Friday, June 18, 2010

Find The New Kenyans A-Gay

I read a rather charming article by Venetia Thompson in last month’s British GQ – the one with the very naked and rudely luscious Rosie Huntington–Whitley wearing a come-hither pout. God that mouth!

Anyway Miss Venetia made some interesting observations in her column. So let me colour in the background first. The Tories as we now know are a UK political party also know as the Conservatives and are led by David Cameron, a young, dexterous and somewhat handsome (I lie) man. They are the rough equivalent of American Republicans in the sense that they hate immigrants. But who doesn’t? Also common with the Republicans is their presumed aversion to all things queer, tax on the rich and ethnic minorities. But the Tories won their election and here’s how.

Miss Venetia had been invited to a dinner party (in pre-election London) in which everyone or at least almost everyone was a Tory and Gay, and here’s the best part they were all in their mid twenties to early thirties. They were all young, eloquent, well dressed, handsome and chiselled; the sleek, elite well choreographed (pardon the pun) political machine that’s drove the Tory party to victory and here’s the real kicker; everyone wants to be gay just to join them. Like high school but with of irony (on the side of course).

This is all well and good for the English but what about us mere mortals in Third World obscurity? Well for one thing I completely see where these new gay Tories are coming from. They don’t do “identity politics”; leave that to Harvey Milk, they find the gay rights movement “embarrassing” and they’d sooner be caught dead than be spotted at a Pride march because they are British men first who happen who see a problem with their country but who also happen to be gay and don’t see the point of parading this. Two things therefore stood out for me. The first is identity. The second is the importance of being gay.

As a confessed conservative and for the last time gay conservative is not an oxymoron, I sometimes feel disillusioned with Nairobi’s queer society. It’s petty and vain, loud and stereotypical, godless and immoral, disease ridden and promiscuous. This depravity is sometimes confused with progress but if it is progress then it’s in the wrong direction. Obviously not everyone will agree with me but I feel that there needs to be a time and soon when the two spheres of Nairobi society merge to a cohesive whole. Government legislation is a long way off unless we style up and focus on what’s important. Getting the right people in the right places is and so is creating a good image for ourselves, a tell all spread in Pulse is not. Are there gay men and women in positions of power? The conventional Kenyan would say nay, but we know better; there are lots of them but they’re all from a different age. Is there anyone to take over from them? Who knows? The Modern Young Gay like their straight contemporary would rather indulge in week long alcohol binges, recreational drugs and precarious sexual exploits with a stick of lip whatever in one hand, a dwindling bank balance in the other and swinging a fake designer man purse from his dick all the while claiming he’s all for the fucking gay rights even though he doesn't know what the fuck he’s talking about because he does not watch politics (and his brain is full of jizz) but he had his mohawk redone so it all works out in the end. Everyone’s happy because everything is the same.

But then what’s the point? Personally I’m not a fun of gay rights. I thought I was but I’m not. Human rights sure but are gay rights that important. The answer is no - because there are bigger problems to contend with. To begin with we live in a failed state yet nobody takes up arms over it, poverty is widespread, so is malnutrition. Education system is so bad we churn out airhead little shits with mowhaks who don’t know their head from their ass. Then there is the corruption that is so deeply ingrained in us and not just the government but every single one of us that it would require an act of god to reverse this moral degeneration and of then someone inevitably shouts tribalism; factor in an election in two years and we are simply fucked!

But what about the gays? What of them? Gays need rights, of course they do. So do refugees, women, children, whites, blacks and soon, men. But not now. There are simply bigger things to worry about, like the economy or William Ruto. If the gays want to bring about change then they must smarten up, literary. Become the sharpest, handsomest damn near perfect tit in the office and see real power. Do that collectively and watch the straight world turn and gape. Then they’ll want to join us. Then we can say no. Like in High school.

