Wednesday, November 28, 2012

paper thin...

by designer Ryan Thacker on
i want to write funny and i want to be good at it.
i don't want to let you two faithful readers down.
but frankly, some days (months as it turns out) nothing happens of note.
i am weighed under an insufferable creative low.
it's comforting to know that even geniuses like charles darwin had them.
i find his little missive (found on the fabulous Brain Pickings site: rather comforting:
But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders.– I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchids & today I hate them worse than everything so farewell & in a sweet frame of mind, I am

Ever yours
C. Darwin

i try and jot down clever clog things but it's impossible.

i am distracted by the local news.

two days ago a dead white woman was found in a valley not far from here. the police can’t identify her. they  sent out an email asking for help. she was found with her hands bound, a black bra, a white T shirt and one sock, bludgeoned to death with pangas so badly her eye colour can’t be determined. she is apparently around 30 or younger with blond hair to her shoulders. this haunts me well into the late hours of the night as storms flicker and rage just out of reach of the hill. images of her lying crumpled on some forgotten African plain, far from home, alone, flash with the lightning. i worry for her, for her family who don't know where she is or even that she is dead. that she died alone and terrified and abused. i worry they won’t find her killers, the killers who raped her and pangaed her so terribly and senselessly. 
don’t ever dare tell me there is a god.
i share this with you, not only because it brims in my brain, but you never know, perhaps someone will read this and it will lead to some sort of redemption. somewhere.

yes, oh bestests, things are paper thin here on the hill. the poor power supply, the lack of a decent shoe shop south of the Rufiji (i'm sure they exist in Mozambique), an internet which goes on and off like a lighthouse in slow motion, storms which rain 500m away, an unsolved terrible murder all ultimately wear you down. even a strong Famous Grouse only very temporarily smudges the edges. but not to be completely outdone, i shall go and pour one immediately and see if i can spy the nearly full moon between the rainless clouds and lightning. 
louise said it's terribly pretty.

i live in hope.
so there.

Kitchen Board: Wednesday 28 November 2012

perhaps i've left it too late. the lights have just gone off again. the generator is on. again.
but it's time to go and spy the rising moon. 
with a damned strong scotch, i say.
toodely toot, y'all and chin chin. bisous X.X.X. skin warmin' ones. x j

Sunday, November 18, 2012

english department meeting on the hill.

You told us about your near death experience.

You said you floated away from your body, like flying, light, away.

“Did you even see your body below you?” I asked wide eyed.

No. No. You said looking up at the ceiling. It was like flying. . .

I got there, to this place. It’s very, very green….and these children. Yes children everywhere…all in white, shining… you know, just playing and twirling, spinning over there, in the green.

…Yes there are the hooded people…Over there….They look sort of lost…They walk alone. They keep their distance. But they are there, the hooded people.

I hated the hooded people. I thought you were talking about death but then I decided they were probably in the shadow lands. You said you came to a fork in the road, an almost heaven this way hell that way T junction.

You stared ahead, remembering.

…and these three…that came to get me. “This is it,” they said “don’t be afraid. It’s all going to be ok. Come!” they said happily… ay, they were very cheeky, very friendly, very convincing you said; they could have been demons. I was going with them. For sure. It was so green.

…my grandmother stepped out. Eh, she was kali, man. She held a stick and told me to go back. She was very – stern…Kali, kali sana.

It was so – green.

Then you went quiet.

She says to you, “Are you tearing up?”

Yes, you said, holding your hands over your mouth with your eyes closed.

You very nearly died.

Everyone went quiet.

Afterwards, we laughed remembering how W so badly wanted to see the ghost in my office. I loved your stories. I loved your humour and impertinence at the sexist notion that women with rasta hair make bad wives.

really. i couldn't work with more beautiful people.

Kitchen Board: Speckled Sky Sunday: November 2012

toodely toot, y'all. bisous. X.X.X. fresh spring rainy ones, all about ya x j

Sunday, November 11, 2012

power crazy...

Being with no electricity for a week, forces you to go through enough fuel for the generator that’d bring the Americans to the table. I’m not so sure that I have nothing to do with the fuel shortage in Kisongo.

No. It must be the government. 

As you fire up “the genni” (as the generator is fondly referred to) you’re really envious of people who were sensible and invested in an inverter. Like the Bells and the Bakers.  A quiet, clever, ecologically sound, technologically appropriate (powered by solar panels,) little power box, it simply clicks on the moment the power goes off, as naturally as you blink your eyes. You wouldn’t even know the switch over had happened. It’s that efficient. It’s such a superior choice - more expensive in the short term, precociously cheaper in the long term. Why wouldn’t you?  Quite.

