Thursday, July 31, 2008

My January Friend

Two days ago it was the anniversary of my friend’s death. I hadn’t planned on writing two sad posts so close together and in truth I’ve been struggling with whether I should write about Johnny at all. It’s personal and all but I’ve decided I will. He deserves to be remembered. I hope I’ve made the right decision. Here is a story I wrote about it, close to when it happened:


My mother has drawn the letters of the alphabet up on the wall. Each big letter has a little one next to it with the corresponding picture. B is for buffalo, F is for frog. M is for Miranda and J is for Johnny. But we are not next to each other. This is a problem. We insist that my mother change it but she’ll have nothing of it. “you can’t just change the alphabet” “why not?” we ask indignantly? “You just can’t.” She eventually gets round this problem by drawing in walkie talkies. That’s great. We’re extremely happy with this. Reminds us of Maz. We had walkie talkies in Maz but they didn’t really work coz we’d never let each other out of our sights. We do everything together. Everything. Even our birthdays are 2 days apart. January babies. We pretend to be chickens, and sit all day long on big stones in our nests. We eat mulberry’s til we turn purple, stick soya beans up our noses, fish with our hands.

One day, at Chibembe, we are chased by Aerosol, the elephant that hangs around camp. It is early evening and we are near the kitchen when Aerosol emerges from the darkness and gives a screaming trumpet. We run as fast as we can behind the grass fence (which provides the illusion of safety) and into the kitchen. I don’t remember being that scared but Johnny hides under the kitchen table for two hours. Nothing can lure him out. He eats supper under there. He is absolutely terrified.

We spend the next few weeks getting our revenge on Aerosol. We want to hurt him really badly, maybe even kill him. We set traps. Little piles of sand with upside down bottle tops and toothpicks in the sand. We check our traps religiously every morning, each day more surprised than the last that we have not managed to inflict pain on Aerosol. One day we find a footprint on one of our piles of sand. An elephant footprint. We are delighted. I suspect that Isaac did it; he’s good at making pretend elephant footprints. Nevertheless we are delighted. Revenge is a wonderful thing to a six year old.

They didn’t shoot the elephant that killed Johnny 20 years later. I don’t think that kind of revenge would have made anyone feel any better. I am speaking for myself – maybe it would have for his family.


Chris and I are walking through the reception at Mfuwe Lodge and hear Jo on the radio
asking if any of the lodges have a doctor in camp. No one seems to be responding to the radio so we decide to scout around the park and see if there are any game drives with doctors on board. It is a beautiful calm afternoon and we decide that it’ll be nice to get out – it’s a good excuse. Jo tells us that there has been an accident on one of their walking safaris. We don’t know what the problem is but know Johnny is the guide so we are not worried.
“Lucky its Johnny whose the guide, he’s experienced enough to handle any problems” I say.

So off we head into the park. The sun is getting low on the horizon, but we probably still have an hour or so left of daylight. We are on a rescue mission. What fun. We play at being heroes. We only pass one car, having sundowners at Wamilombe lagoon. Everyone is out the car and cheery, drinking gin and tonic, celebrating life and the sinking of the sun.
“Is anyone here a doctor?” I ask, feeling a bit foolish, like we’re in a B grade movie.
“Ah!” relief, we are heroes after all
“I’m a doctor in Biology – what can I do for you?”
Everyone laughs. Good joke, we’re all happy.
“Would you like to join us?” asks the Biologist.
“No, really, thanks but we must find a doctor” We say this even though we realize our search is futile by now, it’s almost dark and there are hardly any cars around. We drive a bit further, see no other cars and call Jo on the radio. It is dusk

“Hi Jo, we can’t find any doctors in the park. Over” (this sounds absurd!)
“That’s okay Miranda. Emergency over. Over”
Chris and I look at each other
“Miranda” (its Jo), “Where are you? Over”
“Umm, at Wamilombe Jo, why? Over”
“Oh, okay, nothing”

Chris and I are chatty “Oooooh, emergency over, I wonder what THAT means. I guess they’ve sorted out the problem. Shit, I wonder if the client got attacked by a buffalo or something. Hey, shit, maybe he died and that’s why the emergency is over!” I’m excited with this theme, but “Naaaaa, Johnny’s the guide, he’ll know what to do, I’m sure he handled it fine”. We’ll hear it all from Johnny soon enough no doubt.

