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A Tame Colonial Girl

By Wendy Stanley

All Rights Reserved

Wendy Stanley

© Wendy Stanley 2017

(ISBN 9781370961528)

Published via Smashwords

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Table of Contents

1. How This Story Came About

2. Background

3. My Parents

4. Overland to Africa

5. Joining My Parents

6. Childhood Memories of Tanganyika

7. Bush Life in Tanganyika

8. Cruising to Britain & Back to Tanganyika

9. Move to Kenya 1952

10. Primary School

11. Rearing Its Ugly Head

12. Our Aunt and Uncle

13. Mau Mau

14. Coast Holidays

15. Religion and All That

16. Our Strict Father

17. The Stupid Word

18. High School

19. The Beach

20. The Lunatic Express

21. Cruising to Britain

22. Beautiful Britain

23. Home to Kenya!

24. Mzungu Friends

25. Move to the Shitty City

26. Non-Mzungu Friends

27. Meeting Interesting People

28. A Respectable Boss

29. Colonial Misfit

30. Getting to Know My Husband To Be

31. Getting to Know My Husband

32. Problem With Mother

33. My Cheating Husband

34. Mother’s Insanity Persists

35. My Daughter

36. Introduction to the Monster

37. Married Life Continues

38. Tony The School Teacher

39 My Son

40. My Spaniels

41. Marianna

42. Tony the School Teacher

43. Getting to Know My Children’s Father

44. Marianna’s Mother

45. Tony The School Teacher

46. A Litter of Spaniels

47. Marianna’s Family

48. Tony the School Teacher

49. Marianna’s Mother’s Love Life

50. Tony The School Teacher

51. My Incorrigible Children

52 My Non-Marriage

53. Enter the Monster

54. My Husband and Marianna’s Mother

55. Moving Again

56. Becoming a Puppet

57. Enter the German

58. Mike the Monster

59. Dangerous Sunshine

60. Farewell Monster

61. Getting to Know the German

62. My Inquisitive Children

63. Living With the German

64. Our Neighbours On the Beach

65. My Children

66. Back to the Shitty City

67. Andrew At School

68. Visiting the UK and My Ex-Husband

69. Tony The School Teacher

70. My Boss’s Unrespectable Brother

71. Back to the Beach

72. My Children’s European Experience

73. Jeni At School

74. North Africa

75. The Children’s Visit

76. Desert Life

77. Entertainment in the Desert

78. Adjusting to Life Back Home

79. Hostage In the Desert

80. Travels Through Neighbouring Countries

81. Home Again

82. My Children in England

83. Minilets

84. Mother, Completely Sane

85. Moving Dad

86. Temporarily in Nairobbery

87. Safari Fun

88. Visits To Austria

89. My Cheating Blue Eyed German

90. Juju

91. Farewell My Blue Eyed German

92. A Happy Event

93. Toy Boy

94. My Working Life After the German

95. My Toy Boy

96. Rules of the Road in Kenya

97. A Few Personal Controversial Views

98. Touching Very Lightly On Politics

99. ...And Corruption

100. A Kind of Epilogue



One day in 2009, thirteen years after I typed out my memories on a rather battered typewriter as “self-therapy” as described in the first Chapter, I was talking to Brian, one of the Professors we used to safari with. My friend described to me a fun story that he had recently read about Kenya, which he related to although it was “all fiction”, because – quote – it “reminded him of the places he had visited on safaris with his students”. I told him I had written a lot of “that sort of stuff about Kenya, but it is not fiction”. Brian asked me to email my writings to him. That is when I took the time to go back through all the painful memories I had typed out, and transferred them to “digital”, cutting out nearly - but not quite – all of the stuff about the monster.....Mike.

I emailed what was remaining to Brian, who sent back the message “Publish it!”

Initially I used all fake names, including my own, leaving out a lot of detail about family members and friends who would otherwise have been mentioned. However, each and every person who read the script was of the opinion I should write under my own name.

Therefore, years after changing my diary entries into story form, I decided to use my real name, leaving only a few changed names in order to protect people’s privacy. However, putting real names brought about the problem of deleting many parts even though they were fact,.......!

Not wanting to offend anyone, and because I needed their feedback, I offered to send copies of my draft story to various family plus extended-family members, also to friends whose opinions I valued. Only one person unexpectedly refused my request, which was a pity as I needed her input; the rest sent back very useful and positive comments, all of which I have taken into account.

Now, to heck with it, I have done with hiding names, deleting, adding, cutting and pasting: I am leaving it as it is!


If you meet me, you will surely find me boring; that is, unless you are prepared to play Scrabble, or discuss my favourite hobby “the flora and fauna of Kenya”, birds in particular. I am a very ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill woman, spending too much money on anti-wrinkle creams that don’t work; continually dieting, but refusing to accept I will never have a Naomi Campbell figure. I am old-fashioned in that I like a man to give up his seat for me, and I consider it good manners for a man to open a door for me. I am a normal woman.

Hang on! What IS a “normal” woman? Normal by whose definition? Doesn’t “normal” imply a boring, law-abiding woman, such as one who obeyed her parents’ wishes by remaining a virgin until she married; who is faithful to her husband; whose “normal” husband is faithful to her? A woman who would not get involved with an abuser?

Correction: begin again. On average, I was a fairly normal woman. I think. Once....sometime prior to 1979, when I became entangled with an evil Monster.

It was on a certain day in December 1996 that my memory was violently jogged to bring back to mind things that had taken place sixteen years previously: things my brain had totally and utterly blanked out. After this happened, I realised I needed help – that is, help in the form of counselling or therapy or whatever. However, “counselling” means pouring out your deepest secrets, hideous memories and overwhelming regrets to another person. There was no way I could do that.

