History. Herstory.



History in the making.

Hat and I watch Obama’s inaugural speech on the telly.

I witness my daughter’s face trying to register the import of the occasion. She has grown up in a multihued world. Why shouldn’t a black man be President of the United States, she muses? She understands there was a struggle for emancipation, civil rights.

But history is drier on the page. You cannot grasp it and lift it from paper in the same way you can pluck it from your own reality.


Hat is living history today, though: today she will remember. Without the aid of a text book that smells of chalk and the fingers of a hundred children that have thumbed it before her, all gazing out of a window willing the bell for lunch to ring.

Yesterday, on the same screen, a documentary this time, not the news, not anymore, she watched the collapse of the Twin Towers.


I assumed everybody was intimately acquainted with the date. Not if they were just four at the time. Not if they were too little, too far away, to comprehend what the crumbling of those iconic towers heralded.

I dragged my history up for her then. I described what happened, what happened next, in language she could grasp. I told her where I was when the planes hit. With my sister who had recently delivered her first baby. Hat’s cousin. The association is the link that will gather the chain of events and make my bit of related history meaningful to her. I think she understood the enormity: I told her I heard the world come to a brief, juddering, shocking stop.

Will Hat remember where she was – what she was doing – when America’s first black president was sworn in? Yes. ‘Just think’, she said, ‘Obama became President on your birthday, mum! Do you think they’ll make it a holiday?”


43. I find myself briefly in illustrious company and I glance around shyly at my co-guests. I imagine they are all younger than me for their children are younger than mine – I can tell by the tales of potty training and nanny hiring. I am glad that they are registering their own small Histories. HerStories. For their children will demand, one day, ‘tell me about when I was little’. And unlike me – upon whose memories of early motherhood a fog born of age and ideas and words and so, so many memories has descended so that it is difficult to conjure a fitting one to lucid surface – they will be able to say, for they have pinned eloquent reminiscences firmly to the intangible blackboard of the ether (what irony), ‘Well. Once, when you were two …’.

I sit and write and think about being older and gaze upon a sodden garden. The mosquito gauze that is strung about the verandah is glistening wet: rain has been captured there as if by a spider’s web. There are no sounds except for the steady drip of water on the steps outside and Hat’s occasional enunciation of a French verb. Next door’s rooster has finally, blessedly, realized that – at midday – his dawn chorus is perhaps redundant. And the green pigeon that I heard as I made breakfast has stopped practicing scales in a gently descending warble.

I am glad to see the rain. I thought that was history too: we returned to find the Outpost bathed alarmingly in sunshine, languishing hotly lazy beneath skies shaken wide and rinsed pale blue. I worried for two days and wandered a garden where palms sunk listlessly in the heat and lilies wilted like wallflowers at a ball. But the clouds have come blustering importantly over our horizons again and have rudely pushed the sun and the blue somewhere else so I can no longer see them. And I am delighted for the lilies have lifted their heads and put on fresh, bright lacewhite gowns for the next dance.


And now I must go. A deadline hangs over me. And unless I honour it, my relationship with that particular editor will, alas, be history too.

30 Responses to “History. Herstory.”

  1. Potty Mummy Says:

    Younger than you, RM? Only just – I will be 42 next month. It must be my moisturising lotion that makes you think that… (And I was looking forward to my next birthday as the one where the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything would be revealed to me. Are you trying to say this is not in fact the case and Douglas Adams was lying?)

    Lovely post, btw. I hope you made the deadline!

  2. More than Just a Mother Says:

    Beautiful post. You’re right (of course) – we are right in the middle of history, all the time, if only we stop to experience it.

  3. Iota Says:

    Oh shut up, you two. I’m 44. Does that make you feel better?

    My interest in history (which is a bit slim, I’m ashamed to say) relates almost entirely to the stories my grandmother told me about her childhood. I can really picture what that era was like. Or at least, her little bit of it – but that is what history is. Lots of little bits of it.

  4. Tash Says:

    Well Happy Birthday, spring chicken! From the lofty heights of my 45 year old perch… Can’t believe I asked you (on text) if today was your aunt’s birthday – the dates are certainly milling around in my muddled mind… Your telling us that Hat watched the events of 9/11 just yesterday makes me think of me, sitting the day before, watching Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in it’s entirety on CNN, something I’d never seen before. Tears streamed down my face, as I reabsorbed, properly, for the first time, that particular little bit of history. And then, yesterday, I sipped port in the cold here and shivered along with all the onlookers at President Obama’s inauguration and I just prayed that his story will be a great one for all of those who wish for it. This was a lovely post, girl… for a 43 year old….

  5. rosiero Says:

    Happy belated Birthday. This decade so far is providing ample material for the history books.

  6. nuttycow Says:

    Happy belated birthday. I won’t join in the “you’re younger than me” talk because I have a feeling I might be chased away, never to return 😉

    Lovely photos RM. How’s the grass growing?

  7. French Fancy Says:

    well done on getting the mention.

  8. French Fancy Says:

    p.s. – blind thing that I am- yes, belated happy birthday

  9. whoopsadaisy Says:

    Ah happy birthday. I really enjoyed your post. I came here via Grannymar’s blog and I look forward to reading lots more here 🙂

  10. Cheryl Says:

    Love your post for today. I began following your blog recently & very much enjoy your style of writing.

  11. Maggie May Says:

    I’m sure Hat WILL remember these things. A very memorable day.
    Lovely post.

  12. Mud Says:

    Happy Birthday! Love the pics of the lilies and the sense of history viewed from a childhood.