We get back to the lodge and go to the room. I am cleaning my teeth, getting ready for bed. Debbie comes in. She has just lost her father; she knows how to break bad news. She tells me that there has been an accident on a walking safari. An accident with an elephant. Johnny was the guide. He is dead. She says it straight out, the way it should be done.
I drop my toothbrush in the sink. Chris is next door.

He grabs Debbie “She thinks you said Johnny is dead. Tell her properly. She thinks Johnny is dead”
“He is” Debbie. “Jo radioed and asked me to pass this on to Miranda. She knows they were friends”

Utter utter emptiness in my soul.




I say it many different ways, silently, in my heart.


I sink to the floor. Blank.

The next day I am selfish and possessive over my grief. I wake up in the morning with that hole and dread in my solar plexus. Not quite sure at first what it is but it doesn’t take long to remember. I am angry at people who didn’t know him as well as I – how dare you be upset. He was my friend, this is my grief. I am angry at people who knew him better than I for the past few months. He was my friend, how dare you have claim to some of my grief. I am selfish and awful and I hate it. My throat is raw. I cannot be alone.

Nor can Julie. We bond only as people can who share the same grief. Her and Chris are the only people I am not angry at and whom I do not mind crying as much as me. I feel possessive about him. I knew him before all you people. He was my best friend. We were inseparable. We tried to change the alphabet so we could be next to each other. He was my friend.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Art of Wackiness

My mother is here at the moment, while her exhibition ticks on in Nairobi. We’ve been working on her website and putting her pics up on Saatchi Online

Finally managed to get the pictures of her exhibition off my phone so here are a few. Not great quality (the photos I mean!) but to give you an idea…..

Yesterday zipped up to see J on the hill and left my mother and J quaffing bottles of wine and catching up while M and I went for a walk (aish, my legs are aina today). Came back – red faced, grinning and covered in black jacks and ticks - to find two very giggly grown ups, two boys (9 and 11) with pillows in their tummies pretending to be Robin Hood (“Why the tummies” I asked “Because its FUN!” Okay). One girl (5) dressed up as a cat and one girl (5) dressed up as a princess. I felt like we’d mistakenly stepped onto the set of Carnivale.
A flickering film strip - Princess runs past admonishing Cat, Cat crawling in the dirt and miawing manically, Robin Hood bursts in with well worn, home made bow and arrow, the other Robin Hood dashes past and darts back – transformed into a soldier (?) with a length if pvc pipe shouting “left right left right” with Robin Hood, Cat and Princess in tow. The sozzled grownups, sitting on the steps sharing jokes. Not to be outdone we quickly caught up on the wine and tried to teach the kids wacky 1950’s dance moves.
Twirling, shining, glittering evening. Writing on the blackboard. Paraffin on the fire for hot water for the kids’ bath. Impromptu yummy roasted butternuts for supper. Starry cold night. Clear air. Joy and laughter. Old friends. Can't beat it.
Oh and while we’re on the subject of my mother and wackiness…a few months ago she broke her finger leaping after a squirrel that the cat tried to catch. She said it didn’t hurt, but she pulled a tendon or something or other and a doc who happened to be in the area at the time (this is bush Zambia remember) said that she needed to buy a mallet splint from the pharmacy in town. Being in the bush, with no such thing around she ‘made a plan’ with a piece of appropriately shaped stick she found and some mlaza – palm fronds that you soak in order to make into string. Usually used for building or weaving baskets but most effective in this case. This is the plan that was made and is still in use (she brought a stock of mlaza specifically with her to Tanzania). Everyone she meets and shakes hands with laugh at her and say that this is what people here use to fix broken legs on their goats.

These are my genes, people.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Angels on earth

Ah, how quickly a week dissolves. I stick up a picture on this here blog hoping that’s enough. Zambian Shop Art. I love those pics.

