Monday, March 23, 2015

Pitchin' Up...

And so there you are. It all carries on, doesn’t it? We survive broken marriages and dead horses. And dead mothers. Of course we do. The sun rises, dragging the moon behind it and you still have to get up, feed the children and go to work. The world keeps spinning and the seasons turn. It isn’t rocket science, you know…   
I don’t think I’ve fallen apart but I gave up smoking. Finally. Quietly. One would’ve thought that after everything, I’d be main lining heroin by now. But no. Instead, I quit smoking. I got sick of it; the mess, the stink, the constant reaching out for a cigarette, smoke burning my throat and chest. Eurgh. When the last 5 were done, I simply threw the box away and gave up. No fan fare. I must admit, the next few days at school were fantastically odd. I felt like I had eaten a few kilograms of magic mushroom. As the nicotine seeped slowly out of my system, I felt far far away and delightfully discombobulated. I didn’t see any shiny purple mountains though, like the time I ate half a magic mushroom with Tam and Bernd. The time when we had tea at the artist’s house in Hogsback who had a hyena head on the wall and we screamed when the tea tray was carried through the ribbon curtains. The time when we nearly hit a cow on the way to swim in the cold river which tumbled sun shot from the shiny purple mountains filled with fairies and hobbits.

This marvelous discombobulated condition generally faded by around six. It would switch, as fast as lightning, into a white hot terrible terrible temper. It was so horrible that one evening, last born begged, wide eyed and cowering in a corner with the all four dogs and the cat, “Mama! Please! Just have a cigarette!” I snarled through clenched teeth, “I. Do. Not. Want. A. Fucking. Cigarette.” Ghastly.

This passed, as all things are wont to do, which includes alcohol. I barely drink anymore. I am happy with this new found lucidity. I feel strangely stripped, crutches snatched away. You have to sit with yourself again. No escaping. I find it taxing. I don’t really like myself very much. Never have. 

So. I am now trying to learn how not to be so sad, angry and fat. I want to be happy, kind and slim. So I have taken up Exercise and given up booze and coffee in the hope that I shall draw nearer to being a nicer person inside and out. Because I have to live with myself. There is nothing else for it. I take myself, on a daily basis, Sundays included, to either the gym, yoga (I do yoga before dawn, people. And sometimes NAKED on roof tops. How bloody unbelievable is that?) badminton or tennis in an attempt to regain a shape of some sort and to sweat away the anger. It works. I stand on the scale at the gym and I am repulsed. My weight refuses to shift. I look at the blobby shape in the mirror and spit at it and throw myself onto various machines with an obvious and embarrassing vengeance. I have also given up carbohydrates (not rice but The Evil Potato) and sugar. Although I have been seen at Rakifa buying M & M’s on occasion. But a girl’s gotta treat herself now and then. Needless to say, none of this is exactly FUN now, is it? In a vague attempt not to become a lentil eating, yoga bending bore, I will succumb every now and then to a Skinny Bitch or three. Google it, Bloggin’ Babies. It doesn’t really do it. At the end of it all, I still have to wake up to myself.

It’s, well, new trying to re consider myself without a horse and a marriage. The horse is six foot under and the marriage in tatters at my feet, waiting for the wind to blow it like confetti into the sky. It’s difficult. My riding boots remain lined up, like old soldiers waiting for Remembrance Day. I should really pack them away.

There are many things that need packing away once and for all.
I’ll get there. Slowly. Soon I'll be able to do a headstand without a wall to balance against.

I just need to pitch up, pot plants and stand on my head.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

De La Rey...

RIP De La Rey. Born 28 December 2002. Died 1 January 2015 .

"..That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid neither horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.” 
― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

I don’t want a fuss. I despise sentimentality. But I feel I owe you the story. Perhaps I owe it to myself. It is hard. I don’t like talking about it and I find it very hard to write about. I didn’t think I would survive it. I think I even wrote that if he died, “I’ll give up the fight” in my last post. But of course you don’t. Of course the sun rises and the world keeps spinning and the children keep waking and going to school. And so do you. I gave up smoking instead. I decided I wanted to live. I don’t know why. I thought that I couldn’t possibly smoke all my anger away, anyway. So I am living with it instead.

