wetwool

because you never forget that funny smell

Category: weather (page 1 of 2)

Acquitted

“ Wait,” said Richard, “First click on the call tab. We might need to check the mic and speaker settings.”

“Translate that into English, will you.” said Babu. But Richard Kamba was busy punching several keys at once on the keyboard. He clicked on something else and looked at Babu saying, “That should do it. Try and call again.” Babu clicked on the call button and they all heard a sound, just like a phone ringing, on the other side.

“But….what if it’s in the middle of the night? She wouldn’t like that.” said Woolie. Kamba immediately disconnected the call. Nobody had bothered to check what the time would be in Toronto. Continue reading

They have destroyed a good name

Land of the Free

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

Christmas cheer and small talk

Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!

Frosty

I am writing this on December 29th 2014 and I think that if I hear that greeting one more time I will do someone an injury. But no,seriously, what is it about the end of the year that makes it the season for small talk? I wish people would just stop being so……fake! 🙁

Check it out : There are people whom we never talk to all through the year. I am not talking about total strangers, so stop shaking your head. I mean work colleagues, people from my local, my street, my estate, my neighbourhood. I also mean estranged family members – people who barely acknowledge one another for eleven months of the year. Suddenly come Christmas week and hey they are all smiles and politeness, with good wishes for the season, asking if you are all ready for Christmas….and then, after the event asking if you had a good one. Everybody being kind to one another. How nice. Ptuh! If I wasn’t made of sterner stuff I would ask for a bucket!

Don’t get me wrong now. I am not a Scrooge and I love Christmas like everyone else (perhaps not always for the right reasons). I find the religious celebrations and the coming together of family and friends most enjoyable. Christmas comes but once a year but who says we can’t we spread this politeness and kindness across the whole of the year?

And the other thing that got me itching today. What is it about people and small talk? I am always amazed at how people behave when they meet others for the first time. We seem to have an unwritten protocol that states: make everything and everybody awkward.

Humour me for just a moment here. You meet someone for the first time at a big house party and the busy host/ess is not nearby to do the formal introductions. How do you break the ice? For kids in a playground in all their innocence nothing could be easier. They just ask “What is your name?” Could you simply ask someone for their name? I’d love to see you try. What about those funny types that like to ask directly what one does for a living. It tickles me no end.

So the small-talk continues. You ask the stranger, “Did you have to come far?” or even “What did you think of…( insert some inane subject that will not offend on the grounds of religious, cultural, gender or ethnic sensibilities) And on it goes. We have become a mobile nation as peoples from every corner of this great republic live, work and more recently party together. So we speak about the weather and the shortage of green peas, the traffic and the cost of petrol and leaving small children with suspect nannies. Bleh You wonder why people are constantly consulting their watches and smart phones?

I don’t know if, like me, you are unbelievably hopeless at remembering people’s names. How do you honestly tell someone with whom you are having a conversation and has already referred to you by name that you can’t remember their name. Most awkward. It happens. A third party, a friend of yours, say, suddenly comes over, and wait for the introductions. Put yourself in their shoes. Have they forgotten me because I am a random, inconsequential person.

I learned a trick this Christmas, how to get out of that one unscathed. All you do is say to the person, “So sorry, I forgot your name..” Making sure to use healthy gestures and body language, eg. pointing to your head like you’re a bit eccentric (screw loose). The person will say “Mariah” with all the dignity that she can muster. Now you, in your most charming voice say, “I knooow that silly, what’s your suuuurrrrnaaame!” Try it, really… it works!

The closing year has been one of achievement and tragedy. The best nature of man was shown as each day health workers from around the world joined their colleagues in Sierra Leone and Liberia to treat and care for victims of Ebola. The evil that we are capable of carrying out is also playing itself everyday as al shabab, islamic state, boko haram, and other misguided religious bigots wage a bogus war at home and abroad.

As we give thanks for the blessings of 2014. I wish you a very happy, safe and excellent new year. Enjoy the song again. 🙂

The keys

For Kabura.

