because you never forget that funny smell

Category: books (page 1 of 2)

this passport is valid

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.

Old Passport

“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:


It was also translated into English



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.

The Exclusion

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……….

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?”

captured on camera – 4th and final instalment

Caught on Camera – conclusion

Babu and his party made the journey to the hotel in just under two hours. The hired minibus was spacious and comfortable. The evening traffic was light to moderate and they had only waited half an hour for the ferry crossing. Continue reading

The killer stalks his prey

After Joseph Pume had left, Coughing Man wheezed again and said to the rest of the gang, “There goes a very foolish man. Just out of prison, cough, cough, cough… and his first job is to find the cop who put him there. It will end badly. Just mark my word.” He put an affectionate arm round the barmaid’s shoulder and winked at her. There was another sudden attack of desperate coughing and tears streamed down his eyes as he squinted to avoid the harsh tobacco smoke. The others shook their heads, sucking on their Pilsner bottles like babies. Continue reading

Trying times for Babu

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness….” (Charles Dickens, A tale of two cities).

It was the worst of times. A dark period in our recent history that is now sometimes referred to as the Error. Continue reading

Happy Easter

Ultimate Sacrifice

Every year round about this time I imagine many people across the country taking a moment to ponder over the meaning of Easter and why it is so important to their Christian faith.

Why is Easter said to be the real centre piece of our faith. Why do they say that it is like a bridge. A meeting point for Old and New. A new world order put into place as God makes His promise to mankind.

I also imagine that this is the time that a number of important concepts come into focus as we contemplate what is important in our lives.

Service – Before the Last Supper, Jesus is said to have washed the feet of his disciples, something that was considered a servant’s job. He told the disciples ‘ You must be willing to serve one another, just as I have served you.’ Jesus leads by example.

Betrayal – Judas a disciple of Jesus, was like any one of us. He felt disappointed upon discovering that Jesus had not come to lead a military uprising against the Romans. He was therefore prepared to betray him for chapaa. He was paid 30 pieces of silver for his treachery. Greed will be our own undoing. In a postscript we are told how Judas felt remorse when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death for blasphemy. He went back to the Chief priests and threw the money at them. He then went and hanged himself.

The Eucharist – At supper, Jesus took bread, thanked God for it and broke it to share with the disciples. He told them, ‘This is my body, I am going to be broken up like this bread. I am going to die for you. He then took a cup of wine, gave thanks to God and told them, ‘ Tke this, drink. This is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant which will be shed for you and for all men. Do this in my memory.’

The Cross – Jesus is put before Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor and charged with treason. Pilate cross examines Jesus and concludes that he is not guilty of the offences. He decides to release him. The Jewish priests have stirred up the crowds who are now chanting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pontius Pilate, coward that he is, gives in to their demands, fearing rioting and disorder which will look bad back in Rome. Pilate washes his hands to say he is not guilty of whatever fate that Jesus may meet.

Jesus is flogged and made to carry his cross. They crucify him outside the city walls in a place called Golgotha. At three in the afternoon, Jesus utters his final words, Oh God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And he dies.

The Resurrection – Sunday morning, just before dawn. The ground trembled and the earth shook. An angel came and rolled away the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus. The frightened guards fled.

Jesus revealed himself to Mary Magdalene and she went and told the others that Jesus was indeed alive! The penalty for our sin had been paid and death had been conquered. Christ the Redeemer offers salvation to everyone who believes and comes to him for a new life.

According to Galatians 3:28 -29 ..” For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

We each have our own struggles in our lives, both at work and at home. On a national level we are confronted daily with insecurities, Jihadist terror and threats of war. In the world arena uncertainty looms as we enter what is increasingly looking like a new cold war era.

Let us remember what Easter offers us for free by quoting an old simple prayer:

May the angels protect you, May the sadness forget you, may goodness surround you, and may the Lord Jesus Christ always bless you. Happy Easter!

In conversation with Alex

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!

Hey Woolie.

