Thursday, February 28, 2013

That pause between "drop" and "plop"!

Oooooh boy - are you gonna love THIS one!

Today Della and I had to go to the Mutasa District Council Offices - on Company business.

The Offices are located 45 minutes away from the hotel, and by the time we got there I felt the need to off-load the three cups of coffee that I had drunk this morning, as well as the 'mac-and-cheese' I had last night. I asked for the toilet, and was directed to a structure in the grounds which fairly obviously housed what we call 'long-drops' - or pit latrines, as they are known in other parts of the world.

And how nice they were! Here is the first view you get as you enter.....

As you can see from the previous photo - there was a certain degree of 'missing' that went on prior to my arrival in the public conveniences. (You know - "we aim to please - you aim too, please!")

I was able to hit the target not less that 95% of the time.....

Of course - the options are not limited to a 'Number One' - and the need to cater for a 'Number Two' has not been totally ignored. Obviously should the folk visiting the Mutasa Offices feel the need to 'push some putty', there is the additional requirement of paper......which eventuality has been extremely well-catered for. 

Providing not more than 20 people per day require the ablutions, are happy to share, and content to use the one-ply product provided, that is.......

I am sure the spider will not have escaped the attention of the lady readers of this blog?

When producing a 'Number Two' - the balancing act is something to behold - but the main concern for participants is the 2-second pause between "drop" and "plop". The depth of this particular facility is around 12 foot - and 2 seconds is a more than reasonable time to wait for the distant "plop" from the depths. The sound of silence is something you do NOT want to hear.

If.........however, the "plop" does not happen - the only recourse is to look down between your feet - and see just how much you missed the hole by.

The following photograph - taken with the camera held in the hole and pointing downwards, is not for the faint-hearted, but does contain proof (in case you wanted it) that my own 'Number Two' made it safely to the bottom.

I really can't believe you paged down to see!!! You seriously need to re-examine your life in fine detail.


Have a nice day one and all!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Make me a whitie!

The last couple of days have been somewhat chaotic - because the painter has been in the house. Eish.

He started in the kitchen, and has now moved to the lounge - with everything being piled in a 'hip' in the middle of the floor. Trying to watch cricket and rugby has been particularly difficult! However, the old nail holes have been filled in, and the wall painted, and everything starting to look nice and clean again.

The difference between the old paintwork and the new is quite marked - and noticeable. He managed to paint the whole lounge, and just turned the corner into the entrance-way - to the right the new, and to the left the old. Tomorrow we should complete the job.

As most of you know, I have a dog called 'Blackie' - who has three legs. He is a black Labrador - though his muzzle and front paws are now decidedly grey with age. Everything else remain black.

Blackie lost his fourth leg as a puppy because he got caught in a wire snare, and we didn't find him until gangrene had properly set in. So off came his back right leg. He normally gets around just fine with only 3 legs, but can be a bit wobbly when walking. This normally isn't a problem - until the walls are wet with paint! That is when Blackie becomes Whitie! Especially his tail.

Stoopid animal!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

David & Goliath. did our provincial swimming team do? Well, I am pleased to report - rather well.

Manicaland took a team of 10 swimmers - and we were far and away the smallest team at the National Championships. Here is a photo of our team in the Opening Parade - Manicaland wear yellow and black, while Mashonaland wear yellow. (You can see half of the Mashonaland Team in the background - they didn't all fit into the picture).

Could this small group of 10 country bumpkins really beat a Team of 140 polished swimmers? Here is Manicaland warming up -

I will not comment other than to provide a clipping from the national newspaper 'The Sunday Mail' - (purveyor of truth at all times). I will leave it to them to announce the Manicaland Team's achievements...

Astonishing, isn't it?

Then - as further proof of our giant-slaying abilities, here is a photo of  the scoreboard on Day 4.....

Of course..........there are those who would say that we 'doctored' the scoreboard slightly in our favor.

And they may well have a point

But that still makes us Winners!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The day a husband got trashed!

As promised yesterday - today's blog is about some of the people behind the gala.

There is a regular reader of this Blog - Mike Doorman, who along with his wife Tracey, is heavily involved in swimming. Mike worked as Starter for some of the sessions, and Tracey did the Announcing for the entire 5 days of gala - to the extent that her voice was giving out on the final day.

