Monday, November 25, 2013
the flamboyant flaming red, leaned up against the old red tin roof at school.
'heavy clouds but no rain'.
no electricity either.
that old chestnut, i swear.
day after blazing day.
we lit sparklers.
to cheer ourselves up.
lightening flickers somewhere far in the east.
somewhere over the tanzanite mines near the airport, perhaps.
but there is not the faintest smell of rain.
the lightening must be very far away.
my son says i am ruining his social life.
but the summer twilight is smug. we lounge on the veranda and cicadas screech in the mountain olives.
we light the sparklers in the courtyard - a giant gold one which daniel held, a red one, a blue one, a green one, a silver one. we twirled them under the quiet stars. rubin tells me that the sparks can't hurt you.
daniel spells his name.
"look ma!" as if he was still 5, my tall gangly golden 17 year old boy.
it was splendid.
we tried to light a rocket too. but the wind was too strong and the wick rubbish - that's what you said - and that it could blow your face off.
we looked at Venus, low and fat in the west and the small late moon rise over kilimanjaro, all set about with lacy clouds. theatrical.
we were there, all of us, present, bound by love, hand in hand.
and i thought "This matters."
Saturday, August 24, 2013
we take the back roads to town and back now because of the road works. it seems the ‘flaggers’ have no control. they blissfully wave the red and the green flags, as dexterously as fire dancers, almost flagrantly, it seems, sending buses, fuel tankers and dala dalas careering towards each other on one lane diversions for a happy head on collision. nobody seems afraid of dying here. one little twist of the steering wheel and its over….it's not that we're afraid of dying, i assure you, it's just that, frankly, not right now.thanks. too much to look forward to, ya know? so, instead, we take the back roads, through the dry, golden maize fields, down bumpy dirt roads and passed little dukkas with sad billiard tables outside. at night it’s best. those roads you thought you knew like the back of your hand morph into roads that seem strangely familiar but cast a sense of unknown. we always hope to spy an aardvark or an owl. or a porcupine. perhaps a duiker or a dik dik or score high with a striped hyaena. mostly, they're seen dead on the tar.
last night the stars were too distracting for night spotting. our eyes were outward and upward, not delving into the dry scrub lining the track. the evening star was as big as an orange, low in the west, guiding us back to our hill. you could tell stellar dimensions…which ones were close and which ones were far, as though each one was dangling on its own invisible fish line. star gazing and driving IS possible, especially on the back roads at night. you might hit a bump too hard, or whack a maize stalk over. 'as all. the wild wind pushes the old Toyota along, dust engulfing the car as you slow down for a karonga, road ribs or a zig zaggin' hare in the headlights. we don’t care about the dust anymore. it’s pointless. you simply give in to it.you keep the windows down, the wind in and let the dust shape your hair and line your skin. it makes your bogies black. just sayin'. "Louisiana" plays on the cassette, stretched from overplay and we can't even remember what rain feels like.
TANESCO staggers on…and mostly off, as always. it’s spooky getting home to a dark house. moonlight shadows, a crunched footstep in the dark and the ever present menace, a silent, dark house. the dogs dancing around your legs banish the demons. i was loathe to start the generator but teenagers need light and power it seems. i’d have been happy enough with the old oil lamp and the constellations.
somehow, after everything, the stars are still fatter and spikier and the winds stranger here, binding me with invisible ribbons to this dusty, wind blown little round hill. i need to get on the horse and ride out, make a gypsy camp out on the plains, hang little flags from tree to tree and sing next to a fire, listening to wind songs and the sigh of the appaloosa, spy the shy Pleiades and wake early enough to see the morning star and the softest of all horizons before the sun flattens it all into a harsh reality and i’m back at school…which starts on monday. mondays have never seemed so terrible.
i had the best holiday ever. we drove for miles and miles along roads i have never been, around corners where the world fell away into breath taking crinkled mountains, passed farms which sparkled with frost in the early morning, speeding through mists of other countries’ blue twinkling winters.
