Wednesday, November 21, 2007


So today is my birthday. I have mixed feelings about it.

I'm another year older, and I feel ancient. I have wrinkles and saggy boobs, varicose veins and several rolls of fat around my middle (forget the beer boep - I have a tyre!). My skin is looking weathered and old, and having 2 kids has made the skin on my tummy feel like an old woman's. Yup, I feel and look old.

But, on the up side, I love celebrating my birthday. It's the one day in the year when I'm guaranteed to be told how special I am, how much I'm loved, and that I bring joy into the lives of those who love me.

As always, it is raining in Cape Town. No-one believes me, but I know, because it's MY birthday - it ALWAYS rains in Cape Town on the 21st Nov. Always. Today is no exception. It's pouring, and I can hear thunder in the distance. I had hoped to have lunch at Kirstenbosch, but there's no way I'm venturing out in this weather!

I had a lovely start to the day - I got breakfast in bed. In fact, even better, I got to snuggle with the 2 people I love most and we ALL had breakfast in bed together. The only thing that would have made the morning perfect is if Zoe had been with us. She would have been 8 months old this weekend, and probably already sitting on her own and crawling, possibly even starting to stand on her own. The ache in my heart is very present today.

Graeme, bless him, wrote me a beautiful heart-felt letter, in which he blessed me on this my "38th" birthday! And he's the mathematician in the family! I had to laugh.

Sadly, no real birthday celebration today as most of my friends are sitting in London, and the majority of those I have here are all teachers in the throes of marking, and the rubbish weather means no nice outdoors lunch. But maybe I'll wake Graeme up (he's napping) and drag him out for a light lunch somewhere else anyway. A girl's got to celebrate somehow!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Calling London

Thursday evening I was thinking about something that Bron (of coolthisaword - see in my links on the right) blogged about a while back - how we 'do' community across distances. Her conclusion was that, actually, it can't be done. I've been thinking about that a lot, on and off.

She's right that for community to work, you have to be able to see each other, spend time with each other, physically be there for each other. But her question, and the one I've been really thinking about, was what the implications of that are for long-distance friends.

I don't have an answer for that, not yet anyway. But on Thursday it suddenly hit me that I will never again be able to walk down Balham High Rd to pop in at Bertie and Boo's for a fresh smoothie, or share a hot chocolate/ tea with Sarah and Sara in Starbuck's, or buy my fruit from the market, or get some curry from the take away place near the tube, or have coffee in the park with my NCT group, or walk across the common to Lucy or Sue's house for GG or a coffee, or bump into folk from church as I wander down the high street.... or any one of a hundred little things I used to enjoy doing.

Even if I were able to afford to visit the UK again, or even if we were to move back, it would never be the same again. We wouldn't be able to live in the same flat. Our friends would probably be in different places (Sara has already moved to Sweden - by the by, LOVED the photos of the caravan conversion on fb!! Sam is a serious DIY hero!), and life just wouldn't be the same. The community that I was part of is no more.

And I think that's what I'm mourning right now - that things have changed. Yes, I miss my Growth Groups terribly. Yes, I miss London (who would EVER have believed I would have said that?!?!). I miss the commons. I miss my little garden. I miss all the things that go with living in a 1st world country (like public transport that works, a national health system that works, and a better standard of living). I miss a really good curry. I miss Terry Wogan (yup, I'm a TOG). I miss BBC Breakfast. I even miss being able to laugh at the chavs. I miss my drive to work. I miss Janel's childminder, Ashley. I miss my friends from work. I miss the long evenings and early mornings in summer. I miss the cherry trees in blossom. I miss the cold, crisp winters and moaning about how infuriating it is to get a snow storm in London (because London is not equipped to deal with snow). I miss the culture of walking everywhere. I particularly miss bumping into friends and church people on the road because we were living in the parish. I miss living on the doorstep of my church. (Stephen, the LOCAL church is SO the hope of the world!)

I really miss BBC radio 2... in SA the music is 99% R&B - it all sounds the same to me. So on Friday morning, as I was driving to work and listening to KfM, I was caught by surprise to hear a song I'd last heard in the UK. I promptly burst into tears, because it reminded me of my afternoon drive home from work when I'd listen to the 'interesting facts' thingy while Nellie slept in the back of the car. In the midst of my tears, I caught myself thinking, "I just want to go home" and by 'home' I meant London. I miss my community there.

