Thursday, 6 December 2012

Reflexion






On Saturday I have been invited to a wedding by a friend who is visiting from Accra/London. This is her very first trip to Lagos and so she is staying with me for part of her time here, which I am looking forward to. Because she knows very few people in Lagos apart from the couple, she has asked me to go along with her to the wedding. Now, my first instinct was one of dread. I didn’t really feel like going to a wedding but now, after a few days of deep breathing, I think I’m good to go. You’re probably wondering what I have against weddings. The answer is nothing. I have nothing against weddings.

In fact, I really like weddings, and this year, since moving back to Lagos, I have had a robust introduction to Naija-style weddings. I have fallen in love with that heady combination of Veuve Cliquot and small chops - it is a recipe for sheer joy. Most, I have actually been invited to, and others I have been dragged along to by friends as their +1 only to find that one half of the couple is someone I went to primary school with aged 6 but then lost touch with, for example. You might call that wedding crashing, but please, everyone in Lagos inadvertently does it at one time or another, so hold your judgement. But you are probably still wondering why I initially balked at the idea of going to this wedding. I’ll tell you why.

It is because I had a bit of a panicky moment on Tuesday. When I woke up on Tuesday morning, the enormity of what a huge year it has been for me suddenly hit me. In May last year when I still lived in London, I got engaged to the guy I had been dating for 4 years. In November, while I was in South Africa looking after my mother after her treatment for breast cancer, after a tumultuous 6 month engagement, I broke off the relationship, returned the Tiffany, and exactly a month later, relocated to Lagos, having moved out of our flat and quit my job, and sold off all my earthly possessions. My whole life changed in the space of 4 weeks.

In the aftermath of the break up, my strategy was to put one foot in front of the other and to keep going. I did not really have the capacity or the inclination to wallow in feeling anything because I was dealing with the turmoil of how close we came to losing my mum again, the stress of what was actually a very trying engagement, the logistics of the resultant break up, and the prospect of starting a new life in my own country, Nigeria, where I have not lived in 17 years. When it rains it pours, right?

There was so much going on that I couldn’t afford to stop and indulge my feelings because I knew that I might not be able to cope. The last thing I needed was to collapse into a blubbering mess. So I put my practical, no-nonsense problem-solving hat on and just got on with it. I have been in this zone pretty much all year, just going at 100 mph and not really stopping to take stock. Obviously, some amount of healing has been happening in the background because there have been those quiet moments of reflection and so on, but the true weight I have been carrying all year, and the true magnitude of the dimensions of what I have been dealing with suddenly broke over my head on Tuesday morning. It knocked me for six, I can tell you that now.

I think it’s a similar feeling to when you’re for example, running a marathon, and you suddenly catch sight of the finish line. That feeling of relief that washes over you because you didn’t think you’d make it and you suddenly become aware of the fact that your feet hurt or you grazed your knee and you didn’t know you were bleeding. That’s how I felt on Tuesday morning. I was like whaaaat? How do I process all that? It dawned on me, and I couldn’t believe that this might have been my first married Christmas, because on the 25th of September 2012, at about 1pm, if I had not decided to leave, I might have been at that very moment, marrying the wrong man, saying the wrong vows, smiling in the wrong pictures, creating the wrong memories, throwing the wrong bouquet, getting dressed with the wrong bridesmaids, clinking glasses to the wrong toast, going on the wrong honeymoon, planning the wrong children, beginning the wrong life, living the wrong destiny.

On Tuesday morning, I was so stunned, I couldn’t even cry. I just lay here gasping, trying to breathe and thanking God that everything worked out the way it did. At the time everything was happening, I just kept saying to God, I don’t know how this is going to work out or why this is happening, but please make me OK. I hate this, but please don’t let me be damaged. I still have this dream of my married life and my family and my kids and I know it doesn’t come from nowhere. Please take care of me and make this all good. That was all I could do. Internally, I was braced to crash through whatever barriers I needed to crash through to breakout of that disastrous time in my life, but I also felt drained and limp. I just did not have the energy for high emotion and drama. It was all I could do to keep it together and keep smiling. So I outsourced my feelings, disconnected my tear ducts, poured myself a cocktail and checked out of emotional-ville for a while.

I don’t think this is the forum in which to get into the whys and wherefores of why my engagement went tits up – that is maybe a post for another day, or maybe for never; I don’t know yet. But because of what happened, I have an even greater respect for relationships and marriage and family. They were pretty damn high up on my list anyway, but if it is possible, they have gone higher. My family saved me from that disastrous situation - they literally fought for my life and I don’t say that lightly.

