Sussex Teacher’s Kitchen Garden

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My name is Edith Grace Kenton. I am going to tell you how a simple girl from Sussex, a schoolteacher, became the wife of the President of an African nation, one of those that emerged from colonialism right after the Second World War. It all started at a party.

I sipped the champagne delicately. It was a cocktail party at which a man said to be from Africa would be in attendance. He had come to London to put his people’s case before the British public. Most of us could not imagine what that could be. Hadn’t the British gone to parts of Africa to bring enlightenment to those backward tribes who lived in mud huts, did not have proper clothes or even shoes on their feet? What more could they want from us?

Then our host Ross, came through the doors accompanied by an unkempt-looking, very black man. A polite clap went around the room, no doubt most of the attendees harbouring questions as to who he was and why Ross was bringing him among us, very likely spoiling what would have been a quiet, decent party. He did not let him go but walked round the room introducing him. While continuing with our polite conversations, we surreptitiously watched the two. I was amazed to hear the guest say something in a deep authoritative voice, but which caused loud guffaws of laughter.

In time Ross got to our little knot.

“Meet Mr Johnstone Kamau from our East African colony of Kenya. I expect you may heard of the place where I spent more than a decade.” He then made introductions of the four or five people.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen!” The visitor spoke in a very assured manner with a very sonorous voice. But it was his eyes which arrested me immediately. They were greyish, with streaks of a lighter shade. They made me think of a cat’s; I wondered idly whether he could see at night! He then told us how much he respected Ross whom he had worked with in their largest town called Nairobi while he, Kamau, was a meter reader and Ross was the minister of Works.

I could not resist an urge to say something to him. “Do you mean water meters? Do they have piped water there?”

He fixed his gaze upon me. I cannot describe the effect those cat’s eyes had on me. I felt a fluttering in the pit of my stomach, and my breath became short as if suddenly there was no air in the room. “Yes, but only in the white-reserved areas. They have privileges that the rest of us can only dream of.” He had the air of one who had been in England for long years.

“That is fascinating!” One of the others said. “We would love to hear more of that most prized of our possessions overseas after India…”

Ross interrupted. “We shall get lots of opportunity to hear Mr Kamau on this and many other subjects. He is not here merely for a visit. I hope we shall have him with us for more than a few months,” said Ross with a glance towards Kamau.

“With the help of God,” said Kamau smoothly. Then he cast a fleeting glance in my direction, a mere second, but it had an effect like melting my insides.

The rest of the evening went by in a whirl. I do not remember what else happened except Kamau and his eyes. They seemed to draw me into him and I had no power to cling to.

The next time I saw Kamau was at a public meeting. I only attended because Ross told me the African was going to give a speech. “You should hear him, Edith. He is a very good orator.”

I actually arrived a little early and could take one of the chairs at the front. I could never have expected that Kamau would remember me and stop to wish me a good evening when he came in. His eyes on me caused my legs to become almost too weak to hold me up. Then he went up to the dais in front. The master of ceremonies called up two speakers, then called upon ‘Mr Johnstone Kamau from Kenya’ to a subdued round of applause.

He spoke of the benefits of civilization brought to his people by the Victorians of a bygone age. He saluted them, lauding education as the chief of those benefits. Deftly he moved from the image of Africans as beneficiaries to being an oppressed people in their own land. I do not remember wondering how people who had been walking naked just a decade before could talk of being deprived of the makings of civilization when they had not even gone in search of it, but it had found them sitting! Mr Kamau, who sometimes referred to himself as ‘Kenyatta’ in his speech, carried us with him, captives of his smooth tongue. Even now so many years later I cannot comprehend how an audience composed of British-born people could have been moved to a standing ovation of that speech. I, for one, was completely captivated by his charisma.

A dinner in Ross’s house in Sutton Row, Soho brought us into each other’s orbit a month or so later. It was apparent even to our host that something was in the offing; he placed us next to each other. During the evening we spoke more to one another than either of our neighbours. He invited me to his rooms the following week, “at your convenience, of kartal escort bayan course!”

