So I've been thinking, rather than trying to coax you useless buggers into conversations you don't want to have, why not go out and find the conversations my own damn self? A new year, new things, yes? No? Ah well, it was Woolie's idea, he says what will really get you all engaged is reading about one of the many characters that squat at the bottom of my page, like you do, once in a while (more like never, but let's not split hairs). He then volunteered himself, all humble like. Yes, I did see the set up, but I'm in the middle of a nasty case of writer's block right now, I'll take whatever I can get by way of inspiration. That and I really like to ask questions, so... Ladies and gentlemen, a new category, conversating with...
ALEX: Before we get into it, I need a soundtrack. What's your jam, Woolie? Pick wisely, my friend, I feel very strongly about these things...
WOOLIE: Stand by me, Ben E. King.
Classic...very nice. Why?
I listen to it when things are a bit bumpy. It reminds me how fortunate I am to have really good people around me. People who have stood by me when the seas were a bit choppy. It makes all the difference.
Aaaaawwww... Can't really argue with that can I? Now Woolie, tell me, what's the story with the sheep?
There's no story really, what you see is the real deal.
So you're a sheep, a real sheep? :-)
I prefer to think of it as a humane sheep. I have the soul of a man...
And the fingers...
Sorry, I don't follow what fingers? :-)
Well you type quite well, can only assume you have digits, rather than hooves, or are your hooves digital?
I see what you did there...
I have to use a voice recognition bit of kit to put my thoughts into words. You must have noticed the delays...
I thought it was the hooves...
I agree it is quite unusual...
That's not the half of it. Ha! I've always wanted to ask...
Yes, please, ask away....
Where exactly are you, are you here in Kenya or over yonder?
In a field far far away, out of Kenya. A sheep in exile, someone once said.
Funny you should say that... I have never identified myself with that word, diaspora. What does it mean? Who decides who is or isn't in diaspora?
I've never thought to google the definition, but I've always assumed it refers to a national living outside the motherland.
Originally the term referred to Jews as they had been scattered around the world following the sacking of Jerusalem....
Haiya! For real?
Yes, the term was specifically referring to that. It was modified (in Kenya) to mean peeps living outside the motherland.
So why don't you identify with it?
What does it mean? A collective noun bunching together who?
Call them expats. But even then what possible similarity do they have other than the current national anthem they are listening to is not Kenya's?
So your objection is the random grouping? Expats sounds temporary to me, like a two year posting in Kazakhstan. Emigrant?
The objection is to the collectivisation. Woolie has little in common with the the young lady now living and working in Berlin who drives a green BMW, or the young man in California who owns a used car lot. It seems silly to bunch all these random types together for a simple short hand.
Thing is, Woolie, we need a term to refer to the collective. It's not that we're saying you're all the same, just like calling us all Kenyans doesn't make as a homogeneous entity, diaspora is simply a distinction between those of us here and those of you out there.
I totally understand that last point, the distinction, that is.
Is the distinction relevant?
Is the question. The trouble with making distinct groupings is the mischief making that then follows.
It is no accident that people feel the need to divide us - those in Kenya and those outside. Unfortunately the human condition remains dynamic, these people that would sit neatly in little boxes marked A,B,C or D are constantly on the move, making the diaspora tag almost meaningless.
Do you think your view on Kenya and our madness differs from that of mine, because you live outside?
Not at all. My view on Kenya and our random eccentricities is informed in part by living in Kenya and also by observing Kenyan behaviour away from home.
Why the ambiguity, on the blog?
I mean, why do you write like you're in Kenya?
Oh I see. That is deliberate.
Are you trying to deceive us, Woolie? Hahahaha... Is this part of the sheep persona, wooly and mysterious? Does wooly have one or two l's, by the way?
Woah! I agreed to an interview, not 20 Q's. :-)
Deal with it...
Right, there was plenty here. When I said deliberate, I meant that the post dictates my location.
It's part of the story, you mean?
Yes. Should a writer's location really matter?