It was about 1818 that a man from Winchester started a locksmith business in the English Midlands’ town of Wolverhampton. For Charles Chubb and his family the business grew rapidly and over time they became the biggest supplier of locks and keys in the British Empire.

Woolie had often wondered at the two words Chaabi and Chabi both related and meaning ‘key’ in Urdu and Hindi respectively. He was curious to know how many other languages used a form of the word Chubb in reference to keys. Continue reading

A stormy night part one

It was the night of the storm. The squally rain was beating against the windows with such ferocity that the curtains on the inside were blowing about. Flashes of lightning lit up the black sky momentarily and these were followed by rolling thunder in the distance. The wind blew against the house howling and screaming like a creature in agony. My heart was grateful for the warm log fire.

As I sat listening to the violent battle going on outside the tragic events of the previous winter came back to mind. Exactly one year ago I had travelled down to Portsmouth at the beginning of the month for an important training fortnight organised for the heads of department in our region. The company had an office block beside the old Railway Station where the seminars took place. Our sleeping accommodation was in a middle-of-the-road family run hotel close to the docks on the other side of town. The company had paid for bed and breakfast but nearly everybody went out for dinner.

On the third evening I was too tired to go out. I thought perhaps I would check out the hotel kitchen to see what they had to offer. I was just making my way across to the restaurant when to my enormous surprise I spotted a friend seated on a high stool at the bar. What a coincidence? He had not seen me. He was gulping his whiskey as he stared at his reflection in the bar mirror in front of him.

‘Vipi Blue!’ I said in greeting. He turned quickly on hearing his name.

‘Woolie? Wacha! What are you doing here?’ He asked. He grabbed my right hand in both of his. His eyes were red, and it was not due to the Jameson.

‘Could ask you the same, I guess. We are both far from home. It’s been ages bwana. When did you come down here?’

‘I’ve been here all day, mzee. I am in mourning.’ He signalled to the barman who asked me what I was drinking.

‘What are you talking about, Blue? Kwani who has died like?’ I asked him. I was getting a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Blue is a real friend – almost definitely my best friend. We are like one. We think alike and act alike and share so many things in common that some acquaintances have mistaken us for brothers. It does not help that we look so much alike. In the crazy world of insurance you learn very early to seek a mentor and role model. Blue appointed himself as my mentor many years ago and he taught me everything that I know. If there is any single aspect about the insurance industry that Blue does not know – it is not worth knowing. I have learned much and achieved wonderful success in the this industry thanks to my association with Blue.

My buddy was the most successful salesman in the south-east region in his day. A charismatic, skilled and extremely charming salesman he had earned himself a small fortune when decided to retire and try his hand at life coaching. He was doing very well at this too.

We decided to leave the bar area and find a quiet table where we could talk. The flat screen tv on the wall opposite was tuned to a 24-hour news channel. The volume had been turned down. Blue was watching the news intently now. There were pictures of a large ferry that had capsized in the high seas. The caption read ’20 passengers still missing.’

Blue took up the story. The ferry from Broadmoor Island had set off on its six hour crossing with 8 cars, 2 lorries and 25 passengers and crew just after midnight. A sudden violent storm had whipped up midway through the crossing and despite the crews’ efforts the ferry had gone down in the high seas. No survivors had been found so far.

Blue had come to Portsmouth to meet a passenger coming over from the island on this ferry which should have docked just after 06.00 am. News of the tragedy had spread in the dock area long before it was picked up by the news wires. He could not believe his ears. The ferry bearing his love and all his hopes for the future had gone down. It could not be possible. The news was simply unbearable.

I needed to know more. So I asked Blue: Who was this lady? How long had they been together? What was she doing at Broadmoor Island.

It was in a voice heavy with sorrow that Blue explained how he had met this beautiful young lady online. Blue of course was single. She told him that she was single too but was under the care and guardianship of her ‘benefactor’ She said that she would explain it all to him when they finally met. All she would say was that he was controlling and very jealous. They had spoken at length and made real plans for the future. Blue had found his soul mate. I asked what the ‘benefactor’ business was all about. Blue said that the way she explained it he was someone who had once helped and supported her in the past and was now holding it against her. Some kind of emotional blackmail. He did not want her to leave, ever! They all lived in a big manor house on the Island. The benefactor, his wife and kids, Blue’s lady friend and a host of domestic staff who worked and lived in the manor. Blue looked at me with a pained expression and said how in life we only got one shot at being truly happy. He felt inside himself that this was a chance of a lifetime.

