The evening started with a trip from Mimosa, which was our Smith & Youngson bachelors house eight miles South of Lusaka on the road to Chilanga and the River Kafue.
Myself and a couple of other mechanics had taken the company twelve seater Toyota bus into Lusaka for a drink or three at the Ridgeway Hotel and I was the usual driver.
On the way we were stopped at a police road block where they were checking for stolen vehicles. To prove that vehicle was not stolen, you had to show the police officer that you were in possession of the ignition key. So I showed him the key and he waved me on. I put the key back in my shorts pocket and hoped that the split pin bridging the terminals behind the ignition switch didn't drop out. Of course as I showed him the key, the engine kept running...
It must have been a good evening but I was pleased to get back to my room at Mimosa which I shared with Charlie Watson who was the yard foreman at S&Y. Charlie was also from Aberdeen and it had taken me many days before I had a clue what he was talking about so I often just nodded with a yes or no , hopefully in the right place. (See “Coping with a foreign language in Zambia”)
Because we had a small dambo (pond) at the back of the house, we were often plagued with mosquitoes and therefor it was advisable to sleep under a mosquito net. That was all very well but just try getting out from under a net to visit the loo in the middle of the night. The worst that can happen and did once for me, was for the hook in the ceiling to pull out and the net fall over your desperate body as you hit the floor struggling to free yourself with much cursing and muttering.
Anyway, now in bed under the net and drifting off to sleep.
And then the frogs started...
Now the African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) ) likes to make himself heard and the loudest and most persistent frog gets the girl but also hoping that the lady frog doesn't take to heart that his Latin name of pixie phallus doesn't disappoint.
After a while the frogs are silent and are busy doing what frogs do under cover of darkness, so off to sleep.
And then the dogs started….
Now we had five native dogs which hung around Mimosa, all mongrels but some with the characteristic ridge down the spine which comes from the African lion dog the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
So, out of bed I got, being careful not to tug on the mosquito net , opened the window and hurled the only ammunition I could lay my hands on at the dogs - my shoes. That shut them up for a while, not that they were frightened by my safari boots but perhaps they just couldn’t believe the smell of old engine oil and diesel that was coming their way.
So, back to bed but the dogs now becoming bored with my boots started up barking again but now with more volume, or was that my hangover starting to kick in.
So, once again the window was flung open but I had exhausted my ammunition so what to do? Well the only solution was to go outside and retrieve the boots and shoes that had been flung.
Now as it could get quite warm at night, I was bereft of any night attire as pyjamas were definitely not worn in Zambia. So stark naked, I left the bedroom, fumbled my way up the corridor and out onto the grass. Now, did I say that the frogs were quiet, well the one I trod on with my bare feet let out a plaintiff croak as it squelched up between my toes - I love Africa !
Oddly enough, the dogs were now quiet and after I had gathered up my footwear, run my feet under the tap in the bathroom, I at last retired to bed for some well earned sleep.
The next morning over breakfast I regaled my story to the other S&Y mechanics who were of course unsympathetic but then our housekeeper Mrs McCarthy asked me to repeat the bit about the dogs. She listened patiently and then asked me why I thought the dogs were barking.
I said I had no idea as I was relatively new to Africa and Mrs McCartney, who was in here sixties had come out to Africa in her twenties and stayed.
Well, said Mrs Mac, yesterday there were five dogs and now there are only four, any idea why ?
No, I said.
Well she replied, a leopard paid us a visit last night and leopards can be very partial to a bit of dog and just at the time you went out in the middle of the night to retrieve your shoes !