Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

Lions, Nuns & Tea

23 Sep
Grand Chinese Cuisine

Image by Sifu Renka via Flickr

How do you change your habits?

In the changing room at the convent.  I’ve heard about those nuns.

What person, real or fictional, living or dead, would you want to share a foxhole with if you were on a battlefield?

Aslan, naturally.  Nothing scares him.

How do you decide how to decide?

I ask Aslan.

Describe your favorite restaurant in the world.

Free Food, Nearbysville.  Roast potatoes always on the menu.  No dress code.

Sorry, I thought it said fantasy restaurant.

I don’t know; I haven’t been in a proper restaurant for going on fifteen years.  All I can think of is The Bamboo Inn, Harare, Zimbabwe.  I’ve told this story before so I’ll just lift it from the original post:

On the particular trip to Zimbabwe that I mentioned, the Hub took me and some of his customers to the Bamboo Inn in Harare.  At that time it was voted eighth-best Chinese restaurant in the world.  I believe it: I had never eaten Chinese food before (seriously), and everything was so delicious that my mouth fills with saliva whenever I think of it, even twenty years on.  But best of all were the spring rolls: no fat, no gunk, just fresh, fresh, fresh ingredients in a delicate case that I could have had for the whole of my meal if the Hub’s greedy guests hadn’t gotten there first.

The waitress was old but efficient, whipping away my plate almost before I was able to pick up my dropped chopsticks from the floor.  She asked me if I’d like black or groin tea?  Too shy to ask what groin tea was, I opted for the black.  It was years before I realised she was offering me green tea.

Terminators And Conditions

13 Jul
John Connor

Image via Wikipedia

Do you believe machines will be smarter than humans?

Already happening: I can’t work my phone, my dvd player, my cooker, and almost all of this computer.  Fortunately, it’s not a problem: I have a technosavvy family to operate them for me; and John Connor is hiding somewhere in America right now, waiting to deal with that naughty Skynet when it tries to kill us all.

You won’t know who he is, so don’t try finding him: he has looked different every time I’ve seen him.

Describe a perfect meal.

I can’t pick just a few things, because I like food too much to choose between it.  I’ll settle for a buffet of everything I’ve ever liked

My one stipulation: there must be sprouts.  And roast potatoes.  Steak, egg, chips, at least sixteen different vegetables, a baguette with real buffer, hot, crisky chicken, a milk cuddy, a greem salad, a ga,,on (not too salty), a pran cocktail starter, because I’m a child of the Seventies, a fruit platteau wit los of strawfaierries…sorry, my fingers keep slipping off the keys because of the drool.

I’ll settle for a buffet of all food, from everywhere.  And perhaps a guest, to hold my head over the toilet when I’m done.

Write about your earliest memory.

3 a.m., getting up to drive to Zimbabwe from Johannesburg.

Sometimes, the prompter just asks for it.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

20 Mar
First Street, Harare, Zimbabwe

Image via Wikipedia

A while back I told you about the time the Hub took me on a business trip to Zimbabwe, when the car broke down and had to be towed back to South Africa.  The Hub was reminiscing today about some of his other trips, selling articulated trailers in sub-Saharan Africa.  He also told me about this incident which happened to his then-boss, John, an ex-Rhodesian, and I thought you might enjoy it.

In the early Nineties there was a foot-and-mouth scare in Zimbabwe.  Road blocks had been set up to ensure animals were not being transported.  John was driving a car, not a bakkie (pick-up truck).  He stopped at a road block.  You have to imagine the strong accents of both protagonists.

Policeman: Do you have any animals in the vehicle?

John [mistakenly believing he was a funny guy]: There’s a horse in the boot.

P: Please get out of the car and open the boot.

J: I was joking!

P: Please get out of the car and open the boot.

John got out of the car and opened the boot.  It was empty.

P: Hau!  The horse has gone!

J: No, I’m telling you: I was joking; there never was a horse.

P: Why did you let the horse go?

J: No, there wasn’t a horse; I was joking.

P: You know you’re not allowed to transport animals; now you have to find the horse.

J: I was joking.  Look, I tell you what: I’ll reverse my car up the road; I’ll drive back to the road block; and we’ll start again.

John did just that.  He reversed the car, then drove back to the same road block with the same policeman in attendance.

P: Do you have any animals in the vehicle?

J: No.

P: Okay.  You can go.


On the particular trip to Zimbabwe that I mentioned, the Hub took me and some of his customers to the Bamboo Inn in Harare.  At that time it was voted eighth-best Chinese restaurant in the world.  I believe it: I had never eaten Chinese food before (seriously), and everything was so delicious that my mouth fills with saliva whenever I think of it, even twenty years on.  But best of all were the spring rolls: no fat, no gunk, just fresh, fresh, fresh ingredients in a delicate case that I could have had for the whole of my meal if the Hub’s greedy guests hadn’t gotten there first.