Obviously I went into a pretty long rant but I’m tired of the stereotypes, and immorality. Take off your sisters jeans, put down that darn mascara maybe it sounds like we’re going back in time but maybe some modesty would help our image immensely and like everyone else do the job of nation building and not whinging. It’s in the damn constitution, read it!

We are all Kenyans, first. Everything else is second. While you’re at it setup a genuine political party. We haven’t had one in a long time.


A roundup of some of my favourite songs of the week.

Bibanke – Asa

Fire on The Mountain –Asa

Eye Adaba – Asa

360 – Asa

Gonna Take a Miracle - Laura Nyro & Labelle

You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me – Laura Nyro & Labelle

Monke Time, Dancing In The Streets - Laura Nyro & Labelle

The Bells - Laura Nyro & Labelle

People Get Ready – The Blind Boys of Alabama

Green Onions – Booker T. & The MGs

Woncha Come Home – Joan Armatrading

Albion – Babyshambles

Moonshadow – Labelle

Asa makes a disproportionate appearance on the list and there’s a reason for that. She’s simply a genius. Her voice is warm and husky (The voice of a Continent?), the orchestration lush and her guitar work inventive. Her self-titled debut album is bold and political yet melancholic, reflective and even sensitive (with an Afro-American thump for good measure). And yes she has dreadlocked hair, Africanists of the contemporary variety lover her for it. I’m indifferent but one listen to Fire on the Mountain and your hooked to that catchy rhythm, that unshakable chorus, the undeniable truths. She is the epitome of New Africa, ballsy and in your face. She takes no prisoners – and all of us are guilty of something…

Who’s responsible for what we teach our children?

Is it the internet or the stars on television?

Why O why? Why O why O!

Let the emancipation from mental slavery begin – this time by a woman.

Laura Nyro also shares a special place on the playlist for the simple reason she reinvented soul way back when. And she’s Japanese. Her seminal collaboration with the Goddess(es) of Soul Labelle (Moonshadow is perhaps their most clever song – and it was a cover!) gave spiritual birth to a sound, not new but groundbreaking, and what an album it is, and what voices? Powerful vocals, sublime orchestration, the stuff of Sunday afternoon drives with the sun in your eyes and a lover by your side…

And finally there’s People Get Ready. Few songs invoke the Negro Spiritual quite like this one. Curtis Mayfield penned it down decades ago for The Impressions but the message rings true and clear. The Blind Boys did a super sonorous cover with hints of Ben Harper on the fret board (subsequently it became my anthem of the week); Alicia Keys and Lyfe Jennings (channelling Al Green) also did a wistful rendition at the end of the film Glory Road. The song’s message was simple; things will get better for the blacks that is – and they did. It’s a song about hope but more than that it is a song of tangible aspiration and optimism. Between Asa and Mayfield lies a place I call the New Africa. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there. It won’t be easy but it’s within our reaches, within our grasp. And here’s the best part, our own dark hands will build it. We don’t owe anyone anything. The time is now so

People get Ready

There’s a train a-coming

You don’t need no baggage

Just get onboard

All you need is faith

To hear the diesels humming

You don’t need no ticket

You just thank the Lord!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trends: New Shorts

Living smack dab on the equator means Kenya has no definite climatic seasonal changes and therefore not fashion seasons. I live in the southern hemisphere so its winter here meaning that you’re more likely to trip up on a pair of UGGs than Havianas (the converse is true up North).

There has been a movement all over the place to formalise the lowly shorts and since it is rarely cold in Nairobi, they are a very legitimate form of dress even in the deepest gloom of July. These New Shorts are fairly well short, I call them New Shorts but they are more conventionally known as smart shorts for those in the know. They end mid-thigh on the runway but for purposes of practicality and self-preservation I recommend they be worn just above the knee. Never below after all we’re not brutes.

