Sunday, March 21, 2010

camping yarns.

(kilimanjaro sprinkled in snow)

the kids have this idea that they want to camp at the top of the hill. sounds like fun. sounds like a reasonable request. sounds marginally adventurous.
yes. yes.
oh but wait. what about those witchcraft murders? the ones where they chop your tongue out. what about the jambazis? with their knives and guns moving stealthily at night under the half moon.?
actually no. no.

no. bloody hell. no.

they can camp under the acacia near the kitchen. near the house. it'll be just as much fun....and i can quickly and easily kill baddies and save them if they're closer. going through this tedious, and perhaps imaginative, decision process made me think back to my childhood...when helen (bestest ever friend) and i wanted to camp in the garden in zululand. the garden was enormous. full of hidey holes and hedges and fish ponds and forests. still. it was in the garden. not on the top of the hill in the wilds....ish. but i remember eventually the garden, with porgy (my faithful old bullterrier) sleeping at the door, became way too tame for us.
we wanted The Dam....where our old raft was moored (marooned at one point during the seven year drought). The Dam, which hid the biggest barbel known in zululand, or so we reckoned. The Dam where leguvaans slid crocodile like into the tepid muddied darkness, where we dropped our hooks threaded with earth worms and the mud was slimy and black and squelched through your toes. The Dam where bilharzia probably thrived, where the vervets chattered in the dark shade during the white hot noon. it was our wilderness. it was where we felt most alive. because we could scare ourselves silly. yes. we wanted to camp there and move the kitchen down the hill. we were livid when my parents said no. enraged.
perhaps it was just after the time when the mad man had run through the sugar farm, naked and oiled (so you couldn't catch him. he slipped through your grip like a snake), on a moonless night, setting fire to the sugar cane. everytime the cane cutters ran to put out the fire he would attack. one woman lost an ear. someone else ended up being pangaed (slashed with the kalemba). he wouldn't come near the light and stayed in the darkness. racing over the dry hills leaving a trail of fires and blood behind him. my mother and i were alone in the house. we had closed the doors and turned on all the lights. every single one. to chase the darkness. we had armed ourselves with polo sticks and aerosol cans of doom. we could see the fires burning and hear the shouting. then the silence. then the sliding door opening. my mother called out "Ron!" but no answer. someone had come into the house. i remember how she walked down the passageway, me gingerly following behind, my heart thundering in my ears, trying to dissuade her. it wasn't the mad man, oiled and naked. it was my father who had come to get his gun and had left again.
i am not sure the mad man was ever caught. so no wonder my parents didn't really want helen and i camping at The Dam. still. we didn't think of those things then. thank god.
we stayed in the garden and told ghost stories instead and talked about camping at The Dam while porgy snored at the door and growled at my father when he came to check we were ok.
let's see if the kids wear me down until i say yes. in which case i will most likely end up camping too...and you know how i LOVE camping...
toodely toot oh best beloveds. bisous X.X.X. frangipani scented ones. x j


ewix said...

When thinking of your last sad post
one wonders how to balance the real threats --which may never happen --
with the ones we cook up in our imaginations
and how to ever balance the two
if balance is possible in this world or even desirable.
I think of the need to be bold and the need
to be safe

What are we to do.

Let them camp.....very very near the house and with

spring here at last
daffodils and stuff like that


Dumdad said...

My kids haven't asked to camp out in Bois de Vincennes. Or anywhere actually. City kids. Prefer to stay glued to their computers. I was going to make some joke about they are not in tents but are intense but thought better of it.

bellananda said...

wow. it's just so surreal to me, here in my "safe upper-middle-class (and mostly white) neighborhood" in my "safe" midwestern city, thinking of being afraid of letting my children camp in the garden because of madmen and knife-wielding witches possibly attacking the kids and cutting out their tongues.

of course, my "safe upper-middle-class neighborhood" is currently in an uproar because of a serial rapist having attacked several women in the past few months, so now we lock our doors when before we hadn't, and if i'm home alone working in my upstairs study, i make sure to leave the t.v. on down in the front room so it looks like someone's there and the house is quite occupied. and we've already had one incident of a stupid white guy in the neighborhood who decided that a black man he saw looked like the police drawings of the rapist, so he decided the thing to do would be to tail him in his car clear across town and across the state line into kansas city, kansas -- whereupon the black man, utterly unnerved by this lunatic who'd followed him so far, shot at him and could have killed him.


and i think of your dear friend who died in such a senseless manner, at such an unsuspecting moment, and i wonder what would happen in my "safe, upper-middle-class neighborhood" if such a thing happened at one of our little watering holes -- especially after the aforementioned attempt at racist vigilante justice. how close are any of us to the madness, the desperation, the depravity that seizes the people in your town? how far away can anyone really get?

love and light to you from kansas city, under a 6-inch blanket of

Lori ann said...

yes, i think distraction is the best tact to take here. kids really just want to feel their independance don't they? they probably wouldn't like to camp on the big hill anyway, you would be holding their hands and sleeping on top of them!
i still want to go up, wonder if i ever will?...

p.s. gorgeous photo of kilimanjaro

Janelle said...

exactly elizabeth...and i have an imagination that tends to run also sure that they would be FINE and dandy up on the top of the hill...but the thing that i am also sure of, is that you never can tell out here. anything can happen any time. i guess it's what i love about africa.... lots love XXX j

heh he DD well quite. my kids also LOVE being glued to the internet. sis. x j see? same same sugar same...! golly. i really hope they catch the rapist. HATE that. stay safe. x j

yes lori, darlin', sound to be cunning, eh? what? up the mountain? eesh. it's a hellova thing...lots love x j

Bill said...

Once upon a time I did a lot of backpacking and trail walking, especially in wild places. At night, my only comment (we slept on the ground without tents) to my hiking buds was to wake me if people came near - and if animals? Just let me sleep.

family Affairs said...

good grief. Such different lives. Although here in the leafy suburbs of England people just as scared to let their kids camp in the pocket hankerchief plot of land for fear of scary men stealing them in the night....Lx

nuttycow said...

I love the thought of camping out in the great wilds but I've never really got around to it.

When I was at boarding school, we dragged our matresses outside. At about midnight, we got scared because we heard the hyenas going through the bins and so had to quickly move inside again. So much for adventure!

Indigo said...

Hehe, Janelle, it sounds like you had a thriving, exciting and adventurous childhood... action packed, filled with tons of exploring and bush... the kind of childhood every kid should have.. i am but a bit jealous :)
I'm a camp lover myself, anything to go into the bush! I remember on one of my birthdays I had some friends come over, and I was so excited to camp out in our garden (it was huge), but then we all got so scared of the mongoose that lived in the bushes we all ended up camping out on the stoep!
I love reading your writing, it's just that much entertaining! Please keep it up!
Much love Mrs D XX