It had been proposed between the two of them that the lady would steal away from the manor the very first moonless night so that she could make her way down to the harbour under the cover of darkness. She would have previously purchased a ticket for the ferry crossing. Blue would be waiting for her in Portsmouth harbour and upon her arrival they would make their way to London where they would lie low before setting off for Kenya to start a new life together. Blue told me with tearful eyes that they had been hatching these plans on emails and phone calls over the past seven months.

We talked through the night in my hotel room. Blue’s lady had called him just before 11:00pm on the previous night to say that she was just about to leave the manor house. It was all systems go. That was the last he had heard from her. On hearing the bad news he had tried calling her cell-phone. It went unanswered. He tried it again and again until eventually a message came through saying that the subscriber was not available. Blue knew better. The phone must be at the bottom of the sea, he figured. He deleted her number from his phone. I know how to retrieve deleted numbers and unseen by Blue I copied it onto my phone.

I cancelled my training sessions in the morning and went back to London with Blue. He was in a bad way. We stayed at his flat. He was slowly coming to terms with the grieving process. One morning I asked him what he was going to do. He replied that he was still going to to relocate to Kenya. It had been his plan for the past seven months. The reality of his loss had sank in now and he felt that it was the right thing to do.

Blue stopped watching the news on tv or reading newspapers He said that he wanted to move on. He felt that the secondary emotions that he experienced whenever the news was on were not helping him.

It was Sunday. Blue was flying home today. At the airport we checked him in early so that we could have plenty of time at the bar. We sat and ordered our drinks. As I made a swift visit to the gents, I stopped to look at a newspaper on the stand. There was a picture of the ill-fated ferry on the front page. I read the report. My heart was pounding inside my chest and I thought it would burst open. Sea rescue and police had reported that they had now recovered the remains of all the victims of the ferry tragedy. There had been a single female who was a member of the crew. All the other passengers aboard the ferry that night had been male. Everything screamed to me that Blue’s lady had missed the ferry. But how does one explain the fact that he had not heard from her? I was weighing all this in my mind when Blue walked into the gents.

‘Chief, they’ve put out the last call, I better split.’ He looked really excited. I was not going to spoil that.

‘Look Blue, wewe nenda salama we’ll chat when you touch down.’

I watched as my friend went through departures. He did not look back once. When he was safely out of sight I whipped out my phone and dialled a number, It rang three times before it was answered by a young lady whose voice Blue would almost certainly have recognised.

‘Hello?’

‘Oga, Is that ma broda Harry-O?’ I asked.

‘I think you have the wrong number.’ Came the response.

‘I guess I have. Sorry.’ I hung up, deleted the number and went to look for my car.

A stormy and violent end to 2013

It is Tuesday 24th December 2013 and as I write these few lines violent storms are sweeping across the British Isles with high winds and heavy rainfall battering the country. The Met Office has issued ‘severe amber warnings’ forecasting extreme weather conditions for all parts of the country. Transport disruptions and localised flooding are expected. People are being advised not to travel ‘unless it is absolutely necessary’. Hello….It is Christmas eve.

The theme of violence takes a deadlier turn closer to home. Events of the past week in South Sudan have plunged the country into dangerous chaos and uncertainty. There are now reports coming in of ‘ethnic’ killings between the Dinka and Nuer communities. The AU and UN watch as Africa’s newest country totters towards a full scale civil war.

It would seem that 2013 may be remembered for all the wrong reasons. With the post election violence of 2007/8 at the back of everyone’s mind we went to the polls in April. The results were contested in the courts and the decision when it came was a slap in the face to a huge section of the electorate. For the sake of ‘peace’ we were all urged to accept and move on. Peace at any price.

