Monday, January 02, 2012

Sixpence and the Great White Bwana

Yo all. Happy New Year and all that bollocks. I am still alive and kicking up a right ruckus. Forget Year of the Dragon  – this is the year of the Gokwe Kid. More about that later, but meanwhile, many people wonder how I became so disturbed? It is, sadly, a long story but below is part of it. When I write the prequel (should I still be alive by then) what you read now is a disturbing insight into the mind of a highly unbalanced individual. This is all true.

Sixpence and the Great White Bwana

In 1971, Sixpence and the Great White Bwana are members of 8th Mount Pleasant, (Salisbury), Boy Scout Troop and are at Coronation Park for the boy scout cooking competition. Both are aged 13 going 14. Bwana is ‘A’ stream at school. Sixpence cannot swim…

* * *
Sixpence sat on one of the many boxes that he had just unloaded and sticking a finger in one nostril, he thought that maybe it was a bad plan to have volunteered to be the Great White Bwana’s sidekick for the day. He normally spent Saturday fully occupied, doing nothing, but here he was, dressed all smart in his Boy Scout uniform and about to spend his free time as unpaid assistant cook. Bwana had promised Sixpence that if he worked hard, did as he was told and shut his stupid mouth, he, the Great White Bwana would cook the best fish kedgeree and baked apple desert in the world, and thus win first prize at the annual Scout cooking competition and that he, Sixpence, would receive 50% of the spoils.
Once Bwana had found the small, roped off allocated plot that would become the bush kitchen for a day, he had his Sixpence working hard immediately. After dragging most of Bwana’s mother’s kitchen out the back of her estate car and assembling three tables, Sixpence was told to go to the wood pile.
‘Now, Sixpence,’ Bwana said, whilst handing him two huge buckets, ‘get only nice looking pieces of wood. In one bucket you bring me small white ones and in the other large dark ones. I want six bucket loads and stacked neatly in the corner. Do you understand?’
‘Yes Baas,’ Sixpence replied and wandered confusedly to the massive pile of off-cuts that had been dumped by the local furniture manufacturer in the middle of the football sized field.
By now the sun was doing its usual Central African stunt by making poor Sixpence sweat terribly as he staggered back with the heavy buckets. Meanwhile, Bwana had created TWO fireplaces with some bricks (nice clean ones) that had magically appeared from one of the tin trunks that Sixpence had nearly split a gut dragging to the plot.
Even though Sixpence was an expert arsonist since the age of three, Bwana wouldn’t allow him to build the fires. Bwana wanted to make a work of art. White wood had been used to get the fires started and he had then carefully placed the dark hard wood on top. If Sixpence would have made the fire, it would have been a huge pyramid, and  he would have poured some petrol on it and have a big blaze immediately. Just like Boss Rob in the adjacent plot next door! Now instead, poor Sixpence was forced to lie on the ground and blow gently on the fires to get them glowing nicely.
‘Sixpence, go and fill the buckets with water. One must always be on the small fire getting hot for your washing up water,’ Bwana told his lazy cook-boy, who was taking a short break and scratching at his hole, whilst grinning stupidly at the next-door neighbours; who had just realised that they had forgotten to bring any tables.
Sixpence couldn’t understand why Bwana refused to give Boss Rob and Boss Angus one of their tables, for after all, they were also from the same Scout troop.

As Sixpence wandered off to look for some water, he was starting to think that he was going to be doing very little cooking and a lot of manual labour. He muttered mutinous threats under his breath.
When Sixpence returned with his feet and socks soaking wet from spilling half of the water, Bwana had turned the plot into a scene straight out of some futuristic Out of Africa film. He had a huge green umbrella over two tables. Piles of snow white crockery and gleaming stainless steel pots and pans and silver tea-set, covered one table. Two huge, spotless, wood chopping boards and an entire set of master chef knives were placed on the other. Sixpence also had a table that was covered, but not with shade. His table was covered with a large plastic washing up bowl, a drying rack, a bottle of sanction busting imported washing up liquid, and a pile of stain free, neatly ironed tea towels with motifs of roses.
‘Sixpence, here is a scrubbing brush for your nails. Whilst I prepare the food, you can go for a walk but be back in 30 minutes because I will have some washing up for you then.’
‘Yes Baas, thank you Baas’, Sixpence said.
He was happy for a respite, as he was hurting from all the heavy loads his poor back had suffered. Wandering aimlessly about, his heart was bursting with pride as he looked at all the other hundred odd kitchens. His Bwana had the best one of all and Boss Rob and Angus had the worst!

