Positive

11 02 2022
The lateral flow (antigen) test result

It’s the fatigue and coughing that are the most annoying. I’m bored of Facebook, bored of YouTube and certainly not in the mood of doing any programming on the wages app I’ve been writing for work. It’s mostly functional anyway – it just needs testing against the existing app for accuracy and work on printing out reports which is deadly at the best of times. So here I am, writing up a blog on my Covid infection, the fourth day in.

Monday was an average sort of day for a Monday. I managed to get to the gym and do a programme that hopefully wouldn’t wind-up my left knee which was having a bad-knee day i.e. deciding whether to be debilitatingly painful or just painful. It’s amazing how much pain an artificial knee can generate though in the words of the Cape Town surgeon whom I consulted a few years back; “Welcome to the world of knee replacements. There is nothing wrong with your prosthetic but as a disabled person you are going to have more bad days than most people”.

Monday evening I was unusually tired and coughing a bit, the dry cough that is characteristic of a Covid infection. It did occur to me that it could be Covid but I’d go to bed early and see in the morning.

Tuesday I felt fine, got to work early as I had a personal trainer coming later in the morning to see if she could do something about my deteriorating mobility. Sometime later this year I’m going to require lower back surgery as two discs have collapsed and are putting pressure on the nerves to my legs but in the meantime I want to try something less invasive and anyway, it’s a Christmas gift from Marianne.

By the evening I’m coughing again and have a sore throat. I’m tired and go to be early. Part of me wants this to be Covid so that I can get it over with. That’s a bit of a weird attitude as I know that it doesn’t mean immunity to future infections. We know a couple of teachers at a local private school who have a Golden Retriever puppy with whom we arrange play dates for Themba our Rhodesian Ridgeback and they have had Covid infections several times. They are fine but others we know who’ve had the infection are struggling with the so-called long Covid. There are no guarantees.

Wednesday morning and the sore throat is still there as is the coughing. I try taking my temperature with a digital thermometer that Marianne was given some years back. Apparently I’m either hypothermic or a corpse but decide I should get checked out anyway.

There’s a clinic that’s opened up within the last year just five minutes from where we live. Marianne took the gardener there when he had Covid last month and was impressed – no queues and cheaper than going to our GP. No waiting for an appointment either.

We arrive and are the only people there. After signing all the required forms we are weighed and blood pressure taken. My systolic pressure (the first one) is a bit high but no figurative eyebrows are raised. Then we are shown through to the doctor’s room.

Marianne doesn’t think she has much of a case and indeed the doctor agrees there is nothing further to be done. He listens to me as I say that if it weren’t for Covid I’d write off my symptoms as just another cold. I can’t read his expression – the mask sees to that – but he thinks a antigen or lateral flow test, as it’s sometimes known, would be a good idea. I don’t have an elevated temperature.

I’m sent to the nurses’ room where I’m told I’m getting an antibiotic injection. We didn’t agree on this but I go along with it. Little do I know but he’s also written out the prescription for the cortisone and rest of the antibiotic in pill form. It seems the antigen test is a formality. A laboratory technician takes the swab for the antigen test from the back of my brain, well that’s what it felt like, but my eyes are running too much too see if there’s any brain tissue on the end of the swab. The test results arrive as I get to work and I’m not surprised to see it’s positive. I get some information off the computer in my office and head home.

By the time I get home Marianne has moved me into the spare bedroom and I have exclusive use of one of the bathrooms. Given that I’m nearly two days into the infection I probably only have another day or so where I’m infectious but we have to play it safe. Marianne doesn’t seem overly concerned. I sleep most of the afternoon. Themba, our Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, is delighted to have access to a bed with me on it. He’s not normally allowed onto the bed in the main bedroom if we are on it as Roxy, Marianne’s Ridgeback, has determined that it’s her territory and will tell him so in no uncertain terms which causes a lot of yelping from Themba and anxiety from Marianne. I do notice that he’s farting a lot.

