Sunday, 23 July 2017

Out Of Reach


Bit of a long couple of weeks.  Still feeling a bit stressed. My electricity packed up the other day, in the evening - hence ressurected my old metal kettle to make tea. Called out the electric guys, who drove down my road, saw lights were on in other houses so left again. Called them back. 'You have electricity,' I was told. 'I don't,' I replied, sitting in the dark. 

They did something to the pole outside. It came back on, then went out again the next morning. Called them back. Having sent technicians to my place two times the night before, they then couldn't recall where I lived. Eventually found me and fixed my electric box, replacing it a foot higher than it was before, and out of human reach. Left wire cuttings on the porch. Had to call them back again to lower the box so that I could actually reach it, and tidy away the rubbish.

Anyone got stilts?
All sorted now. I have electricity and can reach the meter.

Then fell out with a tailor at Lamego Hotel. I went there a month ago to get mosquito nets for my bed. 'Sure, no problem,' they said. Quoted FRW 96,000, which is a lot of money, but I assumed they'd be good quality. Sent them the measurements. They insisted on sending their own tailor to check the measurements - thorough, I thought.

A few weeks later, I collect the nets and they don't come close to fitting. One was way too small, the other was slightly less small but the flap was crooked, leaving a massive gap for all the mosquitoes to get in. 

Blood Buffet

They took the nets away again and since then the tailor has apparently been ill, they've been too busy, they hadn't been paid by someone else so couldn't order more material... every excuse. Haven't delivered new nets and haven't refunded the 60,000 deposit which I paid over a month ago. Really fed up with them but don't have any option but to wait it out. They promise they'll be done this week. 

It's just tiring because it's the second expensive tailor I've been to this year who took a deposit and proved incapable of taking basic measurements. The first one even altered a pair of jeans that fitted fine, and returned them a size too small. 

There's such a push towards Made in Rwanda and buying local, but absolutely no consumer protection when things go wrong, which they do quite often. Accurately measuring something is really the staple skill in tailoring. I've written to RDB in the past pointing out that, without a trading standards department working to protect consumers, there's not much reason for anyone to buy in Rwanda if they can buy online or on a trip to Dubai, America or Europe. Of course, without PayPal, most Rwandans can't buy online, so it's a captive market.

It's getting difficult. I haven't been out of the country in over a year and a half, and I'm running low on clothes. The government is bringing in a ban on the sale of second hand clothes, but there's no industry to replace it. There's a couple of clothes shops in Kigali Heights, but they sell Primark quality at Harrods prices. There's a big trade in Chinese imported dresses, which doesn't help if you don't wear dresses or conform to small sizing. The only other option is local tailors, but I've wasted so much money on stuff that doesn't fit or look good. Buying clothes is really hard. 

I'm planning to go back to the UK next June or July, so will have a shopping spree then. Also hoping to go to India around Christmas, so maybe there'll be options in Mumbai. I've been buying a lot online, but it takes a long time for it to arrive and it's hard to tell sizing from a chart.

Thankfully, if I stick to writing and pianos, at least I won't have to dress up for work.

Little spot of editing at the local café.

Consoling myself with coffee and cake. Delicious red velvet cake from Slices in Kigali Heights. What the city lacks in clothing, it makes up for with food.



The incident where I bought £54 of cat food and they accidentally charged my card £540 actually turned out quite well. They couldn't revers the transaction to the UK so deposited it in my Rwandan account, which was useful. Usually it costs a small fortune to transfer money internationally, but that works out as a free transfer. Even if you do have to pay £1-2 a month just for a bank account, whereas I didn't pay anything for it to sit in my UK account. You even get charged for depositing money into your account here.

Taking deep breaths and looking forward to my cousin visiting next month.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Slightly Better


The planetary misalignment has been extremely strong the past few weeks, but I sense that it is very slowly shifting back to normality. Finally received the piano funds from Indiegogo, over a month after the campaign ended. Wouldn't recommend for the future. They take a large cut of what you raise in exchange for extremely slow service and no assistance promoting the project. Don't see the point of them when a PayPal donate button's free.