You run a very popular site on the Kenyan blog scene Kai ni Kii.

Umm, popular is not the word I’d use...

Well it is certainly very well received in many quarters.
Continue reading

The unlikely host

There are few things that I fear more than driving myself to Nairobi. When I first learned to drive I was living in a foreign country where they all drove on the wrong side of the road. The cars there were funny left-hand drives and that was what I became accustomed to. My sojourn in the foreign land soon ended however and I returned home to find that traffic rules were rarely obeyed and in any case matatu drivers were a law unto themselves. Driving into town became a nerve racking ordeal and to this day I avoid it as much as possible.

My Babu’s office had scheduled an early morning meeting for me last Thursday with one of their lawyers about an ongoing land tussle. The plan was to meet at their offices near the 20th Century down town. Parking anywhere in the CBD is always a nightmare and so I decided to take an early bus into town from my digs about forty miles away on the Nakuru highway. It was just before dawn and still quite dark when I boarded the warm bus. My fellow passengers seemed to be city worker types – all in suits and ties. Many were fast asleep, some with earphones plugged in. To my surprise and delight there were no bags of vegetables or live chickens on board and the trip into town was smooth and pleasant.

The lawyer was waiting for me at the entrance to the large building. She was in her mid-thirties, smartly dressed with a confident manner. We shook hands and she told me that her name was Rubina as she ushered me towards the big lifts. I was delighted to note that she already knew my name and had pronounced it perfectly. She asked whether I had encountered any difficulty in finding them and I replied that her directions on the phone had been first-class. The lift door opened at the 7th floor and we crossed over to her office.

Rubina ordered tea for me and coffee for herself. She was friendly and easy going and we chatted about this and that for a bit. She was expecting visitors at home later that afternoon. Her nephew and niece were visiting from Mombasa all on their own for the first time. They were sensible kids and Rubina had promised to bake them a nice cake.

We settled down to discuss the legal issues at hand and it soon became apparent that Rubina would need to take a look at the actual site that was in dispute. I had brought photographs and plans but Rubina would need to see it first hand before deciding whether to engage the services of a surveyor. I knew that she was right. She said we could go down there right away and I was quite happy to do that. I warned her that the area was at the bottom of a valley where it was always very swampy. She would need some strong wellingtons. Rubina did not see any problem with that. We would stop by her place, pick up her wellies and head off to my shamba. I now realised why Babu had recommended her.

A valet quickly brought up Rubina’s car from the car- park deep in the bowels of the building. She negotiated the city streets with a relaxed ease and soon we were heading up the Valley Road. At the top of the road Rubina turned to join the Ngong Road and after a few minutes we turned off into a quiet lane which brought us to the entrance to her apartment. She eased the car into a parking space and we went together to her apartment on the first floor.

She led the way into the well furnished flat and threw her keys on the table. She offered me a beer got herself one before turning on the pc in the corner of the room. She was looking for some important email when there was a knock at the door. She went to answer it and stood at the door talking to someone for about five minutes.

When she came back I knew there was something wrong. She explained that her neighbour’s boy from the block just across had come to tell her that his mum was unwell. Rubina told me she would quickly pop over to see her and then come back so that we could be on our way to my shamba. I suggested that perhaps I could leave and meet some other time but she would not hear of it. She promised to be back in twenty minutes. She asked me to feel at home and help myself to more beer.

After about half an hour I was getting slightly anxious. She had said 20 minutes. Where was she?. I started wandering about the flat and getting more impatient. Perhaps she had taken the poor mama to hospital. She would be back soon, I figured and poured myself some more beer. I switched on the telly and after fiddling with the remote control chanced upon a Mexican soap. I watched that for a few minutes before switching it off in dismay. I was pacing my beers now – half an hour to each beer. Nice and slow.

Another hour went by and I feared the worst. Should I call Rubina on her cell-phone? I did not want her to think I was unduly worried but she really should have got back by now. And why had she not called me? Here I was all alone a stranger in a strange house. What if someone – friend, lover should come and find me here slowly drinking the afternoon away?

