Crtd 10-04-04 Lastedit 15-09-14
A stand-in farm keeper's life
So far so good, I studied the manual, now for practice:
No need for the alarm clock. We have dogs! They smell dawn ahead of its arrival. And they do more: at night I hear table tennis sounds. They found the balls. Every morning, even before waking me up, Jimmy inspects the sleeping room door of Maarten and Willemien (the owners on safari). An impressive turd is left there too, but as is to be expected, everybody denies.
The fully automated coffee robot, providing a freshly ground espresso at command of one fingertip, as I suspect by engaging in an on-line wireless internet communication with the Saeco-Odea head office, has gone for sporting a fast intermittent red exclamation mark flash on its display. No coffee. Willemien on email: "he probably wants to be decalcified but that is nonsense". The relevant robot course syllabus seems to be somewhere but I have a PhD already and simply installed my unsurpassed dhow-cafetiera.
We do use the opportunity of Maarten's and Willemien's absence to call in some men with VERY scary suits and masks to kill all 5,234,765,165 ants in and around house and swimming pool. Living creatures should stay clear for 2 hours, which we make it 5 because after 2 pools of poison are still on the floors.
The Free Goat
The goat and me are an amusing couple: we try to educate each other. When I come to take her out she flees behind her little shed. She is very good at that. So I wait with the chain at the exit and, by way of punishment, leave and close if after a while if she refuses to come. After an hour I try again. She comes but makes a sudden lightning fast dive to pass me and enter the lawn freely. I limit myself to defending the borders. In her freedom, she transpires to opt for a six course meal, the ingredients of which are spread over the entire garden. She starts with a little tree behind the swimming pool pump house. Then some high grass, then something in the left corner...etc. If she goes to the flowers I interfere. At noon she retires to her enclosure for intermission, and again for the night at around 16:30hrs. When George the gardener has taken her with the line from the enclosure (he manages! - she allows him?), it is easy for me to take her back in the evening. But then she walks pulling in front of me to make the neighbours think she is bringing me! In short: me against the goat is now something like 0-3. And you should see how attentively she watches the goings-on from her enclosure! Nothing escapes her. Excellent brains.
Morning. Dog Frodo refuses to eat. So I do not inject him (Frodo has diabetes). Then he eats three chunks. That would be ... 0.4 stripes on the syringe!?! Then half of his plate. That is three stripes. Come on, we shoot it in his bloody coat.
Night guard Walter holds his bed like a corpse, almost like a corps that is: except the vomiting and diarrhea. He has not even been here since our poisoning operation, good stuff, good stuff. I drove to his home and do not even recognize him, fallen in as he is. Olav (next farm, has its own doctor) had his phone off so I headed for the only clinic in Entebbe that is not 100% sure totally dabbling in medical care. Meanwhile I have spent there 110,000 Uganda Shillings, 50 euro. And he is not out yet. I do not know them as impostors, but then it must be said: a new guard is cheaper. How did he succeed to acquire this? When they are here they strictly drink commercial bottled water, they are very keen on that, to my tap, lake- and swimming pool water drinker's surprise. Maybe less picky at home?
I catapulted, with a sieve on a long shaft, the frogs off the swimming pool as I had seen Maarten do (think of
the megalomania with which they join their friends: "I made a JUMP!!!"). But I
have not paid enough attention. The sieve has cracked by the
whiplash effect of frogs over 4 ounce. I tolerate the snails. They remove
the sticking dirt at the water line and hence will stay in until one hour before Maarten and
While doing this I watch the blacks who build the swim shed. Five men every day. Apart from pulling my pool hose off its tap adapter when needing water (instead of screwing the hose off at its adapter), the day's job consists of fitting and nailing three ceiling boards, a white would say: three quarters for one man.
The swim shed workers use power too! A randomly multicoloured spaghetti of phase and earth, joined with tape, passes close to the pool's corner, exactly at the place of the joints of course. We do not use plugs, simply put the bare ends of the wires in the socket.
