I tried writing a diary a few times in my life. I’m amazingly bad at it. I begin with the strongest intention of keeping it going to keep a record of my most insightful thoughts so that in years to come I can look back and see how I have developed as a person. I usually last about a week before I realise that all I write is drivel.
My first diary was half my life ago, as a 14 year old with a crush on Ewan McGregor and Robert Downey Jr. (still love him), pining over a boy that didn’t really notice I existed until a year and a half later when he was very drunk (don’t worry nothing dodgy happened). I found it a couple of years later and binned it.
My second attempt was at 16 when I had my first boyfriend and was taking my GCSEs. More absolutely terrible writing – first about how amazing he was (he really wasn’t) then about what an arse he was (very true). I think I burnt that one when I was 19 and moving to university, before starting a new diary to outline all the amazing, exciting things that moving away from home for the first time would bring. Didn’t keep it up.
Moving to Africa, of course that’s a fantastic time to start another one. I got quite a few good notebooks from people as leaving presents so that I could keep a record. As I mentioned earlier in this blog (I do hate that word) I managed a whole line on the first day. I did fill it in later but I’m not good at writing just for myself, hopefully this is an outline that will be a bit more interesting, writing on a screen is fine, but breaking the first page of a new neat notebook is harder to go back on. I can delete and re-write without you ever knowing, but ink on a page sticks. This is actually my second attempt at this post, the first having been wiped by an accidental key stroke, but perhaps that’s an opportunity to think about what I actually want to say, rather than letting things just pour out, unfiltered, without relfection or thought for others. Having said that, I am slightly distracted, listening to a Tori Amos album that I was first introduced to when I was 14 – Under the Pink – I seem to keep coming back to that number, half my life ago.
I’ve not written in my Africa diary since those first two entries, partly because I was working, getting settled into my class, learning who my children are, not just names but personalities and school histories too, making friends, finding my way around the city I can now call home. So I was busy, night falls at about seven thirty, then there is planning to do, marking, cards to play, meals to cook, Skype attempts… I’m settled, I’ve even started singing around the house again (apologies to the neighbouring teachers in our flats) but that’s something I’ve not done for years, because I can only do it when I’m happy.
And two weeks ago I had an email from my sister saying that our Dad is very ill. They had tried to call me but my English phone is playing up, so there it was in a message, Dad’s cancer is back and has spread. That’s another reason why I’ve been rubbish at updating this – how do you tell an anonymous audience, probably people who know me from school, university, work, and others who have stumbled upon my ramblings something like this? Would my family even want people to know? Sorry if you didn’t but I’ve never been good at keeping things in, when I have with certain thoughts, feelings or actions I’ve usually had problems afterwards. Perhaps being an open book is a good way to go.
So know after feeling settled, a remarkable lack of culture shock and the sense that I’ve found my way again after years of having put someone else first, I feel somewhat lost and adrift. I know I have to go home to see my Dad, look after him and eventually deal with the funeral. I want to do that. I told him before I left and before I knew he was ill that I didn’t want it to be the last time I saw him. But I also don’t want to go back. This is my home know, I have responsibilities, I have a class to teach and I don’t want to leave them without a teacher for weeks on end. So I’m torn. The school has been really supportive and said I can take whatever time I need and I know the class will be fine without me, but disruption is not ideal for them. The school isn’t hugely staffed and so I can’t guarantee that the class would have a regular teacher for the whole time I’m away – not to mention the staff singing group I’m setting up, choirs, the school production of West Side Story I’m helping with…
Equally, I want to spend some time with my Dad befroe it’s too late to, I don’t want my brothers and sister to be left doing everything without me. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to help, in whatever little way I can. I find myself saying things like ‘Hopefully I won’t be away too long’, which is dreadful because it implies that I want things to go quickly for Dad, but I can’t phrase things right at the moment. And it’s surprising how quickly I’ve settled back into the regular school routine, given that I know I’m going back to England in half term and don’t know when I’d be coming back.
Sorry, rambling again! I’m fine really, I’ve accepted it, it’s a sad truth, but my Dad’s dying and there’s nothing we can do to make things better for him really, or for each other. He seems quite upbeat and he’s getting lots of support. Not sure what else can be said.
And so I know things now, that I hadn’t known before. Look up the original Sondheim quote. It’s good for you.