Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Don't leave me hangin' on the telephone...


I am the only person here. Our nice-but-incredibly-pointless receptionist has gone to the dentist, so I’m answering the phones.

“Good Morning, [my organisation]”

Loooong pause. “Hello.”

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“I was just wondering did you get the email I sent?”

“Who is this?”

“Did you get the email I sent?”

“I don’t know. Who are you?”

“Borris.” Goody. I don’t know who he is.

“Who did you send it to?”

“The lady who gave me the email address.”

“Which email address was it?”

“It began with an E.”

“Oh, ok. Let me just check. Yep, we have it.”

“I have the certificate, and the thing.”

“(??) Jolly good. That’s great. Anything else I can help you with?”



“Bye then. Call again soon.”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Intercape Interlude

It is 1 am. The lights of the 24 hour Shell garage shine warmly into the thick darkness of the frog-filled night. My eyes are heavy with the bleariness of aeroplane sleep. My arse feels like a lifetime’s worth of cellulite has settled in the past 8 hours and will continue to make itself comfortable over the next 7. I have not eaten since lunch time, as I mistakenly assumed that 24 hour Shell garages were ubiquitous on Namibia’s rather swanky roads.

I have already fallen victim to the tolley-nazi once on this journey. Fortunately I had almost finished by beer before she marched up, all indignant bosom and accusing eyebrows, beckoned towards my can with an imperious wave of her talons, and said ‘Yes, please, thank you very much’ while staring off into the distance as if I did not exist. I think she may also have been tapping her foot. This is a woman who loves her job.

So, 1 am ticks slowly by. I am waiting for the door to open so that I can step outside and get some food. So is another man, standing patiently behind me.

“This is not a disembark”, barks the trolley-nazi, with an alarming degree of satisfaction at the idea of imprisoning a busload of clients so tantalizingly close to food.

“Would it be possible to get some food from the shop?” I ask politely, only to receive a glare in return.

The man behind me moves towards the door.

“Where do you think you’re going? I said this is not a disembark.”

I have not paid almost a third of my monthly allowance to be dictated to by a sexually-frustrated harridan in a stretchy orange shirt who probably whiles away the hours by conducting lurid fantasies involving the driver’s enormous couch-potato stomach. I follow her down to the door at the front of the bus, and demand to be allowed out to go to the shop. She ignores me. I make towards the open door. She stands in my way.

“I have opened the door at the back for you”.

I am not in the mood for nonsense, but nonsense seems to be in the mood for me.

“Why can’t I use the door at the front? It’s right here.”

She ignores me, and stands bulkily in my path. I’m glad that this woman is only in charge of making the lives of Intercape passengers intolerable, and not of something important, like passport control. I consider delivering a swift kick to the back of her head, but feel that this may result in me being stranded in Grootfontein in the middle of the night, with only a thousand frogs and a lascivious pump attendant for company, so I stomp off to the back door, wishing her very ill.

It is now 1.15 am. I am very tired, but I do, at least, have a hot steak and kidney pie in my hand. I move to pay, and a pleasant looking man standing at the till starts to make small talk.

“Are you going to Japan?” he asks, as if this is a perfectly normal question to be asking someone who has just got off the Intercape in fucking Grootfontein-over-nowhere in the middle of the night.

“No. Not today”, I reply.

“Where are you going?”


“Windhoek?” He manages to make it sound as if I said ‘Mars’. “Are you German?”

“No, I’m English.”

“Aaaaaaah! I see. Have you been checking out these Olympics?”

“No.” By this point I am utterly confused, and starting to suspect that this is the aim of this conversation-from-the-twilight-zone. All I want is to eat my pie, and maybe the opportunity to drill holes in the trolley-nazi’s head, just for a little while.

I get back on the bus and she looks at me accusingly. “The kettle is broken. I don’t know who did it. You can’t have any coffee.”

At 6.10 this morning I was woken by the announcement that we had reached our destination. “All seats to be returned to an upright position, and luggage to be stored under the seat in front of you” she instructs us all. Realisation dawns. She clearly wants to be an airborne trolley-nazi, so that she can terrorise people at 30,000 ft, and not have to deal with the chaos engendered by the uncontrollable and untidy wandering of passengers over Shell station forecourts at silly o’clock in the morning.

I’m tying my shoelace when I feel my seat shaking. “Seats in an upright position I said!”, she shouts, whacking the back of my chair vigorously.

