Tuesday, December 27, 2011

gone fishin'

happy christmas y'all.
i am out of words presently.
they swirl like pretty whirlwinds in my head, snaking, curling, racing and will out, likely in the new year.
but for now, we head, like a band of gypsies, to the mountain for camping.

toodely pip, oh bestests, and bisous X.X.X. marzipan laced ones x j.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

how you see things.

presently i am feeling a little bit like how i imagine a nearly empty toothpaste tube feels being squeezed and squeezed.

i don't want to sound needy or anything ghastly like that. i would hate stephen fry to despise me...you see, i want him to like me. i want to invite him to stay and be my friend and mentor forever. like when i was 10 i wanted to invite olivia newton john to come and stay on the sugar farm in zululand but dressed as Bad Sandy. my mother, naturally, encouraged me to like Goodie Goodie Sandra D but i wasn't having any of it. i wanted to be bad in those black tight clothes. i wanted high heels, red lipstick and cigarettes. and a rebel to love. i would muse for hours in the pool about it, watching the water scorpions circling lazily into the murky, luke-warm green depths. dreaming up possibilities. . .there was definitely something in me that simply, bravely and delightfully stupidly, knew it could be real.

i love stephen fry and wish for everyone to listen to this:

on days like these, best you take a ride in the twilight zone under a silver moon, laced in wispy clouds with kilimanjaro shyly between the hills, her melting glaciers in the twilight. take deep breaths of the wind and the smell of the injun hoss's dust as he spooks at the dik dik darting through the shadows on the hill.

on days like these, best you love your rebel, make secret curses and write dark gypsy songs.

on days like these, forget about impossibilities and know that anything and everything is possible....high heels, red lipstick and cigarettes to boot.

Kitchen Board

don't ask.
it involves first born peferring to walk home (up tenacious hill) than stay in the car with his raging mother...
must remember milk.
must try harder.
toodely toot y'all, bisous X.X.X. ragin' sad ones..just there. x j

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

beautiful things in october

(new twinkly sparkly)

a long time ago, when i lived in a city and i was sad, it seemed easily solvable. get out there and buy shoes, girl. but these days, these older, more womanly days, these sobering, grown up days, i live far from the long gone, coffee scented, smith street arcades. the thought of rummaging through mitumba's dusty piles of old shoes exhausts me.

all the news from the north of here makes my skin creep: the drought, the camps, the kidnappings, the kenyan defence force in somalia, the french navy bombing kisimayo, american drones, dead soldiers and the unblinking threats from al shabab breathing retaliation:

"...The Kenyan public must understand that the impetuous decision by their troops to cross the border into Somalia will not be without severe repercussions. The bloody battles that will ensue as a result of this incursion will most likely disrupt the social equilibrium and imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians; and with war consequently comes a significant loss of lives, instability, destruction to the local economy and a critical lack of security..." Mogadishu (17/10/2011)

...it makes my skin creep. it makes me stare out the window for a long time.
a cloud covers my sun.
the breeze stops and my bird song is quiet.
there's a deathly hush. as though you're holding your breath.
my eyes blink in slow motion.
it makes me mad.
and very sad.

instead of shoes, these days i look for twinkly things that tinkle and sparkle and enchant. . . twinkly lamps, green glass wind chimes and other pointless pretty things. they make me happy. they make me fuss where to put them. i lie under the thorn tree and listen to the green glass tinkle, watching how the sunlight dances from ring to ring. i see us on our mountain top, you know, flags brave and unfurled, our arrows glinting silver in the sun, breathless.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

' foiled by carbon..'

at my age one doesn't take too well to public humiliation. or being back at school, it must be said.

i had been time tabled to invigilate a psychology re write exam on a late bruised thursday afternoon. invigilation is not as simple as it seems. you might think you merely hand out the exam papers and say "On yer marks, get set, go."
no. the blue, officious plastic envelope, all the way from Cambridge, arrives sealed. a student has to open it and sign a document to say everything is tickety boo and there's no monkey business going on. fine. sign. sign.

then you ceremoniously hand out the papers, with a flick of the wrist, implying "i know this shit", write up on the white board start time, end time and warning time....which i always get wrong. then you say "you may begin," in your best accent, after checking no one has phones, or iPads or books or anything that may help them cheat. this applies to you, the invigilator too. bin "Psychology For Dummies" that you've had in your bag, just in case. then you're supposed to sit there. just sit there. no reading, writing, marking. nothing. these rules are stringent and must be adhered to. sometimes the British send out an inspector for a surprise visit, to check the center. you can see 'em from a mile off. white, spectacled, stern, looking unflappably lost in pin striped suits and toting Downing Street styled black brief cases and brollies.

before i continue, i must share details on monsieur X, our examination officer and french master. monsieur X is my most favourite member of staff. he is handsome and brilliant. efficiency has never seen anything like it. he speaks 6 languages fluently. he dresses the best too: flamboyant ties worn on deep purple silk of a day, white kaftan robes with matching turbans, perfectly cut tailor made coats from kanga, which he has made himself. he tailored his way through university. another impressive achievement. he knows what it takes. i have awarded him, every year without fail, The Best Dressed Teacher. period. the students love him. he says terrifically inappropriate things in class to make them laugh. my sons have since developed an alarming love of French because of him. i pay my sons to learn the conjugation of "etre" and "avoir". he is eccentrically efficient. so you see, i desperately want his approval to match my fervent admiration so therefore, as you may have concluded, he is the last person i want to disappoint.

so there i was, on that bruised rain promising Thursday afternoon, my mind on safari to sunnier climes. one student was rewriting. i smartly ticked all the boxes. corrected the end time, thanks to the student for pointing out that i had unthinkingly given him a paltry 30 mins to complete a psychology paper. i sat down and sighed. stared out the window, chin in hands and thought, fuggit, i cannot, under any circumstances sit here and do nothing. i left the door open, to keep a sharp eye out for said inspectors and monsieur X, grabbed a piece of paper and began writing. ya know, free flow. i grabbed the plastic envelope from Cambridge to press on (can't press on a wooden desk). this is more of less what i wrote:

Fuchsia flowers tremulous in a still, grey afternoon. They remind me of India, of Zambia and childhood and the rippling call of the coucal. The rain in Africa is an artist – leaving great splodges of pigment in its wake, across brown barren landscapes. It lifts my heart.

