(excuse the rosettes- centenary celebrations, not political campaigning!)
Four months and nine different residences later, we have finally unpacked all our bags. We have a home in Aishalton! It is the village house, made of local bricks and ite leaf thatch. Soon we will name it.
The house looks like a child’s drawing, with its steeply pitched hairy roof, door in the middle and two windows eyeing you from either side. Its inhabitants are redolent of Grimm brothers. The bats and the frogs seem to have moved out, at least temporarily, and now a wren resides in one corner. (It poos on my kitchen, but somehow wren guano is more romantic and forgiveable than bat guano). Our geckos are tiny, extremely cute, and eat flies- my new favourite creature. Every morning I sweep up another crop of dead cockroaches that have fallen from the thatch on munching our insecticide, and make the local chickens’ day. They come running when I open the doors. They wander into the bedroom (bad) and eat dead spiders, live cockroaches and whatever else they find (worth it). All the insects apart from the ants have one common appealing characteristic- they run when they see us coming.
Last Monday, the village called a Work Day to build our toilet. It is about 100 yards from the house over rough, tussocky ground. It is a deep hole with wooden seat, splintery so far, three-quarter walls and a tin roof. We padlock it. The same goes for the “shower”- four three-quarter walls with a tilted roof and a door that leaves a nice gap for prying eyes (and swings open unpredictably during bathes), and a raised plank floor. The walls are reclaimed zinc roofing, covered with nail holes, giving the whole cubicle a whimsically wartime air of having been violently strafed with bullets. The well is about 300 yards in another direction. We are getting good at only needing one bucket each per day. I chuckle to remember a day at Titanic Spa with Ange when I had my first ever bucket bath- ah, the glamour of bucket baths every day! For the millionth time, I congratulate myself on the short hair choice.
The house has a fringe that needs trimming. Sitting in the hammock looking out the back door, tendrils drift and puff in the wind that breathes out of the hot ground. One of these days I will give it the haircut I badly need myself, take a saw to it and smarten it up. This is a world to gaze in, muse in, watch instead of analyse in, fall in, swing swing swing in the hammock in.
Lying in bed at night, sucking at the air to try to wring a little oxygen out of it, I gaze through the gauzey haze of the net at the strong leaf-stems that hold the thatch firm. This flimsy net protects us from so much; clumsy bumping moths, purposeful mosquitos and all the other voracious little bloodsuckers, cockroaches and 4-inch spiders falling and climbing, climbing and falling, scuttling greedily, bossily all over the un-netted world. Perhaps our amulets against cockroaches literal and metaphorical are always this flimsy. Aren’t they lovely, the filmy gossamers that give us an illusion of safety?