Pond Life

The week has been tryingly, typically, age-ingly, Outpost.


My car broke down. Again. I was on my way to the ATM (which – it transpired – had no money anyway so a humiliating and wasted exercise).


She ground to suspiciously familiar halt. She never gives any kind of a warning. She just sort of shudders, as one might shiver: goosebumps-down-your-spine. And stops. So that I am left sitting there. In the middle of the main road (which in Outpost is presently being rebuilt as President is due to visit which means I am now irksome obstacle in lorry/roller/bulldozer’s way).


The cyclists all whiz past me. Laughing. They’re off to market. Or the dam. Fish traps secured to the backs of bikes.


I call husband. Again.


And politely tell him I have broken down.


I know what it feels like to sit in the sun; I am learning to respect my Shade.


‘Me again. Sorry darling, hate to bother you at work, but my car has broken down. Any chance you could rescue me?’


He tows me to the closest petrol station, which – happily – is meters up the road. It is owned by Parish who sighs loudly every time sees me.


‘When are you going to get yourself a nice car?’ he asks as I battle to get the cap off the diesel tank or struggle to get bloody car going again once I’ve finally got cap off and filled wretched thing with fuel.


We leave my car there. I want to get out and kick the tyres and swear and shout. I don’t though. Because I am practicing to be a serene and composed; I am practicing the count-to-ten theory.


I have called husband a lot this week. To do what I do best here: complain.


There’s no water, I say. Still no water.


We have not had mains water for ten days.


We are bathing in the dregs of the last-resort-stinking-dire-straits bottom tank whose grey-green-scummy contents are usually emptied onto the garden. Not into my bath where it stagnates and smells of pond life and – I notice to my horror – even bears evidence of it: I am bathing with several of the guppies we fed into the tank months ago as mosquito prophylaxis.


I have called the daraa maji umpteen times this week too.


I have no water.


Pole mama


I have had no water for ten days.


Pole mama


When will I get water, do you suppose?


Today, mama.


Yeah. Right.  That was a week ago.


I want to kick some more metaphorical tyres. But I don’t. In Africa if you get water out of a tap, you’re lucky. Most people here have to walk miles with a bucket to collect the stuff.


We all smell faintly feral. And the laundry basket is suppurating with days worth of unwashed laundry.  


But on the upside (though she adds significantly to the suppuration of the basket above, being a teenager she feels compelled to change her clothes several times a day) Amelia is home, delightful, refreshing Amelia: unjaded, as yet, by Outpost life. Unlike her mother.


 ‘We’re going to go out for supper tonight’, I say.


‘Oh how lovely’, replies my darling eldest daughter with evident enthusiasm, ‘where shall we go?’




Oh I don’t know – such choice? An Italian joint in Fulham? A bistro in Covent Garden? A curry house in Barnes?


‘There’s only one place to go’, I remind her.


There is. We go. We are charged – because it’s Friday night and there is a disco which we aren’t here for (we’re just here for a pizza) but which we must pay for anyway.


Amelia and Hat want to play pool.


‘You can’t. You are under 18’, says the bartender.


Amelia and Hat want to dance.  They do. Briefly. On their own, to an African band and on a floor starry with lights and a lazily rotating Disco ball.


They aren’t on there long before they are ushered off.


‘We want to dance’, says an indignant Amelia.


‘You can’t. You are under 18’ says the waiter who shoos them away.


Amelia crossly reaches for my beer and takes a long slug. Nobody says anything about that. (Except for me of course ‘Hey, what do you think you’re doing?! Put my bloody beer down’).


Giving up, the girls disappear to explore.  To run in the dark. Amelia tells Hat stories that make her hair stand on end. Stories about being a teenager. I can see her, in the demi-gloom-distance, watching her older sister’s face intently, her mouth ajar. Occasionally she roars with laughter. She loves having her big sister home, even though she bosses her mercilessly at times. Dear Hat scuttles about to do her bidding, so pleased is she to have company.


Later Amelia stomps crossly back, ‘A man’, she says, ‘asked me I was Hat’s mum!’.


‘’I am too young to play pool, too young to dance but not so young I can’t be my eleven year old sister’s mother.’’


Would that make me look like a grandmother then, I worry?




8 Responses to “Pond Life”

  1. Tom Says:

    So if you had a pool table and disco ball at home and the kids danced around while playing 8-ball, you would be incarcerated ?

    And running out of diesel is not “breaking down”. I just can’t allow you to slander the Golden Sled like this. Ha Ha

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    no no no i didn’t run out of diesel. at least not this time, Tom. this time we just stopped. mid road. mid fuel gauge too. the sled is sailing very close to the wind. or stalling. or something!

  3. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Get a piki piki!!! Happy holidays Amelia….

  4. Roberta Says:

    It is time for you to consult the “shade” and consider getting a newer vehicle. You have a child to transport. It isn’t a sin. If he’s going to be busy off field then he needs to make sure you have transportation.


    I did it, here in the mountains, so can you.

  5. Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo Says:

    A friend of mine grew up in Lagos. Her mother told me that her youngest didn’t realise that one could have water and electricity on at the same time until he was 7 years of age.

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    i will, MM, get a piki. Or a bike. Both would go alot faster than heap i drive. try to drive …

  7. Rob Says:

    Hilarious as always. Keep it up.

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    think its one of things thats funnier when you relate it. not that funny at the time! x

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