about the one photograph i regret having missed at Namboole yesterday


THE one photograph from yesterday’s #NRMconference at Namboole that I wish I had taken was the first one of the day, right at the security checkpoint where I was waiting to get my laptop cleared.

The access at the start of the day where the President is involved is a somewhat uncertain affair that involves explaining oneself to many polite but firm soldiers whose commitment to the task they are assigned is such that you would rather watch somebody else put it to the test than volunteer for the caper.

I have had many years’ practice of standing patiently by the side till the soldiers in question have done their job, and Sunday morning gave me another thirty minutes of experience during which the photo opportunity presented itself:

A large fellow employed by Silk Events as a ‘Bouncer’ had squeezed through the Sentinel security checkpoint, inescapably rubbing his massive muscles along the inside of the thing as he went through, and walked quickly past the small-bodied, plain clothes soldier doing the checking in spite of the beeping sound that occurred as he had gone through.

“Gwe, allo!” the small-bodied, plain clothes soldier declared.

And the bouncer stopped, a little bit surprised.

I could tell that the large fellow was uncomfortable being taken through a process that he probably runs on a much less dangerous scale every weekend or every other day. He had this demeanour about him that I would expect from a doctor who finds himself being processed through a clinic in a foreign land where he fails to start up the conversation that says, “You know, I am actually a doctor myself…”

That conversation is useless because of the famous taunt, “Physician, heal thyself!” as well as the practicality of things when one is not feeling well.

The doctor could be an orthopaedic surgeon, for instance, but when he gets a toothache he would have to totally succumb to a dental technician without asking questions. Or he could be a professor of epidemiology but once he sprains his ankle he is as good as a cabbage farmer being asked to design a political campaign poster.

This was my bouncer pal, about the size of a cow, being stopped by a mere human being at a security check point.

He came to a halt quite quickly but then I saw him doing a mental calculation that took in the diminished (compared to himself) size of the plain clothes soldier who had said, “Gwe, allo!” and factored in the numerous other plain clothes and uniformed soldiers within walk-over-and-slap distance.

His mental mathematics clearly involved the fact that there were possibly many years of intense and specialised training in ways to maim or kill people identified as a threat or a danger, all compacted into the humbly sized body of this fellow.

The equation must have made sense because the only way anyone could say, “Gwe, allo!” to a person with muscles the size of a modest commercial building, was if they had some hidden element within them that could neutralise the strength and energy he could muster up in anger, irritation or at the call of duty.

Actually, judging from the speed with which he lowered his shoulders, turned his head down, and took a couple of steps back, I could tell that his calculation had replaced ‘slap’ with ‘mortally-destroy-beyond-possible-recognition’ – which made me realise that the fellow was actually a fairly wise man.

But that’s NOT when I would have taken the photograph.

He came back to the sentinel checkpoint and submitted himself to a pat-down that was not very efficient since the small-bodied, plain clothes soldier could not reach his neck. In fact, if the bouncer had somehow implanted bullets or a small landmine into that neck as thick as most people’s thighs, then we would be reading a very different flavour of news today.

The photograph I would have taken would have been the one after the hulk had finally completed his check and been cleared of most of the suspicion the small-bodied, plain clothes soldier harboured either by default or because of the beeping.

My missed photograph opportunity occurred as the traumatisingly-sculptured Silk Events giant cautiously bounced off into the stadium, and the small-bodied, plain clothes soldier turned quite deliberately and watched him carefully.

My missed photograph opportunity would have captured the small-bodied plain clothes chap thinking to himself the thought: “But if this guy had caused any trouble after I said, ‘Gwe, allo’… eh!”

I will regret for a long time, missing that photograph.

i’m off for crime preventer training #UgBlogWeek


I’VE BEEN reminded by a couple of kind, caring friends in socialmediasphere that I need to lose weight.

One of them used some brilliant metaphor as you will see here:

White Boer Pig

Which made me think about something else – someone wise within the family came up with a suggestion a few weeks ago that struck home the fact that he is a sensible young man who has been raised quite well – and I will soon be sending his parents a congratulatory card to that effect.