Therefore, I decided instead, to try putting it all down “on paper”, which might be as good a form of therapy. At least it was effective in forcing me to face up to things, to attempt to put them in perspective, to try to make sense of the overall picture and to piece together the jigsaw as to why I allowed the things to happen, that happened..... Perhaps it helped to some degree. But then again, perhaps not. There are too many regrets, and too much guilt, remaining.

To begin with, my sole reason for writing this narrative, most of which was put down in diary form, was because I had allowed my whole being to be taken over by a warped individual called Mike. Mike was a serious chauvinistic abuser: a perverted freak who did his utmost to destroy my little family; who succeeded, to a certain extent, in destroying me. Events have taken place in my life that should have no place in the life of an ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill woman: these involve my relationship with this evil creature disguised in a human body.

This story relates events literally from my birth up to the time of my relationship with Mike, and events that occurred in my life “after” Mike. Yet, as explained in the Preface, the main Dear Diary entries which centred on him, the Monster – plus all the things I wanted but never dared to say to him – are almost entirely left out, having been cut and pasted elsewhere. For some inexplicable reason, much of what I fantasised about saying to Mike but never had the courage to, was recorded in my Diary in the form of poetry. Hidden away, I have a book of poems I wrote to Mike.

In complete contrast to the Mike issue, I feel what I have written here should be told: things bottled up inside me need to be let out, such as:-

- My naivety and total unpreparedness when I was faced with the Real World, having experienced a sheltered upbringing “in the bush”.....

- My private rebellion against “Colonial Rules”.....

- The price I have paid for love in my life.....

But, above all, this is an attempt to describe what it was really like, to be brought up in the most amazing country in the world, in True Brit tradition.....

.....as a Colonial Girl.


I suppose my life started off fine although, as I later discovered, I was unwanted. My mother came from a warm, happy, English working-class family in Norfolk. My father was from North of the Border and brought up very strictly, in true Scottish tradition. I came to know his family very well but never understood the reasons for his family’s snobbish attitude towards the attractive and vivacious young grey-eyed red-head that he took home for approval at Christmas-time, in 1943.

From a very early age, I knew that my mother had always been top of class and eventually top of school. She won a prized scholarship to High School she was unable to utilise because her folks could not afford the bus-fare to the school, which was on the other side of the County. Mum never got over this and I felt so bad whenever she related the sad story to me. She worked on the quay gutting fish, eventually becoming manager of the village fishmonger’s shop, until she joined the Women’s Air Force in 1943.

Dad was six feet two inches tall and devastatingly good-looking, with very dark, wavy hair and hazel eyes. At the time of the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force, which is how he met my mother.

Dad never swept a floor and, until the day he died, the only “meal” he ever cooked was cheese on toast, which involved slicing bread, slicing cheese, then placing them under a grill – making sure the cheese was on top. But he made the best pot of tea, and the best hot toddies, in the world.

My parents never discussed anything as hush-hush as contraception and dad never used any because that, like housework and cooking, was the woman’s domain. From 1943-44, my mother thrived on Service Life. She intended to make a career of it. She was very popular, which is obvious from all the complimentary comments in her Autograph Book and the photographs from those days. Becoming an Officer in the Air Force would more than make up for not having gone to High School; she was well on the way and there would be no looking back. She had great ambitions.

My poor mother. She often related to me how, on the very week she was to attend an interview for a Commission, mum discovered to her indescribable horror that she was pregnant. She was utterly devastated. She bade farewell to her beloved Air Force, and went to live with Great Aunt Bess in Puddlesford-on-Mud until I was born, exactly nine months and thirteen days after their Wedding Day. Dad was delighted to be having a son; I was already named Michael. When mum telegraphed him in Aden in November 1944 saying “Wendy arrived last night”, he telegraphed back querying “Wendy Who?”

On mum’s side of the family, my birth meant that five generations were still living. I have a photograph of me with my mother, my mother’s mother, my mother’s mother’s father and my mother’s mother’s father’s mother. I do have vague memories of Great Grandad, for instance when he came stumbling down the stairs shouting that there were geese in his bed; there was a feather mattress on his bed and a seam had split! All I remember about my Grandmother’s Grandmother is she was allowed to eat jelly marmalade as she had no teeth left, while I had to eat marmalade that was full of tough bits of orange skin.

Dad had spent much time abroad during the war years; he had learned what it means to feel warm right down to the marrow in one’s bones. Back in Scotland after being de-mobbed, he huddled next to the fire-place in what he referred to as “the last Winter I shall ever spend on this God-forsaken Island”. He remained true to his word. Mum and dad set off on their epic overland trip to South Africa. On 13 October 1947, they left the bombed site in Folkestone where they had camped for the night, and took the ferry to Boulogne.

Without me.

Unhappily, my mother and I never became physically close. I cannot recall her ever putting an arm around me or cuddling me. Rightly or wrongly, I put this down to the fact that any physical contact between us was lost from the time they left me in UK for over a year when I was not yet three. Or perhaps it was simply that I had spoiled her chances of becoming a Commissioned Officer. Who knows? Mum’s relationship with my young sister, was quite different. An incident from around 1958, stands out clearly in my mind. We were sitting in the back of a car when my sleepy sister laid her head on mum’s shoulder and fell asleep; mum put her arm around Linda. What makes this incident so weird, was how totally flabbergasted I was at this brazen display of affection! It was unthinkable I should ever feel the kind of closeness to my mother that would allow me to put my head on her shoulder – let alone having mum put her arm around me!

Left behind in Britain, 1947-48, I was passed from one relative to the other, while my parents travelled overland to Africa in a convoy of two converted ex-Army ambulances; a small group of pioneers who had never met each other previously. The “Civilian Pioneers of the Sahara”!


