A to Z




Life is being ironed out. For a while, for a few weeks back there, when it hit a speed bump, wobbled and swerved, I wondered if this was what it felt like to crash. To flail emotionally and falter and then fade to utter enervation. I wondered, briefly, blessedly briefly, if this was how Mum had felt countless times before. But, with a decision behind us, with upset and disappointment fading like the scar of a wound which hurt like hell at the time, suddenly the clouds lifted and I could see the sunshine, I can see the sunshine, even on a day like today when the sky and the sea meet in a blur of squall and mist and wet.  The relief that, despite it all going horribly wrong, we have been able to pick ourselves up and brush ourselves down is huge. But the relief that I am not headed where Mum is now is indescribable.

I hate Depression. I hate it with a vigour that is palpable, a foe that is almost as tangible as the illness itself is not. I’d like to scream and hurl abuse and tell it to Fuck Of! Why didn’t we see it coming? Why can’t we – why can’t Mum – outwit it, step out of its horrid glare, escape the cruel clutches that hobble and hamstring her for months. Were there clues? Tears during a Skype call, ‘I’m fine really, there’s nothing sinister in my crying, just tired’. Should we have anticipated it? Mum tries to justify each crushing episode, place blame, understand where the wretched thing came from, but as it damply settles, she sighs, ‘Perhaps it was just my time for another Depression’.

And as much as I want to weep for the distance that renders me too far to be useful, I know how difficult this monster is to live with. I know how it alienates, frustrates, enrages as it stubbornly refuses to be chivvied into doing something, anything.  Instead I Skype and text and write to long suffering far-from-me, close-to-mum family members and friends and bossily instruct on how to manage (as if I know!), on what drugs she should be on, on whom they ought to try to see. I can’t believe any of it is in vain. For to do that would be too painful, to doubt I can negotiate her recovery would be unbearable, I have to hope. And therein lies my ally; optimism has not abandoned me in the way it has her.


And so it would seem we are headed inland and south and across two borders.

I never thought I would leave this cozy familiar corner of East Africa with its generational pull and uneven but oddly reassuring history. But I am. I never, ever thought I’d live in Zambia – a country whose name began with a Z seemed strangely mythical when I was little, as if something from the land of hobgoblins and faeries, gladiators and unicorns.   Z seemed so far away, a march down the alphabet. But, in a few weeks, we will gather up our bits and pieces and head down Africa into its unknown landlocked interior. Change is always a little intimidating. And the winters there, says my friend K, really are winters.

But the miombo and the woodsmoke and bright wide white smiles in dark faces and skies that stretch for ever as if standing on tippie-toes to reach for dust smudged horizons will be gloriously, happily familiar.  A whole new adventure we tell ourselves, absolutely unanticipated.

And perhaps that’s the best kind of adventure to embark on: the ones we least expect.





22 Responses to “A to Z”

  1. robyn Says:

    oh gosh, i am so sorry your mum is having a bad time at the moment. I have no words of wisdom or comfort. Sounds like you have good friends and family supporting her (and you from afar). But you know what, even if you were there, wouldn’t help your mum at the moment, not really.

    Zambia-I know it is still Africa, but it seems to far. Far too from the sand and the sea -landlocked countries, I even felt in Ug, just have a different feeling – plus, I never trust the sushi there! hehe!

    Adventures ahead! Hopefully great ones!

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Robyn, and you’re right: even at hand I wouldn’t be much use to mum. As to Zambia, happily I’m not a sushi fan 🙂

  2. doglover Says:

    Being occasionally set upon by Gloom, but nothing like Depression, I am so interested in your description of how you sometimes feel, I can well understand your hatred of it and your feeling of helplessness being so far away from your mother.

    I still don’t understand your blog entitled “Swansong”; were you intending to close your blog? I am so glad you didn’t because you delight me with your ability to paint pictures with adjectives. I am sure all your readers feel the same.

    We’ll look forward to accounts of your adventures in your new life.

    Keep blogging, RM!

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you doglover. Swansong was for Tanzania – after 23 years it felt sad to leave. As for the writing, I’ll keep blogging on for it seems to keep me sane; thank you for reading.

  3. Ellie Says:

    Oh my, what an adventure! I do look forward to reading along as you go … So odd isn’t it, how we can think the world is ending, and can see no clear way through, but then quite suddenly, here we are, on the other side.

    So sorry about your mum. So difficult, all the way around.

  4. Marie Says:

    Oh, I so look forward to hearing tales of Zambia! I’ve tentatively accepted a job there beginning next spring, but I’m not convinced yet.

    Best wishes to all!!

  5. Kit Says:

    Good luck in your new adventure – glad the gloom has lifted enough to let some light through and a spark of optimism to keep you going. So much change in a year, I admire you for finding the perspective to share and blog about it so beautifully.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Kit – but I must tell you that I am not necessarily gracious in my hunt for perspective; there’s a fair bit of hissing and spitting – and tears – along the way!

  6. Iota Says:

    Oh gosh, where are you off to now?

  7. connie Says:

    What a worry, especially your mum being so far away. Have you read SUNBATHING IN THE RAIN by Gwyneth Lewis? I think it may be out of print but worth searching for. She herself came out of a severe year-long depression and wrote this book near the end of it.

    I check your blog almost each day to see if you have posted – I just love your writing, thoughts, stories and adventures of daily life.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you for reading Connie – and for such kind works. I have got Sunbathing in the Rain and I love it. I think perhaps time to dig it out and re read. That and Lewis Wolpert’s Malignant Sadness are my Depression bibles – such searingly honest perspective

  8. Family Affairs Says:

    Zambia? Woohoo – I’m going to be there in September – vic falls and lower zambezi and one night in lusaka I think – where will you be? Would love your view on my post today about Having it all and whether thats possible? good luck with the move Lx

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Off to read it now L – thank you … and who knows, perhaps we will have a real life rendezvous in Lusaka? Extraordinary how the ether knits reality? x

  9. Deirdre Doyle Says:

    Where in Zambia are you due to settle? It was my home for many a year and the Zambian people are delightful.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Hello Deirdre – Lusaka, at least to begin with. We have heard alot of very positive things and are looking forward to it all immensely. ax

  10. Family Affairs Says:

    Deirdre Doyle??? She knew my grandmother from Lusaka didn’t she? and yes, I’ll keep you informed then and check out when I”m there Lx

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Hello L – Deirdre is my mum’s cousin … small, small world! Hope to meet you later in the year ax

  11. janerowena Says:

    Wow! Good Luck, I hope you succeed at whatever it is. Wherever you are, will be home to your family. I’m sorry about your mother, but there is nothing you can do, really, apart from worry, which does no-one any good. I must drive my stepfather mad with my queries and suggestions for my mother! I am trying to find a level of concern that they find acceptable.

  12. James Says:

    “Zambia – the Real Africa”, as they used to say – you’ll love it. As for Depression… We can only directly control our actions and our thoughts but not our feelings (touch your head, think of a number, feel happy – first two are easy – last one will only come about by doing or thinking of something which makes us happy etc). The only way to change our feelings is to change what we are doing and/or what we are thinking. No matter how bad we are feeling, unless we are physically incapacitated, there is nothing stopping us from doing something. The act of doing something requires thinking and that helps to displace the negative thoughts. Repetition of this will gradually improve our feelings. Hope this helps!

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