March 11 - 17, 1994


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek -- The recent death in London, U.K., of Barry Allen must have come as something of a relief to his numerous friends in Kenya.

A pale shadow of his former self he had until the last minute bravely battled in a hopeless and humiliating struggle against a protracted and painful illness.

In his prime Barry was both a glamorous and gifted individual.

He brought huge helpings of life and laughter to his amused (and, let's admit it, often 'amazed') relatives and relations scattered across three continents.

Born and brought up in East Africa - including four years' at the Prince Of Wales School, Nairobi - he spent much of his childhood on the Kenya Coast, which provided him with a rare and remarkable knowledge of its more interesting inhabitants and its most fascinating and private places.

Coastweek -- Barry Allen back from deep-sea fishing off the 'Blue Lagoon' Watamu beach 1968.

Handsome, athletic and profligate with his easy-going charm his was a charismatic combination of good looks and captivating personality.

He was an early resident to discover that exotic and secret magic of living and loving in Malindi - the 'milieu' of perhaps the happiest and most memorable years of his life.

Consequently he was occupied at various times as:

  • a professional fisherman,

  • an excellent architect,

  • a skilled boat builder,

  • a peripatetic 'discotheque' proprietor,

  • a short-order housing contractor,

  • a capable steel fabricator and

  • a very knowledgeable deep-sea diver.

His emotional contact with animals was always kind and secure: it was with people that his feelings were sometimes fatally flawed - he could be an often unreliable and even irascible individual.

Those who were 'intimately aware' might further recall him as being 'a very generous but amoral person'.

Coastweek -- Barry
boat building
in Malindi 1969.

The late North Coast poet Francoise Arned had lost her heart (and her common sense) some forty years' earlier in a torrid love affair with his amorous uncle.

From her retirement home in Lamu she recounted the unrequited incident in a trenchant piece entitled "Love of a Gypsy" - its message also rings true for Barry:

With promises of heaven in his eyes,
All the bliss of this Earth in his cheering smile,
On his skin, the warmth of a tropical sun:
But pass on, for those are the charms
Of a Gypsy.

He may say he will show you his kingdom.
Love you for ever. Gather a bunch of stars
For you, and tie them with a misty rainbow;
But pass on, for those are the lies
Of a Gypsy.

Sure! His kisses will burn you for ever.
For his gifts and happiness of an instant
You will lose peace on earth and eternity;
For he will only give the love
Of a Gypsy.

But those of us who were privileged to know Barry at his best also fondly remember him as an absorbing raconteur, a man always voracious in his lust for life, and a seriously colourful companion.

In later years Barry moved abroad and 'dabbled' in the 'import-export business' with varying degrees of success.

It included a frantic and furious intercourse of small boats out of Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco.

One story goes that 'his face was remodelled' on London's Chelsea Bridge by two drunken 'Skin Heads' who kicked him senseless with their 'bovver boots'.

His final months of frequent facial surgery and financial dependency must have been particularly awful and distressing for such a vivid and forceful character.

However, to the very end he apparently maintained a robust sense of humour and grimly joked about his appalling prospects.

His death leaves a curious mixture of loss and yet release that his seemingly inexorable suffering is now over.

Perhaps the English poet John Donne shared a similar sentiment when he wrote:

No man is an lland, intire of it selfe;
Every man is peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

If a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
As well as if a promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were;

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.




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