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. 


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 …


5 Responses to “Henrietta”

  1. Sophie Says:

    Henrietta, AWWWWW. I love that name for her! Arnold: hmmmm… sometimes the pickings are slim in the hen house. Here’s hoping that Henrietta finds a better match.

  2. Carolyn Says:

    Oh how beautiful! I wish I had a kuku! I don’t think my cat would be impressed though…

  3. Weez Says:

    Talking of kuku’s names. We had a beautiful cockerel which our gardener brought to us as a present from home after his leave and my son insisted on calling him “Jennifer”! To this day i’ve no idea why ‘Jennifer’ – but Jennifer turned out to be quite the ‘dude’! – always shortcutting through the house, harassing the dogs, and he would even come when he was called. Hope Arnold ends up showing you a good side! ….. Perhaps if you change his name to Annie or Audrey – that might do the trick!!

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hiya … I wanted to reply to all these this morning but I’m having a nightmare with very fickle browser. And I’m too techo challenged to sort it out myself.

    Sophie – Henrietta’s standards are slipping, I fear, she is taking up with the rake …

    Carolyn, nor are my cats. Impressed. Not a bit. They think they are far too good to have to share their domain with mere chickens.

    Weez – that’s a great story. Jennifer. I agree: we ought to have aspired to bring out the best in Arnie by inspiring a feminine side. Alas Henrietta is succumbing to his blokeyness.

  5. Would you have told the truth? « Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] to cheer up. Which it did; their mum laughed for the first time that day. They called the chicken Henrietta. The next day a kindly neighbour brought Henrietta a boyfriend in the hope of increasing flock […]

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