Another streaky vermilion sunrise, icy cold, with all that deep colour staining the skies and landscape. A blood-red scarlet glory of a sunrise. Horned owls flying home across the fields, blue cranes flying south towards the dam.
It is freezing cold, there must be snow falling on the mountains.The mountain peaks are hidden behind cloud and mist, but I can smell snow in the air. As I type these words I am wearing fingerless woollen mittens with pink and dark blue horizontal stripes and trying to finish off a long report all about human rights, economics and how we fit in a little ecology as an afterthought, always a bad thing. This report must be emailed off to a desk in Montreal and once it has been written and checked and checked again and sent off, I shall eat a poached egg on a slice of wholewheat bread as my reward. The soaring music of Bach fills the living room.
The sweet dog is waiting for his morning walk. A friend is waiting for me to call back. A mysterious new fiction is waiting to be written. Bach’s Cello Suites go on soaring. More references. more footnotes, rewriting for concision. The mist drifting like gossamer down the mountain slopes.
And in between fetching more tea, Darjeeling in the small white teapot, and checking my spelling. I scribble away on this blog, so companionable, so receptive and forgiving. What is the point of blogging, after all? Cathartic, a way of snaring the moment as it slips away, recording a mood, a passing whim, a passing fear or grudge — there it is, written down, expressed, out in the open.
When I was small, we were encouraged to write to pen pals overseas in the Commonwealth, other schoolchildren who wanted to hear details about living in Africa. Every Friday afternoon I would sit down with my blue airmail writing paper marked Par Avion and I would write about giraffes and lions and rivers full of crocodiles. Then the letter would be sent off to the city and from there it would be sent by plane to London. And weeks or months later, I would get a reply from somebody writing about football and Barbie dolls and the price of sweets called Liquorice Allsorts and sherbet fountains. My pen pal would ask if I lived in a jungle and if I was allowed to run around without clothes. I would write back and explain that we wore straw hats and long-sleeved tops because of the fierce sun. And then I would draw a picture of a hippopotamus.and ask my pen pal to draw a sherbet fountain. Wild animals did not interest me very much because they were always there, out on the veld, in the rivers, going about their own business. If I tried to write about my real life, how dogs needed to have ticks gently removed after a walk in the veld, the heat at nights and my mother’s nervousness about bats hanging upside down in the garage, the Shona men and women singing as they walked downtown to protest white racism, the delirious bouts of malaria I suffered each summer, my pen pal would ask about the giraffes and lions. She only cared for what she called the ‘real Africa’, by which she meant the African fantasy shown in cinemas and in magazines about wildlife. I was not real to her and she once asked if I could get a bone to wear in my nose like little black Sambo. She didn’t know any better and I had no idea of her life, could only see her with pigtails and pink cheeks amidst red double-decker buses and English colonels in tweed jackets, eating her Liquorice Allsorts. Our correspondence faltered and then stopped. My life did not seem that exotic to me, but her life had an ordinariness I envied.
And my reports even today remind me of those letters sent to someone on the other side of the world who wants only the ‘real Africa’, the dramas and tragedies, the cost of mass starvation and the cost of rescue missions,a lurid and exaggerated fantasy of Africa, not the patient complex lives of ordinary people privileged to live in one of the last areas of wilderness in the world, a vanishing kingdom of giraffes, elephants, lions and embattled rhinos.
And now I must end this three-minute blog and finish my report, no more three minute breaks, no more time spent at play, not even two minutes to take away a pillow from the dog, not even a minute to spare. Here’s Tim Minchin’s Three-Minute Song: