because you never forget that funny smell

Category: travel (page 2 of 4)

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

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 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.

for children and grandchildren

It was about 10:00 am on Sunday morning and as I waited at the crowded airport arrivals hall my Babu emerged from behind the sliding doors. I almost slipped and fell on the smooth polished floor as I ran forward to greet him and relieve him of his large battered suitcase. He beamed at me, happy that for once I had registered the correct date and time of his arrival and we walked out into the bright Nairobi sunshine. The Jacaranda trees were in bloom and birds were singing high up there in the shade. I got the sense that Babu was happy to be back home.

I guided the old man towards my even older fluorescent green Fiat Strada which I had parked with a small rock wedged carefully against the near-side front wheel in lieu of a functioning hand-brake. I placed his suitcase in the boot and as Babu put away his rain coat and fedora in the back I stealthily obtained the rock and hid it under my driver’s seat.

We drove out of the airport and quickly joined the Mombasa Road traffic as we headed for Babu’s ‘South C’ residence. I kept to the speed limit in the near-side lane allowing plenty of room for the comedians, clowns, matatu driver’s and other maniacs of our roads to perform their stunts. The short journey was uneventful unless you consider the two elderly pedestrians who narrowly escaped with their lives right before our eyes after running across the road in some mad kamikaze effort to get to the other side of the Msa bound carriageway near the Air-tel buildings. The speeding ambulance that was hurtling towards them had screeched to a halt just before impact and the two wazee totally oblivious had just hobbled along to the other side of the road.

We dropped of Babu’s things and after a quick freshen up we headed off to his club next to the Police Mounted section headquarters for an early Sunday lunch. Most people know that my Babu was a former detective in the Police force where he spent nearly forty years working with the homicide department in various postings around the country. He is not my Babu in the real sense of a grandpa. He went to school with my dad and when I came to the city to find work the detective took me under his wing. I lived with him and his gracious wife before I went off on my own and when he started a private investigations consultancy I was happy to join the firm and was soon employed in discreet surveillance.

We ordered lunch and then took our drinks and sat on the veranda facing the deserted tennis courts. I had long ago learned that Babu would not start on a story until he was ready. So as we sucked at our tall glasses of madafu water by straw I gave him the usual small-talk of what had been happening whilst he was away. A few moments later the waiters came round and brought us warm water to wash our hands.

The waiter had recommended the chef’s special and we were not disappointed. As we silently attacked the spicy beef stew and ugali with fresh sukuma wiki, peas, carrots and potatoes, I realised that I had not had a decent meal since Babu’s departure over a month ago. Surveillance work tends to involve long hours of sitting, waiting and watching and drinking lots of coffee. One often lacks the required motivation to cook decent food at the end of such a cramped day and sadly we are only kept alive by unhealthy take aways.

The beef was so fresh you actually sympathised with the cow and the vegetables must have come from a garden just outside the kitchen. The ugali had been prepared in a revolutionary method that is still under patent pending rules and so I cannot divulge the actual process here. All I will say is that it was formed in the shape of a dome and was very soft and tasty with a hint of classical seasoning.

Lunch was cleared away quickly to make room at the table for our proper drinks. Babu pulled out a brand new pipe from his jacket pocket and filled it with exaggerated care. He had some strange foreign tobacco which he took out of a small plastic pouch. The picture on the pouch was a black eagle on a red background. When he lit the pipe he coughed twice as the smoke punched him in the chest. He squinted his eyes when the smoke rose up now spreading across the small veranda. A few patrons looked in our direction with renewed interest. The pipe smoke and Babu’s strong aftershave together smelled of power and influence.

Babu liked to have a glass of good whiskey by his elbow when doing a debrief. We talked and drank until the sun hid behind the tall cypress trees at the perimeter of the compound. His trip to Europe had been a resounding success by all accounts. He had accomplished his objectives and now he explained it all to me.

Months before, Rubina, a young lawyer from the firm that Babu used for legal work had approached us with an unusual assignment. Her friend, Katarzyna, from Poland, now living in Nairobi was in great difficulty. Her grandmother had passed away. It had come as a surprise that the granny was a woman of quite substantial wealth. She had left a huge inheritance for Katarzyna and her 13 year old son Pawl. There was a small problem. The young boy could not travel to Poland as required by the terms of the will because he did not have a passport. His father had refused to sign the necessary documents required by the Polish authorities.

