Everything and Nothing

rose natal grass

When we walk on the dam, we must drive first.  We load the dogs into the back of the car, in a lather of frenzied excitement so that they rush hither and thither to make sure you’re really coming, that you are really gathering up hats and shoes.  I almost never wear shoes. The dogs know something’s in the offing when I lace sneakers up. This morning the sky is hugeblue. Huge. And clean; rinsed of cloud.

We whip out on the new ribbonsmooth tar road, the rose Natal grass softly fringes its hard edge and blushes in clouds of pink.

It is a beautiful, beautiful day.


This time a week ago I was a long way from dams and dogs and acacia trees fat and green at the thin edge of a slender wedge rainy season – half what we had last year and not nearly enough. I was in the Capital. Stocking up. Groceries. Butter. Prescription meds. I had my hair cut, my toenails painted so that my feet would look prettier than they normally do in their birthdaysuitbareness (given usual absence of shoes. See above). Ant told me to try not to gawp in supermarkets, he laughed as I stopped dead at the entrance of shiny new Food Lovers Market, my empty trolley coming to an abrupt halt; the shelves dripped Aladdin jewels of multi-hued fruit and veg that we never see in the outpost, ‘close your mouth’, he said, ‘you’re giving yourself away’.

The country mouse comes to town, I thought.


At night, when I cannot sleep, I dig my earphones deep and listen loudly in the secret silence to the murmur of far away voices. Podcasts a boon, carrying a distant world into mine. My latest favourite: the BBC’s Book and Authors, I love Harriet Gilbert and her guests’ dissection of a Good Book. I discover many new joys here, in the dead hours: Imtiaz Dharker‘s poems and Jenny Offill’s, Dept. of Speculation, a sparse novel about marriage and motherhood, with language deliciously taut so that you know she has carefully weighted every single word and wasted not one.

‘The baby’s eyes were dark, almost black, and when I nursed her in the middle of the night, she’d stare at me with a stunned, shipwrecked look as if my body were the island she’d washed up on.’


Talking words and books and language, I shouldered my way onto my Creative Writing course. I bullied, begged, cajoled, leaning hard against a door until I got my foot in and then wriggled my way through. I start in October. Course books already gather on my desk and the exercises they prescribe read as keys to unlock the block that descends too often now, in the void in which I tend to rattle.


Best of all, my Hat is home. Briefly. For Easter. Long, lean, all grown up, half a head taller than I but small enough still that I can envelope her in an embrace and inhale the sustaining scent of motherhood.


I began this blog ten years ago. What a journey. Thank you all for keeping me company x

8 Responses to “Everything and Nothing”

  1. Rosie Says:

    Congratulations on getting into the creative writing course!! You’ll rock it I’m sure. How long does it go for & will you have to go to London for in-house workshops or the like? Great news, well done you!

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Hi Rosie, thank you … it’s a two years Masters. All virtual. Isn’t that the beauty of the ether. Once – once in my lifetime – this wouldn’t have been possible for outpost outcasts x

  2. Sabine Says:

    Congratulations on ten years and congratulations on getting on to the course. And on toe nails looked after. Excellent news all round.

  3. Ursula in Cádiz Says:

    Happy blogversary and congratulations on getting on/in to the course. I was scared that the skill of your marvellous prose would weigh against you; that they would say, “You don’t need the course: you know (REALLY know) how to write already!”.

    I am sad when you disappear, but now realise I can return further back than I have so far delved in your archives.

  4. Ad dy Says:

    Happy Anniversary on your blog. I so enjoy reading your descriptions of Tanzania and about your family. Living as I do in London, I can’t imagine being so far away from shops. I don’t think I would cope very well, even with such stunning countryside and dogs for company.

  5. iotamanhattan Says:

    You’re welcome, Rel Mem! All good wishes for the writing course. Brave you!

  6. Jackie Says:

    Yaaaay, so pleased you got on the course. And so you should have! I’m only just catching up on the doings of my friend the RM so that’s made my day !!!

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