Baba

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There are fathers who sit in the house but their spirits are out there somewhere, probably floating on a heavily cushioned lounge, burning the ass of a cigar and laughing at another vacuous joke. They are physically at home but they are otherwise absent. They distractedly murmur at their children’s inquisitions, shooing them towards their gadgets or their mothers or anything that isn’t them. They look for the flimsiest excuse to sneak out of the house, to abscond domesticity, to be free of the responsibility of having to nurture their children. Their life at home is an endless sigh that doesn’t quite exhale. They hide behind the one-attired dogma of “quality time” when assuaging their guilt about the meagre time they spend with their offspring. They are barely floating in the tepid water of this fatherhood path they have chosen, sometimes choking on the brackish waters of their looming paternal failure.

That’s not how I pictured Vincent. He sounded like the inverse of the man described above.

How I learnt about Vincent is that we bungled Clare Abuodha’s book order.

Clare is Vincent’s wife.

She had bought my latest book – Thursdays – as a gift and made it out to Vincent, who she professed to being an amazing father to their two daughters. “Autograph something very cool for him,” she instructed in an email. I don’t know how we screwed it up but I’m pretty sure it was the devil. The books are processed by some people in a different area and then sent over to me in boxes for my autograph after which I send them back to the first location for dispatch. Anyway, she didn’t get her book the following day, as is the practice, or the day after and soon the weekend got here and I wasn’t signing any books on weekends because I was imbibing whisky and lying flat on my carpet on Sunday morning, rehydrating and thinking how I should just stop drinking and join a constructive group like the Catholic Men Association which, from the outside, seems like a group of men who just meet under a tree and drink juice from paper cups and discuss how the world can become a better place if they become better men.

Clare, when my team called her to apologise, was gracious. I got the call when I was in a bar on Saturday afternoon. (Curfew is at 10pm). I was seated next to a chap called Pinye (Peter Onyango, not the deejay) who was telling me about this business idea he had of opening a water purification plant in shags and something to do with kadogo industry. “I have been reading about dollar millionaires and you know why they are dollar millionaires?” he asked with liquor-fuelled enthusiasm, “Because they have not less than seven streams of income.”  Then my phone rang and I said, “Pinye, ebu hold that million dollar thought.” I was being asked if I could sign a book for Clare. I said sawa but then the rider got delayed somewhere and soon darkness descended over us, which was great because it’s hard to autograph a book when you have a few drinks in you.

I learnt later that when Clare was called to inform her that her book wouldn’t be delivered again, she was chill about it, gracious even. I thought, isn’t that so cool? I mean, I’ve seen someone get a hernia in a restaurant because there was no salt shaker on the table. I told the team, “I will deliver Clare’s book personally, what’s the location?” They said Langata, an apartment address that sounded very familiar.

Using Google Maps, I drove out to Langata yesterday and it’s only when I got to the gate that I realised I had been there a few weeks ago. I had gone to the exact same block and perhaps floor to interview Shoba, the irrepressible, Guy-Fieri-look-alike who told me that the reason he’d never eat dinner before 6pm was because he’s afraid he’d get so hungry in the middle of the night and faint and die in his sleep.

I thumped the doorbell, stepped back and waited. A determined breeze blew through the corridor opening.

Shortly, a bespectacled lady with a friendly and approachable face opened the wooden door but left the grill door inside closed. I knew instantly that it was Clare, the lady of the manor. She had on a silky dera with chains running all over it. And short natural hair. Next to her stood a very pretty little girl with an abundance of confidence who was drinking from a small bottle of Fanta.

“Clare?”

“Yeah,” she said, through the grill then upon seeing the envelope said, “Oh finally, the book!”

I passed it through the grill and she quickly opened it. The house, from what I could see from the doorway, looked like a place inhabited by people with discerning taste.

“I’m sorry about the delay,” I said.

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” she said, reading the autographed message on the book. I waited to hear a booming man’s voice coming from inside asking, “Who goes there, darkening my door with his long shadow? Identify yourself or get ready to cross swords and die by the thrust of my weapon,” …or something of that nature. But shamefully, this is 2020, nobody crosses swords anymore. People just thrust words at you on social media.

“Is Vincent home, by the way?” I asked.

She looked up, hopefully smiling from the autograph message. “Uhm, no, he took our daughter to the hospital. Why?”

“I wanted to see him,” I said, “I’m Biko.”

She really looked at me for the first time and then said, “Biko?”

“Yeah.” I said.