Its been a week of life. Of death.

We lost dear Jo-Jo. Just when we thought the battle was won. She died waaay too young - she was only bloody 30 - but was one of those distilled, concentrated people. You know what I mean? Like VERY nice, and VERY bubbly, and VERY positive and VERY beautiful and VERY, well, just fabulous. I did not make it to the ‘celebration of her life’ in the UK but I hear a friend of hers there said that ‘Life is all about quality and not quantity’. Aint that a fact.

When someone like that dies it almost makes sense, you know? Like yes, you came here, you touched our lives, you were almost too good to be true. Those angles up there missed you and wanted you back. I know people always say this sort of thing when someone dies; say all the positives but in this case its really true. This chick was special. Chin chin my dear, chin chin.

I wanted to put a picture of her up here. To celebrate her, the gorgeous gal. But I don't think its my place to do so.

And now facebook? What do I with her on Facebook?

But its also been a week of laughing. Of joy. Of life. Of best friends and chuckling children. Of food and teaching and reading and learning. Of enjoying and breathing and LAUGHING. We must appreciate these things. Oh yes we must.


This week I also wrote about my grandfather who, too, touched people’s lives like nothing else. Another one of those angels-on-earth. It was his birthday and I wrote a story about him. To him. But didn’t post it. I’m not sure why. Ha! I mean post it on the blog, not post it in the mail to the Afterlife. Heh heh. Maybe I will post it (you know what I mean). I want the world to know him. Yes, bugger it here it is. We called him Bonkar (a mixture of grandpa and bwana Carr, I think. One of those names that children make that stick)

Happy birthday Bonkar. I hope you are enjoying life on The Other Side. What’s it like there? I’ve only glimpsed it once when Quentin called me that time in my dream. It looks pretty cool. Do you see Johnny ever? Oh and thanks for sending mom back when she died on the operating table. She said it was an amazing feeling An “Oooh, I seeee, I get it” kind of feeling. That it was such a relief. She said she saw you and you stepped out of the light and told her to go back, she wasn’t finished. I wanted to thank you for that.

I still really really miss you – we all do - but am enjoying life very much so am happy to wait a while longer until I see you.

You made such an impact here. You are still talked about. Everywhere I go in Zambia “Oh, you’re Norman CARR’S granddaughter? Ay he was a great man. You are lucky to have known such a man. I remember……” Everyone has a story to tell. A good, happy, positive story about you. Of course people remember you because of the lions. But they also remember and talk about the contributions you made to conservation, safaris and the people of Zambia.

My memories of you are somewhat less grand but very funny. Like you sitting in your little wooden house, COVERED in insects, with plastic bags tied around your feet, instead of wellies. You were not a man for luxuries.
That time the hippo chased you and you ran, LAUGHING, and leapt over the wall. Sprightly for 70!
Teaching me how to cut bread straight
Your whisky and soda’s in the evening.
Your wicked sense of humour. You hung on until April Fools Day to die. Was that on purpose? Your second favourite joke (after the cats eyes) How does the Eskimo steal the polar bear’s food? Kick him in the ice hole.
Your new-word-a-day for us kids
Your “what’s that bird call?” “what’s that track”

I don’t get a chance to go and clean your plaque (you know, on your grave, not your teeth!) so often now that I live in Tanzania but the elephants still go past there every evening and when I do go I always see bushbuck and banded mongoose scurrying through the leaves. And the baboons, of course.

Oh and I saw an old Kakuli at Lupunga Spur when M proposed. Was that you? And the rainbow? You’d approve of M. He’s your kinda guy. No nonsense. He also carries a notebook in his pocket, like you told us to. He’s good to me. Kind.

Tam wrote about you today too. A lovely post. You should go check it out

And you know this, coz you wrote it in one of your books – its what Tam read at your memorial. But this one is for you. For Jo-Jo. And for Johnny.

