The Pursuit of Beauty


“I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.”

-Theo Decker, ‘The Goldfinch’

Final class of the semester: Thirty students sit and wait for the Lec to show up. For the next three hours we’ll learn about the printing revolution, and how newspapers came to be, and what fate shall befall anyone who doesn’t pay attention because this stuff will be in the exam.

Exams are slotted for next week.

I have a glowing attendance record for this class. I could skip it and go have a drink. But I stay because it’s been a fun class, with a bunch of interesting characters, made easy by the up-with-the-times Lec who sent the notes to our emails, not to mention that gorgeous girl with a bird tattoo on her back. Christ! I’ve missed important class concepts because I was dreaming about tracing her tattoo with my finger.

I call her the Mocking Jay, I’ve never got her scent out of my nostrils ever since she sat in front of me one hot Monday afternoon, and bits of her hair tumbled to my desk.

The Mocking Jay never smiles. She has sharp brown eyes. Her pink lips barely move when she talks. And when she walks into the room even the atoms of the air sit up. She’s a slim trim; smooth skin, looks like she could play the free spirited bad girl in some vampire movie.

Last week she had a purple fur coat, I spent a good chunk of the class wondering how that coat would feel against my cheek.

But I’ve never worked up the courage to talk to her. Or rather, she doesn’t hang around long enough for me to get my macho on. Girls like the Mocking Jay always have something to do.

Also, I have to consciously remind myself not to ask what her tattoo means.

We guys think it’s the best opening line, and that it bypasses the need for small talk, but the truth is, most chics with tats don’t like it. It’s too easy. Too stale. My sister has a tat on her neck, she tells me that question helps to filter out the boring ones. Sometimes it’s just a tattoo, for chrissake. There’s no need to go into some sentimental, retrospective crap thought up by an idle monk in Asia.

Although, if I was a girl – and I had a tat – I’d make up all sorts of meanings for boys who ask that question, just for shits and giggles. Maybe I’d have a Harley Davidson on my arm, all black and daring, with a skull for headlights. It’d be the sort of tattoo that would get boys worked up.

Maybe I’d be in a mat on a Thursday afternoon, and the jamaa next to me would be feeling his chances. (I’d have short curly hair, and high cheek bones. I’d be approachable as hell.) Of course he’ll say hello, and break with something about the weather, or the music. By this time I’ll have noticed his fingernails, the smudge of wax in his ears, and the dark spot beneath his eyes. And then, like clockwork, he’d ask, “So what does your tattoo mean?”

And I’d say, “I like things that throb between my legs.”

Or, “You know, I don’t even remember getting that one.”

Or, “It means my solar plexus chakra is ignited by the fire of a thousand splendid suns. For the night is dark and full of terrors.”

Ha! The lad will be so confused he’ll talk about me for months.

Anyway, it’s a bummer I won’t have time to make moves on the Mocking Jay. I’ll just have to wait for next semester and cross my fingers we take a class together.


I have a more pressing issue: two unreturned books from the school library. One of them – ‘Going Down River Road’ – sits in my bag like a ticking time bomb. An unreturned book attracts a fine of five bob each day after the due date. They say I’ve had it overdue for more than a month.

The other book is ‘The Last Villains of Molo’, which I’m certain I returned, even though the records show that I never did. I was nearly in a fist fight with the librarian over it. How dare he say I never returned the book?

He kept asking, “Are you sure you returned it?” Fingering his keyboard, scowling face, staring me down to see if I’m lying.

And I kept saying, “I’m sure I returned it.”

Back and forth we went. At some point I even asked if he would reboot the computer.

Finally it was agreed I go back home and do a deeper search.

But it’s absurd that the book could be in my room, because I had my library schedule down to a lock. I’d go there every Sato, borrow two novels, one for each week after, then I’d go back to return them and borrow two more.

Well, I can’t do that anymore, not until I pay the fine. The only alternative is to read while at the library. And that’s no fun. Distractions abound. You sit on a straight-backed chair with a black cushion, and you can hear the thrum of traffic on Ngong Road, and there’s a pretty girl browsing the shelf, so you start wondering about her taste in books, and then there’s a guy with a laptop by the window, and his face is so damn serious it makes you feel like some halfwit with your brown dog-eared John Cheever novel.

I prefer my books to go.

Still, there’s no place quite like the library. Even the Mocking Jay couldn’t stir my loins the way books do. The library grabs me out of mundane stuff. It turns my world into a joyous circus, packed with stories, bounded with colorful spines, all begging to be pried open, and inhaled, and devoured. I love the dark, cozy maze of shelves, and the smell of oxidized paper.

My favorite shelf is the one with novels, four rows from the entrance. The right side has American books. African books are on the left, and British ones are on the opposite side. For the life of me I can never figure out the logic behind that arrangement.

The library isn’t like a bookshop. Bookshops will always leave you with a film of despair, how you couldn’t afford all those books. But a library will you fill you with possibility, all those literary greats within reach, if only for a fortnight.

Most of the books I’ve read this year are from the library, each one with its own mark of beauty.

‘Close Sesame’ ended with a bang. ‘The Mayor of Caster Bridge’ opens with a man who gets drunk and sells off his wife. ‘The Wapshot Scandal’ had a windy first chapter. ‘Season of Crimson Blossoms’ was like looking in the mirror. ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ gave me nightmares. ‘The Man who Lived Four Thousand Years’ made me chuckle. ‘Mowgli’s Brothers’ was an excerpt from ‘The Jungle Book’. ‘Music on the Musacktrack’ made me want to die a bachelor. ‘The Birds’ was about birds. I never finished ‘The Long Rifle’.

But I’m sure going to miss those visits to the library when school breaks for the holidays.

Sometimes I’d scribble a little note on books that left an impression on me, addressed it to the next person who pulls it from the shelf. It was my favorite part about returning the book, really. Like a secret shared between lovers.

“Dear Reader, I loved this book. The best I’ve read so far.”

“Dear Reader, I’m afraid I’m too much like Deeriye, the protagonist.”

“Dear Reader, beware of the birds.”

I like to think these notes travel into time, and that I’m adding my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and passed them along from one generation to the next, and the next.

And the next.
Follow Mike on Instagram: mikemuthaka

My heart is in Belgium
Moments 2018

Comments (1)

  1. kantai kotikot

    Still, there’s no place quite like the library.
    Even the Mocking Jay couldn’t stir my
    loins the way books do. The library grabs
    me out of mundane stuff. It turns my
    world into a joyous circus, packed with
    stories, bounded with colorful spines, all
    begging to be pried open, and inhaled, and
    devoured. I love the dark, cozy maze of
    shelves, and the smell of oxidized paper.

    I suddenly had some sort of amnesia when I read this line. Amnesia? No, I think it’s nostalgia. But what’s the difference anyway?

    School is closed now. It’s not even been a week. But I am sitting in bed thinking about the library as I would think about my crush. No, mine doesn’t have a tattoo, but she makes time stand when she walks into the class. That’s why I can’t call her Mocking Jay like you, I think Naked Mogash would be good, because she’s a cocktail of everything I seek in life. Only that everything stops the moment I say hi, and I have no more words, not even an ice breaker like “isn’t the weather too cold?” or “are you rumors, I’d like to spread you”.

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker