Thursday, March 31, 2011

The grandfather diaries

My grandfather with his two lions, Big Boy and Little Boy

Do you do this I wonder? Have Stuff to do but instead start Tidying? 

I've been meaning to clear out the office for ages so although I didn't get said Stuff done, I did get one tidy office and one tidy bathroom. And while doing this I re-found an old journal of my grandfather's written in 1945. Its a diary of a 2 month walk he did through a couple of game reserves, over the escarpment in Northern Rhodesia when he worked for the game department. 

The papers I have are photocopies of the real thing, which has thin-thin pages, see through and slightly bruised like an old lady's skin. Seeing his handwriting flings me back in time to when I was a child, an adolescent, a young woman. His always-have-a-notebook-in-your-pocket lectures, his what-bird-call-is-that. You know how smells can immediately transport you back somewhere? It seems his handwriting does the same for me!

The journal is full of matter of fact accounts of rhinos and porters and having to shoot elephants that have been raiding villagers' crops. Interspersed with letters to the Director of the Game and Tsetse Control Department and various District Commissioners with recommendations for the parks. 

A random excerpt: 
Wednesday 22/8/45
Continued eastward (on leaving of approx 118 degrees) along old Fort Jameson - Serenje track. This was the route used by the Angonis on the raids against the Lala and Awisa. Through typical valley mopane country and camped on Luangwa at site of Saidi's old village. Elephant, buff, rhino tracks littering the country most of the way but didn't see any myself - the carriers in the rear saw two herds of elephant. The game on the Luangwa is magnificent  - the best I have ever seen I think (including the vast herds one sees on the Kenya and Tanganyika plains. Though there are greater concentrations in these countries, they lack variety). Within half a mile I saw the following - often in sight at the same time or at least within a few minutes of each other: impala (too many to count), puku (ditto), roan (2 herds of 20 + 8), 2 herds of zebra(20 + 12), a beautiful kudu bull silhouetted on an anthill plus 8 cows and a warthog (which chased and was in turn chased by puppy!) Add to this some baboon and vervet monkeys seen perviously and the hippo which are  plentiful in Luangwa at this spot and you get a pretty good list which it would be difficult to beat anywhere.

I've always wanted to retrace this walk, see how things have changed.  Maybe one day I will.

Anyway, I could go on but need to get cracking with my day! More soon. 

Picture window. Misty this morning

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Life admin and bird poo

Yesterday was end of month life admin day. Ugh. All those boooring things the government says you need to have. Or else. Forms, VAT, PAYE, NSSF. Taxes basically. Bla. I want to get a T-shirt printed saying 'I'd rather be on Facebook'. End of month in town is never the best, 'specially when you have all these taxey type things to do. Aaaanyway, its not such a big deal. So halfway through my day I noticed a bird had shat on my arm. 

The parking attendant at TRA (Tanzania Revenue Authority) was looking very dour and grumpy. I tried to be extra nice to her. 'Pole na kazi. Pole na jua kali'. Sorry about your work (doesn't translate quite as well but a common saying) sorry about the sun. How are you, how is home?' She thawed ever so slightly. 
'What's that on your sleeve?' she asked 'Looks like a bird shat on you'
'Yes, they say its good luck'
She laughed 'Whoever told you that is a fool!'

Fair point.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A series of dreams


I’ve been having these dreams about my friend Mark.


A series of them, of differing themes, but always, just before I wake up I see him, he is alive and all is well. Laughing. And I wake up, so relieved.




Just for a euphoric split second though.


Because then I realize it’s not true. Yes he is still dead. 


And I have this Dylan song playing in my head


‘I’ve been thinking

Of a series of dreams

Where nothing comes up to the top

Everything stays down where it’s wounded

And comes to a permanent stop’


And I switch on the car radio. And its playing.


I met Mark in the early 90’s. He was sitting at Wildlife Camp bar, chatting to the barman in chiNyanja. For some reason there are not many wazungu* in Zambia who speak a local language and this was like a special, secret bond between us.


We worked together for two years in sister camps off in a remote part of the park. And became fast and firm friends.


Too many memories to put down.


Later, my dad bought a plot of land from him on his farm just outside Lusaka, and they became neighbours and good friends.  So it was weird going back to Zambia. Driving past his house, less than a kilometere from my dad’s. And knowing that he wouldn’t be popping by later to see me. 


And going to his house. Walking up the driveway, past the bourganvillea and he doesn’t come out the house with the biggest smile and the hugest hug. (He always did give the best hugs). No playful “ulibwa?’ Chuckle chuckle. Instead I see his 4 year daughter playing on the trampoline and his 2 and a half year old boy naked playing in the sprinkler. And he looks up at me and.




I am winded.


Yes Mark is here after all. Just different.


I try not to cry. I really try. I don’t know why. I suppose I want to savour the moment. Pretend like its not true. Like I’m just popping in as I always do.


His wife is not there so I try to leave, like if I go away, start over, the result will be different. But we meet in the driveway and still I try not to cry.


But it doesn’t work.


I somehow felt like I was on a different time zone to most other people in Lusaka. On a different schedule. Not to his wife who says now is worse than ever, and I didn’t see his sisters or parents, but…. I can’t really explain it. I had been in Tanzania when he was shot (he’d been on his way to pick up his daughter from school in the middle of the day, just a couple of kilometers from his house. The site is pointed out to me. It looks so normal) so I had felt somehow removed. I had cried. Oh yes I’d cried. Suddenly and unexpectedly while driving in the traffic. Washing the dishes. At baby bath time. Ground swallowing sobs that didn’t want to stop. But I hadn’t really been there to mourn, with his family, his other friends. Hadn’t been to his memorial. Hadn’t driven past his house. So it was like it had suddenly, shockingly, hit home.