Mother kept a diary throughout their overland trip. There was an entry, written when they travelled through the Apennines which she described as “beautiful scenery”, at a time when food was scarce and “terribly expensive”, describing how it was like a dream-come-true when a flock of ducks and turkeys wandered onto the truck. The person driving at the time quickly swerved towards them. Mother’s diary states “Caught a duck; just missed turkey!” and “Old lady, looking exactly like witch” burst out of the bushes, screaming at them and waving a stick. She was still running after them brandishing her stick until she was left far behind in a cloud of dust and feathers.

Over the years mum was to regale me with many tales of their overland journey. They travelled with the 1939 Michelin Map, and had also been given an invaluable hand-drawn map of the desert with instructions such as “if you have not reached three identical sand-dunes to the left by 6.30 p.m., stop and make camp for the night”. They re-fuelled from deposits left behind and buried by the British war-time forces, which were identified on the maps.

Although much tougher in terms of terrain, breakdowns, lack of spare parts, no roads and so on, this overland journey made seven decades ago, was in so many ways more enjoyable than similar journeys made today. They were enthusiastically welcomed at border posts, invited to take hot showers and meals at Ambassadorial Residences, where they dressed up in evening attire: jewellery, cufflinks and all, whilst dining at the residence of the local Commandant or Government Representative.

It is written in mum’s diary that, on my third Birthday, they had camped in Guezzam, where they had their first “primitive shower” which mother defined as “delicious”. I scoured the page for mention of me, her daughter turning three, but there was none.

They spent Christmas in Kano, “British Nigeria” where, according to mother’s diary, “an unknown gentleman made us a present of a turkey and 100 eggs on Xmas Day – bless him!” They reached Uganda on 18 January 1948. They never made it to South Africa, having run out of money soon after arriving in Kenya. Mum and dad spent their fourth Wedding Anniversary at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi.

In Kenya, they sold the truck and their winter clothes. Via a certain Mr Jessop, dad was offered a managerial job with the infamous Groundnut Scheme, in Tanganyika. On 30 January 1948 they left Nairobi by train at 10 p.m., breakfasted the following morning at Nakuru, in the Great Rift Valley, and boarded the lake steamer at Kisumu at 6 p.m. that evening. Mother’s diary states “lovely lazy trip! No cooking. Visited Musoma. Andy caught fish from boat with native’s line”.

They took a steam train from Mwanza to Urambo, their new home. On 4 February 1948, the very last entry in my mother’s diary states simply “Watched from Mess whilst tent was erected for us”.

I had always wanted Mum to write a book about their amazing adventure and in fact bought her a typewriter for her 71st Birthday, for this very purpose. But our mother died, cruelly whisked away from this world at least twenty years too soon, ten days before her 72nd Birthday, never having completed her story.

I have often asked you God, why, why, why did you take her so early?


I have little recollection of the year I was left behind in UK.

Apparently, my very loving but – at that time – typically stagnant relatives, were opposed to my being sent off to darkest Africa at such a tender age. I still have very vague memories of my flight to East Africa via BOAC Hermes, which took three days, stopping nightly to sit in baking hot, dusty rooms with ceiling fans stirring up damp heat and flies. My prickly-heat covered hands were bandaged. I remember finally walking down the ladder that had been wheeled to the door of the aircraft, to see a slim lady with golden hair and a beautiful smile reaching out for me. I even remember the pleated beige dress she wore, with padded shoulders and a pinched-in waist.

This was my Mother.

Apparently my parents had been travelling back and forth daily by steam train, between the airstrip and the camp where they lived, awaiting the arrival of my aeroplane. On this day, as on the two days previously, when it became too late for a plane to land, they had climbed back onto a railway coach and were returning to the camp. The local District Officer was shaving when he heard the aeroplane fly overhead. He dashed out to his Land Rover, shirtless and barefoot, with half his face covered in shaving foam, and drove like a demon to halt the train. This he managed to accomplish by driving alongside the train gesticulating madly at the engine driver, who obediently stopped and shunted back to the platform and waited for my parents to alight and collect me from the airstrip.

According to my mother, the trains had no corridors, just coaches with doors opening on either side. Years later I would laugh at Mum’s description of this train journey. Friends in other coaches, upon hearing of my arrival, would clamber along the outside of the train, or sometimes on the roof Rambo-fashion, dropping in through our coach window clutching bottles of booze to celebrate! I was told the train moved so slowly that any lady desperate for a pee simply jumped off and hid behind a bush, climbing back on a few coaches further along. Men, of course, being blessed with such handy gadgets, did not need to leave the train when nature called.

After a two-hour journey, our steam train arrived at a wooden platform in the middle of the bush. This was the railway siding at the camp where my parents had settled, the place where ‘The Browns’ were to live for the next three and a half years.


I have no memory of beautiful scenery in this part of the world. I remember only dusty, corrugated dirt roads in the dry season, then enormous muddy puddles in the wet season. The terrain as I recall it was flat; much of what I saw was being prepared for the planting of ground-nuts. There appeared to be a never-ending amount of large machinery, which I watched ploughing up the land and clearing wide expanses of trees and vegetation to create “tsetse belts”. Tsetses are huge brown flies with a burning bite that can inflict trypanosomiasis or “sleeping sickness”, which is an infection of the brain caused by a parasite carried by some of these flies. I gather that these clearings were created to destroy vegetation where the adult flies would rest and lay eggs; it also helped to prevent migration of these flies from one area to another.

These were good days, initially living under canvas and eating in a large mess tent, eventually moving into a house with thatched roof on a brand new “housing estate”. My mother was so excited when her new Singer sewing-machine arrived, with rolls and rolls of material. She spent hour’s snip-snipping, sewing curtains, tablecloths and napkins. We still have her sewing-machine, which functions perfectly.

