Tag Archives: personal

umm. Hello.

Oh shall we just not talk about it? How I ran away and needed some space and hid behind good books and watched such good TV drama and become intrigued with Breaking Bad and The Wire and continued my obsession with Mad Men? And about how, after watching said shows, like a real TV nerd I read intellectual reviews the next morning and compared notes with strangers. And about how I felt the loss of creativity but walked and walked and listened to This American Life and BBC podcasts instead? Yes, I dropped out but I was still here all the time, ticking away, trying to stay informed and connected and well read and smart and capable despite being all the way over here in the Desert Sandy Isle. And it’s true I hid from people too, and hardly had anyone over and lost some confidence but also lost some weight and danced instead of writing. I was teaching some, but getting a bit cross with it all. I had to think about resisting or relinquishing. And I was being a good Mom all round, driving and dropping and buying and signing notes and handing over piles of money and clapping and supporting and editing essays and projects and helping with the arduous task of writing revision notes. And maybe I didn’t bake a birthday cake but I drove some distance, twice, to buy one from the very best bakery in all of Bahrain. So yes, there was a birthday, or two, since I have been gone. And a trip to London to visit the Great Shiny West.

But it is time to come out of the lovely safe warm hole, where the sunlight hits the page just so and the herbal tea is warm and one or both of the girls joins me in a soft cuddle no matter how old and big they are becoming.  It is time to tell the truth. I am going to be blogging somewhere else for a time, as someone anonymous. There is so much that I want to say but can’t, things about work, amazing stories about the kids I teach, funny anecdotes about living here, thoughts on Bahrain. And being public has been holding me back. So I am retreating into a safe and quiet place to write with complete freedom.

 

I might check back and visit 3limes now and again. 3limes will always be a part of me and I cannot let it go, not when it has been by my side for so long and through so much.

I still don’t know what my voice is or what it will be and if I can be as sharp and astute as I want, or as honest as I dare. But I will try. And in the meantime, where ever you are, with snow in your mitten, sunshine in your mug or sand in your tea cup, I wish you well and I thank you for being here for the journey.

So. Hello. And bye, for now.

( subscribers, send me an email and I will let you know where I am.)

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Filed under Being brave, Family Stuff, pen and paper, personal

Losing Things

That little theft we had this week got me thinking. Back to all the things that were pinched in Uganda and further back to an earlier and more devastating theft. And that led to thoughts about things, having them, losing them.

Things. I get very attached to things and when I lose them I get terribly sad. I have had two major losses of material objects in my life and neither time was my fault. Things never get lost easily with me, unlike my handsome and absent minded husband who could fill a book with the objects, ties, cameras, pens, sunglasses, umbrellas, clothes he has let slip through his fingers through the years, I am terribly careful, perhaps obsessively so. I check taxis before I exit to ensure nothing has fallen out of my bag, and likewise I check hotel room drawers, cupboards, airplane front pockets. I did once lose a roll of film in a dark but comfortable second floor hotel room in Mumbai that overlooked a courtyard filled with drinking travelers. It must have rolled out of an overstuffed backpack. Over 18 years later I still feel cross about it.

But the two great losses were completely out of my control and the greatest things were taken from me; sentimental, valuable and in the case of the London loss of great significance to my intellectual sense of well being.

It was summer and I was back in London at the parental home for a few weeks before heading back to Montreal. My mother was in a cleansing mood and was going through the storage area beneath the outside basement stairs. There were two arched caves there and my father was probably pleased that more space would be made for his growing wine collection. Inside one of those caves were two large trunks filled with the school paperwork, letters and paraphernalia of my sister’s and my school life. Upon being asked if she wanted to go through any of it my unsentimental and highly pragmatic sister said “ No . Chuck it.” When I arrived in London her stuff was already behind the house waiting for the rubbish collection the next morning. My box was waiting in the centre of a bedroom for the excavation that would begin the next day. I still remember that morning, at breakfast, listening to the large rubbish truck picking up her stuff, thinking how cleansing and unsentimental it was to just let it all go, all that clutter that we hold onto for so many years; school books, notes and letters from friends and old boyfriends that years before we clung to, promising to never let go.

When I went down and opened my box there was the usual collection of soppy letters and teenage angst written diaries, some embarrassing letters from an ex whose face I could barely remember. There were some charming and amusing school books from my primary years and one or two school projects from when I was an eager 12 year old, obsessed with the French Revolution. I looked around for the box containing my university and high school books and couldn’t see them. Thinking they might still be in the musty cave I went to check but having no luck I asked my mother if, perhaps she had put them elsewhere. No, she had no idea.

