East Africa settlers had two newspapers to choose from, The East Africa Standard and The Leader. The Standard came out daily and then again bound up as a thick weekly. The Leader, the colony’s oldest paper, was a weekly. If a person needed to know what films or plays were showing, or any other more Nairobi-based information, then The Standard was a must. Included with the usual letters to the editor and the world and local news, were a few poems and the occasional description of someone’s recent safari.
One such trip into the Laikipia district started out by train to Naivasha followed by an automobile trip to Gilgil where the oxen, horses, and tents waited along with tea. The equipment was proclaimed in the article to be “just ripping.” Towards dusk, the adventurers had their “sundowner,” which turned out to be champagne rather than scotch and soda. Dinner followed complete with white damask tablecloths and napkins folded as lilies. Clearly, safari life was brutal and not for the feint of heart.
More charming than the actual news, is the glimpse into how people spoke, or at least wrote in 1919 and 1920 East Africa. When the rains came down hard on that safari and the horses didn’t want to move, they were instructed to “boss up that adjective horse.” But the writer also professed to be “keen” to see a lion and positively “gibbose” with excitement. “Keen” was a popular descriptor. One account of a newly formed Boy Scout troop had the lads being “keen as mustard.”
Whether one reads about a “rollicking” dance or a “jolly” gathering, the voices come through the ages in their inimitable style.
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