I walked into the kitchen realising that I was a bit hungry. I spotted a couple of chapos in the fridge which I placed on a plate ready to warm in the microwave. Wait. Chapo now and I could say good bye to beer. Ha! The hunger would have to wait. I smiled at my own intelligence and took a long sip of the amber nectar.

On the counter top lay a recipe for the cake that Rubina was going to bake for the children. She had printed it straight off her lappy. I looked at the ingredients list again and performed a quick inspection of the contents of her store. I was in luck – I had everything that I needed to make a beautiful sponge cake.

I don’t know whether it was the beer or just my carefree attitude. I rolled up my sleeves and found an apron hanging on a hook behind the kitchen door. I gathered all the ingredients together and checked the cupboards for baking trays. Hidden in there was a dark green bottle of London Dry.
I blessed Rubina and all the planets and stars and got to work.

The first thing that I did was to mix a little oil with 180ml of cold water and 3 medium eggs.

eggs, oil, water

I then added the cake mix, a little at a time, whisking the whole lot together for about 3 minutes to give a smooth and creamy mixture. I stopped to open the bottle of gin and poured myself a generous glug. It was getting near to the time when the visitors were expected. I needed to move fast and nothing helped to focus the mind like a good gin.

Next I greased the two cake tins with margarine using a piece of grease-proof paper. The instructions say grease the tins evenly and completely – I was in a hurry and the consequences of not reading that bit properly would only become apparent later.

Grease the tins

I poured the cake mixture into the 2 tins dividing it out as evenly as possible. The tins were then placed in the middle of a preheated oven at 160 degrees. I baked them for 25 minutes until they were well risen. Once baked I removed them and turned them out of the tins. The importance of even greasing now showed itself. One of the cakes had stuck to the bottom of the tin and I had to be very careful when reconstructing it.

turning out

I spread some butter icing on the first cake and strawberry jam on the other. I placed one on top of the other to join them together. Finally I dusted the top with fine icing sugar for a frosted finish



the sponge cake

I was still admiring my handiwork when the kids knocked at the door. I had been expecting them so I knew what to do. I got rid of the gin and beer bottles and invited them in, explaining that I was the cook. I told them that their aunt had been held up at work but she had wanted to make sure that somebody would be here to meet them when they arrived. Come and see the cake that aunty wanted us to have when she got back. That broke the ice. Soon they were telling me about their journey and how they had seen elephants, giraffe and baboons on the way.

It was nearly six pm now and I was getting anxious again. Kids are remarkable in so many ways. In a few moments they had forgotten that they were in a strange house. The young boy switched on the telly to his favourite channel. Moments later we were all 3 of us sitting there watching TV quite happily when a completely stressed out Rubina walked in. The kids jumped into her outstretched arms and she was genuinely pleased and relieved to see them.

The young girl told her aunt that cook here had baked a nice cake and could we have some now that she was home. Rubina looked at me and smiled. We had tea with lots of cake. Rubina then told the children that we would all get into aunties car to take cook back to his home.

The jk pie

I have often heard that one of the worst things for a blogger is to break their blog schedule or routine. For new and seasoned bloggers alike the golden rule is to blog and blog often. It is this that keeps visitors coming back. I am told that nothing is more frustrating for the keen blogger than failing to make the deadline for their new post.

Many bloggers, I am told will spend long sleepless nights worrying about how their readers will visit their blog only to find that nothing new has been posted for a week. The more they worry, the more difficult it gets to write. This causes even more worry and feeds further anxiety. As days and weeks go by the worried bloggers, loners by definition, become unwell quite quickly. Enlightened doctors up and down the country have come to recognise certain symptoms. If a patient visits a doctor presenting with insomnia, temperature fluctuations, nervous twitches, poor appetite, weigh-loss, amnesia and sometimes substance abuse, the first thing doctors will ask these days even as they take your blood pressure is whether you have updated your blog.

