Monday, September 29, 2008

An experiment

How the elephant came to be

Once upon a time, long long ago, when the birds sang even louder at dawn than they do today, there was a destitute but optimistic young man who wanted to get rich. He had heard of a very powerful, prosperous and potent old man named Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor). The impoverished young man decided one day that he would travel across the mighty plains to find Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor). He said goodbye to his pretty, fat and gleaming wife and set off early one morning, when the birds were waking up and twittering and singing more than usual (as they did in those long ago days). He carried with him a leather pouch that contained some herbs and a calabash full of milk. He took his spear to kill animals that he would eat along the way.

Twenty three days the sun rose and twenty three days the sun set and still he walked.

And he walked.

And he walked.

He passed herds of Eland gracefully klopping into the distance.

And still he walked.

He saw skeins of birds flashing in the evening light.

And still he walked.

He heard the deep throbbing call of the Ground Hornbill at dawn.

And still he walked.

He passed thorn trees, he crossed dongas, jumped small streams and waded through fast-flowing rivers. He brushed away flies and stepped over logs and eventually on the twenty-fourth day he saw, shimmering on the horizon, an uncountable number of sheep and cows. And in the middle of the uncountable number of sheep and cows stood a magnificent radiant, gleaming palace. And sitting under a shady tree in front of the palace sat the wise, old and magic man called Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor). And he saw the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs and he cried:
“Poor man, who do you seek?”
And the poor man said:
“I seek Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor)”
And Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) said: “Look no further for it is I, sitting here under this lovely shady tree thinking about things big and things small”

And Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) ordered his men to give the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man (who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs) one hundred cows and one hundred sheep. For he did, indeed, feed the poor.

But the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man said:
“Old man, I do not want your riches or your charity, but I have walked across the plains for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs in order to meet with you and ask for the secret to becoming rich”

And Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) scratched his head and thought a while. For he was a wise man and wise men think and reflect on these things. And eventually he got up, stretched, scratched and shuffled into his mansion.

He came back a few bird-songs later with an ointment in a small glass bottle, wrapped up in a grey leather pouch. And he gave it to the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man (who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs) and said:
“This here is an ointment. Every evening rub this ointment on your wife’s pointy teeth in her upper jaw. Wait until they have grown, and then sell them.”

So the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man (who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs) thanked Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) and set off on his way.

And he walked back over the vast plains, for twenty three moon-ups and twenty three moon-downs. He saw a busy dung beetle, rolling a ball.

And still he walked.

He skirted a big, fat, happy-looking snake basking on a rock.

And still he walked.

He crossed the fast-flowing river, hopped over a stream and crossed the donga. He saw a whirlwind, chased a hare and saw a firefly. And eventually, after twenty three moon-ups, and twenty three moon-downs he saw his village in the distance, with his beautiful, fat, gleaming wife, bending over the fire cooking porridge. And he rejoiced at the sight.

That night they sat by the crackling smoky fire and he told his wife of his walk through twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs, of the uncountable number of sheep and cows, of the ointment in the glass bottle wrapped in a grey piece of leather, and the walk over twenty three moon-ups and twenty three moon-downs. And his joy at seeing his beautiful, fat gleaming wife bending over the fire cooking porridge.

So every night, for twenty three nights, the man rubbed the ointment on his wife’s pointy teeth in her upper jaw. And every morning her teeth grew just a little. Eventually, on the twenty fourth day her teeth were as long as his arm and he asked her if he could take her teeth out to sell at the market. And he did. And he managed to buy a herd of goats.

And again, every night he put the ointment on his wife’s pointy teeth in her upper jaw and again her teeth grew and grew and grew. This time faster and longer than before. But when the man asked his wife if he could now take her teeth out to sell, she refused. And she started to grow even bigger and even fatter, and her skin started to turn thick and grey and she burst out of the hut and ran off into the forest. And there she lived from that day on. And she gave birth to a child, a healthy happy child, who was also an elephant.

Her husband used to visit her in the forest but she could not be persuaded to come back although she did give birth to many healthy children, all elephants.

And this, dear friend, is how elephants came to be (long long ago when birds sang even louder at dawn than they do today), and how they are just as intelligent and clever as human beings.

A story from the Kamba in Kenya, noted by Jan Knappert (An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend - African Mythology) embellished by me. An experiment, something I’ve been thinking of for a while for a project I shan’t let on here. An honest opinion please. Really. Is it naafy, bla and so what? Worth pursuing?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You wouldn't necessarily think it but this is actually a meme

I first heard the phrase ‘kindred spirit’ in Anne of Green Gables. Man, I loved those books. My mother and I used to sit on the banks of the brown silty swirling Luangwa River, all set about with Nile Cabbage and hippos, under a huge towering ebony tree and she’d read me Anne of Green Gables out loud. All of them. How many where there – seven?

