation of the balloon - other than.........golly!

               Sometimes words are simply inadequate?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Soaking dry

Todays little piece of "Zimglish" - there is a business in Mutare which advertises itself in letters five feet high as the "Exhuast Center"! I was lucky that cuaght my eye!

And then the rains didn't come...........

In the gardens at La Rochelle there is a furrow which carries water from the river down through the gardens, and into the dam. We have had rain about 4 times since April this year, and for the first time since 1986........the furrow has dried up.

This is not a disaster for the hotel because we draw our water from a borehole which produces the cleanest, sweetest, clearest water ever! It tastes of ummmm, just like, ummmm - well nothing actually! And it is really odd for us when we visit other places, like Harare, or indeed countries, like England and South Africa, and their water actually has a taste to it. Most odd!

(I believe the average glass of water in London has passed through the human body at least 16 times - ain't THAT a fantastic thought?)

What this will mean, though is that the animals and birds that normally drink from the furrow as it makes its way along the mountian and through the Dell, will now have to come to the dam to drink, and this will upset some of the natural balance of things. Yesterday - when the camera was miles away, we had a brown hooded kingfisher sitting in a tree in our garden - possibly he was eyeing the dogs? I don't know. But he sure looked confused.

Below is a picture of one of the ponds in the garden at La Rochelle - the pond with the stepping stones that run across it. This pic was taken last night. Bone dry.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A shady deal?

I was walking through the carpark of the hotel this morning when I noticed a rhythmic scraping sound. It turned out to be old Joseph - weeding.

The hotel does not employ the gardeners - they are employed by the National Trust, and so Joseph does not actually work for me. He is fairly ancient, and his sole job is weeding the cracks between the concrete on the pathways and roads. He has a small weeding tool with which he carries on long and animated discussions as they make their slow but steady way around the property, and he will accept no other work - so he is just left to get on with things. How long he has been doing this particular job, I have no idea, but he manages to keep the pathways clear, and he works from morning to late afternoon at his selected task, so everybody seems happy with the arrangement.

Occasionally he has a disagreement with his weeding tool, and he will throw it aside and stalk off muttering angrily to himself, but reconciliation seems to be fairly swift, and before long they are off on their merry way again, carefully weeding.

Today - however, I noticed that Joseph seemed not to be weeding the cracks between the concrete slabs (none of which had weeds growing in them anyway) - but he appeared to be weeding the slabs themselves. And then it dawed on me...............

Today is yet another bright sunny day - and Joseph has elected to spend the entire morning weeding the patch of shade on the edge of the carpark! I asked him to move into the sunlight for a quick picture of the extent of the carpark - because he was lost in the shade, but once the "shoot" was over - he made his way back into his little shady patch and started carefully weeding the concrete again!

Can't say I blame him!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

pillars of potatoes

Had a somewhat bland day today - spiced with a fascinating 'Zimglish' contribution from the maids.

We have a couple of self-catering cottages at La Rochelle, and I asked them to do a check on the kitchen equipment in each cottage; periodically stuff  'walks', and needs replacing. They gave me the lists this morning, and apparently in Peacock Cottage we are the proud owners of.....a potatoe pillar!

An obvious improvement on Lots wife, it would seem?

Talking of the Cottages - they tend to get booked an awful lot by men who leave their 'wives' in the car when they check-in. But we are "the no-tell hotel" - so normally what folk do in the cottages is none of our business. Unless, of course, the cottages are used for nefarious purposes!

About a year ago, there was much excitement in the Penhalonga area, because some of the Russians who have been brought to Zimbabwe to mine gold had rented out the Tshingwe Hall, and were charging the local folk a fee to come and watch a porno movie. In a country where we have absolutely no pornography for sale at all, this caused quite a stir, and for a week or so before they were shut down by the Police, business was brisk indeed. This despite the fact that the quality of the filming was not the very best, having been obtained with a hand-held video camera.

Apparently the film involved one of the local 'ladies', and at least a couple of Russian gentlemen, doing strange things to each other. I only speculate because I didn't ever see the offending entertainment. However - what was of concern to us was the fact that the filming had been conducted in Peacock Cottage - the very same one with the potatoe pillar in it!

Hmmmmm - not good!

Below is a pic of the "no-tell hotel" for those folk following this blog who have never been here

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Diggin' up the dirt

On Friday - a friend had one of those moments which occur more frequently in Africa than in other parts of the world. Sarah was shopping in town, and was driving past the Central Police Station when she was pulled over by one of Zimbabwe's finest - in this case a lady Officer.

As is standard procedure, Sarah was told that she was to be fined............but the reason was not any one of the normally used ones like "No seatbelt" or "No reflective stickers".


In this case, she was to be fined because............her car was dirty!

I kid you not! She was advised that the fine was $5 - and she would have to pay at once.

Immediately Sarah contested this, and demanded to be shown the "Law". The Policewoman produced a thick set of regulations, and Sarah leafed through it - the only transgression which came close, as she pointed out to the Officer, was a section which listed a fine of $10 for having a windscreen (windshield) through which it was impossible to see properly. But, as she pointed out to the Officer, it was easy to see through her windscreen.

However, the long arm of the law was not to be fobbed off quite so easily, and pointed out in return that the "rear windscreen" was dusty - which it indeed was, because Sarah and her husband live down a dirt road along which they have to travel if they want to go anywhere. However, it was only mildly dusty. Sarah put on her rear wiper, and it cleared off some of the dirt, but by then it was too late, because the Policewoman ignored this belated cleaning effort, and made out the fine...........but for $10, not the $5 originally demanded, because Sarah had found the law indicating a $10 fine all by herself!

I am afraid that a Policeman in the road is not going to be a welcome sight in Zim until after Christmas!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Spring into action!

I had someone query my blog of yesterday, saying they had not see the statue in the courtyard, despite having been through several times. Here is Don Quixote - in all his glory, with the Reception door in the background. He was created in 1961 by Richard Green, and is very very definitely a boy..............

The amazing thing is that almost everyone inspects his pee-pee. Including you? Poor Don

This is probably going to be the last blog on the wildlife of La Rochelle for a while, because the part of Zim where we live does not have too many lions and tigers (though there is a male lion not too far away from us who has been making a nuisance of himself eating cattle and some of the local population, but I doubt he will make it to our neck of the woods) but mention must be made of the "Killing Dogs of Imbeza" - otherwise known as my sausage dogs!

They spend most of their day in pursuit of things to kill - when the Ververt monkeys come through the property they go bananas, and birds on the grass always get a token charge. The main prey, however, are the lizards.

Despite the fact that we all call them lizards, they are actually striped skinks, and because they are cold-blooded, they have to regulate their body temperature by moving to-and-fro between sunny patches and deep shade. It is during these dashes that the dogs see their chance, and they spend most of the day in frantic pursuit.

The lizards have developed a defence mechanism which, though simple, is ingenious. In the garden I have a pile of old, rusting, trampoline springs, and the lizards have found they can fit inside them with no trouble at all. The dogs see them going inside, and they can smell, and possibly hear, the pesky reptiles inside the springs. But they can't get to them, and it drives them scatty! They bite at the springs and try to dig beneath them, but to no avail. The end result is that the lizards don't get eaten, the dogs are entertained, and my grass is aerated - so everyone is happy.

Or........almost everyone. Coming home yesterday during a brief hiatus in the hunt while the dogs were inside the house, I found 3 lizards sunning themselves on the wall - each and every one of them minus their tail!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Arachnid anarchy

Despite going for a run yesterday evening no snakes were found, so my hopes of confirming whether it was a python or cobra were dashed. However, wildlife once again intruded this morning, in the shape of a smallish Rain Spider (or, as the kids here call them, 'Baboon Spider'!)

These beautifully marked spiders tend to appear after the first rains - and the larger ones are up to 12 years old. They just keep getting bigger every year, and I would guess that the fellow who was found on my Reception Desk at the hotel is about 6 years old. Not a very big one at all, but big enough.

We were alerted to his presence by Preacher, who broke with the habit of a lifetime and started dusting in areas that are not normally visible; in the process she was wiping the side of the Reception Desk when she was confronted by a pair of hairy legs. As is standard in situations like these, she turned up the volume button, and her wailing and caterwauling could be heard from my house.

When I rushed down to see what was happening I found her cowering by the statue of Don Quixote in the courtyard, peering fearfully through the glass of the sliding doors into Reception. She pleaded with me to kill it, and was horrified when I picked it up and deposited it onto a piece of paper on the desk so that I could photograph it for this blog.

She begged me to kill it and I refused to do so - telling her it was one of God's Little Creatures, and it had a right to live. Her eyes went wide in disbelief! I then told her that they always hunt in pairs, and it has been a lot of fun watching her make her way round the hotel today peering behind every curtain and beneath every table! I know that in the months to come an awful lot of dust is going to build up beneath the Reception Desk, but that is a price worth paying!