I got to Woolie’s front door, clutching a small bag of groceries. It was a cold evening and the streets were full of people rushing home before the rains came again. I picked up some small pebbles and threw them at the first floor window above me. There was no response and so I tried again with a larger pebble. There was such a loud crack that I thought I had broken the window. Moments later my friend’s angry face appeared at the window shouting some very naughty words. He recognised me and tossed the front-door key down with a loud mscheeeeew.

The first-floor bed-sit looked much smaller than it had been the last time I was there. Perhaps it was all the clothes, bags and other rubbish lying about all over the room. His unmade bed was at the far corner of the room. An overfull ashtray lay in the middle of the bed. Against the far wall the tv was tuned to Al Jazeera with the volume turned down. It was stuck on the same image of the Westgate mall. With shoes, socks and underwear strewn all over the floor space it was quite difficult to move in the room. It pained me to see my friend living like this. He looked rough and unshaven and it may have been a while since he had washed. We cleared some clothes from the large sofa where I sat down carefully.

“I have to write something. My blog is crying out….” Woolie said.

“Look at all this madness…”. He was scratching his groin and staring at the telly which was showing different scenes of the Westgate now. Helicopters hovered above the mall as armoured personnel carriers appeared driving down deserted side-streets. Now we saw a group of terrified civilians being led out of the building by plain clothes policemen. Woolie reached for his pack of cigarettes and lit one. I could not help looking at his shaking hands. His gaunt features were frightening.

“Have you had something to eat?” I asked, looking around for evidence. I noticed several empty cheap whisky bottles under the table. There was also a litre bottle of mineral water containing an amber liquid which was by the door and next to it dried banana peel.

Woolie shook his head wistfully. He turned to me and said “No energy to cook or go shopping. I’ve had nothing all day except whiskey ha!”

“Well then you are in luck, Woolie my boy.” I said.

I explained that we would tidy up the room together and then while he got himself washed up shaved and dressed I would prepare something small for our supper. He thought it was a good plan so we switched of the telly, cranked up the music and got to work.

When Woolie went off to the bathroom taking away the big mineral water bottle I headed for their shared kitchen which was at the end of the corridor. The cold building had six bed-sitting rooms all occupied by “professional tenants.” There were 2 small well-equipped kitchens where they made their meals. The tenants were expected to clear up after using the kitchen. Some did and some did not.

I found that everything I needed was here and I was ready to go. I could not get the image of my suffering friend out of my mind. I would have to make him something that he could eat today and perhaps for 2 or 3 more days. I racked my soft brain for inspiration wondering idly if chefs suffered from cooking block. Eureka! I thought. I would make Woolie a jua kali chicken and mushroom pie

From my shopping bag I took out a small tray of diced chicken pieces. There was a small onion on a shelf marked Woolie which I took and finely chopped before frying it with some ginger and garlic in a wok using a couple of spoons of vegetable oil. I dropped the Kuku pieces into the wok now and fried them for several minutes, sprinkling a bit of Rosemary and Thyme and ground white pepper. I also added a pinch of salt to this and after a couple more minutes I added 100g of chopped mushrooms. I added my secret ingredient now and 300ml of chicken stock and brought it to the boil. I let this simmer for a bit before turning off the fire.

the filling

The next step was making the pastry from scratch. People often say this is difficult but I found it very easy. I sifted 400g of plain white flour into a bowl adding a pinch of salt. To the flour I added 80g each of butter and lard. Using clean hands I mixed the floor and fats together squeezing between the fingers until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. I added 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water and brought the mixture together into a dough. I remembered not to knead the mixture. I rolled it into a small piece of cling film and placed it in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.

flour butter and lard

Let’s roll

As I waited for the pastry to cool I took a small 100g bag of frozen mixed vegetables – peas, carrots and sweetcorn and added them into the chicken and mushroom filling. This was useful because it helped to cool the filling even further. The pastry needs to be worked when very cold to avoid melting the butter and breaking everything down.