You see, we have this family gathering every August at which we generally celebrate many events all rolled into one. The preparations and set up energies have increased in complexity over the years as everyone got hitched and hatched kids, so these days the run up to the main event is quite frantic.

So this young man suggested that instead of us running things the usual way and gathering up all the family contributions a month or so to the celebration, what if we invested in something like a piggery (other religions, read goattery <—eh, that doesn’t exist…make it goat herd) right now, and every month contributed small amounts towards animal rearing?

That way, since we all consume meat one way or another, we could make our regular purchases off our own investment at a profit, and then closer to the celebration day we could sell off all we need to fund the fete.

Very wise – if only we thought like this every day we would be wallowing in hard cash, animal slop aside.  And if what Mr. Wapa above suggests is true, then we should target white boer pigs (real ones, not the likes of me)…

But back to the point of this – I need to lose weight – the second gentleman who raised my weight issue did so in passing, referring to the wrong size of my trousers.

My trousers are okay, though, it’s my shirts that are a little bit tighter these days.

So I am signing up for some heavy duty exercise – by joining a Crime Preventers Training Programme.

I saw photographs from the pass-out parade in Mbale last week and there is no doubt that the training works wonders.

Of course, I am already aware of the types of exercises I need to undertake in order to give my shirts some independence – see, I even have proof:

White Boer Pig response

And I know how to do sit-ups, and crunches, and other exercises reputed to do wonders for the abdomen – I know that people refer to “abs” these days, but I don’t think I am fit enough to say the word so and make it believable.

I feel I am so overweight that if I said “abs” in public I would elicit the type of reaction you get when you hear a child say a swear word.

So, back to my remedy: I’m off to enlist as a Crime Preventer.

From what I’ve seen, they don’t have t-shirts in my current size so even if my only motivation is a free t-shirt I will have to get with the programme.

There should be benefits besides the smaller belly and free t-shirt. Security in my neighbourhood and around the office will improve; I won’t be taking any nonsense from the askaris who don’t check cars properly at entrances, the definition of crime might soon include spelling and grammatical errors, and I will save money rather than spend on the gym.

I just hope that there is an evening programme, so that I can still go about my daily struggle and then fit the training in after that (including the children’s homework).

Yye how many days or weeks or months does the Crime Preventer’s training run for?

About seven weeks, according to one media report – meaning if I started in two weeks I’d be done by Christmas Day.

(Cue thought of approaching Christmas lunch with a flat stomach and zero judgemental statements in the air round my ears. Bliss.)

And while I went through these idle thoughts I decided to google the arrangement and found that there is a surprisingly up-to-date (relative to most others) website for this programme – http://ncpf.ug/.

I’ve sent an email – I’ll keep you posted on developments or invite you to my pass out ceremony.

