On A Personal Note – When A Spicy Curry Becomes Too Hot To Handle
Sometimes, during a journey, there comes a moment when one’s personal life gets in the way. Like a cloud bank before the sun, all the Kumbaya moments vapourise. Like a vrot kumquat, life sours bitterly. When you least expect it, the wind’s out of your sails, and you’re stuck rudderless in the doldrums. Why do we miss the signs?
To share a small space for an extended period, one needs to communicate and discuss the implications of the loss of personal and intimate space, alone time and the loss of individual freedom. We have never really broached the subject, and I only recall one terse conversation where we both more or less brushed it off— fearing the consequences, trusting that we’re old, wise and mature enough to navigate all the possibilities.
Fortunately, we’ve agreed upon the length of time we spend on the road. I tend to be in a strop and very annoying when we reach the eight-hour mark. Now we try to leave at a reasonable hour, take regular breaks and stop well before sunset. Ageing bones have certain benefits.
The day of the wobbly or The Domestic was an ordinary day, much like the previous four weeks. Coffee in bed, snacking on delicious nutty beskuit, followed by a long cycle and an attempt to get good drone footage.
We spent the afternoon at our leisure. While I photographed birds, bees and trees, Butch relaxed with his book and binoculars. We prepared and enjoyed a late brunch followed by a Gin and Tonic. Our conversation revolved around what we’d seen and heard, and I was the one asking most of the birding questions. Butch identified them, and I logged it all up. We even took ourselves off to the bush infinity pool to wallow near the hippo hole.
Easy banter. No drama. Later we basked in the sun, swam and frequently snoozed. We discussed our supper during afternoon coffee and fruit cake. I would start prepping before the Golden Hour, giving our potjie plenty of time to simmer. We planned to do a delicious Malay Mutton curry. The aroma of Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cumin filled the air. Rubbing Saffron threads in my palm to elicit the dark, earthy yet rubbery perfume always transports me straight back to the spice market in Jaipur.
I chopped, scraped, and grated vegetables while browning my lamb knuckles; Butch prepared his fire; it had to be correct as Mama bear said, “not too hot and not too cold. Just right, Papa.”
We’d clocked into a lovely campsite on the Kwando river the previous day. We had a spacious campsite canopied by large indigenous trees and a shower under the stars. What’s more, we had the place to ourselves. Just as well it turned out to be! The only people we saw were the manager, who made us aware of the bell to be rung if we were in any danger. “Hippos,” he said, as his assistant made the evening fire in the donkey, brought extra kindling.
I will not launder our soiled linen publicly, but the incident reminded me of a letter I read months ago, addressed to an agony aunt.
I’m asking on behalf of a friend. She’s at her wits’ end. Her husband of 40 years retired recently. She has a full-time job now. He’s an avid reader and mostly keeps to himself. But. Not a Kingpin anymore, he’s got no one else to focus his sights on, and she’s the bleep on his radar. His latest hobby is Bowling. Right up his alley! At first, this pleased her. They could strike together, or, I suspect, it would keep him out of her hair.
Although their relationship is primarily amiable, he has begun criticising her, saying she doesn’t give enough of herself. Her enthusiasm lacking and attention to his needs leaves much to be desired. He complains she doesn’t train and nitpicks that her legs aren’t athletic and her waist a waste, thus preventing her from getting down low when needed.
He, on the other hand, can’t polish his balls enough. She bemoans his desire to bowl, which leaves her cold. You might ask, “what is her problem?”. She confessed: although enthusiastic, he’s a terrible bowler. He has little ball sense. His run-up is uncoordinated, and he needs a new thumb. He rarely hits the Kegels, his balls cleaning the gulley and his run-up and timing non-existent.
He laments the fact that his scorecard is mostly blank. Last week he inadvertently name-dropped a young widow with remarkable skills and striking features, and her vital statistics strike a perfect 12. Has he picked up a spare? He implied my friend needs counselling.
She feels like a deer caught in the headlights. Spent, she would like to return her bowling boots, but he accuses her of being selfish. When will she be permitted to read her book, garden, and play board games with her girlfriends?
