Monday, December 19, 2011

Crackle you read me over?

I am not dead.

I am very much alive.

Just waddling about waiting to give birth with very little internet access.

I am in Jo'burg, staying with my lovely sister.

Due on the 6th Jan but midwife says be prepared from 27th Dec. Husband is coming on Christmas eve, so hope the little mite stays in until then! 5 more sleeps. And then.

I am ready.

Monday, October 24, 2011


When I was a kid we had a pet Egyptian Goose called Garlic. We'd take him swimming at the Mfuwe Lodge swimming pool. Mfuwe Lodge, in those days, was a study in 70's taste. All unpainted cement, peeling varnished wood and orange and brown cushions. I can still smell it now, twenty five years on, a mix of creosote and wood smoke. 

The pool had big cement benches and tables with wasps underneath that would ambush us kids. And the entrance to the pool had a little thatch roof and underneath a patch of cement with hundreds of bottletops embedded in it. I was eternally fascinated with those bottletops, I'd look at them for hours and marvel at how they managed to get so many of them together to put in the cement...I just couldn't fathom that it was possible. Okay, so I was a simple child!

So we'd take this baby goose to the pool (and also my baby lizard until I lost it) and we'd all swim and play and splash. And sometimes use the icky shiny white plastic lounger mattresses (that smelled vaguely of vomit) as lilos until the grownups told us not to. And waaaay before it was time to go home we'd have to start the charade of trying to catch Garlic. One of us would swim up to him, get really close and just as we'd reach our hand out to pick him up, he'd duck under the water  and pop up at the other end of the pool. So we'd swim to the other end of the pool, reach out to grab him and he'd duck under again and pop up somewhere else. Repeat. For a good half hour I'm sure. 

And so it was this weekend with my two year old on the bouncy castle. We went to have a look at it but there were three boys playing on and she wasn't so keen "Eeee, no mummy, there are boys there." (Long may that last!). Once they'd left she ventured on and tottered about and found her feet and fell over and then really got into the groove. And when it was time to go I'd reach over to pick her up and she'd slip out my grasp and pop up at the other end. And I, all 7 months pregnant and beached whale like couldn't get to her no matter how hard I tried. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Random September Pictures

There's a leopard in one of those trees!
The picture window!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Conversations with my two year old

So last night in the bath my two year old pointed to the bottle of conditioner and said:
What's that?
Me (keeping it simple): Its shampoo
Lara: Its not shampoo
Me: Yes it is. Its shampoo
Lara: No its not shampoo, its conditioner
Me: Geez, Lara, how did you know that? 
Lara: I'm just clever!

Me (to Mark): Did you teach her that? I didn't
Mark: No, I didn't. Holy crap, maybe she can read!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Things my 2 year old says

  • When watching rugby: "They keep falling over" and, in the scrum "They're hugging each other"
  •  "Lemme see your eyes" Stares for a long long time. "What's inside?"
  • Me: Hi baby, what have you been doing today?" Lara:"oh, you know" Sigh "Just hanging out" What, a teenager already?
  • And today, my favourite, trying to see my boobs. I show her a bit but she lifts my bra right up "I want to see the eyes"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The words are stuck. Glued to the inside of my head like dead leaves 0n a wet pavement. 

What have I been doing? Aside from cussing that we never have any electricity? We get juuust enough, in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, to keep the inside of our fridge from going mouldy.

Well, I've been working. In a moment of lapse I agreed to take on creating 3 plays and 1 invisible theatre training in just under 3 months. Which is crazy at the best of times, let alone when you're waddling full speed ahead into your third trimester of pregnancy. So far so good though, it'll work out. Oh we've put a video up on our website of one of our plays. We've just had an invitation to perform this play in China in December but with me calfing then and Musa gone I'm not sure we'll manage that. Can't have it all I guess. Just like the electricity...

And I've been feeding Craig's snakes. 5 little baby egg eaters who require a long syringe full of egg into their tummies once a week. Its a slimy smelly fiddly job but they're so cute and I love it. They're growing and growing. And get so cross when you first take them out of their glass box. All hissy and strikey, little black mouths open. They're very clever snakes. They can dislocate their jaw so that they can swallow eggs whole then they spit out the shell later in a neat little parcel. Not these ones obviously - no one has time or inclination to go and find little birds eggs for them to eat, hence the syringe. 