Still, that means we're good to go. Chillington are working on the string frame, the hammers have arrived in Nairobi awaiting collection, and I'm coming to the end of an online African entrepreneurship course which teaches you to write a business plan to pitch to their investors. An interesting exercise, but it's kind of left me wondering whether we need any investment. It's a pretty self-funding product, hopefully. 

Above is our logo. Hoping to get it embossed on every frame we forge.

Definitely know pianos are the way forward. I took a quick development job that a friend put me onto. It was with one of the world's largest international development agencies, funded by one of the world's riches economies...
  • Three days having a cyclical argument about an unnecessary withholding tax (which would have cut my pay by 15%), for half a day's training delivery
  • Contract delivered for signing twenty minutes after the training began
  • Refuse to accept invoices via e-mail, have to print them out, take them to an office (no directions given), to be told it's the wrong office, to be sent to the right office, to discover everybody's gone to lunch and not a single member of staff is authorised to sign for the invoice

To say I lost my shit is putting it mildly. I may not have discharged myself with grace.

Knew there was a reason I left development, now I remember there were about 150. The older I get, the more relaxed I am about a lot of things, but getting dicked about over payment isn't one of those things. I think any international development agency that can't figure out how to accept an invoice by e-mail in the 21st century should be banned from using the word 'development' in anything they do.

The annoying thing is, there was the suggestion of further work. I've been rewatching Neil Gaiman's speech about 'closer to the mountain,' and it resonates. As he put it, the things he did only for the money didn't leave him feeling fulfilled, and half the time he didn't get the money either. 

After the tax hit I recently took, my accountant felt so sorry for me, he's offered me pity work. We had lunch the other day and ended up chatting about politics, religion and travel for almost four hours. I like my accountant. Happy to work for him.

Finally back on the right financial course, and just found out I'm owed about £450 of my own money. Thought I was burning through cash a bit fast, but turns out, when I went to buy cat food last week, the lady accidentally added an extra zero. We bulk buy pet food when it's available, because most of the year it isn't. Instead of charging me £54, she debited £540!

Glad I caught that one. Refund's on its way.

But that's why I think the run of ickyness is coming to an end. The bad luck happened, but it's undone. Things are starting to arrive where they're supposed to, projects are back on track. 

Had a slightly sad encounter. Rescued this little cutie from my kittens.

 


It's coelonia fulvinotata, a type of Hawkmoth. Tried feeding it every kind of plant I could find in my garden and CasaKeza, but couldn't work out what it ate, so I've just released it in the buses beyond the cats. I really hope it finds its favourite plant and makes it to mothood.

Been spending a lot of time at CasaKeza whilst Maia's away. Paymaster General in her absence. Cleared out her house so she can Airbnb it. The whole two-bedroom place cost around £3,000. I could easily live in something like that. Little plot of land on Lake Muhazi. Writer's cabin. Very nice idea.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Nope, Still Grumpy


video

I've started playing shufflepuck with Howl. He usually wins.

And, yes, update from last post - all kittens home and happy. 



It's been a really hectic couple of weeks.

Feeling much better health-wise, except the bank account. Got to the point where my accountant has taken so much pity on me he's suggested lunch to discuss potential work. Had to hang my head in shame when one of his staff asked me what I do, and I said 'fundraising.'

On the work side, things are going fairly well. I finished teaching another fiction course, and also took some training work with a major international development organisation. We did a nice training session at a hotel with a fabulous view of Kigali. 


Although it did take three days to negotiate a half-day contract - a contract that was delivered twenty minutes after the workshop began - and they refused to accept my invoice by e-mail, so I physically have to go and deliver it. Never encountered that before. In the 21st century, perhaps it is the development organisation that needs a little developing? Still, bread on the table.

Been working hard at the piano-building project. That's not proving easy at the moment. Having to recast the string frame as the first attempt wasn't quite right. Enlisted the services of a different forge called Chillington. Nice workshop.



But we're in a bit of a bind as Indiegogo still hasn't released any of the money we raised. They're supposed to do that within 15 working days of the campaign closing, but now they're saying it has to go through a vetting process, and they haven't even started that! 

