Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Here be Angels...please.

General De La Rey.

Things are tricky presently. The weather. The Job. And my horse is sick. 

When shit happens, I am very good at reaping the consequences and assuming the responsibility. I'm really good at saying sorry. But now, I stand back and I ask myself was it me? Or can I blame the weather? Absolutely the weather. And I’ll come up with all the reasons why it was definitely and very obviously the weather's fault and go to bed and sleep soundly. Like a baby. And believe in Angels Sometimes I even feel Wings around my shoulders.

His name is Michael and he is very big and important in the Angel World. He’s like a Boss. And he is dead good looking. He rides on the roof of my car. He blesses my children. He protects the house. He guards me. He cheers me up when I lie foetally coiled on my bed and reminds me that everything isn’t as bad as I think it is. He doesn’t cook. Or do my shopping. Or pay the bills. Or get the kids to school and to sports on week ends. No. But he does protect me from policemen. He makes my car go invisible so I don’t get stopped. And sometimes, when I remember, he makes everything a LOT lighter. The trick is to remember to ask and imagine it. Bingo. And don’t forget to say thank you. And suddenly everything isn't quite as bad as you imagined it. You learn to Let Go.

Today’s one of those days when I need Michael. He needs to make my horse better. My horse, De La Rey, isn’t any old horse, you understand. He is one in a million and we have been together in other lifetimes. Chasin’ buffalo on green plains, probably. He is courageous. He has a huge heart. He is funny. He is tough. Strong. We’ve done some hellova wild rides together in country not fit for old men. Last time he escaped into northern Maasailand and disappeared for three hours. We found him 40 kms later. Unharmed. Not a scratch. He’s a wild, tough one. He isn’t scared of hyaena either. Doesn’t even stand up for them. He’s won dressage for me and carried me around courses of jumps all the way to the finish and won that too. He isn't afraid of much but isn't that partial to crows. They peck your eyes out, you know.

There isn’t another horse like him. I promise you.

He is sick. He is losing his strength, something I have never seen him do. This sickness is beating him and I am beside myself with worry. He is starting to give up. The weight is dropping from him and he won’t eat carrots anymore. Last night, I let him out to graze if he wanted to. He lay his head in my arms and sighed. The vet doesn’t know what it is. Angels are the only thing I can turn to now. Please heal this horse. Please take this illness from him? Please? Please? Please? I don't want to let go. 

If my horse gives up the fight, I will too. 

With Angels at my side.

I know he's just a horse. I know there are bigger more serious things in the world to worry about which are keeping all Angels flat out busy, especially a Boss one, like Michael. But to me, he isn't any old horse. He is my Soul Horse and he mustn't leave just yet.

So. If anyone is reading this out there, light a candle and think of a funny spotty horse on a little hill in Tanzania and visualize him better please. 

Thank you! 

Angels be with y'all.

Ride on.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

God In Small Things.

Winter hasn’t quite left and I love it for staying a little longer. Tonight we sat by a crackling fire, sipping green tea with Jasmine. Very unlike us. Just sayin’. He spoke of finding god in small things, like that last bit of cotton to mend the hole in the mosquito net, one more match to light the candle, bumping into an old friend when you’re least expecting it, finding a phone voucher. If there is a god, it’s true. God really is in small surprises, the chocolate miraculously on the pillow, a kind gesture. I said I thought God was in my hot showers, in this perfect fire,in that precise moment when I lay my weary head onto my pillow.  I thought about all my favourite sounds: the crackling fire, the trill of the nightjars, soft rain on the roof, the hooting of the owls before dawn on my roof, last night's dreams in their talons, a soft wind through the acacias, the sigh of the appaloosa.

We rode out today again, Marco and I. Marco is the syce. He’s been working with horses since he was 14. All his life. He is definitely a horse fundi. He rides the little appaloosa called Sukari which means sugar in Swahili. He should be called Hot Popcorn. He’s unquestionably the finest lil fire hearted pony this side of the equator. I ride The General De La Rey, the big appaloosa, "Big like a buffalo," says Marco. He is my soul horse. We’ve ridden out over other plains in other lives, that’s for sure. A rollicking canter down dusty tracks scoured by winds and rain, by old tractors and bicycles and hooves, lifts the heart and polishes the soul. It births courage and a sense of freedom and trust.You feel alive. You remember. 