I step off the bus into the slow, chilly dawn and am instantly surrounded by taxi drivers. It’s going to be a long, long day.

Friday, March 17, 2006


I'm going on holiday.



This time I'm going to the little pan-handly bit that sticks out of the top right hand corner of Namibia. Apparently there be dragons. Well, elephants, anyway. I'm off to see some friends.

The bus journey is 15 hours, and it starts at 6pm. I will probably be placed next to the toilet, as usually happens on long distance bus journeys.

Actually, last time I was on a journey anywhere near this long was in Cambodia. I got on the bus to Siem Reap in Bangkok, confident in the expectation that while the touted journey time of 4 hours was a little ambitious, it couldn't possibly take longer than 6. I spent the following 17 hours on a bus with a bunch of singing Swiss, and when they weren't warbling, Khmer bands doing translated covers of Elton John and Boyzone drifted softly into my waiting ears.

I have high hopes for this journey.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What if... woke up one morning, to discover that the last two and a half years of your life have disappeared? You wake up, lying in bed next to someone you never expected/wanted to see again, listening to church bells confirm the nightmare, and praying that he doesn't wake up, that you won't have to go through one more minute of bad sex with the wrong man.

Would you have to remember every single thing that you did, and do it the same, at the same time, on the same day, to get to where you were when it all ceased to exist?

If you were with this person, and knew you still had some months to go before the inevitable demise of the relationship, would you stay in it until the appointed time, or would you end it immediately to avoid the horror, and risk losing everything that you will have in the future that makes you happy?

I don't know why, as it's clearly not going to happen, but the question is bothering me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Brow Beaten

I have lost my eyebrow tweezers.

As most girls will agree, I’m sure, the selection of a pair of eyebrow tweezers can be a troublesome business. I had gone through a number of pairs of eyebrow tweezers that failed to tweeze to my satisfaction, including one promising pair that inexplicably stopped tweezing completely; then I found this pair. They’re made by Wilkinson’s Sword, by the way, if anyone is interested, and they were fabulous.

But anyway, I have lost them, and my eyebrows are threatening to take over the world. This is distressing for me, as my eyebrows, or eyebrow, more accurately, has always been rather effusive and enthusiastically rides roughshod over parts of my face in which it is not welcome.

I succumbed to madness last week, and tried to shave it. Have you ever tried to shave the bridge of your nose? It’s a terrifying experience. Also, it didn’t work, and now it is back, furring the area between my eyes and threatening to set up camp on the upper reaches of my cheeks. This is a problem.

Anyway, as I was attempting to find a picture of Chewbacca to which I could link to illustrate the rampant state of my facial hair, I discovered that Wikipedia have a whole section on the Chewbacca Defence.

I love it. It’s so pointless. But its also hilarious, and it’s taking my mind off the fact that tonight, my boyfriend will be confronted by the brutal realization that I am in fact directly descended from Brian Blessed.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Would you like some grammar with your tea, Mr Gates?

I have, just this minute, utterly lost any scant faith I may have had in the Microsoft spelling and grammar checker in Word.

I'm already cheesed off, because it insists on Americanising all my spelling, despite my settings being set to English (United Kingdom) on a daily basis. Which is annoying.

But can someone tell me, please, because I'm dying to know, what is wrong with this sentence?

"In the evening, the group met with other young musicians from the Oshikuku area, in order to listen to them perform."

According to Word, it is all wrong. Terribly not done, darling. The irritating wavy green line underneath it tells me so. It helpfully suggests the following amendment:

"In the evening, the group met with other young musicians from the Oshikuku area, in order to listen to them performs."

Which is clearly perfectly grammatically correct. Clearly.

Ride a cock horse

I went horse-riding at the weekend.

I’m not a very elegant rider. I can ride, but I’m not vastly experienced. The first time I went here, I rode with some Dutch friends. In the course of the ride, I discovered that they’d all been brought up on horseback. Thus I was hugely thankful for the stubborn, lazy old horse across whose wide back I was straddled, because he stayed firmly at the back, sparing everyone the sight of my arse waving about in the air as I tried to find the horse’s rhythm.

Yesterday was better. I was less nervous about falling off and shattering my skull into tiny pieces because I’d brought my cycle helmet, and it all came back to me pretty early on. The only trouble I had was trying to stop my noble steed turning and heading for home every time a well-known shortcut hove into view.