Photos are below - the first one is a bit blurred as I tried to photograph it where we found it, but the others are ok.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Snakes alive!

Yesterday I went for a run through "The Dell" - the botanical garden run by National Trust. It is not full of pretty flowers, but rather an amazing variety of shrubs, trees (there are over 160 different trees - most of them 'exotics' brought here from around the world) and succulents.

My two miniature sausage dogs accompanied me - some of the way. Halfway round, one of the dogs stopped and wouldn't go any further, and I rather suspect that there was a snake in the thick bush by the path, as her hackles rose, and she refused to follow me, nor would she approach the bush that held her attention.

We have released several African Rock Pythons into the riverine bush just beyond The Dell itself, and I think it probably was a python, or possibly a Mozambique Spitting Cobra - the other fairly common resident on the property. In fact, I found the skin of a fairly large cobra by the memorial to the lemur in the rose garden at the front of the hotel a week ago, so I know they are around, though they tend to keep very much to themselves. However the cobras generally favour open ground with a clear field of vision and , while the pythons, being ambush hunters, prefer thick vegetation and tend to keep close to water.

Occasionally we have visitors to the garden coming across these magnificent reptiles, and if they are indigenous Zimbabweans they invariably they institute emergency evacuation procedures and then demand a full refund. The funny thing is that other folk pay a fortune to climb onto an aircraft, pay vast sums of money to safari operators then spend several nights in expensive safari camps, just to be able to see a python in the wild. What a funny world we live in?

Tonight I shall go past the spot again - if it was a python the chances are that it will still be there. Hopfully I will return home with two sausage dogs!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vanishing varnish

In Zimbabwe, we have a pre-soak washing detergent called "Vanish". Thus I had another 'Zimglish' moment yesterday when Preacher, one of the Maids at the hotel, advised me that she had found a pillowcase stained with hair dye, was going to soak it in varnish!

Not so sure that will help.

At La Rochelle I built a school. There was a time about 8 years ago that the government decided to interfere in private schooling, and the end result was that several concerned parents and I got together and we built a small school. It really is very small - we have an average of just 4 children per class, but we have some very dedicated and capable teachers - so much so that we now have a reputation for producing children with excellent academic grounding.

When the children progress to High School, they have to write a 'Common Entrance' examination - this is a standard exam written throughout Zimbabwe, and pupils submit their papers to their 'school of first choice'. They are then either accepted or rejected based on their performance in that exam. This year our school had three girls who submitted their completed papers to Peterhouse - and out of 180 children who applied, all three were all in the top twenty. Not bad.

Because our school is small, and because we don't pay anyone except the teachers, most of the administration work is done by parents on a pro bono basis. I handle the applications for future places, and generally interact with prospective parents. Following a 'school readyness assessment' interview that we conduct prior to accepting children for Grade 1, we have identified and accepted four children who will start at the school in January 2013. Before a child can begin at the school, we ask for a  "desk fee" from every child. This money is used to run the school for the following year - not necessarily for purchasing desks, but all the stationary and equipment that will be needed, such as exercise books, pens, chalk, etc. We hold a little back for repairs and maintenance and so on.

One child that we have accepted had been brought to the assessment by his mother, Roxy. yesterday I was called down to the hotel where a gentleman introduced himself a 'Alan - Roxy's husband'. He had come to pay the Desk Fee, and I introduced myself and accepted the money. While I could remember the mother, Roxy, I had a sudden blank regarding the child she had brought for interview. However I recalled the surname, and made the receipt out in that name.

Another thing that I do for the school is to arrange for Preacher, when she is not varnishing pillowcases, to sew the school uniforms for the girls. The boys have a standard shorts and shirt uniform, but the girls have a sky-blue pinnafore which we make on the sewing machine at the top of the tower. However we do not keep a stock of these pinnafores, and make them on demand. Thus we need to measure the children, and make every uniform to order. Realising that we had not made a pinnafore for Roxy's daughter (whose name I still could not recall), I then said to Alan "You will have to bring her in for me to measure. Any time would be fine"

Alan looked at me a little strangely, but agreed to do so. We then discussed other matters such as accommodation in the nearby town (they live about an hour away from the school) and sport. Then, out of the blue, it dawned on me...............

Roxy's daughter is called Dillon!

A boy.


Alan had apparently assumed that I wanted him to bring in his wife for me to measure! And he had agreed to do so. No wonder he had looked at me strangely! Asking to be allowed to measure people's wives the first time that I meet them is not normally a thing I do - but if such ready and willing agreement is given, I may well consider doing so in future!