Would never use Indiegogo again. They take a hefty lump of the donations we've raised and appear to do very little for it. We'll set up our own PayPal donate page next time.

Also had fun with the Rwandan postal service. Tried sending parts to Nairobi, hoping to enlist a partner to make hammer heads, only to have the parcel returned one month later with no explanation. Had to fork out for DHL, which was four times the price, but at least it should get there tomorrow.


There's regularly stuff in the news about Rwanda wanting to increase industry, but there's so many problems in the way, as we're discovering. Stuff like the postage system, just being able to send stuff in a timely, affordable fashion (a problem in many parts of the world), then finding somewhere that can make the metal and parts you need to sufficient quality, and in many cases having to order stuff from overseas because there's nowhere on the continent that can do it. Living in Kigali, with so many green spaces and shiny buildings, you do sometimes forget the economic disparity. But, hopefully, if we can prove this is possible, it'll make other things possible too. Perhaps one day we'll be the first place in Africa with a stringing machine - who knows?

Meanwhile, I'm helping to keep an eye on my friend's restaurant whilst she's away for a couple of months. Just cleared out her house today so she can Airbnb it. Paid myself in beer.


Quiet Retreat

Had a couple of nice nights in the above cubby. My priest friend came for dinner, fresh off the plane, then promptly left for Goma the same night. Hope to see him again when he comes back through to catch his plane home. 

Had a very drunken evening with some of my writing group after the last session. Was lovely to get the chance to talk literature. Ended with group hugs.

But it has been a week of minor irritations. Mostly dealing with admin, paperwork and bureaucratic systems, such as having my Rwandan ID refused by a money transfer agent, so having to go all the way back across town to get my passport (a passport which got me the ID card in the first place). Wasted morning, but apparently some national banking regulation. Lots of queueing to be told you need to be in the other queue, turning up to places that just moved office across town, making calls to people who don't call back. The best one is ordering food on an app that promises a money-off voucher if the meal is late - having that meal be late - then not getting a voucher (for the second time). Total con, but what you gonna do?

Blah. It can be frustrating, and when frustration comes, it comes in legion. But, listening to my friend describe her nostalgia for the UK being shattered within the first week, I still think the sunshine and general pace of life here makes up for most things. Watching politics in the UK at the moment, I think the honest answer for everyone is to leave the country. Hit ctrl+alt+del and start again.

Hopefully posts will become more cheerful soon. Just feel there's been a weight of stress lately, mostly caused by too many things getting in the way of what I want to do - build a piano, write. Just getting to the top of the paperwork pile, I can almost see freedom from here.

Nom, Nom, Nom

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Grumpy Pants


Breakfast and a book. Slow recovery mode - not so much from a hangover, more from the past couple of weeks.  

 

Sophie is fully recovered. Only, I opened the door today and I'm now missing Howl. I suppose I have to accept that my kittens are of an age where they will wander off, stay out all night and turn up when they're hungry - I hope. 

In other news, I've just had my annual fine dished out by RRA. Every year I've said I'll understand the tax system, and every year I fail because it's incomprehensible to me. Only wanted to register as a sole trader, was told by RRA (the tax office) that this was impossible, so had to register a company, with a whole load of different taxes that nobody offered any guidance on (or, when they did, each person offered completely different guidance). Three years later, I discover that it was perfectly possible to be a sole trader all along. Going to close my company and switch over. Meanwhile, been involved in a battle of the tax issues with a large development agency who also didn't understand the tax system. It's a big thing here to claim that you have to withhold 15% payment from companies and consultants even when they're fully registered for tax - but you don't. I had to argue that one because 15% taken off a payment is a lot when it's unnecessary.

Three days arguing a contract for half a day's work.

Completely illustrating why I left development, but the pay's still tempting enough to return.

I have been saved by an absolutely incredibly accountancy firm: DP Singh. I should have hired someone three years ago, but I didn't think I could afford it. Would have cost a fraction of the fines. DP took pity on me. More than affordable. Free consultation, fielded all communication with RRA, explained everything in plain English, made it all go away. Got a lot of love for this company.