an eid aduha tragicomedy along the Hoima highway


Tragicomedy – a term that students of secondary school literature back in my day learnt with relish but linked to the likes of William Shakespeare and days medieval in England.
It is also a term that very aptly describes many situations we go through on a day to day basis here in the beloved Pearl of Africa, which situations have us rolling around in laughter enhanced by a hysterical relief that that thin line wasn’t crossed to engulf us in grief.
This latest one involved a public holiday, an eager, relocating-to-upcountry-so-I-must-go-to-check-every-chance-I-get old man, an array of silly employees of various kinds, a village mother, her son and their bystander neighbours, a pick up truck, and a bicycle.
It is a long story, but I know how to cut things short.
The old man in question, eager to make full use of the Eid Aduha holiday, popped two manual labourers onto the back of his small 1200cc Datsun pickup and headed for Hoima early that morning. The labourers were fresh in from south-western Uganda, having arrived the night before at his home in Kampala, and were eager to get work in.
Somewhere before Kiboga, after a couple of hours of slow driving, the old man was certainly not at his most alert but aware enough of the road when a little boy on a rickety bicycle suddenly meandered onto the highway.
Swerving very quickly to avoid vehicular homicide, the old man was aghast to find that the the little chap on the bicycle was also making attempts to avoid being hit by the pickup truck. Their combination of effort, not being synchronised by way of a discussion or even simple gestures to agree which side either of them should go in order to share the road space in a manner that would guarantee safety of life, resulted in a loud crash.
The pick up truck came to a halt right in the middle of the road and the old man headed in the direction of the drainage trench where he believed he had seen the boy’s body fall, sans bicycle wreck.
A small bystander crowd began to gather, however, and called him back to first take his pick up out of the road in case other vehicles showed up. A brief debate occurred that the old man quickly realised would only end if he moved the damn pick up before going for the boy – which nobody else appeared to be doing.
Pick up truck by the side of the road, he ran back to where the boy was now sitting up and weeping. The chap could not have been more than nine years of age, but the old man could not account for the effects of his diet over time on his current body size. Suddenly, a boda-boda appeared and the bystanders strongly advised a hospital visit.
The old man attempted to offer his pick up truck as conveyance for the little chap but they were not having that – he had to go by boda-boda.
Leeta sente za boda!” (Bring the boda money!) a fellow insisted, as the boy and an escort arranged themselves onto the thing.
Ushs3,000.
As the old man walked to the pick up truck to follow the accident victim, he noticed another fellow seated by the side of the road with a large would at his elbow and a swollen shoulder. The fellow looked somewhat familiar, and as the old man slowed down to work out where he might possibly have seen him before, a bystander called out, “Take that one as well!”
He was one of the labourers, who had fallen off the pick up truck during the collision.
Off they went, following the boda-boda, but just before they left someone shouted out that he knew the boy’s mother and was going to fetch her to the hospital.
The boda-boda went right past the large Kiboga Hospital and straight to a clinic near the town. There, treatment ensued, focussing on the little boy who had now gathered his wits about him but still presented cuts and bruises from the fall.
Half an hour later, they heard his mother arrive with a couple of bystanders. After assessing the situation in the waiting room, she declared with confidence and much relief that the person sitting there was not her son.
She was correct.
It was the manual labourer who had fallen off the pick up and was still waiting for some medical attention as his shoulder went on swelling up.
The old man stepped out of the doctor’s office, called the boy’s mother inside and pointed her to the young fellow to confirm whether this victim, at least, was her son.
He was.
She turned onto her offspring with that sudden wrath that some mothers switch on for their children when they discover any wrongdoing. In Luganda, she unleashed a tirade of questions regarding: a) What the boy was doing riding the bicycle on the main highway b) Why he refused to listen c) Whether he was stupid or not d) His general level of stupidity e) Whether he knew what grief he could have caused the family if the accident had been worse…and so on and so forth.
All this, meanwhile, was as she charged at the boy in order to administer corporal punishment. If you don’t know how mothers tend to whip you when you turn up with a small injury, then check out #AfricanMothersBeLike and #AfricanParentsBeLike on Twitter.
The old man restrained her, quite painfully because he had injured his shoulder during the collision, and was joined by a bystander-cum-neighbour.
Eventually, she calmed down but continued seething with anger. This silly boy, she explained, has been knocked by a vehicle on that very highway before!
In fact, she said, he had been shown a different, presumably safer, road to use when running his errands!
And even then, she complained, he shouldn’t have been using THAT bicycle, but another one altogether!
Gwe. If I had been there I’d be thinking to myself that she was more angry and concerned about the mangled bicycle than the scarred chap.
The ‘Doctor’, meanwhile, carried on with dressing the little fellow’s wounds and at the end stated the cost.
Ushs10,000
As the boy began recuperating, the old man introduced the injured labourer into the room, and when the Doctor saw the state of his now-very-swollen shoulder, he declared that this was a more serious matter.
No. He would not handle it. No. He needed to go to a bigger hospital elsewhere – and not the Kiboga Hospital.
The fellow would need much more than what Kiboga could do, the Doctor decreed. He did, however, administer painkillers and then commence writing a report of some sort.
It was while he was doing so, very slowly, that the old man realised that the woman, her injured son, and probably half their neighbourhood were still in the ante room.
There was the matter of reparations.
Ushs50,000.
And the exchange of phone numbers. Not for the purpose of claiming insurance or whatever they do it for in movies, and certainly not to enable a hookup later on, knowing this old man and imagining the sudden, unprepared presentation of the boy’s Kiboga mother that morning.
Off the pick-up went, to the hospital in Hoima, with the moaning labourer, his colleague, the old man and a lot of relief that the situation had been resolved fairly quickly. At Hoima Hospital, having disembarked at the first building, they were told very abruptly that they should take the fellow to the casualty section.
So they walked over to the casualty section.
At the casualty section they were asked where their admission papers were. They had none.
“You need to go back to that first building and get admission papers,” they were told.
So they walked back to the first building, saw the very same person they had seen when they first arrived there, and got the admission papers they needed. Then they walked back to the casualty ward, and commenced the treatment process – which very shortly thereafter meant they had to take the poor, injured fellow for an X-ray.
Not in the hospital, because it was a public holiday and the person in charge of conducting the X-ray was not available.
But, someone explained, there was an option available at a private clinic not far away.
The old man considered the agony the labourer was in, especially since the painkiller was fast wearing off, and rushed off to the private clinic.
Ushs25,000.
The injured labourer was processed and taken into the X-ray room, and after a few minutes of waiting the old man asked the nurse how long it would take before they got the results.
One hour.
He thought about it a little bit, calling on memories built over many years, and was a little puzzled – why would it take so long?
Okay, she responded, forty minutes.
He considered negotiating further but could not find logical ground for doing so, and could not envision where the discussion would end.
Eventually, they did get the X-ray done, and rushed back to the hospital to get treatment.
But it was a public holiday, remember, and there was no Physician or professional present with the qualifications or mandate to analyse the image or handle the case.
But if they went to a private clinic nearby…
As I said before, I know how to cut a long story short, so I will do so here just so you don’t experience the mental pain and agony of thinking of the physical pain and agony the old man and his more injured labourer were feeling by the time they got the right level of treatment the next day.
I’ll also leave out the part where, that evening as they arrived at the private clinic, a phonecall came through from the mother of the bicycle riding boy…the reparations were not enough to replace the bicycle, and could the old man send Ushs100,000 more?
He did.