  13. nappy valley girl Says:

    She will certainly remember, particularly as you have made it stand out for her. And there will always be your post to remind her what she was doing, as well!

  14. kitschen pink Says:

    Like you, I did not chart every detail of potty training (bad example – we never did any), but I do find, with the right triggers, history has a way of jumping out at us. Silly things will happen and we will all share memories of some silly or major event out of the blue and the beautiful boy will grin with pride to know he was there and add it into his memory bank – and one day he’ll maybe think that he remembers being there – rather than remembering that we told him he was….hmmm .. I need a cup of tea to work that out more clearly! Lovely post as ever. Missed you when you were gone! t.x

  15. Tessa Says:

    New beginnings – in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of people.

  16. Roberta Says:

    Happy Birthday, spring chicken. At the ripe old age of 52 (I gasped as I actually saw the numbers!) I can tell you all that it only gets better!

    As an American, I want to thank you for teaching Hat our history. I prefer to think of myself as a 912er. Because it was what happened after 911 that really made a difference in this country.

  17. rotten correspondent Says:

    Happy Birthday to you, although a little late on my part. Gorgeous post, and a nice reminder that history is happening to us as we live it. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that.

  18. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    well i haven’t yet, PM: got any answers … will i ever, do you think? (and i still haven’t met my deadline …).

    thank you very much More Than.

    But isn’t the just the best kind of history, Iota, the stuff delivered by your granny? mine certainly made history fun. meanigful. accessible. they are part of ours, after all, our history.

    thank you very much rosiero: and agree, alot of history being made in the noughties.

  19. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Tash. film – especially when it can be captured and released in our own homes – definatley makes history come alive. the animation gives it a dimension a book often can’t. especially for children. never got your text. i wonder why? x

    thanks YOUNG nutty! the grass is amazing. It has been MOWED!!

    Thanks French. And thanks again.

    Thank you for dropping by, Whoopsadaisy. You too, Cheryl, and for kind encouragment.

    i hope so Maggie May, i hope she remembers the good stuff about outpost, not the lost frustrated mother she is sometimes obliged to contend with.

    thank you Mud. I hadn’t considered how Hat may view history until today. It was a unique little bit of insight. As to the lilies, they are lovely aren’t they. all over the outpost in lines down long driveways into gardens that are no longer tended. defiantly bringing up their own little histories so that i wonder who planted them?

  20. Michelle in NZ Says:

    Belated Happy Birthday – one day before mine and your one year younger.

    Another brilliant post from you – you have such a gift with words. And thank you for sharing such beautiful flowers

  21. Stinking Billy Says:

    Am I the only man who appreciates your talent? I would love to think so but it would be asking too much. 😉 x

  22. Iota Says:

    Award for you over at my place.

  23. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    nappy valley girl. thank you. and congrats on mention at AM. i wonder what hat will think she she – if she – ever reads this stuff back one day. i wonder if we will remember it similarly?

    kitschen. i think your blog is the most fabulous recollection of busy, happy, colourful industry. i always feel a little envious of your talent when i nip over. and fall of admiration. x

  24. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Tessa. And Roberta. and i thought your 912 comment was interesting: you’re right though, that was the date the world began to change after cataclysmic 911.

    thank you Rotten. the observation though is thanks to Hat. watching her watching history is what prompted the thoughts.

    thank you very much Michelle. That’s very kind. the flowers are lovely, though, aren’t they? all their frocks very damp this morning though after a night of heavy rain …

    aw stinking billy; that’s very nice. there are a few other kind blokes who read my blab: rob and rob and Mr Sherman.

    thank you very much Iota x

  25. Susanna (A Modern Mother) Says:

    Lovely post. Imagine all this power we have over our chidlren’s future memories, good and bad…

  26. Jide Salu Says:


    First time here and you can certainly include add me to your fan club. Thanks to the TIMES for the link.

    My God, you are gooood with words, I am sure you noticed the extra ‘o’s.

    I am sure History will not forget this blog.

    By the way, where exactly in Africa are you based? I relocated to Nigeria almost a year ago after almost 20 years in the UK and my experiences are documented for History to judge.

    Why not pop in to my blog to give your judgement.

    Takia and say hi to Hat

  27. QldDeb Says:

    Happy birthday!

    It was mine this month too, I was 40. Life now begins, I reckon.

    It amazes me how much the vegetation over there is like Australia’s (the top end), I also have all those beautiful lillies over here as well.

    I wonder where they are actually natives of? The same with the flame tree, they’re all over the place here.

    Anyway, great post, and chin up, the kids will be back.

  28. Mozi Esme's Mommy Says:

    Happy birthday! And I agree it should be a national holiday or something…

  29. Kit Says:

    We were all lined up on the sofa with the children to give them a shot of history in the making too.

    it’s great to discover your blog – I’m not in the wilds of Africa, but just on a farm within easy reach of Cape Town – my husband would love to be on an isolated farm on a mountain somewhere, but I’m not keen – it’s good to get your perspective.

    And I’m 43 too, though my kids are younger than yours.

  30. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Susanna.

    and Jide Salu – i am in western Tanzania which is underwater at present! thanks for visiting and for kind words.

    QldDeb – that’s an interesting thought: i wonder where they are native to. Australia i should imagine. Brought by the settlers, along with several non indigenous trees like the jacaranda.

    thank you Mozi. you too Kit, and for visiting. no. i’m not sure i recommend my wilds either. little too wild! little too Splendid Isolation. And why ”Splendid””?

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