Home Articles The Scots Lad Episode #2: The Scots Lad: Sans Tweed Jacket, hits Lusaka
Episode #2: The Scots Lad: Sans Tweed Jacket, hits Lusaka
Written by Gerry Hodes   
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 18:13
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Episode #2: The Scots Lad: Sans Tweed Jacket, hits Lusaka
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And so it came to pass, that the giant belly of the species Aluminia BUA disgorged its human contents at Lusaka airport on May 19th 1965 and lo; what a blessed relief it was to all involved. We young, would-be, post-colonialists, fresh from Harold Wilson's white-hot technological Britain (what happened to that, I wonder?) wandered across the flaking tarmac as bewildered and excited as any toddler experiencing a first visit to Santa's Grotto.

So many unfamiliar smells and noises assailed our senses, as we stepped back into the plain architecture and infrastructure of the 30's and 40's that surrounded us. But exotic? By Golly it was. Not Renfrew aerodrome, that's for sure. Plus, so many black people! It sounds slightly racist, and definitely patronising, even to record it, but dark skins certainly didn't abound in the swirling fogs of early 60's Glasgow and, observing them crowding the spectator area of the rear apron, they definitely symbolised a complete break from my Caledonian norm.

Still sensitive to making the comment, I should add balance by noting that my home town completely and contentedly integrated a substantial colony of Asian descendants of the Lascar seamen, who had made Glasgow their refuge in the late19th century. 'Wid ye waaant yer Biryani noo or huv a wee Tennent's first, Jim?' colloquially addressed by a Glaswegian Bengali in a festive turban and salwar kameez, was a totally familiar Indian dialect for me, so completely had our neighbours from the sub-continent commandeered the restaurant sector and our curry-loving hearts (or what was left of the Scotsman's cardiac region, after the legions of Italian chippies and cappuccino cafes had done their fine work)

Not so with the boatloads of immigrants from the West Indies, who were mopping up unwanted (by UK natives) service jobs in the south of Britain. They were too damn smart to suffer the slings of precipitation and wounding arrows of hail that so hallmarked the typical Scottish summer, consequently staying south of Yorkshire. As a result, and even after a year in cosmopolitan London, my sudden exposure to African ebony was a visual epiphany. Something instantly told me that I was going to enjoy my sojourn in this vibrant, exuberant, sun-tanned, un-Scottish land. And so it came to pass, as my dreary time in London's East End started to diminish to the level of a shabby memory.

Of course, I had just emerged from the gloom of the VC10, still hunched up, like Gollum, from so many tortured hours spent crammed into the thinly upholstered steerage seats at the rear of the plane. Being thrown onto Omaha beach from a landing craft on D-Day, would have been preferable to any more time spent in that metal Hell. The virtuous missionary from my previous tale had abandoned me (and my too easily thwarted libido) at Ndola and scurried off to do good works in Irish, somewhere desolate and un-Christian - probably Ndola town centre, come to think of it and having been there.

The extra space she freed up did little, given the short interval of the flight to Lusaka, to deliver my painfully distorted musculature from the crippling effect of the previous 10 hours incarceration. So my joy at finally arriving was influenced substantially by the thrill of release from the clutches of British United Airways and I tottered down the wobbly metal stairs with a song in my heart and a probably ruptured disc in my back. The adventure had started.

The old Lusaka airport must have been built following an architectural blueprint for airports supplied to colonial authorities by Tri-Ang. It looked exactly liked the ones in Ndola and Entebbe, smelled the same and had the same air of weary bustle about it. The officials were snooty, the waiting crowds impatient to hug loved ones, the luggage interminably delayed and, once delivered, there was inadequate space to display it. I tried to influence the speed of process by claiming professional courtesy for an incoming future colleague, which served only to have me sent to the end of the queue - twice, but it did give me a chance to study the various facilities and procedures that I might soon be operating. There didn't seem to be any.