My day in court

Travelling down the high street I saw the traffic building up because of a crash. Although there is a sign prohibiting a Uturn I thought I would help prevent further traffic build, so I turned.

Two traffic officers pulled me over and issued a ticket. I tried to explain but they just shouted at me. Time passed and I forgot to pay for the fine and a summons to court was sent to me.

I went to court and waited for my case to be called. Some people put up excuses but had the book thrown at them. No way should I try to get out of it, so I wrote a letter to the judge and it went like this.

“Dear your Worshipful Honour my name is David and I tried to tell the cops I was trying to get out of the jam but they said no and gave me a ticket and I forgot and now I am here and I am very sorry your friend David ”

When they called for me I dropped the letter, then picked it up and gave it to the prosecutor. She passed it His Honour and he read it, then looked up at me and said “Did you write this yourself David?

I nodded vigorously and he said how do you plead? Unwilling to speak and get any deeper in I went” Awoo woo ahwoo ” He looked at me sternly but I just looked at the ground..

He told me to look at him and said” David, I have read your letter and although I see why you did it, but you may not break the law. However I will reduce the fine to ten pounds


All right, just go and pay your fine, next case!

I cannot break the law again, if I end up in his court and he recognises me I’ll have to go through the whole performance again, or shout out “It’s a miracle, I’m healed!”



Curry Munching

When you find a really good curry shop you will always patronise it wholeheartedly. Every Friday I would go to my favourite one and buy a Bunny Chow. A Bunny Chow is a quarter or half loaf of bread with the inside scooped out and filled with either beef or chicken curry, and the scooped out chunk placed on top. Pork was never used as it was considered unclean by the proprietor.

The  “Bunny” was a popular choice in the community, with a quarter loaf as a snack and a half loaf as a meal. Sometimes I would go for beef, other times chicken. You eat it by  dipping the chunk into the curry and eating it. When the chunk is finished you eat the remainder, round and round the crust. It’s a bit of a messy meal, with curry sauce dribbling down your chin, best eaten sitting forward to keep your clothes clean.

One Friday I arrived at lunchtime to buy my Bunny. The shop was shut and it had a Public Health proclamation stuck on the door. One of the locals was sitting on a bench nearby,so I asked him in patois “whyfor the shop she was shut? “. He said “The guvmint man he came motorbike check the meat, then plees  come take Babu away”

“Oh, the meat it was bad? ” I ask .” No, no, Babu he threw old meat out for the cat and the dog ” Oh, the cat and the dog they got sick?” No, no, when the cat and the dog eat the meat he hit them with stick. “Oh, he was cruel to the animals so they took him?” “No, no,  he keel them, with the dog he make beef, with the cat he make chicken.”


Beekeeping in Africa

It can be perilous keeping bees in Africa. The bees are fiercely protective of their colonies, the Honey Badger is a terrifying adversary and the Honey Guide is a mixed blessing at best. African honey gatherers discovered these things long before early Europeans were weaving Skeps.

My first encounter with actual colonies of bees was when I moved into my new home. In the back of the garden were two large beehives. I viewed them with trepidation as the bees saw me off if I approached to closely.

Someone who I had met had mentioned that he knew all about bees, so I contacted him and he arranged to come and help me. He arrived in the evening, explaining that at night the bees would fly up to the streetlights and not trouble us.

He had brought a smoker, some protective clothing and equipment. We dressed up and went to the hives. We opened the lids and the bees boiled out. They covered us completely, every bee doing her best to penetrate our defences.

They managed this quite easily and we ran for our lives, bees in hot pursuit. After an hour or two we crept back to see what was happening. Most of the bees had flown out into the night and the remainder were quite easily subdued with the smoker.

We removed about forty kilograms of honey which sold in the comb very easily, paying for a proper honey extractor, decent kit and associated tools. I had become  totally addicted to bee keeping.

I was allowed to keep a maximum of four beehives in my garden and my little Apiary began to grow. Since they had placed no limit on the size of the hives, I doubled the size of the brood chamber and kept adding honey supers (boxes the bees filled with honeycomb)

My four beehives stood approximately six feet high, standing in jam tins filled with oil to prevent ants attacking the colony. If the ants were able to get into the hives they would strip them clean.

In my neighbours yard, opposite my huge beehives, he kept about twenty pairs of pigeons in a loft. The birds and the bees got on fine with each other and were never any problem to either of us.

