In My Wildest Pipe Dreams


A pipe dream is an illusory fantasy or idea that will not work.

It’s probably because I caught the service for humanity bug when I went to South Africa last year, but I have this recurring pipe dream where I travel around Africa holding village seminars with young writers; female writers, specifically.

When I was about 9 or 10, there were three things I wanted to be: a baker, an actress and a writer.

I never imagined that becoming a mother would propel simultaneous careers in all three spheres, as I now spend a fair amount of time baking and acting for my children. I must say, I am GOOD at it. I can whip up a bowl of pancake batter from scratch and re-enact all 30 scenes from Barbie and The Diamond Castle on cue. Remuneration for my efforts comes in the form of sloppy kisses, “thank –yous”, and scattered crumbs on recently swept floors – none of which is going to get me any closer to an Oscar or that spread in Harper’s Bazaar – but are nice to have all the same.

Since my path in life has taken me firmly away from Hollywood’s gilded streets, I am left with an inordinate amount of time to day dream about what my life would be like if I were a celebrity writer with loads of free time and good will. My first order of business would be to procure a trademark accessory, like Bono’s sunglasses or Angelina’s ever present head cloth for use in the Middle East. I think mine would be an afro pick. Afro picks are incredibly useful. From straightening tangles to picking locks and fending off wildlife, an Afro pick is an indispensable tool.

Pick in hair and laptop underarm, I’d traverse the expanse of my beautiful Continent, seeking out young girls who like me, want to immortalize their words in written form.

My first stop would be Mauritania, largely because I’d be guaranteed a good meal. Mauritania is the only place where a fat divorced woman is the most desirable of the lot. The fatter a woman, and the more times she’s been divorced, the greater her attraction. In the rural areas, Mauritanian girls are force fed from pre-pubescence and discouraged from exercise. What must that be like?

I drank milk until it came out of my nose, I can imagine one of my student’s writing.

And what did that feel like? I’d ask.

Like I was drowning in a sea of camel’s milk.

For no justifiable reason, other than I would be in search of excellent jollof and mud cloth, I’d take my trek to Burkina Faso, where my group of elite students and I would sit under a baobab tree and discuss everything from the village whore to the best utensils to grind pepper with.

Use words like slattern and slate, I’d instruct. These are excellent describing words and alliteration can never be used enough in literature, as far as I’m concerned.

What is alliteration?

After instructing them to pull out their dictionaries, I am dismayed to discover that no one has one. This is a mud village in Burkina. I should have bloody brought one myself. I make a mental note to do that when I head over to Sudan.

After making sure that there will be no Janjaweed on my tail, I finally persuade the village elders to allow a small group of girls to join my writing class.

Make sure you tell them to write about how to fetch water, says a withered old man.

At first I balk, thinking: How chauvinistic! But then I concede. Perhaps it’s better for these girl to write about more mundane topics rather than revisiting the horrors of rape, murder and pillage at the hands of blood thirsty Arab marauders.

With 56 countries in Africa, my pipe dream would prove monumental, if not impossible altogether to achieve. The logistics and finances involved to bring it to bear would be a nightmare. That and my failure to get my own children to read independently make it a far less plausible possibility.

I don’t seem to have the patience to teach or persuade anyone to read, let alone write.

What’s the craziest pipe dream you’ve ever heard – or had? Go on! Tell!