This horse was my soul horse. I loved him. More than any other horse. He was a champion, my lil cow poke pony. We escaped charging elephant in West Kilimanjaro; we galloped over the Ngaserai Plains; he won Novice A dressage, by reading my thoughts, by being aware of the slightest shift in leg or weight or breath, floating; he won jumping events, being the only one who cleared every single jump. He hated knocking poles down. He could jump the moon, I swear. He taught me so much. How to let go. With my hands. With my life. I’m trying. I really am. But it’s hard.

When horses die, they explode out their bodies, like thunder flashes. His little friend, Sukari, is lonely. You can’t keep a horse on their own. Sometimes, early in the morning, at sun rise, I hear him calling and I imagine De La Rey has been to see him and has left with the moon...

He was diagnosed with cancer. He was very ill. Over Christmas he declined dramatically. It broke my heart to see him literally fade away in front of me. And so, on the 1st of January we dug the grave. I went to say good bye to him. He leaned against me for a brief while, taking small sharp breaths,and turned away as if to say, “Now go.”

It almost broke me clean up into a million pieces. I think it did. I hear Caroline sayin' "Skattie. Cowgals don't cry in front of their horses..."

Safari C shot him. With his Dakota .450.

It was clean and quick. And loud. Godi, who was standing next to the horse, thought he had been shot. He leapt 4 feet into the air and rolled into the grass. The grave diggers all ran and jumped the fence and stood on the other side.

But only the horse lay dead, after all.

Sometimes I dream of him. He comes and stands next to me, his head next to mine. Just so. Like he used to.

I haven’t quite got over this yet.



"Yo no se, amigos. Montad en suestros caballos. Ride. Ride. " Tom Horn In Cheyenne Jail.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Here be Angels...please.

General De La Rey.

Things are tricky presently. The weather. The Job. And my horse is sick. 

When shit happens, I am very good at reaping the consequences and assuming the responsibility. I'm really good at saying sorry. But now, I stand back and I ask myself was it me? Or can I blame the weather? Absolutely the weather. And I’ll come up with all the reasons why it was definitely and very obviously the weather's fault and go to bed and sleep soundly. Like a baby. And believe in Angels Sometimes I even feel Wings around my shoulders.

His name is Michael and he is very big and important in the Angel World. He’s like a Boss. And he is dead good looking. He rides on the roof of my car. He blesses my children. He protects the house. He guards me. He cheers me up when I lie foetally coiled on my bed and reminds me that everything isn’t as bad as I think it is. He doesn’t cook. Or do my shopping. Or pay the bills. Or get the kids to school and to sports on week ends. No. But he does protect me from policemen. He makes my car go invisible so I don’t get stopped. And sometimes, when I remember, he makes everything a LOT lighter. The trick is to remember to ask and imagine it. Bingo. And don’t forget to say thank you. And suddenly everything isn't quite as bad as you imagined it. You learn to Let Go.

Today’s one of those days when I need Michael. He needs to make my horse better. My horse, De La Rey, isn’t any old horse, you understand. He is one in a million and we have been together in other lifetimes. Chasin’ buffalo on green plains, probably. He is courageous. He has a huge heart. He is funny. He is tough. Strong. We’ve done some hellova wild rides together in country not fit for old men. Last time he escaped into northern Maasailand and disappeared for three hours. We found him 40 kms later. Unharmed. Not a scratch. He’s a wild, tough one. He isn’t scared of hyaena either. Doesn’t even stand up for them. He’s won dressage for me and carried me around courses of jumps all the way to the finish and won that too. He isn't afraid of much but isn't that partial to crows. They peck your eyes out, you know.

There isn’t another horse like him. I promise you.

