Tag Archives: childhood

The Eighth Prophecy

As July looms I find myself contemplating what annual illness fate has in store for me. I know that I am a fully fledged hypochondriac, but I can also see a pattern when there is one – and for the last seven years every July (without fail) I have been struck down with some particularly unfortunate and generally unattractive illness. With this very much in mind I consulted the oracle:

Shall I always enjoy good health?

Answer: –

Your health depends on your own inclination

Last July I got Chicken Pox for the unlikely second time (whole other blog post dedicated to this trauma), but really that story does not even compete with my previous health track record. After second year finals I went to Kenya to stay with a friend and one day we went to a giraffe sanctuary where you could feed the giraffes – I put a food pellet in my mouth so that a giraffe would kiss me (I’m not a weirdo, other people were doing it too). It seemed like a great photo opportunity at the time (in persual of a totes amazeballs profile pic you know), however not only did some thief in Nairobi steal the camera shortly after but I ended up in hospital for two weeks because I’d consumed faeces. July 2010 I got E.Coli.

For my 21st Birthday my brother flew me to Cape Town for a month – my brother is one of my favourite people in the whole world, kind and funny – he’s always been a role model. But he can also be quite terrifying. He has zero tolerance for smokers and was less than impressed to see his baby sister lighting up a Marlboro on the first night I was there. Realising the wrath of an older brother was far worse than any nicotine cravings I promptly swore never to smoke again. One day though he left me at a shopping mall, and I broke my oath. I had an illicit cigarette. I suddenly felt faint, and feverish – was this God punishing me? Perhaps. Bed ridden and lesson learnt, July 2009 I had Swine Flu.

The previous year I woke up and saw a half human, half bull-frog mutant staring back at me in the mirror. Glands like golf-balls – it was July 2008 that I got glandular fever. Perhaps the most impressive bodily-malfunction to date was a pustule-growth the size of a pea on my left eye. July 2007 I had the largest stye ever witnessed by the city hospital.

However it was the previous year that really cemented my status as a medical-freak. One morning I woke up with a half paralysed face. I went into school regardless, thinking it was just a spasm – the teachers sent me to hospital thinking I’d had a stroke. For almost two months I had no movement on one side of my face, excess droolage, and an eye I had to tape shut at night. July 2006 I had Bell’s Palsy.

Throw in Malaria and a few others and healthwise, it would be fair to conclude that my luck is not the best. So with this extensive list in mind I feel I am perfectly justified in being concerned about what next month holds in store for me. I’m not sure how many more bizarre attacks my special-needs immune system can withstand. With this totally melodramatic revelation comes a good dose of perspective.

It’s the curse of July for me; it’s made me obsessed with my health. That fear of getting something else strange and disfiguring. It’s much like the curse of being human, the fear of not having a full life, of missing opportunities. It is worth thinking about for a bit; but eventually you have to come back because really, it really all depends on your own inclination.

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The Fourth Prophecy

Johnny the Jig is Holywood’s most famous child. He sits on the high street and plays his accordion. A child from another era, he looks bedraggled and content. The sculpture is my favourite thing in Holywood and while I was photographing it the other day I found myself thinking a lot about my own childhood. The oracle offers only one question on the subject:

“Am I still thought a child?”

the answer I was given –

“They know there are no children in this age”

I suppose accessing childhood memories becomes harder for everyone as they get older, but for me so many of my memories are half formed from stories and photographs – the other half a vague recollection of what my infant-self witnessed. Leaving Zimbabwe was difficult, and I think for many years I found it easier to simply not think about it. But now that I’m older (and extremely wise) I’ve discovered that thinking about my childhood has been vitally important, not just in understanding my own identity but in appreciating just how lucky we were.

I remember granadilla’s growing at the bottom of the garden, the horse eating the paw-paws, my father’s weird sculptures located in even weirder places, and dress up – I lived for dress up. I remember a new word ‘war veterans’ being introduced into our vocabulary, my mother telling me stories, I remember being feverish with malaria, and I can still smell the sweet flowers of the Jacaranda trees and the feel warm gravel burning under my feet.

I can remember Veronica shelling peas outside in the sun – I put a plastic bag over my head and she told me that I had to take it off because if I died Jesus would come from the sky and shout at her. That was the first I’d ever heard of Jesus.

I remember nights in the dormitory when we whispered about boys from under our counterpane’s and snuck out into the courtyard to gaze at the stars. I remember avoiding hippos as we canoed down the Zambezi and agonising what single sweet to choose on a trip to town. Mostly I remember a time that was largely spent in our imaginations, oblivious to the crumbling walls of the world around us. There would be other nights when our whispers turned to worry – fears of the future. The rumours and tension had slowly eased their way into our world unnoticed – and with their arrival they took the last moments of our childhood. The first white farmer to be killed was from our town, the bitter irony is that there are so many others to have suffered that we will never know about, skin colour still determining political relevance.

When I think back to those days I realise that we were the first generation where the racial divide was starting to matter less and less, schools were integrated and the colour of your skin rarely mattered. The generation of Zimbabwean children who left, like myself, undoubtedly suffered – having everything you know taken from you is traumatic – but we also had something that most will never know, we knew what it was to be children. I was a lucky one, I think of my school friends, both black and white, who were left behind and I know it was worse for them. Looking at Johnny the Jig, and thinking of my own upbringing I realise that the oracle is right, with half the children in the world living in abject poverty and the other half raised with only materialism as guidance, there are no children in this age. I think that’s worth thinking about.

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