Monday, September 27, 2010

another roadside attraction...

(pic taken at lively lady liza's violin, my guitar and bag che bag from zanzibar 0810)

life is speeding ahead....i don't think i have quite caught up with my body. i have this sort of astonished look on my face most of the time. well. an expression ranging from astonishment to a brazened stunned to misdirected mental grinning to point blank. my mind is presently preoccupied with growing a tangled jungle of twisting vines, pushing their way to the sun dappled above in the canopy. roots slowly but purposefully delving their way through my throat towards my heart. ja nee, things are not plain sailing but marvelously hectic and extraordinary. yes. i am definitely on the edge. but isn't that where we're meant to be? isn't that when you feel most alive because you feel close to dying? in the best possible way, naturally?


i feel just fine though. so i mean it when people say (and i close my eyes in my mind because i know what's coming) "so. how ARE you? the kids?" and with great courage i say "oh i'm fiiiiiiiine, yes, we're all fiiiiiiiiiiiiine. you?" it's exhausting because they don't know that fine means jungle vines growing out of my ears. vines intermittently bursting with great waxy deep purple sweet scented flowers.

i have been playing music again. like, you know, real gigs. like in The World. like at Lively Lady, like at the Hotel, like at the petrol station. like at the airport at sunset on friday. and i can still manage to read my words sans lunettes, thank god. that just wouldn't be ok, ya know? singing with my specs on? through sheer and extreme luck, i am managing to squeeze the music in between 3 kids, 6 horses, 3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 goat and a full time teaching post. something's got to give, i tell ya....and sadly it's been the old blog and my back car window.

i was bumping up the ngorobob hill, which is notorious for damian's sleeping policemen bumps. they're essential to save the track in the rains. but they are, well, bone breakingly annoying, if you're not resigned to them. they work a treat in all ways. they make you slow down. they make you think when you're late because you have to turn around at the bottom and go all the way to the top again because someone left their PE kit. they make you think, "oh well. what is time to a pig?" you see spiderwebs and the tiniest white flowers growing on the bank next to the road. you see the horses far away on the other hill. you see the buzzards hanging motionless in the wind above the house. and slyly notice the clouds changing shape over the mountain, in the north toward kenya which you pretend not to. you certainly don't say anything to anyone. so you don't chase the rain away.

and before you know it, you're at the top. so there i was, doing exactly that, bumping home from one of the aforementioned gigs. all the bastard heavy kit was bouncing noisily around in the back, particularly the speakers, jostling around with the spare wheel over Damian's Bumps. i was looking at the dreamy moon and stars, lost with music in my ears and vines in my mind when SMASH! the speaker broke through the back window. i really was going slowly.

my favourite place to play is at mohammed's petrol station, fondly known as Space Oil. it's just around the corner. my dear friend k has opened a funky little arty etsy shop (aptly named Exhibit) next to the store and petrol station. it has little pink lanterns hanging outside a wall painted with giant bright red hibiscus looking flowers, with shiny little jewels stuck on them to make them twinkly in the twilight. inside is a treasure trove of paintings, vintage clothes, jewels, one hell's angels jacket from chicago, teas, wild honey and chandeliers made out of recycled plastic and and and and...everything magical is in there. all of this is very close to the local mosque, which is jade green and shaded by gnarly old fig trees. space oil is slap bang on the main road, just outside of arusha, amongst the laki laki coffee plantation en route to the serengeti and ngorongoro. read busy road. buses, daladalas and an endless stream of safari vehicles. it's a teeny weeny little venue. when the muezzin starts calling i give it a break but am now musing on a tinkly little tune to accompany the call to prayer. the maasai askaris dance slow motion around the petrol pumps. mama mohammed pulls up a plastic chair outside her shop and sits heavily and silent in the dark. but i know she's enjoying everything. i know everyone in the little crowd. a little crowd of magnificent friends. people trip over the music "stand" (an easel) and tom and i tangle ourselves up in the wires. it's so real. and i get paid with a bottle of tequila, which i must sip from a beautiful yellow and red tea cup, because it's near the mosque. (i think?)

