Posts Tagged ‘Namibia’

The time we spent the night in Keetmanshoop

For the past two days I have been working at the Destinations Travel Show in Earl’s Court with a travel agency I used to work for in Namibia. I’ve been spending hours talking to people about Namibia and the sights and how to travel around and I keep remembering a time when my friend, Lucy and I, went to Cape Town for Christmas. By public transport. That was out first mistake.

Before working in Windhoek, I lived in Luderitz for a year. Luderitz is one of those out-of-the-way places at the bottom of the country with few transport links and train tracks which have been swallowed up by the desert and the sand dunes. You pretty much need to have your own car, which we didn’t.

So we relied on the bus service. There was a bus inland from Luderitz to a town on the single main road running down the middle of the country, called Keetmanshoop. Once we were at Keetmanshoop, there were plenty of buses heading down to Cape Town. We had bought our tickets for the whole journey from Luderitz to Cape Town and, mistakenly, thought this guaranteed us against potential mishaps. We had our tickets! And we would succeed in our mission!

The first stretch, from Luderitz to Keetmanshoop was fine. It was five hours of talking to and playing with the other children on the bus, being only children ourselves really. Then everyone got off in Keetmanshoop and dispersed. Our bus to Cape Town was due to pick us up in about seven hours so we knew we were in for a long wait. The bus picked up at a petrol station so there was no official seating area or anything.

We plonked down with our bags which were bigger than us and full of nonsense we didn’t need for a three week holiday in a big city. We waited. 2pm. 3pm. 5pm. 8pm.

And soon the time for the coach to appear was approaching. It did not appear. 9pm came and went. 10pm. There was no-one else about and no bus. We took turns to walk up and down the road and look to see if it could have passed by without us noticing.

Eventually, around 11pm, a double decker bus rolled in and a few people appeared with bags and hurried to the bus. Being the polite Brits that we are, we queued in an orderly fashion as the others pushed in front, holding out their tickets. Eventually, we were the last two to get on, having not pushed in. We held out our tickets and the woman said, “I have one seat left.”

“But there are two of us,” we protested. “And we have tickets. Look. Tickets!

Seeing we were getting irate, she said there was another bus on the way, we were not to worry. O ok, we thought. They must put two buses on the route because it’s quite busy. Pacified, we sat down on our bags to wait for the second bus and watched the first one drive away.

We waited and waited and waited. Midnight. 1am. 2am. Lucy and I decided to take turns having a nap and keeping an eye out. Lucy went first taking a nap…. And didn’t wake up and I felt mean waking her. So I was in charge of staying awake to watch for the bus. I employed a method of taking walks up and down the road to look for the bus and sitting down to read or write letters. The black star-filled sky started slowly to turn dark blue then lighter and lighter. 4am. 5am. 6am. 7am.

So now we had been sitting on a pavement at a petrol garage for 18 hours and we realised the inevitable truth that there had never been a second bus…

We sat and waited for a new plan to become clear.

It was as we were thinking about what to do that a man approached us and asked what we were doing. We explained that we had been waiting for a bus to Cape Town which had never arrived. He was going to Cape Town, he explained, and did we want a lift?

We jumped at it and, thanking him profusely, made our way to his car with our bags. Now I think about it, he had all the classic signs of being a bit suspect. Pale skin, prematurely receding hairline, slight stoop, randomly approaching two young girls to ask what they are doing. But we were delirious with tiredness and without any better plan up our sleeves.

The drive there was pretty uninteresting apart from the fact that we listened to a Faith Hill album on repeat almost the whole way. And it was a looooong drive. I had opted for the front seat so was obliged to make polite conversation for the entire time, still unable to sleep. Lucy had cleverly chosen the back seat and got to sleep when she wanted.

When we got to Cape Town, he was stopping in to drop off his bags then take us to our hostel. While dropping off his bags, we were invited in to his house and ended up in a slightly bizarre situation making small talk over cups of tea with the parents of a man we didn’t know.

When he dropped us off, we gave him money for petrol, thanked him loads, took his phone number and said it would be great to meet up for a drink (we didn’t). In the Long Street Backpackers, where we were staying, the two other friends we were meeting were having heart attacks as we were a full day late and the bus company couldn’t tell them if we had ever boarded the bus. Of course they couldn’t…..

And in case you’re wondering, apart from the shaky start, we had a great time in Cape Town!

Search terms 6

This always gives me a huge amount of pleasure, checking my search terms for the past month. We’ve got a repeat of a certain bestiality-esque search and something which I’m not sure I want to know the story behind… Something about a grandad… A grandad and their gender…. There are also a few interesting welly searches that have ended up here.

gelatarias
liverpool “mill stile” footpath
inside 251 menlove avenue
george michael grove road highgate
laura maisey law
woolton reservoir
wellies naked
skytrain at the o2 arena
inside 20 forthlin road
swim gods
vaynites
dish called pouffe
kate moss highgate
swastika shaped building balham
unusual wacky jewlery
transvestite wellies
cousin violet’s quote on excess
jennifer lopez thought of namibia
teddington
ladies bathing tag move
granny boobs
sofa with scallops
gold frosting
pouffe recipe
why do i say things twice
laura maisey
security guards in james bond movie
winp simon callow impressed by poem
bikram classes northwich
suicide bridge highgate incident
kingston university is crap
jeremy kyle pig cow
girelephant crood
womenanddogsex
joni mitchell anorexic
sex change granddad
grease on wall behind bed
antipasti music paper
lucille ball oops
the hamlyn all colour cookbook by mary berry
dinosaur tattoo

Acting on my bucket list

At the start of September, I posted a bucket list so I thought it was time for a little check in, to let you know about my progress.

1. Join a book club.
Ok, I still look hopefully at signs in Waterstones stores or online and intend to do it. To be honest, I forgot I’d kind of obliged myself to do it by writing it here so I forgot to make myself join one! I’ll do it, I promise.

2. Master front crawl.
I don’t swim as regularly at the moment for a few reasons. The main one is that they close the outdoor pool from October til April and the indoor pool isn’t as fun. Also, I pulled a muscle in my leg a few months ago so took ages to get back into it. Perfecting breast stroke is my main focus when I do get to the pool. Fail no. 2.

3. Go back to Namibia (or at least make solid plans about it).
Ok. This one is going well. A friend who I worked for as a travel consultant is over from Namibia at the end of this month. We are going for a drink to discuss a two week trip to Namibia next year.

4. Go on (or plan) an epic walking adventure.
Ummm…. Does Richmond Park count?

5. Try running (haha!)
This one I did…. Kind of. I ran for the bus this evening, which I jumped on in haste then five minutes later realised was not on its way to my house. It was the wrong bus. I ran. I ran for a bus. And it wasn’t even the right bus. But I did run. This is a fact.

6. Go to Secret Cinema at least once.
Ummm…. I went to the normal cinema last week… Does that count as being half way there?

7. Sign up for a college course (not sure what in, I just think would be fun. Maybe food).
I’m thinking of doing a course in history or ancient civilisation or something. Another thing I forgot I’d told the world I’d do so forgot to sign myself up for something.

8. Go to that restaurant in London where everything’s completely in the dark.
This one I have not done either but I have possibly done something better… I’m going to a lovely restaurant in Paris on Thursday which comes with a fabulous recommendation from my manager. I still have the restaurant-in-the-dark place in the back of my mind though.

So there you have it. Not progress as such. Not what you’d call ‘solid plans.’ It really just amounts to running for the bus and a planned drink with a friend from Namibia. But it is progress. Of a sort.

New Year

Ok, I was up until 2am and just woke up (at 11.30am) so am feeling a bit out of it and sleepy so I can’t promise that this post will be the most inspired I have ever written!

New Year’s Eve itself ended up being a lovely mishmash of friends from different areas of my life who had never met. One friend brought her pet sausage dog so, obviously, we all giggled and cooed and bonded over that.

