What it feels like to live in an Outpost


This is what life in an Outpost makes you feel like:


An eccentric: we made sausages on Saturday with our new Sausage Making Machine. We used duck, quarry from husband’s recent bird shooting expedition. Not beef. Not pork. Not even chicken. Nothing that approximated normal: we are not normal. Not anymore. Husband turned the handle and I unwound the sausage skins and hoped to fill them uniformly. I did not .The sausages burst on contact with the hot frying pan. Too much air. Too much meat. Too little attention being paid. Who knows? Who cares? They tasted alright.


Lonely: so that you reply to every single email the moment it drops into your inbox with a gratifying little ping. An inbox you check with obsessive scrutiny; every five minutes on especially long days. I can hear my correspondents thinking, ‘Gawd, not her again, now I’ll have to write back’. So they do. Briefly, ‘That was quick’, they say.


Grateful: that you have an eleven year old who is engrossed in school. I like my school, says Hat. I don’t have time to be bored; I have too much to do, too much homework to finish. I’ll help you I say. Because I don’t. Have enough to do.


Frustrated: because there is no water. Not a drop. All that is left at the bottom of the too-large storage tank which we optimistically built is a scummy puddle thick with the fat guppies we fed into the water to keep the mosquito larvae at bay. Them and a dead gecko floating, white bloated belly upside.


Excited: that your two older children arrive tomorrow. For two whole glorious weeks of halfterm.  You have counted the hours. You are trying not to think about the day they will, inevitably, have to leave, to return to school.


Worried: you have a visitor staying; he tells you that the last woman he knew in the Outpost only lasted six months. Before she went quite, quite mad. A stark raving lunatic, he said. She had to be shipped out. Too late. Into an asylum. Will I go mad, I wonder?


Hot. Very, very hot. By mid afternoon the house is humming agitatedly to the sound of several fans which can’t summon up the interest to inspire a cool breeze, instead they merely stir the soupy heat in which you are submerged. I can’t bear to go outside, not until close to sunset. When I have to, venture out, the heat hits me like a slap in the face. And my feet sting for ages afterwards because I have forgotten to put my shoes on and the sand has scorched my soles.


And sometimes glad. Glad that even you ocassionally enjoy an escape. 



39 Responses to “What it feels like to live in an Outpost”

  1. lulu campbell Says:

    Lovely post – enjoy the children loads, that way when they leave you won’t feel lonely initially you’ll feel peaceful for a minute Lx

  2. valley girl Says:

    Beautifully written; perhaps one more compensation is that the boredom and eccentric experiences clearly get your creative juices flowing and provide some fantastic writing material?

  3. Iota Says:

    One of my friends in the UK who I often email once described me as “a dauntingly good correspondent”. That’s when I started blogging! Then, I thought, people can chose whether they want to read what I write and whether to reply to it, and not feel obliged. She meant it kindly, and actually it did me a huge favour.

    You can email me anytime, RM. If your usual emailees are fed up with you.

  4. Miranda Says:

    Great post, love your blog. I just discovered a (very tenuous) link in our families. Apparently your mother is cousin to my grandfather’s long term partner (we know her as Chantal, the rest of the world knows her as Deidre). I told you it was tenuous!

  5. Annabelle Says:

    RM, it actually sounds rather wonderful to me, sitting here in my West London sitting room, looking out at the rain beating against the window, listening to Radio 2 to the story on the news of yet another decent, innocent, family man who has been stabbed whilst trying to defend two complete strangers who were being mugged. I kind of wish I was in your neck of the woods right now.

    BM x

  6. Millennium Housewife Says:

    It’s the children away at school that got me here, I know how painful that would be for me, so doubly so for you actually having to do it. How come you moved from near the city to here? MH

  7. Mud Says:

    Lovely post. There are challenges to living in the Outpost. But would you change your life to live somewhere else if you had the chance?

    Hope the children’s home coming is great fun.

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you lulu, and i shall. we shall sit on top of each other watching telly in the evenings. we will eat long late breakfasts, we will swim, we will talk and we will laugh. and i then i shall try not to cry when they go. x

    thank you valley girl, that’s kind. my words help to keep my company. as does my blog.

    Oh Ioto, i love that: a dauntingly good correspondent. and what a perfect push towards a blog. I’m glad she called you that. and thank you for the invitation to mail you … you may regret it though! x

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Miranda. How fabulous! And tenuous is fine, tenuous is good. Can i come for a cup of tea one then coz? (btw, i know her as Deidre!). x

    Thank you Annabelle, yes. perhaps you’re right. the biggest hardship is the absence of two of my children. The rest i can deal with. most days x

    Millenium – yup, gets me too. that’s the real toughie. I miss them desperately. When they first began to board i used to drive home in tears. and that’s a long way to be weeping: 500 miles. Needs must really: collapse of our farm near sensible suburbia (schools, pedicures, capuccino and no dark roots) meant relocation to the bush. To pay bills mostly. Including school fees. x

    Ask me that tomorrow, Mud. Ask me tomorrow! x And thank you.

