Wednesday, 25 December 2013

CONTINUED JOLLITIES

21st - 24th Dec 2013
Our host. Bwana Banana. He is rather camera shy.


As you are no doubt aware the 21st December is Sahagun Day. This is the day that all ex-15th/19th Hussars ( and 1 Regt RHA, for some reason ) celebrate the magnificent charge of the 15th Light Dragoons ( later Hussars ) which routed and put to flight two regiments of French near the Spanish town of Sahagun in 1808. 

We ( or at least I ) celebrated at another debauched feast that evening. I'm not quite sure that the others grasped the significance of this occasion.
This being the wet season there is normally a violent thunderstorm at some point in the afternoon and evening. During one of these a tree fell over the main electricity supply and we were plunged into darkness ( with battery power for emergency ) and on another the metal roof of the house was struck by lightening with a fearful bang. Lights out again and even the emergency farm generator was blown up. C'est la vie out here, but at least the internet works, intermittently.

Another slight disaster occurred when self and Gazza took the Range Rover into town to do some shopping. Talk about the blind leading the blind! At some point in the town centre the hydraulic steering packed up and much hassle to get it to a safe place. It looked as if half our vehicle fleet would be inop until after Christmas at least ( the nearest Landrover garage being in Lusaka, about 250 miles away and closed for the holiday anyway ). Fortunately Bwana B knew an engineer (ex-aircraft engineer ), Robin, who managed to fix it with the help of a hydraulic pipe mending expert.

Right: Teresa, the very jolly, and helpful, hydraulic pipe mender who, given the offending pipe, had it fixed in 15 minutes. A better service than you would get a most local workshops in UK I think. They have much experience in mending hydraulics due to all the mining operations in the area. It took a lot of dissembling and reassembling the engine, but all well that ends well. They need to be a resourceful bunch here.
Went on a walk around the farm to see a bit of local life. Still no sign of any wildlife, unless you count a few tiny frogs and birds and many insects. The 'dam' ( reservoir ) at the southern end is full of sewage; not the place for a refreshing dip, but still the locals fish it for no doubt highly polluted small fish. They use charity donated mosquito nets for fishing. Is that enterprising? Problem is they are then too wet, smell of fish and covered in sewage to use as mosquito nets.




Right: A local 'hut' near the dam. All mod-cons I expect but probably without TV or internet.

It doesn't get cold here in the evenings but Gazza insists that he feels chilly so occasionally huddles around a gas fire ( left ). He lost his white stick the other day because he had put it up against a white fridge and a white wall. We had a great 'hunt the stick' competition.
Right: Another magnificent pre-Christmas Sunday Lunch with a couple of local ex-pat families invited. The two wives very gallantly offered to do the cooking and a great roast beef, turkey etc. etc. feast ensued. Lots of crackers and paper hats. My diet has, unfortunately, gone for a ball of chalk.  
Left: Due to three Cresta riders being present we demonstrated and then got all the men present to participate in a Cresta 'Firework', something normally performed after races in the Sunny Bar at the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz. A bit of nonsense and Zambia is about as far from a winter sports venue as you can imagine.
Bwana B had gone to Johannesburg for a couple of days ( to buy bananas...don't ask ). On his return we all went off to collect another inmate for the farm; a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy which has been christened Rommel ( right ). This, unlike Mrs Potter and Mrs Perkins, the two terriers, is to be an 'outside' dog and it is hoped he will grow up to be a fearsome looking guard-dog.
Left: The house staff ( this is Martin the gardener ) brew their lunch on the lawn. This inevitably consists of mealy-meal with a sauce of some kind. I tried some. It was not too bad actually. The mealy-meal mash has the consistency and taste of rather bland and lumpy mashed potato/rice.
Another trip downtown to do yet more shopping, a constant task, and to visit the railway station. There is one train a week from Ndola, sometimes, which travels from top north through Ndola and Lusaka to Livingstone near Victoria Falls. It stops at about 50 little stations in between and takes over two days, unless it has a breakdown. It is cheap and I am told one travels in extreme discomfort. I'm not sure, even though I normally enjoy travelling by train, that I will risk this journey, although probably at no more risk of bed bugs than I experienced on the Ghan train in Oz to Darwin. The railway station was deserted except for a female security guard and a 'supervisor'. We were told we were not allowed inside until I said I was a senior British Rail manager on holiday and keen to see how railways such as this are so well run. We were then allowed onto the platform to see...a railway line, but NO PHOTOGRAPHS! and outside to clamber over a derelict locomotive ( above ) which looked as if it last ran about 80 years ago and was possibly designed personally by George Stephenson.

