Saturday, May 31, 2014

So . . . where has the chapel gone, then?

Just a couple of catch-ups before I start today's blog:

The winner of the prize as advertised in the last blog was Debs Saunderson from South Carolina - who (quite correctly) pointed out that I look like . . . me! But with a silly little dictator-style toothbrush mustache. Runner-up was my daughter, but she was disqualified. 

Apologies to all those who thought I looked like a fellow called Adolf someone or other. Better luck next time. And if you haven't read the last blog (or indeed any of the 175 blogs I have posted) - you can see them all listed at the top of this page - on the right hand side.

Secondly - a development report on the puppies - they are coming along and growing by the day: their eyes are starting to open, and they look like Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs at the moment. Mum is doing SO well, and she is coping brilliantly.

For this week - I need to go back in time - about a month or so.

The holidays came to an end, and it was time for school to start again, so the car was packed for the term; the combined luggage of 3 girls is not a thing to be sneezed at! Suitcases, golf clubs, tennis racquets and who-knows-what-else is all hidden under the pile in our truck . . 

we reached the school, and I helped one of my daughters unpack her worldly goods ready for the next 3 months. . .

The bed was made, and a thick blanket & duvet spread in preparation for the bitterly cold winters of Marondera. . 

Once my daughter was unpacked and sorted out for the term, I went in search of the Chapel, because, you see, it had disappeared during the course of the holidays.

Believe it or not!

As I remarked in my blog dated 29/4/2014, the Chapel at Peterhouse Girls' and Springvale has always been very much at the heart of the school. This is a reproduction of a pic from that blog taken at the 'Farewell Tea' for Dr Bradshaw - showing the Chapel in the background

And the photos with the Chapel in the background go quite a way back. The following photograph was taken over a year ago - when my youngest daughter first started at Peterhouse. Again, the Chapel features prominently in the background. . . 

So that view of the Chapel at Peterhouse Girls' has been replicated in several past blogs. And here is how it looked at the start of this term - slightly different! The photo is taken from almost the identical spot as the previous photograph - but now only the rear wall of the building remains.

For me it was quite a thing to see such a large part of my past obliterated!

I had been confirmed in that chapel as a young boy almost 40 years ago, and have attended services there both in times past as well as recently. I have sat on the pews recently and listened to welcome speeches from the Rector, Headmaster or Headmistress; and I have a vague memory of one of the boys getting into trouble for pinching the Alter Wine all those years ago - possibly in 1975/6? Was it Balneaves? Or Ferreira? I can't remember the details now, but the fact remains.

 I remember playing with my pet snake (a Brown House Snake) in the pond that used to be in the shadow of the Chapel, and the strange smell combination of thatch roof, wood polish on the pews, and bored schoolboys. I remember limping into a Sunday service after doing damage to myself playing rugby against Ruzawi the previous Saturday, and being allowed to sit right at the back where the teachers usually sat - because it was easiest. And the terror of having to read a lesson from the pulpit at age 11. And the stifled giggles when someone had sneaked in overnight and made the hymn boards all announce that we were to sing hymn 132 over and over again - four times in a row.

So it was a little sad to see it go - but times must change, and we with them.

Even though the Chapel had pretty much disappeared by the first day of term, the symbolism was still very much evident as shown in this view of the side of the building. Rather like the hole representing the Twin Towers, the Chapel remains at the heart of the school - whether it is there or not. . .

What a fantastic photograph?

Have a great day!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The day my haircut got out of control!

As regular Blog Readers will know, I hardly ever feature in the blog myself, and have never devoted an entire blog to myself. But this post is different. And justifiably so.

Today started out pretty much as any other. Two of the girls were home, and so I had the pleasure of playing a few games of squash with Dayna (which foolishness I shall surely regret first thing tomorrow morning) and then we got the camera out and started taking photos of the puppies (of which more to follow in another blog). Then I decided I could do with a more up-to-date photo for my Facebook profile, so Courtney helped me take some pics.

