An African childhood*. Part 4


We left West Africa in ’64. We were lucky: all our friends who stayed in Guinea, Europeans and Africans, were jailed, tortured, some executed. See the Colonel’s gardens and its epilogue:

We spent a 3 years’ intermission in Holland. Drastic weather change. On the downside, I had to wear shoes all the time. Can’t go barefoot in the streets of Amsterdam. On the upside, I got a bike and permission to ride out all day until 6PM. Freedom at 10 years old. Yes!

Then my father was promoted to East Africa. Kenya. He was the head of Air France operations for East Africa, from Ethiopia to South Africa… Bliss. Back to Africa. Above, a typical East Africa thorn tree. c. 1967.


Back to serious business: yours truly  learning jumping on Honey, in Karen Blixen’s old neighbourhood. Honey was a beautiful mare with a mouth so soft I could only use a rubber-coated bit. I once put  a metal bit by mistake, she threw me down three times before I realized what I had done…


Little sister on Storm. We had a true 19th century education, though living in the 20th. Home schooled. First my mother taught us, then we had private teachers for maths and physics, the heavy sh..tuff. We learned how to ride. And to fence. My weapon of choice: foil. though I must confess sabre is the most fun. (Riding and fencing? I should have been a Musqueteer)


My parents at their welcome cocktail in Nairobi. New Stanley Hotel, the “thorn tree café”. There is a thorn tree growing inside the hotel The New Stanley was the watering point of the “white hunters” before Independence, when hunting was still allowed in some parts of Kenya. It then became the rendez-vous of business people and politicians. Year: 1967. He was 49, she was 41. Sooo young!


Maasai Moran or warrior. Amboseli National Park, Kenya. c. 1968. He wears the traditional spear, forged by the wizard Maasai forgers  to hunt lions. You could not become a warrior if you had not killed a lion in single combat… It may still go on, despite the Kenyan government’s ban on lion hunting…


“Curiosity” the giraffe, Nairobi National Park. c.1969. First pix I took with my brand new Asahi-Pentax, 35mms, reflex camera… (Still have the camera)


Vervet monkey on our friend Gérard’s Land-Rover. c.1967. Tsavo National Park. Instamatic camera… I had not graduated to reflex yet… Darn.


Same little guy, or his cousin, at Tsavo. On that very same location, Tsavo national Park, many years later, a band of those circled Daughter#2 who was then 3 and was carrying a sandwich from breakfast… Bad idea. She was walking behind me and cried: “Daddy, the monkeys!” I turned around, a few dozens of the little buggers were circling her, aiming for the sandwich. “Throw the sandwich!” And that was it… Lesson # umpteen: never carry food when there are monkeys around. Or coatis…


1967. Hippo at Mzima springs, Tsavo national park. It still is a must to walk under the canopy of trees. And the vervet monkeys. Hippos. Crocodiles. Tilapia. A preserved corner.


Lioness on the prowl. Amboseli national park, Kenya. Remember: never step out of the vehicle. When you’re inside, lions ignore you. Outside? You’re food.


Game warden Land-Rover. Amboseli, 1968. That was half an hour before we saw the lioness. Several cars got stuck in the mud. Grown-ups had decided to go on safari during the rainy season. Bad idea. Warden came to help tow the cars out of the mud. We did walk a few hundred yards in the grass, to allow the cars to get out of the mud. What happened to “don’t get out of car”? Er… we didn’t think there was a lioness so close… 🙂 (Isn’t that Land-Rover a beaut’?)


On safari. With our expat friends. Some were United Nations, one was the local manager for Total Oil company. He eventually became the CEO worldwide. The other one, I don’t remember… (Always label your photos, as I have said countless times…) Little sister and I are to the right.


More Maasai warriors. Young and cheeky. 🙂 Posed like pros. Amboseli Again. Amboseli is the national park that borders with Serengeti in Tanzania, where mount Kilimandjaro, Africa’s highest mountain stands.


A better shot. As I have mentioned in other posts, the Maasai are one the very few tribes who have maintained their traditional way of life. They are cattle herders. They believe al the cattle on Earth has been given to them in custody. I understand they make decent money selling some of the cattle to the Kenya meat commission.


Vervets are ok. Manageable. Don’t mess with baboons. This one looks cute, sitting on the bonnet? Don’t trust him. See my personal views on monkeys in ‘The monkey incident’:


A pride of lazy lions, Nairobi national park. c. 1967.


