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?"



  1. I enjoyed your post. Ah, the joy of cultural differences! I was reminded of a story of a Ghanaian friend who came to my native Holland as a young man and complimented a young woman on being so nice and fat. He was totally flabberghasted when she turned her back on him and took off. He had no idea what had gone wrong.

    In Ghana, as in other places, being fat is valued, traditonally, because it means wealth: having enough money to buy food; having a husband who takes good care of you.

    Of course, many young women now want the western style looks: skinny.

  2. hahaha, it's just so awful it's funny. i might have cried, i mean when Dickson said those things.

  3. Miss Footloose - thanks. That's funny about your Ghanian friend . Yes there he was trying hard to be polite. Oh dear.

    Lori - oh well. Thanks for the sympathy - I may just start a diet.

  4. oh thats hilarious! Love it. More posts please - they're so funny!

  5. Only if you had already wanted to Pam.I thought about what I'd said and how i would feel if that had been me. I would say without knowing you, you are just right as you are.
    I really believe we are not supposed to look the same as we did in our 20's or even 30's. I'm sure as long as you know yourself and are active (you know you are!)and healthy, i'm sure you are beautiful.

  6. another fantastic one - so lively and uplifting, yes so actual too! is it the same Daniel?? xxV more more

  7. do we give the compliments that we hope will come back to us? xx

  8. Mafuta was the word my maid used to me last week. Should I keep her???????

  9. Even if we look older and fatter and wrinklier now, my dear Pam, aren`t we still the shiny old selves we used to be on the inside? And yes, you certainly do have friends en masse! Right over here, for example! I`m so thinking of your new grandbaby to come. Many blessings!

  10. Lori - thank you - how considerate you are!I I am just so glad my HIV status is fine and that I haven't got a 'slow puncture' I so understand how nice it is to meet an acquaintace after a long time who hasn't lost stax of weight - its always a bit of a celebration

    Miranda - thank you - thats also jolly kind of you

    Val - yes indeed the very same Daniel. And thanks hey. Oh. Wooo that's a bit astute - yes I do think we do give compliments with a hopeful bounce.

    Janet - ha ha yesssss definitely!
    Geli - thank you sister

  11. That was a funny story. It is true that what is OK in a country is terrible in another. I worked once with young Chinese trainees. One of them told me I looked like a young woman, and I thanked him. Later I took them on a cultural trip to Chicago and also included my daughter because it was her 18th birthday, as a present. When the young Chinese found out about my daughter he came to me and said that he was sorry he told me I looked like a young woman as obviously I was very old, a very old woman indeed. I think he thought it was a compliment.

  12. great stories. the last one was especially intriguing. i'm trying to envision what it would be like to make art with friends, write a book with friends. just curious as i don't know these things, but why is the concept of doing a job alone not typical in africa?

  13. Happy Birthday to the new baby, Pam!!! I remember how Vic wrote me when Tam was born, almost yesterday! So glad all went well. Love to Granny!

  14. I heard from a little blogland fairy that your new grandbaby is here! Welcome and many blessings! love, lori

    when i give a compliment it's from my heart with the intention of maybe making another feel better,i really like when people are happy.

  15. Fat, schmat. Who cares?

    I miss you. Happy 2011. xx

  16. "Like a young boy, really- actually an infant- more like a fetus, so young...actually you look so young you could be a sperm all wiggly and smooth..." Yeah- compliments are tricky and I must say yours have inspired me to give them out in over abundance and hyperbole - compliments on something so shallow as appearance are fodder for trouble! Loved this post - thanks for a great laugh this morning!

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