This morning, as I walked Aslan to school, we met Harry Potter and Willy Wonka, Alice in Wonderland and Where’s Wally, Thing 1 and Thing 2. World Book Day is a marvellous event!
We are a bookish family but living in Zambia books were far more of a luxury item. Even more so magazines, which always seemed to be exorbitantly priced. But going to the hairdressers: there I got to look through some for free. However, the first time I had my hair cut was terrifying. What on earth would a Zambian make of a white woman’s hair?
The time had come. Haircut. I was sitting in the reception area reading a South African magazine waiting for my appointment. For moral support I had arranged for Stephen to meet me when it was all over. The magazines were a bit of a privilege given the price of purchasing such glossy overseas publications at the shops. I couldn’t really claim that it was upmarket, cultured reading but I hadn’t read a magazine for months and when you were starved of such material, ‘My husband left me for my poodle’ and ‘How to lose 10 kg in three days’ or ‘Seven places to have an orgasm around the house’ were remarkably important reads.
I was still anxious about the haircut. A million ‘what if…’ questions floated around my head. I tried to find a picture of what I was hoping for, although I actually just wanted my hair to look neater, tidier and to be more manageable.
I was called through and explained to the girl […] what I would like. […]
While my hair was being washed my mind wandered. […] I let out an involuntary sigh. I realised I was bored, most of the time. For the first month I had been busy setting up house. For the second I had enjoyed my false holiday, reading books in the sunshine, going to the café for a croissant and to read the papers. But it had all worn thin. I had no household responsibilities other than to buy the food that we all needed; and little in the way of childcare responsibilities, given the constant availability of Sherry and Precious. “If all the year were playing holiday, to sport would be as tedious as to work. But when they seldom come, they wished for come,” as Shakespeare wrote. Holidays are interesting because they are rare. Right now my life was almost constant holiday and the extra time on my hands had allowed tedium to creep in. My little grey cells needed exercising. Something had to happen to ensure that I didn’t go quietly mad at home. Besides, I’d nearly finished all the books I’d got and they were not a cheap commodity to replenish.
Of course, I should not have worried about the haircut at all: the mop was cropped beautifully. I came back through to reception, receiving a fleeting look from my waiting husband, who quickly returned to the magazine I’d been reading earlier. I duly paid and then looked over Stephen’s shoulder at the article. There was a photo of a rather entranced lady draped over the kitchen counter. He glanced up at me and smiled sheepishly.
“Ready to go?”
“Yes,” I said, as he closed the magazine, replaced it on the rack and then escorted me from the salon.
“‘Seven places to have an orgasm around the house’,” he muttered. “Tell me, why don’t we have a washing machine?”
In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree is available as an ebook and in paperback from 18 March.
(c) Catharine Withenay 2013