Piano project is busting my metaphorical balls. I've explained more on the piano blog. Now got five potential orders lined up, but trying to manufacture something like this is proving extremely tough. There just isn't the manufacturing infrastructure in Rwanda, so even casting a string frame to a high degree of accuracy is a really big (possibly impossible) task. We're nowhere near giving up yet, though. Apparently I've become known as the mythical 'piano lady.' Strangers greet me as 'so you're the piano lady?' Word is spreading, people are excited. There is a market for this.

It's been a while since I had a proper grumble, but the past couple of weeks it's just been one thing after another. Compounded by some sort of yuckiness. Thought I had malaria: pounding headache, nausea, dizziness - but no fever. Possibly dehydration. Worst was over in a couple of days, but felt drained all week. Much better now, but might go and get a blood test if I'm not feeling 100% by next week.

Still. On the upside:

Tax finally sorted. DP Singh, heroes of the day and saviour to many a confused CEO.

Had a lot of fun at CasaKeza last night. The Spanish festival of San Juan (Saint Joan/Midsummer). Cocktails and salsa after my writing group.

video


Maia (left) is leaving for a couple of months. Her stand-in manager just fell through, so I'm going to be acting hostess in her absence. Leaving me in charge of a bar? Not sure about that one. Honestly, though, I don't have to do much, the staff have it down. Just need to dish out pay cheques and make sure nothing goes crazy.

Also, my favourite priest is flying in tonight. Haven't seen him since I was in the UK, a year and a half ago. He's only passing through quickly en route to Goma, but I'll catch up with him when he gets back. He always makes me laugh, and I'm looking forward to catching up on gossip from the UK.

Also got family visiting later in the year. My cousin Tamsin is travelling around Africa with her partner and should be landing in Kigali around August. Every year we have a huge family gathering of the Burbidge clan (mum's side), but it's so big that there's a large portion of the family I don't really know. We saw each other once a year, but that's about it. Looking forward to getting to know each other properly over a few drinks.

Oh, and huge fun thing of the year - just booked tickets to India to see the Taj Mahal with dad and Marilyn, thanks to Rwandair's new direct flights.

So, a rough patch, but hopefully better things to follow. Feeling the stress lift, deep breaths, watch out for buses.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sophie Loaf



Rather a traumatic couple of days. Opened the door yesterday morning and only two kittens rolled in. It's unusual, but sometimes one is a few minutes late for breakfast. But the hours went by and there was no sign of Sophie. 

I expected the worst, she's the most homey of the three. Printed a 'missing' flyer and canvased the neighbours up and down the street. The guards promised to keep an eye out, and I put up a poster at a local restaurant. I thought she had probably been hit by a car, but she wasn't in the drains or bushes. 

Opened the door this morning to find all three kittens.

Sophie came home, but she's looking the worse for her adventures. One eye is badly swollen, she seems to be in a bit of pain, her head shakes sometimes and her back claws are broken. Completely mystified what happened to her, but very glad to have her back.

She's eating, drinking and purring, though not as cuddly as usual. I'm going to bathe her eye and keep her in tonight. Maybe call the vet if there's any complications.

They are such rambunctious creatures of doom, it's only when something like this happens that you realise how small and fragile they are. 

This is precisely why I didn't want cats - it's horrible waiting for something to happen.

Anyway, I'll keep a close eye on her.

These pictures were taken a few days ago. Sophie, Howl and Sen playing with my new laundry basket.



In other news, found an - unfortunately dead - strange caterpillar with a tail.

 



Howl discovered he likes Marmite. Apparently, some big cats do too.


My friend's daughter, Leah, decided she wanted to live upside down in a tree.


I decided to watch a little of the UK election. When I looked up it was 5 a.m. and the sun was rising!



Finally made it to bed at 7 a.m., feeling extremely satisfied. It was a fantastic Labour gain. As one reporter put it, many of the Labour MPs who had been so critical of Corbyn now owed their seats to him. Good to finally have a strong opposition.

Summed up nicely by John Oliver (if you have trouble viewing, try browsing from the US).



Cats not so interested in elections...