It took me two years to get used to being in London. I guess it'll take me another 2 to get used to being back home. We have to start all over again with forging relationships, building community, finding a niche for ourselves. It's hard work, but what hurts most is that the friends we had when we left (those still left in Cape Town) haven't ONCE picked up the phone to say hi, or invite us out. Not once. Some have made the effort, at least, to come along to stuff we've invited them to, and it's been great seeing them. Some couldn't even be bothered to do that. Not one of them, even the ones I expected to be sympathetic about Zoe, has picked up the phone to ask how we're coping - or even emailed us. Not one. Overall the message we're receiving from them is that, quite frankly, we might as well not be here, because we mean nothing to them and they obviously aren't keen to have us back as part of their lives, and that they actually don't care that we've just lost our daughter because they don't care about us. And that hurts. So much for friendship.

What's worse though, is that my family (apart from my parents) haven't phoned to invite us out either. Graeme's siblings have invited us out. Mine haven't. And the reason I wanted to come back to Cape Town was because I wanted to be near my siblings. Of course, one of mine has just upped and emigrated to the UK (2 weeks ago). (I understand his reason for going, but his timing sucks. I couldn't go to the airport to say goodbye because I was too cross. Then I felt like a twit afterwards because now I haven't said goodbye.) And again, they haven't asked us about Zoe either. None of them, apparently, want to know about her. Even Graeme's family haven't asked me, although I think he has had one or two conversations with his brothers.

So all in all, I'm feeling like I've been kicked in the teeth by friends and family alike. Not surprising then that I want to move back to London.

Which brings me back to my point. How does community work? My friends in the UK are miles away and we can't be community. My friends in SA aren't friends and obviously don't want community with us. So I guess we start again, but where? with whom? and do I really have the energy while I'm grieving Zoe to be trying to make new friends? I don't know that friendship & community are the same thing, but I really don't have the energy to be building community with people I'm not friends with....

Sigh! I'm just too tired to deal with all this. Living the reality that I anticipated (see posts from earlier in the year) is a lot harder than I thought I would be. And to those who said that they were sure things wouldn't be as bad as I was anticipating, all I can say is - you were wrong.

So tomorrow we're off to try a new church, one that we can walk to in summer, one that apparently has a lot of kids stuff going on, one where nearly no-one knows us, one that we might be able to start afresh in, because one can't go back I've discovered... it's just too painful. My counsellor is right about one thing - we might as well have moved to Jo'burg or New York. Apart from the Mountain everything else in Cape Town is different.

The only possible 'up' I can see in all this is that I've been spending some time with some cousins I hardly ever spent time with before. I'm rediscovering how lovely they are, and Nellie is making some friends. Maybe I'm not going to be as close to my siblings as I want, but at least some of my family may well become community.

I really, really miss you guys in London... there simply are no words to describe the hole in my heart where you were.

Sorry - this wasn't at all what I wanted to blog about. I didn't want to be all morose and morbid. I had planned a nice, intellectual discussion on the nature of community, and instead all this stuff came tumbling out. I'm doing ok. Really I am. I know it doesn't sound like it, but I am. I'm managing and coping and I even manage to laugh a lot. But this stuff is in here, in my head and in my heart, and because I have so few people I can really talk to, this blog becomes the place where a lot of this stuff has to come out. Sorry.

I KNEW it!!

Yes folks, it's official. There is a reason I'm fat - and it's a good one!

According to today's headlines from New Scientist magazine online, women with curves have brainier children. Yesterday's post is simply the evidence that my fat has been put to a good purpose!

Now... where did I hide that chocolate?

Friday, November 09, 2007

What a clever girl!

Who says my child isn't a genius?

Yesterday, while she was in the bath, Janel TOLD me she needed the loo, and when I popped her onto her potty, she ACTUALLY DID A WEE. She not only had the cognition that she needed a wee, but DIDN'T WEE IN THE BATH, and she managed to hold it until Mommy could come and put her on the potty! How clever is that?!

