Some Extracts from Peggy Anderson’s Journal
“Twenty Miles to say Goodbye” by Andi Daunt
February 1947 our employers, East African Coffee Plantations, wanted us to move down country to a sister estate, Kiamara in Kiambu for six months. Jim refused, “No, we couldn’t go until later, our baby was due the second week in March, the doctor and hospital were booked ready.” Our little baby son, Hugh, arrived prematurely on 24th February, weighing only five pounds at birth. I didn’t get to see my baby until the next day and spent the entire night worrying that something was terribly wrong with our little premature baby, and that was why they wouldn’t let me see him, but it was simply a misunderstanding between staff changing shifts.
We still had to proceed with the move only two weeks after our return from Eldoret Hospital. It was a nightmare journey with the tiny baby. From the farm in Nandi Hills at 7,200 feet above sea level, down the escarpment to Muhoroni, 4,000 feet. We boarded the train in the afternoon and chugged up to Lumbwa, at over 7,000 feet. Dinner was in the Dak Bungalow and then back on the train and down gradient to Nakuru, another long slow climb to Uplands, 8,500 feet, and finally down into Nairobi. Hugh, by then was as yellow as a china-man. The last section was by truck to Kiambu, only fourteen miles out of Nairobi, but the road was always appalling, and either a foot deep in dust in the dry season or sticky mud in the rains. It took our wee son a long time to recover from jaundice.
Jim and I left our new baby, with friends, Peggy and Syd Outram, and drove down the Nandi Escarpment to meet the Chapmans at a tiny isolated station at 3 o’clock in the morning. The journey back up the steep rugged escarpment wasn’t without adventure, as everyone had to get out at the Twin Bridges and all the many S bends, to push the loaded car. It was dark, lonely, steep, rugged country, and the new arrivals were terrified of snakes and leopards. This was young Teddy’s introduction to Kenya, where he was later to play his part admirably. Up in the Nandi Hills, we stopped for an early breakfast with the Outrams, and my parents were able to meet their grandson. The Chapmans stayed with us on the farm at Savani where Jim was working.
My mother, Sue, was a great success in the district and was the life and soul of Christmas and New Year parties. However, it was my father, Arthur who took the dancing honours. Driving home one night, he stopped the car on the grass track to adjust the headlights. Suddenly he was yelling and jumping about, arms waving wildly. Then he ripped off his shirt, trousers and underpants. Sue was horrified, what on earth was he playing at? Arthur was undergoing his African initiation, compliments of siafu – soldier ants that travel in massive armies devouring everything in their path. Anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in their way, soon feels the nasty nips as the ants swarm up your legs and into your clothing at lightning speed. However, to an observer it is usually an amusing sight!
In the New Year, Leonard Foster, a neighbour and pre-war friend of Jim’s, who’d returned to his farm as soon as he was de-mobbed from the R.A.F., decided he needed a holiday. He asked Arthur and Sue to mind his farm, Kaparak, for three weeks while he was away. He brushed aside their protests of ‘no knowledge or experience’ telling them all they’d have to do was look after the animals and supervise the labour. Sue and Arthur duly took responsibility of Kaparak, and the weeks passed, but Leonard Foster did not return to his farm. Animals died, a leopard got into the kitchen creating havoc, and Arthur had to rush himself to Kapsabet Hospital to have dog bites cauterized. Sue was getting very worried. After six weeks a postcard arrived from Leonard. It had been posted in Kingston, Jamaica, and read, “Having a lovely time. See you soon.” It was several more weeks before Leonard reappeared. He nonchalantly remarked, “Why did you worry Sue? Those animals would have died if I’d been here anyway!”