I have sat in the shade of a magnificent evergreen trichelia on the banks of the Luangwa River and watched the impala come down to drink, materialising from the shadows one by one on the fasr bank as though by spontaneous creation; I have watched a skein of sacred ibis, in perfect arrow formation, flying down a river which the setting sun has turned to a shimmer of molten gold; I have seen a magnificent kudu bull on an anthill, silhouetted against a dawn sky; I have smelt the fragrant scent of the wild shrubs at sundown, when the world hesitates before handing over to the lords of darkness; I have lived with the night noises – the eerie plaintive call of the hyena, crying with the pathos of a lost soul in purgatory, and the music of the King of Beasts proclaiming his undisputed rule over his domain; I have seen a pure white impala.

All these and many more idyllic memories return to me and I cannot help but contrast them with the turmoil of Regent Street in the rush hour.

I know I have no regrets.

Aaand another one

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Naa, changed it back. Haha


I am forever changing the furniture around in our house and it seems blogdom will also have to suffer my indecision. Got a bit bored with the last template. This one better? Or white? Oh dear. I think I have waay to much time on my hands……

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Distilled Bookshelf

Nik Perring has a fab idea - a 'sort of meme' (oh I'm a blogging expert NOW. Had NO idea what a meme was a week ago. Now - ask me anything....) - to take an unadulterated, unedited, unchanged photo of your bookshelf.

When we left Zambia for Tanzania at the end of last year to we decided that we would only take what could fit in the back of our Landrover (plus a dog - not ours). So although this is a very good exercise in Getting Rid of All Your Shit, it sadly meant that I had to leave lots of books behind. But it also means I can now start the fun game of obtaining MORE books. And More Shit. I brought the books nearest to my heart - ones written by grandfather, father and sister – wildlifey ones in case (God forbid) I ever have to do any safari guiding again. Which would mean an awful lot of brushing up. Even though these ref books are all for Southern Africa and I live in East Africa now. No matter. And others that I just love and couldn't part with. All in all we only managed two boxes of books. And these are them (plus a few trashy one's we've bought since):

Friday, July 18, 2008

There's something about Mitumba

Ah, the day that was had! Hung out with kindred spirit and soul sister J and her kids yesterday. What fun man. To share my life with such fabulous, genuine, know-what-you-mean-no-need-to-explain friends is a gift I do not take for granted.

Well if you read J’s blog this is going to be much the same as hers (except ahem, hers is better written – So maybe I should just save myself (and you) the trouble and cast you in J’s direction. Naaaaa. Coz that’s lazy.

So I entered their House On Da Hill in the morning and into the middle of a mutiny. J says, in previous blog:

i have confiscated the play station. yes. i have. and have concocted up projects for the 11 yr old Boy), the 9 yr old (boy) and the 5 yr old (girl) for their long summer holidays: i have decided to wholeheartedly Raise My Children, for once. (snigger snigger, i hear you, lets see how long THIS one lasts...)

So today’s project: Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain. Cool, fab book. I did it at their age and HATED the first day. As did they.... Really funny to see their reactions and remember that mine was exactly the same. “I can’t do it. It’s HARD. I’ll look like a pig. I’m useless at drawing I CAN’T DO IT” Pencils thrown on ground, feet stamping.

J trying really hard to be ra ra and this is fun, come on, stop whining, it’s FUN. It’s GOOD, you’ll see. No-one believing her. Then finally tears turn to sniffles turn to tentative smiles turn to “Lets do more, this is FUN. Ah, what, the lesson is over? Just one more?”

Then off to Mitumba. Ah, mitumba, she sets my heart unraveling. In a good way. Oh yes, in a good way. In Zambia she was called Salaula (pronounced sal-a-oo-la) and I the Salaula Queen. Those heaps and rows and folded piles of second hand clothes. Pile after pile after row after row. The hidden gems, the hilarious pantaloons, the dodgy underwear, the funky trendy tops, the ball gowns, the nylon 1970’s jumpsuits, the shoes – takkies to silver beaded sandals – the toys, the tiny CUTE kiddies clothes, the bedding, the jeans, the buried Versace. The gorgeous, the weird, the downright bizarre. You get the picture, no? So off we trooped. Got shoes and funky Hawaii shirts for the kids. A fab double duvet. Much bargaining. I used to be crap at bargaining but am getting pretty good at it here. I have a good teacher. J – so indignant at the RIDICULOUS mzungu prices. “WHAT? 60 DOLLARS for that crappy pair of sandals? I think NOT” The lady has a point. It then gets brought down to $15. Worth a try I guess! And that’s still a good price so everyone leaves happy. Geez. Bargaining, it seems is the done thing here. In Zambia, not used to it.