I should write Morning Pages and be more patient in poetry classes.

Apparently, as an exam invigilator, I am not allowed to do anything. Not read. Not mark. Not write. Not draw. If it were possible, the act of thinking would likely be banned too: Under no circumstances is thinking allowed in the examination room . This is entirely the prerogative of the students.

Imagine monitoring Thought? Is that what they call Meditation? No. That’s more clearing your head of thoughts and words, a serene quietening of the mind, so there’s nothing in there – an impossible task considering how curious and busy mine is. Maybe there’s a drug you can take that gobbles up thoughts. Temporarily, of course. Thoughts become words, words become things.

“ Be – come.”

“How becoming you look tonight, dear.” Does that mean you’re going to turn into something? A cake? Something edible?

“How fetching/ delectable you look tonight, dear.” Fetching. An interesting word too. I’m so glad I know what a palimpsest is. According to the dictionary a palimpsest is “…1. a parchment or other surface on which writing has been applied over earlier writing which has been erased or 2. Something altered or used again but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.”

I’m wondering if I’m allowed to write about wishes and desires. Why do I even make up rules when all I want to do is write? The words are queuing up like angry bees in my head and will out! Out! If they sting or make honey, it is not my fault. They will do as they please, these words. Some people are scared of bees. Not me. I think they’re magical. I have a hive in my roof and a hive in my head.

Oh. My. God. I have been pressing on the exam bag! (the plastic bag with all the exam sheets in them….now all these busy words are carboned onto the carbon copy…Oh. My. Word. Thank God the bottom copy stays at the center. Mr X is going to be very angry…..

Well. I was just letting some bees out, ‘as all.

And makin’ a palimpsest. . . .

you see. i had forgotten that inside the plastic envelope is a form with carbon paper in it. the top copy goes back to england the bottom copy stays with Monsieur X. i gingerly removed it and sure enough, there were all my words madly scribbled everywhere on the bottom copy. with a sinking heart i quietly put the form back and fled, leaving a palimpsest of proof.

i am marvelous at forgetting about impending doom. i AM the ostrich with her head in the sand. i have been known to stick match boxes over empty fuel gauges in cars and keep driving. i can make things go away and pretend they never existed. for real. which is precisely what i did here until the staff meeting the next morning. once the headmistress had finished her say, she politely asked if anyone else had any announcements. monsieur X cleared his throat, and in his delectable accent said, "Indeed yes..." i wished for the earth to swallow me. " The Person Who Was Invigilating Yesterday, " he began, (i went puce. everyone knew it was me.) " broke the rules, putting the examination center at risk. You Are Not Allowed To Write While Invigilating. I discovered GRAFFITI over the carbon copy of the examination form. This is not allowed." i squeaked from the corner " Oh, um, yes, that was me!" graffiti? GRAFFITI? my carefully construed words? good lord no. i was suitably humiliated. i felt hugely obliged to write him a note of apology, a desperate measure to claw back some small smidgen of his approval.

Dear Mr X

Lashings of profuse apologies for being a rubbish invigilator yesterday. If you must know, I was keeping a sharp eye out for wandering British examiners in the corridor but am happy to report none were seen. If only I had not pressed on the exam envelope all would have been fine and I would have escaped my suitable humiliation in the staff room this morning.

I find invigilating one of the most tedious and boring tasks imaginable. But please don't hesitate to use me again. I shall try my damndest to sit still, think of nothing and stare poignantly at examinees.

I must confess, I was slightly offended at my writing being labelled as graffiti. Should you be interested in what I had penned, please see attached. It's curiously ironic. Perhaps "Unintentional Graffiti" would be more apt.

Please accept my most humblest apologies.

Yours, in disgrace
Mrs Doria
(English Department)

I await, in terror, for his response. So far, there has only been a thunderous silence.

I am sure I will now be banned, which in many ways is a good thing.

Kitchen Board: Sunday Mornin' sometime in October on t'hill.

monday looks interesting. i think amneey meant fix the brake lights on the green landcruiser. monday actually has a sad addition. the landrover is to be used to take veronica's father's body to the cemetry. . . .but those sad things are not to be listed. they cannot be forgotten.

toodely y'all. bisous. X.X.X. deliciously disgraceful ones x j

Monday, October 3, 2011

lost for words

i love it how you find things when you're supposed to, ya know, without realizing it.

i haven't written anything because it's all been too much. the pressure. what have i got to say? what about this? what about that? lord no. usually when you don't know what to say, you talk about the weather. at least, i do. and i have a genuine love obsession with the weather, just in case y'all were wonderin'. i've given up guessing the weather 'round these parts, though. mountains generally mess with weather. it's always a surprise. or insufferable. either way, it keeps you on yer toes. i like it that way. generally, i like life that way.

it rained on saturday night. i thought i'd burst from my skin with sheer relief and happiness.
glorious squalls raced and slashed the hill. from no where. i had walked over to Tati's for dinner with the italians. i love sitting listening to their words like music, with a sort of don't worry about me i can understand what you're saying stupid smile on my face, even going to the disturbing extreme of periodically nodding my head. i don't speak italian, she shamefully confesses, even after having spent a small fortune on a box set of How To Speak Italian. i got to ordering a cappuccino and some fresh orange juice per favore and not much further. must try harder. oh wait. i can say la ragazza del collina con spina (the girl of the hill with thorns) much to my secret glowing satisfaction.