These New Shorts are not baggy; in fact they fit well (some say tailored) much like a formal pair of trousers so getting the correct size (and length) is important. In the spirit of summer they come in outlandish colours but also more conservative hues – a perfect replacement to the weekend khakis. Pair the shorts with a good polo (the croc or the man on the horse are obvious staples). Bonk does an excellent job to and it's Kenyan (can I hear an amen?). Top it off with a contrasting blazer or sports jacket if you’re brave enough. For footwear jam your foot into a good boat shoe, deck shoes (in suede) or loafers in some crazed summer shade. Low profile canvas shoes could also do. Loose the socks.

Finding good quality clothing is tricky in Nairobi so poke around your local mitumba stalls are better still send off someone for them. Some good affordable brands (and personal favourites) are Topman, Uniqlo and H&M. if not then raid your wardrobe, grab your old golf/weekend khakis, wear them and with a pencil mark a spot directly below your knee. Take them off and furiously scissor the trousers. Now wear them and finally cuff the bottom of the shorts unassumingly, and your done. You now look instantly clean, crisp, slimmed down. The quintessential debonair. Now go buy some steaks.

It almost goes without saying – take care of those legs. I’m not saying shave your legs but rather trim them loosely much like a last gardener or a mod-artist - a natural look. Maybe this way we can (further) un-blur the line between the Neanderthal and The Modern Kenyan Man.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blaxploitation and The Negro Groove.

When it comes to soul music the name Isaac Hayes shows up on everyone’s radar (everyone in the know that is). Younger readers may remember him as the voice of Chef on TVs South Park. Hayes and his seminal work he did on the soundtrack for the cult blaxploitation film Shaft (1971) earned him an Academy Award and defined the voice of an era. He set the tone of subsequent films of the era; faint hints of Hayes can be heard in Solomon Burkes work in Cool Breeze and others of course.

About this time Hollywood begun to realise the existence of an emerging Black middle class in cities. They didn’t watch white movies (Gone With the Wind Anyone?) but they sure had money to spend. The black hero was born. A man that embodied all the hopes and dreams and aspirations of a people with no roots and no heroes. Their Man of Ebonite Steal! Similar things were done in Apartheid South Africa. Think a triumphant Black man returning to his roots (Bantustan) to the rejoicing of his people. He sheds the clothing of the oppressor and the film ends like an Yvonne Chakachaka video from the 80s. With booze.

Anyway the point is I love the Shaft Soundtrack. Tracks like Soulsville offer the first real urban narrative on the ghetto subculture (and the Black experience) that we now attribute to the more politically charged hip-hoppers like Nas and The Roots. The song is atypical of the era, brassy, a hypnotic guitar riff, the wailing of the backup singers and the husky baritone of Mr. Hayes as he dolefully proclaims You can never touch the sky coz your in Soulsville! Soulsville like Main Street in Anyplace America is where dreams were lost except in a differently. The Blacks had Soul and that was enough, the ghetto that idealised place of gangsters and liquor stores was the grave bed of aspirations, the cradle of drug culture, the crackpot of boiling debauchery and dysfunction and all that is wrong with Negro in America.

Every Sunday morning I can here the old sisters sing; Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, trust and praise the Lord!

The most poignant song penned down by Hayes who in the same album calls Shaft a Black sex machine. But maybe he didn’t strive to be political, or maybe he did so subversively, no matter the case Soulsville carries in it the dying hopes and dreams of a people in a way that Shaft never could, perhaps it boils down to authenticity and the years of experience that Hayes had when he penned down the lyrics. So here is a paradox, the stereotypical savagely powerful and sexually endowed Black Man fighting The Man and a Black Philosopher allegorically lampooning The Man on Main Street. A song for the masses without the Black Panther (esque) polemics of say James Brown.

Hayes voice drifts down as if from heaven and into the mind working his magic as the music slowly lures us into an unbearable and profoundly sad truth. The feelings of a generation; one man’s stereophonic Groove against The Man.

Black man, born free

At least that’s the way

It’s supposed to be.

Fucking and Punching.

Si basi umfyeke! Manzi asha ingia box, unatake nini sasa?