My annual holiday became due and I packed my travel bag and headed down to South Africa for two weeks. I had a great holiday and spent a lot of time on the beach, then headed back home again, tired but happy.

My beehives were gone, and the pigeon loft stood ominously empty. I realised that I was in deep trouble. How deep, I was yet to find!

Not many people can move such big hives without leaving signs of a big fight. It had to be a commercial beekeeper so I  picked up the phone and started  calling likely persons.

My third call found the guy and he suggested that I come to his house and he would explain. When I arrived he described how the council called him because several million of my bees had gone on a rampage through the neighbourhood.

On the way there he saw dogs and cats streaking away, every home was under seige and one old guy on a cart pulled by a donkey were galloping furiously along the road. The donkeys ears were laid back and the guy was swatting bees with his hat.

At my house there were over forty dead pigeons lying in my neighbous loft. Someone had thought  stealing honey would be easy but  the bees erupted and chased him down the road. When they were done with him they rampaged through the neighbourhood.

He used a hosepipe to spray in the air which brought them down and he smoked them back into the hives and took them to his Apiary site

The Council wrote me a letter inviting an explanation of the events. The bottom line was I could no longer keep bees in the Borough. My permit was withdrawn and I was given two weeks to remove my bees from the Borough.

The guy that rescued my bees said that the best option if I wanted larger scale honey farming would be to site my hives in the wild..

The biggest problem with keeping them in the bush would be providing the bees with water. I made large troughs and filled them with water, spreading wood chips to float on top.

This provided the bees with a surface they could land on to drink and minimised evaporation under the hot African sun.

The next thing would be protection from the Honey Badger. A honey badger can rip a nailed and glued hive apart quite easily and it will eat everything, honey, wax, grubs the lot.

To defend against this I wound diamond mesh fencing around the grove of trees surrounding the hives, three feet high and three feet deep in the ground.

The honey guide is a little green bird that follows bees back to their colony. Then it looks for a human or a badger to show them where the honey is. It can be tricky if two different birds are bringing two different creatures to the feast

The bird must always be rewarded with a handful of grubs. African tradition says that if you don’t pay the bird, the next time it will lead you to a hornets nest.

Well prepared to do beekeeping in the wilderness, things began to prosper until I was managing more than a hundred hives in groups of ten per Apiary

Something that I hadn’t factored in was the local people kept cattle and while out grazing would smell the water and walk toward it lowing. The herd boys would open the wire to let the cattle in.

The bees would go librarian on the cattle and herd boys so they would run away. Then the honey guide would summon the honey badger who would rip into every hive in the Apiary.

The bees would abscond, and the bird and the badger would clean up. Later on the herd boys would come back, find the destruction, take the wood and the wire and I would arrive later to find a grove of trees.

It became a game of hide and seek with the locals, the Honey Badger and treacherous honey guide. It’s hard to describe the joy of integrating with the wilderness win or lose.

The Cruel War

Zimbabwe. The very name is shrouded in mystery, the people who built it, the reason for building it and the stone falcons that decorated it remain a mystery and a wonder. Was it built for Worship or for War?

Today it has become known as the name of a country conceived in bloodshed, born in sorrow. For about fifteen years a grim little war raged, a three way civil war between the Rhodesian army and the militant wings of the Matebele and the Shona people.

With the escalation of hostilities every white citizen was conscripted. I was also compelled to join up and since I became reluctant to bear arms against civilians I was seconded into the Medical Corps and trained as a Military Paramedic.

The training involved anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, primary health care and missile injury treatment. Part of my training required me to work in A&E in Bulawayo’s Mpilo hospital. It was a heartbreaking experience treating infants, children, men and women ravaged by road traffic accidents, public violence or disease.

After the successful completion of my training I was deployed into the war zone. I had a fully equipped Field Hospital, comprising a clinical treatment room and a large 4X4 resuscitation van capable of carrying six stretchers loaded with casualties.

My duties varied between running a field clinic in the local villages, maintaining the health of the Unit that I was attached to and responding to a call to treat the wounded combatants.

Triage is a term for sorting casualties into the walking wounded, those who would survive given treatment, and those who have terminal injuries. In practice this means that criticality injured are first treated, followed by treating the less serious casualties.

The terminally injured are left to die. It is a dreadful thing to hear a terribly ravaged young man tormented by pain and dying horribly. His comrades would gather around him and look at me as if to remind me of our Covenant. The guys had all agreed that if they were beyond redemption I would give them a pain free death.