The term “Snip-snipping” brings back a vivid memory of a time I was happily snipping in the air with mum’s scissors, when I accidentally cut a small nick at window-ledge height in one of our beautiful new floor-length curtains. Worried sick about what my parents would say, I proceeded to cut along the width of the curtain, in my childish wisdom believing they wouldn’t notice anything if I cut all the way across. To my distress, my ayah appeared on the scene when I was cutting in a neat upward slope, only three-quarters of the way across the curtain. The ayah went ballistic, the whites of her eyes rolling around in their sockets. I was furious when she stopped me, honestly believing my parents would never have noticed if I had been left to cut the whole way across!

Of course, my mother simply could not understand it. I was always so well-behaved! She had to cut all the living-room curtains to the same window-ledge length. For a long time afterwards, Mother would look at me with puzzlement, not comprehending why her obedient little daughter had done something so wicked! It must have been about fifteen years later I was able to explain my action to my parents, who laughed when all was made clear! In later years, I tried to remember these incidents from my youth, when dealing with episodes of apparent delinquency involving my own children. There are usually quite reasonable explanations, but children cannot find the correct words.

I had arrived in Africa with a headful of bubbly golden curls. Within a few days, dad took me to have a haircut. I sat on a canvas chair under a mango tree, while an Indian barber razor-cut my hair, very short like a boy’s; like the Michael that I wasn’t. My curls fell to the ground all around the chair. This was how I was to wear my hair for the next seventeen years.

Nineteen-forty-something and the Groundnut Scheme, where the population of our little “township” in the bush was gradually increasing, meaning more and more children for me to play with. A school was established; the teaching must have been good because I was reading fluently before I turned five.

Memories from those days! I recall causing problems for my mother when, for some inexplicable reason, she told me “Father Christmas” is really “daddy”. I must have been far too young to learn this earth-shattering news, because it definitely changed my outlook on life. I was terribly disillusioned and immediately relayed the information to the first friends I saw at school, who skipped school to run home and find out if it was true. Poor mother was really in trouble with other parents.

In our family, the loo was always referred to as “the potty”; words such as “lavatory” and “toilet” were not uttered in our house. Our private parts were referred to as our “bottoms”; and we went to the “potty” to do our “business”. Thus “bottom” and “business” were the rudest words in my vocabulary for years.

My best friend, Anne, and I used to play our own special version of “Doctors”, until it went wrong. The patient lay with knees bent up to chest, while the doctor measured her temperature with a paintbrush – just the little brush in its metal holder, minus stick, balancing on the edge of her most private part. I was doctor at the time.

I said “Right my dear, it should be ready now”. I went to remove the paintbrush only to discover that, horror of horrors, it had disappeared! In a panic, we searched the bed.

“It’s gone up into my stomach and I’ll die!” My patient let out a scream and tore out of the house, bawling all the way down the dirt track.

Mother came dashing through “What’s wrong with Anne?” she asked, alarmed.

“She’s got a headache” I said.

“Nonsense!” my mother was bustling out of the door in a vain attempt to catch up with my fleeing patient. I grabbed hold of my mother.

“She’s got a paintbrush in her bottom”, I explained.

Ann’s mother took her to the real doctor, who said the paintbrush had obviously fallen out, and there was nothing to worry about. We never played that game again.

Uncle Bert, one of my favourite uncles, left UK and joined us in Tanganyika. He was a happy, carefree person, and such fun. Generally, I loved him very much. However I didn’t love him on the day he looked at me quizzically and announced that my right ear stuck out further than my left. He motioned to my dad to come and have a look. They made me stand on a step turning this way and that, while studying me closely from all angles. They agreed that indeed it was so. I was six at the time, and a freak! For the next fifteen years, until I grew my hair which hid my deformity, I slept on my right side with my ear flat but, when sleeping on my left side, I folded my ear over. I consequently suffered a constant pain in the gristly part of my left ear. But now my hair remains longer, which hides this particular disfigurement.

Both parents were very heavy smokers. They never went to the loo without a cigarette. We grew up using long-drop toilets, “choos” in Swahili (pronounced “Ch-oh”), which didn’t smell too good at the best of times. I could never differentiate between the smell of choos and the smell of cigarettes. To this day, cigarettes smell like long-drop toilets to me!

One day, a further twelve years down the line, mum decided to give up smoking. Therefore dad, deciding it was unfair to continue smoking while mother was quitting the habit, quietly put his fags aside and never touched another for the remaining thirty-three years of his life. Mum, meanwhile, lit up again the next day. Smoking was a major factor in her early death.

My very best memory of our Tanganyika days, was the birth of my little sister, Linda. Dad had named her “Ian” until she was born. Dad and I visited mother in the local “hospital”, and there was my little sister, sleeping innocently in a basket beside mum’s bed. Incredulous, I asked my mother where she had found the baby, and was told she had come from a toy-shop. I couldn’t understand it at all. We had very few shops in Urambo in any case, more like little kiosks selling matches, long bars of yellow washing-soap and straw baskets; even carvings of wananchi (local people) forming human chains to tug an unfortunate victim from the jaws of a crocodile. But I had never seen any babies for sale.

My sister and I, with our unusual upbringing in the bush, were in many ways close to nature. However, we led a very sheltered existence under the strict guidance of our Scottish father and subservient mother. In later years at Primary School I discovered that I was terribly naive as far as the “ways of the world” were concerned. A school friend used to bath with her dad and her description of his willy enthralled me; nothing like that ever happened in our home. Apart from occasional glimpses when a boy baby’s nappy was being changed, the first time I really saw such a strange appendage on an adult male I could not fathom out how on earth he managed to hide it inside his trousers!


There were very few dogs in Urambo, though we were given a cheeky young wire-haired terrier that we named “Patch”. Patch died of tsetse-fly fever. I still shudder at the memory of him sitting on the verandah with my mother stroking and soothing him, while he held his little head up and howled and howled. Mum took him daily to our resident vet and he was well on the way to recovery when it was time for dad’s “home leave”. Patch was left in the care of a friend who did not keep up with his medication, which is why he died.

