because you never forget that funny smell

Category: health and beauty (page 1 of 2)

Binti’s hotel room


Dear Jaki,

I got your email address from the hospital receptionist this morning. Please do not be angry. All my attempts to get in touch with you so far have proved fruitless. You’ve changed your cell-phone number and all my emails to your old address have gone unanswered. I am grateful that fate had lined up the stars so that our paths would cross today.

We are in Nairobi just for a few days. Binti is taking a short break from her world tour. She says amepata a bit of exhaustion. I think she’s getting her anxiety attacks again. We’ll be leaving for Johannesburg on Sunday evening to continue with the tour.

Seeing you this morning at the emergency room was a most wonderful surprise. I have carried a buzz of excitement in me all day! How can I convey to you how great it felt to experience again a renewed hope in the future?

You must tell me right now – how you have been – when did you qualify? How long have you been working at the Emergency Department? Are you in a relationship?

I know we did not leave things in the best of ways. Everything happened in a whirlwind and I was so confused. Why did you cut me off so abruptly? I would very much like to re establish contact with you again. There will be a charity performance at the Herbivore Club on sato night before we leave for Jo’burg. Filanga free to drop in and say hello. You will be most welcome!

Very best wishes


ps don’t be a stranger

* * * * * * * * * *

Waiting for the diva


Hey Fred,

I hope that you are good. Thanks for your email. It was indeed a surprise for me too, to see you today. I was on my way to the trauma unit when you walked through the doors wheeling that old chair. The patient you were pushing wore very dark glasses and I assumed it was an elderly relative.

I am sorry if I appeared rude and hasty this morning. I had just received a call that we were expecting a large number of casualties from a road traffic accident. As it turned out there were fewer seriously injured people than we thought. We cleaned most of them up, stitched up the rest and sent them on their way. 😀

Soooo….Kumbe that was your Binti Pepo – world famous soul diva? Has she lost weight or something? We are none of us getting any younger. She was looking well and truly lost. I hope she is feeling much better now. You looked quite stressed yourself, carrying all her coats, bags, blankets and things.

I am quite happy to keep in touch with you, Fred, but I would much prefer that we leave everything from the past right there – in the past!

“We did not leave things in the best of ways”. Fred, are you serious? Is that the best way you could have worded that? Need I remind you how we ended…no, how You ended things between us. I promised I would reply to your email without getting angry – but it is just not possible. Not when I remember how your precious Binti Pepo dumped you once before. The unceremonious way in which she left you for that con guy who promised to promote her in Germany and Austria ha! You came to me in tears telling me that she did not need you now that she had hit the big time. Big time my foot!

Fred when you said that you and me, that we could make a go of things – that we could be happy together – you said you’d stand by me and I would finish medical school and after that we would travel to all those lovely places that you know. When you said all those things did you still carry a torch for her? You are such and idiot.

You know, I saw you for just a moment today, less than a minute, I think. We said hello and I looked into your eyes. You have been with Binti now for over two years and I know that every day you keep telling yourself that this time it will be different. Your eyes, Fred, your eyes say that you don’t believe it.

I hope that you don’t mind when I say I will not shed a tear for you, Fred. Not after the way you went against my advice and signed up to work for Binti again, as her manager, after the Austro-German gig failed to materialise. She just snapped her bling fingers and you rushed off to her like the poodle that you are. Where is your spine man?

The other thing I can never forget is how you called me from Binti’s hotel room that evening. You said she was playing the cabaret. I think that she must have been standing right there next to you when you said to me “ This is not working. It is not you dear, it’s me.” Ha! You ended our relationship on the phone with that cow standing right next to you. You told me that you would be staying the night with her.

I saw much later how I should have seen it coming many weeks before. You had been spending far too much time with that witch. And everytime we spoke it was Binti this and Binti that. My Uni assignments were keeping me busy 24/7 and I trusted you with my life. You knew how much I wanted to complete my degree. When I needed your support the most, you had gone to the arms of another woman.

