Editor at the Arusha Times is charming bespectacled man called William. He isn’t in the least perturbed by my suggestion that his paper has published a false story, ‘we get our facts from the regional police’, he says, ‘and they are often inaccurate’. How comforting. Were I to write a story for any of the editors I have ever worked with and rely on facts from dodgy sources I’d be in deep doodoo. However he is sufficiently intrigued by appearance of mad white woman in his office to assure me there will be a ‘follow up’ and I leave my number in order that he can contact me and verify any facts the police might present regards the farm in the future.
Next on list is a birthday present for a friend of Hattie’s who is going to be ten. I go to the backstreet ‘duka’ of a friendly Asian man to source this. His shop is a veritable Aladdin’s cave as far as my girls are concerned, stuffed to the gunnels with cheap, garish adornments: hairbands, bracelets and earrings. They love going there.
Mr Mohammed stands to greet me enthusiastically. ‘Long time no see’ he says, which strikes me as oddly Western, and thoroughly modern, way to greet anybody if you’re an Asian gentleman of sixty plus running a shop in the less salbruious quarter of an African town.
You’d think, by his greeting, that I’m in the shop every week but have recently been detained by, amongst other things, the case which editor William covered. But I’m not, I only go in there three times a year when I have run out of excuses as to why my daughters can’t attend a birthday party (and given reliability or otherwise of my car, I don’t have to try hard – on the excuse front, I mean). No, Mr Mohammed’s greeting has nothing to do with a frequency of visits, rather that I’m probably the only white woman who patronises his business. Largely because I’m generally too broke to buy children’s birthday presents in the trendy European boutiques where most expat mums buy gifts. But partly because I am less conscious than most of where I’m seen.
The upside, of which, of course is that my daughter’s present will be unique: nobody else will give the birthday girl quite such cheap, garish crap. And consequently, since that’s what little girls like most of all, nobody else’s present will be as popular as Hattie’s.