Category Archives: How old am I?

Lists, old and new

I have been quiet, shedding layers of time and memory and feeling rather retrospective. Memory is on my mind. Perhaps it is because we are touching the cusp of a big 20 year anniversary: 20 years ago this week Handsome and I started our journey together in Egypt. It started in Dahab, took a long bus journey to Cairo followed by an 18 hour train trip to Aswan and then onto a Feluca ( sail boat ride on the Nile.) Many planes, trains, automobiles, donkeys, snow sleds, jeeps and rickshaws later and here we are in a funny circle: back to the Arabian Sands. I was 22 and had no idea where my life would take me but we shared a love of adventure and we both embraced the new. If we were to write a bucket list back then it would have included a lot of travel, children, exciting jobs ( his an intrepid journalist and mine a writer and a drama therapist) a sejour in Italy, a parachute or two and some rather romantic notions. Well things often work out differently once life throws you a hoop or two and 20 years later we have done many things not even dreamed up on a bucket list and made a few new lists too.

I once had the good fortune to teach a highly talented girl, hungry for life and on the brink of many a success. She writes a lovely blog and recently wrote her bucket list. These are the dreams of a 19 year old girl, a young lady of fortune, talent and opportunity. Reading this list I was transported back in time to my own eyes-wide-open -with-wonder moments and I remember when I was 19 I longed for a magic crystal ball to tell me what my future would be and if it would all be okay. In the end it all turns out…as it does, whether we tick off our list or make new ones.

Here then is her list. I am awed by her choices, her dreams and the charm of her wishes.  Can you remember yours? Is it very different now?


  1. Go to Venice- not only for Carnivale ( which is a must!) but to learn, to be inspired and to write.
  2. See the Northern Lights
  3. Go to Australia
  4. Decorate my very own apartment
  5. Celebrate each Carnival around the world
  6. Ride the Orient Express train through Europe
  7. Publish a best selling novel 😉
  8. Live in an apartment with my sister
  9. Get my British Citizenship
  10. Become fluent in a second language and then become fluent in a third language
  11. Learn how to play an instrument
  12. Meet my favourite author
  13. Create one work of art of which I am proud
  14. Do a night dive and a wreck dive
  15. Travel in Space
  16. Make a profit at a casino
  17. Sleep under the stars ( ignore the mosquitoes, the discomfort and all the monsters obviously hiding in the shadows.)
  18. Go on a road trip
  19. See my favourite musician perform live
  20. Found a charitable organization
  21. Travel to Antarctica and see the penguins
  22. Sponsor an endangered animal and travel to wherever it is in the world to meet it
  23. Sing Karaoke in front of a crowd and not be ashamed
  24. Make a positive difference; in one person’s life, in many people’s lives, in a town or a country or the world
  25. Be remembered for something great

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A soup made of old and new: African and Arabian skies.

Trooper is drowning already. Homework is piling around her, her bed is covered with papers, her desk has no surface, her face has that “what the hell” look about it.

Princess cooks, between bouts of less homework, she has perfected the art of perfect banana bread.

Both are surviving the change. There are well weathered in this “move around and start all over again” malarky, even though they hate it.  They have fit their shoulders around the feel of their new uniform and are learning the ropes of new hallways, the strange jungle of making new friends and the touch of a different morning routine.

Sometimes I wonder how our heads don’t spin out of control with all this change.  We are nomads who have to jump in and adjust, no matter that the smell of the old mingles with the new. Some days I am living a parallel life, I am in my old house listening to African birds and lying under a burnished African sky and I am simultaneously looking out of my window at a desert and an Arabian sunset.

When I enter the cafeteria here at school and hear the musical Arabic voices I am simultaneously back in the Kampala lunch room, with the Ugandan breeze touching the heads of those I know so well.  As I sit in my classroom and tell the students to please stop talking in class and if they must then please only speak English, I am immediatly back in my old classroom telling the girls to stop their chitter chatter, feeling the heat of the windows press on my back and brushing the red dirt off my black skirt.  When I drive past a cleaner-than-thou mosque, resplendant in marble, I am walking through Bukoto market worrying over the Boda driver who nearly knocked me into a ditch.