The afternoon session of “wholeheartedly raising my children” was band practice. Kids (ranging from 5 – 9) on an assortment of instruments – from guitars to violins to egg. I the official photographer. J the mother/conductor/songwriter. Ah, they sounded good, I tell you. Ha! The Ngorobob Hill Blues Band will conquer.

And I snapped the gorgeous glowing sunflowers near the airport on the way back before the sun went home and they nodded off to sleep.

Look at the camera, don't be shy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ramoma Come Closer

I went to Nairobi last week, to attend the opening of my mom’s exhibition. Boy, lots happened, can’t think where to start. Lets see. Hopped on the bus on Tuesday morning, a painless 5 hour trip. Through the border, nice surprise that I didn’t need a visa, managed not to make eye contact with the Maasai ladies trying to sell me jewelry. Don’t do that or you’ll be dripping with jingly jangly dingly dangly shiny beady things before you can even think “Ah bollocks I shouldn’t have made eye contact” Hop skip jump through to the other side, another stamp (please try to squeeze it on this page as my passport is nearly full, thank you!). Jump on the bus again, next to my new friend who has come from India and doesn’t speak much English - he is going to Nairobi to find a bride. Met at the other side by H, taxi driver and marathon runner of note.

Oh geez, I’m not going to give you a day by day minute by minute account. Here are the highlights:

- Took an inordinate amount of pictures on my camera phone of my mother, (who hates having her picture taken) because she was wearing EXACTLY the same pink as one of the pillars at the Museum of Modern Art where she is exhibiting. We also happened to find an orange bucket nearby that was EXACTLY the same colour as the other pillar so much fun was had. You couldn’t have planned it

- Had Dylan (Bob, not Thomas) on the brain all week, coz the place my mother was exhibiting is called RaMoMa – Ramitulla Museum of Modern Art (so “Ramona/Come closer/Shut softly/Your watery eyes” was theme song for the trip)

- Discovered the Delectable Diamond Plaza – a glorious incense-fragrant-Indian-trinket-filled, rough-around-the-edges-buy-all-the-chillies-and-coriander-and-delicious-spices-you-care-to-with-a-gorgeous-sari-thrown-in kindof place. And lots of plastic brightly lit palm trees scattered about

- Ate yummy fast Indian food at the same Diamond Plaza (many times in a row). Witnessed a spectacular fight between two chefs at – you guessed it - the very same plaza. The one man came over and called the other chef aside as if he wanted to have a word. Words were not what he had in mind and I have never seen (or heard) such a resoundingly spectacular slap in my life. It drew blood. And then of course there was much scuffling, slipping (a bucket of water was kicked over) sliding, rustling, jostling, ripping, thumping against the glass (to the soundtrack of intakes of breath from the ever expanding audience). Fights in real life are never as clear-cut or clean as in the movies, huh? And the crowd quickly gathered and blocked our view so we carried on eating our delicious Tandoori Chicken as if nothing was happening. And once the fight was over, out came a woman to with a mop to clean up the blood and water. Ha. My mother thought this very apt and very funny.

- Listened in part horror and part bemusement to three Kenyan men tell my mother that they loved her art and her work and her style but, and I quote, “the only problem with you is the colour of your skin” Bloody hell. I think she made them feel suitably shamed…… sis man. If I had a buck for every time someone commented on my skin colour I’d be as rich as Fredrick Chiluba. I suppose its good to be a minority, see how it is, but sometimes I really do tire of this. Perhaps I shall write a post on this one day. Perhaps not.

