Monday, January 14, 2013

The Black Jews of Rhodesia / Zimbabwe

Whilst doing some research for a chapter called Losing my Religion for my next book Simply The Pest, I came across an amazing story.

Whilst I found out that there is little of the Jewish community left in Zimbabwe (perhaps 500 plus from a high of several thousands during the Rhodesia period), the demise has nothing to do at all with anti-Semitism but more due to the collapse of the economy.

But in my story I refer only to white Jews. However it now turns out that for at least 2500 years or more, Jews wandered down from the Middle East (most probably what is now today’s Yemen), and the now 70,000 strong Lemba people are settled in Zimbabwe and parts of northern South Africa.

But here similarities to the white Jews end (besides the fact that the Lemba people are all black). Whilst they practice traditions such as a ban on the consumption of pork, male circumcision and ‘kosher’ type slaughter of livestock, for them it is more of a tradition rather than a religion.

Whilst it appears that there are several groups throughout Africa claiming some sort of connection to a Jewish ancestry, in the late 1990’s scientists dropped a genetics bombshell. Whilst over half of anyone whose surname is Cohen had DNA that could be traced back to the time of Moses, they found the same link in 50% of the Lemba people.

Curiously, I have no recollection of hearing about these people when I lived in Rhodesia.

For further interesting details – Google –
Lemba people. The Wikipedia entry is a good place to start.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Learner drivers – Gokwe style.

Oops. I just remembered a hilarious anecdote I forgot to put in my book. It is about learner drivers. We, (the police) in Gokwe were allowed to take the hopefuls for their theory test. (After we had passed our full license.)

It worked a bit like this. So along comes some black geezer. He has read the Highway Code (not). In the Highway Code was the Q and A list. In theory, you took one dollar and a passport sized photo from the applicant, randomly asked about 50% of the questions and if they replied correctly, you gave them the provisional drivers license to go out and kill and maim as long as a ‘L’ sign was stuck on the back of the vehicle. They were supposed to have a fully licensed driver with them, but I recall (and many of you will also), it was all a farce.

So, it didn’t take long to clock that the candidates were actually parrots! It didn’t matter what question you read out, they chirped the answer word perfect. Punctuation, grammar was faultless even if they couldn’t speak more than five words of English. Something was afoot. I started to get uneasy because I had a gut feeling that they hadn’t a friggin clue at all what the hell they were parroting on about.

There were two tricks you could do. Because I am a natural born liberal without a cause, I felt a bit sorry for the savages and would not take the money and fill in the form and paperwork shite before the exam. I gave the exam first and managed to fail about 99% of the hopeful drivers. They kept the buck and picture (a hell of a cost and trip down to Que Que to sort that out), I had no paperwork and the dirt roads were kept relatively safe till Independence.

Actually, it was rather easy to catch the natives out. The Highway Code had an error on the back. It was about which car dips lights for which car. They had it wrong and the candidate wasn’t really sure what the hell dipping lights meant anyway since whitey had only given him a candle a couple of decades ago. (Who remembers that fabulous little dip/full beam button on the floor for your foot? I really miss that.)

So as much as my liberal heart loved our peasants, I wasn’t exactly going to allow them to run rampant. I would gently break the news (sometimes through a translating constable), that perhaps they should spend some time actually understanding the Highway Code rather than just memorise the Q and A bit. Then some of them would really be drama queens and weep and wail about starving to death and all sorts, but my heart was hard and I said no.

But for the really clever-clevers that kicked up a right ruckus, I had my own question that always destroyed their dreams. It goes like this –

You are driving to the township. You are drunk and weaving all over the place. Behind you is a BSAP squad car flashing its blue light and yowling its howling siren. You see a possible bolt hole in a tiny street between some shebeens. It is hard right hand turn and at 130kmh, you try it. Of all the vehicles tyres, which one bared the least load as you attempted this maneuver?

Answer in comments please…

Just remembered…our black BSAP blokes who were taught by us to drive, were book perfect- almost to despair! In all my time with the BSAP, I never, ever saw or witnessed any of these perfect gentlemen drive like us white drunken hooligans.

PS – If you laughed, please buy me a beer. I am running out…

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tanga – My best friend

I am furiously working with two fingers ticky-ticking away on the next book. One story I still keep till the end of my rewrites is because it makes me cry. I hate this story. So stupid really, I mean like, it is just about a dog.

Most Rhodies have something emotional about dogs. Why do we come so attached to them? Someone told me that it because they never would betray you. Perhaps actually as the war made life untenable, we betrayed them. Beaten to death, shot or we put them down or gave them away as the last of the Rhodesians fled. I shudder.