Anyway, I loved those reading sessions. I can still feel the dappled drowsy light on my skin and eyelids. We’d sit quietly, my mother reading softly to me… and sometimes a bushbuck would cautiously emerge from the bushes, stand still and breathe... in... out, shuffle around on the periphery and then hesitantly come and munch some mchenja fruit. It’s coarse fur quivering when a fly bothered it. Or the monkeys would climb the tree and drop mchenjas on our heads. Or a troop of banded mongoose would scurry past, scratching and shnoffling in the leaf litter for bugs and grubs. And I’d absently watch an inch worm or scratch an itchy bite while we sat there of an afternoon – those heady, drifty, home-school days. We’d sit in the shade and read, shifting our chitenjes to stay with the shade, startling whatever animal had come close to listen to the adventures of Anne of Green Gables.

And as the sun slowly dipped behind the winterthorn trees on the other side of the river (withthe elephants crossing in the distance) we’d smell the first whiff of baked potato from the Phyllanthus reticulatus - signifying evening, and we’d have to hurriedly pack up our chitenjes and hurry home before it got dark and the animals took the night shift. That chirrupy, hallucinogenic, crepuscular time. That time when we were no longer the masters of our world.

Ooooh boy, lets not get all nostalgic and sentimental here!

So dear red-haired-fiery-spirited Anne had a kindred spirit. Was she called Diana? I think so. Dark haired neighbour Diana. That idea – ‘kindred spirit’ fascinated me. It evoked sisterly friendship, sharing secrets, midnight feasts. In my teenage years I had no close close girl kindred spirits. We lived in a very remote area. I had adult friends, I had a sister, I had a smattering of friends in the village. All of whom I loved dearly know? I’d spend all day over there in the nearest village, chasing flies, flying pathetic mealie-meal bag kites, playing in the mud in Disgusting Den (we were the Filthy Five), rolling in the dust, having the best of times. But I never had my very own Anne-of-Green-Gables kindred spirit.

And then suddenly I did. I was all grown up by this time, but suddenly into my life walked F. My kindred spirit. She came to work in Luangwa and the moment we met it was BAM! Best friends, literally just like that. You know when you meet someone and you’re like “Hey I know you!” I felt like I’d known her all my life.

Oy ve but we got up to mischief.

So, that was very long, ambling, rambling preamble to this meme. Yes you wouldn’t think so huh? A meme. I got this from the delightful, inspirational and fabulous Mud:

1. Get your phone

2. Go to the address book

3. Look away.

4. Press any key up to three times.

5. Scroll down three times.

6. Look at the name there, tell the world about them.

7. Pass it on to three people.

So I did that and F popped up. Ha, I guess I haven’t really told the world about her. I’ve just told the world about me me me!! Hahaha. F is:
Very positive
Very fun
Very adventurous
Very one-of-a-kind

We worked for the same safari company and our boss (against his better judgment, but he was desperate) put us in the same safari camp for a few weeks. (May Luwi Camp never ever change. It is a six-bed grass camp in the middle of the South Luangwa National Park on the dry Luwi river bed. The most real, most fabulous bush experience you will ever get. I’m serious). F was running the camp and they sent me in as the relief walking guide. That was one of the funniest happiest times of my life. And that’s saying something. Oh bloody hell, there I go again. Oh and the boss needn’t have worried the guests had a BLAST.

F is also step-sister to my other deep soul sister and kindred spirit Janelle. We like to keep things in the family! As Tam says in one of her posts “The branches from Janelle's family tree tangled with those of my family tree long before I was born, and despite her claims that her dad is crap at making money, his claim to fame in my family is that when my grandad and her dad were business partners, my grandad made a profit for the first and only time in his life…. She's a wicked, soulful, wild hearted, poetic one of a kind queen and I am very lucky to share some cultural dna with her (we the lost daughters of colonial wildlife big game naturalists)” So with this description of Janelle out there how could I possibly compete. I don’t have the words. For Janelle or for F. All I can say is that they are great and I love them. And THEN some.

So enough about me, lets talk about me some more.

I think mud said we could CHOOSE which meme to do but heck give em both to me, I’m on a roll. You’ll be pleased to know the next one you’re only allowed to use seven words per question so you’ll be saved some eye-strain and headache….(coz rules is rules, you know)

1. Where Where You 10 Years Ago?
Running a bush camp, guiding, in the sticks (dam it that’s 8 words. Oops now 15. Stop stop)

2. What's on Your To Do List Today?
Buy furniture – the in-laws are coming!
3. What If you Were A Billionaire?
Uh huh. Yeah right, a likely story
4. Five Places You have Lived?
Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, dreamland
5. Three Bad Habits?
Procrastination, procrastination, procrastination
6. Snacks You Like?
biltong, biltong, biltong
7. Who am I tagging?
Tam, Janelle, Val, Geli (I know its, 4 I feel daring)

But you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to….

photo of Luwi by Francois D'elbee

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This one's for my pa

We should all appreciate, if we can, our fathers. I am lucky in that a) I still have one and b) he’s really nice. And he turns – well, I don’t really know how old he turns today, but anyway, it’s his birthday so happy days dad.