Cobra at the National Snake institute. The feet to the right belong to Dr Ashe. c.1968. Nairobi, Kenya.


Dr James Ashe has caught the cobra. Bare-handed. Ashe was a pro but a bit of a show-off. 😉 He was a snake specialist. Cobras and other venomous snakes were caught in the wild and “milked” of their venom to produce antivenom serum. Dr Ashe died in 2004; his widow created the James Ashe Antivenom Trust to save people from snake bite. More than 100,000 die every year of snake bite the world over. See here for more on the James Ashe Antivenom Trust:


Last but not least: THE car. My mother’s Triumph TR3. In the driveway of our house in Lavington, Nairobi. c.1968. She wears a very Mary Quant, Carnaby street mini-skirt. Went back to the house 20 years later. Still there but fenced and gated… Hello darkness my old friend. ‘Violence’ like a cancer grows…


Sis and Mom. Nairobi, Kenya, 1968.

*Part of the Mzungu** chronicles.

**Mzungu, plural: wazungu. Mzungu is a Bantu (Swahili) word used throughout East Africa from Uganda to Kenya to Tanzania to Zambia and in the great lakes region, from Rwanda, Burundi, to Congo Kinshasa. It means “white man”, or woman. The origin of the name dates back to the 18th-19th century, when European explorers came to East Africa searching for the source of the Nile, the gold mines of Solomon, or the Mountains of the moon, what have you. It literally means traveller or wanderer. Africans then, could not understand why Europeans could not stay in place, why they had to move all the time.  They thought Europeans were a tad crazy.

Asante sana, thank you, for joining this trip down Equinoxio’s memory shuttle.  I may have posted several of those pix before. Sorry. Kwaheri sassa. See you soon.



164 thoughts on “An African childhood*. Part 4

    • PBS now? Why am I not surprised you should watch that? 🙂 I wish I could access PBS. I’m getting sick of Netflix…
      The snake? That was something. Dr Ashe was great. He single-handedly advanced the cause of anti-snake protection in Kenya… And he knew how to handle snakes… Shuddering.
      Hippos are very interesting and dangerous. Did you know there are now hippos populating an area in Colombia? They escaped one of Pablo Escobar’s private zoos, reproduced and are now happily living in Colombia…
      Be good, Jenny.

  1. Don’t let your baby hold food around chickens or ducks, either. Camped on a friend’s property as a young mother — one wild flock of each. Should have seen me laying about with the hickory stick I kept at our tent entrance for the purpose!

  2. What a fabulous first shot with your camera! The giraffe looks honored. It’s incredible how much a place can change with time. These days, there’s no driving around Nairobi in a tiny Triumph while wearing a miniskirt, I bet. Good to hear that the Masai are still keeping their traditional ways. Merci pour la nostalgie, Mzungu!

    • The whole world has changed. Not always for the better. In the case of Nairobi what bothers me most are the slums. Rings of utter poverty around the city. Crime too, I hear. Though not as bad as South Africa.
      The giraffe? Beginner’s luck, I guess. 🙂
      Nostalgie quand tu nous tiens? 🙂 (If truth be told, it doesn’t bother me. I was privileged to live that life. Now I’m privileged in other ways…
      Biz, “Memsahib”. 😉 (A Hindustani/Swahili word for ma’am)

  3. Thank you for posting another installment of your African childhood. I particularly liked the color photos of the Maasai warriors and of course the photos of your mother with her Triumph. She carried off the miniskirt with aplomb. The first one of her with the car reminds me of a photo of Joan Didion posing with her sports car around the same time period.

    • Thank you Gigi. Yes, the more I look back at it, the more I realize that. Though I still see friends form that… “era”, and we all conclude: “It was normal, wasn’t it?” 🙂
      Be good.

      • It was normal for you. Definitely. All of our environments were normal to us. You’re was just wild in different ways, with lots of animals and space. 🙂 Wonderful post. Enjoyed it very much.

      • We’ve talked about “normal” before. And you’re right all our environments were normal to us. I was lucky to witness a world where elephants were not almost extinct, cheetahs, lions, etc. And space, yes, space. And the wide open sea, with no plastic.
        Glad you liked it Gigi.

  4. Chasseurs massaï extraordinaires. Une silhouette tellement graphique. J’ai là haut, dans ma salle de qigong, un tableau de Rauscher qui figure une femme Massaï en forêt … du concentré d’énergie.
    Merci et belle journée, Brieuc.

