It’s a quiet Sunday and after a slow start I decide to walk to the nearest shopping centre. A walk can only be a good thing after last nights festivities. The rest of the house is not stirring. The day is clear and burning hot, something I had not really noticed under the shade of our garden forest. Unlike my jogging foray I am the only traveller on the roadside goat track, the exception being the neighbour’s guards who are reclined on the verge, feet crossed and having lunch much in the fashion of a impressionist’s picnic. Except these lads are wearing overalls and gumboots. I say hello and wonder how they do it.
As the ridge drops into its gully birthplace the track takes me through an avenue of towering eucalypts. I am first aware of their presence as familiar leaves appear under my feet and then the heat of the day infuses the air with that heady but pleasant aroma of gum oil. It takes me straight home. I pause to check the source and am impressed at the sight of mountain ash towering eighty feet into the air.
But you can’t take your eyes off the the road too long. Expensive four wheel drives hurtle along, some making way for me, other expecting me to plunge into the hedge of bougainvillea in order to stay safe. A Triumph rattles past and I am struck by how much this place still reflects its English parents. If there was any doubt about that the currency of shillings, together with the vernacular “bob” (that’ll be two bob please) reinforce that particular DNA of the country. It’s not a bad thing. This country benefits from massive trade with the UK, its citzens are the recipients of access to education and technology and a world view that is more strategic than that of any of its neighbours. Maybe my Australian perspective of links to England colour my surprise at how much Kenyans seem to cherish the connection. I have to confess my political sympathies lie more with Australia’s Irish settlers who were all too keen to slip the English yoke.
I cross the creek, passing through roadside nurseries who will sell you just about any plant imaginable. I wonder how they survive but survive they clearly do. In such a verdant city it seem as if they are ‘selling coals to Newcastle’. I climb a new ridge and pick my way along ditch works and broken pavers and stay away from the Landrovers and BMWs powering past me in a cloud of filthy smoke. We are no doubt heading to the same shopping centre though this road also takes me a long way towards the UN compound and a handful of Embassies including that of the US.
I find a place which is open and settle for some coffee and some brunch omelette. The atmosphere is very relaxed and slow. Even the flies seem to be taking it easy. I have my notebook so start this diary entry. And look around to see which way I am going to jump if things get weird. The talk around town is of those Al-Shabab characters who walked away from the shopping centre along with shoppers and are now undetected and unknown in this town. Add that to the threat that Kenya will continue to be targeted and you have a slightly wary population. But this is a tiny place with few patrons despite all the shops that are open. It’s no Westgate, that’s for sure and I expect no trouble.
Woodsmoke stings my eyes as I wait (twenty minutes so far) for my omelette. The scent of burning wood from the kitchen makes this café dining an outdoor experience of sorts. A dining quality is lost with all our food safety regulations. This more earthy atmosphere on a sleepy African afternoon has way too much appeal. Aha, my omelette is here. Two fried eggs actually. Oh well, its only food. It’s the context that really counts after all.
Diary 29 September 2013