Monday, July 9, 2018

Football Madness

The World Cup is with us again. I am underwhelmed as usual. This was supposed to be fun, in the particularly narrow sense of having lots of football to watch. That part isn't so bad. The rest of it... where to start?

The thing which gives me the most grief is the poor ratio of hype to significance in the venture. The hype was and still is disproportionate. After the hangover has lifted, the smoke has cleared and the streets are swept, all that will have happened is a series of football games. Good for a fling, and just as brief. But the flock of marketers jumping on the World Cup gravy train rather detracts from the football.

Probably if my country was in it I could have pride to justify zeal, but most of the egos out here are headbutting for teams they have no inkling of connection to. Just because someone decided to support a fancied foreign team, they find enough grounds therein to sink their emotional lot in its fortunes at a remote tournament. He will even argue with friends and fight strangers for this team. Likely even bet a princely stake, a ruinous amount.

Inevitably someone's favorite team gets eliminated - we were never all gonna get to the final, see. (I always get triggered when the host country gets eliminated a good while before the final. Awkward for the survivors' visiting fans huh.) It's like gambling: everybody cries so that one person can smile very broadly. It's probably a good thing we didn't qualify and spend all that time and money only to go and get humiliated on a global stage. And then assemble at the airport to aim rotten eggs at the team bus. Or, more typically, throw a major tantrum on radio and TV talk shows.

By all means buy and wear the foreign country's jersey, who cares really what you brand yourself with, or where you come from, or what sense it makes. Sport is supposed to be fun anyway. It gets more thrilling when there are stakes involved, something to be won or lost. I play football, I should know.

There comes a time however when a line is crossed and the stakes are just too high for this life and the only real winner is the corporate sponsor orchestrating the scam to peddle merchandise. And, of course, that one winning country.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Curmudgeon

I admit that the tone of this blog has been negative. My sincerest apologies.

I have been burning negative emotions online. It is a bit like burning tyres in a crowded street.

Some will see the smoke from afar. Some will walk unawares into an acrid cloud of black smoke.

I thought garbage is better off burnt outside than kept inside.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dream Girl

My eyes made out your form
the adorning garments
the face that crowned it all
the projected artifice
But I never once saw you

My mind processing the sight
filled the shell with fantasy
loaded meaning on your words
Assigned you my co-star
In a rom-com chick-flick
painted you in its own image

But I never really saw you

Friday, May 11, 2018

Bliss

Remember that one time you thought you were soon leaving for greener pastures?

Remember how happy you were, how carefree?

You were floating way above cloud nine. Nothing got to you, no one could say anything to you.

It wasn't so much where you were going that broadened your smile. GOD knows you were apprehensive, even unexcited about that new prospect.

Just the idea that you were on the brink of leaving gave you a new lease of life. You looked forward to your last day, you fantasized on their surprise when you would tell them. You practised the short statement with which you would deliver the letter of resignation that you had already spent ages wondering exactly how to phrase.

Unhappily, the slightly less disagreeable prospect that was the wellspring of such vibrant hope vanished into limbo, crushing your soul, and you hung your head and moped about in low spirits for days on end like a whelp suddenly orphaned. What got you down was the recognition that the trap you were in was worthy of escape, just as the mirage of an open door dissolved into hot air.

Did you forget how good the mere prospect of leaving for a slightly better trap made you feel?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Write It Down

One mourns for a lost idea
As for a neglected lover.

Better to suffer writer's block,
and remain a lifelong blockhead,
than, having had a brainwave,
to subsequently forget
before paper preserves it.

Harsh self-reproach prevails
For once having tasked Imagination
Only for memory in an idle moment
Distracted by a passing fancy
To loose its grasp
on hard-wrought genius
pursued afresh in vain.

One mourns for an idea
Entombed in the sands of time
Buried forever in amnesia.

All hail pen and paper!
Jailhouse of flighty ideas.

Friday, April 13, 2018

My Bad

From our earliest beginnings I perceived instinctually that you would always be the star of the show, myself your supporting cast at best.

Your innate vivacity, your knack for the melodramatic, your effortless allure, your quick, often biting wit and sharp mind made me, an introverted, overanalytical, awkward, stiff, caustic, half-baked nerd stubbornly riding the crest of an exhausted wave of bygone glories, feel like a relative robot-mannequin by your side. I resented your active strength and social magnetism which exposed my passive weakness and solitary antisocial unpopularity. I could never summon up enough guts to dominate you, which for some reason I thought was important if anything was going to happen - we both know that we both knew what was at stake. The opportunity was begging for taking.