whenever i walk the hills at night, i always stop to look at the sky and the mountain. i narrow my eyes and strain them to see if i can trace her great jagged outline in the flickering darkness. i always can. on saturday night i could easily. there were great stars twinklin' above and lightening flickered far across the steppes. the moon was ever so beautifully sliced. i could smell the rain far far away and i thought "well. at least it's somewhere nearby. it's around, you know? be pleased. be pleased." and i was. and took a deep breath - a dusty breath sprinkled with little rain smells. a deep breath of flickerin' sky and moon and stars. it felt so good. things stir inside. i laughed the entire slippery way home, rain in my face and francesca sloshin' and a slippin' in the mud behind me with lots of gloriously stormy mama mia's and cazzo's.

i fell asleep with my hair wet and snaky like medusa's on the pillow and a smile on my face. and when i got up in the morning it stayed like that. my hair. i had a head of snake hair which not even the wind could pacify. this coupled with a terrible pale faced panic at having to treat my injured horse, did not make a pretty picture. working with horses is deliciously dirty. i rummaged around for an old pair of cut off levis in the old green suitcase which always has forgotten things in it. i found the shorts and remembered why i had chucked 'em in there a few years back....the zip had bust. must fix it, i reminded myself, as i chucked 'em unhesitatingly back where they obviously belonged....when suddenly i spied something wickedly emerald under the ethiopian caftan...i rummaged, inundated with a frantic curiousity. i tugged at green plastic and found an old folder, filled with writings i had forgotten about. piles of writings.

"And you raised your eyebrows and smilingly waited for more of my marvelous fantastic bullshit," i had written. "life was meant to be fun, apparently," i continued and then an entire exam pad of absolute Rubbish, codswollop i can't believe i wrote that shit Rubbish.
the only bit i liked was " I walked the hills today. I found a moth with golden spots. And burnt orange. Sitting on a new tree and rubbing its wings, scattering moth gold dust on the world. And two barbets. And seven aloes. Which I shall steal in the morning."

even so. it was a good as opposed to a bored feeling, to find words i had forgotten about. and stories, marvelously shite stories. the folder is not going back into the old green suitcase (circa 1979) but into my newly acquire senegalese wooden trunk (circa 19 bladdy voetsek i reckon by the price i paid for it) which stores all my other writings and paints and brushes and bits of pretty sea glass.

"She savoured it like when you steal the last chocolate, the last swig of the tin of condensed milk. Chocolate and condensed milk are, by nature, communal."

i wrote something.

so there.

kitchen board be damned.

toodely toot, y'all and baci X.X.X. remembered ones x j

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the bus

( first day going to boarding school in granny's garden. liane, me and rayna. and ma)

i swore i'd start writing The Book today. and did i? did i?

i did not.

ideas swirled through my head, slow motion faded polaroids...

my mother's 1970's datsun, sports car delux. once in a blue moon, she'd race to rhodesia, a day's drive at least, stopping to buy peppermints in karoi. i remember her bringing me ballet socks one afternoon, at boarding school. i was five and a bit, a bright wee silver fingerlin'...and i remember her laughing when i read "bullet socks" on the plastic wrapper... i was never much good at ballet, preferring to spin around on my bottom, counting how many circles i could do without stopping...i remember her coming once, and they couldn't find me and she left. without seeing me.. how i wept inconsolably. when i was maybe 6.

i remember my 6th birthday at boarding school. the matron, miss hall, a grey haired rigid spinster, brought me my wrapped up present from my mother. i was so excited. i opened it. inside was a puzzle with a little green rhinoceros. plastic. but if you held the puzzle box at an angle, his little legs would move and he would trot down hill. i loved that little green rhino. i can still remember him. and i ordered a chocolate log cake from mrs sherman, in her office, under the stairs to the dormitary, where the black phone was.

i remember my mother's letters...she always drew funny little pictures next to her words in case my reading wasn't that hot. i knew i couldn't write 8's without taking my pencil of the page. i did two circles joined in the middle. i remember once writing a letter home, which the matrons always read, "dear mummy. is daddy in jail yet? love janelle."

i remember the smell of boarding school trunks and the pine trees of salisbury lingering on the crisp night winter air as our bus sped into town.i felt so small and so very far away from home until we arrived at school, where the matrons would whisk us inside, donning out hot cups of cocoa and lashings of ham and tomato sandwiches. and where there were lots of other little girls bobbing about in the same boat as me.

i remember pressing my face against the bus window in lusaka, her waving bravely back at me, smiling, stark under the white midday zambian sun. perhaps the wind blew her hair over her face and she lifted her hand to hold it back, waving, waving with the other hand. how i raged and bawled but nothing could stop the bus going away away away from my mother. not even her.

i remember winning the running race on Rhodes And Founders' Day. i knew my mother was somewhere out there watching. i said to myself, "i'm going to win this!" and i did! i ran on my toes. i ran with wings at my heels. i ran until i thought my heart would burst from my burning 8 year old chest. i remember how everything was so shiny afterwards and i felt like The Champion Of The World and everyone loved me so much. oh and my sister's secret garden, near the tennis courts....it was quite the most magical garden i had ever seen. i felt overwhelmingly privileged to have been shown it. i was sworn to secrecy or else... all manners of the darkest awfulness would befall me...it was hidden deep under the pines, near the hedgerow, where nobody went, with mini mountain ranges and pebbles and tiny cactii....

i remember rainbow ice cream on saturdays before riding lessons and seeing grandpa sitting in granny's fiat, with his brandy bottle hidden in a brown paper bag, watching me in his gary larson styled emerald green glasses. he was a man of few words. that afternoon, under the whispering gum trees, he said " you can ride. you can ride. never buy a hoss with white feet.." and then simply drove away. we clambered back into the landrover which bumped us back to school and chapel. i quietly glowed the entire way back. and never forgot his words.... i remember sundays at granny's house in borrowdale...having to spell 'chocolate' after pudding for granny if i wanted one, with my middle sister slyly and so kindly, mouthing the letters to me behind granny's back. we'd wait until we thought they were asleep and raid the sweety tin from the dark pantry for more Turkish Delights. we'd hide them under our pillows and forget about them until bed time. i remember the time i tried to throw a stone over the purple VW outside granny's gate. afterwards, i ran and hid in the dahlia beds behind the house, the same dahlias where my big sister made me take all my clothes off, and hold dahlias over my mosquito bite sized child breasts to fulfill her latest photographic project. i think i preferred the wedding photograph sessions we held in the garden in zambia. she was always the bride, though.

