Magazine article The Spectator

Clap Trap

Magazine article The Spectator

Clap Trap

Article excerpt

Wild life

'There are only three kinds of men in Africa,' my old Dad used to say. `Those who have got the clap, or have had the clap, or are going to get the clap.' In my case, I earned my spurs not in Africa but at Oxford after attending a fancy dress party as a Mexican. The sombrero went down a storm, except that when the girl in my arms woke up at first light she gave a start. `Who the hell are you? Last night you had a beard.' Imagine my embarrassment several days later when I entered the Radcliffe clinic and came face-to-face with half my English year. But all this is beside the point.

Fast forward 14 years to the other day, when my friends Nick and Heather asked me to manage their ranch northwest of Mount Kenya while they took a break overseas. I was up there like a shot, since their spread is my idea of what heaven will be: wide open spaces full of game, horses, nutty neighbours and thousands of sheep.

Before they left, Nick showed me around the farm. As we all know, sheep constantly get sick and my job entailed a regimen of dipping and injecting to stem the relentless tide of oviform death. But I also had to take care of dozens of shepherds, a bunch of wild, lop-eared tribesmen with weatherbeaten faces who lived out with the flocks in bomas scattered across the plain. `This is the medicine cabinet,' said Nick, pointing to a locked cabinet in the farm office. `Inside you'll find everything you need for the workers.'

I was out among the bomas several days later, chatting to the shepherds in Swahili, when one demanded some 'compshools'. He didn't look at all happy but I couldn't help him. I had no idea what he was talking about. After that, others began to ask for the same thing. Soon there was a clamour for 'compshools'. One morning I found a queue of men doubled up outside the office. When I asked them what they wanted, you can guess what they replied. Then they pointed to the medicine cabinet. Inside, I found two very large plastic tubs. One was full of elephant tranquilliser-sized white tablets. The shepherds shook their heads. The other container was full of red and yellow antibiotic capsules. The truth dawned on me as my patients nodded happily and exclaimed: 'Compshools! …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.