Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why do bananas all ripen at the same time?

I have these banana trees outside my kitchen window. For weeks I was watching one particular hand of bananas grow bigger and bigger, and a week ago the gardener took it down and presented it to me. He also accidentally chopped down that tree, but that's another story. I guess as he didn't have a ladder to reach the bananas, he showed initiative by coming up with a cunning plan to get them. Siobhan researched banana milkshakes, I hauled out my best banana bread recipes, but the bananas remained too green to use. We had to wait for them to ripen. My housekeeper placed them in a big dark box last Thursday. When I peeped into the box today, they were all ripe, ready to be eaten immediately. It was an enormous hand of bananas, there have to be close on 100 bananas there. At home it's only Siobhan and I and seriously, there are so many banana bread loafs you can bake and banana milkshakes you can drink. Why did they all have to ripen at the same time? Couldn't some of them be original and creative, and ripen later on in the week?

Problems are a bit like bananas. They all arrive at the same time. They aren't considerate and don't spread themselves out a bit so that you have time to solve each one independently and give it the thought it deserves. No, that would make life too easy for you. Like bananas, your problems all ripen and arrive at the same time.  They're also a helluva weight to carry on your shoulders.   If you have problems at work, or lots of stress, you can be sure that you'll have problems at home and your kids will play up. It's a bit like a chain reaction. Someone up there has a wicked sense of humour.
Anyway, there's nothing I can do about all my bananas ripening at the same time, and there are some problems you can solve, and others you just have to learn to live with, and cope as best you can. Those banana problems are out of your control.

This week, first week back at school, and the week has just flown. It doesn't matter if you have three children and they all live in different countries, when one gets a problem, the others will all present you with their problems. It's Murphy's Law. Worrying about them does make time fly, and everything else which would normally be stressful, seem minor in comparison. That's the positive I guess.

I've had a few good reviews of The Case of Billy B on and that makes me feel great. My new book, Not Telling, is chugging along nicely and is starting to get very exciting. I literally can't wait to see what's going to happen next. My protagonist has taken control of the keyboard and I'm struggling to keep up with her. She's gone off in directions I wouldn't have envisioned in the beginning, but it's all good. I'm having fun and honestly, it does take my mind off all those bananas ripening at once.

Siobhan went hiking this weekend up to Mandara Hut on Kilimanjaro and is now all fired up to do a level two climb in November. She's arrived home exhausted and fallen asleep on the couch. I have to wake her up soon as I know she has Geography homework and she'll want to eat dinner.

We've managed to get a rowing machine and it's changed our lives. We row 100 rows before walking into the kitchen and on and off all day when we think of it. Hopefully, we'll be slimmer and trimmer for our big overland trip to Cape Town in June, which reminds me. I need to start planning that.

My roast lamb with lemon and rosemary smells divine, so I better check up on it. Have a great week ahead!

Friday, April 9, 2010


After planning this children's story on my 9 hour drive back from Dar-es-Salaam, (hey, one has to think about something other than the other cars on the road or a noisy teenager singing at the top of her voice), I couldn't wait to get started with it.  So, I spent the next 5 days illustrating the story.  It didn't take too long to write.  I took photos of the illustrations, put them on Photoshop, gave them a border and wrote the text on them.  Then I saved them as a jpeg, opened a word document, inserted the jpeg images and then saved the completed word document as a pdf file.  Probably did it all the long way round, but it worked so I'm happy.  My next step, was to add all the jpegs to Movie Maker and record myself narrating the story on a digital wave recorder, then I added the audio file to the movie file and voila!  I made a movie which I've uploaded onto Youtube  I've tried to embed it in this post but am not sure it has worked.  I'll see when I view the completed post, eh?
Anyway, the rain was good as it meant I couldn't go outside so I had to focus on my writing.  I do tend to get distracted rather easily.  It's what happens when you have a mind that is so full of noise.  Attention Deficit Disorder, that's me.  But Saturday, the rain was a bit too much.  Torrential downpour, I thought the house would cave in.  It started leaking around my back door of the house, and then I heard a huge crash and the power went out.  Siobhan went to investigate, she was brave enough to head out in the rain.  A neighbour two houses down, had a huge giant enormous eucalyptus tree come down across the road, effectively blocking our way out.  We were trapped!  They only removed the tree the Monday afternoon, and Tanesco braved the rain Sunday afternoon to repair the power lines which had come down, so we were close to 30 hours without power.  Of course, that meant we couldn't watch movies or use the internet, couldn't charge up the phone, pump water, have a shower.  So I just painted while there was enough light and Siobhan and I started playing Scrabble.  She's good, has inherited all my sneaky Scrabble moves.
Otherwise, we've spent the rest of the holiday just relaxing at home.  Can't believe it's nearly over!  The last quarter of the school year is going to fly as there is just so much happening, and before I know it, I'll be on my huge overland trip to Cape Town.
Oh well, have some more writing to do!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Omigod! Civilisation!

