We met way back, in 1996 or 1997, somewhere around the New Vision offices. I suspect it was a sunny day because you had to meet people like Old Fox on a sunny day for even if it was gloomy they created their own sunshine. He was old and funny and witty and he had a very strong, husky voice that spoke many interesting and clever things, sometimes many of them at once.
I wrote a little column called The Robbing Hood in Sunday Vision and he wrote his Old Fox escapades in the Sunday Magazine, plus did all the crossword puzzles and Ekanya, and God knows what else. Our deadlines were the same so we met every week with our pieces of paper, going to the editorial room.
He asked me to visit him in Entebbe and I did. I was allowed to enter the home and the kingdom of this special man. Shaded by the tree in front of the house, was the covered verandah with so many books and papers, strewn all over, covering tables, chairs, sofas. Tom was always somewhere in the back room, next to the kitchen, behind a funny-looking computer that produced templates for his crosswords.
He could hear my car but wouldn’t come to the front door and I would walk in, trying to adjust to the semi-darkness of his home, and he would call out from inside the house. The house was this old colonial bungalow, manned by a few quiet ladies who made coffee and took care of him.
He would be bending over that machine, printing his latest concoctions of words that I’d recognise again in the newspaper a few days later, and cuss for not peeping into solutions page while trying to conquer another one of his impossible words and clues.
Then, he’d stand up and say: “Let’s do the words!” so we’d move to the veranda, newspaper on the table between us with that game consisting of a set of ten letters, and we competed who will make more words. I was always behind but not so badly, and he’d always tell me how it’s admirable, a girl from Titoland to speak English so well.
I’d have two cups of coffee and head back to Kampala.
Then Alan died. And he was sad. Then he fell sick. I saw him at Entebbe Hospital. He was improving, so he said. Yep. And not for too long.
Life shuts down. Then a memory springs up and revives those good old days when happiness was a simple thing to achieve, wisdom was close at hand and shared without any reservations. Tom was one of the people who shaped me. Those days were tough for me. He chose the role of a father who’s his daughter’s best friend and ally. My own father was far away but had they ever met (even in heaven) they would have made a great team, those two.
Here. This is my memory of this very special man. Bent over that funny computer and shouting: “Kyakwera! Come in! Someone make coffee!” from the darkness of that room, in the peaceful corner of Entebbe. We will never have a man like that among us again.