After some head scratching and searching that over the next half and hour became increasingly frantic, it was determined that the missing box, the most important box of all, the one containing my University Thesis and all my English A level work had been disposed of with all my sister’s stuff that very morning. At this moment it was probably being tipped with a simple lack of grace into a rubbish dump somewhere in East London.

I lost it. Tears, recriminations, more tears. Urgent phone calls were made to the rubbish company, tearful apologies were made but it was done. Remember that this was in the pre dawn days before computers, hard drives, USB sticks and the internet. The thesis that I had worked so hard on, for so many months, was gone forever, now a soggy stained mess rapidly turning to mulch.

I still mourn the absence of that box and often think how much I’d like my daughters to read that thesis one day.

The next great loss happened on September 13th 2004. It was 12.15 pm and I had just popped home to get my debit card before doing to do some grocery shopping. Uncharacteristically and in the mood of walking light, I left my handbag and wallet on the dining room table and simply tucked my ATM card into the back pocket of my jeans. I then left the house and walked to the nearby store. It was one of those wonderful late summer days in Montreal, where the light dappled though the trees and shadows played happily on the sidewalks. I walked to a coffee shop with my groceries, stopping to chat with a friend and making the most of my freedom while the eldest daughter was at school and my little one picked up at school and taken to a play date. It was rare that I was alone at this time since my curly headed youngest ended pre school at midday.

When I got home at about 1pm I couldn’t open the front door. The chain was hooked on the inside. My skin pricked and my stomach belly flopped. There was someone inside. I rushed to the back gate, entered though the garden and saw with a gasp that the glass door to the kitchen was smashed. The rock that has been used to break it had been tossed into the garden and was resting in the grass. I quickly went next door to the neighbour’s and called the police, thinking how lucky I was that I had no children with me. Within five minutes there there were, guns poised at the ready, on the alert in case the intruder was still inside. I wasn’t allowed in until it was declared all clear and then they walked me through the house.

It was a slick job, neat. Apart from one muddy foot print on the carpet of my sweet princess’ room, a foot print that made my eyes smart with tears, there was no trace of the robbery. He had known exactly where to go, the underwear drawer was tipped, the jewelry was all gone; the computer and camera had been un plugged and lifted from their spots on the desk in the office. There were a few glass shards in the kitchen, a small indentation on the wooden floor where the rock had hit and that was it. It must have been a two man job. One to call, by mobile phone, when I was seen leaving, another to enter the house and quickly remove all that I held sentimental.

We replaced the window before the children even came home and until a friend carelessly let out a remark about the robbery some months later they never knew. I insisted on it, not wanting them to feel scared or unsafe in their home. I remember my husband coming home from work, quickly and I remember sitting on the carpet in the front hallway and sobbing, really sobbing with anger and grief over all that was lost.

I still think, often, of items that were in that jewelry box, and I think with anger how someone came into my house and took things that were mine; valuable and sentimental things. A charm bracelet that once belonged to my grandmother heavy with charms given to her over many years by my grandfather, each charm from a different place on their travels. A watch, very valuable that I had received for my 21st birthday, the necklace that my real father had worn, was wearing when he died. The presents from Tiffany that my daughters were given on the occasion of their births, the first ring from my husband that he bought for me in Boston when we were so so young. And more, much more. A diamond pendant I got for my 30th birthday, a tiny ring I got when I was 12 that I was saving for my own daughter’s 12th birthday. The list goes on. It was devastating. The camera I was using professionally so that I had to rent another one for a wedding I was doing the next weekend. The computer filled with work. I felt invaded.

Yes, I know they were merely objects and no one was hurt. For a time I became extremely disinterested in jewelry or anything sentimental that I feared losing.  I had been burnt by investing too much emotion in pieces of metal.

But we do, don’t we? Isn’t it normal to invest time, thought and love into something precious? I wish I didn’t and I am fully back on the jewelry wagon, but objects are important to me, maybe because I move so much I have held onto to these trinkets as concrete pieces of memory.

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Getting close to normal

Over the course of two days we received 94 boxes and unpacked them all. Finally we have duvets and pillows, favourite books, wine glasses and a tv. And lots more. I was shocked to see how much stuff we have and some serious culling was done before objects were shelved and placed. There is still one room which is a horror story of papers and office type things but we need shelves before much can be done with that disaster zone. This is the first time in two years that we have all our possessions in one place. I tell you, this lady, me, myself and I is in no hurry to move again. 