i remember staring out of the dormitory window at night, watching the army helicopters flying back, maybe 2 or 3 in a messy formation, maybe coming back from some borderline encounter, the stars so high in the dark, inky blue rhodesian night sky, and thinking, somewhere out there, somewhere about as afar away as those stars, were my mother and father... somewhere far far away.

i realized today, that all in all, i only spent 8 years with my mother before she died. that excludes the long holidays, in between the long long terms away. even now, 27 years later, every now and then, i'll dream i'm on a bus, somewhere between chirundu and harare, climbing the zambezi escarpment, racing along, and i'll see her standing on the side of the road waiting. not waving. just standing there staring back at me. and the bus won't stop. i'll rush to the back. i'll be shouting "stop! stop! stop the bus!" panicking. but it never stops. not even i can stop it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

close quarters

phew. that feels better. nice cup of tea. sorry about below little side track .but sometimes they can be pretty. those side tracks. sometimes.

i live on a hill, as you must’ve surmised by now, but have i ever told you that the trees grow at 60 degree angles, all leaning west west south west? like truffle trees from a dr zeuss book. because of the winds which throw themselves at the hill. no one has a chance of growing straight up here. not a hair, not a tree, not a blade of grass, not a heart. everything leans. even the house. screaming in from Kilimanjaro, the winds pick up extra twists and howls as they sweep past Meru and hurl and hurtle themselves at the little pink leggo house of ngorobobs with no repent. mustn’t count my eggs , But (intended), this little house has withstood earth quakes, one of which measured 6.1 on The Richter Scale.

even our hair sticks out at right angles from our heads. permanently, in a simsonesque grotesque sort of way. from facing gale force winds on a regular basis. (what a load of rubbish. utter poppycock.) still. there really is no point in having a hair style ‘round these parts. no sirree. girls just grow their hair long and let the wind have its way with it. so do boys. smelly boys. with dusty thatched rooves for hair. wriggly things live in thatched rooves. i’ve grown wary about hugging my boys for fear of being infested with their lice. oh come now. I’ve been told england’s much worse…

my heart gave way earlier today when first born actually tore himself away from The Screen, walked straight up to me and gave me a hug. for nothing!? sweet nothing! truly alarming. really. what’s he done? whilst pondering all manners of awful possibilities, i hugged him back as he nestled his head against me. what mother wouldn’t, you say. what should have been a sweet moment in anyone’s book, took a nasty turn when the rude thought that he might potentially have lice, struck like an arrow into my left temple. what was even worse, and palpitatingly, pulse-ratingly shocking, was that I remembered he’d grown tall, so his head no longer nestled on my chest, it was now absurdly level with mine and ON it.….but, hey, I held that hug as long as he was giving one to me. my boy. and that takes guts man. so does love.

you see, these lice aren’t normal lice, i assure you. we’ve been well acquainted, to put it politely, over the years (she embarrassingly confesses). they are hardy little bastards. they laugh and get drunk on tea tree oil and stoned on anything stronger. they’re tough, back stabbing little addicts and don’t give a shit about anything except breeding, eating and partying.

“ oh, but haven’t you used the lice comb?” i hear you smugly chortle.

“but i have!” i shoot back, looking you straight in the eyes because i’m telling the truth. i’ll have you know, they’ve become exceedingly cunning over the years, learning, with Houdini dexterity, to slip through the pin thin gaps of the lice comb teeth. i should harvest the eggs and make mini omlettes in the morning then, in little mini frying pans on little mini fires. at least i’d be getting something back, after the liters of olive oil i’ve chucked on childrens’ heads. you know, lice HATE oily heads. well. not these ones. they use it for their dandruff fry ups. i’m sure of it.

damian and i always argue about who is exposed to the strongest wind. i was going to write “suffers” but the wind is sometimes exciting, maddening, insane, wild, beautiful. not a thing to be suffered. he, naturally, reckons he does. because the wind determinedly, he conjectures, squeezes and compresses itself through the little valley between the hills and smashes into their house. i disagree. naturally. and even more fervently since t told me about the Wendigo….google it. this is his playground. with these winds? if the Wendigo whirls by, you’re in BIG trouble. he will appear to you as your worst fears. since chatting with t, i reckon he’s been around here before, but left smartly and furiously because of the dust or lice or something. thank christ for those pesky little mites then.

you see? there’re always two ways of lookin’ at somet’in’, ain’t it?

Kitchen Board: Wednes The Day The Bakers Got Back From Turkey day 17 August 2011.

toodely toot, y'all. if you happen to swing by, wear a swimming cap. bisous. X. X.X. lots and lots of little ones, just behind yer ears. x j

Saturday, August 13, 2011

let it be

Truth and love are such pesky, unwieldy things. Like astrophysics, I should leave these unfathomable subjects alone, really. But fuck it, sometimes one needs to try and grasp them, in some unfashionable way. As Lawrence Durrel so aptly penned:

“ …The best lines of English poetry ever written were by Coventry Patmore. They were:

The truth is great and will prevail

When none care whether it prevail or not.

And their true beauty resides in the fact that Patmore, when he wrote them, did not know what he meant…” - The Alexandria Quartet.

Know this, as far as truth is concerned, there isn’t one. There are as many as there are souls alive and dead. That’s why I despise evangelists and fundamentalists. Everyone has their own truth and perspective. Allow it, why can’t you? How can you be so startlingly and unashamedly clear cut? Does it make you feel safe, hanging onto certainties when, no matter how incomprehensible it is, everything is an illusion? And that perhaps, by some wicked and amusing trickery, there isn’t actually a God? How can you be so certain? The only certainty on this sad, slow twirling blue planet of ours, is its, along with our own, meaningless death.