- Visited the Nairobi National Museum and saw Ahmed’s skeleton. WOW. Ahmed is an elephant, who lived in Marsabit National Park and died in the 70’s. He was MASSIVE and had gianormous tusks. Incredible.
-Came back on the bus feeling contented and happy, listening to my ipod and watching a big fat planet guide us home.

I took loads of photos of my mothers paintings on the walls but can't get them off my phone. So here is a link to previous post with photos of some of the paintings - you can't get a sense of the scale of them (most of them are pretty big) but to give you an idea.

My pathtic linking attempt does not do justice to Ernest's very good and clear linking instructions (thank you, I finally found them!). I can't find the world with the chain thingy though so this will have to do for now. Bad student, bad student.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

oh, and PS

I forgot the most important of all:

Say cheers every time to have a drink with mates - and LOOK THEM IN THE EYE - otherwise its 7 years bad sex, remember?

AND, very simple instructions on how NOT to be happy:
Watch the news.

On happiness and all that

I was on the plane the other day and read a 90 year old’s secrets to a happy life. It involved a lot of splashing your face with cold water - when angry, jealous etc. I shall have to try this. My fave was never going out the house without talcum powder on your face.

Anyway, got me thinking and here is my very own (and I pinched a couple of hers). I know, I’m probably not qualified to write my own, but here - from my wise country bumpkin 32 year old eyes.

1) Get over it
2) Be kind to waiters
3) Wash your own underwear
4) Learn people’s names
5) Don’t gossip
6) Give gifts
7) Don’t let guilt in the door (unless you’ve done something really bad, of course)
8) Smile at strangers (unless they look really creepy!)
9) Seek out the peculiar

10) Accept apologies
11) Say thank you for this day every morning as you wake up. And for each meal. Just in your head is fine!
12) Get a pet, if you can
13) Have flowers in the house

14) See things from others’ point of view. Be compassionate
15) It could be worse
16) Take the stairs
17) Work to live, don’t live to work
18) Spend some time every day outdoors. Appreciate nature
19) Laugh laugh laugh, its all a game
20) The positive exists. Find it

21) Stop. Look. Breathe. Smile
22) Don’t take yourself so bloody seriously

Which is, I fear, what I’m doing right now so I’d better stop.

Be happy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Your Royal Taggedness

I wonder how many times these words have been spoken on Blogdom – “I’ve been Tagged” Today its me, hurrah! Thanks J, soul sister of mine, for tagging me ( Now I have to untangle myself from my technological crapness and try to figure out how to link. Aish. I’m not sure of tagging protocol but I suppose its not done to tag the very ones that your tagger has tagged, so to speak. My 5 best so far, not including the ones that J tagged coz I love all those too. In no particular order:

The Bad Photographer. He isn’t, not in that respect anyway. He may be in other ways, I know not…..For his fabulous, positive and quirky views on life. And his happiness-inducing pics. Love it.

To ‘Too Young for a Midlife Crisis, Too Old for a Tantrum – for her funny views on life and hilarious Tuesday rants

A Mask to Hide Behind ( for the witty insight into her world and family and for the opportunity to peer into the crazy families of her guest bloggers. We should all celebrate the nuts in our family tree.

And, although I think he was tagged recently, in another guise, who writes fab blogs, gets you thinking and has great pics (and an encyclopaedic knowledge of garden plants…..? Sorry, I shouldn't talk!)

And for being the first non-family member or real life friend to read and to COMMENT on my blog! Love reading about all these lives so very different to my own…….

Oh and also for some more fine wit
And I don't know how to link. Tried tried, no can do. Computer slow, getting grumpy so I'll stop trying.

