Tag Archives: women

Promise…

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I wonder what the Statute of Limitations is on a promise?

Lets hope its only a year, because a year ago, I made a promise not to split, on pain of death!

Almost exactly year ago, we were called to a mine to find water…they had an English consultant tell them that the water from the (tiny) existing dam would be adequate! The moment they commissioned the new plant, management realised this evaluation was not even close to accurate.

They wanted to be panicking but they couldn’t, because they had all their investors and future buyers visiting! The place was packed with them, the first day we arrived, so we sort of sneaked in, spoke to the manager and the major shareholder and went about our business.

The orebody was mined until the mid 70’s when it was bombed during the war. The buildings were later used by a safari operator who held the hunting concession for the National Parks land. They built a “lapa” or large oval thatched building, (pictured below) to entertain their clients and when the property reverted to the mine, the new management used it to eat, and hold meetings; entertain investors!

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With a kitchen at one end and a game viewing platform on the other, the lapa faces the setting sun, across the vlei. To one side is a sunken fire pit with seats built around it. The hunting season, here in Zimbabwe, spans the winter months, and its cold! Sitting under the wide African skies around a roaring fire, singing along to a guitar, is a favourite with hunters.

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Right next to the kitchen are two ablution units, only one of which has a lock. With a thin common wall, they are not sound-proofed, each unit consisting of a loo separated from the shower by a low wall, (which is stupid really, because the water bounces off the wall and wets the loo seat, the loo rolls, your clothes etc…)

It’s pretty rudimentary, the pipes exposed and a hole in the wall for the water to drain out off. BUT for us, it was luxury. Most places we go, there is absolutely NO water, and certainly not a shower!

When I was shown the shower (the men’s ablutions, near the camping area are rather open plan!) I made a mental note to check for snakes. The number of times I have seen snakes in showers with a drain like that! Slittering along the outside wall, snakes head for a ‘dark hole,’ conveniently located near the ground, only to find themselves trapped inside a slippery cubicle.

The water is heated with this:

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It’s called a “Donkey boiler,” in most parts of the world, but here in Zimbabwe, its called a “Rhodesian Boiler.” As you can see, its only a few metres tall, so the pressure isn’t enough for more than one person to shower at a time.

The day we arrived, the lapa was packed with people and it was pretty difficult to catch everyone’s name and occupation. I didn’t like to ask a question such as “Are you an investor in this mine?” only to have the reply, “No I’m a metallurgist…!”

But by the third day, most of the investors had left and the remainder were mostly checking on the plant, fixing glitches, or like us, catching up on things that should have been done long ago.

Coming in from the bush, dirty and sweaty, I went into the unit with the door-lock (I’d been told repeatedly by the camp manager that although these showers were not for general use, some people still went into them, too lazy to walk to the ablution block) and began showering.

When I heard someone go into the unit next to mine, I immediately rinsed off. I’ve been left too many times with soap suds all over me when someone turns on a second shower, reducing the flow to a dribble.

I dried off and about to get dressed, heard a distressed squeak from next door followed by a very quiet, wavering howl, “help…please no…” Followed by something else in a language I didn’t recognise.

The guy was clearly terrified, he wasn’t making up that noise, I knew.

Convinced that a snake had slithered through the drain, I wrapped the towel around my boobs and dashed off to the next door unit. I opened the door to find a man crouched on the partitioning wall, pale and shaking – pointing into the shower. I carefully peered around the edge of the half wall, (anticipating a poisonous jet from a spitting cobra) but…no snake. Nothing at all in the shower cubicle.

Something had turned this guy into a gibbering wreck, but I couldn’t see what.

“What is it?” I asked.

He didn’t reply, only pointed at the opposite wall.

I couldn’t see anything until a water droplet landed and a teenie tiny spider, smaller than a daddy long legs, dashed over to it, hoping it was prey.

“This?” I asked the guy. He nodded and shuddered. He pointed to several more I had not noticed, one of them on the loo side of the unit!

I picked the poor thing up (the spider, not the guy) and pushed it out through the drain hole. I chased the one on the loo side up the wall and out of the room. I handed the chap his towel and helped him off the wall.

And through all of this, I didn’t laugh once, I swear.

A little uncomfortable with discussing creepy crawlies and the dangers of snakes in showers, while dressed only in a towel, I scuttled next door intending to dress and make my way back to our tent.

When I opened the door, I found the guy standing outside, already fully dressed and looking more human! With his clothes on, I took a longer look at him. Mid forties I guessed, slim, wiry build, about six foot, dark hair just going grey; big nose.