Pawl’s father was from Poland. He met and married Katarzyna in the port city of Gdansk where he was in the Polish Navy. Pawl’s dad travelled the world as a sailor and he had fallen in love with Mombasa. After leaving the navy he came back to Mombasa with Katarzyna and their baby son and opened a bar which catered for visiting navy and merchant sea men. It was in a seedy part of town where vice of all sorts was never far away. Pawl’s father developed a drink and drugs problem and beat his wife about. With the help of friends she left him and moved away to Nairobi where she found work and settled. Her divorce papers were handled by Rubina. A year later Pawl’s dad returned to his native Poland where he married again and had several children.

Babu explained how he had used his extensive police contacts overseas to get the errant father to do his duty by his son. He got him to sign the official documents and Pawl would soon have a passport. From Poland, Babu visited England where he was invited by an old police colleague to visit his cottage in rural Oxfordshire. He found that his friend lived alone and used ordinary kuni to keep the house warm. The retired copper was now a coach driver and spent his days driving holidaymakers all over the place. Babu had accompanied his friend on one such journey which had taken them on a sight-seeing day trip to France. They got back quite late and took the coach to the depot. The friend had his own little van to get them back home.

They had got into the friend’s van for the 20 mile drive back to the cottage at 11.45.pm The country roads were dark and deserted. They had to drive through the lonely Wytham woods. The car started to judder a little like some older diesel cars when they are about to break down. This was just as they were out in the middle of nowhere. Babu’s friend decided to call his grandson who lived nearby. He asked him to come out in his car and follow them back to the cottage – just to make sure they got home ok. The twenty-something year old grandson declined saying he was already in bed and could not come. Even his granddad’s offer to fill up his car for him would not persuade him to leave his bed. Babu told me how depressed he had felt. The boy had totally lengad his grandpa at his hour of need.

The two coppers having no other option had driven on with fading headlamps and thick fog setting in. The car crawled at a snail’s pace but they eventually got to the cottage. The tired men could hardly stand after their long day and they went straight to bed. Babu says that his friend was snoring in under five minutes.

At about 03.00am Babu heard the phone ring. His friend answered it at once and almost immediately he was cursing and swearing. Babu heard his friend moving about and getting dressed and switched on a light. He asked if everything was ok. His friend could not help himself. It was as if a red mist had descended over his face. He explained that the caller was none other than his grandson. He who would not come to our rescue earlier in the evening. Some mates had called round to his house where they had played cards for ages before he decided to drop them off home. He had run out of diesel in the middle Wytham woods. He wondered if his grand dad would mind bringing him a gallon of diesel.

Babu and his friend had put on their coats and driven off into the dark cold night to rescue the ungrateful grandson.

As Babu recounted this tale to me Whitney Houston’s version of The Greatest Love of All was playing in my mind. The first line about the children being the future and how we teach them well and let them lead the way, seemed so apt somehow. One of the finest bloggers in town has really managed to marry music and the story in such a way that sometimes when you really listen you can hear the story being told in someone else words. I hope to be able to do that too, someday.

The djin at Chalbi

We can play around with a story that a young friend told at a recent reunion party. My version is kidogo twisted but pay attention because we will ask questions at the end.

Three travellers sat idly in the sun by the dusty roadside in the middle of the day. The matatu in which they were travelling has just died nearby. The engine had siezed, the tyres were busted and a viscous black fluid oozed from under the mat’s belly flowing onto the dusty road.

Our friends were in the middle of the Chalbi desert, one of the hottest and most fearsome places in Kenya. Earlier on their mat had been making good progress and the travellers expected to be in Turkana by early evening. The miraa chewing driver was the only one awake when the old Nissan suddenly let out a loud, desperate scream which cut short our passengers’ dreams.

Thick black smoke poured out from under the bonnet. Orange flames were now licking at the windscreen. The cool, expert driver brought the vehicle to a halt, commanded everyone to jump out and pulled out his small extinghuisher to tackle the flames. Next moment the passengers and touts were struggling to put out the flames that had caught the driver’s jacket.