But now, having come back from the brink of almost making the biggest mistake of my life, and having ventured out of my 100 mph aloof, damage control mode, I am particularly fascinated by the relationships around me and by weddings. There are so many people getting married these days. If you aren’t careful, having your ears pinned back and stinging from wearing a gele will become an every Saturday occurrence. I look at the marriages in my parents’ generation, and in subsequent generations – some of which have worked and some of which haven’t – and I am reminded again and again what a big deal it is. It is a huge freaking deal. But people are still just waltzing into it anyhow. I mean, once you’ve met the right person, and you know they are right, I can see how it’s quite simple in that the plan is to get married and live happily ever after. But I wonder about people who are getting married, hoping the fact that they are married will change the man or change the woman into what they want them to be.

So in the light of everything, you can imagine why the thought of going to a wedding this week presented a challenge for me. All the other weddings I’ve been to this year, I attended in my carefully detached state if mind. I did not engage with the couple’s love or lack of love, period. Because I was in a phase where I wasn’t even downloading my feelings, I could breeze in and breeze out and studiously avoid noticing all the minute details - reading the couple’s gaze, observing their body language, trying to decipher what those things meant for good or for ill; or overhearing stories from the next table about how the bride’s sugar daddy paid for the red velvet cupcakes or the groom’s jump-off had wangled her way onto the bridal train unbeknown to the bride, disguised as a distant cousin. There is so much nonsense going on with marriages in Lagos these days, that no story shocks me anymore.

See, I cannot be dealing with that crap, I just can’t take it. Because if how I felt in those 6 horrendous months of being engaged to the wrong person was just a little taster of what life might be like when you’re married to the wrong person or for the wrong reasons, then man oh man, I don’t even want to know what that’s like. I want nothing to do with any of that. It’s not that I am skeptical of marriage. Quite the opposite – I told y’all I still have a dream – but I think there are far too many people getting married and not enough people thinking. People are so desperate to carry the Mr and Mrs title that they take leave of their senses and just jump into it. I have heard of people getting married this month, December 2012 who as at June 2012 were very single with no prospects on the scene and then boom, they are suddenly entering into wedded bliss. OK, I get that a rare few people have whirlwind romances… I get that and I even know a few people who after 25 years are still married after dating for just 3 months.

But how many people does that happen for really? Let’s be honest. How are you going to bet your forever on some chick or some guy you’ve known 5 minutes? And then when it goes tits up, there’ll be deafening prayers and petitions and all this long-suffering discourse about how God should help you. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, and some people may not like this, but people need to think. And some families don’t help either. I mentioned before how I am grateful to my family for supporting me all the way when I decided to walk away. I have heard stories of people expressing concerns and their families being like meh, invitations have been printed already so it’s too late. Or you are marrying the child of Big Man XYZ so you better suck it up and get on with it and don’t let us hear any nonsense. That’s the most cruel thing in the world. You are effectively handing your child their death sentence because they will not be their best or their fullest self, married to the wrong person.

If it is not right, then WALK THE HELL AWAY. We need to encourage people close to us to walk away if it’s not the right match. I feel so strongly about this now and I didn’t understand the enormity of my decision until I realised what a HAPPY and PEACEFUL year I’ve had over all because I escaped from all the toxicity. I have been honest with some of my girlfriends who are in similar situations to those that contributed to my own problems and I am always shocked when it emerges that in some ways, like me in the early naïve days, they thought the issues would go away and would sort themselves out over time. No honey they won’t. Some issues are resolvable and some aren’t. WALK AWAY.

You will heal. You won’t die, and one day, you will feel normal again. I didn’t think so before but now I know for sure that it is true. And having come full circle, almost a year later, I feel like my life has been enriched. My knowledge of myself has grown, and my understanding of what I need, where I need to work on myself, and the value proposition I might hope to offer to someone some day have become clearer and clearer.

I never usually share personal details like this on my blog and I didn’t do it because I suddenly feel like putting my business out there. This kind of outpouring is usually reserved for my journal. But I did it because it is natural as a year draws to a close, to be caught up in a bit of sombre reflection. It is normal to review the year and try to chart how far you’ve come and try to forge an idea of where you want to go next. My little freak out on Tuesday reminded me of just how much has happened in the last year and how much has changed. I felt that apart from my usual ranting and raving about extraneous material on this blog, I would like to do a meaty post that meant something and that would be useful.