“I’m terrified of spiders,” he said and I nodded. Duh!

“Actually all creepy crawlies. I can’t stand this place…” he shuddered. “It’s full of them, and then last night the lions…” Again I nodded. The lions had come right into the camp and spent most of the night roaring and growling right outside our tent. A man who was scared of a spider must have nearly died of fright at that sound!

“I thought it was a snake…” I began, but stopped before telling him I presumed it had slithered in through the drain hole. It was obvious that it hadn’t occurred to him that we get snakes too, as well as the creepy crawlies he abhorred.

He thanked me, over and over, begging me not to tell anyone, all the while speaking in a low voice as if he were scared someone would over-hear.

He had me crowded against the door and just when I thought I’d never get away, the camp manager interrupted us, concerned that my shower had been cut short!

“He is a foreigner,” he said, after he had shoo’d the guy away.

“He doesn’t know that two people can’t shower with this kind of boiler. And anyway, he is supposed to  be showering in the camp ablutions there,” he said, pointing to a newly built block, visible behind the tents.

“I don’t recognise his accent,” I said.

“Oh, he’s Israeli. A minerals buyer,” he added. “Ex special forces. Extra tough guy.”

“He is?”

“Yup, all sorts of martial arts belts; can kill you with his bare hands, type guy. He goes all over the world buying, diamonds, gold, platinum…anything. You gotta be tough and able to protect yourself, be in dangerous places,” he added authoritatively. “And the Israeli Army is no walk in the park!”

Once again, I swear, I didn’t laugh!

I took my supper to the sunken fire pit and was immediately followed by this Israeli guy. He sat right next to me staring soulfully at me while I ate.

I tried to make conversation; change the subject away from spiders and lions. When that didnt work, I tried to talk to someone else, but he butted in, glaring and I guess since he had a reputation for being a scary type, the other guy backed off leaving me with Mr. Special Forces Man again!

I tried to make him laugh, to no avail! I could not get him to believe that I wouldn’t tell everyone I’d found him cowering in the shower! I couldn’t get him to change the subject either, away from creepy crawlies, or his HE man image. He told me over and over that he had spent years in the army, had killed people, infiltrated the enemy…blah blah blah

Clearly his enemy didn’t know, that all they need do, is throw a handful of spiders at their attacker and he would end up a jelly!

Staring deep into my eyes, he made me solemnly promise never to say anything to anyone about his fear of spiders. He insisted it would forever tarnish his reputation and he would lose the edge he had as a buyer of precious commodities! I got the feeling, that if I did break my promise, I’d be tracked down and made to pay!

Eventually I gave up trying to talk sense into him and went to bed but for a whole year, this story has been burning a hole in my brain.

I’m sure by now, Mr Special Forces Tough Guy has forgotten about his trip to darkest Africa, to the mine full of creepy crawlies, snakes and lions and women who gently persuade spiders to vacate the shower.

Well here’s hoping…!

What’s in a name…?

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What’s in a name…?

What does one take to the old age home? Pardon me: retirement village!

