Thursday, June 26, 2008

it's all my eye and betty martin....

by god. it's certain that we will need a double decker bus to move us out to maasailand tommorrow what with all our kizigo (luggage and shit. oh and planets full of children). but landrovers will have to suffice, it seems. we hope. so armed with passports (for the paltry yet irritatingly efficient roadblock at oldonyo sambu), 72 bread rolls, ten loaves of bread, 28 chickens, an entire orchard of mangoes, bananas and paw paws, chilli, garlic and ginger, a brief but quantative selection of booze (BEER and NOW), a sprinkling of cheese biscuits and lashings of peanut butter, rice, cookings oilS (note plural), tray after mrs tray of eggs, we depart these mountainous climes (and the scratchings of nocturnal polar bears) tommorrow at eleven for the dusty wide plains of northern maasailand.

i have a crush on the indian restaurant owner.

and my father DEFINATELY has selective hearing.

Kitchen Board: Thursday evening 26th june 2007.

Contributors: not sure.
Comments: not tonight josephine. its too late. too late. shoppings all been done. so toodely pip then to my few, dearly cherished and sorely missed readers. i return monday evening, undoubtedly saturated with safari tales and dust. x bisous x j
and PS blog site of the day: the god diaries.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

i've got a crush on you...

sweetie pie...its bloody hectic and wonderful.

just played rummikub with myrtle after a full evening...uncle fuzz hates people clicking in time to jazz... uncle fuzz is Sweet. he really is. be brought a beautiful bunch of flowers today...for ME. charming.

my entire family. sister, husband, kids, grandpa...take to scorpion gorge in the afternoons..digging around for scorpions and sliding down steep karongos (cliffs) on cardboard boxes....
the weather has warmed up. i did warn them. i said that there were polar bears scratching at the windows...they didn't believe me. scorpion gorge apparently has its own weather patterns. they are warmer.

safari craig has left on safari. there is a shortage of hot water in the house.

i am knackered. i miss my blogging life and this is an attempt to stay with it.
but there is something great in my heart...and whatever buzz says...i love frank sinatra...

Kitchen Board: um..where are we? wednesday the 25th June 2008

Contributors: well. its hard to tell these days... me, buzz, anthony and um...god who knows?

comments: nightie night...bloody exhausted... xxxx toodely pip. j

Sunday, June 22, 2008

losing the cat...

and we couldn't find the cat....

until i opened the linen cupboard.

j brief...

ok. everyone is here. for three weeks. its MAD.


my father managed to bring THREE rifles from east london (in South Africa) all the way to Tanzania. (note use of capitals).

sister and family arrived from sinapore via nairobi in massoud's daladala after killing one goat and narrowly missing a pedeistrian in northern maasailand.

myrtle lies asleep in Myrtle's Bed. (and mentioned that it reminded her of the story of the princess and the pea (??)

all cousins sleep together in loft bedroom.

and, um, uncle fuzz arrives tommorrow....

send lawyers, drugs and money. (we have the guns)


i am missing my old life...but only a little bit.

toodely pip then


sod kitchen board tonight...its late.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

ready and waiting...

parents are winging their way northwards as i tip tap type. step mother called last night to say how excited they were and that they could barely sleep the night before so she got up to make them both coffee. (?? - go figure.) and that my dear dad has lovingly packed his old hunting rifles in bubble wrap and is flying with them to hand them over to safari c. these are classic rifles, if anyone knows anything about rifles...rigby,westley richards and a holland & holland. family heirlooms...

so let's hope the rifles arrive in kilimanjaro airport. these days security won't let you fly with your shampoos and conditioners, never mind three hunting rifles lovingly clad in bubble wrap, carried by an eccentric bald man in a pith helmut...who on closer inspection could possibly pass as osama.

brother in law called from singapore and reported that sister was entirely confused and had them departing on saturday evening but in fact the plane they are booked on and paid large amounts of money for, is departing on friday evening. thank goodness he checked. i could hear her protesting in the background... must contact mohammed and confirm their daladala transfer from nairobi to arusha. it's a pimped up ride. windows are tinted, air con on, and views of the great northern maasailand are accompanied by swahili arabic rap, heavily underlined in bass and on about volume 9, i would imagine. the border crossing is colourful. busy. mad. lots of maasai women wanting to sell their trinkets. whoops. should have warned them about this. they hone in on the kids, throwing beaded glinting earrings and bangles into the car and then holding you randsom on the other side, accusing you of not paying. if you are hungry, there is a delightful "cafe" run by somalians, serving goat stew, rice, sweet chai and warm cokes. there are truckers, buses, nuns, maasai, somalis, safari goers, safari cars, black market money dealers, oh you name it, you'll find it at namanga border post. it's just a mad border crossing. it's like a movie set.

they'll be fine, my sister and her family. myrtle has led a rich life. lived in western kenya for years, before losing it all after the mau mau. then moved to zimbabwe in the eastern highlands where they lost everything during the war of independence. they moved to a small holding just outside marondera (a small farming town near harare) where her and mickey retired. they had a few head of cattle and some chickens and a pack of jack russels. they lived here for 27 years. five years ago, some "war veterans" walked in and gave them 24hours to leave. to leave everything. they put all their dogs down and packed up what they could and left for new zealand, never to return. mickey died last year. this is the first time myrtle is coming back to east africa after a very long time. i don't think she will go back to zimbabwe. ever. ever.

back to Ngorobob Hill... stoner lived up to his name and was barley snappy yesterday, nevermind present. so work continues this morning. safari c is up on the windy hill as i write. the tent is large and unwieldy and i suspect we will need some expert help to erect it. see pic. craig with expert help, contemplating pole lengths, and how the hell to put up the tent....he has shaved off all his hair. safari c does this at least once a year. we are not sure why. but we still love him any old way - hair or no hair. it seems to make him happy. that we love him and having no hair...

spare room and Myrtle's Bed are ready. Myrtle's Bed is a monster. (see pic LHS) this is what happens when you casually design a bed in bad swahili, parked idly on the side of the road in down town mbauda...gabby needs help climbing into it. in fact, she might need a ladder, it's so high. and it was a bastard to put together. safari craig was cursing. things simply didn't match. a bit like fitting a round peg into a square hole...something to that effect. anyway. there it is. see pics. and parents room all tidied, ready and waiting.(RHS pic)

so tonight we will all be waiting for the sound of the car coming up the hill...with granny and grandpa and we will barely be able to contain our excitement...! we shall keep the fire burning and soup on the boil.... and have our ears stretching waiting for the sound of the car...the car coming up The Hill...

Kitchen Board: Thursday 19 June 2008:

Contributors: Janelle and Gabby

Comments: hmmm - needs to updated...but see gabby practising her writing...dashing off to lunch with girlfriend and meeting boyfriend one. (never met boyfriend two) -the eeny meeny miney mo situation....hoooah...toodely pip then...XXX

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

..counting the days...

my lovely friend chantal (well, she is more like my aunt, my magical godmother and dearly loved) wrote and said "so where on earth are they all going to sleep?" she spent christmas with us all knows the house. and its limits.

plans are being made. thoroughly and rapidly. it's a bit like musical beds of sorts. by the 23rd of june there will be ELEVEN of us in ngorobob hill house and its environs...fuzz, myrtle's long lost friend from mombasa, is arriving imminently too, for three days. fuzz brings smelly fish from the coast, and is a "difficult old bastard". apparently. he will be having the tent on the hill. the site is being cleared and levelled by Stoner and his friend from kisongo. Stoner is a man of little words and surprising lightening action. he appeared for literally thirty minutes this afternoon, demanded some money, slashed about 5 meters of grass then stumbled back to kisongo. things will have to be snappier tommorrow. otherwise uncle fuzz will be sleeping in his car. fuzz asked on the phone, "will i be able to park my car next to the tent? for lighting?" "oh no no," i reassured him. i haven't told c yet that i have told fuzz that of course there will be lighting in the in electric lighting. god. we barely get it in the house (never mind in the entire bloody country)...and still need to find a bed and and and...oh yes sally said she would lend me her big brass bed...lay lady lay lay across my big brass that song.