i saw the morning star above the Indian ocean where the whales will soon start to migrate. i walked under sun warmed lemons and through beatrix potter landscapes, with a pale winter sun glinting through avenues of old oaks. orchards of peach blossoms buzzed with bees – the flowers blooming like idjits who thought summer had arrived and winter was a forgotten thing of the past… stepping out into a cold Nairobi morning, i saw what had happened to winter…it had traffic jammed in east Africa, grey, dirty and solidly unromantic.
arriving home, ghosts whispered in the corners where the pictures are stacked. i hung the new wind chime which sings different, prettier wind songs, drawing me away from the ones i know so well, the ones which have lost notes because of the wasp nests inside the pipes. i threw the plastic flowers away, the red ones, which have graced the lounge for the last 8 years and replaced them with a live curly wurly fern. long may she live.(remember? i kill plants just by looking at them…except for cactii and jasmine.) the jasmine grows wild and true and prolific outside. it scents the house, riding the little winds which curl through the open windows. it makes me smile. i put some in my little office next to my Buddah and another spray on the fireplace which burns brightly with coffee wood and keeps me warm in these cold, quiet times.
in the dark fire lit hours, i plan zanzibar safaris and brighter, warmer times. i listen intently to the mountain wind rattling the old tin roof, the moon bright and full through the loft window and sleep, lost in dreams i vaguely remember in the morning. i used to be so good at remembering.
sometimes it’s better to understand the world through music and images. they encapsulate moments, like a floating string of polaroids, blinking in the dark space of the mind, like the very pretty stars in the night sky.
music, poetry, old letters and photographs are such a consolation.
and stars, oh bloggin' babies, stars.
so i leave y'all with a most beautiful version of Dylan's Buckets Of Rain' by Beth Orton.
toodely toot, y'all and bisous X.X.X.sweet jasmine ones, on yer dust laden lips. x j
Saturday, June 29, 2013
i found myself heading out for an actual walk last wednesday afternoon, deciding to take warmth and solace from the last of the syrup golden sun and extract my mind from silly, temporary sadnesses. look.
i took a photograph of some boda boda riders heading home down the hill.
how sweetly the acacia stretch, almost making an arch over the dusty tracks which smell of smoke and winter.
i stopped in to say hi to c, d’s mother, who hales from kenya. she is an absolute tonic and inspiration and has lead a life more colourful than most. she raised all her children in zanzibar, living through the revolution of the early '60's. she sheltered 6 other children (of Indian and arab extraction) as the revolution swept the island, slaying arabs and indians. the revolutionaries came to the house, banging and shouting at the door. she opened it, so petite and elegant, very calm, very beautiful, still is. the young, fiery armed revolutionaries looked inside and counted 9 children, all of vaguely similar age and height, but clearly of different families, race and cultures. they barked at C, “are these ALL your children?” “Yes they are. All of them,” staring cool as a cat calmly and elegantly back at them. “ALL of these?” they disbelievingly insisted. “Yes. Every. Single. One of them. They’re all mine,” she unblinkingly replied, standing her ground. they left, obviously convinced. i definitely wouldn't have bought it.
this, oh besties, in my book, is heroic stuff.
she learned to ride on giant English race horses as a child and, consequently, has never climbed back on one since. not even a shetland. she is the only person i know who has drunken liquidized quat, a somalian speed weed which all the truckers CHEW to keep them awake and driving all night. (or google for a better descripton) in fact, i don’t think anyone else in the world has ever thought of making a juice out of it before. the thing is, you’re supposed to chew quat. C wanted the full monty, I guess. she said it made her feel quite ill for a couple of days and has never tried it again, like horses.