Tracey is also involved in the swimming club (Dorados) which my daughters Dayna and Courtney attend, and very much an integral part of swimming in Zimbabwe. She is also on the Board of national and provincial swimming bodies.

Mike reads the blog daily, and so today the blog is really about a regular reader of the blog reading about a regular reader of the blog - if that makes sense?

Here, then, is Tracey. As mentioned above, she did the announcing at the gala, and her daughter Amy (on the right) helped out too by bringing medals forward for whoever was presenting them - in addition to also competing. This photo was taken in the Announcers booth - with the crowd visible in the grandstand across the pool.

And this is Mike. I can, however,  tell you that the smile and happy face was actually all bravado - because............ he had gone and left their camera at home! Eish! And it was too far for him to go back and get it. And there was a good chance their daughter Lorna would be in amongst the medals.

Double Eish

And the medals were going to be presented by Kirsty Coventry on that particular day. Triple Eish.

I reckon this is a bit of a nervous grin - because at this point he hadn't yet told Tracey what he had done!

So it was left up to me to take a picture of their daughter Lorna being presented with her gold medal by Kirsty Coventry. I took this photo for them, and emailed it to them when I got home.

However Tracey was NOT amused. And, when she gets irked, she is indeed a formidable woman - as Mike found out.......

This astonishing spectacle greeted all and sundry who dared venture behind the grandstands after she had had a 'quiet' word with him once he had admitted leaving the camera behind!

Quadruple Eish! In Capitals!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Watch the black pipers of the Black Watch?

So back from Harare - and time for the blog to kick in again! I have had moans from Harare and, unbelievably, America, about the lack of postings. Thanks, guys!

So - the gala in Harare. Or - as the Americans call it - the 'swim meet'.

This was the Senior National Swimming Championships, in which my youngest two daughters competed. At the same time, Dayna also took part in the Zimbabwe Junior Squash Championships in Harare - essentially for national selection. So the blogs for the next few days will pretty much be taken up with sport!

Except, today.

Different cultures around the world develop different practices, and when cultures merge, some of the accepted behaviors from one culture will be taken up by another culture. And sometimes not. For example, I have taken groups of American women around the rural huts of Zimbabwe, and to see the ladies squirming on the stony ground while I, as a male, sit in splendor on a chair as is the norm here, is quite funny. But my guess is that they didn't take that cultural norm home with them! And when we, as Zimbabweans, travel to England or Europe, it comes as a shock to us that we can't just stop the car, get out, and have a roadside pee. As we do here.

So what happens when you take one of the most distinctive of cultural practices - for example a bagpipe marching band complete with kilts, sporrans, garter tabs, and tasseled hats, and then plonk it down in the middle of Africa. Would that work? Possibly not, did you say?


So Europe represented by Scotland, and then there was an American-style Jazz Band.......

Of course, there was other music too - the traditional African marimba band in attendance with wooden keys above calabashes.......

This, then, was the Opening Parade of the Gala - with the Bagpipe Band leading the various provincial teams out (a total of around 250 Swimmers, at a guess - you can see them all in the background ready to march)...

The folk running the Gala did a fantastic job. But.........more of them tomorrow.

So nice to be back!!!! Have a great day one and all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How does your garden grow?

No posts for a couple of days - partly because the rain kicked my system out, and partly because they have been pretty dull days! Apologies.

I leave tomorrow morning for Harare - my kids are competing in the National Swimming Championships, and the Zimbabwe Junior Squash selections, so I will not have access to internet, and will only post from Tuesday 19th Feb.........

Now then - today.

They call Cape Town "The Garden City" - and that is because they have planted trees and shrubs all over the place. It does look very pretty, as do those English towns that have competitions to be the prettiest towns. But...........they got nothing on OUR town!

Because we grow stuff everywhere. And not just in the boring old soil - we actually grow stuff on our buildings! And not on boring old pots and planter boxes. Nah - we grow OUR decorative plants.......well, kind of anywhere we feel like it! There is also an intersection with grass growing in a pot-hole - but I nearly got killed trying to take a photo because the traffic lights there stopped working ages ago. I will come back to this at a later stage!

