Archive for April, 2013

Faithful Followers

April 23, 2013

I have been where I am now before. Not long ago. Twice.

Packing up
The smell of boxes is familiar and the sound of the hiss and strip of tape as those boxes are sealed is a noise that conjures recent memory. This is the third time in 13 months. Third time lucky. That’s what I say. We have covered thousands of miles in huge trans Africa moves. Now comes another.


We flew north. Collected the car. And drove south. Five days we zigzagged across Tanzania and into Zambia and we battled our way through the knotted mess that is Tunduma border, a flybitten, dustblown place where the trucks tail back five miles. A week it takes us, they told me, to pass through. It took us, with nothing on board but ourselves and our sandwiches, an hour and a half and two fixers.

Packing up2
Tomorrow, or the next day, we’ll turn around and head north again. Back through the flybitten, dustblown, heat sapped Hades that is the border, this time there’ll be more on board. And we’ll go further. Into Kenya, with the dogs, the cat. They are anxious and hunker nervously near me. The scent of boxes, the hiss and strip of tape, it all unsettles them. Do they remember what comes next I wonder. So often over the past year and through these moves, it has just been me and them. And so they follow me from room to room. Waiting patiently whilst I bath, watching whilst I swim, sleeping at my feet as I work and retiring to the bedroom when I do, arranging themselves in habitual patterns: Pili on the rug beside my bed, Scal curled a few feet away, the cat spooned into whichever warm crevice she can find around my sleeping body.

Patiently Waiting Pili
And so they will follow me north. And that’s a nice thought.



Outer Outposts

April 13, 2013


Tomorrow this move begins. In convoluted, extrapolated, adventurous and sometimes exhausting fashion. Navigating ourselves north and south and north again over thousands of miles, we’ll sustain ourselves with flasks of tea and sticks of biltong. We’ll carry the essentials of early day living with us: the dogs, my computer, a very old cat, enough t’shirts that we can keep going until a bucket of water and a packet of Omo can be sourced somewhere.


The moving doesn’t undo me. The arriving does. A little. I haven’t been to the spot where we are going. Husband helpfully provides a picture.


New Home


I think there’s a reason there’s an airstrip in the garden.


I think it’s a shame we don’t own our own wings.


I think the Outpost suddenly seems suburban.

061 - Copy

Full Circle

April 4, 2013


I keep trying to line up the words. If I line them all up, they’ll make sense. I’ll make sense. Life will make sense.  But life’s full of circles and whirls and knots which is why I can’t regiment my prose tidily. To go back and iron out all the change so that some order is sought would be tortuous. Best to leave it as it is and start again.

We’re moving.

A fourth transAfrican move and a sixth, or is it seventh?, home in less than 18 months. I haven’t unpacked the boxes from the move before last let alone the most recent.

In the beginning, when the possibility of another relocation morphed menacingly as probability, I felt overwhelmed. I was digging down for roots and had begun to excavate the tiniest hole; I knew where to go for cappuccinos and to have my haircut even if I hadn’t made a real live friend.   At least, I ponder now, those early tender, whipthin roots hadn’t got down that far.  They’ll be easy to pull.

Recently, in England (being discombobulated at home makes travel oddly comforting) a taxi driver in whose Hackney cab I sat and patiently listened to stories about his ulcers and his property investments, told me he had lived in the same street in the same town since childhood. Now his children live in the same street in the same town and attend the same school that he did. A tiny little part of me envied his settledness. But a much, much bigger part recoiled.   Aside from the urgency of bleeding ulcers and the excitement of soaring property prices, his life lacked the texture and colour and adventure of mine I thought.

I have itchy feet I observe to Hat one evening as I scrach, she raises an eyebrow, ‘are you surprised?’. And we laugh.

We’re going north again. To Kenya. To a ranch. Where there will be nowhere to drink cappuccino or get my hair done and it won’t matter. For we will be beneath a sprawling African sky where the dust hangs limpid gold in the evening light, where Tolkinesque Baobab hulk on horizons, where acacias reach out fingerlings of shade as if trying to hold hands with a neighbour, where laughing doves chuckle and where we will feel at home.   I grew up not far from the arid country to which we will return, where my grandmother made her own butter and kept it cold in a paraffin fridge; Ant began his working life over the road, on another voluptuously proportioned farm, a fresh-faced 22.

‘It’s like we’ve come full circle’, say the children.  We’ve bumped them about a bit in the last year and they talk of circles as they should be spoken of: reassuring connections.  As if their parents might know what they’re doing.

Let’s hope so.