Violence continued to rear its ugly head. The Westgate tragedy revealed the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our diverse society. The stories of people risking their lives to save others in the face of what they imagined was a huge terrorist attack. Kenyans helped one another regardless of race, class or creed. The long queues of blood donors and other volunteers giving freely of themselves gave a sense of pride to many Kenyans. We said to the world…”this is how we do it here…”

The inadequate response by our security apparatus, the failure of all security agencies to understand the nature of the terrorist threats facing our country and chaotic manner in which ‘the siege was ended’ revealed a disturbing level of incompetence by those charged with managing the situation. I will not say much about the looting by the KDF and the facts now emerging that there were no more than four attackers who probably all got away. I think we have had enough.

Something positive for 2013? Well the world bade farewell to a great man. It has been said that we will not see someone like Madiba for a very long time. Perhaps never.

Florence Kiplagat and Wilson Kipsang won the Berlin Marathon women’s and men’s races with Wilson setting a new marathon world record. The men’s race had an incredible top five finishers from Kenya. Beat that!

image from Bleacher Report

On that note may I take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas. May the new year bring your dreams and aspirations to fruition and may you keep your noble resolutions until February, at least.

an old friend

The noisy overloaded matatu pulled up at the side of the road to pick up a large lady in a red flowery dress. There were two big suitcases, a mattress and a small chicken cage by her side. Thomas took this chance to squeeze through the minibus and stepped off. The matatu with the new passenger and luggage duly loaded roared off in a cloud of smoke and dust. Thomas straightened his crumpled suit cursing softly. He realised that he had left his unread copy of the Nation with a fellow passenger. There was a small parade of shops just across the road. He needed some cold water after that dusty ride. From here one could see the four-storey building that housed the offices of Mali & Fumi accountants where he worked.

He stepped into a little shop which was surprisingly bright and airy. There were hardly any customers in the store. The cold beers at the refrigerated section looked particularly tempting but it was nine o’clock on a Monday morning. He picked up a large frosty bottle of water, found the newspapers and went up to the checkout. The young lady at the desk was looking at some paperwork. She put it down and turned to him and smiled. She said, ‘Hi, nice day today, isn’t it?’ Thomas nodded, smiling. She scanned his purchases quickly and put them in a bag. Thomas paid and took his change. He wished the lady a good day and walked out into the street.

Thomas worked through the day, not even stopping for lunch. With clients to see, phone-calls to make and heavy files to look at this took all day. He enjoyed all these aspects of his work. He considered himself very fortunate to be doing something that he truly loved. He knew he could easily be digging in some mine deep in the ground.  He had been acting in a temporary position ever since the senior partner, Abdul Fumi had gone off on sick leave.

At three-thirty, Mandy his secretary, came in with some letters for signing. She reminded him that he was using public transport and should start making a move if he wanted to avoid the evening crush – hour. Thomas picked up the phone and called Shira, the mechanic. The call was answered after a long while by a lady. It sounded as though she was at the horse races.. After a while Shira came to the phone. He apologised to Thomas and explained that he had come to see a customer whose car had broken down at Ngong. He assured Thomas that his car would be ready by the weekend. Another four days on the unpleasant matatus, thought Thomas.

At four o’clock Thomas pushed open the door to the little shop. He went to the cold section and picked up four beers. He knew he could easily have bought these closer to home. He glanced at the checkouts. There were three staff members working quickly to deal with the evening shoppers. There was a small office at the front of the shop. As Thomas waited in his queue the office door opened and lady from the morning emerged carrying a till tray. She opened a new checkout and Thomas moved quickly and was the second in her queue. She smiled at him as she scanned the bottles. ‘So have you just finished work?’ she asked him.

‘Yes. I am off home now. What time do you finish?’ Asked Thomas. He was aware of the people behind him in the queue and felt slightly embarrassed.

‘We close at nine o’clock. Here’s your change and see you again soon.’ She replied flashing Thomas her enigmatic smile once again. Thomas felt a warm glow in his heart as he left the shop.

Thomas’s wife opened the front door and relieved him of his shopping bag. As Thomas removed his shoes at the door she said, ‘That drunkard of a mechanic just called. Says you can pick up the car tomorrow afternoon.’

