Life is cheap in Africa

Born into the family of a civil servant in the affluent suburbs of Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia he was a middle child and as such suffered from middle child syndrome. Squeezed in the middle unsure of his niche in the world, he became a loner.  As a young man he was drafted into the artillery in the Rhodesian army where he learned that having a beer or three helped him overcome his shyness. He was once chased by an angry hippo and had to hide in a tree until it forgot about him. He never knew before how fast a hippo could move. He rolled his first car and arrived bloody and disorientated on the doorstep of a young white woman who probably saved his life. He gained a third eye.

Drifting south from his land-locked country he found himself in Cape Town where he had not one, but two oceans to play in. He learned to sail. He dreamed of taking his boat, the Jenny Wren, across the Atlantic to South America in the Cape to Rio race.  He was a romantic dreamer.

He married in haste and divorced just as quickly. He started a new love affair with cheap red wine and a young abandoned mother. He had a brief sojourn to Europe where he soaked up the history of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but was less impressed with the Britons. He missed the warmth of the African sun on his face and returned with a new wife and child. His return to South Africa coincided with Mugabe being given his country through the Lancaster House Agreement. His country changed its name and the place where he was born no longer existed.

A few years later Mugabe took away his birthright and he became very bitter about the loss of his beautiful country. His manic drinking consumed his life and slowly, but surely, his friendships died. He hit a blue period and the bottle took away his job, his wife and his children. He almost sank without a trace, but fate wasn’t ready to release him yet.

With nothing left he abandoned the coast and retreated to a  family farm close to his elderly parents and tried to restore his fragile health by meditating under the fragrant orange trees and reading tomes about alternative religions. Sipping gins on the terrace he cast aside his other dreams and headed once more for the city of gold, though there was nothing particularly golden about his life there. Work filled his day and most of his nights as he battled with depression and the meaning of life.

The local township inched closer and closer to his boundaries with marauding bandits breaking in to his house – again and again. Disturbing one such person he was shot in the lung whilst giving chase. An inch away from puncturing his heart. With the surviving lung he dragged his lifeline out of the corridors of the hospital to have a cigarette, even though this resulted in a paroxysm of coughing.

By now the drinking had stopped. He had realised that there was no future in the bottom of a bottle, if indeed he had a future at all. Smoking was much harder to give up and with only one lung, breathing. not to mention life, was becoming a struggle. In the country everything rose – bills, food, petrol, crime. Everything that is except for his salary.

Then on a late summer’s evening whilst in the kitchen feeding his beloved Ridgebacks, something good to come out of Rhodesia, his luck finally ran out. A round of bullets sprayed through the window hitting him in the chest and killing one dog outright. He slumped to the floor, bleeding profusely and fumbled for his phone to call a neighbour for help.

As he lay dying beside one fatally wounded dog and the other one injured, he watched the rest of his life slowly leak away across the kitchen floor, helpless and alone. He was fifty-six.

They took his phone, his computer and a small amount of cash.

Life is cheap in Africa.

R.I.P. my anti-hero who died 28 February 2006.

Published by


I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

14 thoughts on “Life is cheap in Africa”

  1. This is so beautifully written, and also, sadly, reminiscent of other (white) people caught in the uncertain world of post-colonial southern Africa. These countries should be starting to realize their enormous potential and it just isn’t happening. It seems that the decades of apartheid and colonial rule (two different things, I know) have victimized all races. How sad. I wish nothing but good things for that beautiful part of the world. Rest in peace, indeed.

    1. Thanks Jane. I really hope that the African people of all races will realise that the only route to stability and growth is to have a fair government and vote out the corrupt politicians. Botswana has done it so why not the rest? As you say it is a beautiful part of the world and everyone there should be allowed to have a safe and happy life.

    1. Thank you. A very different post to my usual travel stuff, but I felt I ought to include him when I started this blog, because he was a huge part of my life in Africa.

      1. Yes, very different, I’ve not read a post like this from you before Jude and I found it profoundly moving. It is one of the many wonderful things about blogging, being able to write about people like this who have meant such a lot to us from our past so that we can share their story with others.

  2. How terribly sad, Jude. Being born “in the right place” is a huge bonus isn’t it? A privilege most of us hardly even realise.

  3. It’s hard to “like” such a story. But it is a very moving, well written tribute to a life. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Karen. His death had such a profound effect on everyone who knew him. I can’t quite believe it is 8 years ago already.

    1. Thank you. His depression was all consuming at times, but he never wanted to leave Africa. He was proud to be African.

Comments are closed.