There are so many churches in Cropping that when the sun goes down, you could describe it as “bible black”. The tarmac road has no street lighting, but shops with bright lights attract customers who are shopping after finishing work. It was almost a full moon when I took a stroll down the main drag at 6pm. I fancy myself as a flaneur, an African boulevardier cruising the strip.


The lady in Mfuwe Home Health Remedy store looked remarkably cheerful considering the lack of drugs on her shelving. Vitamins, gripe water, paracetamol and that was about it. We had a chat about why she should stock haemorrhoid ointment (meals consisting of stodgy maize meal and meat lack roughage so constipation is very common). She pulled a bottle of water steriliser from a low shelf and said that this is what she recommends costive patients should take. I wasn’t surprised.


I like the tee-shirts with strange slogans. One man today had “Up Yours” printed on the back of his shirt. This man with the “Sarcasm” tee-shirt is selling baobab fruit for about 25 cents each. You can make an interesting drink with the interior of the fruit and I have recommended using it in West Africa to give rehydration solution a pleasant flavour.


Not many shop assistants wear a suit and tie, and read the bible while waiting for customers. This man offered to give me a copy of the Watchtower, but fortunately, it was written in Nyanja. His shop was tiny. I hardly needed to crop this photograph. He was very proud to have his photograph taken.


There are bars, of course. Some specialise in such loud music that you’d have to be drunk to tolerate it. Not my cup of tea. The Reggae Bar is next to what used to be called the Silent Bar in 2014. No wonder it changed its name and ownership.

Pool is very popular, indoors or open air in the dry season. One bar sports a blood-red baize table under the stars. I took these photographs indoors after watching the players show off their repertoire of canny shots and pots. They only have one cue, and that has been shortened. There is no chalk. The surface of the table resembles the roads at the start of the dry season – rutted and potholed. I was quite surprised the balls went anywhere near the shooter intended. They asked me to play a game, but I was wary. I can remember Arsenal visiting Tow Law’s bumpy, haphazard football pitch in the FA Cup half a century ago.

This is a shop selling second hand shoes. This is a vital service as even my shoes have been falling to bits here. There are a few tomatoes for sale as well. This lady and her two children were just about to shut up shop when I took these photos without a flash in the deepening gloom.

Uncle Petty has a chain of emporia in the district. He is getting married soon and I have been promised an invitation by his brother. It clashes with the annual sports day and fun run, which I am obliged to attend as the medical officer. But I’d like to go to the wedding, too. Uncle Petty’s cat is ever present, snoozing on the counter.



By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.

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