Hugh Paxton’s Blog continues the serialisation of The Diary of Abbot Buggly, an account of the first year of a young girl’s life in Namibia.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: News Shorts.
Namibia’s female soccer team, The Gladiators, is unlikely to astonish the world by sweeping the field clean come the Beijing Olympics.
But The Gladiators have just astonished Namibia.
On the evening prior to an Olympics qualifying match with South Africa’s women’s squad, Banyana Banyana, some of the girls stayed up late into the night watching pornographic movies on their hotel’s pay per view TVs.
Not just a couple of pornographic movies; six pornographic movies !
The next day, exhausted by this marathon, they lost 13-0.
The coach, Lucky by name, distinctly unlucky by nature, was given the boot.
In a return match with Banyana Banyana here in Namibia, The Gladiators compounded their disgrace by losing 13-1.
The sad irony of the affair is that if The Gladiators hadn’t vocally refused to pay their pay to view bill (N$800) the hotel wouldn’t have then publicly printed out the list of movies watched as evidence.
They’d still have lost 13-0. But that would merely have earned them a slot on the back page of The Namibian newspaper.
Instead they made front page and those of them who keep scrap books can paste in the banner headlines, “Gladiators prepared for key match by watching porno.”
Wendy, who was half watching two crazed Lesbians from “Somewhere Shameless, Tenessee” trying to kill each other’s cheating lovers on Gerry Springer (Wendy is a fan of Gerry Springer) huffed with disgust as she read of The Gladiators fall from Grace.
But otherwise there was no comment. The grappling lesbians now had her full attention.
If America wants to make a fool of itself, that’s entertainment. If Namibians do the same, it’s a private disgrace and shameful.
In other news, the Skeleton Coast has just acquired some more skeletons. The Skeleton Coast is one of the most striking, desolate, human-life threatening landscapes on the planet.
If you are a tourist, with your act together, this is its attraction. You drive in your air conditioned cocoon with your cooler box stuffed with ice and water and soft drinks or perhaps a bottle of crisp white South African wine and a Tupperware container filled with sandwiches or cold roast chicken, slices of ham, jellied beef tongue, perhaps a honeydew melon, and you cruise north of Swakopmund in your car.
You don’t even need a four wheel drive. This loneliest of roads is smooth, driving off it is prohibited (though you can stop and walk at any time, just don’t get lost) and as you drive, on every side there is a fantastic abundance of nothing.
Nature shaved bare. Raw. Ruthless. Gravel plains where nothing grows but lichens, moonscapes, towering Barchan dunes, all swept by the merciless eye of the sun by day and chilling sea fog by dawn, dusk, mid afternoon, and night.
There are plenty of skeletons on the Skeleton Coast; rusting hulks of shipwrecked merchant men, surrounded by raucous, stinking herds of bellowing Cape fur seals; the lonely and corroded debris of exhausted diamond mines; the forlorn graves of dead aborginals unearthed by the wind to reveal stick thin ribs; whale bones, bleak and huge; yes, the place is aptly named.
It is also used as a dumping ground for stowaways by budget-conscious captains of tramp freighters plying the wild west African shipping lanes.
Stowaways are a ship owner’s nightmare. International law stipulates that if stowaways are discovered, the ship must be impounded until the owners have organized and paid for the repatriation of the illegals. If the stowaways then claim refugee status things can become protracted.
Time is money. Particularly for cargo ships.
So, find a stowaway ? Skip the paperwork. Chuck him over the side. The odds of him (or her) making it through the gauntlet of the Skeleton Coast are slim to none. Chinese skippers seem particularly keen on heaving their uninvited passengers over the side.
Today nine west Africans from Gabon beat the odds. Two rafts made of oil drums were spotted by a roving Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources team on a fish tagging expedition with the Oranjemund Angling Club. Clinging limply to the drums were five girls and four men. All very salty, very scared.
Four other stowaways did not make it.
“There is little hope of finding them alive,” was the verdict of The Windhoek Observer’s editor, Smithie.
“There is little hope of finding them. Period,” was my father’s verdict.
If they’ve drowned, what’s left of them after the bronze whaler sharks (bronzies) have had their share will wash up to bleach then smother beneath sand blown by the ever restless wind.
If they make it to land, well, there are jackals and brown hyenas (and occasionally lions) that cruise the shore subsisting on seals and whale carcasses; there’s no water, no hope.
No hope at all.
To end on a brighter note – I’ve noticed news broadcasts like doing that – environmental officials have successfully rescued 45 hippos that had become bogged down in gluey mud after their river evaporated in the far north. One more hippo had to be shot after it charged its rescuers and one crocodile was also plugged after it, too, decided to bite the hands that were helping it.
Many other carcasses were found in the area and 27 elephant tusks were also retrieved. The eles had died after becoming mired two years earlier when the Kwando river level dropped.
Namibia only has four permanent rivers and even these aren’t terribly reliable.
But I’m glad they got the hippos out. Yes, I know hippos kill more people in Africa than any other mammal (human beings excepted), yes, I know they are bad tempered, fart a lot and probably wouldn’t romp home with first prize at a beauty contest. But they’ve got the most delightful laugh – a fat hurrr, hurrr, hurr – that rolls jovially across the water, the merry rumble of the River God. And there’s something about the way they wag their ears.