Below are our correct school uiforms, with the school in the background. All of it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All went swimmingly

Another fine day in Africa! Today the whole family was involved in the Manicaland Provincial Gala (Swim Meet) - Della ran the computer, I did the Announcing, Cara did the Marshalling and Dayna and Courtney did the swimming. Thankfully!

Both Girls won the shield for their respective Age Groups, and a fine day was had by all. However, the highlight was the final 50m race of the day in which 4 fathers also joined in. I had intended to take part, but as there were no more lanes left, I decided to use the microphone, amplifier and speakers to abuse those honourable parents who did in fact swim. Plus it gave them a chance to win! I shall, however, have to be on the look-out for the various fathers in the next few weeks until the comments directed at them have faded from memory :-

Andre (my Pastor) was informed that I had seen better legs hanging out of a nest before
Brett was annouced as wearing a gray swimming cap (when he had no cap at all)
The whole pool was advised that Robbie was pregnant, and he was asked to stop swimming if he went into labour!
Brendan escaped censure because he held his Birthday at the Hotel yesterday. Good man!

Wonderful day!

We had over 70 Junior Swimmers taking part, and I think it is a credit to those folk who have seen to it that swimming does not die in Manicaland, as have so many other sports.  Thanks.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hamming it up?

We had a wonderful day today - hosting a Birthday Lunch for 60-odd souls out by the pool at La Rochelle. We did a Baked Glazed Ham studded with cloves and served with a mustard and sherry glaze. If the supermarkets can put up Christmas decorations in November, we can jolly well serve Christmas Ham then too! Kids in the pool, a chaotic game of volleyball, and infants getting lost in the undergrowth all made for a very pleasant day!

The requirements for a fine afternoon are:- a very big tree, some decent weather and a fairly wet pool. All other details take care of themselves! I hope all our European and American friends had a nice warm day too?

Happy Christmas one and all!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mucky Mary

What a fantastic day! Our little Penhonga school (Pop 32) competed in the 'Hillcrest Invitational Gala' today, and we acquitted ourselves very well. Unfortunately they never announce the Team Results, but I don't think we won - I would expect that honour went to Murray MacDougall School from Triangle. But we weren't far off. This does, however, bring me to my promise to highlight Zimbabwean improvements to the written or spoken word.......

Zimglish - Murray MacDougall School is frequently called simply 'Murray Mac'. The Announcer at the Gala today continuously advised us of results for competitors from 'Mary Muck'!

Courtney swum very well, winning all four of her events, and setting new records in each. Very good. However........because she swum 'up' last year - two of the records she broke were her own!


Our other 2 daughters are also home, and once again we had a contender for the annual 'foot-in-the-mouth' award. Dayna was very excited about some obscure Korean who has posted a music video on YouTube - in the process becoming an overnight sensation. She began to play the music on her cellphone, when my wife Della announced that she was aware of the song, and had heard it before.

Dayna was astounded! I think she had only recently heard the song and the furore it had caused, and she was astonished that her Mom was so 'with it' and 'hip'. The fact that her Mom knew the song impressed her mightily. She tried to tell Della this, but she also tried to be really cool about it, and so she announced with full conviction.......

" are such a Hippo Mom"

I could almost see the Christmas presents flying out of the window!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A not-so-fine fine!

I was recently told by a friend that he had read an article which claimed that the Zimbabwean Police were the most corrupt, by a long way, in Africa. That really may be stretching things, but today..........

A friend of mine, whom I shall call "F", had quite a day today. Her vehicle bumped into another vehicle owned by another local woman, and caused slight damage. Both parties know each other well, and both were insured, so they waited for the Police to come and then they made a Police Report - without which it is impossible to lodge an insurance claim. The Policeman who attended from the Mutare Traffic Section then asked her to bring her Vehicle Registration Book to the Police Station, which she duly did.

When she was alone in his office in the Police Station, he turned quite nasty, and informed her that he wanted to take her to court for "negligent driving". She pointed out that she had already accepted fault in the incident, and therefore if there was a fine to be paid, she would pay it. At this time, "F" is being evicted from her farm (yes it is still going on right now), and is in the process of trying to slavage her personal belongings and livestoke off the farm. The thought of spending a day in the Zimbabwean judicial system was not one that filled her with any degree of joy or happiness!

