Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tell me if this doesn't blow you away?

Sorry for the late post - but I have been really busy today - with not a soul in the hotel. Pretty much a full day's work.......doing stuff for Amazon.

A good number of you have bought my book via Kindle (and thank you those that have!) - but many have asked for a hard copy. So I spent the day arranging for a self-published version - via Amazon. It has been quite a challenge, and loads of trouble with formatting, syntax, gutters and margin widths - not to mention imbedded fonts.

But........ I've submitted my offering to the gods of publishing, and we shall see what they think.

However - they made one teeny weeny mistake in all of this, because while they offer to design your cover and so on (for vast amounts of money) - they also give you the chance to design your own (for free). No contest!

Which means you get to write all over the back of a book.

Not you - but me!

How cool is that? And how brave of Amazon to think I would be in the least bit sensible - knowing that every man, woman and child reads the back of the book first?

So today - just the one picture (twice) - and would love your thoughts on this. Tell me if it didn't give you a small chuckle?

Here - subject to 'approval' - (whatever that means), is my book - front cover, spine and back. I have posted a small pic so you can see the whole outline - and then a big one so you can read.

And here is it in closer detail....

Not sure when you will be able to order it - or even from where, but will keep you all posted! And if you DO buy it - I promise to sign anything placed in front of me with a flourish.

Please, please, share this with your friends! Thanks.

Have a great day!

Friday, June 28, 2013


Today is the last post on the group of Americans we had staying - and I only include this because, without photographic proof - no-one seems to believe me when I tell them about it. The thing is this....

Americans can't use wine glasses!!

Told you that you wouldn't believe me!

These representatives of the most powerful nation on earth (after China and Russia, that is) proved to be totally incapable of using a wine glass! The first inkling I had of this was when they ALL complained of getting wet when they tried to drink their wine. Apparently every time they lifted the glass - they got soaked.

It seems that while they can drink a Coca~cola (which they call a "pop" for some strange reason - despite it being labelled clearly on the bottle) from either a bottle or can, and seem to be perfectly capable of drinking from a beer tankard, the small stem of a wine glass was something entirely new to them.

Holding a glass by the stem proved so problematic that only one of the group managed it by the time they left. Here are several members of the group trying their damndest, (and failing) to hold a wine glass properly.....

 This is Julie, who tried Really, really, hard to hold the glass properly; so hard in fact, that you can almost see the steam coming out of her ears! But she failed. Can you see where she is going wrong?

This is Shannon and Madison, who decided to team up to 'learn how to hold a glass together' - but it really proved to be a case of the blind leading the blind.........

Madison can be excused for her ineptitude because she is a minor, but, incredibly, Shannon had been forced to change her clothes three times before she would admit she didn't know how to drink wine out of a wine glass. She's that sort of person.

This is Jeff - who tried for 3 nights in a row, but failed. Can you see what he is doing wrong?

Finally - the one success story - Dana. He eventually managed it - and from that moment on, walked around the hotel showing off his ability to "hold a wine glass" as if it was a unique ability.

Which it was!

When last seen heading for the aircraft steps - he was still proudly waving his glass at everyone! I expect there may be some interest taken in him by the Security officials at JFK International when he lands!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's hunting season again!

So the group of invertebrate-munching Americans has left - well, almost all of them. Here they are on the morning of their departure. We were sad to see them go, as there had been lots of laughs and fun. Worms aside.

A fine group of people and we wish them safe journeys home!

The departure of the group, of course, meant that we could start killing stuff again (we generally don't kill things when we have foreign folk staying here - it upsets them).

Here, then, my pack of hunting dogs - focussed on their quarry...

So what were the dogs hunting? Killer instincts aroused?  Look carefully....there are actually two of their prey in the picture

However - not all the Americans left, and we were rather astonished when Julie, who remained behind with her husband Dana, requested a "very sturdy, large knife with a sharp point on it". At first we though she wanted to peel an orange or something, but she stalked slowly to the bottom of the garden with the knife concealed in her sleeve like a true commando, and then  sat motionless on the grass watching her prey:

So just what was Julie stalking so patiently? Well, we really have to zoom in on the photo above - and thanks to modern technology I can reveal.....

Fortunately our monkeys are a lot sneakier than the chipmunks she normally hunts and kills back home in America, and I can report that the little fellow escaped to live another day!

And you have a great day too!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Eat dem worms!

So no posts for a couple of days - apologies, but one thing and another........

One of the reasons that I have been busy is the fact that we have had a small group of Americans staying. And you may remember from my post of the 14th - that I always try and serve these groups a small helping of Mopane worms. So here is a group of First World folk eating Third World food. And..........loving it?