‘Oh but that is excellent news! Shira is a good man. Those matatus are a nightmare, bless them. Each journey to work is a struggle. Sometimes you meet the most amazing people, though.’ Thomas said.

Thomas was in a good mood when they later sat down to supper with his wife. The chef had prepared a lovely dish of Oxtail soup served with a soft, warm ugali and fresh leaf salad. They had fruit and ice-cream for dessert. After coffee they went into the living room and watched the evening news. An hour later Thomas watched as his beautiful wife sat at the dressing table applying moisturiser to her face and hands before she joined him in bed. He took her hands in his and said, ‘ I am truly a lucky man. His wife smiled and took a book from under her pillow.

Next morning Thomas stepped off the Matatu and crossed the road. He entered the shop and picked up a newspaper, an A4 writing pad, a bottle of water and a small jar of proper coffee. The stuff they served in the office tasted most unpleasant. The lady was alone at the checkouts looking at some paperwork. ‘Hello again, old friend’, she said, smiling in her unique way.

‘Hello, I bet you call everyone old friend.’ said Thomas as he placed his purchases on the band. ‘So what time do you open the store?’

“Seven o’clock, every morning sir.’ She said sweetly. ‘Do you work nearby?’

Thomas and the lady chatted for a while in the quiet shop but after about fifteen minutes or so morning shoppers started streaming in. Thomas took his leave and walked to the office with a spring in his step.

Thomas had been working in the office for about an hour when Mandy walked in followed by the lady from the shop. Thomas had not even noticed that he had left his shopping behind. He offered the lady a cup of decent coffee and she accepted. They had two coffees and all the time chatting about this and that. She took her leave and went back to the shop.

At two-thirty pm Mandy called the mechanic to confirm that the car was ready. They assured her that it was all ready for collection. When Thomas got to the garage he found that Shira had been true to his word. The car was purring beautifully and the mechanic had got his boys to give the car a complete valeting. He paid Shira and left a generous tip for the boys and went home. Supper that night was a delicate grilled Tilapia served on a bed of Coconut Rice the chef had made a steamed pudding with home-made custard. The evening went well and as Thomas and his wife retired to the bedroom. They talked of their forthcoming weekend trip to the upcountry farm

‘Daddy would like us to leave very early Friday morning. It is a six-hour drive, as you know.’ His wife said. ‘I am sure we will have a great time.’

Thomas was also looking forward to the trip. His father-in-law was a good man. He was the founder of Mali & Fumi accountants and had the most amazing analytical mind that Thomas had come across. Thomas expected to spend time discussing interesting accountancy ideas with this man whom he greatly admired and he said so to his wife.

Next morning Thomas drove himself to work. He stopped by the shop and picked up a newspaper and a bottle of water. The lady was not at the counter today. He asked the man who served him about this is a casual way but the man had no idea where the lady was. Perhaps it was her day off, he ventured. Thomas went on to the office. He noticed that Wendy had looked at his bottle of water with some interest. He got into his work but after going at it for an hour or so he realised that he was not making any progress. He called Mandy and explained that he was popping out for an hour.

At the shop there was no sign of the lady. The checkout girl who served him asked if he knew her name. He said he did not. She was genuinely apologetic that she could not help him. He learned that there were eleven girls who worked at the tills doing different shifts throughout the week. Thomas could not bear going back to work so he went home. He resolved to come back first thing in the morning. At home and idea came to his head. As the lady had come out of the office to open a new checkout he had noticed a huge poster on the office wall. There were photos of all the staff and management. He would ask about it tomorrow. That evening he could not eat. The beer tasted foul and the whiskey smelled like medicine. When his wife asked what the matter was he said they were fast approaching a deadline set by the Revenue Authority and it placed everyone under tremendous stress.

Morning could not come soon enough for Thomas. He showered and shaved and then sowed the seeds of a fresh domestic scandal by making his own tea. He drove to the shop getting there half an hour before opening time. As he sat in the car, waiting and watching he paused to consider his ridiculous situation. Here he was, married and successful. What business did he have stalking a a shop staff member who he had only met a couple of days before. This was utter madness. He started the car and drove down to the office.  He worked right through until five.

