Sunday, September 25, 2011

Last of the Rhodesians : Chapter Two

Hi all. Apologies for the late posting. Things are getting rather exciting as I head into the last third of the rewrite. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to flow right and I also catch myself, not so much being lazy, but more uninspired. I suppose going over the same stuff again and again does that. But I realise that I must stop and step back and look at certain chapters from a different angle.

One chapter, for example, has now gone monstrous. The original story was based just on my memory, but I decided to really work hard at getting more information from people involved at the time. So input started coming in after appeals on Facebook and personal contacts. So after rewriting four times this particular chapter, it still wasn’t right. I then sat on it and moved on. I am still hoping to get more information but even with what I have, I suddenly had an eureka moment. I needed to look at it as if watching a movie. Anyway, enough of that…

I read a very interesting article about self-publishing in electronic format. I will of course be doing that as well. I also, from other articles on the web, found out how to get hot endorsements. But before all this I need to have the book sent off for editing. Then I can mess around with more self promotion. Especially the web site which I have now decided I don’t like…lol.

Anyway - what I did spot was that authors like to give a few chapters as freebies to whet the appetite.

SO… I have decided to let you have a bit more in teeny weeny portions up till Xmas. Not much mind, and ALSO, before I get any Trolls, remember, trying to write a book that appeals to everyone lands up appealing to no one. Now this is UNEDITED so forgive typos and whatever and more than likely it may get changed a bit. All comments good or bad appreciated. Now, in Chapter One, I have just arrived back into Rhodesia – it is late August 1976.  So here is -

Chapter 2: Recruit copper Karl gets cruelly cropped.

My obsession with joining the BSAP started when, as a pre-teen, I had read all the Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators books and then as a teenager all the Detective Hardy Boys novels. I was convinced I had a natural talent for hunting down criminals by piecing the clues together, as I had nearly always concluded who the baddies were before the final chapter. However, nowhere in these American written collections did it refer to beating up people with heavy objects to coax them to spill the beans quickly, and thus save writing so many chapters. I would find out about that trick later.
So it was with rather naive expectations that I joined the ranks of the blue and khaki, with the anticipation of achieving the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent before my 21st birthday. When I filled in the application form at the police headquarters, I was told I had just made it in time for the next day’s entrance exam. Hey! I hadn’t known about that bit. So much for being a great detective! If I failed - it would be the peasant army for poor little me! God - the mere thought of it gave me another panic attack. The idea of being a troopie pre-Neanderthal ‘Brown Job’, nearly made me drop one! The army bastards had already sent me a fat envelope with my call-up papers. If I wasn’t accepted by the police - I would become Gook fodder! Whilst I truly did love my country, I had absolutely no intention of dying for it. I was back for the Rhodesian way of life – Braai, Booze and Babes, preferably in the sun, and get well paid for it. AND certainly not for R$77 a month that the average conscript troopies got for going into the bush, whilst armed up to their smelly armpits and fighting some very nasty individuals that were officially called terrorists or insurgents or the grander title – Communist Insurgents. We just called them Terrs or Gooks. Later I learnt that they were the same as us – Freedom Fighters! We wanted to be free of them and vice versa. Living on a keyboard of ebony and ivory in perfect harmony is fine, as long as the big keys remain white.
On the application form it showed the wage structure. With my five O’levels, I would start on an income of R$222 dollars a month, before deductions, etc. That would have been about £200 British pounds then. That sounded like a fortune when you take into account a bottle of Coke (because of sanctions there was no such things as cans of beverages) was still five cents in the supermarkets, and a pint of beer in the discotheque was 35 cents! Amongst the small print it was also pointed out that, IF, and a big if… I pass all the future exams; I might make an Inspector in seven years. Since I hadn’t actually calculated on taking any exams at all, this sort of set back all my ambitions of replacing the present incumbent Commissioner of Police by the ripe old age of 25. 
What was apparent when I turned up for the exam, after preparing for it in my usual way - by doing sod all - was that I had unquestionably the most beautiful head of long hair and along with my gobby manner, it made me as popular as an empty beer crate at a mental institute’s annual piss-up. The exam couldn’t have been that difficult because most of the thirty odd applicants also passed, and after meeting them briefly during the smoke breaks, I realised that some of them were verging on the imbecilic. So - subject to a medical examination - I was in.
According to the rumours, you had to be pretty brain dead or a complete spastic, if you failed to sneak (bribe) your way past Morris Depot’s mad incumbent police doctor, and not get a clean bill of health. When I turned up for my ‘medical’, I was a nervous wreck. According to the medical examination form that the senile old man would fill in, three of the criteria’s could be a problem for me.
Two were psychological. I had to allow him to insert his finger into my anus and feel about for haemorrhoids, and then let him fondle my balls, whilst I coughed in embarrassment. I wasn’t sure what the reason was for this, but the thought that my nuts and arse might fail me at such an early stage in my life was extremely traumatic to say the least.  Imagine telling your friends you were not accepted into the police force because your piles were bigger than your testicles and they gaily inform you that my odds of being a homosexual porn-star were also up shit creek. (Rhodesian macho humour is rather tedious.) The third problem was physical. I had flat feet, and although they never bothered me, on paper - I didn’t qualify.
However, all this fear was unfounded. My blood pressure was checked; I was weighed in at 65 kg (143lb), measured up to 174 cm (5’8” and a half) and asked if I felt alright. About joining the police? What a daft question. Well, for sure, I wouldn’t be here otherwise, would I? Actually, what he meant was if I felt perfect in the body. The mind didn’t interest him… that would soon become obvious from the amount of lunatics I would meet as fellow recruits, which included my old china from Allan Wilson High School, Tim Addison, and a new side kick, Jeff Swindells.

