My Life by Lionel Graves. (Page 4)


A game the boys played was with marbles and another was using wooden cotton reels with a candle stuck through the middle and then with the ingenious use of a stick and an elastic band made it into a tractor which could run on tracks cut in to the banks.  I never could manage to make one for myself so used to have to swap something for one.  One day we went on a trek round the rim of an extinct volcano and for some reason I ate some herb or other and had to have a day in the sick bay.


Some family friends took me on a picnic to Lake Nakuru and there were thousands of pink flamingos a marvellous sight, another time they took me to see a film but I can't remember which.  On Empire Day the whole school turned out and saluted the Union Jack when it was raised on the flag pole, an impressive moment.


Back in Mombasa on holiday, I was friendly with Tony Marshall, son of the governor of the prison at Fort Jesus.  There we had tea with a white woman who had a small apartment in the middle of the prison yard who had killed one of her servants by flogging him.  We also tormented condemned prisoners due to be hanged the next morning and shot at them with catapults through the bars, they rightly complained to the guards and we got in to serious trouble, it only happened once.  Then we played in the dried moat around the fort, which had been built by the Portuguese in the time of Vasco da Gama and prodded sticks down holes to try and stir the great iguana lizards that lived in them, could have been dangerous.  Sometimes an Indian prisoner, who was in for life for murdering his wife, looked after us.


Another time the battleship HMS Hood was showing the flag in Mombasa harbour and I remember being shown around it.  Later on in the war it was sunk by one of the German pocket battleships, a shell going through a weak spot and hitting the magazine, over 1000 men were lost and there were only 5 or 6 survivors.


Other memories of Mombasa were always having bandaged knees, it was built on coral so every cut went septic, bread hot water poultices were always painfully applied.  Jiggers, little worms that used to burrow into your feet between your toes if you went bare footed, had to be dug out with a sharp implement.  Tarantulas abounded in the garden, hence my love of spiders.  I was taken to an Indian eye specialist and my eyesight was not too good and he gave me a set of exercises to do to strengthen them.  Funnily enough about ten years ago they all came back to me and I am doing them now.  Like many others my short-sightedness was discovered in class.


Finally Father retired from the Post Office in 1935, he had been postmaster of Mombasa; if he had stayed on for five or six more years he would have been Post Master General of Kenya, because a man under him was appointed later on.  As this was our last trip home we took the

Llandaff Castle on a tour round the Cape of Good Hope.


Pemba, Zanzibar, the smell of the clove trees, Lorenzo Marques, Durban, the snake charmer or rather, keeper who had been bitten so many times he was immune, a car factory, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, St. Helena, Ascension Isles, Canaries, Bay of Biscay and home.  At times you would see whales spouting, when rough the adults used to disappear to their cabins and the decks were left clear to us children playing with Dinky Cars or rolling them from one end of the deck to another.  The evening we entered the Bay of Biscay I was taken to see the engine room, spotlessly clean with the huge pistons working and propeller shafts turning, that night they broke down and luckily for us the sea was calm.


We docked at Southampton and then trained to Warwickshire, Welford-on-Avon, not far from Stratford, here we had a bungalow not far from the river.  I went to the local village school; Mother had been giving me Maths and English lessons on the boat, much against my will.  There was a maypole on the village green but can't remember dancing round it.  One Christmas, carol singing, I was given the job of knocking on an old lady's door and asking for money, getting instead a bucket of water on my head.


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