Whilst all this was happening a military helicopter was landing nearby whipping up a mini tornado of sand and dust that choked our travellers. They asked if there were any casualties. There were none. The helicopter could not accommodate everyone. The helicopter captain agreed to take the mat driver and his 2 accomplices and 18 passengers to seek help at the nearest town or settlement. The soldiers gave the 3 stranded passengers a large bottle of water and a small tin of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco and a small revolver with several rounds. The helicopter then took off in the same cloud of dust, sand and awe and within minutes had disappeared from site or sound.

Now that had been some three long hours ago. Our travellers were all unacquainted with one another. Now they chatted away to pass the time and they wondered aloud how long it would take for help to arrive. What if the driver and his boys had just abandoned them. It became clear that their position was quite a mess.

As they talked it was also readily apparent that all three hailed from different parts of Kenya. Each man realised how little he knew about the others’ communities except what stereotypes were passed on and yet they all lived in the same country. In talking each man reflected upon how they all had the same aspirations, expectations and fears.

They shared the water but none was a smoker so the first man said smoking was disgusting and ungodly and they should throw away the tobacco. The second man said they should keep it incase they could use it to trade for food or water.

The third man agreed and asked to see the tin. As he rubbed the dust off to read the list of ingredients on the side of the tin an amazing thing happened. The lid flew off and a tiny djinni jumped out of the tin. The djinni made the customary thank you for releasing me speech and promptly granted one wish to each of the three men who by now were the best of mates.

The men gratefully accepted the djinni’s offer and the first man made his wish. He had only ended up here because someone had promised him some precious stones. He said that he would like to be back at his home town where he owned a small bar-cum-nyama choma joint. He wanted to sit at the counter and watch the drinkers spend and spend. His wish was granted and he was instantly whisked away.

The second man asked to be allowed to go back to his home. He missed his wife and children dearly and he wanted to be with them and to provide for them a comfortable life. The djinni granted the wish and the man was on his way.

The third man thought long and hard before making his request. The djinni was getting impatient. finally the man said “All I want is for you to bring those two friends of mine back here…..”

protecting your sim as well as your simu

It seems like it is nearly 100 years now since the introduction of the first mobile phones for us ordinary folk. Back then Safaricom was still the leading player. I remember with great fondness and some mist in my eyes how I acquired a shiny new sim-card with a beautiful 0722 number whose memory I will always cherish.

It took me a little while back then to familiarise myself with the normal use of a cell-phone. Safaricom operated a sim-lock system. One needed a pin to unlock the sim each time the phone was switched on. Also when you inserted the sim into a different phone you needed to enter the sim-lock pin.


This all seemed unusual and cumbersome to me, having become accustomed to the operations in other countries where the sim card was not locked. It was annoying and irritating to keep having to enter this pin and I cursed whoever had put such an unfriendly system in place.

As with most things in life it was just a matter of getting used to it and in a short period of time that which was originally an irritation simply became a matter of fact. Imagine then my surprise and delight when I saw a recent article in the paper that has got me singing the praises of the wise people who created this clever sim-lock to protect us from all manner of crooks and evil-doers.

The article relates how people are becoming victims of fraud when their sim cards falls into dirty criminal hands. I will not spoil the story for you but I am sure that you will be as relieved as I am that we have such a lock system in place if you are with any of the major phone companies. I understand that sadly Orange is the exception.

Read the shocking story here

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’









Just the other day I was going through some previous posts i’m told most bloggers have gone away on holiday and came across this gem

When the charming author of this blog published it she may not have realised that she was opening a tiny window into her own reading preferences and by extension the preferences of the esteemed readers of her popular site too.

I think it is a fascinating revelation to see or hear what people whom one may consider as their peers are reading. It is also rewarding when they give you an insight into a particular book or writer.


I have just started reading Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah. With every turn of the page I want to curse the author and rip up the book into 1000 pieces. I laugh out loud, feel grossly offended, feel deep sadness and depression and then feel uplifted with each turn of the page.

Please read this book and tell me how you feel.

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


Of Chairs and Car Roofs

I have always found December to be a bit of a funny month. With Jamhuri day arriving half-way into the month and then Christmas and the new year there is very little time for much else and it seems that most people’s social calendars are crammed with functions. I must admit that this is a month that I enjoy – meeting long lost pals and making new friends. For many people it is also a time for family.

