wetwool

because you never forget that funny smell

Month: June 2015

Collision Course

So earlier this afternoon I was standing by the bus stop waiting for the number 10 when a young lady emerged from a side street pushing a baby buggy in a bit of a hurry, nearly running into the old lady who stood in front of me.

“Hey! Look where you’re going.” Said the woman. “There could have been a collision.”

The young mother mumbled an apology without pausing in her mobile phone conversation and hurried off.

It struck me at the time that the baby in the buggy seemed rather large. I mused that perhaps the near-miss had been caused by the fact that it must have been quite a mission for the petite mum to control this heavy buggy with one hand as she came down the very steep hill. I dreaded to imagine what nature of a collision would have happened had the lady tripped on a paving stone, say, and let go of the buggy for a second……Our bus stop is at the junction of a very busy road.

It has often been said that you hear a new word one day and then you find that for the next few hours and days you are coming across the same word so many times. The same thing happens when you buy a car, dress or jacket. Suddenly you find that the whole world is full of cars, dresses and jackets just like yours but you had never noticed. Today’s word of the day was Collision. When I switched on the telly at Rubina’s flat later in the evening there was this wonderfully boring science programme about mechanics, velocity, motion and all things collision.

Don’t get me wrong when I say boring. I enjoyed the show. I really loved physics way, way back in my school days. The principal reason was one bright scholarly girl: Condoleezza Ajiambo. She was the light of the class, no… the light of our school. She demolished the old (silly and somewhat chauvinist) ideas of a less enlightened age and inscribed in every school boys heart at the time that smart girls were nerds and Beauty X Brains = K. Condoleezza was consistently top of the class. She was clever, witty and very pretty and had what is sometimes referred to as a heart of gold; she was a gracious soul. Everyone liked to be near her and every night I said a prayer for the physics master because he had instructed me, the slowest kid in the group, to sit next to Miss Ajiambo in the physics lab.

The master himself was something of a phenomenon. Back then the older kids joked that he had taught Einstein most of what he knew. I believed them. The guy suited the part of the nutty professor perfectly. In his lab he was King. If you asked him a question he would swing round on his heels, and armed only with a piece of chalk he did battle on the black board producing obscure (to us) characters. He would tweak them here, cross-out there and adjust there and in a few minutes he would derive another masterpiece of an equation.

One morning, after another satisfactory equation exhibition, Master asked if there were any questions. Ms Ajiambo, or Condi, as we called her stood up and asked “So Master, how do you think this world will end?”

The physics master smiled, pulled out another piece of chalk and said, “There are many ways in which the world can end but my favourite ones are as follows”

He swung on his heels turning to face the board and wrote:

1 The sun burns itself out, suddenly like the flash in a camera so that the earth has no source of energy and life, as we know it ceases to exist.

2 A most powerful volcanic eruption that would crack the earth’s core killing most life on the planet.

3 My worst case scenario is the very probable prospect of an unstoppable body moving fast and colliding (that word again) with an immoveable body, (our planet)

heavenly bodies

The master went on to explain that outer space was full of debris from the break up of larger heavenly bodies, asteroids and such like. This debris travelled across space at “astronomical speeds” and If even one such body say about a quarter of the size of our moon was to crash into the earth…….He painted a scene of devastation of cataclysmic proportions and concluded by saying that even now as we spoke there were many objects hurtling through the universe, faster and faster on a collision(Ha!) course with our planet. Impact was most certainly assured. It was simply a question of when, not if, this would happen.

Astronomical

Much time has passed in between and over the years we lost touch with one another. Sometimes, I do wonder what I would ask the master today. What about Condi? If I met her today I think I should like to ask her whether she might agree with me that there is a new unstoppable object sweeping rapidly across the planet, almost as fast as the moon’s shadow racing across earth during an eclipse.

This object is on a deadly collision course with the rest of humanity. I describe the rest of humanity as the immoveable object today because it is totally oblivious to the nature of the threat that it faces. The rest of humanity has no response and watches in awe and confusion as killing and maiming, raping and beheading, burning and looting rages in almost every continent.

Last week’s attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait drew swift condemnation and anger coming as they did in the Holy month of Ramadan but like numerous attacks in Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and other countries, tough talk about tightening security, punishing the perpetrators and the all important War on Terror do nothing to hide the most inconvenient truth of today: We don’t know where or how the next attack will be carried out. Like the physics master’s dire warning it is just a question of when.

What happened to the King’s gold

I have never felt comfortable writing a post on birthdays, whether past, present or future. Perhaps it is the random streak of shyness within me that made me ask: What merit can there possibly be in one shouting out that they are another year older?