Here, then a selection of the most impressive plants decorating our sleepy town of Mutare........

Firstly we have trees on our roofs. This is a budding Jacaranda tree - more of which I will no doubt post during the Jacaranda 'season'. But I bet you folk in Cape Town and England don't have trees growing on YOUR roofs?


We have a variety of cactus (unfortunately the best selection was removed from some guttering before I managed to get a photo of them) - but here are a couple of cacti which would not be out of place in a John Wayne Western movie!!!

And then we have shrubs - mightily impressive ones at that, growing in our down-pipes......

Soooooo - we agree that Zim wins again?

Of course it does!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

spot the leaf....

So - as Sundays go, La Rochelle was pretty dead today.

Only livened up by the "sellers of mangoes" as they tried to offload the last of the season's fruit - on me! The kitchen entrance became a hub of commerce as the staff all gathered to buy these tiny, but oh-so-delicious kidney mangoes. Some of the staff were content to take their allotment (the standard price is US$1 for 15 fruit) and there was even a choice of small, sweet bananas.

Here is Febi - the bedroom maid - in full buying mode...... as the 'fruit merchants of Penhalonga' look on suspiciously!

Nyasha the waitress was a little less accepting, and spent a lot of time arguing the merits (and otherwise) of every mango she bought. Lots of haggling - and she was the only one to get 19 fruit as opposed to 15 like the rest of us!

She can be quite intimidating when she gets going!

Now - here is a slightly different picture - showing just how well the plants are doing in my garden. Look at every leaf carefully, and you will see just how much change has been brought about by the recent rains.

Look VERY carefully at every leaf......

Of course......... you noticed Fred the chameleon, didn't you?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Here - hold a crocodile!

It constantly amazes me how very varied the responses to "Sorry for that" are. Different strokes for different folks, that's for sure! However one fairly universal thread that runs through the responses I get from American  and British folk is that they are impressed by my crocodile-catching story. And while I was at pains to stress how poop-scared I was at jumping onto one, I also mentioned that the smallest we caught was 1 foot long.

Which isn't very big.


At the expense of bursting my own bubble of invincibility - here are a couple of pics of my own children - taken three and a half years ago, holding foot-long crocodiles. It isn't that big a deal....

This is my oldest daughter Cara :-

My middle daughter Dayna - in pose mode!

This is Courtney - my youngest daughter - at age 9, 'playing' with a croc...

So, not too big a deal. However - the biggest fellow that "we" (and here I mean Ian) jumped on in the lake that night was about this big.......

That WAS actually a bit of a big deal - at the time!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The OJ Simpson freeway pursuit!

With grateful thanks to my eagle-eyed editors!

Great excitement today at La Rochelle - we had a "freeway chase" which resembled the famous 'slow-speed' chase the time that OJ Simpson was followed by the entire LAPD. Remember that? He had been accused of various crimes (full details at OJ@slash,slash,back-slash, slash) but ultimately proven "not guilty", as was Michael Jackson when he was accused of getting into children's clothing (unfortunately the kids were still in the clothes at the time). But it was the car chase we remember - if not who was involved! Justice in America makes for wonderful prime-time tv if nothing else!

But back to la Rochelle - and our own slo-mo OJ-style pursuit.

Della and I were returning from town today when we spotted a creature staggering over the road. We stopped and I picked it up - being careful to avoid the flashing claws. Placing it in the car was not a problem, until it went into defense mode and pooped everywhere.


We placed the beast in a sturdy box with stout iron bars, and left it on the lawn for the dogs to discover. Honey was the first, and achieved the almost impossible - going forwards to investigate while every sinew in her body was in reverse gear!

Of course, fully aware of the dangers lurking inside the dreadful box, Honey called in back-up from her older sister, Caramel. Older, maybe, but no less cautious.... Back legs splayed and ready to retreat!

So herewith the classic pic - better in many respects than the "OJ Simpson freeway pursuit", although conducted at about the same speed! The thrum of claws on asphalt filled the air, and the tension was so thick you could have cut it with a knife!