How did I feel when I got that phone call? I was so confused. I actually thought that it was noble of you to give me time to get my things together and find another flat. I thought you were the perfect gentleman when you said I could keep all of the deposit – use it for my new place – in the crucial stage of my degree course, Fred. Damn you!

I promised myself that I would not get angry. I am seething right now. You should not have opened these old wounds. How dare you talk of hope for a bright future. I am moving on, Fred. I read the social media pages too, from time to time. Lots of rumours about your Binti. I know it is mostly celebrity gossip. Your next leg of the tour takes you to China, no? That is one place she could really make it Big. What will happen to you then, Fred?

Of course I will maintain email communications with you Fred but our lives must remain like parallel lines never to meet again. You see unlike your Binti Pepo, I would never make the mistake of taking you back again, ever. 😀

Be good. Strive to be happy.


Ten O’clock Prompt

I feel sad when someone turns up late for an appointment and I get annoyed with myself when I am late. Lateness is rude. It suggests that you have no respect for my time and by extension for me. It is said that punctuality became history with the arrival of mobile telephony. People can now be late with impunity because they can call to let you know they will be late.

One Friday evening last month I stopped by the swanky offices of a city law firm to pick up a friend. As I entered the threshold I glanced up at the large clock on the wall above the receptionist’s desk and it said tick tock tick tock tick tock (sorry). The time was showing 5.50pm.

I was a few minutes early. I always like to be early so that the person that I am meeting feels relaxed. I grew up in an extremely time deprived home background, always the last kid to arrive at a party and the last one to be collected by the parents after everyone else had gone home. If we were going to catch the 7.00 train we would leave the house a few minutes to 7.00. Everything we did was so last minute that I grew up to become a clock watching tyrant.

Rubina had said she would be finished in the office at six. I had arranged to take her to see a short play as a surprise. I thought she would like Oscar Wilde’s The importance of being Earnest by the Mashinani Theatre Company. There would just be enough time to have a quick coffee before the seven o’clock performance. I hoped that after the play perhaps we could do something else. I was thinking dinner; or dancing if she preferred. We would see. I picked up a random magazine from a pile on the coffee table and sat down in the middle of the large brown sofa.

I was leafing through the magazine in an idle sort of way when an article by well-known writer and commentator caught my eye. I wish I could tell you the name of the writer or even the magazine. Sorry I just don’t remember. The article’s main theme was that society was in terminal decline. According to the writer we were heading the way of the ancient kingdoms of Ashanti and Old Zimbabwe. All that would be left of the modern east African cities would be ruins for archaeologists and anthropologists of latter years to pick over.

Now you might be thinking Wars, Insurgencies and Revolutions or Corrupt Politicians and Tribalist Leaders or maybe Al-shabbab and Boko-haram lunatic terrorists. You might even think Global Climate Change or perhaps Catastrophic Seismic Events and Solar winds as the most likely candidates to lead to the end of life as we know it. You would be wrong. You see according to this eminent writer our society is doomed because of our failure to understand the importance of punctuality. Interesting, I thought

I was just turning the page to read more of this fascinating theory when the double doors opened and Rubina stepped out of the lift. Sometimes one comes across funny writing and strange sentences like ‘She can light up a room just by walking into it’ and one often thinks : sweet sentimental poppycock. I honestly don’t know. The big clock had stopped ticking – or perhaps my racing heart was pounding in my ears, blocking out every other sound. Whatever the case, I have no recollection of anything at all that occurred before six pm that Friday evening in late June.

We now fast forward events to this morning to find that I have woken up with the early birds before 7.00 am. I have a shave and a quick shower. I am ironing a shirt when the phone rings. Rubina has called with some information regarding our current case. We talk shop for a while and once that is over she asks me what time the wedding will start. I am looking at the invitation card which they sent and I say to Rubina, “It says here that The service will begin at Ten O’clock prompt.”