You’ve just stepped into the shower, soaped up your face, when BOEM. Power failure. “Fuggitfuggitfuggitfuckintanzania,” you roar, with soap in your eyes as you grope for the taps. Then grope like a blind person to find a towel. Continue groping your way around the house trying desperately to remember where you left your Nokia phone, not called a katochi for nothing, trying to hang onto The Right Frame Of Mine by telling yourself to be thankful for your sight because this is what it feels like to be blind. All the time.

At this precise moment, you imagine this would be the moment where you step on a scorpion in the film. Life’s just like that. They are crawling out the cracks in the floor after all the rain. I have killed three in the last two days. And one centipede. A big fat one with a sea glass blue sting and pincers of sci-fi stature. You find your katochi after stubbing toe on corner of dining table. You yell at first born to “Switch off the bloody computer box please!” as it bleeps mournfully into a powerless night. “I can’t see ma!” “No shit Sherlock. fuggitfuggitfuggit.Stay where you are kids! Scorpions, remember? Jesus effing christ…” The world is eerily illuminated by your katochi.  You ignore the beeping (and obviously the imminent threat of a scorpion sting) and step out into the courtyard, unlock the padlock by vague moonlight forgetting star gazing, a thing of the past,  hold the Katochi in your mouth because you need two hands for this operation (which goes qwreqwjfhaowiuer0w8uer0uwkjdnfowiue because your teeth are biting on the keyboard. You just hope you’re not dialing Hong Kong by mistake). You twiddle all the knobs and switches and pull the genni into life. You can do this with your eyes closed. You feel like a totally tough and capable cowgirl who could run a 500 000 acre ranch on the Rio Grande single handedly. A total Camel man, in fact. You feel satisfactorily wide in the shoulders. It’s quite another thing if you have to also refuel the goddamn thing in the dark. You could write a manual on How To Start A Petrol Fountain. There’s more effing and blinding, cursing the government and god and the dogs, just for good measure, as you spill petrol everwhere because you can’t see the fuel tank or the gauge in the dark. By this time, you’ve been connected to the Egyptian president ever since and you no longer have any credit. You are not impressed when first born says “Jeez ma. Calm down. I think you have an anger management problem.” Honestly? Can you frikken believe it? And you’re still in your towel with wet hair and your phone in your mouth.

That’s why, when you see the neighbour’s pretty little inverter twinkling silent lights across the dark thorn filigreed valley as you stand in the courtyard (still with the phone in your mouth wondering whether you truly are the worst most angry insane mother in the world), listening to the throb of your generator, you cannot help feeling foolish for not investing in an inverter.
But at least you have lights.
For a while.

A distant  generator thumping is something else – a childhood music, that far away comforting heart beat sound of light that chases you to bed, because you know it’s going off at ten.  You lie in bed watching a spluttering paraffin lamp and a persistent suicidal moth, so utterly decided on its death. If bashing itself time after time on the glass, like a kamakazi pilot, doesn’t work, we do the “lets fly through the flame of death, then. A few times why not” The candle flickers nonchalantly in the moth's wing torn wake, steadying itself for the next onslaught, perhaps from a Christmas beetle.

When silence settles, night music takes over - crickets tinkling and the sound of wind through the whistling thorns. Which isn’t like you think it is. It’s a very faint hush sound, like someone learning to whistle in a whisper. A generator humming far away takes me to the smell of gun oil, a smoky fire crackling, and the firelight outlining your father’s profile, his eyes distant, as he stares down the barrels this way and that, probably dreaming of hunting days gone by: dust in eyes, white hot days and dried blood on thatch. Or old lovers. I don’t know. I don’t know my father’s dreams. I know he loves dogs. And children. And red wine and Famous Grouse. I know he is kind. More importantly, I think I know he has enough grace not to bind you to him through emotion. Instead it glimmers like light between you.  And never becomes words. Or chains.

Filipo, the electrician fundi extraordinaire who initially laid our underground cable, was called in. He looks like Mr T from the original A Team. But with more chains and much more panache. He’s an electrician for godsakes. He didn't even use divining rods to find the place of error. He walked along the line, which is covered in bush and roads and driveways with cement ramps to help cars up the hill. He stopped here. Cocked his head to the side, hand on chin, eyes narrowed. “Hmmm,” he thought, sunlight twinkling on his gold chains. “Let’s check here.” And so it came to pass that he discovered the road workers had chopped through the protective covering of the cable, and then it rained, and then water got into the wires, backfired into the “power house” (where everyone has their meters) and literally blew all sorts of switches and boxes up with a death laden 440 volts. It also blew up the Baker’s inverter which cost a cool US$ 1,500, which luckily didn’t burn their house down. Isn’t Filipo a whizz? Anyway – the cable has been repaired. With a steel cover, all 10m of it. And power is restored. It’s mostly on now, than off.

We really should invest in an inverter though.

Next time.