Marco is a man of God and a bloody good rider. He used to be called Mohammed. On our rides, we talk of the world and the way it's woven with marriage, witchcraft, farming methods, politics, wars, religion, quantum physics, whether I am a witch, spirits, healing and whether God exists. I always play the devil's advocate on god matters. He mentioned the riots in Ferguson the other day.
“The world really is upside down,” he said.
I couldn’t disagree. 
“Did you read about the troubles in Ferguson anyway?” he asked.
“Yes. Yes. I did. Terrible about the police killing that young man, eh?” 
Marco looked sideways at me and said,” The world is very confused. They make such a fuss over that? Causing riots and looting? He was a thief after all!” 
There is no smudging of truths here. No.

'Round here, horses are a novelty, an event, it seems. Children run excited through the dry maize fields, forgetting their bovine charges, “ Farasi! Farasi!” (Horse! Horse!) Marco tells them not to run too close because the horse could bite their heads off or that horses don’t like ‘kilele’ (noise). Mostly, they don't seem to care. A woman nervously wishes us a hastey, “Safari njema.” Someone else laughs and tells us she’s terrified of the horses. “But when are you going to give me a lift?” 
Marco always says, “Tomorrow. We’ll be back tomorrow.” 
It is becoming old. 
“But you said that last time…”
One day we will. We really will. Just not this afternoon.

This afternoon Marco said, “Let’s ride up that hill over there…” It’s high and far and tempting. And it’s, well, there. There was no reason not to. 

We passed a Maasai girl, tall and slim as a reed.
 “Where are you going?” 
Marco pointed over his horse's ears, “ We are going to the top of that hill to talk to God.” I grimaced and rolled my eyes. No one saw. I didn’t want them to. She looked skywards.
“ Well, you won’t find God up there. You should go up that hill,” and she pointed to a hill behind me, “ because that’s where God is. That is where you talk to God.” I looked behind me and saw Ngorobob Hill. 

We walked on anyway. The climb was steep and rocky.
“ At least we know that the horses will stop if a snake is in the grass,” I slyly mention. 
“They feel the vibrations on their bellies and they escape. Snakes are like that. . .” 
But not if it's a puff-adder, I wanted to say.

At the top the wind was icy and relentless. Wild. The trees were stunted and crooked from years of winds. Below us the landscape fell, sweeping out like a frozen ruffled sea. Even the horses stopped, heads up, ears forward, surveying their crinkled kingdom, criss-crossed with black cotton soiled veins. We sat silently in the saddles, like cowboys on a mission without Malboros, bandanas or Stetsons. I imagined riding to Lokasali and camping out in gypsy tents.

After a while, we turned the horses homewards, zig zagging carefully downwards, the wind at our backs, the sun low on our left, and rode, as if in a dream, back to The Hill Where God is.
For some. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Mt Meru Sikukuu Nane Nane 2014.

(Note: Words in brackets are there for those of you who are unsure of the correct Swahili pronunciations. I have even emboldened the stressed syllables to make it easier for you. Also below is a list of translated words which you might find useful before reading this.
Not being immediately bossy. Have fun, now… Wriggling eye brows in your general direction.)

Translation of Swahili Words you might need to know to read this.

Sikukuu (n.) – public holiday
Karibu(ni) sana – most welcome
Hongera sana – big congratulations.
Mwenyekiti (n.) (Sheha in Zanzibar) Balozi – Village Chairman
Kijijii (n. sing.) – Village
Mwaka (n.) mpya (adj.)  - new year. Mwaka = Year and Mpya = new.
Kufanya (vb.) – to do
Kazi (n.) – work.
Salaam (n.) – peace
Dar es Salaam – place of Peace.
Kulima (vb.) – to farm.

1 – moja
2 – mbili
3 – tatu
4 –nne
5 – tano
6 – sita
7 – saba
8 – nane
9 – tisa
10 – kumi
11 – kumi na moja
12 – kumi na mbili.
Godi on his new Toyo, Sikukuu Nane Nane

It’s time to learn some Swahili, people. It’s time. Seeing that yesterday was another sikukuu,(sea coo coo) a public holiday, I figured you could learn, through this little story, how to count in Swahili for starters. And for those of you who can cunningly count up to a 100, know the days of the week, the months AND hold a conversation already, well, hongera bloody sana. (on-geh-rah bloody sahnah.).

In Tanzania it seems there are as many public holidays, sikukuu, as there are chameleon species. I am thrilled. There are of course the obvious ones like Christmas and Easter but I simply cannot do this plethora of holidays justice by a simple listing. No.  Far too simple. It must be detailed so you will understand my conundrum. Indeed, why I needed to write to my local mwenyekiti (mwen – yeh – key – tea ) of Ngorobob  kijiji (kee-jee-jee), about the months of June, September and November.