“Is that Kenyan time”, Rubina asks, drily. I laugh and after a short while we conclude the conversation.

The time now is 10:57 people have been seated quietly in the church for nearly an hour and still there is no sign of the bride. Ushers and other important and stern looking people are walking quickly in all directions across the floor looking at the clocks on their phones and tut tutting. There are parents with restless toddlers. Earlier they were looking at one another in some bemused sort of way but now it seems some are getting slightly agitated. Nobody seems to know what has caused the delay. One man remarks how it is incredibly unfair for people to keep others waiting for so long. A lady usher observes quietly that this is a record in lateness for their church. Still we wait.
A fellow guest seated beside me says ‘Brides are special. We need to give them time. It is our Kenyan way. Let’s just grin and bear it.’

‘But it is unfair, I retort. ‘Other people have made sacrifices to be here on time. There are folks here from different countries too. What image are we giving them of ourselves?’

My friend chuckles and says, ‘Look, there is literally nothing you can do about it so stop fussing and just relax. You are their captive for the day. You should have brought a book or something. Better yet avoid the church ceremony altogether next time.’

It is 11:20 am now and reports are filtering through that the bridal party have been held up in a traffic jam caused by a serious traffic collision on the highway. We are assured that they are not too far away. Everyone is more understanding. Nobody likes to hear of traffic collisions and most people are just relieved that there are no reported casualties.

At 11:41 am a huge cheer goes up. The white stretch limousine carrying the bridesmaids has been spotted turning slowly into the road that leads to the church. In front and leading the way is a yellow old type classic car. Travelling in this car the bride and her father look out to see the cheering and waving crowds. The one overwhelming feeling that is coming across is that people don’t really care that they had to wait so long. The person they had all come to see has finally arrived. That is all that matters. The wedding ceremony begins late but is already showing the signs that it will be a great

Finally here

I feel sad when someone turns up late for an appointment and I get annoyed with myself when I am late. Lateness is rude. Have you been punctual for all your appointments this past week?

The picnic

Woolie thinks that it is a sign of our times that most people that we know – and you might also include yourself here – are time poor. Simply put there are just not enough hours in the day to accommodate all the competing preoccupations of our daily lives. This might explain why we do not take too readily to people who delight in telling random rambling stories with endless detours and diversions. We are a species on the run today – get to the point and do it quick…before we become extinct. Continue reading

City tails

“Gosh lady so you really weren’t joking when you said you hadn’t eaten all day,” he said as he watched me crunch another huge bone in my mouth. It was early evening and we were sitting with my companion at his back yard where I was happily tucking into the food that he had just brought me.

“I love this fatty meat and like they say the closer the bone……”, I said, between mouthfuls.

“I never get to eat anything this gorgeous at home….not allowed, you see. My people say uncooked meat is unhealthy.”

My companion looked at me and shook his head. “All these people are the same. They think that they are smart and know what is best but really they are the dumbest creatures.” He stretched his long legs and lay on the grass beside me.

“So are you going to tell me why you ran away from home”? He asked. He was kind and patient and I knew that he would wait until I was ready.

“Saddam, dear, what can I say. I just need to get away from here. City life is not for me anymore. Why don’t we run away together to the country.” I was looking into his large, beautiful, brown eyes as I said this and I knew that he would not want to leave. His life was here and he had everything going for him. He couldn’t leave Nairobi. It meant the world to him.

I had learned that Saddam’s early years had been difficult. He was one of six little ones born to a single mother living near Eastleigh between Mlango Kubwa and Kailisha. Mother would often leave her little ones for a few hours in the afternoon whilst she went out to look for their dinner. One day mother did not come back. Saddam was to be told later that his mother had been was struck and killed by a fast moving lorry on the busy Kinyozi Road.

Saddam was forced to learn the tough game of daily survival from a tender age. All his friends on the street lived by cunning and guile. Life was full of hazards and few made it to their first birthday.

