Not Enough Hours in the Day …

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”.

I’m delighted.

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.

11 Responses to “Not Enough Hours in the Day …”

  1. Tom Says:

    Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could capture a child’s imagination and use it as adults?

    I used to sit on our dirt driveway and play with my toy trucks for hours. If I did that now I’d be sequestered in a government facility.

  2. Kathleen Says:

    It actually sounds idyllic. Of course we often dream of free time to spend “writing” or other things along those lines and when the time comes we end up not accomplishing as much as we thought we would. When I am on a 3 day weekend I have a long list and in the end I accomplish only about half. I think children adjust faster than adults to change.

  3. MisssyM Says:

    It doesn’t matter where you are, there’s never enough time in a day. And here in North Scotland our days have shrunk to 7 hours of light already and dropping. But who do you complain to?

  4. R. Sherman Says:

    The ability to find something interesting with which to occupy one’s mind, no matter the circumstances, is the key to a long and happy life. You and your daughter are fortunate.


  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hi Tom – wouldn’t they just: cart one off! The men in White Coats, I mean …

    Thanks Kathleen. It’s quiet, that’s for sure. And far removed from the hurlyburly of Real Life: no traffic, no schoolruns, no blur …

    You’re right MisssyM: not enough time wherever you are. Poor you, those short days. I wasn’t good at those. We’re a steady 12 hrs year round.

    Aw, thanks Mr Sherman. I sure hope so. More time to ”write”. And analyze the habits of lizards, of course!

  6. gary Says:

    my guys are in their second year of homeschooling on a different frontier of civilization. they, like your daughter, have amazed me by their resiliency and ability to find ways to self entertain. moreover, whenever we return to the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, people are always astounded by how polite, mature, and well spoken the boys act. I suspect from the tales you weave here, that you’ll find many of the same comments regarding your daughter coming your way in the future.

  7. Roberta Says:

    “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.”

    It’s good to know that your instincts are correct. You have reached your own conclusions about home schooling. She’s an amazing girl, you have an amazing life and you are doing the right thing!

  8. iota Says:

    My oldest thrives at school. My youngest loves preschool. My middle one just doesn’t seem to like it. Can’t see the point of it, isn’t interested in the challenge of it, lives for recess and PE. Could I send him to the Outpost Academy of Excellence as a boarder? He and Hat would get on well (in spite of the age gap – he’s 6). He would love to lie for hours in a hammock looking at the sky. He would weave exotic stories to tie in with hers. He could potter endlessly in a Huckleberry Finn type of way during the day, and she could teach him to say “Oh yum” at dinner time. Are you open for boarders yet?

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    That’s heartening, Gary. So long as Hat’s happy. I reckon kids learn pretty much everything they need to know if they’re happy.

    It really is, Roberta, it really is. So much angst about whether I’d done the right thing. But I think I have …

    Oh Iota, fabulous idea. Send him over. He can swim. We can teach him to use a catty. He can climb the lemon tree to get the necessary down for evening g and t (mine, not his, am not quite that bad) and he can fish on the dam with Hat who would adore a playmate.

  10. iota Says:

    Is a catty the same kind of thing as a doggy? I’m a bit confused as to what you would teach him to use it for? (seriously, I don’t know that word).

  11. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    catty? catapult. That help? hat uses her to hurl stones at tin cans. Her big brother is probably more likely to take aim with a bird. Ditto her father. Sadly for the birds, always for the table, naturally, partridge and the like, brother and father both more accurate than she.

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