Archive for November, 2020

In the Pink

November 28, 2020

My mother in law used to call them pyjama lilies, a big headed pink and white striped amyaryllis, Crinum kirkii. I found two pairs precisely like this in the mitumba last week: pjs. And I couldn’t resist the saccharine temptation; I bought them. One for Ant, one for me so that now we match as candy coloured cane.

They pop up as the rains begin so I stumbled upon them blooming on a walk last week.  The lilies. In the past I’ve dug them up and tried to transplant them in my garden but they never flourish. It’s as if they refuse to be tamed and die if you try to tuck them into the order of  conventional beds.   They only thrive in the wild.

I think of her every time I see them – my mother in law. Neville. She was extraordinary. Possessed of an incredible joy and graceful acceptance of an often difficult life. And she adored people.  All sorts of people. Everybody had a story worth hearing.

People didn’t remember Neville because she commanded the room’s attention with her talk. They remembered her because she was a great listener. 

I think there is a quiet understated, important lesson there …



November 20, 2020

The agapanthus in the garden are all blue and big headed. They nod in the breeze, as if in communion about when the rain may come. It does. Gently mostly. At night. Or fiercely in the afternoon, letting off steam. And then Jip and I go tramping on the farm, me in my wellies which gather muddy clods so that when I get home I’m at least an inch taller.

The blues leak a little. I am not unhappy. Not exactly. But there is a quiet sadness fraying my edges. Just a little. I can’t quite grasp it, but I can feel its nearness. This year, this Christmas, will be the first ever without my children. We are all scattered about the globe now, they working and grown up and far from home and further because this pandemic has hamstrung travel. Flights are erratic, quarantine rules change on a whim and they can’t afford to find themselves trapped in the wrong corner of the world: they have jobs to hold down now. We tell each other we will toast one another via Zoom on the day and that there are so many other families in the same distant predicament, and we will all spend too much money on line, trawling the virtual aisles of invisible shopping malls buying gifts to try to fill gaps. They won’t of course; presents cannot fill an absence. There is nothing in the world that beats sitting around a table cracking open beers, dissecting a year or telling stories or roaring with laughter. There is nothing in the world that beats being able to touch my children, hold a hand, bend to kiss salty heads after long swims as they nap. Even now. Even now when they’re barrelling towards 30.

So for now I will watch my views and listen to the rain and smile at the ‘aggies’ as they nod agreeably at me whenever I pass, with Jip, on a walk, in my boots. For now I will do my best to live in this moment. This one.

Friday the 13th. Lucky for Some?

November 15, 2020

We had an accident on Friday. One that was waiting to happen.

A bodaboda – the name we use to describe the motorbike taxis that roar around like bees, engines buzzing frenetically; swarms of these bikes have been let loose on our populations courtesy of the Chinese because they’re so cheap – collided with us as we turned right into the bank. Essentially our fault – we were on his side of the road, but he wouldn’t have been there yet had he not charged over the brow of the hill doing 100 klm an hour in a fifty. His bike hit my side of the car with a resounding crash. 

Mercifully, thank god, the rider was almost unharmed and his bike virtually unscathed – our car took all the impact judging by the damage. We scooped the rider up and drove him to hospital immediately to be assessed. Looking a little lost – and shaken – as we waited, a gentleman in the hospital approached us. His name was Bonny, he said, could he helped. We explained and he sympathised with our experience, ‘The bodabodas are all crazy’, he said, ‘they go too fast’. They are, on average, involved in half a dozen accidents a month in our small village alone, he tell us. In the large nearby district hospital, there are wards nicknamed the Toyo Wards, after the make of cheap bikes that most of these, usually, young men come to grief on as they roar about helmet less carrying passengers – sometimes four at a time, none wearing safety headgear, often a baby cupped between them, sometimes even a goat. 

Bonny, I noticed, who insisted on taking me on a tour of the clearly quite new hospital, walked with a slow, careful shuffle, slow for a relatively young man. He too, he explained, had had a car accident. ‘I was in hospital for six months’, he told me. He was allowed back to work, as a physio, on the proviso he was accompanied by his wife, Restituta, whom I met and who tailed him like a shadow, ‘I look after him’, she told me simply.
Bonny also introduces me to the resident social worker. A noble profession, I observe. He thanks me and wants to know what brings me here today. I explain, ‘we had a collision with a bodaboda, we bought the rider in to be checked over’. Ah, he says, you have done me a favour, you have done my job, ‘usually’, he continues, ‘drivers who are involved in accidents with bodabodas hit and run, ‘it’s up to me to try to find them and bring them to justice’.  I want to know how he does that, ‘I ask a lot of questions in the village’, he says to try to identify the drivers, ‘it would be easy with you, though’, he says, ‘if you had run away: you are white!” And he roars with laughter.

Later husband observes sagely – ‘Friday the 13th, should have stayed at home’. We were unlucky. The bodaboda was unlucky. But we were also lucky – it could have been so much worse. And I met Bonny and Restituta. And that was a small gift in a tricky day.

There is a gentle water buck that has begun to show in the garden. She slips in quietly from the bush that scrambles at the edge of my lawn and daintily grazes. We wonder why – she must have lost her herd, observes husband, ‘she is lonely’, so she is seeking company with us – a motley crew of humans and domestic animals. My black lab, Jip, observes her from the sitting room – where I hold her with restraining hand upon her collar – with a mixture of fear and suspicion and longing: the bushbuck is much bigger than her, should she be afraid, perhaps, of this trespassing stranger (‘and what’s she doing in my garden anyway?’ Jip’s puzzled expressions seems to say). But how she’d long to play with her though. The cat, with typical feline superiority, imagines he has the wherewithal to stalk the antelope.

So he does. And he looks ridiculous.