Something has changed within me, something is not the same.


About a year ago I was in a very bad place.  I hated my job; I felt like a complete failure because I hated my job.  I felt like I was imposing on my friends by staying with them.  I felt like I had no good options ahead of me. I was sinking into one of the worst bouts of depression that I have ever experienced.

A year later I have part time work, I’m off medication, the doctor doesn’t want to see me regularly any more.  I’ve made friends and I’ve settled into the city.  I feel calm and almost contented, which is something I’ve not felt for a very, very long time.  I don’t feel guilty about as many different things as I once did.  I speak to myself more kindly in my own head.  I can recognise my worth again.

There are little things that help me recognise my improving mental health.  When I am at the worst of my depression, I cannot laugh, I cannot sing, I cannot dance around the kitchen like a loon.

I am stupidly busy, but going out and working, even odd shifts and hours, feels much better than sitting with a Netflix binge (although that’s still a big draw now and then).  Spending time with people, talking about everything and nothing helps me as a person.  I don’t have to feel guilty about having a bit of a social life, despite being poor.

And now I feel like I’m on the verge of something new and different.  Something that could be quite special, but even if nothing really comes of it, it will still have been a positive boost.  Usually, this is when I would feel nervous and awkward, but instead there is this calm radiating inside me, a hitherto unknown confidence and sense that actually, everything is probably going to work out alright. I’m actually quite excited by the unknown for once!

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

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‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable


There are days,

There are days when your life clouds over

and the world gets so dark

that all at once you can’t tell night from day.

There are times

when your heart cries ‘this isn’t happening’

but the truth is cold and real

and I know this storm won’t go away

‘It’s her or me’ from Miss Saigon, by Boublil and Schonberg

I’ve been quiet on here for the last few months.  I know some people have dropped by to see if anything has been written and I have tried to, but it’s been a difficult end to the year.

Not many people know, but I’ve been off sick from work for 2 and a bit months.  Mental health issues are still quite taboo in our society and I don’t really understand why.  It’s something that can affect anybody and yet still it’s not something we feel confident talking about.  I have depression, which I think is something that I’ve been battling with for a decade and it’s dreadful. This bout has definitely been the worse of the lot.  A stressful job, moving to a new area, not having much if a social life, various things that have happened in the past, lack of money all building together until I essentially cracked.  I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t go outside without having a panic attack and I couldn’t go to work.  It’s such a difficult thing to describe.  I get frustrated with myself because I can’t physically do things that I want or need to do.  I can’t get out of bed.  I can’t speak to people.  I don’t have any outward physical manifestation of this, there is just this mental block, a cloud, a haze that won’t let me through.  Then I spend time arguing with myself in my head – you know what you need to do, just get up, just get up, just move yourself, just stop wallowing in self pity and get up and do something.  But it’s no good.  There is some chemical imbalance at the moment.  There is something just stopping me whether I want to or not. Ruby Wax says it better than me, so here she is:

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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.

It’s wrong to wish on space hardware…


We’ve had power cuts. Power cuts, as you will imagine, are a pain in the arse. We switch, in the evenings, to a noisy generator so we have to switch off water heaters, ovens and fridges. I’ve had to cook five pieces of chicken and all my bacon to save it from going off and bin a bag of squid that was beyond redemption. But, I’ve had a good reason to cook paella and tonight I’ve made some sort of spicy chicken and tomato stew that should be interesting for tomorrow’s lunch. (Have since eaten it and it was alright, nothing to write home about… oh, hang on…)
Power cuts have also meant that the lights on the neighbouring buildings have been out, so I’ve been out on our roof, watching the stars. With no light pollution getting in the way and balmy, cloud free nights there have been millions of stars on show. The Milky Way has carved its way through the sky above our flats; I’ve spotted Orion and Taurus. The rest of the constellations are alien to me at the moment, I keep looking for the North Star which has always been a constant, but it’s no longer in my line of sight. I’ll learn the new ones, but it does feel odd when gazing at the sky to not see the familiar shapes above you.
There have been shooting stars though. I saw 9 over two nights, with bats swooping past my head. They are strangely reassuring.
I’ve been out a bit; I went to a party at a house overlooking the lake. I’m sure it’s a spectacular view in the daytime, but is a bit lost on me at night time. Saturday, I spent the day pottering about the house and watching TV after buying fabric to have some dresses made. I’ve got three wrap around dresses on the way and I’ve picked up 5 pieces of African material – one, turquoise with a tree design, is hanging over my mosquito net, another is over the back of my sofa and I’m deciding what to do with the other two. They are a complete bargain, all my material, which combined is probably around 50m has cost me 60,000TSh which is roughly £24. Sunday, I re-coloured my hair, I’m back to a dark red/plum colour, although before long it will fade back to a light auburn, but that’s the price you pay for going blonde for 4 months I suppose. The evening was spent at Isamilo Lodge at a 63rd birthday party complete with a 60s quiz and 100 track playlist from the 60s-80s.
Monday, involved a trip to Tunza Beach for an hour’s yoga session as the sunset. I’ve not had a yoga class for about 12 years, so I’m quite out of practise, but it was very relaxing with the sound of the waves, the music and the gradually fading light. The sunsets over the lake are spectacular and as dusk starts to fall, flocks of birds fly across the yellow, pink and orange sky. I came home very aware of the stomach muscles that I have that have fallen into misuse.
The after school hours of Tuesday and Wednesday have involved parents’ evenings, my first as a teacher, and have been relatively pain free. A couple of parent’s haven’t liked what I’ve had to say, but they need to know the things their children need to work on.
We are having a fake Christmas at the weekend: Saturday is our first roof party and I have a marvellous playlist ready on the iPod, Sunday we have a Christmas dinner to cook. I’ve got my stocking and Christmas decorations out ready and will be putting the fairy lights on the steps to the roof. We will make some fresh fruit juice for cocktails, complete with straws with paper fruit and mini umbrellas.
I’m still not fully settled back. On Sunday afternoon they buried my Dad and Gaggy’s ashes and I’ve not really heard from people how it went. I tried texting but couldn’t get through. I didn’t feel right being here. I keep thinking of the part in ‘Little Women’ (yes, back to that again) where Jo says that she loves her home but is so fretful that she can’t stand to be there. I felt like that in England, I’m feeling like that in Tanzania. But not always. The key must be to re-programme myself to stop thinking of how much things cost in pounds, what time it is in England, get back into the swing of work, plan how I’m going to spend my weekends and my Christmas holiday that starts in just over a fortnight… Try and sleep. Try and learn the new stars over my head. Try and let my old life go a bit more because I’m not going back there for a while.

I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for an new England…

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.)