This is not a happy time for her, not happy at all.
Caring Friend, Ohio
Dear Caring Friend in Ohio,
Three strikes is a Turkey, and following up is a Badger. I sympathise. Although it’s commendable that your friend has a confidant, she must realise you don’t have the answers, and you’re just a sounding board. Retirement is a significant adjustment for both parties, and they could need professional help in navigating this transition. Keeping busy is vital, and she must remember they’ll not succeed in teaching the old dog new tricks.
What would she prefer? Imagine the Big Lebowski playing Solitaire all day? They must take lessons from their peers. They should seize the day. Retirement is what they worked for.
Go home. Leave your friends to question, what brought this on? IF TRUTH BE TOLD.
“Keep in mind that the true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.”
PS. The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune!
This blog is primarily written to demonstrate that our personal lives are run-of-the-mill. Many of our family, friends, followers, and acquaintances believe we live a Utopian life where the most severe mishaps are mechanical. Our Honey Badger springs a leak or loses battery power, or our tyres revolt and deflate onto their rims. Oh yes, that often happens.
Personalities, quirks, habits and reason aren’t left at home, safely tucked away in a drawer. We drag our albatrosses around with us wherever we go.
At times, we, too, experience moments of anxiety. Some days are stressful, and we can become irritable and cranky. On extended trips, we miss our children and grandchildren terribly. We wish they could share all our experiences but have accepted that this might never happen. We also fret about their well-being, especially when we’re out of contact with civilisation. I worry about my aged parents and Butch about his siblings, who we care deeply for.
Celebrations are toned down. Imagine a party of two, not quite the crowd of 14 or 32 we’re accustomed to having around our table. Butch has listened to my stories told a hundred times over and still manages to laugh at my jokes. When we clink our glasses and tuck into a birthday cake, we cast our eyes yonder, appreciating the space we occupy and respecting the privilege of being there. At times we certainly regret not being able to celebrate with friends and hope our WhatsApp messages trickle through to recipients before they timeout.
Living in cramped quarters is challenging. “A place for everything and everything in its place” was emblazoned on the blackboard of my Domestic Science class; thank goodness Miss Anastasiadis drummed that into our teenage heads.
We sometimes fall over shoes, search for socks, and wonder what happened to the Peppermint Crisp we had squirrelled away in the sweetie box. “things” are misplaced, and cables go missing.
My mother would say, “Camels have calloused knees; prayer does that. You need calloused knees.” We’ve had blistered tongues and bruised egos; we’ve sucked on our humiliation, swallowed the bitter pill and eaten humble pie.
My guilty pleasures are doing zip. Besides twiddling my thumbs, that is, or watching a movie on my iPad in the dead of night. I bought a face pack at one of the lodges, which is still unopened. Spending an hour flat on my back with a plastered face and cucumbers cooling my eyelids is a bridge too far.
I admire Butch, who has no qualms in sitting reading for hours or daydreaming in his hammock with his binoculars poised in the hope of seeing a rare bird. When my brain switches off, I’m sent into snoring mode immediately.
Thankfully, we both have short memories, and no domestic is insurmountable. When it does happen, the air clears, and we have a unique glimpse of what is happening in our partner’s life and heart. “Die mond loop oor waarvan die hart vol is.” Loosely translated means: The mouth overflows with that which fills the heart. How we deal with it on a trip determines the success or failure of our adventure.
“Problems are inevitable. Misery is a choice.” Ann Landers.
Maybe I’m just being too sensitive or over-analytical; could it simply be the spicy curry that fired us up? No, we’re just human.
The curry lost its appeal. Waste not want not is a traveller’s mantra, so once cooled, it was locked tight in Tupperware, frozen and kept for another day. We reheated it a few days later, and the flavours had intensified and married perfectly. Better than before.
Once laundered, our washing turned out smelling of roses. We had lighter hearts and breathed cleaner air.
We agree, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” EE Cummings, poet. Carpe diem, we will.