Now all this was before I read the numbers game which is a beautifully engaging post celebrating life and a making a play on the number that is one’s age. Notice how every birthday one is obliged to pick a new number: 20, 25, 30, 45, 50, 55. And yet they are the self same individuals. No wonder someone important once said that age is just a number. What does it feel like to be 39? or 89?

I did not have to wait too long for my next birthday treat. I came across a post which can be called Just do it. I got my teeth into this excellent high velocity, energetic post as it cruised along at about mach 5. The theme here: goals and achievements. There is no time like the present for one to push the boundaries and realise their true potential. Tomorrow might be too late

I allowed these ideas to percolate in my mind as I searched high and low for my final birthday offering which suddenly appeared one day in the shape of Father Time.
It was a wonderful evaluation of the changes that had taken place in the past year. Time was the theme as the title suggests. What had changed as the hands of time had made their revolutions around the clock- face? A coming of age type of story.

After reading these 3 pieces I had clearly experienced an instant radical change of perception.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I woke on Tuesday morning with a start. My breath came in quick, short gasps. It was as though I had been running for a bus in my last dream. I glanced over at the alarm clock by the bedside. It read 05:33, a whole twelve minutes before my alarm was due to go off. My body shook in silent laughter in the darkness as I recalled an old saying: why keep a dog and then bark yourself?

I got up from the bed and opened a window. The air in my bedroom was stale, reminding me of boiled cabbage, rotten eggs and bad drains. Perhaps I should have given that cold mutura at the pub a miss last night, I thought gravely. I moved about the room with a dangerous, lithe spring in my step. Today was my birthday.

I quickly shaved, showered and moisturised, and twenty minutes later I was locking the front door. I stopped by the early morning kiosk to pick up a paper, a bag of peanuts, some tissues and a bottle of water. I ran recklessly across the street to catch a mat bound for the city.

I arrived at the office to discover that the others were all there. My general plan was to not say anything. I did not expect them to remember what day it was and I was not going to tell them. Why should I tell them it’s my birthday? They’d probably think I’m desperate for cards, prezzies and stuff. I would pretend it was just a normal day.

Babu was looking over some papers at the receptionist’s desk. He glanced up at me when I entered and grunted a greeting. The photocopier man, standing nearby handed me a box of toner to take to the cupboard and promptly disappeared. As I walked along the corridor to my office I noticed Commander Ruby accepting and signing for a package from a delivery man. She saw me and casually placed a newspaper over the package on the desk. She came to the door, said hello and pressed an empty coffee cup into my hand, asking if I was going to the kitchen. I said hi, declined the coffee cup and went into my office. I shut the door in despair, disappointed that not one of my work mates had even though for a moment about the significance of this great day.

The day wore on. It was busy as normal. There were clients to see, emails to reply to and phone calls to return. Before I knew it it was 5.45 and time to disappear. Rubina was just getting back from the courts. She asked me to wait, saying she had a present for me. She had managed to obtain a wonderful film for my birthday. It had been delivered today. Her plan was that we should go back to my place and watch it. She also presented me with a beautiful birthday card and a lovely brand new copy of Okot P’Biteks, Song of Lawino.

I was ecstatic. Rubina had come through. I wondered what to do about my other forgetful colleagues but when I stepped outside the building, I discovered they had all gone home.

Rubina had gone to fetch her car from that dark and damp place, that is the basement of the building. She pulled up beside me and I jumped into the passenger seat. We went by her place where she offered me a coffee while she picked up some overnight things. We left almost immediately with Rubina negotiating the city roads with considerable skill. It was quite dark now. A few moments later we had arrived at my flat in South B. As we got out of the car we were giggling with excitement. We had managed to outfox the rest of the work colleagues and now we could spend some quality time watching a good film all by ourselves.

Had I been a more conscientious fellow in my day to day domestic affairs I would have had the light bulb in the porch area, inside the front door, replaced months ago. Perhaps then I would have noticed that something odd was going on. As it happened this area at the front was in total darkness just like the rest of the house.

I opened the door to the sitting room. What happened next was the last thing that I would have expected that evening.

“Surpriiiiise !! Came the loud shout of about twenty or thirty voices all at once as they switched on the lights. They had all been lying in wait, in the darkness. Somebody turned on the music nice and loud and Babu came up and hugged me as he gave me a present. Someone else put a drink in my hand and slapped me cheerfully on the back. I looked at Rubina. Her face was like a blank sheet of paper. It was impossible to say whether she had been in on the joke or not. I said to her, “Looks like we’ll have to watch the movie next time. What film did you get, by the way?”

She smiled and took out a package from her coat pocket. It was the very same one that I had seen Commander Ruby signing for in the office earlier that day.

“Happy birthday Woolie.” said Rubina and the Commander in unison as I ripped away at the wrapping paper. I finally got to the DVD. It bore the bold initials of the National Archaeological Unit. The title of the film was “What happened to the King’s gold?”

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