And According to Trooper we now have a Home with a capital H.

I am still without a laptop so uploading images is impossible. Thanks and praise to the iPad for allowing this little post to be. Although, honestly who can write properly on this thing?

What appears as a looming and insurmountable list of things and boxes that need to be ticked is no slowly shrinking , and things are nearly normal.  Moving across the world as often as we have makes us rather good at it and we attack our task with vigour. The car is purchased, the house unpacked, pictures hung, but it takes a little longer for the mind to catch up. The real key to feeling at home is routine and friends. 

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10 things I love

Just because, why not? It is healthy to focus on the positive and the lovely, especially during times of change, upheaval and boxes.

And before we begin I should quickly say that the list below, comes of course after the following:

Handsome, Trooper, Princess, Marks and Spencer’s, Sushi, my iphone and London taxis.

1. Getting lost in a sensual, evocative film and wishing it could never end. I love the movies so much it is quite an obsession, so much so that I have always told new parents that in my mind it is the only notable sacrifice to having children. Babies will impinge on that bi-weekly movie habit. When I was a teenager I remember taping Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie onto a VHS tape and storing it safely in a box so I could always have it near. Thereafter I started my Truffaut habit and it just moved on from there. In another life I would be studying film.

2.My Mulberry.

It is extremely beautiful and makes me wondrously happy everyday. I shouldn’t have, because it was simply too extravagant for words, but I am so glad I did. My handbag fetish is now appeased and quietened for sometime, this is because I was hunting and finally found perfection.

3 .The sea.

Looking at it, smelling it, walking beside it, swimming in it. It is the place I am happiest.

4 .Shoe shopping. Shoes make me very jolly, and you don’t need to worry about fitting into them. Luckily for my bank balance there is no shoe shopping in Kampala. Scary for my bank balance is that Bahrain has many a yummy shoe shop. But my dreamiest shoe shop is in Montreal; it is called Scarpa and is in Westmount.  I am day dreaming about it now, even that makes me happy.

5. A hike in the woods. I am not a fan of exercise but a good walk outdoors somewhere very pretty and wild makes me very happy.

6. Teaching Shakespeare or an obscure but wonderful poem and the class just gets it, Bingo. Makes me happy every time.

7. Taking a near perfect photograph. It doesn’t happen very often but it does give the best sense of achievement.  Looking at a great photograph taken by someone else gives me the same thrill.

8. The National Gallery, London.

How lucky was I to have compulsory scheduled Art History lectures in the National Gallery? And I still love walking through those hallowed halls. You could say it is as close as possible to a church, for me.

9. The post meal conversation. Picture the scene. Great friends sitting together, the meal is over, the wine glasses still full. The cigarettes are lit and the candles low yet flickering. The night is deep and slow and there is no reason the get up early the next day. The moment is still and perfect. Memories are being made.

10. Princess and Trooper are happily busy with friends, or horses or any such fun. The house is ours, quiet and alone and rare.

Thanks to Belgian Waffle for the excellent idea.

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It’s a First World Problem

This is what I call those problems that we are so lucky to have. Now and again we can push aside the guilt and just have a good old fashioned whinge and moan over a first world problem. Oh woe is me.

Problem # 1:

I changed the SIM card in my iphone to a Bahraini SIM when we went over for our visit and when we got back the thingy that is supposed to spring open when you stick a silver pin in ( and yes I still have the original one that came in the box)  didn’t work. So I couldn’t use my phone. Stuck with no iphone. For a whole week I was back to the cheapest Nokia on the market, known here as a Katoche, and I was all cross thumbs trying to figure out and remember old school texting. I hated it but what I hated more was the thought that if I broke my phone getting the SIM out I would have no phone when I moved. So I decided I need to suck it up and live with Nokia for the foreseeable future. But oh I did miss it so.

Then a very nice man at the very expensive Apple shop here in Kampala (his new name is now Hero) fixed it and I am happily reunited with my beautiful phone once again.

Moral of the story: Once you go iphone there is no going back. Spoilt for life.

Problem # 2:

Do I buy the 24 inch or 27 inch? Does size really matter?

