Monday, January 31, 2011

Tea? Try me...

For a bachelor, I have a surprisingly large collection of cups, mugs, plates, spoons, knives and such household items. All these were acquired with zero effort on my part, in terms of financial commitment, and I can assure you that cutlery is the last thing on my mind when it occasionally lingers into the realms of relieving a supermarket of its wide variety of liabilities. I beg you to allow me to call them liabilities because most of them bear begging tags …. was 599/- now 249/-… take me please...

They were gifts from my sister… sorry; allow me to rephrase that… They were gifts to my sister on her wedding day. She received a larger than expected supply of household items, most of which she had little use for. Let me tell you about my sister. She is heavy on décor. She dresses for dinner, and if her theme colour today is maroon, the dinner table will be a poem in maroon, including, but not limited to the food. With that in mind, it would not be too much trouble to guess that she tossed anything that didn’t pass her quality trade mark my way and I must say it was quite a generous collection.  Overnight, I transformed from the plastic man… as most of my utensils were… into a porcelain doll. I had no qualms, to tell you the truth, I don’t mind serving you tea in a brown square mug jutting out of a yellow saucer and bread … don’t expect too much from me…  and bread on a tray that has pictures of bread on it.

From now henceforth, you will no longer have to take preinstalled tea, straight from the kettle. I will present you, dear visitor, with yet another saucer, green this time, with a teabag in it. Just one. I’m just starting out on these and they are pretty steep! …  You will be expected to plunge the bag to you taste and then return it to the same saucer. You may need it for a refill.  In place of the sugar dish and the half-filled glass of water for you to cleanse your teaspoon after stirring the tea, I have gone trendy. I have converted one of the larger salt shakers into a sugar dish by sealing all but one of the holes on it and then inserted a large straw chopped at a forty five degree angle. You will be required to squirt your tea thrice. No more.  May I take this opportunity to remind you that too much sugar is bad for your health.

Milk, dear visitor is something I have given long thought of. I would love to add a separate urn with plain milk to give you a true chai latte experience but this experiment has gone horribly wrong in the recent past. Most of you, dear visitors, serve three quarter parts milk to a quarter parts of water, and one of you had the audacity to drink the milk plain, leaving me attending to the boiling water!  The current economic climate has also affected me, dear visitors, and I’m sorry to say that the milk will have to come preinstalled. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Subconsciously Yours,

The guard sneered at me, “disk, Mista, wapi disk?”

What disk? …I don’t know whether it was his look, or the tone in his voice, but whatever it was; it broke me into a cold sweat.

Primary School Prefects used to hand out disks called “Monto”, colloquial for monitor, to anyone caught speaking any language other than English in the school compound. If you caught the disk, it was your turn to eavesdrop on conversations in the hope of spiriting the disk away from you.  Round it would go until the end of school day when the prefect would trace the disks movement and present the chain of mainly the usual mothertoungers, …oops…I’m sorry, spare me the disk please… to the teacher on duty who would then see them off home with a stroke of the cane. Godspeed to you if you were last with the disk, it was a double whammy! 

It was hard to keep to the rules, especially while out in the field playing football and some burly kid from the opposing team sends you tumbling with a tackle that nearly breaks your leg. The refereeing technology was yet to trickle down to the location so it was prudent to take matters into your own hands. Being of a somewhat small stature, I had found it wiser, from previous experiences, to take matters into my own mouth instead; and from a safe distance, I would send a barrage of insults and when it came to those, I had been blessed in abundance. Five seconds into the torrent, my English dexterity would dry up and I would naturally slide into mother tongue, where I would be at home until someone dunked the monto down my pants. My frequent verbal sparring’s landed me at least three strikes every day.

In one of the most desperate acts to win the prefect of the year award, my class prefect carved out two monto’s from a used chalkboard duster, and spent whole days tracking the movement of these disks; which is to say, followed me around. When the other prefects presented one list, he handed out two, mainly comprising of …the usual suspect. This doubled my evening ration and while I limped home, I prayed he would be a dismal failure in life and would spend most of his adult life looking up to me. Sadly, I must inform you that he did, indeed win the prefect of the year award, and went on to score the highest grades ever recorded in the location, up until then that is, and is presently a well-heeled member of the society. Doesn’t life suck!