new wooden bed made by abbas is here. i painted it this morning. this shall be in gabby's room for dear myrtle. collected the pillow cases from mr shahins this afternoon...while i watched my car with beady eyes (this is where mo's tyre was stolen as written in six million pillows) armed with more than pillows this time... a tyre wrench. no. i didn't. i had nothing but my handbag. silly.

collected new table cloth and napkins from janey the seamstress. the beautiful seamstress. walking into her little office in arusha back streets, a young girl shouted out : eh mzungu! here comes a mzungu! (no shit sherlock. it's like spot the pinky)

you know, it annoys me so much, particularly when i am having a stressy day. its so bloody rude! so i marched over and gave her a lecture: i feel the need to educate young people on manners.

mimi siyo mzungu!~ mimi ni mtu kama wewe, sindio? - shaking my finger at her and telling her how rude she was....(I am not a white ! i am a person like you, no?) she laughed lightly, threw her head back and said "ah, mzungu...." oh blast. bugger. whatever. and desperately wanted to get into a philosophical tirade with her but my swahili is so crap so i gave up, picked up my pillow cover with the new zip and left...listening to everyone laughing behind me, at the angry mzungu...

i zig zagged across town, pilot fishing all the daladalas (crazy taxi drivers who create their own flow through the traffic jams like fat hammerheads) - and bumped into my dear friend B who forced a cappucinno on me and begged me to resolve her love triangle for her. do i look like an agony aunt? ho hum. basically it's an eeny meeny miny mo situation, isn't it? or one potato two potato three potato four, five potato six potato seven potato more. Oh You Tee Spells Out You Must Go. simple. there. and asked her where the cheapest mattresses were to be found. in the bowels of Unga Limited, apparently. The Real Backstreets Of Arusha, in a shop called Tan Foam. piled high with mattresses and the most incredible collection of second hand old tape decks, computers, baby cots, chairs, sewing machines, monkey cages, hamster wheels, spinning wheels, wooden legs, a car. i was served by a very austere and elderly indian gentleman. i could tell he had seen it all. he had seen us all. i asked the price and naturally tried to bargain. it's what you do, or so i thought...

"oh! WHAT!? TSH 105.000!!? shock horror shock horror (feigned you understand) but i was told that this was the cheapest place to buy mattresses!?"
without even looking at me, staring past me out onto the busy sunlit road outside, in a very bored voice, he said.
" no it's not. there are plenty of cheaper places in town. why don't you go and buy your mattress there?"

i was shamed "oh alright then. sheesh..." and immediately started counting out all my pink backs while someone loaded my mattress into my car. there. done deal. and i have a horrible feeling its going to be just a little too big for the new bed..bloody hell. we'll force it to fit.

in the meantime c was calling me on the phone. don't forget to buy daniel a white school shirt for his fam trip into secondary school tommorrow and oh my god i have to dash into jandu plumbers as toilet has sprung leak and oh oh oh racing to collect kids from school. at least he knew what to do about plumbing disaster. shut off all water. buy correct plumbing part. once, when c was On Safari (if c is not with me, that is where he is - On Safari. so don't ask, ok? always at parties, long long ago in the olden days, when i used to go to parties, people would say Oh Where Is Craig? and i would say Oh. He is On Safari...and they STILL ask..) anyway, i was sitting surfing the internet pretending to find an occupation which would bring in The Millions, when i heard the most enormous crash. i listened. no wailing kids. so i carried on surfing. but a nanosecond later i heard "mmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaa!" so i ran through to the other bathroom, and there, miraculously smashed in two or ten bits all over the floor, lay the cistern, and gushing forth, came All Our Water. A positive Tsunami. I froze. six children (three of mine and three Other Peoples Children) lined up big eyed and watched.

I screamed first. then i shouted "bloody hell. oh my god. GET THE BLOODY COLD BOX AND SOME BUCKETS. OH JESUS CHRIST!!! DON'T JUST STANDTHERE!!!" as i tried to stick my finger into a hole to stop the tsunami...all to no avail...eventually i turned around and screamed at all six of them


off they ran into the morning, barefooted across the hills in search of a man. they found reiner, our then neighbour, who arrived, shirtless, handsome, armed with every conceivable plumbing tool and a disarming smile. he calmly went and turned off the tap outside. simple. and said i would need a new cistern. on further routing questioning and succumbing to veiled and violent threats, a child confessed to swinging on the curtain above the toilet (which is really just a very long lamu kikoi swung over an iron bar which is sort of balanced up there)...
its a whirlwind out here i tell you.

things are still in a chaotic state. see pics below. spare room for The Parents and Myrtle's Bed still in pieces. pillows still in plastic and verandah cushions still scattered everywhere except on verandah....and the egg timer is running out...

(parents room LHS and Myrtle's Dismantled Bed Still In Parents Room RHS)

so my father arrives on thursday. my step mother emailed to say " don't be alarmed. he refuses to cut his hair until the court case has been resolved." don't ask about the court case. it's so convoluted i couldn't even tell you what it's about, really. something about the farm and some sharky man who is trying to get it off them. ripping old people off. my father is bald. white haired on the bits growing at the side which must be long now. he must look even more eccentric than ever before. he is 78. tall, dancing brown eyes (which are starting to fade), brown as a nut, a vibrant story teller, a whisky connoisseur, a lover of tomatoes, a terrible driver and possibly one of the most charming men you could ever choose to meet. the last time i saw him (two years ago) when he flew up to see us, he came striding through kilimanjaro airport, pith helmut donned (i am NOT joking) saying "bloody hell darling! you didn't send me your address...getting all sorts of hastles! jesus christ!!! BLAH BLAH"

my dear dad. always larger than life. always on an adventure. i can't wait to see him. i can't wait! (and don't forget to remind me to tell you about The Scars On His Tummy)...

Kitchen Board: Tuesday Evening: 17 June 2008

Contributors: Janelle and Gabby.

Comments: no guest stars tonight. all the little angels are sleeping. for some reason, they didn't sleep very well last night. it must have been the moon... (and by the way, i know how to spell angles.) toodely pip then, and lala salaama...(sleep well) xxx

Monday, June 16, 2008

blame it on the moon...

the weather is persistantly frisky, as is my horse. i hail from a hunting farming family where everything revolves around the weather and the moon phase. growing crops and hunting game. and of course, everything depends on the rains - the rainy season. in east as in southern africa - we have Rainy Seasons. some people think we don't have seasons - like winter and summer and autumn and spring. but we do. its just much more subtle.. i don't think i could survive in a place where i can't see the sky (the moon and sun rises and sets, the rain coming and leaving, the stars on a clear evening), where i can't check up on the moon phase and where i can't figure out weather patterns. to me it's central.
anyone who knows anything about african weather, knows that things change with the moon. after the full moon, the rains start. or they stop.
blame it on the moon.
this place is odd. nobody can tell me from which direction the rains come. i have been in tanzania for nearly 8 years now. i have spoken to all the old settlers, people who have lived here for generations and everyone tells me somthing different. i think it's something to do with the mountains. mountains play havoc with directions. the winds seem to chase the weather around these great summits. the rain seems to come from every direction. one thing remains the same though. when it comes from the west, it's heavy and serious. and it's rare.
up here on ngorobob hill, the weather is literally in your face. there is no escape. the wind hurls itself from the mountains, (kilimanjaro and meru), gathering force along the way. i think our little pink, card house will simply collapse one night. and the entire family's hair will begin to grow at right angels to our heads.

the wind is strongest in september. last year, it was screaming through the littlest of gaps, like a boiling kettle, so loud i couldn't sleep. safari craig called me from ngorongoro crater lodge (google it, if you haven't heard of it - its one of the most luxurious lodges this side of the nile.) where he had heated blankets, dry sherry, chocolates on his pillows, a stomache full of vintage wines and the finest foods available to humanity... and a crackling fire in his hearth. and no kilimanjaro winds battering his windows or hurling abuse through unassuming little cracks.
at some stage, the rain arrives, chased by the wind, and of course, it too finds its way through each little crack. our little house is not protected and is like a little ship out at sea. battered.
but then there are the balmy summer evenings, when stars are fat, winds are mellow and mischievous, and we light the lanterns outside, playing the music from Frida (the movie) really loudly and watch the moon rise between the mountains, like our hearts, and love each other.
anyway - not to be a weather bore, i shall be a horse bore. my horse is a head chucker. no wonder he was given to me. we almost crashed into the arena fence this afternoon. it scared me. i must wear my hat. from now on.

my life is starting to get very hectic. my family are about to arrive from south africa and singapore and things shall be up in the air until they leave. i have not seen my dear sister for 8 years! purely because of distance and expense. and i shall meet my nephew who is 7 for the first time. so i am painting walls, buying pillows, covering duvets, hanging mosquito nets, mad mad please excuse me if i am not as regular as i like to be with my posting....or as creative in my shall be wee ditties from now on...or um, nothing at all...whoa.

