As an 9 or 10 year old I pinned a map of Africa on my bedroom wall, surrounded by a collection of the 3D models of African animal heads that they printed on the back of Corn Flake packets. I hoped that some day I’d be able to fly out to Tanganyika to visit my godparents, Barbara and Jack Wilkinson, though sadly that never happened. I’ve still got the five inch tall ebony warrior that they sent me. He still sports his feathery plume, hide shield and Masai regalia but he lost his spear long ago.
Jack taught biology at the agricultural college at Arusha, close to the Kenyan border. It’s a beautiful setting with Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro looming in the background. Returning to Britain when Tanzania won its independence, they settled in Leek, Staffordshire, where Jack continued to teach biology. He died of cancer about thirty years ago.
Barbara was doing fine when we visited her last summer before my mum’s fall but she too had a fall at new year. She died on the morning of my mum’s funeral. Like my mum she was in her 97th year.
We made our way, via the Peak District, to her funeral today. I’ll miss our occasional visits to Leek to meet up with her and go out for a lunch, which for me was always Staffordshire oatcakes (a kind of pancake), at the White Hart Tearooms.