Just thought I would quickly tell you about going to the Remembrance Day Sunday at the Nairobi War Cemetery before it becomes so late that it’s irrelevant (if it doesn’t seem so already).
For the past three years we’ve gone along to the War Cemetery on the edge of Jamhuri Park for the Remembrance Service as a family. It doesn’t take long and it’s close to our house. Lots of smart uniforms and medals are on display as various representatives from all sorts of far flung regiments take turns to lay their wreaths. The red jacketed brass band are a highlight, not least because of their exotic ‘Colobus monkey’ fur hats. (jet black with a swathe of extra long white fur). Last year a friend came over to us and said, ‘oh, what are you doing here? Do you have an army connection?’ My husband and I managed not to throw him a left hook for his impertinence.
This year it was with some trepidation that we set forth, the reason being that it was raining; torrentially. We were a vaguely obliged to go because a ‘first timer’ wanted to accompany us with his children. He ‘Googled’ the service as we couldn’t remember when it started (but did remember being a tiny bit late last year) and he told us ten sharp was the correct time. After various anxieties over what everyone in our family was going to wear (my eldest detests her raincoat for some reason), we settled on trousers, raincoats, boots and a poppy each. We drove to the venue at top speed, windscreen wipers flying but sadly, 10am was too early (we weren’t due there til 1.25). We stood with our friend for twenty minutes during a precious break in the weather while nothing happened but the dampness from the grass soaked gradually into my high heeled boots and my youngest said ‘I want to get back in the car’ repeatedly. The rain really came down when the ambassadors, church leaders and uniformed servicemen arrived at 10.30am. The wind turned umbrellas inside out.
Meanwhile the old folk/heroes in their smartest Sunday best were getting soaked. There was no shelter so many of them grabbed spare plastic chairs and held them up over their heads but as the rain was falling horizontally it was not much use. The Colobus monkey wearing band members stood sentry under the four stone pillars that form part of the memorial, but there was no roof to shelter them so it was pretty hopeless. I felt sad for the elderly man wearing a leather beaded cap, a full length hand woven wool coat, sandals and a beaded leather satchel in the shape of the African continent, who was being buffeted by the weather too. The guy in the snazzy white uniform consisting of short sleeved shirt with gold lapels, white trousers and French Foreign Legion style hat was in danger of entering a wet t-shirt competition.
Finally the right people were standing ready in their allocated squares marked carefully out on the ground with white string with name plates too. I noticed that Raila Odinga had a man behind to hold an umbrella over his head – also, he looked a lot shorter in real life (as is usually the case when you see a ‘seleb’).
All the children were all very good about being wet up to their trousered knees, though I had to end up carrying the youngest (3) and she decided to take my poppy pin and start to jab it into my arm at intervals, watching my face for a reaction. I thought; ‘remember how awful it was for those soldiers in the trenches in the wet and mud – much worse than standing in the rain for an hour’. My husband said, ‘all those old servicemen are going to get pneumonia’. We scowled at some late comers but only because we were thinking, lucky them! Funnily enough there was no sign of that chap from last year’s service who questioned our attendance. Perhaps he was put off by the weather. What a wimp.