Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On learning new things...

(Gary Larson)

For some of us, myself and last born to be exact, school is NOT over. Far from it. We have 9 more whole days to go still. I swear time has slowed down. Marvelous. I’ve been wanting that to happen forever. But not at school. More like when I am on holiday. Still. Beggars can’t be choosers blah blah bleh.

It’s getting harder and harder to get up in the morning and make our way down the hill and into the school gates. The mornings are cold and the bed so warm and we’re tired. In order for us to look forward to something, last born and I have decided to write down all the new things we learn each day. 

So I have been hurriedly perusing the school library shelves, paging through encyclopaedias and physics books. Surely I don’t know everything about dinosaurs, stars and atoms? I know I don’t. Nothing leaps from the pages. It's tricky, you see. The only rule is, stipulated by last born, that you can’t chase these new things down. They must come to you. I got what she was saying - like when new things 'reveal' themselves to you and you feel like you've won something. I feel I have cheated though. I have been chasing new things, manically hunting them down. The thought of disappointing her at the end of the day is too horrible to consider. Or perhaps it would be too depressing for myself - an entire day gone without learning a single new thing. Apart from discovering that a person is really an arsehole after all, which doesn't count, I don't think. I found a book on Things You Can’t Explain…or something along those lines... and spent the rest of the today reading about UFO’s.

There are Earthlings who have met Venusians (and Martians. But I knew that already)…and human type creatures from the Pleiades, my favourite constellation by the way. The people from the Pleiades warned the unsuspecting Brazilian farmer, who was busy ploughing his fields one dark night, in a monotone robotic voice, that “Earthlings must look after the planet or else…” we’ll all die. Well. Fuck. I wish we had listened. This close encounter was in 1967 or something. The thing is, because I learned new things about the stars the day before, about how they expand and are their own thermostats and that big stars die sooner and when stars run out of hydrogen, all hell breaks loose, I KNEW that it is an impossibility that any living thing could survive on a Pleiadean star. They’re huge and way too hot. And die off like crazy. Who’d imagine that of the Pleiades? That elegant twinkle of a constellation? 

So, the question is, why did they have to lie about where they're from? The Brazilian farmer had a horrible experience. He tried to speed away on his tractor but the UFO interfered with the engine (UFO's play havoc with electrics) and it cut out mysteriously. He then tried to run away across the ploughed land but was caught and dragged onto the ship. A naked beautiful alien lady was thrown into a "cabin" with him. She proved irresistible. The Brazilian farmer (now a respected lawyer) is under the impression he might well have off spring somewhere out there among the stars. 

Isn’t it annoying how many people fake photographs of UFO’s and aliens? By throwing hats and plates into the air? Bastards. It must be maddening to have actually been on a space ship, like our Brazilian, had an experiment done on you (most of them highly unpleasant like having a triangular device which was attached to wires and machines, shoved up one’s bottom  while being watched by little beings with pale blue eyes in smart white space suits with silver belts, helmets and boots "the colour of dried blood.")and then no one will believe you. It is a common thread in all close encounter stories, that the little beings from other galaxies always offer a lovely tour of the space ships AFTERWARDS, which are very white and silver, an impressive match with their  suits. Our brave Brazilian tried to nick a trinket off the ship as proof of his experience but was caught and thrown off board, empty handed, and went back to ploughing his field. An hour and a half later.

So. Imagine going through ALL of this and then after ALL that, no ones believes you. How maddening. Vexing. You must start to think you're going quite barmy. It makes me not want to believe the stories either but for one thing. My friend Adrian has seen a UFO and he isn’t someone to make things up and tell porky pies. He doesn't even know who Indiana Jones is. He is a bush man of the highest order. It was at night on the Nkwali road, in the middle of bloody nowhere, in the Luangwa Valley. It was definitely not a hat or a spinning plate but a silver flying saucer, well lit up. Other people spotted it across the southern African skies as it hurtled southwards and no one knew what it was.

I wonder if I can get away with learning about UFO’s if they aren’t true or haven’t been proven true?

As Myrtle (may she rest in peace) would say, “Well dear, you’ll wonder and wonder until the crows build nests up your bottom and then you’ll wonder how they got the sticks up there.”

Well now. Since reading about UFO’s, bets are on a stellar triangular device, actually, Myrtle…

Monday, June 8, 2015

Voices in my head...