He is sick. He is losing his strength, something I have never seen him do. This sickness is beating him and I am beside myself with worry. He is starting to give up. The weight is dropping from him and he won’t eat carrots anymore. Last night, I let him out to graze if he wanted to. He lay his head in my arms and sighed. The vet doesn’t know what it is. Angels are the only thing I can turn to now. Please heal this horse. Please take this illness from him? Please? Please? Please? I don't want to let go. 

If my horse gives up the fight, I will too. 

With Angels at my side.

I know he's just a horse. I know there are bigger more serious things in the world to worry about which are keeping all Angels flat out busy, especially a Boss one, like Michael. But to me, he isn't any old horse. He is my Soul Horse and he mustn't leave just yet.

So. If anyone is reading this out there, light a candle and think of a funny spotty horse on a little hill in Tanzania and visualize him better please. 

Thank you! 

Angels be with y'all.

Ride on.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

God In Small Things.

Winter hasn’t quite left and I love it for staying a little longer. Tonight we sat by a crackling fire, sipping green tea with Jasmine. Very unlike us. Just sayin’. He spoke of finding god in small things, like that last bit of cotton to mend the hole in the mosquito net, one more match to light the candle, bumping into an old friend when you’re least expecting it, finding a phone voucher. If there is a god, it’s true. God really is in small surprises, the chocolate miraculously on the pillow, a kind gesture. I said I thought God was in my hot showers, in this perfect fire,in that precise moment when I lay my weary head onto my pillow.  I thought about all my favourite sounds: the crackling fire, the trill of the nightjars, soft rain on the roof, the hooting of the owls before dawn on my roof, last night's dreams in their talons, a soft wind through the acacias, the sigh of the appaloosa.

We rode out today again, Marco and I. Marco is the syce. He’s been working with horses since he was 14. All his life. He is definitely a horse fundi. He rides the little appaloosa called Sukari which means sugar in Swahili. He should be called Hot Popcorn. He’s unquestionably the finest lil fire hearted pony this side of the equator. I ride The General De La Rey, the big appaloosa, "Big like a buffalo," says Marco. He is my soul horse. We’ve ridden out over other plains in other lives, that’s for sure. A rollicking canter down dusty tracks scoured by winds and rain, by old tractors and bicycles and hooves, lifts the heart and polishes the soul. It births courage and a sense of freedom and trust.You feel alive. You remember. 

Marco is a man of God and a bloody good rider. He used to be called Mohammed. On our rides, we talk of the world and the way it's woven with marriage, witchcraft, farming methods, politics, wars, religion, quantum physics, whether I am a witch, spirits, healing and whether God exists. I always play the devil's advocate on god matters. He mentioned the riots in Ferguson the other day.
“The world really is upside down,” he said.
I couldn’t disagree. 
“Did you read about the troubles in Ferguson anyway?” he asked.
“Yes. Yes. I did. Terrible about the police killing that young man, eh?” 
Marco looked sideways at me and said,” The world is very confused. They make such a fuss over that? Causing riots and looting? He was a thief after all!” 
There is no smudging of truths here. No.

'Round here, horses are a novelty, an event, it seems. Children run excited through the dry maize fields, forgetting their bovine charges, “ Farasi! Farasi!” (Horse! Horse!) Marco tells them not to run too close because the horse could bite their heads off or that horses don’t like ‘kilele’ (noise). Mostly, they don't seem to care. A woman nervously wishes us a hastey, “Safari njema.” Someone else laughs and tells us she’s terrified of the horses. “But when are you going to give me a lift?” 
Marco always says, “Tomorrow. We’ll be back tomorrow.” 
It is becoming old. 
“But you said that last time…”
One day we will. We really will. Just not this afternoon.

This afternoon Marco said, “Let’s ride up that hill over there…” It’s high and far and tempting. And it’s, well, there. There was no reason not to. 

We passed a Maasai girl, tall and slim as a reed.
 “Where are you going?” 
Marco pointed over his horse's ears, “ We are going to the top of that hill to talk to God.” I grimaced and rolled my eyes. No one saw. I didn’t want them to. She looked skywards.
“ Well, you won’t find God up there. You should go up that hill,” and she pointed to a hill behind me, “ because that’s where God is. That is where you talk to God.” I looked behind me and saw Ngorobob Hill. 

