Hakuna Matata!
December 6, 2010

Last Friday evening was my last in Nyakarambi, my home for the last three months. It could only be spent at KMC especially as Msafiri had promised me one final ‘special omelette’ on the house.  

A week or so before I had been chewing the fat with him whilst sipping my Mützig and  somewhere along the way I had suggested a number of marketing strategies that I thought he could usefully introduce at KMC to increase his turn-over. He listened politely and thanked me for my input.

As  Mark, Abdel-Illah and I arrived on Friday I was amazed to find Msafiri had not hung around when it came to implementing the ideas we had recently discussed.

At the entrance my eyes were immediately drawn to a hand written notice proclaiming ‘Happy Hour’ prices! We were then shown to a single table laid up with a red and white gingham tablecloth and finally our drinks were served with a bowl of home roasted peanuts – bless him!

We all ordered special omelette, salad and chips and during the evening drank a couple of beers each. On asking for the bill we were told there was nothing to pay – a generous and much appreciated gesture.  

As promised, Msafiri did not let me down either when it came to my get away on Saturday morning. He turned up as planned with a car belonging to his friend Napoleon (a doctor from the local medical centre who not surprisingly could only speak French!).

Msafiri drove the Toyota saloon while Napoleon fed compilations of dodgy French pop songs into the CD player.  I sat in the back drinking in the passing Rwandan countryside for one last time. Three hours later we arrived at Kigali Airport and over a final coffee Msafiri and I exchanged email addresses.

I shook him warmly by the hand, thanking him for his hospitality at KMC over the last three months, his generosity the previous evening and for organising my airport transfer. Being a Tanzanian he replied as always, in his native Swahili, “Hakuna Matata” and as we parted he thanked me for being such a good customer and friend. I’m sure we will keep in touch.

Twenty eight hours after leaving Nyakarambi, including six hours between flights in Addis Ababa airport (at least I can say I’ve visited Ethiopia!) I touched down at LHR terminal 3. It was 07.30, an hour earlier than the arrival time printed on my e-ticket, which meant I was able to catch the 08.45 National Express coach to Cheltenham.

As I headed north a foggy, grey Sunday morning soon gave way to blue skies and a wintry English landscape bathed in sunshine. It was so different from the Rwanda I had left behind but it was home!

Chris and I were reunited at Cheltenham Spa coach station, thirteen weeks after saying our goodbyes at the same spot. By 11.45 I was back in the Shire and being welcomed home, quite unexpectedly, by Nicci who had travelled across from Oxford.

Sunday afternoon was largely spent catching up, by the warmth of an open fire while savouring the welcome taste of real ale, at our local ‘The Bluebell’. I couldn’t help thinking it was a million miles away from KMC and wondering what Msafiri would have made of it!     

‘The Trout’ & ‘The Eagle’ – Following in the footsteps of Lewis, Lewis & Lewis
July 4, 2010

Nicci has just moved into a ‘new’ flat in Oxford and yesterday we were invited over to see it. Very nice it is too!  Gem had also come up from London for a viewing and so we were all able to go out for lunch together.

As it was another summer scorcher (how long can it last?), we drove out to one of our favourite riverside pubs, The Trout Inn at Lower Wolvercote. It enjoys a beautiful location, on the Thames, beneath the medieval Godstow Bridge and weir. There’s also a restored timber bridge, connecting the pub terrace  to a small island,  across which peacocks regularly parade and display for the paying customers.    

The pub and its immediate environs enjoy an interesting mix of literary connections:

It was back in 1862 that Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), a lecturer in mathematics at Christchurch College, took Alice Liddell and her sisters for boat trips along the river to Godstow. Whilst picnicking on the riverbank he entertained them with imaginative tales that would later be published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.      

Oxford don JRR Tolkien (1892-1973), creator of the epic middle earth trilogy Lord of the Rings, the hobbits Bilbo & Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the wizard, is buried at Wolvercote Cemetery.

In more recent times The Trout has featured as a TV location for Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse detective series. In the Wolvercote Tongue episode, in which a Saxon artefact of the same name disappears, Morse and his sidekick, Sergeant Lewis, are filmed on Godstow Bridge gazing down at the floodlit pub.        

Another ‘family favourite’ Oxford pub of ours (sadly not enough time to visit yesterday), is the splendid Eagle & Child on St Giles’. This was a regular haunt of ‘the inklings’  literary group, who fondly referred to it as the Bird & Baby. Prominent amongst the group were JRR and CS Lewis (1898-1963).  It was here that CSL shared early drafts of his Narnia fantasy The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with his contemporaries.    

Colin Dexter is a modern-day regular and the pub is featured in the Morse Book, the Secret of Annexe 3. In one scene, the long-suffering Inspector Lewis on accompanying  Morse to the Eagle & Child, is intrigued by a plaque on the wall referring to his literary namesake!