Right: Passing a local street-side market. One particularly 'traditionally built' and colourfully dressed lady selling dried fish became extremely agitated when I threatened to take her photograph. Can't think why. The others didn't seem to mind. I am always fascinated to see some of these ladies carrying enormous loads on their heads, perfectly balanced and seemingly oblivious to them, as per the old girl on the left of the pic.





Left: A dull but typical street in Ndola. Difficult to capture any particular scene which characterises the place. As said before, the architecture is functional and rudimentary. Driving around the town is relatively trouble free with no sign of aggressive driving even if some is a touch unpredictable. Drivers even stop considerately to let you reverse out into a busy main road. Driving on the main roads is a touch more hazardous, especially after dark ( trucks often have few lights ) and is discouraged. Lots of speed cameras are operated on main roads by the cops, with great enthusiasm. A good source of revenue, either governmental or personal, which they have probably learnt from the civilised west.

Just off the road towards Battledore Farm is this watering hole, the Second Chance Pub ( right ). We stopped for a beer and were cordially entertained by a group of locals. They turned out to be policemen, detectives they told us, and were most pleasant and chatty. One called himself Obama. We even bought them a drink. Most convivial amid some loud and jolly music.






Unfortunately, the senior guy amongst them ( the one in the pink shirt ) rather blotted his copybook when we were leaving by following us back to our car and rather forcefully suggested that we might contribute something ( money ) to 'make for him a Happy Christmas". We told him very politely to procreate and travel.

Christmas Day tomorrow when we hope to have a non-traditional celebration where all decorations, presents, and even the mention of 'Happy Christmas' are banned. The food and drink will undoubtedly be delicious and plentiful amid much happy banter and 'bah humbug'.



Monday, 23 December 2013

BACK ON THE FARM

17th - 20th Dec 2013

Officers  and staff at Battledore Farm Officers' Mess. Back row: Ray, Boss 1, Self, GD. Centre: Israel,  Evanesse, Mary, Martin ( house staff ). Front: Tom, Mrs Perkins, Mrs Potter, Sam.

There seems to be a continual change-over of guests and residents at Battledore ( Temperance ) Farm. On our arrival, as well as our distinguished host and the Gap Year students, Tom and Sam, there was  our host's sister Judy. She was here, other than for a fun family visit, to help with the accounts. Judy is married to an American rocket scientist. Yes, they really do exist! Judy also proved to be an amazingly good cook. She had to go home on day 5 ( when I was in Jo'burg ). Sam has now left to go back to the family estate and then on to Oz to witness the forthcoming disaster in the 4th Ashes Test. We have been joined by Ray from Cape Town, an old friend and fellow Cresta riding buddy of our host.

My shoulder is pain free but I was told to keep it in this very upmarket sling ( left ) for a few days which has rather restricted my motor-biking and ability to do the washing up.                                                                     
The place is covered in large and very ancient anthills. All have been levelled on the actual plantation except this one on which Ray is standing ( right ). It is a useful vantage point from which to survey the farm and the tops of the banana trees below which it is impossible to see the workers sleeping; something which they tend to do in the absence of a 'boss' in visual contact. This anthill has been the cause of some casualties. It looks fairly innocuous but the sides are steep and slippery. One unfortunate visitor  lost control going down  and whacked his head against a bunch of bananas. The bananas won and visitor went to the clinic for repairs.
Ray came down very cautiously and just arriving at the bottom we congratulated him on a successful descent. He took one more pace and went arse over tit to general amusement.

The area here, the Copper Belt, is totally devoid of wild animals; not even a rabbit. If I was expecting to view herds of wildebeest sweeping across the plains, elephants browsing amongst the trees, lions basking in the sun or even a poxy warthog, I was going to be seriously disappointed. Apparently all wildlife was eaten years ago.
There is however an abundance of flys, mosquitos and other nasty voracious  insects which provides the manufacturers of Doom spray and mosquito nets a good income.
Excellent game reserves exist elsewhere in this vast underpopulated country.