The waitress was old but efficient, whipping away my plate almost before I was able to pick up my dropped chopsticks from the floor.  She asked me if I’d like black or groin tea?  Too shy to ask what groin tea was, I opted for the black.  It was years before I realised she was offering me green tea.

Fort Knocks

27 Aug

Tory Boy has been asking me to tell you this story. As it is twenty years possibly to the day since it happened, because TB was born in the April of 1990 and we took a road trip to Zimbabwe when he was four months old, which makes it August 1990, I might as well; an anniversary is as good an excuse as any.

We were living in South Africa and Tory Boy was four months old – cue cute picture of him at three years old because we haven’t got any scanned of him at four months; another job to add to my ever-growing list of things I mean to get around to before I die and probably won’t.

The Hub was working for Henred Fruehauf in Jo’burg, selling articulated trailers. He had been with them just over a year and was away a lot and I was a bit fed up of it, especially when he came home. Oops, sorry; accidental full stop there. Especially when he came home and told me about eating in expensive restaurants every night and staying in five star hotels. Such a hard life.

He was making a trip to Zimbabwe and his boss said he could take Tory Boy and me with him if we drove up; food & hotel & petrol would be on them. It was quite a good company for trying to keep the families of the salesmen sweet. When they returned from a trip, they were allowed to take their families for a meal as a thank you from HF for letting them go off and stay in five star hotels and eat caviar made from mermaid’s tails. The Hub, poor love, was sick to death of eating expensive food every night and just wanted a home-cooked meal – even mine; which shows how terrible eating steak & salmon & soul & the livers of lambs raised in gold palaces every night must have been for him – and would not want to take me out. We rowed a lot over this. I had been stuck at home alone for weeks with a baby…umm, at my parents’, actually, being spoiled rotten and run around after. But that’s not the point, is it? He should have taken me out, and didn’t. And I should have cracked him one, and didn’t; I’m the (dover) soul of restraint. Eventually, we reached a compromise: the occasional night out but otherwise takeaways on the night he returned home, inclusive of, but not limited to, a bottle of my favourite wine and enough main courses to do next night’s dinner as well.

I believe it was his guilt at keeping me chained to the house that led to him agreeing to the wife and sprog coming along on a business trip. Also, we had just bought a new car and the Hub was keen to give it a long run and a happy wife can be good company if she doesn’t talk too much.

The car was an Opel something-or-other and just twelve months old; it had been AA checked and the Hub had given it a good look over. We were all set. We woke TB at three in the morning – such a happy baby! Not at all grumpy in the mornings. I miss him. The one I have now hasn’t voluntarily seen daylight since 2004.

We drove through the night and early morning; made Beitbbridge in good time and were allowed to enter Zimbabwe on our British passports, South African passports being frowned upon and all that because of Apartheid. When we first married, we had ex-Rhodesian neighbours who described it as ‘God’s own country’ and they weren’t lying: it is stunningly beautiful. Or was, but that’s a genocidal maniac for you: no respect for scenery.

We had reached the town of Masvingo and the Hub was telling me it had just achieved city status – all three streets of it – when ominous noises and smells began to happen to the car. It broke down. The Hub spent a while fiddling with it; he’s quite handy and can do basic car maintenance, but magic new spark plug leads and a new distributor – both of which had melted – from stifling Zimbabwe air was beyond even caviar-eating-never-taking-his-wife-out-though-she-was-wonderful-back-then him.

This raised another problem: Opels were not driven in Zimbabwe and as a consequence, no Opel parts were available for us to repair the car. This was a country that had so few resources, you had to take back your empty cool drink bottle before buying a new one. Furthermore, there were no mobile phones in those days so he had to trudge the city streets until he found a public phone and a place selling cool drinks who would sell him a cool drink without an empty bottle to trade.

The whole event took several hours, and this brings me to the point of my story: Tory Boy, four months old and sitting in a car during a roasting Zimbabwe lunch time, was brilliant. He didn’t cry or complain or moan or whinge once. Granted, he couldn’t talk, but I’m an excellent mother and I could interpret every sound he made. Even today when he comes out of his room at midnight and grunts, ‘Fude!’, I know he’s actually saying, ‘Mother dearest, be a love and prepare some of your delicious vittles for my aching belly hole, wot can’t live without your egg & chips another minute.’

