Not quite Home yet …

view from my malindi window

I walk a wide, wide beach the colour of a perfect capuccino. The sea is cleaner now – last weekend a swathe of water like coffee stained the deepblue ; evidence of recent heavy, heavy rain so that the river to the north spat debris for weeks: the roots of borassus palms; bits of driftwood bigger than me; flipflops.  The beach is getting broader with each year, every Rains.  My generous friend C, whose eyrietop oceanview flat in which I sit to write, tells me that once the sea touched the steps at the bottom of the garden. Now it takes me ten minutes to walk out there.

My parents honeymooned here, in Malindi. The hotel they stayed at is still standing, spruced and chromed and shinypolished now in the way all refurbs must be. They only honeymooned there because dad still didn’t have a passport – he’d never had need of one, he said – so they couldn’t avail of the free tickets to anywhereintheworld that mum’s employers at East African Airways offered as a wedding gift. Instead they stayed at Eden Rock and thought that was perfectly splendid enough.

So I walk the wide beach, duned and high and wind stoked on the inland side so that the sand whips across its surface like a mist. Compact and caramel by the water’s edge so that I watch the waves, moccafrothed, ebb and flow and see the beach shiver as if in delight at the ocean’s caress and I marvel at the architecture wrought of wind and water and think, ‘we could never mimic this’; the bone bleached beach higher up whipped as icecream to toppling peacks, the damp sand by the sea darker and shot silver with mica.

It’s a long time since I was in Malindi. The ‘Mafiosi’ have been and – mostly – gone, though Roman evidence abounds. Some people hate it. I like the coffee and the colour they have left behind and the delis which sell parmigiano and palma and plump glossy olives and fat stippled salami. The totos shout ‘ciao, ciao’. ‘Come stai?’ enquire the bodaboda drivers, ‘salama’, I reply and they laugh at this Italian imposter who thinks she can speak Swahili. We eat anchovy salty spaghetti at a fairylight festooned restaurant and the next evening impossibly thin pizza heavy with rocket and smoked sailfish.

And I think, is it irresponsible to feel this recklessy happy when life is swiftly bellying to pearshaped unmanageability all over again? We expected this brand new adventure to sustain. That this one, with its huge skies and spreading savannahs and hyenas whoopwhooping at dawn and lion spore in the soft rainsoakedbloodred earth and crocodiles in a river and impossibly lovely sunsets to be the one that settled us. We loved the place so much it would have done. But some things, as I keep remembering, are out of our control. Some things are probably too storybookperfect to last, too good to be true.

Lali Hills lovely sunset
It seems we’re not quite there yet.


I am reading Sonali Deraniyagala Wave. I lie all afternoon foetal curled on my bed whilst an ocean squall taps on the window. Tears prick my eyes. Sometimes I think my heart might stop.

Later on the beach I look out to a dart straight horizon, a sea fanned by wind, white horses dance across its surface but there are no looming tsunamis here.

No. I’m not afraid that the sea will come in and swallow me up (but then, nor was she). I’m not afraid of much.

But I am terrified of losing the people I love most in the world.

23 Responses to “Not quite Home yet …”

  1. Adina Levi Says:

    “The Mafiosa?!?” Wow. Guess what. Not all Italians are mafiosi. Shocking, I know. Also, the correct spelling is with an ‘i’ at the end. Can’t say that I will keep following your blog after today.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      of course they’re not Adina! poking fun at all the people who assumed when they arrived here years ago that they must be. no offence meant, quotation marks to emphasise that. and apologies for mis spelling – now corrected.

  2. janerowena Says:

    It sounds idyllic, I’m so sorry that you don’t seem to be getting a break from all the struggles just yet. Sometimes Life is just like that, really determined to wear you out. Just as you reach a calm patch and take a deep breath, something else throws you off course and it’s often relatives.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you janerowena. oddly tho this little interlude has been sustaining. all that space and sky. time to catch our breath. i’ll always be glad i was able to be here/there for a bit.

  3. TheMadHouse Says:

    I am a little lost as to what is going on, but I do hope that peace and happiness find you

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    so am i madhouse! moved for a job that appears not to be viable. so likely we are gng to have to move again … will that be six or seven homes? how many countries? in how many months? arthur or martha? monday or wednesday? coming or going? i’m not sure why i feel so calm? perhaps because i’m certain we must be nearly there? and because i can be in this peaceful space. and thank you.

  5. Lyn Says:

    Reading your blog posts are like slowly devouring a delicious, tasty morsel – I am delighted by the flavour and texture – and am left wanting more. Thank you…

  6. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    Beautiful writing..hope it all comes together soon. I read a review of Wave, but thought it sounded so sad I couldn’t bear to read it…

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you nappyvalley. Yes it is. Crushingly sad. I do not know how a person survives such devastation. Nor do I know how she catalogues her grief so articulately when her her life reduced to incoherence.

  7. Robyn Says:

    A beautiful post. I’m back at the coast with you. I think you are so calm because this moving malarkey is old hat now… That and the salty air has got to your core…there is more to life than to worry…onwards you go. Love the story about your dad and the travel anywhereintheworld…to the where else is better.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Robyn. Yes, there is more in life to fret over. And those I love are safe and well and this old moving ship must surely find safe harbor at some point!

  8. Iota Says:

    I’m still reading your beautiful, lilting, lyrical, posts, and following you from outpost to outpost (ooh, play on word “post” there). It’s like you have us all in a great big carpet bag that you’re carrying from place to place.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      What a wonderful picture, a great big carpet bag full of lovely people to talk to! Thank you x

  9. Kate Says:

    I can’t believe you’re reading Wave! I’ve just read it and thought of you all the way through, because I thought you’d love the writing. What a story.
    Love this new post….but hope you can iron out the crinkles in your new life.
    lots of love,
    K x

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you K. and isn’t it: an extraordinary book. she must be the most extraordinary person. xx

  10. Jackie Says:

    Sorry to hear that you are still not settled. Pole, but it will end and you will be able to grow your roots again. And, as you say, those you love are safe and well, and that’s what matters. Pity you are there and not here, you could have been making a killing on selling your art at the Garden Fair tomorrow! Jxx

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you Jackie, i’d have loved that: the Garden Fair. I hope it goes well. perhaps i’ll be up and running (burning fingers/cutting feet!) before xmas. let’s hope … x

  11. janerowena Says:

    Your poor husband must be feeling the strain. I found myself wondering if he would like to work in the same industry, but in India!

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      he must be janerowena, but he is the most extraordinarily positive person. he has helped to turn this into an adventure on the grandest, most colourful scale. he can find the good bits, dig them out and get every last drop of fun out of them where others would fail to even notice them … in recent weeks he has built me campfires, taken me night driving so that i can spot game sitting on the roof of the car in my pajamas and made me laugh. i’m very lucky.

  12. Pene Macadam Says:

    Oh chicken, I started reading this last night and felt so sad….. with you…… that I had to stop. I’m so sorry things are up in the air, but I know it will be sorted because you and Ant deserve the best and have worked so hard for it. Thinking of you my chicken friend xxx

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you Pene. yes, it will be sorted. we’ll fix it. you know what ant’s like. never dwells. such a gift. move on. pragmatic. laugh as hard as you can when you can 🙂 xx

  13. Was Living Down Under Says:

    What a beautiful post. Your description of your feelings reading the book is brilliant (more than that but then my vocabulary is sorely lacking)- “Sometimes I think my heart will stop” – totally get it. I might have to pick it up.

    I’ve been checking back regularly to see where you’re at. Glad to hear you’re well and fingers crossed you’ll get “there” soon. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep checking back 🙂

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