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After a lot of sitting around, we finally started cooking, using my favourite Michel Roux cookbook, and produced an extremely tasty dish called ‘poussin scented with ginger and lemongrass.’ I liked it because it sounded a bit Mastercheffy.

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The poussin was with steamed broccoli, fried rocket leaves (tastier than it sounds) rice and a sauce made from the ginger and lemongrass and leftover chicken stuff.

For dessert, we made poached cherries with rice pudding, which I cooked on high speed, as it was getting late, so wasn’t quite up to Michel’s standards. I imagine he’d eliminate me from the semi finals for my speedy cooking methods. O well. It was tasty anyway.

We then got our warm coats on and drove to Richmond Park, parking outside and walking inside, to a point we knew was quite high so we would have a fabulous view over London for the fireworks. We found ourselves a good spot and waited for the celebrations to begin.

It was fantastic when they did start. In almost every direction, in any gap between the trees, we could see fireworks displays happening in all different parts of London. We had a view to our left towards the park gate and saw, occasionally, fireworks going off in different places across Surrey. In front of us were the fireworks at the South Bank in central London, and behind us were displays in other parts of South West London. They went on for a little while and we cracked open our bottle of prosecco and passed around the single glass I had grabbed in a hurry when leaving the house, like poor students sharing bad wine before a night out.

After the fireworks displays had finished and the sausage dog had calmed down (there were lots of other dogs in the park and she had become very excited), we wandered back home and watched a bit of TV before giving up for the evening. It was all very lovely and civilised.

And now, time to make some new year’s resolutions, mainly so they are recorded somewhere so that I am obliged, sort of, to keep them. Ok, here goes.

– Plan a trip to Namibia
– Plan a trip to Asia
– Eat more ethically, especially with meat
– Finish all the books I’m in the middle of
– Revamp the wardrobe a little
– Say yes to social engagements (instead of my default setting, which is no cause I’m lazy)

Narnia and I

Our relationship goes way back. Anyone who knows me well, knows about my Narnia-love.

I had probably read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at some point as a child but then my dad got me the box set in my teens and I read all seven chronicles. It took over my existence for a while. I rejoiced when they defeated the White Witch, when Caspian beat his uncle and reigned over Narnia, when Jill and Eustace broke Prince Rilian free from his spell and when Peter triumphed in the last battle. I despaired when Aslan was killed on the ancient table, when Nikabrik tried to overthrow Caspian and when Edmund and Lucy were told they had to leave Narnia. And I wept for the second half of the last book because I knew the end was nigh.

When in the Narnia zone, it becomes a very real place to me. It is the pleasant background to my normal day. Things are just generally nicer and more storybook, even when I’m just at work.

Right before going on our gap years, my friend Joe and I had walked from his house into Reading, which had taken about four hours. We had talked about Narnia a lot. It was one of those lovely days, early in our friendship when everything we said or did became a nice memory, stored up to take away with me. He left for his gap year before me so I sent him all seven books in the post to China and, miraculously, nothing happened to them along the way. I took a copy of the books with me to Africa and we started to read them on the 16th December, countries and oceans apart, to prepare for Christmas.

In fact, one day, whilst discussing Narnia with a bit of alcohol in our systems, two friends and I jumped into the rather big wardrobe we had in our room in Namibia, and searched around in the back for some snow or trees. We found neither.

Every year since then, I’ve started reading them on the 16th so I’m usually on book 4 or 5 by Christmas Day, and I keep reading till I finish them.

When my friend, Jay, started basically living on our sofa when we were at uni, I had started reading them as usual and I would always stay in the front room with her, on the other sofa. And we used to read the books to each other, a chapter each, until she got tired and I would keep reading until she had fallen asleep.

So last night, a few days later than usual, I picked up The Magician’s Nephew and started to read. All the lovely feelings of being on familiar ground and being in for a great read were ignited and I sipped my cup of tea and smiled.

“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our world and the land of Narnia first began….”

Of COURSE there won’t be snow in Africa!