Yes, I’m glad they got the hippos out.
CHAPTER TWENTY: Christmas Is Coming.
Nearly the end of November and I’ve just sent off my Christmas cards. It will be interesting to see whether they arrive.
The postal service here likes to keep its customers in suspense. That’s the fun of the thing. Most of the time the mail gets through and then suddenly it doesn’t, or it gets routed through North Korea and turns up eight month’s later with lots of weird postmarks…
To take today’s example, my mother’s newly arrived Japanese colleague has just taken possession of eleven boxes that she posted sea mail from London.
And that’s about all she took possession of.
Somewhere between “The Smoke”(London) and “The Heat”(Windhoek) someone decided to unpack them for her.
All her books, a large consignment of clothes she’d earmarked as a donation to the needy of starving Namibia and Zimbabwe, her food stuffs – favorite nibbles, little luxuries – cassette tapes, the lot. Indeed practically the only items not liberated by the box raider were a handful of Japanese language books and a packet of glutinous flour used to make octopus tentacle dough balls.
The strange thing about the incident was that the box raider chose to reseal the boxes and send them on their way.
Perhaps he or she (or both of them) had enough boxes of their own.
ABBOT BUGGLY INTERPOL ADVISORY.
Keep your steely eyes peeled for someone who handles boxes anywhere between London and Windhoek, can’t read Japanese and doesn’t like octopus tentacle dough balls.
Then bust him or her (or both) but good.
We are also preparing various other festivities to mark the Yuletide. My father has asked Mr. Shibongo, his wife and daughter to help him roast a goat and stop my father burning it on the outside while keeping it raw within. That’s my father’s normal operating procedure.
I believe that roast turkey or goose is more British, that hams come out in the USA, the Norwegians favor semi-fermented trout and boiled sheep’s heads, and my father informs me that they do something clever with snails in France. Here, though, we’re going with goat.
We may be the only people eating it. Everyone we know, and everyone they know, seems to be clearing off.
It’s always the way, apparently. When December arrives, Windhoek departs. It’s like Sundays only more so. Everybody goes to the coastal resort town of Swakopmund (where it’s slightly cooler) or to farms or back north to the villages (where it’s significantly hotter).
Business and government offices all but shut down. Nothing much gets done.
For about six weeks.
Or in the case of the Parliament, longer. Already insufficient politicians are attending to make parliamentary business legally binding.
The busiest people in Windhoek at this time of peace and goodwill to all humankind are the private security companies. Them and the botsotsos (burglars, bad guys, habitual criminals) who turn up to loot the deserted houses.
My father spent the first four months of our stay here hoping that the botsotsos would leave Number 11 Wurlitzer Street well alone. He’s now hoping they won’t.
The reason he hopes someone will try to storm our house with rape, murder and pillage in mind is that he’s just had a chap called Van Zyl install a 7 line electric fence along the front wall. Unlike the clowns who put in the security gate (which took over two weeks to install and still doesn’t work properly – it opens of its own accord from time to time) Mijnheer Van Zyl got the fence up and clicking in two days.
The deal is that if anybody touches it, it triggers a silent alarm. Several hundred yards away from where we live is Windhoek Marsh. Unless it has rained it’s not much of a marsh, more a wild tangle of tall, dry reeds and dessicated trees shot through with shallow gulleys and baked, cracked mud decorated with half shredded plastic bags .
Lurking within Windhoek Marsh are a couple of cars painted with designs designed to intimidate and crewed by bored hard-cases cradling pump action shotguns. Should any botsotsos brush against the electric fence two things will immediately occur.
An alarm will sound, the cars will be alerted, the guys will exchange evilly delighted grins, then gun the engines and come roaring out to gun the botsotsos.
Simultaneously the electric fence will deliver a non-lethal zap guaranteed to discourage the casual enquirer or, more accurately, bring a Frankenstein monster to life; a sort of AC numbing thud that will knock the recipient flying, and send him staggering off dazed (and my father hopes with his arse on fire) into the welcoming gun sights of our lads in blue.
Strangely, ‘tis I, a small person who would not hurt a fly and who has never entertained a single malicious thought in my head, who is the inspiration for this potentially lethal set up.
Child rape, including the rape of very small babies, is an unpleasant but remotely possible event.
Namibia, I must stress, is one of the safest countries in Africa.
But there is one school of thought, perpetuated by certain traditional “healers” or, let’s cut to the chase and dispense with political correctness, witchdoctors, that maintains sex with a virgin will cure HIV-AIDS.
And you can’t get more virginal than a five month old baby.
Baby rape happens. Not just in Namibia but throughout southern Africa.
But its not going to happen here at number 11, Wurlitzer Street.
My father is waiting (with an expectant look in his eyes) to see if his electric fence works on the botsotsos as well as it did on him when he touched it to see if it was working.
It worked then.
No reason to suppose it won’t work again.
Just as dramatically.
I feel that I can sleep safely. But I fear for Santa Claus if he can’t find chimney access when he’s coming over from Finland to fill my rather small sock.
“’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.
They were all out on the street, exchanging gunfire, screaming, and Rudolph’s nose was really red because it was on fire.”
A Christmas poem by A.Buggly.