I just want to live while I’m alive.


A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.  Maya Angelou

The 23rd of May would have been Dad’s 65th birthday. I’ve talked a lot about him being ill, his death and how that’s affected me but there’s a big section of his life I’ve not mentioned on this blog until now.  Not because I’ve been embarrassed or ashamed by it, I’ll talk at length with people in person, but because it is something that a large section of the population can’t understand and I didn’t want to have to put up with negative comments that are inevitably on their way whilst coming to terms with a death.

But since it’s been over 6 months since he died and I seem to be doing better, talking about it seemed like a good birthday present.

For the last 4 years Dad has been known not as Donald, but as Dawn.  It’s going to get confusing writing about it because when we found out we asked him what he wanted us to call him and he said that only 5 people in the world could call him ‘Dad’ so we should stick with that.  But with ‘Dad’ comes ‘he’, ‘him’ and ‘his’.  Whenever I talked about him with others I still used male pronouns, but if we were out in public together I did make an effort to use ‘she’ and ‘her’.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

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First things first


It’s December the first.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the school pool wearing factor 50.  It seems very wrong to be in an open air pool in November.  I watched my first live fashion show – the secondary students put it together to raise money for the school’s Saturday school which provides education for local orphans.  They put on a really good show, models, dancing and a bit of singing.

This morning I worked as promt for the dress rehearsal of the secondary production of West Side Story. This afternoon I’m heading to Tunza to celebrate a first birthday – they are roasting a pig on the beach.

A kite swooped in on me and stole some of my lunch on Thursday.  I’ve seen it happen before – circling ahead and then diving down onto the kids to grab a bit of food, all happening too fast to warn them.  It had never happened to me before, I didn’t realise it had happened until afterwards.  I felt a change in the air next to my head and spotted that some of my food had gone.  Some of the children nearby laughed, some said things like ‘sorry Miss!’ but I found it entertaining, if nothing else.  At least it didn’t scratch me, being allergic to plasters means things like that can be a pain to keep clean, especially in the dusty environment we have here.

There have been other firsts too, seeing or hearing something and reminding myself to call Dad to tell him.  Then remembering that I can’t.  In 12 days it will be my Grandmother’s 100th birthday – the first since she died and quite a significant one.  Christmas will be the first without being anywhere near home, the first without getting a scratch card from Dad, the first in Africa.  There are going to be lots of firsts, it’s almost as if my life is now divided in two – when Dad was around and after he died.  All the potential things that could happen from now – boyfriend, husband, child, job, home, tattoo…whatever. Who knows.  It’s going to be odd, some times sad, but it can’t be sad forever.  I know he’s not going to be here for the important things.  It’s the little things, the silly jokes, the random thoughts, the odd objects that I think to tell him about that keep catching me out.  And it’s not as if it’s heart wrenching or anything, there’s just a small intake of breath, a pause mid sentence or foot steps stop whilst I remember and then I carry on.  Which is how you manage to have more firsts.

The sun’s coming over the hill.


“Oh how the nights are long
But life is longer still
Oh how the nights are long
But the sun’s coming over the hill.

I can’t say there’s many things I wouldn’t change
There are better days gone than those that remain
But I can find joy in the sound of the rain
You have to find joy where you can.”

Karine Polwart

So three funerals in 3 days, Gaggy, Dad’s cremation then his memorial.  What do we do now?  I came back for five weeks with the intention of spending time with Dad, he died 3 days after I got back, so then time was focused on talking to undertakers (the most unintentionally hilarious one), booking churches, ordering flowers, picking music.  My brother made an urn.  And it all happened yesterday, so what do we fill our days with now?

My friends have booked me a train ticket to Newcastle for tomorrow, then I’m going to Birmingham on Monday to see some cousins and Grandad after his heart attack after that who knows?

I’ve seen some people that I’ve not seen for years and it’s made me think about things.  I’ve made some predictions about my life that people think I’ll probably change my mind about but I know now that it’s likely the way things would pan out.  But that’s ok, I’m letting people know how I feel about them.  Which means that I can make some decisions about who I want to be and what I want to do.  Sometimes we hold onto the past without realising, but at somepoint you have to draw a line and make a change.  So I have two and a half weeks before I go back to work out what that change will be.

Travelling in time


I’ve come to my grandmother’s house to clean up before my aunt gets here tomorrow; I pressed play on my ipod – there’s 7144 tracks ont here at the moment (I really should get some more) and the first that came up was this song by Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts .  Jamie is the little brother of Kathryn Roberts that I linked to earlier in this blog, talented family.

Travelling in Time:

I wandered off today, back to the house we lived in then, the sound of voices play, the children are young 5, 8 and 10.

The rooms seem darker to me, but everyone else says they can see fine, shapes are all I can see, your voice calls me back to present day time.

It seemed to fit with what I’m doing.  I’m picking up some cds I loaned to Dad, pinching back the DVD The West that I gave him, and getting rid of the mess I made staying here last week.  It doesn’t seem fair for my aunt to come here to come to say goodbye to her brother and mother with some of my washing up still here.

It’s a different house now.  It has been in our family for 80 years or so – I think my great-grandmother lived here, my great-uncle, great-aunt, my grandmother moved here after her husband died 38 years ago, my dad moved in 9 years ago after he and mum split up.  The house will be sold now, maybe it will stay with another family for as long, but more likely someone will buy it and  build something in the garden, sell it for much more.  I don’t want to stay here now, it was fine when I was staying to visit dad, my cat was here, but now the cat has gone to live with my oldest brother and his family, so nothing living is here now.  It still has its familiar books and pictures, models that dad made, plates, pencils that went towards Gaggy’s collection.

I know that this seems morbid or melancholic, but I don’t think it is really.  People are what makes something or somewhere make you feel like you belong.  I’ve been very lucky, I’ve lived with 18 people in the last 9 years and I’ve felt at home nearly everywhere I’ve been.  I’ve had a good week – I’ve been singing with my old choir, I’ve sat in on some lessons at my old school to see the sorts of things I should be doing when I get back to Tanzania, I’ve bumped into people I’ve not seen for years.  Although I can’t picture myself ever living permanently in Northamptonshire or even in England for quite a while, it’s good to know I can fit back in relatively easily.  And I know I’ll fit back in Tanzania when I go back there.

It’s been interesting watching people since I’ve been back because I’m the only one on my own – in some respects that gives me a fair bit of freedom because I can decide what I want to do without having to co-ordinate plans with someone else, or think about what they want to do.  It’s good to be a bit selfish sometimes.  But it’s also good to see people being able to support each other, being happy, doing silly little things together, I do miss that a bit but for now, it’s just me on my own and it’s time for that.  I’ve completely lost my train of thought now and should probably get back to cleaning things up…

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put it well, Ella Fitzgerald sings it best

(Although, I don’t think you have to have a man around to make your house a home, but that’s not the point of the song.)