Plague of tourists
Aidan Hartley Malindi our help is requested,' my mother I wrote in a note to me on the Kenya coast. She often writes to me, or telephones, even though our houses are metres apart. 'Crocodiles are getting loose and wandering into the gardens.' After puzzling over this for a bit I remembered that a neighbour farms crocs for their skins. Tourists pay to feed them. One is called George, as in George Bush, and he ate five people before he was captured from the wild. `If they get into swimming pools or even the sea (like the ones in Australia) just imagine what will happen. People want YOU to spread the news and act for everyone's safety. The crocodiles are quite big.'
I looked around but I found no crocs. 'ALSO SNAKES,' my mother wrote. We had a green mamba in the bathroom last year, yes. My father-in-law Gerry was over from Sussex and he walloped it to death. I have a plague of gecko lizards in the office. They crap on all my papers and one got into my printer and cooked itself, so that the machine crackles and pops every time I turn it on. But no crocs.
My prayer, I tell Mum when we meet, is that the escaped crocodiles will eat all the tourists. Especially Italians. Grocldes have invaded Malindi. As Africa's boat people head for Europe, the old world is exporting its ugly, fat people who come down here on sex holidays. Years ago it was German men, but a spin-off from the gender revolution is that disgusting white females do it more these days. Within hours of arrival, they braid their hair, acquire lobster sunburns and hook up with male prostitutes who I imagine must find it tough to perform.
The tourists party all night. Our beach house, from where we once heard partridge — and even lion — in the bush behind us is now battered with the 24-hour roar of motorised rickshaws. From across the ocean on moonlit nights, above the sound of sandpipers and surf, comes the beat of rave music.
In 1977 my father announced that Malindi was 'overcrowded' and it was time to move. We took a family trip to the northern island Lamu, which in those days was so remote the Swahilis still said they were 'going to Kenya' when they sailed to the mainland. But when Dad saw more than a couple of white faces he said sadly, 'We're too late.' Since this was the case, my parents decided to stick with Malindi. Today, Lamu is invaded annually by the likes of Sienna Miller and Tracey Emin.
When I used to visit Sir Wilfred Thesiger in Flood Street, I thought he was exaggerating when he said things like 'There's nowhere left to go' and 'It's all finished'. But I was young then. I know I'm middle-aged now because I always recall the beauty of places in the past, and how overcrowded and sordid they have become today. I look at my children and I am struck by how completely happy they are with how things are. They don't ever feel the beach is crowded, and they think the tourists are simply funny to look at. I, on the other hand, am a 41-year-old misanthrope who harbours secret hopes for bird flu and the grim predictions of global warming and mass extinctions.
I cheered up a few months ago when the wave break where I like to go surfing was visited several times by a very large tiger shark. It circled the boat and zipped up and down through the glassy clear waves. Perhaps unfortunately, it didn't eat anybody, but the local surfers made sure this story got around. One day an Italian turned up with his board and we asked him where he learned to surf. 'Off Genoa.' But it's the Mediterranean. There aren't any waves.' He said, 'Sometimes there are storms.' He turned out to be a rather nice guy. If the shark had attacked him we might even have saved his life, but it was noted that he couldn't surf to save his life.