Kitchen Board: Monday Evening: 16 JUNE 2008

Contributors: Janelle & rubin

Comments: tsk tsk.missed last nights board which was, admittedly, quite full and interesting. due to my incredible efficiency, it was wiped second born wanted to pose tonight...and i had the devil horn idea..can't imagine what, or rather who, gave me that idea?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

dealing with the paparazzi...

filmed by one daniel doria (11yrs).

Friday, June 13, 2008

worlds apart....

another positively arctic day in africa.

imagine? who would've thought...

i poked my nose out from the covers this morning, all ready to practise immediate gratitude for my dreamy life and heavenly kids, all ready to go and get breakfast on the go, kids up and at 'em for school, and be The General Buddhist Happy Calm Ready To Take Everyones Worlds On Cheerleader (as dear friend Zoe puts it - the cheerleader bit). but ouf! it was fucking freezing. and c was back from safari. and used to getting up at disgustingly early hours.


civilized people do not appear in grey freezing mornings like these.(at least not if we don't have to.) oh no. we remain deep under cover. and warm. and demand coffee in bed and similar pleasanteries. we have learnt our lessons as previously blogged. principessa gabriella appeared upstairs and immediately dived for cover, as all civilized people should. we perused the tatler together while i de liced her hair. (yes. it's ongoing. but the wildlife seems to have come to an end in hers anyway..i think there is a luce disco party going on in mine, although the comb produced no entymological evidence of any sort..) oh yes. the tatler.

frankly. it's outrageous. these itsy bitsy little ugly clutch bags going for GBP 1,932. does anyone else find this obscene? do people BUY these Things for This Amount Of Money? is it Important? i'm not anti-frivolity, you understand, but it seems an awful lot of cash to spend on an ugly little hand bag when it could school a few kids, or feed a few kids. anyway. blah and GAH (a wonderful Dianism) we pick up the same bags at mitumba (massive second hand clothes markets which clothe almost the entire continent) a few years later for about $ 5.

when i peruse the tatler with my little girl, i feel out of the loop. completely out of the loop. like i am observing an alian world...rather I AM the alian. she doesn't. she marvels at these BEAUTIFUL ladies in their BEAUTIFUL dresses and shoes and hair and jewels... i am drawn to the party pages - staring at all these incredibly glamorous BEAUTIFUL people, perfect straight hair, perfect lips, tanned smooth legs in winter, clear skins,white square teeth. who will, undoubtedly, spend GBP 1,932 on little ugly snake skin clutch bags. (maybe if it was vaguely attractive i would understand it more). i look at the faces first and then the names. still. the party in brazil looked fun. it did. tamara veroni and her italian husband who looks like he has put on weight since they got married in venice. was she the one who presented (ish) a Travel Show????? anyway - if i ever made it to brazil or ibetha (sp?) or cannes or wherevever, i bet i wouldn't know what to say or to wear. i would be way too shy to dance or take drugs. and would be highly suspicious of every single man in the vicinity. useless. useless.

in fact i once went to cannes! little old african me! for some posh tourism conference. by sheer luck, (and quite possibly by mistake) i ended up at The Main Party at the terrifically Liz Taylor Like Glamorous Hotel, after an african acquaintance had slipped me a small yellow pill which he assured me would make me feel really happy. near the yachts. of course i took it. silly. very silly. it was all a little trippy after that. and my boss was very angry with me. i felt like i had walked into a Vanity Fair photograph. there were pyramids of champagne reaching the chandaliers and fountains of chocolates and hundreds of people who must have materialised out of the tatler party pages....oh and corridors lined with fake fires (which being african, i thought were real, much to the amusement of my european centric colleagues). i had commented on how bloody dangerous it looked, as i sort of warily side stepped the wild flames.... anyway. swiftly moving on....

the point being here, was that i was bloody useless. and way way way off the mark re literally EVERYTHING. clothes. accessories. hair. weight. i stood there, like a true zambian, mouth open, staring and dangerously close to picking my nose. my handsome collegue on the otherhand was not so off center and was stalked by two very sexy older black and diamond clad ladies. he tried to hide behind me. pathetic. annoying really. like i was his bloody mother or something. i threw him to the lions and ate more chocolate next to the false fires. and eye balled a very good looking egyptian. who was, obviously, gay, it was later pointed out to me. oh. no!? really? der. gad.

you see? bloody useless, man.

oh but one good thing about the tatler (apart from the fragrant pages and the low down on all the terrifically interesting looking contributors) so exciting! so exciting! one of my bestest friends was in last months tatler...looking HOT HOT HOT and DIVINE!!! man. there she was! and i KNOW she doesn't buy ugly little clutch bags for obscene amounts of money. she buys beautiful shoes though for, i suspect, obscene amounts of money....

i never read the tatler. i look at the pictures. i love the smell and feel of its smooth glossy perfumed pages. (how many forests later, i muse.) i never read the national geographic either (probably would if it was about me or a place or person i knew). (hah. should i confess this?) and vogue. i read vanity fair when i come across them. i hate fair lady. deeply. and you magazine. torrid. torrid. oh but i read every little bit of print in Hello.NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOT. who are these botoxed creatures in their overly stuffed mansions? in their shimmering gowns on lawns with children on grey ponies?. incredulous. hello mag should do mugabe in his mansion in harare. and his wife sally in her gowns....

i remember my dear friend A, in zambia....a very handsome heroic bush man. with eclectic tastes. A who, in an interview on film no less, on being compared to indiana jones replied, "who IS indiana jones?" and was serious, at the time, i THINK. still not sure. anyway. whenever he caught us reading client copies of Hello he was utterly disgusted. mortified and liked me a little less each time i suspect. he could never quite understand my lady di fetish either. yes yes yes i know! still. and i have always publicly confessed my love of abba unashamedly. and ALWAYS confess to my farts. hey. i'm just like that. who cares.

oh seeing i mention A. it's time for The First Snake Story. as promised a while back. A hales from my beloved luangwa valley, eastern zambia - from whence my fellow blogger and soul (deep soul) sisters and i hale ( and luangwa valley has to be one of the most unique and utterly beautiful places left in the entire world. wild. magical. hot. full of forests, rivers, elephant, lion, termites and snakes. literally Where The Wild Things Are.

the rumpus began and am not sure it ever ended...(more on this another time.)

snakes. c (my nearest and dearest), being a close friend of A, is, apart from being super dad and super husband, a herpetologist. as mentioned previously, he has taught me all i need know about snakes. here he is with fellow enthusiasts (see pic on LHS). dr jurgy on the bottom RHS (the one all in um, denim - cira 1970(?) - in a jean suit and who now lives in china, the one who took the pic of the live goldfish in keyrings on a chinese beach previously blogged about.)
Donald Broadly is THE snake expert (pictured in safari suit circa 1966 Bulawayo, highly probable). and then My Darling on LHS in suave linen from india. you see? these are the people i fit in with....imagine? C wrote Snakes Of Zambia with the invaluable help from Dr Jurgy and Dr Broadly. not the sort of book which would be a best seller. but the kind of book where one tends to read the small print. so my point being, in other words un-tatler like....

i became used to snakes in the old paraffin fridge. when c was writing the book, he would shove them in there to cool off - which makes them sleepy, easy to handle and therefore motionless for photographs. apparently. sometimes i would open the fridge when they weren't that sleepy yet from their rude antarctic circumstances.... they were, understandably, more than a little annoyed.