The main thing I learned from my various episodes this year was this: If you are in a situation and you need to make a change in your life, don’t set yourself a date like oh next year or oh next month, blah, blah blah. DO IT NOW. Because your life take a different course at the snap of your fingers and you have the power to change your situation if you are willing. Also, you may not have the strength or the focus or the resources or the energy next month or next year to do what you know you need to do today, and you will allow yourself to remain in that situation when you deserve to be free and happy. I feel it is important to say this now, as people being to think up their resolutions for next year etc. I have never really been one for resolutions and all that but if you are, then one of your resolutions should be to start acting immediately to change the things you don’t like.

Because this post was inspired by my little freak out earlier on in the week, I would like to appropriate what I said above for relationships especially. If you are a good man or woman and you are reading this, and you know that you are in a rubbish relationship that is really only going to drain your spirit and ruin your life, please don’t go into 2013 carrying that baggage. Leave him or her now and you will both be happier for it. You can still each have a shot at a happy life. If you are a bad man or a bad woman and you know that your behaviour is causing your loved one pain and anguish and you have been giving empty promises to be better but have not yet bothered to do so, please don’t wait until 2013 to change your ways. Do it now. And if you can’t then be honest with all of mankind and cut your person loose so as not to be unfair to them.

We have no idea whether our lives will be long or short. We hope for them to be long, but in any case, we should not shackle ourselves to the wrong partner and then expect the three legged race through life to mysteriously be fun. Look after yourself and do what you need to do. So as I go to this wedding on Saturday, I will be praying for the couple and wishing them well. I hope that they are right for each other and that they find the happiness they are looking for. I pray that they have asked themselves those tough questions and found the right answers. This is what I fervently pray when I hear couples are getting married.



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sad Comparison







Last week, I was in Johannesburg and Cape Town. I arrived on a Sunday morning at the rather ungodly hour of 4am. As we walked through the airport I couldn't help but make comparisons between their O.R. Tambo and our Murtala Mohammed airport. For starters, I was not, at the precise moment of disembarkation, choked by a noxious cloud of dry, dusty, violently hot air. There were no random people hanging about calling me Aunty, or Chairwoman, or Big Sister in the hope that a bit of cash might pass between their hands and mine. The loos were clean, in that there was no wading through water on the floor, and I felt comfy enough to brush my teeth at the airport without the fear of catching a violent strain of something nasty. The escalators worked. The air conditioning worked. The baggage came out on time, without the tell tale signs of pilfering. There weren't hoards of people, and the people that there were did not smell.

In the car on the way home, I could not get over how beautiful the sight out of the window was. Between the airport and the drive to Sandton, everything was pretty. There was greenery. There were gorgeous Jacaranda trees everywhere. The traffic lights (or robots, as the Saffas call them) worked. The big industrial buildings were clean. There were no beggars on the road side with eyelids turned inside out going 'akoba adaba alomajareeeee.' I hate to sound like Carrie Bradshaw, because much as I love her, I hate it when she says this - but I couldn't help but wonder...

But really, I couldn't help but wonder; when, if ever my own country might look like this. I thought this same thought when I landed in Accra in September. Other parts of Africa are putting us to shame. When will we ever be so clean and civilised and welcoming? I asked a few people whom I consider to be generally quite knowledgeable and upbeat and their immediate answer was 'NO'. That depressed me a little bit because it is sad to think that when I have kids, they too will inhabit the dirty, dismal, disorganised environment that it has taken me nearly 30 years to come to terms with, and which I still cannot reconcile with our so called might and greatness.

I don't know what the solution is, or if indeed there is a solution, but boy do we need to sort out our mediocrity. Our environment is a disgrace!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Oh no, I have become one of THEM






When I lived in London, I spent a lot of my time explaining to people why I thought it was ridiculous that they were always asking for random stuff to be brought for them to Lagos. I could not for the life of me understand why I was always being asked to take this, carry that, pack this, buy that. And these requests seemed to come to a crescendo at times like Christmas and Easter when I was coming home.

I am now 10 months into my Lagos life and I am finally running low on all the stocks I brought out with me. I have found various little treasure troves around the place that carry alright products, but there are some things which you just cannot get here and I am longing for a walk down the high street and a little shopping spree.

