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Welcome to the blog of the NeverTooLate Girl.

With the aim to try out, write about and rate the things that people say they'd like to do but haven't quite gotten around to, this website gives you the real and often humourous inside gen on whether it's really worth it.

Read about it,think about it, do it.

 The Top 20 Never Too Late List

  1. Learn to fly - RATED 4/5.
  2. Learn to shoot - RATED 4/5.
  3. Have a personal shopper day.
  4. Attend carols at Kings College Chapel on Christmas Eve - RATED 2.5/5.
  5. Have a date with a toy boy.
  6. Do a sky dive.
  7. Eat at The Ivy - RATED 4/5.
  8. Drive a Lamborgini.
  9. Climb a mountain - CURRENT CHALLENGE.
  10. Have a spa break - RATED 4.5/5.
  11. See the Northern Lights.
  12. Get a detox RATED 4/5.
  13. Read War & Peace - RATED 1/5.
  14. Go on a demonstration for something you believe in.
  15. Attend a Premier in Leicester Square.
  16. Go to Royal Ascot.
  17. Buy a Harley Davidson - RATED 5/5
  18. Study for a PhD - RATED 4/5.
  19. Visit Cuba - RATED 4/5.
  20. Be a medical volunteer overseas - RATED 3/5. 



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Heading for Swakopmund - the start of my real holiday

Some guy came to find me to tell me the bus for Swakopmund had gone. Yep, you read that right. He came through the hostel garden, calling my name and then told me the bus had GONE. I’d been sitting there waiting since 10am and it was now 2.30pm which is when the bus was due to leave. It left early he told me, we were calling for you. Well how loud did you call I wanted to know. Apart from going to the supermarket before midday to get some lunch for the journey, I had been sitting just by reception waiting the whole time. I’d been expecting to leave early morning but on arrival the night before I had been told that I’d been booked on an afternoon minibus which meant I would not get into Swakopmund until nearly 7 o’clock and which meant another wasted day. To now find out the bus had gone without me made me really, really tetchy. We might be able to ring the driver and get him to turn around, he’s probably still in town he said. But we’d have to charge you extra. Having picked up my jaw from the floor and assessing his size to see if I could floor him in one, I decided I would take the diplomatic option. I gave him a piece of my mind. You’ll have to speak to my manager he said. Fine I said, hoping he would hear the steely tone of my voice, get them on the phone. If I really had missed this bus it meant a 24 hour wait until the next one, if there was space on it, and the prospect of this, in a place where they closed the bar at 9.45 in the evening and unplugged the TV at ten put me close to contemplating actions that might, by some, be construed as violent. A short and somewhat abrupt conversation with his manager got the bus turned around and me on it at no extra charge. I sat on the back seat, with my handbag, lunch and camera crammed in around me, still slightly smouldering with indignation.


It’s a long drive to Swakop from Windhoek – four hours - and normally there would be two stops but the sense that everyone wanted to get there was palpable and so after a brief stop at 60 minutes we ploughed on for the remaining three hours. The mini bus was small – it only held fourteen people and it was almost full. I headed for the backseat for two reasons, one it reminded me of being on school trips and two, I figured that it would give me slightly more room, which it did. What I had forgotten was that I get travel sick in the back of a minibus and I had eaten far too much Kudu Droëwors (a dried biltong sausage thingy) as I had grazed away my boredom earlier in the day. In fact I started to feel really sick. The atmosphere was close and stuffy and two adolescent boys were behaving in a silly and disruptive fashion in front of me throwing stuff around and finding it really funny to make continuous farting noises with their hands. It was clearly audible yet their mothers did nothing about it nor did any of the other passengers who kept turning around to look at them. By this time I was starting to think I might have to ask the driver to stop and suspected I might be looking a bit green. Not one to lose an advantage I leaned across to the boys and told them clearly I felt really sick and made some retching noises in their direction. They looked at me uncertainly. And if you don’t be quiet I told them, I’m going to be sick all over YOU. I pinned them down with a steely glare and when a welcome silence ensued I leaned back with a smile on my face and closed my eyes.