Lakini sitaki kumkuta. Huyo manzi ni emotional sana. Amenidai sana!

This went on for a while. Whenever 2 or more Kenyan men are gathered under the banner of Smirnoff there will be talk of sex. There were 5 of us. I did my best to maintain teetotaller status. It didn’t happen (we Mũdũ wa Mũmbi nyua johi kana tũrowane bara nene! Said Big Burly Bartender man also known as Mũdũ wa Shuva. I did my best t decline (nyĩ ndinyuaga johi). He said (ĩhĩ gũtirĩ kĩdũ ta kĩu. Kana dũreda nyamũ ici ndũru?)

The argument didn’t go very far. Keys were taken (smash and grab!), a mug was foced upon me; half Smirnoff with a splash of lime (for colour of course). A typical Friday night!

Two bottles of vodka later the girl in question was suddenly more attractive Basi nitamfyeka kesho. We Mũdũ wa Mumbi una CD? Sure I did and gave it to him. He later forgot about it. Ngai! Karibu nimfyeke bila CD!

I din’t get drunk that night. Plenty of water, half a loaf of bread and sneaky tips to the bathroom took care of that. Vodka is a vile Russian cunt! When I got back from one of my bathroom trips two were already comatose so we did the obvious; took a marker and scribbled all over them. Those left fell about the place and we laughed. One took of their shirt. And so I watched vaguly amused, vaguely drunk, vaguely bored and definitely aroused.

At some point a scuffle broke out. (ati umeniita nini? Wewe matoko ya mtu ngũkũhũra ũhane ta mbũmbũ cia mburi!) I laughed, hard. I then recalled a pretty (innocent) maiden who search for intoxicants had led as her way earlier that day. Mũdũ wa Shuva always ready to convert others to the Cult of Smirnoff said to me “Rehe shuva tũmũrathe” (unofficially the best metaphor ever!).

Later we had to drag the girl to her room.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Burning

A Day In The Life of A Single Man

Now some people may realise that I have a curious obsession with a decade known as the 60s. I’m not that old –I was born 3 decades later- but my obsession is nonetheless real. The 60s were a time of great social and cultural change all over the world. We gained (some form of) independence from the English at that time and so did a lot of people. Movies were changing and so music, dress and the most iconic movement of the decade (even overshadowing the Civil Rights and Feminist movements) – the Hippies.

Hollywood and their ilk have had a particular fondness for the era recently, especially the earlier part of the decade, when everything they did was absolutely stylish. Mad Men is a testament to this but so is An Education a film I reviewed earlier and now A Single Man. Both films were contenders for this years Academy Awards. Incidentally the Cohen brother’s latest film A Serious Man is also set in the era.

A Single Man is Tom Ford’s directorial debut and boy what a debut! The movie is based on a book of the same title by Christopher Isherwood. First of all the visuals are phenomenal, the art direction and staging so meticulous and so elegant it hurts to watch. During the film I kept having the nagging feeling that there was something oddly familiar about the film. Again my mind snapped back to Mad Men. So I did a little research and as it turns out the film used the same set designers as the television show. The sexiest show on TV meets the sexiest movie of the year; it’s a sign I tell you! It also doesn’t hurt that Tom Ford directs the movie.

To fashion novices, Tom Ford was creative director at Gucci, lifting the company out of oblivion in the 90s and turned into the sweat shop mammoth of a brand it is today with typical American pragmatism, panache and an uncanny eye for style. He later left formed his eponymous label and formed a production company. And that’s the story of how Tom Ford conquered Hollywood.