The Hub contacted his biggest customer as I sat in the car with Tory Boy and watched the slowest man I have ever seen shift in his seat slightly: we had stopped beside veld and I gradually became aware that a tall, thin man was sitting there, watching us. He never came over or spoke to us, he just watched. Silent; still; expressionless. It took him three minutes to turn his head to one side. The seat-shifting took what seemed like an hour. He reminded me of that old story where someone is sitting somewhere and says to someone who asks what he is doing (okay, the details are a little sketchy), ‘Sometimes I just sits and thinks; and sometimes I just sits.’

The Hub came back and the man watched that too, and the Hub said that his customer was going to send a driver for us the next day and arrange for the car to be towed back to South Africa. We were to stay in Masvingo’s best hotel. Also its only hotel, but it was clean and welcoming and our night was only spoiled by the Hub’s incessant squabbling with the mosquitoes storming the room. The Hub was terrified that one of them would bite Tory Boy, who had no net over the cot. I think the Hub had already had malaria by then, which would explain his paranoia.

The baby survived the night thanks to his vigilant father keeping me awake, and I was only a little grumpy in the morning. Only a little, because I was staying in a two star hotel and eating plain food and really enjoying myself.

It was at breakfast that I realised we were the only white people in the hotel; I hadn’t noticed until then. I mention it because South Africa in 1990 was tense due to the struggle against Apartheid, and South Africans were very aware of who was white, black, brown, purple or whatever. In Zimbabwe in 1990, the struggle had been over for quite a while and President Mugabe wasn’t emulating Stalin’s best bits at that point; the country’s atmosphere was warm and welcoming and skin colour really wasn’t an issue. It was a wonderful moment for me; it makes me sad to think of Zimbabwe now.

Our driver arrived in a huge Mercedes around noon, and delivered us to Meikles Hotel in Harare a couple of hours later; most definitely five stars and guaranteed to make me smile twenty years on at the memory of it. I had a happy week of shopping (excellent exchange rate), eating mermaid’s soles in expensive restaurants and room service for a treat, and generally being in a good mood and speaking to the Hub for at least half of every day.

The Hub had promised his little boy a present for being so good while we were stranded, and he scoured Harare’s stores until he found the very thing: a wooden fort. Just what a four-month-old baby needs: war lessons. The Hub and I argued a bit about it, but he persuaded me that it would be a good present because it was expensive, well-made and would last him a lifetime if he looked after it. And he has. He has it packed away now but he played with it a lot over the years, and even let Spud use it on high days and holy days.

He doesn’t remember his trip to Zimbabwe, of course; or his first flight home, on a plane that had the same initials in its registration as he has in his name (this snippet comes to you courtesy of the plane geek who is his father), but he told me the other day that he remembers receiving it, young as he was. We gave it to him around the time of the photo on this post and he has loved it ever since. The Hub was right to buy it: it’s not a toy; it’s a happy memory. For all of us.

Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Be Upstanding For The National Anthem

18 May

I was looking for a You Tube clip of Steph on Over the Rainbow – I’m gutted she’s out; it’s my fault for not voting because I taped it and watched it the next day – when I came across this clip from the SABC, the broadcasting arm of the Rainbow Nation:

I love the South African national anthem; talk about a coalition: two minutes, two tunes, five of the eleven official languages.  It was an inspired piece of thinking from Nelson Mandela.  In case you don’t know the history, I’ve copied this from Wikipedia:

For decades during the apartheid regime it was considered by many to be the unofficial national anthem of South Africa, representing the suffering of the oppressed. In 1994 after the fall of apartheid, the new State President of  South Africa Nelson Mandela declared that both “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and the previous national anthem, “Die Stem van Suid Afrika” (“The Voice of South Africa”) would be national anthems. While the inclusion of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” rejoiced in the newfound freedom of many South Africans, the fact that “Die Stem” was also kept as an anthem even after the fall of apartheid, signified to all that the new government under Mr Mandela respected all races and cultures and that an all-inclusive new era was dawning upon South Africa. In 1996, a shortened, combined version of the two anthems was released as the new South African National Anthem under the constitution of South Africa.

I like a good national anthem.  My favourites are the South African; the British (naturally): 

 The American:

And the French:


I find it amusing that three of my favourites celebrate republicanism and the fourth monarchy.  I guess it’s all down to their rousing tunes, which is the point of a national anthem, after all: they are a rallying cry set to music. 

I had a quick look at the different lyrics.  It was inevitable, I suppose, that the French anthem would ramble on for five minutes, but they are complaining about bad soldiers slitting their throats so we’ll forgive them that.  Their anthem says

…that the impure blood
Should water the furrows of our fields.

The Americans thunder about 

…the rockets’ red glare
The bombs bursting in air.