If your location colours the story, so to speak, doesn't it matter?
Woolie will be in Kenya if the story warrants it and in the UK when that is what is called for, I let the reader work that out for themselves...
So Woolie is a jet set sheep then? :-)
I would have said un-tethered. :-)
An excellent question deserves an answer, no?
Thing is, if today Woolie is on the farm harvesting a bumper crop, and then next week he's playing detective on Broadmoor island, we have to wonder what this Woolie bugger does for a living.
If the reader can identify with either of these two scenarios or indeed both.
The reader identifies with Woolie, but Woolie is all over the place, literally.
Then Woolie being here, there or anywhere becomes immaterial and is just a fantasy...
He's a bit like Tintin...
Nobody has questioned that Woolie the sheep writes, see?
I did, right at the beginning. :-)
So travelling between two points is a piece of cake. You like things neat and orderly, I think
everything in its proper place...
I like a thread I can follow, logic...
...sensible but restricting - like a bra. Am I allowed to say that?
Hahahaha! You just have.
Your people will edit it, no doubt.
No edit, save for the odd typo. What does a sheep know about bras?
I have my moments, shall we say. :-)
You favour fiction on the blog, one true love of yours?
I like fiction. It is liberating, it defies definition.
An escape perhaps or a rejection of conformity. Here is the deal: I often wake up to conflict, who am I, what am I doing here? Just like everyone else. At such times, I feel extremely affronted that anyone could chain me up and put me in a box marked X, Immigrant, Ethnic piece of .... Asylum seeker, Diaspora, space hopper....name it, even aliens sometimes. :-) In fiction one gets to write the rules. You choose the location, the story, the weather... as you say a temporary escape from insanity.
And Woolie being this amorphous creature in time and space, that's part of the fantasy?
Ehe. A talking blogging sheep - who survives from one chriso to the next. It is a fantasy and a bit of a cover story.
This sheep story is most complicated, wouldn't it be easier to just let Woolie be a man? Strange man, but man nonetheless...
Only if one wants to complicate it. There are layers upon layers but I feel a human is able to handle that quite well. Children's TV thrives on this sort of duplicity.
True. Do you see your Woolie tales ever making it to a screen?
Woolie the sheep writes stories about his adventures with Babu and others....this could easily be adapted. Of course you would not see Woolie as a sheep then. :-)
You've been blogging for almost 7 years, how?
If you enjoy doing something, and it is not illegal, immoral or fattening...
Where do the stories come from?
Situations - you spot a comic moment, or hear about a tragic event. There are as many stories out there as there are people, places and events. As I say, I like it because it is not something that I have to do, I am not compelled to do it.
Something you love to do, right?
Does it sound cliché...I love to write... That is bullshit – oops, sorry...
I like to tell a tale or two. Do we like the sounds of our own voices? Of course, helps to drown out the other voices in our heads, competing all the time for space and influence.
Do you ever get tired, or frustrated? It's lonely this blogging thing, or at least it feels that way to me sometimes.
Hahaha! It can be tiring when one is trying to shape something and it just won't work. It can be frustrating when you sound like a lone voice, but I have never found it lonely. The words on the page - when you get it just right - they comfort one. Like a letter from a lover....
That's quite brilliant sir, I'm a bit lost for words now. :-) Tell me about your audience, who are they? Do you know? Do you want to know?
The audience is varied and is essentially Kenyan given the nature of my ka blog. I respect the comments of three that speak and the silence of the millions of others. Beyond that...all is well.
Millions, eh? Hahaha... Has your audience gotten smaller over the years?
It waxes and wanes...I think on the whole it has probably lost. By that I mean every year a whole fresh lot of kids attain the age of maturity, the blog should really be growing in readership injecting fresh outlook and reflecting the cultural changes of our time.
But even as a fresh bunch is coming in, the old lot are drifting off, no? Do you feel like you need to evolve, appeal to the younger audience?
I do sometimes...it is a horrible sensation, the need to keep running so as to stay on the same spot.
