Monday, January 30, 2006

Top Trivia

Every day the Namibian publishes a ‘Top Ten’ list for the edification of its audience.

Last week’s highlight: Top ten countries by number of pigs.

I’m assuming this is from some regular worldwide pig census, probably carried out by undercover CIA agents investigating the threat of a real life Animal Farm event. In any case, China’s sties ahead with almost half a billion porkers, and the US drags itself, wheezing, into second place with 60 million. I’ve always had rather a fondness for char siu buns. Go China!

This week (I know it’s only Monday, but I’m not sure how they can top this): Famous people and their allergies. Did you know that Iggy Pop is allergic to milk?

The road to enlightenment is paved with such treasures of trivia and inconsequential gobbets of insight. Trust me.

I feel more serene already.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Water, water, everywhere...

Hmmm. Since yesterday, someone has told me that Windhoek had more than six days of rain last year. Well, I have some facts. Last year, in January, which is supposedly the rainy season, Windhoek received a scant, but fairly standard 67.8 mm of rain. The average annual rainfall in Windhoek is 360mm. A week ago, the rainfall for January had reached almost 300mm. Yesterday, so much rain fell on the city that the sluice gates of the Avis Dam opened up automatically – an extraordinarily unusual event – and released a wild, angry river complete with jumping fish and whole trees into the dry river bed that runs through the west of the city.

It was phenomenal to watch. I went up there last night, along with many people for whom the sight of a river is about as common as a white Christmas. There was almost a carnival atmosphere; the place was full of kids and dogs. I’m surprised there wasn’t a hot dog stand.

My boyfriend (not sure how to refer to him really – Lover? Paramour? Love interest? Personal Slave? Hmmm… Will have to give this some consideration) experienced a flash flood out at his farm yesterday. I saw the pictures. That’s a lot of water. He discovered scary, carnivorous, duck-devouring tortoises in a small pond out the back of the house the other day, but now the tortoises have been released into the wild, and from here on in we will be hearing tales of mysterious disappearing water fowl across the region. It’s like something out of a horror-disaster movie. For ducks.

There doesn’t seem to be any kind of scheme to manage all this water. I know that it’s an unusual occurrence, but surely, in a country so short on water, this abundance should prompt a flurry of conservation. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The water that is released is simply lost, and by the time the rain stops – and when it does, we won’t see any more until the end of the year - we will all be sitting here again, worrying about the dropping water levels in the dams that supply the city’s drinking water.

Mind you, judging from a recent headline in the Namibian, it’s not the dropping water levels in the dams that we should be worrying about. It’s the rising floaters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Glorious British Weather

It seems to be raining a bit here at the moment.

Last year, apparently, Windhoek had six days of rain. This year so far we've had nineteen straight, and there's no sign of it letting up. The city is a maze of little rivers. Cars driving along the roads look like jet-ski joyriders, throwing walls of water five feet up in the air as they pass by. Rain here isn't nice, delicate pitter-pattery rain. Oh no. It decapitates garden flowers, and strips the paint from cars*.

I'm sitting in an office that has only two small windows. The light is a 40 watt bulb, and it's practically dark outside thanks to the thick layers of cloud bunching up over the city, waiting until everyone is lulled into a false sense of security by a five minute hiatus before they drop a ton of water onto the rooftops in the space of 2.4 seconds.

Namibia has an ad campaign that promises '300 days of sunshine'. Egypt had one too, for the Red Sea coast. It said something like "The land of eternal sunshine", and promised year-round opportunities for pale British folk to turn themselves into scrofulous lobsters. If you've ever been to the Red Sea in December you'll know that it's about as tropical as Great Yarmouth. I had to cut short a snorkelling expedition in Ras Mohammed National Park because they were all showing symptoms of hypothermia. Anyway, I digress. 300 days of sunshine probably isn't far wrong, although at the moment, it doesn't feel that way.

Anyway, the thing that concerns me right now is that I'm wearing flip flops, a t-shirt and a skirt, and it's pissing it down outside in a manner that would put Wales to shame.

I'm going to get very, very wet, and quite cold on my way home.

*Don't get me wrong. It's a very good thing. Rainfall in Namibia is extremely limited, and access to water is a major problem.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Walkies

Yesterday I took Boris for a walk. People have been telling me I should do this ever since I decided that our relationship was secure enough that I could start introducing him to my friends. They are all concerned that he never seems to escape the confines of the house and ‘garden’, and must frolic fatly amongst the flowers that line the concrete driveway. I think they also see his mournful, hopeful eyes, and think that all he really wants is a chance to see the outside world, briefly, before he keels over from excitement.