Now onto the movie. The cast is star studded and undesputably English. Colin Firth plays George our prtoagonist an English professor at Californian university whose partner dies eight months earlier. Mathew Goode plays the dead boyfriend Jim. In typical existentialist fashion George looses the will (and colour) to live and decides to kill himself, no longer able to keep on living and he will himself to “Just get through the goddamn day”. The day is as meticulously structured as his tailored monochrome suites. Throughout the day a series of incidents break his monotony. One is a bronzed Pretty Young Thing in his class Skins veteran Nicholas Hoult, in an awkward self-conscious American accent. A Spanish hustler turned philosopher played by the beautiful Basque model Jon Kortajarena and his colourful English friend Charley played by Julianne Moore (in a more convincing accent, indeed the critics agree). The film is part running commentary, part flashback (in vivid burst of colour, achingly brief and refreshing) and part work of art, punctuated by lines of complete and utter dour such as:

Looking in the mirror staring back at me isn’t so much a face but a predicament staring back at me…

George’s predicament is being alive and alone but the question we’re forced to ask is are we ever completely alone? The connexions George has to the world are not ready to let go. As the film progresses the perfect “slightly stiff George” is replaced by a vivid spectrum of feelings and emotions. We come to pity him but more significantly we pity ourselves. Suddenly our lives take on new meaning as we are confronted by George’s impending mortality a perverse morbid fascination. He is one of us now, how easy is it then to end up like him? But as Carlos rightly puts it (in rolling Spanish of course):

Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.

The movie is artsy without pretence (and an easy watch). Beautifully shot; the casting and set design impeccable and startlingly meticulous without being superfluous. Mr. Ford should be proud. Finally a queer movie that isn’t about being (politically) gay but rather about the issue that counts – the human connexion.

As you may come to notice I don’t give movies stars or a rating of any sort, this one gets top marks for all round quality. It feels like an Old Hollywood flick it’s hard to believe it was shot in under two weeks. Sometimes the shaky cam of modern films can tire the eyes (and the mind). Yes I’m talking to you The Heart Locker! Get the film on DVD soon. Grab the soundtrack to. Etta James’ Stormy Weather is a personal favourite.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Blues

When the shoe string breaks

On both your shoes

And your in a hurry-

That's the blues

When you go to buy a candy bar

And you've lost the dime you had-

Slipped through a hole in your pocket somewhere-

That's the blues, too, and bad!

Langston Hughes

This is one of my favourite poems. Langston Hughes was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance tha begun in the early 20s - a Black Conciseness movement similar to the Francophone African idea of Negritude. The former had a significant influence on the latter in forming the African identity. The movement died out in the last century but their poetry is no less significant nor inspiring.

My Friend Tony

Since I know nobody is reading this I’ll just go ahead and unwittingly pour my heart out to the oblivion of cyber space. At least maybe this way I can derive some catharsis.

I have this friend; we’ll call him Tony. Now Tony is a good friend of mine, perhaps the only one who really (kinda) gets me. He’s also the only one I really talk to. Problem.

Tony is straight, I however I’m not. The problem is that I have been in and out of lust/ infatuation/ love with Tony and everything in-between since we met four years ago. So one day (recently) when I couldn’t take it any longer I told him. He looked at me and in not so many words declined seeing that he’s undeniably straight. And since he is red-blooded Kenyan he’s unlikely to experiment (darn!).

The weird thing is some people often think that he’s less than straight (in the last year quite a few people went up to him and asked). I often like to tease him about this in the (vain) hope he may one day break down and admit to being of the queer persuasion and we’ll live happily ever after no such lack. Physically he is gifted (read athletic), broad shoulders, flat abs (no 6 pack here!), a beautiful package (even in buggy jeans) and in his day he was a champion swimmer and football striker. However he has certain slightly effeminate mannerisms, he does the hands thing (yup that queer gesticulation), his voice is slightly high pitched and to top it off, he’s a serial flirt. Women love him, they find him charming but it seldom goes beyond that, hence the rumours. Oh yeah and he’s also uncannily clever, the sort of person who studies well before exams and hands in assignments early. I dislike such people, but this is Tony we’re talking about – he’s everything I’m not, maybe something I aspire to.

