(I have just returned from two weeks in Kenya, and before post anything else about the trip, here is something I wrote while I was out there…)

I lay down my novel about a young diplomat in South Africa and allow my eyes to flick across the garden below the balcony where we sit. Caleb, a fairly new security guard, is stooped over, swinging a sort of scythe across the dusty lawn. Dust is raised and the lawn thinned. The push mower doesn’t work, I was told, though I doubt Caleb would have used it if it had. His tool is a two foot long strip of metal with a handle at one end and a slightly angled blade at the other that was regularly sharpened using a file that he held in his free hand, itself casually resting behind his back.

Caleb himself is of medium height and solid build. His muscular arm flicks the blade back and forth rather gracefully, throwing uprooted tufts of grass to the left and right. He likes to garden.

With every coming and going through the newly painted red gate (solid iron with a peep hole) Caleb leaves his gardening and hurries to open up. He grins whenever we pass through but otherwise keeps to himself, excepting the time I asked him to show me the bow and arrows that he kept to aid in defending the small compound from any unwelcome visitors. When on his own he bears a solemn expression. Not unpeaceful, but tinted with a little sorrow.

Like the other guards that worked on the three compounds owned by this particular charity, Caleb works 12 hour shifts. He has been brought in recently to replace the guard killed in the post election unrest earlier in the year. A hole in the kitchen window from a stray bullet remains as a reminder of that time, as if any we’re needed.

Caleb disappears from view and reappears with a large machete that he uses to remove lower dead braches from some of the palm trees. He embeds the knife in the trunk of the tree and I flinched very slightly, imperceptibly.

A slight breeze ruffles some young banana trees, the thick glossy leaves of which were still lower than the balcony. A bunch of small green bananas cluster unpromisingly behind a closed red flower.

I am in Africa – Kisumu in west Kenya – and I am watching a maid carry a basket of washing to hang out on the line. She is Kenyan and has a wig on, a common practice for women here who wish to dress up a little. Like all the Kenyans I have met so far she shakes hands with a great beaming smile.

As I sit and look out over the balcony with Caleb using a machete and the black maid carrying a basket of washing, the associations – all second hand, from novels and films and UK media footage – come flooding in. All however are subdued by the peace and beauty of the place, and of the moment.