The Pace Of Change

09/09/2016 12:54

A psychic told me once that I would have twins or two children very close together, both girls. Whatever your view of psychic mediums, I did end up with two girls and they were as close together as it's possible to be, not in age, but in the way in which they came into my life.

R took custody of his girls and I became a mother before I was one. For the best part of a year beforehand, we were not sure how or when events would unfold. We had become passengers in an emotional rickshaw, forced to let legal processes in South Africa run their course. I did not know from one day to the next whether to prepare for overnight motherhood or not which sent my head into a near-permanent spin. The night terrors I had suffered for more than a year intensified and started to jolt me awake most nights. Loved ones haunted my dreams and took on a distressingly more twisted, darker appearance which I knew was all back to front and in contrast to my day-to-day existence.

We left Malindi and moved to our coastal paradise, into a house with an old makuti roof and a spiral staircase leading up to the loft which overlooked the vacant plot of land next door. A net was draped across the main front door and windows, which didn't have glass in the panes, and over the loft area to keep out the monkeys, though sometimes they came anyway and ransacked the kitchen, leaving behind trails of rice, pasta and crushed chocolate digestives.

After-work debriefs now took place in the shared swimming pool. The pool was hidden in the gardens beyond the trees and pink and purple bougain villa, which ran along the coral wall and sank deep into the soil. The garden path was partially obscured by heavy green foliage and thorny branches, which our landlord had tried to get one of the staff to cut only for him to start hacking away at everything else instead. 'The Terminator', our landlord had called him.

On still nights, you could hear the waves as they came rolling and crashing against the reef. The clear, turquoise ocean and long stretch of powdery white sand on a near empty stretch of beach was my own personal oasis whenever I needed to gather my thoughts and feel the sun and salty air on my skin. I walked beyond the shoreline, past fishermen casting rods and nets into the sea, waded into warm water and stopped to lie in shallow pools of blue.

We were moving to a town of entrepreneurs. R and I had started a wine import business because there was a gap in the market. There were many like us, including a British joiner who opened a wood working shop so that people could buy wood that hadn't already been chewed by bora, knowing that he would get the job done well, without light switches and door frames ending up eschew. Then there was the man from the Midlands who arrived in Kenya semi-retired and became a poultry farmer. He had noticed a dearth of decent, well-fed chickens, and started a chicken farm. He came from the textile industry but was soon supplying chickens to hotels, restaurants and private residents up and down the coast.

Despite the many roadblocks and frustrations in carving out a life here, the chance to take a chance and tread an unknown path is Africa's gift to those who live here.

R and I have lived many lives together, rather like a pair of cats, all of them folded into the space of three years. Our early life in Kisumu was a hailstorm of domesticity, road trips and too much politics, thanks to the family R was working for. I had walked away from my life in England and fallen headfirst into a new one with R.

Life changed again, deeply and irrevocably so, with the arrival of R's girls. They landed in Mombasa when the city was labouring under a simmering, sweltering heat. R's youngest daughter came running when she saw us. R held it together better than I did.

We had moved to a house that could accommodate us all, on the edge of the forest, a short walk from the beach. The concrete stairs that ran up the side of the house, from the al fresco living area to the upstairs veranda, were wrapped around a towering baobab tree. It was here, in the home we were making under the baobab tree, that things began to fall into place. At speed.