Today has been a busy day. Went to check out our new piano frame with Désiré. Unfortunately, it's not quite up to scratch. Alex didn't have everything he needed to make the best replica. He's going to try again. In the meantime, Désiré suggested we check out Chillington, which is an industrial foundry down a maze of dirt roads not far from Alex's place. We drove through the dust in near 30c heat and it made me smile to see parts of Kigali I didn't know. We were really impressed by Chillington, so we're going to drop off the frame for a quote. 


Quite a bit going on at the moment, trying to keep on top of it all. Could definitely do without any more cats getting lost or beaten up. Very hard to concentrate with a missing kitten, even now they are technically cats. I shall leave you with a picture from last Friday's rock night. As a friend posted: 'Punk isn't dead. It just goes to bed at a more reasonable hour.'

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Great Zucchini Theft




Well, the blurgh's over for now. Got up early (for me) yesterday and went and got myself an absolutely lovely accountant. I hand over all of my papers and passwords, and I don't have to think about accounting again until he works out what's been going on and sends me the bill. He seems like a lovely chap, didn't charge me a penny for the hour-long consultation and says rates are based on income, and as that's very small, so shall be the bill. Fingers crossed. Very happy with the service so far and, if this turns out well, I'll be paying whatever fine I owe, closing the company, switching to a sole trader (which is what I wanted to be in the first place) and hiring this guy for the piano company.

Speaking of which, a third person asked to buy a piano the other day. 

There is definitely something to hiring someone to do your worrying for you.

From next week I'm completely focused on resuming writing and getting the piano made.

Treated myself to a lovely breakfast at Inzora on the way home from the accountant's. They really do a yummy rooftop spread with a stunning view of the city.



Had a good night teaching fiction in the dark at CasaKeza. There was a long power cut, so we all gathered outside with candles. Very atmospheric and scribely. Then stayed on for a drink with Maia and ended up in fits of giggles over toilet humour. Exactly what I needed.

Completely back to my bouncy self, until disaster struck.

It involved these bastards:




Facebook post this morning:


I have been overwhelmed by sympathy from friends and family. I did not know such love existed. One friend has even started the campaign #PrayforMarion - but please, I don't want anyone to give up their precious time on my behalf. I'd rather you just send money.

It was such a senseless attack. The damage was indescribable.

De-foiled in Full View

I'm not talking to my cats anymore, but I'm not sure that's much of a punishment, as they ignored me when I did.

Anyway. I'm just taking it one day at a time. The emptiness inside will eventually heal (I'm thinking of ordering take-out tonight) and the next rock night has been announced for Friday. Few of my writers want to go, so it'll be a lot of fun. Trying to plan what to wear. I've ordered corsets, but I don't think they'll get here in time, so skulls and lace it is. 

On with the show...

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Blurgh Continuation


What's in the box kitties?

Rescued this not-so little chap from the cats the other day. I was so sure it was dead, but five minutes in the sun and it turned a beautiful shade of green and scuttled off to find lunch - instead of being lunch.

 

I love my cats. They can look very beautiful, but I hate the fact they kill lizards and bite the tails off geckos. I've got loads of geckos in my house, regrowing their tails. It's horrible to find a tail in your shoe, still wiggling.

Creature of Doom and Destruction

They do help keep the cockroaches at bay, though. I'm having an unpleasant time at the moment for a number of reasons, one of which is dealing with a roach infestation. I've had to fumigate my bookshelf, bathroom and kitchen. I swear the buggers are becoming Doom resistant. Think I'm almost on top of it now. Just need to spray my printer. Seriously. It prints roach poop.

Also, what the feck is this?

It appears to be a grasshopper with the head of a shrimp. It's about as long as my little finger.



Still, better than my friend Maia, whose daughter had a scorpion on her head the other day. I saw a dead one in a village once, but haven't seen a live one here yet. 

Other reasons I'm not so happy at the moment... well, still shaking that cold. It's been a stinker. I only felt really rough for about three or four days, but my ears are full of cotton wool and my nose has that stubborn snot that is more annoying than anything. I just feel a bit glum and lethargic. Been treating myself to take out because I can't be bothered to shop. Just inhaled a bag of sweet fried chicken from the Chinese and now feel twice as lethargic. 

