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.
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.