I think I was one of those rare teenagers who wasn’t embarrassed by their parents. My parents are seriously cool. Then and now. When I was about ten or eleven my dad bought this really funky little left-hand-drive short-wheel-base brown Land Cruiser. It had a canvas roof and sucked in the dust like a reverse vacuum cleaner. We got chased by a mamba once in that car. Another story another time (or have I told it already?) So my parents used to pick us up for half term and school holidays in this cool dust sucking car and everyone at school thought my parents were soooo cool (“Oh my god, your mother listens to a walkman? That’s so coool” To be fair this was 1980’s Malawi under the Banda regime where men were not allowed to have long hair and women had to wear skirts. Or go to prison – seriously! So a strange breed of people there anyway) Having said that I was, just briefly, embarrassed by the lovely beaten up maroon Volvo that we had in South Africa – the one that the homeless guy used to sleep in? But only for a few months. I grew to love that car too!

Oh there I go getting distracted again. Where was I oh yes, the brown cruiser (which my dad still has). People used to stop my dad in the streets in Lusaka and ask him if he was Maguiver!! Remember him! Ha ha! Once again though, this was 1980’s Zambia so…..

Last time I was in Lusaka I stayed with my dad and he dug up some old newspaper clippings that I’d never seen before. Pictures of him and my mom as serious long-haired-pot-smoking-guitar-playing hippies in 1970’s (or even 60’s??) Jo’burg. Selling their art on the street and protesting against apartheid. Getting arrested, getting in the papers for living in a mixed race commune (shock horror) and then sleeping on the street in protest when the government tried to pull the house down. Climbing lampposts with signs saying “Remember Sharpeville”. Getting arrested. I’ll have to scan them and post them one day.

So anyway, since we should all appreciate what we have I would like to say this:

For my genes
For my jeans
For teaching me everything I know about motorbikes
For not involving us in your divorce
For introducing me to Bob Dylan
For walking me down the aisle
For giving me my freedom
For giving me the best sister I could dream of
For my education
For your hilarious songs
For being Ray (Ray will pay)
For my sense of self
For my perfect childhood

Thank you, thank you and thank you again. And happy birthday

Oh and one thing you can take back? The indecision, please. That you can keep. I think. Well, maybe it’s okay. I guess its good to see things from both points of view. Is it? I don’t know. Maybe.

All pictures by my dad. For more info on them click here

Wedding photo by my talented and fabulous friend Mr. Dom Lever

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to pass the time of a rainy Arusha morning

The task at hand. Buy electricity.

Go to Tanesco (the electricity company).

Its raining. Stand in queue for ten minutes. Dust off the Swahili. Exchange polite greetings with lady behind the counter.
“No electricity” she says
“Yes, no electricity” I say (I’m here to buy a prepaid voucher)
“No, I mean, no electricity” She points up to the lights.
“Oooh, no electricity”
“Yes, no electricity. Wait for a few minutes”
Okay. I go and sit in car for ten minutes, listen to funny man on radio. Peer in, still no electricity.

Drive to “Meat King”, the butchery up the road. I wish they’d call it something else. Buy some meat. Don’t get distracted by all the fancy fluffy pretty homemade rusks, pasta. Oooh biltong. Focus. Focus.

Pop over to bike shop across the road. They greet me like long lost friend. I have been in there quite a few times since I bought my bike. Clutch cable, grease, bla bla. This time. Cable for speedometer. "We don’t have it now. Come back later."
"Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow."
"No come back later."
"Okay. How much will it be?"
"TSH10,000 ($8ish) "
"Okay, I’ll probably come back tomorrow"
"Or later."
"See you tomorrow"

Back to Tanesco. Wait in line for twenty five minutes. Get to the front. More polite greetings to lady behind counter.
“Hmm, no your account is blocked. Walk outside and go round the side of the building to room seven. They will unblock it for you.”
Turn collar up against the rain, hop over the puddles and get to the other side of the building.

Go to room seven. Oh. First, sign in. Smile at man as he pushes in front of you. He signs in. You sign in. Wait in corridor outside room seven, with eight or nine other people. Wait about thirty five minutes. Pretty lady in red jacket who was in front of you in queue comes out of room seven. Your go. But another man pushes in before you. You go in too. Fuck it.