So for all those who want to I think you’re supposed to now tag 5 blogs you like and say why. And for those who have been tagged more times than they care to remember and who feel like this is one of those annoying chain letter things you can tell me to piss off or just ignore me…. I won’t mind.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I look at you and I can't disguise you've got - teary eyes

(That set to the Dirty Dancing (was it?) song)

Every week David McMahon ( - I am technologically challenged and don’t know how to link, sorry for that) asks his fellow bloggers a question. I'm new to this game but I'll give it a go. This week he asks what brings tears to your eyes. Well:

- A gorgeous sunset on a crisp winter’s evening
- The sight of Kilimanjaro emerging through the clouds
- Happy children eating ice cream
- Romantic comedies

Lies Lies LIES (except for the last one but for entirely different reasons than you may think). I am not a sentimental person. Sentimentality makes my eyes water. Here are the real ones

- My sister eating lemons. My sister has an extra gene, I think, that enables her to eat lemons (skin and all) without flinching. As a child she used to have competitions with all the kids in Maz. Line them all up and have a lemon eating competition. She who does not grimace gets to be pushed around in the wheel-barrow all day long. Or something like that. Of course she would win every time. EVERY time. She still does it today. Eats lemons like that, I’m not sure that she still hold the competitions…

- Tse tse fly bites. Not always but when they bite you JUST in that spot that makes you leap up and slap yourself MUCH harder than you intended. The tse tse of course has long gone, leaving a perfect pretty little bruise, that you have just slapped really really hard

- unscrewing the lid on the marmite jar that husband has closed (with a vice?)

- And sometimes treading on one of those big two-inch white acacia thorns that, if trodden on right, can go all the way up to the hilt. Very aina (sore) and watery-eye-inducing

- Then of course there is laughing. Which I do a lot of, very frequently (at a terribly grating frequency I fear – they used to call me the Fog Horn) Those moments that catch you out unawares and you start laughing in the most inappropriate places. Like ‘corpsing’ on stage. Ay. I’ve not done that in front of a proper audience (yet), but I have during rehearsal (remember that Tam??). For example - just yesterday I was in the local supermarket telling someone a story about the man that trod on my toe in the aeroplane. In that quiet moment when everyone has rushed to get their bags (that really irritates me. Just be bloody patient. There'll still be a queue when you get out the plane) and are waiting for the doors to open. He trod on my sandaled toe with his very large frame and very hard shoes. It really hurt and I grabbed onto his bum and started yelling “ow ow OW” while my husband looked on bemused and embarrassed. The poor bloke (the toe treader that is, not the husband – he’d better get used to being embarrassed by me – he was MORTIFIED). Anyway, I was telling this story to someone in the supermarket and was suddenly rolling in the aisles LAUGHING. The poor deaf man who works in the supermarket looked a little alarmed at my tears until he realised I was laughing, not crying. Ah, I think you had to be there. In the supermarket and on the plane.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A tale of two schools

So I grew up in the bush right? I mean, like reeeally in the bush. My sister and I were home schooled and made entertainment out of very little. Sausage tree fruit were made into dolls. We painted little rosy cheeks and red lips on them and they lasted just long enough for you to get attached to them and then they’d shrivel up like an old person, and you’d have to go off and choose another likely looking sausage fruit. My sister, it seemed to me, was born with a book in her wee hands and my assignment in life was to try and stop her reading. When this got boring (she was very dedicated to her task, and I to mine, but I usually gave up when 30 minutes of kicking and biting got no reaction. She was (and is) a saint. Any other sibling would have - literally – fed me to the lions). When I bored of this my friend Johnny and I would spend hours trying to trap elephants with upside down bottle tops and toothpicks (coz the camp elephant had chased us one night and scared the bejeezus out of us. Tit for tat).

At 7 my parents decided to try us in a school in South Africa. (when I was 7, not at 7 o’clock…ha) In retrospect the school was pretty strange. I couldn’t understand why we had to stand in line before going into class, wear uniform, speak when you’re spoken to, sit straight, speak Afrikaans (that so didn’t happen). The weirdest – and I see why now – was at break time. Just before the bell rang to signal end of break, a PRE end of break bell would ring and everyone would have to FREEZE. For five minutes. And a monitor would come round and check that you weren’t moving. Is that not a little strange?

It seemed I was not well versed in the social nuances of 7 year olds and got taken for such a ride by my fellow cherubs. I didn’t mind though. There was the girl who convinced me that it would be a good idea to hide in this locker for an hour. “Oh, okay. What about lessons?” “Oh don’t worry, about those. Lets just hide.” “Oh. Okay.” We got caned which I SO didn’t get. It didn’t hurt (I stopped crying the moment the headmaster smacked me on the bum. “Is that IT?” I thought) and I was truly puzzled by this behaviour.

