My mother has just emailed to tell me that she has booked her flight out to San Francisco, and I’m already panicking slightly. Not that she isn’t excellent company and always game for an adventure, but we seem to have a history of inadvertent senior abuse.
Her first clue about the downside of expat visiting came when she was forced to transport a 6′ artificial Christmas tree to Kenya. To be fair, she did ask if there was anything that she could bring for us, so there was no need for the level of hysteria that greeted us at the international arrivals gate at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. Yes, it was starting to escape from it’s box, and admittedly she’d had to ditch most of her spare clothing to keep under the airline weight limit, but on a positive note, she wasn’t forced to unpack it at customs. And I still maintain they were laughing WITH her, not AT her.
However, she did have a luxurious trip to the idyllic Diani Coast to recuperate, complete with the excellent companionship of Suzanne, G & E (of It started with a Kick fame), myself and the Feisty and Wiggy Ones. The more cynical might have considered the many and varied scrapes that the six of us had already got into and been a little more prepared, but my mother is a trusting sort, and boarded the 1950’s era Nairobi – Mombasa express in complete innocence.
The train journey failed to reach expectations or even the advertised destination. “Express” proved rather a misnomer, unless you count the way we were ‘expressed’ into the African desert at 5am the next morning with promises of replacement buses. Thankfully Suzanne was experienced in the slippery ways of the African transport system, and with a surprising turn of speed for a linen skirted Yorkshire woman, had secured the only taxi within a 50 mile radius, fighting off usurpers with well aimed suitcases and a steely blue gaze.
One of the most admirable qualities about Kenyans is their boundless optimism in the face of adversity – in this case, fitting nine occupants and luggage in a Toyota Corolla. We achieved this miracle of volumetric magic only by the use of a three layer passenger system and G being stuffed atop the luggage in the trunk. Initially, this seemed like the least desirable seat in the house, but the first few miles of traveling at speed over potholes proved that the greater the distance between the crown of your head and the roof, the greater the velocity at which the two made contact. George was the only member of the party who didn’t reach Tiwi beach with a minor concussion.
To say that the journey was fraught with difficulty would be an understatement. Over the course of the next 100 miles, the Luck of the Lomases held firm, and despite challenges faced en route – failing to stop at an armed police checkpoint, a flat tyre, a non-existent road that had to be built while we waited in the 90 degree heat and a precariously overloaded ferry – we did finally make it to our destination 16 hours later.
Interestingly, it wasn’t the stress of the journey, or the discovery of a large pack of monkeys in residence in the cottage that finally sent my mother to her bed. It was gluttony that got her.
The local fishermen brought freshly caught seafood to the cottage every morning, and giant shrimp for breakfast, lunch and dinner on day one proved too much for mother’s previously ironclad constitution. She spent the rest of the week in her nightgown, in a bizarre parody of Miss Havisham, with enormous hives covering her entire body.
Mum finished her email reminiscing nostalgically about ‘those wonderful days when I visited you in Kenya”.
That’s the lovely thing about getting older. Your memory goes.