Today we managed two things:
Fighting the traffic to research the minute books of the Kenya Hoticultural Society 1927 – 1938, thankfully contained in three slim volumes. My expectations are low, which is good because there are only two mentions of Kitale horticultural association – asking permission to be an affiliate branch on 6th January 1928 and in July 1930 noting that Kitale HS was particularly strong. It is clear that Kitale and the Trans Nzoia is very remote from Nairobi. There are even fewer mentions of my grandparents – a letter on 6th May 1932 from Emilie May asking to be considered as an apprentice judge – she must have been taken on as both she and Fred were listed as judges for the Lamuru horticultural show in the meting of 4th September 1936. There are many references to the Sutton Challenge Cups, given by Leonard Sutton (my great-grandfather) at the Nairobi Horticultural Show on 2nd December 1932. It was Emilie May’s great desire to win one of these but she never did.
Bumping along atrocious roads passed ribbon shanty to the Ngong Hills at the rim of the Rift Valley. Religion, health and education dominated the roadside adverts and buildings. Numerous schools linked to various saints and churches – Presbyterian, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventists, Kingdom focus Church, Redeemed church Gospel Rima, Deliverance Church Eldorator, Blessed Worship.
The road ended in a dirt road going along the rim of the Rift Valley. The late afternoon haze simmered blueish over the valley and the ridges beyond. Expectation and anticipation are funny things – perhaps I had expected something more dramatic after reading Emilie May’s letter of 6th March 1924:
‘then the road began to descent and unite suddenly we got a most stupendous view over the valley far below us and then some hills which looked like tiny ridges. It was too wonderful for words even at the time – the sort of awful quiet and remoteness which quite silence one.’
Perhaps it felt anticlimactic because it was very hazy, and the swooshing wind from some dozen turbines towering 40 – 50 metres above us coupled with the stiff wind was distracting. These turbines reminded me of a journey from Turfan to Urumqi years ago, at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. That day in April we crested a hill andthe tops of the turbines rose like space ships in the arid brutal landscape. A sight so surreal I remember it as yesterday.