Lara likes them too. She sticks her tongue out at them

And I've been hanging out with my baby girl, who just makes my heart expand inside me every time I see her. 

And I've been visiting friends on lovely chilly-but-sunny lazy sunday afternoons, where conversation is easy and laughter flows and bursts out of you.

And, you know, just living life I guess. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Mate Musa

Sitting around the campfire sometime in the mid 90's - 96 I think - Musa and I are hatching a plan to start a theatre company. He is an actor based in Chipata and has recently been 'discovered' by Theatre for Africa. He is on a worldwide tour of Guardians of Eden and the cast is camping in our garden in Mfuwe. I am coming to the end of a drama degree at university wondering what I'm going to do with my life. I have only just met Musa but we click immediately. He is funny and easygoing and has a certain something about him that I can't quite put my finger on. A type of magic I guess, that must be why he's such a good actor and why audiences love him so. His performance in Guardians is electric.

A couple of years later, late 1999, Fate is bored and picks up her big old snow globe and shakes things around a bit. Things whirl up in the air and slowly come back down to settle and once again Musa and I are thrown together. I've been a safari guide for a few years after my drama degree and am bored of this. I always swore I'd never be a guide - too easy a path to fall into where I live. And then out the blue Nick Ellenbogen from Theatre for Africa comes to our corner of the globe and says "I'm putting together a cast of 14 actors to tour around Southern Africa. I am getting 2 people from each Southern African country. Musa is on board and I want you to be the other Zambian." I think about it for all of one day. I cancel my trip with friends to climb Kilimanjaro. I can do that another time (yeah right!) 

And so begins my friendship with Musa. Its a motley old crew, 2 Mozambiqueans, 2 Botswanans, 2 Malawians, 2 South Africans, 2 Zimbabweans, 2 Namibians and 2 Zambians -  Musa and I. Surprisingly (14 actors all living and working together for months on end) we all get on really well - Musa has worked with many of them before and we fall into our two months of training in Cape Town and Namibia like we're old friends. We squabble, we bitch, we laugh, we tease and we play. Once the training is done we all go back to our respective countries for a year. We set up little theatre groups we conduct research on environmental issues and at the end of it all we all get back together with all the info we’ve gathered and make one big ol fancy play that tours around Southern Africa for a few months. At the end of it a new, mini version is created to take to Washington DC. Only 4 of us can go. The 2 Mozambiqueans and Musa and I. I’ve never been to DC; I’ve barely been out of Africa. Musa has; he shows me around, makes me feel at home. Takes me to the huge shopping malls where he buys a ridiculously large DVD player to take back home.

And so the seeds of Seka are sown. After this project we go back home and pick up where we left off. We form a company. We call it Seka. Which means to laugh in the local language. We train up seven actors. He lives with me for a while while he moves his family the 150km away from Chipata to Mfuwe. And we stumble along, making plays, training actors, spreading the magic. We have a two man show we perform. A fabulous Australian puppeteer comes for a few months and teaches us all how to make puppets. We go to the chief, he gives us a beautiful plot of land in the bush with a huge Tamarind tree for us to rehearse under. We’re not making any money, if anything we’re losing it, but we’re doing what we love and what we’re passionate about.

Then we get a break. A three year project based in Chipata. With salaries and everything! And so for three years we work our asses off. Seven actors plus Musa and I living in villages across rural Chipata. Week in and week out for 3 years we live in various little huts and classrooms across the region – us girls in one the guys in another, all squashed together – conducting research and making plays. In retrospect I realize what an awesome time that was and I think even at the time I did too. We made a super-cool team we did.

One day I say to Musa, “You know, I call myself a Zambian but I’ve never even tilled a field before, grown a crop” and so he offers me a patch of his back yard to hoe and plant. I share it with his 8 year old son George and I am the joke of the village. All the neighbours come and watch me plant – gawp at the crazy white lady - and Musa sits nearby and hoots with laughter along with the rest of them. I love it.

And we take the actors to perform in Joburg. Some of them have never even been outside their village before, let alone outside the country. They are wide eyed and open-mouthed. And cold. Musa and I chaperone them, show them the sights. We see the world through new eyes.

