The foothills of the Aberdare ranges is the place we call Happy Valley. With all its historic and historical fame as home to romantic explorations and explosions, it is one of the coldest places in Mt Kenya region. This easily explains why it was only the British aristocracy of the queer Happy Valley fame who found fun in staging their historic love escapades in the thick forests, under the cover of frost. The geographical fact that sunny days are a rare occurrence this side means that natural acquisition of warmth becomes an obvious behavioural instinct for survival.
Yours truly is a son of the soil in Happy Valley, having been born, brought up and still surviving here; an Eskimo of Kenya. Growing up in Happy Valley is survival for the fittest and as the most travelled countrysider, by virtual of my Concorde, I am a moving encyclopaedic eskimologist. To survive in the freezing weather, the countysider’s wear is, for all practical purposes, an astronaut’s wardrobe.
Allow me, in the interest of the ‘ladies first’ mantra, to start with Queen’s wardrobe. A disclaimer, however, is in order from the word go. First, the Happy Valley woman’s sense of fashion is a study in the absence of taste and class. Secondly, only mtumba clothes from the original Eskimos have a pride of space in the open market boutique. To her, health and life supersedes fashion.
Queen’s legs are ever housed in thick woollen socks that go up to the knees, mostly the green in colour that is handed down by some military from Greenland. Then she wears heavy woollen leggings, mostly black in colour. Black colour absorbs and retains warmth, a scientific fact that Queens of Happy Valley understand so well. Below the knees anatomy is crowned with heavy boots with a woollen lining from inside. The closer to the knee the boot is the better.
Queen’s dress is a compulsory dungaree, reaching down to the ankle. Above the waist is a thick pullover on top of which is an overcoat with a woollen lining inside. Above the neck is a woollen cap. Granted, Queens are not regulars at the salon. They, however, maintain a ceremonial wig worn on Sundays, during Christmas, and on rare outings outside Happy Valley region, either for a wedding, dowry payment function or a funeral. On these necessary outings, her handbag is a big leather thing with metallic straps. That is Happy Valley for you.
On the other hand, the man of the ridges is the more comical one, for lack of a better term. Starting from down there are long heavy woollen socks worn in the compulsory gumboots. Every man in this valley owns gumboots as a compulsory part of his daily wear. No other type of shoe can survive the Happy Valley terrain. For the trouser, leather covering with a woollen lining is a must- have. Above the waist anatomy is where the story is. A shirt does not exist in his vocabulary. Instead, he is in a pull neck, followed by a pullover, a hood and the story ends with an overcoat with woollen lining inside. To top it off, a warm marvin hat that has only tiny holes for the eyes and the mouth.
You must have seen this ‘space pilots’ when they alight from the unmistakable green Tulaga mini buses at Koja bus stage in Nairobi. Though they could be easy target by pickpockets and conmen, their astronaut’s gear is an immediate scare to any would-be attacker. They go about their business in the streets of Nairobery without a care in the world. And that is the heritage that yours truly is a proud descendant of.
For the sake of bedroom manners, I will not speculate whether the countrysider has a separate set of sleeping garments. But common and accepted wisdom this side has it that night dresses and pyjamas start and end with the lucky few to go to secondary boarding schools. For the rest of us, the heavily clothed one is the better for health and life’s sake.
That is the clotheology of the people of Happy Valley, and when they tend to blindly copy the behaviour of the ‘white mischief’ that gave Happy Valley its fame, it is not necessarily for lack of any other form of entertainment, like some ignorant people have claimed. This behaviour is necessitated by basic survival instincts. I rest my case.
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