Here I am.

Sitting at my desk.




After last week’s tense, stressful wait for the prof’s immigration status to be legalised when his first visa reached its end date. (Normally done without too much hassle by contacting immigration, signing papers and paying payments.)

After panicking when he was silent for 24 hours, during which I thought he may have been arrested by the immigration police. (It has happened before, I was with him, well, until they took him away to a police vehicle by the side of a road at a road block, that is. Just so you know this is not my idle imagination at work.)

After finally seeing it all come out right in the end…

… except it hasn’t.

Let me explain why I get involved, for those of you who think I should just stay out of it, let my best-beloved sort out his own problems in the field. Aside, of course, from the fact he is my best-beloved.

First of all, I have no choice but to keep an active eye on our bank balance while he’s away. The Zambian Kwacha is not what you might call a widely recognised currency and he has to pay his way, largely in cash, by taking out large quantities from working ATMs.

I have not used our joint account since he left, so he could have free rein. And luckily I have a small separate one of my own for just this reason. From which I can top ours up if necessary.

I also keep a weather eye on his inbox – with his permission – so I can see any bear-traps in the offing. Sometimes it’s impossible for him to communicate across continents in a timely enough way to get things done when a famed Zambian  ‘just now’ fails the upgrade to ‘now now’ .

Which is why, on Friday, when I imagined all was well, I did wonder about the emails about exports, about invoices, about … university finance replies unopened.

And sure enough, this lunchtime, an email.

Please contact [names supplied].

Tell them the invoice for import agent clearing (an invoice a month old in Kwacha, only on Friday deemed unacceptable, must be in dollars or pounds) and a so far non-existent one for export, have to be paid or he can’t bring any of the valuable kit he imported with great difficulty – and at great expense – back home again.

Which I am guessing means he would have to leave without it as his new, temporary visa says he must “wind up and leave”.  See his latest post here. [Done on Sunday when the bandwidth stretched far enough to cope]

I am always willing to help, if not always happy.

And what I am definitely not happy to do is to sit here doing nothing except metaphorically biting my nails (there’s nothing real left to bite – thanks to all the cleaning 😉 I’ve been doing) while receiving ‘helpful’ advice.

Which is why I don’t usually share such hassles. Because then I get:

“Tell him…”

“Can’t you…”

“Have you tried…”

“Why doesn’t he …”

“Why do you have to…”

Well,  you know what? It’s just not that easy.

If there is no bandwidth there is no email.

If the Zambian phone (which makes lousy connections anyway) doesn’t have enough credit it won’t accept my call.

If he doesn’t have his UK phone on I can’t call that and of course, ditto.

If he’s not in his backpacker hostel (yes, I rang their landline and he isn’t) then I have run out of options.

Forget WhatsApp and Facebook calls and Skype everything else.

We’re talking a place where you can’t depend on electricity at all times, let alone communications.

And today we cannot communicate.

So, yes, I call university finance. They are sympathetic and helpful.

Yes they are ready to jump through hoops to get the things paid. But there are no invoices that are payable.

They cannot pay non-existent invoices.

And the prof cannot write them, the export/import agents have to do that.

And the time is an hour different in Zambia. An hour later there, so the afternoon ticks away…

And I am tired, anxious, fed up and have done next to no creative writing in over six weeks. Haven’t even submitted the novel, the first planned task of this stint ‘alone’, to more than two agents.

‘Real’ writers say, I can’t not write, I will always find time to write, come what may.

Well, I’m obviously not a writer.

Yes, I have set up a website, created a couple of items – words in hardcopy for sale. Organised ISBNS. Bought specialist packaging and all that stuff.

I’ve blogged for six years (though only once in the last six weeks).

I compose in my head the whole time.

But if I were a ‘real’ writer I could be writing.

Not worrying.


And people wonder why I call this memoirs of a husk.

But fortunately there’s a remedy for temporary huskitis.

“Tea tempers the spirit and harmonises the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness.’

Lu Yu, the Sage of Tea, born 733.

Now, just to choose which one.