There isn’t a finer or more logical place to start than January the 1st, which we all know is New Year’s Day, Mwaka mpya  (mwah-kah mmmm-peeya), a day to reflect on the future; on all those ridiculous resolutions you made last night knowing you weren’t going to keep any of them; on the fact that there are no pain killers in the house to quiet the killer hangover born of a mix of every conceivable cocktail on offer because they were free; on the fact that the PPD’s (post piss up depression) are about to begin and you had better bloody well deal with them because you did it to yourself.  

Running straight on from that, on the 12th of January, is Zanzibar Revolutionary Day, marking the anniversary of the 1964 overthrow of the Sultan of Zanzibar. If you need to read more on this interesting part of Tanzanian political history, which you must, in fact, whether you want to or not because it would make me feel ever so happy,  read this post 

The public holidays get complicated, in the nicest possible way, you understand, because of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one, and months begin when the first crescent of the beautiful paper thin new moon is spotted. It’s a buggar if it’s cloudy, I should imagine. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 10 to 11 days shorter than the solar year and there is no timekeeping involved, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons, like birds from Europe. I love the idea of ‘break fast’ because the Islamic day starts after sunset. This year, according to the Islamic calendar, the celebrations of  Milad-un-Nabi (the birth of Mohammed) took place over February and March. Again in May, as soon as the moon was spotted,  Eid ul-Fitre celebrated the end of Ramadan.

The Eid festivities herald the onset of Good Friday, Easter and Easter Monday celebrations, a dream run for any chocoholic. I'd do anything for chocolate, even believe in resurrection, temporarily.  On April 7th is Sheik Abeid Amani Karume Day which is a commemoration of the assassination of Vice President Sheik Abeid Karume of Zanzibar, which you will know all about because you read the post I directed to you, earlier on, Little Old Clever Chops. As if that isn’t a big enough event to remember, on April 26th we celebrate Union Day, sikukuu yamuungano, (see-coo-coo yah-moooon-gah-noh) which commemorates the unification of Zanzibar and Tanganyika into the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964, upon which you’ve already become an expert because of said link…ahem. (It’s ok. You can go back and read it now, if you want.)

Moving swiftly, joyfully and festivally on (brass bands, white horses, dancing girls and balloons everywhere by now), in May we have Worker’s Day the world over, sikukuu yawafanya kazi (yah-wah-fun-yah kahzee). On the 7th of July we celebrate Saba Saba (sah-ba sah-ba) which literally means seven seven. This is a day to mark the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair. And in August we have Nane – Nane (nah-neh, nah-neh) literally meaning eight-eight which is Farmer’s Day, y’all, sikukuu wakulima.( sea coo coo wa-coo-lee-mah.)  Still with me? she worriedly asks.

On October the 14th  we commemorate the Father of the Nation, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, with Nyerere Day.  On December 9th we celebrate Independence Day.  In December, sometime after that, depending on the moon, we celebrate Eid al-Adha.  Then Christmas Day and Boxing Day….and then we start all over again. The good thing about all of this is that there is no time for de toxing, apart from during Ramadan but then who's going to say no to breakfast at  seven in the evening? (saa moja jioni in Swahili time) There warm sweet doughnuts, sweet pasta, sweet meats and samoosa to share. 

Now then, I have written to my local M.P suggesting we introduce Sita Sita, (see-ta see-ta), tisa tisa (tea-sah, tea-sah) and Kumi na Moja Kumi na Moja (coo-me nah moh-jah )  for obvious reasons. These are the only months which shockingly do not include One. Single. Sikukuu. It isn’t right.  I pointed out that we didn’t have mbili mbili (mmm-bee-lee), tatu tatu (tah-tou tah-tou), nne nne (nnnn-neh nnnn-neh), tano tano all the way to eleven which would more than solve the problem.  I suggested that we might need to add another one in July, Sita Saba Sita Saba, because that’s my birthday (diarize, y’all) but I’ll understand if they don’t gazette that one…ish.

I think it makes complete sense.


Oh. And Noddy Badges all round for everyone who can count to ten in Swahili for the first time, without looking! Hongera sana!