My throat is sore but ordinary supermarket throat lozenges ease the symptoms. The coughing is another issue. I must not start. If I do a coughing fit follows and it takes a lot to control it. My asthma pump does ease the symptoms but it can be over-used and will cause tachycardia (a racing pulse). I’m well aware of this from many years ago when farming in another part of the country and eventually the local GP had to put me onto cortisone to control the asthma. At the time he told me that the area was known to be bad for asthmatics but I wonder in retrospect if it had something to do with the chemicals we used to spray the flowers. It’s best not to start coughing if I can, but lying down seems to aggravate it.

Thursday I manage to achieve nothing which is just as well as that’s what I feel like doing. I don’t feel bad, I don’t feel great. I’m eating normally so it’s just as well my taste is unaffected by the virus. I have no desire to drink any alcohol. By late afternoon I’m feeling tired again but no so much so that I cannot help with Themba’s training. He’s coming on really well and will sit, stay, lie, jump up on a log, recall, touch a hand, leave a treat, look at my eyes on command and is walking well with Marianne. Treats are necessary to ensure compliance though. No treat = not a lot of interest. I suggest we start teaching him to track.

Thursday night starts early again. Themba decides at 4 a.m. that he needs to go outside with lots of restlessness and theatrical yawning. It doesn’t bother me as I can catch up on sleep anytime and Marianne would prefer he did his business outside whatever the hour. We go back to sleep after the interruption – at least it’s take care of the farting for the moment.

This morning the sore throat is gone. A pity in a way because I quite liked the lozenges. I seem to recall as a child stealing them out of the medicine cupboard at home in place of sweets (candy) that was strictly rationed. The lethargy (or is it fatigue?) is still there and the coughing is no better. I will go back to the clinic next Wednesday which will be the requisite 10 days after symptoms started and get another antigen test done. If it’s negative I should be able to get back to work. In the meantime I have my phone and can get messages delivered via one of the foremen who stays in a room on our property. I’ve noticed in the past that the business runs just fine without me provided there are no emergencies such as broken boreholes and pumps. Even those I think can be dealt with remotely if I have to.

Themba is still farting. It’s amazing the volume of noxious gas a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy can produce. Well, he’s not that small anymore at nearly five months old. I sincerely hope he grows out of it.

Themba – more gas than a blimp




The urban owl

4 02 2022
A bedraggled urban owl

“Did you see the owl?” the office lady asked.

“Owl?” I repeated, envisaging someone dressed as an owl. It was after all three o’clock in the afternoon and not dark not withstanding the downpour in which I’d been caught. I must have looked rather blank because she flapped her arms in a bird imitation and said, clearly enjoying my confusion;

“Yes, an owl. Whoo, whoo”.

I hadn’t see it but given the intensity of the downpour I wasn’t going to step back outside to have a look. Apparently it was a captive-reared owl that had for some reason, that I was not told, taken up residence in the shopping centre not far from where we live. Initially it had tried to cadge food off passing pedestrians and its former keeper had, on occasion, called past to feed it. Now it was independent but still habituated to humans.

I had just been to the bank to see if I could exchange a rather grubby stack of US$5 notes for large denominations and to my surprise they hadn’t balked at the state of the notes and changed the lot. For a price of course. It would be the next day before the deduction of 3% for changing the notes appeared on my statement and of course it was not just a simple exchange as one would expect in a First World country. Oh no.

I had to deposit the cash into my company’s foreign currency account (FCA) whereupon the government took 20% and paid back the equivalent at the official rate to my company’s local currency account. This was done at the official Reserve Bank rate of 105 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar. The “street rate”, i.e. what you’d pay anywhere else to buy US dollars, is double that. So yes, just for changing money I’d devalued it by 13%.

However, whilst the teller was counting the money, I spotted a bundle of new USD$1 notes in his drawer. Now small US notes are indeed rare again, just as they were in the halcyon days back in 2009 when we started flirting with the greenbacks and “dollarized” stopping the multi-billion percent inflation in its tracks and ditching the Zimbabwe dollar. At the time we thought it was a permanent solution. Sadly it was not to be. Yes, small denomination dollar notes are sought after again and worth paying for. My business does not do a lot of transactions in cash but having change helps keep the walk-in customers coming and over the month it adds up. So I got the entire bundle.

As I stepped out of the bank it started to rain but it didn’t look like it would amount to much so I started up the slope out of the mall. It soon became intense and I sought shelter under an umbrella by an estate agent. It wasn’t long before I was invited in and offered a cup of tea. The staff were friendly and promised that the tea came without an obligation to buy a house.

