Tembo the Gardener and Wasted Resources

tembo en français dictionnaire swahili – français


noun masculine

fr Mammifère de l’ordre des Proboscidea, il a une trompe et deux grandes défenses en ivoire partant de la machoire supérieure. Les éléphants sont les plus grands animaux terrestres existant actuellement.

Wa nne akagundua mkonga na kusisitiza kwamba tembo ni kama nyoka mkubwa.

Un quatrième découvre la trompe et certifie qu’un éléphant est comme un gros serpent.

Éléphant d’Afrique

Over the past few days, I have been mulling over the notion of Tembo the Gardener. Whilst I was a child in Zambia the “houseboy” was a 53 year old pygmy called Spider and the gardener was a 70 year old man from Malawi called Tembo. He was unusual both by his age and his survival of smallpox. My first ever French teacher at night school was from the Congo now DRC.

Tembo was extremely patient and used to cut the grass with a slasher like this one.

He would hold the hose for the boxer-ridgeback cross canine to drink from. Tiger, the dog, would bark at Tembo when he was thirsty. I spent a lot of time with Tembo and Spider and was allowed to sit in on their advice clinics for some of the younger domestic workers on the housing estate. They were the “wise men” and at lunch time they held court in our garden.

He also tended the vegetable garden which still exists in the satellite photo of my former abode, central in the satellite image below. The L shaped house has a veranda and just above the house one can see top to bottom striations, the vegetable patch. In the top left hand corner of the garden there used to be six banana “trees”.

In many ways I am now doing what Tembo did, that is gardening. I have become Tembo that is the use that the world has for me.

I have come a long way from teaching at a top UK university, co-founding a high power laser company and adding greatly to getting the transferrable skills agenda operative in an otherwise fairly resistant UK academia. I have left the country of my birth and am considering applying for French nationality in due course. Were the events of my childhood, learning French and mixing with Tembo the gardener a harbinger for where I find myself now?


Anyway, I need to add some grass cuttings to the composter and set some more mole traps. One of the pesky blighters has reappeared down by Le Jaudy.

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