so yes, oh bestests, that's where i've bin. i ain't makin' any promises of writin' more regular here but ya never know, ya just never know and ain't that somethin'?

toodle ole toot then y'all, bisous X.X.X. deeply musical ones, with due respect x j

Friday, September 10, 2010


today is a good day. today 14 years ago, first born arrived...after a long and incredibly hard birth ....which i would never write about here....(how do people share their giving birth photographs? eeeeeuw) he was born in a little clinic in marondera in zimbabwe. i remember flying from luangwa valley in a little cessna 206, over mozambique, just me and the pilot and a very very heavy belly. i remember looking down and not seeing any sign of life, just miles and miles of bloody africa and thinking ooooh noooo we don't want to crash here....we didn't.

i spent those last days with micky and myrtle (sister's parents in law) on their farm outside marondera. i spent pastel days picking mulberries, walking the dogs to the dam and reading stories of victorian women explorers late at night in the bath with a candle while i waited and waited for the arrival of baby number 1. in the early hours of the morning, en route for the umpteenth toilet run, i would stop and marvel at the fat zimbabwean stars and listen to the gentle tinkling of the chimes in myrtle's courtyard, head cocked, where the jasmine grew profusely. strangely, i was overwhelmed with something so sad yet universal in those moments. this memory has stayed with me ever since....the smell of the jasmine and the tinkling chimes and the stars and that particular strain of sadness.

micky would weigh me on his maize scales once a week, after bets had been made at the breakfast table. honest. he did. he also made us all take bets on whether it was a boy or a girl. the little chits would be kept in a box in the dining room for future payments. in the evenings i would help myrtle with the dinner trolley, which would be wheeled into the lounge where micky sat in his kikoi, surrounded by farting dogs next to the fire, watching mugabe rant on the telly and bark out suitably abusive expletives at the screen. i would loll quietly in the corner playing an extremely complex game of patience (as in the card game). micky couldn't help but get involved in it, passing witty and humorous remarks, mostly pertaining to my intelligence, or lack thereof. every now and then they would say " dear, don't you want to go and hang out with The Young People?" i did a few times but i much preferred their company. and anyway, at that stage the only things which fitted were a pair of old track suit pants with holes in them and a pair of hideous dungarees. one hardly wants to be seen out, if you know what i mean? it's not that fun being a public spectacle.

i loved hanging out with M&M. tea times were always taken in the courtyard, with micky and i shooting quelea with the pellet gun, taking bets who would get the most, in between sips of tea and nibbling home made biscuits. the jack russels would eat the dead birds, of which, oh bestests, there were never many. if we went out anywhere, myrtle would always drive and micky would tell her how to. he would always blow his top. she was so patient "yes dear i know dear". they dragged me off to the Harare Agricultural Show. i was taken with the Brahman bull with the blue sash and gold ring in his nose. completely. with his dark, wise eyes and wrinkled face and snowy white coat. i watched the clay pigeon shooting. i lunched at ranches, went with myrtle on her egg runs, watched micky dip the cattle. and waited and waited and waited. safari c arrived about a week before first born made his dramatic entry into the world. the day before we went hiking into the hills where i was literally pushed and pulled to the very top of a giant matopo styled rocky koppie.

it was no easy birth and danu pops was almost dead on arrival. it was 17 hours of pain and struggle. eventually at 21:00hrs, on 11 September 1996, he was born. he hung lifeless, like a dead fish, upside down, for a few minutes. i could hear the doctor saying " come on my boy, breathe, come on my boy breathe" and the noise of the oxygen machine. they kept him that night, away from me, in a little glass box. i cried in the dark. quietly. he was so little and impossibly fragile. i was utterly bewildered and clueless. my dad flew up from south africa and visited me with bright yellow daffodils from the hogsback mountains in the eastern cape. yellow has always been daniel's best colour. he was registered as an "alien zimbabwean".

after a week, we put him in a little wicker basket and drove back to lusaka, through the zambezi valley, across the same chirundu bridge, through a baking pre october heat with the mopane trees stark and naked. he slept star spangled and tiny the whole way home. he was the most perfect thing i think i had ever done. my chest could not contain the love which blossomed and bloomed and nearly killed me.

if i think too much about it, i could die from the enormous, insurmountable love for my boy.

happy birthday precious precious daniel. 9/11 has always been a good day for me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

chirundu crossings.