But I would have been asking you to dim your brilliance and tone down your vibrancy just to accommodate my myopic juvenile insecurities. Yet even then I knew that it would have been too much of an ask to attempt, and I did not have enough balls to ask it anyway (thank heavens). So I resentfully cleared the way for others in the spirit of "Those who say it can't be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it." Passively. And so I took a front row seat and shortly vacated it unable to stomach the sight.

Right now, knowing I have no right soever, I can't help but protest the singular waste of talent you represent.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Woman of the House

At the ripe old age of almost thirty I finally erected a simba at home.

Culturally around here boys are expected to erect their own little structures in their parents' compound well in advance of moving out to occupy their own compounds. The young man (for the boy will grow) operates therein until he marries, after which he is encouraged to establish a house on his own compound preferably somewhere nearby.

Enough background.

By Easter the structure was complete and habitable. It came two decades late - an extra twenty years of me occupying a bedroom in the main house. My bad.

I travelled to the village by night to inaugurate the long overdue structure.            .

Mother meanwhile conjured up a feast and assembled a team from church to pray and offer advice. Such fanfare is not standard procedure for such things, but I was not about to complain. Mother, an excellent host, does not let such events pass quietly in hunger.

While the women cooked, the invited sages sat in a circle in the newly built structure and the rounds of advice came hard and fast.

"This is just a house," said one, "It is still lacking an important element before it can be considered a home. Somebody must come and join you in here permanently."

"Find a woman who is beautiful, hard working and GOD fearing. Don't rush. Take your time, look around."

"This house is not yours really. When she comes she will be called the woman of the house, you will just be sleeping here!"

Grandma's words were for my ears only.

Things continued in this tenor. I listened attentively and avoided mentioning certain misgivings I have lately developed about the prospect of marriage today generally, and my suitability for it in particular.

Eventually everybody had said their bit and we ended like we began - with a word of prayer.

And then a feast was laid out for us.

*********

A cricket kept me awake the whole of the second night with its morbidly monotonous love song. I searched for it everywhere but couldn't find it.

*******

In first place in the race to be crowned Woman of the House, and leading by some distance, is Brown Eyes. Barring her withdrawal from the race, or disqualification on some technicality, all indications are that she is poised for victory. But long is the marathon, and in its early stages yet. Stamina is her test.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ephemeral

A team mate died recently, our goalkeeper.

He had MAD skills, was popular inside and outside the team and took the time to coach some kids on weekends and holidays.

We were not close, he and I. In fact, we hardly talked. The last time we talked was a disagreement, a silly flare-up over nothing in the middle of training one cloudy evening after our team had conceded a goal and everyone was itching to assign blame. We shouted hard words at one another and shortly went back to our frigid silence.

That was a very long time ago. Of course at the time death was the last thing on our minds. I just wish our last interaction had been on a more positive note. Football has been fun and therapeutic for me; to think that I left on bad terms with a fellow sportsperson does not sit well with me at all. Besides, all his friends were not crazy to see good traits in him.

Going forward I am admonished by this tragedy to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Someone could die before you get a chance to bury hatchets. Life is short, make it sweet.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Guya the Trailblazer

The extended family enthusiastically responded when cousin Guya, named after late Grandma, invited us to her wedding, almost exactly a year after the death of the beloved lady she was named after.

(I should start with the dinner we all enjoyed on the eve of the wedding, and a late night saga that ensued with certain cousins, but those details will be withheld.)

After fetching the bride from her hideout in Donholm, Umoja SDA church was the place to be. We headed there through interminable Outer Ring Road traffic, impenetrable even on a Sunday, which delayed the intended 10am starting time. (While crawling through the traffic I had the pleasure of viewing Nairobi ladies in their "Sunday best" rushing off to churches. A beautiful sight indeed, and they were everywhere.) I have yet to attend a wedding which began dead on time, but I also generally avoid weddings I do not absolutely have to attend.

Got there to the initial shock of familiar faces (relatives) everywhere which shock eventually wore out when I detected strangers in the midst. Now if you think Nairobi ladies in their Sunday best are strikingly beautiful, then you should see Nairobi ladies at a wedding.

But I digress. Armed with my little digital camera, which could disappear if I wrapped my fist around it, I baptised myself Freelance Photographer and went about capturing photos of favorite people. The professional guys with zoom lenses the size of my head made me feel like an upstart but I was not deterred, having three cousins and a sister in the bridal party. So I jostled for space right along with the most extravagant of them.

And now humor me as I delve into improbable theories fathered by idly musing as my "sisters" marched slowly down the aisle in advance of Guya the highlight of the day. Who came up with the idea of nubile forerunners, eligible bachelorettes, thus displaying their beauty to crowds? What is the rationale behind that? Is it an enticement for the boy child? Is it their warm up for their own big day? Is it build up anticipation for the bride's appearance?