Aren’t those stars so pretty? And how the swallows trace and fly and dive after the rain...

Kitchen Board: 11 November 2012

tootdely toot, y'all. bisous. X.X.X. high voltage, electric ones. yeah. x j

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Trees Are Singing...(apologies to Doris Lessing)

It hasn't stopped raining for three entire days and it’s joyous. What is it about the rain, African rain, which lifts the heart and mind? Banished are those long, hot, dusty white days. The sky is recovering. It makes you wear pin striped shirts and diamond earrings and pretend you are a novelist, a rich and purposeful one with only one task in mind and not a mother or a teacher with a million tasks all baked into one pie. Sigh. Still. Everyone's allowed to play play. Especially on days like these.

My dear friend and neighbor, the artist aka Mrs Claire Baker, has visited for lunch and a few snifters of  dry white sherries and some, um, bean stew. Not bridge. It’d be better if it was roast lamb, but there you go, and sweet garden peas harvested from these misty fresh climes all accompanied by the ticking of a grandfather clock in a dark corner and fine conversation.  We  celebrated the divine weather together. Such is the joy of neighbours – like minded ones to boot. She has to feed a baby falcon every 4 hours, apparently. Her husband has even phoned Japhet (groundsman, mechanic, gardener, neighbour, general all round fundi read as expert) from the wedding in Iringa,  to check up on her. She has confessed she isn't great actually holding birds. Me neither. All that reptilian flapping and hissing. Ew. Having an avid ornithologist for a husband adds to the pressure. It'd be like me having to hold a frog or something.Over. My. Dead. Body. I'd need to be institutionalized afterwards. But I can pick up dead giant centipedes. So there. She has to drop long slithers of ropey meat down its throat. Still. Chin chin to the rain and all that. Yes. Indeed. And good films.

After all the rain, only the trees are a ridiculous green because they like to be early, a bit like Granny Martha, may she RIP,  who liked to be at the airport at least 4 hours ahead of check in time.  Everyone else is late, like the grass,…it sleeps until the rain wakes it.  You can see it growing every time you look. In fact, if you listened carefully enough, you’d hear it growing. I imagine it as an inaudible squeaky stretch. While the trees sing. I’ve nothing against grass, you must understand. It’s just that, well, trees have ears and eyes.  And voices, clearly. The hill is how I imagine the Scottish highlands to be from stories and postcards – curling mist carrying fine soft rain in swathes, this grand and grave weather arriving without warning.

I love these slow misty mornings. You lie, warm like a scone, sipping coffee, laced with Cranberry Juice (I know. Go figure. The milk carton and the cranberry juice carton look and feel exactly the same at six thirty in the morning) listening to Radio 4, then reading a totally inspirational interview with Billy Collins on the  Paris Review.  Deep under my hyrax rug (I know I know. Karma hasn’t happened yet. 53 pelts in total. I've counted them and I do worry. But by golly, it’s warm. Enough.) Billie Collins, poet laureate, makes me feel so much better about my present state of affairs but more about staring out the window for what I've always considered wasted hours, at swallows in the mist and a bee skirting rain drops on the window pane.

“…There’s a lot of waiting around until something happens. Some poets like David Lehman and William Stafford set out on these very willful programs to write a poem a day. They’re extending what Catullus said about “never a day without a line.” But most poets don’t write a poem a day. For me it’s a very sporadic activity. Until recently, I thought “occasional poetry” meant that you wrote only occasionally. So there’s a lot of waiting, and there’s a kind of vigilance involved. I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times—and this, I think, is a sense you develop—I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum—the poem finds a reason for continuing. The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. A lot of it has to do with tone because tone is the key signature for the poem. The basis of trust for a reader used to be meter and end-rhyme. Now it’s tone that establishes the poet’s authority. The first few lines keep giving birth to more and more lines. Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value…”

Yes. The way the words lie waiting to be found.
Here a wee poem which I think echoes this sentiment of discovery “..for something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.”

Monday’s Ritual
high priestess of poetry
lines up the ink pens,
three in a row;
"my little thirsty word birds,"
she muses.
fingers curved around
cold bone smoothness, 
she twists their tails.
they drink obediently.
silver beaks dipping and winking
into sapphire blue wells.
orchestras should play
as they take the plunge.

unseen words,
like bottom feeders,
dwell in the depths of dark, blue ink - 
unborn - 
undefined - 
as yet.
the pens - 
like fishing birds - 
greedy gannets,
diving comorants,
swallow them whole,
gorging themselves
like fat pelicans.

Kitchen Board: Rainy Sunday Afternoon: Early November and Happiness

with the rain, the termites are active. we need more poles for the horses' schooling arena. 
add to your vocab lists, oh bestests.
toodely toot y'all...bisous X.X.X. long, rainy wind blown wuthering heights ones x. j