The Rains are here. The meteorological tyranny of the last few months, everyday being hotter and drier than the last, suddenly ended with the most cathartic tropical storm at about 10pm last night. This was no Mancunian fine yet permeating drizzle. Nor the ‘oop Mam Tor in October blatter. This was the super size in water delivery solutions – the whole of the sky released an ocean of water in one go and let it free-fall onto the baked earth. This is a photo of the storm and of us the following morning, it was still raining. Most of our road is missing, and quite a lot of other people’s walls are not where they had left them the night before.
In Malawi most bricks are made by shaping natural clay into tablets, stacking them all together in an elongated pyramidal shape and then setting a fire in the inside. When I first saw these curious structures at a distance, being a recovering archaeologist I thought that they were some kind of religious earthworks. Crumbling fragments of the hopes and dreams of a long-dead civilisation. Then I saw one on fire, and I worked it out. I don’t have a photo as I’m mortified by taking photographs of strangers, so here is one of my sketches.
A Malawian brick kiln, two ladies and a tasty-bok.
The kilns are interesting and eye-catching but I don’t think that they produce very strong bricks. I guess the heat doesn’t fire the tablet evenly, leading to one side becoming more porous than the other*. As a result, most of the carpentry shop next to our house is now in the Naperi river.
Nonetheless, everyone agrees the storm is worth the destruction and celebrates the coming of the Rains. The Rains are the end of the ‘hungry time’, between the reaping of the last crops and before the new growth can begin. It feels like the earth has suddenly opened its eyes and sat straight up, awake and refreshed. As Betjeman said, “The earth exhales”.**
Lyra slept through the immense din of rain drops as big as gobstoppers falling on the tin roof. The lightening lit up the whole sky and thunder pummeled our ears, but she slept on. Jody and Nonna were a little nervous (shit scared) but I loved it. I am frightened of centipedes (q.v.), stairs without backs, and diagrams of the human central nervous system, but I’m not frightened of storms. My atavistic defences are overrun by the excitement of natures’ tantrums; there is something so ferocious and vital about a tropical storm, especially if it’s over the sea. It turns me on, ‘look at the pressure front on that mother’ I think. I’m obviously in the running for a Darwin award sometime soon.
In More Tales of Malawi Water, we went to the mountains this weekend and swam in the most amazing waterfall. Blantyre is on the Shire (she-ree) plateaux, ringed by hills like Sheffield. Part of this plateaux is the mountain range of Mulanje, a huge volcanic rock that seems pulled from the earth into this towering, sheer sided giant, wreathed in grey clouds. It is said (my source for this is a pizza menu, so I’m not very confident of this fact) that Tolkein based the Shire on the plateaux and Mordor on the mountain. This photo doesn’t really do it justice, but my damn camera broke as we approached, so I’ll just have to go back and take some more pictures for you all.
In more personal news, we are all well, I’m still not a full Weeb, but I’m much better. Lyra is having a lovely time, especially since Nonna is here. This is her and her friend Luka playing ‘mummies and daddies’ with their babies in chatenges (wrap slings).
*I am talking out of my bottom here, if you have any actual facts about brick making, please share.
**In the interests of accuracy I should point out that he was talking about bombing Slough, not about a tropical storm, but the line always caught my imagination.