The Bbale Francis TV time-machine

Throughout my entire childhood, there are several people whose careers and persona had a great deal of impact in my life. Among all these, four individuals stand out as the constant reminders that I will forever miss the days when I was younger.

First was the pope because he came to Ugandan in the 90s and my parents seemed to worship the very ground he walked on. I adored everything they adored – the pope was one of them. We were dragged to church every single Sunday because Catholic parents were not about to let their children grow into religious weeds when there was a wall hanging of Pope John Paul II in the house.

The second person who made my childhood one heck of a wonderful experience was John James Rambo. The Lone Wolf was a great part of my childhood because he inspired some of the recklessness and adventure that my childhood was littered with. He single handedly made me want to grow big muscles, join the army and battle with insurgents while smeared in mud and sweat. I have not grown big muscles and I am not (yet) enrolled in the army but a good chunk of my childhood was focused on doing exactly that.

The third person whose life somewhat defined mine was French actor and former Manchester United captain Eric Cantona. The Frenchman was part of the reason I started supporting Manchester United in the early 90s. With his upturned collar, interesting goal celebrations and eccentricity on and off the pitch, this guy was my role model. In 1993 he helped Manchester United win the inaugural Premier League title by a sweet 10 points, making it the first time since 1967 that United was winning the English top division title.

The fourth person who made my childhood sparkle was renowned Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) newscaster Bbale Francis who unfortunately passed away on the morning of Thursday 2nd April at Mulago Cancer Institute after battling with cancer for quite a while. The veteran journalist can best be described as one of the most outstanding voices and faces of the Ugandan news scene for the past three decades or so. With perfect English, a unique accent, wonderful intonation and unmatched composure in front of the screen and microphone, Bbale Francis curved out a personality as the custodian of news in Uganda.

bbaleRest In Peace Bbale Francis (September 25, 1954 – April 2, 2015)

He may have passed away, just as so many wonderful things from the 80s and 90s are no more but Bbale Francis represents a part of my life that I will always hold dear. He alone made sure that certain things remain etched in my mind. Whenever I remember him, I remember them; and whenever I remember them, I remember him.

The Black and White TV

While owning a TV in the early 90s was a reserve of not-so-many households, owning a colour TV set was the real mark of a successful family. In the mid 80s my dad purchased a large wooden-framed Black and White Phillips TV with the a rather hard knob for a tuner. For nearly a decade, this was the altar at which we worshiped the TV stars of the late 80s and early 90s. This was the prized possession on which we watched Pingu, Mr. Bean, Rambo on UTV and of course the Ten o’clock news with Bbale Francis. This was the magic box that introduced us to MCM Africa, Sanyu TV, CTV and Lighthouse TV. When we later acquired a colour TV set, there was a bit of daily excitement in the house as we would often place bets on which shirt, tie or coat colour Bbale Francis would wear for the news broadcast that night. The colour TV made us realise that Rambo actually wore green army pants and not grey – as suggested by the good old Phillips. The colour TV also brought with it several interesting things like the VHS player and the Terminator Video game which were game changers not just at home but also at school where we exchanged stores about what we owned in our homes.philips_20inch_b&W_television_ian_edgarThe glorious vintage 20 inch Black and White Philips TV

The ‘No-Tv’ rule

Every family has had to have the no-TV rule at certain times for the good of the young folk and students of the family. In my family, there was a rule – all children went to bed immediately after the 10 O’clock news, save for Sunday when we stayed up until after the news to watch the beloved ‘That’s Life Mwattu’. On Sunday, the TV was locked up until 2.30pm when it was time for Zoom Club on Sanyu TV. Basically, there was an unwritten timetable for TV viewing. On some unfortunate Sundays, our dad would have the TV taken to his bedroom from whence he would exclusively enjoy watching the TV with his wife while their children gathered in a collection of green eyed little jealous fellas a few bedrooms away. Such sadness! On such Sundays, we would gather in the children’s bedroom and direct our anger at the next school day; we’d complain about school, come up with nicknames for teachers and basically plan to ruin everyone else’s Monday. We would then quietly and sadly slide into our beds, fully aware that we would only have to learn of what happened between Nakawunde, Dick and Dr. Bbosa from narration at school. A narration by a useless and boastful child from a TV-owning family can be a pain. Instead of telling you what Mr. Lindo did, he would venture into explaining how a TV remote works and how it was the coolest thing after the then popular game boys. We really suffered!

no-tv-480

Oh the harsh house rules!