What is more, decades later, here I am, my poor butt freezing all over again at the mention of a disk. It was the parking disk this time and I didn’t have it. So I parked the car and went back into the supermarket I had been shopping. I found it with the checkout cashier.

Aha! I clearly remembered. She had been speaking vernacular to me.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Keep your feet up

If you ever paid a visit to my village, you will find everyone dancing about their ways. Naturally, having come a long way, you will pop your ears to release the pressure and tune in to the local frequency but alas! all you will get is static. To put you at ease, there is no music. This is the rhythm of life here, and I would advise you to adopt to it fast. Get a jig into your head and start dancing around, for keeping your feet in one spot for too long will lead to wild mushrooms springing from your shoes, some form of algae materializing on your arms and legs and you might soon find yourself static, rooted to Mother Nature with only your eyes darting about.

I once was sprung from my shifty siesta by a loud engine, possibly a truck, and being in a place where people rush out to see cars, I rushed out in time to spot a military truck, full of soldiers in full regalia, headed somewhere down the valley. It was muddy, and that made it easy for me and about a dozen other boys to keep up while giggling and doing thumbs up to some very stone faced soldiers seated behind the truck. Soon, it came to a halt at a home and the men jumped out, smarted themselves about and with grim faces, quietly retrieved a coffin from the truck. Our giggles suddenly dried up. One of their colleagues had passed on and they had brought him home to rest. The soldiers filed into the compound in a two neat lines, and stood to their attention as the family and friends assembled for the service. For an hour, the soldiers stood rooted in their spot.

Unknown to them, another army, in much larger numbers was quietly marching up from the earth. Even from a distance, I could see the tiny safari ants snaking their way, in uneven columns, up the shiny boots to disappear beneath their trousers, the men did not flinch. I froze, I could imagine the trail heading up my own knees, and so I stamped my feet. None of them even glanced. I could now see the ants occasionally zigzag around their belt buckles and up their tunic but the men did not move, surely, they must have spotted or felt numb from the tiny little bites as the ants marched up their chests, but the men did not seem to notice. Soon, you could spot the ants hanging from their bites on the men’s cheeks, their earlobes, gosh! they must have hanging from many other places too! but the men did not even blink. I was beginning to have a lot of faith in our army.

It was not until the service was over that the neat column hastily broke up, with the men dashing into a nearby maize plantation, and from a distance, you could spot a shirt, or trouser flapping just above the flower heads. I stamped my feet and headed home.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Back In Time

There is this pinewood wall clock I bought at a flea market the other day, Christmas and all, in the hope of adding décor to a vastly blank part of my living room wall. I never bought it for the time, I mean; no one really looks at a living room clock for time anyway, it was a collector’s item, an antique I could easily pass off to my visitors as having been handed down from my grandfather, well, deep down though, I thought it may have been sneaked out from some sanctuary of worship, or a castle. The seller, a fast talking street smart sort of guy would easily have taken credit for that. I gave him cash.

So I spend the evening polishing, then mounting it and generally rearranging the furniture to give a little more ambience to it. A small piece of furniture, and what a dramatic presence! It gives it a sort of aristocratic, well, not quite, maybe old school?... no, maybe not, that term is befitting to music don’t you think?… by the way, does music from the 40’s and 50’s qualify? …and now that that we are in a new decade, how will we refer to the music from the last one? … It is still not yet old school but …music from the 00’s doesn’t quite ring… may I suggest millennia? or something along those lines? I think…. I'm drifting .....Holy Christ!!!! …Something appears to be very wrong with this clock.

Not noticeably at first, but then, when you are only used to quick glances of analog clocks, you only look at the position of the hand that matters for the moment. If you are in a pub, your eyes will always settle on the slowest of them all, for various reasons of course. On a normal day, you play between the minute and the hour hands and if you are the type that waits for your date outside a restaurant, the second hand keeps you company… I have all evening to this priceless piece and gradually, I notice the minute hand had barely moved a notch in ten minutes! The hour hand, on the other hand… seemed to be on steroids! …gliding off in a direction not normally associated with clockwise!

As I watch in amazement, it dawns on me that the hands were gliding, not jumping to, as I would expect from an analog clock. In cold silence I realize there was no “tick tock” sound either! I must have fallen prey to a very stupid prank. The sudden blaring polyphonic shrill erases all doubt, emerging from the woodwork, it announces the departure of perhaps another day in its relentless march backwards. I realize that I had bought a cheap analogue screen digital clock encased in pine.