We had a number of free-range chickens running around the garden. I used to watch in disgusted horror when the cook chopped off a chicken’s head, leaving the headless body to run around the yard spraying blood everywhere. What a different upbringing from that of a friend brought up in the centre of Glasgow, who was surprised to discover, upon seeing chickens running around free, that they only had two legs!

When clothes were washed, they were laid out on the grass to dry. The grass was full of mango flies which left their eggs in the clothes that were conveniently strewn around. The eggs somehow found their way under my skin, particularly around my tummy, where they grew into “mango worms”, huge boil-like eruptions which itched like crazy. I now know that, when the worms are ready, all you need to do is to press the inflamed skin around the bump and the worms will pop straight out. My parents knew nothing of this. I have horrible memories of my father sitting on my legs, holding my arms down forcibly, while mum dug and squeezed and squeezed and squeezed while I was screaming in agony, until bits of unripe worm were forced out of my poor little tummy, leaving awful sores.

Then there were “Jiggers”. Jiggers are tiny little flea-like insects which burrow their way into a person’s skin mainly around and underneath toenails. Like mango worms, they itch uncontrollably. The first sign of the little beast is a tiny black dot which eats away happily, growing larger by the day. The secret is to wait until the Jigger looks like a pea-sized pus-ball under a toe-nail, then gradually poke around the sac with a needle until it is freed intact. This leaves a large hole which must be kept clean to avoid risk of infection. People who are ignorant about Jiggers, will most likely attempt to dig them out without due care, bursting the cyst which then re-seals and continues to grow.....and to itch, aaarh! As we used to go around barefoot most of the time (I still do) Jiggers were quite common. They don’t jump very high, therefore toe-nails are the easiest prey. If you sleep on the ground for some time in a Jigger-infested area, they can penetrate your finger-nails and other delicious hideaways.

We came into frequent contact with wild animals. There were numerous snakes in the garden. One of the boys at school had a beautiful pet monkey. When it died, the boy’s father cut off one of its hands, which he somehow manipulated by pulling tendons, making the fingers grip your arm. I put on a brave act but, actually, it was quite gross.

There was a troupe of baboons plaguing the labourers, until some bright spark came up with the idea of trapping one and painting him brilliant blue. The poor creature’s gang-members ran away from him like crazy, occasionally slowing down to look back, only to put on an extra spurt of speed when they spotted the blue monster gaining on them. The last sight of any baboons for a long time, was of this big blue bewildered fellow taking off after his troupe, as they fled from him in terror over the horizon.

Apart from Patch, my pets were mainly dikdiks whose mothers had disappeared while the large machinery was clearing the bush. I was told their mothers had disappeared. I well recall collecting my first dikdik. Dad had asked me to meet him at the bar in the mess tent, where a lot of noisy men were guzzling beer. A bearded man with a huge belly and kindly red, smiling face, was seated at the bar with a dear little animal on his lap. My heart leapt; I ran over and hugged it. The man handed me a baby’s bottle of milk and told me to feed the baby dikdik, which I did.

Then he said, “Take her. She’s yours!”

“MINE?” I was overjoyed. I took my beautiful little pet home, and took good care of her. Gradually she began wandering into the bush, eventually staying away for nights at a time. She was the first of many such orphan pets that I nursed. They frequently came back to visit, standing cautiously on the boundary of our little garden. I believed they were bringing their babies for approval.

The many workers who were earning money for the first time in their lives, had very little to spend their wages on. Therefore, when the first consignment of bicycles was railed in, hundreds of labourers were suddenly proud owners of transport. They learned to ride very quickly, but could not get the hang of braking and balancing feet on the ground without toppling off. Mother was learning to drive a car at that time, and she wasn’t very good at braking either. Early evening after dad came home, was the time for mum’s driving lesson. I would sit in the back of the Willy’s Jeep while mum drove slowly up a track lined on both sides by bicycles; as the car approached, so each cyclist fell off his bicycle onto the road, laughing his head off, while dad reached over from the passenger seat to grip the steering wheel and negotiate a zigzag course down the track.

Of course it didn’t take long before the workers discovered the delights of cigarette smoking, and “Centi Kumi” (“Ten Cent”) cigarettes did a roaring trade in our little settlement, as did “Players Clipper” cigarettes, amongst the elite. Very soon, cheap petrol cigarette lighters were arriving in the local dukas. One of the first lucky owners of one of these modern gadgets went to fill his smart new lighter at the one and only petrol pump. He adjusted it to maximum flame, proudly flicking the wheel to display his new acquisition to the gathering crowd of onlookers, and the whole garage went up in flames with a great BOOM. I overheard dad recounting the incident to mum, describing it as absolutely horrific.

The rains always appeared to be overdue and very heavy when they arrived, immediately forming deep puddles where my friend Anne and I loved to “swim”, until we were discovered up to our waists in thick mud, by dad driving home from work! When the rains abruptly ceased and the puddles dried up, the puddle-beds were full of little one-eyed fish, with which my ayah would make a delicious stew. I wonder how those funny little fish arrived in the puddles.

Mother was a marvellous ballroom dancer. She could dance the tango, the samba, the rumba and the quickstep. She and dad were experts at the old-fashioned waltz. Many a time I was left in the care of my ayah while dad, looking absolutely devastating in his dinner suit and bow tie, would escort mother out to the sparklingly clean Jeep. He would help mother into the Jeep, conscientiously arranging her long brocade skirt around her legs on the newly-scrubbed floorboards, before setting off for a dinner-dance at the Club-house. They would leave behind a cloud of dust and a waft of mum’s perfume that came from one of her little spiral-shaped Goya bottles. This aroma was much headier than the smell of Yardley’s English Lavender Water that mum liberally splashed all over her body before attending less important functions. Mother told me she never sat down at these dances, because women were few and far between and therefore much in demand at such events. She was very happy and laughed a lot in those days. She and dad were forever singing songs together, songs that were popular at the time: one I particularly remember is “East is East and the West is West, and the wrong one I have chose...”


