November Interview on Nomad Sprogg

November’s interview is with Kevin who discusses some of the disadvantages of moving around a lot when you are growing up.

September in the Shamba

DSCN3086Whenever I am working in the summer garden I feel close to Kenya but particularly in the vegetable garden which, since my revisit, I have taken to calling a shamba  (Swahili for smallholding). This summer’s lovely warm weather and bumper crops: tangled arches of beans, romping pumpkins and a greenhouse full of tomatoes and marigolds remind me of the lovely  garden we had in Kenya.



With two seasons, the perfect climate and masses of insects to pollinate everything, we were well provided with food: potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, beans and one year a huge number of lettuces. There were so many that Dad sold most of them to his friend Canti at Naivasha stores in Gilgil and we felt like farmers.


There were a lot of flowers too, Kevin and I did our bit with the giant sunflowers we grew for the school project, it seemed impossible that such a massive plant came from a single seed.

And Dad grew his favourites; the African violets, pelargoniums, sweet william and sweetpeas. We had so many sweetpeas one season, that he gave me an enormous bunch to take to my teacher. I will never forget their heavenly scent and smudgy lilac and sugar pink hues and the feeling of celebration as I proudly walked to school.

How Green Was Our Valley


This was the view from our family house in Kenya for the three years we lived there. The Rift Valley eternally stretching into the distance and Lake Elementita shimmering in the background. When I saw it again many years later in 2006 I said  “That’s it, that’s the view.” But the words were only a tiny fraction of what I felt; something happened in my heart, a warmth, a great joy and contentment, like meeting a loved one that you thought you would never see again.

Food shopping abroad – Italy

italy shopping

Traveling while we were growing up meant that we came across a variety of foods in addition to the basic British fare in our NAAFI;  the samosa and curry spices from Canti’s stores in Kenya, wurst and frites with mayo in Germany and fresh brotchen every day from the mobile bakers, I‘ll never forget the wonderful smell of that bread!

We also had magical outings to the Canadian Forces supermarket in Soest where we first encountered hamburgers, corn relish, TV dinners (what a treat) and banana or apple and cinnamon cake mixes Dad then baked for us. Better than Instant Whip!

So although I like to eat out, my favourite thing is be self-catering, to shop for fresh food locally, in markets and small shops but often in the supermarkets.

The Coop in Pomerance was food heaven for me; the season’s first artichokes and broad beans, courgettes with the flowers intact, soft skinned and scented Sicilian lemons, organic mozzarella and ricotta, polenta with mushrooms, seemingly endless choices of dried and fresh pasta in different shapes and flavours; spinach, courgette and pea, pumpkin or artichoke. Jon went to explore the local wine section and having found a Montecastelli red from the village we could see from our window at Fattoria San Paolo, returned to find me still deliberating over pasta:)

At the hilltown of Libbiano we had a picnic of Taleggio, focaccia, tomatoes and fresh basil and then went for a walk in the Monterufoli Nature Reserve. Later that evening we cooked the artichokes, mushroom polenta and a borlotti bean dish with rosemary and olive oil from the farm. Delicious.

 italy dinner

In search of family quarters

For three years I used my holidays to revisit the places we had lived in while I was growing up. My husband Jon accompanied me and put up with me throughout this odyssey.

The destinations in England and Wales were easy enough to arrange but the trips abroad needed a lot more thought and of course, expense. Three of the houses and two of the barracks in England had been demolished but many of the other properties had survived even though some of them had been sold by the Army and were in private or public ownership. For example the house in Wrecsam is now privately owned and our block of flats in Germany are being rented to migrant families from Eastern Europe. The barracks, family quarters and school in Kenya were all taken over by the Kenyan Army after we left.

I felt and still feel great affection for each geographical area and great pride in the attractions of each place. Every one we met was helpful, they got what we were trying to do. It felt like I was rediscovering my heritage, a multi- geographical one. At times it was an emotional struggle because when you take on a journey like this you are confronting losses as well as enjoying yourself traveling but it was one of the most rewarding projects of my life.

It’s been observed that when people brought up in many places are asked the question  “Where do you come from?” we don’t know what to say, but it dawned on me as I retraced my steps that it’s more a case of not knowing where to start. We could tell you but it would take half an hour. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s that it doesn’t fit into a soundbite.