February 22nd, 1992

February 22nd, 1992

Flight from NBO – LHR

In the past few days, Mum and I visited a snake farm, fed giraffes, ate buffalo, danced with my crew at Simba bar, enjoyed a picnic at the base of the Ngong Hills, shopped at various markets, witnessed thousands of flamingos at Lake Nakuru, visited a local school with (founder!) Thor, enjoyed tea in Karen Blixen’s garden and watched the sun setting over the Rift Valley.

This trip will be forever etched in my memory but now, it’s time to fly home and enjoy the surprise pre-wedding party I’m only aware of because I overheard Mum dishing the details to Thor!

 

February 21st, 1992

February 21st, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Over dinner last night at Carnivore, the conversation turned to travel, giving Mum the perfect opportunity to rattle off the countries we’ve visited. Thor agreed with Mum that Hong Kong is captivating but he has yet to make it to Australia, which is surprising, since it appears he travels extensively.

With no idea who Thor is or what he does, I made a sneaky call to Ian (our Captain) who promised he’d, “do a spot of investigating,” prior to Mum and I meeting Thor. It probably helped that Thor is staying at the same hotel, hence the reason for Ian’s prompt return phone call. Apparently, Thor is a regular guest at the hotel and has, “multiple business holdings in the area.” From the info Ian managed to garner, he said he felt assured that it’d be safe for us to venture out with Thor but just as an extra precaution (true to the nature of a Captain) he arranged to be in the lobby when we were due to meet Thor!

Back to dinner (which I have to say was hugely entertaining) where Thorasked if I have “a special someone.”

I nodded. “Fiancé.”

“Niiiice,” he drawled. “Any wedding plans?”

“Yes,” I smirked. “One week from tomorrow!”

Wine shot from Thor’s mouth, narrowly missing Mum by about an inch! Poor guy looked absolutely mortified as he dabbed at his mouth, then the tablecloth, all the while apologizing profusely.

Getting back to the conversation, Thor asked Mum what her future son-in-law is like and this time, he looked like he was about to fall off the chair when Mum nonchalantly replied; “I don’t know, I’ve yet to meet him.”

Thor’s response came out sounding as though Mum didn’t understand English.  “You haven’t met the man your daughter is marrying?”

“Tom and I will meet him next week.”

With Thor’s gaze firmly on me, he shook his head. “You know, I thought eating buffalo or ostrich would be the craziest thing about tonight, but….but…here you are, so close to your wedding, on a different continent!”

“And loving every second,” I retorted.

“Shouldn’t you be in Scotland making plans?”

Preparing to savour the moment, I smiled my biggest smile. “The wedding isn’t in Scotland. It’s in America.”

“Oh…this…story,” he uttered in his lovely accent, clutching at his heart in such a way it had me wondering if he was doing it as a joke or not.

“You must start at the beginning,” he smiled. “But first, some Champagne.”

 

February 20th, 1992

February 20th, 1992

Shuttle from NBO – DAR – NBO

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Easy flight to and from Dar es Salaam, with light passenger loads and a short flying time. The worst thing about it was getting up in the middle of the night but the flip side was being back in time for breakfast, which Mum and I enjoyed on the tiny balcony.

“What do ye think of Thor?”

“He seems nice,” I replied, popping a chunk of chocolate croissant in my mouth, giving Mum the perfect cue to speak.

“I think he’s smashing, ye know ye canny beat a friendly guy with a good sense of humour. I woke up thinking about the flamingos, wasn’t that something else yesterday, I’ll never forget it. And to think their pinkness comes from eating shrimp! Did ye hear me asking Thor how much shrimp cocktail I’d have to eat in first class before I turn pink? Och, it’s lovely being in the sun isn’t it and I know ye don’t think the hotel is anything special but I think it’s fine and I have to say, everybody I’ve met has been very friendly. What did ye think of Karen Blixen’s place? Wasn’t it magnificent? I felt like we were on the set of Out of Africa. D’ye remember the scene where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep fly over the flamingos, och I just love that, especially now I’ve seen it all for myself. Oh and that bit when she reaches back and he takes her hand. What a handsome man he is. Never seems to age, mind you neither does she. I can see why Karen Blixen spent so much of her life here, it really is a very special place and quite amazing to think of all the animals roaming free, och, it’s just fantastic. I’ll be sad to leave, won’t you? Oh, and I’ve been meaning to ask, what do we wear tonight to, what’s the restaurant called again?”

“Carnivore.”

“That’s some name for a restaurant, eh? I hope they don’t have giraffe on the menu!”

“You eat meat, Mum, what’s the difference?”

“Aye,” she uttered, turning her attention to the strips of bacon on the plate. “But the giraffes are special.”

At a loss for words, I drained the last of my tea and enjoyed the short-lived lull, interrupted by a knock at the door that startled Mum. “Who’s that?”

“No idea,” I shrugged, pushing back the plastic chair. “As hard as it is to believe, I don’t yet possess the ability to see through doors!”

“Don’t be cheeky,” Mum grinned, smacking my leg as I went to answer the door.

When I stepped back onto the balcony, Mum had her face turned to the sun.

“Lookie here,” I said, handing her the giant box of chocolates with a scene of the Ngong Hills. The other package was wrapped in flamingo gift wrap but first Mum opened the chocolates. I chuckled at the sight of the animal shapes within. “Yum,” I said, reaching for a giraffe as Mum tore the paper from the package and asked if it was from Thor.

“Uh-huh,” I nodded, swallowing what was left of the giraffe. “He had someone deliver them but yes, they’re from him. There’s a little card, see? Says he’s looking forward to having dinner with us tonight.”

