Nothing is better for a creative mind than to be encapsulated within an aircraft for
more than eight hours. You are immobilized, fixed to a seat, with limited
movement. You are forced to share pleasantries with people you do not know,
and the agony of negotiating your feeding amidst persons better endowed with
shoulder widths and arms reach larger than yours can be a no menial task.
But I do enjoy such moments, since they offer you time, space and opportunity
for self-evaluation.
It is happening to me now, some forty thousand feet above terra firma, as I file
this blog. Good wine, sumptuous dinner are good for deep reflection. I have
partaken of both.
This journey did not start well. Shortly after take-off from Heathrow flying to
Nairobi on my return flight, the passengers were shocked to hear rantings of
what can only be best described as outputs of highly disturbed or pathological
mind, prophesying of impending doom. The man, in a sonorous voice declared
we were all going to die, and woe unto us, since he had warned the pilot as
much. We were alarmed, and I for one was preparing to follow any leadership
that emerged, so that I could put in my bit by performing a hard tackle. Mercifully
for him as well as for us, the voice petered into a whimper and soon died off soon
after we were airborne. Must be the effects of a calming injection provided to him
by his team of doctors. However, I remained wary the rest of the flight, imagining
some undesirable leaping in frenzy, physically amock with teeth and nostrils
aflame due to some under described misfiring of mental neurons. I love to
regularly stretch my bodily sinews during long flights. But as a result of the
prophecy, I decided to curtail such adventures during the remainder of the flight.
As usual, the airline is mute. They don’t ever seem to want to communicate on
what is happening. So we wallow in the miasma of confusion and lack of
But this is not what urges me to communicate from above the clouds.
Three days ago, I had flown into London courtesy of Wellcome Trust and DFID. I
had never been to London before. My acquaintance with this great metropolis
and unique consortium of countries that form the United Kingdom, was as a
result of being taught history in school and my own interaction with airwaves,
courtesy of the BBC. So I took on this opportunity with gusto and I am glad I did.
It’s been glorious three days of meeting people. I know some of them since I
have worked with them before. It was also an opportunity to visit with institutions
that have shaped my professional self. Case in point is the Wellcome Trust. A
product of a perpetual endowment from a philanthropist and visionary Henry
Wellcome, this institution has shaped my current professional life where I do

quite a bit of grant-making based on merit review of proposals. I came to know of
the Trust in September 2008, when I took a leap of faith from being a researcher
(who perpetually ‘begs’ for funding) to a funder (who now awards grants). The
two are separated by volumes of misunderstandings heaped upon layers of
My leap from the frying pan into fire has not been easy. So, you need to
understand why I stopped for a moment of silence this morning as I looked
across Euston Street to this very celebrated institution.
But London has been much more. I have feasted on its unparalleled beauty,
majesty and historic significance as a zealot would of religion. And why not?
United Kingdom is Kenya’s colonial master. The umbilical of the past, present
and future cannot be wished away. I read and sang of London, River Thames,
and the great fire when I was a but a toddler. The nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge
is Falling Down’ is part of my educational DNA, much as the discovery of the
helix architecture of life was described by the Nobel laureates Watson and Crick
in the 1950s. Imagine my pleasure visiting the Francis Crick Institute these past
days. My youthful reading was transformed to yonder by the adventures of
Sherlock Holmes as narrated by Sir Conan Doyle. I am because of what I read
and now saw.
But London will always mean more to me, despite my fast eroding memorial
capacity, Our gracious High Commissioner Mr. Lazarus Amayo agreed to meet
me at short notice. I met and shook hands with Dr. Kizza Besigye, leader of
opposition in Museveni’s Uganda. I shopped for suits at a remarkable dressing
complex in north west London, known as Gold’s Factory Outlets where they pride
themselves with stocking for the ‘exceptional’. These are Kodak moments that
will follow me to beyond the ether.
But it must be Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, City of
Westminster and its Abbey that I must proudly speak of. I capped it off by
crossing the Thames at the Chelsea Bridge.
And so it was… I came. I saw. But I will need to return to London in order to

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