It’s funny to be back. The tension of the last three weeks has been acute and I keep wondering when I have to start packing or walking or be polite to strangers again.
I find it hard to relax and I am finding it to difficult to sleep. I don’t really feel much like sitting at my desk and I wonder what I should do. The dog keeps staring at me expectantly and whining. She is making it clear she she prefers the vagabond life to cosseted respectability in Oxfordshire. Dinah wants the open road and the wide blue sky with the sun beating down on her head. She wants to chase rabits and leap up and down hills…
Georgie Knaggs, freelance journalist and great friend of Zane, has written a couple of lovely articles on her blog about the walk. Please read them by clicking these links:
E Ba Gum
I’m glad we chose the name ZANE: Zimbabwe A National Emergency for the charity. It sort of sums the situation up somehow, and an “emergency” is exactly what Zimbabwe is. It’s one of the few countries in the worlds – apart from the likes of Burma – where the government seems to have turned against its people, and regards them as assets to be exploited rather than people to serve.
Contrary to various articles in the media – amongst others, ones written by Peter Oborne and Matthew Parris – the situation in Zimbabwe is in fact getting no better. The people we serve are in any event “outside” the economy, and so whatever the long-term future holds for the country, it will make no difference to them. In the new proposed constitution, the government plans to cancel the right of Zimbabweans to appeal to a supreme legal body to protect their fundamental rights. This monstrous limitation to the rights of oppressed Zimbabweans has apparently been agreed by both the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as well as Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
It’s not as if oppressed Zimbabweans can appeal for help from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Last year, after pressure from Mugabe, the SADC Tribunal was suspended and then dissolved. This means that people have no access to justice or protection of their human rights when legal systems fail in their own countries (as is, of course, the case in Zimbabwe). By dissolving this tribunal, the leaders of the nations that make up the SADC have colluded with Mr Mugabe in denying justice to Zimbabwe’s citizens.
I see that the reverse of Mugabe’s name is E Ba Gum. That more or less sums him up.
Not so long ago, I nearly had lunch in the “effing Sandwich Joint” just to see if it lived up to its name, but Jane persuaded me not to. Of course, names are important. “Romeo and Maude” would never have worked, and “Anna Karenina” would never have sold as well if the protagonist’s name had been Marlene Peabody. Nor do “Mon Repos” or “Linga Longa” (yes, I’ve seen places named thus) have quite the same resonance as “Wuthering Heights”.
Of course, the abdication of Kind Edward VIII was, in part, about names. Churchill was one of the king’s supporters in this saga, and said that he thought that Edward should be allowed his “cutie”. Noel Coward growled, “No one wants “Queen Cutie”. But in any event, “Queen Wallace” didn’t have much of a regal ring either.
Treats and Treatments
One of our oldest friends, Jean Metcalfe, joins us. She’s a delight and always makes us laugh. We discuss whether we are old enough to sympathise with the late Archbishop Runcie who once said that he had reached the stage of life when he was either receiving “treats” or “treatments”.
Jean then tells us that she has a friend whose husband has grown grossly fat. “Making love,” her friend had confided, “is like being flattened by a very large wardrobe with a very small key sticking out.”
Jean apparently saw Jane Fonda on TV some time ago. She is convinced the actress has had a face lift along with various other body tucks and lifts in an attempt to make time stand still. What tickled Jean was that Fonda announced that, at 76, her sex life had never been better.
“If she really thinks that’s true,” cried Jean with gusto, “then the dear lady can only have started to have intercourse aged 69!” Jean told us that she still enjoyed sex, provided she remembered to take her strong painkillers beforehand.
A Shady Business
I answered my phone this morning and was surprised by a voice from the past. The caller was keen to recruit my assistance in raising money to fund an online casino. I used to raise funds for start-up businesses, but not anymore – however attractive the proposition might be to the promoters, gaming is addictive and I really don’t want to be involved in that sort of thing. Nor do I really trust this person. His sense of right and wrong seems always to be shifting, and I just don’t want the hassle or to take the risk.
A year or two ago, the same man asked me if I would assist him in a new enterprise: raising money for a new contraception company. He told me excitedly that he had a contract with the NHS. In our sex-saturated society, I thought the market was already awash with condoms – I even saw a condom vending machine in Christchurch College loo in Oxford so nowhere appears to be sacred – and I turned the proposition down flat. Even if the business booms, I have no interest in flogging French letters at my age.
I expect that’s the last I will hear from this man and, truth to tell, I’m not really sorry. He was involved in a dreadful divorce some time back where his wife sold the secrets of his offshore accounts and trusts to the taxman as well as the newspapers. He told me of his misery and I was rather sorry for him, but on reflection and knowing him as I do, perhaps he and his wife were meant for one another.
“I have learned my lesson. Next time, I’ll play marriage differently,” he said bitterly after the divorce was over. “I’ll find a woman who is a vengeful bitch and deeply sexually unattractive. Then I’ll give her a six-million-pound house in Kensington and I’ll miss out the 15 years of misery in between!”
Fifty Shades of… Something
Just before my departure for this walk, I learned to my astonishment that two ladies of a certain age – the pillars of ZANE’s small administrative staff – have both read Fifty Shades of Grey.
“We didn’t want to read it”, they both protested.
“It was pressed on me by a friend” said one, while the other claimed she had only read it “out of curiosity”. Blah blah blah! One of them suggested that I try it.
I told them that I will suggest nipple clamps to Jane and see what she says, but I don’t think we are into that sort of thing somehow. However, it was a neat sales exercise. It all goes to prove my theory – any fool can write a book, but it takes a genius to sell one.
I’ll be giving this one away!