Sand in my Shoes








I upend bags. Clothes spill. Rainbows against the bright white of floor tiles.


I can smell the salt.


Later, later when I’ve shoved damp still-sea-scented t-shirts and shorts into the washing machine, I feel the sprinkling of sand under bare feet, cast by a holiday wardrobe, the last tiny reminders of two weeks at the beach tipped so that I tread it again.  I smile.


The house is too quiet now. Now that everybody but Hat has gone back to school. Now that I can no longer hear the roar of the surf (unless I put a shell to my ear and persuade myself that I can as I did a child). Quiet except for the frenzied greeting delivered by the dogs who leapt and squealed and then did a lap of honour, tearing about the lawn (for there is a meagre blush of green after rain) to show how pleased they were that their humans were home. They keep coming to check on me, to make sure I am still here.  I pat their heads distractedly and they seem content then to wander off and flop back down, bellies against the cool cement of the veranda floor.


The cushions on the sofa are too tidily arranged. There are no wet towels beneath beds. Nor six empty loo rolls rolling redundantly about the bathroom.




My big African life has concertina’d to Outpost smallness again. But I shall hang onto the snapshots in my head. Hang onto the peace that descended with that brief broad space of sea and sky and seamless horizons so that I felt like a bird tentatively stretching wings that had been pinned too tightly to her sides for too long. 


I watched a great galloping ocean, listened to a wind that chased herds of white horses across its jade and aquamarine surface; I watched the sea race up the sand so that when the tide sank, it lay marked by ridges, each testimony to the perfect synchronization of every wave that tore up the beach chasing ghost crabs and then coyly receded, a little bashfully, when it failed to catch a single one. 



I watched my son play cricket with his dad. I watched ngalos string sails tight and trip along the fine line that divides heaven and earth.





I played cards with my children. They cheated. I laughed. We snorkeled and gently touched anemones tended by tiny colourful wrasse, we felt the puckered kiss of their tentacles against fingers rendered wrinkly by too long in the water. We trod the reef mindful of spiteful spine’d sea-urchins. I drank beer from a bottle, which quickly sweated its label off and we all ate fish and chips smothered in Heinz tomato ketchup (did you know tomatoes protect you from sunburn enquired Hat, as if to justify a too fat dollop plopping to her plate). 


Then the big ones went back to school – they will not be home until June – and I stiffened that top lip so that it would not wobble.


On my return the garden looks wildly, happily unkempt. Like a hippie who needs a haircut. Flower power abounds. The rain brought it. I came back to a blooming cerise pink geranium, plummeting yellow lantana, white spider lilies nodding in acknowledgment of my homecoming. The resident monitor lizards observe me from their habitual sunbakedrocks. Their small reptilian heads nodding too, as if agreeing with one another that the cats will torment them less now that there are laps to be sat upon again.


I will walk it later. The garden. When the sun has sunk too low to pinch I will pull on shoes dragged roughly from the single bag that remains unpacked, tomorrow’s chore I tell myself, and I will walk and inspect every tiny new shoot.


And I will feel the sand beneath my soles.









25 Responses to “Sand in my Shoes”

  1. Roberta Says:

    Welcome home. You have been missed. The photos are wonderful, as I sit here in a cold house as it is -15 outside and the wind whips!

    I could smell the salt air. I think I need a vacation.

  2. French Fancy Says:

    I’d just started to read ‘mind the mummy gap’ and then it disappeared – most bizarre.

    anyway, I hope that you have enough good positive things in your head to keep you from pining until June. It’s so grey and damp in Northern Europe that the thought of you snorkeling and sweating on the beach is very cheering.

    Belated happy new year

  3. nuttycow Says:

    Welcome back! It’s lovely to see you again. It sounds like you had a wonderful time at the coast. As Roberta says, it’s blimmin’ cold elsewhere. Looking out the window of my (new!) office, I see a muddy Thames, elephant grey sky and forlorn naked trees. Not very nice 😦

  4. lulu campbell Says:

    Oh I know that too quiet feeling so well (every other weekend when my children go to their father’s) and it made me sad looking at your gorgeous boy playing cricket. He looks exactly like my gorgeous boy (only browner) and you slightly wonder how they got so big and I wish I could watch my son playing cricket with his father in a contented sort of way. That won’t happen now. You are very lucky. Keep busy busy busy – shout to all of us. We’re listening! Lx

  5. Tessa Says:

    How wonderfully well you write. I’m so glad you had your sea break – it’ll stay with you for a while now that you’re back at the outpost and will help enormously, I think.

