|The road to Bunyonyi, rising higher and higher.|
Sunday 5th April 2015 - 10.30pm
Easter Sunday was a pretty quiet day. With the programme clear due to being a few days ahead of schedule, it meant the morning was a dull affair.
After a while of loitering around the hotel, I decided that I needed to do something and, along with Jas, we walked a less direct route past the hospital and down into the town to change some money at the Royal Supermarket.
The roads were quiet save for the occasional boda-boda labouring up the hill or freewheeling down it. One such boda, with an attractive female passenger on the back, passed us by and she waved – I thought I detected a faint blush in Jas’ cheek.
At Royal Supermarket, we undertook a quick exchange of around £2000 into an inordinate amount of Shillings and walked back up towards the hotel to see if anyone had snapped into action. En route, Jas took a moment to point out that my idea of walking through Bugongi, with a load of money in a backpack, might not be the best idea.
It feels like we’ve been out and wandering for ages, but, upon arrival at the hotel, it is clear that very little time has passed in actuality.
The whole group spent the early afternoon period at Acadia Cottages, high up above Lake Bunyonyi in the company of Chris Ruba and a crowd of girls from Kigezi High School.
The sun was furiously hot, so I tied my kaffiyeh around my head looking, I think, like a slightly lost pirate. I then got told by Sarah that I look Jordanian and Khadija decides that I should have the Berber name of Antar Ténéré.
With some gentle encouragement the two groups of students started to mingle and share stories about the subjects they study. Before long, Hannah was having her hair braided by one of the Kigezi girls.
Later that evening we dined at Cephas and afterwards headed to the hotel bar.
We put some money down on the pool table in order to stake our claim to it. I remembered that the rules here were that the winner stays on. So, with this in mind, I played a game against a slightly tipsy man and won.
Having assumed control of the pool table everyone wanted to play me. Next up was an Indian gentleman who I recognised as running the photo shop in town next to the supermarket. More by luck than skill I won again, much to his annoyance.
Suddenly, I was christened the Champion. A small man called Brian introduced himself to me. I suggested that he played against one of the students in our group, but he wanted only to face-off against the ‘champion’.
I struck a deal with Brian saying that he could play Thomson (the name he referred to me by after mishearing my name) as long as the students could play a game of doubles beforehand. It went against the house rules, caused a ripple of unrest, but the serious pool players decided that it would be nice for the youngsters to have a game.
Ironically only one student wanted to play and the doubles match that ensued between Tash and Tamera, and Suweyda and Fabio was a tough match to watch. The balls seem to just be pushed around the table for a laborious twenty minutes. The onlookers, and those who had queued up their money to play a game, started to drift away from the prevailing snooze-fest.
Eventually, Brian got his match and I won. It was beginning to get embarrassing. All the time I was playing, my first opponent stood in the shadows drunkenly murmering to anyone who would listen, “He has no skill. This one is lucky.”
I agreed wholeheartedly and made reference to Irish stereotypes to that effect.
After this there was another hastily negotiated doubles match – this time assented to by the Asian gentleman on the understanding that I had to play him in a rematch first.
Four games in and my luck ran out. I showed myself to be a good sport on a couple of occasions, letting my opponent off with a few minor fouls. Ultimately, Kabale’s answer to Fast Eddie had his win and left the bar satisfied; his honour restored.
The students started to now act as if I was a pool expert. I pointed out that a fair portion of my childhood was spent playing pool, with my dad, in pubs like the now extinct Avon Tavern in Warwick; Sunday afternoons, orange squash and whatever bar snacks were put out by Ray, Rose and Mortitia.
A little more time passed, along with a quick Waragi and tonic water, and we walked back to Green Hills for the night, rousing the grumpy night-watchman from his slumbers at the sentry post. Tomorrow morning we would have another meeting early on.