The Oldest Blog

The Oldest Blog

I am pleased to say that reactions to my blogging efforts have been favourable but I have noticed an undertone of veiled criticism in so much as the average reader of Old Africa is naturally interested in the period of African history when European discoveries and settlements began, when great-great-granny from Guildford jumped ship in Mombasa and helped Captain Owen haul up the Jack. On the other hand I am more conversant with what has occurred since I arrived on the scene in the mid-fifties at a time when many of the real pioneering settlers were departing. I have therefore devised an idea to solve my little problem. I have chosen for my topic a time in East Africa before even the Nilotic lot had wandered down the shores of the Nile and before the Zinj lot started hunting and gathering North of the Zambezi. Although I have only driven the Turkana Bus on thirteen occasions, I have been responsible for over 30,000 people having taken the Safari and I have spoken to 99% of them immediately before they departed and immediately after they returned. I have noticed that the ambience of the southeastern Lake Turkana area seems to have quite an effect on most of them. Their feelings are best described as an affinity with the infinite. Therefore, I wanted to devote this blog to two questions connected with early man – the one being spiritual and ethereal, the other factual and material. I soon discovered the human brain – or at least my brain – has not yet developed to a state where it can comprehend the...
Christine Nicholls’ Blog, 11 June 2012

Christine Nicholls’ Blog, 11 June 2012

We have just had four days of celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, her sixty years on the throne. Of course there were many mentions of Kenya during the pageants, because that is where Elizabeth ascended the throne. She was at Treetops the night her father, George VI, died, though she did not hear of his death until she had returned to Sagana Lodge, near Nyeri. I wrote about the breaking of the news in my book Red Strangers. Some of my information came from Kathini Graham, the secretary for the Governor of Kenya when the news came. Kathini is still very much alive and is joining a group of us Kenyans for a pub lunch near Oxford in July.  Above is a picture of Treetops at the time and this is what I said in my book: When the royal couple arrived, immense pains were taken to keep them safe [because of rumours of Mau Mau trouble], and they had to be hurried from the country not by any local difficulty but because the king had died and Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. The circumstances were peculiar. At Sagana lodge, after a night watching wild animals in Treetops, Trevor W. Jenkins, the personal policeman to the princess, was told by Michael Parker, Prince Philip’s aide, that he had heard a rumour from the press of the king’s death. Parker and Jenkins listened to the lunchtime news on the radio. What they heard confirmed the rumour and Parker telephoned Buckingham Palace to make absolutely sure. The Palace was shocked to find that the princess did not already know she was...
A Patriotic Failure

A Patriotic Failure

In early November 1963, the Nairobi City council woke up to the fact that they had four weeks to prepare the city for independence celebrations and there were very few people left in Kenya with experience of such things. I found myself roped in on some sub-committee to arrange for a new prototype Toyota Land Cruiser to pull a farm trailer in a float parade with a beauty queen sitting on a throne surrounded by flowers. A part of the job was that it was my responsibility to arrange the selecting of a suitable national beautiful female. The ensuing arguments about how to make such a choice will perhaps one day make another blog by itself! My modest success in that endeavour resulting in my being asked if I could think of any appropriate activity to help entertain the royalty and heads of state anticipated at the post independence day, Jamhuri Park, arena events. As a small child I recalled watching the UK Masonic school children on the occasion of some UK coronation or jubilee, matching on to an arena, each child wearing either a red, white or blue-fronted overall and as the band played ‘God save the King’, they all turned to their left and a giant Union Jack appeared covering a quarter acre of arena made up of hundreds of children in the appropriate colour in the appropriate lines of the flag. I stupidly volunteered to attempt to organise a similar effect with hundreds of Kenyan schoolchildren making a Kenyan flag by their being positioned in the right order at the Jamhuri Park Uhuru celebrations. I soon...
Farewell to Conrad

Farewell to Conrad

In our June-July issue of Old Africa we ran a short piece in our Mwishowe column about Conrad, a small boy born in Kenya in 1956 who died less than two years later. The story reflected the pain, shared by many, who have lost children while living in Africa. The story was by Conrad’s mother Elsie Maciel, and we included a few lines from a poem written by Conrad’s father, Mervyn Maciel. Elsie emailed and asked if we could publish the complete poem. We won’t have space in our next magazine, but we are reproducing the complete poem here in this blog. Farewell to our darling Conrad by Mervyn Maciel October 10th (1956) was a day of joy For to us was born our second boy; Of angelic beauty, but frail physique Yes destined to live in this world so bleak.   For months past birth we ne’er knew That his days with us would be so few Until one day our hearts were torn When his troubles to us a specialist made known.   A congenital heart was what he had The thought of which could drive one mad But Bravely and patiently he struggled through HOpeing that someday he’d be fit anew.   Despite his health he travelled afar By plane and truck and motor car; Oft a spell in hospital he spent Striving hard for life under and oxygen tent.   From the NFD to Kisii with us he came Not knowing that here he’d always remain The weather didn’t suit, but he still ensured That Mum and Dad and Clyde kept cheered.   A sad day...
Memories of Katungulu – Part 2

Memories of Katungulu – Part 2

Snakes, bats and drinking water. After our amazing escape from the whirling waterspout, we arrived at our house at the AIM mission at Katungulu. Mom, who has always struggled with seasickness, plopped down on her bed to recover. Staring at her from the corner near her bed was a green mamba! Mom quickly jumped up and hollered for help. Green mambas are poisonous snakes and not to be casually entertained. Help quickly came to take care of this life-threatening visitor. I’m sure by now my mom felt ‘green’ from all the trauma of this day. On another occasion we discovered snake eggs under a bureau and other pieces of our meager furnishings. We had to deal with this surprise with cautious care and concentration. Over the years God always helped us discover the danger before we were endangered ourselves. We had unfortunate encounters with ants, scorpions and snakes in our home, but God in his faithfulness helped us deal with each situation. We had a number of permanent houseguests – bats and agama lizards. Our house did not have any ceiling, but instead a muslin cloth of amerikani or some similar material was stretched across the open space between the walls to help catch ‘anything’ that might drop from the ‘high heavens’ of the simple peaked roof of metal mabati. We soon learned to live in harmony with these creatures, especially the bats who helped keep the mosquito population down. Malaria was not a pleasant experience and we were often bedridden for days or even weeks with high fevers and spells of cold sweats. Keeping hydrated was a challenge...