Greet lady nicely who is behind the desk in room seven. She unblocks your account. Try to go back outside but are stuck behind massive man who is blocking the doorway and can’t decide if he’s brave enough to step out into the drizzle. Urge him on in your mind. “Go on, you can do it”. Wait for a couple of minutes behind him. Ah, must be more assertive, so say ‘excuse me’ and push past. Re-dodge the puddles. Back into the other side of the building. Woow, how did the line suddenly get so long? Wait in line to pay for electricity. Ten, twenty, twenty five minutes pass. A second queue of pusher-inners is forming. I scowl at them. They ignore me. The nice lady behind counter tells them to join the queue (yesss!) Surprise myself that I have taken a silent stance on the pusher inners today. Usually I bellow. Guess I can’t be bothered today. Old lady with strange medieval, middle-ages-type get up (hair in very high bun covered by orange scarf) humphs and tries to push in front of me. I edge closer to the man in front of me, making a stranger sandwich. She tries to get her foot in. I tread on it. Not hard. By mistake, you understand. A battle of wills. I win. She goes to back of queue, grumbling. Queue moves slowly. Now only one person in front of me, nearly done, hurrah. Lady behind the counter looks up, sees me says, no, they didn’t unblock you properly, go back to room seven. Um, did I understand correctly? Is my Swahili failing me? "Sorry, did you say go back to room seven?" "Yes."

Oh. Okay.

Back out into the rain and past the swiftly growing puddles. Back into the queue outside room seven (see a pattern forming here?). Random lady comes and pushes in front of me. Ah. Whatever. Just bloody get in front of me I don’t care. Ten or eleven people in the queue outside room seven. The lady with the strange medieval getup has also been sent here. She tries to push in front of me again. I scowl at her. Man behind me says, no the queue is here. The government-blue door opens and all pretenses are swept aside as we all crush into the room at once. It’s a very small room. We don’t all fit. The man behind the counter fires off in rapid Swahili. I catch “the computer here and the computer in Dar are not aligned today…like an ATM…wait for a while…..maybe ten o’clock….maybe eleven o’clock…..” He looks at me. “Did you get that? Do you understand Swahili?”
“Sure!” I say “I got that.”

Well. I think I did. But whatever the case I’m fuckin’ outta here. But I’m now squashed in the middle of the room and can’t get out. The rude medieval lady is elbowing, but ELBOWING people out the way so that she can get in front. Pushing and squeezing. She bumps into me and jabs me in the ribs. Hard. And again. I see a gap in front of me, I swell my chest out and step into the gap, blocking her way. She pushes. I push. She huffs, I huff. She wriggles, I stay steadfast. She moves her body sideways so that she can get in the gap. I move out the way. And out the door. She stumbles into the front of the room.

Things to do when you’re bored.

Customers – push, shuffle, play ‘Snakes’ on phone (until you realise you’re easy bait for pusher inners). Test out passive aggressive skills on pushy ladies who should be in a medieval queue a few centuries ago but is so effective she’s made it to the 21st Century.
Staff – see how long you can send customers back and forth in the rain before they give up and go home.

Oh and I could have gone back to pick up my cable from the bike shop, this all took so long. But I forgot. Ah well. Tomorrow. I'll have to back for the electricity anyway.

The power of none

I went to TANESCO (Tanzania National Electricity Supply Company or summin like that) to buy some electricity today (we’re on prepaid) but I couldn’t get any because there was no electricity to print off the voucher.



Monday, September 22, 2008

The theatrics of working (or the workings of theatrics?)

Oh time to get off the sidelines and join the game. The fray.

I haven’t been able to properly work since we moved to Tanzania, which has been great for blogging but not so good for the pocket or the mental health.

But. BUT. My work permit has finally come through. WooHOO! Let the games begin….


Where do I start?

I have things in the pipeline. I was supposed to start training a drama troupe and creating a play last week but ho hum lots of delays bla bla bla. So nothing on that front yet. And I have to go back to Zambia in October to check on my company there, write a play and a radio drama for them, dash back. But in the meantime I need something to DO. And since I can now work without the immigration bods chucking me in jail I can get cracking.

When I first got here I helped out for a bit with a troupe of street kids who are being taught acrobatics by the Fantastic Mr. N. He is mid 40’s I guess, Tanzanian, has an incredible repertoire of body (and mind) twisting stunts under his faux leopard-skin belt. (That’s actually fax leopard skin shorts he wears when he performs but I wrote that and it came out all wrong!). He spent much of his childhood in China training and performing. So today I went to go and see him (and the 4 street kids he trains) and we plotted.

We’ve been plotting for a while now actually…but now…hopefully we can start. After next week when Ramadan is over and he’s stopped fasting.

Oooh, am I giving away to much information over the world wide web? (That’s a great voice exercise to do. W W W dot world wide web dot com) Perhaps I shall shut up until this beast is off the ground. Don’t want to jinx it.

But I shall say this:

It shall be fabulous

It shall be riveting

It shall be spectacular

It shall be a feast for the eyes...

...and the soul

It shall be like nothing this town has ever seen

Edinburgh Festival here. We. Come.

