The Nairobi Club is surrounded by high block walls topped with razor wire. Within the walls there is a colonial building that backs onto a cricket pitch, tennis court and bowling green. The corridors and furnishings are reminiscent of a time when white gentlemen would have swirled tumblers of scotch and twirled the corners of their moustaches as they discussed “the natives”. As an Australian, I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable in these imperialistic surrounds but I can appreciate it for the story it tells.
The large communal sitting areas would have been grand in their day. Royal blue armchairs have been placed around dark wooden coffee tables in the upstairs lounge. Downstairs, leather lounges and dark furniture fill a space that opens out onto a garden adjoining the cricket pitch. It’s easy to imagine gentlemen of old sitting here in their whites at the end of a triumphant day with bat or ball. International broadsheet newspapers lay on large tables, their spines bound by long pieces of timber. A library takes up two large rooms. Some books date back to the early 19th Century. When I wake early due to the time difference, I peruse an old Kenyan Atlas that was published in the mid-1950s. The library comes complete with librarian and an old-fashioned box of borrowing cards, similar to those I used in primary school.
Our room is simple but comfortable. There are two single beds, some tattered and worn fabric-covered armchairs, a television on an old wooden table, built in wardrobe that I don’t open and a bathroom in which the water pressure is best described as barely adequate. Other than waking early, I sleep well and feel much more alive than I did when we arrived.