  6. Rachel Says:

    As nuttycow says, it is grey and forlorn here in London. I dreamt of seaside holidays. And then, walking back to my office at lunchtime, there was blossom on one of the trees in a sheltered spot in Lincoln’s Inn. Springtime and warmth is on it’s way.

    I love it when sand comes home from the beach. My most treasured sand is on the bottom of a champagne bottle which M produced when he proposed to me on a beach last summer. The bottle stands on the mantlepiece in our bedroom and if you turn it over, there is still sand clinging to the indent in the bottom. Makes me smile.

  7. kathleen Says:

    The beach sounds fabulous! Sounds like you all had a great break from it all.

  8. Potty Mummy Says:

    Welcome back home and to blogging. Thinking of you. Now get on and make jam…

  9. Grannymar Says:

    I regularly hear the silence.

    Your holiday sounds heavenly and I am glad you are refreshed after it. Save some of that sand in a little box so you can feel it when you are feeling lost!

  10. kitschen pink Says:

    Welcome back! What a lovely bundle of memories you have to share! Now, what news the garden? t.x

  11. KatduGers Says:

    Hi, welcome back – we’ve missed you! So glad you had a great holiday. Also, it’s great that you finally have some grass growing in your outpost!

    Keep listening to that seashell!

  12. Janelle Says:

    hoorah! you’re back! about bloody time too darlin’! been wondering where you are and was just about to sms caroline to find out!? ah. looks like you had a beautiful time. am so glad. heaps of love xxxx j

  13. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    We mised you! Glad you’re back…Sadly no sand under our soles at the moment – just fluffy slippers!!

  14. rosiero Says:

    So glad you had a great holiday. Hope it will build you up to cope with the outpost months ahead.

  15. Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) Says:

    Ahhh, summer hols at the beach. Fond memories of time spent with my family at our beach cottage at Munster on the Wild Coast. Hot sun, hot sand and cool sea.

    Glad you all had a great time with wonderful memories to sustain until next time.

  16. Rob Says:

    Welcome back. It’s amazing how we all appreciate our homes a little more when we come back after a holiday away.

  17. Mr Farty Says:

    Is it ok for us to have our beach trips vicariously through your blog? Thanks. That was wonderful.

  18. Sarah Says:

    photos are beautiful- trip sounds like heaven.

  19. Millennium Housewife Says:

    I always feel lonely when I read your blog, it is truly evocative, and beautiful MH

  20. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Roberta. Wow. That’s cold!

    and you, French Fancy, and you: happy new year.

    nuttycow: elephant grey – perfect. I loved that.

    thank you lulu. you do: wonder how they got so big. big enough to tuck me under his chin and strong enough to rugby tackle me in the sea or lift me up. i know. I’m lucky. I shall remember that. Whilst i shout. thank you for listening x

  21. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    it will Tessa: sustain me. thank you.

    Rachel, thank you for dropping by – and what a simply wonderful story: sand at the bottom of your champagne bottle. i loved that.

    thank you Kathleen, and it was hugely restorative.

    thank you Potty. And i’m hunting for the right jam recipe x

  22. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    silence can be remarkable loud, Grannymar, don’t you think? saving sand sounds like a good idea. thank you.

    kitschen, garden next i think … thanks for blog inspiration!

    thank you Kat. i do miss the sound of that distant surf …

    thanks Janelle, hope you get some rain soon. sounds hotter with you than with me? x

    thank you Mapesbury – keep those feet warm x

    thank you rosiero, so do i: hope it will keep me strong x

  23. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hot sun, hot sand and cool sea … isn’t that just the best cocktain Rob?

    Rob Mark II: i agree, we do appreciate home a little more. for a bit at any rate! xx

    Please, please do Mr Farty: i love the company.

    thank you Sarah, it was: heaven.

    oh MH, i don’t know whether to be pleased or sad. i don’t want you to feel lonely when you read me, especially not when you are all such precious company. x thank you though.

  24. Wolfie nee Sarah McAlpine Says:

    Reading about returning from the beach has lifted me into another world, as I watch the snow hit the window in a gale force wind. Instead of sand its tissues from all the runny noses, coal escaped from the coal bunker and toast crumbs from the toaster thats older than me!

    Great site – and for saying what life is all about really.

    Fellow orange face!!

  25. Bush Mummy Says:

    Lovely lovely although my heart is breaking at the mention of June???? Too long.. too long.

    Were you in Zanzibar? It looks like Zanzibar?

    Happy new year from Shepherds Bush

    BM x

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