And bisous! X X X  to those who are missing them...warm Swahili ones, on yer lips, scented in festivities xxx j

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bedside Weather (or Whether To Get Up Or Not)

I have this terrible habit. When I wake up, stretching, looking at the light in the attic windows, I sleepily gauge what kind of day it’s going to be. You can tell, you know. If the sun beams clear-cut, golden rectangles up onto the white, slanted ceilings, it heralds a clear blue day. The shapes will be sharp and defined and cut through with minuscule, mosquito net squared shadows. Outside the bright spring air shapes a translucent day when you should be out there flying kites, marveling at the sheer brightness of the wild yellow flowers, which are like small fallen stars, littering the landscape for as far as you can see. Small Fallen Stars. That’s what they should be called. …daisy stella africanum should be their Latin name. It’s going to be one of those days when the dream is real, when you unfurl your life pennant of victory, swirling silver in a frisky wind and I am your queen. If you don’t pitch up to your life on a day like this, shame on you.

If the gold rectangles are hazy, if the lines fade from strong to smudgy, the light glows gold to pale dust yellow, I’ll bet you the clouds are low and racing, skidding across the northern sun. If you listen, the wind is already whistling and shaking the rafters. It’s going to be a fast weather changing day, which flirts with mood and dress code. You’ll be shunted from dreaming to philosophy to restlessness to half done jobs and misunderstandings to desolation. The horse is crazy silly. Crows scare him even more than on other days, as they slice through the air, pterodactyls on the wing, in formations of 7 or more. He puffs himself up like a Citroen, standing still as a statue ready to explode. It’s the kind of day when you think of drinking whisky at four in the afternoon and actually convince yourself that it’s not a problem.

If there are no golden rectangles on your ceiling, like this morning, and the light is dove grey silver, there’ll sure as hell be mist outside, raindrops light as snowflakes swirling about the whistling thorns. If I were in Europe and it was winter, there’d be snow out there. I hear a distant dog barking into the silence of the morning. The clouds will be thickly spread like she spreads Nutella on her toast, although not anymore because she knows it hurts orangutans.(do your homework, people.) Like she won’t eat calamari anymore because she knows how intelligent octopi are. I told her how a mother will guard her eggs for as long as she can, sometimes until she dies, because the longer she sits there, the bigger and stronger they will be. These days remind me of giant oil paintings of pre-revolution Russian landscapes, dark skyscapes and peasants with scythes in fields of hay. You curl shell like back into your smug bed, and, if it’s holidays, hope that someone else will open the front door to let the dogs out and to leave the keys for the stable store for Mohammed. You hope someone else will put the kettle on and bring you coffee in bed…with lashings of coffee creamer, the exact amount of Africafe with one and half sugars, please. Like hell.

No, you decide. No. I’m not getting up. Fuck it. The world can wait and if the dogs have weed inside the house again, who cares? Which makes you realize you’ve been popping for a wee since three that morning. You stretch again and reach out for the iPad. This is the terrible habit, you see.  You check your emails, check your instagram and you check Facebook, leaving the news til last because it’s so terrible these days. You watch an amusing Zimbabwe advert. You watch a cat dog video, only because you rate and love the person who’s posted it. (note to self: never be fooled. Press enter at your own risk. Is the bandwidth worth it?) You only read the headlines from the Gaza Israeli onslaught…but your eyes slip down and you read about how a rocket has hit another school and ten more children are killed but how the Israelis say they will not stop the war on ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ on ‘terror’. There is an image of a blown up wheel chair, with a brother crouched over his dead sister who couldn’t get away fast enough, who got left behind. His trousers are torn and his feet are bare. He stares down at the crumpled remains of his sister, tears making tracks through the dirt on his face, blood on his hands, his mouth in a silent scream. And you scroll down quickly. And there she is, Rin Norris, head bowed, talking at a memorial for her three children, Mo, Evie and Otis and her father Nick Norris, who were blown out of the sky in Malaysian flight MH17 by Ukrainian rebels. You watch her speak. You read her words, "They taught me to sing every day and to laugh at myself. They taught me not to dance in front of their friends and to try and not be funny in maths groups. When their innocent bodies were shot out of the sky, I stretched my arms as high as I could and screamed for them. Now I see them only in my head. I can't touch them, I can't feel their warmth. My arms will always be reaching for them."  

All of a sudden, you can’t get out of bed anymore. You remember the words, “Just pitch up to your life.” And you do. But you can’t stop crying. Even when you finally get to the loo, when you open the door to let the dogs out, when you kill the scorpion on the kitchen floor as you make your way to the stove to put the kettle on, as you stare out the window at the new grey day ahead. Your life. You can’t stop crying. You hug and kiss your children stronger than ever before, as they stumble warm as scones from their beds, scented with love and dreams. You hug them long and strong. Long and strong, and goddamn pitch up to your life.