the Bruno saga continues at Total Nakawa


20150908_101722Starting the day out normally for a seasoned Land Rover driver, I made up my mind to walk to the stage and get a taxi after my car failed to start. I had an urgent series of meetings to attend, and was not going to risk being late.

Confounding the askari at my gate, I threw my laptop bag over my shoulder and stalked out while making a phone call in Bruno’s direction. The plan was simple – take a taxi headed in the direction he was going to depart from, and meet somewhere midway.

Rather than call him up though, I called up his real boss a.k.a. my wife. She often undergoes tribulations with the chap but not on the scale that I suffer, which makes me believe that she has better communication skills when it comes to deploying Bruno.

“Please ask him to pick me up at Total Nakawa,” were my exact words, followed by: “The Total at the Nakawa lights.”

She voiced a clear understanding of the situation and didn’t even offer an endearment as she dialled off to dispatch the fellow.

I made it all the way to the taxi stage, into the taxi and through the process of arguing with the conductor a little bit so he wouldn’t cheat me out of Ushs200, until I was standing on the forecourt of the Total Station in Nakawa.

At that point, I realised that I should have seen Bruno’s car by then. There were not many vehicles there and a limited number of options open to a driver for parking a motor vehicle in a manner designed to aid the collection of a waiting principal.

I looked round again and confirmed that he was not there.

I then recalled a similar incident earlier on and a sense of dread began to weigh down on my forehead.

Supposing he was at the Shell in Nakawa? That small one up there, just after the traffic lights? Or the one further on? I knew it was in Naguru along Stretcher Road, and not Nakawa, but this was Bruno…?

I realised that I was going to be late for my meeting, and whipped out the phone to call up with apologies, wondering whether to mention Bruno’s very existence in my life as a cause, when I noticed that he had tried to call me about five minutes earlier under the sound of taxi chatter.

The next few minutes were going to be painful or full of mirth, I figured, so I sent meeting apologies just in case I didn’t get hold of the chap, then called Bruno up.

“Bruno?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Where are you?”

“Sir, I am here.”

I no longer laugh at this. Also, I gave up trying to make it stop. I just allow it to happen, so the time it takes to get past it is built into my expectations of these interactions with Bruno. So I leave him “there” and probe further.

“Are you at Total Nakawa?”

“Sir, I am at the new buildings.”