My friend Sameer bought me lunch the other day. We met at rock night. He works on the tea plantations up in Gisenyi. Comes from Assam originally and grew up with tea. He brought me freshly packaged tea, just picked. I didn't realise, but Yorkshire Tea is mostly Rwandan tea.

Tea, Fresh from the Hills

What else has been getting me down? Well, here's one I haven't complained about in a while - RRA, the tax department. After three years, I thought I'd cracked it. Paid my corporation tax without a hitch all last year... then submitted my annual return and got slapped with a massive tax bill for eight times the profit I declared, plus a huge fine. I have fuck all idea what that's about. 

Business tax in Rwanda has reduced me to tears several times over the past few years. Every time I think I have a handle, crap happens. It's so incredibly easy to start a business here, but figuring out the tax system is like trying to do a Rubik's cube blindfolded in an alligator swamp. Trying to get a response from anyone at the tax department is blood from a stone. 

I can't keep doing this, I'll run out of money. So, I've booked an appointment with an accounting firm tomorrow. I should have done this from the very beginning, but idiot me thought, Hey, I have a master's degree and a rudimentary grasp on arithmetic. I've filed my own tax returns for years - how hard can this be?  And this is where over confidence gets you - broke.

I should have called it quits when I went to deregister for VAT and they accidentally deregistered my entire company. I should just have said, Yeah, actually, that's fine. Leave it.

I plan to find out exactly what this latest shenanigans is all about, because it seems a little ridiculous. If it can't be fixed, my plan is to pay it off, close this business, register as a sole trader for consultancy work, then, if the piano business takes off, go into business with Désiré and hire a proper accountant. 

I'm sure that'll be another conversation starter with Immigration, but I'll still be doing the job I got my visa to do, and I'll be doing a second job which nobody else in Rwanda is doing, and hopefully employing more people. The terms of my visa do say I can switch trade - it's an 'entrepreneure visa,' and you can't get much more entrepreneurial than building pianos.

Speaking of which - the one bit of good news this week: Alex is hopefully casting the first string frame any day now! I am super excited. This is a major part of the whole project. It weighed in at 70 kg (11 st), well within the forge's capacity. Weirdly, that might not have been the most heavy part of the piano. The backboard weighs about the same, if not more.

Backboard
I popped down to the workshop the other day and Alex's team were busy forming the mould for the molten metal. 



He's going to give me a shout once they're ready to go and I'll head over to film it. We did have a guy from the local paper get in contact, but never heard from him again. Guess he'll turn up when we have a full piano to show.

Sadly, another unpleasant thing happened that day. I'd just pulled up on a moto at Alex's workshop. There's a low wall next to it and I heard a clatter and the moto driver stood up in his seat. I didn't know what had happened until I started heading down the path, past the wall. I chanced to see a man lying on the other side of it. I was two seconds away from walking on. People sometimes fall asleep by the side of the road. But I remembered the sound and turned back.

I've just finished reading A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. When I don't understand something in a book, I go and look it up. Tonight, I just looked up Kitty Genovese. The bit at the end, under Psychological Research - that's what it was like. There were maybe five or six of us standing around just looking at him. It was only for a moment, but I remember looking up to the guys on the balcony, who were looking down. I looked to the woman in the doorway, who was looking out. No one moved. 

I wanted to walk away, thinking someone else would know what to do. I've been in situations like this before, and you never feel more aware of your skin colour or your gender. I've had instances where my whiteness and inability to speak Kinya terrified an injured child more than I helped him, and led to a lot of laughter from bystanders. I've also had an experience where my whiteness, confidence and camera stopped a man beating another man in the street - at least until I left. And many years ago I went to help a guy in the street who seemed incapacitated, who suddenly found his legs and started towards me at speed. Thankfully, I was alert enough to keep my distance and he was too drunk to hit a straight line.

All this shit goes through your head and tells you to stay where you are, but I didn't. 