Everything was going fine to start with, and the matter would have ended there as I was quite pleased with the pics she took. . . .

What a handsome devil I am?

However, when she focused in for a tighter angle, we made the astonishing discovery that while my beard has the distinguished 'salt 'n pepper' look achieved only after 50 years of honest living, my mustache - quite unexpectedly, is ginger when expose to the sun. Quite where that came from, I have no idea. As far as I am aware, the only family member with ginger hair was my cat Petty Cash (I got her when she was a little kitty, hence her name) and I very much doubt I have some of her genes floating around inside me.

Ginger? Well I never.

So the decision was made - the goatee must go. Out came the clippers.

Unfortunately . . . . in mid-trim, we experienced yet another of the famous Harare power-cuts (or power-outs for you Americans out there) and my trusty little electric trimmer ground to a halt. This meant that I had to hide in my bedroom for quite some time as I didn't feel I could present myself in public . . .

However, the tragedy with the power gave us pause for thought, and so once the power was restored, we proceeded with the haircut a bit slower than would normally have been the case. And, of course, we had a little fun along the way . . .

Eat your heart out, Tom Selleck! Magnum P.I. has a new face.

Dare I say - improved, new face?

So having discovered the fun to be had with a little judicious trimming - well, there was no stopping us. And this is where we made the somewhat startling discovery that looks can indeed be deceiving.

Startling indeed.

Be prepared to be blown away . . . . .

The next picture is a little blurred, but conveys a little more of the new 'look' currently prevailing chez-Simon

So I think by now, you may have guessed, but here is a clearer picture for you. The person who first writes to me and identifies who I look like will win themselves one night's free accommodation in our flat in Harare. Replies at the bottom of this blog. I look forward to hearing from you!

So - the final picture, and your chance to become a true winner. Complete with a 'Death's Head silver-plated cobra', and a brand new hairstyle!

My wife, of course, is delighted with this new look, and so it shall remain for a while.

I, on the other hand, am not so sure, and have a feeling that things were better before I got the trimmer out?

Have a great day!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The chipolatas are here!

So . . . . the puppies are here. Or at least the chopolatas are! (For my international audience - a chipolata is a small cocktail sausage that we get in Zimbabwe).

But that is only half of the story, because the delivery ward swung into full action when I was Home Alone.


Warning!!!! Today's Blog includes photos of puppies being born - if you are a little squeamish - stop, and wait for the next Blog!

It's not as though I wasn't expecting the puppies to arrive. Indeed Honey - who features on the Header Pic of this blog, and has done so for over a year now, had grown positively enormous in the days leading up to Birthing Day: This is a dog who is normally extremely stream-lined:

Of course I am not new to the whole birthing thing - and in fact I firmly believe that there are very few better entertainment options in Harare than the Anevues Clinic Delivery Ward if you have nothing to do of an evening.

 Highly entertaining.

 I have spent three very happy evenings there; you can walk around and visit everyone - (asking how dilated they are and so on), and you get the most amazing results from the smallest tweaks to the taps on gas cylinders, spotlights and stuff.

And it is evident, in Shona culture at least, that the more brouhaha that accompanies the delivery of a baby the better - or at least that is the way it seems. Plus, if you ever want to see an effective enema, go visit a Delivery Ward! Impressive.

With this vast experience behind me, I thought I was not only ready, but fully equipped, to deal with all eventualities.

I was wrong.

I had quite forgotten that though I had been at the delivery of my 3 children, (and had thoroughly enjoyed the labor part of proceedings - popping out for a cigarette as the need arose), when the time came for the children to actually arrive, I had not done much more than shout enthusiastic encouragement and advice from up around the head of the bed!

So when the head of the first pup appeared after about two hours of contractions, and then the delivery stopped as it got stuck at the shoulders, I was a little at a loss as to how to proceed. The puppy was in obvious distress, and its tongue started protruding quite prominently. I didn't want to start tugging and pulling as I was not entirely sure that was the correct way to go about things, so I just resorted to what I knew best, and called out Honey's name with exhortations to "push" - seeing as that had worked so well for me in the past.. Fortunately - after a minute or so of my best efforts, Honey got up and started walking about. . . and out plopped the first puppy!

