The Third World as seen from the Saddle – September 4th, 2020

Eric Idle sang ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ from his cross in ‘The Life of Brian’. Vicky Bowen makes Eric Idle look like a pessimist. For 6 weeks on our recently ended Lockdown Tour, Vicky was my self-appointed lifestyle coach and as is her want, worked hard on teaching me to always look for the positives. Here goes.

Thanks to Coronavirus and given a doctor with determination, a stout swab and the reach of a gibbon, I now know that the hole that is my right nostril extends all the way into the very back of my head. But not the hole that is my left nostril. Despite repeated and robust attempts to breach my head via my left nostril, the doctor administering my Coronavirus swab test failed, because of an obstruction that I think was my brain. The doctor was almost as sensitive as the nerve endings you hide away for good reason in the deepest darkest recesses of your head and looked hurt when I was forced to swear at him when he changed entry nostrils halfway through the procedure which only cost me US$65.

I had to have a Coronavirus test before I could have an eye op after suffering a catastrophic loss of vision in my left eye on Tour because of a bleed on my retina. The good news is I don’t have the Coronavirus. The bad news is I still can’t see out my left eye, even after a cataract was removed. I have some blurred peripheral vision but no central vision, which means I can almost read the subtitles, but I can’t see the movie. I can live with that because subtitle movies are normally crap anyway.

Fortunately, my right eye was unaffected by the eye stroke and I will be able to enjoy sunsets twice as much going forward, after I have a cataract removed from that eye. I hope to have that operation next week Tuesday, but only after passing another Coronavirus test. Here’s hoping I draw a doctor with shorter arms.

And in other good news, our noble and doughty Zimbabwe dollar strengthened this week from 83,3994 to 83.3209 against the US Dollar, which is not a bad recovery considering it was only 1 to 1 in 2016. And Africa was declared Wild Polio free this week, although Sudan never got the memo and declared an outbreak four days after the declaration.

But for the rest, the view of the Third World as seen from my saddle was bleak. Even now that I have a blind eye, I can’t be turning it to all the ongoing shit in Zimbabwe, because there is just so much.

Hopewell Chinono, Jacob Ngarivhume, Job Sikhala and others continue to languish in handcuffs and leg irons in maximum security prison for callously reminding people that under Section 59 of the Zimbabwean Constitution they have the right to protest peacefully, especially when inflation almost hits 1000%, when you have to queue for hours in Chitungwiza for drinking water, when the health systems has failed, when formal unemployment is over 90%, etcetera, etcetera, too numerous to mention. (In a stop press and after 6 weeks and many failed attempts, Hopewell and Jacob have finally been granted bail, but not Job.)

And whilst on the subject of blind eyes turned to the Constitution, especially the bit that says that no person should be discriminated against on the grounds of their nationality, race, colour, tribe blah, blah, blah, white Zimbabwean ex-farmers will not be compensated for land lost in the land grab because they are not indigenous, but black Zimbabwean ex-farmers will because they are indigenous, and so will Dutch farmers, German farmers, South African farmers and other foreigners covered by Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements, mostly because the Government want sanctions dropped.

There was good news when Chinese miners were swiftly arrested by National Parks in the Hwange National Park after being caught drilling core samples for coal, but followed by bad when the Chinese returned smug the next day, armed with Special Grants allowing exploratory drilling on two huge mining concessions smack bang in the middle of the Park. Over and above the environmental issues of mining for coal in wildlife areas, you need to know that every pangolin, rhino and or elephant ever poached has ended up in China and giving the Chinese keys to our National Parks is akin to asking Michael Jackson and or Ralph Harris to watch over the kids creche. Until China stops exploiting Africa and her wildlife resources, I will no longer eat Chop Suey even though I like it and will never ever buy a Huawei phone.

But rather than dwell on the bad news better I me tell you about the US$ 800 hospital shortfall the Old Legs was able to settle on an 80-something-year-old lady’s emergency bowel operation. She is one of those non-indigenous ex-farmers who lost everything who now supports herself by looking after other people’s gardens. The Old Legs were also able to assist another 80-something-year-old lady with the cost of her eye operation. I bumped into her literally in the waiting room of the surgery. The lady is stressing because she can’t see, so can’t work, so can’t support her 60 something year-old daughter, who also can’t work because she suffers from a debilitating and painful autoimmune disorder. Thank you to Nic and Theresa Sursock, and to Mark and Audry Ford, Mike and Paula Ford, Barry and Gail Longhurst and Roger Behenna in New Zealand for their help with the above from afar.
And thanks also to Belinda Skudder, Sheevawn Hill, Karin B Nigel Sylvester, Kevin in Dublin for their contributions via our Just Giving page. We are now on $125K chasing down $200K. Thanks to the likes of Tracy Hunt who donated the proceeds of her vegetable sales at the Old Stables Market it is obvious we will smash our target. And huge thanks to Alastair Reed in New Zealand making and selling Corona masks on behalf of the pensioners. He has raised $600 to date and still going strong.

And the Old Legs 2020 Tour is far from finished. CJ Bradshaw, Bruce Fivaz, Dave and Dierdre Simpson and Ryan Moss still have 2400 kilometres left to pedal from Durban KZN to Lambert’s Bay, Western Cape via Lesotho and every uphill and mountain pass in South Africa in the South African chapter of the Lockdown Tour starting in November. Please follow them on our Facebook page and on even though they ride slow like paint dries.

Jenny says watching men riding bicycles is boring and will never catch on as a spectator sport. I don’t know where she gets that from. I’m watching the Tour de France and am enthralled. I’ve had to search out a new hero after Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were both benched by Ineos and have gone with Primoz Roglic even though I am unable to pronounce his name. Roglic was a ski jump champion in a previous life and is currently ranked 1 in the world of road cycling even though he only started riding aged 23. His name is supposed to have a little cap thing above both the Z and the C but for the life of me, I can’t find it on my keyboard.

In closing, some good news from the Ugandan Wildlife Services. China will not be allowed to mine for coal in the Bwindi National Park where a gorilla baby boom is currently ongoing, with 5 new babies have been born in just the last 6 weeks, bringing the total for the year to 7. Because gorillas remain untucked on my bucket list, my right eye and I will pedal to Uganda to look at them on the Old Legs 2021 Tour, along with hopefully Adam Selby, Carl Wilson, Mark Wilson, Alan Crundall, Gordon Kent, William Prentice a.k.a. Billy, CJ Bradshaw, CarolJoy Church and others. Watch this space.

Wish me luck for my eye op on Tuesday. Hope to see you on the other side at my Running Dogs and Rose’s Children book signing at the Old Stables Market at Borrowdale Racecourse on Saturday 12th and again at the virtual book launch of From Cape Town to Kilimanjaro available on Amazon and in South African bookshops from Wednesday 23rd.

Until my next blog, stay safe and enjoy if you can
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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