“Pull the right rein…”, shouted my friend, her voice drifting over from a distant path on the other side of the hill.

“I am, I am”, I bellowed, as the fiend pulled the reins from my hands again and ambled off into a morass of strung-out spiders’ webs in order to find some juicy grass and have a good, leisurely fart. The spiders are huge, and orange, and look like something out of Starship Troopers.

My problem is that I can imagine having a bit in my mouth, and I can imagine how much I’d hate anyone who yanked it about without any consideration. I know that, somehow, I expect the animal to read my mind, and go the way I want without my having to explain it to it in fancy terms. My empathy and expectation of animal telepathy is the horse’s excuse to be a wanker.

Anyway, eventually I found a tone to which the horse responded (“Listen, you fucker, get out of the camel-thorn tree, or I’ll kick you in the fucking nuts”), and started being firmer on the bit, and we returned to the fray.

And it was beautiful. Early evening’s alchemy turned the abundant grass to a whispering carpet of gold. The sun reflected flashes of fire in the river, serene in its wide, stony bed. Eland and oryx, fat on the copious greenery, stood alert and watched us pass. As we cantered along the long-shadowed path towards home, a huge herd of blue-grey wildebeest stampeded in front of us, shaking their thick, heavily bearded and war-painted necks, and kicking up dust.

The alarming bruises on the inside of my thighs were worth every second.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Flutter by, Butterfly

It is butterfly season here. As I mentioned in the last post, butterflies have become a standard attachment to any self-respecting front-fender, or windscreen wiper. And yet, despite the millions that doom themselves simply by fluttering prettily above the warm tarmac, there still seems to be an endless supply of them.

There is a bush outside our office which is a mass of pink flowers. You can’t see the flowers though, because the whole damn thing is covered in butterflies. It’s like the plant itself is alive, or as if they are attempting to carry it off to some sacred butterfly haven, so that that they can continue to worship its pinkness without having to worry about traffic.

I might try and take a photo.

Apart from this, everywhere you go, the air is full of flickering wings. Windhoek is unusually green right now, with grass verges that reach almost to my armpits. The grass, the trees, the road, the houses, all are adorned with a flittery canopy of butterflies.

Unfortunately, it also means that the place is full of moths. A few weeks ago, the Bloke’s outside walls were crawling with pale winged specimens that laid their eggs, and then died in droves all around the house. They disappeared and have been replaced by similar, dark brown ones that are about the size of the palm of my hand. They get everywhere. I found one crawling up the arm of the sofa I was sitting on in the bar the other day.

I like to leave my sliding doors open at night, so that the fresh air gets in. This clearly extends an invitation to the bug population of the town, and my bedroom seems to have been chosen as the haunt of these moths. I didn’t mind them until last night, when I lit the mosquito coil and all the insects in the room went berserk, and started hurling themselves at the walls in an attempt to escape. I had a moth in my hair for almost a minute, and I can tell you, I didn’t think they made my skin crawl until I practically gave myself a concussion trying to get the damn thing off me.

In the end I just turned the light off, put a pillow over my head and went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, the walls were bare.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Animal, vegetable, or mineral?

It has been raining pretty much incessantly here all week. The towels that I left on the line on Sunday afternoon have been getting almost-dry, and then are rained upon again, and so I left them there. I decided that enough was enough this morning, and went to move them to the line on my little porch.

That’s when I discovered that things have begun nesting in them, and that butterflies have got caught in the fibres. I had to take hold of one by the wings and pull, successfully detaching all but three stubborn legs from my nice, clean infested towels. Normally this would distress me more than it did, but I’ve been driving around Namibia a lot lately, and there are so many butterflies that I have become accustomed to seeing their innards splattered over windscreens and wipers, their vaguely, painfully fluttering wings festooning the radiators of vehicles in morbid decoration. So I wasn’t too phased about leaving its little legs stuck in the depths of the towel; just about picking the legs out afterwards. The thought of finding bits of butterfly limb, post-drying, in places where butterfly limbs aren't meant to be does not appeal.

I’m going to soak them in bleach and hope that does the job instead.

On the plus side, tiny green sprouts have made an appearance in the basil corner of my little tub of soil. They are definitely fledgling leaves, and not dandruff from the woodworm-crazy beams. Despite the terrific excitement, I successfully resisted the temptation to dig them up and have a good look, and also to dig up the ones that are not sprouting to find out what the problem is.

I think that this shows remarkable restraint on my part.
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