Our brand of theatre is exciting, simple, clever, physical, visual. And THIS, my friends shall be no exception. THIS shall be Seka with an extra acrobatic twist.

Pics are one of Seka's plays in Zambia called Kusanga

**Oh and Seka? She's a porn star. This we did not know when we named our company in Zambia! So if you want to google Seka and you don't want porn star details, then put theatre or zambia or something in the search bar as well as Seka. If you DO want to see porn, just go straight ahead and google Seka. She's got massive knockers.**

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pondering the Paranormal

Crystal Jigsaw asks this in her blog (Ernest please note I finally figured out linking!!! This makes me very very happy!):

In light of the novel I am currently writing, what are your thoughts on the paranormal? Does it scare you, fascinate you, fill you with dread, enlighten you? Does it make you ask if there really is more to this life, or does it simply make you shake your head in disbelief? It would be interesting to me, to know your opinions. Many thanks, CJ xx

I started replying in her comments box and realised what I was trying to write was waaay to long so a post on it instead.

The paranormal. Are you a believer?

I have never really had a proper experience of this. I sometimes feel eeeee something prickly on the back of my neck, on my shoulder, I’m sure we all have, but I’ve never seen/felt/smelt a ghost per se. I know lots of people who have though. My story is a dream. I have wonderful fantastic multi coloured happy dreams. I have had about 6 nightmares in my life (and they’ve all been about lions. Even though I’m not scared of lions in real life. If I were being really tweety bird maybe I’d say I was killed by one (or a tiger) in a former life. Scoff scoff, I hear you say)

So anyway back to my dream. A few years ago my best friend from childhood, Johnny, was killed by an elephant. 6 months later another friend, Q, died in a helicopter crash. I accompanied Q's body to the airport. It was all pretty gruesome and I was worried that I would have bad dreams that night. I pictured myself unable to sleep with flashes of images I’d seen that day flickering through my brain like a newsreel.

The dream I did have, though was very vivid and very very comforting. I was walking behind the kitchen, outside, and saw Q standing behind an invisible but very present line.

“Oh my God, Q, what are you doing here? How ARE you?” I asked
“Fine” he said “I am having SUCH fun here. Its amazing” He was animated and excited. Bubbling.

And we both squatted down, on each side of the invisible line, and from his fingers came these blue blue gorgeous flames. And he made a teeny tiny fire. He then grabbed one of the sticks from the fire and thrust it into my knee. And it was cool and soothing and peaceful. And he quickly made it all disappear as if he shouldn’t be showing me this. I asked him if he’d seen Johnny and he looked across his shoulder and suddenly I could see everything on the other side of the ‘line’. People standing around, some having a barbeque (?) just having a really good time. And then Q looked back at me and they were gone. He told me (without saying anything) that he’d just got there and had seen Johnny briefly who asked him to ask/tell me something about a motorbike (which makes no sense to me, then and now) and he is fine and very happy. There was more but that’s the essence of it.

And I woke up feeling like I’d been bathed in warm oil, from the inside out (it was a good thing!) I felt so at peace and fulfilled and unworried. They were okay. They were happy. Happier, in fact.

And I went back to sleep smiling.

And had exactly the same dream all over again.

(On a side note, just coz I loved this dream. Shortly after Johnny died I had wonderful dreams of whizzing through the traffic with him, a couple of metres off the ground, carefree and happy and unafraid. Through busses, dodging cars (even though they couldn’t hit us anyway). It was exhilarating. )

So. Whaddaya say? Just a dream? Vivid imagination? A chink in the layers that separate us?


Oh while we’re on this subject. My mother, a few years ago, had to have an operation and went under general anesthetic. There were rumours of dodgy imported half qualified Thai anesthetists working in Lusaka at the time and we knew two people who had woken up in the middle of an operation. (aaah, can you IMAGINE?). Anyway, so my mother goes under in the middle she wakes up. Although she hasn’t. She looks up and sees the operating light above her. And she starts to go towards it. It feels so good. So peaceful. Suddenly everything makes sense. I am done, I am happy, I am content, I am coming home. She sees people behind the light. All peering out at her, welcoming her in. But her father (who died a few years before) steps out and stops her. “No, go back. You are not yet finished. Go back”. When she wakes up the doctors are all acting very very strange. They will not allow visitors in to her (but they will to other people). The operation was on her urethra but her chest is really very sore. No-one will look at her. She is discharged and goes home. A few days later she asks her doctor friend about her sore chest and he says it sounds consistent with whatever they do to bring you back to life. He had all the terms of course. I do not. Near death? Or just the drugs?


