Archive for January, 2019

What it Feels like to Try to Save the World

January 30, 2019



Latterly I have been trying to save a piece of the world.

A little corner.

A tiny slice that is important just because it’s a last haven for many things – for turtles that need the safe sanctuary of a quiet beach to nest; for fledgling tiny fragile cupcake coloured corals; for fish that flit like brilliant shards of cut glass in shallow waters; for bygone days of frayed old fashioned charm.

My reasons to try to save it are complicated and many – Ant loves this place. Our kids love it. They’ve all done a fair bit of growing up here. It’s provided safe harbour in times of storm. But mainly I have wanted to save it – from potential big development – because I want to indignantly stamp my feet and say, NO. No, you can’t have it all (If we, women, can’t, you certainly can’t). You can’t have all of it to appropriate, to build upon, to sink cement roots into ancient rock that you first sweep clean of almost as ancient forest, chasing away the birds, the bush babies, naughty, naughty vervet monkeys. You can’t have a piece of paradise to plunder.

Jeez, we’re a destructive species: how many Beach Resorts do we need, for god’s sake?

So. Armed with passion and informed by reason (which, for the record, is more important than passion when you’re trying to save the world) I articulated a (granted, amateur) proposal and I pitched a dozen, two dozen, three dozen, fifty, one hundred conservation bodies, eco warriors, celebrities.

There is a lot of money in conservation; one of the world’s most generous philanthropists gifted a billion dollars to save Africa’s wild spaces last year. But there is still – apparently – not enough.

There is new, sharper, focus on Saving our Oceans.

But not, apparently, this bit of ocean.

I crack on. A harpy on a mission. I harangue people at parties, email Conservation Directors and Wildlife Societies. I bang on until people begin to look at their shoes whenever I come close. And I think: I’ve been here before, haven’t i?

Last year, in Chile, in Pichilemu where the beaches are the colour of soot, not meringue, where the sea, then, was ice-cream headache cold, not bathwater warm, Amelia taught me about personality types. I was, she established an INFJ, the Advocate.

Does that explain my crusade?

No. No it doesn’t. I  bang on because sometimes you just have to.

Sometimes it’s just the right thing to do.






January 27, 2019

Hat messages me and, because the Mapuche and literature form the basis for her dissertation, she writes:

The Mapuche people of Chile value language so much that people who possess the ability to use language well are hugely valued in society and one critic says that “words are the world’s gestures” because the Mapuche language literally means “language of the earth”. How lovely is that?!

It is lovely.

And it’s timely.

My course is fine. Fine. But – and I ought to have known this – it is academic.  Of course it is; it’s an MA for god’s sake. I must understand the mechanics of language, and of poetry. I must comprehend the technicality of threading words – must know how to reference texts properly or I will lose marks. I cannot bead them along in haphazard, happy, hippy shapes and lengths and colours and strings.

I must grow up.

But in worrying about getting all technical I worry I may stop tasting words. I may stop rolling them around in my mouth contemplatively, like barley sugar, to test them for weight and size and fit and flavour. I worry that, in observing the rules,  my mad words will morph from fullfat to a diet variety.  And I will lose my voice.

So I am – I think – resigned to – perhaps – Losing Marks. Because writing this way is the only way I know how.  And I think language should gesture and I don’t think it can if its arms are pinned to its side.


For this activity, first choose a photograph, or a film or video still (i.e., a screen grab) to write about. Don’t use an image of yourself or anyone you know personally. Online sources for images include the Images search pages of search engines such as Google, as well as image libraries. Newspapers and magazines are also good sources.

dustbowl 4.5


Posts puncture a  veil of dust,

moth-eaten  gauze and wires

of rust

that bleed into

the barbs and stain.

The earth rises in waves

to meet the sky

heat shimmies a twist.

There is no rain

to settle the soil

The world a blur, sand a mist.

And ranks of posts

as lines of men,

marching on, they lean


into the wind.

Taut strands slacken,

aged and old,

and on and on

and on they must,

as parched earth sighs

with every gust.


Empty Pages

January 22, 2019

When you pick up a blog, after being away for so long, it’s like leafing through the pages of a diary you have failed to write. Blankness gazes back with dead stare.  And accusing.

Where did this time go?

The home I unpacked more than a year ago has settled comfortably on its haunches, dust has gathered reassuringly beneath furniture.   At night a pure blackness descends.  Here, here on this mountain where there is no nicotine light to steal the dark and bleach it hotwhite, I can hear bush babies shriek indignantly.  Ant and I lie in bed and laughingly imagine what one might be saying to another.  If I shine a torch, its beam may catch big, startled eyes. At night the elephants wander in from the forests and leave their tread for me to see in the morning, soup plate indents in soft earth, a scatter of ripped branches.  Sometimes we go looking for them.  The elephants. We hop into the pickup and drive carefully. We see nothing, only the night skinnyribbed by skeleton trees. An elephant’s footfall can be kitten soft when it wants. I can walk miles, circumnavigate the farm and see nobody. I  can smell the scent of game in the soil, the woodsmoke from fires that burn at night to keep wildlife off cultivated fields.   I can see the shoulder of Kilimanjaro behind me, sometimes its ancient rocky head is iced quite white. Turn my head west and I can see the sweep of the valley and then watch it rise to the foothills of Meru which is cutglassclear on my sunset horizons, black pencilled into a bruised sky. Sometimes I hear an aeroplane above and tip my head to see it tow a ribbon across a blue, blue sky.

This is a good place to quietly lick wounds and gather thoughts.

We have carved another space,  we have rekindled another home. It is my tenth – or is it 11th – since I began writing this blog twelve years ago.  Sometimes people remark, ‘I haven’t seen you since you lived in X’ and I am horrified; I have no recollection. But I think our memory bank has only so much space and mine was being filled too fast, too furiously as life upped and offed all over again and I was obliged to pack and follow in its weary wake.

I am trying to sit still; in a year when I have travelled to London, to Eastern Europe and to South America, I am learning to sit still.  I hope that means my words will follow.