We also take the actors to Durban, this time bringing along Musa’s wife and son George, shortly after they lost their little boy to Malaria.

We make a road trip up to Tete, Mozambique. Live in a small village outside town trying to train actors in a language we are not familiar with. Luckily Musa knows more Chichewa than I and we get by pretty well.

In Tete town I turn off down a one-way street by mistake. A man walking down the road says “ Hey sister you are driving the wrong way!” Musa laughs and laughs “Your driving is so bad you even made a Mozambican speak English!”

In writing this I realize that we packed a lot in to the 15 years we have known each other. And I’m only writing down the half of it. In this time there have been children lost and children born, there have been good times there have been hard times, there has been sickness, there has been squabbling, making up and hard graft. Most of all though, there has been much much laughter.

We were colleagues, co-conspirators, but above all we were friends. And now he is gone. He died two weeks ago and has left such a gaping hole I just don’t even know where to begin.

There are too many memories to put down. But I needed to write down some before my chest cracks open and drowns me.


Sunday, July 31, 2011


So I told you I was off to Zanzibar for ten days didn’t I?


My in-laws were here for three weeks.


Three weeks.


And we spent ten days of those three weeks in Zanzibar.


Day 1 we arrive at our accommodation which was oh just terrible! The people the night before had had a huge party in our room and by the time we arrived at 5 in the evening they still hadn't cleared it up. It was literally like walking into a night club the morning after. Beer all over the floor, smashed beer bottles, shot glasses, blood, vomit. The lot! (bear in mind I'd been in charge of choosing and booking the accommodation!). And stairs. So many steep stairs! Usually fine, but not so great for my aging father-in-law with dodgy knees.

Day 2 my almost 80 year old father in law falls down said horrible steps and breaks his arm. Shortage of x-ray films in the whole of Tanzania, doctor not around for the whole day. Evening finally manage to get x-rays done, electricity goes off, manage to start generator, but can only put plaster cast on the next day. Incredibly lucky though that he didn't do worse injuries, considering the huge lump of jagged coral right beneath the steps...


Day 4 I find out that Musa my dear dear friend, co-conspirator and co-founder of Seka has died. Just devastated. I don't even know where to begin.


Day 7 my 100 year old great aunt dies.


Mixed up with pure white sand, warm blue seas, the usual family tensions, pregnancy hormones, a 2 year old child, beautiful weather, a very kind taxi driver and seafood. 


I want to tell you about it all in detail but I’m not sure I have the energy…


I want to tell you about Musa. His magic, his humour, but I am not ready. 


I want to tell you about Eve my very cool great aunt who always pretended she was 30 years younger than she was and usually got away with it too. But it seems all I’ve been doing these days is writing about dead people so…. All in good time.


Right now though, I’m ready for a holiday…. Zanzibar perhaps?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Serengeti and dreaded toddlers

So back from the Serengeti in time for a swarm of two year olds that will be invading us today for my daughter's birthday. Oh my god what have we got ourselves into? Last year was fine, we just invited all our grown up friends over and we all got drunk. This year there will be cake. That I have to make (not a forte of mine) and sausages and lots of sticky hands and fighty 'MINE' toddlers. 

Back from the Serengeti. The flight in we flew over Ol Donyo Lengai, an active volcano that last erupted about 3 years ago. We flew reaaaallly close over it and could smell the sulphur and the little plane did a huge bump as we went over it. 

I couldn't unzoom my camera enough to get a picture, we were so close. 

6:30 am to 6:30 pm back to back examining. Tiring, mind numbing at times but great to be out in the big open skies. Here's the Mara river

 And here's a rock agama, doing what it does best

And on the way back flew over lake Manyara, a shallow soda lake with thousands and thousands of flamingoes that looked like pink confetti rolling on waves from out the aeroplane window.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So my in-laws are coming on Friday. And guess what I'm doing today (aside from frantically trying to get the house in order before I leave!) - going to the Serengeti! Yay. Just for 3 nights, examining some poor souls for their safari guide exams. Fairly mind numbing but also sooooo nice to get out into the bush again. I'll be leaving the baby with her dad and grandparents. heh heh. 

SO. I'll try and post when I can. I'll try and take some pictures, at the very least.

