(from here on it’s four years old Malawi wibbles – -feel free to read but it’s aged). Weeb’s Christmas Message to the Nation

Good afternoon my loyal followers, all 35 of you. One is very pleased and honored to be sitting on a wicker chair on the balcony wearing nothing but a new scarf and a smile and wishing you all a very happy Christmas. Here we are, having a lovely and relaxing time in a small wooden house on the very edge of the escarpment that falls down to the Great Rift Valley. We are right in the middle of the woods, surrounded by fantastical insects, impala and nyala* and really terrifying many legged horrors. The house is on the small reservation of a Christian charity who do health and education projects, including supplying washable sanitary towels to teenage girls, which wins my heart every time. There is a beautiful pool further up the hill, with this view over the Great Rift.

rift valley

Looking South into the Great Rift Valley.

Last night we had a storm of queen ants, I’ve seen them before but never in this number. When we woke this morning the entire house was surrounded by discarded wings, and dying queens. They swarm to found their own colonies and shed their wings to crawl into a suitable space, but most of them die on the way. They are helpless and almost immobile after their first and only flight. Being a republican I was thinking this would be a good way to settle the popular controversy about the next head of state in the UK. Strap wings to Charlie and his firstborn and see who manages to fly from the top of the Shard into Buckingham palace before they fall off.

We’re not far from Blantyre here, about three road blocks away (10 miles). The road blocks seem to be part of the scheme for full employment in Malawi – the police set up barricades, seemingly at random, to discuss the health of your family and the loveliness of the weather. They even sometimes check your license if they are really bored. Which led to a half hour discussion with a reasonably senior Malawian policeman about why I hadn’t changed my name and what exactly ‘Ms.’ meant. I have to say, when I stood by my feminist principles and insisted on the matriarchal descent of Pallotti, I didn’t anticipate having to explain myself to an elderly African man in an extremely natty uniform He had very dashing epaulettes and one of those cord thingies that go round your shoulder and clip to the breast pocket.

A few days ago we descended into the valley to go to one of the National Parks (Majete). We saw lots of hippos, warthogs, and innumerable deery-boks but somehow managed to miss all 180 elephants. They must all be up a tree, waiting for autumn. I’ve always wanted to see an elephant; they have long captured my imagination, fiercely loyal, immensely strong creatures that get drunk for fun – everything I have always wanted to be. There isn’t much big wildlife left in Malawi, it is the most densely populated of all the East African countries and much of the land is agricultural. We thought we’d go to Zambia in February to go on safari properly and see some amazing animals.

hippos

A baby hippo and it’s family of hippopotomi having a wallow in the Shire River.

moth Fishermans Rest

A really splendid moth, who was on the wall outside our kitchen, having an afternoon nap.

For my final act of oddity of 2014, I managed to continue my fine tradition of inappropriate nudity at surprising times. I have taken all my clothes off, entirely conincidentally, in front of an Order of Orange March in Hyde Park. I used to pose for art classes to earn some spare cash as an impoverished Anthropology student and I once greeted the parents of a boyfriend, home earlier than expected and whom I had never previously met, wearing nothing but two strategically placed mugs of coffee. I try not to take my clothes off all the time now, but somehow it never works out. Yesterday we were all up at the pool and had got out and dried as the charcoal mountains met the heavy ochre sun. The Christian fellowship were all up there too, organising their house and generally doing worthy things. Just then Lyra, who had been skimming the pool with a net, fell fully clothed into the deep end. With the dexterity born of eternal mother-worry, I ran towards the pool and pulled my dress (all I was wearing) over my head as I went, reaching her within a few seconds and hugging her by the side of the pool, she was fine. I turned round to the row of fully dressed young Christian men with faces redder than the setting sun, and appologised. I didn’t help that, when the one who recovered the quickest quipped that he had never seen anyone get undressed so fast, I replied that midwifery was ‘only my day job’ (wink). The palpable embarrassment was so thick it was hard to breath. Thus my New years resolution: when talking to a line of virgins whilst dripping wet and naked, to try not to make jokes about prostitution.

Happy Christmas and a Magical New Year Everyone.

*Very similar graceful thingy-boks but the impala have a big black M on their arses.

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