This entry was posted in Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Limbo

  1. Full empathy Mary. No experience of any of this and nothing to suggest. But I hear you. Your frustration, your experience, your anxiety and your love.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Larry Barham says:

    Needing a nice cuppa ‘now now’. Waiting for the next invoice from the shipping agent. Wise words from Lu Yu and MC Earnshaw

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gunpowder seems appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jilldennison says:

    Awwww … my sweet friend … I had no idea you were going through all of this. I am so sorry. I offer no meaningless advice, for it is not a situation I have any expertise in. I do, however, wish I were there and could give you a huge HUG in person! Meanwhile … add a splash of Bailey’s Irish or Kahlua, or cream sherry to that tea! Love ‘n hugs, my friend … email me if you feel like it. ❤


  5. Ardys says:

    Life in general is just not that easy, and with travels it becomes even more complex, and if you dare to do something extra with ‘your wild and precious life’ (Mary Oliver) well, no one can advise you but your inner self. Having a husband who travels frequently (is away now) I totally empathise. Enjoy the cuppa and breeeeeathe. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Judy Barnes says:

    In recognition of the frustrations of Zambia and all too familiar hold ups,bureaucracy, forms and licences that don’t exist….. I hope it all comes together after that cuppa,and that Larry gets home intact with All of his gear. Paul has UK guests going out who might be able to help if it turns pear shaped. X

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steph says:

    Omg, Mary, we are so sorry! Normally we’d have been straight over to offer hugs and love, but we are going away to Harrogate in about half an hour. Love to you both, keep in touch. Can’t tell you how much we feel for you. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  8. seer1969 says:

    With the present high tension in the UK over immigration, I thought for a moment the Prof was having problems with his status here!
    Releived it wasn’t here, or you might have become an American citizen. Sorry to hear of your worries, been quite a year. I expect the equatorial weather hasn’t helped, I’ve been immobile in front of a fan with my hairy dog, writing furthest from my mind.
    Back to British normality, if only the weather. Chin up gel, tickety boo and all that, never say die, keep yer pecker up, every cloud has a silver lining [if not a shower], don’t let the bureaucrats grind you down.
    Summer is for dreaming, winter is for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thel says:

    Mary, I’m glad to read Larry’s understated response above. Hugs to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Better out than in… as the saying goes. Did you realise after you chronicled these events how well you are coping, in perpsective? As I read it I thought “Bloody Hell!” It’s the not being able to do something that’s the worst. I think if there is a task-remedy-action even if difficult, we manage better. Take care ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Spot on, Dale. Not being able to do something is THE worst! Caught in the middle, only able to ask and suggest and remind but DO nothing!
      I don’t normally put the back-room stresses of h is seasons out there as he has more than enough on his plate but this time, it just felt like, dammit, I am tired of sitting around stressing all alone. You will all share it! Yes, I’m coping, as we all do when we have to… grudgingly 😉 But it will soon pass (I hope!)


  11. Alison Parry says:

    Big hugs, Mary. Empathy is all I can offer but it sounds as though it’s getting sorted now.
    What a fantastic plethora of lovely responses from your readers!!
    Love from Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Heide says:

    You ARE TOO a real writer — and a superb writer, at that. But first and foremost you’re a human being who can’t help but worry about and be sidetracked by such vexing problems (especially when African technology and bureaucracy are involved). So please go easy on yourself and trust that your pen and voice will still be there, waiting when you’re ready to come back.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Steph says:

    Heide is totally right. If I can shove in with my twopenn’orth, may I ask whether any great writer achieved anything without being a very real, flawed and emotional human being?
    Not that I’ve heard of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steph, dear friend, with all your erudition about literature – all I can say is thank you for that, thank you, thank you, thank you! I have a story worming around my head at last. It’s a relief.
      [And I hope you have both been taking the health-giving waters in that spa town – to mitigate any cream teas that might have been consumed at Betty’s 😉 ]


  14. and I thought things were crazy in Egypt…. hang in there and drink more tea, dear Mary! Best wishes for patience and if that don’t work there’s always prozac (I admit it goes well with tea) ❤

    Liked by 1 person

Thanks for reading, please comment if it struck a chord

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.