Cool and Sunny





We went to Brighton for the weekend: Hat, Mum and I. To stay with my Godmother and Hat’s great aunt. We did all the things you do in Brighton: we visited the Royal Pavilion so that Hat could stare at a chandelier hung from a dragon’s mouth, as if it was breathing brittle fiery ice, so that she could giggle at the bed Queen Victoria slept upon, with it’s nine Princess-and-the-Pea mattresses.


We shopped in George Street and I bought shoes. More shoes. More heels and wondered that I wasn’t hurtling, tripping on new six-inches, towards a midlife crisis that would leave me spread-eagled and humiliated on the floor. We ambled through the Lanes and Hat dropped pennies into a busker’s guitar case, open at his feet as he strummed. He smiled at her through his song, Hat stood before him ferreting through her purse oblivious to the crowds pushing past her.


She bought herself a doll with Christmas money. The outpost doesn’t offer much in the way of retail therapy. She knew exactly what kind of doll she wanted. And the tiny collectors’ den we unearthed between biker’s shops and boutiques met all mental picture requirements.


‘This is the one’, she whispered, enraptured, ‘this is just what I have been looking for’, she confided as she handled the doll the proprietor proffered for her to admire: an old fashioned looking one wearing a porcelain smile, bonnet and gloves.




Hat deliberated carefully over her choice: ‘I like what this one is wearing but I prefer that one’s smile’, she said. Always go for the smile the proprietor and I agreed. And so she did and watched intently as the kind gentleman behind the counter wrapped her doll.


Precious pocket money, I told him, to excuse the length of time we had monopolized him while other customers waited patiently behind us with far more expensive purchases.


‘You’re lucky’, he told me, ‘my daughter has just used all hers to buy a mobile phone’.


I wanted to tell him that where we live, in the middle of a vast and dust laced African plain, hundreds of miles from anywhere, a doll will be better company than a mobile phone. And Hat will not have to contend with the derision of peers for there are none there.




I think our holiday acquisitions must mirror our mildly eccentric way of life. My heels, Hat’s old fashioned doll, my husband’s sausage machine.


I bought that online whilst still Outpost captive. My son, arrested mid way between verandah and kitchen on a foraging expedition, was struck by the site I was surfing.


‘What are you doing, Mum?’ he said, observing my Design a Sausage site.


‘Shopping’, I told him.


‘For a sausage?’ he questioned incredulous.


‘For a sausage making machine’.


‘That’, he sniffed, ‘is just sad’.


I live in an Outpost, where I cannot buy sausages, dolls or heels, I reminded him, ‘I am allowed to be sad’.


I imagine Hat, when we get home, giggling with the newly christened Lady Charlotte as they observe Hat’s plainly quite mad parents: a mother teetering on heels despite the fact she has nowhere to go and a father churning out strings of sausages. I envisage Hat rolling her eyes and admitting, sheepishly, ‘yes, that’s my mum and dad’.




I take Hat to mass. A lapsed and lazy Catholic, all my children were baptized. I told myself I must offer them the option of a faith. It would be up to them whether or not they pursued it. My husband, force-fed religion at school, had been quite put off. I didn’t want to do that to my children. I know that Faith can come in handy.


So I took Hat to mass, to a child friendly service, in a church full of noise: laughter, the odd grumble of bored complaint and shrieks of indignant resistance when asked by parents to sit still. Not that the priest seemed to mind as children slipped between pews or babies shuffled on their bottoms down the aisles or toddlers munched on apples or curled on the floor to suck a thumb or crayon a page in a colouring book. I thought that seemed the right approach to religion: that it should slot comfortably, friendly, around our lives.


I thought that, especially, when I watched a small boy with an impish grin and a face-full of freckles stick his hands in the aspersorium, damp his blond shock of hair with holy water and then arrange it spiked around his head.


That, I thought, is how modern religion ought to be. And I smiled at the little boy who raced back to his mum so she could admire his hairdo.




My little girl began school today. I sat on the floor behind her, by the washing machine, mug of tea at my side, laptop on my knees to write. I sat behind her on the floor no less anxious for her happiness than I was the first time I dispatched her at the proverbial school gate when she went to proper school.


She sat at Mum’s desktop, absorbed by her new cyber peers: Hat began virtual school today. She wears a new skirt, in celebration, and a headset. Every time I glance up I can see her smile reflected in the screen. I cannot hear the voices in her ear but I know that sometimes they make her laugh.


There are ten children in her class. One has Asperger’s. He told the class, ‘I am autistic. I have Asperger’s Sometimes I get things the wrong way round’.


That’s OK, says the teacher, you’ll be fine.


What’s Asperger’s? Hat wants to know.


It means he is special I tell her. Extra special. And it means he has a gift.


Cool, says Hat.


I think it is. That she sits in a class full of children she can hear but cannot see. I think it is cool that she skipped down the stairs to begin, ‘Bye Gran, I’m off to school now’. I think it is cool that she got dressed up for the occasion, did her hair carefully. I think it’s cool that she goes to school in cyberspace and lives in the bush.


I think she’s cool.



18 Responses to “Cool and Sunny”

  1. nuttycow Says:

    You’ve certainly bought the lovely weather with you RM. I can’t believe it’s September already. The leaves are already turning here in London.

    Online school sounds cool! What kind of things is Hat learning about? What kind of children are in her class? Is she going to continue with it when she goes back to the Outpost?