Your thoughts please…

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On my day as an extra

A friend
of a friend
who is also now a friend

T, has written a black comedy series called Taking the Flak, about a fictional country in Africa, journalists, war – I’ve only read part of the script but it looks great. She’s also producing it and it’ll be aired on BBC 2 I think in 2009. Anyway she asked me if I could be an extra. A “glamorous and sexy journalist called Saskia.” Hmmm. Not sure I can pull that one off but I gave it a go… And it was fun. Oh such fun. So spent the day (and night) shooting on a rooftop in the middle of town. Ah, what a fabulous view it was. The mountain was out in full splendour (Mt. Meru, forgotten little sister of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Gorgeous in her own right and massive), the Jacaranda trees are just starting to bloom and the day was glorious.

And when it got dark the full moon was up - happy, fat and looking to burst with pride at her world below.

I got to the hotel in the morning and was whisked away to the makeshift costume room in the hotel. Took me right back to drama school and the wardrobe there. (I specialised in directing and costume and set design for my last year, hoping to get away from the prima-donna actors and dancers but alack, alas in the wardrobe it’s even worse. Coz they don’t want to look ugly. And they kick up such a fuss. And this was only drama school! Bloody prima-donnas. Directing was a better coz you just tell them what to do and they have to listen. Nyahaahahahah.) Anyway so the costume lady, G, was really really nice and we tried on a few things and eventually settled on an itsy teeny skirt that kept doing some impressive Marilyn Monroe stunts. Up on the blustery rooftop. Heh heh.

There was a guy in the costume room, heavily made up (he came in like that) trying on all these boots and making poor G run around after him. Each pair she brought he’d try on, sigh, roll his eyes, throw them to one side and say “too small” “too big” and eventually “These will have to do”. And she was being so nice and patient. Then he did the same with hats. "Ah gawd, famous person syndrome” I thought. Must be one of the lead characters and has just flown in from the UK.

We get up to the roof the eyeliner guy starts getting into character (and saying loudly “I was carefully cast for this role because I look the part”). The crew and other actors, looked around at each other confused, like “who is this guy?” It turns out that he is to be my (Saskia’s) cameraman, along with another (really nice) bloke who is actually the accountant and just filling in. So he says to the nice accountant bloke, S, “so what exactly are we doing, what must I do? What is my character like?” and S says, “oh, nothing really just when the cameras roll walk from one side of the set to the other. It’s not a big deal”. The dude gets really cross. “I need to get into character for this you know”. I don’t want to be too mean about the bloke. And I could. There’s lots I could say! At first I thought he must be a real prick but by the end of the day just realised he was just really…well… …not all there, you know? I don’t think he means to be like that. He just is. I have a tendency to attract weirdos to me. I try to be all understanding and sympathetic (especially if everyone else is mean to them) but it usually just lands me in trouble (most often in the guise of offers of sex. Noooo, thank you). So this day I just kept quiet around him. And anyway he was far too important to talk to me.

So on the rooftop they had two little blue tent awning things that had tea and water and biscuits under (I know how organised is that!) And every hour or so they’d have to change the camera angle and the tents needed to come down and all the kit needed to be moved. And – get this- they had people to do this for them. I kept trying to get in to help until I realised that I was just getting in the way. I’m just really not good at sitting and watching people work around me without helping. That’s not to say I jump in every time I see labourers on a building site (Jeez, I’d never get anything done) but in this situation, I dunno. Maybe just coz I’m used to being on the other side. And of course I was also trying really hard not to be a prima-donna which must have been really annoying.

And every time you finished your scene or were waiting to go on someone would come with an umbrella and stand over you with it. This made me feel mighty uncomfortable. I’m an extra for goodness sake. I don’t even have any lines. I’m fine, really I don’t need you to hold an umbrella over me. And then they bring you water and give you a fleece at night when it was cold.

And everyone was so nice! The famous actor people, the director, the lovely makeup lady and costume lady. All so lovely and they even remembered my name!

I kept asking T “So that guy over there – is he like, famous? What’s he been in?” And T would patiently say “well, he has been in Titanic and …..” and go on to list a whole long list of things he’s been in. And her? ‘Oh….” And another long long list. Oh. I need to watch more tele. “No,” said T “it just shows you have a life”. Well, yes but if you knew how much time I spent blogging…..

And then towards the end of the evening, at about 10 at night I feel a biig old fart brewing. I am famous for my farts. I can clear rooms and probably factories too. And a rooftop full of BBC crew and actors – no problem. So I kept having to go off and stand in the corner hoping nothing would happen. And then because all these people were so nice they’d come up and ask if I was okay. “Yes yes, fine! Just keeping a fart in.” I didn’t ever say that, perhaps I should have.

Just so you know. It was fine. I didn’t and we’re all still alive and all. That would have given them all something to talk about and taken the spotlight off the weird guy. Hey, maybe I should have just gone and stood next to him, farted, looked horrified and walked off. Hahaha!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hanging out to dry

Looking through my old pics trying to find some more shop art for ya'll and I came across these photos that I took in Mozambique a couple of years ago. It tickled me at the time. And now, actually.
Went to rural Mozambique to train a drama troupe there. A surreal trip all in all, I'll have to tell you about it one day. For now, though, these funny epaulettes hanging out to dry.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Predictive text and stoopid jokes.