After half-an-hour of scanning house prices the rain eased and it was time to go. I stepped out of the office, looked up under the eaves and there was the owl. Bedraggled.





Scam humour

13 03 2016

scam letterI don’t often get snail mail letters from South Africa and thinking it may be for my landlord who’s company is also called Emerald Seedlings I opened it to find out whom it was for (very unlikely to be personal). It wasn’t.

scam letter_0001Now I’m sure that most of you have received this sort of scam letter before, by email. I should think I get about one a month.  They are deleted, often without being read (NEVER reply to these by the way). I’m told they are of Nigerian origin, usually. That this one came from South Africa, where there are lots of Nigerians, was a first as was the method of sending. It follows a fairly standard formula; a deceased estate that the sender has authority over which in a fit of huge generosity he wants to get rid of for what seems like very minor personal gain and somehow evade a bank audit in the process. Quaint English too. But what really is a give away in this letter is the sentence that states “…60% shall be for me for personal investment purposes in your country…”. I mean seriously, someone wants to invest in Zimbabwe?

 

 





It’s the small things

28 06 2014

I felt absurdly pleased with myself. A whole $100 in NEW dollar bills! Now THAT was something to feel good about. But it had taken a bit of doing.

Dollar notes in Zimbabwe (the US type, our dollars disappeared towards the end of 2008 in a deluge of hyper inflation) are notoriously dirty and not that easy to come by. I keep the worst to give to the toll gates who cannot refuse them and really don’t have the time to quibble either. So when I find a source of them I exploit it. Like my local pharmacy where I deliberately hand over larger notes than necessary to get clean dollars back. Then I started to get suspicious; the pharmacy ALWAYS seemed to have new dollar notes.

Karyn looked slightly embarrassed “We get them from CBZ”.

“But also bank there and I can never get them”.

Now she looked a lot more embarrassed “Actually we don’t even bank there, we just go and get the change at lunch time”.

I pounced on this clue and called in to get the wages in the afternoon after gym. The teller gave me my breakdown but had only a few $5 notes.

“You can give me all the smaller stuff in ones if you like” I added helpfully (and hopefully).

She pulled out a bundle of truly revolting notes. I made a face.

“I will see what else we have” she said and went off and came back with a bundle of new $1s. Delighted I gathered up the stack of notes and asked for a rubber band (rekken in local lingo).

“Are you always needing new notes?” she asked.

“Oh yes please!” I responded. And another bundle of new dollar notes magically appeared.

Suddenly the afternoon looked really good.

 

I love the web address!

I love the web address!

Crisp and clean - not for long!

Crisp and clean – not for long!





HIFA 2014 – Day 5

6 05 2014

Day 5, the penultimate day of HIFA 2014 was sponsored by Coca-cola. I started off slow with the Spoken Word programme because it was next to the next venue I wanted to go to. It’s been going quite a few years and can be very entertaining. Not everyone spoke (poetry usually) but the youngster in the photo had an amazing voice. He is a protege of Oliver Mutukudzi’s centre for aspiring musicians in Norton to the west of Harare.

Zimboita is an Italian/Zimbabwean music group (Zimbo + Ita-lian – get it?) fronted by local drummer/percussionist Blessing Chimanga who proved himself quite the entertainer. It’s difficult to describe the style – Afro/rock/blues perhaps? It went down very well!

Maneli Jamal is an acoustic guitarist of Iranian descent who has spent most of his life on the move. Canada is finally where he finds himself at home. Entirely self-taught he is a virtuoso player and well worth going to see. A very different style of music to the other 2 acoustic guitarists who came to HIFA this year.

Attachded was a circus show presented by Swedish Cultural Council and the Embassy of Sweden. Starring a very big man (who looked like his ancestors must have been Viking raiders) and a very small man they did the best they could with what few props had made it to Zimbabwe. The rest were still in a box in Stockholm! In true HIFA style lots of other artistes helped out and we had other circus performers, trapeze artistes from Belgium (les Cliquets), a local poet and one of the Opera singers and a comedienne compere who did her bit to make the audience squirm (apparently to lose weight). It had all been put together in the previous 12 hours and was good fun.





