Drumming memories.

Drums are clunky and clumsy to sit down to. Bits are threatening to fall over, poke your leg, clatter and clash in a big noise. But once I do sit down, it feels like a beast is at my beck and call.

Everybody has something that eases their mind. Different people are affected by different things. Some friends have told me surfing does it, others running, others fine art and drawing. We are all so different, but everyone has something they absolutely love and fall into so deeply that they don’t even notice time passing, or tiredness, or anything else but the task at hand. I have a few things. Golf. Motorbikes. Fly fishing. Music.

The problem is, I stopped playing drums. I got busy. Then I grew older and got REALLY busy. And then I forgot what it felt like to sit at the very bottom of a song and push the other instruments forward. Control the tempo and the sound. For me, there is really nothing like it.

My friend came to town the other day and we met up at a guitar shop. He wanted a Fender to pass on as a family heirloom. I tested some out with him, and I played drums as he strummed the blues. I remembered that great feeling all over again.

I need to start playing regularly.

Happy Tuesday chimps!

Organic farm trip

Our minibus turned off the smooth tar road, tyres crunching on the gravel. Suddenly away from traffic, we faced a long, narrow wedge – a valley rising up into a tall range of mountains. My wife explained to me that, in winter, snow fell on the peaks ahead. Unusual for Africa.

For us it was sunset at the tail end of summer. No snow. Instead, the gravel road was hot and red in the sun, and the bush on the valley floor was a hundred shades of gold and green. A troop of baboons walked on the side of the road, welcoming us to our stay at the organic farm. “All this fruit is ours” they seemed to say. “Leave it alone and we’ll let you stay”. I made a mental note: Lock the windows, hide the food. Then an eagle hovered above, scanning for movement in the bush below. My daughter noticed how fierce its claws were. The mouse below would have no chance but the eagle needed to eat too hey Dad? Signs appear on the side of the road with directions to our cottage.

Minibuses dont do well on steep valley roads. The steeper the road got, the more we slipped and slid until finally the bus reached the cottage like a tired animal, happy to lie down and rest in the car park. By that time all the children had left seatbelts behind, and sat on our laps in the front. No health and safety standards. No space. Lots of fun and excitement with a valley full of baboons and birds, and a sliding slipping bus ride.

The cottage gave us everything we needed. Or rather, it kept everything that we didn’t need away from us. No phones, no TV, no internet. Even the baboons left us alone. As a replacement the girls played and played. Adventures in the amazing bunk bed with a ladder and a nook in the wall. The deep swimming pool to keep us cool and occupied by a couple of frogs, beautiful leopard spots on their backs. I showed the girls how to catch a frog gently in my hands, and they squealed with laughter as it hopped out my hands and launched itself away to the nearest bush.

Everything growing on the farm was classified as organic. Or rather, the soil in which it grew was classified organic. Not the biggest farm I have seen, but it stood out from larger, mass producing farms as each piece of fruit had an extra “organic” certification. Fancy baboon feeding scheme, you might think. Apparently they allow outsiders to use their soil so that they can claim their produce is organic in the markets. An interesting concept. Hard work though.

When we went to the nearby town for a meal, the girls attracted the attention of another family celebrating a birthday. They gave us about twenty balloons. We crammed them into the car, so that our minibus looked like it would float away as we rumbled back to the cottage. More squealing with laughter. Then the girls decided it would be nice to pass on the balloons to the boys who lived in workers’s shacks on the farm. I was proud of them for giving away such a treasure. I was also glad our minibus stayed on the ground throughout. Gravity works.

Such a short and simple trip away but it gave us more than I hoped. Happy Tuesday chimps.

Trips to Kenya

I just returned from a trip to Kenya. It was beautiful. The weather was warm, my family there was happy and healthy, and I was by myself in the town of my childhood for a while. I visited friends, stayed up late and generally did what I wanted. However, I always come away from these trips a little conflicted. Let me try to explain.

Depending on who I am talking to, trips to Nairobi can be called “a trip home”, “a trip to see my parents”, or simply “a trip to Kenya”. Somehow I am unable to find a label that sticks. It seems to reflect poorly on me to call it “home” in front of my wife, for example. Whereas calling it the same thing in front of an old Kenyan friend seems right. This is strange. The place does not change. Simply my label for it.

