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."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

kwacha kwacha! and the cycling story...

Not only is Kwacha the Malawian or Zambian currency but Kwacha is a Bemba word for “dawn”, reflecting the Zambian national motto “ New Dawn of Freedom” . The time has come. Kwacha Kwacha! The sun is rising. Kaunda used the phrase in all his liberation speeches as did Hastings Banda from Malawi, as the colonial Rhodesian Federation began to splinter and sink like the great Titanic itself. Kwacha Kwacha has a revolutionary ring to it and heralds change and movement and great beginnings. One of Zanzibar's revolutionary sons is called Mzee Kwacha. It is also the name of our house in Zanzibar, Kwacha House, which faces due east into spectacular dawns.

I can sit for hours, days in fact, under the whispering palms staring out to sea. The colours change every day…slashed hues of aqua, turquoise, shades of lilac, greens….a great liquid jewel. It seems I persist in my ill disciplined approach, or rather resistance, to writing or achieving anything note worthy, like exercise. Ok. I swim. And I walk. From the sunbed to the water and back. This time of year the sea is glass marble calm before the south wind picks up, ruffling its surface, making the hearts of all kite surfers happy. The weather is halcyon.

These marvelous solo days, when my mood ebbed and flowed like the tide, were interjected with wonderful visits from friends all around the world. You know how it is with old friends, friends from the glory days before children, when we were wild, young, free and in love, when you didn’t worry about tomorrows or money. It was pure unadulterated adventure. Now we’re all fatter (apart from S in Lamu who could still bloody model for Vogue. Bitch. So she doesn’t count here.) older, alcoholics with broken hearts (ok. probably only me and maybe Phoebe.) and our backyards are littered with mistakes  from which we bravely or perhaps naively think we have grown. We’ve certainly changed. Change is inevitable and always a good thing, apparently. Gulp.

There we were, my bestie and I, floating around the ridiculously beautiful Zanzibar sea, unconcerned about our pale cellulite, grey hair and cavernous crows’ feet circling our eyes, recognizing those moments which swing from knowing everything to knowing nothing and we decide we’re surprisingly fine with that. Biscuits and noddy badges all ‘round. Hurrah. We decide we’re fucking grateful that our lives are as they are considering the chaotic nature of the soup of evolution. There really is no order here. And look at us! Christ we are lucky.

We march out the sea, bikinis and flab flagrantly exposed to the Zanzibar sun and the public. We sit on the dazzling white sand to dry off, watching some Maasai warriors swim, white beads glittering on magnificently crafted ebony torsos. My goddaughter brings us our chilled white wine and we talk school to her sons. I tell them how to write a jolly good poetry essay, bish bash bosh.  When we’re left alone, I tell her the gory bits about the crumbling of my marriage as I curl my toes into the sun warmed sand. My words remind me of how stunned I am and that I am doing a fine job at convincing myself that I am actually alright. Secretly I wonder why I don’t sleep at night but blame it on the moon. It’s a super moon, appearing larger in the sky than ever before because it’s closest to the earth. When my goddaughter reappears with another bottle of wine, we change the subject, “pas devant les enfants” and all that.

“ I’m learning to fly!” she tells me and promises that one day she’ll land on this beach, pick me up and then we’ll head on to Lamu to see our dear friend S and show Al Shabab who’s boss.  My 11 year old goddaughter rolls her eyes and swears over her dead body that she’d never ever fly with her mother let alone into a “war zone”. Her words. Not mine. I definitely would because my friends are truly marvelous in every way, R is going to be an excellent pilot and it’s terrifically adventurous.  But I think all these things and pretend to agree with my goddaughter only to win brownie points with her. I’m trying to make impossible in roads here and fast. I really want her to love me.  The third bottle of wine is opened. I’m feeling giddy high, happily tiddly and starting to use the “F” word rather too frequently which, it appears, offends my goddaughter and flushes all hard earned brownie points into the ocean.