ME: whew. its a hot day. think i will just go to the fridge to get a glass of coolish water (old paraffin fridges never get anything vaguely cold apart from snakes it seems but then not always). i open the door and out shoots an orange striped tiger snake, at eye level, fast, focused and furious. hmm. yeah. well. it's not something you ever quite get used to. you learn to open fridge doors cautiously though.

i digress from A and the black necked spitting cobra (from here on referred to BNS Cobra). see picture. large, black, fierce mother &*!(@#^&*@#$^@% snakes. poisonous. don't particularly like backing off. are particularly accurate when spitting into eyes. and infamously always attain LARGE sizes.

A's Story. Rainy season. Luangwa Valley. River floods massively. all camps and houses are under water. A's house goes underwater for a few weeks. as the water subsided, he and his darling G were there cleaning out the mud and ooze when in their bedroom they discover a large BNS Cobra. A deals with it accordingly. smashes it dead with a stick and leaves it for dead on the front door step and continues the mopping up process. a little while later they decide its time for a tea break. they get to the door and with a sinking feeling, see the monster snake is no longer there. usually it wouldn't be a problem but the river was still flooding and they had to wade through knee deep water to get to the Tea Zone. A sees a coil appear in the muddy water, steps in with a broom and tries to hook the snake clear out the water, when suddenly he feels it coiling itself around his leg. coil after coil. one strike and basically it's all over. he slowly lifts his leg out the water, balancing on one leg, like a stork, and grabs the snake behind the head (gasp gasp i kid you not) and asks his darling to unwrap the rest of the mailto:*&!#!%#$^^&*!@#^%$%from his leg. which somehow she managed to do. after this he smashed it to a pulp to make sure it really was very very and entirelydead. snakes are like that.

shakily A and G decided on brandy instead of tea at ten. as one does. as one does.

i might feel bloody useless with tatler party people, i might openly love abba (chica what?), and i might not buy or own ugly grossly expensive snake skin clutch bags but man, i can open fridges with snakes inside them. (i just wish that sometimes he would tell me or at least put them in jars....)
Photographs: Dave Legge, Kerri Rademeyer, Jake and some keen herpetologist.
Kitchen Board: Friday Evening: 13 JUNE 2008 (god its been friday the 13th all day and i never realized...)
Contributors: Veronica.
Comments: (still wondering what "Torn Batteries" are? assuming it means torch...)
OTB (Oscar Tom Baker neighbour's child who is three) left the tap on in the kids bathroom and so now there is no more water...was longing for a hot shower defrost. oh well. boo hiss. can't be helped and all that. must to bed. must to bed. where civilized people go. put the sleigh dogs to bed and hide from the polar bears scratching at my windows....nighty night then. X

Thursday, June 12, 2008

shifting thoughts.

it's things like this which make me so happy. simple things. little things can fix bigger things. i don't know what to write today. my anger has burnt all my words away. so i am sifting through the ashes and finding images and thoughts which make me feel happy. shift the anger. out. out. i think its working.

i deem it most inappropriate to go into the reasons for this anger. so tedious. and it only fuels it.

other people's muck can be very trying. boring. sometimes. like otherpeopleschildren.

just that. maybe we'll have a cheese fondu tonight. it's about as cold as frigging switzerland anyway. alpine conditions. keeps the cheeks ruddy, if anything. these pictures were taken when summer was still hanging about. just...

just the other day. fire is lit in the hearth. children are bickering and am contemplating boarding school. but know that the root of my happiness lies with these children of ours.
i love the way children talk to animals. i love the way children have secret languages which horses seem to understand. and secret imaginary friends. i love the way my daughter knows how to talk to horses. we love the feel of their warm tongues on our cold hands. she laughs. like sunlight.

i love the way children have no idea. they aren't ruined yet. they still have light in their eyes. unadulterated light. they still have their own ideas.

children laugh at embarrassing things. they don't even know. i love that.

i love wild places. i love it that my children love wild places too and can run naked, free, unashamed and barefooted. and brave. where the wild things are.

and i love it that c cooked the kids sausages for dinner. and that him and i are going to have a cheese fondu later SECRETLY sans enfants! i love it that we have our own secret language that the kids can't understand. they threaten us with spanish. i say pah to spanish. i love it that c is home and not on safari.

there you are. its gone. it has. it really has. HAH! it worked. give it a twirl one day.

Kitchen Board: Thursday Evening: 12 June 2008Contributors: Vero, Rubin

Comments: ahead of our time as usual and so advanced. it really is still thursday but we look forward to friday. very much indeed. special guest tonight rubin doria (of many medals fame) and yoyo (beyond frame)

there are horizons. there are futures. there are things to feel happy and content and excited about now. there are things to look forward to.there is nothing to be afraid of.

anger is a waste of time and energy.

there. i am convinced again.

Monday, June 9, 2008

six million pillows...

(read to the tune of The Summer Wind by F Sinatra; Engelbert Humperdinck will do too.)

this is a gnarley posting. these past few days have been gnarley, stressey, hectic, excema inducing days. you've gotta love 'em. you just do.

and a gnarley apology for late postings to my dear few LOVELY readers! entirely unintentional, you know. many things which happened to me in the last few days have not been intentional and i certainly never dreamed them up....the Universe had some things in store for me, for sure. karmic? damn.

yesterday was very cold and grey. baridi kali (very cold). the second air force helicopter crashed not far from us yesterday. killing all 6 on board. including children. this is the second crash in six months. the craft exploded on impact. c and i were discussing this tragic event. surely there is one helicopter licence qualification world wide? surely the pilots are trained sufficiently? so why did this pilot overload the chopper with people, maize, luggage, chickens?? too heavy must mean fall out of sky like stone??? god. awful. awful. . . .

i was in town early monday morning after dropping s and kids on the bus back to kenya thinking, AHA! bright and early, will pop into the bank to draw money from The Machine and then pop over to the market to buy fruit and veg and pop into ikwhans (fave grocery store in town run by very wise muslim man) and before you can say jack robinson shopping will be done by ten. (pop being the operative word here, you understand) aha. not in the A Town. oh no. early birds do not get any worms in arusha. and there is NO popping in anywhere. no, none at all.

bank machines (all two of them in the entire and opposite ends of town) were out of order.

shops were still closed.

market ladies with all their fresh fruit and vegetable were no-where to be seen. only empty plastic blue bags rolling tumbleweed-like past the empty market place.

coffee shop was still closed so that cappucino was a no goer.

all friends absent, possibly still in bed at home. being sensible and inefficient.

so there i sat in a grey, cold parking lot on a grey, cold morning monday morning, penniless and coffeeless, sitting outside the bank. spirits plummeting downwards and anger spewing upwards (like oldonyo lengai in northern maasailand - our very own volcano), when who should walk nonchalantly and unassumingly past, but The Bank Manager. poor lady. she had no idea what and who was waiting for her, in the only car in front of the bank. she had no idea that her monday morning was about to be ruined. as she walked past i nimbly leapt out my car door and accosted her. not to go into any boring details, i splurged and ranted on about bank machines not working and don't give me the same old excuses because it's just all crap and my family has been banking with Barclays Bank for 42 years and did you know my mother died because of The Bank? (no i didn't say that actually, but i felt that strongly at the time. and anyway. it's a lie. she died in a car crash. nothing to do with the bank at all. how terrible of me to even think that!? kaspunk and zapped by lightening) i blahed on about the family and the bank only because i knew this dear sweet smiley lady standing so politely in front of me in the grey coldness, could not for all the world, check on our coulourful family bank records.

oh yes. we banked with barclays. but always seemed in terrible debt. like during the 7 year drought in zululand. when mum and dad borrowed extortionate amounts of money to purportedly see the farm through bad dry times and pay the school fees (my friends thought we were onion farmers, not luxurious massively wealthy sugar cane farmers covered in gold and mercedes benzes and speed boats, the cane was that dry and little. and the donkeys looking skinny).when the bank manager came for tea the range rover was rushed over to the tractor garage and the silver tea set was stowed away in the pantry. the old peugeot diesel 504 was parked up against the flamboyant and the old brown chipped tea pot was brought out and humbly used. well. it was sort of like that. much to my mother's horror.

