The tale of two women, and a young Malawian.

Life is indeed a fragile experience, and yet there is joy to be found in the purest of places.

I am still learning.  It has been cold, very, very cold here.  Nothing like the British winters and there was me going ‘what, this is nothing’ … until I realised that my little house is in fact an igloo of the severest sort.  There is no central heating, a wall heater that pretends and does not deliver, and me wrapped in layers, beginning each day, with resolve to fly back to London.

Immersed in the history that is my family life, I have been clearing. Saying goodbye to the past of clutter, things I have held onto when things fell apart and making mental notes of what to keep and what will move with me again, should I decide to do so.  Sipho works for me once every two weeks.  Despite my questioning her super early arrival (knowing she needs to rise and get a taxi to get here) there she was at the door, still dark.

We chat a little and move around each other in silence.  Still unused to having help, hover with offers of tea but secretly love the fact that she and Dosha are here; it brings out the nurturing in me and I love being ‘mum’ again.  I fear they think I overfeed them, pack extra to take home and have a multitude of extra tea sets, linen, books and furniture which I offer, as I mentioned before. These trail away in backpacks and carry bags. Today however Dosha announced he had found someone with a truck to collect the old carpet and chairs.  My rejects, their delight and only too aware of this.  Why hoard what few will ever enjoy, I think. Wonder what mum would think of her tea sets in the townships?

The late afternoon has me taking Sipho to the bus stop.

‘Do you have heating in your home?’ I ask.

‘No, nothing.  We have blankets.  I do not live in a house, in a shack and the wind is very cold.’ she replies demurely.

‘How many of you live there?’ I asked.

‘There are ten of us. My family, my mother, my husband’s brother and his family.’

I had no answer, but having dropped her off, I burst into tears, driving in tears.  You are so lucky I mouthed between sobbing, despite having so little, when I am missing my children too much.  You have not been lanced with the arrow of loneliness. There I was, sharing the day with a woman who struggles, yet has warmth waiting in family.  The warmth of family close by, conversation and communal eating together.  To come home to. To come home to has changed for me. Comfort, but cold comfort at times.

The man with the truck did not come through for Dosha.  Already dark, he arrived with friends in a car and somehow they managed to fit a huge carpet, two chairs, a mirror and three bags into it. Flashback to us moving in London in the little car. Thanking me profusely for the ‘gifts’, he asked one more favour. Lying in the garage was a ‘Horrible History’ book on WW1.  Would he be able to have it, to read? Oh my Lord, the tears were right there.

Walking back into my chilly, but beautiful, secure home, alone, I felt humbled and old. And sad, and grateful, and made a little wiser by the day. They are huddling close tonight and I am writing this. Grateful for my family, though far, missing them and silently determined to make a change for them, and for me, for it is in the purest moments, one learns the most about yourself, and it is not about having, but sharing.  That is all.