Saddam was on food patrol one sunny day when the butcher’s son saw him. The boy fell in love with him and took him back home. The days and weeks that followed saw a transformation in Saddam’s life. Here was now healthy and well looked and sheltered from the elements.

To the other survivors in the hood Saddam was much loved. He was generous with his daily allowance of bones and meat and he quickly become a pillar of the local canine community. I was just honoured that he had chosen to be my friend. One day I asked him about the name Saddam. He said the Butcher’s son named him after a famous politician from an oil-rich country. I admitted I wasn’t too much into human geography or politics so it meant nothing to me. My own people had named me Beyonce because they thought that I was smart and very attractive.

Stormy night – part three – Broadmoor Island

I sat quite still for a few moments after reading Blue’s statement. I was hurt by his uncompromising and accusatory tone. He had somehow got the idea in his head that I was uncaring about the tragic situation that he had found himself in. There was only one thing for me to do, to put this right. So I booked myself a weekday passage on the ferry to Broadmoor Island.

After a calm and uneventful crossing we arrived at Broadmoor harbour just before mid day. It was bright and sunny and I enjoyed the short walk to the town centre. It was a neat town with just one main street. There were shops around a central market square. I stopped at a newsagent’s nearby to buy some cigarettes and get my bearings. The owner pointed me in the direction of the main Post Office.

The postmaster was a genial man who had seen perhaps sixty or seventy Happy New Years in his time. There were a few round coffee tables in his shop and I sat to have a drink. The old man brought over my coffee asking which part of the mainland I was from. He was a talkative soul and we chatted for a bit about life in general.

“So what brings you here?”, he asked. I told him that I was an insurance assessor and that I was following up a claim for a Ms Carla Topping. The trouble is that we had somehow lost her address details and needed to contact her. I had been sent here by Head office urgently. I wondered if he happened to know where she lived.

The nice man drew himself up to his full height of five foot and three inches and puffed out his chest importantly. “I know where everyone on this Island lives, and I can assure you that I have never heard of a Carla Topping.” He saw my surprise and continued, “There is a big house at the top of the hill over there”, He pointed in a direction behind me. “It is called Broadmoor Manor and is owned by Laurie Stopping, the last governor of the old prison.” The postman said that Mr Stopping had recently lost a son in a ferry accident. He went on to tell me that there was a daughter, Carmine, who was a teacher in the school just across the square from where we were. He felt that it would be unwise to disturb the family with my enquiries at this time. Perhaps he could introduce me to Carmine the next day when she came into the post office during her mid-morning break. I liked his idea and so I bade him good bye and went to seek a room for the night.

The next day, by mid morning I had taken my place at the coffee table and was reading the local newspaper when the post man whispered excitedly, “Here she comes, act natural, now, and let me do the talking.”

Carmine Stopping would stop any man’s heart for a moment. She looked as beautiful as she did on photos of “Carla” that Blue had shown me. When she spoke it was in the same clear voice that had answered my “oga wrong number” stunt on the afternoon that I had said Kwaheri to Blue at Heathrow.

My postmaster pal explained to her why I was here. She was watching him intently and did not notice that I was watching her as her chest heaved quickly up and down as she listened to what the postmaster had to say. When he had finished she turned to me, calm as you like and said in a cool voice, “I guess I can give you all the information that you require, Mr Kondoo. I just need to go back to the school right now and ask someone to look after my class. I will meet you here in about half-an-hour.”

She left the shop shutting the door quietly and Postman Pat looked at me with a silly grin on his face. “Do you two know each other?” He asked, winking slyly. I assured him that this was the first time that I had met Ms Carmine. I asked him about the brother that had died at sea. The postman said that he had only known him by sight. He was a quiet lad who kept to himself.

