A sad beginning to the day, hearing that Thailand Chani, long-time sober blogger and an eclectic outspoken free spirit, died of a suspected heart attack in her sleep almost a month ago. Tribute from her friend Susan here. Many of us who know Chani from mailing lists and her blog were waiting for her to post again after she moved home, and many more of us hoped to meet with her one day. Hamba kahle Chani, as we say out here in Africa, go well and be at peace.
Flights from South Africa to Kenya or Europe again delayed while clouds of fine volanic ash continue to drift south from an Icelandic volcano. As is the case worldwide, thousands of passengers are queueing for the first flight that may depart this week, but preference will be given to those stranded the longest and those with domestic emergencies. Our small modern world has become impassible, and the geographical distances again seem very great. In the early 19th century, passengers from Southampton or Rotterdam faced a six-month-long sea journey by sailing ship in order to reach Algoa Bay or the port of Cape Town, rounding the notorious Cape of Storms. The Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes described in 1572 a fearful brooding spirit of the Cape named Adamastor, luring sailors to their deaths. And of course, we have the ghostly wandering ship, The Flying Dutchman, glimpsed during tempests off the Cape of Good Hope and famously seen by King George V of England as a young man aboard a British naval vessel. Travel has always been perilous and difficult — sometimes we forget how perilous.
And the skies overhead are the bright blue of winter in the southern hemisphere. In between bouts of writing and revising and editing, I am immersed in my new copy of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, about which more later, once I have finished the book. Wearing woollen fingerless mittens as I sit at the keyboard because the temperatures are dropping. We may have snow before the end of the week.
Nice conundrum from James Baldwin:
‘Confrontation doesn’t always bring a solution to the problem, but until you confront the problem, there will be no solution.’
Had a baffling email from someone out in the American heartland, teling me he has decided that he will not go to a meeting until he has sobered up, for fear of making a fool of himself. Oh, I do understand that feeling! We make such fools of ourselves while we are drinking. But, but, but. He admits he can’t stay sober on his own. He lives in a lonely shack in the middle of nowhere, but has a hick town with a used car lot and daily AA meetings just over the hill. So my lonely alcoholic out in the badlands will one day stride into that meeting sober and upright and ask for the help he no longer needs. He wants to be able to say: I did it on my own. Then he will be able to stride out again and prove to himself that he can go on doing it all by himself. Right now he can’t stop drinking though, so he dare not go to that meeting. What is wrong with this story?
Out here amidst the lonely hick towns of my part of the world, I do know men and women who got sober all by themselves. Not the easiest way to do it, but they did it. But for many of us, the reason why we ask for help is simply because we can’t do it alone. We lose each and every battle within the divided self. In my own psyche I have an inner hick town with a subdued, mousey little teetotaller who has to compete with a nice big shiny bottle store and the friendly pub next door. If I didn’t have other sober alcoholics around, I wouldn’t stand a chance. Loneliness is a killer.