Tuesday 31 July 2012


Space. I grew up in Zimbabwe on two acres and spent my days riding my bike and swimming, with school taking place along the way. I was a daydreamer and I was free to roam in both senses. There was a war going on outside the city, (I was still too young to fully comprehend its ramifications) but I inhabited vast spaces of freedom (at a time when freedom was not freely enjoyed), both in my mind and also physically. I left Africa when I was seventeen and came to London. I remember sitting on the tube and then the bus when I first arrived and marvelling at how all the houses were joined together.

Soon I began living in smaller and smaller spaces, during one rough patch I lived in a hostel in Kentish Town. My baby son and I lived in one room for fourteen months, before we were given a two bedroomed space of our own. We are still here now, only now there are two more children and a husband here too. I do love this place, though we have become like trees whose roots are being forced out through the ceilings and floors. My son who reached my knee when we first came is almost a head taller than me now. I was always able to touch the ceiling on my tiptoes. When I first came I would lie awake imagining the sleeping people stacked above me. The rooms in this flat have been painted and rearranged many times and now most of them are multifunctional apart from son one's and the bathroom (apart from in the usual ways) but I still inhabit vast spaces in my mind and I am still a daydreamer.

"There is sunshine in the moon too," my small daughter said, as we travelled home to London from Wales on Sunday night and the moon began to shine in the darkening sky. Her comment made me think of the imagination and its projections which are no less 'real' though they are dislocated - dis-located. From my moonscape bedroom in my small central London flat, I managed to produce a novel that is African because I am. African because I was born there and my imagination was birthed and raised there - I may not be black, but I consider being told I am not African a type of racism. My novel was produced in a small room in a flat in central London, but it still took me roaming to the sunshine spaces of my youth.

I still dream of and often long for more space. Zimbabwe is with me all the time, sometimes just in snapshots: a green mamba whipping across the road, the sharp tang of granadilla fruit, the silken feel of silkworms in silkworm season, the taste of sun-warm over-ripe mulberries. There are other frightening, bloody memories too.

Would I be more creative, if I had more physical space (given I had time-space too!)? We are still working towards living in Wales, which to me, for now, is an alternative to Africa. The Welsh landscape is as spiritual to me as Zimbabwe. No wonder there have been so many spiritual revivals in that singing land.

Space to roam, space to dream, the sun and the moon, places been and become, and places yet to go.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Spiralling out of control in the lingerie department

How is it that when you are meant to save money you suddenly find you are forced to spend more? We are trying to save every spare penny to scrape together a deposit so we can relocate to Wales The Great. Things had been going quite well thanks to a good amount of freelance work, taking in a lodger and some diting work. I just typed 'diting' instead of 'editing' which sounds like a new verb for doing something that you should not be doing - like spending when you should not be. 'Yes, I admit I was diting at the taxpayers expense.' 'John was caught diting on the job.' 'Diting should be avoided when operating heavy machinery or doing 80 mph in a 60mph zone.' Perhaps I should not be editing. back to skiing on piste (spending and saving) as it were instead of appearing pissed - which I am not. Take cars and bras for instance. Our Ford has never broken down. The night before we were to view a potentially life changing property in Wales, Fordo the stallion popped his rubber clogs, leaving us stranded on a beach called Going Nowhere. That saga has ended with something we cannot afFord - the spare parts for starters - plus lots of zeroes followed by lots of **** and ****.

Now to bras. Following on from the birth of my ten month old, I haven't had any. Bras that is. Unless you coult, yes, I just typed 'coult' instead of count. Now that could be a verb for something like courting disaster. 'Her hair was coulted by the espresso machine, which made her previously permed hair appear straight by comparison.' 'Following her fifth divorce, Moira had to face facts. Coulting at rodeos would have to stop.' Back to bras. Unless you count the manky pregnancy bras, which would require another alphabet in sizing, I have been braless - not in the hippie sense but in the wearing of a bra that makes sense given my current physical state of being. Imagine my relief some months later - the other day in the lingerie department of a large department store - when I discovered that I had returned to a 36 D. I can handle my ABC and D. But those other letters on the feeding ones were confusing.

In store, I had to be taken into a small cubicle by a lady in a white coat (it was black really) brandishing a tape measure which terrified me. Then I was told to strip to the waist and the tape measure was wrapped around my upper regions. I felt like a tree in the grip of a surgeon. I was made to count the black numbers...veery, veery, I mean very slowly. And then she thrust a voucher into my hand and set me loose on the shop floor, with only a bit of plastic - our bankcard - for company. Before long I was spiralling out of control. I needed a strapless, a black one, a white one, a cotton lace one with no wire that looked like it should have been on the tennis girl in the Athena poster where she shows her bum, a blue one like Madge would have worn in her Erotica days and so on. I came home laden with bits of fabric and lighter in cash.

Which brings me to that bit of plastic who accompanied me on this mad spree. There is something nebulous about the spending that takes place when armed with plastic. Impressed by a veiled lady in the queue of the lingerie department who took out a wad of cash to pay for her heaps of neon-coloured scraps, this week I am drawing out hard cash to pay for stuff. Plastic money acts like it is drawn out of the ether. Which may be fitting for me in one respect, but not in another.

Hours of sleep last night: 2 and a half.
Time wasted diting today: 3 hours.
Coulting disaster due to lake of sleep, yes I typoed lake instead of lack, but I am leaving it. I am having a lake-sized lack of sleep.
Bra size: A comfortable (and intelligible) 36 D.