It was Friday morning. Thomas picked up his paper at the stand and got a bottle of water from the cold section. There was no sign of the lady at the till. As he was collecting his change the young man who had served him previously emerged from the office. ‘The manager asked me to give you this.’ He said handing Thomas a white envelope.

‘Thanks’. Thomas said, pocketing the envelope. He went straight to his office and shut the door. The envelope contained a single sheet of paper.

 

‘Dear Mr Mwoga,

I hope that all is well with you. As you read this I am no longer in Nairobi. I hoped to see you on Thursday but when you did not come into the shop I assumed that you were away. You had mentioned something about travelling upcountry with your family. I was working as a temporary relief manager at the store near your office. It took them a long time to find a suitable person but a new manager is now in place and I have come home to Taveta to be with my grand mother who is not very well. It was nice meeting you and I hope that someday I may repay your kind compliment of a decent cup of coffee. Stay well.

Your ‘old friend’

Alison’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Master’s Garden


…….later that afternoon when the sun had slipped lower the Master came out for a stroll in his lush gardens. Being so late in the season the trees were heavy with fruit and the air thick in natural fragrance. A small stream chuckled nearby as it flowed under the bridge. The hum of insects as they flew between the flowers accompanied the sweet birdsong from up above in the tall trees. Over in the fields the cattle and sheep swung their tails merrily as they grazed in the deep green grass .The Master saw all this and smiled. It was good.

sailing

The Master walked on a bit further and came to the edge of a vast escarpment. The Master did not come down this far very often. Down in the valley below a herd of humans were known to have a settlement. It was said that nobody knew where they had come from but they were from all parts of the Masters realm.

The change in the atmosphere down here was palpable. It was as if a big dark cloud hovered above encampament. It trapped the air which smelled of stale breathe, old dirty ashtrays, unwashed bodies and centuries of stupidity, peverty and ignorance. The Master noticed that the stale air was filled with the same old discordant notes of hatred and suspicion and the hysterical shrieks of racism and tribalism just as it had been when he last visited in the first millennium. Amidst claims and counter claims the human herds supported, proposed, opposed. They then claimed to understand, professed tolerance, fought wars, strove for peace, adopted new laws and constitutions but as far as the master could tell they were still as lawless and disorderly as when they first came there.

The Master pulled out his cell-phone and placed a call to his valet.

“Al- Zawahiri, It is me. Things are bad bwana. Come down to the human encampment at once. Bring me my staff and my shield and a PA system. And please Zawa, do not make me wait”

In a short while the valet came down to the escarpment accompanied by two male angels. The master took his staff from one of the angels (the one with an earing) and climbed onto a cliff that overlooked the human settlement. The other angel finished setting up the PA system and handed the wireless mike to the Master. The Master cleared his throat once and then called down in a loud booming voice to the herd people below.

“Oh hear this ye lowest of the lowest creatures in all my dominions. This is a sad day in all the universe. You have made your home on my property and still you disobey me. You have brought dishonour and wickedness to my realm because your lust for evil is greater than your love for peace. Why don’t you live in harmony like my ants and termites whose social skills you will never attain as long as you live? Why don’t you pool your resources to better all your lives instead of having a few wealthy humans beating your sister wanjiku into the ground in poverty?

“It is now rumoured that you do not consider yourselves animals anymore. But lo I say unto thee that you are the most ignorant in all of creation. Some of you book educateds call youselves higher mammals. I have bats living under the eaves of my roof that are far more developed than you shall ever be. I know that the conceit that you have developed as a herd is down to the gifts that I gave you when you first came here.”

The Master called his valet up to the makeshift podium. He said ” I will ask Al-Zawahiri here to remind me of one of the gifts that I presented to you when you first arrived.

Al-Zawahiri, never comfortable in a huge crowd was nervous. He greeted the crowd in a shaky voice. The master looked at him encouragingly and smiled. When the valet caught his master’s eye the master winked and confidence was restored.

He said

“master of masters ye are the greatest and the best. We do not deserve you but we couldn’t do without you. Never forsake us oh Master you who are primus inter pares. I will tell you what gifts you must withdraw from these ungrateful hordes below.

