Long and Winding Roads


Ten days since I wrote.


My school run interrupted the seamless passage of slow Outpost time.


I wanted to write about that. About my school run.


I wanted to describe the road, its slow unravelling, like a ball of wool being unwound behind the steady click of Hat’s knitting needles (‘a scarf’, she says, smiling, ‘for Dad’). Sometimes it unwinds quickly, our road, smoothly. Sometimes the potholes pick knotty, jarring cavities in our journey and slow us up


I wanted to describe how the sandy track and mango trees and paddy fields close to home yield to the broad Wamberi swamp, cacophonous with the sound of the water birds that have set up residence there since the rains began. I wanted to write about the new asphalt road that slips easily through the Sekenke Gorge so that the hazardous dusty escarpment we once scaled is eased with a series of seven bridges. I’d have written about Singida, a town straggled untidily on flat country between  two lakes. A town shrouded in perpetual, clinging dust, glinting with corrugated iron roofs and policed by thousands and thousands of balancing rocks standing sentinel. 




I wanted to describe the descent to the base of Mt Hanang, the subsequent climb before Babati – the town’s dam was so high, we came across a hippo grazing – where the Rift Valley cuts a magnificent sweeping swathe across the Africa that sprawls lazy in a hazy heat below us.


I wanted to entertain with stories of ill-choreographed and too frequent pee-stops, I wanted to empathise with the frustration my father felt when my younger siblings and I failed to coordinate bladder control on similarly long car journeys, ”why couldn’t you have gone back there when your brother did?”, he’d  ask. I never knew the answer: ”cos I didn’t want to” seemed impertinent.  





And punctures, I wanted to raise a smile with tales of flat tyres; Hat calmly clambered from the car and sought shade to write her journal whilst Abdallah and I changed the wheel.




I wanted to recount the miles, almost 1,000 of them, there and back, accompanied by the rise and fall of chatter from the back seat (quieter – too quiet – on the way home), the discarded crisp packets, the chewing of gum to keep me awake as I drove, to help me concentrate on the loneliness, the egg rolls and bottles of water.


I wanted to paint a picture but my colours have been stolen by the sadness that has slunk into the week.


A friend’s husband killed in a road accident; the tragic, senseless, cruel loss of a beautiful life. A little girl who will grow up without her dad. A bitter ending to a love story.  I write a letter. It seems so futile: small erasable words rattling around what will be her enormous, cold, inconsolable grief.


The memorial service of my eldest daughter’s best mate’s mother – they sat side by side in the church I was told (for I could not be there), two fourteen year olds; I hope mine was able to be brave for her friend.   I write another letter.  More hollow words.   The service was sad I was told, and the flowers beautiful.


The ongoing illness of somebody I love.  


Some people’s journeys are much, much harder than our own.


It ought to make us feel lucky to remember that.  


5 Responses to “Long and Winding Roads”

  1. Potty Mummy Says:

    And it does, RC. Thankyou for a beautiful post.

  2. daisyfae Says:

    beautifully written. two deaths of co-workers for me this week – one a 25 year old man, dying unexpectedly after a brief illness. the other, a 45 year old man after a 4 year battle with cancer. nothing to do but offer words of understanding, comfort… and take home the reminder that bodies are fragile and quite temporary housings for those we love…

  3. R. Sherman Says:

    Words have no meaning at times like these. Your friends are in our prayers.

  4. nuttycow Says:

    Dear RM – so sorry to hear about your friend’s husband. Life doesn’t seem to make sense sometimes.


  5. foxhollowjewelry Says:

    A moving, beautiful accounting of the harsher aspect of living…losing those we love.
    I have you all in my prayers too…

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