Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

The Tenth Prophecy

Have I any enemies?

Answer –

Where is the simpleton that would thus lose his time?

A few years ago I went to see Mama Mia with my enigmatic ex-boyfriend. Exactly 23 minutes into the film he leaned over and whispered to me….

“Babe – why are they singing?”

“Cos it’s a musical”

“Ah shit man”

Whether it was the fact that it took him 23 minutes to realise we were watching a musical or his sheer outrage when James Bond started to sing I don’t quite know, but at that moment his excellent cricketing skills and dazzling blue eyes seemed to fade away… and right then all I knew was that I hated him. However that was then, and this is now – and all feelings of hatred have since passed and I can simply reflect on our romantic monosyllabic-sweet-nothings (usually about the greatest ever batsmen) with warm fondness.

I write this on the eve of the 12th – tomorrow men in bowler hats and white gloves will march across the province in celebration of a battle fought in 1600andsomething when a Protestant King beat a Catholic King in battle… I’ve seen Sweet Home Alabama, I know that this is not unusual – there are many other places where grown men celebrate battles of ye olde-times. While some may choose to dress up as confederate soldiers and re-enact battles, others prefer a marching band and a shiny orange sash. And though I may mock, the past few days have seen much coverage on the topic of hatred in Northern Ireland.

I am particularly proud of my part-Irish heritage – over time mind-sets have altered and the persistent hatred that has plagued this small part of the world has finally begun to ease. Of course there are some who, largely out of sight, have views so deeply rooted you wonder if any amount of time will dilute them, but for the most part there is optimism about the future and the city I know is very different to the one I hear about in stories.

This morning on radio Ulster – a 55 year old woman (also called Kate) had phoned in to profess how much she detested Catholics, although she did say that she didn’t actually know any personally. When asked to explain why she hated them she had no explanation, just that it was her opinion. And though I thought she hadn’t much skill in debate, I did find myself feeling sorry for her; I pitied her for being ideologically left behind. The declaration prompted many other callers (some were Catholics: “Hi Kate, I’m a Catholic and I don’t hate you” and some were Protestants too, but none could budge Kate – not even the story of a catholic fireman who would put out fires in any house, regardless of religion) and for my part I couldn’t really understand either. To hate on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation is something so completely irrational to me I find it almost impossible to comprehend.

The woman on the radio made me think of the musical-hating-ex-boyfriend, who famously once refused to take a photo of me and the Fame Academy choreographer on account of him being black. As a white Zimbabwean you could perhaps explain his racism – it was ingrained, but as a fellow human being I could find no excuse. Is the oracle right? Perhaps only simpletons have enemies, because surely those with an ounce of sense must see how futile hatred is.

They say that 1% of hate is love. I’d argue that hatred is less to do with disappointment or revenge or even love, but more associated with self-preservation and fear. The most racist white Zimbabweans were a minority who desperately clung to their positions of power, suspicious and afraid it would all come to an end. IronicallyI can’t help but feel that the narrow-mindedness of some facilitated their demise. Perhaps the same holds true for Northern Ireland; a fear of history repeating itself, a fear of what the ‘other’ side is capable of – essentially a fear of on-going change. And that I can understand. We live in such chaos that we so often cling to what we know when really letting go could be all we need to set us free from such detrimental feelings. The more I think and write about it the more I become convinced that the answer lies in thinking beyond yourself. If a change in perspective is what gives us wings then perhaps our focus should be more in achieving that, and less focused on what history has told us.

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p.s my ex-boyfriend wasn’t Desmond Tutu

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The Sixth Prophecy

How many husbands shall I have?

Answer :-

“Several in jest and one who will cause you to weep

It may come as a surprise to discover that once upon a time I was engaged to be married. Even more surprising is the fact that technically I think I still may be. So far the oracle has been completely right, and if the following account (coupled with the sixth prophecy) is anything to go by – my future looks far bleaker than even I could anticipate. Unemployment I can deal with, marriage I cannot.