I just got a text from a friend inviting a bunch of us out to dinner tonight. I replied saying:
"I think we'll just meet you for drinks and then duck if that’s not too rude"
Although of course on predictive text it said:
"I think we'll just meet you for drinks and then fuck if that’s not too rude" Oh dear!!!

Yesterday on the news the second in command of Korea kept saying that Kim Jong-il is fine. Despite rumours, there is nothing wrong with his health. I was listening to the news driving through the traffic and kept chuckling to myself and slapping my thighs saying "Kim Jong is not ill" ha ha ha ha. And cackling furiously. I kept telling everyone who would listen but they either just looked blank or didn't think it remotely funny.

Do you? C'mon, just a little?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Say aaahh. AAAAAHHHH!!

I have the beginnings of a nagging toothache. Nag nag nag. 

I’m not particularly scared of going to the dentist - I have been to some interesting ones over the years.

First there was Dr Dodds. Who my father used to pay in paintings. He was a kindly man, I don’t remember much about him except that he gave me one of those cool little dentist mirrors. Which was pretty fab. And I remember being able to chose my very own present after going to him as a kid and I got a gold dinky car that I LOVED. Until I ran an ant over by mistake and felt TERRIBLE. He got Alzheimer’s and used to come into his practice all confused. I felt so bad for him.

Then there was the 7th Day Adventist dentists (yes) who used to practice on me. My mouth is full full of fillings. Little na├»ve thing that I was at boarding school in Malawi. Every time I went to the dentist – like once a month – they’d give me two or three fillings (I kid you not) and tell me to come back next month. So the next month I’d go back and they’d drill a bit more and call in their colleagues and use big words thinking I wouldn’t be able to understand and prod a bit more and chuck a couple more fillings in. And then sometimes they’d just take out the old fillings and redo them. And I didn’t think this was fishy? No, I guess not. Until they told me I needed 6 fillings and to come back next week. After this I thought, no bugger it, I won’t. So next time we went to South Africa I went to another dentist and he said ‘no, your teeth are fine, you don’t need any fillings, let alone six!’

Then there is the Korean guy in Lusaka who seems to only know one word in English – PAIN? Or was he just saying PAIN! He looked pretty gleeful when he said it. Over and over again.

The Chinese lady who loves root canal. Just say no to that one and she’ll say ‘oh, okay’ and give you a normal filling. I only found this out from other people after the fact. She pulled the nerve out and wriggled it in front of my eyes saying ‘Nerve! See! Nerve!’ It was pretty cool, actually. A bit gross but cool.

The guy in Cape Town who shouted at me. Don’t want to talk about him. Wanted to basically pull all my teeth out and start again. Didn’t like him! Which reminds me of this story.

My uncle got kicked in the teeth by a dead buffalo a few years ago (don’t ask!). So one of his front teeth was wriggly or out, I forget which. He asked his business partner if he could recommend a good dentist. Sure, he said and gave his details. So my uncle goes to this dentist and says that he has this wiggly tooth can he fix it? Somehow the next thing he knows my uncle has had ALL of his teeth pulled out and needs implants. But first he needs to walk around with NO teeth for 6 months. So my uncle tells his business partner that he didn’t think much of the dentist he recommended to which the business partner replied “You didn’t mention my name did you? Because he caught me in bed with his wife!” True story! My uncle thinks it’s pretty funny. Now that he has his teeth back. It cost him a FORTUNE.

So although I’m not particularly scared of going to the dentist (it seems I should be) I think I’d better wait until Ramadan is over, don’t you think? Because if my nice new Muslim dentist is anything like me when I haven’t eaten in a while……

Stay. Away.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Kiss me Kate

Aren’t you glad we don’t still live in the times where men threw gloves at each other and challenged duels at dawn?

Or whatever it was they did. Rather peculiar wouldn’t you say?

Do you think that kind of thing really happened? The ten steps on a misty morning, turn around - Bam! Oops missed, oh blast, aaaahhh gurgle gurgle, tell Kate I love her. Dead.

The pale skinned, curly haired siren of your affections waiting in the turret, chewing nervously on her knuckles wondering which man it will be that’ll come and sweep her away.

Was thinking about it yesterday, and wondering what I would do in that position. If challenged to a duel at dawn. With a shitty old gun that wasn’t an AK47 or anything. Would I turn around before the ten steps were up and shoot? Would I, at step three, duck down, lie on my belly and wait for the rascal to turn around? Enjoy the look of surprise on his face when he can’t see me and then shoot? Hide in a bush? Run awaaaay?

