browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Leaving Africa

Posted by on August 16, 2014

I have written a fair bit about our life in Kenya and Zaire in the eighties, when Ben was working for a multi-national company: our arrival from England with first one, then two babies.  There will be more to come but today I have been thinking about our departures from those countries.  This is perhaps down to the time of year, August being when we usually took annual leave and is also when we left both Kenya and Zaire for good.  Leaving was so much more than just going home – it was the end of  a way of life that came with sadnesses as well as a certain pleasure at being back in the swim of a more regular family life in Cambridge.

Leaving the people with whom Ben had spent his working life in the field in Kenya was one such – as was leaving our boys at the house.  They threw a party for us at the office where a goat was ceremoniously roasted and speeches made.  The  mood at the end was lightened by an announcement that Ben’s secretary, Beatrice, who had just given birth to a baby boy, father unknown, had called her son Ben Travers which led to uproarious laughter and cheering.  The refrain ‘Cheers, not tears’ followed us to our car and is something I have never forgotten.  For months after we left, as we walked about Cambridge, if Amelia saw a black man, she would say joyously, ‘Joseph!’, the name of our guard who she loved playing with, truncheon and all.  Several months after our return I got a letter in Cambridge written by Boniface, our general factotum.  He had gone to a letter-writer at a stall in the town and dictated what he wanted to say, ‘Darling Madam’ it began.  High and low I have searched for that letter and hope that one day I might find it again and be transported back to the green and friendly place that we called home for a few years at

Migori.  I dream that I slipped it into a book and that along with the dried frangipani blossom that I tucked into a biography of Karen Blixen (Isaak Dinesen really) and found not long ago, it could be added to my treasure trove of letters, photograph and most of all, memories.  Leaving Bunia in Zaire deserves its own chapter so I shall think on that for my next post.

Amelia and Joseph Migori 1983

Amelia and Joseph Migori 1983

Farewell Party Migori 1983 - 'Cheers not tears'

Farewell Party Migori 1983 – ‘Cheers not tears’

4 Responses to Leaving Africa

  1. Diana Devlin

    Oh dear, leaving is always a wrench. I wonder if you have ever been back, Clare? Of course I found the naming of the child especially funny in view of Ben Travers the writer of farces. She could have called her next child Rookery Nook.

    • Clare Travers

      Ha! Or the Bed before a Yesterday! He was my Ben’s great-uncle…
      No, we have never been back to Migori, although we did come home from Zaire via Kenya and revisited seem places. It seemed too hard and poignant to go back to Migori, I seem to remember.

  2. Nicola Stevens

    How sad and yet how funny to leave for home. I remember everyone telling me I was going home when I left the Far Eastbat the age of 7yr old to go to school. My only home was was in the heat, humidity and scorching sun of Singapore and I loved it. Returning to England was a foreign land to me. I decided after a week at school the Brits must be barbarians as they eat cat food (tinned pilchards in tomato sauce that we feed our cat Eric the Cleric) and only gave us two baths a week.

  3. Lucy Fountain

    Wonderful and poignant – known you a long time but never appreciated the Africa Story – more please !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *