Susie Kelly on the Kenya launch of her safari memoir, Safari Ants, Baggy Pants & Elephants

Back home in France after a wonderful whirlwind trip to Nairobi for the book launch there.


I can't put my finger on precisely what it is that makes me feel so 'furaha' when I step off the plane there. It's indefinable, a something that makes me smile and want to hug strangers.


The week went too quickly, of course, delivering paperbacks to retail outlets around Nairobi before the big launch day on Saturday at the Text Book Centre, Africa's largest chain of bookstores. The name is a little misleading, as although they do supply academic books, they also sell a huge range offering the classics and latest best-sellers and coffee table books, as well as office equipment and high-tech electronics.

I was rocked on my heels when we arrived, to find that an entire window display, as well as the main display area in the shop was completely filled with Safari Ants, Baggy Pants and Elephants. The centre had set up a table with a huge bouquet of flowers where I could sit and talk to browsers and buyers and sign copies as they were bought.


Book signings can sometimes be lonely affairs. I remember one in a draughty hall where half a dozen of us, some French and some English, sat from 10.00 to 4.00 and sold two books between us. :D You never know in advance what will happen.

The Nairobi signing far exceeded my expectations. People I only knew on Facebook came and introduced themselves and chatted. We spent a long time wandering down memory lane, sharing tales of school and ponies, finding out that we had mutual friends and asking what had happened to so-and-so.


Local VIPs came to talk about the book and buy it. There was one particularly moving moment when an elderly gentleman accompanied by a young man came and asked the price of the book. He told me he was a teacher, not a well-paid profession in Kenya and his clothes were a reflection of that. For somebody on a low salary the price was high, but he carefully counted out his notes from an envelope and went to the counter to buy a copy, which he brought back and asked me to sign, spelling out his name. That really choked me.

The signing had been scheduled from 11.00 to 1.00, but people kept coming right up until 4.00, when we ran out of time and had to leave.


Before I left on Sunday I spent the day in the Nairobi National Park with Kamara. The park is desperately dry, and although it was cloudy there was no sign of rain.


One of several stupid things I did on this trip was leave my ‘proper’ camera behind because I didn’t think I’d need it. Instead I took a tiny little thing with a tiny little lens with no zoom, and thus missed some incredible opportunities as we saw numerous lion and rhino as well as many other animals. Lesson learned.


You’ll have to take my word for it when I say the fuzzy grey object that I’ve arrowed is a pair of black rhino browsing the withered plains, the Nairobi skyline behind them.