In 1952, when dad’s contract came to an end, it was decided Mum, Linda and I should go back to UK while Dad stayed on in Africa to look for work. After a few days spent travelling on dusty roads, we took off from Kenya’s Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley, on what I believe was the last flight of the Sunderland flying-boat on this particular route. It was wonderful. As we sped along the Lake, I looked out of the window at all the little pixies in shuttlecocks grinning at me through the spray, while they bobbed up and down on the water. I saw them so clearly and accepted them for what they were. It was only when I had outgrown those wonderful fairy-tale childhood years, that I began questioning what the pixies might really have been; a line of buoys perhaps, marking our take-off path...how unromantic! The men and most of the women were standing around the aeroplane’s bar when the pilot’s voice once came over the speakers “Please will some of you return to your seats, the aircraft is starting to fly lop-sided!” I believe we landed on Lake Victoria at Entebbe and on the Nile at Khartoum, then the River Thames.

I enjoyed our few months on the “Isle of Uck” as UK was referred to, meeting all our cousins, second-cousins and cousins once or twice removed, and their cousins. We accompanied our relatives to windy, pebbled beaches, where they were crazy enough to dip their porcelain-like bodies into the icy waters. We travelled on the top of double-decker buses. One bus had a black conductor; happy to see a familiar sight in this unfamiliar land, I smiled at him and said “Jambo!” Probably Jamaican or West Indian, he glowered down at me. My mother nudged me and hissed at me not to be rude. I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong.

Mum, Linda and I stayed with various relatives north and south of the border. Grandad in Scotland was a gentle soul, always telling jokes and teasing us as we sat where his lap should have been. Originally he had legs but they were injured in the War and gangrene gradually crept up and up until he had just stumps and then no legs left at all.

Then came the day when dad wrote to inform mum that he had been employed as a travelling salesman for International Harvester Company, a job that would take him to various Central and East African countries.

We sailed back to East Africa on the “Rhodesia Castle”, a six-week cruise that took us from Southampton via the Cape of Good Hope, to Dar-es-Salaam. Linda, a toddler, used to disappear frequently, more often than not to be found on the Captain’s Bridge. The portholes in the cabins had two bars on them. I remember getting my head stuck between the bars. Mum had to apply much Vaseline in order to manoeuvre my head out of the bars, which left me with burning ears. At least she didn’t have to call for a maintenance man with a metal saw!

I clearly recall mum’s excitement when she spotted dad running along the quay in long strides, as the ship steered into Dar-es-Salaam harbour.

For a few days, we ran on the beaches, swam in the warm sea and rode in rickshaws: smart two-wheeled, canopied barrows, pulled by energetic, laughing young men. All too soon, we left the coast, to spend long, hot dusty days travelling on bumpy roads. All the roads were heavily corrugated, bump-bump-bump-bump-bump; of course I knew nothing about corrugations and never asked about them, quite certain in my young mind that they were logs lying side-by-side across the road, covered with earth...what a tedious way of building roads!

En route to our new home-town, Morogoro, we stayed overnight in a colonial “dak-bungalow” next to a country railway stop. Upon arrival in Morogoro, we stayed for a few weeks in a wonderful wooden hotel managed by a European lady, slap in the middle of the tiny town; the hotel had a long verandah where we would sit looking straight onto the dirty, dusty, main street. We eventually moved into a dear little stone house, which was built on a hillside amongst natural springs in a range of blue-green mountains.

For the best part of a year we lived in this house, right next to a deep gully. Although there was no electricity, we did have running bath-water, heated in an oil-drum outside, and a flush toilet! During this time, I never had a single child to play with. I used to keep an eye on Linda, the seven-year gap in our ages seeming immense. Somehow, we managed to acquire a Cocker Spaniel called Bessy, from a South African couple residing in a ranch they had cultivated in the middle of nowhere.

Bessy and I spent hours exploring the dry gully and the nearby disused mica mine. When the rains came, we could hear the water starting in the far distance, roaring down the mountainside; it came down the gully like a solid wall, sweeping all before it: trees, animals, plus the occasional herder and sleeping drunkard caught unawares. In the evenings, we would sit with mum, watching hundreds of “fire-flies” dive-bombing the windows. Dad seemed to be away most of the time; it was very exciting when he came home. I would accompany him in his pick-up truck on day-trips to the surrounding Greek-owned sisal plantations, where we were more often than not, served a lunch of red beans and mashed potato. These friendly people, who were making fortunes from growing sisal, always gave us a warm welcome.

Dad’s favourite trips were to Southern Rhodesia. When he described this wonderful country, it sounded like Utopia, “centuries ahead of the rest of Africa”! I am glad he is not around to see how this once-ultra-civilised country has been totally destroyed.


My father’s job with the same Company eventually took us to Kenya, where we lived on a housing estate (ugh!) in a suburb of Nairobi, called “Woodley”. I attended Nairobi Primary School, together with hundreds of other children. For the first time in Africa, we lived in a house with an occasionally-functioning telephone, sometimes-working electricity, and automatically heated bath-water. We were not happy. My parents couldn’t bear living in such relative civilisation, dad was not enjoying his job, and I felt completely out-of-place in the huge school. I had trouble relating to the children of the neighbours: they would hold lighted matches to the bloated abdomens of spiders, causing them to burst. They would shoot Colie-Colies (Mousebirds) with airguns. I thought they were monsters and they considered me a wimp. Across the road from our house there was a vlei (Afrikaans?) where Bessy and I would spend our evenings and weekends exploring the land of witches and fairies. I can only describe a vlei as a field that is dry in the dry season and wet in the rainy season!

