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Since graduating Jon Ardeman’s geological career has been in many guises; in exploration, mining, consultancy, conservation and research. He has worked as a National Park guide, a nature warden looking after tadpoles and orchids, as a researcher digging up cow shed floors looking for Ordovician brachiopods and preparing dinosaur bones for a museum display. Enthused by these experiences, Jon sought further adventures, and headed to Africa where he worked as a geologist on various mines for more than a decade.
He returned to university and after a few years of academic research and consultancy, Jon went back to mining and precious metal exploration. His travels have taken him from the Arctic to the Equator, from North America and Siberia, to Europe, Australia, Asia and back to Africa.
During this time, Jon wrote several “mystery and imagination” short stories for magazines and competitions, but his inspiration for a first novel ‘Miner Indiscretions’ came from get-togethers with fellow prospectors and miners; with the story embellished by imagination, cold beer, a hint of the supernatural and – of course – dreams of African gold! The author is married with several children and now resides in Hertfordshire, England.
A hilarious, action-packed story following Timothy, who starts his career as a junior geologist on a modern deep gold mine in South Africa. Unexpectedly and ignominiously dismissed from this post; he manages to get a new job exploring for gold on the dilapidated Yellow Snake Mine in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
All is not as it seems and faced with closure of the rundown old mine, he joins with the eccentric locals in a series of desperate scams and highly illegal schemes to try to reprieve the mine. Timothy struggles through encounters with African wildlife, consultants, riots, ghosts, floods, government officials, explosions and a very frustrating sex life in an attempt to find some actual gold in time to save the unique tight-knit community.
Excerpt 3 – Ghosts
Timothy took in his surroundings. It appeared to be a long, wide beach on a misty day. It was the sort of beach that Salvador Dali would have painted if he’d been commissioned to paint a holiday brochure. Over in the distance, a lone figure was striding across the surrealist sands towards him. Appearing hazy at first, the figure became more distinct with each step. The tall African figure attired in traditional Zulu dress stopped and waved.
“Saubona!” he yelled in greeting.
Timothy screwed up his eyes and tried to remember where he had seen the man before. The man seemed younger and in considerably better health than when he had last seen him, but there was no doubting the curious apparition’s identity. It was the late Lazyboy Malinga.
“Saubona,” replied Timothy uneasily, acknowledging that he had seen him. There was, he noted uneasily, very little else to see.
The apparition came over and squatted beside Timothy. For a while they sat in silence gazing out across the unnatural panorama. Lazyboy broke the silence.
“Remember me? Lazyboy Malinga? You are Timothy? I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
Timothy felt he was in a rather awkward situation. What do you say to a man whose corpse was mutilated and then thrown down the mine on your advice? ‘Sorry’ didn’t seem adequate. It was a delicate situation not covered by normal etiquette.
“How are you? Getting over it all right?” Timothy asked, as if he had chanced upon someone who had been through a minor operation, rather than actual death.
In reply Lazyboy flexed his muscles and revealed an apparently perfectly restored physique. “Better than ever!” he replied proudly. “So, I have come to thank you.”
“Thank me? Why?”
“For my funeral, of course! Wonderful! Even Chief Dingalezi won’t have one better. And the party to follow! The masses of food, a river of drink! My ancestors were truly impressed, I can tell you. And it was your idea. Eish! If it hadn’t been for you -,” Lazyboy sighed, briefly contemplating the horror of a pauper’s grave and an unattended wake. “And I believe I am to have a carved headstone on my grave, a big one of the most expensive black granite! Can you imagine it?”
“Yes, I shall probably have one similar myself,” muttered Timothy.
“You?” exclaimed Lazyboy in surprise. “Why, you haven’t earned a headstone!”
Timothy thought this was an odd comment coming from the biggest layabout south of the equator. “What do you mean, I haven’t earned it?”
“Because before you get a headstone, you got to have a grave, and before that, you got to be dead. This I know. And you isn’t dead.”
“I’m not – dead?” said Timothy feeling bewildered.
“For a start, when you dead and in the spirit world, you restored to perfect health. How do you feel now?”
“I feel bloody awful,” admitted Timothy.
“See!” said Lazyboy. “Just look at you!”
Timothy looked at himself; bruised, dirty and bedraggled. “You mean I shouldn’t be seen dead looking like this?”
“Yes! Did you see the good parts of your life pass before your eyes?”
“I don’t know, they might have done. It wouldn’t have taken very long, apart from that night with Vanessa after the second year exams. It went on for ages, she just couldn’t get enough, you know…,” Timothy tailed off.
Lazyboy shook his head sadly: “That’s it? You got to get yourself a life, white man! You ain’t ready for the spirit world yet, that’s for sure.”
“Apparently,” agreed Timothy. “Well, it was interesting chatting to you. Will I see you again?”
Lazyboy considered the question with some thought. “The life world and spirit world sometimes they touch and things change. Visions come where I can see you, you can see me. You may see an omen, a strange cloud in the sky, or in the flight of a bird, the cry of an eagle…”
“Yes, but how will I know that it isn’t just an ordinary cloud or an owl hooting by chance?”
“No! Never an owl! They always bring bad luck. Owls!” Lazyboy spat in disgust at the very idea. “Anyway, maybe I take the form of an animal instead. Maybe I don’t come at all. Who knows?”
“I’ll see you around then. I’m just glad that there’s no hard feelings, after, you know…”
“Forget it! After a funeral like that and such respect from my ancestors, you could have killed me yourself, and it would have been worth it. I was half-dead from all the dagga and drinking anyway. No problem, my friend!”
“So how do I get back to the living world then?” Timothy asked.
In reply, a shimmering Lazyboy suddenly lunged at Timothy and prodded him hard on the forehead, toppling him over backward. “Like this!” he laughed.
Timothy sat up and rubbed his bruised brow. “A simple handshake and goodbye would have been fine…”
He looked around. The hazy beach and the spirit of Lazyboy Malinga had vanished.
Reproduced with permission of Jon Ardeman. For other information on Jon Ardeman’s books, geology and odd observations: https://www.facebook.com/jon.t.ardeman