Monday, September 27, 2010


I was inspired by Reya's post ages ago that brought up questions of vanity concerning age and weight. I was reminded of it again today.

This morning an old acquaintance of many years dropped by to say hello on his way to the river to fish. Our families have interacted in various ways over the years and he is a respected headman of his village. But STILL.  The conversation went something like this:

Dickson  - Hi etc. etc.

Me –  More of the etcs. family/crops etc. Establish that all is going good in his life. Bleh bleh.

Dickson -  Haven't seen you since the funeral last year.  Have you been around? My, you look great – so fat. Really, much fatter since last time (points at my arm and clothes with admiration).

Me - Thanks a lot. Thanks very much. Yes I am well.

D – Well obviously you haven't been working very hard. So fat. 

Me – No, really. I have really. I'm working very hard.

D – (I hear him think to himself) Well obviously she's just sitting at her computer or pushing pigment around,  Not hoeing in the field or carrying firewood and water. Or getting infections. 

So I grin bravely and agree with every word. I am indeed apparently fatter.  And lazy too it appears.

I say goodbye then go inside to glance at myself in the mirror.

A few years ago I was at this bar/restaurant called Moondogs at the local airport with someone I had known from one of the early safari camps.  He began complimenting the barman whom we both knew on his youthful appearance. 

You know when things start going wrong socially and you think you can see it. And maybe even fix control-freak inner voice starts up. Well it does sometimes.

Old Camp Acquaintance (OCA) - Hi Daniel. This is fantastic. What a great surprise to see you here. Haven't seen you for ages.  My word, don't YOU look young. You don't look a day older than you did twenty years ago (or fifteen or whatever). You look so YOUNG. Honestly not a day over...bleh bleh.

Control-freak inner voice -  OK enough. Stop. Change the topic, dude.

Daniel – (sounding to Inner Voice quite irritated) Well I am not. I am a grown man. I am even a grandfather now you know.

OCA – Oh don't worry about that. You look really, really young. 

Inner Voice  – (thoughts only – no outer voice) Shit. Stop. Don't do that. Give him a break. Don't take the theme any further.

Daniel – (irritation obvious by now) Well I'm not young any more. I am fully grown.

Inner - Try another subject.

OCA -  ... look almost like a young boy. 

Inner -  Ooooo.

Daniel – (reaches for the meat cleaver) …

The walls, white only a moment ago, and the sparkling glasses are splattered with the fresh blood of an Englishman just like in Jack and Beanstalk ...

Not really.

OK one more - also today - more cultural divides in something called art. I was chatting to a man in the Zambian ministry of education. He asks me about my job - I try to explain about making art. I say that I do it more or less alone - not a very African concept for doing a job. He agrees. I point out that unfortunately I cant delegate - I have to do it all myself. He looks at me with something like genuine horror on his face. 

"What? Dont you have any friends?"