Wednesday, 1 January 2014


25th - 29th Dec 2013
Christmas breakfast

Christmas breakfast, on the verandah, consisted of Bolly, smoked salmon, and mince pies with brandy butter. Very healthy. The rest of the day was spent in considerable lethargy. All the farm workers  and house staff had the day off. Robin, the excellent engineer who had miraculously mended the Range Rover, had joined us. Bwana Banana broke the rules straight away by playing some 'Ding Dong Merrily' type carols sung by King's College Cambridge Choir, and I'm sure one or two of us inadvertently wished someone a Happy Christmas.
With much preparation and cooking 'by the seat of our pants', we managed to produce an excellent Christmas Dinner with only token 'decoration'; a very small Christmas tree plus lights and fairy on top, bought from the native 'Harrods' ( ShopRight, or some such ) in Ndola ( in the background of this photo ).
Told we had run out of brandy butter, I volunteered to make some form of imitation stuff with sugar, butter and brandy ( of which there was no shortage ). My concoction looked rather strange; a dull brown gritty sludge, which I put in the fridge. Shortly before dinner I went to inspect it and, magically, it had set into a delicious looking and tasting creamy brandy butter. Flushed with pride, I offered it to the others to taste. They appeared mighty impressed. Come the Christmas pud phase ( c/o Waitrose import ), my original disgusting sludge was produced. The bastards had swapped my concoction for some previously hidden genuine article. A cruel blow to my pride. They thought it funny; I vowed never to bother trying again.

Right: Tom, self and GD with our token Christmas tree and, for some reason, a small giraffe.

Boxing Day featured a Lunch Party given by friends of BB in Ndola. Our host here is South African and runs a construction company currently building a shopping 'mall' in town. I must say that the ex-pats I have met do live in comfortable and well appointed houses, most of which are hidden behind rather ugly brick wire-topped walls. They are generous entertainers.

Right: Our host's wife, Lorna, with a small selection of the pud. You can see why my diet has come to a sticky end. I will have to start all over again on return to Blighty. Thanks Lorna!

This 'lunch' went on until about 9.00pm. BB gave a highly amusing impromptu speech which included many filthy jokes, recitations and a lecture on how to 'slice' not 'scoop' the stilton. For once he failed to grossly insult anyone, cause a female 'target' to burst into tears or presage a mass walk out ( for which he is renowned ).

Right: The nearest I could get to recording wildlife on the farm.

We went on trips to and through a few towns in the area. Most of these were 'mining' towns and there are still many vast copper mines, both deep underground and open-cast. Copper has been and still is the major product of Zambia ( 7th largest copper producing country in the world ). It went through a dodgy period in the 90s when the government 'nationalised' the mines, but they are now 'de-nationalised' and back to profitable production.
Many of these mines are Chinese owned. The Chinese, as you are probably aware, are determinedly and successfully buying up mineral rights throughout Africa. They are also building much of the infra-structure, and providing 'gifts' such as the grandiose football stadium outside Ndola. One suspects that large backhanders are accepted by less than totally unbribable 'ministers' to facilitate the Chinese acquisitions. To put it bluntly, the Chinese seem to be colonising much of Africa, to get minerals, including oil, by economic persuasion. Sadly, not much of the wealth generated is put back into the local economy. It is sad to see what were once beautiful and thriving mining towns in the days of British colonisation fallen into scruffy, dirty decline. Africans, in general, really don't appear to have a clue, or give a toss, about their environment or the benefit of aesthetically pleasing surroundings. The rich ( and often corrupt ) minority hoard their lavish wealth, and the poor, the vast majority, are content to live a very basic existence with little ambition to better themselves. Sad but true.
Cases in point are the towns of Luanchya, Kitwe ( the centre of the mining industry ) and Mufulira ( near the DRC border ). One can still see remnants of beautiful villas, smart official buildings and tree lined avenues, but in general they have reverted to what can, at best, and kindly, be described as 'grotty'.

Left: What was the mining communities sports and recreation centre clubhouse in Luanshya, about 30 mins drive from Ndola. In it's heyday, during the British period, this place included a well appointed clubhouse, tennis courts, sports fields and a magnificent swimming pool.

The clubhouse is now empty and derelict except for this 'bar' ( right ) which, when I found it, had about six local customers who appeared a little worse for wear having much drink taken. Not the sort of place one would drop into for a convivial night out. Interestingly, lounging outside the front door were two rather sullen looking 'security guards'. What on earth they were guarding was unclear.

Left: The swimming pool which must once have been magnificent. There were a few locals using it, one of whom, a rather traditionally built lady, was washing her clothes in it.
You could not see the bottom, even at the shallow end, through the putrescent green water which had dead frogs and 'things' floating on the surface.

Right: The outside of a copper mine near Kitwe. There are many of these around the area but I didn't get the chance to go inside one. I expect you would need to speak Chinese to ask permission. You can find out anything you want to know about Zambian copper mines on the internet much better than I could describe.
Many main roads around this area are new and good ( Chinese built ) to service the copper industry presumably, although they seem to be laying not much tarmac on a bed of compacted dirt which doesn't bode well for their longevity.

Travelling to Mufulira, near the DRC ( Congo ) border, we passed, as normal, several police check points, or 'road blocks' as they are called. These exist primarily to provide 'income support' for the local police. They can nick you for speeding, not wearing a seat belt, licence deficiencies, vehicle faults, looking at them in a funny way or a myriad of other invented infringements should the mood take them. There is then a fine of 'negotiable' amount. It always pays to be grovellingly polite. Having said that we got stopped often enough but never got fined for anything.
There was a large crowd gathering and a long queue of vehicles approaching a bridge over a river  near Mufulira. Police, army, recovery vehicles, ambulances, rescue boats and all kind of emergency services were in attendance. Spectators were taking up position on vantage points overlooking the river. It all looked most dramatic and we were stationary for a long time. On asking a well armed soldier on the bridge what was going on we were told that someone had committed suicide by jumping into the river and they were searching for the body. This was obviously the most exciting thing to have happened in the area for a long time and was attracting an increasingly large crowd. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was selling tickets for the best seats.

Dotted along all the main roads are little stalls selling meagre amounts of fruit, or other trivial goods. Sometimes doors or deck-chairs. Sometimes it is just one lady with a small bowl of mangoes or similar. This little group, one of the more elaborate and well stocked branches, is fairly typical. They live a very hand to mouth existence some of them.

Right: A typical street in Mufulira. A very down at heel town but, as always, remnants of previous elegance exist in places. There is a nice church and one or two neglected grandish houses. We were there to collect a large quantity of wine and other goods sent up from South Africa. The delivery vehicle had broken down here. Everything breaks down sooner rather than later.

On return, a couple of hours later, to the site of the 'suicide' there was an increased vehicle tailback, but the crowds were beginning slowly to disperse. What exactly had happened and what the outcome was we never discovered, but it obviously provided an amusing diversion for the locals.

Off south for New Year leaving the Gallant Captain Daintry surrounded by bananas. Next stop Lusaka. Happy New Year to you all.

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