John and Lise
The twins thrived and we were fortunate in our close friendship with a Danish couple- John and Lisé Anderson. John was the local vet, whom I had had alot to do with even before the tick fever episode, and we had always got on well. His wife was a vivacious and intelligent blonde whom I enjoyed flirting with immensely. This did not seem to impact on the tight friendship she had with Margaret, particularly after the twins were born. Lisé had two older girls and was a source of infinite wisdom and experience when it came to children. She even came to stay with Margaret to help when the twins were born and often baby-sat for us when we needed a break.
But tragedy was to strike soon after. The younger of their two daughters fell from a horse when she was five. Her foot got caught in the stirrup and she was dragged to her death in front of their horrified eyes. They struggled to cope. Lisé returned to Denmark and John followed about six months later. But despite the tragedy they missed Kenya and after a couple of years returned, much to our delight as we had sorely missed their company.
However, their departure to Denmark led to the sole episode (for any of my children!) of “daddy day-care”, as they call it these days. Ann was also preparing to leave Africa with her husband and Margaret was worried she might not get the chance to say good-bye to her sister, nor did she have any idea of when they would meet again.
I was unable to leave the farm but I told Margaret that she should go and leave the twins because I, and Sam our houseboy, were more than capable of looking after them for a couple of days. It was, I have to say the first time I had ever offered to do such a thing and, after my wife got over her initial dumb-foundedness, she doubtfully agreed to the plan.
I was privately convinced that women made far too much fuss about bringing up children and this seemed a perfect opportunity to prove my point. So after the babies were dressed and fed by Sam, I put them both in the passenger seat of the landrover the next day and prepared to take them out on the farm with me. There were no seatbelts or childseats in those days but they sat happily enough on the bench seat and giggled when we went over the bumps. I headed over to some new yards we were building and left them in the cab as I inspected the work- first making sure the parkbrake was firmly on.
I was pleased with the work. When I returned to the car the twins were harmlessly engaged upon chomping a bit of tree that had made its way into the cab. I removed the twig, put the car in drive and wheeled it round sharply to head back the way we had come. Unfortunately the passenger door had not been shut properly. As the car spun around, the door flung open and the twins rolled out of it at some speed. They hit the ground with a thud and proceeded to bounce about two yards, coming to rest amongst a little thicket of thorns. I admit to a moment of worry as I slammed on the brakes and hurriedly got out to pick them up. But apart from some gusty tears and quite a few prickles and thorns they seemed unharmed. I brushed them off, dried their eyes and headed home. By the time we reached the house they were back to normal and, miraculously, with no tell-tale signs of their misadventure.
But so impressed was I with the bouncing resilience of babies that I made the mistake of telling Margaret about it when she came home.
She never again left me alone with the children.
1963 saw Kenyan Independence achieved and, for us, the birth of another son- Robert.
By now we were all aware that the Africa we had known and grown up in was gone forever. For example we’d always had a white inspector of police but after independence the job was, naturally enough, awarded to an African. He wasn’t a bad guy and I got on well with him, but he made it clear that he would not be chasing cattle thieves unless there was one fat cow for him in return. If he did actually catch any cattle thieves they were usually shot on the spot as he had little patience with the British courtroom system of justice.
We were also worried about the children’s schooling. We could not afford the two very expensive private schools in the local area and the only other option was to send them to boarding school from five years old. Margaret’s own experience of being abandoned in school at a young age meant she refused to even consider the idea. So we were already thinking about leaving Kenya when an incident happened that made the decision easier.
My boss, Roger Boules, was in the habit of bringing his rich and often aristocratic friends from England to stay on the farm for weeks at a time. On this occasion the Duke of Portland was his guest and Roger had decided to buy some locally hand-made rugs in honour of his stay. They were beautiful- weaved in very bright colours- red, yellow and ochre orange and made quite an impact when laid out on the grey, stone floors of the house.
Only a few days after the party left, the house was burgled. Quite a few very expensive things had been stolen but also, strangely, so too had the brand new rugs.
At the time we knew there was a gang of Samburu roaming the area, styling themselves on the recent Mau Mau gangs. Their leader had even taken up the name of General China, after the famous Mau Mau leader.
The real General China and Mau Mau activist.
We immediately suspected they might be responsible for the burglary but when we notified the police they told us they were very busy and unlikely to be able to do much about it for a few days.
I had already recruited two Africans I trusted to work as security guards to help me keep an eye out on the property and later that day they were travelling with me in the landrover. We were driving past this little scrubby thornwood patch when we noticed three large red, orange and yellow bundles bobbing gaily just above the thorn bushes.
It didn’t take us long to realise that, in fact, there were people underneath these bundles and that the bundles themselves were the brand new rugs which had been used to wrap up all the valuables from the burglary.
We took off after them. The bundles split up as soon as they heard us. My guards got out of the car and chased two on foot while I took off after the tallest, red bundle in the car.
He was a big man- massively muscled, fit and tall- a real warrior. He started sprinting fast, dodging and weaving through the bush. After about half an hour I lost him.
I was just about to give up when suddenly the red bundle bobbed up again having zig-zagged back behind me. I churned the gears on the car and raced over to the other side of the thicket. I reached it just as he raced out and collided with the car.
He fell heavily and was dazed and winded but otherwise seemed unharmed.
I quickly took advantage. Yelling to my two guards for help I started binding his hands and feet with my belt and rope from the car. They soon joined me and helped me load him into the car. However, by this time he was regaining his senses and began to struggle so fiercely that my African guards had no option but to sit on him to restrain him for the rest of the journey.
It was a pretty bumpy trip and he was dangerously angry by the time we arrived in town and handed him over to the local police. The police however, were very happy to see us. They took one look at our prisoner and revealed he was indeed “the General” and leader of the notorious, criminal gang whom they had been hunting for months.
He was to be transferred to Nairobi the next day but he was left overnight in a cell with only one young police officer guarding him. The “General” asked for a drink of water.
There were no cups so this young officer let him out to drink from the tap. He was killed for his naivety- a single chop to the neck with the hand.
I wasn’t aware that he had escaped until one of my cattle herders was found murdered and another was told to give me a message that “the General knows where you live and he’s coming to get you”.
The next three months were long and filled with some anxiety. I was unable to do my job without spending most of the day away from the house, leaving my wife Margaret and my three small children there all alone.
Eventually the police did recapture “the General” but by that time Margaret and I had already made arrangements to leave Kenya.
It was with a wistful heart that I said good-bye to the land of my birth but I knew it was no longer the country I had grown up in. Both Kenya and I were entering new stages in our lives.
Margaret, I and the children boarded a ship at Aden and sailed to Australia as one of the many “£10 poms” heading to that country looking for a new start.