I sit here gazing out of the skylight window, I see rain spattering the glass, and I see rooftops. If I lean some way forward with my face pressed against the window and my neck cricked I can see green fields in the distance. Each patch demarcated by ancient stone walls, no wire fences here.
The windows of the houses opposite are lace-curtained, blind white eyes revealing nothing of the lives being lived or endured in those boxes called terrace houses. Sitting rooms not large enough to swing a cat as they say, one window per room, two entrances to the house, one at the front where one puts a foot immediately onto the narrow public pavement hoping not to bump into anyone passing by hurrying along with their hooded coats, eyes cast down, avoiding eye contact in these politically correct, fear-filled days; and a backdoor, leading, if you are lucky, onto a postage stamp size area called a garden. Big enough to hang out the washing should the sun ever shine. Big enough for a few flowers and a patch of lawn, but these days the fashion is to concrete over the garden to avoid the labour of tending to grass and flower beds. This apparently assists nature to flood your house as rainwater cannot then seep into the soil as in the past. I am not too cold, the heating is off for a change. We are coming into summer but you wouldn’t really think so. Just a week ago the snow fell. I love the snow, its shimmering, sparkling beauty and crunchy silence brings peace to my soul and such moments ease, for a brief period, the grief and heartache that continuously well up and flood my very being rendering me at times paralysed with the pain of loss, and its all I can do to stop myself from collapsing to the ground in unremitting anguish wishing with all my heart it would swallow me up and thus end my deep despair. At these times I have to avoid people lest they see my ravaged tear-stained face, eyes glazed and inward looking to the life and home from which I have been unceremoniously wrenched.
The rain is coming down harder now. The algae-spattered, dirty grey slate roofs opposite my window are glistening, and water is pouring down the drainpipes. Oh why, oh why, am I here watching this dismal dreary day, when I should be under an enormous sky gazing at the vast African plains, dry and shrivelled savannah stretching as far as the eye can see, or the forests of acacia, mopane, and baobab, the sun blazing mercilessly down, while on the horizon dark, ominous rainclouds gather in sinister, promising glory ready to sweep the land with crashing thunder, searing nerve-tingling lightning and dusty wind to blow away the oppressive, luxurious, sweaty heat. I should be watching the ponderous grey shape of elephants browsing, plodding along, swinging their trunks, their secret, subsonic rumblings throbbing in the air, their giant ears flapping, their trunks lifting, sniffing the air for danger. I should be hearing not the roar of traffic thundering up the highway, but the bellowing roar of lions, the most exciting hair-raising sound of all, and the rhythmic grunting and splashing of hippo cavorting and fighting in the mighty, magnificent Zambezi. I should be watching the African sunset and the dark of the night descending suddenly like an unleashed magenta curtain upon this magic land signalling the emergence of bats, owls and the pesky mosquito.
But I am here, jettisoned by injustice, violence, fear and the economic collapse of a once thriving country to a place that is to all intents and purposes to me, after a fifty year absence, a foreign country. Yes, I have come back here to the land of my birth from Zimbabwe, a country and its peoples savagely ravaged and destroyed heartlessly and remorselessly by one man, a man possessed and obsessed with hatred and the corrupt trappings of power, one Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
As time passes, I should be able to reflect less emotionally on the past and perhaps it will be cathartic to deliberately record some of my life in Africa, never dull, and not one moment of regret.