Conversations with myself as an old woman

Gnarled hands that are surprisingly pale, folded in her lap. Capable hands, although she never liked them despite their ability to reach an octave on the piano. She’s always stayed out of the sun, not for vanity but because she doesn’t like the sun or the heat; funny for someone who has spent the last 60 years of her life in Africa. Leathery old strips of biltong you can look like otherwise, the intense heat of mid-day etched deep into crinkles and creases. Good faces though, lived-in, they look like they belong here. Here she became the person she never …

Out of Dreams

The moment at dawn when sleep still lies over your body and pushes you back into the night’s dreams. As you wake, fragments of memory fade too quickly before you can piece together their story; just as you grasp an image, any meaning attached to it is gone. This happens a lot and you are left wondering at the night time world you inhabit, when you are at your most open to it. I don’t often remember my dreams, although I know that I do dream and sometimes I wake suddenly in the middle of the night stiff-limbed and cold. …

Coming Home

I arrived back after three weeks away, set foot on African soil in the middle of a thunderstorm; when we landed it was impossible to see anything in the darkness through rain splashed windows that didn’t allow you know where you were. The tarmac was flooded and there was no-one to wheel the steps out to the plane, so we sat feeling stale and uncomfortable for thirty minutes more before the doors were opened and sweet wet air poured in. The rain was torrential, the long rains have come early J said when he met me, and in the 100-yard …

Dinner and Tear Gas

We sat under the stars, a group of friends, with candles burning and the smell of night jasmine, which mingled with the tear gas that came across the dark and open space. Unwelcome. Shouts and cries mingled with our low voices, far enough away to intrude only slightly. But felt. And when it came to leave, we glanced nervously into the shadows, that seemed darker than before, menacing. Reassuring words, ‘I’ll follow you home, make sure it’s all ok.” The police, long gone, and also the mob, but the fence taken down and a house not far away, ransacked. This …

The Mountain, Rising

I’ve been up since 4am, wrapped in a blanket on our upstairs veranda. Staring up the sky which is inky black and swallows me whole. That and the silence…I’m lost in both, equally. Quiet, contemplative, realising I’ve sat for nearly an hour without moving. I’m afraid to now, not just because of cramped limbs twisted under me, but because my movement will cause a ripple, stirring, an infinitesimal start, the ‘butterfly effect’. It’s 4am and I couldn’t sleep. There’s a moth that flutters inside my head and won’t let me rest. When I try its filigree wings brush against some …

The Sea

Sitting on the veranda of the dhow house trying to write, lose myself in words, but their rhythm is not mine…rather the sound below of cloth being smacked again and again against chairs, chasing away the dust, always chasing the dust. Futile really as its ever present in the air, has nowhere else to go but down. Dust thrown up by winds on the mountain, and even down here beside the jewel-like sea where we spend our days. Days, long and languorous where the sticky heat slows everything down, even the time, and gives way to absurd thoughts like is …

Where the Wild Things Are

We were in Mkomazi, a sprawling 3200 sq kilometers of wild open savannah, dusky mountains and glimpses of Tsavo in the far-off distance. It’s not far from us, up here in the north of Tanzania and bordering Kenya. It’s rugged and wild and probably the most beautiful part of Africa that I have ever seen. Not many tourists come here, it’s rather too ‘off the beaten track’ and gets little mention in the guide books; it doesn’t fare so well with its more famous counterparts, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire even. Poachers come here though, as do various tribes and …

Across the Rift

We needed the break from routine, to escape from our skins even. Life had become stale and our eyes, focused on too many things, had stopped looking up; cast down, watching carefully each step, not taking flight. So we woke at dawn, left behind the cool foothills of Meru, still shrouded in cloud, and raced over the dry dusty flats, past the Monduli Hills, through Maasailand. This side of the mountain falls in its rain shadow, camels and dust devils exist out here, Maasai, but not much else. Neither of us spoke, we didn’t need to make sounds to fill …

Storms over the Serengeti

The rains came and we chased the black skies over the short grass plains from Ndutu up to the Moru Kopjes. Wildebeest and zebra in every direction, also following the scent of the sweet new grass coming up through the dusty ground. They never stop walking, these herds that make up the migration; driven by rain, or just the promise of it, they spend their entire lives on a march encountering innumerable terrors along the way. We drove through the middle of huge herds, like Moses parting the waves, but they just kept on walking. We passed a lion on …