Monday, January 4, 2010

living on pancakes and air

apparently i once said i could live on pancakes forever. it's a fact. i said it. many moons ago. i still reckon i could. with the appropriate fillings, of course. i love pancakes.

i was reminded of this, with the usual accompanying guffawing, in the hot sweaty flea infested armpit of Julius Nyrere Airport in dar es salaam after i said something equally silly. that i would never ever fly on an aeroplane again. ever ever again. only on my own private lear jet.

i am home, oh bestests, after haphazardly zig zagging my way from arusha - zanzibar - dar es salaam - lusaka - johannesburg - durban - lusaka - luangwa valley - lusaka - dar es salaam - pangani - arusha. using a flagrant variety of absurdly horrendous and little known commercial airlines. home on the little ngorobob hill which is emerald green and plush and quite full of herself - all swaying and sexy in the summer wind. the safari was glorious except for the flying bit. except for zambezi air and its foibles. which made you miss your connections and sit for hours dreaming violent thoughts: one hundred ways to kill people with a cricket bat (circa 1950). except for security gates where they lock you inside just in case you're going to run away. across the strip into the bush. what on earth? to where for godsakes?

now look here, if you don't let me out for a cigarette i am going to get really really really angry and could you please tell me what actually is the matter with the plane? whilst an angry mob crowded around demanding to see the pilot otherwise they would not get on the plane because obviously we would all get killed.

wide eyed the ticket tearer man mumbled, technical hitch.

but i thought they said it was something to do with a document?

ahem. well yes. there WAS a technical hitch but now they are waiting for someone for Civil Aviation to sign the piece of paper. and well, next please.

before this lovely little delay i had a wonderful welcome back to zambia, the land of my birth, where my father was born, where hazy childhood memories draw me back time and time again against all odds. the smell of the rain in the red dust. the endless forests. the nightjars and ghosts on the wind.

welcome back, the nice immigration man said, but you won't be allowed out the country.

wh--? don't be ridiculous. why ever not? she asks perplexed and edgily.

because you have the Old Passport. you need a biometric one.

now look here. i have a plane to catch to johannesburg tommorrow at precisely one twenty. the chances of getting a bionic pass---
a biometric.
what? whatever. i ain't gonna miss that baby for nothin' y'hear, smoke prettily curling twirling out her ears.

i am just warning you, the nice immigration man answered, his face wooden and tired. we won't let you out. you need an emergency travel document.

that meant a hasty visit to kent house, the passport office in downtown lusaka. kent house which hasn't changed an inch since 1962 and there is honestly nothing remotely hasty about it. it's really dark, musty, old and nasty, filled with sullen overworked and underpaid officials who really really hate doing anyone any favours. ever. all the angels from heaven were summoned. all the ones that were left. the tough ones. with immediate effect. i beamed love and love and love. i ran up and down cairo road like a crazed woman, racing up and down stairways in nameless buildings. i had precisely two hours. i have been a zambian forever. but still you need someone to recommend you. just in case you became congolese in between. but still you need everything stamped by a commissioner of oaths. in fact by two seperate commissioner of oaths. in case one is rubbish. but still you feel like a cheat. like someone's doing you a favour when they really shouldn't be. i sat leant up in a dark corner outside scary mrs zambian passport lady's office. she is really really really important. no one can breath without her. i sat crying. ish. she came out and sternly said, oh stop it while jake, who was on the phone said, cry more cry more.

i made it. and now i'm home on the hill with a bionic passport, living on pancakes and dreaming of my own lear jet. stepping out onto the strip like audrey hepburn without a passport even. with the president of the world, actually, opening the door for me. my handsome pilot in epaulettes and chopper pilot sunglasses smiling and saluting me as i step elegantly and all alone up the steps, quickly quaffing back a chilled prosecco and a slim little mini pancake prettily sprinkled in caviar before i disappear with a brief little wave at no one in particular behind me (the president maybe). i would finally be free from the indignities of flying commercial.

follow that plane, james. johnnesburg please james. as i settle back into my leather divan, seatbeltless, which smells ever so elegantly of chanel no.19. i close my eyes and dream of pancakes on take off.


wouldn't that be nice?

A Wood Man In Africa: 4 jan 2010:

he's either taken up rat hunting or mountain climbing. one or the other. both ridiculous new years resolutions.

well. you can decide how you want to feel about anything.

heri mwaka mpia yote. happy happy happy.

toodely and bisous freshly cut green grass ones X.X.X. j


family affairs said...

Welcome back darlin and I want to hear ALL about your gorgeous Luangwa Valley experience - Happy New Year - I can live on pancakes and pancakes alone (well and alcohol and fags) - where shall we meet in the world to eat pancakes?? Lx

Karen said...

Welcome back! So nice to read your voice again! :)


Joëlle said...

Welcome back Janelle and Happy New Year! xx

tut-tut said...

Quite, quite well put. happy New Year!

Bill Stankus said...

Let's see ... you've experienced Numbers 12,710 trough 12.900 of the reasons why flying is terrible. Ah, at last count the number of reasons is endless. 1956 was a much better year for airliners and airports, for certain.

SafariB said...

Mr wooden man is conjuring up magic. See... He is climbing up the mountain of "puff"... to bring you a lear jet with a wave of his wooden hand.

p.s. Dont you dare mention the smell of rain and nightjars at home again... from here in some godforsaken place you'll have ME the next one to be crying!

Lori ann said...

haha you sillybrilliantairlinephobic girl. i agree a private jet would be a less stressful way to go, but then you wouldn't have these amazing interesting stories to share here.
so glad you had a good time going home. i thought about you a lot.
happy new year honey,
lori ♥

Miranda said...

Ah, j'nelli its soooooo good to have you back. in the blogsphere and round the corner. now, some bloody COMMENTS please!

Angela said...

Did you get to see Pam?
We flew in one of those Zambian aircrafts, too, back in 1970, and I suppose they look and feel the same today. Scary and bumpy and making me airsick after five minutes. But seeing the Valley was worth it, no?

Mud in the City said...

So good to have you back! Can't wait for atmospheric tales of your adventures. Lear jet sounds ideal - bt when's someone going to invent some real ruby slippers so that i can click my heels and appear just where I want to be?

Val said...

so great to have you back - there was a hole in the blogosphere.. wow you did a lot of flying. well done on the bionic passport effort - no mean feat for sure! happy new year to you and yours xx

Dumdad said...

Welcome back to the barmy world of the blogosphere. We've missed you. Chez Dumdad we have a pancake machine that can make six separate mini pancakes at once so we all have our own grill and can make pancakes any-old-how we please and stuffed with whatever takes our fancy. Bliss.

Nancy said...

Flying is butt-numbing torture everywhere. Glad you had such a nice time in your homeland. I love pancakes, too. My husband makes very healthy ones - oats, wheat germ, blueberries - hmmm time for breakfast...

Janelle said...

thanks y'all. yeah its good to be back (like bad ole gary glitter liked to sing) that's for sure! thanks! sending love all round, lashings of it. x x x j

Anonymous said...

Eish, to travel in Africa! Sorry we didnt get to see you J, but I'm working on buying the Learjet (one day the European Lotto will have an African winner) and then we can drop in at will (unless of course Arusha airport's runway is still full of potholes).

Happy Happy
Tom Tomato

pam said...

Yes indeed. I see you now. A cool mid-calf length cream frock, high heeled chalkies, Jackie (or perhaps pulp fiction) sunglasses, and an, er um.., elegant long silver cigarette holder. Perfect.

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