When I moved to the Outpost, people asked, in tones of ill-disgused alarm, ”but what are you going to do all day?”
Defensively (because there’s no other way to respond a question that suggests you are about to relocate to position of exceedingly dull) I said, ”oh I’ll be fine, I’m very good at entertaining myself”.
I’m not. Not terribly. But I am very good at sort of faffing. Immersing myself in the here and now and being quite happy to plod about there. I write. Or at least that’s what I tell people I do (and sometimes it’s true) and writing is a gloriously time consuming career; I can spend hours gazing out of the window dressing daydreaming up as loftier Writer’s Block.
I had envisaged evolving as a Domestic Goddess. Drumming up 101 exciting things to do with a mango (souffle? chutney? jam?) but alas I find that geography hasn’t improved my desire to spend time in the kitchen.
I thought about learning French. But I haven’t got round to registering with Rosetta Stone. Too busy, you see.
Doing what? I hear you ask.
Well. I get up. Anywhere between half four and half seven depending on whether insomnia has plagued or not. I drink tea. I check emails. I get Hat up.
We whizz a smoothie for breakfast (water melon, pineapple and banana – every day because the market offers nothing else) and make some toast. I drink more tea.
We do school. Until almost lunchtime. It depends on whether or not we have any experiments to set up. We did yesterday; currently we are breeding bacteria from soup in three water bottles. Hat can’t wait to see what they smell like after three days. I can.
Sometimes there’s time before lunch then to nip to Kaidi The Arab’s duka to shop. Or practice shopping at any rate; rarely do we acheive our list so we just get what we can, stand at a counter and listen to the ding of an old till (I feel it’s important to maintain an understanding of shopping protocol, lest I forget – something my husband says is unlikely to happen). Sometimes we go to the market. For bananas, water melons and pineapples.
Husband comes home for lunch and we eat a sandwich. Or a chapati with tuna stuffed inside masquerading as trendier Wrap. I was quite pleased with my (rare) domestic ingenuity in the sandwich/Wrap thing but poor old Husband and Hat getting a mite bored of them now I think.
After lunch Hat reads. She takes herself (and whichever author is prevailing favourite) off to the South American string hammock donated by a great aunt which is strung between two lemon trees and reads and rocks and occassionally sings. Which is truly fabulous to behold. Sometimes she dons her dad’s sunglasses.
I can watch her from where I am Working (aka gazing out the window having succumbed to another irksome bout of Writers Block). She is oblivious of me. It’s the best way to watch a child. When they don’t know you are.
We swim in the afternoon. When the heat becomes so oppressive we can’t think straight anymore and are sliding into that sleepy place the dogs and cats seem to occupy all day, we pile into our small pool and cool off. Hat invents all kinds of mad games, yesterday’s game involved trying to float in a bucket atop the water. We sank. Sometimes we throw pennies and race to collect them. Sometimes we swim, independently of each other, she in her own watery world, me in mine.
Then, towelled dry we drink tea, Hat at her homework, me at my laptop (the reality of a deadline having finally dawned). Sometimes Hat does her homework sitting in the swing her dad made her out of an old tractor tyre.
The dogs wake from their heat induced reverie and begin to bug us for a walk, which means driving to the dam. Which we do, as the sun is sinking taking the ennervating broil of the day with it as it collapses into syrupy yellows and mellow pinks behind the mango trees and distant kopjes.
We’re home by dark, Hat is tipped into a bath as I take courage and face my kitchen in a bid to throw some semblace of supper together. She emerges with wet hair to enquire what we’re going to eat, politely (and prudently) says, ”oh yum” and disappears to play with instructions to ”put some mozzi spray on” ringing in her ears. Husband opens me a beer as I ferret in the fridge.
By eight we’ve eaten whatever it is I’ve managed to throw together. By nine I’m fading in front of the telly and urging Hat to go to bed. She is indignant. But I want to read/play/write a letter to Alice.
But you can’t I tell her, because it’s bed time and you have school tomorrow (a school she and I have dubbed the Outpost Academy of Excellence).
She makes a face. ”Do you know Mum, I am just too busy these days, I never have any time for anything”.
For as much as I was pretty sure I could muddle my way through long days in isolation, I did harbour unspoken fears about Hat being bored.
That she isn’t, that she’s trying to wiggle out of bedtime because she still has things to do, is heartening in the extreme.