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 findingcobras 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
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.
We all know the story of the Princess and the Pea, right? Okay so Hans Christain Anderson tells it a little better, but just to recap: A prince is looking for a princess to marry but all the princesses he meets are not to his liking. Then one night there is a storm and a woman claiming to be a princess comes seeking shelter. The family put her up for the night, but place a pea on the bed and pile twenty mattresses on top. When she wakes in the morning the prince asks how she slept and she says 'terribly! Didn't sleep a wink! Sooooo uncomfortable" or some such thing. And so hurrah! They know she is a princess. Which is just as well because the prince fancied the pants off her. So they get married and live the proverbial happy-ever-after-sail-into-the-sunset.
I was always horrified by this story. I would cringe with embarrassment at the princess's bad manners. So what if she had a bad night? These kind people put you up for the night when you had no-where to go and the next morning all you can do is COMPLAIN? I was truly, deeply concerned by this.
I don't know what made me think of this, or even write about it on this velvety sunday night. But thats what's on my mind.
Nothing heavy, nothing big.
Which is just perfect for this cricket-chirrupy sunday night, sky all black and crunchy with stars