Here we have plated them - because we were serving them to some Americans, we only gave them one or two worms each. And we served them with creamed potato and a tomato & onion concasse.

Of coursed there was much jollity and merriment on the arrival of the worms at the table. Until, of course, they realised they would now have to eat one!

This is Shannon - whose razor-sharp intellect (she is the only person who has, to date, spoiled my 'previous lives' story by guessing that a loud bark was imminent!) meant that she evaluated her chances of keeping a Mopane worm down without assistance, and immediately enlisted the assistance of a small glass of wine to help the unfortunate invertebrate down!

This is Julie - who has stayed with us many times before and whose picture you may have seen hanging on the wall at La Rochelle. She copied Shannon's 'swallow and gulp' trick - but still the thought of a worm sliding down her throat was enough to get her grimacing!

Julie's husband Dana stated that he actually really enjoyed the worms, but one went down sideways. Look of pure delight on his face says it all! In his own little bubble of ecstasy I would say?

Hides his emotions well, doesn't he?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Huge explosions - as we burn the grass clippings!

The last week, La Rochelle has been rocked by the sound of explosions - almost like gunfire all throughout the day. Not the staccato clatter of an AK47, but more the measured hollow thump of a Holland & Holland .410 or shotgun.

And these blasts are so loud that the echoes come reverberating back off the mountains on the opposite side of the valley. This has all been because............we are burning the grass clippings!


You see - the time has come to cut the grass, and it has grown well out of control as you can see. Here is the stand of grass the gardeners have been cutting - behind the orchid houses.....

And just because I have pictured the orchid houses, and just because this blog has never been inside one of the orchid houses - here are some of the plants flowering right now. (Of course, this has nothing to do with the exploding grass - this is just for the girls to say "oooooh!")

Here is a picture of me - standing next to the grass before it is cut. I am the little white blob (figures, huh?) right in the background........

And here is the reason for the blasts that have rocked our valley! As the bamboo burns, each segment heats until the air inside bursts out - creating the loud "whummmpppss" that have so broken the peace of late...........we are burning the grass clippings! (Of course, you knew all along that bamboo is a grass - didn't you?)

And here is our nicely mown lawn!

Ahhhh - the smell of fresh-cut grass can only mean winter is here!

Have a great day!

Monday, June 17, 2013


So - winter is upon us poor Africans, and we have a dreadful 6 weeks to get through before summer returns. Kind of.

Being Zimbabwe, we don't get snow (though we will get frost later on in winter) - and I have actually never seen snow in all my life. But is does get cold - and here is some proof....

Unfortunately the fist pic did not come out so well - but across the valley during winter, the smoke from the cooking fires simply gets too cold too quickly to rise, and it 'flows' down the valley in a steady stream on the wind - looking almost like water

This is a photo of the trees down by the caravan park - and the steam that rises from the ground as the sun breaks through..

This is a photo of the cottage next to my house - as the first rays of the sun hit the thatch roof it looks as though it is on fire.....

However - it is not the outside temperatures that cause us so much trouble - it is the temperatures inside that are the lowest. You see - because for 46 weeks of the year we are warm or hot, the houses here are designed to be cooler inside than out - which makes them freezing in winter.

In case you do not believe that it is really cold inside the buildings - just look at what happened to a glass of water that we left on the bar counter by mistake last night....
It really is cold!
Have a great day!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Gastronomic delights of Mutare

Those of you who have been regular readers will have learned by now to believe me when I issue a warning. So here it is.....

Today we delve into some of the gastronomic delights of Mutare, and, because this is Africa, if you have a weak constitution.........maybe give today a miss! Because some of the things we find normal may not be to your liking.

You have been warned.

In our travels through the nearby town of Mutare on shopping trips for the hotel, my wife and I are often confronted with strange sights - many of which we have come to regard as commonplace. And yet they might be of interest to the foreign Readers of this blog. In the supermarkets we have food for sale which is positively Zimbabwean - for example, the discerning housewife is able to buy Mopane worms. This pic is an old one from January - but the worms are still available in Mutare today. Normally they are sold dehydrated, and it is best to soak them in water before cooking so that they 'bulk up' a little....

These 'worms', which are actually the larval form of the Imbrasia bellina moth which belongs to the emperor moth family, are served to every group of Americans that we get in the hotel. We normally make a tomato/onion sauce to accompany them. Tasty stuff......

Of course, those pictures are from January of this year

However, it is in our local butchery, that things will be markedly different from the offerings available in the meat markets of London and New York! But the food is for sale, and eaten by the folk here as part of a normal diet.  Here is the display fridge in our local butchery taken today.....