Spoken like a geriatric bugger.
Indeed. I have no qualms about ageing gracefully.
You have to admit, your blog appeals to a similarly geriatric bunch, what with tales of hair dye and all... :-)
I do not hold that against my readers. I have spoken of issues such as hair dye and been pleasantly surprised that it touches a cord with some younger twenty somethings. You have to remember Alex that age is a very temporary thing....I will not be 27 forever....so to speak.
But that's not something a 27 year is ready to grasp, is it?
And they should not have to. Live each year as a permanent residence.
How old are you, Woolie?
I'll be 49 next birthday...
Yes, I have the scars to prove it.
:-) So what are you doing perambulating all over the interwebs at your age? Is that ageist of me?
I think it is a relevant question. The search for answers did not begin with the phenomenon now called ICT. People through out the ages have sought answers to their questions, answers that would offer them fulfilment. The interwebs arrived at the best time for Woolie, he would otherwise be stuck at the British council library....with 'not for loan' library books.
Does it bother you that the interwebs is seen as a young man's game? I don't know of many bloggers past 40, not Kenyan anyhow...
It doesn't bother me at all. I do wonder though that one can hold such a view, sincerely, it would mean of course that there is nothing that an over forty could possibly have in common with holder of such a view.
Let me put it differently then, do you find that your age puts you at some disadvantage, online? Locks you out of some of the conversations?
If there is a certain age - a tipping point where one loses all relevance - I have not been made aware of it. One may not enter into certain websites where certain discussions are held, but I hardly see that a disadvantage.
What do you like to read, online?
I read all manner of things - blogs covering enough topics across a wide spectrum, I read a bit of poetry and I am subscribed to several audio book websites... In a nutshell, I do and certainly many people my age do exactly what everyone else is doing online...
Everyone else is reading gossip and surfing porn. Hahahaha. Sorry, inappropriate.
I will not stand here and throw stones. No, it is not inappropriate, porn is the most visited genre online, that is just a plain fact, sad but fact.
Do you have any favourites?
Favourites of what?
As tempting as it is to ask about porn, I won't. Hahaha... What are you reading currently?
I am reading a Khaled Hosseini book, 1000 Splendid Suns.
Ah yes...you put me onto Kite Runner, still haven't forgiven you. Ha!
That was put onto me too and finishing that it was inevitable that I moved to the suns. I'm also reading a book of shorts by Roald Dahl.
Online reading, links you recommend?
Go to audible.com and also booksshouldbefree.com, I found many classics there...
What's your favourite classic?
A Tale of 2 Cities.
Dickens? I'd never have guessed...
Yes...I like the idea that even today you can go to Plumstead and follow Shooters Hill on the A2 road...
The book begins with a stagecoach going to Dover. The coach is overtaken by some riders and the passengers are scared thinking they have been jacked... The opening lines...immortal. It was the best of times it was the worst of times. Just like now, today. :-)
What do you think of the discussions Kenyans are having, in the forums, blogs, twitter...
I am amused because there are so many aspects to what is going on in this so called "social media space". Kenya was catapulted from an age of censorship right into an age of free speech without a half-way house, it has taken a long time for people to recognise that free speech does not give you the right to shout 'Fire!' unnecessarily in a crowded cinema. Free speech means responsible speech.
Do you think we've learnt that yet, going by what you see on the forums?
We are coming of age....but take 100 babies born on the same day, they will not all walk on the same day. There are positive changes...and also some pretty nasty challenges.
Are you active on 'social media'?
I'm not that active, but I like a good tweet, and follow a few interesting tweeters. I guess the term social media...is a put off of sorts. :-)
It is, no?
It is certainly not social...this media.
It is most definitely not. Hahahaha. Wait, I should ask why you say that...
Why social media is anything but social? Perhaps a definition of social would be in order. People have called facebook and twitter and others social media, I view them as people traffic. Just like the bunch of cars all together on Msa road, nothing social at all about that...it is just loads and loads of people going somewhere.
Social to you means a community...