I got the pastry out of the fridge. It was nice and cold now and easy to roll out. I rolled it into the shape of a baking dish and placed it inside. I rolled out another piece of pastry to use as the top. I poured the filling into the pastry and then covered it. I had enough filling and pastry for 2 more pies because Woolie’s pie dish was quite small.

all filled

ready to go

I placed the pies in the middle shelf of a hot oven at 220 degress celsius (gas mark 7) for 30 minutes until the pastry was golden brown. The pies were now ready.


Jua Kali pies

I went back to the room and found Woolie seated at his desk typing away at his laptop. He looked clean and smart and like a man without a care in this world

“What you typing?” I asked…..

Why don’t men go to the doctor’s?

Flo Rida walked with us to the car whilst her kids stood at the doorstep waving us good bye. My husband, Ian opened the driver’s door and got in and I gave Flo a final hug. My husband eased the car down the driveway and into the road.

We drove in silence for a while. It was as if both of us were going over what we had just witnessed. My older brother, Tom Rida, 38, married father of two lying terribly ill in bed looking as if he was hovering in that place that is between life and death. The former rugby player and Police boxing team coach looked like a mosquito – weighing just 45Kg

Ian and Tom were old friends. They went to college together and after that they had joined the Police force working together for many years before Ian left to start his own business. Tom remained with the force and was now a well-respected senior officer dedicated to his profession. I could see the pain in Ian’s eyes at seeing his friend in that condition.

We were coming to the small round about near our home when Ian said “ Gosh Brenda – Let us pray that Tom pulls through.”

“Msscheeeeew!” I began, “If that silly idiot listens to the doctors and his wife and takes his medication he should make a full recovery. Then I will go round there and give him a few slaps, Nkt.”

“Why are you being so harsh, Brenda – the poor bloke is seriously ill.” Ian spoke gently not wanting to start an argument.

“Ian, please.” I said. “I am not being harsh. Consider for a moment what Tom has put his family through. Flo is at her wits’ end. Tom has been going on about his stupid tummy feeling rough for nearly two years now – but would he see a doctor? Would he seek advice? No sir, not our Tom. Eno and Andrews were his dawas and he switched from Viceroy to a more expensive brandy.”

“Flo begged him to go to the doctor many times when he complained about a pain in his gut or his loose stool but he kept shrugging her off. It was only because he nearly collapsed in the bathroom on Mashujaa day that Flo rushed him to the emergency room.”

Ian was quiet now as we turned into the entrance to our flats. He found a parking space and switched off the engine but he made no attempt to get out of the car. He looked at me and said, “So let me get this straight – are you saying that this whole thing could have been diagnosed earlier and saved Tom and Flo all this heartache?”

“Yes Ian, that is what makes me so angry. He’s your friend and even you had no idea” I could feel the tears welling so I took a deep breath and said, “So why is it that you guys find it so difficult to go and see a doctor when you feel poorly?”

Ian shook his head. “I can think of a thousand excuses but all of them are lousy. We are brought up to believe that it is not manly to cry and complain about pain – so when you have an ache here or a funny itch somewhere else, you say to yourself that it is temporary and will get better. If it gets a bit harsher you say Mimi ni mwanume nitavumilia. Before long you say nitazoea and people wonder why you started walking funny.

“Lack of time is sometimes used as an excuse – we are too busy and have no time to be sitting around in waiting rooms.”

“Some of us say that doctor’s are too expensive – meanwhile forgetting the true cost of serious illness. It is also a fact that men never discuss personal medical issues with their colleagues unless they already have a diagnosed condition. There is also fear of the unknown, Brenda. Most men are afraid that the doctor may find terrible things going on which they would rather not know about. It is easier to be an ostrich and hope that things will go away.”

We both got out of the car and headed for the flat. I felt much better now after our talk. Tom Rida was lucky to have someone like Flo. She had stood by him and nagged him and pushed him until he had sought medical help. Surely I would do the same for my Ian.

But what about all the other men out there who had nobody to nag and push and beg.

Men stop behaving like little boys and go see your doctor.

Stay well,

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