we sat drinking some berry juice. she said I could smoke inside because she’s terrifically cool. i adore making her laugh, and I can, about the most serious of matters. she throws her head back and howls with laughter at what should be, at best, tragic stories of broken hearts, espionage, broken up families, allusions to intellectual midgets until we both quickly remind ourselves of our inherently Buddhist natures and say nice things about everyone and the world and feel terribly good inside.
so there i was, jabbering incessantly, trying my best to make her laugh, and succeeding, when I felt insecty tickles on my neck. i unthinkingly, midsentence, put my hand up and WACK, was karmically stung by a bloody bee. on my thumb. “Oh, it’s just a bee,” i hear you say. as i say to my children…”At least it wasn’t a scorpion. Or a wasp. Or CHILDBIRTH. Now that’s sore. So come on. Chin chin. It’s nothing. It’s just a bee sting. Pah. Etc etc” but FMS, it was sore. my hand is still swollen two days later. the children think it’s vile and disgusting and won’t touch it or let me touch them. if i hold it under first born’s nose, he shudders. my friend and colleague at school, Charles Charlie Charles (the art teacher) said “Oh pole sana! But it just looks like you have a fat baby’s hand.” charming. today it’s so itchy I could chain saw it to pieces because no one will tickle the itchies to death. and to think of how many bees i’ve saved from swimming pools….hive loads, i tell ya.
at least it didn’t sting me on my neck. i might be looking like ET today. or a giant baby. (Confession: i’ve always thought ET was disgusting. i thought it was a horror film when i watched it. that child needed guidance. couldn’t they have made ET a little more attractive? or at least furry - ish? he was like a giant frog, for kerrist’s sake….ew)
and another thing…(oh. don’t go away….!) … for the record, i just can’t get into boy bands….i really would like to love Rose (as in Rohzeh the wine. i don’t know how to do French accents on the keyboard) by The Feelings, a beautifully filmed music vid in Abbey Road for Burberry (a string of super nostalgic, classy associations right there, I think)….annoyingly, i couldn’t get over the Rose wine metaphor….i couldn’t take it seriously. (going to have another listen and peek before I press ‘publish’ on this…) ok. done. they will never ever be The Beatles, no matter how hard they try, how many videos they make at abbey road, or of being mini people in acquariums, with oversized lizards, snakes (and lapels) and, god forbid, FROGS lurking horribly close to the mini people and stuff (look here. just do it.). oh but the strings and transitions in ‘Rose’ are quite beautiful… have a look (that IS a link so click away, babies) and let me know if I am missing something and if, in fact, they are what one would call a Boy Band? or (be kind now) am i just getting old?
the singer just seems, well, a little too earnest in his love and, frankly, damn those lyrics. and the Rose with an accent. give me a Jamesons, and say, jake bugg or the the tallest man on earth (they ARE modern), any day. (loving the linking, by the way. so you'd better watch or i'll hunt you down. i will, you know. )
chin chin y’all and bisous.X.X.X. honeyed ones on yer bee stung lips. X j
Monday, June 24, 2013
i know i know….i told you both not to adjust your sets and now look…I’ve left you there staring at the screen saver, patiently waiting for tales of spice tours, stone town tours, prison island tours, giant tortoises and mr alphonse who considers himself a swimmer of international repute and mr bongo (from the congo. poetry. fact.) who took such delight in the sea and sand, he made himself into a doughnut.
but, she sighs, that was so long ago now.
winter has since arrived. shadows have grown longer and days shorter. in any case, this winter is a fine winter, as african winters go, because we had good rains. it’s suitably crispy; the butterflies are taking full advantage of the last of the april wild flowers and stars are spikey. it’s crisp enough for a fire at night.
making the fire is my ritual and nobody else's. collecting wood, on the other hand, is not. apart from when there is a revolution. i have a secret mexican recipe for starting a healthy fire with no fuss (email me for payment details. the mauritian trick of cooking oil in toilet paper sucks.). i love being the fire keeper. i must watch it like a hawk. woe betide meddlers. my daughter is learning fast. you mustn’t, under any circumstances, meddle with other peoples' fires, toss logs so carelessly on like cushions on a couch. unless you're stealin' other peoples' horses which you would never do. like a sleeping dog, let it lie. like most everything in life, timing is all. i consider myself an unashamedly dictatorial goddess at fire making but, oh besties, not in The Boiler. The kuni Boiler. The Rhodesian Boiler. call it what you will.