Uncle Bert followed us to Kenya and moved into our guestroom. My uncle socialised a lot. My parents often accompanied him to football games, which he and dad sometimes took part in. I would stay at home with Bessy, in charge of Linda. In the early evening, trailed by Bessy, I would take Linda down the road to the local “duka” (shop) to buy sweets. Can you imagine walking down the road in Nairobi these days – even during daytime – Heaven forbid! With dad out of the way, I would sometimes buy chewing-gum, which was forbidden in our house. I lived in fear of my intestines being glued together with gum, so many times did I have to swallow a lump of chewing-gum or bubble-gum, upon my father’s sudden unexpected appearance. Linda once hid a piece of gum behind her ear; it took mum ages to cut it out of her hair.

One evening our parents and Uncle Bert arrived home from a football match, very excited about a discussion with an Englishman who was looking for somebody to manage his two plantations, one a coffee farm beyond Thika (as in “Flame Trees of” – though the farm Elspeth wrote about had jacarandas rather than flame trees, which wouldn’t have sounded nearly so romantic) and the other a wheat farm many miles in the opposite direction, on the ‘Kinangop’ half-way up the escarpment of the Rift Valley in the midst of what had been the “Happy Valley”, so-named because the ‘Black Sheep’ of the British aristocracy, who had been exported to Kenya in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, would gather in this area, living decadent lifestyles.

The following weekend, we dressed up in our Sunday Best and set off for the coffee plantation which was near a small mountain called “Donyo Sabuk” (which is Masaai for “Hill of the Buffalo”), some thirty miles outside Nairobi. How exciting, back to the bush again! Unobstructed views of so many hills and mountains. It was a wonderful journey along a dirt road that wound up and down hills, with many bridges crossing fast-flowing rivers of red water; beautiful forested areas and hardly any people – Heaven!

Kiboko (Hippo) Farm as it was named, was perfect. One boundary was a loop in the Athi River which was teaming with crocodiles and hippo. The house was as pretty as a picture, double-storied with white walls and a green corrugated iron roof, set in a colourful garden with sweeping lawns and wonderful climbing trees. We moved out there almost immediately, while Uncle Bert took the job of managing the other farm, many miles away on the Kinangop.

Linda and I have nothing but fond memories of those days. Our nearest neighbours, the Izats, lived on a farm about ten miles away. Their daughter Bonnie became my close friend. Mother, with many “shamba-boys” (gardeners) at her disposal, established a flourishing vegetable garden and fruit orchard; she also bred chickens. The team of shamba-boys tended the flower-beds, looked after the fruit trees and vegetable plots, and spent hours cutting the lawns with ingeniously designed grass-slashers. With our home-grown veggies, fruit and chickens, and the guinea fowl, spurfowl and gazelle that dad shot, as well as the tilapia and trout that he caught, we were almost entirely self-sufficient. We lived very happily in these idyllic surroundings for some years. Under dad’s stern supervision, I learned to drive the farm pick-up and was able to drive adequately by the age of nine, which was fairly normal for many kids brought up on farms in Kenya in that era.

I have few recollections of my mother cooking or, as dad put it “slaving over a hot stove the way my ‘mither’ did”! We always had somebody to cook our meals, clean the house, make the beds, polish our shoes, and do the laundry – which was in a steel tub in the back yard. Ironing was carried out perfectly with a wonderful heavy iron filled with hot charcoal. Food was cooked on a large iron stove heated by firewood. Saucepans were scoured clean by the cook, who took them to a sandpit, where he scrubbed them with sand under a garden tap until they were sparkling and shiny. Our house was always filled with the tantalising aroma of roasting coffee beans, emanating from the wood-fuelled kitchen stove.

Occasionally the water pumped out of the borehole contained curious algae which came out in foul-smelling clumps. Mum would wrap one of dad’s socks around the tap, which would filter out the gunk but not the smell. Water was heated in a large oil drum on top of an open wood fire. Linda and I would collect maize on cobs, fresh from the garden, and cook them to a rich brown amongst the embers of the fire. Delicious!

Our telephone consisted of a huge box with a receiver on top and a handle on the side. We were on a “party-line” and each homestead had a different call sign: ours was one long followed by two short rings. In cases of emergency we would turn the handle in continual short bursts and everybody on the line would lift their receivers. One nosey neighbour would pick up her receiver whenever the phone rang, to listen in to everybody’s conversations; we could hear her dogs barking in the background and sometimes she would give an involuntary cough or sneeze! To call further afield, we would give one l-o-n-g ring for the operator in the local post office who, if she/he happened to be awake, would answer and connect us via some kind of magic to the receiving party. Modern technology, amazing stuff!

A neat little guesthouse was situated amongst guava trees, beside the badminton court, in a corner of the garden. Here the gentlemanly owner would stay when paying one of his infrequent visits, occasionally accompanied by his beautiful upper-class wife and plain, snotty daughter.

Although a mile from the Athi River, we frequently spotted hippo prints in the garden in the mornings. I remember a herder rushing into the compound, screaming to dad that a crocodile had got hold of a calf that was on the river bank, drinking. Dad grabbed his gun and jumped into the car, but arrived too late. The croc was mid-river with calf’s snout firmly between its jaws. He shot the croc, but the poor calf was very dead. Dad was quite obviously upset as evidenced when I heard him describing to mum, signs on the riverbank of the struggle the brave little calf had put up against the prehistoric creature. Crocodiles thrill me, as is the case with all wildlife, but I do not rate them high up on my list of favourites, purely because of the manner in which they kill – causing such unthinkable pain and suffering. Crocs are not far behind Wild “Cape Hunting Dogs” in this field.