The power and the cheese

26 02 2014

I am feeling rather pleased with myself. Almost smug. The power has been off for most of the day and there is no sign that it will come back on so I have made a plan for the evening. A combination of no lights, a clear sky and a full moon makes for good stargazing conditions and it’s about time I checked on the binoculars in the cupboard.

I set up the tripod on the verandah, fasten the adapter to the front of my rather under-used Nikon 10×50 binoculars and clamp it all onto the tripod. I clear away the solar panels for the LED lamps, they must be fully charged by now (wasn’t it a good idea to leave them charging all day?), and settle down to focus the binoculars.

Dusk is falling rapidly as is its way in the topics. There is a light on the hill opposite – about 5km away and a perfect focusing spot. I wonder if they don’t have a power cut or have their own generator. Closing my right eye I focus the binos so that the left field is clear then close my left eye and use the focusing ring on the right objective lens to get a clear image of the light. Perfect. I sit back and enjoy the evening.

There is a buzz behind me as the fridge kicks into life. The power is back. It doesn’t matter; it is relatively dark where I live outside Harare so I will just turn the lights out and use the red LED lantern that I made to preserve my night vision. It is a perfect evening; mild and calm. I look on the horizon for an early star but it is still too light. I look up. Damn, clouds have moved in and they don’t look like the transient type. Now the mosquitoes start up. No! What has happened to my perfect plan? And now it starts to spit raindrops.

I put all the carefully prepared equipment away and go to see what can be done about supper. There’s a wedge of Camembert in the fridge that needs eating. I unwrap it. It doesn’t look good and is a bit slimy on the outside. But I am a Camembert veteran who is not easily put off his favorite cheese. I cycled across France in August of 1987 and subsisted on ripe Camembert and baguettes. It was hot, very hot, and by the end of the day the cheese could be poured out of the container. This, however, is not French Camembert and the fridge has been off all day. This cheese is more than ripe, it is rank. I try a piece and struggle. I call Zak. He is no cheese connoisseur but does like smelly things that can turn a human’s stomach. He is a bit hesitant to take the proffered cheese and biscuit. Does he know something about this cheese that I don’t? What has his nose detected? Maybe he is just a bit suspicious. He eats the cheese in the privacy of the lounge and comes back for more. He gets a bit but only one piece as he often sleeps with his rear end rather close to my head. The cheese goes back in the cooling fridge for future disposal. I can’t risk more either. I have a dentist’s appointment first thing tomorrow and it wouldn’t do to fart in the company of two rather attractive ladies!





Outdoor pool

14 05 2013

The sun blazed down on the rather tatty que ball that had more than a few pieces missing. It had seen better days but the table was more or less level thanks to a few pieces of wood. There was no chalk for the sticks but nobody seemed to notice. Advice was freely offered and taken and a small crowd gathered. I declined an offer for a game, I am hopeless at pool, but donated 50c for a token as I left. A car pulled in for fuel and left in disgust with gravel flying when they were told there was none. It seemed the old fuel station had finally gained a new lease of life with the outdoor pool table.

Hit it just about... here

Hit it just about… here





HIFA 2013 – day 3

3 05 2013

Day 3 of HIFA and three shows. One was not what I’d call a show but a talk by an American of his experiences coming to Zimbabwe for the first time as an adjudicator for the National Institute for Allied Arts. A very good talk but not a show and therefore no photos!





Celebrating 33

17 04 2013

Tomorrow Zimbabwe will be 33. And there will be celebrations. Those cynical people who have never visited this amazing country may ask what we have to celebrate. I will answer them.

  • We have 3 big South African supermarket chains with outlets that would not look amiss in South Africa – spotting the Zimbabwean produce can be a challenge though.
  • We have  plenty of fuel at competitive prices.
  • We have the biggest fertilizer company in South Africa selling  their top quality fertilizer.
  • We  have manageable inflation. Officially it is 4.5% but it may be a little higher than that in reality.
  • 10% of the population is employed!
  • We have a stable currency (not our own) in the US dollar
  • We have the world’s best climate along with Malta.
  • We have been a democracy longer than South Africa. There is a slight financial problem in funding the next general election this year but we will make a plan for the shortfall of $100 million or so.