She had just two bills on her - a $20 and a $100. She took out the $20 assuming that would be enough to cover any fine, whereupon he advised her that it was "not enough", so she gave him the $100 note. He took it and said he was going to consult "his superior".

When he returned, he said that it was "now enough", and made out a receipt for her - for $20!!!! No change was offered whatsoever.

On the wall of that particular Traffic Section Office, and visible above the Policeman's head as he slowly made out the receipt, is a very large poster, emblazoned with the words........


The irony was totally lost on Mr Plod.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

long and winding roads

Having had my brow furrowed a couple of times today, I am now going to add a small and occasional snippet to this Blog - Zimglish. These will be spellings and phrases that I have come accross during my travels which have a slight, if somewhat tenuous, link to the intended spelling or original meaning. So here's the first :-

Zimglish :- Email received today requesting quotation for "drinks and sanguages"

Was very tempted to reply asking if they would prefer Cheekin or Hem!

So today. Went to town to watch Courtney swim - she took part in 2 events - the 200m Freestyle and then the 200m Backstroke. I can honestly say that if I was to try and complete just one of those events without stopping, Kudzi would not be alone in his efforts to refill the pool!

The Backstroke was particularly impressive because, as only Courtney can, she improved on the race immeasurably by adding her own dimension to what would have been a fairly mundane swim. Starting in Lane 6, she managed to manoeuvre her way down to Lane 3 in the space of 3/4 of a length, then she realised her mistake, and veered sharply back towards Lane 6, slightly overshooting and completing the length in Lane 7. Her erratic meanderings meant that she probably swum around 275m during the course of swimming of 4 lengths of a 50m pool!

The drive home, was no less entertaining - purely because we drove home after dark. Between Mutare and La Rochelle - a mere 17 kilometres, we passed no less than 7 vehicles with either one cycloptic headlamp, or none at all, and two broken-down vehicles parked on the road. If a headlight is not working, the accepted custom in Zim is to use the indicator on the side that the headlamp is broken to give oncoming traffic some sort of idea as to how wide your car is. If both are not functional, then you switch on your hazard lights. The really tricky time comes when you think that someone has their indicator on because their headlights are not working - and then they actually turn in the direction indicated. It all gets very confusing!

But it made me think that maybe there is money to be made in developing a computer game with headlight-less vehicles randomly turning, broken-down vehicles parked in ambush, and absolutely no road markings at all? "Death on the Asphalt", "Blacktop Carnage", "Roadkill" or "ZimRoads" would be great titles!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sick or swim!

An incident from yesterday which bears repeating! Della (my wife) and her friend Tanya were coaching several kids at "Learn-to-Swim" yesterday. They had 9 children to teach, and have reached the point that the kids can make roughly 10m without touching the floor. They are coached in a mini-pool - until they are competent enough to graduate to the larger pool next door, and there is a great deal of determined effort, splashing and puffing that accompnies every session.

It was a fairly standard swimming lesson - right up until the point that Kudzi kotched in the pool!

No-one saw it happen, but suddenly there were small floating islands of 'pink stuff' in the pool. There was an instant evacuation, with everyone staring in horror at the gently undulating remains of lunch - all except Kudzi who was examining the sky in minute detail! Della managed to fish most of it out with a scoop, and the lesson continued as before - with the exception of Tanya who flatly refused to get into the water again!

Another fine day in Africa!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Swallow this one?

This year - 2012, has been a bit of a dry one. In fact, since April we have had just 4 days with any rain, and two of those were so light that it was more like talking to an old person than actual rain. However, the most recent shower obviously penetrated the ground to some extent, because the 'flying ants' hatched. These are not actually ants, but flying termites, though every kid in Zim calls them 'ants', and they are a source of protein for the local Shona folk - tasting somewhat like peanut butter when fried.

They have an amazing survival strategy, and basically overwhelm the predators (mostly birds and Ververt monkeys) by sheer volume. Once the rains start here properly, there will be a couple of days when there are so many emerging from their burrows in streams and flying off, that there are literally clouds of them. The recent rain was enough to trigger a slight hatch, and as with the start of any glut, the birds came in droves (or should that be flocks?).

The main burrow seemed to open on my front lawn, and one afternoon there were at least 80 birds perched in the trees around us, hopping about on the grass, and swooping through the air. There were bulbuls, sunbirds, flycatchers, and, most spectacularly, the swallows, who would fly over us at enormous speed, and as they hit the termites in the air, there would be a sharp tuk sound from their beaks.

It was fantastic to watch.