We arrived in Swakop just before seven in the evening and it was already dark so it was difficult to get much sense of what it was like. The driver dropped each of the passengers off at their various hotels and pensions and I found myself just after seven dropped outside Pension Rapmund, my accommodation for the next five nights. I’d spent quite a lot of time researching the hotels in the town and really, really wanted one with a sea view and a balcony so that I could sit outside during the day and write in between the many activities I intended to do. Visions of Hemingway in Cuba drifted across my mind. Namibia is a former German colony and Swakop had been the centre of a building frenzy during the time the Germans administered it and so much of the town has a very Germanesque feeling. My hotel was no exception. The welcome was warm and taking one of my bags (the heaviest one luckily, oh bliss) the receptionist took me back out of the front entrance, across the little garden and then into another door and up the tiled stairs to room number 14. This is one of our special rooms she told me, with a sea view. Opening the door to let me pass she handed me the key and then told me that breakfast was available from 7am and that reception closed at 7.30pm so to be sure to have everything I needed by this time and also to pick up my key if I had left it while I was out during the day. Which I fully expected to be I told myself because I had SO MANY PLANS for my time here and tonight, over dinner, I was going to update my list. I smiled, weary and still slightly nauseas from the trip and thanked her before closing the door. The room had a touch of beachhouse style in the décor with tongue and groove which was painted in muted and tasteful colours and rattan lampshades which made interesting and relaxing patterns on the wall and ceilings. The bathroom was not ultramodern but clean and tidy and back in the bedroom, as I drew the curtains back (which strangely didn’t run full length but stopped about 18 inches short of the floor) I found a glazed door leading out onto the balcony. My view looked out across various levels of gardens, across a sanded area which looked like it would be a car park in high season but was empty now and to a line of palm trees beyond which would be the sea, not visible in the dark but I could hear the sounds of the waves quite clearly. The town tennis club sat off to the left and I looked forward to playing some tennis and perhaps having a few lessons with the pro while I was in town. As I unpacked, the first time I’d been able to do so properly since I had been away, I decided the room was charming and I knew I would be happy here for the duration. I set out my toiletries, put my makeup on the shelf below the mirror in the bedroom and was delighted to find an electric socket and a mirror in close proximity. Things were truly looking up.


I’d booked into the Lighthouse Restaurant and pub for dinner at 8, the call made from the porch in Pos 3 in a desperate attempt to remind myself that this was, actually, a holiday and at some point it was going to start being fun. And I savoured the process of showering, washing my hair and choosing my outfit for the evening. The guidebook had told me not to walk anywhere after dark even in Swakop and I’d checked this with the receptionist before she left. But she assured me it would be safe as the restaurant was only five minutes or so walk away and just not to take any bags with me or wear anything that looked valuable or too trendy (I’m not sure I’ve worn trendy for a long time). At about ten to 8, ready and in good humour with the prospect of a good meal at a nice restaurant ahead of me I did a last check in the mirror and then emptied my bag to transfer what I needed into my pockets. It was at this point that I discovered I’D LOST MY PURSE.


Luxury is obviously comparative...

Knowing I was going to be living in very basic surroundings for four weeks on the project, I had booked what I had been told was a luxury room at a hotel in Windhoek the night before my journey to Swakopmund. On the phone I had clearly specified a large double bed, walk in shower and small bottles of nice smelly things in the bathroom. A good restaurant, if not attached to the hotel, then had to be available in the immediate vicinity. I had been assured I was booked into a luxury room by the local company I had contacted and so as we approached Windhoek and the surroundings became more familiar and the kilometres on the signs fell from triple figures into double figures and then finally to less than twenty, I leaned back in my seat and day dreamed about my long bath full of fragrant bubbles, the fluffy bathrobe which I would slip into and the glass of chilled champagne I would raise to my lips before flicking through the ‘at your fingertips’ DVD choices on the 42” plasma. I knew where I was staying also had a back packers hostel but I had been assured that the guesthouse (that’s when warning bells should have begun to ring) where I was to be staying was part of the same complex but housed the ‘luxury’ end of the accommodation. Dropped off with my bags outside the reinforced gate, I looked up and down the heavy duty metal fencing, saw the security lighting and triple dead locks on the gate and put my head in my hands. The girl at reception brought my attention to the Ten House Rules printed on a board three feet high on the wall. As I read them I realised that another elusion was being cruelly shattered and I followed her, disconsolately dragging my bags behind me past the bar, the tiny swimming pool with water similarly racked with algae like that at the farm and then through a gateway past a tent-site measuring no more then 15 feet by 15 feet packed with tents and to a little thatched outside area that had table and chairs, a sofa and a bookcase at which I perked up slightly. When we reached the door of my room I noticed it was called Giraffe. And by God, on opening that door my nostrils were assailed by an odour that smelt like giraffe and I wished they hadn’t gone quite so far in making it authentic. I looked around the room and took in the concrete floor, the chipped paintwork and door-less wardrobe and I thought that maybe it was luxury compared to the backpackers hostel. But try as I might to be positive really I just felt like lying down and giving up. I’d spent four weeks paying a lot of money and spent a lot of time doing things for other people. Right now I wanted somewhere with a mini bar, a pair of complimentary towelling slippers, a turndown service and a view that wasn’t a brick wall. But it was late afternoon, Kat, Stu and I had arranged to meet for dinner at 6.30pm and after the four hour journey I smelt so high even I could tell I needed a shower. So I accepted my lot, closed the door and with a sigh unzipped my suitcase and pulled out my dress which I had carefully and lovingly laid on top ready to pull out for my night of glitz and schutzpah in Windhoek.


