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