February 2008


As it’s two months since Christmas now, I guess it’s about time to take the Christmas cards down…

Our excuse is that we didn’t even see most of them until after twelfth night – not because of any inefficiency on the part of our friends, I hasten to add.  Possibly something to do with Eid, or maybe just because of the dates the PO box is emptied.  In any case, it was a lovely welcome home from our holiday!

Oh dear, I never did blog about our New Year adventures, did I?  Holidaying in the midst of civil insurrection, as a friend described it!  It’s all rather old news now, I’m afraid.  It’s a good story (I like it!), so I’m going to tell it, anyway.  And it’s up to you to read it or not, as you like! J

Zanzibar welcomed us with a clapped-out banger with an empty fuel tank for our hire car, and a petrol station that informed us it would be empty for the next four hours.  An inauspicious start… (but how nice to be given the chance to use the word “inauspicious”!)  The holiday got rapidly better once we changed our vehicle for one slightly less clapped out, got some petrol and got on our way!

We had a relaxing stay on the island, with a room for two nights which opened out straight onto the beach.  Our first family beach holiday!  I have a great photo of M sitting in the shade with his computer, his coffee and little G, which was of course much more his thing than making sandcastles with the girls as I’d been doing…  We went dolphin-spotting and had great views of the rarer, shyer variety, but didn’t see any of the more friendly bottle-nose ones!  Bit more special than the other way round, wouldn’t you say?  Decided to leave snorkelling for a few years, although E and R both got out of the boat for a little swim in the sea with Daddy (while Mummy held tightly to little G…)

Lots of good cafes and restaurants dominate the rest of my memories of Zanzibar (including seeing the new year in in a restaurant on the beach – sounds good, except that the table and chairs were nowhere near level and the tide was worryingly close!  Anyway, being middle-aged before my time, I went to bed at 11!)  And then it was on to Kenya…

Kenya was a great holiday in many ways.  I wouldn’t choose to go somewhere that’s in post-election unrest, but given we were already there before we were aware of it, we made the most of our time.  Most people, as you will know, had cancelled their trips, but there was no danger in the national parks and safari parks, so we had most places almost to ourselves.  The level of service was great (we stayed in the presidential suite in two parks because of a booking problem with our rooms!); we had hotel swimming pools to ourselves; and the food was fantastic – mainly buffets with a huge variety and active cooking corners (choose your ingredients and watch them cook it).  Plenty of plain yoghurt and fruit to mash for G, so he ate much better than E and R have on holidays at his age!

Sorry, I’m going on about food again.  We did have a lot of travelling in our itinerary (that will come as no surprise to most of my readers) – and some of the roads were very slow-going – bumpy, pot-holey.  And then of course, there was The Adventure…

Part 1

You may have heard that there were road-blocks around.  Well, we encountered one rock in the middle of the road that may have been part of a road-block.  M risked driving over it, since the road was quite screey and we’d skidded half a mile previously, turning right round and nearly coming off the road.  Instantly, he realised the misjudgement from the sound it made on the bottom of the car, but it was only half a mile on that we realised the full implications, when the car stalled and would not restart.  A quick glance underneath revealed the oil had all gone.

Ok, pan out and survey the scene.  It is already dusk and we have quite a way still to go (we have come the long way round to avoid some trouble).  We haven’t noticed many other cars; understandably, it’s been quite quiet on the roads.  We can’t see signs of civilisation and there is no reception on our mobiles.  R has a dirty nappy; the children will all soon be hungry; we have a little food and not much water.

Could have been horrible, couldn’t it?  It was a moment to remember, watching M walk away up the road in search of help!  Fortunately, our friend A was on holiday with us – and he’s a good calming influence to have on such an occasion (not to mention the one in part 2!).  And within twenty minutes, cars had driven past and offered to tow us, M had found a signal, phoned the hire car company who promised a replacement car from Nairobi (4 hours’ drive away), found help and brought back men with a truck from a farm just over the brow of the hill.

We were soon towed (on an extremely short rope – more difficult driving for M!) to the farm, where the manager and his wife made us welcome in their home, along with their five-year-old daughter and days-old baby.  They were very kind in an unfussy, understated way; and chatting to them about what was happening in their country, eating dinner with them, drinking ginger tea made with hot milk, not water, looking round their room at certificates on the wall, next to posters with inspirational scenes and Bible verses, the lino flooring, the TV quietly reporting the news in the corner (later they put on a DVD of Kenyan wildlife for us) – all this gave us a glimpse at Kenya away from the tourist trail.

We were put up in the farm guesthouse for the night – a very cold, wooden hut that nonetheless had everything we needed and more – a living room, kitchen, bathroom (where I had a most unpleasant encounter with a flying cockroach.  I managed to convince myself it was a big moth until I had got it outside… and then shuddered repeatedly for the next few minutes!), two bedrooms, each with two double beds and plenty of blankets.  Back to the farmhouse in the morning for eggs and more hot milk (the managers are given five litres of milk a day and all other workers get two litres a day in addition to their wages – I read recently that Kenyans drink more milk than any other developing country).