Much to the disgust of the pursuing law enforcement officers - the suspect made good his getaway beneath a very thick 'yesterday-today-and-tomorrow' bush - and as he was considered armed and dangerous, the pursuit was suspended. For now.

And in case I get complaints from the "Bambi-brigade" for allowing my vicious hounds to sniff at a defenseless tortoise - let me just say that had we not picked him up and brought him home - he would have been in someone's cooking pot by now!

Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, I believe.

Have a nice day, now!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Flooded out.

No post yesterday - because the rains knocked out my internet! And raining again tonight - so maybe not even get this one off! But apologies all the same.

The heavy rain, though, reminded me of a post I delayed through the excitement of Fred coming along - and I still have the pics. This year the rains in Zim - or at least our little slice of it, came late, and hard. I managed to get a photo of the mountain pouring down the hill and through the car-park - this normally happens about twice a season, but this year we have had the 'muddy river' effect no less than five times......

The deluge proved to be bad luck for another local resident - whose nest was flooded out. This is what we somewhat unimaginatively  call the 'tree squirrel' - as if there are other types, such as the 'underwater squirrel' or the 'bus squirrel'. Of course, just like our old friends the mopane worms, these squirrels tend to frequent mopane trees - and are therefore also called 'mopane squirrels'. They live in family groups, and are easy to identify by the rapid flick of the tail that they give when foraging or moving. Their diet is primarily vegetarian - seeds, grasses, flowers etc, but they will also eat insects.

They have not had the same population explosions as seen in the USA and England - probably because of the boomslangs and other snakes that also live on the property with us! Maybe we should export a few snakes as a solution to our poor Western cousins?

Like the European squirrel, the mopane squirrel does hide caches of food - which they bury in small holes, rather like a mini-farm. This hiding is always done in private, and the soil is patted down with their chins, but even so, theft of these caches by other squirrels is commonplace. An African trait, I guess?

They nest in trees - and when we have heavy rain, such as we have been having, the nests can become flooded out. This little fellow was found perched all alone on a rock, and didn't even try to run away. Though he was not new-born (the babies are born altricial - blind, naked and helpless) he certainly wasn't very old.

Unfortunately, as so often happens, he only lived for a couple of days before he died. They are very difficult animals to rear in captivity, and sadly this was no exception.

Monday, February 4, 2013

You snooze, you don't necessarily lose!

So - this morning at one o'clock, La Rochelle was alive and kicking!

After a restful  90 minutes of sleep, my alarm clock woke me up at 00.30 am, and everything swung (slowly) into action. The half moon was only just rising, and all was quiet. Throughout the house not a creature was stirring - not even a mouse.

Well, that's not entirely true  because from the cottage next door there was the faint glow of lights, and the sound of cheering.....

Through the door of the cottage could be seen a large bucket of popcorn, and some very, very, American legs. At one o'clock in the morning - what could possibly have been going on?

We had all stumbled from the depths of sleep to sit in front of a television to watch a fellow called Joe Flacco - who will apparently get a  twenty million dollar contract on the basis of his performance this morning... Luck fellow - but the sad thing is, I don't think he even knows I exist!

Superbowl! Which takes place at one o'clock in the morning, our time - so we had very little chance of sleep. This year between the 'Baltimore Ravens' and the 'San Francisco 49ers', and played in somewhere called Noo Orlins, according to Jim and Sue. This is some of the early action - and having never watched a game before - it was mostly unintelligible to me. In fact at times I did not even know the commentators were speaking English! Still it was interesting - rather like rugby in a way - but played in motorbike helmets, while they wore well-padded rugby jerseys and ballet tights.

I think that we don't play 'American Football' in Africa because there is no way the folk here would get their "man vegetables" into those outfits!

Jim and Sue, 2 American guests, had made the journey from the hotel to the cottage in pitch darkness because that particular cottage is the only place that has a decoder with access to ESPN. Jim, having woken up in time for kick-off, spent most of the time fast asleep with the popcorn balanced on his lap, while Sue spent all of her time feeding the dogs and asking silly questions about scrimmage lines and end zones! Which I couldn't answer.