  10. Yvonne Says:

    Will never forget when youngest son went to live in Cambridge, sharing a house with four others who he had never met before. We left him there with his belongings. That weekend the other housemates were away visiting their families, so there was no one there to meet him. A message to say which part of the fridge he could use, some rules and an explanation on bill payments sharing. We took him to the supermarket for food to fill his shelf in the fridge. I wished that we could stay wth him, or why our children have to leave us, but we are giving them the best start possible. He`s been married nearly three years now and it does get easier.Chin up. xx

  11. Expat Mum Says:

    Just keep blogging! I’m so glad no one sends letters any more (unless they’re thank you cards.) I was such a “good” letter writer that apparently it used to inspire guilt in the recipients. Not many replies, just guilt!

  12. Roberta Says:

    I love reading your blog because you reinforce in me that we women are stronger than we are given credit. The absolute beauty of it is: we can handle things with grace, humor, love and strong devotion.

  13. Mama Kalila Says:

    I agree with the others, beautifully written… Part of me would like to be there too lol. A lot (not all of course) of those things can happen in a city too.

  14. Retired Memsahib Says:

    Oh the memories you inspire! You won’t go mad. You’ll feel that you are, sometimes, but you’ll experience the true highs and lows that others never know. Make sure that you escape from time to time but remember, one day you will escape for good, as I have, and you’ll long to go back. Would I do it all again? Yes, oh yes, I would. I’ve lived in many parts of the World, most of them lovely in their own way but there’s nothing to compare with the emptiness and stark beauty of Africa.

    My advice; enjoy the good things and you’ll weather the rest. Oh yes, always have a plan B!

  15. Potty Mummy Says:

    Am off to Mother Russia in the next few weeks to check out housing and schools, so I may be writing a few outpost comments of my own by next year. I hope I can be as good humoured about it as you are – and as beautifully descriptive.

  16. Gill Says:

    One good thing, at least you have internet access, imagine if you didn’t even have that? By the way where on earth are you? I am assuming some where in India?

    Gill in Canada

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Yvonne, what a lovely, lovely story. I remember fridge space from student days too. And I expect one day I shall be stocking my own son’s kitchen shelf in some distant kitchen.

    I will, Expat Mum, I will; it’s so often a lifeline x

    Roberta, that is so kind. And I am sure that most days I absolutely don’t deserve it. No water again today. I don’t feel brave. I just feel bloody cross!

    Thank you Mama K. Yup. I think I was occassionally lonely in London. But I never had to save my bathwater to flush the loo!

    Thank you Retired Mem, I shall try to remember that on tough days. But I know that the experience is unique and does have advantages. I don’t always remember to remember them though!

    OMG Potty: how terribly exciting. I can’t wait to read all about your trip. Wrap up warm. And holding thumbs for a brand new adventure which will deliver such treats to blogland x

    Gill. In the Middle of Nowhere. In Africa. Without internet access? I’d have been shipped out in a straight jacket long ago! x

  18. tamara Says:

    Hoorah, this means we are tenuously related too (I’m Miranda’s sister), but ever since I discovered your blog I’ve felt a sense of kinship with you – I guess I’m no stranger to outpost mentality. But I think it also says a lot about how good your writing is – you really have the ability to take us to where you are, both internally and externally. By the way, I have strong memories of making hippo sausages as a teenager…

  19. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Guppies in the water tank – My grandparents did that and I remember them coming out of every tap, the water filter, the bath and the sink. They had a long drop – far away from the house and very scary. Enjoy your half term – at least with lack of water you’ll all smell the same and won’t notice!

  20. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you tamara – for being so kind about my writing. but that aside, i am thrilled to discover a second tenuously related soul out there. miranda does not know it yet but i shall be visiting for tea soon. she may regret owning up! as to the hippo sausages … what were they like?

    Mapesbury – thank you. ours don’t yet: the guppies, they don’t leak out of taps. But then not much water does either!! long drops always terrified me. something so sinister about them. even when perched with vistas of menengai and called ”loos with views”!! They always smell too. like, as you suggest, we do at the moment! xx

  21. kitschen pink Says:

    Perhaps only the nutty ones go to the outpost in the first place and she suddenly became sane and wanted to leave! I do wonder, when I see the news occasionally, who defines sanity these days! Glad Hat is enjoying her virtual school! t.x

  22. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    now there’s a thought kitschen …!

  23. MisssyM Says:

    Someone better come up with a time and space machine soon- imagine you could swap a 24 hour period with any of us like some kind of free travel Ebay.

