I live in a house that was built by Norman Carr, the man who encouraged the Zambian Government to set up South Luangwa National Park. He was famous for introducing walking safaris (accompanied by a scout with a very large rifle) to this part of Africa. I understand he wasn’t so good at building houses; when they were finished they looked like they were about to fall down, hence the name “Kapani Ruins”. Originally, all the houses were built around a large compound with communal kitchen and washing facilities. However, over time, each house has become more independent.
This is my living room. There are bars on the windows and some ancient wire mesh which has more than a few large gaps. There is no glass in any of the windows, allowing every breath of wind to pass through. Outside, there are rolled up shutters, made from stems of tall grasses. I never bother untying them and letting them fall.
I have a bookcase, mainly filled with medical texts and natural history books about Zambia and South Luangwa in particular. There is large trunk, filled with dressings and medical equipment. I have put two locks on it to convince any would-be burglars that there is something inside worth stealing. My suitcase is there, too. It is on its last legs, with bits of wire poking through and a shred of red ribbon around the handle to distinguish it from all the other suitcases at baggage reclaim which also have red ribbons attached to their handles. If it looks a wreck, perhaps any thieves at airport baggage handling areas will not bother to open it. They did at O R Tambo Airport in Jo’burg earlier this year, ripping off the flimsy combination lock on the zipper. But I didn’t have anything worth stealing.
A previous doctor insisted on their being a proper stretcher to carry seriously ill patients without doing more damage to their spines. Another doctor wanted to have portable oxygen, so we have a system using powdered chemicals to produce oxygen. I am sceptical and not sure I wouldn’t prefer to have clean South Luangwa air at 20% oxygen.
I have some Pam Carr original paintings on my walls. There is a table light without a bulb and a standing fan. In the event of a power cut, I have an inverter, which is a battery which will keep a few appliances going for a few hours. My coffee table lost a leg recently, so it has been moved out. I have a cane settee and chair, with a big, comfy leatherette armchair, in which I like to relax.
My galley kitchen has a two propane gas rings and an electric cooker (out of shot). I have a few storage shelves, a toaster, fridge and sink. It is perfectly functional, though I am unsure about baking a Mary Berry special sponge in the electric oven.
There is a galley bathroom, on the other side of the kitchen wall. The wall doesn’t reach the ceiling, because there isn’t one. So noises and smells waft over in each direction. The shower is powerful and it only takes 15 minutes for the immersion heater to bring water in the 50 litre tank upto warm-enough. Water from the shower sprays out onto the floor, making it rather slippery, but I have a threadbare mop (you can see the handle) to spread the moisture around the concrete floor. The mirror looks rather posh with its gilt frame.
My bedroom has a double bed, with a voluminous mosquito net. It almost fills the room. I have another bookcase for my clothes – three pairs of trousers, seven shirts and pants, a few socks, a fleece and a windcheater for the coming cold weather.
It may not seem very luxurious, but it is fine for me. I just have to keep up the battle versus the ants.