I love the golden rectangles beamed onto my ceiling, true.

Yes.  I love those kind of days.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

alice herz sommer 108 - words of wisdom.

photo from www.interinclusion.com

"i learnt from the bad but i look at the good things... everything is a present."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

kwacha kwacha! and the cycling story...

Not only is Kwacha the Malawian or Zambian currency but Kwacha is a Bemba word for “dawn”, reflecting the Zambian national motto “ New Dawn of Freedom” . The time has come. Kwacha Kwacha! The sun is rising. Kaunda used the phrase in all his liberation speeches as did Hastings Banda from Malawi, as the colonial Rhodesian Federation began to splinter and sink like the great Titanic itself. Kwacha Kwacha has a revolutionary ring to it and heralds change and movement and great beginnings. One of Zanzibar's revolutionary sons is called Mzee Kwacha. It is also the name of our house in Zanzibar, Kwacha House, which faces due east into spectacular dawns.

I can sit for hours, days in fact, under the whispering palms staring out to sea. The colours change every day…slashed hues of aqua, turquoise, shades of lilac, greens….a great liquid jewel. It seems I persist in my ill disciplined approach, or rather resistance, to writing or achieving anything note worthy, like exercise. Ok. I swim. And I walk. From the sunbed to the water and back. This time of year the sea is glass marble calm before the south wind picks up, ruffling its surface, making the hearts of all kite surfers happy. The weather is halcyon.

These marvelous solo days, when my mood ebbed and flowed like the tide, were interjected with wonderful visits from friends all around the world. You know how it is with old friends, friends from the glory days before children, when we were wild, young, free and in love, when you didn’t worry about tomorrows or money. It was pure unadulterated adventure. Now we’re all fatter (apart from S in Lamu who could still bloody model for Vogue. Bitch. So she doesn’t count here.) older, alcoholics with broken hearts (ok. probably only me and maybe Phoebe.) and our backyards are littered with mistakes  from which we bravely or perhaps naively think we have grown. We’ve certainly changed. Change is inevitable and always a good thing, apparently. Gulp.

There we were, my bestie and I, floating around the ridiculously beautiful Zanzibar sea, unconcerned about our pale cellulite, grey hair and cavernous crows’ feet circling our eyes, recognizing those moments which swing from knowing everything to knowing nothing and we decide we’re surprisingly fine with that. Biscuits and noddy badges all ‘round. Hurrah. We decide we’re fucking grateful that our lives are as they are considering the chaotic nature of the soup of evolution. There really is no order here. And look at us! Christ we are lucky.

We march out the sea, bikinis and flab flagrantly exposed to the Zanzibar sun and the public. We sit on the dazzling white sand to dry off, watching some Maasai warriors swim, white beads glittering on magnificently crafted ebony torsos. My goddaughter brings us our chilled white wine and we talk school to her sons. I tell them how to write a jolly good poetry essay, bish bash bosh.  When we’re left alone, I tell her the gory bits about the crumbling of my marriage as I curl my toes into the sun warmed sand. My words remind me of how stunned I am and that I am doing a fine job at convincing myself that I am actually alright. Secretly I wonder why I don’t sleep at night but blame it on the moon. It’s a super moon, appearing larger in the sky than ever before because it’s closest to the earth. When my goddaughter reappears with another bottle of wine, we change the subject, “pas devant les enfants” and all that.

“ I’m learning to fly!” she tells me and promises that one day she’ll land on this beach, pick me up and then we’ll head on to Lamu to see our dear friend S and show Al Shabab who’s boss.  My 11 year old goddaughter rolls her eyes and swears over her dead body that she’d never ever fly with her mother let alone into a “war zone”. Her words. Not mine. I definitely would because my friends are truly marvelous in every way, R is going to be an excellent pilot and it’s terrifically adventurous.  But I think all these things and pretend to agree with my goddaughter only to win brownie points with her. I’m trying to make impossible in roads here and fast. I really want her to love me.  The third bottle of wine is opened. I’m feeling giddy high, happily tiddly and starting to use the “F” word rather too frequently which, it appears, offends my goddaughter and flushes all hard earned brownie points into the ocean.

