My space was a little hollow without Alice
When Alice left me in Fez to go back to London I felt bereft. https://gill-shaddick-xg56.squarespace.com/journey/an-accidental-journey-with-alice
I moved to another dar in the Medina, I don’t remember now how I found it, word of mouth I think. It was more within my budget, owned by a Moroccan family this time, filled with light, mosaics, fountains, cats galore, soft-footed family, shy smiles and warm welcomes. I was the only guest and each morning, I breakfasted alone with the cats, marvelling that orange juice, a croissant and a sprig of mint could look so magnificent on a blue tiled table with a shaft of sunlight filtering through the latticed rooftop.
Travelling Solo At Last
I need to say something here about travelling solo. I am embarrassed to tell you how challenging I found it to be completely on my own. I didn’t expect myself to feel the way I did. After all I had craved it. A space free of responsibility for someone else being hungry, hot or happy or not so.
This journey had been part of my big Unilateral Declaration of Ownership. Owning the situation and owning the solution. And part of the solution had been to get away - right away. Imagine that for a cure - when family and physicians said, “Take your passport, stand not about wringing your hands, but GO!”
Perhaps it was because I hadn’t planned on Morocco. But that was serendipity, part of the adventure. How many other people set off for Turkey and land in North Africa? I had stepped out of my life. I could go bonkers, eat ice-cream, have serial affairs, write poetry, sleep in all day, party all night and no-one would know.
Yet I Just Felt Wobbly and Wonky
All I felt like was finding a cafe and reading my book. Where was the audacity I’d had at twenty-one? Who was the intrepid traveller of maturity who had, in the last few years, been to Afghanistan, Laos, Tibet, Borneo? What the hell was my problem? I was like a child discovering again. Of course I don’t remember what it is like to be a child discovering, but that’s the only way I can describe it. Discovering my parameters. I was scared, so terribly insecure. Do men feel like this? Ever? And added to that, I was disappointed in myself that I felt that way.
Pets Make Good Travelling Companions
I closed my eyes. Perhaps a four-footed companion. Travels with a Donkey. Fez had a surfeit of those. Get behind me RLS. Those ideas take time and in any case Mike gave me a donkey in the Sudan thirty years earlier, I could not get it to move in any direction even when I got off and tried to pull it along.
When I opened my eyes, the cats were all regarding me. I could just stay in Fez. It was a perfectly legitimate idea. But the cats looked malevolent, squeezing their pupils as if to dislodge me from their world and my own craved security.
Escaping Immediate Decision Making
Trying to get my stakes in the ground that first morning on my own, instead of thinking about where I would go in the coming weeks, my mind went back to another perennial problem. How to be self-sufficient financially on my return to Australia in several months?
Like I was on a desert island and worrying about what I would do after I was rescued rather than addressing the need for water and a coconut.
I didn't have to look far for inspiration. There I was surrounded by straws. I pictured a little shop in Sydney; tiles, textiles and tangines. I’d wear a caftan and Mike could grow the long beard I had always hated, wear a jellabah like he did in the Sudan, and pour out the peppermint tea.
Clutching at a Project
I was delighted with myself. A project. I made enquiries and had no problem finding a manufacturer of Moroccan tiles. He was delighted to see me. Many people, he assured me, had made a great deal of money in Australia importing
A container, no less, that was the only way to go otherwise it would be too expensive. There would be no problem filling a container for my new friend had not only tiles and mosaics, but a cousin who made carved wooden doors and screens, an uncle with a good line in fountains. It so happened his wife’s father owned the very best tagine pottery in Fez. Over lunch we talked of family and finding out I had four daughters and unmarried at that, he said immediately he could supply husbands, maybe even four brothers. And I myself, I was travelling alone? He could squeeze them all in a container, ready-made, I had only to supply required sizes…
"Come back tomorrow," he said, "We'll talk some more."
Some Ideas Are Best Left Behind
It was evening by the time I got back to my dar. The cats eyes shone round in the dark.
“It’s OK,” I said softly, “I’m going in the morning.”