Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PO Greenberg – No1 Loser

The Gokwe Kid. My room in the Gwelo police singles mess, June 1978. The hat I believe I borrowed from fellow PO Keith Wainwright. The leather jacket is mine but not issue. Behind me is my clothes cupboard. The mini Rhodesian flag I still have. Also stuck to the door are some strange shiny squares. They are office numbers made from aluminium that I stole from the Monomatapa Hotel in Salisbury when I was a hardcore daring individual. I did these raids with my mate Tim Bell. We nearly got caught. As the lift was going down, some staff member got in, and my screwdriver fell out my sleeve and onto the lift floor. The Black gentlemen picked it up, and handing it to me said,
            ‘Excuse me Sah, you have dropped your screwdriver.’

Greetings all. I see I have not updated for a while. As usual I was very busy going over the same stuff again and again. The same laughs, the same crying. Tweak it here, tweak it there - until the whole thing starts to drive me mad.

Okay, I have reached the end for the umpteenth time. Now it is having a little look over for obvious defects by a couple of friends before it gets popped off for editing. But as I went over the chapters, I spotted a weird pattern. I then spent several hours trying to work out what the hell am I doing?

I mean, this is a memoir right? A memoir is about all or a part of someone’s life. You go from A to Z and hope something interesting happens in-between to keep your readers even vaguely interested in (as in my case), some complete 18 year old tosser thrown to the lions in 1976 Rhodesia. (Rhodesia? Where is that?)

I have read many Rhodesian memoirs and factual accounts. All, in their way, crept something into my ‘version’ of the dying days of Rhodesia. One, in particular I will mention. It is the academic book by Peter Godwin and Ian Hancock called ‘Rhodesians Never Die’ The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia.

This is seriously hardcore stuff. I must have read it at least four times over the last ten years, each time something imbedded itself in my mind. I haven’t read it for a while and although it sits right now in front of me, I decided enough is enough. If we look at the topics abstractly that these great writers covered in clinical terminology, I come up with a list -

Homophobia, racial discrimination, alcoholism, religious intolerance, relationship problems, corruption, internal military rivalry, sexism, machoism, torture, abuse of power, blind ignorance, downright primitiveness, propaganda, bravery and cowardice, censorship, white class structure, sport fanaticism, incredible entrepreneurship under sanctions, shortages due to sanctions, betrayal, arrogance of perceived superiority, materialism, isolation and forced integration, friendships imposed by circumstances, and…the utter brainless waste of human life… and that is to mention a few.

Okay, it sounds like a horror trip. But it is not. Or is it? Can it all be just a huge joke that no one really understood because; it is never the joke that is the star - it is the way it is told. Ah, but there is always the other side to the story. Honour, respect, good manners, incredible comradely between Blacks and Whites, survival against incredible odds, perseverance, pride, love, humility, stunning nature, incredible weather and drinking.

All these themes slip effortlessly into my prose. Some so subtle you need to look twice. The whole memoir IS a joke, a Shakespearian tragicomedy - for the joke’s on me. But how can I write a tragicomedy, for surly that is fiction? Welcome to my memoir - because I may have achieved the impossible. High, middle or low brow writing, it is all three and yet it is not.

But, most of all about my memoir, it is an entertaining adventure story with more twists than Piglet’s tail. Where are the truth and the fantasy separated? Easy. The truth is boringly obvious – the fantasy makes it exciting. But then memoirs don’t normally follow the classic style of story telling. Some ups, then down, up a bit, then down and finally up to the grand finale. Life isn’t a fairy tale - far to complicated. So how does a memoir become a fairy tale? Hansel and Gretel meets the Gokwe Kid? Hang on to your seat, because as you go deeper and deeper into this weird world that I unfold, it gets seriously crazy.

And then – what the hell is the genre and style? War, love, adventure, tragedy, comedy, fantasy? It is all of them. Occasionally I mention directly with hindsight or retrospect. But there are many sentences that are riddled with rhetoric and futuristic hindsight. I state the bleeding obvious but obviously blinkered.  In theory - it is all impossible. I claim ignorance of the situation I am eagerly accepting, whilst at the same time acknowledge the faults of the system that I had no clue of what it was at all about!

In clear text – I was full of shit - jumped freely into the shit because I didn’t give a shit, and I was as thick as shit and then realized it was really shit the shit I was in, but managed to bullshit my way out to write more bullshit about the shit I got into because I was a stupid shit. Got it? I shit you not!

I believe it works! Crazy shit.