“Biko as in the writer?” She raised the book, like you see witnesses raise the bible in court as they are sworn in.

“Yes,” I said and as soon as those words left my lips she let out a sharp scream and ran back into the room where she briefly paced up and down saying, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” I thought to myself, okay, stop screaming lady, there are many gun owners nowadays, I might get popped by a trigger happy neighbour who’s mistaken me for an intruder.  Nobody would believe I’m a writer, I wore a faded, old denim shirt and jeans and my beard poked out from under my mask. I fit the description of someone who would want to steal your TV.  When she had calmed down considerably, she came to the door and said, “Oh, Vincent won’t believe this, he won’t! He is such a big fan. Come in, come in,” she said opening the grilled door while calling Vincent at the same time.  I said, I was in a bit of a hurry and stood outside. She held the phone to her ear listening to it ring.

“Hi darling,” I told the little girl as she waited for Vincent to pick.

“Hi,” she said.

“What’s your name?”

“Elaine.”

“How old are you?”

“Six.”

“Baba, you won’t believe who’s here,” Clare said as Vincent picked. You should have been there to hear her call him “baba.” There are three colloquial types of baba; there is the “cheers baba” who takes many pictures of himself and his shoes on social media; there is Raila and then lastly the “baba” the revered man of the house.  If you had any doubts about marriage and heard how she called him “baba” you’d get married the following day by midday. From the doorway I could see Vincent on the family picture atop the curtain box; clean shaven, calm, kind-faced. If I pointed him out seated in the banking hall patiently waiting to be served and whispered to you, “See that fella there? He’s called baba at home,” you’d have said, “Of course,” because only a true gentleman would be called “baba.”

She handed me the phone and I introduced myself and he didn’t scream or anything because, you know, we are men and we don’t want to scare each other with bursts of enthusiasm and adoration or shit like that. But he was adequately chuffed but also disappointed,  “Oh no, this is just my luck today,” he said. I asked about their sick daughter, Eden [(10), I believe, and we spoke some more then I told him, “Anyway, your wife wrote in and said how present and engaged you are as a father and she bought you my book as a gift.” He kept saying, “Ohh this woman, man….this woman….” Look, if ever there is a time I would have shed a tear out of the sheer beauty and pride with which that guy said, “Oh, this woman, man…..this woman…” it was that moment. It was so beautiful, it filled me with such goodness and faith, I felt it sit heavy in my heart like an anvil at the bottom of the sea.

When I hung up, Clare was smiling hard and Elaine who’s six was sipping her soda nonchalantly and suddenly the world was such a beautiful place to be even though the virus was out there threatening us. I asked if I could take a picture of them and Elaine, who I could see had been affirmed as a child, said, “Yes! Let’s take a picture!” as the mom protested and said how she looked shabby and she had no make-up on and she wanted to spruce up and I knew if she went to change I’d be there the whole day. “You look good for a picture that way,” I said. She picked up Elaine who clearly loved pictures because she photographed easily because of her dynamite smile and personality.

Then I left.

There are certain things you do that just fill you with good energy and charm. Like nursing a bird with a broken wing back to life. Or giving your seat to an older person. This for me was one of them. I would have driven to Naivasha for that same feeling.

This is our last post this year. You guys have been fun and well behaved here. Thank you. I shall be back here on January 12th. However, I will be doing stuff on social media, nothing serious, just mucking around; short story spurts, the usual. Also, starting today, I will be picking a purchased book of Thursdays or Drunk and making one personal delivery every day until further notice.

[To buy ‘THURSDAYS’, see details below].

Paybill
Business number: 596419
Account number: [your email address] Amount: Sh1,099

Inclusive of delivery to Nairobi only.

Email your location and autograph details to [email protected]

Until then, mask up, eat your veggies, hydrate and stay safe.

 

****

 

Merry Christmas and a happy new year, gang.

 

Shalom, gang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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155 Comments
  1. Unrelated (to the story) Biko, if I buy another copy of Thursdays, utaniletea personally?

    Now to the story, Last week I was on Twitter and I saw a tweet that said “A lot of men don’t actually want to participate in raising their children, they just like the aesthetic of having a family” To read about a man who is so involved is refreshing.

    Clare, mami, si you drop your prayer – word for word, in the comments? Tunateseka huku nje. Your relationship sounds nothing short of amazing 🙂

    Otherwise, next year it is, Inshallah.

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  2. Baba….I can only imagine the love “that woman” Claire has for hubby….awesome awesome awesome….Babas…be there for family….be present….