Needless to say I worship the ground he walks on but the fact that I can never have him kills me. He’s the only guy (and I’ve met many) that I actually like and the only guy who makes me extremely sad. He likes me too; in fact he once told me he loved me (in not so few words) like a brother. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings (even he told me to) but it’s been four years and every time I look at him, I feel a stirring in my pants and a little pain in my heart. Tony says that I don’t actually like him but rather I want him because I can’t have him and to certain extent because I have nobody in my life. Sad but he may be right.

Anyway that was my little rant. Story of my life! And I lead an infinitely boring life. Its much more interesting in my head since.

It’s Saturday afternoon in Southern Africa and I have nothing to do except wallow in self-pity! It’s already getting dark and cold (cold for a Kenyan at least). Maybe I should go see what Tony is up to.


While having an argument with my best friend, he pointed out that he should have figured I was a gay a long time ago since ceratin things I did were self-evident. He inevitably pointed out to the fact that my music is gay. So here is my big fat gay playlist of the day:

  • Temptation is Too Hard To Fight – George McGregor & The Bronzettes
  • Powerful Love – Chuck and Mac
  • Going To Make a Time Machine – The Majestic Arrows
  • If I Had a Little Love (Rehearsal) - The Majestic Arrows
  • I’ll Never Cry For Another Boy (Rehearsal) - The Majestic Arrows
  • I Love You Baby – Movers
  • Pain In My Heart – Helene Smith
  • Willing and Able - Helene Smith
  • Crooked Woman – Edd Henry
  • It’s Meant To Be – Krystal Generation
  • I'm Gonna Gitcha - Chip Willis & Double Exposure
  • You and Me – Penny & The Quarters (an idyllic sunday afternoon track)
  • You're The Only Thing I've Got Going For Me – Bill Wright
  • Kinshasa Mboka Ya Makambo - Franco
Most of these come from a fantastic collection called Eccentric Soul from the Numero Group. A group of guys got together and unearthed old singles (mostly from the 60s and early 70s) that have since been forgotten (that explains why nobody has a clue what who these people are). Nonetheless all these songs are written and performed by a brilliant people who deserve to be celebrated alongside Stax and Mowtown Records mainstays and not banished into oblivion. Theses people invented a brand new sound and defined a culture.

I stumbled on the compilation while frantically searching for Temptation is Too Hard To Fight by George McGregor & The Bronzettes which I heard on an episode of Mad Men –the sexiest show on television-, I’ve been hooked on the show and the albums ever since. Artists in those days had a charming way with names. Pity we don't see that anymore. This is music that is self-conscious and thoughtful, music about makeups and breakups and the funny thing is, there are no swear words, none! I'm particularly fond of Eccentric Soul Vol. 6: Twinight's Lunar Rotation. Twinight collapsed in 1972 but it left a lasting legacy. At Least for me.

They didn't have music videos then, but have a listen anyway.

Franco however needs little introduction unless of course you’re under the age of 40. His song comes from the album The Rough Guide To Franco: Africa’s Legendary Guitar Maestro. And he is, this track comes from his much later work (1982), I have no idea what he says but it's a beautiful song, mature and subdued yet sensual. He inspired generations of Lingala musicians and other musicians as well.

From the Producer came the sound!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Staying in Edinburgh

Beware however that for the African in Europe hotels are often bed only and there are no complementary trinkets. Therefore expect to pay £15 per person for an English/ Scottish breakfast and about the same for internet in the room (via Ethernet). Alternatively cross the street to The Hardrock Café or pop into the nearest Pret a Manger (just walk towards Princess Street) and grab a breakfast panini and a coffee; £4.

The hotel had a nice looking modish bar and restaurant, think 21st Century pub all wood and sleek called Tempus. We didn’t eat there instead we dined here.

The George Hotel

19 – 21 George Street


We paid £99 per night (plus taxes) for a twin room, bed only.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lunch in Edinburgh:

Where: Spoon Café Bistro

6a Nicholson Street


Cost: £30 based on a 2-course meal for 2 including soft drinks.