There's STILL no electricity and I fear its something we'll have to get used to. Off for 24 hours yesterday, a few hours on in the middle of the night and off again by the time we woke up this morning. We'll be having a big meat feast soon for all our defrosted meat I reckon! 

Aaanyway, teeny bit of battery power left and oh I have to pack and then when I get back from Serengeti look forward to a trip to Zanzibar. yipeeeeeee

Sorry, am I gloating?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The plot

So I think I told you that we have a plot of land? A wee dry windswept hilltop with stunted gnarly trees and dusty patches from decades of overgrazing by goats. And sweeping views of the maasai steppes and mount Meru. I love it. 

We've tried to plant a few acacia trees and, a bit ambitiously in a drought year, some other indigenous plants that require a bit more water than there is out there. We shall see how they fare. 

We've been having these power cuts. Mostly off all day every day and sometimes all day every day and all night too. There used to be a loose system - if its off in the day it'll be on at night and vice versa. But I believe there is very little water in the dam due to terribly bad rains so now its certainly more off than on. Which, as Lemon Gloria would say, is a very rich person's thing to complain about. So I'll try not to. Just sayin!

So the days that we have electricity I trawl the internet for house plans and ideas, and the days we don't I make these little cardboard models. Yes I have a bit of time on my hands at the moment!  

I'm not sure when we'll start building, but its all a very exciting process and I'll be sure to keep ya'll updated. And yes, we're looking into the solar/wind energy options!

And time for a picture window update, no? 

Not much to see these days...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I had another dream about Mark J.


Last week my dad and Mark's family took his ashes down to Chibembe where I spent the first 6 or so years of my life and where, twenty years later Mark and I worked together. A special place.


So I guess he was on my mind or maybe he was out there flying high and flying free.


In my dream there were a whole lot of us, all sitting outside around a big table eating, drinking, on a happy sunny beautiful-light day. And in amongst us all was Mark, just sitting there normally, laughing and enjoying himself. And as I was leaving I went up to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, “Why aren’t you telling anyone you’re alive?”


And then I suddenly realized that no-one could actually see him. But he was sitting there amongst us all and laughing and having a good time. 


There are no secrets with an almost-two-year-old in the house. 

The other day, on my way home from town, I was reallyreally hungry so stopped off and had some sushi. Mark was cooking supper that night. We got home and the first thing Lara said was "Mummy eating sushi" 


On a similar (but hopefully less true!) note, yesterday she kept saying 

"Daddy's got a lady"

I THINK what she was trying to say is "Daddy's getting ready". 

But it came out as  "Daddy's got a lady"

"Daddy's got a lady"

"Daddy's got a lady"

Ad nasueum!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eclipses and other night time adventures

"I'm excited on the inside" my man says drily in response to my hopping around the house in excitement singing "eclipse, eclipse, lunar eclipse." He's feeling rotten and goes to bed. I manage to stay up and watch it. 

I put on the biggest warmest fleece I can find and slide out the front door with binos and camera. I sit in the dust wedged between two thorn trees, crook my neck up and marvel at the moon silently disappearing. Getting eaten up, being possessed. I should really be lounging on the day bed round the other side of the house, sipping a glass of wine pondering the mysteries of nature and life but frankly I can't be bothered.  I'm happy enough in the dust, gingerly moving the huge acacia thorns from my chosen spot.  Dashing in to the house every now and then when I get cold or bored. But each time I come inside I'm drawn back out there. Just one more look.

I am not a night owl. 9:30 is late for me.  The eclipse starts at 9:22. I manage to stay up though. Until she is swallowed whole and then she's completely gone, and its dark and the clouds come in and I feel bad that I'm not going to see her transformation back. I gingerly hang around a little nervous that that's it, she's gone forever. But the clouds have come in and its really really dark and now I'm tired. Just before I get into bed though, I peer out the window and see the acacias outside my window bathed in yellow moonlight again. Phew!

My grandfather was really into his stars. We'd often go and drive one of the game drive vehicles up the road to a clear spot and lie on the seats and look up at the stars. And he's show us how to find south from the Southern Cross and thats Scorpio and there are the Seven Sisters. And I have a memory, a bit blurry around the edges, but clear in the middle. Maybe six years old, sitting up behind our house on camp chairs at three in the morning with my mother and grandfather and his bashed up green and silver Coleman flask of hot milky tea. 

