For those of you who have read Burning Embers, today I thought I would explore the hero, Rafe, in a little more depth. I’ve interviewed him soon after Coral moves to Kenya and first meets Rafe. I hope you enjoy learning more about this character.
- 1. Good afternoon, Rafe. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in French Guinea, but spent most of my childhood in France. I moved back to Africa, to Kenya, when I was an adult, and now I am an entrepreneur. My main business ventures are my nightclub, The Golden Fish, and my sisal plantation. Today it is one of the leading sisal plantations in Kenya, I am proud to say. Most of the ropes and agricultural twine in Kenya are made from our plants, as well as insulation for houses and countless other things.
- 2. What are your dreams for the future?
As the French poet Anatole France put it, ‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows’. I don’t think much of the future. For a man like me, there is little point looking forward, laying plans, chasing dreams. I live in the now; in the shadows, I suppose you could say. I focus on my business activities mostly.
- 3. Your nightclub, The Golden Fish, is a favoured destination for Mombasa society. Tell us about the club – why you established it, what you love about it.
It’s a little slice of paradise – exotic, luxurious, decadent. The setting, on a cliff overlooking the ocean, is key to the dramatic effect. But the biggest draw is the dancing. I hire the very best sensual dancers to entertain visitors. Morgana, my lead dancer, can captivate a room within two bars of a song and a wiggle of her hip. I love to see people entertained, and stepping outside of mundanity to be transformed to another plain infused with beauty and poetry and sexuality. It’s spellbinding, magical.
- 4. You have a pilot’s licence and also fly hot-air balloons. What do you love about being in the air?
The freedom, first and foremost. The air is so fresh and exhilarating, and you feel akin to the birds. The view is a huge draw – to be able to look down on Africa, laid out before you in all its majesty, is a real privilege. You see parts of the wild country you could not see on foot, and you catch glimpses of animals running free, unhampered by fear of man. It’s simply breathtaking, and very humbling. As when, just a few years ago, the Americans first put a man on the moon, and we saw pictures of our planet from space, from the air, you look down on the land and realise you are just a small, insignificant part of great and mighty Nature.
- 5. A little bird tells me you’re a talented painter. From where did your love of painting originate?
My mother taught me, when I was a small boy. She painted, and we would spend days together on the beach, happily immersed in committing the ocean to canvas. In the evening, my father and our staff would judge our artworks and the winning painter would receive a prize. They were happy, carefree days, and I suppose painting transports me back to them.
- 6. You’ve previously led hunting expeditions. What are your views on hunting in Africa?
I don’t hunt any more. Hunting is no longer a fair sport. Too many bloodthirsty poachers who kill game for trophies, regardless of whether the animal is rare or not. I don’t want to see herds of animals depleted out of man’s selfishness and desperation to prove himself the stronger species.
- 7. How far do you integrate with native Kenyan cultures, such as that of the Maasai people?
With respect, is the simple answer. Their ways are different to our own, but no less informed by experience, skill and intelligence. If you show them respect, they will reciprocate. You don’t have to believe in all their customs – the superstition, for example, does not faze me – but you have to be mindful of the fact that these people have trodden the land of African much longer than my ancestors and me.
- 8. Sadly, you’re a widower. Are you open to the thought of falling in love again someday?
I don’t see that this is any of your business. Suffice it to say that I am not a lovestruck teenager keen to ride off into the sunset with a damsel on the back of my horse. Love is for those who have not seen life as I have, and been burned by it. Companionship and someone to scratch the lustful itch is the most I expect to achieve.
- 9. I hear a rather fetching young lady has moved into the neighbouring plantation, the daughter of your friend Walter Sinclair. Might sparks fly, do you think?
Absolutely. She seems very feisty, and very headstrong, and determined to be independent. She is young, but appears to be kind of heart and gracious. I am looking forward to getting to know her better. I think I shall invite her to dinner followed by an evening at my nightclub…