musing on the meaning of swazi
erm, just before the end of work

You want to know what I love about Swaziland? Well, batten the hatches because I'm going to tell you. It's the bus rank, which is more happening than any UK rave, even at 8 in the morning. It's the cops who let you off if you smile nicely and act genuinely chastised (cycle helmet - it was early in the morning and I forgot, alright?). It's turning up early for work and being asked (genuinely) if everything is OK. But most of all, it's the bread cutting machine at the supermarket. Now, don't get me wrong, it is brilliant when all you have to do is unload your basket, pay, and pick up your packed bags (a habit I slipped into very easily last time I was here, and ended up in trouble at Tesco's, watching all my shopping collect at the bottom of the conveyor, wondering vaguely why it wasn't ending up in bags without my intervention), but the BCM is outrageous. This thing is probably banned by the Geneva convention - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the only reason the Spar can afford two is that they're Russian army torture chamber cast-offs. Basically, it's shaped like a giant inkjet printer (child of the 90's? Moi?) with a lever on one end. When you pull the lever back, it opens up to reveal about fifty serrated blades, thrashing about under the force of (probably) at least a million volts. I promise you, it looks like some demented method of despatching Indiana Jones, assisted by James Bond, and several catsuited beauties. You tentatively pop in your bread, in my case with that awful, camp, flick of the wrist that one uses when dropping raw meat into a rottweiler (after one-handedly removing said loaf from its plastic wrapper), at which point the blades grasp it and chomp their way through like a cartoon character eating corn on the cob. Then you have to dodge round to the front of the machine and catch your dismantled bread, before your slices slide down the stainless sheet so helpfully installed at 45 degrees, and onto the floor. Then - and this is the real genius - there is even a random-looking tongue of metal sticking out on top at about 20 degrees, on which you place your loaf so that you can easily thread your plastic bag back onto it. It's the work of an inspired madman, I'm telling you. The fact that you could dispose of several hundred small children in a matter of minutes with this thing, seems to have gone unnoticed by the HSE over here (if it exists) and, although the security guard may look somewhat concerned when toddlers start playing with it, the only nod to the extremely hazardous nature of this thing is the inevitable,

USE OF THIS MACHINE
AT OWN RISK


sign, hung on the side of it. The understatement cracks me up, but it's also what I love about Swaziland. It's not exactly laissez faire - just ask anyone who's had their passport confiscated - but it is very much 'every man for himself' - something which, the budding psychoanalysts among you will already have guessed, appeals very much to a 22-year-old. Plus, it makes things a lot more exciting. Let's face it, it isn't that hard to die in England if you act like a fool, but over here you be driving below the speed limit on an intercity highway, and have a cow wander into the fast lane. And I'm not talking about those pseudo-highways in SA, which are just normal roads with different markings, I'm talking about a proper mountain pass highway with concrete barriers. How the cows get there, nobody knows, but they do. It's amazing.

Mind you, it's not all that dangerous if you keep your eyes open and don't drive like a maniac - not that you can drive like a maniac in, say, Mbabane, where people wander into your exit of a 4-lane intersection just as your lights go green, as a matter of course - so, I think the trick is not to have to get anywhere fast, in short, not to be in a hurry. We all know what stress does to you, but try hurrying with the bread slicer and.. well, you won't get to have toast in the morning, that's for sure.

Oh, and one other thing: no, the parrot and the pool aren't at the Chillage; that was Desmond test-driving Anne's accommodation for the weekend. Just to clear that one up.

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