They smiled, they swayed and stepped to the beat. Their corresponding groomsman marched towards them to meet them halfway. They paired off and headed to the pulpit.

At length the rigmarole of marching prospective brides and grooms, and a former bride and groom (a.k.a best man and best maid), and even the wedding matrons, was dispensed with and the lady of the hour stepped out of her vehicle to take her place in the spotlight: the church entrance. Flanked by her proud parents, with wedding music chiming sweetly, she too marched down the aisle to meet her groom and his parents halfway. He unveiled her under pastoral supervision, after which the whole team advanced unhurriedly towards the pulpit.

You know how it goes. A choir sang. A funny preacher gave the couple marital advice and harangued others present to marry in church. The couple took vows, signed certificates, as choirs sang, and then the MC sent us away to the reception. A return march of married couple, best couple, parents, bridal party, matrons, fans, etc, from pulpit to exit, concluded that chapter, with us wannabe Photographers lining the aisle.

There was a hubbub outside as we non-car-owning attendees tried to charm our way into a free ride to the reception. My strategy was to stand around lugubriously until someone had mercy on me. It worked eventually on one uncle, who lumped me and three other sundry stragglers into the back seat of a Pajero.

Outer Ring Road traffic once again delayed matters as a procession of ribboned vehicles headed to Sir Yusuf Ali on Thika Road.

Lunch was served as extremely danceworthy music played, but a full plate anchored me in my seat. I also kept the company of a lively young lady, an absent cousin's girlfriend, who was full of stories and thought I was funny and discouraged me from abandoning food for dance. I also ran into a short, lovely mutual friend who knew the groom and I knew the bride, small world. Speeches began but I was understandably distracted, though I certainly caught the bride's mother's. And then there was time to catch up with long lost relatives and to familiarize oneself with remote relatives as cake was served. Shortly after, the obligatory vote of thanks was hammered out, and everybody could go home, or ask about the after party.

Luckily very few people asked me when I am getting married. 2021, I told them.

I also realized just how important it is for me to start being seen at such events in the company of a lady, even if a hired escort, if only to deflect loved ones' concerns over my long running militant singledom. So if you are a lady - any lady - reading this and are open to the idea of pretending to be my serious girlfriend at major family functions, which are not many, post your application in Comments.

Fate was kind to me. Just as I leave who pops up but Guya herself and her husband John. I hugged her and told her she had done well to set a really high benchmark for the rest of us cousins. Now nothing less than a church wedding will do.

Well done cuz.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Social Sunday

The announcement invited all youth to invite their friends, assemble at Bata Hilton at 9:00 am Sunday and then proceed as a group to Karura Forest.

We who kept time spent two hours waiting for the others. In that time between small talk with my mates I played with two energetic kids, a brother and a sister, who came along.

Eventual turnout was lower than expected. And rhe ladies largely absconded, resulting in poor gender balance.

Off we trooped to the bus stop for the journey to Karura by matatu. Alighted near UN, walked a well manicured path to the Forest entrance, engaged the security guard with banter as she checked our bags for possible pollutants, invaded the forest.

Upon arrival an initial aimlessness afflicted us as we gathered our wits. Shortly two or three hired bicycles surfaced. We took turns fighting to be next and pedalling them up and down the hills and around the track. The sun's hot rays did regulate our fervour or else I would have covered many miles.

Eventually we assembled under the shade of trees where we introduced ourselves to one another using an innovatove memory game. Afterwards everybody was  required to self-report on their strengths and weaknesses. It was revealing to say the least, how most people are keenly aware of their best and worst traits of character.

And then we played more team-building type games involving blindfolds, obstacles and crossing a lake of fire, but hunger prevailed, so we cut that short so the youthful facilitator could rush through the moral of the story: something about faith and teamwork. He conveniently glossed over the emerging reality that Kenyans will always cheat to win given half a chance and there is no prospect for electoral reform on the horizon. At least that is the main thing I came away with.

Lunch! Rice, beans, chapati, vegetable salad and a refreshing slice of watermelon. Writing that made me hungry just now, it was well made and well served. After lunch we had a brief devotion, and then a few more jumping and clapping games, for which patience was wearing thin.

Then at last followed the real highlight of my day, a major reason for which I left bed by 7 on a Sunday morning and travelled halfway across town: football. Us men split into two teams in full afternoon solar glare to chase that inflated leather up and down. I tried to score but made off with two assists, a kicked chest and a sore back. Meanwhile the ladies were playing kati and skipping ropes like little girls. We would have appreciated a cheering squad better, but alright.

And then we drank water, prayed, left for our homes; a Sunday well spent.