About two years ago I found myself at the mecca of Southern-Hemiphere scummery. The Church is a nomadic nightclub in London which I first encountered when it was located in Kentish Town, allegedly it has now moved to Clapham, but I can’t be sure or bothered to google it. My advice is simple, never ever go there. My fellow Afro-Irish friend Tasha (a platinum blonde bombshell with a collection of tattoos and miniscule skirts) had come to visit one weekend, and as homage to our childhood we made our way to the Church. The Church opens at midday on Sundays and closes at 4pm, the floor is covered in sawdust and you can only buy (with tokens) your drinks in three’s – these come in a plastic bag which most attach to their belts. With pre-historic strippers for entertainment and all the worst 90’s classics to dance to – this is a cultural experience of the highest order.

Initially we promised not to drink (we were there to observe and Tasha was worried dodgy saffas would replace the alcohol with chemicals that would make her blind), yet it soon became clear that the sole way to endure this hideousness (despite potential loss of eyesight) was to purchase our own plastic bags of Fosters (our dignity may fast have been approaching negative points – but please note that not once did we resort to fastening our beverages to any part of our clothing which I hope did us credit). Those who arrive in costume are waived an entry fee and I can assure you that the Southern hemisphere-ites choice of fancy dress make even Prince Harry’s party attire seem positively tasteful. Think boot polish. We thus avoided making eye contact with anyone dressed up, thereby considerably reducing the number of people we could talk to. Tasha was instantly cornered by every beefy buffoon in a ten metre radius and I (with my darker hue of blonde hair) was left talking to some seriously wigga kiwis. Before I embark on my explanation of how it was I became engaged, I should really give a bit of background information regarding previous suitors as means of an explanation as to how it was my betrothal came about.

I’ve always assumed my aversion to marriage came as a result of previous and unfortunate specimens of romantic interest. If this was ye olde times then one would be forgiven for presuming I had met the majority of my suitors at the travelling circus when viewing them in the cages they were so rightly kept. The modern day freaks i’m attracted to can be divided into three main categories:

Specimen One: The Southern African Abroad

Appealing qualities are mainly aesthetic, a lifetime of sport and sunshine means that those from this category are well built and tanned. Good sporting knowledge. If made temporarily homeless this homo sapiens would be capable of slaughtering something for dinner (just don’t expect him to cook it).

Unappealing qualities: somewhat lacking in the intelligence department (one too many rugby balls to the head). Unlikely to believe in evolution or equal rights or conservation. Prone to shooting things. Unlikely to be able to read or speak in words of more than one syllable.

 

Specimen Two: The Rah Boy

Appealing qualities – generally excellently groomed with a good head of hair. Well travelled. Nice taste in shoes. Knows about cricket and rugby. Good command of a knife and fork, well mannered around strangers.

Unappealing qualities – cries easily (result of boarding school abandonment issues), weak chin. Finds un-funny things hilarious especially when it comes to the mocking of poor people; homosexuals, those with disabilities and foreigners. Presumed secret empathy for the BNP. Zero knowledge of politics but supports the Tories regardless (on the grounds of lenient inheritance tax.)

 

Type number three: The Irish Militant

Appealing qualities – nice eyes. Good sense of humour. Down to earth and friendly (providing you’re from the right side of the divide… or left – religion depending). Somewhat skewed, but nevertheless, real passion for history. Would be able to protect you, regardless of dubious methods used in doing so.

Unappealing qualities – often short in stature, and therefore frequently in possession of Short Man Syndrome (unrelated, but have there ever been any tall dictators?) alcoholic, pyromaniac, not overly tolerant.

Overall none were really keepers.

So there I was, having just ended a long-term relationship with a member of the Southern African Abroad group, I was feeling disillusioned and alone. When my new kiwi friend announced in desolated tones that he was due to be deported, a flash went off in my head. As a plumber on the underground he was in possession of good vocational skills, he owned a car, seemed neither aggressive nor overly stupid and most importantly he did not fall into any of the categories I usually found myself landed with. What more could you want in a husband? And so it was that I proposed to him, with heartfelt offerings of my British Nationality. He said ok, and offered me a holiday in New Zealand in return. I love the Lord of The Rings. We were clearly soul mates.