    • Which lion? In Nairobi National Park? The lazy pride? Yes. The lioness in Amboseli, I’m not sure. Maybe.
      Nairobi is high. About 1900 ms? 1795 to be exact, so in some seasons it could be chilly in the evening. Bear mind people dressed up a lot then, no matter the climate.

      • The first lion 😊 Finns are very casual dressers, modesty is what they aim for, as well as comfort and functionality. I see the younger generations dressing up more, probably due to online shopping and also their heritage being more mixed, more international

      • First lion was probably my father. My mother filmed. I have miles of 8mm and super 8mm to digitalize. My father drove and took pictures…
        Dress codes go back and forth. Casual developed after the 60’s. Then casual Friday at work. Then casual wear all week… And the young always do the opposite of their parents… you will see… 😉

    • I still speak some Swahili. With my cousin in South Africa, he was born in Kenya and speaks fluent Swahili, much better than mine. And with Tish Farrel, an English blogger who lived in Kenya. Now speak, speak? 1988? When I went back to Kenya for the last time. (And I never was totally fluent)
      And yes, the Maasai are tall. Tall and proud. 🙂

  5. Splendid. Sad how things change: my previous job was at an airline. Most regional managers were London-based. Operations were all managed centrally, with just sales done locally. A few weeks after I left most of my regional manager friends were made redundant in a drive to cut middle management… “You just need airport managers, a few folks in London and webex” was the justification. I guess it’s worth it considering how cheaper air travel is; but there will be less kids growing up like you did. And that’s a shame 😦

  6. Enjoyed the memory shuffle and some takeaways – add notes to photos – and this was chilling the way you added it in
    “ Hello darkness my old friend. ‘Violence’ like a cancer grows…”
    So true
    Also – that Land Rover is a strong beauty indeed

    • Glad you liked it. Violence? When we lived in kenya there were “panga gangs”, machette gangs. They would break in the kitchen, threaten the cook with a machette and all those in the house, rob and steal. If you were lucky. At night we had an “Askari”, a soldier/watchman, armed with a panga too. Now the houses are fenced and gated. Same increasingly in. Mexico… Sadly.
      And I’m glad you liked the “Land”. Great cars.
      Hope all is well with you?

      • We had an exchange student from
        Brazil stay with us in the summer for two years (not all summer) and we were surprised to see photos of his home in Brazil – his backyard pool had fences like a prison – the barbed wire and all!
        And things here are really nice – working on some WIPs (writing projects) and my ribs are all healed from a June accident – sometimes recovering from an injury makes the everyday things extra appreciated

      • Brazil has a very bad situation. Maybe worse that Mexico. Most houses have barbed wire. Private security sometimes… Sad.
        Sorry about the June accident. I hear ribs hurt like hell. Many nerve endings. Glad you recovered. 🙂

      • Well thankfully the ribs healed – the first two weeks were the toughest –
        But I respected the injury and rested this body faithfully -((I know some
        Folks who push and go and well – I was very reverent and careful))) and I do still
        Have occasional aches at the weirdest times –
        Not bad – but reminds me that healing is ongoing – and might be for a while longer –
        Hope all
        Is well
        With you as well!

    • Oh, and notes to the photos. Do it now. Put YOUR name on the albums and caption every photo, especially the people. I have some high school pix. Some of my schoolmates I did not write the name?Some I don’t remember their name. Be good now.

      • Well it is too late for my high school photos too – some have notes but others don’t and likely won’t get info as I cannot recall

        But I will add info I do know ….

      • Do. My father added captions on all or most his childhood photos in Egypt. (He was raised there) And I’m glad he did, otherwise some people I would have no idea.
        Another example is a photograph of my grandfather at a wedding during WWI. I only know him and one of his brothers, uncle Julien. I think my mother told who the bride and groom were once, but it’s not written on the picture and I don’t remember…

      • Nope, maybe you had not framed them on purpose but it looked like one. On my previous mobile I had the opportunity to do it and tge effect was very similar to yours but looking closely it seems you took a photo of a printed photo tgat somehow is logical because at the time we had not so much technology. By the way, once again, I am sure it must have been a great experience. I wish I could live there as well. Unfortunately the situation seems pretty messy all over the world

      • Technology available now on phones is great. You can crop and edit easily your photos.
        Yes, I am aware, most of the world I have lived in is in shambles. Even Europe seems to be breaking at the sims…
        I am considering buying a small house or flat in the South of France as a fall back option… 😉 (Or Tuscany? But the houses must be too expensive)

      • It depends on your needs. As far as I know South of France is much more expensive than Tuscany. I used to live in both of these zones and also with regards to the cost of food and quality life I would pick Tuscany. But between Tuscany and Spain I would choose Spain, no matter where about!