My favourite was the fat girl who befriended me and kept eating my lunch. I came home one day and said to my mom “ma, can I have two sandwiches and two liquifruits to take to school today coz Jacqueline (I remember her name!) ate mine. That evening I came home and my mother asked if Jacqueline enjoyed her lunch. “Yes, she ate mine again too! Can I have three sandwiches and three liquifruits today” And so on. Every day! I didn’t seem to mind - I think I was more fascinated than anything else. The whole thing was like some kind of social experiment. I was generally happily mystified by everything (especially the sandwich eating girl). I felt like an anthropologist studying a long forgotten tribe.

It was a rural school (just outside Jo'burg) and we didn’t have to wear shoes to class, which was good. One day they had a school fete and my sister won a sheep. Yes a real live big wooly white sheep with a black head. Tied up to the tree next to us while we waited in the shade for our parents to come and pick us up in the clapped out maroon volvo (that for some reason people coveted. We found a scrawled sign once on the windscreen that said “I wand this car” A hobo used to live in the car. Really. The side window was broken and he used to sleep in there at night. In the morning he’d shuffle off with his blanket and come back in the evening. I think we used to make sure we didn’t get back too late or leave too early so as not to disturb his sleep!). Anyway, my sister sold the sheep to the maths teacher and we bought a pair of roller skates each. Oh now THAT is another story for another time.

So despite these excitements or possibly because of them we didn’t last long. Just over a year. A miracle in itself. It was all just too much. Too much. So back we went to being schooled at home. In the bush. Where we had other challenges but ones we were better equipped to handle. In our pole and thatch classroom where the great sweeping, twirling, sparkling, humming South Luangwa National Park was our playground.

Shop Art IV

Sorry, I'll stop with the bluddy pictures soon. No words coming to my weary bwain. Maybe tomorrow?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

To do, not to do

Things I did yesterday
Handed in paperwork for new company
Left mother in car - while parked in town - to look out for thieves
Bought pretty baskets from Maasai market (let mother out of car for this one)
Bumped into actor (previously auditioned) at Maasai market and held a semi lucid conversation in Swahili. Ish
Bought food
Went to visit dear friend J and reminisced with her family
Drank (or is it ate?) yummy soup
Paid bills
Cood at baby sheep
Watched small child ride big horse
Drove through newly laid tarmac
Attempted gym
Lit a fire to keep out this perpetual cold
Laughed. Lots

Things I didn’t do yesterday
Didn’t eat lobster
Didn’t get tyre stolen (thanks mother for looking out for thieves)
Didn’t buy anything else from Maasai market (well done me)
Didn’t get into trouble (or get injured) for being barefoot in the gym (forgot shoes at home)
Didn’t sort out internet at home

Things I almost did yesterday
Nearly visited dear B (until we heard she is in Canada)
Nearly played touch rugby but arrived too late. Hence attempted gym. Try again on Thursday

Things to do today
Sort out internet at home
Look for a puppy
Clean tar off car (not quite sure how to accomplish this one)
Write budget for volume II of Ceremony! book
Help sister write proposal for regional theatre project thingy (and try to phrase it better than that)

Things I won’t do today
Sort out internet at home
Won’t eat lobster (sigh)
Might not clean tar off car. But I will try


New something I learned today: there are more chickens than people in the world

Which reminds me of a story I read a few years ago in the paper. The headline said: Childless Couple Told To Try Sex. The story was basically about these two people who had grown up on a very small very conservative very religious camp. They got married and waited for the babies to come. Nothing happened. So after a few years they went to the doctor. Who asked them how often they had sex. They didn’t know what he meant. “I’m sorry? What’s that got to do with it?” Aish.

Anyway, I was relating this story to my dear friend and colleague Musa who went quiet for a very long time and then said, in a puzzled voice, “but even chickens know how to do it”.


While we’re on the chicken theme – headline of the paper today said “MP donates chicks to women’s group”


Tuesday, July 1, 2008