Tuesday, March 31, 2009

argencourt en arusha et des lapins jaunes...

those are not flowers...but feathers.

from arrows.
the boys are taking a course in archery this week. their teacher is an ex judge from france called Monsieur Michel. who fell in love with an australian teacher in arusha. and who now imports frommages and du vin magnifique to these barren little backwater towns in afrique. as well as teaching everyone how to shoot an arrow or two... if he had been at the battle of argencourt perhaps the french would've stood a chance. lots of "mais c'est bien!" et "pas comme ca" et "zut alors!" et "chapeaux!" et "formidable!" one of the boys asked, "can i hit the rabbit now?" to which he replied " mais oui...eef you see eet..." my son was talking about the big lapin jaune target. he was talking about a real one which he has seen hopping unwittingly about the green field.

all the robin hoods of the neighbourhood are blatantly out and about around 9:30 every morning, in a little green field, in the middle of a coffee plantation, shooting arrows at various targets. orange frisbies. un lapin jaune. a "moving target" (box swinging in the wind), a gnarly old buffalo, a sack with pretty patterns on it and a man mowing the lawn. who was told that perhaps he should leave this task to later.

some people don't think it's a good idea to let kids learn any art of weaponry. i am not sure. all i know is that boys will be boys and Will Make Weapons. out of their bloody fingers. so why not let them learn properly...how to breathe. focus. stand. aim. shoot. sigh sigh. next week-end it's frigging paint balling...i will not be attending. i hate getting hurt. i always had an aversion to hockey.

so happy easter y'all.

bisous bisous bisous comme toujours....um, chocolate easter bunny ones.....? X.X.X.

Monday, March 23, 2009

camels for horses...

we rode under a blazing two o clock sun for three days in a row and i was quite the happiest person alive. mt meru in the background, frosty tusker beers, cowboy hats, sweaty, dusty, happy faces and all the pretty horses. i sang around a lamp (not a fire because we didn't want to be responsible for burning down the entire stable yard with 40 odd horses in it). dirk played his irish drum. ricarda harmonised. carlos stared at the stars. i sang and stared at the southern cross lying on her side.

i slept well. so deeply. with no dreams.
my horse likes snicker bars, i've discovered.
back to real life now. back up on the dusty, dusty hill. sigh sigh. i honestly try to see the magic in each day. dream days up. intention, visualization and bingo. before you know it....good old responsive universe. i have learnt two things lately.

you cannot dream people up and obviously, you can't dream up rain.

it's proving to be quite taxing these days - finding the magic in each moment.. ..what with the bare fields, the red dust, the relentless heat, the hot wind and fat stars...and no flipping rain. athumani swears the rain will come. with a smile on his face. damian said it was going to start raining today...and he's always right. except today. now he says in ten days time. anyway, not to sound like a stuck record or anything....
but people, Do Your Rain Dances please....
otherwise it'll be camels for horses.

asante sana...over and out.

bisous bisous bisous and snicker bars all round.... X.X.X. j

Thursday, March 19, 2009

off riding again ...

i'm off tommorrow, into the white heat, into the dust, for an entire week-end of riding. this time not a safari but a Riding Clinic.
yes. i am going to be trained. to be a better rider. and my horses to be better horses.
the teacher is a smart famous winning show jumper type lady, or so i'm told, from kenya. i sincerely hope sitting trots are not too prevalent on the programme... or rising trots with no stirrups, and all that silly nonsense....

tati, my spaghetti thin riding buddy, and i, think we shall be the clowns on our spotted horses. feathers, rings, bells on our toes...and jingling silver...

i have also taken rhino, the white horse, just for a bit of poshness and elegance...if needs be...

we will be camped out at the polo grounds.

oh and there shall be a reunion with dirk, the aardvark wheelbarrow elephant training man. he is coming with his guitar again....camp fires and songs and horses under the stars.

so just swingin' by to say toodely old toot until next week.

have a wildly wicked week-end, y'all....

bisous, dusty hot cowgirl ones... x x x j

ps: and it better bloody well have rained by the next time i see you....

Monday, March 16, 2009

desperate measures...

(pic by safari craig)

right people. time to get back to basics.none of this rambling blahdeeblah deeblah nostalgic blah.

back to The Pink House On The Hill. covered in dust. still flipping waiting for rain. there is nothing. absolutely nothing. even the aloes are wilting. just bare brown earth. and a relentless wind. everyday the hill is covered in herds from the bald valley below. there is no grazing left down there. the land lies brown and ploughed and baked. the wind hurls dust around - her lost desert djinns dancing wildly, ....your eyes are scratchy from the moment you wake up. i feel angry and ill tempered most of the time. every night the stars are too large and magnified. too obvious.
i want lightening, rain and thunder. and i want it now.

today i kidnapped a goat. there were forty goats on the shamba. i have spoken to the herders. little kids in rags. they clearly understood that they mustn't come onto the shamba.

" we know that is the horses grass," they solemnly declared a few days ago. as i marched out there like The Wild Woman Of The Hill. janelli. a tribe unto herself.

this is My Grass. these are my brown brittle stalks, if you could call that grass.
and today. there they were. goats. like ants. eating everything. all the baby trees i had planted on what was a ploughed field. the last of the grass. eating anything that was edible like locusts.

so i kidnapped one. a fat blotchy bleating goat. suddenly an older boy arrived. wanting the goat back. saying the children were so small. that's why they had let the goats through. i said, "shauri yako bwana, siyo shida yangu." and said that next time the goats came onto the shamba i would catch one again, but this time it would end up in our pot. ignoring gabby (third born) wailing mournfully in the corner.
what on earth are you crying for, for godsake? her mother demanded
it's killing nature, she wailed, while her wild out of control brothers, newly returned from morogoro, all smelly and full of wild tales of witchdoctors and crocodiles, sniggered in the corner.

harsh eh? yes. harsh. well. president obama's grandfather did it in kogelo.
here a little story told to president obama by his aunt:

"... One day a man came to the edge of the compound with a goat on a leash (sic. a LEASH!? mine were multiple and free range. ). He wanted to pass through our land, because he lived on the other side, and he didn't want to walk around. So your grandfather told this man, "When you are alone, you are always free to pass through my land. But today you cannot pass, because your goat will eat my plants". Well. This man would not listen. He argued for a long time with your grandfather, saying that he would be careful and that the goat would do no harm. This man talked so much your grandfather finally called me over and said " Go and bring me Alego." That's what he called his panga, you see-"

"His machete,"

"Yes, his machete. He had two that he kept very, very sharp... And now your grandfather tells this man," See here. I have already told you that you should not pass, but you are too stubborn to listen. So now I will make a bargain with you. You can pass with your goat. But if even one leaf is harmed - if even one half of one leaf of my plants is harmed - then I will cut down your goat also."

"Well, even though I was very young at the time, I knew that this man must be so stupid, because he accepted my father's offer. We began to walk, the man and the goat in front, me and the old man following close behind. We had walked about twenty steps when the goat stuck out its neck and started nibbling at a leaf. Then - WHOOSH! My dad cut one side of the goat's head clean through. The owner was shocked and started to cry out "Aalieey! Aaiieey! What have you done now, Hussein Onyango" And your grandfather just wiped off his panga and said

" If I say I will do something, I must do it. Otherwise how will people know my word is true?"

from Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama pg. 370 - 371

the elders were persuaded.

i hope like hell the goats don't come again....because, well, i might not be so lucky.

the skies are empty.
and the clouds are pathetic.
the heat is relentless.
and frankly am fed up with it all.
fed up.

the house needs a paint.
the house needs water. a truck will come tomorrow.
to fill the tanks.
our showers are short lived.
in out basi.

life on the hill with no frills or memories.

Kitchen Board: Monday 16 March 2009.

Contributors: now, let' see....yes. veronica. gabby and yes niamh too.

Comments: no, we don't eat dog meat but we might be eating goat meat any day soon.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

ode to my father.

(pic by safari craig)

when i drove down the hill early this morning, the hills dusted in gentle dust gold, i heard safari life singing its song to me. all those ghosts calling, dancing.

i have been known to say i hate camping, my friends will tell you, for reasons posted a long time ago...you know, ants, dust, thorns, failing at fire making and stumbling around drunk in the dark...but actually, i will confess, i love it. i really do. i am just trying to be funny. i grew up in tents, for godsakes. when i was six weeks old i was apparently dragged out on safari, very little and very loud, tucked up in a wicker basket under a mosquito net.