I am intrigued when people smugly shape their world with big black solid straight lines, with a Rolf Harris speed, precision and ingenuity. How, without knowing someone, or those glittering overseen details which, like the star constellations, etch the shape of each person, can you attach, with such glib certainty, such tags, solid lines, grand statements and truths? Every single person has their very own truths and no one should deem to know them. It’s, well, unkind. You can be interested in someone’s truths. I am, intensely. They are the colour of life. They are why I love people. Gently discovering their truth reveals gems and poisons…it’s who they are. It’s the very reason why I love people, unconditionally. My life is my dream struggling itself into reality. I am its weaver. Don’t poke your sticks at it please. It breaks the delicate pattern of my particular web, woven with uncertainty and heart. Let my little Black Widow be.

Which brings me to my next Big Thing Point: Love. There isn’t one. There are many kinds. But in the make up, the essence, it’s the same thing. Carefully construed and constructed to be a spinning, fast flying curved ball to side wind you, bonk you on the side of the head. Wake up, it says. There are no words for it. Call it folly, call it what you will. It makes you helpless. It’s disarming. It’s bewildering. It’s uncontrollable. It’s a Catherine Wheel burning wildly through the sky, spinning, tearing, goddamn beautiful, burning itself out, killing, in fact. The love that blossoms wildly, thick jungle vines dripping in giant wax deep purple flowers wrapping themselves around you, as you stare bewildered into the creased pathetic face of your new born child. The love that is born from sunrays in mirrors, making rapacious fires from a distance, burning bushes from the sky. It is extraordinary and unique. It is not flippant. It is not chosen. It is inexplicable. It goes beyond the physical. It transcends itself physically but sits it out with the stars and falling comets. Let it be, as the Beatles so aptly and succinctly sang. Why can’t you?

I think the easy option is to turn away from it, if you can. The treacherous option, the one that will, and it will, break you, is to follow it. Indecision creates stagnancy. Norman always said that if you were unsure which way to go, always choose the hardest route. It's likely to be the correct one. I am sure of it but I am no guru. No. Not at all. In fact, I know sweet nothing. I only know the soul recognizes and yearns it. For reasons we will never know. So people, don’t be smug, be afraid, in a way which makes you alive. Walk the line. Don’t point your fingers at it, tying your monochrome labels on it, burning witches and wizards at the stake as you froth from your priest’s pulpit. You don’t know. You Don’t Know, ok? And that's fine with me too. For those poor souls, at which this extraordinary love has never struck, I wish with the entirety of my tired, broken-but-still-beating, patched up ole heart, that it does. Because that, my friends, is life and love at its best and its worst; and that, oh bestests, is where your truth lies. Being safe and unruffled isn’t, in my humblest opinion.

Be scared. Be lost. You’ll see.

Kitchen Board: on a grey, cold Ngorobob afternoon:

and next time i post, oh bestests, i shall weave tales of zanzibar and sweet papaya. bisous x.x.x. unfathomably tender ones x. j

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

back home on t' hill...

i love travelling and i hate it at the same time.
i hate saying good bye. i really really hate it.
i try very hard not to remember it when there are joyous reunions but there it sits like a ghoul, in the dark corner of embraces, hissing menacingly that this is is all going to end....with a desperate hug, rivers and lakes of tears and inevitability.
anyway. home now. and it ain't easy.

after a lightening edged trip to south africa, where i saw my sisters, their children, my father, who turned 80, my loved friends - it was onto plane after plane. i sat, dumb, staring out the window, watching the crinkled blue continent below me, taking me further and further away from everyone i love. . .oh. and second born found six bullets in his bag in jomo kenyatta airport. that'll teach him to borrow his father's safari bag....it was a tense moment. at least he discovered them BEFORE we went through security. and at least they were empty cartridges. still. a sweaty moment where i think i lost 5 kgs in one second from the adrenalin rush. i am a resourceful mother and dealt with the bullets swiftly over a cappuccino and croissant....

yet, when i stepped out into the tepid winter twilight of kilimanjaro, heard the crickets in the dark fields as we drove slowly home, saw the Southern Cross hanging sweetly, sadly in the sky and smelt the dust, i knew i was home. still. i haven't quite settled back 'in'... i'm hanging onto holiday polaroids in my head.

travelling gives you perspective. and steals it right back. it makes you see things differently. then hurls you back into how things were and are. with pictures in your mind. it's, well, unsettling. so. i'm still half in and half out, if ya know what i mean?

tanzania is still in the dark...and getting worse. there is no power left apparently. in 40 days we might be plummeted into total black out. . . it's a truly disgraceful situation. i loved being south, where you switch a switch, and 'bling!' a light comes on. hot water gushes out like victoria falls in flood, up to your chin if you like. AND you can drink the water straight out the tap. it's glorious. now i want that. i want all of that and some. all the cars are shiny. roads are straight and smooth as silk ribbons. sigh. and i know i am a snaggle toothed hill billy from the back countries, when it comes to paying for parking into a machine, buying a train ticket from a machine (where the children pretended not to know me), racing away from people on the dodge cars instead of into them, scared as a cat is from an enraged, fierce bull terrier. but still. what fun.

comin' home wasn't helped by my first shopping trip into town, where i drove straight into riots. all the dala dalas (the taxis) went on strike because the police keep on harassing the drivers. six or eight of them were thrown into jail. for parking offences? i noticed the roads were emptier than usual...the traffic actually flowed....on rounding the corner, i saw ahead of me, a mob of about 500 people, toy toying down the main drag of mbauda, straight towards us....i couldn't move anywhere....stuck. as they jogged past, people bashed my car, tried to open the doors, shouted things at me, ah, ya know, like "mzungu!" and shit, while i stared doggedly ahead with a stupid smile on my face.....yes. a smile...anyway. a gap appeared and i raced ahead and got the hell outta Dodge, not funny, just before the Field Force (government crack force) arrived. apparently lots of plastic bullets were fired, tear gas and stones were thrown. miranda took shelter in beate's ice cream parlour. not a bad place to hide in, mind.

and then two days ago, there was an horrific armed robbery at a nearby coffee estate. it was pay day. lots of cash to be had, you see. one of the managers was pangad (sp?) (attacked with a machete. google if you don't know what a machete is) so badly that they cut through a tendon in his leg. the other was axed on his head (52 stitches needed) and one man was shot dead. horrible.

but this is home. and mama paka (the cat) and bella the dog and the horses are happy to have us back, i think? and there are friends. and the mountains. and ridiculously beautiful twilights. and the wind blows at night while i lie cuddled under my hyrax rug (which c hates because he says it stinks and i look like a viking) and early in the morning, the owls land on the green tin roof and hoot in the dawn. things could be worse, i reckon. and, oh bestests, i'm still on holiday and i see zanzibar inside the crystal ball....

the sun keeps risin' and the world keeps spinnin' ....