      • Understandable, but I would not choose Spain. Been speaking Spanish for more than 30 years! I will have to check Tuscany prices. I don’t want or need anything fancy. Now of France, if you’re thinking Nice, Saint-Tropez, that is very expensive. I was thinking more Montpellier. We are planning to spend a week there this summer to see if we like the place. (Unless we go to Tuscany…) 😉

    • The dark/black frames of the first pix are just the paper of the photo album. Scanned and cropped. Normally I should have straightened the pic.
      I normally crop out the frame. Photoshop.
      Now my parent’s pic with a grey-white frame? Go to Photoshop. (If you don’t have it, rent it, it’s cheap) on the left-hand menu, the second tool form the top is a dotted rectangle called “rectangular marquee (M). Pick on it. Draw a thin rectangle on the side of the pic. 1-2 mms. Go to edit. Select “clear” or “delete” depending on the version and you now have a white/grey band on the side of the photo. Repeat operation on the other three sides…

      • No, don’t crop it! The effect is nice because it is irregular! I am not familiar with photoshop but I would like to learn some of its functionalities. My next goal, after spending at least a couple of years in Africa😍

      • Okay. I actually left it irregular for that reason. 😉 As for the Land rover, which I photographed from a negative illuminated from below. Inverted from negative to positive in Photoshop. One of the tricks. You can adjust light, put filters. I’m sure you’ll like it.
        Two years in Africa? Feasible. Just have to select the country well. Senegal, Kenya, Botswana, maybe Namibia, are ok I think,

      • Yes, I have to test tgis photoshop and give it a try! With refards to tge country, those you mention shoukd be fine. I got a job proposal from Sudan but unfortunately is absolutely not the case. Should I find one inna quiet place I would move there straight away. Then, who knows, I might not willing to change any more! 😊

  7. Ah! Memories, are always bittersweet, you remember, but can never go back to a time its no more, specially when time its also involved with distance…

    • Bittersweet? Yes and no… I’ve know from a very early age that you can never go bak in time/space. It’s all right. There is a Mexican proverb that says: “Lo bailado naide me lo quita”. What I danced, nobody can take it away for me… 🙂

      • Yes, we like to say:
        “Lo paseado, y lo bailado nadie me lo quita.”
        Some, even add other more non polite words to it, but those I leave to your imagination.
        Good for you! 🙂

      • A little like the song:
        “No soy de aqui ni soy de alla”
        I was born in Mexico, but lived half my life in the US, specifically LA.
        Now recently retired back in Mexico.

      • Exactamente: No soy d aki ni soy d allá… (French, born in India, raised in Africa, and living in Mexico for the past 30 years…
        Congrats on your retirement and welcome back. (Espero que no hayas regresado al DF. Aqui es una locura…)
        And congrats on your blog. Not everyday does one stumble on such posts…
        ‘ta luego.

      • Well you can say you’ve been around, life it turns to be that way sometimes.
        No, despues de LA no me quedaron ganas de vivir en una ciudad grande.
        Aunque vivo relativamente cerca de la frontera..
        Thanks, for the compliment, your blog its also good reading.
        Take care Brian. 🙂

      • Yo. la verdad, me cansé del DF. Me puedo imaginar lo mismo de L.A. I did travel “past” L.A. as a kid, en route form San Francisco to Sand Diego. L.A. to me is just one eternal highway… 🙂
        Cuídate. (¿Cómo te llamas?)

      • Asi es en Los Angeles si no tienes la fortuna de trabajar cerca de tu casa, te la pasas en tu carro por varias horas al dia, durante mi estadia ahi tuve trabajos que tenia que manejar 72,5 Km de ida y los mismos de vuelta, lo unico bueno de ese trabajo que por las horas el trafico circulaba a mi favor, pero los ultimos dieciseis años tuve un trabajo que vivia a solo 32.1Km de distancia, pero que requeria por el trafico hora y media de ida y lo mismo de vuelta, y a veces hasta mas cuando habia algun problema de trafico, recuerdo varias ocasiones que sali de mit trabajo a las 6 de la tarde y llegue despues de las 10 de la noche!
        Una locura!