That very first night at Morris Depot I was introduced to perhaps one of the wealthiest men in Rhodesia. The police recruit barber, Santos. A tiny man of Portuguese nationality, he had been trained by Australian sheep shearers. He would arrive twice a week, and set up shop in the evenings inside the recruits’ bar. In a few buzzing seconds of a massive electric hair cutter, he converted my David Cassidy looks into an ugly, round ball, topped with brown sandpaper. For the privilege of having next to no chance of pulling any birds in the foreseeable future, I was forced to hand over a dollar. I was rapidly running out of them.
My intake, Recruit Patrol Officer (PO) Squad 8/76, was designated a squad instructor. He would be responsible for teaching us marching drill, first aid, self defence and riot control. He also took us for PT (Physical Training) and would inspect us before we went off to any other lessons. Unfortunately for me, Inspector Mike Lambourne was the ultimate keen, very mean, killing machine, with a black belt in judo and was a champion weight lifter. He was also one of the biggest men I had ever seen. His regulation cap had been adapted so that its hard peak had been angled with such extremity, that it touched the bridge of his nose. It made him look like a nasty NAZI in khaki. With a fist as big as my head and his forearms matching my thighs for size, my half-Jewish anus twitched with fear of this man.
Day one of my new career was used to kit out my fellow recruits and I. Mighty Mike used his expertise to shout and scream at us into some kind of bunch that might resemble a squadron formation, and had us tripping and stumbling, still wearing our various motley civilian clothes, to the Quarter Master’s store. Here we would be issued with all that was necessary for a professional policeman for the next three years. The massive amount was supposed to be packed in a huge, blue, sausage-shaped canvas bag almost as large as myself. There were never ending trips to the counter to collect stuff - heavy, dark khaki wool trousers and a long jacket for winter. Also horse riding trousers, khaki shorts and short-sleeved Safari suit type jacket for town, and grey, open-necked shirts for rural areas. Rubber soled boots for running around in the bush, leather soled boots with steel studs for marching noisily on tarmac and normal leather shoes to go with the long khaki, blue topped socking. There were leather leggings that went from the ankle almost up to the knee, that were usually for town duty, and worn, presumably, if you expected to be savaged by dogs. Green canvas leggings were supposed to be for wandering around rural places if you expected to be savaged by snakes. Then came rubber truncheons (presumably for beating senseless any savaging dogs or snakes), hard hats for riots, and soft leather gloves with huge, white, plastic fins, for riding motor bikes -  if we would  ever get to see one.
As you called out your size and were issued kit, you had to sign for the lot. It all had to be handed back when we left. If something got worn out on the way, that was not a problem, but if it was lost or stolen – you paid for the replacement. Name and number noted on paper for everything. Blue lanyards to wrap around the left shoulder, its clip end holding a shiny stainless steel whistle, would be hidden in the top left shirt pocket. Steel handcuffs, hairy green socks, a stunning leather belt with the magnificently embossed buckle of solid brass with the BSAP logo of a lion speared by assegais. Then we received our full fighting kit. (My protests that I was sure not to need this were ignored.) Two pairs of heavy cotton shirts, trousers and French Foreign Legion type caps, all in the deep shades of Rhodesian bush camouflage.  One Green nylon sleeping bag (known lovingly in the trade as Fart-Sack, or Wank-Pit), aluminium pots and water bottles to put in or on the light green canvas contraption called a web kit. This muddle of straps, flaps and odd shaped pockets resembling a builder’s harness for away trips, was designed for maximum efficacy of combat efficiency. It was supposed to carry all that we would need for fighting Gooks, Spooks, Terrs, Charlie-Tango, or whatever slang name was given to the enemy. Not that I was particularly keen on that idea. I had joined the police to serve souls, and not to shoot holes in them…

Along with the uniforms, each recruit was paired up to share a room and a batman (I always wondered if any of them did a bit robbin on the side), to be our own personal slave! He was there to make our beds, which for some insane reason had to be folded in a special way, resembling a giant square hamburger, and stuck at the end of the bed. He also had to wash and iron our clothes, and for this privilege, we had to give him each R$55 a month out of our hard earned money. This was exploitation, but I had no chance of getting Julia to move in. This was bad news. I had barely started work and was already in debt to my half-owned slave! As the American confederates are so fond of saying – If I had known it was going to work out like this; I would have picked my own cotton!
- - -
Memoir mutterings.

There still seemed to be some invisible link to the mother country, otherwise what was wrong with the name ‘Rhodesia Police’? I suppose it just didn’t roll off the tongue with the same amount of ambience as BSAP.
It all started in 1889, when 500 armed volunteers accompanied the pioneer column of Cecil John Rhodes’s British South Africa Company crossing over the Limpopo, and setting up a camp by a nearby kopie (hill) some three hundred odd miles due north. By the time they realised it was the wrong kopie, it was too late and the future capital, Salisbury, was born. The Great White Hunter, Frederick Courtney Selous, had been their guide and as punishment for these major mindless meanderings he was shot in the head by a German sniper (but that wasn’t till the First World War).
In 1891 the Mashonaland Mounted Police was formed in the north and was soon followed by its southerly counterpart, the Matabeleland Mounted Police, plus the municipal force called the Southern Rhodesia Constabulary. By 1909 the word ‘Company’ had been dropped and the whole lot, along with the neighbouring Bechuanaland Border Force, became amalgamated as the BSAP. Elements of this force served in the Anglo-Boer war as well as the First World War.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the sample, will get the e book when it comes out.
(At present sitting by a beach in Mauritius, not sure why but is better than working!)