Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Is it finished?

At long last: I have written the final chapter.  The first draft is complete.

All I can think of right now is all the re-writing that has to be done, all the editing, all the chopping out that will no doubt reduce my 70,000 word masterpiece to something about the size of a parish magazine. Fingers-crossed that I win the BubbleCow competition...

But it is finished!  

If I do nothing more then at least I have a record for my children of our first year in Zambia, of No1 child's adventures in the bush, of No2 child learning to crawl and walk.

I have the story of the bats, the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, the boat trips on crocodile infested rivers, the journeys over dirt roads, through the villages and beautiful countryside.  

I have written about the difficulties of establishing a home in a foreign land, our magnificent maids, the stressful birthday parties, the trials and tribulations of working in such a vastly different environment.  

I have tried to express the poverty of the people of Zambia, the conflicts that arise when faced with starving children, the problems of healthcare when you realise how much it actually costs.  

All I have to do now is get it published.  Any offers?

Sunday, 23 November 2008


I had a somewhat maudlin moment on Friday when sat at the dinner table with my beloved children.  

"Do you know what day it is tomorrow?" I ask.

"Saturday," they chorus.  Correct, of course.  Note to self: I must learn to use the word date.  

"Yes, Saturday the 22nd.  Do you know what's special about that?"

Lengthy pause for thought.  

"It's one month until my birthday!" No1 child declares with glee.  More truth.

"Yes, but what about tomorrow.  Whose birthday is it then?"

Well, we go around the houses but eventually realise that it is Grampa's.  And that we need to get a card and sign it and send it.

None of this is can be described as maudlin, I agree, but all the time I am thinking Today's the 21st.  Today it is twenty-one years since my mother died.  Can't you see today is what is really important?

But of course, it isn't.  Not to them, who have never met her; not to my friends, most of whom don't know she's even dead; not to the vast majority of the world for whom the day is the same as the one before, and the one after.  

I think of telling them, but their love of the living Grampa and the excitement of an imminent birthday mean I cannot dampen their joyful spirits.  I hold my tongue, chastise myself for being selfishly morose, kiss the little darlings and clear up the mess left from dinner as we rush on to other activities.  

Presumably that's the way Mum would want it too.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Why do we do it?

This 'bringing up children' lark is a bit of a struggle.  I'm realising now that, had I asked about it before starting, I never would have had them.  And mine: they are fantastic.  Really - not just maternal bias: others seem to genuinely like them! 

They aren't perfect though - not by a long chalk.  No1 child broke the rule about not taking valuables to school last week.  The doghouse means over a week without his DS, which may be even more unbearable for his mother than for him.  No2 child sulks and stomps whenever she doesn't get her own way (which means, of course, that she often does get her own way as her mother can't bear the moody tantrums).  

This weekend we've had family friends visiting, adding another three children to the mix.  They are also fantastic children!  Despite that, we spent much of the time moaning about their behaviour, their apparent disrespect, their speed of eating (s l o w . . .), and battling with the seemingly incessant wailing, the high-pitched screams, the general noise-level, the boys emptying their room into the girls, fights, disputes and the cries of "I'm bored!" despite dawn-to-dusk parental attention (x4).

Parenting is an on-going trauma.  Each stage appears worse than the next... until you reach that stage, when you would really prefer to be back where you were before.  And I have a good relationship with both my children (which is why it hurts so much when they do something inexplicable or wrong).  Others have much more difficulty even relating to their offspring, struggling with behaviour patterns that are incomprehensible.  For them every day is a battle to get through. "Why," my friend asked despairingly, "why do we do it?"

And our daughters walked past, arm in arm, giggling away, before picking up armfuls of autumn leaves, running up behind the boys and throwing the leaves over their heads, before collapsing with laughter.  

And that's why we do it.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Whatever happened?

Whatever happened last night?

This morning as we walked to school the ground was littered with green - yes, green - leaves.  We have enjoyed kicking up the brown and orange leaves from the horse chestnut trees (almost as much as collecting all the conkers a few weeks earlier) but today was a sudden blanket of green.

It looks as if one tree dropped all its leaves - just like that.  I think it is an ash (they look something like this), but I'm rather dredging that up from primary school field trips.  If the ash loses its leaves before the oak does that mean we're in for a wet winter?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


Tonight we went to the fireworks.  They were splendid, but what struck me was how British we all were, standing in an orderly fashion behind lengths of orange tape in front of the display. OK, so it was only 6pm, and not really the time for being drunk and disorderly, but I didn't spot a single errant child (not that I was expecting them to be drunk and disorderly...)  Perhaps we're all just too well behaved up north.

Sadly the picture isn't mine, but is an image of how really splendid this tradition of ours is. Walking home in the drizzly rain I could hear fireworks going off all over the city, I could smell the gunpowder on the air.  It was a far cry from a balmy evening lying on the grass at Baobab School, Lusaka, watching a display fire way up into the sky and feeling the glittery explosion was about to land on top of you.  

I always wondered what sort of ex-pats decided to bring this tradition to deepest, darkest Africa. No less splendid display there - merely warmer and drier.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Contesting the election

There is much to say about half-term.  We travelled lots - day trips to Peterborough and Middlesborough (not your standard tourist destinations, I have to admit) and a weekend at my Dad's (complicated by him not being there - such is life!)

I shall write more about these trips another day, but for now I will draw your attention back to Zambia, who has just elected its fourth president: Rupiah Banda.  He was VP to Mwanawasa and won by a staggering 2%.  Unsurprisingly Michael Sata, the main opposition leader, is contesting the outcome.  Where would decent African politics be without the loser claiming irregularities and vote-rigging and resorting to the law-courts to resolve it?

It could be the USA 2000 election...
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