(Random person off web who clearly didn't listen to The Voices in her head. Everything would be a lot different if she had.)

I remember being at a party somewhere (which is something in itself. ..remembering that I was once at an actual party)  and telling someone about the voices in my head. I said “ You know those voices in your head which tell you different things?” The person quite clearly didn't, almost choked on their olive and moved swiftly away, feigning the quite sudden need for the toilet but not so surreptitiously ended up talking to Boring Handsome Polo Man at the fire instead. Who doesn't have voices in his head. In fact, he only has straw in his head it would appear.

It was after that when the invitations started falling by the way side. No. Wait. That's it! It was when Milz left town. Her parties were very memorable. Especially the kids’ birthday parties. There was always a lot of prosecco and shouting at the kids to “Go play in the traffic” sort of thing, even though there wasn’t any. So it was more like “Go play in nature and explore the karonga. What? Hungry?” 

On occasion we'd raid her mother in law’s sponge bags for happy pills, anxiety pills, aeroplane pills and what not and experiment. Always to our demise. Only if the prosecco ran out. Oh we had some parties the three of us.

Milz and Ella.

Remembering even further back now to a time when I know I hadn't spoken about the voices in my head, fully confident that everyone had them, the invitations stopped when my other best friend Alex left the Valley (Luangwa Valley.) Everything went really quiet after that. I hid in a palm forest near the airport and wrote songs. To confess, things were a little out of control at that stage. In fact way out of control. How no one died, I don't know, what with all the tequila and shot guns. There was way too much sneaking around the mopane forests after dark. All those elephants in rooms. God. It was awful. This all resulted in a lot of angry whisky drinking late into the night. I remember the party on the bend in the river when Alex walked over the burning coals to punch Jake and the sun had only just gone down. We hadn’t had dinner yet. Or the time we gate crashed the poker party we weren’t invited to at Nkwali. We walked in and it became very awkward. Nobody wanted us at their parties. I’m still not sure exactly why not. Apparently we were too fierce, too scary. Bollox. They all had straw in their heads. No voices.

We were outraged, naturally. So we resorted to gate crashing as one does in places where the wild things are. One must understand the location and the situation, you see. And my beautiful friend Alex. 

Here we are together. Long ago. Waiting to be invited.

Me and Alex.

Witchy, huh? It isn’t nice not to be invited when you’re living in the middle of bloody nowhere and the other five people are and you aren’t. Ok. The other ten. It’s dramatic to gate crash those kind of parties, I tell you. It’s, well, noticeable. Really noticeable.

Then she left to go ride horses on the Nyika and then Montana. After that (and after S’s dramatic departure - another story running tandem to present one), the parties stopped. We were, frankly, exhausted. Not long after, a year maybe, I left too. And came here. And that’s the short of it. The really short version. To write it all down would give War and Peace a run for its money. In length only.

Anyway. This post isn’t about all the parties and the damage done. Or the trashy books I will write one day and the millions I’ll make from them. One day.  It’s about the voices in my head, remember? I know everyone has them, don’t they? Be honest now. Seriously?

Well, the voices in my head have been loud and clear lately. Things like, “Everything’s going to be OK in the end.” (This morning when I was putting the kettle on and it made me cry. From relief, probably.)

And “Life is a thankless task. Go home to your dogs. Take comfort in them.” (Yesterday after the horse show and I jammed the boot shut in the car and Lea had to sit on the food trunk and the hay on the back seat.)

And in big colourful capital letters tattooed into my head: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES. STOP BLAMING OTHER PEOPLE OR SITUATIONS. WE CREATE OUR REALITY. IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, CHANGE IT. DO WHATEVER THE FUCK IT TAKES. I think they were bigger and louder than the rest because I am so rubbish and passive and not being responsible for myself and my life and I am obviously not listening to this one.

Haven't a clue where they all come from and who they are exactly. Obviously parts of me. But they sort of stand out from the rest of me as....different.

Call me a hippy. Fine. I couldn’t possibly share what else they've said. Far too off center. Far too weird. I wouldn't be invited anywhere ever again. And nobody would read my crazy rantings here ever again. So you two don't run away now, y' hear?

‘Fess up cowboys and gals, you sayin’ you ain’t got voices in yer heads, y’all?


