- Over time, Julliet and I became fast friends.
- On numerous occasions, I worried about her weight and watched the food she ordered whenever we shared a meal or a cup of tea. She would not eat anything with fat.
- She loved cakes, though. Occasionally, I would get her to eat a pie. But she loved hot chocolate.
Julliet Mutegi, the Nation’s Online Sub-Editor who died on the evening of Saturday, September 2, first came to my attention because she used to stop at my desk to complain about the quality of our entertainment reporting. At the time, I was the Deputy Managing Editor of the Daily Nation.
I started encouraging her to write the kind of stories she wanted published. Indeed, she filed good stories on the local film scene, music, fashion and travel.
MISTAKE SHE DIDN’T COMMIT
One day, however, she wrote about an entertainment event that had taken place in Naivasha, which she had called “Naivegas” in the story which was published on Page 3 of the Daily Nation. A sub-editor changed that to “Naxvegas” and Julliet was upset, demanding that we publish a correction. I declined, arguing that the error was not sufficient to warrant a correction.
Much later, I learnt that she was upset because someone on Twitter had criticised her for a mistake she had not committed. She reported the matter to the public editor, who, in response, said that he was an arbiter between the public and the newspaper and could therefore not arbitrate in a matter involving staff.
He advised her to report the case to my superiors. Indeed, she reported me to the Editor-in-Chief. In turn, I gave a directive that her stories should not be published in the Daily Nation if she was not willing to be edited. We stopped talking to each other.
PLEA TO REVIEW DIRECTIVE
A few weeks later, she had a story she wanted published and she came to plead for me to review my directive. I told her to buy me tea at Kaldis restaurant next door so that I could forget our spat. She did and we buried the hatchet. For good measure, she gave me a voucher I could redeem at her favourite salon/barbershop.
From then on, Julliet and I started having tea regularly, mostly on Sundays. In return, I rescinded the caveat against the publication of her stories. Indeed, she went on to cover the return of Lupita Nyong’o to Kenya after she won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. She also filed a story about the de-crowning of Miss World Kenya by the pageant’s franchise holder.
UNLIMITED SUPPLY OF TEA
Once, I mentioned to her in passing that I was spending Sh860 each week to buy The Sunday Times yet it was becoming harder to get the paper. She asked if I was willing to pay Sh1,500 for a digital subscription. I was. She signed me up using her own password and I paid her.
She tried to get me to pay again when the subscription expired a year later but I offered her an unlimited supply of tea instead. Again, she signed me up but never tired of reminding me that I owed her.
Every time the matter came up, I took her to Kaldis. That subscription expired on Thursday, two days before she passed on. I remember because I could not read my favourite section of the Times’ arts magazine that day and I could not ask her for the password because I had been informed that she had undergone surgery.
WANTED TRANSFER TO BUSINESS DAILY
Often, Juliet would request me to push for her transfer from the Daily Nation to the Business Daily. I was never able to do so, unfortunately. Still, she never tired of reminding me despite my inability to help. She believed she would have been in a position to make a greater impact there though I reminded her every time that she could do at Daily Nation the same things she hoped to do at Business Daily. She was never convinced though. Now, it is too late to try.
Over time, Julliet and I became fast friends. On numerous occasions, I worried about her weight and watched the food she ordered whenever we shared a meal or a cup of tea. She would not eat anything with fat. She loved cakes, though. Occasionally, I would get her to eat a pie. But she loved hot chocolate.
She seldom talked about her friends but she always talked about her parents with joy and was grateful about the way they had brought her up. Whenever she travelled upcountry, she would occasionally bring me papaws, bananas and avocados from her mother’s garden in Embu. I would park my car next to hers and she would put so many of the fruits in my car that I had to stop her.
I still recall that when a colleague lost a child, Julliet organised a party for colleagues to console the bereaved mother. We had a jolly good time and the colleague was blessed with another child not too long after. It was the only time I had seen Julliet in a social setting.