(gabriella and kasha with nkhasis, west kilimanjaro, august 2010)

everyone's back at school. away from the wilds and neatly stacked into a classroom.
everyone's back from holidays.
except me.
i never went anywhere, technically speaking.
okokok. i rode horses in maasailand but that's just up the road.
i never went more than 50kms outside arusha. i am not sure this was an entirely clever thing.
i need to pinch myself.
still. it's fine. my car couldn't have made it all the way to the coast this time.

the winds have started again. from the mountains at night. they are still fairly gentle but i know how menacing they can become. screaming like a boiling kettle through the cracks. the windows are beginning to rattle and it's becoming dry again. very dry.
my horse has become tetchy.

back to school. it takes me back to those bus trips from lusaka to salisbury (harare now) in the 70's. when i was five and a half and still losing my milk teeth. i would press my face against the window and scream my head off. my mother would smile and wave bravely as if i was coming back tomorrow. it would be weeks before i saw her again. sometimes months. we would catch the school bus from entire day and half a night away, across the border which was only open to school buses. the zimbabwean war of liberation was picking up speed and nobody else traveled that road. only the school buses had right of way. and invisible soldiers from both sides.
i remember the zambian bus would reverse up to the rhodesian bus half way across the chirundu bridge which spanned the zambezi river. we would all pile out and leap into the little bit in the middle which was No Man's Land...this made us happy and we all pretended it was ours. we would dance into the middle gleefully shouting "no man's land no man's land!" staring down at the river below through the iron grids of the bridge. until one day the tired war torn stoned soldiers got cross with us and waved their AK 47's and shooed us back. after that we would wait until we were told to cross the little 10m piece of hot tarmac to The Other Side. in single file. quietly. where were the teachers? i can't remember any. there must have been someone.

i remember customs and immigration, the scary bit. and the health desk. they would check our little yellow health books for cholera and yellow fever then pretend they weren't up to date and that we would have to be injected. we would be sick with fear. they even went so far as taking rusty old needles out and cotton wool then laugh rambunctiously at our pale, pinched white faces. i remember the soldiers rifling through our suitcases which were filled with mostly clothes and the odd treasure of flour (for our mothers because you couldn't get it in zambia) or chinese checkers for christmas which would be immediately confiscated.

my mother taught us how to lie. she would give us pocket money to buy fizz pops at karoi, the first stop on the rhodesian is super side (sweets and chocolates were unavailable in zambia at the time). the customs man in zambia would bark, " have you any money to declare?" and we would squeak " yes. two rhodesian dollars," of which he would happily and speedily relieve us whilst mumbling something like "absolutely not allowed. illegal. blah blah." after that my mother sewed our sweet money into the inside pockets of our school blazers and taught us how to lie with poker faces. we became very adept at it.

it would take hours and hours to cross the border. hours and hours after baking hot hours and warm coca colas (on the rhodesian side). we would leave as the sun was edging near the western sky and the bus would wind it's way up the zambezi escarpment. winding along the empty road and through miles and miles of mopane forests dotted with baobab trees. game was plentiful. wild dogs. elephant. herds of buffalo. impala. zebra. giraffe. it was the only sign of life we would see along the way. there were no people to be seen. we would reach the outskirts of salisbury after dark late at night. i could tell we were in the highlands, near to school, because i could smell the "christmas trees", the pine trees. the air was cold and crisp. and the stars stark and bright and i would start to cry in the dark because then i knew i was very very very far from home. the matrons would meet us in the school car park with sandwiches and hot cocoa. they tried to be kind but you still felt little, desolate, scared and far away.

i can't believe our parents trusted the journey. i mean that no one would blow up the bus. it happened one year. not to my bus. but the other one. after that we flew to school. when the war became hot.

here, school is a ten minute trip; down the ngorobob hill, round the corner, past the effing factory and bingo. it's a dead cinch. dead cinch.

toodely toot, y'all. bisous X.X.X. earnest ones tinted with mountain winds x j