A sign on the shower sternly told me that I should use it for five minutes maximum but right now I was in no mood for more rules so I decided to deal with the water police if and when they turned up. It was a good shower and I stayed in it rotating myself first one way then the other while streams of water bounced off the top of my head and hit the walls at a variety of angles. At last, pummelled into a more positive frame of mind I started to look forward to my first restaurant meal for nearly two weeks. As you have probably picked up, the food has not been a memorable part of the holiday and its lack of ‘lite’ options combined with my new Smartie addiction, made me wonder just how tight my dress was going to be. In my imagination I was going to end up looking more like Jabba the Hut in drag than Princess Lea. No fairy godmother magically appeared in answer to my fervent wish to lose half a stone right there and then and so I stepped out of the shower telling myself it really couldn’t be that bad before catching sight of myself in a three quarter length mirror. I glanced behind me just to make sure that Ugly Betty wasn’t sharing a room with me. I wrapped myself tightly in a towel, stood tall, held in my stomach and went off in search of a corset.


Thirty minutes later I’d decided I’d brushed up reasonably well all things considered. Straight hair, lots of lip gloss and a very forgiving dress all combined to cover up the bits no one else had to see and I hummed happily to myself as I poddled around the room doing a little tidy up before I went out. I shut my valuables in the safe (NOTHING must be left out of ANY value another sign announced), picked up my bag and went to grab my room keys from the bedside table only to find they were not where I had been sure I had put them. I checked the door and it was locked which also came as a surprise as I didn’t remember locking it either. I re-checked the room, my bag, the safe, my suitcase and then ever more strange and obscure places where I knew the keys really couldn’t be but somehow I felt compelled to check in my increasing panic. I checked the door again in the hope that I had been mistaken and that it hadn’t really been locked but nope, the deadlock was clearly slipped. I had the thought for just a second that maybe I had left the keys on the outside of the door and someone, thinking it worth a joke, had locked it from the outside. I sat on the bed and thought about my options. I could bang on the door and shout Help at the top of my voice but that would be highly embarrassing and to be honest I didn’t want to bring my predicament to everybody’s attention and to be open to (well deserved admittedly) ridicule at the bar later. I realised the only thing I could do to retain personal control over the situation was to use the only alternative exit. I would have to climb out of the window. Now luckily I was on the ground floor which meant the plan was in with a chance of working but complicated somewhat by the fact that the window only had one 18 inch panel that opened and which stood about 4 feet off the floor. I had a dress on, I had on sparkly sandals and my hair was straight and glossy. I was not attired nor prepared for kamikaze escape routes. But faced with an inelegant exit through a small glass panel and hostel and guesthouse-wide ridicule which I was sure I would get if I had to bang on the door until someone came, there wasn’t a choice. The window escape route had it. I looked at my watch. Ten minutes to go before I was due to be picked up so no time to change into something more suitable for this kind of escapade. I was going to have to do it as I was. Grasping the bottom end of the now open pane, hiking my right foot up onto the narrow window ledge I levered myself up hunching myself to fit under the pelmet above me. I assessed the situation from this new perspective. Somehow I had to get one leg through the window pane and down the other side to the outside sill which I figured I would only just be able to touch with my toes. From there I would have to grasp one side of the open window and while holding on tightly somehow twist my body in such a way that would allow me to retrieve my remaining leg all without overbalancing and possible falling out and injuring myself. That would be even more embarrassing. Once on the outside of the window I could then jump the three feet or so down into the shrubbery which held god knows what beneath its leafy canopy. Time was ticking by and I knew that Lara Croft wouldn’t be dithering about like this so I grasped the rim of the window with resolve and hoiked myself up.