He’s not coming back. And when I go back to Lusaka, he won’t be there.


So I cried some more. And some more.


And that night I dreamed about him again. But when I woke up he slipped out of my grasp. Clutching frantically at smoke. I know I dreamed about him. But this time I knew that he was really dead.




*white folk

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Old School

When I'm stuck for things to say I'll trawl through some old pictures to show you.

My sister and I were home-schooled, I'm sure I've told you this before. Our classroom varied from an open sided grass chitenje to walks in the bush to a little wooden house (pictured)  to a mud hut to a magical little clearing inside a combretum bush which was my personal favourite.

Looking at this picture I see that the alphabet is stuck up on the wall, on the top. I think its the same one where M was for Miranda and J was for Johnny and I threw a complete wobbly because J and M were not next to each other. My mother eventually got around this by drawing walkie talkies in for us. Phew, close one. 

And there too, is Widdle the warthog. 

Sheesh we all look a bit trailer trash huh?

And what am I WEARING?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I am constantly flabbergasted (now there's a great word) at the connections this blogging thing brings up.

It all started with Janelle, dearest friend and two times neighbour. A few years ago (three?) she was sick in bed and surfing the web. And stumbled across Family Affairs. Read her blog cover to cover, loved it. Started blogging, which started my clever sister Tammy blogging, which started me blogging which started Geli which started Val and so on. A tumbling waterfall of words, all out there. And then you start to discover other real life friends doing it - Tanvi, Tim, Shiny. I love them all.

And then you start to make connections. Friends in the making who you've never met. Reya, Lori, Mud, Lisa.  I know I'd love every one of them if we met up.

And then you go one step further and meet up with some of said virtual friends. I met Mud when I was pregnant, waiting to have my baby in Joburg. I always knew we'd get on great and we did. A too-short cup of coffee when we could have sat and chatted all week. And she came with a friend of hers - also very newly pregnant - and we got chatting and she went to university with, and was mates with, my friend Johnny who died. 

And Family Affairs, turns out, knows my family. Has a picture of her dad and my great aunt on her mantelpiece. Completely out the blue. 

And then Mud moves to Singapore and becomes great mates with Janelle's sister. 
And I get parcels of lovingly and beautifully knitted hats from Lori for my child.
And I recently become Facebook friends with Lisa who lives in Washington DC and it turns out WE know someone in common, who lives in Zambia and who went to school with her in India! I mean seriously - isn't that bizzare? All these connections from completely random clicks of buttons, from people spread out all over the world. And yet all connected. 

And I loved blogging. I used to write lots. Some of it rubbish, some of it goodish. And then I got distracted and it started to sputter. And stall. And the less I wrote the more rubbish I thought everything I wrote was. (Which is quite an awkward sentence!) And the confidence waned, and rehearsals stared to push in to blogging time and when once I used to write twenty times a month, suddenly it was only once. (And no, not quality over quantity unfortunately.) And the gaps between posts got stretchier and the guilt over this got denser. And underneath this all the mental blogging still goes on. The words burble and tumble and 'hey, that would make a good post' and 'ah man, a dog licking a baby cow at the bottom of our hill, I MUST blog about that' And then I don't and then the moment has passed.

Sheesh man! So what I'm trying to SAY. IS. That I'm going to try and blog more. It may be 3 times in one day and then not for two weeks. But I'm really going to try. Coz I love it. And I love the connections it makes.

And you? What blogging connections have you found? 

Picture window, all clear after the rain

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



There was a moment of madness there, when I thought I should have all these different blogs. I mean really! So I'm going to consolidate. A bit. Still contributing to Hometown Arusha separately. Work one, yah, need it, will keep it separate, but baby one I'm just going to do here. Sod it. So I've transferred two of the posts from there to here. 

So on that note...


So we went for a walk down the road and Lara found this nice big juicy puddle. And sat in in for hours. And I was torn between running back home (a few hundred metres away) and getting my camera or staying with her and making sure she didn't get run over by a random passing car or cow.

I chose to stay which I think was probably a good call!

And then eventually, her covered in slimy mud, she wanted to go home. No, be CARRIED home. And me in a pristine white skirt. And her in a cloth nappy that had soaked up at least 6 litres of very muddy water.

So I kinda held her out at arms length and trotted back to the house. And then I changed her nappy and shoes, got my camera and took her back to the puddle to try and re-enact the scene. And she was all 'what do you mean you want me to sit in a puddle? Are you nuts?'

So I took a picture anyway, but it wasn't quite the same.

Old Pics and New

Sorting through the pictures on my increasingly sluggish computer. Trying to lighten her atlas like load.

And I find these old pictures of me, a bit older than Lara is now, I guess.

And these, of Lara

Monday, March 21, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Okay so my recent silence on the blog front is not unusual, but my wrenching myself away from the computer is....

I've been away, you see. Visiting family in Zambia and South Africa. Awesome to meet my nephew, the sweetest boy in existence. Sad to visit my friend's house, so hollow with him gone. And to see his babies, with him staring out through their eyes. Many stories to tell. And I shall. Really I shall. 

But seriously, my nephew? Sheesh but he's cute.

For now, while I gather my thoughts, here's a picture of Monkey on the plane.

And when I left it was drydry but now the rains are here. 

Its good to be back. 

More soon.