We'd heard quite a bit about Dar-Es-Salaam from people who'd been there before.  Dirty, busy, horrendous traffic.  Nobody, however, told us how civilised it is.  Especially on the Seacliff side.  Enormous mansions, beautifully tarred roads, great restaurants, shopping malls, we thought we'd accidentally left the country without realising it.  In comparison, Moshi is a one-horse town, and the horse died several years ago.  I do like Moshi though.  We don't have much traffic.  The traffic in Dar is a problem, but not nearly as bad as Mumbai.  I didn't find it dirty at all, and yeah it's the capital so it should be busy.  It was a great getaway but I'm not sure if I could live there, as there are far too many temptations to spend your money on.  I'd be flat-broke in five seconds. 

My book launch was great, A Novel Idea is one of the nicest bookshops I've been in, a great selection of books, I felt quite privileged to have my book launch there.  They're opening a branch in Arusha in June, so that is definitely something to look forward to.

The first two nights we stayed at the Jambo Inn in the city centre.  It's very budget and has a good restaurant downstairs.  Good for one night if you are catching the ferry to Zanzibar in the morning, but I wouldn't recommend it for longer than a night.  Our last night we stayed at the Q-bar and this I recommend highly.  Double the price of the Jambo Inn, but worth every penny.  A great English breakfast with proper filter coffee is included in the price.

Of course being me, there has to be some crazy madcap adventure to our weekend away.  We once again fell foul to corruption on the roads.  What is it with me and these traffic guys?  On the way to Dar we were only stopped twice, and both times the little traffic policeman looked in the car and asked if Siobhan was my daughter.  Although, the first one actually first asked if she was my son.  When I said yes, they waved me to continue driving.  Most bizarre.  Did they think I was kidnapping her or something?
But on the way back, a loose wire somewhere in the car was telling the car a door was open, which caused my hazard lights to flash on and off all the time.  I slammed all the doors closed so forcefully, that I almost sprained my wrist.  But, that damn loose wire was still sending out the wrong signals.  We left Dar confusing all the other drivers in the torrential rain, as they didn't know which way we were turning.  There's nothing like a car not doing what it's supposed to be doing, to put me in a bad mood, which poor Siobhan got the brunt of.  My girl, I'm sorry for snapping at you when you only wanted to give me a piece of melted chocolate while I was trying to negotiate the road in the pouring rain with my hazard lights flicking on and off like a disco.
As I gathered speed, the loose wire stopped making the hazard lights go on and off, and the trip became quite pleasant.  Even the rain stopped.  Unfortunately, as I overtook a staggering truck that was going so slowly it was almost going backwards, a little traffic man jumped out from next to a 30km speed limit sign.  Now you can't overtake a truck at 30km an hour, and you can't magically change from about 80km an hour to 30km an hour in the space of one metre.  He told me he thought I was speeding.  Obviously, I denied it, so he called over his little helper with the speed camera thing.  71km an hour.  "How do you know that's my car?" I asked, noting that their speed catching contraption does not record photos of the vehicle or licence plates.
"Look," the little helper man said, and took the speed of the next car.  21km an hour.  "See how slow he's going?"  Of course, he didn't realise by doing that, he was wiping out the speed of my car.
"Well," I said with a grim smile trying to feign patience, "He's only going slow because he can see you and me dancing around in the road.  In fact, he's going so slow he's a hazard to the safety of the rest of us on the road.  He should be the one you stop and fine."
The main traffic guy didn't fall for my advanced female logic.  "So do you want to go to court, or can I write you a ticket for TSH 20 000?"  That's roughly $20.
"But what speed was I going again?  Show me?"  I knew that I had them foxed as they had replaced my speed reading with the reading from the next car.
The traffic guy laughed.  "If you go to court you'll win as we don't have your speed anymore, but think of how much time and expense fighting it in court will take?"
He had me.  His English was far too good.  "Well then, I fine you TSH 20 000 for having such a bad road with potholes, it's a danger to drivers," I countered.
He agreed with me, and by then all the traffic police were laughing and pointing to the potholes in the road.  I thought I'd won the battle, but then he produced the ticket book again.  "So, court or fine?"
Bastard.  "How about, I just give you TSH 10 000 and we forget about court and fine?"
"Sure," the greedy corrupt bastard said as he held out his hand to take my money.
Civilisation comes with a price, I reckon.  It opens the doors for corruption.