Carmine was true to her word. She opened the shop door some twenty minutes later and nodded at me. Taking my cue, I thanked the postmaster and went outside. We walked in silence for a moment before she asked, “So you are Woolie? I have heard so much about you.” She smiled for the first time but I could see pain in her eyes. We chatted for a bit as we slowly walked down towards the harbour. It was another clear day and one could see for miles out to sea. We saw several Ocean going vessels making their way across the channel. Carmine surprised me by naming every ship and telling me what country it came from and where it was bound for. We found a bench overlooking the harbour and sat to watch as the sea-birds dived into the water to emerge again with silver fish wriggling in their bills.

Carmine took a deep breath and said, “How could things have gone so wrong?” She looked at me, saying, “Would you believe me if I said that we did not set out to deceive anybody?” I nodded and said that she did not come across as some wicked con-artist or scammer. “Why don’t you tell me what happened”, I said.

Carmine seemed relieved for the opportunity to get things off her chest. Once she started talking she would only stop to take an occasional sip from a water bottle which I had brought from the post office. As we sat there over-looking the harbour, watching the noisy diving sea-birds she told me the troubled and difficult tale of a young man.

Carmine had two older sisters Amanda and Jennifer. They both lived on the mainland now and almost never came to the Island. After they were born their father, then a harsh prison governor demanded that the next child must be a boy. The next child was Carmine and father was livid. It is said that he was mean and cruel and brutal to his wife. In a strange twist, just over ten months later, their mum gave birth to a baby boy. In drunken rejoicing father called him Charles, because he was the heir.

It was Ma who first noticed that Charles was different from other boys. He preferred to play with the girls and their toys. His father took him to play football in the park and he enjoyed it. When he got back home, however he wanted to help Ma with dinner and house work. Ma said to the girls once that little Charles had said to her that “There was a mix-up and I was given a boy’s body”

When Pa heard about this he was unforgiving. Charles was sent away to boarding school to “toughen him up.” He played rugby and cricket but in the school holidays he would play piano and practice dance at the parish hall. Anyone on the island who did not go to Uni joined the Royal Navy. Charles had passed his A-Levels well enough to do a good degree but Pa insisted that he join up. By all accounts he had a good time. There were numerous deployments and they travelled all over the world in the 8 years that he was there. It was during one tour that they ended up in Thailand. This opened his eyes to the fact that he was not the only person who felt the utter misery of being trapped in the wrong body.

He took his next annual leave in one big chunk and went back to Thailand where he started the long process of re allignment. This is about the time when Blue first appeared on the scene. At first it seemed like just a bit of fun. Blue sounded like a decent enough character and so they chatted and emailed all through the difficult times. Blue was not here to see how Charles was transformed into Carla. Something about this transformation seemed to strengthen their friendship. Blue told Carla of how he had been in a serious car wreck years ago and how he had spent a couple of weeks in hospital. It was friends who visited him and kept him going. Carla saw in Blue the friend who would keep her going.

There was one problem. Father. We did not have the courage to tell him what Charles had done. When he came back to the Island he stayed with me at my teachers’ quarters. He needed money to fund his ongoing hormone treatment courses so he got a job on the ferries. He was employed as Charles Stopping because all his Sea Man ship certificates from the Navy were in this name. She did not tell Blue that she was working on the ferries. The transformation period would soon be over and she was going to meet Blue properly for the first time. It was Blue who had insisted on going to meet her at Portsmouth.

That last day Carla was very excited. She just could not keep still. She was up and down. She went to see Ma and said good bye to her. Pa was at the bank where he is a part-time director. She called him and spoke to him for an hour on her mobile.

Carla came back to Carmine’s for some last bits and pieces. She called Blue on her mobile at 11.00 pm and told him that everything was in hand. She then connected her charger and changed into her Ferry Crew uniform. The two siblings walked down to the harbour as brother and sister for the very last time.

The ferry sailed at midnight. When Carmine got back to her house later she was crying so much that even if she had noticed the phone connected to a charger she would not have realised its significance just then.

Carmine sighed deeply as she came to the end of her story. She looked like someone who had just put down a huge weight from off her back. I took her hand in mine and I thanked her. She said “Wooi Woolie don’t thank me. You now have to relay all this to your friend, no?”