Meanwhile a continuous lively conversation, with a lot of laughter. Not far, our gardener George and his colleague at the neighbours' have found useful work close to each other, in the weeds bordering both plots. At least, when I look up from my pool work they ten to make some symbolic "work" gestures. But when after their meeting, which lasts several hours, I curiously but covertly check, I find nothing pointing at work done. Meanwhile the mouths rarely stand still. It is amazing how much such mini brains have to say! The modern theory of the origin of language - that our prehistoric prattling 100 000 years ago concerned mainly gossip and only later we learnt to use language for useful purposes - is dramatically confirmed right before my eyes! The swim shed workers achieve little, but then they cost even less. With house staff it's different but the result is the same. Victoria arrives around 11 AM, one a half hour later than her staff George and Irene. After all, some are more equal than others. Victoria and Irene finish their work in no time. They easily could do five houses like this. The result is a very relaxed atmosphere, much fun and laughter and here also: continuous conversation. Even the shrill yapping of Frodo and the deafening bark of Jimmy fail to cause an interruption. The whole present staff of 9 persons as well as our 5 head cattle are, partly because the sorry decease of some billions of tiny co-occupants in an impeccable mood all day, except at some moments the goat, namely when she sees me approaching.
Victoria is stuffing me decently. Fish and chips, cannelloni, cake with icing (a friend of hers visited us to teach her this: her daughter is about to marry), quiches, omelets, and my favourite fresh passion fruit juice - pronounce j�-is - is always available.
Meanwhile Walter left the clinic to move in with acquaintances at the opposite side of the road. His blood tap is still in his veins for crossings and regular drips. "Mad�me", that is his wife, is in danger of being radiated from the list of JP Cuttings workers (our farm here), for reasons of being absent thrice. He had called Piet (the Dutch manager), but he seemed to be slow in comprehending....couldn't I...? "I know the solution of that one" I said, "let her go to her job right away and yo will have no problems". He needs money. I combine my Entebbe shopping with bringing him his salary.
Petrol is 20% up at the moment, because in Mombasa and Dar es Salaam a price rise is expected, and since the tanks there are not full by far it is thought wise not to rely on chance, stop all supplies to East Africa and first fill those tanks to the ridge. As a result we dry up a bit here and our local prices rise. That is going to be a party at those sea harbours once they start selling again at the new price from their full, full, tanks! Our George has a motorcycle but cannot afford it anymore. Since I go to Kampala couldn't I buy him 5 litre? It should be cheaper there. I agree. On return, my car is going straight to a garage, so I have to drop George's fuel somewhere on the road he will take in the evening, returning home. Total saving 40 eurocents. But don't just give him that money instead of doing all this, it would make you one of those crazy whites throwing with money.
Intellectually, I am kind of homeless at the moment. After 18 months of study
I feel I understand the French revolution, and the succeeding Consulate and
Empire of Napoleon. After all that time and I swear, thousands of high quality
pages, it turned out simple: you hit each other firmly on the head and get the
credits and the honour, while smarter people use the confusion to get rich
behind your back. Now what? This needs time to decide. But meanwhile there is the Hammerkopsnest-library! With
painful deliberation Maarten and Willemien selected a small part of their books
to take to Africa, so I will not easily see a bad book on the shelves!
I feel attracted by James Grippando, The Heritage, Ursula den Tex, The
Heirs. Receiving without working stirs the fantasy. I myself am a hopeful
heir, and moreover it is known that at times when heritages are due most
thrilling things can happen that may well get police involved. Nevertheless, I
find the title of Jeroen Smith's The Prey just a bit too greedy to my
sense of decency. Half a meter of Isabel Allende survived the cut. She is
productive! Especially compared to, say Rembrandt, who reached his astonishing
output level by running a painting sweat shop in which he ran hence and forth to
supervise his workers. John Gray, Men come from Mars, teaches you among
other things, to write love letters, but I prefer fucking and I never needed
anything else than money, the book says nothing about money, so better read
about heritage? Or...? Who is who in the Netherlands 1984-1988, a weighty
volume about to become interesting now their deeds are known and traceable,
for instance the only hamminga (the family name of Willemien and me) included,
Jan Hendrik, director machine factory hamminga, member of the council of
the Metal Union. I never heard of the man. Maarten's family name is Nijs.
Nijs...Nijs...Nijs...no Nijs? de Nijs! Rob , singer... more Nijs: Marinus Wijnand Guillaume Maria. No. Maarten is Martinus, but he is Wijnand Guillaume Maria...could it be?? director Nijs consultancy...Maarten ran a Nijs consultancy, can there have been two? As is well known, the responsibles of the mid-eighties are now searched and wanted, and my escape is comfortable, I am not in. Maarten, however, if he is the one, has quite a tricky escape: but he can try to maintain he is Martinus, not the Marinus in the listing. Couperus, Eline Vere, but I hate that gay gibberish.