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  3. Such a noble thing you did there, I can imagine the look on her face. Now I’ll enjoy calling my hubby Baba. Merry merry Christmas Biko and a 2021 filled with accomplishments.

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  4. Claire’s reaction would legit be my reaction if I ever met Biko. And Shoba does have some semblance to Guy Fieri
    Also, I wish I end up with a guy like Vincent, *sigh, more importantly, I hope I’ll be worthy of a guy like Vincent

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  5. Wow, happy ending. Merry Christmas to you. I got my book but haven’t read it yet, waiting for my leave to start then I binge on it.

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    1. Same.. I want to read it with no interruption.. I want a selfish interaction with THURSDAYS. I want to read it next to calm waves.. Not this chaotic Nairobi of ours
      Biko.. Happy holidays.
      Thanks for entertaining us all year round
      And this few days bonuses have been refreshing

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  6. Then my phone rang and I said, “Pinye, ebu hold that million dollar thought.”

    I see what you did there

    Happy Holidays too,see you on social media.

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    1. “Pinye, ebu hold that million dollar thought”, hahaha. What a nice read, damn you can write. Happy holidays too.

  7. We called our dad Baba! Unfortunately He passed on about a month ago. He was a 63 years old, an amazing father, He loved us and we knew it. He called me his star. I miss Him terribly

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  8. Quite captivating,Claire i admire you mummy,when I grow up i would like to be you,.thanks Biko 2020 has been amazing esp Tuesdays.wishing you all blessings this season..be safe

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  9. Such a Great Dad!!! Baba you’re such a Hero and your home is such a haven of tranquility…“Oh, this woman, man…..this woman…” it was that moment. It was so beautiful, it filled me with such goodness and faith, I felt it sit heavy in my heart like an anvil at the bottom of the sea. Wow!!!

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  10. Oh Biko.
    I think if you delivered my book I’d be more excited than that lady.
    Thank you so much for making me look forward to every Tuesday this year. For writing even when we are in a pandemic.
    Happy holidays gang.

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  11. This is beautiful!! Reading it filled me with such goodness haha . What a way to wrap up the year . Merry Christmas & happy new year to you too !

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  12. i pray the gods of happiness look graciously on me , and choose me among the lucky guys to get a delivery by Biko. Imagine getting Thursdays on Friday, which is my birthday. lol .. (Biko, see what i did there?)

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  13. Baba, you won’t believe who’s here,” Clare said as Vincent picked. You should have been there to hear her call him “baba.” … then lastly the “baba” the revered man of the house. If you had any doubts about marriage and heard how she called him “baba” you’d get married the following day by midday.

    This excerpt just touched my heart. A tear dropped.

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  14. Christmas has come very early for one family who had the book personally delivered to them.
    Now the rest of us scattered in every pocket around the world want our book personally delivered. I see Biko hopping on planes, on camels, on a boat, a helicopter, a horse…just to get Thursdays delivered.
    And by the way, when he says this is the last post, don’t take him at his word. That’s simply code for saying “Get your brollies gang, I’m about to rain ‘Lights on’ …posts!
    Howbeit, Merry Christmas gang! Remember, Christmas is the reason for this season…stay safe and try to stay sober..Happy 2021!

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  15. What a way to end the year Uncle Biko! Such a beautiful experience.
    Thank you for making my Tuesdays brighter and the random posts on other days. So grateful.

    Hugs and kisses to Tamms.

    Merry Christmas.

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  16. Lovely all the way! Wow. A book delivery turns out to be onother nice read. Loved it to the end and beyond.
    Merry Christmas Biko. Please don’t forget rongai is still Nairobi, for Thursdays deliveries.

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  17. Eden and Elaine are angels! How else do they have Vincent and Claire for parents? They (percents) seem to be other-worldly, spirits unknown in this day and age of emotionally distanced parenting and masked emotions. I felt Claire’s excitement but even better yet, I felt your pride and joy in seeing firsthand the unabashed happiness that your work delivers to our hearts each and every day. I’m stoked to know that no matter the fame, our Biko is the same guy bado; genuine, honest, even vulnerable! Na je angekupea lecture why you’re randomly asking for Vincent? Things would have gone left my fren! Dera would not have stopped her from delivering some ninja kicks.

    Baba. Heavy with love. Steeped in grandeur and admiration. I am reminded of my mother! She sees no fault in my father. And I can write a novel on just the one ounce of faults that I know. That’s love. No. That’s grace. Me ningekuwa senior spinster .