I had no idea. I asked my daughter. She looked around vaguely, shrugged and said, “I don’t know Mother. Not much. It’s furnished.”
My oldest friend and soon to be neighbour was much clearer.
“Memories, Sybil. Memories,” she said. “Your photos, favourite books, small knick-knacks. Anything that triggers a memory; good or bad. As we get older, we need those little reminders.”
I took her at her word; wandered around the house touching objects, testing if they were special. I chose a painting because it reminded me of a holiday in the Karoo, a glass figurine from Venice. All the photograph albums.
“What about the box of photos?” Dorelle asked. “The rejects that never made it into the albums.”
We finally hunted them down in the store room off the pantry, stacked high up on a shelf. We took them up to the lounge and sat together like schoolgirls, picking through them at random, laughing at some frowning at others, straining to remember why I’d taken them.
“Yes, bring them,” Dorelle said hunching over the box. “We will have plenty of time to work out who all the people were, boring neighbours with our stories.” She withdrew one from the box.
“Tell me about this one?” she said.
Frowning, I peered at the photo she held in her hand. It was old and faded, the edges curled; purple and pink, the image very hazy. A woman, walking away from an aeroplane, carrying a huge teddy bear. It wasn’t a posed picture.
“It’s definitely you. That’s your Teddy Bear.”
She was right. It was me, sporting a beehive hairstyle and the high, high shoes that gave me such bunions, toting my giant pink teddy bear. Where on earth was this photograph taken? I could see no buildings in the background to help me identify the airport. No trees, mountains or any other features.
I shut my eyes, trying to remember back when I could wear that sculpted outfit. It pushed my front up and cut off mid thigh. I snatched at a glimmer of a memory. Shopping for shoes. Choosing a conservative heel, only three inches, but I remember conceding, an elegant thin one with a pointy toe. I realised the purple-pink, brown haze wasn’t from the age of the photo. It had really looked like that and sitting in my air-conditioned lounge I experienced a hot blast; felt my skin prickle.
“Botswana. The photograph was taken in Botswana,” I said.
Dorelle glanced at me and settled back in the sofa.
“Holiday?” she asked in that tone she has when she intends to hear every embarrassing detail.
“Hitching Post.”
Dorelle was silent for a beat. Then she barked out a laugh.
I shrugged. What a disaster. The worst six weeks of my life. How could I forget?
“I was approaching thirty, Dorelle. I wanted to settle down. I didn’t want what I saw my friends do: get married, remain in the rat race. Work while raising children. I wanted to take my time, loaf around and look after them myself. I spent a weekend on a farm in the Magalies and I decided I would like to marry a farmer. It seemed a slow life, plenty of spare time.” Dorelle’s immaculate eyebrows disappeared into her fringe, but she said nothing.
“So I put an advert into the ‘Hitching Post’ in the Farmer’s Weekly.”
Dorellle pushed her hand against her mouth, biting at her knuckles.
“A guy answered. We corresponded for some time and I flew out to Botswana.” Holding my hands up in surrender I added, “Hey, I had it all sorted. I had a list of things I wanted.”
I counted on my fingers.
“I wanted him to have a house. A car, and live on a farm. And this guy wrote so enthusiastically about the farm, his work. He told me how beautiful it was: the acacia woodland, the miles and miles of open farmland.
“How was I to know that he meant thorn trees and nothing but barren dust, three-sixty? And do you know, Dorelle he really did like that; saw something beautiful in that endless, brown nothingness.
I thought all farms had green fields and white fences with sheep and cattle. I hardly saw cattle, other than when they were collected up. Then they made more dust; workers whistling and waving their arms about, cracking huge whips. I only went once; stayed in the car, swatting the flies.”
“At least he had a car?” Dorelle said and I pulled a face.
I tapped the photograph. “Shortly after he took this, he took me out to the car park. I remember looking around, and the only car was a clapped out thing, rusting along the doors, dust all over it. I think it was once upon a time a cream colour. Can you believe that? This was the car he had raved about,” I heard my voice rising. “The car he said could go anywhere and was the most comfortable one he knew for ‘the conditions.’” I made air speech-marks. “It would go forever, he said. Bloody looked like it had been going forever,” I muttered, still furious after forty years.
Sitting on my stylish sofa, I remember the urge I had to walk back into the air-conditioned airport; away from the dry, shimmering heat, that claptrap land-cruiser and the taciturn man carrying my suitcase.
“There wasn’t enough room in the front for my luggage. He just dumped it in the back; opened the door for me.”
“Well,” said Dorelle, her voice unsteady. “At least he had manners.”
“No. The door didn’t open unless you picked it up and yanked.” I said, and she laughed. “And then when it drove on the sand, because there is nothing in Botswana except sand and dust and thorns, it sort of swam along and the guy had to wrestle it to stay on the road. So we didn’t say much on the way to the farm.”
“What was his name?” Dorelle asked.
I pressed my fingers against my forehead digging deep, but I couldn’t remember. It was something odd; something exotic. Some sort of a beautiful animal. A bird I think… but a beautiful bird. With beautiful plumage. A bird that shows off with elaborate displays to attract a mate. I remember thinking a brown man, wearing khaki and a dirty old hat, shouldn’t have a name like that. He used conservative language, and only made the minimum effort to please. He didn’t posture, or show off. Or dress up.
“His first name was common, like John or Harry. But his surname wasn’t. Something like Parrot, or Swann. Partridge perhaps.” I shook my head, striving for recollection.
“Maybe it will come to you,” Dorelle said dismissively. “The house, Sybil. Tell me about the house.”
“It wasn’t painted white, it didn’t have a cute gable and no white fences anywhere,” I said sourly. “It had a veranda right around it with broken mesh that let in every creepy crawly for miles around when he turned on the lights. And the lights, Dorelle, only paraffin lamps. Or candles.”
“Oh, how romantic!” she gushed and I scowled.
“Yes, I could light the candles, but not those lamps. The only time I tried, I broke a fingernail and nearly set my hair alight. You see, he would sit out on the veranda smoking and watching the sunset and I couldn’t join him because the mosquitoes attacked me. He would sit there, puffing away and not one of the little blighters would chew him.
“I was scared to move about the house in case I stood on a snake. I couldn’t walk around very easily anyway, because I didn’t take any flatties. The shortest heels I had were the three inch ones I bought especially for the trip. And the maid spent ages shining the cement floors until they were so slippery, walking on them was hell. She did all the housecleaning and there was a cook too. I was bored to tears, Dorelle. I had nothing to read except that stupid Farmer’s Weekly, but I didn’t want to lie in my room in the dark.
“You had your own room?”
I nodded. “He had manners, I’ll give him that much. Actually,” I added, “I had to get the action going. If I hadn’t, we would never have got round to doing anything…” I broke off and a flush came up my neck, spreading from my chest. Dorelle jumped at it.
“What?”
“Even that!” I said angrily. “I cozied up to him one evening, intending to move the relationship to the next level and he asked me if I had the clap!”
Delighted, Dorelle leaned back against the sofa, giggling uncontrollably.
“Yup. He said the last girl he had been with had given him a dose, and he didn’t want it to happen again.”
“Oh, Sybil,” Dorelle moaned, dabbing at her dark mascara. “What a Philistine,” she added and I finally grinned at her. It was funny. Now. Forty years later; three husbands and several lovers ago.
“But don’t worry, for all his protestations, he was a dog after all. Like most men.
“We were invited by our neighbour for a braai. And let me tell you, it was not just down the road or anything. Getting there was sort of like the Dakar Rally. We left early, just after three and arrived after dark. There were a few other people there, and we all stood about talking…and our hostess positively drooled all over him. I can remember being furious. So much for Mr Polite Guy. On the way home, he had some BS story about how he usually didn’t visit them because she had the hots for him and he was principled and blah de blah…I got so cross with him…he told me that I should either shut up or walk. Can you imagine that?”
“So you got out and walked?”
I nodded.
“In your high heels.”
I nodded again and she sniffed into her hankie.
“He just drove off. Thank goodness his man jumped off the back.
“The only part of the entire visit I really enjoyed was listening to the guy crap all over his boss the next day; moaning about how he was not employed to chop leaves for me to walk on.”
Puzzled, Dorelle looked a question.
“He cut bushes and laid them down on the ground to protect my bare feet from the stones.” I explained and she grinned.
“At least someone had manners!”
“I’m not so sure about that,” I said. “When his boss muttered something like, it was either that, or explaining things “the African Way…” his man snorted and then spat, a long, brown disgusting spray and walked away.” I shuddered.
“I flew back to Jo’burg a few days later and not long after, I met Denzil.”
“You see,” said Dorelle. “You need to have something to jog your memory. Don’t forget to pack that box.” She hiccuped again and made another unsuccessful attempt at clearing her make-up.
“What a great story, Sibyl,” she said standing.