The News! Eh! 

From when I was little, my parents used to ‘force’ us to watch the news. We would then unwillingly drink in all the news and unconsciously stay in the know of things that were happening around the world, without even wanting to. We obviously preferred more interesting things like re-watching Jungle Book, Lion King and Commando as well as watch the final program on TV before UTV shut down. Yes; once upon a time UTV aired between 5pm and midnight. After that, the National Anthem played and there was nothing! News was a boring prospect but somehow we had to deal with it if we wanted to be in good books with the old man. Along the way, we began to unconsciously get used to it and so whenever Bbale Francis’ voice bounced off the TV and echoed around the living room, we were ready to see what new things the president had gotten up to and which district was launching a new Farmers’ program or which Ministry had held a press conference to announce a new Government project. It was fun, it its own way. The change over form Black and white viewing to full colour viewing did little to change the nonchalance at bulletin time but it gave a little more colour to the whole thing.

Francis BBbale Francis in jovial mood in an ad by a Telecom Company

For a person with a TV and Radio news career that stretched well over two decades, there is nothing that can be done to replace him. The one thing however that puts a smile on one’s face is that while Bbale Francis as a person may not be with us, his legacy still lives on. It lives on through the numerous young people he trained, taught, mentored and inspired to get infront of the camera and the microphone to read us the news.

Bbale Francis was for many years tasked with reading out names of people who the country looked at as heroes on National TV but I would like to confidently say that Bbale Francis is another of them; the heroes. He may not have wielded a gun, owned several millions in cash or commanded a celebrity like following but Bbale Francis was and is a hero to the bone!

Until we meet again Bbale Francis. Fare thee well comrade.

We relish news of our heroes, forgetting that we are extraordinary to somebody too. – Helen Hayes

Bernard
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter

One Week in the 90s

Sometime back, a friend and I engaged in an experiment that involved comparing the past and the present. To be able to come to a suitable conclusion about which of the two ruled, we were each supposed to pick a side. We flipped a coin and as fate would have it, I took the old side. This meant that I was supposed to try to live an entire week like I was in the 90s as my friend attempted to do the same but like he was in the modern era (which wasn’t much of a problem since we are in the modern era after all). I was supposed to consume items that were from the 90s, speak like I was in the 90s, dress like I was in the 90s and literally be in the 90s.

I was extremely excited by the prospect; obviously by then I had not factored in things like how much embarrassment was awaiting me in this rather bogus experiment. Nostalgia engulfed me as I thought about all the awesome things I was going to re-live. But Alas! This turned out to be one of the roughest and most pathetic weeks of my entire life!

I shall attempt to break down what happened during this one week when I took a time machine trip into the 90s. I will deliberately leave out some details because, well, there is only so much embarrassment a brother can take.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my week in the 90s.

Baptism – the name change

The first thing my friend and I argued about was the issue of names. After minutes of argument and near blows, I was baptized Habakkuk and he became McGigabyte. Habakkuk was as 90s a name as I was going to get and McGigabyte was more like a 2013 name. During the week, everyone else still called me by my real name but McGigabyte never called me that. He continually referred to me as Habakkuk and mentioned it louder than he should have, just so everyone could get the point. Now, don’t get me wrong people, Habakkuk is a fine name. I am a Christian and I know for a fact that it is a Bible name. However, based on the experiences I went through in this week of experiment, it is safe to say that today’s parent might want to stay as far away from such a name as possible. During the week, we happened to be looking for a new TV for McGigabyte at Game stores when a couple of nice looking girls walked in our direction, they were smiling. McGigabyte quickly distanced himself from me and shouted out loud; “Habakkuk, the black and white TV you want is not here.” The girls instantly had a change of mind and moved to the section with stereos. I could not retort because the rules demanded that if one party delivered a spot on blow, the other party simply turned the other cheek. Clearly, McGigabyte had hit me with an upper cut. That was one nil. I swallowed.

fat_women_bathingsuits

I was resigned to hitting it off with such ladies. All the rest avoided me.

