Tea for Breakfast

Tea for Breakfast

About 1910 my father W.J. Dawson, known always as W.J., bought the Plains Dairy, that vast flatland where the Nairobi Airport is today. He and three other young Scotsmen had great times in the corrugated iron house he built there. The others were George Taylor, Will Jaffray and Sandy Milne. One morning my father, who was always particular about his early morning tea, spat out the first mouthful in disgust at the taste. He went outside and asked George Taylor if he thought the tea undrinkable. Taylor replied, “I hadna’ noticed.” Father called the servant and asked where he had obtained the water for the tea. Imagine my father’s reaction when the servant pointed to the tin bath in which all four men had bathed the evening before! Belle Barker, Hermanus, South Africa This story appeared in the October 2007 Only in Africa section of Old Africa If you enjoyed this story, consider purchasing Leopard in the Kitchen, our book of short stories....
Climbing Mount Longonot

Climbing Mount Longonot

Soon after the outbreak of World War II we boarders from the Prince of Wales School were moved to the old Sparks Hotel at Naivasha because the military required our school building at Kabete for a military hospital. We boys regarded our time at Naivasha like a long holiday, but they required us to work at our lessons as well. The spacious school grounds extended down to Crescent Island Lake. Sunday afternoons we could roam where we wished – only the dukas in Naivasha town were out of bounds. One Sunday afternoon three of us decided to climb Mt Longonot. As soon as lunch ended, we left the school grounds and crossed over the South Lake Road. We headed across a vast empty plain for Mt Longonot, miles away on the horizon. We set off at a fairly fast but sustainable run. There were no roads or tracks to follow but the grazing Tommies, Grants, and zebra had kept the grass down and the going was easy. By mid afternoon we reached the base of Longonot. We looked up the bush-covered slope and decided to give it a go to the rim. We climbed up a steep ridge following a game track. We paused near the rim when we heard the crashing of bushes. Several buffalo galloped down past us on an adjacent ridge a few yards away from where we stood. Soon we stood on the rim of the crater and looked down its bush-covered walls. We didn’t spend long there but turned our attention to the return journey. We couldn’t see the school, but we made out...
Alone in the Desert

Alone in the Desert

Our safari company tried out a new route from the southeastern end of Lake Turkana to Marsabit National Park through the Koroli Desert. We were halfway across the 30 mile sandy stretch of the Koroli Desert, and the driver had not seen another vehicle all morning and there was only one set of tire tracks in the sand. In the heat haze ahead he saw a typical mirage, which seemed to change from a small black stone into a black boulder. On approaching the object, it turned into an elderly American lady in a blue safari suit, sitting in the sand alone in the middle of the inhabited, scorching hot desert. She arose as our vehicle pulled up beside her and inquired most politely, without showing any sign of relief or pleasure, “Excuse me, but would you be going anywhere near Mar-say-bit.” Had we not decided to take that route, she probably wouldn’t have seen another vehicle for a week and faced a horrible death from thirst. Obviously this good lady had not the faintest idea of the danger of her situation. She was one of a group of six safari clients in a Volkswagen Combi that had stopped for a pee on their way to Marsabit Lodge. The car had accidentally driven off without her some three hours previously and nobody had missed her! We eventually got through to Nairobi from Marsabit, and told her tour company we’d picked up their guest in the desert. They sent an aeroplane up for her as there was still no sign of her VW Combi. Dick Hedges, Nairobi This appeared in...
Locating a Lion

Locating a Lion

My mother Shelina Popat worked in the Maasai Mara in tourism as a 22-year-old. One day a VIP guest, a middle-aged woman, arrived from England. She was very eager to see a lion. After her first game drive, the woman went to Shelina and explained that she really wanted to see a lion and she was only staying for three nights. Shelina told the woman not to worry, since lions were frequently seen. But for some reason the Mara’s lions went on strike that week and by the woman’s last night, she still had not seen a lion. The woman kept complaining how she came all the way from England to see a lion and how disappointed she was. The woman had only one more game drive the next morning. When she came back from her last game drive, she still hadn’t seen a lion. Feeling very dissatisfied, she went back to her tent to prepare to leave for the airstrip. Shelina drove the woman to the airstrip to drop her off. However, on the way to the airstrip the woman needed to relieve herself. Shelina drove her to a location known for being deserted with no wild animals roaming about. She stopped the car in front of a large bush. The woman got out to go pee, while Shelina waited in the car. A loud scream erupted from behind the bush. The woman appeared, running towards the car with her shorts around her ankles, screaming, “Lion!” Shelina couldn’t help but laugh. The woman was terrified but also delighted. She finally saw a lion, even though not in the...
The Rarest Thing on the Coast

The Rarest Thing on the Coast

As a child, our family often spent holidays at the Mnarani Club in Kilifi. One vacation in the 1960s the Club, managed in this days by Monty and Peggy Hayes, organised a scavenger hunt for all of us children. As we raced around collecting things for our list, we pondered one item. We had been asked to bring back “the rarest thing on the East African coast.” What should we bring? We had an inspiration. Monty’s bald head still had three or four hairs. If we could pull one of those out, surely that would qualify as the rarest thing on the East African coast. Someone managed to sneak up behind Monty and pluck one of his precious few remaining hairs. Monty wasn’t too impressed with us, but with his rare strand of hair our team won the scavenger hunt. Joannah Stutchbury, Nairobi This story appeared in the Only In Africa section of the June/July issue...

Nairobi’s First Stripper

About the year 1948, Nairobi had one very popular nightclub called the 400 Club that, with new management, changed its name to The Travellers Club. The new manager sought the permission of the Michael O’Rourke, the then Commissioner of Police, to employ a professional strip-tease dancer on a short assignment. Michael had a preview of the act and gave his permission on condition that the Club staff should be excluded from the performance. (That was the way things were in those far-off days). The show was a great success with full houses almost every night. Eventually, for the final performance by this somewhat overweight lady who was certainly past her prime, she promised to put on a fan dance. There was standing room only for the customers. Sure enough, about midnight, all the staff were sent home and a small low platform about the size of a coffee table was brought onto the stage with a curtain all around it. The lights dimmed, seductive music was played, the curtains opened and the lady proceeded to dance with a pair of huge ostrich feather fans that hid her attractions from view. At the end of the dance, the lady was back on the platform and then simultaneously she threw the fans apart, the lights went out and the curtains closed. There was tremendous applause and yells of, “Encore, encore!” Then after a few minutes the lights dimmed again, the seductive music started and the curtains opened. However, instead of the stripper, who should appear with the fans and dressed only in his jockey underpants was none other than the manager...