Who am I kidding, I’d probably never even get to that stage. I’d just say, “Oh, um excuse me, it appears you dropped your glove at my feet. Here you go. Should be more careful with your things” and run like hell. Reputation be damned. Plenty more Kates in the sea

What would you do?

I had to tell you this!

Yesterday I made some DEEELICIOUS chocolate mousse (go figure) and one of the eggs had TWO yolks in it! How auspicious is that! This may be a common occurrence – I’m not much of a chef – but I don’t remember seeing that before. Ah, bugger, I forgot to take a picture. And the mousse is in my tummy already.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

So where are you from? No where are you reeeaally from?

In Africa, the question I have learned to dread over the years is ‘so where are you from’ for the guffaws that follow my defensive answer.

For instance:
A few months ago I went to go and see some actors, looking for people to work with once my company is up and running. I went into the stuffy little office, fan blowing wildly. The director was leaning back in his chair having his hair braided, too cool to be true. I tried to explain, in my halting (but getting there) Swahili that I’m from Zambia and I…
Him: From Zambia, huh. You’re not from Zambia.

Scorn on his face. He looked ready to spit.

Oh here we go again. I find this so very tedious. So the conversation goes like this:

Random person: Where are you from?
Me: Zambia
Random person: No, where are you reeeaally from? You are not Zambian. You are white.
Me: Well, I was born in South Africa
Random person: Uh huh
Me: I have lived in Zambia since I was a few months old.
Random person: Uh huh
Me: My mother was born in Malawi (but grew up in Zambia), my grandfather was born in Mozambique (spent all of his adult life - 60 years - in Zambia), my grandmother (and great grandmother) was born in India.
Random person: Uh huh
Me: My father was born in Germany, but I’ve-
Random person: Ah! You’re German.
Me: Part of me yes, although I don’t speak the language and I’ve never been there.
Random person: No, you’re German.
Me: Okay, whatever.

I am something of a mongrel. As far as I know my bloodline goes like this:
Father: German. Easy. I think (Geli?)
Mother: A mix of English, Irish, Welsh, East European, probably Jewish. All lost in the swirlings and eddyings of time. In some record book somewhere I guess.

In truth I have always felt completely, wholesomely and wholeheartedly Zambian. I grew up in a very rural, very small cul de sac of the county. An area my grandfather moved to (from neighbouring Malawi) in the 1930’s. He held a Zambian passport. The first president came to his funeral. Our family are accepted there as part of the community – my uncle is headman of our village. I lived in this gorgeous magical place for thirty odd years; I was initiated into womanhood as a Kunda (the tribe there) girl.

I first stepped foot off African soil just short of my 21st birthday. However all this is complicated and betrayed by the colour of my skin. Sad but true.

Ernest ( challenged everyone to write their life story in 6 words. Mine was “Right continent, wrong colour. Oh well.”

Everywhere I go people shout “Mzungu, mzungu” (white person, white person). Usually in Zambia I would give as good as I got, and people would either get really embarrassed and ashamed or just laugh and say “Ah, you are one of us!” but here my Swahili is not up to scratch (yet!) and a white person speaking Swahili is somehow not as shocking as an mzungu speaking Chinyanja!

Now I KNOW I am defensive about this and I probably shouldn’t be but it really pisses me off at times. Not always. Usually I just laugh and say “whatever” but sometimes it just feels like buffalo beans under my skin. Can you imagine me going up to a black person in London and saying “Hey, black person. Where are you from. You’re not from here” Can you imagine? It makes me cringe and go all cold, just thinking about it. But this happens to me here all. The. Time. Sometimes with disdain sometimes just out of curiosity.

Oh I so don’t want to get tangled up in this. It is a very very very complicated and explosive issue, with colonial history and all sorts of shit behind it. But frankly I think that discrimination is discrimination and to accept it is wrong. I think it somehow it is complicit to just shut up and accept it. It’s almost saying “ah, they don’t know what they’re saying, lets just keep quiet” or “Oh, because of how terrible colonialism was I deserve that comment” No! Bollocks, I say! Bollocks! Yes colonialism was heinous, monstrous and atrocious but I’M not a colonial. My parents and grandparents, yes they lived in colonial times, but they did no wrong. And even if they did it wasn’t ME. I did not lead an isolated childhood, (or adulthood) separated from the other kids in the area. I am very much a part of the community and having ranted on and on about this I’d like to say that in the part of Zambia that I’ve lived all these years I do not get these comments. If a new person comes in to the area and says “who is that white person” people usually say “that’s not a white person, that’s Miranda” So I guess I'm just...ah, I don't know what I'm trying to say.

Okaaay, I’m going to shut up now!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I need a tan

It looks like summer is finally here. Hurrah! Yesterday I caught sight of my reflection in a window and thought, “OH look an albino” But no, it was me…

Monday, September 1, 2008