Since I went to boarding school overseas (sunny England) aged 15 I have been returning to Kenya, to the exact same house I grew up in. I tend to revert to a sort of adolescence and a role in the Kenya house. This is the case even though I have a very happy home and family of my own in South Africa. I heard the experience described as a “dance” we have with our original family members. A choreographed sequence of interactions and emotions. Over the years I have simultaneously missed the old dance (homesickness) and realised the need to escape from it and create a new dance with my new family (growing up).

Back in boarding school the homesickness was paralysing. I would miss Kenya so much, ticking the days off my calendar. When I eventually got back for a holiday I would wallow and bathe in the place, saturating myself with familiarity like I was in a warm bath. In the worst case scenario, we never leave our childhood homes. Either physically or psychologically. We are never allowed to grow up and create our own “dance”. We fail to launch. Nowadays of course I miss my parents being overseas, but the “dance” and the power of our old home only hits me once I have arrived in Kenya.

I am grateful that the homesickness and the “family dance” of my childhood is getting further away all the time. It means I am happy with my life. At the same time I am so lucky to have such a place to go back to. Trips to Nairobi are now more like a quick holiday rather than an essential recovery or a fix for an ailment. I enjoy them more because of this.

Happy weekend, chimps.


In the early 2000’s I remember hearing about then US President Bush and how he found God. He described the emergence of his faith as a little mustard seed which was planted inside of him and which he couldn’t ignore. Apparently he was wild as a young man and faith played a large part in guiding him to the Presidency. At the time, the mustard seed metaphor made me wrinkle up my face in disgust. Sentimental American codswallop. I found the concept so foreign and I was angry that the leader of the Western world was charging into wars and deciding fate, based on this mustard seed faith of his. Where was the proof? Where was the science?

At around about the same time I had various people try to pursuade me into religion. One friend took me to his evangelical Christian church where they all closed eyes and swayed to Christian pop music, others argued about science and faith with me at University. It all seemed like nonsense to me.

But….everyone has some sort of faith. It might be faith in science, or faith in nature, or faith in Allah. Faith in 7 billion forms (souls?) makes the world go around.

The default in life is entropy – things fall apart inevitably – and so we need guidance to help us in the slog of keeping things together day after day, lest we default to a survivalist, bestial way of living. When you place something at the top of your life’s mountain – an ultimate value – you then orientate your life around this ultimate value. In this way faith guides your actions no matter who you are. What is in question is the ultimate value of choice. Only relatively recently have we killed God as the ultimate value guiding our lives, leaving the question up in the air:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Friedrich Nietzsche

What do you place as your ultimate value in life? Do you place love at the top? Compassion? Nature? Prestige? Socialising? Being fit and skinny? The options are endless and the question has been part of human existence forever. It is older than dirt. This means you have to choose your ultimate value to live by, and if it is not God at the top, then what replaces God?

Take me to the river

A memory from our trip last week.

This time the heat is all encompassing. Every step and every breath in this country is filled with the sense of a warm, dry, summer. It hasn’t rained near the river in several weeks and fine dust is settled on everything.

The car arrives at yet another barren T-junction. Diesel motor running and wheels crunching on rocks and dust. To the right, more gravel road and a squinting view into the hot sun. To the left is a view. A relief. The road drops down to a valley where a broad snaking river cuts through the rocky land. On the banks are small white houses perched close to the water. A farm stall, a little hotel and a river side restaurant invites the car down to the water. I’m heading left into the valley to drop my boat into the river, to start the engine and to cut through the water. Boating in the hot sun makes me happy.

Happy Monday chimps.

Sunday morning paragraph

Waking up is sometimes so easy and sometimes so hard. Creeping out of the bedroom, I gazed at my sleeping children strewn across the floor on camp beds (we’re on holiday). Chests rising and falling. Dreaming pups. Part of me wanted to wake them up too, and the other part is low on sleep and dreads the energy required for the day ahead. Now the sun is coming up and I’m clinging to my coffee. My eyes blink at the silver peach sky outside and at the computer screen inside. I couldn’t sleep and decided to try and do something meaningful. Write? Meditate? Yoga? We’ll see how many of the holy trinity I complete before the house springs to life. Happy Sunday chimps.

Acting “as if…”

What would happen if you really acted “as if…”

I’m not talking about doing this for a little while, or doing it as a joke – i mean committing completely to the idea that you can change your behaviour, your world and your outcomes purely by acting out an ideal.

This must be where the “fake it til you make it” saying comes from, and I always dismissed this as inauthentic and deceptive. Now I think differently. Sometimes you don’t fully buy into an idea, but you act it out anyways. People stray in their beliefs and behaviours, not because they have it all planned out but because they act like part of a group. Eventually the acting stops and they really feel like they belong.

What if you acted as if:

  • you were very organised and a fitness fanatic
  • nothing really mattered
  • everything mattered more than we could possibly know
  • God exists
  • you were an entrepreneur
  • your morning smoothie was a super food curing illnesses and lengthening your life

Happy Monday, chimps.

Taking technology for granted

We often take technology around us for granted. I think we do this mainly to spare ourselves some headspace. If we constantly tried to be congniscant of all that happens around us, we would overload. But still – reality can bite you hard when tech fails.

Lights and TV work until there is a power cut. Cars cruise down the road until they conk out. Sanitation is an afterthought until something goes wrong with the toilet or the drains.

A new variant of this (excuse the pun) is the impact of COVID on airlines. We used to think flights were always available and plannable. With lockdowns and border security around COVID, flying anywhere in a plane is becoming a gamble. You might be able to, you might not.

I just said goodbye to my parents after a lovely visit. At the same time, a new mutation of the Covid virus means SA is on most peoples’ red list. No more family trips for a while.

I look forward to flying to my family again. I look forward to taking air travel for granted again some day.


Work nowadays is a strange setup. Running our own company has meant my wife and I have a lot of flexibility to manage the impacts of COVID. We worked from home and office long before the virus hit, and we have continued largely unaffected for the last couple of years. Our business model hasn’t (yet) been affected by lockdowns or virus infections. Thank goodness, we have stayed afloat.

We always remain cautious with the knowledge that businesses are fragile and vulnerable entities in the best of times. We constantly need to pay attention.

I used to be more concerned with finding my “purpose” in work – with doing what I loved. Now I rather love what I do – mainly because I am so lucky to have anything to do at the moment. Work can simply disappear. In a country with astronomical unemployment, and a virus pandemic looming, this is clearer to me than ever.

Love what you do.

Attention split

Yesterday I wrote about family, health, and hobbies as a way to divide up your attention. I recently read an interesting article on priorities. It is slightly expanded compared to yesterdays approach, so here’s a more detailed way to divide up your time:

  • Work
  • Education
  • Religion/Spirit
  • Exercise
  • Recreation
  • Family

It is revealing to apply these categories to my life.

Work is work (very clearly defined). I am either working delivering reports for money, or helping to organise the broader company with my role as operations officer. It is clear what needs to be done and who the clients are (internal and external). This could take up my whole day if I wanted it to.

Education happens for me through reading and listening to podcasts. It is not happening in a formal way (degrees or courses) and i think this is becoming the new norm for many people. I seem to focus in on a few categories – finance, marketing, technology and psychology. These are broad categories and i perhaps spend too much time noodling around on the internet. At its best, my time spent here is educational. At its worst it is a swamp which i need to escape from. Again, it is easy to spend hours on this category.

Religion/Sprituality has become interesting to me only recently. I believe this category ties in with psychology as there is a fundamental religious drive or instinct which humans have. I am also interested in the behavioural impact of ritual, community, setting high goals and understanding hierarchies around you. I have only recently seen the benefits of religion for those around me. Otherwise my life has, to date, been pretty much wilfully ignorant of religion. This category mixes often with education for me. It might one day be good to separate it out as its own category to manage.

Exercise in my life is what you call a complete shamozzle. Non-existent. Pathetic. In need of attention. I tend to blame the other components of my life and claim there is no time. But I definitely have 45 minutes a day to fit some exercise in. This category has historically been tied up with the ‘Recreation’ category as i used to gain good exercise from social and enjoyable hobbies such as team sports or squash. However, co-ordinating recreation and socialising with exercise seems a step too far for me at the moment. It is probably useful to tackle them separately for now.

Recreation for me would include socialising, music and sports i enjoy. I have very little of this in my life at the moment. But there is enough through social media, work and family to get me through for now, while our kids are so young and in need of attention. However one day this bird is going to have to spread its wings again and become social and more self-serving with the hobbies! Drumming, squash, golf, cricket, rugby, bike riding, podcasting and listening to music. Oh the joys that await.

Family has become almost everything for me. So much so that it scared me and forced me to write posts such as this one to figure out what is going on. We have a big family which needs a lot of attention at the moment. I love them very much. I find balance a hard thing to manage when you love something that much.