(Double click on the picture to see what the camel saw... I mean, wore)
Imagine my surprise, LOF, when I encountered these four loyal members of the Tony Park Fan Club (East African Division) while taking my mid afternoon constitutional on the beach.
For a moment I wondered whether I’d drunk forty, as opposed to four Tusker Lagers over a hearty lunch of hot chips at the beach bar.
But no, LOF, they were real – a mirage taking form in front of my very eyes, borne of the azure Indian Ocean and the shimmering white sands those warm waters so lovingly caress.
The small, but fiercely dedicated Mombasa sub-branch of my international fan club had been conducting their weekly reading and discourse on my works over Kenya Cane and Cokes beneath the swaying palm trees that fringe this comely coastline.
“Jambo, Jambo,” they called in unison. Even the camel snorted.
“Tony Park, I presume,” said branch president Jomo Kenyatta III (standing far left), as I chanced upon them.
“Please, please may we have one photo taken with you,” chirped in a cheeky Jimbob Obama (the lad seated in the centre - a distant cousin of the US President elect, or so he claimed).
“One hundred shillings,” I replied, sternly. There is such a thing as protocol, even here on the beach. Had I been wearing my Masai warrior regalia I would have charged them more, as is the custom hereabouts.
We negotiated a while and finally I agreed to cut my rate to a very generous 80 shillings, (really, the least I could do, given the lads were card carrying members of the fan club).
Dennis Finch-Hatton Kibaki (at right), branch secretary and treasurer, handed over the money and I obligingly posed for this quick snap. Shortly after the digital shutter clicked I was knocked backwards by the group’s trusty mascot, Osama Bin Liner the camel, who, clearly overcome by all the excitement, farted loudly and passed out in the sand.
With the photo shoot over we retired to the shade for cane and cokes and cucumber sandwiches. I took questions from the excited club members while Osama snored contentedly nearby.
“Mr Park…” began Jomo.
“Please, call me Tony.”
“Mr Tony… how is it that you, as a man, are able to tap into the female psyche so well in your books? Are you truly in touch with your feminine side, or do you just have a very stern publisher and wife?”
“A bit of both,” I chuckled.
“Mr Tony,” asked an eager Dennis, “when can we expect to see more same-sex funny business involving ladies in your books?”
“Hmmmm,” I nodded in sympathy. “You might have to talk to my publisher about that one.” (C, you can expect an email and a request for assistance with Dennis’s university tuition fees very soon)
Jimbob Obama glanced left and right, then lowered his voice. “This Michelle Parker, from SAFARI… you can get me her phone number?”
Osama grunted and Jomo informed me that the camel, too, was a big fan of my work, having devoured a well-thumbed Trade Paperback of FAR HORIZON earlier that morning. “I think that is what has given him the flatulence,” he added, somewhat embarrassed.
We talked and talked as the afternoon shadows lengthened and the waters turned from indigo to gold and finally a deep purple, with shades of chartreuse and puce.
Mrs Blog was calling, however, advising me that happy hour was about to begin at the pool bar. As much as I enjoyed the company of my fans the lure of half-price Tuskers is not to be taken lightly.
As Osama the camel was unable to join us in the pool bar, because of his faith, I bid a sad and reluctant farewell to the club president and his faithful members, with promises of more books to come and my personal confidence that Charlize Theron is very close to accepting the role of Inspector Sannie van Rensburg in the film version of SILENT PREDATOR.
“WAKE UP, WAKE UP!”
“What?” I sat bolt upright and it took me a few moments to realise where I was - on my sun bed by the Nyali Beach Hotel swimming pool. Mrs Blog was shaking me by the shoulder and an empty brown Tusker bottle slipped noiselessly from my fingertips to the grass. “What is it, dear?”
“You were dreaming. And wipe your mouth… you’re drooling.”
“I was? I am?”
“Yes. You were making noises like a camel and kept saying the name, ‘Charlize’. Who is Charlize?”
“Um, no one… I was… it was a dream. I had a fan club… in Africa”