Right: The local village. Somewhat basic. The women till their little patches of maize, the children look after any domestic animals ( I have seen a few goats ) and the men........well they tend to sit and think, or sometimes just sit.

The local population in the Copper Belt speak Bemba which, of course, by now I am fluent in. I can say "good morning" and "goodbye". Actually nearly everyone speaks English. Our host knows a few more robust native words to 'encourage' his workforce. Talking of which, they are mostly very basically educated, very smiley and friendly, but have a rather limited work ethic and have an innate ability to operate to destruction any form of machinery. As an example, a tractor with an overheating problem will, despite warning lights and emitting a painful noise,  be driven on until the engine seizes. This can be rather frustrating and expensive. They are also immune to 'incentives'. The concept of working harder and learning to carry out tasks more efficiently to produce bigger crops, get bonuses and save money is alien. Indeed, after pay day, the tendency is for most of them not to reappear for work until they have spent their pay. Sometimes I wonder how a profitable sized crop is harvested, but somehow it is. I was not surprised to see that our host has a blood pressure machine and takes 'dried frog pills' or somesuch to control his stress levels. I, most certainly, could not manage this job which seems to involve a perpetual series of crises, unpredictablities and disasters. They say Africa is not for wimps, and I would now strongly agree with that. There are, however, many ex-pat Zimbabweans ( some of whom had lost their farms there ), Aussies, South Africans and a few Brits working, or more likely running, the copper mines, construction companies and farming enterprises. They are a tough and hard-working breed.


Left: An array of anthills on a barren field. They are due to be levelled when the dry season arrives and will provide a very fertile topsoil.













We took Sam to Ndola airport. The airport buildings are a collection of past their sell-by date Nissan huts, and a few sheds made out of what look like old packing cases. Right: The departures/arrivals hall. Note the rather large ( traditionally built ) police lady sitting cradling her AK 47. Even Heathrow looks glamorous in comparison.






Left: Sam and Ray sitting in the VIP lounge at the airport with  farewell beers ( at $4 a pop! ). The local current is the Kwatcha. About 9 Kwatcha to the £. In fact most things are very expensive in Zambia, especially food and wine, because they are imported. The farm domestic shopping bills are humungous, possibly grossly inflated by the amount of wine drunk.




Architecture in the town of Ndola is basic and functional and certainly wouldn't win any prizes for aesthetic appearance. Every building is roofed in corrugated iron. All the private houses have corrugated iron roofs so are noisy places to live in during the violent daily thunderstorms. I am told that, during the country's existence as Northern Rhodesia, there were many attractive villas and houses. Some still exist but are screened from view by tall spike, wire or glass topped walls. It is quite a bustling town with a fairly shambolic atmosphere and the locals appear very friendly and helpful.


There is a golf course, a 'Boat Club' ( but no boats ) and  an impressive football stadium ( right ) built by the Chinese. I am told that the Zambian national football team is one of the best in Africa.

A well appointed shopping Mall, the Jacaranda, near the airport, contains a decent variety of modern shops and includes a well stocked 'Pick and Pay' supermarket. Shops in town are a bit more basic.
I was impressed by a marvellously chaotic looking hardware shop, Reekay's, run by Indians, which supplies a seemingly unlimited selection of building materials, tools and any gizmo you can think of. You want a 3" tapered spurling ratchet with a brass bevelled nurdling fork attachment, and they will find it.

The Ndola City Council goes to great lengths to advertise it's determination to improve the town and work honestly and conscientiously to better the lives of it's citizens. This hoarding, showing the mayor in all his finery, is an example ( if you can read it )


There has been much 'socialising' at the farm which has somewhat curtailed my blog production. I will be here for Christmas before moving on to do a bit of sight-seeing further south.