        Me llamo Brigido, para servirte Brian, que por cierto nuestros nombres tienen la misma raiz. 🙂

  8. Fascinating as usual, with such evocative images. recently, my step-father was showing us photos from his time teaching in Kenya in the 1970s. It was clear he felt so privileged to have been there.

    • Hi Libre… I will end up spoilt with so many compliments… 🙂 (I’m just telling the story as it was).
      Now your stepfather in the 70’s? He was there right after us. Kenya was a fabulous place. And yes, we were all privileged to be there. What did he teach? Pray give him my regards… 😉

  9. Such a peripatetic childhood, so much like mine. Africa, then Europe.

    “Then my father was promoted to East Africa. Kenya. He was the head of Air France operations for East Africa, from Ethiopia to South Africa.” What a swath of territory. I recall the Maasai, so majestic in their colorful beads.

  10. Your childhood stories are legendary with your model gorgeous mother and dignified father. How I would love to meet a Masai warrior as you (and The Captain) both have. Your curious giraffe is adorable and ana incredible first picture. Making me miss Africa although my experience of the place was slightly different than yours 😉

    • “Legendary”? 😉 LOL. Never thought it would become that. But thank you for your words. “Dignified” applies very well to my father… (He did have an English mother and somewhat an English education… You know, stiff upper lip, old Chap…
      Your Africa and mine are certainly different, tjough there are common grounds. One thing you may have notices are the skies there? Out in the middle of nowhere?

      • OMG. I hate your guts.
        My first car was a 10 year-old rusty Renault 4. (My parents hadn’t brought the TR3 back. Grrr.)
        Yours was a brilliant car. How did you pull that one?

      • Ha. I bought it in 1964. I was a junior in college and I worked, school didn’t cost that much back then. I had seen a photo in a magazine of one and decided that’s what I wanted, I had never actually seen one. I drove a Buick Special, a hand me down from my dad. It was the first compact car they had made and a good friend of my dad’s owned the Buick dealership in town. We had a lot of Buicks, every new model. But I wanted an MG and saw one in the paper for sale. 1955 MG TF1500. It was $1,300 and I had a thousand, my dad lent me the rest and we went and bought it. My dad had to drive it home because I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. I learned quickly. It was bright red with wire wheels, I thought I was a king. Girls really liked it too.

      • 1300 bucks was a lot of money then. 🙂 I paid 1500$ tuition fees a semester 15 years later at a mid-range University for Grad school.
        Of course it had to red. (Red draws the girls…) 😉

  11. Pingback: An African childhood*. Part 3 — Equinoxio – Truth Troubles

  12. Pingback: An African childhood*. Part 3 – Goldsellingug

    • Again, I was lucky. Actually, I am “organizing” what I wrote haphazardly, and see if all stories put together can make a book. We’ll see. I’ll come to you for advice on self-publishing. 💕🙏🏻

  13. Can’t go barefoot in Amsterdam? I’ve seen a few stag parties where footwear seemed optional (as well as other clothing items!). Great post, Brian. Love seeing these old photos from Africa, a real time capsule. Hope all’s well?

    • Being ten at the time, there were no stag parties… 😉
      Plus the shoes proved useful outside in the winter… 😉
      Time capsule indeed… When I see them I realize how much that world is gone…
      All well thank you. Likewise for you?

  14. Note to self – for future safari trips “once you step out of the vehicle, you’re food” – crystal clear. That means no toilet breaks behind trees and no flat tyres!!! 😄

  15. It’s hard to hear what your friends went through – thank God you were able to avoid the same things – good grief!!!!

    The Maasai lion hunting ritual is a curious thing – that’s a lot pf pressure, I wonder what becomes/became of those men who couldn’t or chose not to attempt this….they’re so slight in build too, its incredible to think they would go head to head with a lion…..🤔holiday companies do tours to meet Maasai tribes, they seem quite popular, I guess the tribes welcome the trade.

    On a lighter note, what a brilliant and insightful post, I felt like I was watching a short film, especially with the older photographs. I love your photographs – they’re priceless, and your parents made a very handsome couple – your mum looked like a very glamorous woman – fabulous! 🤗

    Thank you for sharing these personal memories with us…

  16. Pingback: Kudu Family Heading For The Top Of The Trail – Tish Farrell

  17. How fascinating & what amazing memories you much have! I so love Africa. I have photos I never posted of me being chased by a large baboon. I didn’t post them because the photos were poor quality. It was hard to take decent photos when being chased by a baboon. He was mad at me because some stupid people were throwing rocks at him and he took it out on me. He could have easily killed me.

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