This December we have, ofcourse, the on-going doctors’ strike that has crippled medical services in the public hospitals. It goes without saying that the GOK will have to meet with the doctors’ leaders to thrash out their difficulties because the current situation is just not sustainable. According to a newspaper report Eighty-five percent of doctors joining the civil service as interns will have resinged from the service within three years of their appointments. The main reason cited for this state of affairs was poor pay which doctors felt did not take into account their qualifications and workloads.

As the strikes continued to bite we were given an idea of how our country decides it’s spending priorities. It was reported that Parliament had decided to acquire seats for MPs at a cost of Ksh200,000 each. These were to be made by the prisons department. It is difficult to work out which stories are true and which are mere speculation.

sailing From Daily Nation Dec09 2011


It was with real pleasure that I came across a story which I knew was neither made up nor the wild fruits of speculation. Mainstream media does many stories on bloggers these days and I was pleasantly surprised to read of some of my favourites in a DN feature.

sailing From Daily Nation Dec09 2011

On the friday just passed I went up with and Mrs Woolie to see her parents. It was an interesting visit and we had a wonderful time catching up and telling stories of times past. During the conversation a story came up of how I had once gone shopping and upon returning to the car I had placed my mobile phone on the roof in order to unlock the car-door. Once all the stuff had been stowed away I had jumped into said car and driven off. It was only half an hour after getting back home that I noticed my phone was missing. I used another phone to call my number. It rang for a few moments before someone answered it. A friendly passer-by had heard the phone ringing in the middle of the road. It was was in several parts but still it was ringing. He told me where he was and I went down to meet him. The phone was totally wrecked having been run over by several cars on this busy road.

Mrs Woolies Pa laughed and said that this story reminded him of how way back in 1970 he had received a call from one of his cousins who was then a student at Makerere University. She would be sitting her final exams on such and such a day and would he mind terribly coming up to Kampala in his car to give her a ride back home? To this he had readily agreed, ofcorse and on the appointed day he and his brother arrived at the college halls. On the way up there the car had punctured one of the wheels and they had stopped at a garage nearby where some real friendly operatives had seen to the repair. This meant that they arrived a little later than plannned. The girl assured her cousin that they were not late – infact the students were in party mood and she had arranged somewhere for her cousin to spend the night so that they could leave for the journey home nice and fresh the on next day.

Now Pa was a military man. He drove up to Makindye the main army barracks in the city and on introducing himself was ushered in. The officers in the mess welcomed them warmly and took care of their every need – it is something visiting officers were always accorded anywhere that they went. They went ahead to arrange overnight accomodation. As the music played and the drinks flowed it was certainly a party atmosphere. Suddenly and without warning the commander of the base stormed into the mess his face like thunder. He ordered everyone out on parade at 11:30 in the night! He recognised the Kenyan officer and called him to one side. He explained that the deputy commander one Idi Amin had gone AWOL with another officer’s wife. The officer had discovered the deception and was at this moment hunting the maverick Amin. It was safe to say that there was going to be trouble that night. He asked the visitor where he was staying Pa said he had booked a room in a downtown hotel.

The commandant ordered for 2 crates of beer to be placed in the boot in Pa’s car and they bade each other farewell. Pa drove back to the same garage where he found the same guys were still there selling petrol. He brought out a crate of beer and as the drank explained his situation. The manager said – spend the night in your car right here. You will be safe here. They moved the car into the show-room where new cars for sale were displayed and he slept soundly with no interruption.

Next morning Pa drove to the college where the young cousin was waiting with all her luggage. They loaded up the car and set off for home. On the way they stopped to have a small picnic. The girl took out her radio placing it on the roof of the car so that they listened to pop music as they tucked into their packed lunch. With the picnic over they cleared away the things and got back into the car for the long drive home. The small radio was never seen again.

We are living in times of heightened tensions and security concerns. We must never forget the enormous debt of gratitude that we all owe to the brave men and women of the Kenya Army who are putting their lives on the line to defend the freedoms that we all cherish in this country. Let us remember them and their families especially at this time and let us pray for a quick and successful conclusion to Operation Linda Nchi

I would finally take this moment to wish you all a Happy Jamhuri and best wishes for Christmas and the new year!!

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