It is such a good feeling to be home, among strong people

Thursday November 07 2019

It is always, if somewhat rare, a pleasure to hear from the offspring. As parents of teenagers know, it is not the children, but the parents, who need quality time. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


It was midnight, my favourite time of day. And I was doing what I enjoy most in life — watching pieces of American TV on YouTube.

I am obsessed with Trump and I can’t have enough of CNN’s S.E. Cupp, Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, to name a few.

Strangely, I also watch Trump rallies on Fox; I even watch his arrivals and departures at various airports. The Trump story is, to me, very unsettling.

I was lying on my favourite end of the sofa which, as you would expect, is also everyone else’s.

I find it amusing that when I stand up to go get something, when I come back I find someone has moved there. I am happy to share, though.

A thin sliver of Lagavulin and small bowl of my favourite mix of nuts — I am nuts about nuts — completed this pleasant picture of middle-aged midnight luxury.



My phone rings, it’s my 16-year-old daughter. “Dad?” she says in a fragment of language that I couldn’t determine whether it was declarative or interrogative. “Yes mum,” I answer.

It is always, if somewhat rare, a pleasure to hear from the offspring. As parents of teenagers know, it is not the children, but the parents, who need quality time.

But so long as the kids are generally somewhere around the house, are well behaved, allow me once in a while to get my food from Hashmi, so long as nobody on this earth expects me to eat KFC, I don’t mind if I am left on my own sometimes.

“Dad, it’s midnight,” she says reprovingly. “Oh,” I am taken aback. “ Is my TV too loud?” “You are at home? OK, goodnight then. See you in the morning.” And she was gone.

I stopped my show to allow me time to absorb the shock. My 16-year-old daughter believes I need an eye kept on me and has nominated herself for the job.


In the meantime, her mother is somewhere in the house buried in a heap of duvets, wrapped up like a ball of cotton, lost in dream world of stentorious snores and limitless peace.

You can break into the house, rig it with TNT and blow it into space without disturbing her peace.

Even when the burglar alarm — which is annoying and very loud — goes off and it seems certain that our security had been penetrated and the place invaded, she opens her eyes and fires up a small part of her brain long enough to confirm that I had suitably armed myself and gone to confront the attackers before sinking back into the covers with an ease that comes of long practice.

She is generally satisfied with getting the results of the combat in the morning, most probably because the outcome is never in doubt.

I do not think that my future sons-in-law — poor weak, Cerelac- and sausage-fed milksops, are going to have an easy time.

They will get loving, loyal, warm-hearted and generous companions but iron-willed women, bred for millennia to lead the homestead.


I have written before that my aunties and elder sisters on the war path are some of the most frightening phenomena in nature.

The stereotype of an African woman as weak, weepy and battered does not match the women among whom I grew up.

In my life, I only saw one man strike his wife and he was widely acknowledged as a fool. It is likely they fought in private, but unless you have a thick knotted neck, I would not advise you to walk around my village trying to beat up the women.

I made a glorious return to my homeland last week and I knew I was home when I stopped off in Nanyuki to buy meat — Nanyuki has some of the best meat in the world — and I found the butchery owner punishing one of his workers.

You would expect that he would tick him off and send him back to work. Oh no.

A customer had complained that the soup had not been thoroughly stirred to break up the fat. The butcher called the worker and served him a big bowl of soup with a crust of fat floating on it like an iceberg.

Kaa chini ukunywe yote. Nikuletee chumvi? Ama kapiriri?” (Have a seat and drink up. Can I get you something else? Some salt? Maybe a bit of green chili?) The butcher’s politeness was more frightening than the loudest yelling.


The weather was magical; the sky was a clean azure with green, rolling hills and a backdrop of blue-tinted mountains on one hand and the endless, endless northern plains stretching to the lands of the Samburu, and the Turkana, and the Boran all the way to Abyssinia.

If I closed my eyes, I’d still hear the cowbells of my grandfather’s herd and smell the pungent odour of healthy animal.

I’d see trees of coffee so weighed down by berries that they required as many as five props to hold them upright; homesteads choking in such a forest of sacks of potatoes that there wasn’t a spot to step.

This is my land where women — even when they are 16 and live in the iron jungle — are strong and the men are firm. This is home.

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