There is, however, a curious fact about swallows that was highlighted for me by a recent Guest. The birds that live here are the European (or Barn) Swallows, and they actually nest at La Rochelle. They have created a large mud metropolis under the eaves of the Lounge roof - from which their gentle, bubbling, chirruping can be heard throughout the early evening going on into the night, and for part of the year they disappear - to where I am not sure. In the late afternoons there are often squadrons of them wheeling in the skies above the Tower, and they fly so quickly that is it hard to follow them with binoculars. The amazing thing is that the Guest, who came from Europe, claims that they have a bird which looks very similar to ours - called  the African Swallow. Isn't it amazing that such similar-looking birds have evolved on different continents?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let it rise!

Yesterday Courtney had a couple of friends around, and they spent 6 solid hours playing on the steep bank that leads to the dam. The gradient is about 70 degrees, and the challenge appeared to be to climb and descend it without sliding to the bottom, which would have resulted in them losing all their teeth and breaking all their bones. There wasn't an electronic device in sight, and they returned home dirty, scratched and happy. However, things soon went awry.

Because they wanted to bake a cake.

Courtney, at age 12, is an excellent baker - in fact better than I am, and so I didn't hesitate to give her permission, and I am sure things would have worked out perfectly well had she not had a little "input" from her friends. She never uses a recipe book, and simply follows a tried and tested recipe, so when her friends suggested they try make the cake "another way" she happily agreed. With the perpetual optimism of youth that everything will work out just right, they adjusted pretty much every quantity of Courtneys standard recipe - the main one being to change the amount of baking powder to two teaspoons from one - the intention being to make the cake "really fluffy". In addition, the 'teaspoon' they used was too large to fit into the tin, and they had to pour the powder into it.

Suffice to say the mixture was bubbling before they even got it into the oven, and the resulting confection looked remarkably like the head of an alien! In fact, not only was it steeper than the gravel bank they had been playing on all afternoon, we almost had to staple the icing to it as it kept slipping off!

What a great day!

Watch out!

My father passed away earlier this year, and when I went to England to sort out his affairs, I brought home his wrist watch. I had never used it because the strap was too large for me, and so on Friday I took it to Mutare to have it adjusted. There is an old jewellers shop at the end of Main Street, and when I took it in, the woman assured me they could adjust the strap, and the cost would be $5. I thought this a little steep, but as I was in a hurry I agreed, providing they could do it immediately. As I was waiting, I noticed a sign behind the counter which advertised "Strap edjusting" at $1.

Hmmmm - diddled again.

I was about to point this out when a very large Shona gentleman came in and asked for the strap on his watch to be adjusted. The woman glanced sheepishly at me standing next to him, and told him it would be $5 - at which he exploded, calling her a rip-off, and a thief. He made her confirm the price several times, and as I was standing at his elbow, she had no option but to repeat the fact that she would charge him $5. The crosser he got, the louder he got, and I just smiled sweetly at her and leaned on the counter. Cursing her and her ancestors, the large gentleman stormed out of the shop, waving his watch, and declaring her a fraud. I said not a word, having had an enjoyable 5 minutes of entertainment at her expense!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Zim wins...

Yesterday Della was shopping in Mutare, and picked up 10 packets of "Usavi Mix" powdered spices which we give to our Staff to add to their Lunch. They come in boxes of 10, and there were two boxes, one holding 5 packets, and another holding 8 packets. She took 10 loose packets and placed them in her basket. When she got to the cashier she was told "Madam - if you buy a box it is cheaper".

She went back to the shelf, picked up the empty box, and placed the ten packets carefully back into it, before handing it to the Cashier. She got the discount! But she waited until we got home to explain why she had gone back to the shelf to collect the empty box as she didn't want me spluttering in the shop!

Zim - ya gotta love life here!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Had a bit of a "museum" day today, cleaning out one of the large carports where we normally store spare beds, mineral crates and things that we can't find another home for. Lots of historical relics from my past, and stuff I can honestly say I have never ever seen before! It was like Christmas all over again!

Main entertainment fo the day was Preacher standing on a beer crate to remove items from a high shelf, and placing her hand on a coil of metal tubing normally used to house electrical cables leading to a stove. Obviously she thought it was a snake, and immediately instituted emergency evacuation procedures, inclusive of calls to her mother and all ancestors to come to her assistance - made all the funnier by the fact the she was starting from a height of 2 feet off the ground.

At school I learned there is a thing called inertia - but the transition from immobile to full speed was so instantaneous that I am now doubting everything Mr Shaw taught me all those years ago

And so life continues!