English housewife and mother in Switzerland. Needs meaningful occupation to prevent life of crime.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My favourite bank (again.)

It's not been a great week. The big reason being yesterday's post, but add to that tropical tummy trouble, Gloria splitting her head open on the shower attachment* and the car breaking down outside the local brothel and you could say Kampala is losing its shine.

Whenever I'm down, though, there's nothing that lifts my spirits like a bit of Barclays bashing. Hello, corporate spies!

My brother recently sent me through some info about Katine, a sub-county of Soroti district, where The Guardian is sponsoring various health, education, watsan and livelihoods programmes. "It starts with a village", goes the lofty strapline. The Katine projects are run by AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation), who, to give credit where it's due, seem like dudes. But it is all funded in partnership with...Barclays Bank! BB are matching them pound for pound in donations. Barclays who charge £5 on every withdrawal once your balance goes under £50 (£50 pcm being the average wage here in Ganda.) They should make their money back in no time by squeezing the very people The Graun wants to help! FYI, my local branch also scores pretty high in Basic Incompetence. I needed to withdraw a couple of million shillings the other day to pay for our holiday, and after a lot of waiting around and flustered tapping on the computer, I was informed sheepishly they had ran out of money. Well done!

I feel better already.

*Gloria is fine. She is a bit accident-prone. She will have a scar on her hairline, but only a tiny one.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Ugandans don't say something 'is painful'; they say 'it is paining me'.

My start-up is paining me.

Following some very useful customer feedback, I have been trying to get East African fabric. Uganda has not yielded much so far, at least not of the right quality for children's clothes. You can, however, get lovely soft Kikoy fabric from Kenya. Baby K having no passport, I figured the best thing would be to get my contacts (hi Phyllis) to buy the stuff and post it. This has led to much paining.

My package got stuck in the post office. FYI, if MI6 need a new office, they could do worse than move to Kampala main post office. It makes rabbit warrens look like palaces of minimalism. Package located, they wouldn't release it until I had paid duty on it, which FYI was sixty percent of the value of the fabric inside. Coughing up the tax bill involved a morning of utterly needless standing around in the Crane bank. (It was Charles, a friend of mine, who did the standing around: I sat in the pouring rain in the car park opposite jiggling baby.)

I don't have a problem with taxes. But sixty per cent duty is eye-wateringly high, I'd say. How can anyone turn a profit with that kind of tax burden? If there were decent roads and shiny new schools springing up here and there I'd mind a lot less. So where is the money going? Answers on a postcard..

At least now I have these babies:

shorts, wrap skirts, towelling-lined bathrobes coming soon

PS Happy Birthday Mama xxxxxx

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Still checking?

Well in case you are, I've moved.

Come and see my new home!

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Last Post

Well, here we are.

My writing desk is pretty bare except for the computer. It's our last day.

In a few hours time we'll be somewhere in France. I will be either

a) in a motorway service station, ordering a Happy Meal.
b) panicking about the bikes/ the contents of the roofrack falling off.
c) hotly denying we're lost
d) asking Emma if she needs a wee
e) ensuring a continous flow of biscuits from the front to the back seats

Thanks for reading, everyone. I've loved writing this silly diary and I've loved all the comments. This blog thing has been a great way of staying in touch with old friends, and making some new ones. There will be a Uganda blog, but we don't get there til end of November, and til then I am on sabbatical. I have no idea what it'll be called yet, but it'll probably have Uganda in the title.

Goodbye, Switzerland. You were beautiful, and still are.
Goodbye, Swiss chums. I've made some friends for life.
Goodbye, readers. Thanks for hanging in there: let's keep in touch.
Goodbye, Switzerlady. Stay on the straight and narrow.

Au revoir!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Had a Farm in Arfricah

As part of a general genning up on our next adventure, I've just re-watched Out of Africa. (It first came out in 1985 - don't that make you feel old?) It won a cabinet full of Oscars. What I don't quite get though, is why didn't anyone notice - between superlatives about the acting, cinematography etc - that it's crashingly dull?

The first hour goes like this.