I just have to say something which has been on my mind for a while now. That song, Feed The World, which I thought was Free The World until really recently. It’s ridiculous.

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.”
Duuuuh! Of course there won’t. What that got to do with anything? Is that fact supposed to evoke pity in me?

O no, they won’t have snow, they must be soooo gutted. I bet all that sunshine and warm weather is really bugging them and that they wish, in their hardship, that they had snow. It’s so hard living in a sunny country.

It’s the worst thing ever. If, as we are led to believe by the song, everyone in Africa is sitting around starving and poverty-stricken, do you really think SNOW, of all things, is going to help the situation? Now they’re starving, poverty-stricken and dying of pneumonia.

As an aside, there also “won’t be snow” in Australia this Christmastime but they can think again if they’re expecting a load of food parcels because of it!

The next bit, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.” Talk about talking down to people! Like we’re whispering with a doctor about a cancer ridden old lady. Africa isn’t one massive country unable to do anything for itself or work out how to get food. If you’d have told any of the people in the town in Namibia where I lived that the greatest gift they could expect was to not die, I’m pretty sure they would have found it hilarious. They were people like you or I and they were doing ok. Of course there are places of extreme poverty in many countries in Africa but as a whole, it’s just not possible to write one song, applicable to all, about how everyone is starving. It’s really offensive.

And lastly, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” To be honest, I don’t think it’s very high on the priority list. A lot of African countries aren’t Christian. It makes absolutely no sense to say, ‘O, isn’t it awful? They don’t have any celebrations at Christmas.’ It’s like a Muslim country singing a song about how awful it is for us in Britain and “Do they know it’s Ramadan time at all?” Well, no, I don’t know when Ramadan is, not because I’m terribly unfortunate and you must raise money for me. Just because it’s not something I celebrate anyway. So to say about Africa, do they know it’s Christmas – probably some of them don’t. What on earth has that got to do with how poor they are or aren’t?

And that is my rant over and done with. I’ve been needing to let that out for years over this stupid stupid song.

Thank you.

PS I’ve just remembered that there was a town further inland from Luderitz, where I lived, which did get snow! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Bob Geldof. Was it Bob Geldof?

On chocolate

More Nanny Rhino today…

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I’m not one of those girls who’s mad on chocolate. I like it, don’t get me wrong. But whenever I think of chocolate lovers, I think of a girl I went to secondary school with, Gwen, who would go around the common room in sixth form, asking if anyone had chocolate with them and could she buy it from them. She’d be brandishing a fifty pence piece to back up her request and asking around desperately. At the time, I was a bit young to wonder why she had such a thing for chocolate. I just thought it was a little strange.

 

Alternately, a girl I went to junior school with, Louise, was allergic to chocolate! Allergic! It’d be a pretty sad existence if you couldn’t give in to the odd chocolate moment.

 

When my brother and I were younger, I distinctly remember being a massive fan of Yorkie bars. It was always my favourite. If we got given 50p by a generous relative, we would scuttle off to the sweet shop around the corner and giggle excitedly, while we looked at all the sherbet sticks and flying saucer sweets and fried egg sweets and Mr Freezy flavoured ice sticks. A lot of the time, though, I’d get a Yorkie. Now I think about it, I fear I may have been wasting a fantastic opportunity for potential sweetie-induced happiness. I just wanted a big bar of solid chocolate. Then Yorkie brought out these adverts on TV which said, “Yorkie! Not for girls!” So I had a little-girl-tiff and stopped buying them. I switched my allegiance to Dime bars, which were about half the price anyway, and shook my proverbial fist at the the Yorkie makers, knowing they’d notice my missing custom and regret their silly no-girls advert.

 

Speaking of chocolate, actually, there are lots of new weird and wacky things happening with chocolate, which take inspiration from it’s original use as a savoury drink, mixed with chilli, when first discovered and drunk in South America. So chilli chocolate bars abound the shelves of high end delicatessens or your local Whole Foods. I like the idea of liking chilli and chocolate together. I have tried, and failed, to get myself to like it. I just cannot stand the prickly heat in the back of my throat after I have swallowed a lovely mouthful of sweet melty chocolate. My senses scream at me to stop. It is just wrong, I’m sorry for those of you who love this combination.