Sixpence got back right on time, only fifteen minutes late, to find Bwana had indeed produced lots of dirty plates to be washed up. Bwana was very forgiving and instead of whipping his boy, handed a crisply ironed, whiter than white apron to Sixpence, who was then soon washing happily away. The washing up liquid made his hands soft, not like the stuff at his home, which gave him palms like scouring pads whenever he was forced by his parents to wash up because the lazy maid didn’t have to work on Sundays. 
Whilst Sixpence dried up, he watched the three judges who had arrived for the first inspection and were now in Boss’s Angus and Rob’s kitchen. Boss Rob was filleting a couple of bream (tilapia), on his lap whilst sitting cross-legged on the ground. The fish was stinking a bit under the midday sun, making Sixpence’s nose runny and he wiped it clean on his forearm. The judges were very impressed with Boss Angus who was busy doing a famed tribal dance called, ‘Termite Death’. He was stamping on millions of tiny red ants that were crawling in chaotic order over everything whilst looking for free snacks. The judges noted carefully the pots that were caked with muck and were boiling furiously on top of a warped blackened wire grill, balanced precariously on three unlike sized rocks.
Now it was the turn for The Great White Bwana and his Sixpence to be inspected. Bwana made his Sixpence stand to attention, as Bwana gave the judges the smartest Boy Scout salute since Lord Baden-Powell invented it. They wandered around with murmurs of astonishment. Sixpence guessed the last time they had seen a set up like this was at the five star Victoria Falls hotel! Even the dustbin looked like it had been flown in from some far away land just for this occasion. All the ingredients for the meal were beautifully laid out, the smoked herrings rested in a bed of ice, ready to be broken up into large chunks and to be placed into a spotless pot with gently warming milk, complete with a bay leaf floating on the top. The perfect smokeless fire glowed invitingly under the stainless steel grill. Bwana was as cool as the cucumber sandwiches that he offered the judges.
        ‘Perhaps a small refreshment’ he said, proffering a huge brilliant white, gold embossed serving tray with tiny triangular sliced sandwiches made with fluffy private bakery bread, perched cheekily between thinly sliced iced lettuce. ‘Perhaps, a cup of tea? Sixpence, pour some tea for our esteemed guests.’
Sixpence, not being a complete idiot, did so with a flourish, complete with a clean tea towel draped over his arm as he poured tea into dainty cups. Putting on his number one smile, he asked if they preferred illegally imported white, brown or candy sugar. Bwana seemed satisfied as the judges moved on.
‘Sixpence, stop grinning like an idiot! Make yourself useful.’ Bwana handed Sixpence a huge tin of aerosol ant killer. ‘Spray the table legs and all the ground’.
Sixpence did as he was told in double quick time. He wanted to take a burning stick out the fire and spray that too, because it made a cool flame thrower to roast the ants, but he knew Bwana would give him a clap around the ear hole if he tried.
Sixpence decided to take the piss a bit.
‘Aaah, Baas Rob, shall I spray your food as well? I think you are suppose to make fish kedgeree not ant kedgeree,’ he said whilst laughing like a hyena.
Bass Rob was not impressed and told Sixpence he was a cheeky bastard and would get a kick up his arse so hard that Sixpence would turn into two Tickys.

Cheeky Sixpence went back to washing dishes, giggling stupidly at his own clever wit, whilst Bwana was getting everything ready for the baked apple. As he set about mixing dark brown demerara sugar with cinnamon, Bwana decided to try and educate Sixpence.
‘Sixpence, the rules, besides saying what kind of meal it must be, has only one other requisite. This is that the meal must be cooked over an open fire.’ Bwana tipped his head in the direction of the suffering fools next door, ‘Bush cooking can be done in two ways. One is in a simulation of a war zone, complete with starving soldiers, battling the elements to create something edible that might kill them, if the termites don’t eat them alive first, or  - secondly - it can be done in a style fit for a King!’
Sixpence just nodded his head enthusiastically. He couldn’t answer, because firstly, he didn’t have a clue what Bwana was going on about, and secondly his mouth was stuffed with the rest of the cucumber sandwiches that he had thieved when Bwana wasn’t looking.
Bwana picked up a perfectly shaped, glossy granny smith apple. In his other hand he had a strange object resembling a small steel tube attached to the handle. As he carefully pressed it through the middle of the apple from the top, he went on educating his Sixpence.
‘Sixpence, can you remember what the Boy Scout motto is?’
Sixpence, thought carefully whilst he swallowed the last sandwich,
‘Yes Baas, it is, “Be Prepared”.’
Sixpence's eyes bulged with astonishment as he watched Bwana, who with a few deft twists, pulled the entire core out the apple. Sixpence knew that if he had attempted to use this amazing piece of, ‘White Mans Magic’, the corer would have carried on through the apple and made a huge hole in his palm.
‘I have practised this dish three times at home. I have it down to perfection. In exactly 45 minutes we will be ready to present it to the judges,’ Bwana said as he stuffed the apple with the sugar mix.
He then placed an aural of cloves around the top and placed it on a small aluminium tray. This was then carefully placed in a large pot. He slowly added water till it floated and with the lid in place this in turn was placed on the fire.