A stormy night – part two – Blue’s view

You may recall I talked last week about our stormy Christmas night – do you remember the wind howling and bending the heads of the tall trees and the rain crashing into the windows so that it sounded like someone was chucking shovels of gravel against the glass? It was an awful night indeed and the only saving grace was the warm log fire.

As I sat there staring at the flames I recounted the events of a year ago when the ferry from Broadmoor went down in stormy weather taking 25 innocent souls to the bottom of the sea. My friend Blue had travelled down to Portsmouth to meet a special passenger crossing on the last ferry of the night. My memory of events that long ago is a little hazy so I’m thinking why don’t I step aside and let Blue fill in some of the backstory leading to this terrible tragedy. Using the wonderful magic of technology, I give you Mister Blue…….

“Please fasten your seat-belt sir, we’re about to take off.” The young stewardess said this smiling sweetly as she moved quickly up the aisle, checking other passengers. The plane jerked forward and was soon taxiing towards the start of the runway. I shut my eyes tight and said another silent prayer. Moments later we were hurtling down the runway going faster and faster at some ridiculous speed and just when it seemed we would never take off the aircraft nose lifted and the rest of the Boeing 777-300 followed it skywards. I saw the look of relief on my fellow passengers’ faces and realised I was not alone.

My name is Blue. I hate flying, sailing and any form of land transport that involves vehicles with fewer than three wheels. So here I was now on Sunday evening flying across the night skies to Kenya. I had no choice. I needed to get away from Britain, the cold weather, the dull environment, the mindless Christmas hustle and bustle, but most of all I needed to get away from Woolie.

I had just lost someone very special in a freak ferry accident. The craft had sank in a wild storm killing everyone on board. The girl with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life was among those dead. I felt sadness at first and then a sort of sterile emptyness. This was followed by anger. A wild rage. I wanted to know why this had happened to me.

Woolie had appeared in Portsmouth just as I was trying to take in the news. He stood by my side from there on and supported me. He tried to comfort me. Every time he said something I wanted to punch him in the mouth, to shut him up. Woolie was part of my woes. That night – as we watched the tv news, I told Woolie how I had met my girl. I told him how much she meant to me – that was my biggest mistake.

Woolie is not all bad and true he is my best friend. It is just that he is a bit old-fashioned and conventional in his ways. Sometimes I think he is just confused. In matters of the heart I am afraid to say that he hasn’t got a clue. This explains why he was quite shocked to learn that I had never met my future bride to be in person. He laughed when I said that we had not found the opportunity in the seven months or so that we had been ‘dating’.

Woolie suggested that there must be something odd about the girl. He said, suppose she is not really who she says she is. I told him that we had exchanged loads of pictures. She lived a large manor house which her pa, a retired prison officer had bought from the last children of an old aristocratic family. I had seen the girl’s parents, her sisters and other members of the huge Broadmoor manor household.

Woolie had then interrogated me about West-African style online scams to see if the girl was just out to steal from me. I was not about to show him all the sweet emails, music and other cuttings that she had sent to me. I think those exchanges were private, more so now that she was gone.

There was still a final insult and disrespect to come. My friend asked me, “By the way, what is the name of your mystery girl? I don’t recall you ever having mentioned her name.”

“Carla” I said, quickly. “Her name was Carla Topping.”

Woolie immediately googled and searched the social media sites. There was no mention anywhere of a Carla Topping from Broadmoor Island and from that Woolie decided that she was a fake. For some reason, my best friend was unable to help me grieve over my loss. He wanted to show me up as some old fool who had fallen for a con artist. Bloody bure kabisa. I could have killed him. Instead I asked him not to mention Carla or Broadmoor or the sinking ferry to me again. It was time for me now to accept and move on. That shut him up and he helped me to prepare for my trip to Kenya.

As the plane touched down at Jomo Kenyatta I felt the sense of excitement that every traveller must feel on their return home. I knew I had made the right decision to come here and I would stay for as long as it took to come to terms with my loss. I said another quiet prayer of thanks.