    Happy holidays Biko! January 12th your village awaits here. Meanwhile, tuko tu social media, and hopefully making sure we are present and not running away from parenting heheheheh
    Cheers!

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    1. ‘I felt your pride and joy in seeing firsthand the unabashed happiness that your work delivers to our hearts each and every day.’ So well put!!

      Biko do you have an idea how you make us feel? You should see me telling my friends about this amazing Kenyan blogger! Can’t thank you enough.

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  18. This really is the “I wish you a Merry Christmas” Post! Clare and Baba’s obvious love for each other truly warmed my heart.

    Also Clare’s reaction and more would be my reaction any day!!

    Thanks Biko for what you do with your gift of writing! It is a blessing in its own special way!!

    Happy Holidays to you from Arusha!!

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  19. Thank you so much Biko.
    You have enabled the beast in me to roar in the field of descriptive writing.

    Stay safe. Hoping to meet you here next year.

    God bless you.

    Good bless all the subscribers of this page.

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  20. “there is the “cheers baba” who takes many pictures of himself and his shoes on social media; there is Raila ”
    Am I the only one who shouted BABA after reading Raila?

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  21. Shalom, Biko.
    What a post on which to end a most difficult year! Beautiful! Made my heart most warm. Sure to go back and read this again and again, until January 12, 2021.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

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  22. “Ooho this woman,,,,,,man,this woman”.It was that moment.It was so beautiful,it filled my heart and goodness and faith,,,,,,,”
    Singles in the house may you marry your best friend tommorow at mid-day

    NB.Evidence of tangible and mutual respect in a relationship.
    Chocolate man,thank you for your generosity with your writing skill.You are the balance that pulled us through the harassing Covid period.
    You made us smile and cherish the moment as a result.
    Happy holidays!

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  23. Thank you for making my 2020 Tuesdays lit. I always looked forward to the weekly dose.
    Happy holidays Biko. Stay safe

  24. That has been a lovely year and a lovely family piece.
    End of year wish is that your randomness leads you to personally deliver the book to my doorsteps
    Happy holidays

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  25. The first piece I really read and introspected of yours was the piece about your mum, then my beautiful grey haired Mami was still alive and I read it to her after I was done and she was silent, she never lacked words my little Mami, but somethings knocked the wind right out of her socks. Indeed very aptly titled your Mother will break your heart. Then I had no idea what it felt like to have your heart broken. I love your pieces and look forward to them every week.
    Have a wonderful Christmas break and a great start to 2021.

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  26. Am from Uganda and it’s my first time to comment. My wife and I are ardent readers of your blog. I found it first a few years back and I introduced her to it. She got hooked almost immediately. We can be in conversation and she says something like, “You remember what Biko said” or “Did you read Biko’s piece last week, it was crazy.” Now thanks to you, we have one other thing that we can both say we enjoy doing. So, Merry Christmas to you chief and everyone here, let’s meet again next year. Enjoy your holidays.

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  27. Thank you Biko for always making my Tuesday’s exciting, it’s been an awesome year full of awesome and thrilling reads! Happy holidays and prosperous 2021 gang! Thursdays and Drunk! I can’t wait have Biko in a whole book. I am also crossing my fingers that I would have Biko deliver these books personally!

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  28. What are we going to do with ourselves for the next Tuesdays Biko? Oh wait! Let me order my Thursdays copy. See what I did there?

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  29. Read the book Thursday , its real and reminds humanity to keep fighting the many demons in our lives. JP should have ended well .

    . I was called twice to confirm if i picked the book . was it YOU ?Keep writing i appreciate the stories

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  30. It’s a heart warming story…
    Thanks for all the great stories we have enjoyed this year! I have put off buying my Thursdays because I know that the moment I do, I will binge on it. And that’s no way to read a Biko book. I will read it on my kindle, under a coconut tree seeping a mojito and savouring every sentence at Christmas time. I hope it’s nice and long. I plan to drive my husband crazy by reading for him all the funny parts, because he is too lazy to read a whole book… he prefers short video clips. Where’s the eye rolling emoji?

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  31. Thank you Biko for keeping us sane & focussed during this pandemic through your writing. Very therapeutic: we laughed, cried, pondered, imagined, dreamt, and all that stuff! Roller – coaster! We’re blessed.

    Enjoy your Christmas and wishing you a brighter 2021.

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  32. Happy holidays Biko. You are an amazing human being. I am glad that Claire and Vincent represented the gang well. You have touched us deeply with your stories. 2021 it is, inshalla..