With a shock my eyes catch Hildebrand Camera Obscura (1839). That is because Bonger, a good man with a firm hold on the child's conscience told my class to read this Dutch classic. I didn't. I seem to remember to have started and immediately thrown in the towel. Understandable, I concluded after reading a page or ten, I could have understood absolutely nothing whatsoever. What a time to forgive yourself, 40 years after! Bonger, in the late fifties, while the Dutch set religion aside en masse, a prominent spokesman of the organized nonreligious "humanistic" movement, was wrong! He never told our class, as he did on the black-white TV, that the unfortunate non existence of God was less of a disaster as some still held at the time and that there was a way forward, but he was our history teacher as well and I still can give any time an improvised speech about the battle of Thermopylae. In sum: this man could have been in the Dutch Who is Who without any danger.
And lo! Hildebrand, 1839, introduces us to a war veteran who tells with great
zeal how "Bonneparte" feared the "Kessacks". The pre-revolutionary "surgeon"
seems to be back to his title of "barber", lost his medical stature and needs to
set all sails not to count as a quack doctor. In the tow boat (horse drawn
boats, the traditional public transport in the Netherlands), trains are high on
the list of conversation topics. University professors receive their students
weekly at home for tea, the Belgiums had been joined to The Netherlands by the
European allies after Waterloo, but recently got fed up and had parted again,
Mr. Stastok Senior, in the book, retired from textiles for hate of steam
engines. In the book we move mainly in middle class circles, we get meticulous
descriptions of clothes, furniture, gestures and all commonplaces. It seems
that Hildebrand, far from a professional in these matters, recognized at a
glance all types of cloth and materials and knows all their names and origins,
so I readily disqualify anyone who insists to raise his eyebrows where KEGGE
is said to have shot "tigers" on his sugar-plantation in the West. All villages
and towns still look like they are under preservation order in their entirety
and from the church tower, the town wall, fully intact, is sharply down, and over
it are pastures, channels and windmills only. There are comfortably few children.
When they are not of the majority of poor, they go to mini-, no, micro-schools
but they are just as detestable and hopeless as they are today. Whoever wishes
to feed his middle class parent's pride ("French, German English, and always
polite and decent, Sir!") is always disappointed and unfortunately just at the
time when Hildebrand is present and holds his paper and pencil ready to
meticulously record the unfortunate incident. We, Hildebrand and me, his reader, revel in the bourgeois
embarrassment and more. I get seized by jealousy of the attentiveness and social skills Hildebrand seems to have possessed already in
his youth. Yes Bonger!
But curiously enough no one among the many middle class characters in Camera Obscura is described in such a way that you would like to have him or her as a bosom friend, and when you realize you have not been in this or that slightly overdone interior to be slightly laughably dressed by the author and moved hence and forth through the company you will certainly feel relief. William KEGGE, son of a very rich sugar plantation director returned to Holland, may be the exception, surely in his own self-made family, but he stays as far aside in the picture as the author himself, who even resides behind a pen-name. William does and says little and when the KEGGE family story acquires pace he is dead already. The modest joy to judge each other a little (not too much) laughable is traditionally popular among the Dutch. But Hildebrand stops short of laughing at everybody: his total admiration for the noble family of Rotterdam mayor Nagel, the wisdom of its members, compassion with the suffering, the simplicity of their interior, their courteousness to all good, and their well-taken coldness to the bad in Hildebrand's story contrasts sharply with his amusing mockery of the middle class. His overall message, not only implicit but where necessary worded as its author's wise thought: let the poor be poor, the middle class be middle class. Let noone try to become more than one is, then all's well, since the noble are noble anyway. There is no sign that Hildebrand realizes how nobility is rapidly on the way down in his age and how those funny bourgois are at that very moment he writes, quickly filling the vacuum. He shows no awareness that it was his "wise" nobility and other traditional elite who had taxed The Netherlands into economic slump and French style patriotist insurgence in the century before. Neither is there any feeling that the fate of the country's poor majority may be less than deserved and less than normal. Hildebrand is a perfect conservative. One hears, not rarely I must add, that "Hildebrand" was the pen-name of a certain Rev. Nicolaas Beets, later professor in theology at the University of Utrecht, author of such edifying publications as:
1854 - The Eternal Redeemer.
1856 - Suffering In The Service Of Eternal Salvation
1858 - The Redeemer's Assent Of Christian Mission
1865 - God's Word Truth
1872 - Suffering On The Way To Salvation
But there's also some kilos of Godfried Bomans, a Juvenal famous in The Netherlands from the fifties till the seventies of the last century. Fifty years ago, he was already mocking the way we are taught to worry about our climate.