(me in my mother's arms circa 1969)

early childhood memories...long red rutted roads in old landrovers, "I Spy" games for hours, distant blue hills and plains, dark forests and wide rivers all set about with crocodiles...playing with sticks and mud, little tin boats floating down the zambezi, fishing for tiger fish....terrifying...(read ted hugh's poem - Pike - he gets it exactly right.) lying in a tent with my sisters, the grown ups' very distant voices, around a glimmering fire, and a lion calling too closely. we all lay huddled afraid yet very much alive. the lion passed our tent. we lay very quiet, frozen, wooden effigies of ourselves, terrified to breathe or flinch a muscle, as we heard his foot fall inches from our tent. the excrutiating loudness of a crushed dry leaf and a snapped twig and the roar of adrenalin as it rushes through your ears and your heart. you almost hear the stars turn. you grow ears which are long and twisted, curling into the invisible sound waves of a still, cold African winter night. we heard the lion exhale. three little sausages frozen in a row...while we hear the grown-ups laughing at wild tales around the fire. eons away.

oh the joy when dad pops his head into the tent. hours later. laughing. excited. roaring like a lion. scaring us and telling us not to be silly...then finding the tracks, as large as pudding bowls the next morning.

jesus dee. look. it was quite close..hell eh? big bugger too. (to my mother who didn't appear to be listening and wasn't the least bit bothered. which gave me courage. she was too busy sending us out into another wild morning, armed with pens and notebooks to make bird lists. my elder sister being the lucky one, who got the butterfly net. and even sometimes the camera.)
you see dad! you see dad! leaping around him like imps, already collecting sticks and fishing rods and naked dolls.

i love the smell of gun oil...i loved to see my father cleaning his "elephant guns", of an evening, the fire crackling on a rare rainy night; i would savour the smell of safaris long past, the poignant gun oil odour, the light in my father's eyes and sometimes wish i was a boy who loved guns. rifles with beautiful silver filigree around the action, his initials posh and curling...names like rigby, du moulin, holland and holland, westley richards .458, .375, double barrelled; guns which leave bruises on your shoulders and your ears ringing. i am, and always have, been terrified of them. yet i love them. they are my father and his story. a life he left behind. the best of times. my small boy cousins would say,
uncle ron, please can we see your elephant guns. please tell us another elephant story. please please! and i would feel like the proudest girl possible, walking on the planet, a fierce quiet love burning for my father only.

and sometimes, after we had left zambia, to a very different tame south africa, my father would, on occassion, take his guns up to The Gods (the highest hills on the farm) and fire his rifles. a nostalgia and yearning hung around his eyes. the boom of the rifles would echo into the vallies far below. i sat in the car, safely, with my fingers in my ears and loving my father more than i could ever tell him.

come on koeks. nearly time for supper. let's go. let's go...and i would watch him carefully and lovingly packing his rifles away - laying them down tenderly, as you would pack the best years of your life away...

so. pack the torch and the boots. the hat and a few good novels. don't forget the bins and the bird books...oh and a pen and diary. and a bottle or two of single malt. cold beers and sodas and water water water. then supplies, and bedding and tents and lamps. mozzie nets, sun block, and insect repellant...don't forget your safari jacket, the one with all the holes in, the one whose pockets bulge from savoured memories; pockets stuffed with seeds and feathers, cigarette butts and snake skins. drive beyond the horizon, along curling roads, wind in your hair, sun on your back. head to where you're happiest.
where you're happiest.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

ngorobob hill reports.

the rest of the world as i know it (namely people living on the hill, and a few rich ones in the valley below) have all gone to watch The Mumbai movie...the one which won academy awards very recently, apparently. how the devil did it get to a house in the dorobos so quickly? even before the cinema in town?

i, on the other hand, am not at the mumbai movie. obviously. i sit at the dining table because my lovely personal private office space, which i love with a fierce, almost unmentionable intimacy, has been colonised by a band of likely candidates for lord of the flies participants and their barbaric side kicks. a famous grouse clinks comfortably next to me celebrating the fact that i am bloated with a gratifying smugness and irrepressible elation for:

