Most of the dozen or so homes we had throughout our stay in East Africa had a shamba (garden). They were of various sizes; some covered as much as an acre (4,000 square metres). This required the services of a shamba boy (gardener), I have always thought this is a very insulting job title for a grown man.
Armed only with a panga and grass cutter (a small scythe), the gardener had to keep the acreage tamed.
Apart from snakes, the shamba had other distractions. We had a leopard, a lion, hyenas and a bull, just to name a few of the wild incursions that have wandered through the garden, much to the dismay of the gardener.
On birthdays, there was plenty of room to play hide and seek with my friends. At 6 o’clock, when the sun would set it was as if someone had switched the light off. While our parents withdrew to the house for a drink, we would continue to play in the dark. We would scare ourselves with the thought that some wild animals might be lurking in the garden and sometimes they were.
While playing in a friend’s garden, we were digging a hole – well I was watching. My two friends, one armed with a pickaxe and the other with a shovel, alternating their actions. The pickaxe was used to loosen the soil, the shovel to remove it. Unfortunately, one of them lost the rhythm and as he bent down to shovel, the pickaxe came down on his head. It cracked his skull and a trip to A&E was needed, luckily the wound was not deeper enough to penetrate his brain.
My sister Toni was very much a tomboy, she used to visit our neighbour who just happened to be Masai. She befriended the boy who was looking after their cattle and he showed her how to throw a spear, the one he would use to ward off any lions.
We had some very tall trees, like all kids we climbed them, but only my sister could manage to reach the very highest and would place her chewing gum there for safekeeping.