Fire and smoke rise after an Israeli air strike targeted the National Bank on Gaza City, on October 8, 2023.


From war in the Middle East to pressure of living costs

So huge are the implications and possible consequences of the Israeli-Hamas war, it is impossible even for non-involved nations such as Britain and Kenya to ignore them.

Looming over us all is the question: will other countries be dragged in and the conflict lead to World War Three?

Questions that will take time to clarify include, What was Hamas’s goal in attacking Israel and how far will Israel go in its reply?

However, events are moving at such speed that the situation as I write could be entirely different by the time you read this article. In that case, let us wait (and for those with the inclination pray) for an end to the violence and a pathway to peace.

Here in the UK, the dominant complaints for many months have been rising prices. This was brought forcibly to mind for me last week when I discovered that to travel just one short stop on the local Metro rail network costs £2.60, or KSh472.

Checking a few random prices at the supermarket, I discovered that prices at the cheaper end of the housewives’ needs were not far off that Metro charge.

For instance, £2.30 (KSh418) for two steak pies, £2 (KSh363) for a chocolate bar, £1.45 (KSh263) for an evening newspaper and most outrageous of all, £1.25 (KSh227) for 145 grams of prepared pineapple, that is a dozen or so peeled chunks in a little plastic container.

I couldn’t help thinking of the generous pineapple slices I used to buy on the streets in Nairobi for a few cents.

However, the economic outlook might be improving. Official figures released on October 17 showed that the average growth in pay has risen above inflation for the first time in almost two years, a sign that the squeeze on living costs might finally be starting to ease.

And about time, too.

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Much as the National Health Service is cherished by the majority of UK people, negative reports seem to hit the headlines daily.

Two items from one day’s media:

An inquest at Crook, County Durham, heard that taxi driver David Stevens, aged 57, was categorised as low-risk for self-harm and suicide when he was treated by NHS mental health staff. What they did not know was that he had made several phone calls about suicidal thoughts and hearing voices.

On June 13, Mr Stevens was treated at the University Hospital of North Durham after overdosing on antidepressants. He was discharged the next day and returned home. The day after, June 15, he was found dead, a result of hanging, the inquest heard.

Also in the North of England, a patient who was declared dead by ambulancemen later woke up in hospital. The North East Ambulance Service apologised to the patient’s family and said an inquiry had begun.

Such incidents fuel criticisms surrounding the NHS and the government, that the Service is underfunded, understaffed and overworked.

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In announcing the forthcoming state visit of King Charles to Kenya, Buckingham Palace was careful to underline that the King will acknowledge “painful aspects” of the UK’s relationship with Kenya.

The reference was clearly to the Mau Mau rebellion against white settlers, which began in the early 1950s and led to the end of British rule in 1963, but which cost the lives of many thousands of Kenyans.

It is no news to Kenyans that the use of the British army saw mass detentions, executions and brutal treatment, which Britain later acknowledged with a statement of “sincere regret” and payment of compensation.

The King will use his visit to “deepen his understanding of the wrongs suffered in this period by the people of Kenya,” a spokesman for the palace said.

King Charles was invited to Kenya by President William Ruto when he attended Charles’s coronation following the death of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Camilla will join the King on the four-day trip starting October 31, his fourth to Kenya, but his first to a Commonwealth nation as monarch.

This year (December 12) also marks Kenya’s 60th anniversary of independence from Britain.

Evelyn Wanjugu Kimathi, daughter of Mau Mau hero Dedan Kimathi, said, “We are hoping that he will bring a national apology. Once we have the goodwill from the UK government, everything will be OK.”

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Talking of royalty, those of a certain age will remember the beautiful British film star, Elizabeth Taylor, who acquired two Oscar awards and seven husbands, including the Welsh classical actor, Richard Burton, who she married twice.

One of Burton’s ways of expressing his love for Liz was to buy her inordinately expensive jewellery, and she was wearing such a piece, a huge, chunky diamond ring, when she was presented to Princess Margaret, younger sister of the late Queen Elizabeth.

“Rather vulgar,” sniffed the princess upon spying the ring, but then asked if she may try it on. Liz Taylor obliged, slipping the ring onto the royal finger. “Not so vulgar now?” she inquired gently.