The East African Standard, Kenya’s largest daily newspaper, had a circulation of 170, 000, in Nairobi, during the 1960s, suggesting a city of some size. We arrived back in Kenya in 1960 and I say arrived back because my parents had lived there previously. I was born in Mombasa, the country’s main port. Between our and second residencies in Kenya, we lived in South Africa, where my brother was born. We returned to Kenya as a family of four.
Our minds can have difficulty in recalling whether certain places and events happened simultaneously or as separate events. While there are specific recollections of the two homes in which we lived in Nairobi, some memories may have melded.
The first house was on the outskirts of Nairobi although in suburbia where the reports were large, having been farms. Our home was situated at the end of a long driveway and its grounds were huge. With the freedom to roam and explore each day was filled with unlimited adventures.
While I have no memory of attending school there are photographs of birthday parties which I attended. Perhaps school had already begun to be a conundrum for my child self. Unfortunately it remained so for many years but I digress. Birthdays, adventures, learning to ride a bicycle and finding a stash of hens’ eggs laid long long ago are some of the memories associated with this home.
The large thorn tree in the middle of the great lawn area is memorable for somewhat less happy reasons. It is strange how much space there was surrounding that thorny monster yet the pull of that tree drew me in like a hypnotist.
Despite the time lag, teaching our children to ride their first bicycles was no different to how I was taught. Once the trainer wheels were take off, one parent runs alongside the child holding the saddle to steady the bike. When the child gains enough momentum to master balance, the parent lets go. So it was when my father taught me to ride. Around and around the garden we went until I was cycling on my own. After some time he left to fetch my mother.
Mum arrived in time to watch in horror as I pedalled into the trunk of the giant thorn tree. Our minds are wonderful at burying certain traumatic events as mine did with the pain that would certainly have ensued. I have no doubt there would have been a lot of wailing and noise on my part while Mum berated my father for leaving me not knowing how to stop my bike. I learned to use the brakes – which were engaged by back pedalling – as soon as the infected thorn wounds had healed.
Surrounding the gardens were fantastic climbing trees – no thorns and quite safe for young adventurers – from which I spent considerable time hanging upside down and swinging off. The number of photographs of me upside down suspended from the bough of a tree suggests this was a regular pass time. (The photographs have been scanned in bitmap format which,
sadly Wordpress does not allow).
To be continued / …