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,

Strong desire to be free

We arrived just as they were leaving. They were in a small group of about twenty standing there by the edge of the lake. The ladies wore black and the men were in dark suits. Most of the group wore dark glasses. They walked back to where they had parked their cars and then very slowly they drove away.

I recognised the big car that was the last to leave. It belonged to my friend the former police detective. My companion who was also gazing at the line of departing vehicles said, “That was an ash scattering service. I have been to one here before. Someone says a short prayer then they get the ashes of the deceased and scatter them onto the lake, then they all go home.”

“Wonder who it was that was cremated. I doubt they were African”, observed my pal.

Was he right? I had to find out. On monday I called upon my good friend the ex-detective. He showed me an orbituary and funeral announcement from the Daily Nation of the previous week. It was for Caroline Buxton, If I wanted the background I would have to buy lunch, he said. That is what I did and here is what I learned:

Caroline was born in Nakuru to Thomas Simon Buxton and Anna Waithira in 1956. Buxton worked in the Colonial administration at the time and Caroline’s mother was a Senior nurse at the Provincial General Hospital.

In 1977, Caroline then a qualified nurse, married Timothy Mokasa the son of a powerful Provincial Commissioner. Timothy had recently joined a law firm in Nairobi and with his good family connections he was expected to do well. Timothy was not a good lawyer and the firm was eventually forced to let him go. Caroline stood by her husband when he changed course and decided to set up in business. He used his connections again to secure GOK supply contracts.

During the early years of their marriage, Caroline continued to develop her career and was able to establish herself as a major expert in the training of junior nurses throughout the country. She was in contact with officials from the health and education ministries and all the big government hospitals and she published several training manuals that were used in these institutions. Her continued success was a source of anger and jealousy for her husband, who had not found much fortune in business.

It was just after the birth of their son that Caroline realised that her husband was becoming jealous and had started drinking heavily. Neighbours told stories of his physical and mental abuse of Caroline. At this time Caroline was the principal of a nursing school and had a busy writing schedule. Her successes had now opened to her doors to high society.

In spite of his jealousy and pride, Mokasa was able to convince his wife to use her connections to advance himself. Against advice from family and close friends Caroline used her influence to secure her husband a position in the health ministry as a financial advisor. In a letter to a friend her elderly father wrote…”It is no longer qualifications or what you know but who you know that determines things in this new Kenya. I have very little confidence in the future…”

Around this time a new director of Nursing Services arrived at the ministry. The high-flying doctor was popular with medical staff and ministry officials and it was rumoured that he was destined for big things in government. It was the nature of his position that he consulted with Caroline on a daily basis and they frequently travelled together on official engagements. The young doctor was now pursuaded by political contacts to stand for parliament in a by-election. It was hoped that upon election he would secure the health assistant ministry.

It was time for Timothy Mokasa to strike: without warning he sued the young director. He had hoped to stop the doctor’s political career in its tracks and get some money in the process. He cited the close working relationship between the young doctor and his wife as merely a cover for an outrageous adulterous affair. The case was over in 3 weeks. Mokasa the lousy lawyer lost the suit and the young doctor emerged with his cotton clean image intact. The vengeful Mokasa now vowed that he would never grant his wife a divorce.

Unfortunately for Caroline, Mokasa had used every dirty trick in trying to put his case forward. Now her reputation was in tatters. The intense media interest and declining health forced her to retire from public life. In 1985, Caroline left her husband. She managed to subsist on her earnings as an author, but Mokasa claimed these as his own. He argued successfully in court that, as her husband, Caroline’s earnings were his in law. All her book earnings were surrendered to Mokasa. Caroline got her own back by using the law to her advantage. She ran up bills in her husband’s name and when creditors came for payment she told them that they could sue her husband.