You gave them the gift of sight. Rather than use it to remark at the wonder and glory of your creation they notice their individual differences and primitive as they are they set about going to war. Take away their gift of sight. We shall come back in another millennium to see if they still sqaubble…..”

Maria woke with a start. She had fallen asleep on the couch and the same dream of the night before had come to trouble her. What did it all mean? She went to bed. Tonight she would sleep with the light on.


Kicking the Habit (part I)

Back in the 20th century there was this big man called Nyams Kirondo who toured the local schools trying to urge the young kids to avoid taking up the evil habit of smoking. I think he was sponsored by some local NGO. The man was a legend. I remember the day he came to our classroom one morning in May.

He knocked on the door and our teacher went out to meet him. She came in and introduced him and asked us to take our seats. The teacher invited Kirondo to sit at her desk. As the teacher moved to one side, Kirondo made a loud farting sound and looked at the teacher in mock surprise. The class broke into hysterical laughter. He stood and asked us to settle down.

kicking it

When order was restored our teacher calmly said that Mr Kirondo did not have one eye; or rather he only had one eye that could see. He was here to tell us how smoking had cost him an eye.

By now our guest speaker had the full attention of the class. Big Bertha the oldest girl in the class stood up and shouted, ” You’re a liar, everybody knows that smoking causes cancer, not eye disease! Liar…the class cheered her on.

Our teacher grabbed the blackboard-duster and aimed it at Bertha, who ducked just in time.

Once calm had returned Mr Kirondo cleared his throat and spoke slowly in a low serious tone.

“Kids, when I was younger, I thought I owned the world and I enjoyed every moment of it. When my mates at school started smoking, I quickly took up the habit in order to fit in with the cool crew. The boys who were popular with pretty girls all smoked or played sports. I had to be the best in everything so I was the meanest and baddest smoker, I smoked the most expensive brands and even the cheapest, hardest ones. I learnt to do tricks with the ciggies. I could blow a big ring and then send a smaller one through that one and finally a line of smoke through both rings yawa.

“When I overheard my older sister once say to her girl that she loved to kiss smokers because the mouth tasted nice, I vowed never to stop smoking. I had a bit of a reputation with the girls, you see.”

At this point the young girls in our class were looking at him in disgust.

Mr Nyamz Kirondo continued, “I left school, joined college and dropped out in less than six months. It was a joke. We spent most of our time smoking or thinking of the next smoke at break time. We ate, slept and dreamt mozo.

We were not really interested in school anyway. In any case I was going to be a famous musician so books were not really for me.

” All the folks in the city knew me by now. I was an excellent pool player at Cameo and I could play all the machines at playland with one hand holding a silk cut.”

He was silent for a moment as he remembered days gone by. He pulled a small dirty hankie from his coat pocket and dabbed at his good eye.

The class was now silent and totally attentive. Mrs Mutua, our teacher was impressed.

The one eyed speaker continued ” It was late evening on the last Saturday of July in 1982. We sat at the Thorn Tree having some drinks. Seated next to us was a bunch of journalists from the old VOK and one or two from the local papers. Kenya was still a police state and siasa was spoken in hushed voices. There was talk of something big about to happen in the air but nobody could say what.

A fine female newsreader called Natasha ( who was rumoured to be broadminded) pulled out a packet of Virginia Slims from her jeans pocket and offered them around. Everyone said no thanks, but I acted the gentleman and accepted quietly hoping that she too would accept my offer of a night cap back chez moi.”

Before I could light her fag, Ng’otho the mechanic, always attentive, pulled out his big made-in-China imitation pistol lighter and pulled the trigger.

There was a loud popping sound and my blood splashed all over everyone around the table. The air smelt of burning flesh. My eye was hanging loose; everyone was shouting; “Take him to hospital; catch his eye”, which at this time was losing sight very quickly.

