The Little Things

I am learning, here in the Outpost, with its sparse distractions and long days, to eke as much enjoyment out of the little things. I’m not always very good at it. Sometimes the lengthy, empty days defeat me. But I’m getting better. I think?

I have learned that breakfast taken in the bush, which we sometimes do on a Sunday morning just because it’s there – the bush – tastes much better than it does at the dining room table or eaten on the wing as I dash between the washing machine in the kitchen and Hat in the schoolroom and back again. I have learned that the piquancy of orange juice and the rich aroma of coffee are sharper, deeper when accompanied by the calls of a hundred unseen birds – Turaco, ring-necked and emerald spotted wood doves, sunbirds – songs that settle upon the scrub as soft, friendly murmuring.


I have learned that I have more patience with Hat. A walk on the dam and she wants to ride through a puddle – at speed so that her back is flecked with mud and her face too – ten times over. Once, when busier, when homework and a social life beckoned impatiently, I mightn’t have let her. I might have hurried her. I might have said, ‘Oh c’mon Hat, please, that’s enough now, we’ve got to go’. For where shall we go here? Home? Where the murmur of birds has been silenced by an urban finger-to-lips. Where bacon just tastes like bacon.


I have learned, because they form an integral part of my tiny social circle, to watch my dogs more intently so that I no longer miss the antics that make me laugh now. I take a thorn out of Kanga’s pad and she races around me delightedly, in circles, as if to say thank you.


Never very good at talking to people I didn’t know well, happy instead to slink behind my gregarious husband’s bigger shadow, I find that now I grasp every rare chance of conversation – I surprise myself – and milk it for all its worth so that company is left wondering if I will ever shut up.

I have learned that storms are better here. Are they, though? Will friends visit and remark upon their intensity as I do? Or is it just because they help to fill a gap? They are something to wait for, to watch, to listen to. Maybe I never really heard a storm before – not properly, not so that I could hear every instrument in its percussion – because there were too many other background noises.

I am sure I take longer to find the right words here. And I am sure that when I do (today’s was sepia-seared to describe that low hot jaundiced place on the page of an atlas) it feels like a much greater triumph than it did before.

Of course I have to – take more time over the little things: the watching, the waiting, the words – for there are many more hollow hours to fill. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking about what I once accomplished in my day and concentrate on each tiny facet that might leap brilliantly for my attention.

Perhaps that’s the only way to survive an Outpost?

But little things aside, Hat and I are off to the Big City tomorrow, the start of a Big Safari with her Big brother and sister: a week away, over Easter. We need to begin now for we have a long way to go: we will cover almost 2,000 miles there and back, to a place close to the border with Mozambique.

I hope I don’t talk too much?

13 Responses to “The Little Things”

  1. daisyfae Says:

    An important lesson for us all. Makes me wonder how much i overlook because of the daily rush… i think i’ll go throw the ball for my dog… he always makes me smile!

  2. Roberta Says:

    You might live in Africa and I might live in West Virginia USA, but you echo my own thoughts!

    Safe trip!

  3. Irene Says:

    I can imagine you taking such pleasure in so many “little” things. I try to do the same thing myself and I am not “stuck” in an outpost. I live a solitary and quiet life and all things take on more significance. They are all relished and tasted off very well.

  4. Iota Says:

    Oh gosh, I know that feeling of realising I have been totally dominating a conversation because I haven’t had a proper one for so long and don’t know where the next one is coming from. I have to prepare myself for any social events with a personal mantra ‘listen as well as talk, listen as well as talk’. Ironic really, as I have so much less of interest to talk about than I used to.

    I think you are getting life in Outpost down to something of a fine art.

  5. nuttycow Says:

    Oooo, have fun. Let me know if there are any *must must* sees on the trip… We’ll be doing the reverse next year 🙂

    PS Love breakfast in the bush… as long as there aren’t any evil baboons around trying to steal your bread!

  6. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Does RM remember being about Hattie’s age and sitting in the ‘club library’ with friends whilst our parents were in the bar? We used to enjoy the problem page in the magazines – and I used to cut out little quotes that I liked-I still have one to this day in a drawer, it ends ‘take your time or time takes you’, you are lucky to be able to move along at natures pace – make the most of it! Enjoy your safari.

  7. Potty Mummy Says:

    You most definitely don’t. (Talk too much). (And I’m trying not to…)

  8. maggie may Says:

    I love your talking. Wouldn’t be a blog if you didn’t! I am naturally shy, but get phases when I chat for hours! I like to watch people rather than always chat as a rule.

  9. Sheila Says:

    And what meal wouldn’t be perfect when it has Marmite in it? Lovely post.

  10. liverig Says:

    Excelent post.

    The little things are the most important in our lives.

  11. Mary Witzl Says:

    I once lived way out in the country in Japan, far from any big cities with amenities or English-speaking people. Every time I traveled up to Tokyo and met other fluent speakers of English, I had to work hard not to hog the conversation.

    And while I can’t agree about the Marmite, I also thought this was a lovely post.

  12. Tom Says:

    The beauty of life and the sharing with the ones we love. It may be a cliche but we all need to smell the roses no matter where we are.

  13. ExpatKat Says:

    Had the same problem myself when I lived an isolated rural life. Now I long for those times when I can hide away from others and enjoy the peace.

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