Dreaming, or did I actually return to England!?
I'm Dreaming of a...
had the weirdest of
A last thought
December was an eventful month: I taught
my last UNIX course, I had my first bout of Malaria; and as
for Christmas day, well...
I'm dreaming of a...
I HAD the weirdest of
dreams. I'm wandering around this shopping arcade, looking for McDonalds.
(I don't know why, I don't even like McDonalds.) There are tired-looking
shoppers everywhere; but they carry suit-cases rather than shopping
bags. My Caterpillar boots clump-clump on the dazzling-white floor.
I'm lost. Circling, ever more frantically - a feeling of lateness
gnaws at me.
When I find McDonalds,
it's different, wrong; and I can't see Andy or Chi. Is this North
or South? Then they arrive, breathless. There's a story about their
car not working, and I'm listening but not really - it's just great
to see them both. We sit down in a bar and eat apple pie. There's
lots of talk; we're all inquisitive, eager. As I leave them, wave
goodbye, I am scanned by a metal detector. And Marcus is telling
me to hurry up, as the video has just started. (But I have to make
a phone call, several phone calls!)
The video is called Heat:
it's meant to be good, but I can't hear it. Marcus' flat is brim-full
with his friends, all talking at once: "... and the guy nearly
drove into me!", "When's the baby due Joanne?", "Great
food, Marcus." Slops, actually - Marcus calls it Slops! (Whereas
I would (sadly) call it my pièce de resistance.) I turn the
volume up, but people just talk louder. Up, louder. Up, louder.
NOISY! ("When are you going home, Steve?" I AM home, I
So I turn the video off,
and then sit back and watch the Christmas Day Queen's speech. Diana,
Princess of Wales(!) is doing it this time. She seems tearful. Not
surprising really, with that Raptor dinosaur chasing after her.
So lifelike - her tears, that is! Humphrey Bogart looks on: "You
played it for her, now play it for me!" (Rick's Café
Americain looks as exotic as ever.)
Thank goodness Mum returns
from work, and I can turn the TV off. Christmas day begins! Gaily-coloured
presents are removed from under our Christmas tree, twelve foot
tall. Gift after gift is opened, but none are for me. Shelli opens
all her presents via the telephone. She's all excited when she hears
she's got y e t a
n o t h e r p a i r o f s
o c k s!
We start to eat Christmas
dinner. It's turkey, roast potatoes, gravy,... and a never-ending
supply of sprouts. Sprouts everywhere; and no-one eats them but
me. The sherry trifle tastes good, but I'm frightened away from
the dinner table by a couple of menacing steroid-pumped bananas.
They chase after me, begging me to eat them; so in the end I do.
They're tasteless, though. After dinner, it's time for games but
I'm tired -don't know why, it's only 7pm - and Mum's not well either.
It's Christmas Jim, but not as we know it! (Star Trek is now Deep
Space Nine and Klingons are now Borks. Dreams!)
As I waken from this
dream it's 6am, but total darkness reigns outside. And it's cold;
this can't be Malawi. Am I still dreaming? I open the bathroom door,
and step into Sainsbury's. My basket is littered with an assortment
of treats: Greek-style yoghurt (with honey); Fruit'n'Fibre cereal;
reduced-calorie French-style mayonnaise; a large slab of mature
Cheddar... I want to leave, but I'm trapped. Inside a never-ending
queue, I'm forced to keep picking from the shelves. The queue twists
around the whole store, like an all-consuming snake. A gentle voice
broadcasts the message: "Welcome to Sainsbury's on Christmas
Eve. Do look out for the special offers, throughout the store."
The tone changes, becomes more sinister: "OH! AND DON'T THINK
OF LEAVING UNTIL YOU'VE SPENT ALL YOUR MONEY. HA HA HA!" Time
to pinch myself hard, I think.
Ouch! It's night-time.
I'm still standing in the queue, but it's an outdoor, freezing,
queue. Young women show off bare goose-pimpled legs, and rouged
cheeks. Drunken men gawp. We jostle forward slowly, cursing the
queue-jumpers. As I advance up the queue, a dull throbbing can be
heard. It gets louder; faster; more intoxicating. Inside the VISAGE
night-club, boys are crammed at the bar, and girls sit cross-legged,
nearby. Sexy. Where's the dance floor? The beat implores me forward:
"In the Naughty North, in the Sexy South!" Bodies are
everywhere - going wild: I join them.
I'm dancing alone, keeping
up with the bass-line, moving into the gaps; turning, twisting,
bobbing. Going hard, sweat dribbling around my face. Tune after
tune, hour after hour - first Julie, then Daz, then both dance with
me. Around me are good dancers. Crazy. We listen for the next line,
and the next; just dancing, absorbing the music.
The taxi takes me home.
Marcus is the taxi- driver: "Where too, Guv?" It's a cold,
grey day, and we're somewhere between Leeds and Huddersfield. The
roads are so, so... organised! Dual carriage-ways, filter lanes,
busy round-abouts - vehicles flow along them like finely-honed clockwork.
Every car is shiny and new. Queues of cars wait patiently for the
lights to change from red to green. Elsewhere, smiling-driver faces
wave each other out at junctions. Harmony on the roads. (And even
Marcus drives his Automatic sensibly, unhurriedly!)
Then it happens. Behind
us, a horn is being hooted. It's a noisy and irritating sound, belong-ing
to some beat-up sharrabang. Is this Road Rage? Our smooth tarmac
changes to a bumpy farm-yard track, and we have to swerve suddenly
to avoid a deep pot-hole. The sharrabang is gaining on us, still
tooting its horn. Watch out for the pot-hole! We drive straight
into it; swallowed hole. We don't crunch into the bottom, though;
just descend, and fall. Falling.
my falling is disturbed, "can you fasten your seat-belt sir!
We're coming into Lusaka." As the reality of returning to Malawi
seeps through me, I unscrew my head. Inside my ruck-sack is my Malawi-head:
the one painted white, with the simpleton expression, and the hundred
dollar bills growing from its nostrils. "Fine, how are you?
I'm fine, how are you? Fine, how are you?" It repeats, as I
screw it into place.
A Last Thought
The nicest thing I ate
in UK? Apple pie (from the local butchers), and fresh cream. But
sherry trifle came a close second. Delicious.
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