...with something that binds them together. I grant you, it is a loose term so how can it be binding?
What about the forums? Those are a community of sorts.
Forums bring people with special interests together. There a good ones and not so good ones...
Do you have any time for them?
Definitely. I think we all do. Every time we type a search term, "my butt in the car has died" we get results from forums. :-)
Butt? Typo, Woolie? :-)
I meant battery, Alex....
I should hope so, otherwise you've taken to killing people in your car and then talking about it on the interwebs.
I will let that comment slide... I am no killer but your point is made. :-) I once changed the whole toilet in my bathroom from a forum. There are extremely useful forums for all types of subjects under the sun. I have plenty of time for them and participate in them myself.
So the niche forums you love, as we all do, I suspect?
We all do. The bathroom post was done by an elderly gentlemnan in his 50's, a former plumber. The no interwebs for over 40's movement is still-born.
Hahahaha! You wont let that slide, will you? Apologies, Woolie, I was just being a mchokozi.
Just saying, he posted videos and shi.. Stuff the 20 somethings would have no clue with whatsoever.
You steer well clear of siasa on your blog, why?
I choose to, isn’t there enough siasa about? Some say too much. There are many wonderful political blogs out there and if I feel the urge to say something, I will do so there.
Are you apolitical?
I am not apolitical. It is just that... We discovered this beautiful medium just the other day, why do you want to give it up to the politicians?
They've taken everything else, no?
I used to be a listener of talk radio when there was nothing else about. All political blogs are full of polarised ranting and all manner of bigotry and tyranny. Anyone with a contrary view is a stooge, or worse.
Even the liberal ones? Allegedly liberal ones?
I am afraid the liberal ones are the worst. Politics is that ....poly tricks. A dirty game... How will you wrestle with swine and retain your dignity? There is nothing worse than a person with a conviction, in my humble opinion. This world has been around for 4 billion years and we been area for about 40k years. All the skulduggery that you see today has been around before...and will be around again, full circle. So no, I eschew politics kabisa.
You write on social issues though, often.
Like every one else I have a conscience that wants to say something every now and then.
Do you find it easier to talk about serious stuff, like violence in families, through fiction?
Yes. Fiction has the advantage that it can be used to discuss anything. :-)
Is your audience receptive? What do your stats tell you, are the stories on heavier issues popular, well read?
The audience is there for some issues...but my comments sometimes suggest that I have shocked the reader...they did not expect it, sort of thing.
You do like to shock us Woolie. :-)
It is a useful tactic, when one wants to confront a disturbing issue, head on. I will say one thing here, I have a particularly strong feeling about domestic violence...
It is something that sadly I have experienced in my own childhood and later on in my line of work. I have seen the horrible scars that it leaves on all the people involved. I have seen that it is the single biggest social ill that cuts right across the divide of the classes, and I have seen that there is little to suggest we are dealing with this problem as effectively as we would like to think.
Are we dealing with it at all, I wonder?
All the government agencies and NGOs think so...but I don't know.
Is writing about it cathartic?
Is writing your therapy, so to speak?
It helps to get one's thoughts in some sort of order. But I do not think there is a self-help therapy, when things are this bad only professional help will do.
You don't like therapy?
I worry about self therapy, is it not just...bottling it in? Saying mwanaume ni kujikaza?
When you explain it like that, it does sound like a load of malarkey...
There there, I am just saying...
On a lighter note, what's your favourite meal, to cook? You like to show off on the blog, pies and stuff...
I will say, I am fond of so many dishes...nothing though comes close to me like ugali, with a nice chicken stew and some lovely cabbage. That is me. Cabbage made simply, a touch of curry powder added to some softened onion and tomato...heaven on a plate.
Cabbage? Woi... Hahahaha! What does the clan Woolie go mad for?
Clan Woolie prefers I do my favourite chicken and mushroom pie, which they now swear by... :-)
Wise people your clan. We'll be waiting for that post. :-) Thank you, Woolie.
It has been a pleasure.... :-)