And seeing Hayley's Comet. Waking up in the night needing a wee. Lying in bed listening out for elephants and hippos. We're not really allowed to go outside for a wee in the night (we live in the bush and don't have ensuite loos - the toilet is faaar away). I try and keep in in but its no good. I quietly sneak outside, squat down for a wee and look up and... Holy shit look at that! And sneaking back into bed feeling smug and somewhat richer. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grandfather Diaries III

Some more experts from my grandfather's diary:

Monday 27/8/45

.... Have just shot a rhino in front of camp. When I arrived the chief complained that there was a rhino which kept chasing the people in the gardens and the women were afraid to go to the stream to draw water. I was rather skeptical, having heard this kind of story too often before: it is usually dished up every time an official comes round on tour in the hope of his shooting some meat for them... But as I was camped in the gardens I told the chief I'd see if it really was as bad as he said when it came round. The millet crop has now been reaped and all the tall stalks cut to the ground, so there is a nice cleared open space al around camp, except for a patch of tall reeds about half an acre in extent. Whilst I was having tea, the carriers saw the rhino come out of the reed patch. I went over to investigate but as he went back again into cover I left him and detailed a guard to keep watch and tell us when he came out again, which he did in about and hours time. He was very thin and walked with a heavy limp as if his rear hind leg were injured. we gave him every opportunity to clear off and after watching him for about a quarter of an hour deliberately walked up to him in the open. He charged but I gave him time in case it was bluff but his intentions were obvious. I fired when he was 15 yards away as did the two fundis with me. I was not being foolishly heroic or anything, but merely wanted to give him a chance to clear off if he wanted to. There was very little risk with three rifles. He was very emaciated and his body covered in suppurating sores and he was obviously a very sick animal which probably accounts for his behaviour.

Tuesday 28/8/45

Did not strike camp as I have to get in a stock of meal for the forward journey xcountry to Luangwa as there are no villages for several days after we leave here. Had a party last night. All the youths and maidens (sic?) came and gave a dance around the camp fire to show their gratitude for dispersing of the village monster. One Akunda native (not a local who are Awisa), obviously a professional, gave a most amazing performance and held his audience with the confidence which would make a London stage comedian envious. For his act he wanted a song accompaniment unknown by the locals so he proceeded to teach them, singing a few lines which he made them repeat after him. He had a most attractive voice.  In no time at all the crowd were singing it for him - something about a 'chipembere' and he did a most realistic 'rhino dance'. Then he gave a gruesome exhibition of fire eating and various other self maiming feats which were rather horrid, but what impressed me was his marvelous stage techniques. In fact he was a double of Maruice Chevallier (straw hat and all).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Things I love about this town

- The mountain, in all her moods. Astonishing from every angle

- The weddings. Full brass bands, all dressed the same, in the back of open, ribbon-laced pickups, heading the wedding precession, stopping the traffic and entertaining the crowds on a Saturday.

- The rotating chefs. The restaurants don’t matter, the chefs have a following. A restaurant closes down and the chef moves somewhere else ‘Mary works at such-and-such-place now’

- The mix. Mosque sits next to church; the fancy two-story house glances down at a humble duka* selling biscuits that smell of washing powder and decanted bottles of paraffin; the factory squats next to cattle boma (no, the effing factory is not a thing I love about this town); the mud and cow dung house with shiny tractor outside.

- The sunflowers by the airport

- The random giraffe patterned bench that someone made a couple of weeks ago at the TGT junction

- The grasscutters at the airport. Every month or so, when the grass at the airport gets too long a bevy of grasscutter come and swarm the area near the runway, cutting the grass for their cows

- Grotty grubby downtown Mbauda with occasional scrawny trees that sometimes and surprisingly burst into yellow flower.

- The industry. Everyone busy. All the time. Making things, painting things, crafting things, stealing things, returning things, breaking things, fixing things, adapting things.

- The shop art. Storefronts with elaborately painted murals of their wares. From nuts and bolts to tractors to unidentifiable bike parts to cooking oil, cows and bars of soap.

