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  • iaindryden1


I was about to write that I’m too ill to write, but writing this first sentence encourages me to engage with the outside world. All my life I’ve been a communicator, waddling from my mother’s side to baby-babble at strangers and this continued for decades as I grew up.

There was a time when I talked too much, but then don’t most teachers? They have to muster expertise and stand spouting before a crowd of youth who are not particularly enamoured at the prospect. Catching myself took time, but eventually I slowed to conversational norms. And there was a moment when I realised men tend to dominate discussion in mixed groups, so once more I worked on myself.

Around this time I married a shy but strong woman and wanting her to break out of her shell, I prompted her to speak her mind, make decisions and generally be my equal, not my shadow. It worked so well her friends were amazed at the result. The world-class doctors she was soon to work along side said she had no need to join the hospital’s assertiveness course.

That could sound off-putting, but she is gentle, amusing and conciliatory, working her views into the situation without conflict. It’s an art I wished I’d learnt. People here in England like, even love her whereas I’m tolerated in comparison. I’m a little too blunt for the English, you know who I am immediately and you like me, take against me, or walk away.

We are each conditioned by the micro-culture we get up in and my wife’s was a very English family with very English traits. All those classic things the world talks about - polite, concerned to say the right thing so as to fit in, never rock the boat, mask what you think, never show emotion…. Traits turned upside-down during our three year Brexit debacle, an emotional revolution which shocked European reporters familiar with Britain.

And me? My mother, a feisty Scot from an excellent family, divorced her husband when I was two and because she refused the help of her noble family, we lived in near poverty in Kenya. My saviours were an extraordinary and feared tribe, fierce, loyal, fit, yet gentle with each other and me. Unfortunately for my years of trying to be an Englishman, the Nandi expected one another to be utterly upfront, hence my tendency to speak my mind. Strangers were regarded as suspicious unless they were open, if not (when I was young) they were shooed away or at worst, killed.

Enter the English who wanted the Nandi’s fertile lands. Ten years fighting with guns and cannon against spears, bows and arrows. Continual defeat, not a single victory, Britain held a peace treaty to end to The Nandi Wars. As soon as those remarkable parish leaders, generals, leaders and their chief laid down their weapons, we shot them dead. That’s how I ended up living in their lands.

My fellow colonials and their parents told me the Nandi were fibbing: “We British don’t behave like that!” When exploring the matter on a BBC Radio4 history programme with a renowned Oxford Prof of African tribal history, I was told it had been worse. My noble Nandi friends had held back to spare my feelings. No wonder the tribe feature heavily in my memoirs which I’ve just completed.

We need to talk. Candid but polite, laying things on the table; if we are calm, objective and positive, eventually we will arrive at a consensus. That’s why Trump has caused such a stir. Now that he’s bought us to the brink of war, talking rather than bombing, is vital. Though it’s not been easy being me in Britain, I’m glad I’m a wee bit Nandi inside.

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