Sunday, May 31, 2015

To The Thief at Karibu Fair


Dear Lady Thief Who Stole My Wallet Yesterday

Did you come to Karibu Fair to steal on purpose? Are you working for someone or do you steal for a living? Well. It seems the Universe conspired that the two of us should cross paths.  We had our photograph taken together by the man who owned the shop. Fond memories. I was being euphoric. Kind. Filled with love for humanity. I smiled at you. We spoke. You said you liked the stool I was buying. We exchanged little pleasantries. You had a pretty face. Forgettable but pretty, with braids. Did you spy the bundle of cash in my wallet as I paid for the stool? I was pleased that I was supporting the recycling of plastic bottles which choke our oceans, rivers and planet. 

That big bundle of cash left in my wallet was, you nasty thief, wages for people who do an honest day's work, unlike yourself. I don't care how fucking desperate you are, stealing is unacceptable and I hope you rot in hell. We've got your photograph. I am going to put it in The Arusha Times. Stupid you. I lay in bed last night imagining how your hand slid slyly into my bag without me knowing, as I smiled bravely into the camera. It was only the lady from Air Mauritius, in the next door booth, who saw you standing behind me, doing your thing, reluctant to stand next to me. I thought you were being shy around strangers. But no, instead you were stealing my wallet. And you had the gall to stay for the photograph smiling like an innocent. 

You wore a tie dye dress, a black leather jacket, with a red maasai shawl and red shoes...I remember those little red shoes. I imagine you had to move swiftly in them, but not so swiftly that you'd draw attention to yourself from KK Security guards. They have your photograph now. We reckoned you'd already escaped but we also reckon folks like you will be back at the Trade Fair today. For more. 

Did you hide my wallet under your shawl. I wonder when you opened it...? At the road? In the taxi? Have you kept it? Did you throw it away? I imagine your thieving fingers going through my private papers - the love letter I have carried around with me forever, the children's photographs, my passport photographs, all the details to my bank account. And cash. A lot of cash. Godwin's wages. I told him this morning what had happened. I think he wished death upon you... I think....

You didn't only steal bits of my life, but you also stole my sleep and sense of well being. You're a rotten person. I didn't deserve this. I am still trying to work out the lesson here. Why me? Is it to learn to let go? Again? That old chestnut? Is it to experience a vacuum and have faith that vacuums are unnatural and will be filled? Again? Why do I need to be vigilant ALL the time in this godforsaken town? Why do we have to watch our bags, watch our backs, watch our wallets and our phones ad nauseum? Is it like this in the rest of the world or only here?  It's really really tiresome and terribly depressing. I know I should walk away from this little event with forgiveness in my heart and a world of compassion for you. I find it very very difficult to conjure up any good feelings towards you. 

So. I shall be even more of a hermit than ever before. It isn't a nice world down there, off this hill. 
That's it. I shall stay here, write and make music. And plant strawberries. And try to forget about you. It's difficult. I feel inextricably tied to you.

Yours sincerely
JD The Lady From Whom You Stole 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Blame it on Bukowski...

(photo off the web, obviously)

I know I made a deal to write every week. But then Bukowski put me off. He said that if you have to sit for hours hunched over your desk or your typewriter, don’t do it. The words should come flying out, like birds. If they don’t, don’t do it.

So, I’m listening to him. I won’t. Until the words come tumbling out, all enthusiastically, crowding to escape, be the first in line, to roost idly, perfectly and beautifully on the page, I won't. I'm collecting them, the rare ones, like Narina Trogons and Angola Pittas. Angola Pittas are magnificent. There used to be one on the front of Newman's Birds Of Southern Africa. I see it has been rudely replaced by a lourie... I have never seen a Pitta in real life. I remember Norman once found one in Luangwa (they are migrants and pop in for visits) one rainy season and he wouldn't tell any of us where it was in case we scared it away and then it would never ever come back again.

Until then, until I have gathered enough beauties fluttering around in the cage of my mind, bending the bars of my head to fly free, I shall leave you with Bukowski's poem So You Want To Be A Writer. I think he's absolutely right.

in spite of everything
don't do it

unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut
don't do it

if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words
don't do it
if you're doing it for money or

don't do it
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed
don't do it
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again
don't do it
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it
don't do it
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently
if it never does roar out of you
do something else

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all
you're not ready

don't be like so many writers
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind
don't add to that
don't do it
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder

don't do it
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut
don't do it

when it is truly time
and if you have been chosen
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you

there is no other way

and there never was

Thursday, May 7, 2015


 Ngorobob Hill Exam Candidates Hard At Work Under The Acacia.