Nothing too strange there, then? Except that the meat offered for individual sale is not pre-packed, and is generally sold by the ounce, as requested by the customer. (For the hotel, the butchery packs and freezes for us as we order a week in advance)

Every part of the animal is eaten in Zimbabwe - waste not, want not. And so roast leg of goat, or at least roast shin of goat, is something you may not consider buying in London or New York.  But our butcher has it for sale all the time.

Then there is the ultimate in meat for group catering. Say you have 15 folk coming for dinner and are a little stuck regarding what to serve - the following will certainly leave the hostess feeling big-headed about her offering.......

Food for thought?

Once again the "Sorry for that" blog produces a reaction. And don't say you weren't warned! But this - for us, is normal to see in our butchery!

Have a great day!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pictures from my past....

Following yesterday's posting of a couple of dubious pics - I have had a mail asking how much of my book "Sorry for that!" is really true?


While some of the blogs have a slight tweak every now and again - everything contained in the book is indeed true. And the only way to prove it to you is to show you some photographs from my murky past. These pictures all validate the first chapter of the book, and are preceded by a quote from the book....

"I was born in Mutare, on the Eastern border of Zimbabwe...."

I think most of you will agree that the following pic of me could only have been taken in colonial Africa....

"Eagle was a boarding school, and the year we were six-turning-seven, we started boarding - spending three months at a time at the school....."

This school photo was taken in 1976 - and a prize to the first person who correctly identifies me..

The prize goes to me....... - second-highest row - third from the left! (As an aside, the only lady smiling in the photo is my mother!)

"Further down there was a 'rock slide', and as we did not want to wear holes in our shorts, 'skinny-sliding' was the answer. I can only guess that the assumption was that holes worn in our posteriors would be self-mending! The rocks had been worn smooth by the flow of the water with an occasional polishing by naked bottoms, and they were covered with a slippery green slime that ensured a speedy ride to a freezing pool below. At the top of the slide was a waterfall......"

"........ we used to swim in a small swimming pool that had been created by building a small wall across one of the mountain streams......"

So there you are - the truth may be fudged a little in the Blog - but not in the book!

Have a great day!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The body-changers - little miracles of Nature!

Todays blog is all about changing bodies, and we have some pretty scary pics, so if you have a weak constitution - see you at the next posting! However, if you are brave enough - here are three bodies which have changed over time - and they really are interesting.........

First off - my friends Andre and Rich - who are identical twins. Or at least they were, until they started drinking beer....... because while Rich has one beer a month, his twin brother Andre has 18 a day. While they once looked identical, it is now fairly easy to tell them apart!

Regular blog readers will remember the horrific injuries suffered when one of the dogs living here - Dooby, was mauled by what we suspect was a long-tailed mongoose....

It is now almost 3 weeks since that incident - and all she has left is a small red spot - which we are sure will heal eventually...

Isn't Nature remarkable?

Those of you who have read "Sorry for that" will know that an awful lot of surgery takes place in the La Rochelle kitchens - a good percentage of it being invasive surgery - and pretty much all of it being misguided. None of it is key-hole.

Our enthusiasm for attempting complicated medical procedures is almost boundless, and we really do try our best. However, we are a little short of anaesthetics, and while we have at various times tried crushed garlic, powdered cloves and lots of ice, pain is an integral part of most of our operations.

Thus it was when Preacher the maid sliced open her baby finger on a broken glass while doing the washing up - she refused our help, and vowed to do her own wound irrigating (we even know the proper words to use!!) and suturing......

Unfortunately this was one of our least successful operations - in the long term. While Preacher managed to stem the flow of blood initially, her medical procedures must have been somewhat deficient, because infection set it, and she steadfastly refused to seek formal medical help - stating that she now had full faith in the La Rochelle Medical Team. However, because she had left things so long before seeking our professional ministrations, the infection was too deep and set-in for us to do anything.

In the end, there was nothing for it, but for us to sharpen up our largest carving knife - and solve the infection problem once and for all.......

There was an awful lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth at the time, but I am happy to report she is now healed completely!

Have a great day!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Stealing candy from a baby....... or two

To those new Blog Readers - welcome! This blog has over 125 different posts - so if you have time, scroll back and have a read through life in Zimbabwe over the past several months, and I post roughly every second day! We have readers in Russia, China, Ukraine and Italy - so you are part of a truly global audience! Just remember - everything you read is almost all true! I promise.

So - today's blog.......

Those of you who have been to La Rochelle will know that we have a small school on the property.

During the past 3 weeks or so, there has been a quietly swelling murmur of outrage because the four Grade 1 children have been coming home and telling their parents that someone stole the food which had been given to them for break. (Our kids are given juice and food at home, and they bring it to school to eat over break-time). Over and above this - they were returning home without their 'lunchboxes' - to the point that one disgruntled mother phoned the teacher to say that she was now completely cleaned out of Tupperware!