Pay day in the Hammerkopsnest. The envelopes. Happy faces. De little boys of the farm manager come to swim. When they leave we practice: "And what do we say when Willemien asks how was the swimming pool?" Unison: "NEVER been so CLEAN!!!!! Gratefully I wipe their black faces and throw the towel straight in the dustbin. Frodo eats again. I inject him. Jimmy now also wants. It surely relaxes him...does he still move? Well, may be tomorrow again.
I can't get used to the indoor distances in the Hammerkopsnest. Even making coffee in a five by five meter kitchen with tap, grinder and cooker in different corners is easily 50 m, if you forget something here and there. Opening/closing the Nest's curtains involves a walking distance of 35 m and a total pulling length of 15. I delegated all that to staff, to save myself for the goat work and pool cleaning. For me as a nomad, now for over ten years already, the farness of the weather is an attraction here. I am used to hear rain from the very first drop, and during many tropical rainstorms on the lake your dhow seems near sinking, which is not stimulating your sleep. Here in my house bed I wake up relaxed in the morning only to encounter, on the long way to the kitchen for my coffee, wide ponds on the living room tiles. It makes the manual instruction "newspaper on the table" look a bit symbolic
Victoria had told me that today she would stay home. It is a "public holiday". On my question,
she answered it would be Eastern. She must have been surprised that the
enlightened race that brought here the joyous message of Lord Jesus so
successfully, itself forgot when is Eastern. George's motorcycle does enter the
compound though, and thus the goat escapes the Lord and grazes, pushed forward
at its bubbling udders by her little ones, at her line on the lawn.
The public holidays in Uganda are hard to keep up with. This is the list: New Year's Day, NRM Liberation Day, International Women's Day, Good Friday to Easter Monday, Buganda: Public Holiday, Liberation Day, Earth Day, Labour Day, Buganda: Lubiri memorial day, Ugandan Martyr's Day, National Heroes' Day, Assumption , Independence Day , International Day For The Eradication Of Poverty (that's the way to eradicate poverty: a day off!!), Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha , United Nations Day, All Saints Day, Children's Day, World Aids Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day. Over 22 days, that looks close to a full month gross each year, or 10% of the work year. In the Western world a 1% lower than expected national product causes quite a bad day at the stock exchange, but the difference is that here men do not notice much because they never work, neither do women because they always work and shops are open every day all year until late evening.
Frodo and Jimmy (see photo) had a lively border incident today through the fence with two BIG neighbour Alsacians. This is a cherished tradition, supposed to be made impossible by a second barbed wire fence at our side, 30 cm from the cadastral wire net fence. But both Frodo and Jimmy lept through the barbed wire to the legal extremities of our compound, facing the superior enemy with only rather open net wire between them. This is how Frodo once, after having been skinned half way, has been carried of to the doctor. Such unfortunate events seem, at least my sister feels sure, caused by the bad manners of the neighbour dogs. Now I am the one in charge, or rather, supposed to be so. Napoleon and Tacitus taught me that you make armies to fight, but once you made them, you'd better go at the enemy at once or things turn against you. Only in this case, with two of these ENORMOUS Alsacians and behind them their owners...I took little Frodo out at his neck held him high, next to my bare teeth for some decent bullying. But from his rather embarassing position he simply kept looking down on the biggest of the two Alsacians, growling barking and threatening, and I failed to get him on the line. Like a discus thrower I launched him far from the fence but he immediately returned to the front, where Jimmy meanwhile had kept doing the honours. From my postion behind our avant garde I saw that, passing the barbed wire, Jimmy had teared loose some skin meant to cover his balls. Other dogs might learn from that but Jimmy, no chance. I got saved by the authority neighbour Carla has (I am jealous) over the enemy. They retired, leaving my side in the proud belief of glorious victory.
Frodo now insists only eating undosed from Jimmy's plate. Jimmy gets chased away. You spend a fortune and effort to keep that tiny black hairy rat from the gates of hell and then this. Jimmy, 10 months old but yelping like a puppy, is now 5 times Frodo's weight and could eat him including the stolen chunks in his stomach, in three bites. But we compose ourselves and do not use Frodo to lower the pools acidity, as is expected of us.
I fancy the atmosphere between the goat and me is clearing up a tiny bit. It started to rain. The goat, on the lawn at the line, decided to bleat in my direction that she wanted to enter her enclosure. I rewarded this with immediate action. I released her line from the pin. She walked home without pulling me. On arrival, she stood quietly to let me detach her line and the hopeful event could end with me giving a friendly scratch or two on her right flank. What may have played a role is that earlier her little ones, on my veranda, refused to come, to her anger. I waited a bit until she really got mad and started to pull her line. Thereupon I chased the two small ones to her. Has my utility been discovered?