The receptionist looked at me like I was a complete t**t, which in actual fact I was. The look didn’t go away even as I explained my quandary and she handed over the spare keys to my room in silence. As I walked away with as much dignity as I could muster, picking twigs and leaves from my hair as I did so and just checking the hem of my dress in case it had got stuck in my knickers, I heard her tittering in the background and I knew any street cred I’d mustered was shot. But, no one else had to know and I now had a set of keys to my room ............... which exactly matched the set I found in the bottom of my bag when I looked through it properly. The moral of the story? Use the eyes god gave you and always take a room on the ground floor, just in case.


Leaving Epukiro

We left Epukiro on Thursday morning after clinic and I went right up to the wire on my research report. It’s unfortunately one of my many weaknesses to put 100%effort into everything (boys, if you are reading this, that means EVERYTHING....oh, sorry Mum, ignore that bit) and so if I was going to write a research report on contraception, HIV and Aids in the community then it was going to be something I would be proud to publish under my name. So, I worked all day on it on Wednesday, through dinner on Wednesday evening and even through House and Grey’s Anatomy which have been my own personal lifeline in the evenings in Pos 3. I was somewhat fuelled by Smarties and Coke (can I claim anything for product placement?) but take it from me, these consumable props have been a necessity and I may have to go into Smartie rehab once I get back to the UK.


But come 10am Thursday morning, the report was done and I had the same palpable relief and sense of freedom that getting in any academic report gives me and this sense of anticipation and excitement was further fuelled by the prospect of leaving town. I’d packed the night before (never have I packed with so much gusto) and I had laid out my travelling clothes on the bed ready for the morning. I had even promised myself that I would borrow the extension lead so that I could blow-dry my hair in front of the mirror in the bathroom rather than leave it to dry naturally. I’d done this nearly every day on this holiday and frankly it meant I looked like I had licked my fingers and stuck them in an electric socket every morning, so unruly and untameable was it. But as we loaded the bags into the car, now full with passengers as every car going in and out of Pos 3 seems to be, I looked around and in a bizarre and completely unobjective way I felt quite sad to leave. But not so sad as to want to stay any longer and so I hopped into the car with a light step and suddenly realised how stupid it had been to wear white jeans when I was clearly going to be sharing the front set with Choppy the dog.


We made a stop in Gobabis to check on little Martha Schoene a Bushman baby who had been admitted a week before for severe dehydration and malnutrition. Martha’s mother died last year and her father had left her with either his sister or his sister-in-law - we couldn’t quite work which - while he went to work away on a farm. For whatever reason Marta had not been fed very well in his absence over quite a long period and by the time her Father brought her into the clinic it didn’t need an examination to tell us she was really very ill. We later learnt that she was three years old but she looked no more than a year and was so weak she couldn’t even sit up on her own. Little Marta was like a skeleton doll with huge eyes that didn’t seem to register anything that was happening to her. Her backbone protruded out so far it was possible to see each individual vertebrate and the skin hung off her like rags. She had been only weeks, maybe days away from dying and a very cold night or a slight infection would have been the end of her. A week later in hospital I saw her for the first time properly and the shock of her condition truely hit me. She lay in a cot, sleeping, wearing only a little vest and pants and her body looked so frail and emaciated that I couldn’t believe for a minute that she was any better. I let down the side of the cot and took hold of her hand and gently stroked it. Her eyes opened and looked up at me and they were so beautiful I couldn’t believe anyone could have allowed her to get into a state like this. I picked her up and it was like picking up a baby not a toddler and held her to me, feeling her burrow her face into my neck and her little hands grip onto my shirt. I stood there rocking her and felt her body relax and she slowly fell to sleep and I hoped that the contact and affection would help her. We couldn’t stay very long and after fifteen minutes I put her down and talked to her for a moment or so while I stroked her head and face. The nurse had come with a polystyrene cup full of milk flip which she told us was a mixture of milk, egg and cooking oil. The cup was nearly as big as Marta’s head but she raised her skinny little arms and her hands took it with a surprisingly firm grip and we all watched in amazement as she put it to her lips and drank without breath until it was finished. The nurse informed us that sometimes she finished three cups of milk flip at one sitting and when I heard this I thought, perhaps, she would be fine after all, as long as she went back to someone who would look after her properly. If not, she may well just end up in the same state again.


Made it to Sunday

Sunday comes around and I am up bright and early and ready to head up to the church for the 9o’clock service. I note that there are still a few people in the shabeen as I pass it and I feel momentarily envious of their rather more exciting Saturday night. But it is nice to be out in the sunshine, walking around the town which feels very different to the hustle and bustle of Saturday and the few people I pass greet me in a very mellow and relaxed manner. It’s strange how that even here there is that typical Sunday morning feeling. As I approach the church, it’s evident that nothing is happening and so I pass it by and walk a bit further onto the road and then head east up the road to the top of a small rise about a quarter of a mile away. I pass a couple of buildings hidden in the trees but they stand out because they are painted a bright orange and blue and which I think will make a nice photograph so I stop and walk a bit closer along a sandy track. I crouch down at one point to look at the biggest beetle I have ever seen. It must be three inches long and half as wide and is almost intact but something has gone over it, probably a car and it is just still alive but already a pack of insects are steaming around or upon it and using it for an early Sunday morning meal. I’d like to put it out of its misery and think about stamping on it to finish the job, but I’m unsure if I won’t just end up causing it more pain if I don’t do it properly and so decide in the end to let nature take its course and so I step over it and continue on my way. The temperature is starting to rise and the sky is a clear cobalt blue (though we’ve had a couple of torrential downpours over the last couple of nights) but it’s still very pleasant and it’s nice to be strolling along on a Sunday morning taking it easy and exploring a little further than I have been before. From the top of the rise, I turn and see the town set out before me and the houses falling away into the dip where most of them nestle in a cluster before they rise again on the other side of the shallow valley. Heading back I return the waves of a few people who are sitting at fires outside their huts or houses and then stop to admire the riding skills of two young men that have come bounding out of the Bushman camp on horses. They are riding bareback with only a bridle and a switch of broom to keep their mounts in hand but they seem confident and in natural partnership with their horses and they are clearly having a good time. Seeing me they canter up and stop just short making the request that has become the norm - will I take a photograph of them, which I do. They head off whooping and laughing back through the camp at a fast canter and I hope that none of the children get in their way. Just as they disappear and as if I’m watching a stage show of Calamity Jane another Bushman comes hurtling out of the lane, this time in a buggy with two young horses and going full pelt. As he nears the road he makes a 90 degree turn only just keeping control but losing various commodities off the back in the process. The horses are not in sync in spite of his enthusiastic work with the whip and as one is pulling the other is holding back and so there is a kind of push pull effect that bounces and rattles the buggy around and he looks as though he should have appended L plates. But undaunted he manages to turn around and takes off again in the opposite direction striking up clouds of red dust in his wake. As the dust settles, I hear the faint sound of singing and as I get closer I see that some of the Bushman are having a Sunday gathering and the strains of Alleluia combined with tambourine and guitar filter across on the breeze. It’s a lovely sound, mellow and heartfelt and even though I didn’t get to a church service, this is enough for me to feel at least a bit spiritual. I listen for a few minutes and feel slightly uplifted by the experience and then walk back towards the village in parallel with a group of ten young bushman boys who are wearing fully or partly a white and black football strip that is many sizes to way too big for them. They arrive at the football pitch which is pot-marked with holes and runs downhill from one goal to the other. They proceed to chose teams until in the end there is a team of four bigger boys, maybe 10 or 11 and a team of six younger boys, maybe between five and nine. They form two huddles, shoulders together, conspiratorial as they talk tactics and then with sudden gusto they jump up and pump the air with their thin little arms, working themselves up for the battle. The energy is palpable and their enthusiasm is not quelled by the fact the ball is not round and it reacts to their kicks in a way that is somewhere between that of a football and a rugby ball. But it is clear they are having fun and I go over when they are having a break and ask them if I can get a team photo, which as ever, is done with much enthusiasm and chattering and with an impressive degree of professionalism.


