Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Cloudscape


Yesterday morning, the weather here in North Pembrokeshire was utterly different from before. All week the sky had been blue, though often with those fulsome clouds that look like strange flying creatures. Now it was rain-filled and grey.  I’m not sure why, perhaps as a comfort, but as I came downstairs in the morning, I began thinking about old friends. One of the dearest who came into my mind was Leah.

Let me tell you how we met. I was 18 years old and in Kenya as a VSO (Volunteer for Service Overseas) at a time when VSOs could still be unqualified school-leavers. My job was teaching at a home called Edelvale which was run by mainly Irish Catholic nuns on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The Edelvale job fell into two main parts. One was teaching English at the Primary School which the nuns ran on their estate. The other was teaching English to a group of pregnant, unmarried young women whom the nuns were looking after. These young women lived in an old colonial house on the Edelvale grounds which had in its time been used as a prison for Mau Mau fighters. The idea was that improving their English would help them gain better employment after their babies were born.

Immaculate was one of the young women to whom I gave special English lessons. She had no particular need of the English as such: she’d been studying for A-level English exams when she fell pregnant. My role was to help her towards her exams. She became a great friend. One time when I was about to be going off on safari with David, a Pembrokeshire airman then based in Kenya who’d become a great companion, she told me about someone she’d like me to meet. Leah was the name of this friend and, evidently, she lived in Eldoret where David and I were headed. Arrangements were made by letter for us to meet in the Sparks Café in Eldoret at a particular time on the last day of our trip.

Alas, the arrangements took rather a bump. The Easter weekend when David and I took off for our travels in his Landrover  turned out to be the weekend of the East African Safari. Roads through the Rift Valley were closed. As a result, we were a day late arriving in Eldoret. I felt despondent. I had no address for Leah. I didn’t even know her last name. How on earth was I going to find her?  Refusing to be entirely daunted, I made my way to the Sparks Café.  ‘Excuse me,’ I said lamely to the person behind the counter. ‘Do you know someone called Leah?’

At this point a voice behind me spoke out. The voice said: ‘I am she.’ And thus began what became a great friendship. Subsequent meetings included  when we met in America during the time when Ben Kipkorir, the boyfriend she married, was Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States. It was Christmas time and Paul had to dress up as Father Christmas at the party for the Embassy children. Other times included when, staying with Paul and me in London, Leah taught me how best to peel an egg.

Life is rich. You treasure your friends and miss them hugely when they’re no longer here on this earth except so richly still living in memory and affection.

PS: Still here in Pembrokeshire since last week, I have no photos of Leah or, indeed, of Kenya. All I have is what’s  inside my camera. Fortunately in view of Leah’s interest in looking up at the sky, they include some photos of clouds. The top one speaks for itself. The bottom one is of clouds reflected in a muddy pond.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Cloudscape”

  1. Karen Tovell Says:

    “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

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