I went, prepared for an evening of lively discussions of perhaps a political nature, but I got lots more. Oh, yes lots more! I found two of his friends whom he told me were from Ghana and the other from Zanzibar. I had no idea where those places were, and still do not as I write these words. The discussion ebbed and flowed about me, leaving me with no contribution, though I masked it by asking lots of questions. They all seemed to be very bright men who could hold their own in any sort of company. I hope I did not seem too ignorant of the issues they were grappling with in their countries. At some point, Kenyatta edged them out so tactfully that I missed the cue completely but we were unexpectedly left alone. When he came from closing the door he said, “Have I greeted you properly in my house? Please stand up.”

He gathered me into his arms, giving me such a tender embrace I almost cried. It was so much at variance with what I would have expected of him, given his appearance that it bowled me over completely. Then he held me and looked deep into my eyes with those eyes that had the power to unsort me. Which they did devastatingly now that they were only inches from my face. We almost collapsed onto the floor but he danced gracefully until he could let me down onto his bed. I hadn’t noticed, in the fury of the political cut and thrust, that he only had two stools besides the bed; I had been sitting on one while his friends sat on the bed.

He did not completely release me, but held me about the shoulders still looking into my eyes. My stomach had turned into a jelly. In a quiet voice I would never have expected from him, he said, “You are as beautiful as Gladwys Delamere. She will break many hearts, if she is not careful!” I did not know the said paragon of attractiveness so I took it as high praise.

“Thank you so much! I have never had such a reaction to my appearance.” I did not for a minute believe that I would wreck any heart under God’s heaven, unlike that dame of far country. Suddenly I was seized by a desire for him to kiss me. Pursing my lips in invitation was all he needed before I felt his substantial beard and mustache tickling my lips and cheeks. I was surprised that I enjoyed the sensation so much, strange though it was to me.

I was rubbing his chest and struggling with the buttons. I silently cursed the tough fabric of men’s clothing and their stiff buttons. Finally two of them gave way and my palm made contact with his bare flesh. I felt he did not know how to deal with feminine clothing so I helped him unbutton mine. His fingers on my breast was so tender that I gasped. He spent sometime giving pleasure to my nipple. Then by tacit agreement we stood up to shed our clothing and got into the bed. The sheets felt a little coarse but not overly so. In any case I had no time to concentrate on such minutiae. I felt his stiff organ against my bare thigh and I was overwhelmed by a wild desire to have it where it belonged. We jockeyed around until he could place his helmet at my entrance.

“Madam, may I please come in?” His politeness asserted itself even at such a moment.

“Yes, please give me the ivory of Africa!” The irony was lost on both of us at that moment though we would later chuckle about ‘black ivory’.

I felt him slide along on my wetness, sinking deep into me. At that moment Africa was united with Britain; Kikuyu with English, ancient culture with modernity. I opened my legs as wide as they could go to welcome him totally. He groaned with the pleasure. I had never expected that lovemaking could be so sublimely enjoyable. My high school boyfriend was so concerned about good manners and not ‘offending female sensibilities’ that he never let himself go in the way I now felt was possible. I too, released myself to the utter ecstasy of sex.

Within a short time I felt a savage heat rise from my groin, spreading mercilessly through my stomach and ribs. My legs kicked about wildly while from my prim teacher’s mouth came a sound like that of a wild beast, a howling fit to break my eardrums! I had achieved an orgasm to break all records. As I began to climb down from that summit, I realised that he was moving about inside me, still hard.

Astonishingly he was giving me a new kind of pleasure inside my vagina which had just orgasmed with new intensity. This was another kind of pleasure I never could have known existed. He made insistent strokes inside my tender flesh, sending me spiraling into another orgasm. He did not slow down but continued in and out of my hungry flesh. I felt as if I crashed into yet another orgasm without subsiding; then another hot on the heels of that one. It stretched out into a series of climaxes which seemed to have merged into one, like a long train.