Tuesday, 17 December 2013

BANANA HAZARDS

10th - 16th Dec 2013


Broken collarbone


Oh dear! Monday morning, still recovering from the previous day's 'lunch', I went on another tour of the farm on a motorbike. Great fun but fell off. Hardly moving when toppled over after nicking an upright on one of the banana pulley supports, or perhaps slipped on a banana skin. Fell on my shoulder which made a rather sickening crunching noise as I landed. The subsequent trip  to a surprisingly clean and smart clinic in Ndola to be x-rayed resulted in being told that my collarbone was broken and required surgery.
Amazing; it's the first bone I've ever broken after surviving unscathed riding horses ( racing and hunting ), Cresta, skiing, free-fall parachuting, rugby, military training, backgammon, poker and several other dodgy pursuits. How irritating. The motorbike was undamaged.

Left: The pulley support archway which I failed to negotiate. Still took a photo with a shaky hand.

By good fortune my host knew of an excellent doctor in Johannesburg ( South Africaa ). Also GD and I have a mutual friend who, coincidently, lives near the clinic from which said doc operates. Resisting the temptation to try the hospital in Lusaka I made plans to to fly to Jo'burg and hoped that my insurance would cover this little set-back.
I rang up the insurance company and, being honest, mentioned the motorbike. Big mistake. This resulted in a lengthy interrogation of 'What was I doing on a bike? Was I wearing a helmet? Did I have a licence? Was the bike insured? Was the farm insured? etc. etc'. As soon as I rang off I was told by all listening that I was a bloody idiot and should have said that I had fallen off a chair putting up Xmas decorations ( we aren't having any ), or similar. Too late. Now rather panic stricken that they would find any excuse not to pay up, plans were made to go to SA ( currently in the throws of burying the late Nelson Mandela ). Then we were told that the doc ( Dr Mark Ferguson ), whom I later discovered is the renowned leading osteopathic shoulder surgeon in South Africa, had completed his 'operations list' for this year and would try to find someone else.  Oh Blimey. Then got a call back from his secretary to be told that he was going to make time for me and to get down to Jo'burg for an examination on Thursday and an op on Friday. So quick and helpful.

Down to Jo'burg and rescued by our mutual friend, Jeannie ( her house and maid right ), I proceeded to have a marvellous few days. Reported to the very smart Rosebank Sports Clinic and was given 5 star service by the cheerful and efficient secretary, Juanita, who helped no end in sorting out the recalcitrant insurance wallahs. A quick inspection by Dr Mark ( charming gent ) and all was set for an op the following day. He is obviously a bit of an expert, The Expert in fact.





Outside hospital treatment I was superbly entertained by Jeannie. I post this pic ( left ), which she will probably hate and hopefully forgive, of her lying in state on the 'stoep' of her very comfortable residence in a very posh part of Sandton. I also discovered a marvellous Zulu taxi driver who, when Jeannie couldn't do it, took me from place to place. He deserves recognition; namely Edward, of Quickcab, Tel. 0786745963. If any of you get to Sandton and need a taxi at a really good price with excellent service, I thoroughly recommend him.







Reported to the Rosebank Hospital, opposite the clinic, for the op at 0630hrs on Friday. Amazing treatment ensued. Swiftly led to a small ward ( one other occupant ) by smartly dressed nurses. None of the "Hello Matthew and how are we today" crap, it was all most polite "Good morning Mr Sample", changed into the surgical gown, and visited by the anaethestist, a dashing young rugby enthusiast, Richard, who was full of good humour and bonhomie. A visit by Dr Mark to make sure all was OK with a cheery chat and last, but not least, a nurse to show me the menu for a rather delicious looking menu for lunch apr├ęs operation. On being wheeled into the operating theatre there was further banter including discussing holiday plans with the assistant tool holder who was due to go off to Vietnam for Christmas. I don't remember anything else until waking up back in the ward entirely pain free and feeling rather hungry. A further visit by Richard and Doc Mark who told me I could go home whenever I wished. It was still only 9.00am but I was keen to stay for the promised lunch and passed the time chatting with the other chap in the ward who had had his knees replaced; a keen rock climber as it turned out. At some point I was taken for a confirmatory x-ray and had a visit by a very pretty Africaans lady 'physio' who gave me some advice on doing exercises to loosen my joints. A metal plate had been screwed onto my shoulder. Lunch was as delicious as expected. I think I wandered off at 1.30pm to say goodbye and thanks to Juanita, the helpful clinic secretary, do some shopping and have a glass of wine or two. The whole experience was most convivial and totally pain free; not even feeling sore or rough at any point after the op. To be honest I rather enjoyed myself! Many thanks to all involved.
Warning: Don't mention motorbikes ( or any other machines ) when claiming insurance.

My flight back to Ndola was not until Sunday and so another couple of jolly days was spent being entertained by the redoubtable Jeannie. Never any pain in my shoulder and no need for the painkillers which the hospital had given me as a precaution, so much wining and dining, watching England getting thrashed by the Aussies and a bit of shopping even though most of Jo'burg was shut down due to the Mandela funeral. Jeannie does not have wi-fi hence the delay in posting this.


Left: The repair job. The metal plate fortunately didn't set off any airport detector alarms.

Back via a rather chaotic and crowded 'O.R.Tambo' ( ex-Jan Smuts ) Jo'burg airport to Ndola and the Battledore bananas. Recuperation, and not much should be needed, will be enhanced by copious supplies of wine and whisky. Battledore farm is not noted as a 'temperance' hall.






Found Gazza ( right ) and co. much as I left them. Further travel to follow hopefully, although getting around the vast empty Zambian countryside is not easy ( unless you fly ) especially as the rainy season is starting in earnest.

OK, that's the end of my little travel hiatus and all's well that ends well.

PS. Gazza has, apparently, often been mistaken for the actor Peter O'Toole, something which he has played on, unless it involved being scammed for money. Sad to report that P. O'Toole died a couple of days ago. A  great loss for GD.


Sunday, 15 December 2013

COOL BANANAS

8th-9th Dec 2013


Bananas


Battledore Farm, the home of Cool Bananas, comprises 1500 acres of relatively flat forested countryside of which 200 acres have been cleared for the banana plantation. As well as our host ( Boss 1 ) there are two most civilised and amusing young Brits working on the farm as assistants.  

Left: The 'assistants', Tom and Sam are working here as part of a Gap Year after Newcastle University. Tom goes to Sandhurst in May and Sam, before Xmas, to the family estate in Herefordshire ( which amongst other things produces very fine wine: ( look up: broadfieldcourt.co.uk ).

They took me, by motorbike ( self-drive and more about that later ) on a tour of the plantation. I was given a most comprehensive explanation on the technicalities of growing bananas. I now consider myself a world expert on the subject and will proceed to bore you with my recently acquired knowledge. 
The first thing one realises is that banana production is vastly labour intensive. The trees require constant work such as 'propping'  to stop the heavy bunches breaking the trunk, 'weeding'  to prevent strong weed growth taking the nutrients, 'suckering' to remove all but one selected sucker growth, which develop en-mass around the base , into the next tree...only one bunch from each tree... and the old one is cut down and the next, the first ratoon, produces the next crop etc. etc, pruning the 'bells' at the end of the forming bunches, irrigation, fertilisation, constant spraying of insecticide to prevent aphids spreading the lethal banana disease 'Banana Bunchy Top Virus', harvesting ( an all year-round task ), storing and ripening, packing, transport, engineering, equipment maintenance, marketing plus all the associated administrative, accounting, personnel and logistic tasks. 

Right: A tree being 'propped' by a string attached at the correct angle to an overhead tensioned wire to keep the trunk upright ( not so successfully here ). The strings need constant adjustment or the branch will snap and the bananas die. This is a task which requires a degree of geometric understanding and does not come naturally to the local workforce.



Left: The 'bell' ( the dark bit ) at the base of a forming bunch. This absorbs all the nutrients and has to be removed when about 10 rows of banana 'hands' have formed sufficiently so that they will grow to optimum  size and prevent small and unproductive baby bananas growing underneath.
















A workforce of about 400 locals plus 4 Bosses, 17 supervisors and a farm manager operate the plantation. Another workforce is busy planting a eucalyptus forest elsewhere on the farm which will not mature for a further 10 years but, if successful, will be highly profitable. Other crops such as maize are also due to be started. Much more clearing of the land is due to take place. Giant 30 ft high ancient ant hills are prolific and need to be levelled. Hard work.

Right: The ebullient farm manager, Titus Millions, from Zimbabwe.

