Belinda and Simon are having breakfast on the veranda of their Laikipia ranch and taking stock of the day ahead. Belinda has already fed the chickens and walked the dogs while Simon was out on an early morning foray to have a look at the faulty water pump down at the river below the house. He was put out of sorts by the water supply spluttering out while he was in the shower earlier. Belinda’s hair is scrunched into a pony tail and her cheeks are rough and red. Simon has cast aside his leather bush hat (belonged to his father) and is dressed in short khaki shorts and a sleeveless fleece in a similar muted shade.
‘We have to collect the Jones’s from the airstrip at lunchtime but there is no fuel in the Landrover’ says Belinda, ‘Damn,’ says Simon, ‘I really don’t want to have to go all the way IN (i.e. to the nearest one horse town) today,’ then his expression lightens as he sees a way out, ‘but hang on a mo. I have half a jerry can next to the generator, we could chuck that in to the Landy for now.’
Belinda and Simon have an almost constant stream of visitors which can be tiresome. ‘Oh’ Belinda looks worried, ‘But will there be enough for the generator then? I really did want to catch up on emails this morning,’ she lied. In fact she had heard it was the first day of the Boden sale and was keen on doing some online surfing. ‘Plenty, plenty’ Simon replied distractedly while fiddling with his crackling vhf radio. Belinda sighs then starts on a fresh tack: ‘Geoff the lion tracker is coming over for coffee this morning, along with some new American student who out here for six months to do some project on silver backed jackals.’ ‘Well, I’m too busy to see them’ says Simon, 'I have to look into Mwangi’s report of an orphaned elephant over in the West corner’ (Mwangi is one of the rangers). And with that, Simon is up and out of the door.
Belinda wanders over to the kuni booster located outside her rondavel kitchen and discusses with the two gardeners what she wants done with the vegetable patch. Martha meanwhile has started on doing the days hand washing at an outside sink. The sight of the brown river water depresses Belinda and she wishes for the millionth time that she had a washing machine like 'normal' people. The smell of wood smoke cuts through the chill of the morning air.
By lunchtime Belinda has collected the Jones’s from the airstrip with their two small children. Fresh from the UK, they emerged from the small plane looking somewhat out of place with blue/white English winter complexions and frightened expressions. Later, the visitors lounge self consciously on the veranda furniture making polite conversation as their two children chase chickens and scare away the exotic birds from the bird feeder. Belinda winces and once again feels relieved that her two are at boarding school.
Simon arrives back at the house in a fury. ‘By the time I got to where the orphaned elephant was supposed to be, Mwangi told me that the Elephant Orphanage helicopter from Nairobi had already swooped in and taken it away!' He then stomped off to have lunch in his study alone forgetting to greet the Jones’s.
For want of a better idea and to break the ice, Belinda suggests taking the Jones’ on a game drive and they seem delighted but inwardly she is worried about the lack of fuel in the car. As they drive across and out of the ranch they spot zebra, impala, giraffe and dik dik. The visitors are sitting up on the roof, wind in their hair, unaware that Belinda is coasting down hills in neutral and turning off the engine each time the Jones’s ask to stop and take a photograph.
Belinda’s heart sinks as they pass the Richardson’s ranch that has recently been carved up into twenty acre plots and is being sold off to dreadful townies from Nairobi who will come and go at weekends only. ‘It’ll be like Piccadilly Circus up here soon’ she sighs to herself, 'full of grockles.' But for now the sunset and the views of Mount Kenya are breathtaking.