I’ve been feeling under the weather a bit for the last few days and I am not sure whether it is the malaria tablets I am taking or whether I have got a bit of a virus. But whatever it is, it is enough to send me to my bed and I retire with my book which I manage to read for only a few minnutes before I drift off and then fall into sleep. I’ve been asleep for about three hours when I hear Kat calling me to tell me that the Bushman kids are outside having come for the bi-Sunday ‘sausage sizzle’ and that they are just too cute to miss. So even though I still feel a bit fuzzy and headachy I get up and grab my camera and head outside. There are about 20 children ranging from age one to fourteen and there is a complicated skipping game going on. Kat tell me they invited her in but she lasted less than ten seconds before they told her to sit back down again. But it’s obviously a game they know well and they take it in turns to run and jump into and over the rope, taking over the ends as their penance when they don’t make the grade. Stu who looks after the project in Pos 3 has the bbq running and while it heats up and he cooks the sausages we all pile into the reception area of the clinic to watch a DVD called ‘The Gods must be Crazy’. It’s a funny but poignant 1980s film about a Bushman from the Kalahari that has to find the end of the earth in order to throw away an evil thing that the gods sent from the sky (a coke bottle thrown out of a light aircraft window). At first it seems like a great gift and they find many uses for it but quite soon they start to argument and fight over it and the chief tells one of the young men to take it to the end of the earth and give it back to the gods. On his travels which takes him from the remoteness of the Kalahari into Botswana he comes across many things he has never seen before and only just manages to avoid jail and hanging in his naivety and misunderstanding. Though it has some serious undertones there are moments of pure slapstick and the children have seen it many, many times before but it is one of their favourites and is probably unique in that it features Bushmen speaking in their own language as well as actors speaking English. It’s especially funny because the children laugh at the Bushman language jokes and Kat and I are laughing at the English language jokes but neither of us understand what the other is laughing at. The sausage sizzle comes hard on the heels of the film and the children know the drill which is to line up smallest first to be handed a sausage smothered with tomato ketchup in a slice of bread. The Bushman children seem remarkably well behaved and though there is a bit of shoving and pushing while everyone gets themselves in position it is generally well humoured and nobody falls out. After the children have had their fill it’s the parents turn and by the time they have eaten too it is dark, the bbq embers are starting to burn out and the Bushman slowly start to drift back to their camp. We’re famished by this time, hunger pangs brought on by the sound and smell of the sausages roasting over the coals and Anna have slipped a tray of frozen Boerwurst in the microwave to defrost. As she is doing this we are told that one of the young Bushman girls who is a known epileptic has had a fit and is in the clinic. We know which one it is, a fifteen year old that we had met on the first day at the Bushman camp and who Stu had checked was taking her daily medication. She often forgets and it appears that she ran out of tablets and hasn’t been to the clinic to get some more. When we get to the clinic she is laid out on one of the examination tables and I ask Kat what I can do to help. She tells me that I should check that she is still breathing which I do but at first I can hardly tell if she is but then she gives a big gasp and her chest starts to rise and fall though more quickly than is ideal or natural. She is somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness and I stand there holding her hand and looking at her face, watching her eyes flickering. Apparently all we can do at this point is to watch her and let her tripped out brain take its time to settle down and reboot. Her breathing slows down after a while and she looks as if she is sleeping peacefully and we try to wake her up. When we eventually do, she is not quite with it and she stands up very unsteady on her feet swaying and leaning back against the bed. It takes two of us, a hand under each elbow to guide her out to the reception and into the car which will take her the short ride to the Bushman village. Normally after an episode like this a patient at home would be admitted to hospital but it is 7 o’clock at night here, already pitch black and two hours from a hospital so that isn’t an option. Anyway, it’s not unusual for her to fit I am told and so everyone really just takes it in their stride. We hope to hear in the morning how she is but there is nothing more we can do now so we walk the 50 yards or so back across the compound to the accommodation to cook our sausages on what remains of the heat from the bbq but the atmosphere is a little more subdued than it was.


An escape committee of one

My plans to escape for the weekend have failed. Having had one of the slowest and least satisfying weeks of my life for a very long time the thought of spending two days over the weekend in Epukiro at the volunteer house while the clinic was closed did not fill me with immediate delight. But nothing had been organised or overture made to find out what you might like to do (go into Ernies in Gobabis for lunch would have been a treat and wasn’t beyond the bounds of feasibility) and with the very limited amenities and services in the town there’s no prospect of getting transport anywhere. The prospect of sitting on the porch step listening to the sound of Australian football, rugby or Formula 1 which seems to be the staple background fodder on the TV, leaves me with feelings of the need for a jailbreak and bizarrley (sorry brain gone, can't spell that) I find myself pacing up and down the compound fence in front of locked gate and suddenly I know how the animals at the farm feel. This feeling of being restricted and having a lack of control over my own life is not one I warm to and in my desperation I call the airport in Windhoek to find out how much it would cost to have someone fly in by light aircraft to get me and take me to one of the game lodges in Etosha for the weekend. Not having the lat and long of the grass airstrip here makes things complicated and in the end they can only fly into Gobabis which isn’t really very useful and anyway they provide me with the kind of quote that makes me wonder if the zero key got stuck while they were typing it out. It’s at this moment that I realise that there is one big thing missing from this whole experience – the sense that you are seen as a ‘guest’ and client. Being a volunteer appears to mean you have to abdicate all expectations of any client service and are very much at the lowest pecking order in the place. This might be acceptable if you are 18 or 21, on your gap year and happy to waste away days doing little or nothing but as an adult, having paid good money and with restricted holidays, this lack of recognition that you are a customer is a markedly negative part of the experience. 

