Fire and flood. The other night, some locals having a really good time set fire to the phone cables that connect Greatmore to the outside world. Today it's raining in Cape Town. Proper cats-and-dogs rain. All of this explains why I'm sitting, soaked, in a cafe and in a somewhat philosophical mood.
One thing I left out of Monday’s Quarterly Review was this blog. I love my blog. I do. If nobody read it, I’d still love it, but it also makes me very happy that you read it and comment and feedback on my stories.
In my very first post I wrote about the inspiration for the title – but since reading A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains and stumbling across the original Hints to Lady Travellers, I’ve also worked my way through an anthology of travel writing by women called Unsuitable for Ladies. I can’t tell you what fun and companionship the writing of all these women has given me, whether it’s reading about Annie Hore who travelled to Lake Tanganyika in a bath chair (and who called her book To Lake Tanganyika in a Bath Chair) or Lady Mary Wortley Montague’s description of a hammam in Turkey.
I have more in common with these women than you might think. The world still views women travelling with more suspicion than their male counterparts. For better or worse, a woman travelling by herself is seen as more vulnerable and is more exposed than a man might be. There are more questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing, where your husband and children are, whether your family approves.
The other thing I share with these women is the compulsion to write about my experiences. Elizabeth Eastlake, another Victorian traveller (and incidentally another John Murray author) wrote approvingly of the lady traveller’s power of observation, sure that it is superior to the slap-dash scrawl of your male correspondent. She wonders who would not rather read the well-filled sheet of your female friend, with plenty of time bestowed and no paper wasted, and overflowing with those close and lively details which show not only that observing eyes have been at work, but one pair of bright eyes in particular?
I don’t know that I agree that this is a purely feminine quality but ‘close and lively details’ are very much what this blog is about. Every day I take in new things – far too many to write about. So I just go with the person or event or thing that caught my attention or appealed to my sense of humour. Filter that through some whimsy, add a dash of food-obsession, a side of museum babble and a scattering of whatever random reference my brain produces and you have my blog.
Oh, and I don’t know that I have especially bright eyes, but the other day a cashier at Woolworths did tell me I had the most exotic eyes he’d ever seen. This is the truth I am telling you.