I head back the next day with it, I had to return it. I don’t expect to find the smoothie but I’m in luck, fake antique business must be very good. He only has a few more left. He gives me the “goods once sold” look as I furiously thrust it into his hands, pauses for a moment then opens the back panel, to unclamp the battery. He licks it, nods and places it back. The clock boots up with another one of the hounding shrills and miraculously, the hands come to their rightful senses and glide forth.

“This clock is okay boss”… he thrusts it back and jumps to the next customer, I stand there for a moment then slowly trudge home knowing after all, I never really bought it for the time.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Coming up short

The art of eating, to me, is literally a hand to mouth affair, my eyes having long drifted from their oversight role to the less palatable goings-on, on Kenyan TV. I’ve grown on... arguably in mannerism, but I’ve grown all the same. There was a time when I only had eyes for the plate. But then, that was high school.

The school dining hall clears out soon after one. I wash my plate and pile it onto a rising stack and toss the spoon to a tray. Bingo!.. I’m old enough not to wash anybody else’s and in just under two months, I will be in Form three, hardened enough to have the monos’ scurrying around for mine. On a normal day, I would head out to the lawns at the assembly and soak in the sun. It is a normal day. I head to the dorm.

We have three lessons in the afternoon. That is in the minds of the principal, his teachers and to a large extent, the sneaky prefects. We have no plans for classes this afternoon. The bell will go at two, and we will lock ourselves in. The prefects will come ordering us out of the dorms but we will stay put. The principal and his teachers will shout themselves hoarse but we will not budge. That way, the lead dissenters will not be readily identifiable to the authorities, and the cowards will not stray into class.

The sit in is well underway. From my top bunk, I stretch out to peel the curtain slightly. The deputy is pacing from one dorm to the other, slamming a cane into his side. The principal is nowhere in sight, he is probably shaking his large fist at the prefects. He may be one smart guy, but he has seriously underestimated what four hundred young minds can come up with. I have lived to the day when he will finally call us to the assembly, and agree to our demands. For years to come, we will be known as liberators. We are almost at the tail end of this liberation sweeping across schools.

On numerous occasions, a sudden drizzle sends me flying through the dorm window to snap my clothes off the drip-dryer, just a few feet outside. Instinct has me again and yet, this was no drizzle. It was not even to a storm that the door flew clear off its hinges. As someone screams “Police!” I am in mid flight halfway out the window. I suddenly realize I have miscalculated. A cop is guarding this exit too. He has his baton halfway raised when I smash into him, sending us both tumbling to the ground. He is back on his feet back but can only sway his baton helplessly to ducking heads as droves of more students bound out and sprint past him for the gate. That is a dead end.

In less than ten minutes, we are rounded up and herded to the assembly, where the principal stands pensive, with his staff in a neat row behind. The chief and the education officer also grace this occasion. “Gentlemen, you have deeply disappointed me today, but I will still call you gentlemen”...the principal’s tone is surprisingly mild.. “What made you join this school?” ..his gaze sweeps through, if he is hoping to catch an eye, he is riding his luck too hard. “Was it not because it is the best performing school in the district?”... I could hardly argue with that... “It seems you have lost sight of that, you feel that you came here for sideshows. You think the other schools are better than you because they wear trousers? You think the girls look at you as lesser men because you are in shorts?”... that is the raw nerve, right there, if last weekend’s sporting competition was anything to go by... “NO!” ..the bite creeps into his voice ... “I want to be clear, here and now. If you feel that you must wear trousers, pack your bags and leave my school now!. If you choose to stand tall in your shorts, I believe then that you still have a class left for the day... Good day, Gentlemen.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Night to Remember

She should be out anytime now. The last lamp had gone out shortly after her father, the burly deputy headmaster made a last lap around the house, a steady beam from his torch carefully sweeping the compound. No shifty shadows behind the trees. He locked the gate and as the dogs did their roving charge around him, retreated back to the house. He was ready to retire. They were ready to take charge. I shift. I had crouched behind a shrub twenty feet from the gate. A little too far for the dogs to pay attention to me but close enough to see the back side of the house clearly. The window should open anytime now.