We walked on anyway. The climb was steep and rocky.
“ At least we know that the horses will stop if a snake is in the grass,” I slyly mention. 
“They feel the vibrations on their bellies and they escape. Snakes are like that. . .” 
But not if it's a puff-adder, I wanted to say.

At the top the wind was icy and relentless. Wild. The trees were stunted and crooked from years of winds. Below us the landscape fell, sweeping out like a frozen ruffled sea. Even the horses stopped, heads up, ears forward, surveying their crinkled kingdom, criss-crossed with black cotton soiled veins. We sat silently in the saddles, like cowboys on a mission without Malboros, bandanas or Stetsons. I imagined riding to Lokasali and camping out in gypsy tents.

After a while, we turned the horses homewards, zig zagging carefully downwards, the wind at our backs, the sun low on our left, and rode, as if in a dream, back to The Hill Where God is.
For some. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Mt Meru Sikukuu Nane Nane 2014.

(Note: Words in brackets are there for those of you who are unsure of the correct Swahili pronunciations. I have even emboldened the stressed syllables to make it easier for you. Also below is a list of translated words which you might find useful before reading this.
Not being immediately bossy. Have fun, now… Wriggling eye brows in your general direction.)

Translation of Swahili Words you might need to know to read this.

Sikukuu (n.) – public holiday
Karibu(ni) sana – most welcome
Hongera sana – big congratulations.
Mwenyekiti (n.) (Sheha in Zanzibar) Balozi – Village Chairman
Kijijii (n. sing.) – Village
Mwaka (n.) mpya (adj.)  - new year. Mwaka = Year and Mpya = new.
Kufanya (vb.) – to do
Kazi (n.) – work.
Salaam (n.) – peace
Dar es Salaam – place of Peace.
Kulima (vb.) – to farm.

1 – moja
2 – mbili
3 – tatu
4 –nne
5 – tano
6 – sita
7 – saba
8 – nane
9 – tisa
10 – kumi
11 – kumi na moja
12 – kumi na mbili.
Godi on his new Toyo, Sikukuu Nane Nane

It’s time to learn some Swahili, people. It’s time. Seeing that yesterday was another sikukuu,(sea coo coo) a public holiday, I figured you could learn, through this little story, how to count in Swahili for starters. And for those of you who can cunningly count up to a 100, know the days of the week, the months AND hold a conversation already, well, hongera bloody sana. (on-geh-rah bloody sahnah.).

In Tanzania it seems there are as many public holidays, sikukuu, as there are chameleon species. I am thrilled. There are of course the obvious ones like Christmas and Easter but I simply cannot do this plethora of holidays justice by a simple listing. No.  Far too simple. It must be detailed so you will understand my conundrum. Indeed, why I needed to write to my local mwenyekiti (mwen – yeh – key – tea ) of Ngorobob  kijiji (kee-jee-jee), about the months of June, September and November.

There isn’t a finer or more logical place to start than January the 1st, which we all know is New Year’s Day, Mwaka mpya  (mwah-kah mmmm-peeya), a day to reflect on the future; on all those ridiculous resolutions you made last night knowing you weren’t going to keep any of them; on the fact that there are no pain killers in the house to quiet the killer hangover born of a mix of every conceivable cocktail on offer because they were free; on the fact that the PPD’s (post piss up depression) are about to begin and you had better bloody well deal with them because you did it to yourself.  

Running straight on from that, on the 12th of January, is Zanzibar Revolutionary Day, marking the anniversary of the 1964 overthrow of the Sultan of Zanzibar. If you need to read more on this interesting part of Tanzanian political history, which you must, in fact, whether you want to or not because it would make me feel ever so happy,  read this post 

The public holidays get complicated, in the nicest possible way, you understand, because of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one, and months begin when the first crescent of the beautiful paper thin new moon is spotted. It’s a buggar if it’s cloudy, I should imagine. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 10 to 11 days shorter than the solar year and there is no timekeeping involved, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons, like birds from Europe. I love the idea of ‘break fast’ because the Islamic day starts after sunset. This year, according to the Islamic calendar, the celebrations of  Milad-un-Nabi (the birth of Mohammed) took place over February and March. Again in May, as soon as the moon was spotted,  Eid ul-Fitre celebrated the end of Ramadan.