Quick thinking Ng’otho rushed back in to say he had organised a taxi to take me to Kenyatta. I noticed with my good eye that he had taken care to “lose the weapon”

” Late monday evening I was sitting at Dr Shah’s waiting room, Accra Road with several victims of “the disturbances” of August 1. The secretary, an old man from our village told me that mine was the 5th glass eye that they had fitted that day.”

Kirondo now stopped for a moment and looked at the class. Then he said simply “That is how smoking cost me my eye”

Big Bertha stood up and started clapping. The rest of the class joined in and the applause lasted a whole three minutes. Mr Kirondo stood up there, gave a Nelson Mandela type wave and took his leave.

4.30pm on a cold afternoon in May. The small group of illicit smokers are huddled together at the back of the sports changing rooms. Kiprono and Yussuf pass round the fags and Kuria pulls out his green lighter. Mrs Mutua says” No thanks, I’ve got some matches there in my bag, ebu pass it here, Bertha………”


Goodbye 2010 ;-)

M-Pesa


As the year draws out its final hours we’ll take a moment to reflect on 2010. It may be interesting to see how it compares with the watered down year of 2009 – the non year.

2010 was ushered in with predictable noise and pomp as the good people around the world threw off their caution sending million dollars up in smoke in spectacular displays of fireworks – there would be plenty of time later to worry when their meek governments announced plans to cut public spending and shed thousands of jobs.

The natural environment became a feature of the new year almost immediately when severe winter weather battered Britain in early February disrupting transportation for the second year running. In April there were several eruptions of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland. A huge evacuation effort was undertaken to rescue the local population. Subsequent eruptions sent huge pillars of smoke and ash several miles into the sky prompting the closure of all UK airspace as well as that of many western European countries on safety grounds. The ensuing transportation crisis was unprecedented.

When the UK held a General election in May there was no clear winner. Gordon Brown of Labour was portrayed as a loser attempting to cling to power but in the end David Cameron and Nick Clegg formed an historic Tory – LibDem coalition government following other Serekali ya Msetos patented in Kenya and Zimbabwe. The UK coalition government seems to be on a collision course with Unions over planned cuts to government spending and huge job losses at a time of sluggish economic growth.

In August the people of Kenya held an historic referendum which delivered to the Nation a new constitution. This ground breaking document which swept away the old Lancaster House independence constitution was a culmination of decades of activism and political wrangles and its adoption promised to usher in a new age of democracy and freedom to the people of Kenya.

Wikileaks – now there was a breadth of fresh air. If you ever wondered what your bossom buddies really thought and said about you behind your back – wonder no more. Even superpowers have human weaknesses – US Embassies world-wide were shown to be hot beds of rumour, gossip and scandal. Friends patted their allies on the backs whilst secretly plotting against them. They ridiculed some of their best friends and made very serious allegations against others. There must be a lesson here about the safe-keeping of secrets.

Ocampo Six

The International Criminal Court Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo was in an out of Kenya more times than ever without seeming to make any headway on the main objective – to bring all those suspected of having a hand in the post election violence to trial. More than 1500 Kenyans lost their lives and close to 400,000 were displaced following the disputed elections of 2007. To date no senior official has faced justice for their part in the worst disturbances in our country’s history. In December Ocampo announced what came to be known as the Ocampo list – naming six individuals who would be travelling to the Hague suspected of having played significant roles in the PEV. The list was promptly denounced as a political stich-up. Ocampo had named six suspects three each from the two opposing sides. Whilst these names came as no surprise, Kenyans – and especially those living as internally displaced persons in camps were angered at the names that had been omitted – those individuals and groups who should bear ultimate responsibility for 2007/8 – Those who vowed to win by any and all means.

At the close of 2010 the economy in Kenya is growing faster and we are witnessing impressive changes in the country’s infrastructure. The government does not blow its trumpet and some may be unaware of the huge strides being made. Outlook remains positive with hope of better things once Southern Sudan becomes an independent Nation in its own right. Politically there is an air of optimism in the country even as we grapple with the ghosts of 2007. There are elections scheduled for 2012 so there will be plenty of money sloshing about. It is a good time to be in business.

Here is something else that I think I will really miss

Are there any lessons to learn from this year – time will tell.

A Happy new year and best wishes for 2011


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