Thundering beats briefly ride out the wind. The party is well underway. The theme for the night is a dance to celebrate the passage of a right. Circumcision. Tonight, I am going to shock the skins back into fellow graduates when I show up with the deputy’s daughter. The heavily guarded trophy date we all dreamt of but could only argue over who has shaken her hand more. Earlier this morning I ran into her at the miller’s and after boosting my count, I got a word in and she surprisingly jumped to the idea. All I had to do was to sit out this slight hurdle. She will be sneaking out anytime now.

The moon disappears behind a cloud sending the entire compound into darkness. A glow-worm uses the occasion to send out a luminous green signal to potential mates in the neighbourhood. No reply. At least not from my angle of sight. Poor thing, it was quite sharply in contrast to the cricket somewhere beneath the shrub. Seemingly spoilt for choice, it sends out annoyingly loud chirps in reply to dozens more ringing in the night. On behalf of the glow-worm and increasingly, my own. I am going to stamp the lights out of the cricket anytime now.

Just as I am about to decide which foot to thump with, I notice a tiny crack emerge from the window. I wasn’t imagining it. I shift slightly to get a better view. A tiny shift, it is, but I suddenly feel numb. A strange numbness I had never felt before. A prickling sensation runs through my legs. I stagger and the flash light drops to briefly illuminate the ground beneath and roll off to shine its light back to a distant star. In the brief moment, I notice the shrub camouflages a termite mound. A steady stream of soldiers are trooping their way up my shoes and into my trousers. They should be all over me anytime now.

Screaming was certainly on the cards for the night. But that was while dancing the night away, not on a quiet road taking off my clothes fast while fleeing in no specific direction. Even as I round a corner, the dogs are barking their heads off. I pause for a moment to catch my breath. Damn its cold. I rule out trying to get back to my clothes and light. Everyone should be out anytime now.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prime Time with Grandma

The dusty road winds up to the bus stop. That’s a half an hours walk from home and this morning, I’m seeing my parents off to town. Along the way, I had laid my day’s plans. The fence needed propping up. The compound, tidying.

“Son, you will grow up to be a fine young man! I’ll see if I can pick up something for you.”

“Thanks Dad!”

“and take care of Grand ma!..…”

“Sure Mum! Have yourselves a beautiful day”…

then, I quickly rush back home and jump into my wolf’s clothing.

Evenings are dull. There’s little to say except listen to parental advice. Today’s is special. Stories from the goings on in town. I offer my own day and present a small wound suffered while hard at task. All is appreciated. We then have diner and not too long after, Grandma steps in for the evening prayers.

Grandma thanks the Lord for taking my parents to town and back. More importantly, for finding us all in one piece. She prays for the well being of one kind lady, Susan, for so generously offering to make us lunch… I open one eye... Big mistake. My sister is looking at me. She now knows why her friend skipped the choir practice session at the church. No immediate explanations come to mind. I quickly close my eye and open the other… my mom is nodding. Probably happy that her son is making inroads… probably nothing. She nods a lot during prayer time… I know!... it’s a nasty habit I have… but grandma’s prayers last the better part of an hour and it’s a wise thing to occasionally flex your eyelids... You don’t want to start snoring away… My dad is his usual self. Nothing shows in his face but that doesn’t mean he is not thinking.

She prays for the good health of the young man who rode from far to offer my sister a ride on his bike to church… Breaking News… To tell you the truth, I am beginning to have serious doubts on this choir sessions business. I was a member until last month when the choirmaster’s remarks that I should restrict my vocals to talking left me with little option but to walk out in protest. I didn’t leave empty handed… not if today’s lunch is to go by. I now suspect he is picking up my habits fast. Tomorrow, I will get the graphic description of the young man from gramps and if, as I suspect, …IF!… it fits him, I have some dirt that will ensure he restricts his vocals to church melodies.

Grand ma remembers my parent’s commitment to a lifetime of love and sharing. Every journey has its hiccups…. bumps. The strength of commitment is measured by how one is able to overcome these problems… Now, she may be glossing over things but I’m sure she is talking about some beef between my parents. So the whole trip to town was a bump smoothing affair? Is that why she has paid us an impromptu visit? Is that why they spent last night talking? Whatever it is, they have kept it well under wraps.

After running through our lives, she now dives into crops and livestock and thereafter, the long winding Amen! finally comes. Besides Grandma’s, I’m sure that no other face lifts up. Everyone heads to bed. I think it will be a good idea not to hang around longer for that present. I can always receive it tomorrow.