Tasha, meanwhile, had managed to offend one Flinstone-of-an-Australian and in retreat had beckoned me to replenish our supply of Fosters. With the decision to follow her, I turned my back on my impening marriage. I never saw my fiancé again. I did look for him, but to no avail. I never even knew his name. In retrospect I suppose this was not necessarily a bad thing, if I am (as prophesised) to have several marriages in jest then one less can only be good economics.

The Ladies Oracle is preoccupied with questions of the heart… I have so far avoided asking any of these. Traumatised by failed engagements, racist boyfriends and the occasional propensity to stalk interesting people simply because they use coloured writing pens and break things when intoxicated, I have sworn myself off men for the past few months. I resent the number of questions dedicated to the male sex because it highlights the worst of stereotypical female characteristics. What I do know to be true is that there are far too many people in relationships simply to avoid their own company, and whilst ideally you should be happy with yourself I do believe far better to have a marriage (or several) in jest, than one to in order to escape yourself… So in light of the fact that I refuse to believe happiness lies purely in a relationship (and *vom* actually lies in the one with youself), if any more husband related questions arise from the oracle I will simply have to use my long-lost fiancé as reference, (as painful as may be) he was once almost my husband and for now that will have to suffice. Besides I have several more coming my way, so what’s to worry about?

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(Fiance is the one in the hat, and I make no apologies for my t-shirt)

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p.s thank you for all the concern regarding my near destitution, I actually do have a paid job and an internship, so offers to send me food are not really necessary. I’m occasionally prone to slight exaggeration, and my last posts were more to highlight the lack of interesting jobs and my inability to secure any of the rare ones going! Appreciate the thoughts all the same though.

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The Fourth Prophecy

Johnny the Jig is Holywood’s most famous child. He sits on the high street and plays his accordion. A child from another era, he looks bedraggled and content. The sculpture is my favourite thing in Holywood and while I was photographing it the other day I found myself thinking a lot about my own childhood. The oracle offers only one question on the subject:

“Am I still thought a child?”

the answer I was given –

“They know there are no children in this age”

I suppose accessing childhood memories becomes harder for everyone as they get older, but for me so many of my memories are half formed from stories and photographs – the other half a vague recollection of what my infant-self witnessed. Leaving Zimbabwe was difficult, and I think for many years I found it easier to simply not think about it. But now that I’m older (and extremely wise) I’ve discovered that thinking about my childhood has been vitally important, not just in understanding my own identity but in appreciating just how lucky we were.

I remember granadilla’s growing at the bottom of the garden, the horse eating the paw-paws, my father’s weird sculptures located in even weirder places, and dress up – I lived for dress up. I remember a new word ‘war veterans’ being introduced into our vocabulary, my mother telling me stories, I remember being feverish with malaria, and I can still smell the sweet flowers of the Jacaranda trees and the feel warm gravel burning under my feet.

I can remember Veronica shelling peas outside in the sun – I put a plastic bag over my head and she told me that I had to take it off because if I died Jesus would come from the sky and shout at her. That was the first I’d ever heard of Jesus.

I remember nights in the dormitory when we whispered about boys from under our counterpane’s and snuck out into the courtyard to gaze at the stars. I remember avoiding hippos as we canoed down the Zambezi and agonising what single sweet to choose on a trip to town. Mostly I remember a time that was largely spent in our imaginations, oblivious to the crumbling walls of the world around us. There would be other nights when our whispers turned to worry – fears of the future. The rumours and tension had slowly eased their way into our world unnoticed – and with their arrival they took the last moments of our childhood. The first white farmer to be killed was from our town, the bitter irony is that there are so many others to have suffered that we will never know about, skin colour still determining political relevance.

When I think back to those days I realise that we were the first generation where the racial divide was starting to matter less and less, schools were integrated and the colour of your skin rarely mattered. The generation of Zimbabwean children who left, like myself, undoubtedly suffered – having everything you know taken from you is traumatic – but we also had something that most will never know, we knew what it was to be children. I was a lucky one, I think of my school friends, both black and white, who were left behind and I know it was worse for them. Looking at Johnny the Jig, and thinking of my own upbringing I realise that the oracle is right, with half the children in the world living in abject poverty and the other half raised with only materialism as guidance, there are no children in this age. I think that’s worth thinking about.

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