So, yesterday evening, when it became apparent that the heavens were not going to open, I clipped on a borrowed lead, and dragged him out of the gate. We stopped to chat to David, the security guard next door, who asked me where I was taking the dog. As Boris wound the lead tightly around my ankles in confusion, I responded that I was going to take him for a walk. I’m not sure how much of the sentence he managed to catch, as I had to twirl around several times while talking to ensure the continuation of the flow of blood to my feet.

‘You are not afraid of the guns?’
‘No’, I said. I mean, I am, obviously afraid of men with guns, but I would be surprised if any jumped out at me in broad daylight on a quiet residential street. ‘Should I be?’
‘Well, sometimes it can be dangerous, but I think maybe if they see you have a dog, they will be scared.’

We looked doubtfully at the dog, as he lay, belly up, little legs waving hopefully, his eyes imploring us to stroke his stomach.

I bid David goodbye, dragged Boris from his prone position, and resolutely set off, convinced that I was going to have to drag him the whole way. I had underestimated him. He set off down the road at speed, almost yanking my shoulder out of its socket. As we sped down the hill, a million neighbourhood dogs howled in our wake.

I can just tell that dog walking is going to be a challenge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Oh yea! Here ye, here ye!

Today, it be the day of my birth, some 32 billion years ago, in a murky pond full of amoebas just waiting to evolve into me. That’s how old I am. I am starting to realize that I can no longer really describe myself as a girl. I am definitely now a grown up woman [gasp!], at least in size and age, if not in psychological maturity, as I’m sure the amoebas will agree, as they await their turn, and look on enviously from their sulphurous pool.

Unfortunately for me, I can also be described as a spinster, a word that I always think makes women sound vaguely like a dusty jar of gherkins that Auntie Maud brought for Christmas in 1964 and which, after the first couple of nibbles, nobody has ever felt like extracting from the morass of cobwebs attaching it firmly to the shelf. I don’t feel like a spinster though, so that’s ok. [brushes cobweb off sleeve].

Anyway, my birthday has been lovely so far, thanks to the delivery of fresh coffee and mango that greeted me when I woke up this morning. I hope that it will continue to be so.

I think I’m going to like being 32 in Namibia, just as long as nobody decorates my birthday cake with mopane worms.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

32 things

1.I used to want to wear glasses so badly when I was a child that I tried to fake eyesight tests regularly until I was about 12.
2.I practically never wear makeup – I just never got into the habit.
3.I joined the parascending club at university.
4.But I only went once.
5.I’m afraid of slugs.
6.Oh for god’s sake. Am I only at number 6? How can I possibly think up 32 things that will be of any interest to anyone?

The short answer is, I can’t. Be bothered. It bores even me.

So I think I’m going to throw it out there, to my many millions of readers (I feel sure that my statcounter is mistaken. I know that there are more than three of you.)

If you feel the hand of inspiration on your shoulder, please do make up some salacious or fascinating facts about me to add to this woefully short list. It is my birthday tomorrow, after all, which is why I started this hopeless exercise in narcissism to begin with.

I might start you off…

1.I used to be a hugely famous as a porn star. My screen name was Julie Buckets.
2.I play 14 different musical instruments to concert level.
3.I’m a qualified plumber.
4.My left foot is two sizes larger than my right.
5.My hearing is so acute that the government have employed me on top-secret surveillance missions in several highly dangerous locations.
6.I am allergic to paper.
7.Four and a half years ago I had the left side of my brain removed and donated to medical science.
8.I have six fingers on each hand.
9.I once got caught smuggling plutonium into Siberia. I used my mastery of disguises to fool the guards into thinking I was the Dalai Lama, and escaped unharmed.
10. …….

Ta ta. I'm off home to make a curry.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

And again...

My sister has tagged me, and although I’ve done a meme recently, I thought it might be rude not to oblige her, seeing as I’ve been so rubbish at keeping in contact so I’ve done it. This is the last one though.

1. What did you do in 2005 that you hadn't done before?

Ooh, 2005 has been a veritable cornucopia of new experiences. However, sitting in a bandstand eating a dried caterpillar has to come top of the list.

2. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A staggering number of people. My friend Mel, to the lovely Jack, my sister in law to my gorgeous nephew, my ex-boyfriend’s wife-to-be, a colleague at my last job, the list goes on. It seems like every other day someone is sending me photos of babies looking adorable having been posed in various amusing ways. But it doesn’t make me feel reproductively inadequate in any way, I’d like to stress. Not at all.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully, no. I’ve placed an embargo on people close to me dying. No more for me, thanks.

4. Did you travel? Where did you go?

I travelled a great deal between Cambridge and London, and so got to know the carpets on the floor of the 18.15 out of Kings Cross with an intimacy I hadn’t thought was possible.

5. Best thing you bought?

My iPod. All hail the iPod. If it ever left me, I’m not sure I would get over it.

6. Where did most of your money go?

You’ve no idea how sincerely I wish I could answer that.

7. What do you wish you had done more of?


Sitting in front of crappy daytime TV, eating fish finger sandwiches with a glass of cold milk.

8. What do you wish you had done less of?

Smoking. And picking my nose. Although I have to say that the dry climate of Namibia makes for very agreeable crusty bogeys, and nose-picking doesn’t seem to be taboo here so I think I’ll just continue with that revolting, but terribly satisfying habit.

9. What kept you sane?

I’m not sure anything did. The jury’s still out.

10. What drove you mad?

My friend Dan insisting on trying to get out of the car in the middle of Etosha National Park, because ‘there are more animals in Whipsnade’. I had just persuaded him not to, when a lion walked past the car door. His response? “Stop bleating at me, woman”.

11. What made you celebrate?

All of the planes I travelled on in 2005 not crashing. Oh, and the birth of my nephew of course.

12. What made you sad?

Snow Patrol. Could a successful band be any more boring?

13. How was your birthday this year?

I’ve also put an embargo on birthdays. I’m not having one in 2006 either. They seem to insist on hurtling me closer to forty at a speed that would challenge Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

14. What political issue stirred you the most this year?

The supply of drinking fountains for London’s thirsty pigeons. I can’t understand why it’s not more of a priority with the Labour government.

15. Were you in love in 2005?


Oh, gosh. Yes.

16. What would you like to have in 2006 that you didn't have this year?


A flat stomach. And a little wooden house on a tiny Malaysian island, where I can pick fresh mangoes from the tree outside my bedroom, eat spicy food all day, and lie in the hammock on my veranda, counting exotic birds.

17. What date from 2005 will be etched in your memory and why?

July 7th, I think. My shoe broke, I seem to remember, on the way to work. That kind of thing will tend to stick in the memory.

18. What song will remind you of 2005?

K T Tunstall’s Other Side of the World. Apt, and yet not.

19. Compared to this time last year are you happier?

Yup.

20. Biggest achievement this year?

Hey, I’m living in Namibia. What more do you want?

21. Biggest disappointment this year?

Not meeting Bill Murray at the premiere of Broken Flowers. Bastard didn’t show up.

22. What is the one thing that would have made you more satisfied?

The Criminal Records Bureau not being a bunch of bureaucratically obsessed, postally challenged, lying, mendacious wankers.

23. Best new person you met this year?

Oooh. Now there’s a question. I’ve met loads of brilliant people this year, mostly through VSO. But it would have to be one I’m in love with. Because he’s a bit of alright, really.

24. A valuable life lesson you learnt this year?

Chocolate biscuits are good for the soul.

25. A question you made up yourself?

Penguins?

Feel free to do it if you fancy. Let me know if you do though, because I'm a nosey old cow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Back on the boil again

For the last few months, since I started at my place of work, in fact, I have been deprived of a displacement activity so central to my very being that for a while wondered how I could possibly function without it: walking around the office on a refreshment run, boiling the kettle and making tea.

There’s something so calming about a quiet stroll around, saying hello to people, and being sociable. And the words “Anyone want a cuppa?” are like a soothing balm on my soul. Meditating just doesn’t quite give me the same feeling of serenity.

The only kettle in a hundred yard radius is defunct. It blew up the week before I arrived, and has not been replaced. I’ve been wandering aimlessly, my hand occasionally reaching out for a cup of non-existent tea, only to fall, empty and defeated back on to the keyboard. It’s been a sorry sight to behold.

