I lay in the dark last night unable to sleep for the thoughts that were running a relay race in my head: my son is settling into boarding life, my daughter is not – not yet – there have been tearful phone calls and dozens of angst ridden text messages. I thought about them. I thought about what Hat and I had done at school; I thought about Priscus and Seneca and Attila the Hun.
In the distance the traffic rumbled.
I think not.
I strained my ears and the distant growl came again, nearer now: thunder.
I lay waiting, holding my breath. Please let it keep coming.
It did, closer and closer. Then with a hefty roar it ripped the sky open with jagged light, so bright, so brief I could have sworn a torch was being flashed into my eyes.
Big African skies – and I live under one of the biggest, emptiest ones, devoid normally of anything but white-blueness – make for great stages. The tempest raged theatrically: a huge, brilliant son et lumiere show in the heavens. But the applause, I wondered, where’s the applause?
And then it came. Tentatively at first. Shyly. Like a crowd afraid to clap too hard lest they disturb the actors’ rhythm: rain on the corrugated iron roof above where I lay. But the storm’s drama soon overwhelmed its audience and the clapping reached a crescendo, a thousand palms slapping hard.
Why do I battle to sleep in any environment other than the absolutely silent. Why did I, racked with insomnia, fall alseep to the raucous standing ovation the skies were receiving?
Because there is no sound in Africa so good as a downpour. There is so scent so deeply intoxicating as rain on dust – and that outside my window was greedily sucking up every drop to quench months’ long thirst.
I woke to a dark dawn to hear the sound of birds happily bathing in puddles and the drip of water from the gutters: last night’s stragglers.
And then I went to brew coffee, and observed the pleasing dampness outside and the less pleasing sight of metal mozzi mesh and wooden slats that had been ripped from the back door.
The askari – nightwatchman- when he came to from where he was (perhaps not suprsingly) curled up asleep, told me the destruction was the result of the cat trying to get in. Not unless she was armed with a pair of wire cutters and wearing gloves could she have wreaked such damage. Besides, if she wanted to get in, why not use the perfectly good cat flap she has been using for the four months since I cut it?
So rain and a potential raid, apparently.