I use occasionally modern slang and terminology foreign to us Rhodesians at the time.
I mention technologies that never existed, and internet services such as Facebook and Ebay. Also television programs such as Rhodesia Has Talent and the Rhodesian X-factor. These programs never existed, although we did have very primitive versions at the time. Google is often mentioned. For example in a certain chapter I have this line –

Bush Rhodesia acacia trees long yellow grass lions gooks dangerous Christmas Eve 1976 end of the world as we know it

The idea is if you cut and paste that, if read on a PC, or type it out by hand if reading from that thing called a paperback. In theory, it should bring up the link to the above blog heading.

It just has to be the wildest thing - Rhodesians Never Die. We will - we are dropping like flies, but no one envisaged the internet and in that massive universe called cyber space - they are all out there, for ever! Let the future ponder over a miniscule moment of time that meant so much, to so few, for reasons to be dissected for eternity. Good luck I say, because…the task is impossible. But, if one book throws a spanner into the academic works – this is it!

Catch ya later…

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Last of the Rhodesians - : How the chain of command works when there is radio silence.

I promised a few freebies, and as the ‘honest’ copper that I was, er…whatever.

Now, what you will read below I personally think is one of the finest pieces of stand alone comedy I have written. Unfortunately, I was standing rather alone in this incident. What you read is deep into the fantastical memoir that I have written. But, this chapter can stand alone. I cried tears writing this. I am not likely to cry bullshit, am I? All what you read is true. I have taken some poetic licence writing this. My critics can cry me a river.

I am tired. I do not know if I can make the self instigated Christmas deadline. I will try, but I will not sacrifice quality just to get a pagan deadline. I have a quarter to go before it gets sent off for editing. Anyway, here is another unedited chapter - and it is bloody hilarious…

Chapter 29: How the chain of command works when there is radio silence.

Once upon a time - on a bog standard insignificant day of rapes, murders, stolen bicycles and a couple of chickens, along with the average bestiality (not necessarily with the stolen chickens) - the Boss calls me into his office. He hands me a file.
            ‘I would like you to read this now. Here in my office. It arrived with the police post from Que Que.’
            Ooh - sounds all cloak and dagger stuff - very exciting! I take the file eagerly and look at the cover. It had my name on it (wow, that is so cool), but disappointingly had no ‘Top Secret’ stamped anywhere. There were a few sheets of paper inside and I started to read them in chronological order. Within seconds it became very clear and I nearly passed out with fright. This was the worst case scenario – ever! The first two I already knew -

                                                                        Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation
                                                                        License Department
                                                                        Autumn 1977

Karl Greenberg
Box 10

Failure to renew your radio license.

Dear Mr Greenberg,

According to our records, your radio license has expired. As of this date we have no record of you renewing it. I wish to point out that should you not do so within the next thirty days we have the power under the Radio and Television Broadcasting License Act of 19 hundred and voetsak, to really give you a serious hard time. Evasion is a criminal offence - it will be prison for you, and a fine that will break you financially for life.

Yours threateningly,
Rupert Mudcock

P.S. If you write a nice letter to say you don’t really have a radio anymore, we will hold fire, BUT, mark my words, we could spring a surprise visit, and woe is you hey if you have a radio – china.
_ _ _ _

British South Africa Police
                                                                                    P.O. Box 10
                                                                                    Day after your threat
Director Rupert Mudcock
Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation
License Department

Re: Get your licence or get liquidated

Dear Mr. Rupert Mudcock,

I take deep personal affront to your offensive tone. I can only postulate that you suffer from megalomania brought on by polymorphous light eruption. As you may notice I am a police officer, and a highly respected one, based in a place you would struggle to find on a two-dimensional, geometrically accurate, static representation of three-dimensional space - commonly known as a map.
            Your ignorance of the law empowered under your jurisdiction is staggering in its incompetency. I am surprised that you have attained the position that you now seem to relish with the pathological psycho of a power obsessed maniac.  I find it disturbing that you should accuse me of being a common criminal with no proof of any crime committed. Contrary to your misguided belief, it is not a crime to own a radio without paying a levy for it. It is, however, a criminal offence if I turn it on and listen to the propagated propaganda garbage churned out by your broadcasting company. Should I simply have it tuned into Radio Maputo to listen to Comrade Robert Mugabe without a license, that is his problem, not yours! Nor am I legally required to formulate, transcribe and communicate to anyone, when and if, I engage my receiver of electronic media into the appropriate mode for deciphering and henceforth regurgitated out via an electro-acoustic transducer into comprehensible harkening.