By 9 o’clock on Saturday morning I can bear it no longer. Watching little TV at home anyway, 90 minutes of the kind of rubbish you get fed in the mornings on the weekend finally drives me out of the house and camera in hand I hunt down the keys to the padlock on the gate and pitch out into the lane. The level of freedom and independence is minor but the taste is good and as I look at the road leading out of town I have a strong urge to run and not look back. The film Forest Gump comes to mind and I start to understand the kind of things that might have conspired to drive him to start and keep on running right the way across America. But I make a left rather than a right and decide I am going to live at least a bit dangerously and so head up to the wrong end of town in an effort to get a bit of adrenaline going to try and re-kickstart my enthusiasm for being here. The breeze block hair salon (I know it’s a hair salon as it has Salon daubed badly in brown paint several times on its exterior) is pumping music out and I can hear the sound of people inside shouting to each other over the top of it. I’d like to go in and have a look and maybe get my hair braided but the door is only slightly ajar and an old unlined curtain covers the window and so I pass by it not quite having the nerve to stick my head in. As I walk past it I notice out of the corner of my eye that I have picked up a ‘shadow’, a guy, probably in his 20s or so is on a trajectory to cross my path and keeps repeating something that I don’t understand. I acknowledge him and put my hand up in that way that says ‘go away, I am not interested’ but he still keeps coming and as he gets closer he is saying in bad English that he wants to talk to me and can I take a photo of him. I keep walking, say good morning and put my hand up again to make it clear I am not interested in a conversation and after another 20 or 30 yards he peels off and heads back to the house he has come from where he has a mate hanging on the fence waiting for him. I had asked if it was safe to walk around in the daytime and had been told it was OK so I don’t feel too worried but am just mindful that I need keep my wits around me generally while I am out here walking on my own. I take a couple of shots of the shabeen as I pass it and notice it is in full swing already and then a couple more shots of buildings that I hope are not houses as they look as if they are held together with no more than a string and a prayer. Looping back around the bend in reverse this time, boy, life is rocking here, I stroll on, and return the waves of the children playing in the gardens and their parents who are either sitting in the shade or sometimes working a bit on the garden. Town seems busier than usual but it is Saturday and perhaps people have come in to pick up some staples or just to pass the time. I walk past the two (not very general) stores and manage not to get accosted by the butchers small son who Kat and I are both convinced has ADSD and then for a change, turn left, and wander up to the small church that I have noticed out on the upper edge of the village. It’s very quiet up in this part of the village though, less people are around and I pass a couple of groups of guys on the way, one of which shouts something at me quite aggressively. Before I get to the church which doesn’t look open I decide to turn around and make a note to ask if services are still held there and if so at which time. I think it will be interesting to attend in the morning, one because I like to go to church anyway but two, because I am desperate to find things to pass the time. By this time I have really exhausted the options I have in my walk around town and so head back to the accommodation, asking if I might take shots of a Bushman family and their donkey trap on the way which they are very amenable to and like when I let them see themselves on the camera screen. A Herero man that has set up a stall selling a variety of goods on the side of the road is less friendly and tells me I can’t take a photograph but when he sees the Bushman family laughing at theirs, he calls me over and tells me I can take a picture after all. I take a moment to glance at the things he is selling. There is a pile of big fluffy blankets, a variety of caps set out on a small table (mostly for premier division football teams) and various gold coloured hoop earnings and bracelets. But my favourite things are a pair of black and white patent winkle-pickers that are placed with evident pride in the middle of the goods and as I look at them I wonder who on earth would buy them here. I make a note to look at the footwear of the younger dandies in the town over the next few days and see if any of them have been tempted or have the money to purchase a pair of shoes that make such a fashion statement.