- The daladala** signs. Like fortune cookies, giving you your message for the day. The Long Wait; Cupcake; One Day Yes; Life; Snakeboy; The Long Way; Passion; Painkiller; Faith; Trust; The Lord is our Shepherd; God is Great; Insh’allah and so on. One to suit every mood.

**minibus taxi

For more pics of this town see janelle and my website Hometown Arusha

Sunday, May 29, 2011

late and slow and also bird poo

I think I may be a little late to catch up here but I just discovered the stats thing on my blog! No way! How cool is that. I've often wondered how that worked, when people said 'someone googled 'how to drink stars' and landed on my blog' how they KNEW that.

Well, now I know too! And lots of people seem to be asking Mr. Google how to stow thrones in grass houses and end up here but my best is:

bird faeces is what number in a dream

Anyone know the answer to that?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Che Hari

Che Hari was one hellova guy.


He always had a hat on his head, a rolled cigarette in his hand, a hearty cough in his chest and a twinkle in his eye.


I loved spending time with him, sitting under the mango tree outside his village, chickens scratching about our feet and scrawny puppies yipping and tumbling. His host of  (mostly) devoted grandchildren close at hand.


And he would often pop in to visit us too. He’d walk to us from his village 12km or so away and, in his later years, one of his grandsons would cycle with him on the back. And we’d laugh and he would reminisce and tell jokes.


He really was a remarkable guy. I have no idea how old he was but he fought with the Kings Africa Rifles in Burma in the Second World War, so he must have had a good few years behind him! 85? 90? Can you imagine? Coming from a remote village in the middle of Africa to fight for a cause he probably didn’t care about in the middle of Burma? Amazing. I wish I’d spoken to him more about those times.


He was a Yao (serious minority where he lived), born in Malawi. I don't know how he came to be in Luangwa but worked for the game department there all the time I remember him. He worked as a game scout in safaris with my grandfather, Norman and was one of a handful of experienced escort scouts who had seen it all. He was the last one, in fact. He always told the story of crossing the river with my mother as a little girl on his back and all sleeping out in the bush (my grandfather, Che Hari, my mother) on mats on the ground with mosquito nets over them. My dad says, in his book 

“He shot maneating lions and during their expeditions together [with my grandfather] he used to sleep on the ground not far from Norman. He would sometimes see elephants and lions coming close to his sleeping bag and would always hear Norman whispering ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot’” 


But it wasn’t just his achievements and nerves of steel that made him special. There was something about him. A twinkling humour that always made him such a pleasure to be around.


Most people his generation and culture there is always a respectful boundary. A certain distance, a respect for elders, ulemu, that prevents you from getting too close. Things you wouldn’t say and do. But it was different somehow with CheHari. You could be familiar with him, laugh at his jokes and him at yours. Hug him. I can't explain it and I'm not doing him justice. And I don't think I can - I've had this post in drafts for three days and I want you to know about him so here we go.

I'm glad I knew you Che Hari, and I know that you are happy where you are, in the bush in the sky with your .458 and all the big long gone elephants. Say hi to everyone up there. 


All pics by Francois Delbee


Saturday, May 21, 2011



My dear friend Janelle always reads the signs on daladalas (minibus taxis) to see what messages and signs there are out there for her. She says


i love the timing of those dala dala's...i ALWAYS read they are carrying messages i need to read at that particular time...i never ignore that kinda shit...


And I’ve started doing it too. Its fun. They’re quirky and funny and sometimes poignant.


Sometimes I'm driving along, going happily about my day and suddenly, unexpectedly, I find myself crying, thinking about my friend Mark J. Last time this happened it was triggered by this Jackson Browne song. The version I have have is this by Linda Rondstadt and Emmylou Harris. Mark and my dad sang it for another friend's funeral a couple of years ago. 


...I don't remember losing track of you 

You were always dancing in and out of view 

I must have thought you'd always be around 

Always keeping things real by playing the clown 

Now you're nowhere to be found....


...And I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round 

Crying as they ease you down 

'cause I know that you'd rather we were dancing 

Dancing our sorrow away ... 