But now, we have a new kettle! It boils water! It makes tea! My life is immeasurably improved. I just went on a beverage run, and used the kettle for the first time. It’s wonderful. I can tell that my productivity is going to soar.

The only catch is that in our tiny, 2 foot square kitchen, there is no plug socket. The only one close by is at shoulder height on the wall in the reception area. For now there is something on which to balance it, but once the enormous piles of ‘Caring Namibian Man’ 2006 calendars have been removed to a place of storage, making tea will involve standing, foolishly holding the kettle while it boils. That is unless I can invent a nifty kettle-levitation device beforehand, but honestly, I’m so involved with mastering papier maché at the moment that the chances are slim. Looking on the bright side though, I can see this will give much opportunity for small talk with office colleagues passing through the area.

In any case, I have before me a comforting cup of rooibos tea, for which I have slowly developed a liking. All I need now is a chocolate biscuit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Daydream believer

This morning I arose, bleary eyed, turned on Radio Wave (Namibia’s Number One Hit Station!) to listen to Jared and Mags, the Waking Crew, to whom I have become addicted, despite Jared’s clear and measured descent into insanity. Today, apropos of nothing, he conducted an apoplectic rant about people who attend polo matches.

Most of the time, the pair just bicker, or run embarrassingly long advertorials about tefal pans. The whole of December was dedicated to tefal pans, and to their credit, I’ve never heard two people sound so genuinely awed by kitchen ware. In addition to this nonsense, there’s an advert that gets played at least three times every half hour, which goes:

Woman, in honeyed tones: “Mmmmmm. Morning honey. What would you like for breakfast?”
Man, clearly far too used to the current status quo “Aaaaaah. I think I’ll have some eggs, and some Windhoek Schlachterei sausage.”
Woman once more, so sweetly, you can almost see her putting on her gingham apron: “Anything for my hugglebump. What kind of Windhoek Schlachterei sausage?”

They also play a bizarrely eclectic selection of music. Yesterday I left the house to the strains of Led Zeppelin, but other mornings it’s wall to wall Mariah Carey. They went through a stage where they played Alanis Morisette’s entire back catalogue so repeatedly that I thought I was going to have to change my allegiance to Radio Kudu, but thankfully they are now over it.

Anyway, at 6.45am I was easing myself into my morning in the company of this dependable duo, trying to avoid the pan full of wallpaper paste while I spread my marmalade on my toast, when I looked out of my patio doors to see Mrs Uncle Janni, who is about 70, stomping determinedly in circles around the driveway, in the rain, wearing a housecoat, a shower cap and a pair of brogues.

I sometimes wonder if I’m going to wake up, like Pammy Ewing, in my little room in Cambridge, having dreamed the last four months in their entirety.

Creativity be damned

When I was younger, I remember making papier maché things out of bits of newspaper and balloons. I don’t really remember what the things were. I just remember enjoyably, messily, sticking the bits of newspaper in wallpaper paste, and stroking them lovingly onto a balloon. I was creative. Oh yes.

I’m starting to realise that the reason I have no idea what I was making, is that the wallpaper paste took so bloody long to dry that my younger, shorter attention span had long moved on to something else. Like University.

My current project has been drying since Saturday. Globs of wallpaper paste have been making their slow, glacial way down the sides of the construction for days. I expected, by now, to have a nice bowl, which I could paint, and make pretty, and then put things in. But no. I just have a kitchen table covered with piles of paper strips and bowls full of gloop. I’m having to construct my meals in an arena of newsprint. Yesterday, I almost started eating my spaghetti with a spoon covered in non-toxic adhesive.

It’s soul destroying. I’ve known for some years that I am imaginatively and creatively challenged, but I thought that papier maché would not be beyond the limits of my ability.

What am I doing wrong?

Friday, January 06, 2006

For Sale...

...one cold and windy city.



Can anyone explain this to me? I am baffled.

Poles apart...

A word of advice.

Should any of you out there, and I’m speaking to the girls here, have a friend who decides, for their hen night celebrations, to book pole-dancing lessons, bear in mind that while this might be all jolly good fun at the time, one day you will find yourself in a bar that serves tequila, and which has handily placed steel poles attaching one of the tables to the ceiling. You will feel them calling to you, urging you to show the assembled (although thankfully sparse) clientele your highly professional skills. It will be impossible to resist.

This is Not A Good Thing, as the photos that I found on my camera on Christmas morning will attest.
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