Archive for August 2nd, 2007

Henrietta

August 2, 2007

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Yesterday my daughters went to the mitumba – literally in Kiswahili ‘second hand’ – market, to buy clothes (nowhere else here; it’s our equivalent of the mall. Or Marks and Spencer. Or Gap, depending on what you find).

I  had endured an especially challenging Outpost day and was lurching from crisis to crisis: the power, the water, sporadic internet connection. That I’d roared at poor kids, cowering dogs, world at large was faint hint to girls that I was teetering on the edge. I expect they were glad to escape.

They sent me a text, ‘we r havin fun we got u fantastik suprise’. I imagined a scarf. 

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It was a chicken. . Hat was clutching her tightly when I went to collect them. A live chicken and a pair of jeans for Amelia, that’s what they got. (Beats the selection of items on offer at M&S?)

We got you a kuku, Mum. Do you like her? She’s called Henrietta. Now you can have eggs for breakfast every morning.

Henrietta was the nicest thing that had happened to me all day; of course I liked her.

She was fretted and fussed over when we got home; she slept in the store beneath an up-turned crate and had a plate of rice for her supper.  Hat shot out of bed at dawn to say good morning to her and let her ito the garden where she has busily scratched for insects all day.

Until a generous new neighbour bought her a boyfriend. Arnold is ugly and has no manners. He chases Henrietta about the garden in – I suppose – an effort to seduce. But Henrietta will have none of it, she dodges his amorous advances foiling the girls’ plans at chick rearing, which is a shame for they had coined dozens of lovely names for her offspring: Hugo, Hermione, Hero, Hilda, Humphrey …

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