my dad loved to spend all the money (on range rovers and good holidays. "when you've got it spend it") while my mother liked to buy gold kruger rands and stash them away ( sensibly and secretly) for rainy days. anyway. good times bad times. we never lacked for anything growing up. certainly never for love. wild carefree hot summers of water melon, warm swimming pools with frogs and water scorpions lurking in the green slimy murky depths, wild bees, pony clubs, fat yellow moons and the zulu drum beats rolling over the low curvey green (when not having droughts) hills of zululand....

but i digress. although i feel it has to be said that the sugar farming venture in zululand always seemed to have very close links to barclays bank.

so here this dear bank manager stood, smiling widly at me and said she would go and see immediately what the problem was with The Machine but the likelihood is that The System Is Down. And if The System Is Down then um, well you know...When The System Is Down the whole problem shifts to another technological dimension; into another spatial dimension completely out of any humanoid control, it seems. to me it means Give Up Time and to the bank manager (in this case) it means Its Monday Morning For Godsakes and I Haven't Even Reached My Office And Quite Honestly I Can't Be Bothered Or In Fact I Have No Idea How To Resolve Your Problem So Please Bugger Off and Come Back Another Time and Hopefully Deal With Someone Other Than Myself Because You Happen To Be One Of The Rudest People I have Yet To Meet Good Morning And Have A Nice Day.

fog horn fog horn. sirens sirens. all systems down. all systems down. prepare for crash landing. assume foetal position. and whatever you do, wait until you are in traffic jam before screaming uncontrollably.

by this time the coffee shop was open and i basically asked for a direct drip line into the espresso machine and lashings of chocolate cake for breakfast. "just keep the cake coming, honey, until i say stop. thanks." i thought of Amelie (as in the movie) at this point. little important moments in life.

later on in the morning, there i was in mr shahin's habberdashery shoppe, much later, of course (due to standing in the queue in the bank wired on caffein and anger induced adrenalin) . mr shahin's shop is a local dukka (shop) selling materials. this was my third attempt. previously the shop had been closed for obscure reasons - during trading hours... so there i finally was paying for and collecting my ordered duvet covers and 6 million pillows (my family is about to arrive so doing up the house ) and in walked mo (mo of fame) to collect her mosquito net. we hugged each other - me like a michelin man carrying all the pillows ( 6 million is a lot of pillow) and my hand bag and strolled outside to my car to pack pillions (intentional) away. i noticed mo's car next to mine. i started opening my door when right in front of me i saw 4 large men in the back of mo's car. 4 large enormous, muscled men.

it all sort of went in slow motion from here. my mouth hanging disbelievingly open and my brain literally revving backwards (like a boeing 375 on landing), smoke almost visible leaving my ears, trying to reverse the crime scene unfolding literally under my nose: hmmm. am sure that is mo's car. oh well. hang on! that IS mo's car. my god. what are those four men doing?

so i walked to the back of mo's car to confirm what i now began to suspect. it eventually dawned on me that in fact, mo's car was in the process of being well and truly ripped off and fast! not a moment to spare! so armed solely with my 6 million pillows, i said in a very shrill voice:

what are you doing? what ARE you doing? (as one does to 4 large mean looking robbers in broad day light)

only to be confronted by two mean ENORMOUS men in orange hawaii shirts dotted with Florida palm trees...where is Magnum when you need him, eh? one with a scar across his cheek. i took note because his face wasn't very far away from mine as he leered at me and pushed me away. by now i was fully aware that mo was being robbed. and i was probably about to be. so i began to yell in an even more shrill sort of way. (is that bad grammar?) like a soprano's trill sort of shrillness.

hey! hey! Ooooooeerrrgh! HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? WAAAAAAAAAAARGHHH! OOOEGHROOOOOOOOOOW E)HEY!!! ASUDF ENMBSDFGHEWMJR~(R&* Q@#()%R&*)_Q#*($ B)(*B Q#%vn )(25N9-8V9- 824529U45V Poei \kajsdfnawertUJFNK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by this time mo's new spare tyre had been grabbed and was being rolled rapidly away into the traffic and into the piggeldy back streets . my two criminals had bolted after their co-horts. mo came dashing out followed closely by mr shahin himself. but it was over by then. the most amazing thing is that there must have been in total about twenty on lookers watching and not one person lifted a finger to help. not even the parking ticket lady (here in arusha you pay the parking ticket people for the space - TSH 200 (its about 1890 to the dollar so you do the maths. it's not very much but still), not even the security officer could be bothered, not even the beggar lady uttered a cry of alarm. nothing. you see. everyone watched and said nothing.

here is a gnarley fact. and it's true. it's true. if a mzungu (white person) is robbed no-one does a thing because mzungus have lots of things. too many things and literally endless amounts of cash. if an african (i too am an african but clearly the wrong colour..whose fault is that?) is robbed, mob justice takes over. this is gnarley gnarley. the robber is caught and the liklihood of petrol or paraffin being poured over the incumbent, a tyre thrown over his neck and a match lit, is high. very high. in public. its brutal. brutal.... whilst we clink glasses on manicured lawns and pretend to be civilized. dear god.

early birds don't get the worms in these parts. the worms get the birds. the worms get the birds. ultimately.

dear amnaay, our driver, caught a petty thief the other night near his home in olasiti. the thief had stolen all the door handles off someone's building site. when the police arrived they asked why he had not burnt the thief. by this time, the local askari (watchman) had cut off a few of his fingers - for two reasons:
1. so everyone would recognize him as a thief when they saw him
2. so he would think twice about stealing again.

he was then taken away by the police and i wonder what has happened to him.
i think i am going to invest in some pepper spray so next time i can apprehend some thieves. only to save a tyre you see, for my car. tyres are very expensive things.

en route to town yesterday over the hideous bumps caused by the mosquito net factory (fondly known as the Effing Factory), i stopped to give a maasai mama and her young son a lift. they were going to majengo hospital in town. mama was sick - sounded like a bad chest infection. ernest introduced himself in very good english which is a great achievment in rural tanzania. he is 15 and would like to be a doctor. if he can't be a doctor then he would like to be a politician. he asked where i was from. america? me: oh no, zambia. ernest: oh! zambia!? you look like to be israeli. your hair. the colour of your hair. me: are you a christian? ernest: oh yes! (looking pleased) me imagining he was referring to those gorgeous rosy cheeked bucksome blonds in those jehova witness brochures, surrounded by heavanly gardens, good looking men, food to die for and scores of heavenly behaved golden children. and a god you can believe in..nice. yup. that's me, ernest. that's me.

so you see. this week has been gnarley. c says that gnarley is a very fashionable word in surfing circles. you know, gnarley old sea (well. that is an old one surely from moby days...) gnarley waves, gnarley surfer, gnarley piece of wood (old OLD hat) gnarley surf board... gnarley old this true? well. right now i couldn't be further from surfers or the sea if i tried, nevermind a surfing world. .. what a lovely lovely thought though... a surfing world on newport beach or tahiti or north beach hawaii...nice. really nice.

and i haven't even told you about the street kids, the breadless bakery and my run in with the management team of the multinational grocery store. too much for one posting. too much for one day too, i tell you.

think i am headed to put my head under one of my six million pillows and dream of gnarley surfing worlds...and being a jazz singer.