Wardrobe woes   

Now my friend McGigabyte made emphasis on the fact that I had to dress like a real 90s chap or else I was losing the bet. As hard as it was, I managed to come up with some 90s combinations that did not exactly seem antiquated but were a little bearable to the 2013 eye. McGigabyte was obviously rooting for more eccentric 90s fashions like the suspenders, demin overalls, parachute pants and wallet chains but I was having none of that! I settled for the ordinary slightly bell bottomed pants and bright coloured polyester shirts. Most of the ladies I talked to during the week didn’t seem too impressed by my strange fashion but I was focused on seeing out this bet so I didn’t back down. I had to borrow a plastic pair of shoes, buy a couple of pairs of long cotton socks and a pair of UMOJA gumboots. On one of the days, McGigabyte invited me for a small get-together at his place. (I only discovered later that it was intended to humiliate me in front of all his friends). When I arrived, everyone was comfortably flashing their smart phones and iPads and looking like they just stepped out of a new TV Show. Enter Habakkuk; looking like I just fell out of a black and white TV from Sembule Electronics. I could tell that most of the ladies were keen to stay as far away from Habakkuk as possible. A few were intrigued enough to try and find out what was going on but the rules of our bet demanded that I disclose nothing so I innocently told them I just liked the new style. At the end of the night, two of the ladies seemed interested in my style. As it turned out later, one was a whole 18 years older than me and the other had been divorced twice with 4 kids. It seems my style only attracted the elderly, the young fresh juicy girls stayed away. That was Two nil. Again, I swallowed.

 Fashion

I must have looked like this the entire week. Pathetic!

Music & Hanging out

This was really going to be easy for me because I am a traditionalist when it comes to music. I will have Led Zeppelin, Kool and the Gang, Def Leppard, Manowar, The Beatles, U2, AC DC, London Beat & The commodores in the place of Drake, The Wanted, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga & 2 Chains. I was in musical heaven for the entire week. The only time I had a problem was on Friday night when McGigabyte asked that we hang out. Naturally, I was keen to find a place with old school music. After about an hour of moving from bar to bar, we finally settled on a joint somewhere in Ntinda. They played old school music but occasionally interrupted it with some bogus music from YMCMB. McGigabyte and I agreed that in terms of music I was only ever going to get my 90s dose if I listened to my own collection back at home. So we left the bar, passed by a Supermarket, picked a few beers and headed to my place in Kiwatule.

Since we had female company, there was no forgetting the fact that the ladies had to be entertained despite what we knew would be a boring playlist for them. I had to convince the lady I was with that I was in the mood for some 90s music. Luckily for me, she was a little too tipsy to even bother asking since she had unknowingly been taking Uganda Waragi – this used to be the spirit of Uganda in the 90s. The rules of my bet with McGigabyte also demanded that before I took a lady home, I had to first check with her parents; that was the 90s way after all. I was not about to risk my dear life calling up a random girl’s father to ask if she could sleep over so I just decided to let that one slide. This meant that I had to let the lady go back to her place; no matter how late it was. McGigabyte on the other hand was at liberty to take his woman to whichever place he wanted because after all, this is the modern era where girls don’t really need permission to lower their standards. Also, I had to drop off the lady I was with before midnight because once again, this is how we rolled in the 90s. By 11:43pm I was returning from the gentlemanly drop off and heading back home alone. As for McGigabyte, he had one heck of a wild night and only called me up in the morning to have me say hello to his woman who from the sounds in the background seemed to be preparing breakfast for them. Three nil!

There were so many things I had to subscribe to or sacrifice for the entire duration of a week and even though McGigabyte never found out that I visited the ATM, or that I logged onto modern sites like Twitter & Facebook, I can comfortably say that it was tough for me – very tough!

 Chains

For an entire week I felt like was in chains!!

The Verdict

When the week ended I had had it up to my neck in 90s embarrassment because I was really making an effort to look like, speak like and act like I was in the 90s but no one was amused or even impressed. I increasingly found myself having to turn down a number of invites to events that would otherwise defile my 90s self. My friend McGigabyte on the other hand was having the time of his life and shoving it in my face along the way. When we sat down to compare notes, it dawned on me that attempting to go back to the past was pointless. The least we can do is simply look back at the past, smile and then swipe left at the iPad or touch screen phone to let a fresh image show up on the screen – an image of the present! The past may have been wonderful while we were in it but attempting to relive it is just but impossible.

This question below sort of sums it all up…

“How many people long for that “past, simpler, and better world,” I wonder, without ever recognizing the truth that perhaps it was they who were simpler and better, and not the world about them?”

― R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver

Yours Truly

Bernard

a.k.a Beewol

The Talkative Rocker