Sixpence was very impressed and made a mental note that perhaps there were other ways to being clever besides having just a smart mouth that got him into trouble all the time. Sixpence noticed that Bass Rob had also prepared their apple. It didn’t involve such fancy preparation as the Bwana’s apple. They just popped a small one into an enamel cup, poured some water over it and placed it in the middle of the hottest flames, where its skin promptly started to shrivel in agony.
Whilst Sixpence did more washing up, Bwana prepared the coup de grace. On a silver platter three of the bone china plates were placed. A small vase appeared with a single red rose in it. Three pure linen serviettes, neatly rolled, were placed in polished silver rings to match the three silver forks and spoons. The aroma being given off by the fish kedgeree in its imported basmati rice made Sixpence’s mouth dribble with desire.

After a while, Baas Rob and Baas Angus had returned from where they had brought their burnt offerings to be judged. They announced arrogantly to the Great White Bwana that, ‘the judges said it was delicious!’
‘Sixpence, put on a fresh apron and comb your hair,’ Bwana said as he placed the finished food onto the plates. Looking at the tray, Sixpence was stunned. The apple was fit to burst, not a mark on its skin except streaks of glossy melted sugar reeking of cinnamon dribbling gently down.
Now, whilst Sixpence hadn’t taken much part in the cooking, he was not a total bloody fool and he had one trick up his sleeve. Not even the cleverest Bwana had thought of this one!
‘Baas, you forgot one thing,’ and from his coat pocket he gave Bwana a beautiful hand made menu, embossed with the Boy Scout Logo and inside was little pictures of fish and apples. Sixpence had even managed to spell ‘kedgeree’ correctly!
Bwana was very pleased with his Sixpence and they joined the end of the line. Bwanas timing was impeccable. The food was still piping hot when it was presented to the stunned judges. Tears of gratitude rolled down their cheeks and they willingly participated in the ceremony as Sixpence presented the menu, then laid the serviettes on their laps whilst Bwana served up the food. The oohhs and aahhs of appreciation reverberated around, stunning the other competitors. They were all going to be losers, and they knew it. Sixpence now knew he would become famous one day.

The last part of the competition was presenting a cleaned up kitchen. Sixpence was very upset as Bwana had made him even clean up the fireplace and scrub the grills till he was almost blinded by its flashing brilliance. After the judges had been for the final marking, Bwana packed everything away and Sixpence dragged his exhausted body once more backwards and forwards whilst loaded down with crates and boxes full of hot bricks.
As the sun set, the Scouts all gathered for the prize giving. Bwana looked very smart but Sixpence was rather bedraggled and smelled of wood-smoke. And then it happened – Bwana and Sixpence were called out, First prize! Bwana and Sixpence proudly received each a folding canvas camping chair each. Sixpence was taken home and told his Father of his magnificent triumph, but his Father said,
‘Cooking! You will be wearing dresses next,’ which upset Sixpence very much.

The following Friday evening at the Scout hall, Bwana approached Sixpence, looking a little peeved off.
‘Sixpence, does your camping stool work properly?’
Sixpence gazed intently at the ceiling for a moment before replying.
‘My stool is working fine Baas, what is wrong with yours?’

Sixpence didn’t need the answer, because when he had put the stools in the boot he had noticed that one of them was a reject, having one of its legs three inches short. So whilst Bwana had been very smart in winning the cooking competition, Sixpence had taken the only working chair - because he was very clever-clever!

1 comment:

Ken Tilbury said...

Sixpence deserves half-a-crown for his efforts and powers of observation! Well done - a most amusing account of a normal Rhodesian event.