The poor man was lying on the floor, on top of his shoulder-height walking cane, a white bag clutched in one fist. He was mumbling but nothing I could make out, so I asked in Kinya if he needed help. I didn't understand the reply, but seeing my pitiful attempt at communication, a couple more passers by came and helped him to his feet. A couple of people stuffed 1,000 (£1) bills into his shirt. One young guy was patient and helped explain to me that the man was trying to get home but that he came from very far away. I asked how far, expecting them to say Musanze, or a village out of town. Turns out he was only trying to get to Nyabugogo. 

Kind of puts things into perspective. It's less than fifteen minutes by moto, but I guess if you're walking it's going to take you a couple of hours. When you're inching forward on a cane like he was, maybe most of the day.

Then I saw his arm and I had to turn away to hide my expression. He'd skinned himself all the way up his elbow. I didn't even know it was possible to injure yourself so badly just by falling down. A great big, bloody mess.

Then you've got that whole big question. 

Do you leave him in the care of Kinya speakers and go to your meeting, or do you do what you want to do at the risk of fulfilling every stereotype? 

The guy interpreting said the man could get a moto with the money they'd given him. 

"He can't get a moto," I said. "Look at him."

He could hardly stand up, clutching to his cane and wobbling about. I'm not sure if it was DTs or MS, but falling over your own feet is one thing, falling off the back of a motorbike is quite another. Yes, maybe in that strange Rwandan way in which people can do the hardest things because they don't have another option, he might have made it. But I persuaded them to hail a taxi by saying I'd pay for it - and the hospital treatment. A grand total of ten quid well spent, but excruciatingly mzungu. A couple of people whistled when I slip the cash, as though they'd been taking bets on whether I'd do it.

I also found a wad of clean tissue in my bag and offered it - immediately wishing I hadn't. A guy started rubbing the man's elbow with all the delicacy of a brillo pad, then pinched the large flap of hanging skin and yanked it off. I felt faint, but the man didn't even flinch. It was as though he didn't feel it, but he must have done - blood everywhere. 

I went off to my meeting once he was safely in the taxi. He gave his number to the guy I was with, who he was going to call to say he got to the clinic okay. I really felt that article about Kitty Genovese, though. I was once attacked late at night and when I tried to stop someone in the street for help - a jogger - he couldn't get away fast enough, just ran off. 

Despite that, I do feel the 'don't want to get involved' pangs, too. And I think it's right what the article says. If there are other people standing around watching, it's harder to step forward than if you were on your own. Unless you're with friends, maybe. I've intervened quicker in situations with friends or on my own than I have surrounded by strangers. I tend to hang back and observe, especially if it's a man (which is ironic, because I was attacked by a woman). But at a certain point, you have to go and ask. Yeah, it might be a lovers' tiff, a minor tumble or whatever, but there is only one way to find out for sure.

The thought that goes through my mind is What if that was me? Not very altruistic, I suppose, but does it need to be if it gets you moving? If that was me, and I was hurt, and I didn't have the money for a cab to get home, wouldn't it change my world - or at least the course of my day - for someone to put me back on my feet, ask my name and get me home? 

Obviously the world doesn't owe you anything for that. Maybe they'll never pass it forward, maybe there will come a time when you need help and no one turns up. But just for that day, it makes someone's life a little better. But I did come so very close to walking past without stopping. And I did feel so aware of being watched that I almost didn't offer the cab. If I hadn't, I think I would be thinking about that man an awful lot more than I do now. If you don't do what you can, it follows you around.

Anyway. I'm satisfied with how I reacted, and because of that, I have way more space in my rested conscience to contemplate my fecking tax situation.

I'm determined not to get caught up on it this time. It panicked me so much before, I even burst into tears at tax HQ. I'm as determined to sort out my crappy tax situation as I am to build pianos at the moment, so I reckon there's a fair chance I'll get over it quickly. (Seriously though, how can your tax come to ten times more than your declared profit for the year?).

Time for a lie down. What a pretty rhino-skin sky.

Oh, and the live streaming of the new South Park episodes on internet trolling and virtual reality - soothing balm to my torment. Wonderful to see it going strong, thankfully something to laugh at.