So I have beautiful story about a dog that was as useless, hopeless and suffered from ADHD as myself. He wasn’t just a dog; he was my brother.

I found some words from a song that I wanted to include in the story. Smart money said check out the copyright. Well, it is a mess. You can download, read on the internet, do what you like with lyrics, but put them in a book – serious trouble. You have to try and find the owner of the lyrics (not necessarily the artist) contact them and either they ignore the Email, reply asking for serious bucks or give you the okay shortly before you die. In other words, unless you have a powerhouse publishing company behind you – forget it.

I believe this will all change because of the internet. The copyright laws need to be totally revamped. I find that writers should be able to set moods by quoting from songs with no fear of being sued. It is ludicrous.

In this point of time I have no choice. But I will give you a hint of the passion of the story from a song. I put it up here because it is quite frankly everywhere and I quote from Wikipedia –

Mr. Bojangles is the title of a song originally written and recorded by American country music artist Jerry Jeff Walker for his 1968 album of the same title.

These are the lines –

‘He danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs throughout the South.
He spoke with tears of fifteen years how his dog him, he traveled about.
His dog up and died, he up and died,
After twenty years he still grieves.’

I never owned another dog again.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Beer – till death do us part.

Sigh. The dreaded time has arrived yet again. The fridge is empty. It is raining a sort of Inyanga type ‘guti’. Tomorrow is Sunday and here all the shops are closed.

Option one – do nothing and await the shakes of withdrawal.

Option two – look up the bus times and drag sorry arse along with a little case down the road and wait for bus. Then either a) rush like a lunatic and purchase as much as possible in 10 minutes, fast track through the checkout and stagger coated in sweat to catch the bus on the way back…or b) miss that bus and wander around stupidly for an hour plus in the supermarket killing time so as to catch the next bus home.

This of course depends if they are running every hour because today is Saturday. A quick look at the timetable shows that sadly, it appears that I am well shafted by the local public transport as it appears they running around about every THREE hours. Even Kambasha’s bus in Gokwe had a better service.

Which leaves me with the worst option of all – the evil monster on two wheels. The mere thought of mounting it fills me with dread. But I will be brave, I will look at my General Service Medal, beat my chest and shout out the window ‘We are Men of Men’, and mentally prepare myself for the awful trip ahead.

So before I go out into the wilds yet again, please note that you can now help me out with a beer or two. Just click on the Paynow button on the right. Many thanks…

To be continued - if I return in one piece…

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Grim Reaper v My Sister

My two years younger sister Bridget should have popped her clogs and given the bucket a thorough kicking well before her teens. I can only hazard a guess that her Yorkshire genes (world renowned for being tighter than Scot or Jew genes), thought that if they came into this world for free, on no account were they departing without a fight.

Bridget was physically not suited for Central Africa and all it entails. In Rhodesia we were brought up from the age of five to be tough and excel in sports and be fit and strong. Unfortunately Bridget could only be considered a bit of a Spazsticus rather than a Spartacus. She did learn to swim, although if it hadn’t been for the rope the teacher tied around her, she would still be lying at the bottom of the pool to this day.

No matter what sport it was - she was useless. The lack of eye and hand coordination extended right down to her feet. She did excel in fraud though and as a teenager mysteriously seemed to always being excused from the compulsory two afternoons sweating buckets at hockey, tennis, athletics etc because she was always ‘not well’, with the note signed by her mother. Not that my step-mom Katherine, ever knew about this.

But it was not only sport that was bad for my sister’s health. They didn’t call Africa the ‘Whiteman’s grave’ for fun but because all sorts of nasty diseases could be picked up and many thousands of brave, land thieving pioneers paid the ultimate price of shitting and vomiting to death (the easy way), or if you want to depart seriously hard core by going berserk and snapping your own spine in your death throes - rabies was up there in the top 10. I remember at junior school being showed a short film of this bearded bloke strapped to a bed and frothing out the mouth and generally going quite mental and it put us all off patting any friendly jackals that came our way.

Unfortunately for my family the nasty things always seemed to visit my sister either just before we were supposed to go on our Xmas holidays or bang in the middle of them. Mmm…let me recall.

Paradise Island. Just off the coast of Mozambique. Maybe she is five. Paradise without hot water and very little food but luckily a tiny clinic with loads of syringes full of anti-biotics pumped into her arse because all of a sudden tonsillitis took hold. You could hear her screams as far as Vilanculos.