However, in fairness to the predicament I have now put you in – to wit, your demand is a load of bollocks – I will take time to explain and offer some advice that you are in desperate need of. I would have continued paying the extortionate sum to listen to Forces Requests, simply because my present honey sends me messages because, as unlike you, I have a war to fight; but sadly my beloved mini-Precious (such was the name of my recently departed radio - for use of a better word), passed away – violently.
            It was whilst I was Gook hunting deep in the bush at Charama base camp. I was tired and well sauced from a few toots, when I was required to drive off and fetch some beers from the nearest store about an hours drive away. Upon my return, after and enduring a few more for the road, I forgot where I had placed my mini-Precious and drove over it. Its dying scream will haunt me forever. The squawk the loudspeaker made as it was flattened into a Frisbee, still makes my bones chatter chillingly. I have neither had the time, nor the inclination; to purchase a replacement. That would dishonour the ghost and soul of my mini-Precious. Some of its happier ditties - Schweppes Orange, Lyons Ready Maid, Five Roses Tea, to sadly mention a few - still fill my head when I dream.   
I buried mini-Precious at the edge of the escarpment where the reception had been the best. I placed its terribly mutilated, crushed face pointing in the direction of Springbok Radio, a channel we both had loved. Its little twisted aerial I left poking out the small, shallow grave. I placed the inverted fired FN cartridge from the gun salute onto it in deference for a lost comrade taken so cruelly by the hell that is war.

Now let me give you some facts of life and some advice re: reality. The population of Gokwe TTL is almost quarter of a million. Through my travels throughout this massive land mass, I have become aware of a huge proliferation of radios used by the local populace. The noise they emit I find, quite frankly, irritating to my Western tuned ear, but this is beside the point. I roughly calculate that if 10% of this population possess a radio, you should, in mathematical terms, be receiving on the average - 2000 renewals a month. I have been informed by Gokwe’s Postmaster General that he has no recollection of this ever happening, and would struggle to find the forms in the tip he calls an office. (Saying that, I err on the cautious side. He could have been pocketing the lot because he tried to shaft me over some digital watches, but this is just an unproved theory.) I also notice that in all my time I have been in Gokwe, I have never seen you or any of your goon squad rock up here and spend a few weeks driving through bush and mud; checking out the peasant’s licences.
Your racial inequalities match the Department for Dog License fees. I have yet to see a collar with obligatory dog tax dogtag hanging around a Kaffir Dog’s neck. The only things that are hanging there are ticks and fleas, but this is not so of the White dog owning Gokwians who comply with the law. Must they also write a letter for tax exemption if their beloved pet gets inadvertently run over by a drunk? I beg to differ.

Sincerely Up Yours,

Patrol Officer Karl Greenberg
Gokwe Police Station
_ _ _  _

Oh-oh! This doesn’t look very clever-clever anymore. I had written the letter on police time, with police paper, using a police typewriter, with the fancy Gokwe police rubber stamp under my signature and posted my reply in a police stamped envelope (free post). I have typed out rape statements faster than that letter. I had worn a dictionary out putting the masterpiece together and had shed buckets of tears of hilarity over my sparkling wit – now I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t look up at the Boss, and went on to the next sheets. They were all letters…

Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation
License Department
Day after Greenberg’s letter

Office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police
Midlands Province
British South Africa Police
Gwelo Headquarters

Greetings old friend,

I hope you and your wonderful wife are fine. We must get together down on the farm for a bit of chin wag in the near future. Chat about the good old days over some gin and tonics. Those wonderful times when we were hard, disciplined police troopers, what-what, arf- arf.
            Listen old boy, sorry to bother you, but it seems you have some unruly element under your command. I have enclosed the necessary documentation and I believe you will be shocked by this young whippersnapper’s response to my perfectly written, standard request. Quite shocking, old boy, quite shocking! I told my beloved of course, and she almost swooned, and now threatens to bring it up amongst her fellow bridge players.
            This cannot continue. We have to uphold the regiment dear chap. We cannot allow this rubbish to bring down the noble name of the BSAP! Next thing you know -the disease will spread and every Tom, Dick and Harry will scribble illiterate memoirs of their pathetic contributions. All rabble Sir!  Unlike us Sir, unlike us. No, old boy, this evil must be stamped out before it spreads. Good God man, if the enemy got hold of this scandal; we will be the laughing stock, old boy. Laughing stock, I tell you!
            I will leave this in your capable hands, dear chap. I am sure you will act with all the powers at your disposal.

