This week has flummoxed me. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a country where a single 2 lt bottle of cooking oil can bring you joy?

This week has flummoxed me. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a country where a single 2 lt bottle of cooking oil can bring you joy? Jenny scored a case of cooking oil last week and gave our maid a bottle and she had an ear to ear smile for a week.

I’m writing this blog from South Africa. I’m here to learn how to graft avocados. Worse luck, I’m also here to shop, for things we can’t buy or can’t afford to buy at home.
Since my whole life, SA has been my shopping centre of last resort. As a teenager, my shopping list was one thing long – Levi blue jeans without which a fourteen year old pimpled youth cannot be cool. Fast forward forty years and hell’s bells, my shopping list is now fully 3 pages long.

Today I started shopping in the chemist. Sleeping tablets, the entire alphabet of vitamins with a bunch of extra B ones, a job lot of anti inflammatories, headache pills of which we also need many, blah, blah,blah, on and on for a whole page. And then into the supermarket for two pages of stuff – cereal, oats, cat food, dog food, tinned fish, coffee instant and the other stuff, tea bags including green, mint, chamomile, lemon, mint and every other conceivable flavor but not Tanganda,blah, blah, blah, blah. Right in the middle of the list lurked plain, white flour. A reasonable request I thought, until I started looking for it. I found cake flour, self raising flour, brown flour, whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, rye flour but not a bag of plain white to be seen. Strewth. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. So I went to the bottle store for beer, whiskey and wine, red and white. But before that, first back to the chemist for a family pack of hemorrhoid ointment. Because what a pain in the arse supermarket shopping is.

Somewhere between the pet food aisle and sweets and biscuits, I wished a pox on former Presidents Mbeki, Motlante and Zuma for making me drive 800 kilometers to shop. I especially wished a pox on them for the plight of the Zim pensioners who can’t afford to pop down South to shop.

At any time in the last 20 years, SA could’ve closed Zimbabwe’s taps and brought Mugabe to heel. Vorster did it to Smith so it’s not like the precedent isn’t out there. But worse than doing nothing, SA’s former presidents were complicit in propping Mugabe up for 20 years.

Eventually after forever, I got back to my B & B and the nice professor in the room next door saw my number plates and complained to me about the Zimbabwean crime wave in the town he lives in. I bit his head off super quick. I told him you can’t live in the land of plenty of milk and honey and do, say, and see nothing whilst your fool neighbor in the shack next door plays with matches and paraffin. His flames will surely burn you too.

And beware SA because for sure we’re fiddling with matches again. About the only commodity not short in Zimbabwe anymore, for now anyway, is fuel. But only because some ZANU sycophant leant Zim a hundred million liters of fuel. With another billion liters to come over the next 12 months. There’s that word Strewth again. Who the hell lends a government 9 naughts worth of petrol? Where does his money come from and has he paid his taxes? And how the hell are we going to pay him back? Alas. Our government are running the country like a tuck shop. Except tuck shops always normally have cooking oil.

Please, please take note Donald. 15000 soldiers can’t keep the hundred million shit-holers out. Better to invest some of your billions and trillions in also draining their shithole swamps.

My training hit a snag this last week when my body sent out a memo for the third time in the recent past. Once on the last day of the Blue Cross, and again on my last two 40 kilometer plus rides. Apparently I have a something called an I.T.B. which is latin for the sinew that runs down the outside of the leg and it can be bloody sore if you overuse it. Runners get it, as do cyclists apparently, including me. When it flares, every pedal stroke burns like a bugger, almost bad like frostbite. A 40 km limit is a problem when you’re riding to a mountain 3000 kms distant. According to my You Tube health consultant, the only way to fix my ITB is by contorting into unnatural positions that allow me to sniff my bum up close for extended periods of time. While I struggle with a cure that is worse than a sore sinew, in the interim bucket loads of inflammatories.

Along with my ITB, my technical shortcomings also continue to pain hugely. And amuse. For Adam anyway.

That Captains Scott and Oates perished of frostbite loomed large throughout my entire childhood, the same frostbite you can get from accidentally screwing up a CO2 bomb the wrong way whilst dealing with a puncture. And having gone to Allan Wilson Technical High School, I’m fully acquainted with how easy it is to get clockwise and anti-clockwise all cocked up. So when I punctured early into our Saturday morning 80 km ride, I went with the pump route first. Pumping is more tiring than riding, and slower. That we were less than 20 km into the ride and I was pumping the same tyre for the third time, got Adam stressing that our Saturday morning ride was going to turn into an afternoon and evening one as well. So he told me to just bomb it. Damn the expense he said, he had a job lot of CO2 bombs in his backpack. Which got me stressing, because a job lot of frostbite is a lethal dose, ask Oats and Scott, and also because I’m really crap at CO2 bomb dispensing. Adam started laughing as soon as I started with my Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty recital. And under that kind of pressure, obviously I cracked and the deadly jet of CO2 whooshed every where, apart from in the tyre. Forewarned by a sneaking suspicion that I might cock up, I screamed, not like a girl but more like Oats or Scott, and flung the CO2 bomb dispenser far away before losing any digits. Whence upon Adam laughed and laughed and laughed. When eventually he finished laughing, he gave me another bomb and told me again to just do it. So I did. And bugger me if I didn’t cock it up yet again. More screams, more near death by frostbite and more laughing, lots more laughing. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. I’m thinking about going to Allan Wilson and asking for my school fees back.

Elsewhere, other Old Legs also struggled. In Holland, Jaap chased down 102 km and at least a dozen e-bikes. In Germany, Carol Joy managed just 45 km in bitterly cold weather, and failed to catch a single e-bike. She is asking for advice on how to avoid toe frost bite. Adam told her to keep well away from me when I’m punctured. In Switzerland, Nik continued on with the flu. He has spent his down time plotting a rigorous start up training course for us all to follow.  Easily the most productive Old Legs was Mark Johnson in Australia. On his new sexy Trek, Mark clocked up 200 km in the saddle for the week and plans to step it up to 250 km. His forthcoming adventure has attracted the attentions of the local press so the Old Legs Tour is almost famous. We’re sending the paper case studies highlighting the plight of Zim pensioners.

Whilst on the subject of their plight, to donate please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.
Or you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network very a their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.

Dave Whitehead has worked long and hard on our shiny new thing of beauty Old Legs Tour website and it should be unveiled this week. Thank you Dave.

Very excitingly, we’ve chosen our route up Mt Kilimanjaro. We’ve opted for the six day up Rongai route. We’ll be joined on our epic up hill walk by Graeme Fleming, Kevin Shadwell and co. They’ll have an unfair advantage over the rest of us. Being golfers, they get to walk lots and lots and more, especially Kevin, Graeme tells me.

In closing – this week’s Swahili lessons

  • Kuwa na wewe kuonekana nyeupe unga? – Have you seen any white flour?
  • Unaweza wewe kushinikiza kitoroli yangu? – Can you push my trolley?
  • naweza mimi azima joto nguo yako? -Can I borrow all your warm clothing?

Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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