Scene 1: Meryl looks out wistfully across the savannah to soaring classical music.
Scene 2: Low-level flirting between Meryl and Robert. When Bob's passion runs high, he gets out his scratchy gramaphone and they dance.
Scene 3: Meryl works on the farm and talks patronisingly to the natives.
Scene 4: Meryl meets a lion. Bob to the rescue! (They repeat this lion thing 3 times in all. By the third time, I was hoping it would eat at least one of them.)
Scene 5: Meryl looks out wistfully...zzzzzzzz.zzzz

Occasionally interesting things happen, like Meryl gets syphillis or the farm burns down, but they are thin on the ground in 2 and a half hours of staring and encounters with big game. Do you see what I mean? Or has the X Factor addled my brain?

In other news. I am very nearly not sick anymore, though I still need to take it easy. Friday is our last day in Switzerland, and therefore the last day of Switzerlady. There are boxes everywhere, though most of them are yet to be filled. I turned 34 yesterday, and had special breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup. It stayed down. 'God bless America', I say.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Those nausea cures: the results

1. Vitamin B6. Definitely helping. 7/10.
2. Dr Herb's granules. Taste nice. Not convinced they're very effective. 3/10.
3. Watching hours and hours of clips of The X Factor on YouTube. TEN, TEN, TEN, TEN MILLION OUT OF TEN!

I LOVE the x factor. I love the contestants. I love the judges, despite Sharon and Dannii looking increasingly like their own waxworks. I love the stories.
I don't know why so many of the women sing I Will Always Love You, because it's very hard to pull off. Here's someone who did:


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do you remember I wrote something sniffy and moralistic about 'no more narcissitic posts' from now on? Well, guess what! It was a big, fat lie! Heck, sometimes you just have to beat that drum, yank that chain, smack that pony. So here it comes, my big whinge, and it's all me, me, me, me, me ME! Me and my morning sickness.

Firstly - let's get rid of the 'morning', bit, once and for all shall we? (I won't even bother responding to the people out there who think it's all in the mind.) Morning, afternoon, evening - any time is fair game. I've even been known - frequently, in fact - to wake up in the middle of the night, throw up, then go back to sleep.

What makes me sick? In short, everything. Just waking up. Cooking smells. 'Over-exertion.' By which I mean going to the laundry room and back, taking the rubbish out, sometimes just too much wandering from room to room. Things that are now out of the question: domestic chores, going to the shops, looking after my children, any kind of food preparation (I have to hold my breath as I open the fridge door). In short, normal functioning is suspended.

Eating ceased to be a pleasure some time ago. Now it's a case of "must fill stomach now." In fact, the thought that has consumed each waking moment for the past 4 weeks is 'what shall I do to get some relief'? Birthdays have come and gone. My friends have had babies, got married, moved house. People I love have sent concerned emails. I've ignored them all. The present, the nausea, is everything.

What do I eat? A short list. White bread. Honey. Ham. Gherkins. Rice, sometimes, as long as it's drowned in soy sauce. Occasionally with peas, but again, heavy camouflage. I'm sick of all of it. What do I drink? Coke. I hate it, but the bubbles and the sweetness calm the stomach, at least for a bit. I can't drink water: I taste the motes of dust, the washing up liquid or the chemicals in the plastic. It's unspeakably foul, though just about OK if I add some apple juice.

With all that coke sugar, it's important to brush my teeth, right? Yes, only it makes me vomit, pretty much instantly. All that jabbing around in the mouth - it's like sticking my fingers down my throat. Once I've thrown up, I haven't got the energy to do them again. So my poor teeth have a nightly coating of stomach acid. I can almost feel them rotting in my head.

Let's not forget the tiredness. The tiredness. Some days I don't know which is worse, the overwhelming nausea or the crushing, draining, emptying exhaustion that accompanies it. I've spent hours and hours in bed sleeping, but it's never enough.

How many times a day am I sick? Well, on a good day, twice. 2 is the minimum. On a good day - like today - I can pootle about on the computer, have a shower, make a few phone calls, that sort of thing. I must be careful not to overdo it. On a bad day - yesterday - I have a good morning, decide to do the recycling, then retire to bed, vomiting almost non stop in the afternoon. How many times? I lost count.

This has been my life for 4 weeks, and I've had enough. The Switzergent has surpassed himself, looking after the girls, cooking and clearing up, bringing me a stale roll to gnaw on in bed. He hasn't complained. Our friends, my ma, the Red Cross ladies have mucked in and I feel amazingly well-supported, as well as hugely grateful. But enough is enough: I want to be back to normal.