frankly, it’s a bastard.
i think I wrote about it a few years ago, at the beginning of this blog, when I dutifully wrote Every. Single. Day, petulantly infused with heady and ridiculous notions about being discovered and making shit loads of money (how adolescent of me. grow up, for godsake)…i wrote about the time when i singed (as in burnt) off my eyebrows. i have learned much since then and am now very adept at throwing a clutch of burning matches on kerosene soaked logs then jumping backwards like a baboon from a crocodile, before the greedy flames can scour you from here to Timbuktu. it’s quite an art, i tell ya. laugh not.
last night, being a goddawful sunday night, when dishes are piled high, monday leers horribly and doggedly around the corner, the table at the front door is piled high with the left over belongings of three peoples’ week end and undone homework, someone didn’t make the dog food, you're mildly hungover from your friend's barbeque and disturbingly broody after holding her sister's baby (blink), the rigors of adulthood weigh so heavily on the heart and shoulders and all you want is a piping hot shower (baths are out of the question. no water, remember?) and no one has lit The Boiler and nobody wants to light The Effing Boiler.
I. HATE. LIGHTING. THE. BOILER. so naturally, you want to immediately pour yourself a stiff whisky and listen to Ella Fitzgerald instead.... but…cleanliness is next to godliness and no one likes sticky legs in bed. or feet. and a hot shower isn’t a lot to ask for. or to arrange, and you are a responsible mother, you might wearily conclude…
so as you have of late been thankfully reminded, you must take heed of the mundane, of all those little daily chores which chain-link the minutes of your days,( whether it’s opening the gate, locking the gate, making the coffee, or lighting The Frikken Boiler). you pay attention wholeheartedly, mindfully....Light The Frikken Boiler. because that’s all there is to it, at this precise moment. (this is particularly hard to practice at 6:30 in the morning when you’ve got to pick up dog shit in the lounge…)
I spent a good deal of yesterday evening with my head in the fucking boiler asphyxiating myself by practicing an ancient aboriginal art of channeling your breath through fingers pressed together to form a tunnel directed into specific areas of the fire.(learned from an australian play boy) i successfully inhaled cloudfuls of wood smoke, almost died and failed on both accounts. i swore impressively and quite a lot. and then felt sad. so sad. the vaguely luke warm shower sufficed. it had to. gosh I’m tough.
honestly? who gives a shit about The Boiler? or sticky legs and feet, come to think of it?
“creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous” – Bill Moyers….put that in your boiler, babies, and smoke it…
and PS: i might not always crack fire making but i DID crack this…
(12 yr old self clapping hands and hanging the ribbon above the piano...)
everyone’s terribly impressed this side of the mountain.
toodely toot y'all. bisous X.X.X. red hot boiling ones x. j
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
but i'm still here.
i've quite forgotten how to 'insert' photographs. and, confession, i still don't know how to do that clever link thing.
it's all this focus on keeping a calm mind and an open heart. bloody hard work, i tell ya. terribly distracting. no wonder the gurus head for the mountains and caves. what a cinch. some of them should try a school trip to zanzibar with 45 children in tow. c'mon big ole guru....do yer tricks then, eh? see how calm your mind is when you yell at 24 of them on a bus in the middle of Stone Town, at night, around 8 "ok! are you all on the bus? check to see if your friend is next to you! NOW!" and someone pipes up, "no, titi isn't here." "what? WHATT? well where the devil is he then?" "we don't know..." and you look out the window into a blustery zanzibar night, with piki pikis, dala dalas, the hustle and bustle of the harbour, lights, darkness and titi isn't on the bus...mr nymota, who you'll meet in a minute, leapt off the bus, in a flash, and into the other bus...and found titi who was frogged marched back to the right bus almost by his ears....