We take leave of this blisteringly dreamy scene, to shelter from the now howling wind and stinging sand. My sun glasses have sand dunes in the corners. They’re renting a luxury villa near the kite surfing school. It’s ‘nice’  but too new and spartan for my liking although the groovy plunge pool is rather enticing and resembles a liquid tanzanite when you turn on the underwater lights at night. A waiter brings the children ‘Virgin Mojitos’. We sip to taste and promptly order ‘Whore Mojitos” or whatever they’re called when they have booze in them. While we wait, I unwittingly finish my goddaughter’s drink while she makes whirl pools in the plunge pool. “Mummy! Who finished my drink?” she indignantly asks. “Daddy did.” I make a whispered confession. My friend advises me not to admit it. I don’t.

Before we know it, it’s 11:30 at night, we’ve had 428 mojitos between the three of us, forced her husband to play Van Morrison so we can remember the old times which reminds me of the girl in Zambia who hates me. An acquaintance recently told me “You’re still at the top of her Christmas tree of hate, you know.”  Winner. Nice. It’s too late to call a taxi. It’s Ramadan and I’m drunk. The super moon is high, the tide is out leaving a wide berth of hard sand. My friend suggests I cycle home and offers the company of her two boys. An adventure looms! I quickly take up the offer because, right then, it doesn’t seem THAT far back to Jambiani, the night is sweet and filled with stars and silver, I’m feeling invincible and I love waking up in my own bed.

Her sons are gorgeous, good British young gentlemen, brimming with the excitement of the challenge, the moonlit adventure. I’m feeling 28 not 48. The brand new bicycles are proudly wheeled out. The boys politely ignore my dastardly tussle with the cactus garden on the way out to the beach although I can tell they are both acutely embarrassed. The beach lies waiting with wide expanses of moonlit silver sand and a sparkling sea to our left. I perch my spectacles on my head, tie my basket up behind me and vaguely try and remember when I last rode a bicycle. I leap confidently into the saddle, push the pedals into action, take a drunken swerve into the only soft sand around and wipe immediately and spectacularly out, spectacles flying in one direction and the contents of my basket in the other. Oscar Wilde’s words come to mind “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars,” as I lie spread eagled on the beach, my bicycle on its side and Giles staggering after me whimpering on about calling a taxi, perhaps? The boys were silent and open mouthed, swallowing back embarrassment and laughter. Through sheer bloody mindedness and determination, I dusted myself off, snatched back my specs from Giles, re packed my kikapu and wove my way into the magical, silver night with the sound track of Queen’s ‘Bicycle Song’ playing in my imagination.

Jambiani and home were nowhere in sight, only the dark cliffs and black skeletal shapes of rocks in the silver sand. The wind whistled in my ears. It’s no bloody joke riding into the wind. Not even half way there, my thighs burnt with exquisite pain from the unexpectedness of grueling exercise, which I have cunningly avoided for, oh, over a year? The mojitos and crème brulee churned nauseatingly in my stomach and Jambiani seemed a life time away. Yet, the crunching of the tyres over the shells, the far away sea glittering with Peter Pan magic, the dark shadowed palm trees, the sweetly scented night air – all of this, was perfectly exhilarating and I felt very much alive. And in pain…

I awoke the following morning in the same clothes, lying like a star, hypnotized by the fan reminiscent of Apocolypse Now . I blinked, did a mental body check, wriggled my toes, my fingers, moved my legs and yes, yes! Everything miraculously still worked. My brain rattled a little when I moved my head but nothing a 400mg Ibruprofen washed down with half a liter of water couldn’t fix. I ate two bananas, packed my basket and rode straight back up the beach to return my bicycle, this time with the sun in my face and the wind at my back. I felt like a champion. The fact that two days later I suffered from heroic whip lash and felt 68, my face not too different from that of a puffer fish, would not dissuade me to take on another adventure like this again. Maybe next time I’ll give kite surfing a twirl. And why not, eh?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

one little life...

it’s a thin skin holding these bones,
this heart
together –
veins and blood
cellophaned into some incoherent
yet perfectly planned configuration
called Body.

on still nights
the breath is ragged.
sighs rasp.
bones rattle –
not in cupboards -
but in skin.
the heart.
the heart faithfully blinks
like some distant lighthouse
‘cross darkling plains.

it won’t give up,
like a horse’s heart
after the lethal injection.
it won’t.
as long as feet touch earth,
eyes rise to skies,
fingers clutch rain soaked soil
crushing it in determined fists,
grass and glass,
mixing salt into blood and spit,
it shall beat.

sling shoot me again
and again
up and beyond,
numbly amazed,
where i can float
arms spread like wings
dream flying for real.
below, our planet -
a glass blue marble
of infinitesimal fragility,
stars above and below,
turning in the gyre
of space and time.