Kitchen Board: July 31 2011: Ngorobob Hill House: goddamn Monday.

toodely toot, y'all and bisous X.X.X. riotous ones just where your neck meets your shoulders x j

Friday, July 8, 2011

headin' south...

(pic from: http://awmusic.ca/2010/04/30/paper-aeroplanes-the-day-we-ran-into-the-sea-album-review/)

we' re taking off today...from the hill. how exciting is that?
we're headin' south - where you can switch a switch and a light comes on and open a tap and water comes out.....where there are highways and byways....and trains and rollercoasters and zoos and macdonalds or wimpies...i don't know. i hate that plastic pig trotter food but the kids can't wait for it.....and cinemas and mr price (cheap clothes shop).

we're headin' south loaded with coffee and rice and cloth as one does....we're africans....we're only taking hand luggage and a coop of chickens.

we're headin' south and we've been warned that it's freezing. we're sorted with retro corduroys and beanies from mitumba. and one pair of old cowboy boots which fit the girl (if she wears VERY big socks).

we're headin' south and avoiding pea soup dar es salaam. we're going via nairobi...let's see if that's any better....kenya airways...

we're headin' south and we're SO excited i don't care about anything but the sky and being in it.

so best i finish packing. grab the passports out the safe and put this machine inside it. i must kiss the very dry, very cold, powerless ngorobob hill good bye until next time... i shall miss my horse, my dog and my cat...i shall dream of them. i know it... but there ya go.....even the birds fly south in winter time. they know that.

toodely toot y'all! bisous X.X.X. deep sky blue ones x. j

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


i think it's time to change my profile picture, it's been that long...into a grey haired lady who prefers gin to tea.
my mother's words echo in my head "The more you do the more you can do..." well. the less blogging i do the less i can do.
you see, i'm trying not to slather you in all the Real Reasons why i haven't been here. but fuck it. there really isn't much else to say but:

1. i have been working like a dog at school. the school year is almost complete. i have been up to my eyeballs in reports and marking exams. reports. hideous. really mr wamvita, find robert a job at the post office licking stamps and save yourself some money. he is genuinely crap at english. of course i can't say that....no....so therefore, this is where much of my creative talent has been recently sunk. it doesn't leave much for lyrical words here.

2. i have been raisin' children. and ten chickens. and ridin' hosses... i kid you not. everyone has been sick with this snotty cold from school. the entire campus is heaving with it...except me. iron woman. i glare at people from a distance and mutter "come no closer" wide eyed and clasping my hand over my mouth. this has worked. our house sounds like the mosquito net factory of a night - spluttering and coughing,..which brings me to my Next Big Thing Point. TANESCO. it's because of TANESCO, she whispers covertly.

there is no power to the nation, people. none. (and the rains failed dismally so there is not much water around either. all the maize died. this is not good) this is being typed powered by my generator. TANESCO (Tanzanian Electrical Supply Company) sent out a message saying further drastic cuts were to be introduced. it is clear, from the sporadic nature of the power supply, that no one is sticking to the schedule sent out. it is also clear that this might be a problem with no end. TANESCO has not said for how long these cuts will persist. oh well. as long as there's fuel.....roland said "everything will be fine when the americans come. they will bring power." when will the americans join? those filthy foreigners. lovely, when you need them, eh?


this ain't hyde park corner, no sirree....this is a blog. this is place where i Must Not Diarize.

kitchen board is not possible. it has run itself into the ground and safari craig has gone on safari with tous les cameras...everything will be down to memory now. a risky business....
so, bestests, i am still rattlin' 'round in the cupboard along with all my skeletons..
toodely ole toot y'all..bisous X.X.X. dark ones, on yer lips...hang it. x j.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

devil moon...

(not my find. not my picture. found on http://www.peoniesandpolaroids.com/)

so it's that blissful time of year...the changing of the seasons....when winter sneaks in...all crisp and shiny. that's how african winters are. and the yellow flowers: deep blue skies in twilight and perfect hovering midnight blue butterflies delicate on yellow flowers. i love it. everything in me stirs accordingly. i eye the fireplace feeling sorry for the spiders all happily ensconced at the top of the chimney.....but not for long.

whoever said red was the colour of a heart or love? it's yella, i'm tellin' ya.

with this whimsical shift, come others. i've been told that i post too many pictures these days. that i write for an audience. that perhaps i should be writing a book instead. that perhaps i'm ignoring an audience. go figure. all said very kindly, you understand. and in many ways, i agree, naturally. but the truth is i don't feel good enough. i don't feel Wise enough, really. but then do you have to be Wise to Write a Book....? perhaps it's more to do with courage. i think you have to be courageous enough. and cut through all the bullshit. think of all the writers you love. their bare assed skeletal writing....those lines that you wished you'd thought of because they're so perfect?

i think you need a good enough story. a conglomeration of perfect ideas.

i love the idea of forgetting the kettle's on. i love it that it was a chore to walk outside, into the dark cold night, to feed the black dog, bella, and when i looked up, there the moon was. there was a reason behind the chore. something made me see the moon. all crooked and yella. and i felt very alone. which didn't matter either way. but i felt it. that's what matters, isn't it? and that's the truth.

sometimes i drink not to feel. ( and this isn't a postsecret situation.)

(or an unhappy one...or a lie.)

so if i post about frivolous things, that's ok too.

i want to eat pasta and cream and mushrooms.

and you.

