01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Reading and escapism 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Reading and escapism

If anyone was a contender for the prize of talking about, researching, going to lessons, thinking about and even writing about writing something without actually doing anything but the occasional blog update, then it would be me.

A lady editor from Random House publishing company in London who was invited to Nairobi as part of the Kwani Literary Festival and who I actually paid to spend 45 minutes reading my work then talking personally to me, about me, me, me and my writer's aspirations (such an indulgence!) advised spending one month reading lots and lots of books in the general style/ball park of the one you would like to write, then sit down and write your own novel. Needless to say E M Forster, Jane Austin and Graham Greene are not in my new library – I don’t have any illusions about tackling literary fiction.

The editor was very kind and encouraging but then I did have the nagging feeling that of course she would be wouldn’t she, since I was actually paying her to read my rubbish and talk about my writing on a one to one basis. However, I was excited about the reading project as it is the second month of the children’s long school holidays and achieving anything more than reading books over the next few weeks would be an unrealistic goal. She suggested a couple of authors I might try for commercial fiction and I tracked down some books but now I find myself speed reading this popular women’s fiction in a hasty, disinterested fashion, skipping through the highlights to the last chapter just for the relief of knowing what’s going to happen, then putting the book to one side. I admire the fact that these women have written successful novels, their discipline and can see their skill in making a story come to life but I can’t really be bothered to read all of it. Am less certain of being able to a thing like that myself. Rather than finding clarity, I’m getting confused.

My friend lent me ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ at the weekend and I have strayed into that book, soaking it up with enthusiasm. It describes a wonderfully indulgent (and true) journey of a woman my age who has success as a writer under her belt but has shunned the marriage and kids bit. The book has been a worldwide success and I even saw Oprah devoting a program to it when I was in England (though I wasn’t interested then so didn’t watch). I think that its universal appeal perhaps boils down to escapism – so far I can easily picture myself in Rome, in an apartment, enrolling on a language course and travelling miles in search of the most perfectly delicious pizza.

Back to Nairobi and the city is out of water (again). It is worryingly/unseasonably dry and dusty and while we have the luxury of resorting to paying for trucks of water to come to our door, what does everyone else do? Boreholes are running dry too. A friend came back from holiday this week to find she had had a break in, apparently one of a spate of burglaries by a gang of ten that have been taking place in the area. There was also a break in to a house opposite us on Sunday night. One of the ladies who works in our house arrived on Monday and said that her step uncle was murdered in Karangware slum over the weekend. He was selling chips from a street stand and apparently some youths came along, ate chips then shot him dead when asked for payment. In our suburb, an 18 year old boy was tragically killed in a car crash, only yards from his home. Meanwhile, the same weekend (my source would kill me for passing this on!) a couple of fifteen year old Kenyan kids (one of whom has a high profile parent involved in politics), landed a helicopter on somebody’s land outside Nairobi, the pilot got out and asked the landowners if they could direct him to the paintballing centre - it seems that the kids were bored and fancied a bit of adventure.

Of course none of these stories can be claimed by me and are all fairly unrelated but they beg the question 'what is the world/Kenya coming to?' Instead of brooding I will get back to pizza and Rome and escapism and will probaby continue to put off doing any structured writing for a bit longer. At least until the beginning of September which I fondly look at as the 'Housewives New Year' as this is when the kids finally go back to school and occasionally peace will reign in the house once again.

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