Kiboko Bay, after a bone-shaking tuk-tuk ride on the dirt road, is incongruous in its luxury. A small pool gleams bluely next to the lake. The noise isn’t birdsong, it’s more like bird-uproar, they are exuberant. Above me, the flamboyant tree is oddly Christmassy, but simultaneously not at all, tiny leaves smaller than a child’s fingerprint, great pods hanging ponderously down.
The breeze is strong here, and I can see my shadow’s hair blowing wildly, tugged out of its messy knot. And my starry earrings are blowing too, casting pale quick lights on the page of the diary where I write.
But it is the music of the wind chimes that makes me feel hushed and blank-hearted, as if the watch on my wrist is meaningless, and my to-do list is a mere extravagance.
I wonder if Queen Victoria ever dreamed of her lake, and if her staid, modest, loving soul was stirred by the sight. That little plump woman with her affected voice would have been horrified by primitive Africa, and yet I believe Lake Victoria would have silenced her with wonder.
I walked down to the water’s edge, telling myself that the crocodile I saw last time I was here was a mere monitor lizard, to stand on a boulder at the lakeside. And there were these dragonflies – pink, their bodies striped and their wings diffused, but pinker than I could believe. It’s funny how in Britain, when we speak of a pink bird or flower, often we mean pinkish, off-pink, a faint tint of blush. Even a robin’s red breast is nothing on the scarlet of my bearded barbets. But in Kenya, colour is overripe, true and feverish, unforgettable. Those dragonflies were fuchsia, pink as a child’s party dress, pinker than flamingos.
We went on a boat ride, to which I objected, since I will always think of our voyage on Lake Naivasha as a near-death experience – the look in that hippo’s eyes! But it was a peaceful trip enough, not a hippo in sight. We saw hyacinth, with its lilac flowers and leaves curved like a hand. It’s bad for the lake, they say, but I thought it would be wonderful, to see the lake blossom like an oasis, like a wildflower meadow in spring.
Back on solid earth. My soul quieted by the spread of shifting sky and water.
And the flamboyant’s petals are wrinkled as a dress left on the bedroom floor all night. Pollen staining my fingers poisonous orange.
A snatch of wind chime lullaby on the breeze.