It's time to count our blessings

This is the last missive about Africa - and it is also about home. For when I left the white lion conservation project, where I spent 10 days, I said goodbye to Wena, who came with me as far as the town.

Wena was off to the TB clinic. She has resistant TB, so she had special daily injections for many months. This was a great indignity as she had to show her thigh to a young man. Now she hopes it is cured. Proudly she lists the doctors who have helped her.

I sympathise. Such bad luck, I say, TB. This must have been hard. No, she says. This is Africa, where everything begins and ends. It is my country, so I think this TB was meant for me. And I hope I am better now.

Her philosophy in the face of uncertainty is humbling. We wave goodbye and I wonder about her test results all the way to Johannesburg.

Back home, Mrs Unhappy has clearly memorised my flight arrival time. She clutches her Efexor, which is doing nothing as usual.

It is the sixth antidepressant she has tried in her life. Her psychiatrist says lithium is next, yet I fear if we give her a mood stabiliser we will stabilise chronic self pity and someone will end up suicidal.

Unfortunately, that might be me. Mrs Unhappy knows she is one of the world's privileged, but can't understand why this has not brought joy. She expects much but gives little.

Her five packs of Lloyd George notes reflect years spent trying to alter her perspective. Her children are in boarding schools, her husband's job earns so much that he is never home, and the lady who arranges her flowers is on holiday again, which is making life untenable, because flowers are her only consolation.

I put on my sympathetic face, but as I suggest a flower arranging course and she explains how cut stems make her fingers chapped, I think again of Wena, walking along the dusty road to the TB clinic. It's a funny old world.

Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk. You can write to her at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com .

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