This is all about Hope. She is making me do this. Hope is my colleague at work – the Other English Teacher. Hope is organized and Hope blogs. Here is her site. Hope is much better than me at everything. I live vicariously through Hope. She goes on actual dates, travels, wears high heels and does all nighters and yet Hope still has lesson plans and schemes of work. Hope is young, beautiful, funny and brilliant. Before the holidays we swore to blog once a week. Before every Friday. And have I? Have I? Of course not. Things got in the way. Hope has, though. And so, here I am. Doing it. Because of Hope.

Hope has a lot to answer for. Without it, what would be the point? But on we go, with hope in our hearts. Here on the hill, we are deep into a rainy season. You wouldn’t recognize the place. The trees are thick and lush, heaving with rain and birds. We actually have a lawn you can sit on. You can shower for a long time because the tanks are filling up as you stand in the shower. It’s a nice feeling being flippant about water. Some of my much loved cactii have actually drowned. They look like bloated corpses and almost deserve a burial.

I am living in a house with two exam candidates. One is writing A Levels and the other his IGCSE’s. It’s been remarkably stress free so far. First born, the A Leveler, has developed a sudden and impassioned interest in the Rastafarian Religion. He wants to know all about it. I wish he had as much passion for either the German or Italalian reunification. His timing, to be frank, is a little off. Second born is so calm I wonder if he has mistaken valium for smarties. He has that thousand yard stare at dinner. Oh well. He’s always been a little different in a beautiful kind of way. That's them in the picture above hatching up plans for an escape of some sorts, off the hill to be sure.

As for me, I feel like I am in a roundabout of Ground Hog Days. It feels as if I have been doing this for years. It feels as if I am stuck in a rut. I am not looking for a jot of sympathy, you understand. I know I live a charmed life. (Confession: Recently returned from dream like road trip through the Karoo. More on that another time. I am referring to the present moment.) Not much has changed on the surface – apart from an inordinate weight gain from stopping smoking and eating a lot of chocolate getting old. Again, bad timing, man. The weight seems to be drawn to me like iron filings to a magnet no matter how hard I run or how little I eat. It is very debilitating and depressing. My friends are all being kind and not saying anything although they are all hinting that I should cut my hair, in the kindest possible way. I don’t want to. I don’t care if it’s in rat’s tails and going grey. I am sure I have the air of a guru. A respectful and almost frightening one, at that. So I'm sticking to the longer hair for now.

It remains strangely sad without my horse. I miss him. Nothing will ever be the same again. His departure switched off a light which can never be replaced. The stars feel packed away a bit. I am moving the pony to new stables next week so he can have some friends. He is lonely. Horses need to be in a herd and have friends. 

The fucking dogs think the lounge is their new kennel. I am worn out with behaving like a mad Barbara Woodhouse, literally frothing at the mouth as I hiss "OUTTTTT!" and point all psycho like at the door. They have worn me down. They throw themselves at the windows, scratch at the walls and find a way in and onto the bed or the couch, stinky muddy pawed rainy season dogs. I have officially given up and sometimes wish that one of them would die. (Felix to be honest.)I feel immediately bad afterward, I do. Have you ever wished someone would die? Gwaan. Seriously?

The cat has recovered from her attack. The dogs took her out a few weeks ago and broke her jaw. Bastards. Luckily I was here to rescue her. She is absolutely fine again and once more rules the canines from the front step. She has burnt her tail on the stove from standing and eating her pellets in an obsessive and unhealthy manner, reminding me of myself and the recent long gone  Aerobar Obsession. Thankfully, you can’t easily find them in Arusha.

Otherwise, all remains oddly calm although last night I thought someone was putting witch craft on me. Same same sugar same. And that, oh bestest blogging babies is that and shall have to suffice until I regain some lightness of being.

Right now, it all seems like rather a lonesome slog. Bear with me or buggar off to someone else’s more enlightened, inspiring, fun, interesting life. 

I’ll still love you anyway… I have Hope so I'm stayin'. God forbid she ever leaves.

bisous X X X rainy African ones, on yer cheeks. And eye lids. Hell. Why not. xj