I stopped a little bit and allowed the brain to churn. I had noticed some construction work going on near the garage bays at the top of the fuel station, but that couldn’t possibly be called “new buildings”. The works actually depicted mounds of soil extracted from the bay itself, rather than any new construction.

As I squinted to establish whether or not Bruno’s car was underneath one of those mounds of soil, I realised that in front of me, above Total Nakawa, was the UAP Business Park.

Without leaning on the investigative power of the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Grace Akullo, I solved the case.

Two weeks ago, I had had Bruno pick me up from those very same “new buildings” that make up the UAP Business Park. He must, therefore, have gone there on hearing the ‘Nakawa’ part of “Total Nakawa”.

“Bruno?” I said, in even tones delivered not to make him skittish and go off to, say, Mukono, “are you at those Nakawa buildings?”

“The new buildings, sir!”

“Bruno, where did Madame tell you to find me?”

Silence.

“Bruno?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Aren’t you supposed to find me at Total Nakawa?”

Silence.

“Come to Total Nakawa.”

Five minutes later, he drove into the fuel station – not from the Old Port Bell Road as you would expect if you are in any way familiar with this part of town, but from the main Jinja Road.

And on driving in, he stopped his car right there at the entrance and turned to face the UAP Business Park as if he either expected to see me emerge from that direction, or would be driving there shortly himself (see that black car in the photograph up there? Exactly like that!)

I walked over to his car and made myself available to him as a calm passenger before asking him WTH.

“Did Madame tell you to find me at Total Nakawa?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then why did you go to those UAP New Buildings?”

Pause.

“Bruno?!”

“Sir, I had gone to look for parking…”

