You Never Know

The thing about writing novels, they are – ‘must be’ – based on fact. You see something on TV or the movies and you say “I wouldn’t have done that.” Or “I wouldn’t have acted that way.” Thus when you create a situation in a novel, you make the character react as you think he should, based on your own knowledge, or what you think is true. If in reality you have been through these situations you have a better and more realistic understanding of what would or might happen. Of course it is reasonable that different people would react in different ways.
How would you react? I lived in a luxury 6 apartment building which was situated in a large wooded piece of land that had lawns at the front and a large parking area. The building was in an elite area of Nairobi on State House Road. Quite countryish for a major city.
One morning around three o’clock I was awakened by the sound of the door bell ringing, and a few moments later I heard another door bell. Obviously some drunk or prankster at work. Some time later I heard unusual noises. I climbed from my bed and quietly exited our front door, there I stood silently in the shadows listening. Sure enough there was activity in the corridor above. I remained quiet and in the shadows, unseen. After some time the noises ceased and I assumed all was well and returned to my bed. Only minutes after laying down I heard more unusual noises, this time outside. Quietly and gingerly I eased the curtain aside and peered out of the window. I saw two men carrying of all things a hi-fi cabinet. Piled on top of the hi-fi were lots of other things, making the trip difficult for the thieves. Without doubt these ‘gentlemen’ were absconding with someone’s private property. What would you have done?
What I did, in after thought is quite humorous. Making as little noise as possible I walked to the kitchen and took the largest knife I could find – a bread knife. Then in pajamas and slippers I eased my way out through the front door of the building. Outside I could see the thieves still struggling with their load. By now they were at least a hundred paces away and heading for the main road. I screamed at the top of my voice and ran at them waving the knife.

They must have thought it was some fearful demon from hell. They dropped their ill gotten gains and fled. One ran for the main road and one ran toward the back of the gardens. Not a swift move. At the rear of the grounds was an old pit dug for rocks to make the apartment building’s foundations. It had become filled with garden rubbish and thorn bushes. I heard the man scream as he descended into the dark hole.
Although I saved the day, I received no thanks, but I did have the satisfaction of knowing these particular crooks would think twice before trying it again.


As a youngster I was known to my friends as Prof, short for professor. I knew dozens of ways to create explosions and did so. One favorite was what we called a hand grenade. In reality it was a tightly wound and heavily glued paper tube, the interior of which was filled with a home made explosive. We also used to make pipe bombs, but they were harder to conceal. I remember one lunch break three of us thought it might be a fine bit of fun to go blow up a few garbage cans, or as we called them dustbins. This particular time we picked on the district known as Little London.
I suppose children do not think things through properly as we walked down a dead end street we found a large selection of dustbins placed out for collection. I placed my prize bomb in one and we walked on nonchalantly waiting for the explosion. ‘Bang’ and the bin made like the John Kennedy space center. A magnificent display of pyrotechnics.

The bin blew out its bottom and took to the sky just like a dirt propelled rocket. It crashed down on the roof of the nearby cottage and fell to earth. Who should come out of the cottage and looking extremely angry? Oh boy, it was our very own headmaster, Mr. French, and typically, there was nowhere to go. As he looked in our direction we ran for cover, but there was none. He knew we would have to return the way we came and so stood by his wrecked bin and waited.
Our only escape was round the back of a nearby house and through their back garden to the open fields. The problem being even there the only escape was to cross the river. We reasoned that if we crossed the river we could reach the school before the Head, and no one would be the wiser. Unfortunately the only way across the river was by a skeleton of a bridge just under construction. Being lunchtime there were no workers and we scrambled across the iron work. Geoff slipped and fell into the middle of the river. Fortunately he was the only member of our little group that could swim. Although we managed to escape detection, we learned nothing and continued our vandalism. Once we blew up a greenhouse, but that’s another story.