38 – Odd tales from Nairobi

Before we moved away from Nairobi there is the odd tale or two of which I would characterise as miscellaneous stories.

Bread, jam and salt 

At the bank, a man was making a deposit while carrying a fresh loaf of bread under his armpit. In the intense heat of the day the man was sweating profusely, I’m sure it would dry out by the time it was ready for his employer’s breakfast.


We had driven to Nakuru to collect an old-fashion radiogram (it was in fashion at the time), it was made up of delicate valves. It was carefully placed on the back seat and covered with a white dust sheet. Our return journey home was along the Great Rift Valley escarpment. A British army lorry had rolled over and stopped short of the edge. There was a score of soldiers with head injuries and the only assistance we could provide were bandages made from the dust sheet. The radiogram survived another four decades and it always reminded me of that day.

Petting the pet

The family were invited to a ‘Garden Party’. I suspect it was a government soiree and the venue was a big house somewhere in the Kenya Highlands. The lawn was immaculate, the guests were dressed in their Sunday best, the tables were piled with food and drink. Like most gatherings, the adults abandoned their children and were left to entertain themselves. There was something different about this party. In the middle of the lawn was a chain attached to a metal spike and at the other end of the 10-foot-long chain was a fully-grown cheetah. Encircling the big cat were a dozen or so kids, ranging in age from six to twelve years old. As we had been left to our own devices, we dared each other to pet the pet. As we entered within striking distance, the feline would lunge forward and only the chain prevented ruining a purrfect day.

Dawa times

Tusker lager labelAfter work my father would come home and ask for his dawa (medicine), a cold bottle of Tusker lager. He had shares in the brewery, so every time he was ‘sick’ it would add a cent or two to his dividend.

The evils of drink

My father had a drinking problem, when he had too much he would argue, shout and sometimes be violent. Subsequently my mother who had a strong character would not stand for any nonsense and once received a black eye for her trouble. That time my mother and I left him, taking shelter with a friend. After a couple of weeks, mum suggested that we should forgive him and we returned to a remorseful husband/father. Sadly, there were repeat performances.

Another time when returning home from the country club, my parents were having an almighty row, after the car had come to a halt in our driveway, my mother exited and ran to the house next door. I was left behind to receive my father’s wrath, I was lifted up by the back of my shirt and only thrown to the ground when the neighbour came to my rescue.

We left my dad for a second time and moved into a flat in town. It was several months before another reconciliation. My parents continued to row, but as far as I know he never again raised his hand towards her.

The bad temper still came out with the drink and any respect I had for him went out the door.

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