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Nutty. Hat’s doing an English curricula and this morning learned about songs and haiku (how cool is that?). Her peers consist of children whose parents – for whatever reason – feel unable or do not wish to send children to mainstream school. Our reason is obvious. But sometimes it is because a child has been bullied. Or pbecause arents have lost confidence in a system or a school. Or because – perhaps – their children are disabled. And yes, Hat will continue in the Outpost, whilst I watch her from a small distance, mug at my side, laptop on my knees. I think her school will deliver a small and valuable young community to our isolation. xx

  3. valley girl Says:

    Hat’s school sounds indeed cool. I do hope she enjoys it, and long may she want dolls rather than mobile phones….I think you’re rather lucky to be exempted from the pressures of modern childhood.

  4. daisyfae Says:

    What a delightful child! Certainly not prone to whinging, as many her age would be! She is cool. Very cool…

  5. Maggie May Says:

    I loved this post. So lovely that you came back for a holiday to Brighton and I had to laugh at the shoes (that will be so useful in the outback) & sausage maker, that will be.
    Hat’s cyber school and the old fashioned doll all brought to life by your wonderful way of describing things! A treat to read.

  6. Lynda Says:

    Hat’s cyber school sounds simply wonderful ….

    I love the idea of you tripping around the Outpost in high heels – although for some reason, they’re a bit tricky when driving a Landrover ! (I wear wedge heels & make-up most days on the farm … just because it’s one of those small things that makes me feel sane. Well, I do change into my “Bata’s” when I go walking, but only because *ahem* the heels got terribly stuck in sticky, red mud once & I had to walk barefoot the rest of the way home – ha !)

    Enjoy every moment of civilisation … ahhhhh …. 24 hour electricity, uninterrupted internet access, crystal clear bath water & Sainsubury’s on your doorstep … what more could a girl ask for, ‘eh ? 😉

  7. Yvonne Says:

    1st Brilliant that you are recording the things that your children do and say at such a young age, my lads are 28 and 30 and I have recently started to do this
    2nd Shoes in the wardrobe, an affliction of mine, I don`t wear most of them, but just like and want them, does this mean that I have a fetish or is it just the savage amusement that us women put ourselves through, I wear, therefore I am.
    3rd Loved “how modern religion ought to be”, make it fun and they`ll come.
    4th Cried at your account of Aspergers, my dad had this and it`s a crazy life to live with one but also an incredibly imaginative world (can you tell that I picked up his love of order by listing my likes in numerical order, some things rub off.

  8. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Sounds like H has got herself a nice new school – more children in her class than our son’s – in fact double!
    Enjoy the holidays…..

  9. Rob Says:

    What a wonderful piece of writing. Hope Hat continues to enjoy the new school. Hope Husband has many hours of fun with the new sausage toy. Men love their gadgets, don’t you know. I recall some kind of a methylated spirits powered “yoke” for making boiled eggs. Has that been decommissioned I wonder…

  10. Kitschen Pink Says:

    So if I am not an outpost prisoner should I re-consider the sausage machine on my Christmas list? It just looks such fun! Love the idea of virtual school. I suppose it’s similar to the virtual world so many of us enjoy with our blogs!! t.x

  11. Mama Kalila Says:

    This post just made me smile (and I need to remember to add you to my blog list lol)

    I’ve been to Churches like that… my old one used to have a Childrens Mass once a month. The kids would go up to the front & sit down on the floor. The priest would make the homily to where they could understand it, and ask questions along the way. It was always really cute. I miss that. My Church now is not bad w/ kids either though…

    I would have loved to have cyber school as a kid lol. Sounds like fun!

  12. Janelle Says:

    and i think you’re terrifically cool too! can’t wait to see you totter around shoppies car park in your heels, bayaatch! such a sweet post. sounds like you’re having a fab time. enjoy! heaps always xxx janelle

  13. roland hulme Says:

    Just between you and me, I think her mum’s pretty cool, too.

  14. Mom de Plume Says:

    Wow, Hat is a lucky girl. Her experiences of the world are astounding. Isn’t it amazing how having so few modern amenities can make a person far more interesting and interested! Hat is cool. Great post… I loved every word!

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Valley Girl – yes, I think we are; lucky to be exempted the pressures. I have been reminded of that these last two weeks. So far, so good; Hat is loving school.

    daisyfae – I’m lucky. She’s not a whinger. Even if her mother sometimes is …!

    Thank you Maggie May. The heels will be utterly redudant in outpost, they will lie at the bottom of wardbrobe in higgledy piggledy heap gathering dus. The sausage machine, however, will save our bacon come Sunday breakfast, literally and metaphorically speaking.

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks Lynda. My feet, firmly flatfooted after years of going naked, are not as enthusastic at prospect of heels as my heart is! I hope I don’t make an arse of myself in London tomorrow when i attempt to trip across it with newly acquired elevation!

    That’s great Yvonne. I loved what you said about your dad: crazy, imaginative world. And the shoes … The shoes. Are we all latent Imelda Marcoses? Ditto: rarely wear the shoes I own. Rarely wear shoes at all. So I still cannot truly fathom reckless purchase of same?

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Mapesbury xx

    And Rob xx No. We still have the eggboiler. It comes out Sundays … boiled eggs and sausages from now on, methinks?

    Kitschen: no, no get it. It does look fun. Outpost makes if necessary. For the endproduct as much as the ‘something to do’. As for virtual school: you’re right – another facet of our virtual world. Hat is loving it.

  18. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks Mama K. I think I’d have quite liked virtual school too: boarding school was too much about cheap loo paper and the smell of stale cooked cabbage …

    Thank you Janelle. Mince around Shoppies in my new heels and there’ll be talk! I am: having a fab time. Such outpost escapism. I’m glad you’re better x

    Thank you RH. I’m not though – not nearly as cool as my daughter is.

    Thank you Mom de P. I think, I hope, Hat’s experiences make her world a more interesting place. Sometimes, though, that makes it hard for her to describe it to her peers … so very alien.

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