Before peace descended on South Africa, Afrikaaners

…always, always say yes:
To live, to die.

And the British?  Why, we

confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks.

That told ’em! 

I guess it’s why we have a constitutional monarchy system that still works; we are far too polite to change it.  Even our radical new political system is just two groups agreeing to disagree on a few points and rub along on the rest.

An interesting fact about Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika: it is also the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia and was formerly the anthem of Zimbabwe and Namibia.  It was written in 1897 as a Methodist hymn.  The title means God bless Africa.  A nice little irony is that it was the rallying cry of the exiled and Communist-supported ANC.

The reason for the SABC video of the national anthem is to teach the South African population the words in time for the World Cup.  Not everyone speaks five languages, though most South Africans speak at least two and often three.  As the host nation, it would be embarrassing if the people didn’t know the words to their own national anthem; just ask the British: our footballers all speak the same language, but most of them lip synch like a bad dubbing at international fixtures.  Still, we don’t pay them obscene amounts of money to be literate, do we?  Just as well, really.






The Day The Boy Nick Knocked

28 Dec

It’s all about the dignity with me…

As usual, it’s gone as fast as it came; the cupboards are still full and the wallets still empty.  We had our usual quiet but lovely Christmas.  The Hub and the boys like it when it’s just us.  They get to play with their toys and sit around in pyjamas all day.  I prefer a full house but I have to say I like not running around after guests and just enjoying myself.

We went to the cemetery on Christmas Eve, as usual.  My Dad died on Christmas Eve, 2000.  He was a lifelong smoker and lung cancer was inevitable.  Thankfully, he had a short illness – three weeks from start to finish.  He was 64.  He is buried next to a week-old baby and that always reminds me to be grateful for the time he had.  I save one flower from his bunch and we go round to the other side of the cemetery, and lay it on the grave of one of Tory Boy’s best friends, who died in his sleep at sixteen, from an epileptic fit.  I look at my boy and I’m grateful he’s fit and well. 

My Dad, like me, was a scouser and tormented the life out of my husband for coming from Manchester.  He always teased the Hub that ‘lots of people come from Manchester but nobody ever goes there.’   The Hub likes that he had the last laugh – Dad is buried here in Greater Manchester.

We usually come home then, and crack open the wine; but this year we have a dog, so we took him for his walk to Abney Hall Park, which is just up the road from us and is famous for its Agatha Christie connection (see the link for details; this post is going to be long enough without historical asides thrown in). 

A new form of fly-tipping

The Hub and I walked around the frozen ponds while the boys went sledding, then ambushed us with snowballs.  To be accurate, they ambushed me with snowballs because they respect their father too much to attack him i.e. are terrified of him, as you can see>     The Hub had forgotten his walking stick so we couldn’t stay out as long as we’d have liked to, but I was ready for my wine so I didn’t mind.  On the way home we saw a snowman in an unusual place: .

In the evening, I went to the Christingle service at my church, where it was my job to cut the red tape and stick it on the oranges.  We were also encouraged to make plasticine animals to add to the nativity scene.  Perhaps because of the wine, my animal started out as a dog and finished up a dinosaur (a rather fetching stegosaurus, if I do say so myself).  The curate was very gracious and told me that all animals were welcome at the nativity, and no-one wondered at the paradox of a dinosaur worshipping at the manger.  Mind you, it was a purple dinosaur; and we all know they sing songs about love.

Someone reminded me of Spud’s first Christingle service, when he was three: he started crying when the candle was lit because ‘my orange is on fire.’   This year was the first one that I didn’t have a child with me: Spud has finally outgrown it, and Tory Boy gave it up long ago.   I don’t understand how they have outgrown the Christingle yet I still have to read them ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ before they go to bed on Christmas Eve.  One of those traditions that will always be a part of their Christmas experience, I suppose.  On our first Christmas together in 1982, the Hub bought me an expensive card with the poem inside and I kept it and displayed it each Christmas.  I started reading it to TB on Christmas Eve when he was two, and I have done so ever since.  These days, there’s a lot of messing about and joining in, especially the last line, but my thirteen year old son and his nineteen year old brother refuse to have Christmas without it.

We got to bed at a reasonable time (after midnight) and Spud had strict instructions not to get us up before seven.  Adhering to the letter of the law, it was 7:05; what he didn’t tell us until much later was that he had set his alarm for 6:59. 

The gift-giving ceremony was a little shorter than usual because the presents were more expensive, but there were no complaints from the crowd (hold your breath now because I am never a pretty sight in the mornings, and worse on Christmas mornings):   

 Netting a netbook from Santa:             An HD Ready Spud:       

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