I mean really, with all this, who needs an economy?





The long day

22 08 2012

It was not a good start. I lay on the highly polished, dusty and therefore treacherous floor and wondered if I’d broken my arm. I hadn’t but there was a bit of a haematoma on the back of my hand that I thought I could sort out at lunchtime with some ice.

The next stop was the shadecloth factory where they’d quoted me the wrong price – it turned out to be just more than half the price I’d heard, or thought I’d heard, on the phone. This could be a good day! The shadecloth was offloaded at work and  Kharma was ecstatic, as she always is, to see me home for lunch. By the time I’d got to the fridge to find the ice the haematoma had gone from small to half tennis ball size and was excruciating. I phoned the doctor and got an appointment straight away. Kharma gave me the “I am a dejected dog” look as I sped away from my briefest lunch ever. They can really turn on the pressure if they want to!

“We are going to have to cut this on open” Simon said.

“Why?” – this was sounding like a very bad idea to me.

“Normally I’d leave it but you have those two abrasions which could be a source of infection and a haematoma is an infection waiting to develop”.

“What about a needle?”, I bargained.

He considered this option for a moment and then went and got a big one. I am not squeamish but this was one procedure I was not going to watch.  I left shortly afterwards with my right hand tightly bandaged and a script for antibiotics should the haematoma become infected. I was back 10 minutes later to retrieve the script I’d left at the reception. Now I had to get out to a fertilizer supplier out of town and pick up a tonne of fertilizer. It was time to look for some air for the back tyres of the pickup.

The first filling station: I knew they’d had an air hose but they were undergoing renovations and it was no longer there.

The second filling station: “Sorry no power!” the attendant said, shrugging his shoulders. A generator stood idle in the corner.

The third filling station: “Sorry but this one doesn’t work. Try the filling station back there” the attendant said. I finished my indigestion rich pie and drove off.

The filling station back there: There was air in the air hose but I couldn’t get it into the tyre. It seemed the valve on the delivery mechanism was faulty.

The fifth filling station: “Reverse in here” the attendant” called. I did.
“How much diesel do you want?”.

“I don’t want diesel, I want air” I replied wondering if this was a Monty Python skit.

“Oh, I thought you said diesel, the air is over there” he indicated a tyre and wheel balancing outfit across the street. I thought about pointing out the dissimilarites between “air” and “diesel” but my patience had failed and I knew of another filling station close to where I was going but I doubted that it was the type that had a compressor. I was right.

“How has your day been?” said the well dressed lady at the fertilizer company office.

“Dreadful” I said and recounted the tyre pressure saga in compressed format.

She shook her head and said “This place is a disaster”. Then I told the story to the clerk in the payments office.

Tony rang from work. “There is a problem with the plough – the bearing on the tail wheel has seized. Can you get another in town?”. I was nowhere near town but the bearing needed to be got so I copied down the details and phoned the company.

“Yes, I have the bearings but they are not sealed” the sales clerk replied.

“That’s not a lot of good for the purpose I want them for” I commented.

“But I can sell you the seals” she added hopefully.

“Why don’t you just give me the part number of the bearing and I’ll get it elsewhere”. This was becoming a farce.

“I can’t do that over the phone” she replied. I could think of no sensible reply so burst out laughing. This was just amazing!

I parked the pickup in the warehouse and watched in admiration as the workers loaded the 50kg bags of fertilizer having carried them on their head from the pile. In front of me there was another pickup truck loading 10kg bags of fertilizer. They were also being carried one at a time on the heads of the laborers. I suppose it is easier to walk five times to the pile than carry five in one go.

It was past 4 p.m. by the time I got to the tractor spares outlet where I found the sales clerk whom I’d phoned. I asked about the bearings whilst she wrote down the part number. They were $6 each for the unsealed bearings, $7 for the seals or $5 for the sealed bearings which they did not have anyway. I got the required part number and dashed to a bearing specialist nearby. They had the right bearings at $34 each! The salesman was emphatic that the seals, if indeed they were sold separately, could only be factory inserted. By this stage I was beyond arguing so I paid and just managed to beat the rush hour traffic back to work.