Yours faithfully,
Your friend Rupert
_ _ _ _

I let out a small, silent fart. Bloody hell! This bloke has had a serious sense of humour failure. The way he was going on, this Rupert Mudcock twat would splash this as a scandal all over the News of the World. I bet the slimy bastard was even hacking into the police phone trying to find out if I really had a dead radio. Still, this was looking bad. The Boss was still watching me silently, as with shaking hands; I read the next letter –

Office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police
Midlands Province
British South Africa Police
Gwelo Headquarters

Chief Superintendent Toady Scheisskopf
Officer in Charge
British South Africa Police
Que Que Province
Que Que Headquarters

Good God, Toady, what the hell is going on down there? I give you command of some run of the mill joint and I am having to handle nonsense like this? What in God’s name are you doing man? Have you lost your marbles? Too much playing golf, I gather, rather than controlling the men under your command. Totally irresponsible. An absolute disgrace. I want action from you Toady, action I tell you; otherwise you can kiss any more promotion good-bye. I will not tolerate this.

Make it so.
­_ _ _ _

Chief Superintendent Toady Scheisskopf
Officer in Charge
British South Africa Police
Que Que Province
Que Que Headquarters

Chief Inspector Mike Harvey
Officer in Charge
British South Africa Police

Harvey, have you gone mad? Are the lunatics running the asylum? I know that Greenberg. A very cheeky sod. Last time I was up there he was hanging around like some X-factor candidate, scruffy and with long hair. When I asked him to get a haircut, you know what he said to me?
            ‘In case you haven’t noticed - we lack White peoples barbers or hairdressers. But if you wish, I could go to the local’s one and get myself an afro just like Black Belt Jones.’
            I want his guts for garters, Harvey. I want him flogged, drawn and quartered, Harvey, you hear me. A disgrace. Some lip on that boy. Listen up Harvey, if you don’t want to rot in that hellhole till your bones are bleached to alabaster marble, pull finger and sort that cocky bastard out once and for all. A bloody disgrace allowing such a fool to run amok under your command. Bloody hell Harvey, sort yourself out man and bring that imbecile down a smart peg or two.

I demand immediate action.

Chief Supr. Toady Scheissekopf

_ _ _ _

I closed the file and handed it back to the Boss. We faced each other in semi-cemetery silence. Even the cicadas and cooing doves that you normally heard through the open windows seemed to have shut up. They were waiting quietly for my firing squad to gather.
Maybe five seconds we stood there emotionless - but it seemed forever. For one of those rare occasions in my life…I had absolutely nothing to say. At last, the Boss spoke, but there was something wrong with his facial muscles. They were twitching strangely around the corners of his mouth and his eyes seemed watery.
            ‘Karl. May I give you some good advice? Next time you want to pull another stunt like this - please refrain from signing it in an official capacity and using our rubberstamp.’
            Then, before my astonished eyes, he took the folder and dropped into his wastepaper basket.

As I sneaked Gollum-like out of his office I suddenly realised that with all the stuff that went across Mike Harvey’s desk – this bit of ‘bad news’; had just made his day.

Memoir mutterings and glossary.

I got lucky, as usual. I recall from private correspondence with Mike Harvey that Toady wasn’t exactly his best china either. I recall an incident when Toady comes up for one of his inspections. (Ah, bless, he must have had a golf game cancelled.) So, it turns out that we single POs ‘have’ to invite him to have lunch with us. Wilson puts up a right feast for a rare full house of at least 5 POs. I am as usual chattering utter garbage during the meal. Then Toady, with a look of pure venom, says,
            ‘You! Shut-up! I wish to eat my meal in peace and not be forced to listen to utter rubbish.’
            Now, I seethe. For a start, it happens to be OUR singles quarters, thus sacred hallow ground. Secondly, my dear Chief Superintendent Scheisskopf, we had to allow you to come and eat with us. We need that pleasure as much as I need a frontal lobotomy. AND, thirdly, my dear Shithead (which is English for Scheisskopf); I am also forced to pay for part of your bloody meal!!! Which, I have just now concluded, is the chicken leg and I am going to shove it up your nose.
            I didn’t, because if I had - this would have been the final chapter. Still, with that wonderful thing of hindsight and the attitude problem I have – I should have tipped his meal into his lap and legged it asap to Mike Harvey and begged him to hide me.

I wish I had that file now. It would be gold worth on EBay. Still, the Boss was right to get rid of it.

Voetsak – Normally means bugger-off or get lost. In this case - 19 hundred and voetsak - the word is used as ‘no idea’.