One of the problems with local labour here appears to be rather an African one. The workers tend to work until their pay-day then they take time off to spend their money. They come back to work when skint. The concept of working to save money is alien. It is therefore a bit of a lottery as to how many will turn up on any day. 400 is the minimum required ( and many more would be ideal ) but sometimes only about 200 turn up! Somewhat frustrating I imagine.
This combines with an inability to 'incentivise' the workforce by offering bonuses for added productivity or explaining that if they learn how to operate more skilfully and efficiently more bananas will be harvested and all will be better off. Technical skill in operating machinery is also problematic, and lacking, and requires constant supervision. Unless spotted by a 'Boss', machinery will be driven to destruction before a fault is identified or reported. Vastly expensive and even more frustrating.

The plantation consists of about 140,000 trees divided up into 10 blocks ( named, amusingly, after Wellington's commanders ). Each block is subdivided into 4 sections of about 105 X 32 trees. I reckoned it would keep two people busy full time just to maintain efficiently one line of 105 trees ( there are over 1280 such lines in total ). My maths might be at fault, but I can't see how they do it with the workforce available.











Right: Looking over a section of the plantation towards the 'dam' ( lake ) which provides water for pumped irrigation. Fertilizer is added into the supply here. Another expensive requirement. This pic taken from the top of the one remaining ant-hill observation post.
The whole plantation is surrounded by a protective razor-wire fence and anti-aphid screen.



Left: The harvested bunches are transported from throughout the plantation to the processing and storage sheds by a complex pulley system, like a horizontal ski-tow.

By the way, I am informed that a banana is a 'berry' not a 'fruit'. Something to do with the way its seeds grow.

OK, that's the end of my tedious technical brief done for my own benefit if not for your amusement.


I think that takes us to Sunday Lunch, for eleven, which started at 12.30pm and finished at 9.00pm. A fairly gargantuan feast of roast beef etc. in true colonial style. Several local ex-pat neighbours in attendance and much wine taken. Many ex-Zimbabwian farmers, Australians and South Africans earn a living in Zambia. 

When this photo was snapped Gazza had shuffled off for a 'mid-prandial' kip. He reappeared later and probably regretted it because he consequently suffered from a 'Severe Daintry Hangover' ( SDH ) which further incapacitated him for the whole of the next day.

It is refreshing to note that, at this stage, there has been no sign in town or on farm of any Christmas decorations, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Bloody Jingle bells or any other sign of Festive  Razzmatazz. Long may it continue.

There has been a slight hiatus to this blog caused by a little mishap which will be described in boring detail next...........

Sunday, 8 December 2013

BATTLEDORE FARM. ZAMBIA.

6th-8th Dec

Battledore Farmhouse. Ndola

Arrived safely at Battledore farm, 10 miles from Ndola on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ). Greeted by our host, plus entourage, and immediately consumed three botts of Bolly, so things have got off to a pretty good start.

Initially met up with GD and travelled to LHR, T4, with plenty of time to spare. For some inexplicable reason the London Underground wasn't, for once, delayed. Our ploy was to install Gazza in a wheelchair, get him to wear a pair of very dark glasses ( he's not as blind as all that; just severe tunnel vision ) and play on the fact that today ( 6th ) is my birthday. This, we felt confident, would get us rapidly through the tedious security and passport control palaver. It might even secure an 'upgrade' ( some hope ). Nothing ventured nothing gained. It did indeed get us quickly through the ghastly security and pp control at the front of the queue. So far so good.


Stocked up with duty free we spent some time and a vast amount of money at the Champagne and Seafood Bar before not being given an upgrade on the Kenya Airways flight AR101 ( Boeing 777 ) to Nairobi. The only event of interest was when I, having offered to push GD's wheelchair down the ramp/airbridge to the aircraft, was confronted by a course of some length ( first down the ramp ), with a severe slope and many sharp corners, rather lost control. The brake jammed on one side and the chair ran away with me. We were lucky not to come out at Shuttlecock, but we arrived fast at the door ( peasant class ) in one piece with bottles and limbs intact.

Left: Wheelchair-bound GD at the Seafood Bar.

