There was no clapping at the end of my “Afternoon with Jane” talk on Monday at St. Wilfrid’s Church, Broad Road. Was that a bad thing – or a good thing? I noticed – but didn’t mind, really.
I talked about how my life experiences were revealed in my three novels, and I interspersed the story with readings.
While I answered questions afterwards, the tea ladies got up to put the kettle on, and the room hummed with warm conversation. People drifted towards the table bearing my books, and friends came up to enthuse, saying it was good to learn new things about me.
“I could have listened to you all day!” said one.
“You should do an audio of your books,” said another.
“I agree with what you said about the dangers of Government-to-Government Aid in Africa,” said yet another.
She was one of three or four people in the room who had been to Africa. I had done a quick poll during my talk. Her comment was a relief. I’d somewhat put my foot in it during a previous talk to Rotary. I was too emphatic and generalistic. Of course, there is much to be said in favour of that sort of aid, and when I talked afterwards with the ex-Colonial Project Officer whose toes I was purported to have stepped on, I affirmed I had great respect for the people in the field. It was the politics and the corruption at the other end of the spectrum I was thinking of. One lives and learns…
I wrote Grass Shoots in an attempt to discover for myself a more modest, but perhaps better way to help the developing world, and have found a few examples. Apart from those acknowledged in the book, an Australian project was brought to my notice only this week. You might like to check it out: Nakuru Hope. Nakuru is my home town.
But, to get back to Monday – my books were a sell-out, and I left with several orders to fulfil.
Why was there no clapping? Perhaps it was something to do with my final reading, from Grass Shoots:
“Emily went out by herself to savour the magic of their special place. She’d followed (her new husband) often enough along the game path from the dry river bed bordering their plot. Reaching a bend, she looked to her left.
There was a loud snort of concern. A wildebeest stood poised for flight. They eyed each other, frozen with tension. He was big; he tossed his horns and stamped a foot, then snorted again. Emily stood her ground and so did he. Only a few yards separated them, and a feeling of unease spread through her. (Help) was out of reach in the house on the other side of the dam. If she retreated, the animal would chase her down. She held her breath, and eyed the surrounding long grass, looking for an escape route – and the wildebeest lowered its head. To her great relief, it continued sedately on its way across her path. She had broken the confrontation, and it no longer saw her as a threat.
For one long moment she had been a mere creature out there facing danger, tasting the fear experienced by wild animals every moment of their vulnerable lives. It was a humbling experience.”
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