I was so caught up in my role as mid-husband that I quite forgot to get photos - even though the camera was primed, (and here my highly proficient and competent American nursing friends like Julie Warren, Diane Travers and  Jeanne Wyatt are rolling their eyes at my ineptitude!), so all I managed to capture was the tail being born . . .

But talk about stress! Seeing that pup on the floor was a very good moment in my life as I am not sure what I would have done had it stayed stuck

The amniotic sack had broken during the delivery,and so took a while to sort out . . .

The first pup to be born was by far the largest (twice as large as the others) - a black & tan male. The others were all small, and simply popped out when Honey next sneezed - it was that easy. I guess the road had been cleared?

Of course there had been much excitement in the family, and bets had been placed on the number of puppies that would be born. I settled for 2, (hoping, incorrectly, that this would be easier for Honey to cope with. As the vet pointed out - the more puppies, the smaller they will be, and the easier for a first birthing), two of my daughters settled on 3, and my wife on 4.

So who won the bet?

There are definitely 4 puppies at the Milk  Bar. Photos don't lie . . . .

OK - that evidence is somewhat inconclusive, so I waited for them all to move around so that a clearer picture could be taken.

Well, I can see 4 sausage dog puppies, you can see 4 sausage dog puppies, and so, as far as we all are concerned, the bet was won by my wife!

We officially have two males, one female and one indeterminate.

Have a great day!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

'Goodbye' to old friends - 'Hello' the new!

Our departure from La Rochelle meant saying 'Au revoir' to many old friends - as is the case in any upheaval.

It also meant, unfortunately, saying a permanent 'Goodbye' to three friends who had been a part of my life for a cumulative 54 years. When the apple cart gets upset, you sometimes lose a few apples. These are the three special friends I won't see again. . .

First of all, Shupa the cat. (The word 'shupa' means an annoyance or a bother in the Shona language).

Those folk who visited La Rochelle (Hotel!!) while I was there will have come across Shupa. She wandered into the hotel one day - and stayed. Of impeccable taste (obviously!), Shupa had a rib that stuck out at 90 degrees, an injury I guessed was a result of getting caught up in a farm 'take-over'. Whatever the case, she had lived with people before, because she simply settled in as though she had been there all her life, and no-one ever claimed her. Her rib never bothered her, and was just simply part of her.

At the auction to sell the hotel belongings, one of the Buyers told me that his children had fallen in love with the cat, and asked if he could have her. Because we were obligated to leave the hotel by the end of January and had no solid plans for our future, and because I didn't simply want to abandon Shupa in an empty building when we left, I agreed. He took her home that night.

Here then, is Shupa - a cat of rare distinction, sitting on a barstool in the pub at La Rochelle. My constant companion through many days and nights at work. And a bloody pest at feeding time!

The other character whom visitors to La Rochelle would have come across was Blackie - the three-legged dog.

Blackie had come to us as a puppy, and while still a young dog he had run away into the bush, following another dog we had at the time - Pepper. Unfortunately Blackie was caught in a wire snare, and we could not find him. He managed to bite his way free after a week, but the wire had cut right down to the bone, and the meat from his hip downwards was all rotten. The vet cut his leg off, and he lived happily with us for another 12 years.

When we left La Rochelle, we had to choose between taking the children - or the dogs - with us.

It was a tough choice indeed.

After much soul-searching, we decided we would take the children, and so I left the dogs with Jannie Martin to look after for a couple of months. Unfortunately Blackie passed away a couple of weeks after we had left, and we never saw him again. So this is 'farewell' to Blackie - a fine and noble dog, who was a constant companion to our years at La Rochelle. . .

Then Scotch.

Those of you who know me well (or, indeed, those who have read my book) will know that Scotch has been an integral part of my life for the best part of 30 years. He first appeared when I was a student at the Hotel School in Bulawayo, and he proceeded to follow me around the country - to Vic Falls, Hwange, Nyanga, Harare, and finally Penhalonga.