We take leave of this blisteringly dreamy scene, to shelter from the now howling wind and stinging sand. My sun glasses have sand dunes in the corners. They’re renting a luxury villa near the kite surfing school. It’s ‘nice’  but too new and spartan for my liking although the groovy plunge pool is rather enticing and resembles a liquid tanzanite when you turn on the underwater lights at night. A waiter brings the children ‘Virgin Mojitos’. We sip to taste and promptly order ‘Whore Mojitos” or whatever they’re called when they have booze in them. While we wait, I unwittingly finish my goddaughter’s drink while she makes whirl pools in the plunge pool. “Mummy! Who finished my drink?” she indignantly asks. “Daddy did.” I make a whispered confession. My friend advises me not to admit it. I don’t.

Before we know it, it’s 11:30 at night, we’ve had 428 mojitos between the three of us, forced her husband to play Van Morrison so we can remember the old times which reminds me of the girl in Zambia who hates me. An acquaintance recently told me “You’re still at the top of her Christmas tree of hate, you know.”  Winner. Nice. It’s too late to call a taxi. It’s Ramadan and I’m drunk. The super moon is high, the tide is out leaving a wide berth of hard sand. My friend suggests I cycle home and offers the company of her two boys. An adventure looms! I quickly take up the offer because, right then, it doesn’t seem THAT far back to Jambiani, the night is sweet and filled with stars and silver, I’m feeling invincible and I love waking up in my own bed.

Her sons are gorgeous, good British young gentlemen, brimming with the excitement of the challenge, the moonlit adventure. I’m feeling 28 not 48. The brand new bicycles are proudly wheeled out. The boys politely ignore my dastardly tussle with the cactus garden on the way out to the beach although I can tell they are both acutely embarrassed. The beach lies waiting with wide expanses of moonlit silver sand and a sparkling sea to our left. I perch my spectacles on my head, tie my basket up behind me and vaguely try and remember when I last rode a bicycle. I leap confidently into the saddle, push the pedals into action, take a drunken swerve into the only soft sand around and wipe immediately and spectacularly out, spectacles flying in one direction and the contents of my basket in the other. Oscar Wilde’s words come to mind “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars,” as I lie spread eagled on the beach, my bicycle on its side and Giles staggering after me whimpering on about calling a taxi, perhaps? The boys were silent and open mouthed, swallowing back embarrassment and laughter. Through sheer bloody mindedness and determination, I dusted myself off, snatched back my specs from Giles, re packed my kikapu and wove my way into the magical, silver night with the sound track of Queen’s ‘Bicycle Song’ playing in my imagination.

Jambiani and home were nowhere in sight, only the dark cliffs and black skeletal shapes of rocks in the silver sand. The wind whistled in my ears. It’s no bloody joke riding into the wind. Not even half way there, my thighs burnt with exquisite pain from the unexpectedness of grueling exercise, which I have cunningly avoided for, oh, over a year? The mojitos and crème brulee churned nauseatingly in my stomach and Jambiani seemed a life time away. Yet, the crunching of the tyres over the shells, the far away sea glittering with Peter Pan magic, the dark shadowed palm trees, the sweetly scented night air – all of this, was perfectly exhilarating and I felt very much alive. And in pain…

I awoke the following morning in the same clothes, lying like a star, hypnotized by the fan reminiscent of Apocolypse Now . I blinked, did a mental body check, wriggled my toes, my fingers, moved my legs and yes, yes! Everything miraculously still worked. My brain rattled a little when I moved my head but nothing a 400mg Ibruprofen washed down with half a liter of water couldn’t fix. I ate two bananas, packed my basket and rode straight back up the beach to return my bicycle, this time with the sun in my face and the wind at my back. I felt like a champion. The fact that two days later I suffered from heroic whip lash and felt 68, my face not too different from that of a puffer fish, would not dissuade me to take on another adventure like this again. Maybe next time I’ll give kite surfing a twirl. And why not, eh?