The Ravens won 34-31. Which was good, because when Jim woke up - he told me he was a Ravens supporter. Incredibly, though we watched from 1.00 am to 5.30 am - the total playing time was around 20 minutes.  Next year I think I will just watch the highlights package! In fact, the most animated action was between the coaches and officials when the lights went out for half an hour!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cutting the elm

On Friday, we finally started cutting up the Chinese Elm which had split in two and toppled over. Regular readers will remember this pic from the blog titled 'The day gravity kicked in' - and while the tree was the same, all the leaves had fallen off.

The National Trust arranged for a fellow to come with a chainsaw, and in no time at all the chips were flying......

In addition to himself, the chainsaw operator brought along three fellows to watch him work - as is the custom in Africa! With Jannie also in attendance, we soon had quite a crowd involved!

Unfortunately - no -one thought to check with the hotel if it would be ok to have a chainsaw going mad just outside the lounge...........and as it turned out, it actually wasn't a good plan. We were hosting a meeting for the Faculty of Humanities from Africa University, and they came to me in desperation and told me that they were not able to hear themselves think! We stopped the cutting at once, and made a plan for the woodsman and his retinue to return the following day, and the conference continued in peace.

To make up for the inconvenience, we gave everybody a double large helping of chocolate pudding with ice-cream - and everyone, particularly the ladies, seemed happy with the arrangement!

The ladies are sooooo easy to bribe, aren't they?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Look at me holding a chameleon!

This is the last on the series of the Staff meeting Fred, my pet chameleon  (if you are new to this blog - please back-track about a week so you are in the loop) - and I am only including these pics because of the great sense of humor shown by the 2 Bedroom Maids......

The African fear of a chameleons was not limited to Preacher - and many of the Staff exhibited superb self-preservation skills when meeting him unexpectedly in the hotel. Unfortunately may of the reactions were simply way too fast for me and the little camera to catch, so here are just a sample.....

This was Joseph, the old chef. He was trapped in the wash-up area by Fred, and his only recourse was to hide behind the small towel he uses to remove hot trays from the oven.....

Thomas the waiter - in defensive posture....

Febi the Maid seemed particularly taken when Fred puffed out his throat (as he does when threatened) revealing bright yellow skin underneath...

And so we come to the two maids - Febi and Preacher. Having had the living daylights scared out of them by Fred, they waited a couple of hours, and then went around the hotel scaring the rest of the Staff a second time with their own "chameleon"! Who says Africa can't laugh at itself?

What they would do was walk up behind someone, tap them on the shoulder and say "Look at me holding the chameleon", then shriek with mirth as the unfortunate victim took off at a rate of knots! (Just as they themselves had done when I first showed them Fred).

Scary - or what?

And so ends another day at La Rochelle!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Squash it, girl!

Just as the Americans of the world took the best games such as rugby and cricket, and turned them into unrecognizable pursuits which they, and only they, play, (American 'football' and baseball), so too they did the same thing with one of my fave games - squash.

They made it into something called racquetball. Hmmmph.

However - my daughter Dayna has now taken up squash - and as I mentioned in my blog about Kirsty Coventry a couple of days ago - she would have loved to attend the training session, except for the fact that she was playing in the provincial squash championships in Harare.

And.............she made it into the Manicaland Junior Squash Team!

I am delighted, and must admit that there was once upon a time that I seriously doubted she would ever play squash, or any land-based sport, properly.

Here she is warming up..........

And here she is giving the ball a mighty thump.......

So....................why did I once doubt that my daughter would play squash properly? Had I no faith in my own progeny?

Well, the thing is this - a few years ago, Dayna was bitten by a dog. And the hole in the calf muscle on the back of her leg went all the way down to the bone. It was a freak accident - and the dog had been only playing - but had caught her by the leg just as she dived into the pool at a local hotel. The wound was horrific, as the motion of diving, coupled with the dog's tooth (and it was a BIG dog) separated the muscle as cleanly and deeply as a hot knife into a jelly (jello for the Americans) - and I seriously wondered if she would regain full use of her leg. This pic was taken about 4 weeks after the incident - when her
stitches came out......

But now she is a provincial squash player! Amazing

In a couple of weeks' time she will go and play in the Zim Championships - where they select the kids to represent the country. If, and only if, she can find a decent back-hand by then, she has a good chance of getting into the team! Go Girl!