    For example I could right go a day in the heat checking out the Outpost and you could fill in for me here by taking the dog out for a walk in the freezing October rain (which I can’t bring myself to do yet). And then after 24 hours we could ping back to our respective homes having had a little hiatus.

  24. carol Says:

    Fantastic blog. Enjoy the time with Ben and Melie, hope you get some water in by then – and don’t worry – you won’t be carted off in a straight-jacket – you’ve got far too many things to keep you busy (even if they are a little off the wall!). LOL

  25. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    MisssyM, i love that idea: that’s a brilliant idea. I would kill for a walk with the dog in freezing october rain just now. And perhaps a nice hot bath afterwards? x

    Thank you Carol – still no water. visitors arriving today may notice the faint pong but even then will soon be inured to it! x

  26. nuttycow Says:

    RM – feel free to email me if you’re that bored. I write lots of nonsense and will attempt to amuse you. I love emails and letters and general chit chat.

    Have fun with the kids at half term (is it that time of year already?)


  27. JP Says:

    Really sorry to hear about the tragedy today in Tabora – hope you and yours are all well.

  28. livvy u Says:

    What to do with all that time? Write, of course! I would almost give a kidney to have that much time to write! Are you working on anything other than your beautifully written, thoughtful blog? Livvy

  29. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    JP, thank you for reading. We are fine but it was a dreadful thing to happen. Too many young people in too tiny a room, insufficient oxygen and a stampede when panic ensued. unnecessary and avoidable as are too many tragedies in Africa.

  30. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Yes Livvy, I write. I am working on two books but so far not much movement or enough interest from agents. And when I’m not doing that I am fretting about no water in the tanks and trying to persuade somebody to deliver some. Perhaps the deities will oblige with some rain soon? I do hope so.

  31. Kathleen Says:

    So glad to see you back RM. Sounds like you had a great time visiting, I loved the story of your grandmother and mother. We are just now leaving the hot season, thank goodness, what a summer. I had a tank once (pond) bought some ducks to keep the bugs off, something ate the ducks first tho, probably a coyote. Lesson learned. I would love to have chickens too but would have to have armed guards to keep them safe. I work with people that live in the big city but I live in the country, city people really don’t understand what it is like to live like that, out away from everyone. If I didnt’ work I would become a hermit and stay on my hilltop all the time and people would say I was crazy I’m sure. I expect that once I get much older people will call me “The Wild Women in the Woods” or something along those lines. Your not nuts to live differently.

  32. The Good Woman Says:

    HI Mem. What I love about this post is that, while you don’t romanticise your lifestyle – I have no doubt it is hot and tough and lonely – you still recognise its uniqueness. I keep wanting a ‘fix’ of your space…and I suppose you hanker after a ‘fix’ of my suburbia (which is now on steroids!). And what we probably both need is both.

  33. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Kathleen. Sometimes i feel like the wild woman in the west. my friend C has been visiting. i told her – when we heard the toads croaking in the pond – that the rain was coming. How do you know? she asked. The toads tell me so I said. My fate has been sealed. I am the wild woman in the west. No doubt.

    Good Woman. Thank you. Let’s swap. For a moment. A day. Let’s swap. Thinking of you. And Thumper’s imminent arrival x

  34. Marianne Says:

    What a difficult but fascinating life you are living. And how wonderful to be able to write so eloquently about it all. I shall look forward to reading more.

  35. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you very much for reading, Marianne. You have no idea how much i appreciate the acknowledgement form others that it can be difficult. Especially today. x

  36. savanvleck Says:

    You are living a very special life. I only live semi-rural, with city water and pipes that leak, electricity that goes out at least once a month and lousy, lousy phone lines, but I enjoy every minute of the silence of this property and the night sounds and stars; and my solitude.

    It always sounds so romantic to be out in the wilds, but, as I tell my mother, who claims to have wanted to live back when the Native Americans inhabited this land, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But, there are rewards.”

    Sometimes, I would give a lot for a cup of tea with a friend.

  37. savanvleck Says:

    I clicked Submit too soon.

    But, my last line was to be.

    So, I check your blog and others for that feeling of friendship

  38. Wife in Hong Kong Says:

    Have only just discovered your blog as a relative newcomer to this whole cyber-social-scene. I love it! You write so beautifully. I’ve added you to my blogroll and can hardly wait for more. I so relate to the loneliness and the longing for email. I spent a gap year in a remote part of Zimbabwe 23 years ago now and we used to search the heap of post from the emptied post bags looking for blue airmail letters. The inbox checking you describe shows that technology has moved us on but the emotion of longing for mail is just the same. I do hope your garden will grow again.

  39. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    savanvleck … thank you. and your comment about blogs and friendship is timely, i had a conversation on similar and reference it in latest post. i think there are lots of us like that.

    Wife in Hong Kong – thank you so much for reading and for very kind words. I’m very much mary mary quite contrary this week. how does your garden grow? not that well. But the rains will be here soon …

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