On arrival in Kitwe in July 1966, Arlene and I spent the first 10 days in the brand-new Edinburgh Hotel, while the company made a house ready for us. What luxury – Crayfish Meuniere at 15/- (about $US$2.00), and a good Tournedo for even less! Never had either of us had it so good.
But all good things must come to an end, and after 10 days we moved into a house in “The Gulch” – a crescent of semi-detached bungalows near the Convent in which Anglo American Corp put all of its new employees. The evening that we moved in, we realized that the place was literally seething with cockroaches, and so, after killing as many as we could and unpacking our suitcases (it would be a couple of months before any trunks arrived: they had been shipped to “Chartered Exploration – Lusaka. In bond via Beira”) we fell into an exhausted sleep.
The next morning I went to see Mr. Nel, over in the AAC offices opposite Coronation Square – the rumor was that the bigwigs over there refused to have the exploration offices in their building, because we geologists left big muddy bootprints all over their nice clean carpets. Mr. Nel obviously DID NOT like it that I was complaining, and immediately launched into an emphatic speech: “Look, Mr. Berry, we are not in London and we are not in New York, we are in the middle of Effrika, and there is nothing I can dew about a few cockroaches. You will just have to learn to live with them!” So I went over to Diamond’s Supermarket and bought a Communist Chinese stirrup pump and some really nasty bilious yellow poison to go in it.
That evening we sprayed in all the nooks and crannies in the kitchen, and at everything that moved. I was really angry at Artie Nel, so I gathered a couple of hundred dead or dying cockroaches into the pages of the day’s “Times of Zambia”, and went to bed.
The next morning I went over to his office again, newspaper in hand, to be greeted by the same tirade: “Look Mr. Berry, I have told you once and I will tell you again, you are not in London and you are not in New York….” I interrupted his speech by dumping the dead and sticky cockroaches all over his desk, and walked out. The next day the exterminators came around to the house.
About a week later, as I shut the door of the living room on the way to bed, the entire outside wall of the room fell out, with a mighty crash of breaking glass. The wall consisted of a wooden frame holding a row of louvered windows which ran the length of the room: the frame had been completely consumed by termites. Again, I went over to Artie Nel’s office, to be greeted by, “Gott, Mr. Berry, I hev told you before and I’ll tell you again, we are not in New …” This time, however, he was obviously fed up with my complaints and was not going to do anything about it, even if the sky had fallen in. I had no evidence to dump on him, so I had to get my boss, Pete Freeman, involved, and we got the maintenance crew out within a couple of days.