Kitchen Board: Thursday 19 May 2011: Ngorobob Hill: (no TANESCO. generator pumping the power. )

oh and bestests, there is the biggest power failure in Tanzania to date....check it out... http://allafrica.com/stories/201105090340.html
hopeless situation all round....but onwards and upwards...just like that ole yella moon...ooo yeah.

toodely pip, y'all and keep on rockin..one can't be too precious about these things... bisous X.X.X. sneaky winter ones, behind yer ears. x j

Thursday, May 12, 2011

marie antoinette's birthday...

(all photographs by annabelle thom. www.annabellethom.com )

as one will logically conclude, she hopes with narrowed eyes, school has started, hence my sporadic writing. so there.
still. a LOT happened in between. since zanzibar, i mean.
and school starting.

arriving back on the ngorobob hill, in a suitably soporific dazed zanzibari state, i had to sort out, in due haste, a marie antoinette outfit for my friend's 40th birthday party. she was hosting it at the opulent Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. if you haven't heard of it, google it...it's a sort of maasai meets versaille lodge perched on the edge of the world's largest caldera. read as Definitely Not Cheap. it was so incredibly gracious and entirely generous of my dear friend. and an apt surrounding for one as beautiful and as gorgeous as her kind self.

the view...
the bath tub ... and rose petals...(remember you are at an altitude of 7500 feet so its really cold...hot baths with a view are a luxury)...

she expected us to all "make an effort". considering the effort she was making, it goes without saying that we should too...tales filtered down from nairobi that people were ordering theirs from Penny Winter. again. read as Not Cheap. sue smsd me from london "shall i get you an outfit and a wig? 195 quid?" i balked.

to find the appropriate outfit is harder than one thinks, in a town like arusha...you don't have fancy dress shops. you could go, if you had the time and inclination, to mitumba, about which miranda and i have written ad nauseum (the 2nd hand clothes market) but this needs Time, a Diligent Creativeness,a Keen Eye and Patience, of which, at the time, i had none. not a jot.

i mused about going as a 1970's afro haired gangsta, toting an AK 47 and booga mina booga wena shades, a large joint and platform boots, the look rounded off with a jaunty swagger and a more than petulant demeanour, with the excuse that i had misread the invite. i could've stolen one of the golf carts and roared around Ngorongoro Crater Lodge firing shots into the air. i can relate to that sort of stuff...but marie antoinette...? all frou frou and feathers and bodices and hair and fuss...? good lord, jamais!

as luck would have it, i met T, our salubrious hair dresser, in town on her only day off. she has a Keen Eye for these sort of things and an effervescent enthusiasm. she whisked me into Jam Boutique, a sort of African Bridal Shop, packed to the hilt with sparkly ball dresses and brides maids outfits, the kind you might have seen on Dynasty or Dallas. as i was carefully peeling off a strawberry hued creation, all set about with silver streaks, T shouted "Oh My God! I have found IT!" indeed she had. i squeezed into a dusty pink and ivory affair, appliqued with shiny little beaded floral arrangements. "squeezed" being the operative word here. over a salad lunch we vowed not to put on an ounce more weight....no more pasta, booze, chocolate blah blah bleh...diet pills and well, water should do it? box remains unticked to date...more on this later if at all.

i envisaged tackling the Crater drive looking like one of the Simpsons, wind blown and dusty she hastens to add, paying my park fees with a blue lopsided very high wig....the park rangers knowingly ignoring me sort of sighing "mad mzungu..." needless to say, i never quite got round to procuring a wig at all and relied on my frizzy hair to do the job all on its own. what a to do it was. what FUN! and oh my. everyone made "an effort". my outfit managed, by some bizarre twist of fate, not to split and i ignored the little rolls of back fat. i couldn't see them so that was fine. out of sight out of mind. everyone was quite splendid.

madame de la roi...

the birthday gal...marie antoinette herself...waiting for her cake...

messieurs...rather dapper, i'd say...

musketeer and his masked madame...

la noblesse entiere...

and finally, the beautiful photographer herself, annabelle...you must see her website. http://www.annabellethom.com/she makes beautiful bags and shoes in kenya and can sing opera in russian, chinese, cantonese and italian. with great gusto and aplomb naturally.

needless to say, a good time was had by all. so. happy birthday nibs! she is presently walking from the Victoria Falls to Namibia, via the Caprivi Strip, a wild wild strip of land, guiding some paraplegics....not for the faint hearted.

oops. no time for kitchen board today....dinner to prepare....guests arriving in less than two hours...toodely toot y'all and bisous X.X.X. french ones, obviously x. j.

Monday, April 25, 2011

jambiani easter, zanzibar...

there was no sign of easter in zanzibar....or any mention of that hippy revolutionary called jesus, come to think of it. no. i suspect this is what happened to the easter bunny on arriving . . . (we know what happened to jesus).....hence there were no eggs to be found....but we got to lick the empty nutella jar clean instead, with our fingers...before breakfast.

this is generally what happens to most people when you head to the zanzibari coast....it is a soporific sort of place. but i did read 5 books in 4 days. i was meant to re read Julius Caeser, which i love by the by but found too many other ones in the way. the only book i had to stop half way through was John Peel's....i didn't know who he was but came to the personal conclusion that i didn't really like him much so had to stop. the best book by far was The Other Side Of You by Salley Vickers. the little house where we were staying had the best books ever.... shelves crammed full of delicacies...like in a chocolate shop or something.

it's rainy season, not so much here on the hill but definitely in zanzibar. the monsoon squalls came in every two hours or so. it was glorious.

it didn't stop us wallowing about in the silky sea. the zanzibari sea is so warm and soft. you can float about for hours. in the sun. in the rain. who cares. it's bliss.

every lunch time we'd wander up the beach to a little hotel called The Blue Oyster for pizza and the obligatory two glasses of white wine. me. not the kids. you sit up on the blue verandah and sip and take in this view...

watching the sea weed farmers comin' in with the tide and their harvests...

after lunch, we'd stroll home, stopping to chat to the fishermen....boat loads of big fish....
me: wow. where did you catch all these?
fisherman: in the sea.....?