Finally I felt him thrust hard two or three times and he too let out a growl like I would imagine a lion escort maltepe in the wild would do. Then his hips stiffened and I knew he was giving it up. I could imagine his sperm rushing out in hot streams filling my vagina to the brim. We collapsed side by side onto the bed sweating profusely from our exertions. “There is a verse of a hymn that goes, ’til every foe is vanquished’. Do you know it?” He looked down at his shrinking member.

“This is love, not war!” I bravely made the declaration. We had never used the L-word in our conversations before this but I felt, even at that early date, that our lives had become intertwined.

“Still, I am so completely finished that I could not repeat that performance were I required to do so.”

“Relax. I, too belong to the same battalion.” And held him to my chest almost desperately.

The night I spent at his place saw us return to the fray a few more times, being decimated each time, only to rise from the ground to renewed loving combat.

Politics was never far from his mind. “If only the fight for equality in Kenya had such pleasurable results. But if it had had, I should never have met you.” He stroked my cheek softly.

When term resumed I could not come down to London so frequently, but the few times I returned to the battleground the outcomes were were just as sweet as that first night, if not actually more, as we learnt other ways to pleasure each other.

It did not take many lengthy discussions for us to decide that he need not be spending his meager resources on housing when I had a decent house. “I must make a small contribution to the rent,” he stubbornly stipulated. That is how I came to be living with one of Africa’s best-known personages. He could charm his way through any stratum of society including my neighbours. Where I would have been hard pressed to explain a black man in our community, I soon became the object of envy among them, as well as among my fellow teachers.

Then he began to teach me gardening. “Flowers and lawns are for the rich and mighty,” I protested at first.

“In Kenya we use land to provide us with a livelihood, not merely titillate the eye.” Thus our vegetable garden was born. In time it became the ‘talk of the town’. I would never in my wildest dreams have thought I would be rubbing shoulders with famous men. Now here I was rubbing not just shoulders, but far more intimate parts of my anatomy.

He wrote numerous letters to the Home Office, the Colonial Office and mainly newspapers on the radical left, who agreed to publish his diatribes. Often he read them to me before sending them off, so that, he said, I could correct any grammatical mistakes. But I rarely could find anything that could be called erroneous. He also gave anti-colonial lectures across Britain expressing views that would never have been tolerated in Kenya itself.

Life went on in this tenor but some months afterwards I began to sense a diminution of spirit. Ross and his friends regretted that not being in the ruling party their help to him was only so much. One evening Kenyatta flung down a manuscript he had been working on for nearly a week. “What is it all for?” he asked exasperatedly.

“What, darling?”

“All this going round and round! Do the natives even want what we are asking for on their behalf? How many have the education to understand these concepts?”

I could understand that the Government was in a dither about Kenya. Some years earlier the Indians of that colony had come to London to petition for better representation on the Legislative Council in keeping with their numbers which were easily three times that of the whites who had eleven elected members to the two appointed ones for the Indians. Moreover a delegation had come to petition the Government on behalf of the white community for white self-rule. These two petitions were on opposite poles. The Government could not grant either without compromising the other. Additionally there was the vast majority of Africans for whom Kenyatta was clamouring, further complicating matters for Whitehall. In my mind I could see how things could not move with any great speed, giving rise to Kenyatta’s frustration.

When this had gone on for a further month he lost all hope for as he said, even if the government were to change back to Labour at election time the situation in Kenya was still very much the same and the same deadlock would still hold. “I have decided to become a naturalised citizen of this country,” he declared with finality, a decision I welcomed with open arms. I would continue enjoying his love, and his bright mind. It only worried me that he had left a wife and children back home.

We were married at the Registry Office a month and a half after this momentous decision. The following April our son was born, and that September we were at war with Germany. I have no desire, in these pages, to recount the misery of those six years.

