The Great Dane has an Enemy. This is exciting for him and he runs to the far corner of the yard, under the neighbour’s tall pines that cast long black shadows over the gravel and bushes. He barks and growls at his Enemy. When I go out to inspect the scene, I can’t see the African ibis or squirrel designated as Enemy. The dog wags his tail and jumps around to show he is pleased to see me, and when I go back to the house, he and the Invisible Enemy go back to Making War.
The barking is driving me slightly crazy. I have always believed that if you respond promptly to a dog’s warning barks, the dog does not get into a habit of barking from boredom. All my dogs are good watchdogs and if they bark, I get up from my desk to go and see what is bothering them. Now I am at a loss. Is the squirrel teasing him? Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
The man in the wilderness said to me,
‘How many strawberries grow in the sea?’
I answered him as I thought good–
‘As many red herrings as grow in the wood.’
It was Palm Sunday yesterday and children ran around the village gathering fronds from raffia palms, heavy squat-set date palms, chusan fan palms, coconut palms, cabbage-heart palms, wax palms, ornamental verandah palms. No shortage of palm trees anywhere in Africa. There was a procession with a borrowed donkey, marimbas playing, babies crying, lively drums, all in a chilly wind blowing hard on dusty roads.
When I wake in the night to moonlight streaming into the bedroom I find that I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep. Anxiety over finances. My jaw aches as if I had been singing or talking for hours.
Each morning, more hours of writing. Editing, revision. Creativity needs good work habits more than almost anything else. Along with inspirational flying visits from a Muse or two. And the odd mug of strong coffee.
A friend talking to me last night about sobriety. ‘After a few years the compensatory behaviour wears off. You stop expecting to be applauded for just getting on with life. You let go of the need to feel exceptional or to be praised or validated for doing what simply needs to be done. Life assumes realistic proportions. Child rearing is about the children. Writing is about the work itself and not the writer. Service is about the served. The childish bruised ego just curls itself up into a quiet little ball and rolls out of sight under the desk while you get on with living the humdrum simple life that is yours to be lived. No fanfares, no hurrahs.’