I am the old me and the new me. the past and the present mingled with memory and tears, hope and fear all at once.

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Confession time. I am not one of those.


I don’t like it. My favorite form of exercise is lying on a hammock, reading a book.  Leaving the hammock with an enthusiastic stretch and going to mix a Mohito is a great activity. I love walking,especially in a city where you can walk and look and barely notice that you are moving; but parks are good too. I just hate exercise simply for the sake of exercise. Gyms and classes where sweaty bodies jiggle in unison are the worst. I have tried Yoga    ( um, about 15 years ago) and really enjoyed that but it tends to involve time and the usurping of the one family car, ergo, Beauty.

But here it is: confession time. I ran 100 metres of the teacher race at the athletics day and my hip hurt for a scary number of days afterwards. 100 metres! That is not a lot. Trooper came up to afterwards, all sympathy and condescending smile and said:

“Oh don’t worry, not that many people laughed.”

I am out of shape and it is not good. I just want to go out for a walk and not meet a lot of cows and some dare devil Boda drivers. I am surrounded by people who exercise like manic people. There are hacks and bike rides and 10K runs and triathlons; there are yoga retreats and after school squash games and staff soccer games. There is even a super intense Masters Swim Program. Who are these people and why can’t I be like them? They are a different breed and I look at them with some curiosity, akin to Gorilla Trekking perhaps. They never jiggle when they walk, in fact they are all toned in all the right places. I have seen the calf muscles, there is a healthy bulge.

So what to do. There is no point sitting around wishing I was back in Montreal with my dog and those glorious long walks on the mountain. Yet I am doing a lot of that.

Next week I am being kidnapped and taken to a secret and very “zen” location to try a Yoga class. Let’s see what happens. Maybe this little fish will bite.


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It’s my birthday!

A year ago I was all in a flutter about the big birthday. Now a year later this birthday is barely a blip on the radar. I am known amongst my good friends as the Fairy God Mother of Birthdays, since I tend to make a big fuss of birthdays. I firmly believe that a birthday is a day to celebrate oneself and that a suitable quantity of revelry should ensue. In my opinion no one should work on their birthday but that doesn’t always quite work out. Since my birthday is so close to Easter, I never once attended school on my birthday while growing up and now that I am a teacher I am always working on my birthday. Some irony in that situation!

But there are advantages to teaching on a birthday .Look at this cake! I feel most loved.

I have 20 12 year old boys and girls throwing me a party, complete with cake, music and popcorn. How many people go to work and get that?

I have so much chocolate on my desk I could open a candy store and tomorrow is the last day of term.

Let’s just not count the candles, shall we?


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A little indulgent nostalgia.

I am sitting here listening to James Taylor. Carolina is on his mind.  I have a genius playlist made of memories. Nostalgic is my state of mind. 


I have packed and moved so many times in my life. Often the only time I go through old letters and photos is when I am shuffling them from one old box to a fresher one. Why do we hold onto all this memorabilia? I cannot let most of it go, I am attached to it like dust to history.


Today one old diary bit the dust. Most of the time it is too embarrassing to read through old ramblings and diary entries. Maybe the entire lot should be chucked. Imagine someone going through all that once I am gone and realizing that I was just a sentimental, desperately-seeking-love-20-something? My old diaries are not the best representation of who I am today.  Earlier I found a whole tome dedicated to one failed relationship. It felt good hitting the bin. Others, especially ones that I wrote while pregnant I have held onto. Every time I move the purge is more intense. It is not that I look back on these artifacts often, in fact it has been a while this time. But I like just knowing they are there. 


I leafed through some old letters I wrote 17 years ago. I was writing to my husband, except at the time he was only my boyfriend of a few weeks. After meeting in Egypt I went to India and from there I wrote him pages everyday. In those letters are everything I saw, felt, read and thought. It was an unequaled writing opportunity. Despite the fact that they initially scared him off ( I came on pretty strong if you read all 9 letters in one sitting as he did) they are now incredible evidence of our young love.


Caught in the minutiae of everyday life it is easy as pie to forget what brought two people together in the first place. 


Once my genius playlist ends I might take myself back for another walk down memory alley. Sitting cross-legged on the floor I am transported back in time. I can see that girl in school, the eager traveller setting off for the airport, the boyish man I found there, the worries and nausea of pregnancy, the horrors of early marriage. I am finding that young girl in the papers and letters, diaries and photos strewn on the floor and I am forced to look at her.   


Sometimes taking stock of the past is a good idea.   I am on a bridge. Behind me is my past, ahead is Africa. Beneath me, the crumbs I let go.




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The final word.

Ok, I swear this is the last mention of the birthday. I had a great time, a lot was drank, people laughed, and I had the greatest compliment of all.

This is how it went down in English class.

“Happy Birthday, Miss!”

“Thank you,”I said, smiling that they had remembered.

“How old are you”

“Ah. You don’t ask a lady that!”

And then they started, as I sat there, laughing inwardly.

“Let’s try and guess, I think maybe 34.”

“I think somewhere around there. Maybe 32”

“Well I think she is not more than 36. for sure.”

And then it happened.

“Don’t worry Miss! You’re not old until you’re 40!”


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The Birthday Post

“How much is this birthday going to cost me?” The accountant husband I live with asked, with unveiled exasperation. I had already had one fabulous surprise party, albeit 2 weeks before the birthday, and thereby really starting a 10 day festival rather than simply the wonderful celebration that it was. I had the pedicure, the waxing of all straggly bits, the chocolate brown nails, and now I was planning a second party, for the actual night, of course, and I had just announced that I was “off to the mall to get a dress!”

Well I certainly couldn’t turn 40 in anything I owned.



Okay. I must admit I have made a big deal out of this turning 40 thing. You know those people that say “oh its no big deal” but it really is? Not me. How about those people who really don’t care? No. Not me again. Then there are the extremists who start having a crisis that leads from a too short mini skirt to a face life in a few swift months. That is not me. I have seen this as a process, mainly of acceptance of the fact that 40 is a milestone, like it or not, and that it is time to take stock. Within this process I have had  moments of regret that time has passed so fast and that it will continue to race by. I have looked at myself, my choices and my life as it is and given it some long thought. I have felt vain and wondered if I was beyond the threshold of sexy and passed the point of being found hot. I have realized that once I look all around me, I am actually pretty happy with my lot. And what is not good, I have the power to change. 

My job, this blog, my photography and moosefur have all fulfilled a part in me that was frankly a little lost. Why can’t we have this wisdom, this acceptance of who were are, this shift of maturity when we are young and beautiful? That is the eternal question. But then I realize that there are two kinds of beautiful. The young, hopeful, on the brink of everything kind of beautiful and the knowing, wry, been-there-done-that kind of beauty. I know which is more sexy.


So in taking an inventory of myself at 40 I have come to the very wise conclusion that I am not the best, but I am just fine.


And so I am not brushing off this day and pretending it is no big deal. It is. Okay maybe some people might think that 2 parties and a new camera lens and a day at the beach and umpteen blog posts about all this is over the top. And you may have a point. But I have never been one to miss the opportunity for a little introspection and a party or two, or three. 


See, tonight I found out that a third party is in the works for a Saturday in Montreal in July. I will get to celebrate all over again with my sisterhood of friends and their wonderful husbands.  And I will get a chance, all over again, to feel really lucky. And pretty in my new dress.





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In search of the DODO brain.


Where is my brain? Will somebody please tell me. I recently got home from a party, where at the moment of my departure an acquaintance asked for a lift home. 

“Of course,” I said. “We are leaving right now.”

We then promptly got into the car, drove off and completely forgot about her.


The other day I asked my rather helpful daughter to please fetch me the lime juice from the fridge. In her usual and not at all grumpy voice, she said “where in the fridge?”

“In the window”. I replied.  


