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Monday, December 04, 2006

Week 3: Malaise and Work Days

Week 3: Malaise and Work Days

Week 3: Malaise and Work Days

Friday saw the start of Katie's birthday weekend extravaganza. We went to a Japanese restaurant in Bamburi up the coast and ate sushi. The restaurant, Misono's, was all decked out like a traditional Japanese kabuki place rather than the cool sleek feng shui-ed minimal design masterpieces I had come to associate with Japanese food. In any case, the food was nice and afterwards, we popped round the corner to a local Mombasa drinking hole: an outdoor Irish pub called Bobs. The music was loud 80's power ballads and the Tusker beers flowed like a babbling brook. Tusker beer here is cheap and tasty. Under a pound for a pint of Tusker (50p if you buy it in supermarkets and even cheaper if you take in your empty bottles for recycling), a tasty beer with a dozy elephant as its logo. Bobs was loud and crass and fun. A few drinks later, Katie and I headed back to the restaurant to meet our taxi. As we stood outside the restaurant, bearing our doggy bags, loads of workers walking home in the twilight stopped and asked us what promotion we were giving for the restaurant. We smiled them on. Not I, said the walrus.

Saturday morning meant old town for some Christmas shopping. Being so far away from home and the cold and the constant jing-jing-jingerling sleigh bells ringing, I keep losing perspective of what time of year it is. Christmas is approaching, we have no idea who's vying for Christmas number one, what the must have toy is this year and what we want for Christmas. It feels like summer here because it's hot and sticky every single day. In the old town, we ate at a local café called Kasims, where they served a simple meal of bhajis and chapattis with passion fruit juice. We headed over to Nakumatt, the Kenyan version of Tesco, to pick up supplies for the evening (for it was Katie's birthday celebrations) where we managed to win 5000 shillings worth of free shopping. However, while waiting to collect our vouchers, we experienced a power cut and the shop lost all recollection of our winning.

The evening brought much entertainment. We had a barbeque of burgers and paneer kebabs on the roof, star-gazing on the clear hot night. We let off some fireworks for Katie and lit some sparklers under the starry sky. We then got dressed up in fancy dress (theme: the sea) and headed out to witness Mombasa night life. Katie dressed as a star fish. I dressed as Katie at the beach (a daring outfit involving a sarong, a bikini top, a wig and a rubber ring). We headed out to Il Covo, an Italian restaurant/club on the beach. There we attracted many stares, some disparaging, others embarrassed, mostly horrified at our fancy dress. We laughed it off. Simon, one of our party, attracted the unwanted attentions of a huge scary man at the bar, who kept grabbing his rubber ring and demanding he eat with him. We protected Simon. We danced, drank and had a merry old time till 2 a.m. when the fabled Mombasa-based Russian prostitutes decided to jump on to the bar and pole dance for a captivated crowd. Which I found a lot more embarrassing and cringe-worthy than my silly little fancy dress outfit.

The next morning, we nursed our hangovers at the pool before giving Katie her final birthday surprise: a dhow trip from Moorings bar up Mtwapa creek. A dhow is a sizeable boat made of one tree trunk split in two. It is long and narrow. We sailed up the creek as the sun set and the lights started to flicker along the banks and the stars started to illuminate the sky. The hazy pink sky slowly disappeared behind the high banks of the creek. We saw swimming snakes and drunk Germans and listened as the delicate strains of Kenyan folk music echoed quietly over the silent creek.

It was most definitely an enjoyable birthday weekend.

The week brought me the beginnings of routine. I started working on songs and on poems and on finishing that pesky book I started writing so long ago. I wake up at 7 when Katie leaves, go for a run, eat breakfast, work till 12, join the teachers at the school pool for lunch, then return to work till half 3, when I play football with the kids, before returning to work till 5. It's a simple quiet life, with the beginnings of ascetism in there somewhere. So far, the book is starting to ressemble a novel finally, rather than a collection of short stories; my Britishness poems are being drafted and I've recorded two short songs, one about London and one about New York… oh ever the jetsetter. Katie and I even demoed a song called 'Mdudu (mosquito)' on Monday.

On Wednesday, we went to the Nyali premiere of the new Bond film at the local Cinemax. I really liked the film. The Parkur stuff is amazing, he's a surprisingly great Bond and the grittiness of the storyline and the focus on plot rather than big action thrills was a welcome change from the cartoonish elements that blighted Brosnan-era Bond. The film was probably thirty minutes too long, but I really enjoyed it.

The premiere itself was a charity premiere where you paid 1000 shillings, and received a vodka martini, shaken not stirred (except, they replaced vodka with gin for some unknown reason), a free bag of popcorn and a coke, and the chance to enter a lottery to win free bets at the casino next door. It felt like a community centre event, especially with the prize draw over a PA system before the film. My world at that instant felt incredibly small. We all stood for the Kenyan national anthem before the film.

Kenyans don't like to improvise, I'm finding. Everything seems to be down the middle, or by the book. In restaurants I am unable to make alterations to my meal, for it must be prepared exactly as shown in the menu. Rules are there to be followed. At the Bond premiere, there was a lot of standing around waiting for the film to start and the draw to be made, and so when I took my seat early due to tiredness and boredom, I was told I had to stand till instructed to sit. It's not a bad thing, just different from London life, which seems so far away.

It's all generally quite good though. Tonight, I am sound engineering and roadie-ing at Katie's first music concert for the school. This weekend, we Christmas shop and book our December holiday. Next week, who knows?

Things I miss:

Roast dinners (we have no oven)

Spider-man comics

Kopperbergs cider


Wireless internet



An ant-free life

Things I don't miss:


Last trains

Last orders

Metropolitan Line

A sun-free life


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