Then the next year. The old man decides it would be a great idea to DRIVE from Salisbury to Lake Nyasa. Hah-hah - what a fucking nightmare that was. But Bridget does us proud and promptly gets malaria. Luckily there is a small clinic with loads of syringes full of whatever and her screams could be heard as far as Lilongwe. Well, the Grim Reaper wasn’t having that and the recovering fair skinned redhead was left to rest on the beach and within seconds suffered sunstroke but luckily the clinic still had more syringes and her screams could be heard as far away as Salisbury.

Undeterred, a year later, death tries another plan. Just before we were due to go to the Chimanimani mountains, she turns into a Chinese woman! Amazing. One minute she is a natural born, ghost type colour, and next thing you know she is yellower than the proverbial canary that chirps “I smell gas!’ and promptly falls off its perch. But riddled with yellow fever (jaundice) this canary refuses to die.

And then, was it the next year, I can’t remember, as she picked up more exotic germs, parasites and viruses that even Katherine’s favourite textbook ‘The Reader’s Digest Guide to what can kill you in Africa’, couldn’t keep up. I only got jealous once. I reckon she was 13 and me was due some serious end of the year exams. As usual I hadn’t done jack shit and would fail and subsequently be beaten once again to death.

Then, in a stroke of amazing luck, our little brother Michael contracted measles! I am not sure where he got that from but he was quarantined and Bridget and I were banned from his presence. I took every opportunity to sneak into his bedroom hoping to get the dreaded illness and sister, being a bit of a lazy arse, also had the same idea. Well, Michael only had a teeny weenie dose and a few little tiny spots. I caught nothing. Bridget caught the lot. So huge were her red spots I thought she had turned into a Native American! She stayed in bed, I failed and was subsequently beaten once again to death.

I am sure there were more strange exotic things she caught. She never got bilharzias because she didn’t like swimming in rivers and dams. I did…and didn’t…sigh. In fact the harder I tried to catch something the harder I failed. Even now (touch wood) with my lifestyle I should have dropped dead years ago.

Bad luck always plagued Bridget. Not just from the inside but also from the outside. I tried to kill her off with various extreme sports designed for the pre-teens such as parachuting from the garden wall, but she always survived. But the funniest thing I recall was when she must have been about seven.

It was a Sunday outing. The family went to some small park near the railway line that divided Salisbury between the white have and have nots. It wasn’t much of a kid’s playground but they had a roundabout thingy and a slide. The place was pretty deserted. There was one bloke with his little boy and a rather large Alsatian. So, messing around, whatever, the bloke puts his little boy on the roundabout. Bridget gets on too. The bloke starts to spin the thing. Shrieks of enjoyment from his son but the shrieks from my sister could be heard as far away as Johannesburg…because

You see, as the spinning got faster and faster, little sister, hanging on to the bars for dear life, was slowly being pushed by the centrifugal force to the extreme edges. Now at the same time, the fucking dog decides that the screaming boy is obviously in some kind of danger and is running around like a lunatic, getting totally dizzy, barking its head off and trying to stop the spinning thing by bighting at the ‘hold on’ bars. Realising that wasn’t working, the deranged animal locks onto a soft target – Bridget’s bum.

I will never forget this image, god help me, did I laugh? The dog has her bum in its teeth - it tries to brake the roundabout by digging in its haunches whilst growling like a rabid jackal, Bridget is howling worse than a wolf on LSD, the dog is having its arse burnt to a crisp as it is dragged around the tarmac surround and I only stop screaming with hysterical laughter when my beloved father drops me to the ground with a well aimed smack to my left ear.

Ah, once the canaries finally dissipated from my humming head, Bridget, (now rescued), is soothed and prompted to cheer her self up by going on the slide. Ah, but the Grim Reaper wants revenge. So she climbs up. Stands there and starts yowling with fear. She won’t go down the slide nor reverse down the steps. I am sulking because my head hurts otherwise I could have sorted the problem out by simply pushing the silly hysterical bint down it.

So the old man decides he goes up and holding Bridget between his thighs - fires down like a rocket. Sadly, the dumb ass had forgotten about using feet for breaks and at the end of the slide shoots off at an alarming rate. Forced not to crush Bridget, he uses his palms and knees on all fours to come to a halt. I took evil satisfaction of his pain. Still, bit harsh hey. What looked liked just a bit of removed skin turned out by the next day to be fractured knee caps. HE went on the sick for two weeks and I went back to school! It was impossible for me to get written off.

Well, my sister is still alive. Doing okay actually, even if the tight tart never bothered to buy my book. I sent her a copy but she gabbled some excuse that it never turned up. Oh well, £20 down the drain. But, amazingly, of all careers she could have taken, she decided to become an expert in…Tropical Diseases.