Flame Trees of Thika

Surely it is time for another showing of the TV series of Elspeth Huxley’s book, The Flame Trees of Thika?  Filming took place in Kenya in eighteen weeks before Christmas, 1980, with Hayley Mills playing Tilly, Elspeth’s mother, and Holly Aird as Elspeth. The filming was done at Lukenya, with Kajiado station standing in as the early Nairobi station. Old rolling stock from Nairobi Railway Museum was used, and track was specially laid. No animals were killed – when a dead creature was needed, animal skins were brought from London and stuffed in Nairobi. Twinkle, Elspeth’s pet duiker, grew so quickly that eventually three young ones were used in succession. A rain sequence for the rainy season caused problems when rain refused to fall. The solution was to appeal to the Nairobi Fire Brigade. It helpfully hosed away for twelve minutes at a time with water fetched from tanks in Nairobi. The African spectators thought the filmers were mad. And what about the flame trees? They seem to flower whenever they like, so spies were sent far and wide to report when one was in flower. A full 4000 miles were covered to film the temperamental trees. The film crew then rushed to the location. The adult Elspeth Huxley came out to Kenya to have a look at what was going on, and thoroughly approved of the proceedings, to everyone’s relief. The stone farmhouse of Elspeth’s childhood still existed at Kitimuru, lived in by a colonel. Some of the coffee bushes her parents had planted were still there, now part of a big French-owned plantation. She described her visit to...

Shoes from America

I remember vividly anticipating the arrival of a package from America, which was to contain five pairs of shoes for me! In those days in Tanganyika shoes were not readily available and I was growing faster than my parents could keep me in shoes. We were always required to wear shoes because of jiggers, which were prevalent in the dirt. These little bugs would “get under your skin” literally and lay their eggs inside your toes and feet! It was a major chore to dig them out and sometimes infection followed. Shoes were an absolute necessity for our protection and health. Finally the day arrived when my new shoes arrived after taking nearly three to months to come by ship from the Sears and Roebucks store. With great eagerness and enthusiasm I quickly tore the box open. Immediately my eyes were drawn to a pair of shiny black beautiful sandals. Like Cinderella’s sisters, I pushed and pulled and tried my best to squeeze my growing foot into these beautiful shoes but to no avail. I tried another pair. To my despair, they were ALL too small! After unsuccessfully pushing and prodding in vain, I was forced to give all my new beautiful patent leather shoes to my younger sister. This was such a sad day for me as my great anticipation for new shoes ended in deep disappointment. I don’t recall what my parents did to provide me with shoes. Perhaps they found a fundi shoemaker at the Indian shops to make me some shoes. When I think back on that experience with disappointment, I realize how many times...