Why? For lazy lunches, for dreams of childhoods past.

Once I visited the fair city of Edinburgh on university related business. It was spring with hints of summer. In Kenyan terms this means it was fucking cold! Edinbugh is very pretty place, in fact so pretty that the UN named the whole city a world heritage site. I stayed at the George Hotel on George Street. But more on that later. The previous night I had eaten supper at Edinburgh famous eatery Fisher down by the old wharf turned regentrified fort of yuppiedom. Our gracious host Morena (“it Celtic!” she said.) pointed me in the direction of Spoon when I told her I needed a place to lunch near the university. She scribbled down the address and said, “you’ll love it”. And I did.

Spoon is right opposite the University of Edinburgh Law Faculty. It’s a grand old building. Fitting I think for Scotland’s pinnacle of jurisprudence. The university is easy to find, flag down a cab and yell “to the university!” Spoon isn’t.

The sign is small, once the building is found push open the glass doors, climb up a flight of stairs. Down a corridor and finally emerge into the heavenly space that is spoon. Light bathed the room, not to big not o small. The décor is kitschy retro in the most delightful way. The tables and chairs are mismatched, some big some small. Some are for kids. There are wooden benches and painted chairs. The open restaurant is punctuated by screens covered in old sheet music (from The Sound of Music) there’s a bookshelf (I picture Lewis Carol and C.S. Lewis and Enid Blyton). One gets the familiar feeling of being back in ones childhood home. Music filters down form somewhere –Mama Cass Elliot-, I recall the 60s and I think, “let the sunshine in!” and it does.

The menu is simple; an A4 sheet fits all three courses. Specials are on the board. I have the tomato and aubergine soup to start, skirt steak with braised onions and mash potatoes for my main. The soup is heavenly. It arrives hot with crusts of bread and a slab of butter. The veg is roughly chopped, this soup isn’t drunk; it’s eaten, bitten and chewed into submission. On my palette is sweet fragrant basil, garlic. Italy. Almost as an afterthought a kick of spice. The best soup I’ve eaten ever.

Promptly after comes the steak gently plopped on top of a hillock of creamy mash spotted with chopped spring onions. On top of the steak, a tangle of sweet sweet onions braised in red wine, they almost melt in my mouth. A wolf it down, forgetting I have company. The outside world rushes by, all I see is mismatched flatware, bare white walls and ethereal light beaming from on high. I pause to flush down my appletiser and I think to myself “what a wonderful world.”

And it is. It really is.

Dinner in Edinburgh:

Where: Fisher’s
1 The Shore, Leith
Cost: £50 based on a 2-course meal for 2 with wine.
Why? To feel like you belong. For the best seafood in Edinburgh.

So after battling my way to Scotland we finally arrive. Thank you Easy Jet for your no frills thrills! I took a bus from the airport into town (£5 including free Wifi). I got off just off Princes Street (think Oxford Street but Scottish) hailed down a cab and gave them the hotel address. It was 200 meters away. £6. After a furious googling I found our dinner spot. Fisher’s by the sea.
Now Fisher’s is a fair way from the center of town. Taxi: £15. We arrive; it’s about 8 and the sun is setting. The restaurant is full. I’m asked if I have a reservation. I say no. He says sorry but we’re full. Bank holiday. We plead; we’re from Africa here for one night only. He relents. Go to the pub next door. Wait 30 minutes. I’ll seat you then. I don’t believe him. But he does as promised. Half an hour later he appears.

