Archive for July, 2014

An Evening Walk

July 31, 2014


In the evening I walk.  Often I do in the morning too, wrapped up against a veil of mist that shrouds as the lightest rain leaving my skin dewdamp. But the evenings are prettier.  And warmer. So that I shed layers as I go. The sun has burned a hole through the cloud which sits low on our high hills, and I can admire my views. See where I am going. Watch fields unfurl with every summit.


Pili comes with me. Racing riot with every scent. And, at the moment, whichever of my summerholiday children can stir themselves. Sometimes we talk all the way round. Sometimes we stride companionably silent, keeping our breathing in check. Nobody wanting anybody else to know they’re the least fit. It’s hard not to pant marching up hills at 6 500 ft above sea level.


The sunshine has peeled back the grey and the blueness of sky rests upon the absurd green of tea, ‘a sea of green’, I say to Hat. Sometimes, from my new home perched on a hill, I watch the pickers, dressed in bright yellow waterproofs, move through the tea, as brilliant as canaries painted upon a lime green canvas.  Panniers strapped to their backs, they move methodicaly through the rows, deftly harvesting twoleavesandabud as they go, the murmur of laughter rolls up towards me, a chorus of conversation amplified by the valley.


Our Nazi built home crouches on a hillside so that the last leg is always the most arduous, ‘I hate this bit’, says Hat as she clambers up the path through pruned trees. I do too but I don’t have the puff left to say so. I snort in agreement instead.


But the house breathes smoke, the fires are lit, hot baths beckon. And a beer, which I drink wrapped up warm on the verandah, against the chill which descends fast, as quickly as the sun vanishes behind the hills, the forest etched boldly as the light distills whiskey gold. I can pick out the detail of every tree.  I sit and watch for as long as I can bear, I pile on the layers I shed on my walk. The sky glows rosily, a parting blush.

And then my view is gone.


Needs Must

July 27, 2014


I say to Hat, ‘this is good shit’.

Hat groans, almost inaudibly.

We are on a walk , Pili disobediently strays ahead and vanishes into rows of pruned tea, all we can see of her is her yellow tail wagging furiously above the trimmed green, a submarine’s periscope, an antenna.

And we are collecting shit. We do this regularly. A basket between us, my hand gloved in plastic so that I can stoop to scoop.

Cattle manure. Conveniently dropped in pats the length of our route.

For the garden that I am trying to cultivate on a chilly, exposed hillside.

My children are used to my eccentricities. This is the lady who sat on an Outpost airstrip waiting to clear a bag of grass (the mowable variety as opposed to the smokable kind) through the airport because she hankered for a lawn.

They barely bat eyelids when I ask them to come on a shit run. Hat doesn’t object to the principle per se, she doesn’t even mind lugging a basket of dung; she objects to the stopping and starting, ‘it takes so long to go on a walk with you when you’re shit gathering’, she says.

Sometimes I wonder if the quirkiness that we – their father and I – exhibit will mean they will adopt a less conventional approach to life or whether it will drive them to conform? Or will I foist a useful ‘needs must’ discipline upon them?

I need a garden ergo I must collect shit.

And they must help.


New Chapters

July 26, 2014

If I had logged my life as religiously as I did in the Outpost, would the past 2 ½ years have been easier? Would they feel less like lost time? As if I were running across marbles, slipping, sliding, losing my footing? Had I been able to capture them tidily in properly punctuated paragraphs, would I remember it all as less a blur? Would it have been more manageable?

Oh, I kept a journal. Privately scrawled. The madness and the misery too ragged, too raw, too untidy, to hold up to the light. I can’t bear to read back those scribbled lines which run diagonally across page after page as I sought to make sense of our lives; lives which seemed to be spiraling out of control as we lurched from one crisis to another. Two years. Three countries. Seven homes. Our possessions as battered as us with every unpacking. Night after sleepless night, by day a host of butterflies lived in my chest as I anticipated the next catastrophe. I tried to articulate my relentless what’sgoingtohappennext anxiety to a doctor. I sat opposite him in a tiny surgery and tried, vainly, to describe how it feels when your life runs amok, out of control, waving sticks and screeching and kicking your legs out from beneath you. He nodded sagely but his whole demeanour, his desk, smacked of an ordered existence (my desk, by comparison with drawers graunched by so much travelling, was strewn with months old paperwork and bills and letters that should have been dealt with weeks and weeks ago). ‘Use Rescue Remedy’, he advised.

How reassuring life would be if the tiniest sip of an organic tincture could set an upset world straight on its axis.

I don’t know how, now, after the fact, to describe the fallout. I can’t look back.

So this, this latest, feels as I have stepped into a small boat on rough waters and I am still waiting for the little hull to stop its slightly unnerving rocking so that I can sit and settle.

You see, when change batters as it did us, you lose your sense of self. My identify was carved neatly of my role as wifemotherwriter (and sometimes glass artist). The order, the peace, the predictability of my life was the backdrop upon which I interpreted those roles. There was time and space for each. But circumstances picked us up and tossed us hither and thither, like a souvenir Parisian snow fall in a globe. Except the blizzard was relentless; you crawl out dazed and bruised and confused. You’re still a wife. (And you wonder if your marriage is better for the experience or worse? Can I believe that because we survived the storm, it’s a good marriage?). You’re still a mother (though you know that because you were so busy trying to clutch at the flotsam and jetsam of your life as it floated by, you haven’t always been a good mother). But the writing has gone to pot; I could not organise my thoughts, the words, when they rarely came, danced about taunting and disobedient . And as for the glass …

I am apparently emerged from the crises. But I am not unscathed. I feel potholed. The urge to patch up bits of myself so that I might be whole again is enormous.  But it is hard to know where to begin. Returning regularly to my blog seemed like a good place to start?  If I can string a sentence, I tell myself, beads scattered upon a floor carefully collected and rethreaded, will I be able to gather up the rest of myself?

So I shall aspire to find my seat in this little boat. I shall nervously try to settle myself and I shall look determinedly ahead.

the view