Part 2: 

would i long to return
to that small dust town
on some forgotten, ragged border
littered with broken hearts
and plastic?
would i?
where the children sleep
lost in dreams?

i see her –
that child angel –
her hair like soft dawn
around her quiet moon cheeks,
half opened rose-bud lips
breathing small clouds
over imaginary lands.

i see him –
my man child sprawled –
like the sun he is,
limbs too long for his bed
and some small trouble
imperceptibly scattered across his brow.

i hover above,
some crazed guardian angel
with beauty on her lips
and wild gardens in her heart,
blowing down
paper thin curled prayers.

in soft, soothing sun-dappled shadows,
laughing children run triumphant,
it seems.
and a plane flies overhead.
here we are
in the world,
which the wind freely shapes
from age to age,
our feet firmly on gravel.

take me.
use me.
love me.
shape me
until the dark quiet hour
of no longer slips through the window.
until it hurts no more.
until the wind has covered
any fragile imprint
of this one interminable life that was,
blown out this one brief breath,
this one little life.
this one little life.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

snippets from a zanizibar journal...

Words buzz furiously in my head – like bees swarming….I do other things to distract myself, until they quieten down. I colour in. I read childrens’ story books, lying in the sun in front of the house. When the tide comes in, full and inky and gentle, usually in the early morning, I swim. I swim as far as I can go, until things feel better and the salt is from the sea and not tears.

It’s December. Everything has changed since last year. A house holds memories and the beach is savage. When we arrived, the kusi kusi (the cool south wind) still prevailed. The sea was crystal calm, like glass marble. Sometime last week, things changed, as they are wont to do. The kazi kazi blew in, the great north wind, hot, furious, urgent, pulling deserts behind it, stirring up the sea to hot broiling tea, snapping masts, twisting sea weed around your ankles and knotting stinging blue bottles around your wrists, tangled in bangles. Small jagged waves, full of impertinence, slap your face. The blasting heat drives us into the sea, regardless. We swim out to the last boat. The sea is so ragged, that sometimes you disappear completely. I have strong strokes, pulling myself further and further away from shore, closer to the moored dhow, bobbing crazily about like a cork. We hold onto it, hair slicked back, adorned with sea weed, victorious.

“It feels like the boat is pulling us out,” I yell above the wind and waves, sun in our eyes, hanging from the side like a survivor.

“This sea is warm as wee,” you shout, “I’m swimming back.”

I follow, sometimes on my back. It reminds me of sleeping on deck on that yacht off Pemba, when the boys were little and couldn’t swim yet. At night I’d lie on deck, the stars sliding silently above me. It felt like I was sailing through the stars, air born. Stars everywhere, above and below in the sea, the gentle rocking of the boat, the creak of the ropes, distant drums in a dark forest on the island, beating out demons, sailing into my dreams, Peter Pan style, stars tattooed into my sleeping lids and wakeful mind.

The little deaf boy, Mustafa, comes every day to the house. I give him coloured pencils and paper. He draws strange mermaid pictures of me. 

He is deaf but, I think, brilliant. I think he sees more than someone with all their senses. Perhaps the round thing in my tummy is my womb. Who is the little creature inside me?  He draws strange wings flaming from my head. I like to think he sees auras. He looks at me and draws and cannot tell me. Are those hands or wings? Are those feet or fins? I wish he could tell me.

 Twilight falls and he draws and draws, until his older brother comes to call him, reprimanding him for being late. Mustafa cannot hear the mosque call. He smiles, shakes my hand and scampers off up the beach, until tomorrow.

One afternoon, we stroll down the beach to watch a village boat race. 

The sailors are dancers, elegant, masters of the wind. Great ivory sails billow and twist. I can’t imagine how they shall be controlled…but they are, masterfully. 

The boats shoot out towards the reef, a sight not to be forgotten, like white butterflies skimming across the moon. 