...and then we all went for ice creams on the corniche and watched the local boys dive off the pier which impressed everyone, especially the girls.
this is mr nyamota on day 1: having fun on the Spice Tour:
this is mr nyamota at the end of day 3: after we found titi.
i think he is working on a calm mind and an open altruistic heart in The Passing Show Hotel of Zanzibar.
more to follow another time. the end of term tsunami is in sight. i'm batoning the hatches on all fronts. and, trying to stay calm. with an open heart.
sometimes it feels lighter.
at others, insane.
nothing a nice cup of tea won't soothe...or a spotty hoss, for that matter.
toodely toot y'all. bisous. X.X.X. open hearted ones on yer lips.
ps: tales of zanzibar to follow....do not adjust your sets.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
and friends. good friends. who love you and think you are brave and graceful and funny. who still believe in you and restore a certain sense of self.
i am just back from a wild hootenanny up north with all my besties, with some of my most favourite people in the world. i went up to lamu, a little island off the northern kenyan coast.
i stayed with one of my oldest friends in the world, from the good old bad old zambian days. she put me up here:
i felt like a princess.
you are lulled awake at dawn, with the gurgle of a boat starting, the silky heavy slurp of the little manda channel tide against the shore. lines between dream and reality are smudged.
it was insanely hot. there was nothing to do but sleep away the midday and afternoon heat.
early one morning, we took a speed boat up north to Kiwayu, a little island 30 kms down from the Somalian border.
lots of people are scared to travel up there because of the pirates. i think there is still a travel ban for the region...? which is sad for people trying to make a living up there....and for the isolated communities who rely on tourism. we met some fisher folk who said they hadn't see a somal in a year and a half. these shores are wild and desolate and beautiful. mike's camp nestles between the sea and a maze of mangroves.
it's idyllic and far from any maddening crowd, miles from your troubles. it's a new world. with its own secrets.
after a of lunch of freshly caught king fish (caught by luca, aged 12, a passionate and dedicated fisherman)
... grilled with ginger and chili and coconut sauce, milz said, "let's go look for turtles." i've never seen a turtle in the wild. we sailed across the bay and spotted FIVE! the joy of seeing a large plated back emerge through the emerald blue water, an old reptilian head surface for breath, then torpedo down for safety, was indescribable and novel and made me feel humble and extremely fortunate. we swam for hours in perfect waves with not a person in sight. we walked for miles up empty beaches, popping blue bottles with our bare feet, delighting in the pop sound.
and, oh besties, i met a wizard. he had no words but i knew he was a wizard. you can tell these things straight off.
...and a puffer fish cat who dealt with the torpid heat in a solid and sensible fashion...
conversations were never dull.we sat under fat monsoon stars, watching russian satellites float slowly by the pleiades. we swopped tales and laughed until our faces hurt. one night, we heard a boat. i felt a little scared and tried to remember where i had left my flip flops, in case i had to run into the dunes to hide. but dreams were stronger and far more seductive. and the morning arrived anyway as it is wont to do, pirates or no pirates.
and now i am back on the rainy little green hill. home. living rather like a hermit but i am happy to be here. the boy is studying for his exams, albeit reluctantly, and i am watching the trees grow and listening to the grass. the rain makes me feel alive. wild flowers unfurl in the green among scatterlings of mushrooms. the girl is in zanzibar, so i must look for fairies alone. great storms sweep across the maasai steppes and the karongas gush brown and furious down from the monduli mountains. it is too wet to ride, so the horses run free and fat and wild in the green.
my heart is full, with dreams and seas and hills and skies and all is well.
toodely toot y'all. bisous X.X.X. wild pirate ones, on yer lips, gold earrings and everything. x j