23 – Befriending Christmas lunch

Turkey cracker - kongwa2london.comWhile at Burton Street we had a turkey (well the local equivalent) shipped down from the highlands to be fattened up for Christmas lunch. For over a month, we children would visit its cage and feed him. As Christmas approached, we became very fond of the bird and decided to keep him as a pet. Just before Christmas day, the turkey, not being used to high temperatures by the coast, died of heat stroke. The cook, not wanting to let it go to waste, prepared him for the festive day. Our parents had invited friends for Christmas lunch and as we sat around the table, the turkey was brought in. It was carved, it was placed on dishes and it was left untouched, very much to the astonishment of our guests.

In preparation for Christmas, my father had made a giant cracker out of plywood. This was filled with our presents and hung up on the veranda. During our ‘lunch’, there was a loud bang as the cracker hit the floor and spilled the present across the veranda. The adage that the wrapper is more fun than the present was true. We spent weeks sitting in and playing with the three sections of the broken cracker to the dismay of our parents.


Dad was being transferred to Nairobi and my siblings flew back to school in England. There was a temporary move from Burton Street to an apartment just north of Dar es Salaam.

While opening a crate of beer, my dad cut himself and passed out, he had malaria. This was a bit ironic as when he wanted a beer, he would ask a servant to bring him his dawa (Swahili for medicine).

On some car journeys, especially late at night, I would sleep on the shelf by the rear window. Once when returning home after dining with friends my father braked sharply and I ended up on the floor.

Now sensibly sitting in the middle of the back seat we continued the journey to our apartment. Just as we were approaching the drive, a lorry cut in front and the two vehicles collided. Being in the pre-seat belt era, I was propelled forward between my parents and hit the windscreen head on. Car bonnet bent, the windscreen cracked, and my head was intact to everyone’s surprise.

The car was repaired, our possessions crated, dispatched and we set off on another safari.

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