Traffic along State House Road was light for that time of the morning and Woolie’s niece eased her car carefully round the bend past St Andrew’s Church hugging the inside lane. She came to a stop just before the traffic lights. Woolie thanked her again. Looking quickly over his shoulder, he opened his door and got out of the car. He was just in time. The lights changed back to green and his niece took the left turn into Uhuru Highway heading off towards Westlands. Continue reading
On Monday there was a small article in the right hand column of page 3 in the Daily News that said “Police now believe that a faulty gas bottle was the cause of an explosion and fire that destroyed a house in Ruiru on Saturday night. One man was killed in the tragedy…”
It was 9.am when young Idris tapped softly at the bedroom door and walked into the dark room carrying the large breakfast tray. The stale smell of cheap Moroccan hashish hung in the air. He went to the bay window and slowly pulled back the heavy curtains. His master, eyes tightly shut, groaned and flung his legs about on the bed as bright sunlight poured into the room. Continue reading
It has been said that in settling on a name for their new-born child the lucky parents are handing over the first of many life tools to their child. The given name, distinguishing each one of us from all other individuals is something that most of us will make our own and take with us, wherever we go, for the rest of our lives. Continue reading
When a man opens a car door for his wife it’s either a new car or a new wife ~ Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh.
For as long as I could remember Tuesday evenings at the local had always been quiet. If you wanted a bit of peace or perhaps you’d planned to meet a friend or work client you could more or less guarantee a decent noise-free environment on Tuesdays. Continue reading
Aisha put away the letter and looked at her phone to see that it was 10:00 am. Almost time to leave. She folded a light jacket over her arm, picked up her back-pack and stepped out of her room. She walked down the corridor towards the front of the house. She stopped suddenly. The living room door was slightly ajar and she looked inside. Baba was there, still in dressing gown and woolly hat. Continue reading
As soon as I got onto the by-pass I realised that I had forgotten to call Rubina. I had meant to do it before I left Babu’s office, where I’d gone to meet him for a short briefing. The old man was not to be hurried. He had so much to tell me. When he had paused, 2 hours later, at the end of a rather funny anecdote, I seized my chance to escape – and failed to make the call.
I drove on towards her place anyway, hoping that she would be home. I turned off at their little neighbourhood shopping centre and stepped into Maria’s mini-mart where I picked up a bottle of wine and some bites. It was only seven-thirty but the sky was dark and moody. The trees swayed frantically in the wind which swirled around the car-park blowing leaves and litter across the asphalt. My trained eye spotted a bar at the far corner of the shopping centre. I would have a swift pint in there and call Rubina.
Half-an-hour later we were in Rubina’s kitchen cooking dinner. She had opened the wine and we were making chicken curry with rice. I offered to make a side dish of her favourite ML spinach and in retaliation she made me the tiniest ugali you have ever seen. This was to thank me, she said, for turning up unexpected. She was glad that I had come by and happy that we were making a proper supper to have together.
We were having a ball in the kitchen. There was so much to catch up on. I had been away on assignment in Mombasa and we had only exchanged short conversations and not much else. I knew that Rubina was currently very busy at work and when she had called me one evening saying she had something rather important to tell me, I had asked her if it could wait until I got back to Nai. I would see her when I came for the office briefing. So here we were.
The meal was a success. I could have done with a larger ugali but Rubina’s coconut milk rice was an excellent substitute and it went very well with the chicken. I asked her why that chicken tasted so different from other currys that she had made in the past.
“I used a special ingredient.”, she said. “Lemon grass. It makes all the difference.” She stood up to clear the table and I topped up our glasses with the last of the wine. She washed and I dried, like they do on tv and when that was done we retired to the living room.
I was surprised to see the floor covered in papers and things. It looked like the contents of two drawers had been chucked all over the floor.
‘Ooops! Oh dear, I forgot about this, Woolie. Ha. Please excuse the mess; this is what I was sorting when you called. I totally forgot about it. Come sit here on this seat.”
“It’s ok, Rubina. Ha. I thought you’d been burgled! I can help you tidy it away, if you like.”
I started to pick up some documents when she reached out and took them, grabbing a whole load more from the floor.
“No no….Look…..this is my mess. I’ll sort it, thank you.” Rubina was getting somehow flustered, and I stepped back.
That was when some of the stuff that she held in her hands slipped and fell, and at the top of the pile was her passport.
“Are we going somewhere?” I asked, picking up the little blue book and turning the pages.
“If you look carefully, you will note that that’s is my Old passport. I was looking for my New one in order to make sure that it was in date.” Rubina said, putting some of the papers in order. She was obviously agitated by the thought that her passport may be lost. I picked up the remaining papers and together we put them away in the drawers.
“Try and think when you last had your kitabu.” I said, hoping to jog her memory. Rubina did not travel abroad much and I was struggling to remember myself. Was it that time during the floods?
Rubina left the room with the two drawers full of papers.