Caroline refused to go back home to her parents prefering to live in Nairobi. Her son studied medicine at the uni going on to become a succesful surgeon. Caroline was never divorced from her husband. The long years of stress took their toll and Caroline was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

As her illness progressed she wrote to a friend of her “strong desire to be free…. I have been locked in a cage of unhappiness for much too long. When my time comes to go please do not put me in a box in the ground. I don’t think my spirit could take it.”

Spending some time in the field

There are times when we feel that all this is getting too much. It seems that Woolie can only take so much of the hectic city rat-race. At times like these Woolie likes nothing better to take a short break and go back to the source. Woolie is seen here bonding with family in the country and recharging the batteries


So sorry it had to come to this…..(part 1)

The events and characters depicted below are purely fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely by coincidence

“Woolie, I don’t know why it is, but more murders are committed in this city on a leap year. It is as if February 29th is a day to fulfill all our evil desires and you know, the statistics actually back it up.”

Earlier this evening we were seated at the verandah of this unassuming house in South B enjoying a quiet drink in the cool city air. My companion was my old friend the retired Detective Inspector from Homicide Division, Kenya Police. As we took in the evening sounds of city folk making their way home for the evening the retired cop relit his pipe and cleared his throat.

“Well, Woolie, It seemed that February 29th 2008 was going to be an exception – at least in our sector of the city. As my shift came to an end there had been no reports of deaths, accidental or otherwise, and we were looking forward to breaking this “curse of February 29”. Then, just before midnight, I got a call from a colleague at the station.”

I took another small sip of the malt whiskey and stretched out on the cane chair. The retired detective went on to narrate the events of that fateful night in 2008. According to reports, a woman had been brought in semi-concious to the Emergency Department of City Hospital.

By all indications this was a case of attempted suicide. The poor lady had been found in her bed by her house help, writhing and moaning in agony. Lying on the floor, beside her bed was a half-empty bottle of scotch and an empty medicine bottle that would have contained 48 anti-malaria tablets.

The personnel in the emergency room rallied to save the woman but despite their efforts Mrs Steffi Nyalima was pronounced dead at 11:54 pm. A day later pathology results showed that she had died of poisoning. But there was a problem; She had not ingested a single malaria tablet. According to the pathologist, tests revealed that the victim had been given a lethal cocktail of sleeping pills, morphine and other dangerous drugs and these could only have been administered whilst she was heavily sedated. Police quickly established that her husband Mr Hallibut Nyalima, a government scientist, was away on a training course in Abuja, Nigeria. Arrangements were made to notify him of these dreadful events.

The home help – a youg lady called Alice was interviewed . She revealed that Mrs Nyalima had come home in the afternoon at four-thirty or thereabouts in the company of her work colleague, a Ms Jackie Mpensi. Ms Mpensi explained to Alice that her employer was suffering from fever and needed complete bed rest. She had helped Alice to get Mrs Nyalima into bed. Mpensi took her leave soon after but only after she had asked Alice to check on her employer every 2 hours or so. Alice had checked on Nyalima twice and had found her fast asleep on each occasion.

Alice recalled how she had been in her own room preparing to go to bed just after 10:30pm when she got an sms on her phone. It was from her boss, Mrs Nyalima. She showed the police the message which read “ Please Alice come quickly to my room. I have done something terrible…I need your help. PLEASE COME NOW..” This was when she had found Nyalima rolling about the bed in pain. She had raised the alarm and their next door neighbour had rushed them to the City Hospital.

Police officers now went back to the home and carried out a search of the dead woman’s room. They were puzzled by the fact that there was no sign of Nyalima’s mobile phone. Also, what to make of the empty bottle of anti malaria medicine? There was not a single tablet in the room. Then tucked between two pillows on the husband’s side of the bed they found a typed memo on plain A4 paper. It read:

“ Dear Hallibut you are now free. So Sorry it had to come to this.”

The retired detective looked at his watch and then at our empty glasses. “ I’ll just get us another drink”, he said.

…………To Be Continued……..?

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