It's always unsettling going away from Kenya for a holiday, especially when we go to the UK/Europe. (A small note - we told our fellow chalet guests that our mainland 'European' friends in Africa have for years called us Brits 'Island Monkeys' because the Brits always refer to themselves as not actually in Europe. The Brits in the chalet/hotel thought this was quite funny....quite.)
When I get home I notice afresh all the cracks in the house and the mouldy bits, the cold, bare floor, the very dark, small kitchen, the wonky pictures on the wall. To be honest, if I look at anything closely, it all looks rather tatty. Instead of leaping into action and frenetically making plans to improve things, I wait for the moment to pass.
I generally find that after around 24 hours my eyes grow accustomed to the tatty house (it has not been re-painted inside for over seven years now - there are lots of childrens finger prints!) and I get used to it. A film possibly grows over my eyes and after one day it matters a lot less that the house is not decorated with Fired Earth tiles, Farrow & Ball paint (or is that out of fashion now?), that there's no Smallbone bespoke fitted kitchen with glazed, interior lit cupboards in the kitchen (Ok, this does exist in my dreams!) and basically we have no mod cons. My husband dreams of a flat screen tv or at least something bigger than our one little box. We actually should get around to improving the house and probably will do... some day.....budget permitting. But in my view what things look like inside your home matters less in Africa. Maybe it's because many of our friends are renting. Maybe you just don't put down quite such firm roots here.
Anyway, this time the tattyness was harder to ignor because the long rains have set in with an absolute vengence. Last night rain (and indeed hail!) was pounding our roof so hard that it was, as usual, finding various disturbing ways of coming in. 'Mummy! It's raining in my bedroom! We have to move!' my four year old announced as water plopped down onto her foam covered chair.
Minutes later, as I tapped on my computer upstairs some damp cement fell, thump, through the sodden ceiling boards next to my desk. 'I think we need a new roof,' I called out to my husband. 'or alternatively we could sell the house?' Then the power went out.
Today I noticed driving along that outside everything is vivid green, grassy and utterly overgrown. Eucalyptus trees are falling here and there. Two trees fell last night in our garden (but not the big one thank goodness). The traffic is horrendous along Ngong road, bumper to bumper for no obvious reason at all. It must be simply the puddles and potholes slowing drivers down.
We had such a fun holiday. As forecasted, deep snow settled in the resort on our last day so we skied and built a very odd looking snowman (more like The Night Garden - 'makapaka') and we messed around with the children in the snow until they got too cold - having kidnapped them from making juggling balls in centrally heated kids club with dry rice and balloons. Instead we warmed up with hot chocolate and gluwein.
To my horror, one evening my husband announced to our fellow chalet guests that I write a blog. One or two guests immediately picked up their i-phones and looked it up. Over dinner I proceeded to get ribbed mercilessly for having written that our holiday was 'like a second honeymoon' and sadly i wasn't quite quick enough to say; 'Well I know ours is! Isn't yours?!'
Now I must keep my fellow skiers' character assinations to myself in case of being exposed - though seriously, everyone was very nice and we had lots of laughs together over the dinner table and a high point was the weekly punter's quizz. The only down point that all the people working in the chalet were in their early twenties and let slip a couple of times as we dutifully trotted off to bed exhausted at 10pm, that they were off out to a club or a live music gig in town. Personally speaking, being reminded that you are no longer in your twenties did affect morale a touch.
After the week skiing we got a chance to visit my cousin in Geneva for a night which was lovely and she spoiled us rotten. She apologised for the cold drizzle as we visited the Cathedral and the next day a French food market. Meanwhile I was thinking enviously about the fact that more snow was bound to be falling up on the mountain tops and at the same time seriously questioning whether I would ever be able to 'do' a British or indeed European (see!) winter again.
We travelled back to Kenya with Swiss Easter eggs & bunnies, a huge slab of cheese, a small saucisson, one bottle of Beaujolais. I haven't finished unpacking yet, but have at least managed to pull these things out! I wonder if there was anything else I've forgotten? The laundry pile is frightening.
On the first night that we got back from our trip, our middle daughter cried in bed. 'What's up? I asked. 'I miss Family Ski Company!' she sobbed. 'I want to go back.' Hmm, I thought. 'Maybe we'll go back next year.' I said crossing my fingers behind my back. 'Maybe....'