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