Saturday 5 December

This morning we went for a walk in Pitshanger Park, which is very extensive, with tennis courts, a cafe, children’s playground, golf course at the edge, a park run in happier times. What is interesting is to see how massively popular all the local parks have become. People have rediscovered the local amenities, and also footpaths, canal walks, simple pleasures. We have started talking about whether it is feasible to make holiday plans for next year. It is always nice to have something on the calendar. The general feeling seems to be, something in the UK looks increasingly likely: flying, especially long haul, still seems a bit of a remote possibility. The jury is out on vaccination although I am sure when I first had a passport and went to France and Germany for the first time in the 1960’s, that I had a smallpox vaccination certificate clipped inside it.

I often think about Kenya, which I have visited 4 times now, and have good friends living there, both ex pats and Kenyans. Will I ever return to Africa? I watched Chris Tarrant’s programme about the Kenyan railway. I had the great good fortune to go from Nairobi to Kisumu on the sleeper train, in 2007, some of which was featured on the programme. Sadly part of the most spectacular section from Nakuru to Kisumu on Lake Victoria is no longer open to passenger trains. The departure at around 9pm from Nairobi was dramatic enough. The train goes through Kibera, which is allegedly the largest slum in central Africa. The shacks are right next to the line, and all you can see is masses of people in the dark, moving around with very limited light. I discovered the next day that we had police protection on the train with us, as we were 3 mzungus (white people) and were no doubt a considerable risk as we would be known to have cameras and money. The single line track is a highway, and people and animals walk along it with gay abandon. It goes through the most amazing scenery of the Rift Valley and is a tribute to the railway engineers who built it and to the thousands who lost their lives in so doing. Nowadays there is some freight traffic. There is a Chinese built passenger line from Mombasa to the edge of Nairobi: the original track being known as the Lunatic Line because it was so difficult and dangerous to build, the man-eating lions of Tsavo, killing about 150 men, being one of the problems. Chinese investment in Africa is very debatable, and clearly not altruistic. It remains to be seen what the pay-off is.

The following is the sound of the nyatiti, an African lyre, played by my friend Rapasa.

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