  33. Thank you Biko for an amazing year, TOGETHER, haha. This is such a beautiful story, though broken by love, makes you want to love again, and to have your own ‘baba’ who you want to do all these little happy things for. Simply beautiful!!

    Baba, akii I’ll buy both books, please deliver 🙂 <3 See you soon 😀

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  34. So Biko forgot to ask the last person to turn off the lights??
    I will just step in here; can the last person please turn off the lights. Thank you.

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  35. Reading the comments, it is interesting that the women seem to yearn for an involved father for their kids. On the other hand, my wife appears threatened by my involvement with our daughter; in her words she would not want her daughter to “over-bond” with her father. What does that even mean?

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  36. Haaa! It’s a wrap man. You entertained us enough when we were under lockdown. You kept us busy. Otherwise, we could have added the ‘nth’ member in our homes. Thank you very much. Merry Christmas and happy new year. BIKO

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  37. Biko,

    Reading you is many things. Entertaining, relaxing, encouranging, uplifting, educating and so much more. Keep doing it and more blessings to you.

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  38. I dont know you in person but i love you, your writing n all. My hubby bought both your books i chose to read drunk first, as he reads Thursdays then we’ll switch. You are just amazing n humorous. Just wishing i’d be Claire, oh my!

    Merry Christmas n happy new year.
    Blessings.

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  39. There is that ka feeling that comes with coming across men who are intentional about creating a relationship with their kids…actively involved and all. Doesn’t matter whether you meet them physically, watch them in the movies or read about them. They are a serious turn on . Kudos to all the ‘babas’. Happy holidays to you too Biko..and the rest of the gang!

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  40. Thanks Biko…2020 was a difficult year and you walked with us all through with your posts….may God bless you and always answer your prayers…..happy holidays Biko……happy holidays gang

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  41. As a reformed smoker, I know that this is not the way to do bit Biko. The warning of the postponement of future highs should have come in the first sentence.
    That way, we get to strangle our cigarette after ever paragraph (read, two puffs) so it lasts till the 12th of January…

  42. A beautiful girl introduced me to your articles in 2018. The Duke of Gatanga story was my first. I haven’t missed a piece since then. You’ve inspired me to start writing.
    Merry Christmas and happy new year!

  43. Happy holidays Biko, thank you for making my Tuesdays fun, exciting and interesting despite the times we are living in. Meeting you was the highlight of my year 🙂

  44. Atleast this is a sweet story.

    Biko deliver to me aki…..I am buying the book next week and am on Mombasa road …hehehe. i promise i wont scream.

  45. Beautiful, you made their Christmas…
    Merry Christmas and fruitful 2021 to you Biko. It’s been lovely reading you all year long. Looking forward to getting my autographed copies of Thursdays and Drunk in Uganda some day.
    Be blessed

  46. Maen, such stories…

    I hope to be a baba one day. I believe in it. I am not sure if they are made or born. But I hope to be one.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family,Biko.
    The same to the gangmates here too.

  47. “Baba, you won’t believe who’s here,” Clare said as Vincent picked. You should have been there to hear her call him “baba.” There are three colloquial types of baba; there is the “cheers baba” who takes many pictures of himself and his shoes on social media; there is Raila and then lastly the “baba” the revered man of the house. If you had any doubts about marriage and heard how she called him “baba” you’d get married the following day by midday

    I didn’t hear it,but reading this I’m ready for marriage,lol
    Happy holidays Biko,to you and yours

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  48. I think we can all agree that Kikuyu is part of Nairobi ever since the advent of Covid-19. 🙂
    Order being placed ASAP!!

    I look forward to reading Thursdays’

    Otherwise (as Kenyans like to say) Happy holidays!

  49. Wait, so we’re not getting the “2020 in a nutshell” or rather “2020 reflections” post this time.!The way I’ve been looking forward to it. Especially your best books of 2020 part.

  50. A beautiful story to end the year with.

    Happy holidays all!

    PS: My son tore the autographed page of Thursdays. I haven’t even started reading the book and here we are. Anyway, someone said something about toddlers that I can’t exactly remember but yeah, here we are.

  51. I am reading this story a bit late in January but it still gave me a really good feeling… I love it and how good natured every character is. We need more people like this in the world.

  52. ” the reason he’d never eat dinner before 6pm was because he’s afraid he’d get so hungry in the middle of the night and faint and die in his sleep” .

    Amazing and nice story