sending Bruno to the parking lot fwaaaaa


Progres

IT’S been a while since you heard about Bruno, and I want to assure you that he is still doing quite alright and providing his endless stream of irritating entertainment guided by thought processes running at a very unfashionable speed.
Luckily for me, he is employed to drive somebody else – my wife – and when I am unlucky and find my car taken custody by a mechanic, I submit to Bruno and the uncertainities involved in travelling with him.
Today, after leaving the dentist’s chair, we got into slow traffic outside the Acacia Mall and I decided on a whim to hop out and change some money.
NOTE 1: Never do anything on a whim where Bruno is involved. Plan very carefully and plan again, just in case anything can go wrong – because it will. When it does, revert to the next step in your plan.
I knew this about him, so I thought my plan out clearly then told him, “I am going out briefly. Drive round to the Kisementi parking and I’ll find you there when I’m done.”
My brother believes the problem with Bruno is his understanding of the English language, but I have often proved that not to be the case. All instructions to do with his money and his feeding, for instance, are received and acted upon quite well in english, yet those to do with my money or my feeding go awry.
I thought about the Kisementi arrangement a little bit more and came up with a better idea – City Oil is a much smaller place and was right there, about twenty metres ahead of us.
Plus, because it was right there, I could point at it on top of giving him the verbal instructions.
What could go wrong?
NOTE 2: Never ask “What could go wrong?” when doing anything involving Bruno. Murphy is nothing; a child – mere games to Bruno’s war-ness.
“No. DON’T go to Kisementi; go to the City Oil parking instead. That one there.” I pointed at it.
I waited a couple more minutes as I thought about what I was doing and considered seriously what could possibly go wrong, wondering what else I should tell the man in order to ensure no disruptions to the plan or nature itself.
It was that additional minute of waiting and extra consideration that led to my leaving my phone behind when I eventually hopped out of the car as the traffic started moving again.
I realised it when I had arrived at the building, and turned back to see traffic back at a standstill and Bruno not too many metres from where I had alighted.
Perhaps I could complete my errand and make it back before anything went wrong?
I tried.
Speeding through the process that had made me hop out of the vehicle, I made it back to the road within four minutes but…Bruno and his car were gone!
Surely he had driven straight to the City Oil parking lot.
The clouds had darkened with the threat of an afternoon shower, so I hurried across the road and was in the parking lot well within a minute.
This is when I realised I had a problem. I had gone to the forecourt, where the fuel pumps are, which I had pointed at when I said “Parking Lot”.
Suppose Bruno, overthinking matters and aiming to impress me, had thought to himself, “This man said ‘Parking Lot’ but pointed at the ‘Forecourt’ but I am sure he meant for me to go to the Parking Lot at the back.”?
This highly improbable thought was a likelihood because Bruno’s car was not visible within the confines of the forecourt. So I went to the ‘City Oil Parking Lot’, which I realised – when I go there – was actually the Cafe Javas (not City Oil) Parking Lot!
There was no way Bruno would think to himself a thought such as, “But this guy said City Oil Parking Lot and this one is the Cafe Javas one. Maybe the City Oil Parking Lot is the one downstairs?” before proceeding downstairs.
But because I could see no sign of either him or the car he was driving when I last saw him, I accepted the extremely unbelievable premise that his mind had gone that way.
Even as I hurried down the staircase I was calculating to myself that the time that had gone between my leaving the car and that point at which I was trying to work out his whereabouts, was generally too short for Bruno to have made all those decisions.
He wasn’t there. Neither was the car.
NOTE 3: Never think too much when working Bruno out.
Just in case – in the very unlikely event – Bruno had happened to be driving to and fro as I had walked from forecourt to parking lot to parking lot and we had missed each other that way, I basically sprinted back.
Remember, at this point, that I had just been on a dentist’s chair. One side of my face felt like a basketball and my tongue was as thick as my belly (I’ve REALLY skipped the gym).
I told myself, when I got through the upper parking lot and was standing on the forecourt, that perhaps my words had been garbled when I told him to park in the City Oil parking lot.
But then, if that were the case, how had he heard me telling him to go to Kisementi? Maybe my pointing had been unclear, because of something to do with the painkillers I had swallowed at the dentist’s?
If so, WHERE could he be? Had he gone to the City Oil on Bombo Road? Bakuli? Kyambogo? Had he gone to a Sitya Loss concert?
I maintained baffle stations as I walked into Cafe Javas to find someone – anyone – with a mobile phone I could use to call him (remember I left mine in the car?) even though I knew the odds were that his phone would be off.
For the first time since it opened, I walked through Cafe Javas Kisementi and recognised nobody there – not even the staff!
I resumed my bamboozlement about Bruno’s whereabouts, which led me to the simplest possible explanation: Perhaps he had stopped listening after the Kisementi instruction.
There are people who do this. Like when you ask someone for a phone number over the phone and you don’t have pen or paper, but after they read it out to you they try to continue the conversation while for you you are just reciting in your head “0-7-9-2-8-0-0-0-8-0”. Eventually you just hang up on them, planning to save the number then call back claiming the network was bad, so that you don’t appear to be a selfish caller…then they call you back when you’ve only typed out four digits…
Bruno was at Kisementi.
So I turned and headed over there, quickly. Even as I got to the corner of the Acacia Mall, I realised the risk of turning off to Kisementi at the same time as Bruno was probably giving up on finding parking there and was driving to City Oil.
So I stopped and pondered my options.
And it was while I was doing so that I turned to face the direction from whence I had conducted my frantic search, to see Bruno’s car slowly reversing into a parking spot, in the ‘Parking Lot’ of Cafe Javas.
As he turned from inspecting his parking prowess, since he doesn’t like to use the side mirrors, our eyes met and he quickly dropped his away. The guilt was obvious, and I pondered over it as I crossed the road yet again to finally embark the vehicle.
“Bruno,” I said quite sternly with my temper fully in check and my tongue quite restored, “Where did you go?”
He tried that tactic of mumbling something unclear but I sustained my line of questioning, unwavered.
“Sir,” he said, “I drove around.”
This was insufficient information, so I probed further.
“I am sorry, sir,” he conceded a minute later, “I went to Kisementi…”
So I had eventually been right.
But then…why had he come here, then, at the end of it all? What had made him think of City Oil? What had happened at Kisementi?
“There was no parking at Kisementi…”
Think about that for a moment.
Yes – if he HAD found parking space at Kisementi, he might have parked the car there and I would have STILL circulated round City Oil and Javas before walking to Kisementi. But supposing I had left the car with my phone, or had found one of you guys with a phone inside Java’s, was his mobile phone on?
“No, sir. My battery is dead…”