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(An elderly lady waits in the wings while the mixed race son of one of her proteges, BARACK OBAMA, aims for the presidency of the USA.)
The story of ELLA MACKAY begins in remote, intolerant 1953 Balnahuig, Scotland. EWAN CAMERON inspirational sole teacher of a school population of 35 brings the outside world to his pupils and he instils a sense of justice and an understanding of human diversity. His spectacular war wound and anecdotes are hard hitting. The views of 7 year old ISABELLA (later ELLA) are set in stone. Her defence of WEE ALLY symbolises her strength. Ella completes her education in Scotland resisting the influences which threaten to undermine Ewan's fine example and goes to teach in 1968 Post Independent Kenya - leaving her family traumatised.
She finds herself in a kaleidoscopic society of idealistic and enthusiastic colleagues, earnest African schoolchildren, neo colonials, frightened Asians, religious zealots, corrupt politicians and Pan African socialists.
Ella gets tangled up, via JOHN FRANCIS, the nephew of the assassinated Pio Gama Pinto, in a dangerous covert plan to prevent the assassination of TOM MBOYA popular possible successor to President JOMO KENYATTA.
(Ella is dragged forward briefly to 2006 by her nightmares)
She helps to save Mboya's life then later meets him at the home of GLORIA HAGBERG famous 'Granny of the Airlifts' of the 1960s. ... A huge secret is uncovered.
MIKE KILPATRICK who fosters Ella's love of African literature tempts Ella to consider a life on a farm in post colonial Kenya. His sister NAN, maimed during Mau Mau, pulls at Ella's heart strings.
The plot fast forwards to 2006/2007 where the story comes full circle with the reflections of an older Ella on how migration has and could contribute to cultural fusion and globalisation for the common good.
(Meantime Gloria Hagberg is watching events in USA. Will young Barack succeed?)
More about the characters.
Ella has ALWAYS been a people watcher and she has ALWAYS been fascinated by how DIFFERENT everyone looks. Why is there fair hair, brown hair and sandy hair in her family and WHY is she the only one with flaming red hair? She wants to travel the world and see all the different people and places there are to see. Her brother Jamie wants to stay at home. He's wondering how this gene thing works for dogs. His 'Ben' has one brown eye and one blue eye. 'How does it work for dogs, Mr Cameron?' That one stumps his teacher.
At Sinclair's Institution (for backward boys and forward girls) in the big village (or wee town if you like) of Altnabervie, Toffee Mac is leaning over his desk ( or his paunch is) hiding a new carving which reads TOFEE MAKS YE FAT. He looks a bit like the highland cow on the box of toffee that he's always eating and never offering anybody. Ella is about to get into a spot of bother ...
September 1968: First stop the Tea Hotel, one time haunt of white-only colonialists, but now, since uhuru, the visitors were a microcosm of desegregated Kenyan society, minus the hard-boiled mzungus who had either left the country or been bumped off during the Mau Mau rebellion. .........The young teachers .....were discovering that this was ...rich desegregated Kenyan society ...they'd already made a dent in the limited pay packet.