Sat under the avocado tree and sobbed with grief. All three dogs around to give me comfort. Very slobbery and affectionate in a noisy way, but dogs are not as good at comforting humans as cats. I wish I had a cat around at times like these.
Then the door bell rang and there was an elderly lady wanting to talk about the arthritis in her jaw, painful, nothing much to be done and she was stoic and admirable. Didn’t want to come in for tea. The new puppy got his head stuck in the security gate and screamed blue murder. The old lady (89) hobbled away with her hands over her ears. Calmed the dog down and felt like a failure.
Made out a long list of things to take on holiday. Mosquito repellents, anti-flea stuff, anti-snakebite serums. Hurricane lamps and candles. Detective novels. Bedding for the dogs. Bedding for us. Smarter crisper bedding for guests. Cast-iron pots for cooking over coals. Storage containers for dog food. A mild dog shampoo in case the dogs roll in dead whale on the beach or encounter a skunk. Cannisters of Kenyan coffee and English breakfast tea. Armfuls of sweaters and beach wraps, detective novels, biographies, a paperback copy of Finnegans Wake. Fiction by Sarah Waters, Emma Donohue, Iain Sinclair, David Mitchell. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. Jacqueline Yallop’s Magpies, Squirrels & Thieves: How Victorians Collected the World. Books to help identify sea shells and sea weeds. An almanac of tides. Several cookbooks, including C Louis Leipoldt’s antique Cape Cookery which tells you how to turn wind-dried fish into a dish called smoorvis with chillies, tomato and potatoes. Hiking boots. Blister cream for heels. Ugly but practical khaki hats. Waterproof windcheaters. Maps. Firewood. Extra pillows and an old mohair rug from Lesotho. Dried goods: pasta, brown rice, lentils, split peas, haricot beans, chillies, nuts, origanum, cardamom pods, black pepper, strips of mango and apricots. Sacks of sweet potatoes and butternut. Madhur Jaffrey’s hefty World Vegetarian Cooking. More spices, a small bag of lemons. Navel oranges.
The housemate and I have agreed to travel lightly on this trip. She has made her own list which runs to three pages and includes torches, chocolate, Horlicks, dog biscuits, Dettol and half a sheep. This is what always happens, we pack for Africa, as if we were heading to Timbuktu with a zoo in tow – and without doubt we will arrive at the cottage on the estuary and discover we have forgotten toothpaste.