If you wish to see the book (available on - use the following link when you have read the Blog

Scotch retired from work about 2 and half years ago, but because he did not have a meaningful pension, I continued paying him a monthly retainer. He would go home for 6 months, and return to stay at La Rochelle, where he had a room in the Staff Quarters. He would come and eat at the Staff Canteen until he was strong enough to go home again.

Because we had to leave by the end of January, and because he had only arrived at the start of December, I arranged for Clemence the chef to accompany him home. His home area (what we Zimbos call 'kumusha'), is actually in Mozambique. The journey is long and hard, and necessitated finding shelter and a place to sleep at huts along the way on 2 nights. This time the stress of travelling must have been too much for him, because we got word that he had passed away 2 days after reaching his home.

On the eve of our departure from La Rochelle, I took some photos of Scotch - he had come with an old umbrella innards as a walking stick to say goodbye, but unfortunately I also said 'goodbye' to my camera in the move as it underwent an 'alternative ownership program'. I lost those pictures.

So here is Scotch - who watched me grow from a dribbling and mumbling student at the Bar counter in our Hotel School Mess, to a father of three fine young ladies. A good and faithful man, this photo was taken about a year ago.

Travel well, old friend, wherever you are.

So I lost 3 parts of my life during the course of our move. Thank you for helping me to say 'goodbye'  to them.

And yesterday . . . I had 3 new friends come into my life.

It is amazing how the Circle of Life keeps turning. These new friends may not be with me for long, but they are certainly here, and certainly taking a great deal of my attention. So please now help me welcome my new friends - who arrived yesterday.

More of them in the next Blog.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Shedding a little blood for the common good!

One of the advantages of not being employed is that I have had the time to attend many events which I missed while I was at La Rochelle - for example the Eisteddfod (at which I assisted with announcing), the Harare International Festival of Arts where I have seen 2 productions, the Peterhouse concert; and this week the Schools Rugby Festival.

Just today I have had over 84 American visitors to the Blog, so I am going to devote today's posting entirely to . . . rugby!

In Zimbabwe, we play soccer as our national sport, but rugby is played in our schools, and it is a game which causes much confusion to those watching it for the first time. It is, however, a simple game - much like American Football (grid-iron) except that we don't wear crash helmets (though cloth skull caps for some players are acceptable), we play continuously for 80 minutes without 'huddles and cuddles', we don't wear padding under our shirts, and we do not wear genitalia-revealing spandex tights as our uniform.

No Siree Bob, we don't!

Watching the Festival was very much a trip down memory lane for me - I played  in the very same Rugby Festival some 32 years ago, when I played as fullback for Peterhouse. Those who know the game will be aware that the player in that position wears the number '15' on their back, and today's Peterhouse fullback looked just like me - back in the day!

OK - maybe I wasn't quite that black - but you get the idea!

The crowd today numbered around 2,500 at peak, but on the final day will probably number around 4,000.

Throughout the Festival, there are 132 teams representing schools from all over Zimbabwe, which translates to around 2,900 children playing over the 6 days, inclusive of substitutes. And out of the 132 teams - 22 are made up of girls! No-one can accuse Zimbabweans of being wilting willows!

So there is an almost carnival atmosphere, which may surprise my international readers who are more accustomed to reading of schoolgirls being kidnapped and sold into slavery by the radical Islamists of Boko Haram, than schoolgirls playing rugby. But this is the way we roll in Zim. There were even some 'cheerleaders' in attendance...

I was very fortunate to be able to watch the Peterhouse v Botswana U/19 game today, as well as a lot of other rugby along the way. All in all, the spirit shown throughout the day by the players (with the exception of one 'victory celebration' by an unnamed school which was regrettable as it basically ridiculed the losers) was excellent, and generally all matches were played with integrity and respect.

So let me try and explain rugby to my American audience . . .