At first we thought that the kids were simply losing their packed food, but it has become apparent that there is more going on here than meets the eye.

Here is a photo of our busy and happy Grade 1 & 2 classroom (our school is very small) and the smiling faces hide the weeping and wailing that has gone on when they discover that someone has been eating their porridge!

This is a photo of the outside of that very same classroom - and on the wall you can see painted the outlines of the 17 children who started the school several years ago - correct in detail and height! Beyond them are hanging the school bags of the children - the Grade 1 children hang their bags to the right of the door as you can see, and it is from these bags that the chocolates, sandwiches and fruit have been disappearing......

Our prime suspect at this stage is 'Mad Theresa' whom regular readers will recall from the Blog titled "Who's been sleeping in MY bed??!?" which I published last month. She has been seen lurking in the area, but we have to catch her to prove it is indeed her (and hopefully get back some of the stolen containers into the bargain!).

Here, then, is a view of the car park of the school with the shadow of the roof visible on the ground.

Can you spot the cunning solution we have put in place?

My solution is actually very simple - but you may need to look a little closer to see what we decided to do. Here is a slightly tighter view of the same picture (cropped from the back-left of the pic above).........

I'll let you know how we get on with this one!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

There's varmints in them thar trees!

So - winter is upon us.

And the trees are alive!

We don't get snow in Africa - in fact I have never seen snow in all my life. But I can assure you that our winter temperatures are nothing to be laughed at. It gets very cold.

During the day we have crystal blue skies - and not even a speck of a cloud. This will go on for a couple of months, through the heart of winter - which is pretty much half of May, then through June and July, and then as we start warming up again the clouds will start to form, until we hit the 'rainy season' from late October onwards.

One of the mechanisms used for coping with cold by the monkeys are the trees. We have a couple of conifers at La Rochelle, and because they are thick, and don't allow the wind or rain to reach the trunk, that is where the monkeys sleep in winter and during the rains. Then as the first rays of the sun hit the tree, they make platforms and climb out to warm themselves. Hard to see from a distance - but they are there. (And notice our standard-issue winter sky with moon in the background)

Here, then is a closer view of the little 'sunning platforms' that they create. Taken roughly 5 seconds after the photo above - and if you look back you will not be able to make out the monkeys.

Pretty soon, as the sun gets warmer, there are more bodies that appear and start trying to defrost after a bitterly cold night.....

But the monkeys are not the only things in our trees at this time of year!

From the veranda of the hotel, there is visible a loquat tree - which comes into fruit right about now. And the other day I noticed a small child - no more than three years old, standing below the tree peering up into the branches. At the same time, I noticed the branches moving, and realised that a monkey must be stealing the fruit. However - the child obviously did not understand that a monkey can potentially attack a small child.

At once, I ran towards the tree, shouting and waving my arms to scare the monkey away. Two things happened:

- the small child took to her heels with an astonishing turn of speed - almost falling over her own feet in desperate headlong flight
- the branches of the tree boiled into action, and four bodies dropped to the ground - one from almost at the top of the tree

But.....................they weren't monkeys.

Here then, is the tree - minus wildlife.

But how to catch the thieves?

 Quite simple, actually.

After the scattering of little bodies, I was able to collect evidence that there had indeed been robbers in the tree...... and then all I had to do was sit back and wait for the culprits to come and face the music....

Inspector Clueso I am, I am!
Have a great day!

Inspector Clueso, I am, I am!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More vehicle signs!

As promised yesterday, I have for you today three photos of Zimbabwean vehicles with obscure messages on the back.

This is a peculiarly African penchant, and most public transport vehicles will have something written on the back of them, even if the meaning takes a while to fathom - if ever!

This first pic of of a fellow who is planning on owning an articulated 18-wheeler one day. But you gotta get your foot on the first rung, don't you?

Next to raise our eyebrows was the fellow who had developed an affinity for macaroni cheese, spaghetti, rigatoni, lasagne, and fettuccini. Though why he wanted to tell us all - I have no idea!

Not too - the elaborate 'back-door-closing' system with which the bulk of out mini-busses are equipped. I am surprised that Toyota and Nissan have not brought this out as a standard new vehicle arrangement in all vehicles shipped to Africa....

Still, if you like Pasta an awful lot - well then - tell the world!

Then there was the rather swish BMW that passed us before getting blocked by a large truck ahead of us. He had a personalised number plate - which most folk here have as their name or something similar, and in this instance the message was spot on - because the driver was very small and very black...........

Note too - quadruple exhausts!!!


Have a great day!