At war’s end, the country pendik escort was plunged into a time of renewed troubles from the depressed economy. The war had emptied the Exchequer’s coffers to the point that colonial policy was getting a very deep scrutiny. The current crop of politicians did not hold the same values as their Victorian forefathers who had been all about conquering and possession. Now without the largesse to run this giant machine it only made sense to begin to pare it.

In early 1946 Kenyatta was requested to attend a meeting at the Home Office. He came back in a very somber and thoughtful mood. I let him stew for day or two before asking what had transpired at his meeting. He seemed reluctant to talk about it at first, but hesitantly he said, “The mandarins at HO want something I feel would cost me too much. It would also hit you hard, darling.”

It turned out that the Government was looking around for trustworthy stewards for their colonial possessions. With particular reference to Kenya they wanted to give Kenyatta a grandiose title like Prime Minister as head of government. He would pay heed to ‘advice’ from the Home Office, mostly to do with taking care of British interests in Kenya. Did he want that?

He was worried about who constituted a threat to those interests, as those would be his most bitter enemies. He was unsure how the whites would take to his being in visible control, even though they knew that the final say was vested in London. I, on my part was worried that my idyllic life was grinding to a halt. Yes, he would be far more powerful, would be a world figure, but he would be 4,000 miles away. Even if he were not so far there would be a security cordon around him making him further inaccessible to me. It was a dead loss.

Then he threw me a lifeline. “Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if we could all go together? We would have one another through the troublesome times that I can see looming ahead.” My heart beat wildly in my chest at the prospect.

The Home office posed only one question to this proposal: how would your fellow Africans react their hero tagging along with a white woman. Would they fully trust you? That put ‘paid’ on our idea.

The day of departure finally arrived. I had cried myself to sleep the previous evening, his consolation not being of much help. Sure his loving was very intense that week. He gave me sweet lovemaking every single night, and sometimes several rounds a night yet I felt, deep in my heart, that I was losing him forever. It did not take much imagination to see that he would be pushed to take back his wife, or marry another one, more fitting with his new image.

And then he was gone.

I got snatches of news about how the ‘fight for Independence’ was going. It had been arranged that there would be some fighting, a small band hiding in the forests in the name of ‘fighting for the land’. That was a new term that has crept into Kenyatta’s vocabulary since being approached by government; it had never featured before. The whole thing was to be stage-managed from London. He would be arrested and charges of leading the guerrila movement laid against him, which he would throw off easily. But he would still be ‘detained’ for seven years at a remote location in order to build him up in the eyes of his fellow Africans as a freedom hero. (Seven years? That seemed a bit extreme to my mind!)

But something apparently went wrong somewhere along the way. After the ‘most dangerous’ guerrilla was captured and sentenced to death by hanging early in 1956, the state of emergency was not lifted, leaving many wondering. The war should have been over in months but it was to drag on for eight years. The question uppermost in our minds was, If Britain could beat Germany, an enemy almost equal to Britain, in six years, how was it that a small band fighting in the forests was taking so long to defeat?

The truth seemed to be that there was no actual war, since the Africans did not need to fight for independence. Since the end of the War, Britain was systematically shedding her colonial possessions; Kenya would be number 33 on that list.

A great deal of fumbling was witnessed, with the other two East African nations ‘gaining’ their independence two years, and a full year before Kenya, after a sham ‘conference’ at Lancaster House almost at the gates of Buckingham Palace in which the main agenda turned out to be the tribal struggle between the party of the large tribes and that of the smaller ones; they had put together groupings based on this weird and improbable criterion. An election was stage managed after the leader of the ‘big’ tribes’ party declared that they would not participate in any government if Kenyatta was not released.

He was. They ‘won’. He was declared Prime Minister and a year later President of a Republic.

Slowly matters seemed to be settling down. At this point I had not seen my husband for nearly eight years; he had only paid me two visits between returning home and his ‘arrest and detention’. I was invited to visit him in his country but it did not seem prudent to me. I would wait until matters cleared up. After all he had taken a wife from among the ranks of the educated and civilised.

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