Unprotected by a proper bodyguard - intrepid explorer David Philpott ventures into "Kosovo" and has a bare hands fight with a lion. Or maybe not.....


When we all sat on this very veranda this morning - waiting to be taken to “Kosovo” – one of the ironically named (or is it sarcastically - named) slums of Kampala, Uganda,  I could never have imagined that I would be sitting here this evening, blood streaming down my face, a coterie of helpers all assembled and ministering to my urgent need.

There was Matt Craig, an America, now resident in Northern Ireland, Janet McCann, a vicars wife from Carrigfergus (but we won’t hold that against her) and Alan and Cherith Wilson – he taking photographs to document the level of my present distress and she providing Band-Aids to temporarily abate the flow of blood, whilst everyone tried to figure out what to do.

At nine o’clock this morning things had been very different.  Birds were signing in the trees of the Shalom Guesthouse on Tank Hill Road and apart from the fact that we were expecting to see some pretty humbling sights at Kosovo later on – no harbingers of doom predicted the bloody and befuddled state I now found myself in. “You are going to need a bodyguard” they had joked at breakfast, and then Janet McCann had appeared and announced that she was it.  “No Kevin Cosner for me then” I thought to myself with a wry smile.

Now I was bleeding and it seemed that only stitches would stem the flow. Nevertheless – ever the comedian that I am (although my wife would dispute this assertion) - I still found time to remember a Tommy Cooper gag and smiled to myself in the confusion surrounding my present discomfort.

When we got to Kosovo, Pastor Deo who runs the Treasured Kids Kindergarten and Primary School (not to mention an orphanage and a Church) had given us the tour. Here was a man who only taught himself to speak English at the age of 26.

“I decided one day that I was not going to major in ignorance” he had said, chuckling, and then went on to bamboozle us with incomprehensible statistics. “83% of all Ugandan graduates have still not found work after 5 years” he asserted.

Before we left the school compound, Janet – my bodyguard, fully the part in her khaki-ish combat trousers (think Charlie’s Angels and you will get the picture) - asked him, “Where do you get your water from Pastor Deo?”

“We harvest it from the roofs of the classrooms when it rains, but otherwise we have to buy it.  There used to be a water pump outside the school but I made the council close it down because the water came from a graveyard”.

Soon thereafter, we were to see the graveyard.  It was called something in the local language which meant “Another one is dead” and is the site where untold hundreds -perhaps thousands - do not repose but are slumped on top of each other in unmarked graves. “This was all Idi Amin’s work” said Pastor Deo, as we now began a tour of the slums.”And anyway” he had continued, “They are going to sell that land for building soon.  It is very valuable land.” I assumed he was talking about the City Council when he said “they”.

And in these slums, nothing surprised me.  Nothing was too gruesome or unimaginable that it brought a tear to my eye. I have seen it before a thousand times in Kenya and Tanzania. THIS IS AFRICA.

Matt Craig and I had been dropped off at Garden City Shopping Centre and agreed to get a taxi back to the Guesthouse later in the day.  We both needed to change money at the bank and I wanted to log on at an internet Cafe and pick up my emails.  After a white man’s lunch (burger and fries) Matt – tall, bearded - and American but Anglicised – and I had set off for the Craft Market but we also wanted to visit the offices of Junior Achievement – the Ugandan equivalent of Young Enterprise.  Matt is an occasional YE trainer in Northern Ireland.

As I said, Matt is a tall man with the kind of physique that may have picked him out as a youngster for a career in basketball – although he assured me that he grew tall quickly and late and by then he was all gangly and uncoordinated.  It was surprising then, when en-route to te Craft Market, a witch doctor of sorts, black as coal and naked - but for a dirty cloth which covered his modesty - leapt out and shouted the Ugandan version of “boo” at Matt.  He jumped like a teenage girl on a fun fair ghost train ride, Mr Craig, being miles away in his thoughts at the time and was freaked out momentarily.  When he saw the voodoo man laughing hysterically, Matt began to smile too.  “Where did he come from?” he had asked.

A brief meeting with Josephine Kaleebi and Rachel Mwagale – the CEO and Business Development and Communications Officer  respectively of Junior Achievement , had brought our tiring and fascinating day to a close – or so I thought. As the taxi pulled up to the iron gates of our Guesthouse, Matt said to the driver - rather fatefully as it turned out – “you don’t need to go in – we can walk from here.”

Clambering off the back seat – gathering my gifts bought at the Craft Market, laptop case, mobile phone and such like, I crouched and stepped through the metal door in the big gates – then Wham! Pow! Wallop! – (You have to be imagining the kind of stars you see depicting such incidents in The Beano or The Dandy at this point.)  I had crackled my head good and proper and only my England baseball cap, complete with the Three Lions logo, had spared me concussion I suspect.

And that, my friends, is how I got my head wound.  But when my little grandson Harry, seeing the scar, asks what happened to me in Africa, I shall tell him I was attacked by a Lion in the slums of Kampala – and because I had no REAL Bodyguard, I fought the beast with my bear hands.................

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what that Tommy Cooper gag was, I shall tell you.  But you have to imagine him saying it and put on all those Coopperisms as you say it back to yourself.

“Ahem...Just like that.....Not like that....Just like that.

A man walks into a bar......It was an iron bar....

Now that’s what I call funny.