Breaking Silences



Keep quiet for too long and you don’t know where to begin.

In a rain-sodden outpost? On a bone-breaking ride from one place in the middle of nowhere to another? At the beach, bleached bone white and hot, where the wind whispers secrets to the palms which shiver in delicious response as if hardly able to contain their delight at being chosen confidante? In an old town that resonates with the muezzin and church bells, with caterwauling and the agitated buzz of dozens of Vespas navigating snakeskinny alleys? (And where the stench of fish hangs disconcertingly and heavy in the air on an island that hasn’t had power for more than a month). Or back where we started.

In an outpost. Where the rain has briefly abated and the sky is taut and high and defiantly blue (so that the storms growl on distant horizons; I can’t see them, just hear them, as they stalk and grumble and occasionally hurl brilliant bright outraged fists heavenwards).

We did more than two thousand miles, a huge untidy circle that grappled with mountains’ feet and tickled a silver coast. In eighteen nights we slept in 7 different beds. Six of us left the outpost, a bursting to the seams more-than-full-house; three of us came home. It’s too quiet now. The raucous, tinsel scattered, fairy-light lit, paper strewn place we left behind is much too tidy and I can find what I am looking for. (Which isn’t always a good thing).

We ate a picnic breakfast on that long lonely road out; we saw the New Year in on Zanzibar and earned a modicum of cool-cred from our kids because we actually knew who Freddie Mercury was and could point out the house where he lived; we looked upon an eclipse which was reminiscent of a moon abandoned by a careless Pierrot.

We wished we were still Full House at the beach where we were joined by Hat’s bestfriendforever so that the girls, like the wind and the palms, shared secrets that only little girls know the sanctity of and had their arms decorated with henna so that they could gigglingly feign tattoos, ‘I’ve got a tongue piercing too’, Hat teased a friend who expressed mild shock.


But alas a Granny had a home of her own to go back to, a son the grim prospect of mock IB exams and a daughter a spring term to start in snowbound Hertfordshire.

And I must get used to the silence.

For Hat has said, ‘I think, mum, I think it is time I went to proper school’.

One where there are real-live children and music lessons, assembly in the morning, midnight feasts after lights out, netball and a library.

We always promised ourselves, ‘when she says it’s time, it’s time’.

And promises must be kept.

As holidays must be looked forward to.

But I shall miss Madame Marcia the fortune teller, and Marcella her lookalike sister, and despite his shocking manners, I might even miss Captain Jack.

And – oh – I shall miss my Hat.

24 Responses to “Breaking Silences”

  1. Potty Mummy Says:

    Can’t imagine your mixed feelings right now. She’s growing up, she’s becoming independant, she’s sure enough of your love to be able to say this – all good things. Although it probably doesn’t feel like that right now, since you’re still smarting from the end of the holidays in any case. Thinking of you (from snowy Russia) RM. PMx

  2. Mud Says:

    Welcome back. I hope the blogging can help break through the quiet.

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Aaaah Potty; thank you. there is a part of me that is very happy Hat is going – for although i shall miss her acutely and hugely and the hole she will leave during term time will be huge, i am enormously excited for her: a whole big brand new adventure. i keep reminding myself, as cliched as it is, ‘give her roots, give her wings, give her roots, give her wings’. i’ve done the roots things, now i must let her fly … new beginnings for us all. keep warm girl! x

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Mud. Absolutely: blogging breaks all kinds of silences x

  5. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    Nice to see you back. A very poignant post – but it sounds like Hat is ready to go.

    I would simply love to go to Zanzibar. Have you ever read Trade Wind by MM Kaye? Was one of my favourite books as a teenager….

  6. Elie in Liberia Says:

    oh, you will miss hat. it’s wonderful to hear about your safari–and as soon as you started describing Zanzibar, I knew you’d been there. sending you love and good things for the new year from the other side of Africa…

  7. Mwa Says:

    Proper school – maybe you can try that, too? Just have your holidays there.

  8. R. Sherman Says:

    I love the first photo. An Endless Road Bespeaks The Journey Of Life.


  9. Grannymar Says:

    Let her go to let her grow!

    You were missed, I look forward to more writing.

  10. Linda Says:

    Lovely to hear that you are back!
    ‘Hat’ wanting to go to a REAL school will be a great adventure for her, I do feel sorry for you though!

  11. Rob Says:

    Welcome back on line. Nice photos. Am sure your 2-3 weeks on holidays will provide ample food to sustain the body, soul and mind in the years ahead. As your children grow, those are the trips and adventures they will cherish, and then go on to embelish and tell their own children in years to come.

  12. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    nappyvalley, thank you. Zanzibar is great – i love it for Stone Town, the old town capital. No, I haven’t read MMKayes Trade Wind – but now i shall seek it out; thanks!

  13. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    aaah. thank you Elie. from my eastern corner of Africa to your western one, xx

  14. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Mwa: thank you. I might do an online interactive course … I like to think Husband needs me …

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Mr S. I enjoy that view quite often!

    Absolutely Grannymar: the time is right. She said so. And that’s what counts most

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Linda – it will be, a real adventure. I’ll be OK. I knew it had to come, a healthy articulation from her. How grown up i am!

    Embelish Rob? Absolutely. As we do our own?! x

  17. Iota Says:

    Ah, the moment has come. How grateful you must be for the times you’ve had together.

    I’ve never thought of it as roots and wings, but that is a brilliant way of looking at it. I will carry that thought with me. I find it comforting, actually, as I am overly aware of how difficult the “roots” bit is, when you’re living abroad. I feel better about it now I think that this chapter of our lives might have done a lot for them in the “wings” department.

    Thank you.

  18. Mama B Says:

    Nice to have you back!

  19. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks Iota. And i am – so grateful for the time we have had together. I suppose the wings mean they’ll fly away but always be home-bound … one hopes. x

    Thanks Mama B!

  20. Says:

    Welcome back. I too liked the roots & wings concept. In theory of course. Not ready for it in practice though;o) I guess I never will be. Who ever is?? I WANT desperately to do the roots bit but can’t really, living this lifestyle & worry that my two will feel rootless. And wings, DON’T want to give them those, but know they will grow them & flap off regardless of me anway, in due course.

  21. nuttycow Says:

    Happy new year and welcome back. What a whirlwind of fun, games and surprises it seems you’ve had over the holidays. As your other commentators (and you!) say, if she’s ready to go, you’ve got to let her. She will come back – you’ll always be her mother and, believe me, no matter how fantastic being away is, coming home is much sweeter.

    Love to all.

  22. Tash Says:

    Oh it’s so good to have you back – I’ve missed you. And while I hear how difficult this will be, you have to comfort yourself with the fact that you have done such a good job of homeschooling Hat – she doesn’t lack the confidence to want to go out into the big wide world – another child, with another mother, may have become introverted and afraid to leave. You’ve done a brilliant job. And how lovely to see the photos of what must have been many special family moments together… we want more! xx

  23. rosiero Says:

    Gosh it will be so quiet when the last of your babies leaves home.

  24. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    ah. paradise. and they will. flap off. i aim to clatter pots and busily make jam to try to drown out the sound. and then the silence. x

    thank you nutty: i knew it’d come. there is some satisfaction in knowing home school was more than an experiement: it was a happy three years. She’s done well. Now i must. x

    tash, thank you; that’s kind and supportive. very kind. we are going to look at hat’s choices next month. so will have to wrap up warm after sunny barefooted outpost x

    i know, rosiero, i know. so quiet. but i think next year will bring other changes, new adventures. and different sounds. i have to hang onto that. and be glad she has the confidence to articulate what she needs. wants. x

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