More kindness: the driver with the replacement hire car had set off as soon as he could the previous evening and had stayed overnight about ten miles down the road.  So we were quickly on our way – although still behind schedule and with a long day’s drive ahead.  And unaware that the adventure was not over yet.

But part 2 will have to wait for another day, I think…  I hadn’t realised how much I’d write!  I wish I could emulate jackthelass’s blog and have photos to show you of some of this, but even if we’d thought to take some, I’m not sure I’d be able to get them on the page, the right size for you to see!

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I swear this morning I saw a man walking down the road wearing a balaclava.  True, winter is hanging around a bit this year (I’m told), with cool evenings and a dusty wind taking the edge off the heat of the day.  But to my mind, it’s now ceiling fan weather again.  Funny, isn’t it, how differently two people can perceive the same weather?

After writing the last post, I took my brood home, thinking as I drove about those women I used to look at and shake my head, thinking “Why does she do it?” and wondering how I’d become one of them.  I felt OK, though, despite a few more setbacks, tears and whatnots before the children made it as far as the bath.  I felt OK right up to the moment at 7pm that the phone rang.  It was M – but on his UK number.Funny, I thought, with a slight sense of foreboding – after all, he has been known to miss flights occasionally (for reasons outside his control).

“I’ve just landed,” he said – and then it transpired that he had just landed in the UK from Canada and I had somehow got the day of his return wrong in my head.  So while all week I’d been expecting him home on Thursday evening, he’d always been due on Friday evening.  Worse yet, he was calling to say that his flight had landed seven hours later, so not only was he not going to be able to do any of the shopping he’d planned, but there was a good chance he would miss his onward flight (from a different airport).

The next half hour was not pleasant, as I struggled to come to terms with my own disappointment and the children’s and get tired children into bed.  Fortunately, I have a knack of looking at the bright side, so I then decided to make the most of an unexpected free evening and watch the Jane Eyre DVD I got for Christmas.

Good ol’ BBC.  I got thoroughly absorbed in the story, one I read (my first grown-up novel) when I was 13 and therefore not a plot that was entirely fresh in my mind.  By bedtime, I felt like I’d had a real treat.And then G was sick.  And, by the time I’d changed his clothes, my clothes and his bed, wide awake too.  By the time he felt sleepy again, an hour and a half later, he had a dirty nappy.  Changing it didn’t seem to disturb him much, so I left him where he was lying, next to me on my bed and started going to sleep myself.  And then he was sick again.  This time my bed needed changing as well as G’s clothes again, but we don’t have spare sheets, so I moved to the guest bed.  Took G’s bed in there too and settled him into it.  Climbed into bed, started to fall asleep.

And then R started crying.  R wants Mummy.  (Presumably since Daddy hasn’t showed up she wants to make absolutely sure that I’m here.)  I sit by her bed for 15 minutes or so before going back to my own, but she starts crying again, so I bring her to the guest room and settle her in bed with me.  Have to point out that it’s not a good idea to play with my face, but otherwise she’s fine.  I probably fell asleep before she did, anyway!  It was gone 2am by then…

Fed G at about 4am.  E woke up at about 5.30, although I’m hazy about what happened between then and 7am.  Had E and R in bed with me for quite a while, then when they started asking about breakfast, suggested they look for bread in the fridge, so they did and ate it together in the kitchen!  Very sensible children!

And after an hour of feeling quite exhausted, I woke up properly and (to cut a long story shorter as my battery’s nearly gone) the rest of the day was surprisingly relaxing…  And M is now back, having moved mountains to get to his flight on time.  Hooray!

While I’m just waiting for the bill in my favourite local cafe, I thought I’d just relay the highlights of this afternoon’s trip with my three small children…

 (I know, I know, why do I put myself through it?  Well, because I was hoping for a message from M to say when he’s getting back – and that’s because all I remember is it’s sometime today… my external brain (aka my Palm, which I can’t function without) keeps resetting itself!  Also I didn’t fancy hanging around at home waiting and I certainly didn’t feel like cooking (Thursday is the local Friday, so it feels like a weekend treat…))

Sorry, did I say treat?  Without further ado, this afternoon’s list of catastrophes:

1. Lemon juice has something looking suspiciously like nail clippings in it.  I was drinking it in a straw and three hit the back of my mouth before I decided I had to complain…

2.  Despite a toilet trip before we came out, once I’d set up my computer, the girls had got their colouring books and pens out and we had drinks on the table, R announced she needed a poo.  Left computer at table and G in car-seat next to table, instructed a waitress to watch them carefully – and then held my breath until I got back!

3.  R dropped the stupidly tall thin glass that her banana milkshake came in – no surprises, it shattered!

4.  R then completed her poo at the table.

5.  While I am writing this, R has tried to sit on G’s lap, and E is pushing toys into his mouth.  R is now on my lap pushing my hands away from the keyboard so that she can point out a 2 and an R on the keyboard!  Time to go home…

…prob to an empty house.  Oh, the last day is definitely the hardest!

I hope you don’t think this is negative at all – I can definitely see the funny side of all this…  Otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging it, I’d be at home again tearing my hair out!