Kitchen Blackboard Sorely Over Due: Wednesday 11 June 2008

Contributors: Veronica (and Janelle in brackets)

Comments: Invited Star Guest today is Janey, dear friend and seamstress of note! she is madly sewing things like table cloths and napkins and cushion covers and mosquito nets and and and! multi talented and multi beautiful.

gabriella did her lamda exam this morning and received a Distinction for her Cat Kisses by Bobbie Katz! we are delighted and so proud of our darling principessa. and the examiner ended her report with A Polite Young Lady. wow.!(?)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

facing fear and walking on down the line....

my how time flies? don't you love it? flying time? i am unsure, myself. the last time i wrote was wednesday - about elephants. . . had the gig on thursday which seemed to flow, a good crowd and a beautiful new moon hanging behind the people, the fountain and the frangipani tree - late in the west. yeah.

i have been thinking about this exact moment since thursday morning. it seems to me that i write a lot about scarey things. or things i consider scary but not really. they are realities. but if you think too hard about them - bloody terrifying! you know, kalahari ferraris doing surprise raids from the shadows, charging killer elephants (no, no dumbos or silly little walt disney bambis), killer stomach bugs, performing in public and i haven't even started on the robbers in the mangos and under the mulberry trees and broken mirrors and bricks in my bed, snake encounters ... and lions prowling past my door, towards my baby, in the dark and me crouched by the door praying like hell, promising my world to whoever, whatever higher powers that may exist - EVERYTHING EVERYTHING - if the lion stayed away from my baby sleeping in the outside rondavel (round hut) . please make the baby not wake up and cry, please please please - keep his dreams sweet, golden and quiet. don't let him cry. please go away lion, please go away. the baby cries. i hear him on the baby monitor. i hear the lion breathe. i hear its footsteps in the dark night, outside my door - between me and my life, my baby. i run into the dark night, towards my baby, my everything. i sit on the bed, still, barely breathing, listening. listening to the thunder of my heartbeat in my ears. listening to the hint of lion footfall on dry leaves beneath my window. the flutter of lion breath. i drink whisky from the bottle with the .375 loaded, across my lap. i sit next to the small cot next to my bed, knowing i do not have a clue how to shoot this weapon, but if that lion comes near my baby, my life, my everything, i will stick these double barrels up its nostrils and shoot it....cold dead.
no. i haven't even touched on that. on that and lions in the long grass, fires in the sugar cane...but i have brushed on witchcraft and its hideous acts. why? am i trying to scare you all? scare myself? impress someone? everyone? well actually, i'm not. i love telling stories! ghost stories are a speciality. i can scare myself with my own reflection. the stories seem to brim to the surface as i blog. tales and visions which beat like wings against a cage.
"face your fears," i tell myself. i say to myself, "they make you feel so alive. so alive. so real. walk through them. dive through them, jump through them. do whatever it takes. it brings me closer to myself. it is liberating. its that letting go feeling."
living in towns, there are different fears. like going to the ATM at eight at night. getting stopped by the police. being followed. hmmmm. nasty. nasty stuff. human fears. breaking glass in the night and sirens. and gun shots.

its death. it colours life.

elephants. yeah. they scare me but i love them more than rainbows. and chocolate (well. that's pushing it) - the rumble of leviathon stomaches, the rush of air from an elephant breath, the quiet, quiet snap of a twig, the impossible softness of a giant elephant footstep, seeing their great wrinkled selves pass inches from your nose, in the moonlight, stepping gracefully through and over the tent ropes and the solar panels, holding your basket of potatoes elegantly in its curved trunk. moon on ivory. water falls in throats and curled trunks...

i will never forget the elephant eye in my window one morning, the sun rise catching it, pure amber - for a brief moment, then it was gone. i knew it was meant to be. i knew then that i would never forget that moment; that in fact maybe this was the one thing i had come back to see. this was why i was here at this moment in time. to see the amber eye. i had dreamed it.

elephants crowd my memory, my excuse for living, my dreams.

there is one fear i refuse to even let in the door. its about my kids. its the fear of losing them. its too monumental to even consider, to look at it - in the eyes. but it lurks in the shadow, this dark menacing, hooded, scythe-bearing fear, until i shout at it, scream at it and chase it out into the great african sunshine with a broom - and i see a whirlwind rushing, spinning crazily across the dust courtyard, pick it up, pick this loathesome, sickening fear up and suck it into the sky where it came from. where it belongs. with my dead mother.

the power of visualisation is immense! so healing. thoughts are so powerful.

so i attended the boys inter school cross country this morning, with dear, dearest close friend S from Lamu, Kenya. we go back years, her and i, through thickets, babies, splintered hearts and lives, mad starry nights, laughter, snorting laughter over farting, lying by the fire and talking talking late into the night about our worlds, our lives - oh yup - she is one of those friends and i feel so lucky to have her staying - with all her kids growing up - like mine - like weeds. i love the thought of her and mo and all the kids shopping the markets this morning. they have all trooped off to the mitumba (the huge second hand clothes markets) with dear mo (Queen of Salaula (pronounced sal ah oolah - z to find woolie hats and scarves and boots because the two older girls are going to climb mt kenya this next term.

rubin and daniel ran unbelievably well this morning...with all their hearts and mights. the boys from kilimanjaro are magnificent athletes. east africans are known for their athletic prowress. daniel and rubin are great, great sons. they can do the squeedgy. they are african.

near the end of rubin's race, he threw whatever he had to give, to push into third place and tripped as he was about to pass the other runner. like the ice skater falling. oh my heart. his heart. what a moment. to watch him, mother me, standing frozen, breath held. to watch him pull himself from the grass and gravel, under the flame tree, under this great skyscape, look upwards, his face torn, his knee bleeding, and run to the finish - my boy, my child, my baby. so i hung back from rushing to him. i watched him through the crowds, his crumpled face. i watched him lie down. arms and legs asunder like the da vinci drawing of man, a wheel. and was about to go to him when i turned around and saw my dear friend s - with brimming eyes. so i cracked up. so there we were, the two of us, in the shadows of the flame tree, fighting back the tears. pathetic! its not him falling. its the heart. its seeing The Heart of Someone. it blows me away everytime. everytime.....but then again i have been known to cry watching baby nappy ads .....
(photographs: credits to daniella, craig and richard the canadian)

Kitchen Board: Saturday Morning: 7 June 2008:
Contributors: Veronica and OTB

Comments: OK so we forgot to update friday to saturday. i had a willing model though, in the shape and light of OTB. he made sure that i knew his dad had said: " I don't have to smile if i don't want to." so. we popped him on top of the silver rubbish bin - it was a little scarey and wobbly and um, high. remember his nickname is Mr Unguka (sp?) Hapa (i fall here). he seemed perfectly brave and surfed his fear, tubing it and popping out unscathed at the end. he popped over to see the horses but " they aren't in their cages...?' and the reason why, dear OTB, is because naughty mwali and godwin are riding them and were bust showing off on the road by the factory going faster than i suspect they anticipated. unfortunately i was the car which passed them. . .

snap snap. there you go darlin'!

toodely pip. and week-end njema (swahili for the day - good week-end!)


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

the elephant in the room...

last night went well. bono bloody well stood me up. my old band mates showed up and accompanied me on bass and violin. there were about 40 people there. a chilled and laid back atmosphere. i have forgotten how much energy it takes to set up, perform and pack up afterwards. nevertheless, we had the most sumptious dinner afterwards. i was happy to overhear some people arriving and asking for the music! HAH. too late buddy. and then them saying they would come back on thursday...whew.

ok ok. yes. the elephant in the room. todays elephant was apparently almost in safari craig's car, and on safari craig's clients' laps. this elephant was extremely angry. when elephants start chucking trees and bits of wood about and showing the very broad front bit of their heads (like this one is doing in above pic), it's time to get the hell out of there.
i have over the years developed a deep and immoveable respect and love for these incredible creatures. in fact i am &*#($&^ scared of them. it's that old chestnut of the more you know, the more....ah, whatever... this picture makes my knees feel like jelly. having lived deep in the zambian wilderness (south luangwa national park) for 12 years, participating in walking safaris conducted by my safari craig and having encountered elephants for most of these years, i like to keep a healthy distance. why disturb them uneccessarily? a dear friend of mine was killed by one at the age of 23. and many africans have been killed by elephant. (elephant hate bicycles.) although it is a known fact that more people are killed by the kindly yet clearly intolerant hippopotamus than by any other wild animal.

elephant are truly a symbol of our continent - strong, majestic, wild and free but bloody well dangerous as hell. they have been an integral part of my life since birth. africa would lose her soul should the elephant no longer roam the wilderness. we are coming close to this. too many people and not enough space. desperate times. desperate measures.

i remember when i first started working at Sokwe, a leading Tanzanian safari company ( and was sent on my first assignment - to accompany a VERY famous fashion designer from New York and her entourage, to Katavi National Park in western Tanzania. she will remain nameless because i want to tell ALL of the story. she really disliked me from the beginning and was a mean old bitch. one blazingly hot afternoon, most of the group decided to opt for a drive so myself, the camp manager ( also seriously qualified safari guide) and the caterer decided to opt for a lazy walk. FD's (as in fashion designer) partner at the last minute decided that he too would prefer a peaceful calm walk instead of bouncing around in the car for 2 hours. of course, this immediately transformed the walk into a formal one. all the rules were set. walk in single file. no talking. always listen to your guide. and NO RUNNING unless you are told so.

I whispered to the guide "ok so we stay FAR AWAY from elephants yes? we are on foot and i am really scared of them." and to FD's very amusing and blissfully ignorant partner " oh nothing to be scared of. i have lived in africa ALL my life. walked amongst elephants and blah blah blah" as in whose afraid of the big bad wolf the big bad wolf the big bad wolf...anyhow, i made it clear that i was an experienced old africa hand as was our guide. nothing to worry about. its a breeze. its an adventure. trust me.

off we set. the afternoon was simply beautiful; a setting sun - distorted and red from the dust and bush fires - the hint of winter on the air and the smell of burnt grass and dust...and elephant poo, fresh, lingering. we followed a dry river bed, which still had remnant pools tucked into the curved corners of the sand river. around the corner we came and there, on the OTHER side of the small river were about 5 adult female elephant and a whole bunch of babies and teenager elephants. mummy elephants are notoriously fierce over their young. immediately my heart beat faster. FD's partner was ecstatic. guide was very assuring - they were on the other side. nothing to worry about. feeding. calm. so we crouched down and watched. we were dead quiet. the wind was still. they did not know we were there. which was fine at this point. until they decided to come down to the river, in other words TOWARDS us and CLOSER to us for a drink.

they were now between 15 to 20 m away. still calm. still did not know we were there. we were still crouched under a teeny weeny pathetic little acacia on a small bank which any elephant could spring up in the blink of a leviathan eye. elephants are uncannily agile and fast. it was inspiring watching them - water being sprayed over backs, the babies being all silly and floppy in the mud....but somehow i could not quite relax. they finished their drinking then slowly started walking um TOWARDS us on our miniture bank. they had not seen us.

so our very experienced guide stood up - SLOWLY and gently started tapping the edge of his rifle. like a toc toc toc sound - metal on metal. (elephants HATE this sound...they really do) the matriarch (there is always a lead mama) came to a dead halt. lifted her head, and held it slightly aloft. slightly sideways as though she was really trying to see us. she lifted her trunk to smell the air. the herd had all stopped. dead still. like they were huge grey statues on the white sand. not a sound. not a movement. they were now about 8m from us. the only sound i could hear was my heart thundering in my ears.

after a few seconds, the matriarch decided that everything was ok. there was no danger and continued leading the herd straight towards us. the guide stood up and shouted "no! go away shoo shoo!" with that, all hell broke loose. trumpeting, whirling around, clouds of white dust and elephants screaming. i don't think i even thought anything. i turned around and started running like hell. when FD's partner saw me running he thought "bugger this! i'm off too" and so did the caterer... the guide was furious and was yelling "stop running. stop fucking running!" my legs couldn't help it. i simply could not be there any longer. it took a lot of strength to stop when every single fibre in my being and body was saying RUN!!!! RUUUUUUUN! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE OR YOU ARE GOING TO BE KILLED!

at this stage, everything was slow motion. the elephant thundered past us, as terrified as we were. tails up, trunks up and headed for the forest line..they were running literally 3 m from us.

FD's video footage was amusing...only amusing in retrospect. he was also lucky enough not to understand or know what COULD have happened.

opening scene: sunset. calm feeding elephants

middle scene: sunset, calm drinking elephants

end scene: screaming elephant, then sky ground sky ground sky ground sky ground sky ground.

stiff celebratory drinks were had by the fire and around the table. and i ended up singing Keeping Out Of Mischief by Barbara Streisand ... but that is another story entirely...entirely.

nothing quite like a whisky around a fire under the stars, a hyena calling near by and a story or two to tell.

my mother (may she RIP) told a story about throwing herself over us tiny kids in the back of a series 1 landrover in the zambezi valley in the late 1960's which had stalled, with a matriarch leaning over the back of the little car, screaming and swinging her trunk menacingly over us, trying to kill us. the only way to start it was with a crank. the driver had frozen and was shouting "jesus christ jesus christ" as my father climbed out from literally under the elephant's nose to crank the old rover up - with grrrrrrrreat success (as said in borat).

i remember sitting in a little tin boat with my mama when i was about 4 , tied up to an island in the middle of the great zambezi river, while my father had disappeared onto the island looking for big bull elephant. he disappeared in one direction into the greeness while 4 enormous bulls appeared literally inches from our little boat and crossed back to the mainland. i remember my mama lying over me and then when they had gone into the deeper water, she said " look darling. they look like teapots!" because an elephant can entirely disappear into deep water leaving only the tips of their trunks, like a teapot, above the water for breathing. and me laughing and not being scared at all.

and since i am on the subject, i simply have to mention mr alfred champoto, and mr rice time..both having left us to more heavenly wildernesses across the river styx. these two legendary gentlemen taught me everything i know about elephants (excluding my dad of course, who told me that when a lion charges me, i must lie flat on my tummy so it leaps straight over me. but he didn't tell me what happens after that . . . and of course Norman Carr who was one dad's dearest friends. please remind me to tell you how my father has all those scars on his big hairy tummy.) alfred champoto (pictured on the RHS in yellow woolen hat) knew me since i was a child. and then worked for us at our camp in luangwa. he was a great fisherman from the Barotse floodplains in western zambia, where he would return at the end of every safari season. and he was never scared of elephants. he would guide me through the herds in our old supply landrover happily shouting out instructions from the back seat on the open car while i would drive white knuckled and white faced through the elephant.

rice time maqaba tembo was our "fundi" (man who has the gun and knows EVERYTHING about The Bush and who is the only gentleman, to my knowledge, on the entire continent of africa, who toted a muscovian fur hat in the dead of an october summer where temperatures reached 38 degrees). he was entirely fearless of elephant, lion and buffalo and knew every single secret magical sign there was to be known. he was a real hunter meaning that it had been a calling. he had had the dreams. i have seen him shoot a charging buffalo and dropping it 5 paces from where we stood, me FROZEN. president kaunda gave him his rifle. rice time was one of those exceptional people, a few notches above everyone else. he naturally commanded utmost respect and he knew the ways of magic and spells. i remember once we found one of the resident pride lions dead on a walk, killed by a buffalo. rice drew a large circle in the dust around the lion,with a cross at each end of the circle. when we asked him what he was doing, he looked at us as though we had asked something like "are you sure this is a lion?" and explained that now, the lion spirit will not follow us. we need not worry about the lion spirit possessing us....der. and looked scathingly at us. how stupid can some people be?

i could write reams about these two legends. their names will crop up again. you'll see. and as long as i live, i will always remember them with great fondness and deepest respect. i am so lucky i was given the chance to share those gloriously wild years with men like them.

all of these men told me that i must NEVER let an elephant bully me. NEVER reverse away from an elephant. and NEVER run. NEVER. EVER.

Kitchen Board: Wednesday afternoon: 4 June 2008:
Contributors: Veronica and Janelle

Comments: Meet Godwin. he helps out with the horses, the shamba (meaning small farm or plot) and lives at the bottom of the hill. godwin's english is as good as my swahili. we smile a lot at each other. so. written on the LHS of the board are all the words which i have taught you, oh esteemed and delightful readers:

POLE which means?

SANA: which means?

