When I was preparing to leave South Africa to go travelling a couple of years ago, a lot of people asked me: When will you be back? My honest answer then was that I had no idea, it could be 6 months, I might never go back.
Today, on the second anniversary of arriving in London, that response has never been more true. Well, OK, obviously it’s been longer than 6 months!
Thanks to Jan Joubert, I spent 4 months working in a country pub in the village of Adstock, Buckingham,
England. At 42 years old, that was quite an adjustment from having your own 2 bedroomed flat with everything you need to a room with a shared toilet in the roof of a 13th century thatched pub. But pulling pints brings its own peace and I loved my stay there.
I took my fistful of pounds and I hit the road, very uncertain about how long my funds would last and whether I was going to be able to do the things I had planned or thought about. I cruised through Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic before stopping in Adelboden Switzerland where, thanks to Anika and Robi Hari I had another job. For 3 months I worked in a ski shop, renting skis and gear and servicing the gear when it came back.
This was all pretty much as advertised so far. I earned some money doing casual work, toured a bit, and then earned some more money. But at this point the plans changed quite a bit.
Instead of heading up to Moscow and jumping on the train to Vladivostok as planned, I took a train back to Amsterdam where I had met a very special woman. I have been here a year and a month now.
I am also doing something I never thought I would: teaching English. And loving it. I am also taking an indefinite sabbatical from writing and enjoying that too. I finally finished my gargantuan JOHANNESBURG novel. Re-wrote it 3 times and sent it off to agents, publishers and editors all over. The responses were all negative. I understand why. Regardless of its possible lack of literary merits, it’s a big, non-traditional kind of book from an unknown voice with a subject and intent that is not generally associated with that place. It can’t be sold as a political South African novel, nor as a wild life extravaganza. And besides, it may actually not be very good.
I started a new book. But I stopped. Writing had become like work and I was finding it hard to feel inspired. Actually it was impossible.
I have been working on a book in one way or another for basically every day since 2007. The first couple of weeks
of cold turkey were weird. But now it’s OK. Now I am happy to wait and see which way the pendulum will swing.
And then I woke up and realised that it had been nearly 2 years. And today it is two years. I still don’t know how long it will be until I return to South Africa. It still might be never. I also don’t know what’s going to happen this year really, except that I will teach more English. I will educate myself some. I will enjoy this good life I have here in Amsterdam.
There are a few things I would still like to be able to do. But to be honest, I didn’t get them right when I was in South Africa, and I doubt that I would be any more successful now. I did what I could under my own steam and hopefully that helped more than just a few of the people I met. But the bigger dreams from that I guess are just not going to happen.
Let’s talk again in another two years.