The Eid festivities herald the onset of Good Friday, Easter and Easter Monday celebrations, a dream run for any chocoholic. I'd do anything for chocolate, even believe in resurrection, temporarily.  On April 7th is Sheik Abeid Amani Karume Day which is a commemoration of the assassination of Vice President Sheik Abeid Karume of Zanzibar, which you will know all about because you read the post I directed to you, earlier on, Little Old Clever Chops. As if that isn’t a big enough event to remember, on April 26th we celebrate Union Day, sikukuu yamuungano, (see-coo-coo yah-moooon-gah-noh) which commemorates the unification of Zanzibar and Tanganyika into the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964, upon which you’ve already become an expert because of said link…ahem. (It’s ok. You can go back and read it now, if you want.)

Moving swiftly, joyfully and festivally on (brass bands, white horses, dancing girls and balloons everywhere by now), in May we have Worker’s Day the world over, sikukuu yawafanya kazi (yah-wah-fun-yah kahzee). On the 7th of July we celebrate Saba Saba (sah-ba sah-ba) which literally means seven seven. This is a day to mark the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair. And in August we have Nane – Nane (nah-neh, nah-neh) literally meaning eight-eight which is Farmer’s Day, y’all, sikukuu wakulima.( sea coo coo wa-coo-lee-mah.)  Still with me? she worriedly asks.

On October the 14th  we commemorate the Father of the Nation, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, with Nyerere Day.  On December 9th we celebrate Independence Day.  In December, sometime after that, depending on the moon, we celebrate Eid al-Adha.  Then Christmas Day and Boxing Day….and then we start all over again. The good thing about all of this is that there is no time for de toxing, apart from during Ramadan but then who's going to say no to breakfast at  seven in the evening? (saa moja jioni in Swahili time) There warm sweet doughnuts, sweet pasta, sweet meats and samoosa to share. 

Now then, I have written to my local M.P suggesting we introduce Sita Sita, (see-ta see-ta), tisa tisa (tea-sah, tea-sah) and Kumi na Moja Kumi na Moja (coo-me nah moh-jah )  for obvious reasons. These are the only months which shockingly do not include One. Single. Sikukuu. It isn’t right.  I pointed out that we didn’t have mbili mbili (mmm-bee-lee), tatu tatu (tah-tou tah-tou), nne nne (nnnn-neh nnnn-neh), tano tano all the way to eleven which would more than solve the problem.  I suggested that we might need to add another one in July, Sita Saba Sita Saba, because that’s my birthday (diarize, y’all) but I’ll understand if they don’t gazette that one…ish.

I think it makes complete sense.


Oh. And Noddy Badges all round for everyone who can count to ten in Swahili for the first time, without looking! Hongera sana!

And bisous! X X X  to those who are missing them...warm Swahili ones, on yer lips, scented in festivities xxx j

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bedside Weather (or Whether To Get Up Or Not)

I have this terrible habit. When I wake up, stretching, looking at the light in the attic windows, I sleepily gauge what kind of day it’s going to be. You can tell, you know. If the sun beams clear-cut, golden rectangles up onto the white, slanted ceilings, it heralds a clear blue day. The shapes will be sharp and defined and cut through with minuscule, mosquito net squared shadows. Outside the bright spring air shapes a translucent day when you should be out there flying kites, marveling at the sheer brightness of the wild yellow flowers, which are like small fallen stars, littering the landscape for as far as you can see. Small Fallen Stars. That’s what they should be called. …daisy stella africanum should be their Latin name. It’s going to be one of those days when the dream is real, when you unfurl your life pennant of victory, swirling silver in a frisky wind and I am your queen. If you don’t pitch up to your life on a day like this, shame on you.