Packing the photographs back into the box, I realised the others he had taken during that six weeks must be in there somewhere. I scrabbled about, pulling one out.
Me, standing on the steps leading to the veranda. Another of me under a huge thorn tree near the gate.
Peering closer, I saw a dark blob on one side, high up in the branches. A bird had nested there, I remember; tall brown and scrappy, making its messy nest from thorns. Staring down at the photograph, I finally remembered the man’s name.

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Peacock. John Peacock

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Peacock
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Please have a look at my books.

Click here, to download the Amazon version of Silk Threads

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A Pale

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Books and Covers…

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The tiny blue sports car nudged into the parking slot at the very end of the line of cars. Hardly a parking, it was more of an awkward little space left between the pavement and a tree. The occupant reached over, scooping her leather hold all off the passenger seat. She didn’t need anything bigger today; no books required this afternoon. Good show I have this little car, not the Fortuner dad wanted me to have, she thought. No nipping into small first year parking slots with that great boat, at this time of the afternoon. Read the rest of this entry

Charity…

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Charity…

This, ladies and gents, is a story of human kindness, of romance and tragedy. It’s a story of love in a fictional place somewhere in post independent Zimbabwe. Let’s say it all happened in a village called Providence…a little place, fifty or so kilometers from Bulawayo. Read the rest of this entry