As I idly turned the pages of the expired passport, I noted the message on page 4 which read:
PASI HII INAWEZA KUSAFIRIWA KATIKA NCHI ZOTE ZA JUMUIYA YA MADOLA NA ZA KIGENI
It was also translated into English
THIS PASSPORT IS VALID FOR ALL PARTS OF THE COMMONWEALTH AND ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES
EXCEPT THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
The bit about not travelling to SA had subsequently been deleted on the document, following the first multi racial elections: a culmination of the freedom struggle, the arrival of the age of democracy and a new South Africa, with the great Madiba Nelson Mandela as its first president.
I marveled at the idea of how one was making a political statement every time one took a passport to travel abroad. Today’s passports do not have this message and I would be interested to know of other exclusions that may have been placed on passports and over the years.
After a while Rubina returned to the living room. She was wearing a bright red dressing gown. She carried a pale cream duvet and some blue pillows. She placed the bed things on the sofa and said “You shouldn’t really drive home tonight. There’s a storm brewing and you’ve had a lot of wine. I think I’ll just make us some hot drinks, then I’ll try and have an early night.”
She went into the kitchen and a few moments later emerged with two large steaming mugs of milky cocoa. She placed mine on the small table near the sofa.
“Have a good night, Woolie”, she said, offering me her cheek. I kissed it lightly and said good night in a voice that I barely recognised. Now I watched as she flowed out of the room, in the red gown. I heard her bedroom door close, putting that final full stop to the evening.
I wondered what it was that she had wanted to tell me as I slowly drifted to sleep……….
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)
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.
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.
It was just over a month ago that The Daily Mirror newspaper in the UK published what it referred to as an apology to “all its victims of phone hacking”, saying that voice mails on certain people’s phones were unlawfully accessed “some years ago”.
Image from The Guardian
The open apology continued: “It was unlawful and should never have happened and fell far below the standards our readers expect and deserve.
“We are taking this opportunity to give every victim a sincere apology for what happened.”
This was the first time that a newspaper that was not part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International had admitted to the phone hacking of voice mails, thus acknowledging what the Counsel representing claimants against Mirror newspapers had asserted: The hacking that took place at Mirror Newspapers was done on an Industrial scale; far bigger than anything that took place at the News of The World, which was closed down following hacking scandals.
There is clearly the sense of a desperate need to bring this sorry state of affairs to a swift conclusion. The Mirror Group has put aside a huge compensation fund to settle with the claimants. The media council and government continue to look into measures that can be taken to ensure that this sort of scandal does not happen again.
That is all very well. They think they have taken care of it with their multi-million pound compensation fund and their contrite words of apology. Idiots! The foolish press journalists, reporters and owners do not realise that sweet words and pound notes cannot undo the damage and the hurt that their illegal hacking of private messages caused to so many individuals.
The newspaper reports of these crimes continue to refer to the victims as ‘mostly celebrities’, almost as if this would be a justification for the gross invasion of privacy that took place.
We have now heard from the ‘celebrities’ themselves. It makes one think. Personal statements read out in court by the claimants shed light on the anguish and heartbreak that was caused by this shameless activity by the newspapers.
We have read statements from a former coach of the England team, a former footballer who has battled for years with alcohol abuse, we have heard from stars in the world of TV and Cinema. Each of their stories follows a similar pattern. They would read stuff in the newspaper which they had only shared with someone close. Stuff that they, and we, would consider private, which perhaps they had spoken about at a vulnerable moment in their lives. The effect too was the same. We would all have reacted in the same way wondering whom it was amongst the people that we cared about that was selling our private information to the papers. Suspicions, mistrust and breakdowns were inevitable.
So, how well do we as individuals guard information that we receive by virtue of our ‘privileged positions?’ Can you keep a secret? If a friend told you something interesting, something that you thought other readers would love, would you be tempted to share, sell or publish their story? Please don’t, my friend. That would be a betrayal. Just like that of those idiot reporters.
You have heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is used so frequently now that we accept it as a basic truth. It is almost a statement of fact like: The world is round. My own understanding is a simple one; that a picture can tell a story far better than a whole load of descriptive text.
This post is about a picture. You may have seen this picture, read about it or even seen a video about the events of the day that the picture was taken. To avoid issues of copyright I cannot post it here but nothing says I cannot tell you what has happened since. In any event you have the picture imprinted in your mind.
You may recall how a few weeks ago a well known politician was enjoying a lovely dance with his supporters when a man in the crowd got up waving a kiboko. The disciplinarian villager whacked the leader a couple of times before security personnel could restrain him. Nobody was seriously hurt during the bizarre drama and as it happened the incident made great news as a comedy piece drawing hilarious comments on social media.
The political leader graciously forgave his cane attacker asking for all charges against him to be dropped and the matter was soon forgotten. Or was it?
The man with the cane incident was like a small pebble that is thrown into a quiet pool. Ripple waves spread out in all directions from the centre touching the lives of many people in a way that nobody would ever have imagined.
Dear reader today it gives me great pleasure to present a conversation with Alex, The blogger of Kai ni kii fame. This special interview was recorded live using the wonders of modern science. So without further ado, to The conversation.
Alex, hi there!
You run a very popular site on the Kenyan blog scene Kai ni Kii.