Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Tummy bug

Yesterday started badly with a sharp bout of some sort of stomach bug and I found myself not knowing which end to point at the loo – but mercifully, it all passed pretty fast and so today I am feeling pretty much back to normal. It must have been something I picked up from the fruitmarket, a germ on the skin of a piece of fruit. Luckily the weariness attaching to this kind of bug did not really kick in till the afternoon so we were able to do some interesting things in the morning.
First we called to see Tristan McConnell and his family – we had a parcel to deliver to their two little children from their granddad in Kent. They live in Lavington, another nice old area rapidly changing into denser development. Their pretty little villa, tucked down a steep bumpy driveway, has a huge garden full of trees. The properties on either side are now blocks of apartments, some in the process of construction. Their landlord, said Tristan, will surely turn in the same direction, which will mean the removal of these amazing trees. In particular one huge eucalyptus has an amazing nest in it, built by the Hamerkop bird, a prehistoric looking thing nearly 2 feet long, from the heron family, massive and with an equally impressive home of twigs and branches.
The birds all around are fascinating: we have seen shrikes, sunbirds, ibis, eagle, hummingbirds, kites and more that I couldn’t possibly name. Their dawn chorus is lovely.
After Tristan, we went to Karen, the fabled home of Karen (‘I caught the cla-a-a-a-p in A-a-a-fricaaaah’) Blixen, which the Danish government gave to the Kenyan government at Independence. It is weird walking round a filmset (you remember we watched the movie the night we arrived). It’s also very nice seeing Danish furniture and porcelain, so distinct. Karen was no mean portraitist, I have to say, and her portrayals of various children from her farm are absolutely sweet. Our guide identified every item in the house as being original or not original. A short walk through the woody forest afterwards was calming and interesting – this is ‘like’ the original forest now rapidly disappearing and could have been in Surrey.
Then we called into the Kazuri - which claims to have given employment to women in distress, mostly unmarried mothers - and they do make the most lovely glazed and assembled necklaces and bracelets. Lucie bought me some earrings from there last year and urged us to see it. It is impressive, with 340 women quietly working neatly at the various stages, with huge machines doing the initial pounding of the clay... which till recently was imported from England! They then found some clay on Mount Kenya, which seems more sensible. The quietness in the workshops was not comfortable...I was left wondering how much the women actually earn - presumably enough to keep them coming back, but the man who showed us round said they all walked to work as they couldn't afford the fare from the Kibera slum where they live, about 30-40 minutes walk away. The place is managed by Indians. They sell the beads all round the world, Harrods, Oxfam and John Lewis are their main UK outlets. The work is lovely and fashionable, and there is no doubt the women working there are pleased to be there, but I just wonder, couldn't it be just a teeny bit more uplifting?

By this time I was feeling a bit grotty, so we made a quick turn round a Botanical Gardens - nothing labelled, unfortunately but a delightful collection of unusual flowering trees and shrubs, landscaped into large ‘rooms’, some with one large central tree. My day was done by this time, and Amanda kindly brought me home (and even went to get me some medication from Mr Shah, who is not a doctor but part of the UN setup. He handed over various tablets, some of which I have taken, but not the antibiotics, as I didn't think this bout was going to be very prolonged.... and that has turned out to be the case. No flowers please). I should say the Ladies loos in most the touristy places we've been to are on the whole very clean. I have been compulsively washing my hands everywhere, though it has not protcted me, bleurgh.

Back at home I lay down in griping agony, while the others merrily ate, sang, laughed, joked, watched telly, and had a nice time. Friends!

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