His companions would all turn their backs to him so they wouldn’t have to watch me bend over him, reaching into my medical pack. When it was over they would turn, look me in the eyes and nod their affirmation.

We were Territorial troops serving six weeks in the war zones and six weeks at home and work, turn about, year in year out for fifteen years. It took a toll on families it took a toll on farmers, black and white alike.

It was a Cruel War and a time of madness.

An Unexpected Party

Before the escalation of the hostilities in Zimbabwe, I worked as a Primary Development officer, building roads through the bush, laying out basic airstrips for the Flying Doctor, and building small dams to populate with fish providing the local villages with a source of protein.

Whilst travelling to visit one of my road gangs I saw a large group of people gathered around in one corner of the village I was passing. I went to investigate and found that it was a hut building party.

Apparently one of the villagers was getting married shortly and he wanted to build his new wife a hut of her own. The other villagers were there to drink his homebrewed beer and help lay bricks occasionally.

There was no relationship between the amount of beer drunk and the amount of bricks laid. If anything they seemed to be inversely proportional. One old guy stomped up, laid one brick then settled back to drink and later to quaff. Quaffing is when you spill more than you drink.

After I had laid a few rows they insisted that I sit down and a jug of brew was handed to me. It was a smooth light beer and I sipped it gratefully and sat back to watch the husband to be energetically laying bricks while the women sat weaving the thatched roof.

The rest of the afternoon became a bit confused and eventually I was helped into my landrover. I woke up the next morning nursing a blinding hangover, the landrover firmly jammed against a tree, with a herd of Wildebeest munching contentedly around me.

The well in the wilderness

There have been a number of advertisements for organisations promoting fresh water for “emerging nations” Most people believe that international welfare organisations will solve the problems that poor people face in other countries. I once went on a camping trip deep in the Zambian veld (Savanna)and this was my experience.

Since it is extremely dangerous to camp alone in the bush I approached a tiny village and asked permission to camp within their stockade. They agreed and indicated where I should set up my camp.

During the night I heard a number of people coughing so in the morning I went to the tree in the centre of the village. In every African village a piece of iron hangs in such a tree, an old plough disc or short piece of railway line, etc.

I struck the iron to make it ring and summon the people. When it rings the people say “The iron is crying, we must meet at the tree” . I stood there quietly waiting until they had all assembled and then said” I am a medicine man ” being somewhat true as I had training  as a military paramedic.

In my survival pack I carried a good quantity of antibiotics etc, so I opened it, packed out an array of medicines and they lined up for treatment. In the bush you need no licence to practice or dispense medicine.

Some of the infants burst into tears when their mothers offered them to me for treatment.  They had never seen a white person before and thought that I was a ghost. Once the round was over I explained that we would have to do this three times a day.

My greatest concern was how the infection had struck the whole village and after protracted discussion with them I discovered the cause. They were sucking water up from the ground through a reed and then spitting it into a bowl which was passed around for all to drink from.

They took me to where they were doing this  and I asked for their permission to ” Summon the water Mightily” Rather dubiously they agreed and I went to the 4X4 and unloaded two of my large empty plastic drums.

We punched holes into the sides and wrapped my flysheet around them as a filter, tying it with nylon tent cord. The rest of the day was spent digging a hole into the ground at the water point. About eight feet down we reached the water table, seeping through the ground.

We lowered the drums into the hole and filled in around them and thorn branches were placed around the well to prevent the cattle from falling into it. By now it was evening and we were all tired.

The next morning I was awakened by a polite cough. It was the village headman and his face was wreathed in smiles. He said that when some women had gone to the well the drums were full and there was so much water they were dancing for joy.

They said that they wanted to show me something  and took me for a long walk into the bush. After several miles we came to a concrete structure. It was a properly engineered well complete with a chain and bucket.

They explained that many men had come with big lorries and machinery to build it, one of many across the land they had heard. When it was built they asked the men where the water was and they were told that when the rains came the water would come. The rains came and went but the well remained dry. No one thought to ask the villagers where the water was.

A few nights later the coughing had stopped and as their course of medication had ended, my daily clinic was no longer needed. A few days of demonstrating practical hygiene, including an uproarious demonstration to the ladies on how to basin bath a baby and my holiday came to an end.

On my last evening there we had a celebratory dance in the moonlight, under the open sky. When I left the village I gave them my spade and axe to maintain the well with. I took with me priceless memories of a gentle, gracious and dignified people who I carry in my heart to this day.