At night, the wind batters the towers. I wake thinking the sea is in the house, the waves tearing at the sea wall, gnawing and thundering, roaring. But morning arrives, gently, sun sliced through the shutters, like lemon. Sipping coffee, the light so gentle, I know, that in the end, perhaps not everything will be ok, but some things will and there is a new day awaiting.

 toodely toot y'all. we're nearly all caught up. it'll be back to kitchen boards and stories from the lush green hill of the ngorobobs. bisous X.X.X. zanzibari ones on yer nose. x j

Sunday, March 23, 2014

'lengijabe'...place of winds.

there’s this place, on the outskirts of town, perched on the edge of the world as i know it, where the wind and its mother live.  down below, the plains stretch away, crinkling themselves up into volcanoes and soft dust laden hills….after the rain, which swoops down in great rolling clouds below you, it’s as though god has thrown a great green velvet carpet over the world. gazing down on this dreamscape, you imagine you could fly. 

on gentler days, silence has its own music. goat bells tinkle like chimes from far away and the wind whispers songs through the acacia. birds of prey hang still. the light is crystal and time slows down.  I day dream about riding down and away, past the volcano, past the horizon and settin up a gypsy camp on some forgotten sand river. sometimes we’d walk along the ridge, and admire all of northern maasailand from one spot, like a giant pop up map: monduli, ngorongoro, galai, ol donyo lengai, kitumbeni, longido, meru…names like poetry, mountains like infallible gods, carelessly powerful.

on a bad day, the wind screams and races down from the mountains, howling, slamming doors, shaping  giant whirling dust devils into the sky, scrambling dreams and waking ghosts.

for some reason, i feel closer to the stars here, turning and humming on ancient axis, closer to the things that aren’t.  sometimes, on those sweet quiet nights, i'd lie in bed, my window ajar, gazing at the stars crowding the glass and breathing fresh jasmine and dust as they curl, with the ghosts, into my dreams… some nights, mountain winds wrap pashmina mists around the house, closing you off from the world. on blanket silent nights like these,  the old house speaks; the ghosts walk the wooden floors and the attic and knock on the window. they won’t be ignored…the man in the kitchen standing by the stove, the child with the dark eyes in the old bedroom, the askari in the attic… footsteps and  flying candles.

at night there isn’t a light to be seen as far as you can see. it’s like staring into a dark, silent ocean.

we’d go there wide eyed, expecting magic…the children would delve into the old dressing up boxes, faded veils twinkling with sequins, gloves, sailor coats, dark blue silk dresses…appearing at the window as fairies, queens, princes, bearded ladies and kangaroos. 

we’d sit late into the night in the kitchen, drinking whisky, listening to old songs and talking of old times and absent friends. flying ants whirr drunken circles around the lamp, silver.  we weren’t afraid of the Things That Aren’t but i didn’t like walking down the passage on my own…there was always someone behind me… and those great silent planes below…

those great silent plains…

we don’t go there anymore. perhaps we’ll take a picnic  one day and visit babu and morani. there is always a time and a place for most things.

 i like to think that in chaos lies a secret, unfathomable order. so be it.

toodely toot y'all and bisous. X.X.X. windblown ones x j

Sunday, March 16, 2014

...from outta space....

oh beautiful besties! (if anyone's still around....?)  here i am. back...making a tentative re entry into the blogosphere. the thing is, actually, i HAVE been here...reading all your wonderful words, loving your lives, your images...and i've said to myself, "must try harder. must blog." i almost deleted the entire story. i almost started another one. the format of this might change, so be patient. or leave. i'll totally understand. believe me.

thank christ last year is over. 2013 wasn't one of the best. in fact, it could almost equate to the year my mother died but not quite. no one died. and anyway, it has a '13' in it. the hippies were right when they said there was transition at the end of 2012. holy cow, were they right or what?  on the edge is a pretty cool place to be, apparently. keeps one tight and watchful and at one's best, no?

but, happily - the worm is turning, i think, for the best - and things are far brighter and i have learned and loved, oh besties, more than you could imagine. i wouldn't say i am any the wiser for it, probably a little smaller, in fact. a little more frail perhaps, which isn't always a bad thing. i feel mostly alive and wide-eyed aware of the great and small blessings around me. and deeply grateful. 

the horse remains legendary.  just sayin'...


what i plan to do, until we're all caught up on this life from the little pink house on the hill , since 25th November last year, is extract some little notes from my journal on what's been happening. and see if that works...to find the fluency again. or not.

3rd December 2013 

on the 3rd of december it is evident i am clearly failing at most things - apart from eating and planting baby cactii, which is my new passion, by the way. (planting things, not eating. although if you actually saw me, you would definitely question this). more on this later...

there. sigh. it's quite nice to have landed back here from outta space...i'll be taking small steps here. one letter at a time. 

i'll be seein' ya. i'm back. until then, bisous x.x.x. those old chestnut ones x j