Today though, I was driving along, heading home after doing some boring chores thinking how much I missed my baby. How when I'm away from her I feel like my arm is missing. Then I thought about Mark's widow saying she felt cut in half. And I was thinking how its his birthday next month and how he loved to celebrate his birthday with all his friends. This year he was planning to have it in the valley - my hometown. And there I was sobbing in the traffic again. And then - and this happened last time too - a daladala (minibus taxi) drove past with MARK emblazoned on the front.  Those are the only two times I’ve seen (or noticed) that daladala.


Coincidence maybe, but I choose to take comfort from it. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Hey, did you see what I did there? Got bored of that old layout. Thats why I could never get a tattoo. I'd like to sometimes but I'm way too fickle. 

Its a power cut night but our neighbours have just installed an inverter which means that we can tap off their internet even when we have no electricity - hurrah! Since last year our electricity schedule - when tanesco stick to it - is Monday - off all day, Tuesday, off all night, Wednesday - umm, can't remember - off in the day? Or maybe its actually on on a wed, I forget, Thursday, off all night, Friday off all day, weekend - ON! Yay! But as of Thursday I'm told its going to be off for 19 hour stints. Oh yawn, am I boring you? Anyway, could be worse. At least we HAVE electricity. Well, kinda!

I went to Dar last week to see the actors who are performing there. Camping in a school yard in the pouring rain. Quick sudden downpours ('with no introductions' said the actors) and then suddenly gone, leaving everything cool(ish) and damp. 

Hey have you heard about Babu at Loliondo? I've been meaning to tell you about him for ages. 
Google babu loliondo - there's loads of info on him. He is a pastor who got visited by God in a dream and told to make a potion from a certain (usually poisonous tree) to cure people of all ailments. From HIV to diabetes. There are BUSLOADS going down there every day. People from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Japan, all OVER. There are three helicopters now based at Arusha airport that are flying in and out I don't know how many times a day. The president has been. Its amazing. Every fourth person you come across is talking about babu. Huge debates. Is it real? Is he a fraud? Could it really work? Yes I know so and so who was completely cured. Isn't it irresponsible of him saying he can cure HIV? But he can only cure you once of HIV he says. If you get it again... 

I read in the paper a couple of weeks ago that the queue of vehicles to his little remote village was 56km long. Everyone has a story. Many many many people have gone. Some have waited weeks to see him. The government are trying to crack down on the number of people going there because there is just no infrastructure to cope with the amount of people. Someone told me today that a man went there who wasn't sick and took the potion and when he got back to Arusha he started attacking people with knives. Many many more stories.

Aaanyway, battery on computer coughing so I'll be off. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

My ma

Oh my dears, I've been neglecting you! You're tired of my excuses I imagine so I'll just keep quiet. I started this post on mothers day which was, what weeks ago (the SA/US one that is. The British one was even more ages ago than that!). But then our internet broke and then I had to travel to Dar and then I had to replace runaway actors... oh, there I go with the excuses! So I started writing about my lovely mother. But didn't finish. But I'll still post as far as I got and then I'll start my 'I'm going to blog every other day' resolution from scratch. Again!

My mother and sister. Long ago! 
I'm not going to be able to give this post the time it deserves. I'm at home with Lara and we're looking after her friend Gracie while her mom is away for the week. So its kinda like being stuck in a big cage with giant carnivorous hamsters that have chewed the corner in a sack of speed. 
I wanted to write a post about my fabulous ma. I've written about her a bit before, here and there. 
My folks, they weren't into the whole traditional parenting; God parents, violin lessons and school runs. 
Being home schooled by my ma
It was more a sleep in the back of the landrover, eat cornflakes for supper kind of upbringing. That sounds neglectful. Far from it.

My mother, you see, she took time with us. She played with us. She listened to us. We had adventures, everything was a marvel. 

We went on walks, we had lessons in a scruffy combretum bush. We had a big wall we could draw on as much as we liked.


We had freedom and we were loved. What could be better than that?
My mother and sister

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Photo promt

see the home-chopped hair!

I promised that whenever I was stuck for things to write I'd put up an old photo from longlong ago. 

So here we are.

My mother was into falconry when I was kid. Well she still is but doesn't have any birds at present.