AND THEN, as if that wasn't enough... earlier yesterday afternoon, while I was lying in bed feeling awful, she came in, saw my empty tea mug, asked if I wanted more tea (to which I said, yes please!), picked up my mug, took it to Graeme, and told Daddy that 'Mommy more tea rusk"!!!!!!! Now I ask you - isn't that sheer genius?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Conversations with God

The past few nights, lying in bed, I've tried to pray. It's one of the few times in the day when I don't have other things (or people) competing for my attention or time. Last night's conversation was (once again) about Zoe. Eventually, after my monologue about how I couldn't reconcile what the Bible teaches with my experience of God until I had all the facts about why God chose to take her, God quietly asked me, "Do you trust me to do the right thing?"

And that's what it all boils down to, doesn't it. It's all a matter of trust. If I really trusted him, then this would not be such an issue. Right? Do I trust, in the absence of evidence, that God has done the right thing, or do I trust in my own experience?

Now I sit with the matter of trying to answer that question. Not an easy one to answer honestly. Much easier to try to sidestep, although that will be difficult. I know what the right answer is, but I'm not sure that's the answer I can give. Which puts me in a bit of a predicament. Either way, the answer will mean I need to change my behaviour. If I do trust God, then I have to let go of my anger towards him. If I don't, ... well, then that has implications for whether I call myself a Christian or not.

I think the only thing that looks positive out of this whole situation is that the last time God asked me such a big question, he gave me a few years grace while I grappled with it. I'm hoping he will give me time to work through this one too and not demand an answer tonight!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The hard road

Today I had a very interesting conversation with my HoD about my colleagues. Two of them do not get on. I'm not just talking about not liking each other - they positively hate each other. They can't be in the same room together or in a meeting together. This means that department meetings in which sensitive decisions are being made happen in two parts - with one of them absent from each meeting.

It's an awkward place to be, because I can see what both of them are saying - I can see the positive and the negative in each of them. They just can't see it in each other. They refuse to see it. They have each made the other into a monster and refuse to back down. It's tearing the department apart, slowly but surely.

I don't want to go into all the details of the conversation, save to say that my HoD has asked me for some ideas about how to get the two of them to work together without killing each other. I've been pondering this all day, and then I came across this lecture. It kind of puts things into perspective.

Oh yes! I nearly forgot to say that.... MY BUSINESS IS OFFICIALLY REGISTERED!! Woo hoo! Not that it makes any difference to how fast (slow!) things are progressing, but it's another box I can tick off.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Demolition Call

Oh boy, you gotta hear this!

Topsy Turvy

One second I think I've finally managed to drag myself back onto the wagon, the next I've fallen off again - the wagon of faith, that is.

On Tuesday evening our cell group (home group/ growth group) went to the Warehouse. It's a church-based organisation that aims to help individuals who want to serve the community find a way to do that. They run programmes of food/ clothing/ love pack distributions, organise practical tasks (like painting someone's house, or disaster response), support an orphanage and educare creche programme, run a programme for high risk youth in the townships, etc. Their work is identical to that of the Besom Foundation in the UK, but with a few more hands on, long-term projects.

Anyway, we went along to find out how we as a group can get involved on a regular basis. We had a great evening of both getting information, and then getting stuck into a practical task of packing up some love packs and some clothing packs. Being in the Warehouse (it is actually a warehouse) and doing this stuff made me remember how my faith used to be. And I found myself desperately longing for those days when God was my friend, rather than my enemy.

Since Tuesday, I've been praying a lot (well, in comparison to previously anyway) and I've been enjoying making the effort of beginning to rebuild my relationship with God. In fact, driving home yesterday, I even remarked to God how, as long as I didn't think too deeply about Zoe, it actually felt like I was 'better' (fixed, healed, restored, whatever).

This evening I received an email from a pastor in the US who asked whether he could use my comments about Zephaniah 3 in his sermon on Sunday. Since I couldn't remember what I'd said, I went back to read it. And I fell off the wagon.

As I replied to this pastor, he was more than welcome to use my comments, as long as he understood that I no longer subscribe to that view of God. I cannot reconcile the understanding of God that I have gained through experience (of one who destroys community, hope and joy, and who abandons) with that presented in Scripture (of one who builds community, hope and joy, and who rescues).

I guess my remark hit the nail on the head. As soon as I think about Zoe, whatever construct I've created falls like a house of cards. When I don't think about her, I can pretend everything is hunky-dory. I just don't have a way to be the believer I long to be until I can find some explanation for God's actions in my life.

Of course, the fact that I'm barely on speaking terms with him probably makes that much more difficult to hear/ receive...


This grief stuff is *%$!. As my colleague George says, "I'm so OVER this already."