What a relief that’s over! Though it was quite a success…miraculously people did actually come along and they did spend money. Phew!
The morning started off pretty wobbly. I put on my Nairobi/Karen mum ‘fancy dress’ in an effort to look the part, and to be practical because it comprised of tons of take off-able layers as here the day often starts off cold and almost unfailingly turns to scorching sunshine by lunchtime. There would be no opportunity to go home and change clothes, so I chose a long floppy layered skirt, flat knee boots, stripy t shirt, local cotton scarf and denim jacket and packed beaded flip flops to change into when the sun came out. A new friend of mine who doesn’t mince her words commented later that morning: ‘Wow, I didn’t actually recognise you today in THOSE clothes!!’
When I arrived at school armed with table cloths, blue tack, sellotape, thumb tacks, paper plates and paper napkins, deposited my two daughters in their classrooms, I started urgently looking around for cakes which were due to be brought in by parents that morning! It seemed that very few of the other mums were carrying cake boxes and tins and I must admit I began to panic. – A cake sale with no cakes?! Oh the stress of it!
A mum came over to me to apologise for not bringing any home baked goods and I nearly took her head off saying: ‘Well, it seems that so many of you haven’t brought anything and really I’m not sure I’ll have much to sell now and it was all supposed to be for CHARITY!’ Then I realised it was her birthday that day (though I hadn’t been invited to the birthday lunch that I’d heard all about) and was a bit remorseful when she said defensively: ‘Well I did put a very generous donation into the box!’ and ‘Well we are normally reminded by a notice written up on the black board.’ Damn, another oversight by me – I had thought the reminding letter that I wrote and was copied and duly popped into each child’s bag by the school the previous week would be enough.
My panicking had in fact started the day before the sale when two of my best friends who I see every day and are also mums at the same school appeared to have forgotten to bake cakes too. One had guests from England and the other one was very ill with dysentery but both managed to do some last minute delegating to capable house helps cakes were duly knocked up, though the latter was only put together at 7pm that evening.
Fortunately the cakes started trickling in to the school and in the end there were plenty. In the field below the school where the charity craft fair was being staged, there were other people busy setting up their stands to sell their; crafts, home produce, jewellery and clothes. Tents without sides were provided at the venue, but the sky went a ghastly dark colour at one point around 9.30am and my cake helper phoned to say she was running late because it was absolutely hammering down with rain at her house and too wet to get into her car (only 5 minutes down the road from the school). I hope I didn’t bite her head off too – but I might have sounded a bit short at that point.
Similarly clothed Karen ladies who were setting up their stands watched in horror as the wind flapped the tent roofs, sending bucket loads of water from a previous night’s rainfall to descend right on top of their display tables. There was a lot of sharp in taking of breath and exclamations of: ‘Oh S**T!’ Then it started spitting with rain. ‘It’ll brighten up!’ I said with glued on grin and luckily enough it did.
My cake helper, having arrived late saved my bacon, as she patiently stood behind the cake table with me for five hours and turned out to be a whiz at selling things. Getting rid of oversized cakes on a now groaning table is difficult in these days of cholesterol awareness. However, she was theone who should take credit for shifting them. In addition, she was understanding when I wanted to wander off and select something from the table of the two Rastafarians selling jewellery made from spoons and forks and also when I went to buy my ‘English’ Easter eggs from a friend of mine who was selling recently imported ones. My cake selling partner also had the brilliant idea of raffling the magnificent ‘Arabian Nights’ cake that had been donated by a pro. Because my idea of a silent auction was a turning out to be a dismal failure as nobody was interested in leaving bids.
I went to help sell fairy cakes to the children in the school playground during break time. It was quite sweet seeing them all holding their fifty bob notes (25p) but also not a little unhygienic with coughing, sneezing and grubby hands. The little ones didn’t have much concept of ‘only one cake’, preferring to pick one up, bite off the icing and put it back and once everyone had handed over their money it turned into a bit of a free for all while my youngest daughter held onto my leg, whinging.
The day flew by and hundreds of people came and went, though most were obviously giving the cake stand a bit of a wide berth. At one point I thought we were doing terribly as we still had lots of cakes left, but it turned out that I had misread my watch to say 1pm when in fact it said 11am. In fact, in the end we just about sold everything. I took home a very sticky gateau with strawberries coated in a gelatinous red glaze that was refusing to sell but was actually quite nice. The final big slab of a cake I donated to the face painting clown who had made an absolute killing as he was charging ‘per face’ that morning, when usually he gets a fixed rate for a children’s birthday party. I blackmailed by giving him the cake, which he was delighted with, then went in for the kill by persuading him to put something in the donations box. Everything had become sticky, sweaty and hot by the end, as predictably the weather had turned to brilliant sunshine.
Having reached 4 O’clock that day after dashing to do the afternoon school run in heavy traffic, I realised I had only consumed a chocolate brownie and a cappuccino so far. I had never got round to the Pimms that the man was carrying about on a tray or a ‘salad bar’ lunch, or even a glass of water. I added up the money for the cakes and the proceeds from the beautiful export roses that my friend who donated them from the farm her husband works on and was selling from our stand. It came to 33,000 Kenya shillings (over £200). The ‘PTA’ also made money from the ‘peace ribbons’ my friend made and was selling and for charging the other exhibitors a nominal fee for their stands, so the final total was more like £500. The proceeds will go the Red Cross Fund for displaced Kenyans (x 120,000 are still living in displacement camps).
One lady said to me a couple of weeks ago: ‘I’m not sure I’d like to give anything to the Red Cross any more, you see there have been so many terrible stories of the money and donations getting ‘lost’ and not reaching the people who need it.’ Well, I guess small scale incidents of this kind are bound to happen, but I certainly won’t allow myself to lose faith in the whole organisation just yet. There will always be ‘stories’. Lets hope the government also does as it promises and manages to compensate those who have suffered and been displaced as a result of post election violence, as one thing is for sure, our little contribution won’t go very far.