we'd pop into the Star Fish, a little rasta bar, and play an appalling game of pool....i made the triumphant start of completely missing the triangle of balls and sinking the white ball. first hit. the rastas were very kind and didn't laugh or roll their eyes but slept, rather like the easter bunny at the top of this page. we'd spend the rest of the time floating about in the high tide...then around five rubin would stroll up the beach for a game of footie with the team from jambiani.

there were three teams. whenever one team scored, the loser team would sit out and the next team would step in. he was invited to play in a tournament on the friday with his team but we were leaving, much to his chagrin.

after footie he'd sit on the old coral wall amongst the crumbling ruins from a long time ago, chillin'...taking in the world. i would love to have known what he was thinking or talking about....maybe nothing... just friends after a game of footie...

we did some time in stone town, but only after visiting zala park, a snake park where we were taken around by a young fella called ramadan. the snakes are kept in old round coral pits under coconut palms with pretty hibiscus plants in the middle. the first snake he grabbed to show us is called a Vine Snake, highly venomous. after the ethan incident, we all leaped back agog and said "no no no! don't!" he smiled and said "its fine! he only bites if you squeeze him. he has bitten me before. actually twice. but i just cut the fangs out, put some dawa (local medicine) and drank milk and i was fine!" after that, we approached the other pits very cautiously, not quite knowing what to expect....there were three green mambas in one...they are, as we know, one of the most poisonous of snakes, like its counterpart, the black mamba, but not quite as aggressive. ramadan happily told us he was bitten by one of these too....! he said he was a lot sicker with this bite than from the vine snake....he said he vomitted a lot, his legs could no longer work, he walked like an old man, shuffling along. drinking milk didn't help much either. he was soon taken to a clinic in stone town. and he survives to tell the tale.

zanzibar drips with green mambas. we found this one en route, dead on the road. juma was made to screech on brakes so we could all hop out and take a look.. if you look carefully you can see its fangs....the green mamba is a lovely iredescent green, especially against the grey of the tarmac. . . and dead. the other part of its body was sort of writhing on the road, as snakes do....

stone town was as taudry and beautiful as ever in the monsoon rain. and quiet. not as many tourists. although there were a few. there was The Naked Man. so there we were, sipping our sundowners on the corniche, where everyone gathers as the sun sets. young boys playing foot ball on the beach, chipati sellers, the young 'uns diving off the jetty, the ferry being loaded for its trip to the mainland...

and along comes this very strange man. tatoos, a cold hard mad look in his eyes. we imagined he was a mercenary or someone recently out of jail or someone high on heroine and alcohol. he staggers to the front and drops his pants, takes his shirt off and swaggers stark bollock naked into the sea for a swim. the uproar was immense. zanzibar is strictly muslim. our little family fled as he stepped out the sea, shaking the sea off his willy....we're not sure what happened next....!? we strolled through the zanzibari twilight, admiring lattice white verandahs, which made me think of dylan's "up on the white veranda, she wears a neck tie and a panama hat..."

...losing ourselves in the higgeldy piggeldy streets, perusing the sonaras (goldsmiths), singing in the old persian baths (the accoustics in that museum are incredible, angelic soaring sounds)...

eating italian ice creams and waiting patiently for the rain to stop....

we ended up in an indian restaurant, alight with strange bright murals depicting rubinson crusoe island scenes, walls painted in creepers and hibiscus plants with a congolese juju mask in one corner, old treasure chests and indian puppets glinting in dark corners....

so yes, oh bestests, we think we've done the right thing, (and our hearts are bursting with it), by buying that little shamba in jambiani under the coconut palms, just near the old arab tomb ruin, where we will build a little swahili beach house...sweet sweet times ahead i reckon, oh yeah...oh yeah...
sometimes dreams do come true....

toodely toot oh bestests..bisous X.X.X. zanzibari sunkissed, frangipani scented full ones on yer lips. there. x j

Friday, April 15, 2011

How To Jar And Pickle A Black Necked Spitting Cobra (naja nigricollis)

(this picklin' process must, be accompanied by George Thoroughgood's Who Do You Love but change the rattle snake bit to " Got a Cobra Skin For A Neck Tie" or Townes Van Zandt's Snake Mountain Blues or Darlin' Ukelele by Jolie Holland or anything suitably snaggle tooth hill billy like... and under no circumstances should this be tried alone. the whole family must be around, no matter what age.)

1. take cobra out fridge onto lawn (if you could call it that) so no snake blood and drippy venom drops on kitchen floor. lay it out so everyone can go "oooo" "sis" "Oh. My. God." and such like. stand really close to its head in bare feet to freak your parents out for fun. and because you get a kick out of standing next to a cobra head which just MIGHT still have bit of venom dripping about the place.

2. hold cobra to see how heavy it is. "hurry ma! quick! it's slipping out! it's heavy!" safari c: "YOU hold it." me: " no fucking ways man. it's DISGUSTING."

3. see how long it is by holding it against last born. it is about 1.5 m. not the biggest i've ever seen. but big enough. imagine THAT slithering into your bed while you're fast asleep?

4. start twisting it into jar. rigormortis has started to set in. ever so slightly. still. don't let this stop you twisting and turning it into the chosen jar. remember to choose the right size jar from your nearest supermarket. in this case, shopright, arusha.

5. fitting it into the jar might prove difficult. do not give up. be careful to hold the head carefully.(see below)

6. take dramatic photograph of the head because it's so evil and vile before the next part of the pickling process.

7. squash head in with naked thumb. with caution obviously. not just sommer, like below.

8. liberally pour formaldehyde into jar on top of cobra.

9. once again, squash head INTO formaldehyde for full preservation and for fun.

10. close with air tight lid and hey presto! Pickled Naja nigricollis

toodely toot oh bestests...no kitchen board today because the internet is so slow, there is no power, the generator is on and it takes HOURS to upload photographs. so next time. when i'm back from zanzibar...(yessss!) bisous X.X.X. ahem, snaky kinky ones, yeah! x j.