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Show me the way to the next Whisky bar

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By MAGUNGA WILLIAMS
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In 1909, Charles Gordon, son in-law of William Grant (founder of Grant’s whisky), set off on a yearlong journey to market Grant’s whisky to the world. He went from Scotland to Lahore, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Sydney.

Grant’s whisky is today one of the world’s top exported blended whiskies. Its newly appointed global ambassador Daniel Dyer relived that journey recently.

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I do not know who I am. I think very few people know exactly who they are. I am constantly finding out who I am and this job helps me with that.
I could say simply that ‘‘Danny is that whisky guy from Scotland.’’

You mean whisky is what defines you and there is nothing more to you?

I suppose so, but I hope there is more to me.

Who are the people closest to you in your life?

My mother is the most important person in my life and the only woman I trust. Always supported me no matter what I have done. My brother Steven is the other person I look up to. He is my idol. If I would be a perfect me, I would be like him; caring, giving and strong.

If I was to ask your brother what kind of person you are, what do you think he would say?

That I am the black sheep of the family and that I am absolutely mental, but caring. That I get into trouble that I would have easily avoided and sometimes I do not learn from my mistakes. But above all that I know my stuff.

I did an acting course, but then when offered an acting gig on a TV show I declined and set off to Australia for a year. After Australia, I did all sorts of work and always going a bit too hard on stuff, unlike my brother Steven, the sensible one.

I was born in Glasgow, at a time of high religious sectarianism. I was born Catholic and went to a Catholic school. Then there were the Protestants who went to the Protestant school. These two groups had a bitter rivalry. Our schools were next to one another, so it was either you find your way home or you run home. And then there were also two of the biggest football teams in the area at the time, one Catholic and the other Protestant. The rivalry was intense.

It wasn’t the best area to grow up in, so when I was still young my family moved to the northeast of Scotland, to the Speyside, the home of whisky. This is where you have Glenfiddich and Grant’s and others.

Having been in Glasgow, a vibrant city and then moving to a countryside of like two thousand people is beyond culture shock. All my friends were in Glasgow.

I did not understand what the people in Speyside were saying because they spoke English like it was a different language. It was a big shift, but it soon became home. That is where I learnt about whisky. I was at the heart of the whisky world.

Have you always loved whisky?

Oh, no! I hated it the first time. My first experience with whisky is still my worst time with alcohol, ever. I was 16 and I took my father’s bottle of whisky without him knowing. It was for a birthday party, and everyone tried and hated it. But I am Scottish and I decided that since I had brought the drink, then I would drink it myself. It was a terrible. I had a three-day hangover. I didn’t touch whisky for two years.

So how did you end up in the whisky business?

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I turned 18 and was looking for a job as a tour guide in a distillery and I told these guys that I hated whisky, but needed the job. They gave me the job! It was my uncle, Dennis, who sat me down, and told me the history of Scotch whisky. I found it exciting and I fell in love with the whole history. Then he told me how it is made, taught me how to drink it; how to smell it, how to mix it with water to awaken the flavours. All credit goes to Uncle Dennis for getting me to love whisky.

What can you say about the interview for Grant’s?

It was incredible. Charles Gordon’s marketing journey was legendary. My job interview to become global brand ambassador for Grant’s was to recreate that journey (well, parts of it) so that we sell this whisky to the rest of the world like Gordon did. They sent me to Russia, Taiwan and Australia. It was tough, amazing, crazy fun, but also gruelling.

It was a competition, and we were down to three contestants. I had 10 days to prove myself. I was on the road or in the air every two days. In Russia I was behind countless bars making cocktails. I made food for bloggers and influencers in Taiwan. And in Australia, I almost died because one of the challenges involved surfing and yet I can neither surf nor swim.

Why do you think you won?

I honestly do not know. Maybe it is because I gave it my all or because I love whisky, talking to people and travelling. Or it could also have been my energy, my willingness to try anything even if it means almost killing myself trying to surf in Australia.

And now here you are, in East Africa. What are your impressions of Tanzania and Kenya?

In Dar es Salaam, the first thing I said the moment we got to the hotel was that it was hot. Not Kenya kind of hot. Dar es Salaam has an oppressive kind of heat. But we hit it off right away with the public and we did lots of bartender training. I swear I have never seen so much love for Expresso Martinis like I saw in Tanzania.

The interesting thing about Tanzania, these guys drink and eat at the same time. In Scotland we eat and then go to drink. But in Tanzania it was drinking, then a nice proper meal break, then back to drinking. Crazy!

When we crossed over into Kenya the energy changed immediately. Nairobi has such a buzz. So long as there is a bottle you guys will just keep drinking and partying. I am Scottish and I do not think I can keep up with any of you. There is this laidback, chill kind of atmosphere in Tanzania, but here you guys want to party now and you want to party hard.

What do you prefer, blended or single malt?

Both. I used to be a single malt person before I started working with Grant’s. Usually people back home look down on blends, even though 90 per cent of whisky exported is blends. The craft behind making blends is incredible. Like for Grant’s, we have to marry 25 different single malts to make this drink and it has to taste and look the same beautiful, smooth way, whether made five years ago, today or five years from now.

So far what do you think of your career?

Growing up I wanted to be an actor because I really love theatre. The funny thing is that talking about whisky is a performance of sorts so my childhood dreams and my adult dreams are converging and it is the best thing ever.

Besides whisky, what else do you do?

I walk other people’s dogs. There is this app called Borrow My Dog. It is like Tinder, but for dogs. People put up photos and profiles of their dogs and then you choose whom you will walk.

So after Kenya, what next?

I will probably need to sleep after this. Then the rest of the world, but first I have to break for Christmas, I will be home with family. And the dog walks, of course.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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