Monday, February 18, 2013

happy shop - Part 2

if i owned an Happy Shop these are the things i'd be selling. these are the things i'd be buying in bulk.


 free and wild children who still play with sticks and mud, who don't wear shoes and who believe in majiks and ghosts and fairies.


food glorious food. carrots sliced and olives and dips and fanta and pineapple juice and pies from the eastern cape. 


puppies and dogs....and girlie wirlies.


colourful bicycles every day on the way to school with shirts and scarves to match the ensemble.


music music music and the time and space to make it.


i'd buy a way to give smiles, even costly ones, because they make happiness.


and lastly, horses horses horses....who could live without your friend?

...(to be continued)


happy shop



Skies are dark. Storms loom on the horizon but there is no hope of rain. Only this dull heat. We’ve forgotten to fill the bird bath with water for too long. Even the birds have given up. Skies are full of curved balls and flaming arrows. And thirsty birds, obviously. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this blog going because I don’t like the idea of not writing the truth. Is this not the purpose of anyone who dares to sew words together?  I could carry on writing about the sky, the weather, how the children make me laugh and weep and stretch my heart wider and wider, so gladly, so gladly, but all those shiny things are not the only fabric of our lives. It takes more dark blue to weave a beautiful carpet.

Pain is so stark. So present. So eina. No matter if you lie still on the cold stone floor and wish it away. It’s there. Like the black dog. When you wake up in the morning, you have a brief respite of say 2 minutes before the dreaded realization, the awful reality, swims into focus and you can barely get out of bed. Pain gobbles up words and notes and leaves you ship wrecked, reaching for the vodka.

I wish it was as simple as swinging by a shop to pick up some happiness. There. Pop it into a  brown paper packet tied up in string, take it home and eat it fresh, like we did as kids, picking out the inside of the hot loaf on the way home, knowing everything’s going to be ok.

Betrayal, on any level, is a dark and dangerous beast which needs to be sjambokked to death by kindness, love, compassion and humor. The saddest people are always the funniest.

But, across the wild tangled wood drear, on the other side of the mountains, over the rivers, ‘cross the whip lashed plains, there is hope. There is light which shines courageously, which will not be snuffed. Like a lighthouse, it will guide me through these treacherous seas. I went to the sea, a wild and beautiful cold sea, where the white horses pounded the jagged rocks, hungrily wishing for a boat to smash. I saw eight dolphin spinning by in the silver dawn. They tattooed themselves behind my eye lids.

My chest breaks wide open with the beautiful weight of the world.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for leaving comments, which at times have been like life blood, reasons to keep going. Silly, I know, but there you go.

And, Andrew, your translation was right. But you caught the drift anyway. 

Not everything is lost in translation. Thank god.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

the piggery of time...


"dashing" into town. not. the road home.

As you’ve both summized by now, I live on the top of a beautiful little hill in Tanzania. It’s a bitch of a hill when you run it…by the time you get to the top you want to faint,vomit and possibly die. All the children at the bottom of the hill laugh and point at me as I shuffle past like an old man of 75. My ascent hasn't even begun. "Mimi ni mzee, " (I am old) I growl back at them, huffing and puffing and shuffling. They answer, "Hapana!! (no) heh he heh!" I’ve only ever made it twice without stopping and that was, oh, two years ago. It’s enough to put anyone off running a marathon for the rest of their lives. The hill is conquered far more painlessly in a car or on a horse. There are, apparently, 34 bumps from the bottom to the top. (The children have counted them. Some say there are more, others less, so let’s round it off to 34.) These have been built to save the road from the torrential summer rains. They work. But they’re bastards. Because they slow you down. It’s a real pain when you get to the bottom on a school morning and someone says “Ma. I’ve forgotten my PE clothes/my guitar/ my homework”. Tough luck, you want to say. Instead a string of expletives stream out of your mouth, smooth as milk, as you start your 48 point turn and head back up, the clock ticking mercilessly on. The turn around gobbles up at least 15 minutes which eats into your 8am on the dot Monday meeting. Time time time. I hate time.  There is simply never enough of the stuff no matter how hard you try.

I think that’s why I love this story about a Mexican man, Jose, and his pig Juanita. If you've heard it, stop right here. He was old and also lived on top of a very steep hill, not a dissimilar one to the Ngorobob Hill, by all accounts. Every single day he would walk down to the bottom, with his pig, Juanita, so she could drink at the water trough and roll happily around in the mud. He would sit under the shade of a tree, catching up with his village friends, and after a small amount of time, when his dear pig had finished enjoying herself, they would slowly make their way back up the hill. The entire round trip would take around three hours if not more.

One day, a very smart, young and handsome anthropologist recently graduated from Harvard, moved into the remote village to complete his PHD on people and time. For a few weeks he watched as Jose and Juanita would make their way up and down the hill. It bothered him that the old man wasted so many precious hours of his day. He thought long and hard about it and came up with an ingenious idea. He was thrilled about it.

The following day, he stopped Jose at the water trough, while Juanita oinked and snorted and rolled, as pigs are wont to do, and presented his proposal. “ Jose I have watched you for weeks making your daily journey up and down your hill, bringing your pig to drink and lie in the mud. It takes approximately three hours out of your day. Now. What if I connected this pipe to this pump and pumped water up to the top of your hill? Juanita could have her own water and mud at home! And you’d save yourself three hours a day.” He felt very proud of his simple solution. The old Mexican looked at him, nodding his head wisely. This was a very smart, educated young man from America.  He replied, “ Si signor. That is a very good idea indeed but….” and he paused, thinking carefully, “What is time to a pig?”

It’s impossible to rush around here. You can’t just “pop into town” or “dash into Kisongo”. No. There’ll be either a traffic jam, a political cavalcade, a broken down truck blocking the way, a police road block, an accident. Or you’ll arrive at the bank, pressured to get back to work in an hour and there’ll be a queue from here to Timbuktu or “I’m sorry Madam. But your account has been blocked.” Or “ I’m sorry madam, there is no money in the bank today.” And you want to roar and cry and tear your hair out. Instead you let it go. Let. It Go. (although I didn’t quite manage anything remotely as guru like as that the other day…I’m sure if I’d been anywhere else in the world security would’ve been rallied, especially when I tore up a form under Ernest’s nose and said “ You can shove that up where the sun don’t shine!” tear tear tear )

What to do?

Time is a pig.

I need more of the goddamn stuff.

And money.

Kitchen Board: Tuesday 5 February 2013.


"fix hole in lounge"...yes. there is a big hole in the floor. and out of that hole crawl things like centipedes, scorpions and...snakes. first born and i found one last night. well. mama paka the cat did. i suspected it was a burrowing adder, a nasty lil fucker, so i stomped on it with my birkenstock. they should use that in their ad. Buy Birkkies For Your Health: And Kill Snakes Too. i felt bad. i did. i don;t like killing little baby snakes. but if it was a centipede eater (as it might have been) i am sure there are other babies wriggling around and a mum and a dad and i hope i haven't dented the snake world too much. sorry snakes! must fix hole tomorrow.
toodely toot y'all. bisous. X.X.X. reg'lar as a clock, on yer neck. x j