At fisher’s we find two place settings at the bar. He wasn’t kidding the place is full. It’s a small place, a typical pub with typical pub décor. Wood everywhere and a smattering of maritime kitsch –a mermaid overlooks the bar-. We sit glad to be out of the biting cold and into foodie bliss. We order, fish cakes and fish tempura to start, halibut and scallops for mains. The tempura is light and crisp, the fish white and flaky, a squeeze of lemon and its perfect, a hint of chilli somewhere. The fish cakes are equally good. What fish is in it, I’ll never know. All I remember is a dense mass of seafood heaven. The mains arrive. I’m not a fun of shellfish of any kind. Scallops are the exception. These are obviously fresh, sweet and extremely tender. The chef simply seared them, throw in some roasted pistachios, a garden of cooked spinach and lemon wedges and you have a good plate of food. Portions are generous. I don’t taste my partner’s main. I don’t want to share mine; but I hear it’s also good. Meanwhile we chat with the lovely lady behind the bar, Morena. She swills bottles of wine into glasses all the while seeming genuinely interested in what we have to say. A dessert card appears we decline. More wine, it sweet and red with a gorgeous after burn. I forget its name. It’s time to leave so we pay, a generous tip to the bartender, and to the waiter that got us in (£5 each). We say our goodbye’s, like leaving old friends.

They call us a cab. I leave with a card for a place to lunch the next day.

An Education/ Un Education

I’m always a stickler for good drama especially those of the British variety. After award season came and invariably left this year I went over the list picking out films I’d like to watch. I saw Catherin Biglow’s war drama The Hurt Locker (to be reviewed later) and the Oprah backed Precious. But it was young Catherine Mulligan’s performance in the BBC drama An Education that struck me where it counts most.

The film is based on the memoirs of Lynn Barber and is set in Twickenham 1961. We meet Jenny an irresistibly vivacious and charming brunette, Oxford bound and self-assured beyond her years. She has the world at her feet. In walks (or drives) David an older man- a man of the world. There are sparks. We emerge from the film one and half hour later feeling older and wiser. Educated if you will and this is how it happens.

Like many young people I often question the relevance of education. Jenny does. You see her man David (Peter Saarsgard) studied “in the university of life and didn’t get a good degree there” yet he drives an expensive sports car “it’s a Bristol – not many of them made”, goes to concert recitals, jazz gigs and eats supper at wonderful restaurants, these trapping to a girl are undeniable and we the audience (captive to David’s charms) will Jenny along as she is enticed by the magic of David and his amazing Technicolored® tongue we fall in love with Parisian getaways (with parental consent of course!) and playing hooky to buy Bern Jones paintings at Christies. Things that all school girls should do. At the heart of the film are 1960s subtleties. Women even of the educated sort wound up in positions of no consequence. Jenny’s English teacher, a horn-rimmed and Cambridge educated is stuck in a sixth form college reading “essays about ponies” and Jenny ask “what’s the point?” and indeed I myself asked, “What is the point?” we all need an education agreed the question is why and as Jenny poses it to her headmistress

It is an argument worth rehearsing. You never know when somebody else might want to know the point of it all.

When it comes down to it Jenny must choose. Either Renaissance man or the college degree (that promises a teaching post or better life in the civil service). In the end we see a woman becoming a pragmatic girl, like all coming of age films the protagonist undergoes a dramatic transformation, her headmistress calls her a ruined woman. I agree. In this film we back Jenny to the bitter end, the romanticism of the early 60s conspires to invoke feelings better times, and out of this purgatory of hedonism emerges the wisened Jenny, educated in ‘the university of life’ yet still Oxford bound with the world at her feet and I can tell you something this “ruined woman” like the film is trés chic!

Of the Ego and the Bandwagon

Like many people around the world I decided to indulge in rather self-indulgent behaviour and start a blog. Of course there are greater extravagances in life (like say self-publishing ones memoirs) but a blogging is way up there, so high that I in fact feel rather strange and pretentious writing my first blog entry.

I call it man and boy because I often feel like a man trapped in a boy’s body and other times a man trapped in boy’s body. That awkward in-between between one stage in life and the next.

At this point I’m not sure what direction this blog should take, perhaps an anonymous tell-all chronicle of my everyday exploits (with modest exaggeration of course!) or (my personal favourite) a long and tedious list of the things I like.
Perhaps a little of both.

We’ll see.
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