Baroness Blixen's farm - go if you can, it's full of her spirit.
Down to her jodhpurs thrown on the bed and her boots at the foot of it.
See Out of Africa but don't bother with the rather turgid book.
A few winters ago, when my life was out-of-control chaotic, I was delighted to accept a kind invitation to go to Nairobi and spend a week hiding out at the home of a friend who works out there. I could say all sorts of things about the amazing and selfless work he does fighting malaria, but
One of the reasons I was so keen to go was that he and I have long shared an obsession with the (officially still unsolved) murder of Lord Erroll, a scion of the Happy Valley crowd in 1930s Kenya. Watch White Mischief for the full story (and some great shots of Charles Dance in the buff) or read the book which is just as gripping. Dr Mosquito and his lovely wife wheeled out heaps of Old Kenya Hands for me to quiz on their first-hand knowledge, memories and local folklore about all the protagonists in this classically Colonial murder. All the ingredients are there - sex, booze, money, scandal, screamingly mad eccentrics and an unexpected insight into the Colonial justice system. It's also a fascinating peep into the mindset of those crazy brave souls who took off across the sea to make new lives in strange lands. I just love those long-ago attitudes - harvest ruined by lack of rain? Buck up and start an affair with a neighbour's wife. Husband given you syphilis? Buck up, plant coffee, adopt a deer and ride for days alone round the perimeter of your lands. Lost your entire inheritance in a bet? Stiff drink, buck up and shuffle the cards again. Lover unfaithful? Buck up, follow him to Paris and shoot him in the balls (read up on this wonderful nutter, Alice de Janze. They simply don't make them like that any more.)
I had a lovely time and spent several happy afternoons drifting about the Muthaiga Club which looks exactly as it does in the film. To this day, cameras are banned in case members are snapped with someone they shouldn't be with. No money changes hands - everything is signed for on a chit and accounts are settled depending on the harvests. I shamelessly eavesdropped on a classic exchange between two old boys in the foyer. One covered in red dust, just driven into town, the other in pressed khaki, grasping a large gin, waiting for him.
"Super to see you. How's the wife?"
"Bloody cancer. Doc's not too hopeful."
"Rotten luck, old chap. Kick her up the arse from me."
"Will do. Drink?"
Everyone I met had a pragmatic, almost casual attitude to death. They all had first or second-hand experience of carjacking, shooting, attacks by animals, theft, crazed hippos charging, rape. Mrs MD and I drove her 4x4 up to Lake Naivasha one day to get as close as we could to the Djinn Palace, the notorious setting for several of the parties you see in the film. We hired a boat, took heaps of photos, had lunch at the country club and drove home. That day, two American women were shot dead on the same road we had driven and their 4x4 was stolen.
On my last day, my host had arranged to borrow two horses and hired a guide to take us on a riding safari in the Ngong Hills. (Everyone I know has seen Out of Africa, and if you haven't, do so immediately. You'll love it.) I was very excited, Karen Blixen being a personal heroine and here I was, about to quite literally ride in her footsteps. My horse was bloody gigantic. I am not. She definitely had racehorse blood. Our safari was supposed to take an hour. It ended up closer to four. There was rather more razor wire than I remember from the film. The guide got completely lost as the recent rains had caused sudden growth of the bush, so all the paths had disappeared. My horse jumped a gorge and left my host and guide on the other side as we galloped uncontrollably away, crashing through spiky undergrowth, caught by trailing thorns. My host speaks Swahili. The guide had a gun. I wasn't even carrying a lipgloss, much less a mobile phone. It turned out I was not made of the stern frontier-smashing stuff I once was. Somewhere along the way I had become a small, scared mummy on a sodding great horse who really, really wanted to go home.
It didn't take that long to find me, covered in scratches and sunburnt. When I finally dismounted in the yard, my knees buckled with either shock or relief and to my shame, I burst into tears. Dr M stuck a filthy great drink in my hand and they all looked the other way while I Bloody Well Bucked Up.