A huge signpost bowed down into the middle of the road – a hand in front, a hand behind – as I drove home in a grey car. Its waist had melted. Large metal structures, overnight, let loose on Luanda. Now they are kneeling into pot-holes and leaning precariously on one leg, or an exhausted arm. The nose of a smart yacht is still struggling for a last gasp of air at the Boating Club. Leaves and branches and whole trees were beaten so hard, they fell to the floor in bits and pieces, broken and in some cases crippled for life. A large man was sitting on a roof, banging at corrugated strips, realigning, readjusting and repairing.
‘How much overlap should there be with those corrugated roofs? The man who did mine just pushed them together so the rain comes in all the time. I have to be at home when it rains to place the buckets in the right place.’
She was terribly worried. She wasn’t at home. The rain would be flooding the floor already. The thunder was so strong, whole buildings were trembling. She needed to get her three children to bed, in the rain and the floods and the water.
Driving to the beach. Should I even be going? This is a story. Floods. People will have lost their homes. ‘Five cars were destroyed in the rain!’ a boy told me. ‘Five cars!’ The remains of the day were in the sea – plastic, wood, bottles, Coke cans, plants – tossing about by the bay.
‘There’ll only be white people on the beach today. You’ll see. Only white people go to the beach when it’s cloudy. Angolans never go to the beach if there isn’t any sun.’
Not quite true but a fair generalisation. The beach was covered in white and pinky wales, hairy ones with breasts, wandering up and down the sands, gazing frustrated at the unusually polluted seas, trying to figure out how to get beyond the rubbish into cleaner waters. A skinny man gave a large woman a piggy-back out into the deeper waters and then tossed her clumsily from his shoulders. She flapped her arms and splashed out to sea. I didn’t notice if she came back, but there was a distinct lack of hysteria.
A very wobbly man, undressed in rags, talked to himself and rolled in the sand in front of three plump girls lying in a row, their round bottoms shaped and defined by bikini bottoms designed for flossing teeth. They let him stare and fiddle for over an hour, and then he was moved on by two men dressed in berets, dark glasses and guns. They stood and stared as he struggled to lift his broken body, half a hairy face covered in handfuls of sand, and stayed to watch him limping– up down, up down – away from the teenage trio, and weaving precariously between tanning foreigners who are here to do business.
Yesterday, a team of election inspectors from Southern Africa – who’d expressed some alarm about the number of men in suits who’d followed them about their business – asked me with a wink and a nod and a chuckle if I’d ever read Nineteen Eighty-Four.