The skills needed to play rugby are quite simple. You need to be able to fight for the ball, though it is considered bad manners to punch your opponent while doing so ...

In addition, you need to be prepared to tackle, and be tackled. The game does not stop once you are tackled - all that happens is another gentlemanly fight breaks out for the ball. So it makes sense for 3 players to tackle one . .

In addition, you need to be able to jump fairly high - because when the ball goes out of the field of play, it is thrown back in, and the highest jumper generally secures it  . . .

What a great photo - no?

So what happens when you play a fairly physical game without all the namby-pamby protective clothing worn by the players of the favorite sport of the world's most powerful nation (after China)? Well a few injuries do occur - but when a player goes down, it is customary for play to continue until the next 'foul play' after which the injured player will be attended to. The other players all try their very best not to run over injured players while they are lying on the ground - indeed, everyone tries very hard not to trample on unconscious players . . .

And, somewhat inevitably, a little blood is spilled - but it is all for a good cause. Once you start bleeding quite a lot, you have to leave the field and go and get medical attention to staunch the flow as much as possible. . .

The thing is this - bleeding all over the field makes the grass very slippery, so if they can't actually stop the flow of blood, then they patch things up as best they can, and send the player back onto the field to carry on playing. Any stitching that is required is done when the game is over.

But some wounds are easier to tape up effectively than others. This next photo, for me, epitomizes the game of rugby, and I am only sorry that my playing days are over! Once more into the breech, dear friends. . .

The best thing about having a really good 'blood nose' is the unexpected bounty it offers up the following morning. Indeed, you can safely skip breakfast secure in the knowledge that complex (and colourful) proteins will be at hand throughout the day.

Congratulations to Peterhouse on winning the match, and doing so honorably, and likewise kudos to Botswana U/19 for playing hard, and their 'ne'er say die' approach. Good luck to both teams for the rest of the Festival.

Have a great day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Things go a little flat!

So begins another Blog! And thanks to everyone for very kind comments on my return - nice to be back indeed.

Since arriving in Harare, we have actually been quite busy - despite the fact that I do not yet have formal employment, and the reason for our industry is that we have been getting things into shape at our rented home. Lots to do, but the busy days, muddy feet and paint-smeared hands are mostly behind us.

One of the things we have been tidying up has been the flat attached to the house, which we are almost ready to let out as a B&B option for folk coming to Harare. So today's Blog is simply going to be a tour of the flat - which I think is looking pretty snappy!

If any of you need accommodation in Ha-ha-ha-rare, or have folk coming into the country needing a night or two, please contact me via email and I will send you costs and directions. Be warned, though, that we can only accommodate 2 people (and 2 kids on mattresses at a squeeze), so you will need to book as early as possible. Initial cost of the flat, regardless of how many folk are staying, is $50 per night.

I hope you noticed the stylized painting on the wall? I have found a woman who paints these great, vibrant and fun pictures - which she sells at $10 each, and I then have them framed! What a winner.

The flat has satellite television with over 130 channels, and there is access to the internet - though only for email and catching up on Facebook. Our system is a little too small and slow for downloading movies! We also have a generator for back-up in the dreaded Harare power-cuts.

There is a small kitchenette - with microwave, kettle, fridge, and gas stove, and we supply all cutlery and crockery. We will also provide frozen meals (home-cooked) at a small additional cost for dinner, and provide a self-service Continental breakfast (included in the rate), of yoghurt, cereals, toast, fruit and tea/coffee.

This is a photo of the bedroom - we still need bedside tables and a lampshade or two but it is almost complete. The bedroom has 2 Twin beds, and a bathroom off to the side (out of picture). I am also waiting for a picture to come from the framing centre.

Despite not being quite ready, we have already had our first 'guests' - and the children have had their friends to stay, helping us iron out the wrinkles...

Little do my daughters know, or even suspect, that I am deducting the cost of the accommodation from their pocket money, and despite the fact that I have given them a 10% discount, they are not going to be receiving pocket money for the next few years!

Life is GOOD!

Have a great day!