1. completing my school reports ( a fortuitous opportunity to practise some creative writing and push the boundaries of mind numbness....) "abdi seems not to be enthusiastic about our expressive art classes. perhaps his shyness or his complete and utter loathing of the subject (or lack of even one teeny weeny creative original thought), has lead to his worryingly authentic take on jack nicholson in one flew over the cuckoos nest. his perseverance is overwhelmingly lacking. thank-you abdi...." and things like that. do you think the headmaster will get suspicious when the entire class scored "average" or "below average"? (apart from my pets of course - all A's A+'s, of which there are only two). i thought i was terribly kind about my A Level Lit student though. what a slacker. and if she dares arrive chewing gum and dotting her "i's" with empty little circles (fush. for you. http://fushandchips.blogspot.com/2009/02/lol-fucktards.html) and knows more structural terminology than me, well. quite simply, she shall have to be shot. thanks dora.

2. not losing my temper (ish) with the children and managing half successfully to vaguely convince myself that they were, indeed, beings of pure light. even though they have forced me to leave my sanctuary. little bastards high on their cyber fixation with lord of the rings.

and, in third place,(third My Big Thing Point Place) for being absolutely right about the fact that indeed the Universe is completely and entirely responsive to my important needs and predominant thoughts. it has the uncanny knack of knowing that if it doesn't give me the thing i need most immediately, i will implode and become unforgivably ( and even more frightening,) unforgettably ugly. nobody likes a scene. not even the jolly old Universe, it seems.

deeply elated. oh deeply.

Kitchen Board: Wednesday Evening (get it right, this time blogger man) 4 march 09.

Contributors: veronica (and the people who fnished the tomato sauce)
Comments: simple. a bottle of tomato sauce. easy. and it's wednesday. hurrah. over the mid week hump. tommorrow is an early start. second born has decided he is arragon and he will ride to school on his horse, sirrocco, for world book day. which is tommorrow all over the world people. not just here. there is no way he can possibly read or have read) lord of the rings, but he's watched it. and watched it. and watched it.

toodely toot toot, You. bisous, great rollicking elated ones X.X.X.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

thank god for big black bulls.

(pic: a sunday afternoon well spent. could have been one of many)

monday rolls in again.

monday. the fat frumpy spinstery responsible annoying day. all square, persistent, dressed in tweed, wearing sensible shoes which go clack clack on the stone floor...wakey wakey then and make your own friggin' tea, sunshine.

routine is a killer, i find. something in me rebels against it. something in me fights it tooth and nail.

i woke up at five this morning. with a thumping head ache.
(i drank champagne at lunch time yesterday, for godsake. Lunch Time. Yesterday. eons ago. so?)
what an effort to drum up enthusiasm for a monday. which means another week looms, waiting for you to do something useful with it.

what a shocker when it all looks just the same as last week.

and it's still not raining. white skies with pathetically wispy clouds doing precisely nothing.
i rode over to school to drop off the kids lunches, with mwali, like we did last monday... as we approached the school gate, i desperately searched around me for something different. everything, (including the time) was exactly the same as last monday...the sky, the coca cola truck arriving, the crows on the roof, the children singing Somewhere Over A Rainbow, from the music room. everything.

i know i want time to slow down - but this was getting ridiculous. what did i miss last week? why the devil a repeat?

even the daladala (taxi) which passed us was the same one...called Tupac. the men shouted oi what's that you're riding. and i shouted back. its a goat. (jesus) except it was all in swahili. obviously. i am sure this happened last monday at precisely the same place at exactly the same time....

everything was exactly the same apart from the big black bull in the bush which was showing disturbing signs of not being particularly happy about mwali and i passing innocently by on our horses...you know, stamping and snorting and bashing the bush about with its large head...and sort of bellowing and drooling, throwing us red mamba eyes....a very withnail and i moment, apart from the fact we were on horses.
this was a good thing.
this was a relief.

i am definitely not caught in some awful bizarre time warp, then. this has not happened before.
thank-you big black fierce bull, hiding behind the thorn bush.
oh thank-you.

Kitchen Board: Monday Mid Morning 02 March 2009: Ngorobob Hill.

Contributors: unadulterated veronica.
Comments: you see? monday all over again. (not complaining or anything tedious like that, you understand. just an observation. aherm, she adds in very small voice)

toodely old toodely pip then, You. bisous bisous bisous - rolling monday blues ones.X.X.X.x.....+++.+...