A fairly tedious 7 1/2 hour flight, delayed over an hour due to some idiot passenger failing to board, with rather grumpy and inattentive cabin crew ( it took much persistent effort to keep our wine glasses replenished ) and distinctly unimpressive in-flight food. On arrival at Nairobi at 0730hrs and loading GD onto the wheelchair ( unasked for but enforced; once you start it seems you can't stop ) amongst the confusion we dropped a bag containing duty-free whiskey. One litre bottle ( out of four ) of the Famous Grouse broken and spilled. Now reeking of whisky any further hope of preferential treatment was probably dashed.


Decent two hour flight from Nairobi to Ndola in a swish new Kenya Airways Embraer 190 including a decent breakfast with delightful Kenyan cabin crew ( so different from the previous long-haul cabin-dragons ).

Swiftly through passport control ( after paying $80 for a double entry visa ) we were met by aforementioned host, dressed in impeccable Colonial Style ( because he is an impeccable Colonial Gentleman ) and his dogs, we drove to his banana plantation at Battledore Farm, about 15 miles from the town.

As initially mentioned, great hospitality on arrival at a magnificent rambling farmhouse ( with the universal African corrugated iron roof ) plus various dogs and other guests/workers/relatives we were wined, dined and sent to bed from 24 hours without much sleep.

Left: GD and out host.

Only regret, so far, is that we lost 25% of our whisky  donation on the deck at Nairobi.

Due to incredibly generous hospitality any further 'blogs' are likely to be severely delayed. A tour of the banana plantation followed by a serious Sunday Lunch is imminent.  Will report further on recovery............              

Monday, 2 December 2013

ZAMBIA

The Next Jaunt - 6th Dec 2013 to 10th Jan 2014 

The next place on my agenda is Zambia ( ex-Northern Rhodesia ) and the region known as 'ZimZamBo' ( Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana ). We have been invited to stay with a friend who runs a banana plantation in the Copper Belt ( or maybe it's a copper plantation in the Banana Belt ), up in the north of the country near the town of Ndola, and expect to do a bit of travelling from there.


I mention 'we' because this time I will have a travelling companion in the shape of the redoubtable Garry Daintry, so christened because he was conceived on a bank of the river Garry, Perthshire, during one of his parents' more productive fishing trips. Garry D, or GD or more irreverently known as Gazza has an interesting history. Commissioned into the Irish Guards ( The Micks ) he served gallantly in the Aden conflict in the 1960s, and then qualified as an army helicopter pilot. He flew with the 'Blue Eagles' helicopter display team ( involving some very hairy 'occurrences' during the infancy of this spectacular display team ) and became a Qualified Helicopter Instructor ( QFI ), also serving in Hong Kong. After leaving the army as a Captain he flew civilian helicopters in such places as Indonesia and, during the Tamil Tigers civil war, in Sri Lanka. He was an indefatigable and successful marathon runner which he combined with a tireless hedonistic lifestyle involving much partying and was always in popular demand with the 'laydees'. Something of a Deb's Delight I suspect and, dare one say it, a 'Boulevadier Superieur'. 
He rode the Cresta with great panache for many years and was latterly an assistant secretary of the St Moritz Tobagganing Club where he gained the soubriquet 'The Gallant Captain', a venue where his laid-back charm, social graces and enthusiasm were highly appreciated.
Twice married ( and twice most amicably divorced ) he now lives in rather splendid gentility in Kensington. Unfortunately due, as he will freely admit, to burning the candle at both ends as well as in the middle in his somewhat dissolute youth, he has endured a heart bypass operation ( the Daintry Bypass ) and suffered a few minor strokes which have seriously impaired his sight. He is now the proud wielder of a white stick and a quack's chitty to prove its not a bluff.
Regardless, he is still mobile and most entertaining company. He shares with me an ambition to avoid the YouKay during the so-called 'Festive Season', hence our eager acceptance of the invitation to stay on a banana plantation in Zambia until the war is over.
An amusing book could be written about Gazza's extraordinary life, and probably will be ( much to the embarrassment of his many friends no doubt ).
Anyway he, armed with his white stick, and I shall sally forth on this African adventure, flying from Heathrow on 6th December.  
This trip should provide some good 'copy' for an ongoing blog; so stay tuned.........