Dad was occasionally called out to shoot a rogue buffalo. One such time was when a lone buffalo (always to be treated with suspicion) charged after three of our farm workers who were cycling across a vlei near the house. With the beast easily gaining on them, they leapt off their bicycles next to an acacia tree; they began climbing the tree, the long thorns piercing deep into their limbs. Ignoring the pain, two of the terrified men managed to climb high enough to be beyond the reach of the buffalo’s horns, while the third was hooked out of the tree and tossed to the ground. The two were still sitting in the tree when dad went to rescue them three hours later, while the beast continued to stamp their unlucky friend into the ground.

Dad’s workers were well housed and their wives were given food rations to be sure the family ate, even if the men spent most of their money on illegal intoxicating brews; the same applied to employees of any of our friends in the farming community. On the farms, schooling and medical treatment was free for the workers. The women sang as they picked coffee berries and lined up to collect their pay as they emptied their baskets into the coffee berry trough. Dad would always come home tired and happy, with stories to relate, such as that of a pregnant woman disappearing behind a coffee tree and reappearing with a baby tied around her waist, feeding at the breast, while the mother carried on happily singing and picking coffee.

On Christmas Day, the farm labourers would ask if they could perform their tribal dances for us on the lawn. Nowadays we become weary of the commercialised “tribal dancing” performed in tourist traps. The performances we were privileged to witness were the real thing. These friendly, fun-loving people genuinely wanted to entertain us and show-off their true customs. We were enthralled.

We had a marvellous Pishi (Swahili – “Cook”). Every weekend our house was full of bachelors, many of whom are sadly no longer with us, such as: Peter Davey, Joe Cheffings, John Malcolm-Smith, Finn Aagaard, Alan Tainton... and adventurous couples who were carving out a new life for themselves, often in rigorous conditions, on surrounding farms. Alan Delap, a huge outstandingly handsome man who hailed from South America, would frequently join us together with his petite French wife Janine and their three children. It was said that Alan “brought the Bougainvillea to Kenya”; when we met him he had developed a bright orange bloom which was named “Sylvia” after his daughter and he was in the process of developing a double-white which would be named “Alan Delap”.

Partly to the long distances involved, partly due to the security situation when different factions of the Kikuyu tribe started killing each other in what was to become known as the “Mau Mau” movement, and also because they enjoyed the unaccustomed relaxing and downing of alcohol, many would stay over on Saturday night. The sound of laughter and the music of the Gay Gordons as our guests drank, chatted and danced to 78 LP records spinning on the wind-up gramophone, would continue into the early hours, as they anticipated gorging themselves on our pishi’s famous Sunday Curry Lunch.

After lunch, our guests would loll around in the garden to the strains of Gigli and Tauber, awaiting their turn on the badminton court. One such lazy Sunday, Linda disappeared after being told off for crossing the badminton court whilst a game was in progress. We looked for her for over an hour, guests and staff searching through the vegetable garden, fruit orchard and amongst the coffee trees. It was always a worry that she might wander into the coffee and become hopelessly lost.

As I dashed through the lounge, I was astonished to discover that Linda had mysteriously reappeared and was sitting comfortably on a sofa!

“Where have you been?” I shrieked. “We thought you were lost. Everybody’s been looking for you in the coffee!”

Looking disdainfully down her little button nose and glancing at the ever-bubbling coffee-percolator, she asked “Was it hot?”


Bonnie and I attended “Nyeri European Primary School”, which offered boarding facilities to children from farming communities, outlying administrative posts and Missionary stations. I liked the school, but I loved my home. During the school holidays, a great deal of my time was taken up with drawing and painting pictures, using the new easel that dad had made for me at the farm workshop. With their wonderful smooth bark and sturdy forked branches, guava trees were perfect for climbing. When the fruits were ripe and juicy, Linda and I would spend hours perched in a guava tree eating the delicious fruit until we reached bursting point. The following day was spent rushing to the loo.

At the beginning of term, I would meet with other pupils at the country railway station to take the steam train back to school. Of course, I was homesick at boarding school. But as none of my fellow-students were City-dwellers, all hailing from outlying areas, we understood each other. There was little inter-action between boys and girls, and the boys referred to us by our surnames, even Tor who, in the holidays, had become my greatest buddy. We were made to sit “boy-girl-boy-girl” in the dining-room. Occasionally, I was delighted to find myself seated next to Tor, and we could whisper happily about home.

For some obscure reason, “writing lines” was a favourite punishment meted out by teachers; such a waste of time and of no benefit to the students whatsoever. I once rushed back to the dorm having forgotten something I had to take to class. Unfortunately, Fatty Donaldson appeared at the door. I ducked under the bed, but too late. “Brown!” she bellowed, “You will write one-hundred lines, ‘I shall not, on any occasion, go with boots on, into the dormitory!’” I ingenuously taped two pens together, enabling me to write two lines at a time. Fatty obviously didn’t check what I had written!

It was compulsory to kneel by our beds to pray, every night. Each night I ended my prayers in the same way, “Please God, look after Mummy, Daddy, Linda and all our pets - which I would name, one by one - and please, God, stop people being cruel to animals. Amen”.

At the age of eleven, I was envied for having an assignment behind the boiler-house, one night after dinner, with a thirteen-year-old boy called Alan. I stretched up to peck his cheek, then turned and fled back to the girls’ dorm, quite breathless and proud of myself, while the girls gathered around to ask for the details. The next time, Alan grabbed me before I could run away, and kissed me on my lips. Wow, this time I really did have something to report! I often saw Alan after leaving school; he was always chatty and friendly. He became a successful businessman. A few decades after our behind-the-boiler-house meetings, I was horrified to learn that Alan committed suicide. Many years later, having suffered from severe depression myself, I do understand, but I was never told the reasons for what Alan did. He shot himself. Oh dear Lord, he shot himself. I attended his Memorial Service, which was incredibly sad. Poor Alan.

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