If the gold rectangles are hazy, if the lines fade from strong to smudgy, the light glows gold to pale dust yellow, I’ll bet you the clouds are low and racing, skidding across the northern sun. If you listen, the wind is already whistling and shaking the rafters. It’s going to be a fast weather changing day, which flirts with mood and dress code. You’ll be shunted from dreaming to philosophy to restlessness to half done jobs and misunderstandings to desolation. The horse is crazy silly. Crows scare him even more than on other days, as they slice through the air, pterodactyls on the wing, in formations of 7 or more. He puffs himself up like a Citroen, standing still as a statue ready to explode. It’s the kind of day when you think of drinking whisky at four in the afternoon and actually convince yourself that it’s not a problem.

If there are no golden rectangles on your ceiling, like this morning, and the light is dove grey silver, there’ll sure as hell be mist outside, raindrops light as snowflakes swirling about the whistling thorns. If I were in Europe and it was winter, there’d be snow out there. I hear a distant dog barking into the silence of the morning. The clouds will be thickly spread like she spreads Nutella on her toast, although not anymore because she knows it hurts orangutans.(do your homework, people.) Like she won’t eat calamari anymore because she knows how intelligent octopi are. I told her how a mother will guard her eggs for as long as she can, sometimes until she dies, because the longer she sits there, the bigger and stronger they will be. These days remind me of giant oil paintings of pre-revolution Russian landscapes, dark skyscapes and peasants with scythes in fields of hay. You curl shell like back into your smug bed, and, if it’s holidays, hope that someone else will open the front door to let the dogs out and to leave the keys for the stable store for Mohammed. You hope someone else will put the kettle on and bring you coffee in bed…with lashings of coffee creamer, the exact amount of Africafe with one and half sugars, please. Like hell.

No, you decide. No. I’m not getting up. Fuck it. The world can wait and if the dogs have weed inside the house again, who cares? Which makes you realize you’ve been popping for a wee since three that morning. You stretch again and reach out for the iPad. This is the terrible habit, you see.  You check your emails, check your instagram and you check Facebook, leaving the news til last because it’s so terrible these days. You watch an amusing Zimbabwe advert. You watch a cat dog video, only because you rate and love the person who’s posted it. (note to self: never be fooled. Press enter at your own risk. Is the bandwidth worth it?) You only read the headlines from the Gaza Israeli onslaught…but your eyes slip down and you read about how a rocket has hit another school and ten more children are killed but how the Israelis say they will not stop the war on ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ on ‘terror’. There is an image of a blown up wheel chair, with a brother crouched over his dead sister who couldn’t get away fast enough, who got left behind. His trousers are torn and his feet are bare. He stares down at the crumpled remains of his sister, tears making tracks through the dirt on his face, blood on his hands, his mouth in a silent scream. And you scroll down quickly. And there she is, Rin Norris, head bowed, talking at a memorial for her three children, Mo, Evie and Otis and her father Nick Norris, who were blown out of the sky in Malaysian flight MH17 by Ukrainian rebels. You watch her speak. You read her words, "They taught me to sing every day and to laugh at myself. They taught me not to dance in front of their friends and to try and not be funny in maths groups. When their innocent bodies were shot out of the sky, I stretched my arms as high as I could and screamed for them. Now I see them only in my head. I can't touch them, I can't feel their warmth. My arms will always be reaching for them."  

All of a sudden, you can’t get out of bed anymore. You remember the words, “Just pitch up to your life.” And you do. But you can’t stop crying. Even when you finally get to the loo, when you open the door to let the dogs out, when you kill the scorpion on the kitchen floor as you make your way to the stove to put the kettle on, as you stare out the window at the new grey day ahead. Your life. You can’t stop crying. You hug and kiss your children stronger than ever before, as they stumble warm as scones from their beds, scented with love and dreams. You hug them long and strong. Long and strong, and goddamn pitch up to your life.

I love the golden rectangles beamed onto my ceiling, true.

Yes.  I love those kind of days.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

alice herz sommer 108 - words of wisdom.

photo from

"i learnt from the bad but i look at the good things... everything is a present."