A lovely peaceful day and two nights in Jackie’s home on the northern side of Lake Naivasha, in the Great Rift Valley.
We used to enjoy many a day playing games of bridge, with breaks for lunch and tea when she lived next door to us in Langata, a suburb of Nairobi.
“She lives in a container,” I was told. But Jackie had to point out and tap the tin container walls embedded within the stone house, to draw my attention to them. Large rooms, spotlessly clean after the pervading dust of my journey. Steps in unlikely places. Familiar pictures on the wall: African hoopoes, silhouettes of African faces, African scenes.
Piping hot solar heated water allowed me to wallow in the luxury of a bath. Jackie warned me the electricity was also solar, and it turned off after a certain time at night. But I didn’t need the torch provided as I slept like a log, despite Jackie’s attempt to “warn” me about occasional unexplained happenings in the house – like the TV suddenly turning itself on. She told me not long after she came to live there, when nobody else was in the house, she felt a ‘push’ and went flying down a step several feet into the lounge, cracking a rib and suffering bruises.
In the morning I went to open the window to breathe in the sun, and tripped over a clothes horse standing in front of it. I fell, arms and legs entangled in the bars, and grazed my arm in a couple of places, but the wounds healed quickly.
Jackie is unhappy here. She is a gregarious soul and feels isolated nearly twenty kilometers from the main Naivasha Road, down the impossibly rough track coated with thick dust.
We did feel a few drops from tantalising dark grey clouds in the evening after our stroll round the 72 acres of land where her cottage stands. The farm is well planned; fields of drought-stunted hay, plantations of wattle and whistling thorns. Fenced off tracks between the neat fields. But a seeding of Rhodes grass has utterly failed.
Now the owners are wanting to sell; Jackie heard it on the grapevine. She’s hoping to return to Langata where a friend is applying for permission to put up a guest house for her, back in the bosom of her bridge-playing pals. We both know it may take forever, but there’s plenty of time in Africa.
Most of my time with Jackie is taken up with memory forays into the past, via a bridge four, lunch and chat. I also enjoy a magical two hours in her drought-stricken garden with its splashes of bougainvillea, geraniums and other hardy flowers.
I sit outside with my kindle, but read not a word as the birds hop and chatter around me. I catch them in my binoculars, delighted at my ability to recall many names buried in the over-loaded hard-drive of my brain.