And we had these two Lizard Buzzards. One was hers and one was mine. A male and a female. And my mom, she taught me all the things to do. We made all the jesses for their feet and the lures and everything. And we (tried) to teach them to hunt and they came to our welding gloved hand at the blow of a whistle. Not necessarily the most agile or quick to learn creatures in the world but I loved my bird so!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The babe

I've been busy! Meetings here. And trying to organise the group in Zambia to go and perform in Denmark next month.

Oh and I fell off a horse! 

And its been easter! 

And so ah, some pictures of the babe for now. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

lack of inspiration turns rambling

My head feels all sawdusty and words, no matter how much I may want them to flow, are rusted stuck, like the wheel nuts on an old cumbersome truck, lying cockeye in the grass with peeling paint and a tree growing through it. 

We used to play in an old truck like this behind the carpentry workshop. It was an old yellow mercedes I think, the springs showing through the crumbling seats and listing to one side. It had a sortof trapdoor roof that gave us much joy, allowing us to pretend we were soldiers in a tank. It was littered with heavy maybe-one-day-this-could-be-salvaged junk, rusted bits of crankshaft that wouldn't budge, grooved unidentifiable chunks of metal whose powdery rust you could apply as war paint. The old worn gearstick was smooth and fitted perfectly in my small hand. I'd alternate between jiggling the gearstick back and forth, back and forth, clanging loudly and wildly hanging on to the steering wheel with my scrawny arms, gripping tightly and juddering along as if I was careering down a corrugated road, out of control. 

And what perfect hiding places for snakes and scorpions. Now that I have a child of my own I seriously wonder how my parents managed to keep from going white haired and frizzy with worry. People were always finding cobras and puffadders behind the carpentry workshop. Granted we weren't really allowed to play in that old truck and they probably didn't know we were there but seriously, what kid could resist? 

The truck, if I remember correctly, was yet another broken relic of my grandfather's sense of business. Which has been passed down the generations along with the crooked nose. We always were - and still are - blessed with an extraordinary inability to see the business logic of things (certainly the maths of it) - though this is countered with great dollops of enthusiasm , like clotted cream masking the fizzy taste of bananas that have been left in the sun just that bit too long. 

Like the camp he gave away in exchange for roof tiles he swopped that truck was for something. I forget what. 

My grandfather was always very frugal with Stuff. He always said 'don't get possessed by your possessions.'   He had so little, yet wanted so little. He had all he needed I guess. A great - if slightly off kilter - family who adored him, good health. A small rustic camp that he shared with his family in one of the most beautiful soulful, spots on earth.

Oh, I was going somewhere else with this story, but I got a little sidetracked with the whole truck as mind metaphor. I was going to tell you more about my grandfather. His history. If you're interested have a look here


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Grandfather Diaries II

More excerpts from my grandfather's journal

24/8/1945 Went for a walk round camp in the afternoon and met a rhino which gave us some sport. On approaching closer for a better view puppy gave chase (or attempted to) but she turned on him with a snort and a puff like a train starting up. Puppy turned tail and came straight back to me for protection - followed by Mrs Rhino. I was standing in the open on a small mound. She slithered to a halt when she saw us exactly 10 yards away (I paced it out afterwards). I was unarmed but the fundi* with me (a very reliable ECG) had his .404 beaded on her though I wouldn't let him fire. Everything stood still.

There we were - a white man, a black man, a black and tan dog and a cantankerous though somewhat bewildered rhinocerous all glaring at each other waiting to see who was going to make the next move. Eventually I broke the spell by shouting at her but she wouldn't budge, then I threw a twig at her but no better result. So what! Simon (the fundi) I could see was itching to shoot but I wouldn't let him which showed commendable restraint on his part. At last I said to puppy "ssssaa" (which means 'see him off') and he made a bolt at her whereupon she turned with a terrific snort and blast and crashed off in a cloud of dust. I felt a good deal of relief after she' gone - not for my own safety as I have perfect confidence in Simon (who has shot more elephant than I'd like to count) but it would have been a pity to kill her in a game reserve, especially as we started it. She can go away now and lay a few more babies for someone else's amusement.

This is the second time puppy nearly got me into trouble. This morning when inspecting some elephants a young immature bull chased him at the same time emitting the most ear splitting squeal. But thats another story. Only I wish he wouldn't shelter behind my petticoat.

*fundi - game scout