Rallying Cry of a Rooster


I ought to have anticipated that the move would finally catch up with me.

It has. And now I feel overwhelmed.  And sad. Camping in the hiatus between packing up here and unpacking over there has lost any novel value it might – briefly – have had. The house is cold and cavernous and I feel dreadfully sad at witnessing, at such close quarters, its soullessness after enjoying it as home for so long.  I am impatient to move on but I have to wait until the end of the school year. I’m not good at waiting. And I’m especially not good at waiting in the dark.

The power cuts are endless. As is the rain.

The weekend seemed so too. It got off to a shaky start.

The cow, which I had been told had died on Friday evening (and was too queasy to investigate for myself so serves me right) had not. Instead she had lain, semi-conscious, in the cold and the wet all night, shivering and labouring to breath. 

Very early on Saturday morning Rehema informed me that the night watchmen had woken her up in the middle of the night asking to kill the cow themselves – not on any humane grounds but because they are hungry, having not been paid for months, and wanted the meat.

I – still in my pajamas – faced a stony Rehema (she is no better than I on too little sleep) across the gloom (dark, wet dawn, no power) and all I wanted was a mug of tea. I did not want to deal with the euthanasing of a cow I’d battled to save for two weeks.

My land line has been disconnected. And because of the rain, cell signal was out. I could not call the vet. And I dared not – even if I could have – call friend at 7.30 on a Saturday morning to beg him to come armed with shotgun and put cow out of misery.


So I asked watchmen what they suggested.


Slit its throat, they said, matter of factly.

But we don’t have a sharp knife said Rehema, ‘they have all gone on the lorry’. She proffered a bread knife.

This is too awful I thought; we can’t saw the poor thing to death with something I cut toast with.

No, I said, surely Ben (being a boy who likes to think he is bush savvy) has a knife.

He does. He wasn’t keen to loan it for cow-killing though. I had to beg.

It’s not sharp enough, Ben said, playing for time.

We’ll sharpen it then, I told him impatiently.

The watchmen all assured me the knife could be honed to razor sharpness.

I told them that I would pay them cash for their assistance, but that they could not take the meat which, I warned, would be full of disease (the vet had diagnosed two tick borne diseases) and drugs (syringefuls – which had clearly failed to work). They agreed to bury the animal intact. And told me later that her flesh was quite yellow with jaundice. Poor old girl.

I finally got my tea. And climbed back into bed. I could hear the plaintive bellows of the cow’s calf. And I joined in; big fat tears slid down my cheeks and into my mug. I couldn’t help it.

But later resident rooster made me laugh: he used to belong to neighbour to my left who has long moved on (abandoning rooster). Since then, rooster has moved into our garden and driven us almost to distraction by trotting onto the verandah at 6am on Sunday morning, crowing delightedly and then dashing for cover before he is pelted with assorted missiles from assorted family members.

Since rooster is considered – apparently – a farm asset, neighbour to my right (Englishman), who is still in employ of Directors and therefore firmly in enemy camp, determined to capture him. He sent his garden boy across to kidnap rooster in order to repossess him. Englishman and I are not on speaking terms; he’s also in enemy camp since he issued threats to husband to ‘get Anthea the kids’ (it’s been a surreal four months) consequently, I was not about to enter into an argument with him about ownership of a cockerel. I didn’t have to. Rooster was in no doubt as to where he belonged. The next morning he was back on my verandah crowing gleefully (I almost joined in). The charade continued for a bit: next door’s garden boy returned several times to reclaim rooster and every time he did, rooster scuttled home (bringing a girlfriend with him – one of neighbour’s layers – which was especially gratifying).

I have not been able to fathom rooster’s loyalty? Perhaps we have a better class of bug in our garden for him to breakfast on? Perhaps he enjoys the company of the geese? Perhaps he just thinks its home (as I have done, for so long).

Whatever. I have begun to appreciate his dawn calls.

A rallying cry in the face of damp, dark adversity.

6 Responses to “Rallying Cry of a Rooster”

  1. Bel Says:

    I’m rooting for the rooster. In my Chinatown digs, he’d last two minutes. We used to have one on the roof, but it’s best not to ask. Promise you’ll have Internet where you go next?

  2. The Good Woman Says:

    Hello Memsahib
    I have just read your blog- pretty much start to finish – and will be linking it on mine. We have lived and experienced Africa in very different ways but your stories resonate loudly in my heart. I have never faced your challenges, but I have witnessed variations – particularly from the many Zimbabweans farmers now giving it ‘one last go’ in Zambia.

    For all this, I miss Africa. We could soon be moving to Kenya, but again to the bubble wrapped comfort of the expat community. I love Africa, but I don’t know that I have the courage for your Africa.

    Wishing you all the best.

  3. Equiano Says:

    You sound sad – I wish I could bring you an extra hot cup of tea and some candles 🙂 Hang in there.

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hello Good Woman.

    My Africa isn’t a pretty place right now. And I am glad your experience of it will be cushioned by expat life. That’s the best way to enjoy it : to be aware of it but not to become embroiled in it – certainly not as we have been. I wish you all the best for your move to Kenya – I was born there and my little sister lives there, I don’t get back often enough. I wonder what you will be doing and where you will be. Shout if anything I might have to offer may be faintly useful. Best

  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Equiano – I am a bit sad today. Energy low. So tea would be good. But I do find this intangible support in cyberspace hugely sustaining; thank you, thank you, thank you.

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:


    If I don’t have internet, I ain’t going. That simple! Love the idea of disappearing roosters in Chinatown; I know it’s not very kind, but it is funny. And I need funny right now x

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