Here’s a topical thought since layby-occupying ‘Travellers’ are being ‘hounded’ in the UK this month, while laybys are an often-overlooked pleasure of life in Africa. So heed ye now The parable of The Laybys. Drive from Lands End to John-O-Groats in the UK and lay by where you will, be prepared to be surrounded by Travellers with looks to kill, although why they cannot be called Gypsies any more I cannot imagine. One would have thought they would have been proud of their Ancient Egyptian heritage, especially when compared to the Ancient Briton’s heritage! As well as the Travellers, you will come across another car or two parked up, the occupants all silent and sour-faced with no greeting. If Sky News is to be believed you had best search the hedgerows for a stabbed-to-death body as well, and of course all kinds of rubbish will surround you as if you were visiting a tip.
But travel anywhere in East Africa, from Vanga to Lokichoggio, and you can pull up and chill out where a straightened curve in the old road has left a disused loop ideal for an exclusive roadside picnic. As if by magic from nowhere will appear a gaggle of African children all aged ’twixt three and six. Some at first might irritate you with their hand outstretched for chai but your irritation will soon be charmed away and replaced by an enduring and delightful memory. Welcoming smiles from all the sturdy, ebony black, half-naked children. Bright-eyed, sparkling white teeth all with a smile of Christ-like purity, natural, innocent, welcoming, genuine and full of joy. Commonplace in sub-Saharan Africa but hard to come by most places else on Earth. Smiles that will melt the hardest heart, no less.