Monday, 3 November 2014

Uganda - the story so far...

We have had a wonderful time so far - no muggings, malaria, Ebola or any of the other dreaded things that were concerning our family and friends! In fact, we haven't even suffered the almost predictable "African Afliction", or other illiterative or rhyming name given to an upset stomach. The only slight annoyance has been lack of easy access to internet, but Ken thinks that this is definitely a plus and will help to cure or at least ameliorate my suspected addiction to my new iPad. Hhhhmmm, not sure about that one but as it is unavoidable without considerable inconvenience to everyone else, it has to be accepted. 

So far we have looked around Kampala, been challenged by the contrasts in poverty and wealth, seen banana palms (Isla's favourite), been to a craft market where Angus was really taken by some wire and bead lizards and Isla immediatley fell in love with vehicles made from bottle tops. Sadly, as I can't load photos from my camera to my iPad without the intervention of a computer, you will just have to imagine these until I get home! We have safely negotiated Kampala wild traffic which is a mix of minibuses, crazy motorbikes, occassional cattle and cars, all rushing around with a facsimile of British driving rules mixed with self-survival and minus the British politeness. We have got sunburnt, been swimming in a lake in an extinct volcano with leeches and nibbly fish, seen lots of vervet monkeys, eaten far too much carbohydrate (even Ken has managed to get a little "rounded!), got over-heated and then cool, experienced a variety of toiletting facilities, learned how to use mosquito nets, seen Zebra, had a lion walk two metres from our car down the road, been rock-climbing, seen the start of the Nile, heard and seen wild quantities of rain, been woken up by a hippo munching far too loundly outside our hut in the middle of the night, also been woken by an earthquake (seriously!), seen antelope, impala and had to wait as elephants crossed the road, briefly been a millionaire (in Ugandan shillings that isn't too hard), and stayed in a luxurious African safari lodge (Steve knows the owner fortunately so....).

Angus found it all a bit much to start with but is now settling in and loving playing at being David Attenborough for a while. Isla is taking it all in her stride as you would imagine and being loved for her easy smile and long, blonde hair. They are becoming variously fascinated and blaze about all the wildlife, but revelling in their time together including any local children they happen to meet with joy and no perceived language barriers. They are coping with an arbitrary combinations of late or early starts and have given up having any preconceived notions about the pattern the day will take. They were both particularly pleased to be driven on three safari tours by Ken, Anya and Steve and being allowed to sit or stand in the open car windows. Both commented on not being allowed to do this at home! 

All in all, this is a once in a lifetime trip and they are learning lessons and creating memories and attitudes which will hopefully last them a lifetime. 

I will post some photos when I can, but for now know that we are alive, well and having an amazing time. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014


We arrived in the middle of the night, the air warm and strangely scented. After a surprisingly swift trip through customs, we were met by Stephen and Anya who, it must be said, quite rightly ignored me an Ken and instead ran to pick up Angus and Isla in massive and most welcome hugs. 

We had an hour's drive in a borrowed pick up truck which the kids thought was so exciting! Isla wanted to stand in the back and help with all the bags; Angus just wanted to collapse in the back on his seat. All the anticipation of the trip had finally climaxed in meeting Stephen and I think he could finally allow himself to sleep. He stayed awake long enough to comment on the air tasting different and his desire to have a couple of days to get used to it and that in the dark Africa looks like England, and then he slept. Isla sat next to Ken quietly taking it all in and confidently chatting to Anya. 

More reasons for excitement.

Uncle Stephen set Angus some homework before travelling to visit: he gave him a set of David Attenborough's Africa series to watch. 

The first episode is entitled "Sahara." 

Angus has just seen on the flight map that we are currently flying above the Sahara. We are now being subjected to a torrent of facts about the Sahara. 

Excitement for whom?!

On Our Travels

We have been planning this week for a long time. This was the week when I would categorize, collate, collect or purchase missing things, contain then all within bags and finally blag a lift from a friend to the train station accompanied by two overly excited small children and meet a less frazzled husband. Yes, this week has been planned and anticipated for two years, ever since my brother Steve and his now fiancee told us they were going to work in Uganda for two years. 

Building up to this week has been somewhat fraught. It so often is, though, isn't it as things frequently don't quite to plan: we all found out that Angus cannot pursuade himself to sit still and have a vaccination despite an awful lot of planning on his part and ours (problem as he needed three jabs); the GP got the malaria prescription wrong - twice and eventually we ended up having to pay for about three months' worth of the stuff (they know and we have it in hand) but that added a whole lot more anxiety to the week; then there is the extra stress of trying to ensure that Isla can have some guaranteed dairy-free food on the plane - not as easy as it might sound as we have ordered vegan meals before and found milk in them. But, despite missing the train and being delayed an hour and a half by bendy rails or something like that, we have got here. We are on the plane, all packed, vaccinated eventually, anti-malarialed and incredibly excited. WE ARE OFF TO UGANDA! And the school don't even mind as they reckon this trip will be "educationally worthwhile." Good on them. 

A short reflection on yesterday though. As the children were walking to school what became increasingly evident was what exactly they were excited about. Travelling to Uganda was such a BIG thing for them that it was hard to grasp. The two things they were talking about mostly, the things which they could visualise and anticipate were the imminent stay in a hotel that night and... wait for it, ,,, they were having school dinners and not a packed lunch. That was the highlight of their day. Small things. Not always the dramatic. 

Monday, 1 September 2014


I am sad right now. I have a deep seated darkness lodged in my heart like a lump that is just not going away. It is not actual depression: I know when that comes in stealing away my joy, my motivation, my love of life. No, this is a reluctantly resigned sadness that my life is about to change and I don't want it to. I don't. Really, I want it to stay the same way that it has for the last eight years. I know that those eight years have been lived in differing places; homes have come and gone, some more gladly than others, and I know that friends have visited our lives and then moved on but the one constancy in all that has been my children. First one and then two. At home. With me. 

I never thought I would enjoy being a "stay at home Mum," I thought I would find it tedious, dull, uninspiring. I thought young children would be tedious, dull and uninspiring, after all, everyone else's were. I never expected that with every contraction I was not just pushing a baby into the world but pushing an unfathomable love into my heart that has deepened into an unwavering delight in being with my children. Just writing this is bringing to my mind their smiles, their love of playing with each other and being in each other's company, pictures of them as toddlers stumbling in the garden, Isla feeding Blue, Angus and his cello, a jumble of memories and feelings, days spent nurturing them, watching, smiling, running errands, being in their company. 

I know that it hasn't always been bliss. They argue with me, each other, themselves. They can be stroppy; I can be grumpy. Some days drag on devoid of the stimulation I crave; some days have more stimulation than my brain can process and I long for quiet but my abiding memories are the joy I have had watching then grow and change into confident young people, articulate, kind, interesting to be with and with a remarkable bond with each other.

Isla starts school in two days. 

There, I have written it down, in black and white. The contrast of the colours illustrating the contrast in my heart of what life will be like after Wednesday. White and black: joy and sadness. I shall miss these days with my child at home. I already resent the call the school is making on her time and she hasn't even lined up on the school yard. I want to teach her. I want to be there when she reads her first word. I want to see her learn to write and count. I want to discuss things with her when she is ready and not when the curriculum decides she ought to be. I want to take her out when the days shout to be walked in, when the sun wants to honoured for daring to show up. I want to make jam and bread and biscuits with her and not just crammed into a weekend. I don't want to have to portion up the weekends prioritising what we do this week and what will have to wait until the next.  I haven't even tried her school uniform on: I dread seeing her in it, a finality I am trying to avoid and deny.

So I am sad.