Then I asked my other fair daughter, the one sitting on the sofa eating crisps if she wouldn’t prefer “eating your chips with the chips?”


I am keen to blame it on the sheer quantity of information that comes into my brain everyday, some wanted, some not so much, from the media, tv, blogs. students, kids….

However when I compare my self with a big brain over there in Harvard fusing atoms, I don’t think my consumption of information is really that taxing. 


So I wonder if it is early onset of some awful degenerative brain disease but I normally dismiss that thought because I am not neurotic, nor morbid and I am, on the most part, a positive person.


Finally I come to the conclusion that I am either not paying attention or I am getting a tad bit short of brain cells, especially since my supply has been around for close to 40 years.  Now. I can either buy a Nintendo in a pretty shade of black ( I could never borrow my daughter’s) and do those brain teaser games, or I can start figuring out why I am such a dodo head these days, perk up and start to pay attention! I fear it is the former and I will need click purchase on Amazon shortly.




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She didn’t want a party she didn’t want a big fuss she just wanted to be younger. Aging was a very difficult thing for her. Not just the vanity aspect, although of course that was part of it. Really it was the idea of running out of time. There was so much to do in this life. So much to experience and live. She suffered from an inner frustration and restlessness that never quietened, even as she got older.

One day she decided to run away. She wanted to go to Casablanca and New York and Paris and she wanted to meet and touch and smell different men. She wanted to look and see and taste the freedom of other lands. She wanted to run away knowing that she could come back, knowing it was a temporary split from her reality. 

So she began to think of places and times and realized that she could only do this when she was 50. Leaving her children before that was impossible. The love held her back. So 50. And at 50 she would still be working to pay for those children and their life and perhaps she would be held back by the love of her husband. She suddenly hoped she would be and she began to realize that she didn’t really want to go. And that staying right here at home was the best place she could be.

And so her birthday came and the laughter of loved ones travelled down continents and across oceans. She lay in the crook of an arm when it was all over, nose pressed into a soft neck. She melted into the future, she would not go gently and she would not go alone.





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Doubles or Nothing

Not to get too personal or anything but I have had a stomach ache since I was 11. The first doctor laughed, the second and third doctors thought it was stress or my imagination, a few other doctors told me to keep a food diary, doctors 6 and 7 tested me for Celiac’s disease and one told me to drink fennel and peppermint tea. Finally as I near that rather large threshold that rhymes with “haughty”, I decided to do something about it. The most recent doctor, seen in London, in a large and airy office in Harley Street with fresh plants and art work on the walls, told me to give up wheat for 6 weeks. Now I have always suspected that wheat might be the culprit, but who wants to voluntarily give up pizza, pasta, roti, doubles, cake, cookies, scones, cereal, toast, crackers, Kit-kats, Twixes, and cookie-dough ice-cream? I am now on day 22 of my no-wheat diet and guess what? No stomach ache, No bloating, and most remarkably, No craving for the very things I can’t have.  The hardest thing about all this is all the Trini food that I love to eat.

First, Bake and Shark. (Although I always have Bake and Cheese and Never Shark.) Bake is a fried bread that is stuffed with shark or shrimp or cheese and a multitude of toppings including pineapple, tamarind sauce, shado beni ( coriander), salad, garlic sauce and thousand island dressing, making it the best sandwich in the world. Call Gayle on Oprah! It’s true.

Second, Roti. This is a soft bread lined with channa (  crushed chick peas) and filled with goat, chicken (boned or un-boned)or vegetables. I always take the vegetables and it is warm and delicious and filling and so so good.

Third, Doubles. Doubles are simply a double portion of soft fried bread filled with a channa (chick pea) sauce and served with pepper, cucumbers and shado beni. They are to eaten standing up in front of the Doubles stand where the Doubles man only makes Doubles in the morning. By 11 am, there is a dearth of Doubles around as everybody has eaten Doubles for breakfast. I had just moved from a regular to a slight (a bit hot) to a pepper Doubles and now I have given them up.

I am just going to the mirror to look at my flatter, happy stomach. I am trying not to think about the Doubles.



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