Mum held up the book she’d just unwrapped. “Recognize her?”

“That’s the woman we met at the giraffe centre. She’s a writer? Let me see.”

I quickly scanned the author blurb. “They call her the giraffe lady. Oh, wow, she’s one of the founders of the giraffe center, along with her husband Jock. That must be him on the front cover with her. And that must be Daisy, the giraffe they raised, what a great book title; Raising Daisy Rothschild.”

Mum seemed more interested in the chocolates so I continued reading. “It says they live in a home designed as a Scottish hunting lodge, called Giraffe Manor.”

Mum peered over at the book cover, her expression one of approval. “He looks quite handsome, doesn’t he? We probably should’ve agreed to have tea with her!”

 

February 19th, 1992

February 19th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

My first instinct this morning, when the alarm shrilled, was to roll over and go back to sleep, but I knew Mum would be disappointed if we missed the tour I booked through the hotel late last night.

Waiting bleary eyed in the lobby for the guide/driver to arrive, Mum struck up a conversation with a young Dutch guy who gave her a run for her money in the talking department. With the beginning stages of a caffeine deficient headache and no sign of the driver, I went in search of tea, which thankfully I managed to find, along with a generous bag of pastries, for what I expected might be a long, bumpy ride to Lake Nakuru.

I stepped outside to find Mum and the Dutch guy sitting in a van that looked like it had seen better days. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I stepped into the heap of metal, where it soon became apparent we were the only tour goers.

The driver, whose name was Ansel, slid the door shut and when he did, the handle came away in his hand! For some reason, Mum and the Dutch guy found this hysterically funny and even more so when Ansel held the handle to his ear like a phone and pretended to look perplexed when there was, “no answer.” With the handle sitting on the dashboard, we set off and next thing I knew, Mum was shaking me awake.

“Look,” she beamed, pointing outside, to where a sea of pink populated the lake.

I was first out of the van, followed by Mum and we strode (after checking with Ansel it was safe) arm in arm, to the water’s edge, where thousands of flamingos moved effortlessly, their extra-long legs managing to find space in the shallow water.

“There’s sooo many of them,” I sighed in wonderment.

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” Mum sniffed, a few stray tears rolling down her cheeks.

Once we’d had our fill of the flamingos we headed back to the van, where the Dutch guy remained in the back seat. Catching his eye, I watched his mouth move into what appeared to be a sincere smile.

“Aren’t you interested in seeing the flamingos?”

His smile grew wider. “Something special for you and your Mother to experience together.”

“Oh,” I uttered, with a nod of thanks.

“I’m Thor,” he said, extending his hand.

“Karen,” I said, reaching over the top of the seat to shake his hand. “Would you like a pastry?”

 

February 18th, 1992

February 18th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Mum and I are having the most fantastic time and today we went to the Rothschild Giraffe Centre, a place I’ve long longed to visit! From the pamphlet, we discovered that the Centre was founded by Jock Leslie-Melville, the Kenyan grandson of a Scottish Earl. Well, that was all Mum needed to hear before she started on about how proud she is to be Scottish (something I’ve never heard her express before!) From that point on, every other word she uttered was heavily punctuated with “ochs” and “ayes,” leaving Issac, the guide, looking quite bewildered!

Mum commented that the giraffe’s tongue felt like sandpaper and Issac was about to answer when he stopped and turned his attention to a woman who appeared a little out of breath from having climbed the stairs, to the feeding platform.

“Good afternoon,” he nodded, with a wide smile.

“Allow me,” she said, with just a hint of an American accent. The guide passed the bucket to her and with an easy manner, she continued feeding the giraffes with us and introduced herself as, “Betty.”

Betty was a mine of information and shared some fascinating facts about the Rothschild giraffes but she seemed especially interested in our Scottish ancestry and asked what brought us to Kenya.

“Karen’s getting married!” Mum gushed. “This is our last wee hurrah!”

Betty’s eyes widened. “Congratulations! You chose, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on earth to visit. Where will you be married?”

“In the States.” She looked surprised. “My fiancé is from Massachusetts.”

“Ah, New England,” she smiled. “A Summer wedding?”

I shook my head and tried not to laugh, “No, it’s eleven days from now!”

We continued chatting and by the time the bucket was empty, we’d learned that Betty was born in Maryland and shared with her (third!) husband, a great passion for animals and their wellbeing. Sensing she had more to impart, I wasn’t surprised when she asked if we’d like to join her for tea. Mum glanced at me with an, “It’s up to you,” expression.

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you but we have a driver waiting to take us to the Karen Blixen museum.”

“Karen Blixen was a woman ahead of her time,” she stated. “The museum is delightful, you must go and enjoy it but promise you’ll return and tell the giraffes all about your winter wonderland wedding.”

 

February 17th, 1992

February 17th, 1992

Hotel InterContinental, Nairobi, Kenya

Taking my jump seat this morning for landing, all I could think about, as I looked down over the vast Kenyan plain, was the theme music to one of my favourite films; “Out of Africa.” I’d say Mum and I have seen it at least a dozen times and after I surprised her with a ticket to join me on this trip, we watched it again!

Mum got caught up in the throng of arriving passengers and Ian, the Captain, suggested the crew go ahead to the hotel, while he waited with me. At least an hour went by before Mum appeared, gushing over the “fantastic flight,” and how much she enjoyed being on the flight deck for landing.

Once in the taxi, headed to the hotel, I rested my head against the window and finally gave in to my weariness. Mum and Ian continued to chat like old friends while I dozed on and off, the symphonic sounds of John Barry’s romantic soundtrack floating through my head.