KARIBU: which means: (careful. 2 meanings here)

KESHO: which means?

and introducing "haraka haraka" (on RHS of board) which means HURRY HURRY . safari craig gave me the saying: (after sternly warning me that i was tampering with The Board..i told him that rule had been broken on day 2 after being made..isn;t that what rules are for?)

ok so: haraka haraka haina baraka = literally hurry hurry no blessings. so means: to hurry is without blessing.

so chill hurry in africa. how nice.

kwaheri! (means GOOD BYE!) kesho!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

kilimanjaro and karibu eliza . . . .

hectic morning over. thank god. blogging early because i couldn't possibly go one day without at least touching base.

of course missed the seamstress. oh kesho kesho. (another good swahili word used often...meaning tommorrow tommorrow)

attended the poetry reading at gabby's school where i congratulated my dear friend, s, who attempted to climb Kilimanjaro and ALMOST made it. i throw flowers in her path. the only wounds she has are bruised toe nails. kilimanjaro is the highest single standing mountain in the world. i have no catholic need to reach the top. mountains look lovely from the bottom up. i suspect its the spiritual quest which makes people get to the top. very emotional apparently. i am almost in tears just thinking of my friends who made it. maybe i should try for meru one takes courage and strength to climb a mountain. even to be on a mountain. deeply respectful of all those who have made it to the top and experienced a spiritual shift.

gabby recited her poetry beautifully. my heart grew terribly large for my chest.

safari craig is back to day and doesn;t have to go to the airport to drop the clients. hooray! he gets to baby sit while i am at the gig. which will finish early. so i can get home fast and early enough to hear all the bush stories!

so here i go. wish me luck! if you are inclined to. oh. doubt bono will make it. apparently last night there were 6 people there. all belonging to the cafe owner's family. oh well. i have sung to one person before. an old man selling cigarettes in the old zanzibar stone town. we had set up in a small lamp lit square in the old town, next to his trolley (filled with cigarettes and sweets) . a new crescent moon hung sweetly and aptly amongst the fat lazy stars above us. in fact, i think he was the most appreciative audience i have ever played for. his face was in rapture and he said that it had been many many years since he had heard music like that. i took it the right way.....he stood in front of us, the guitar and violin, swaying to the music, eyes closed, and a wide wide smile across his face....what an honor. what an honor.

now, he would be The Perfect Focus Person. (as mentioned in a previous blog)

here go i...tra la tra la.


Kitchen Board: Tuesday Afternoon: 3 June 2008

you see how plain and boring efficiency is? personally i find a busy board far more challenging and interesting. (actually i forgot the cooking oil and the juice. sigh sigh) so couldn't bear it (the blank emptiness) and took another photo for todays posting. a shiny smiley bunch of faces! well it's an auspicious photograph as well. eliza from kisongo village has joined our ngorobob hill house for two months to help dear vero with the mountain of work when my entire family and their relatives descend joyously upon us! so KARIBU ELIZA! (karibu - another common word meaning WELCOME!)

Monday, June 2, 2008

bee stung lips, pole sana and bono..

oh woe is me. i so badly wanted to write last night but TANESCO (tanzania electricity supply company) let me down some what (and unsurprisingly)... so ended up huddled around three candles and three kids whilst 6 million mosquitoes huddled around us and drank merrily away. i read the mojo by torch light and then called it a day.

thanks to everyone who is reading my site and leaving comments. i can't express my gratitude enough. i am addicted to what you all have to say. i LOVE getting comments. and thereby discovering new sites.

ok so the week-end. well. clearly i safely managed to avoid any head collector (or boob collector for that matter). it really is a hideous and horrific affair. and terrifying. all the warusha (a tribe residing on the western slopes of mt meru) women i saw on saturday and sunday moved in large groups to go and collect firewood; they seemed heavily armed with pangas too. i don't think it's safe for them to be alone. and if they were perchance after the head hunters themselves, then headhunters beware. these ladies meant business.

the kids and i collected m who lives in the valley below me. (m of silver party and sexy dressing fame) she is carless and needed a lift up the mountain for the night. the drive to her place is so beautiful. she lives on the edge of a flower farm which is in full bloom. a riot of colour. from my hill it looks like a van gogh painting. ( i finally saw real van gogh's in amsterdam about three years ago - the last time i was off the continent - before that it had been ten years -and to my amusement i discovered that this information provided much shock and surprise in i ended up saying it on purpose...) - from home i see giant squarey patches of colour lying carelessly amongst the green patchwork of mealie fields. like a blanket.
life has been rather challenging for m lately so she decided to go for a run. nothing like a run to keep the thoughts in ones head clean and humble. i arrived a little after this hearty event and there she stood with a top lip bigger than mick's (as in jagger) or carley's (as in simon), clutching a bandana full of ice against her mouth. it looked worse than a botched botox lip. much worse.

how it happened: she was running along, lost in the moment, lost in the colour of the flowers and the blue of the african winter sky, feeling cradled by a kind, safe and responsive universe, when out of no-where a wayward bee crashed into her lip and stung her. nothing quite like a reality call. why now? why me? why?
we piled into the car - everyone and The Lips. the kids were silenced by them and deadly polite. off we bounced down the hideously bumpy road until we came upon a tractor and some tanzanian villagers calmly ploughing up the road. we stopped to ask them if they were fixing the road (in my shamefully poor swahili). oh yes. indeed they were. and if we liked we could contribute. on seeing darling lippy M, they smiled widly and greeted her with great affection and recognition and asked how she was. she mumbled from behind her icy bandana still fixed to her face, "pole (pronounced: polai and everyone says this about twenty times in one sentance and after you have been here 8 years then you too will start saying it twenty times in every sentance - english or swahili. it means sorry or excuse me as in pardon me and it has the wonderful effect of making others feel thought of and cared about acknowledged and respected. I LOVE pole.), " Pole. i have been stung by bees in the flowers..." and they replied " oh POLE SANA (means very much) mama,. POLE POLE but now you look very beautiful. very beautiful!"

it really was enormous!!! the lip! (and lopsided). as we walked into n's house on the mountain she said, "oh hello mrs wildenstein." by this time the cheek was like a balloon too, drinking hot tea was challenging (and dribbly) and certainly laughing was no laughing matter. m was worried about her lips cracking.

stings and things always go away. even heartbreak, eventually.
darling m is still wondering about the karmic significance of her bee encounter but has managed the day with overdoses of The Cow Bell Skit.

apparently bono and david beckham are in town. how can i get bono to come to my little gigs on tuesday and thursday and david to come and play footie with my kids?? anyone know them? send bono an sms please. blue heron tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30. and again on thursday. which reminds me i need to get my act together for this gig. oh dear oh dear. bloody terrifying and why do i always leave things to the last awful minute?
it's true. i am waiting to be discovered. people always laugh when i say this. i tell you. i am! (a bit like at my old job when i was sulking from lack of recognition and salary increases and threatened to leave. my boss said," well. what is it you want? tell us and we can make a plan." i gazed steadily into his eyes and said " well. I want more money and more power." and he started laughing. so i left.)

when i was jogging this morning (yes 5 kms..MEGA brownie points) i was visualizing bono sitting over a cold beer at the blue heron, exhausted from his day of saving africa from malaria and suddenly up on the verandah he sees but more HEARS this INCREDIBLE musician, playing original songs and music. and he comes up and says " won't you be my back up singer? you know the band U2? oh we would love to BUY all rights to your songs. and BLAH BLAH BLAH!" and overnight i become a helicopter owner.

apparently bono, at a concert not too long ago, stood on stage very slowly clapping his hands and said " for every clap of my hand, someone is dying in africa." someone in the crowd shouted back " for godsakes stop clapping then!"

so everybody please visualize bono sitting at the blue heron tommorrow between 6 and 8 our time. and best i get my A into Gear and get a set or two together....ooooergh... whilst humming " and i still haven't found, what i'm looking for..."

Kitchen Board: Monday Evening: 2 June 2008:

Contributors: Janelle and Veronica

Comments: well. am not going to be able to complete shopping tommorrow for various reasons.

1. traffic. because there are many famous people in arusha for the sullivan summit (like 3000 more people - could this be possible??) the roads are jammed.

2. lack of cash.

3. i have a million things going on tommorrow. meeting gani the seamstress at 10:30 (urgently trying to get house into shape before older sister from singapore arrives. we have not seen each other in eight years, purely because of geographical distance and you can imagine i am DEAD excited about it all...suddenly everything around me looks so shabby...ripped cushions, kids footmarks on the walls, grubby couches oh the list is endless - oh ovens which have "things" growing in them..), shopping, have to get sound gear to blue heron for gig tommorrow evening. 12:30 gabby's poetry reading at her little school in the fever trees, back home to collect boys from school then back into town for gig with all children in tow because husband still on safari.

thank god we have tanesco tonight! YAY. toodely pip then! off to design set for tommorrows silly little gig...where i shall be scared. XX