 

Another thing which doesn’t work for me is chocolate pasta. I had originally thought that it would be great with something savoury. A friend told me he had it with a veal dish. Great, I thought, let me be gourmet and get into this chocolate pasta scene! Then someone told me that I had it all wrong. Chocolate pasta was a dessert and I must warm some cream up, add walnuts, cook my pasta and then add it to my warm cream and walnuts, mix around and then serve up, as my dessert. Ok, I thought, that sounds interesting, I can do that.

 

And I did it.

 

And it tasted like…. pasta with cream and walnuts. Normal regular pasta with cream and walnuts. In all honesty, cream and walnuts are not my usual accompaniment to pasta so I put it aside, disappointed. All that anticipation, all that planning… and it just tasted like regular pasta. Maybe I got it from the wrong company. Maybe I should have looked around for a really great quality one or asked for recommendations. Anyway, that’s the end of the road for my chocolate pasta journey, I think.

 

Now, another chocolate thing that I have reached the end of the road with is chocolate mousse. Not eating it! No, I am of course still eating it. Making it myself at home though, no more! In the early days of cooking in my kitchen, I didn’t have an electric whisk so I whisked my egg whites by hand. I would get severe arm ache and give up before it had quite finished being whisked. I’d just keep on with the recipe, in blind hope that it would be fine. It wasn’t. It would come out to dense and hard, instead of soft and fluffy. I tried it a second time, having convinced myself that the eggs must have been rubbish or something. The same thing happened. So I stopped making chocolate mousse. Maybe that’s silly, because now I have an electric whisk so I could try it again. I think I have a mental block with chocolate mousse now though.

 

I did go through a stage of drinking unsweetened hot chocolate not too long ago. It was an unexpected pleasure which grew on me. I used Bournville cocoa powder, steamed milk and vanilla or almond extract. I occasionally used orange oil but it tended to overwhelm the whole thing. Peppermint did the same and almost tasted toothpaste-ish. So I stuck to vanilla or almond. Because it’s bitter, it takes a few times to get used to it but I started really looking forward to my evening vanilla hot chocolate after a while.

 

Another of my favourite things to do with chocolate when I have guests over is a kind of help-yourself thing. I grate a load of dark chocolate, finely chop some mint, mix them together and put it in a small dish. I grate some more and zest an orange in with it and put that into a dish. Sometimes I do one of plain dark chocolate grated. You can play around with what flavours you want to add. Then I get loads of those mini pots of icecream and tell everyone to pick a pot and top it with whatever they want from the dishes of chocolate. Or you could go even simpler, get a huge bowl, half some strawberries and throw in some cherries, then get some dark chocolate and break it roughly into pieces and throw in aswell and get get nibbling.

 

With Christmas approaching, I am guessing my chocolate intake will increase drastically. Not because there is far better chocolate around at Christmas and I will be unable to control myself. It’s more because it will be there, freely available and right in front of my face (of course, I could choose not to stand directly in front of the Christmas chocolate and sweeties aisle at the supermarket but I like it there, ok?). So I will eat it. Because I can see it. Advent calendars, not a favourite or any special memories but a nice reason to eat chocolate first thing every morning. A selection box, again no amazing memories, just that my grandfather used to get us one every year, without fail. But if I bought all those individual chocolate bars in a shop and ate them all in one day, people would judge me, quite harshly I should think. Wrap it in a plastic packet with a fun Christmas picture on the front and call it a ‘selection box’ and it’s suddenly fine! Eat them all, no problem!

 

In Namibia, my friend Lucy and I, used to get a chocolate bar called Top Deck, if we had any spare money. This was an exciting time for us, when it happened. It was white chocolate on the bottom and milk chocolate on the top. It looked beautiful and we loved it, although I’ve no memory of how it tasted.