Problem #3:

I found a roll of Kenyan Shillings and headed down to the back to change them, having no real idea of their value in Ugandan shillings. The highest note here is 50,000 which is about $25 or close enough. Strange, I know when you are familiar with $100 bills and 50 pound notes. So when I changed my money I was given such a thick wad of notes that I couldn’t close my wallet.  First and only time I have ever felt like a drug dealer.

Problem # 4:

I have given up on fresh milk. There have been one too many incidents of lumpy cottage cheese poured into my morning coffee and I am now Long Life all the way.

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Give you my sweet soul dreams

 

There is some music that follows you through different chapters. Or some music that when you hear it is sharply poignant of a particular time.

Recently I have been listening to one of my favorite all time albums, Goodbye Jumbo by World Party. It takes me back to a time, to a place soft with the taste of regret wrapped in hope and now it is following me again, like a warm hand keeping me safe.

 

I have had a strange time of it lately, too strange to wrap words around and yet too strange to write about anything else. There are times in life when everything changes, or tilts, and life and the way you see things is never the same again. The older you get, the more moments like this you have and yet they are so very few. Giving birth, losing a parent, having an accident, these are events that somehow shift you internally and leave things unbalanced for a time, as if the pinball machine has tilted and is not yet right.  And I wonder as I walk the aisles of the grocery store, how many other people who appear normal on the outside have tiny fissures cracking on the inside. But through it all comes a taste of change, of the chrysalis unravelling and something new being born.

 

And so my sweet soul dreams follow me in the car, tipping over sloping hills, catching the golden light as it bounces on the lush green. Kampala is sexy green at the moment, fertile and fecund land, mulched earth and dripping wet gigantic leaves. Everything is sprouting, growing and changing.

 

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The sea is mine, or Island Dreams

Englishman’s bay, Tobago.

 

So this will be a telling of change, a recounting of what it is to know you are moving and yet  there is a need to sit tight, put those hands under your thighs and stop fidgeting.

This will be a tale of trying to make the most of what time I have left. Look with eyes that know a good bye is imminent. I wish I had had my handy crystal ball, the one that would have predicted all this. Had I known I would only have two years I may have relaxed more, eased myself into Uganda with no fear of being trapped, I would have just breathed in and out and seen it all, fearless.

And now I am returning to the Sea.

I have always, really lived on an island, come to think of it. Ok, I was born at the bottom of the world, in South Africa, and that was no island, despite being the upside down tip of the top, the underbelly, the other end of it all.

But then England, Hong Kong, Japan, England again, New York, (France, exception), Montreal, Winnipeg (big exception), Montreal again, Trinidad, Uganda (exception) and now Bahrain. All islands excepting the exceptions; look closely and those were tricky places to be.

 

In France it was easy to forget, for a time that the sea was so far. I was in a town on the German border and its brittle cold Germanic beauty made me feel I was walking in a fairy tale. The buildings leaned and whispered into one another, the gothic Cathedral was filled with ghosts. I crossed the canal daily and felt charmed each time. I was not there long enough to feel parched for the sea.

In both Winnipeg and Uganda, despite the proximity to those huge lakes, I always had the sensation of being land locked. If I stretched my arms as far as they could go, the tips of my fingers could not sense the sea and I felt un-moored, detached, flattened.

It took a while in The Peg to figure out what it was. Winnipeg is not an easy city; the cold is like nothing anyone not from the Peg has ever experienced. The winter I was pregnant with Trooper we had over 60 days below -20c. It was a record. Then almost overnight the scorching sun came out to play and summer arrived. I went into the hospital to have a baby in cool weather, the radio still talking about the terrible Red River floods, warm in a sweater at 6 am we raced along silent prairie roads to the hospital. 4 days later I came out and it was 35c, the heat bewildering, heavy as if it had come out to welcome little Trooper to the world. So I thought for a long time it was the weather, the impenetrable cold wall that made me feel so misplaced, and in many ways it was. Or maybe it was also the loneliness of a place whose license plates read ‘friendly Manitoba” yet seemed to me to only be friendly to those born and bred there. Slowly I became aware that the land, so flat, stretching those endless miles and those prairie skies so enormous, were flattening me. I longed for the sea and felt as a parched star fish would if it were miles from its beloved sea bed.

Here in Uganda I had the great fortune of climbing up into my car one dark morning in December and driving all the way to the coast. Somehow knowing it is 4 days away has made it worse. I can nearly smell it; I know it is not close enough. Lake Victoria is green abuzz with lake flies, heavy with Bilharzias. It is no replacement for the salty licks of the ocean.

The sea is mine.

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