Monkey’s Wedding

Liana and I are standing in the doorway of the hall looking out at the rain. The sun shines through the rain and the rain keeps falling. I say, “Monkey’s wedding”. Liana looks at me, “I haven’t heard that expression before?”
“It is something we say in Africa when the sun is shining the same time the rain is falling.”

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Saying, “Monkey’s wedding” is a quaint memory from my childhood. It is something I taught my own daughter and my granddaughters too. It isn’t something one deliberately sets out to ‘teach’ but one of those sayings that children pick up because you use it in a certain identifiable situation. It is a colourful phrase that appeals to children – that appeals to people of all ages. The image of a monkey bridal couple complete with fluffy white dress and flowers, top hat and tails, sparks the imagination.

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It has never entered my head that Australians don’t say, “Monkey’s wedding” when the sun shines through the rain. We have so many expressions in common but this one has slipped past the keeper. I wonder if it is because there are no monkeys native to Australia? I’ve had a look at Google and Wiki. It seems that the original phrase comes from the Zulu language – “… a loan translation of the Zulu umshado wezinkawu, a wedding for monkeys”. There is also a link to Portuguese casamento de rapôsa – vixen’s wedding – which then changed to casamento de macaco – monkey’s wedding.

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The term ‘Sunshower’ seems to be the most commonly used expression in various parts of the world. Topically, The Word Detective says that in “In New York we used to say, “The Donald is fixing his hair”. Whether that is the POTUS Donald or not is a moot point!

There are so many places I could go with this blog entry. For example, Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens and the instinct of play that nourishes so much of our philosophy. But that will turn this into a Sociology essay and bore most people witless. So, I’ll leave it here and just say … Next time you see the sun shining through the rain try saying, “Monkey’s wedding” – it’s guaranteed to make you smile.

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Monkey’s Wedding

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful story. Robin Hobb calls it, “An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale.”
Terry Brooks calls it, “Haunting and lyrical.”
I call it a wonderful story. If you enjoy fantasy, if you enjoy Robin Hobb, I thoroughly recommend it. the blurb says the The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted (which I have still to read) and Neil Gaiman.
The tale is a retelling of old Russian fairy tales – mainly the one called Frost. I first read these stories when I was a young child. The story is in Arthur Ransome’s lovely book Old Peter’s Russian Tales. that sits on my desk as I write this review.
The hero is a young woman and it is her growing up and finding her strength in the face of an enormously patriarchal society.
Katherine Arden’s telling of the tale is enchanting and I found it hard to put down, although I knew the ending.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Once upon a time?

In Australia my dreams are of Africa.

[In Africa there is no need to dream? Or, no need to remember dreams? Is Australia the place of dreaming? Does Australia cease to exist when I’m in Africa?]

Once upon a time I presented a paper at a conference in Wollongong, NSW. This was not the first conference I had spoken at but it was where, for the first time, I was admired for my writing. The paper, Christmas at the Big House,  was subtitled ‘intersecting the insider and outsider roles in the fieldwork process.’ Why anthropology and ethnography papers have such long and convoluted titles is a mystery. Nevertheless, at that stage of my life, that is what I did. I even quoted Foucault in the introduction.

I returned ‘home’ to Zimbabwe in 1996 to research for Honours, so being both the insider and the outsider were conflicting roles. The Christmas mentioned in the title was a celebration of the reunion of my siblings. I was the only one without my immediate family at the party. It was held at the Big House.

The Big House, on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, is where I was born and brought up. It is a big house, built around a lawned courtyard, colourful with bougainvillea and flowering vines. There are verandahs, arches, and many big rooms. The gardens are bright with poinsettias and jacaranda trees. Once upon a time the house seemed to be alive and strong. Now, when I visit in 1996, I find the termites have eaten away the parquet floors. The wild bees have swarmed in the chimneys and the ceiling space. Honey drips through the ceilings leaving honey puddles in the sun-room. The electric wiring, never dependable, is completely unreliable, not helped by the intermittent blackouts and power outages.

For many of the past decades the house had not been permanently occupied. Because it is isolated, and usually empty, the night-watchman had taken the opportunity  to remove much of the furniture. In the more recent past, since the family left Zimbabwe, the Big House is now home to three or four Zimbabwean families. I think to myself, “at least it is being lived in.”

I quote, verbatim, from the essay

My knowledge of the family is sensitive. I am fluent in the language. The cultural world of this family is familiar to me as insider (how easily I slipped back into that identity) alien to me as outsider (how difficult to be part of the scheming and plotting). Intersecting the roles of insider/outsider allows me to acknowledge my limits – and that my analysis is imperfect and it is incomplete

I have to be honest, this was not the best Christmas I’ve ever had! However, when the time came to say goodbye, everyone was very emotional. There was much kissing and hugging. I left with my brother and his family because I am staying out on their farm now, and going to Aberfoyle (on the Mozambique border) with them for New Year.

During question time after I presented the paper, which discusses the feelings of identity, belonging, remembering, and misunderstanding, one of the audience paid me the supreme compliment of likening my writing to that of Michael Ondaatje.

 

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time?