Over this long weekend, I have an Aunt going to the UK and a work colleague going to the U. S. And I am ashamed to say that I have become one of those people. I have resisted sending anyone for anything or asking anyone for anything for the last few months, but this week, I became alarmingly aware that I am scraping the bottom of my little jar of night cream, and I am just running low on all my little treats, so they were both duly packed off with the appropriate currencies, showered with profuse thanks in advance, and given detailed lists on what to get, where to get it, and substitutes if my first choice wasn't available.

Just for laughs, I thought I'd share what I've asked for. It is so sad, that my happiness for the next month is attached to this list. Well, partially. I have a list of books I want from Waterstones and Amazon but I just haven't found a mule way of getting them here yet. So for now, this is it...


MAC Morange Lipstick
Nars Semi-Matte Morocco Lipstick
Kiehl's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter
Kiehl's Superbly Restorative Argan Body Lotion
Karl Lagerfeld for Shu Umuera Red Nail Polish
Illamasqua Libido Blusher
Essie Ridge Filler and Base Coat
Muji Scented Candles
Rimmel 3-in-1 Base & Top Coat
Superdrug Natural High Night Cream


So I am trying to deal with my excitement, because come Monday, I will be united with my new friends. I can't believe I have become one of those people. Lord help me! But I know I'm not the only one. What's on your wish list? What have you got recently?



Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Upper Cuts, Big Slaps and Chop Knuckle






About a week ago, I was scrolling through Twitter, in search of some mindless hilarity (as you do) and became aware very quickly that something was afoot. You know when the Tweetmosphere is abuzz with something but you're not sure what? Everyone is talking, jokes are being cracked, and you suddenly notice that there is a theme surrounding all the #hashtagged words? This was one of those times.

All I could see was #UpperCut this and #uppercut that and so on. So I delved into the story a bit more and found out that a girl in Cleveland, Ohio had been decked under the chin by a bus driver because she was rude to him and slapped him. Now reading those tweets, it actually sounded funny. I imagined a situation where she was perhaps being a pest and he brushed her off, kind of like when there are flies buzzing round your head and you are so tired of swatting that you wave them away without any particular conviction. That's what I pictured because all the tweets I saw, from both men and women, were finding this video hilarious.

At the time, I didn't feel the need to go check the video out for myself because it just seemed like a bother. But then this evening, I was thinking about opinions in general and how they are formed. How do you come to believe what you believe and how do you stand up for it? I realised that these days it is so easy to assimilate other people's views and begin to think they are your own, because those views are just out there, taken for granted, made into the mainstream. The only voice of reason I came across on the whole of Twitter, was @miafarradaily where she referred to the Upper Cut as 'battery'. At the time, I must admit, her comment seemed a bit odd and churlish, in the face of so much laughing and jesting. Can you imagine? Around when it happened, I remember laughing to another friend about the #UpperCut cartoons cropping up in Twitter. He got very stern and said could I please stop talking to him about it because anything that involved men hitting women, by default was unfunny to him, no matter how hilarious people claimed it was. Those still small voices of reason, isolated as they were then in the sea of tomfoolery, planted a seed and ultimately brought me to my senses. Tonight, I decided to find out what really happened by watching the video.

I was in two minds as to whether to post this video because I don't want to promote or give it any publicity whatsoever, but I think it is important for you to see it. To see how DISGUSTING it is.





Because I heard all over the internet it was funny, I just took that to be the case. The fact is this is not funny at all. This man could have killed her. Look at the sheer might he came down with, before dragging her bodily out of the bus and dumping her on the road, and then chucking her bags on top of her. I am the first to admit that she should never have hit him. She was wrong, very wrong; and is obviously a badly raised, ratchet, ghetto hoodrat. She obviously has no respect and no home training. I admit that. But he was more wrong. Did what she did warrant that level of abuse? I am not saying it would be OK if he shoved her. I do not agree with fighting and physical abuse going wither way, but my goodness, he gave her a pummeling. Her whole throat is going to be hurting for a long, long time.

Watching that video, I realised that this man has probably beaten many women before, and he probably enjoys it. Yes he was aggravated, but he was so swift to react and his beating was so accurately placed, that you can tell he knows exactly where it hurts. He knocked the wind out of her. She went limp. And then he threw her out from the height of the staircase onto the pavement. That man would have beaten her for less. He was a time bomb waiting to explode.

It is chilling to see the comments about the video on YouTube. Coupled with the comments I saw on Twitter, I realised that most people are OK with this. Most people find this funny. But actually, it is not funny. It is not funny at all. It is disgusting and distressing all at the same time. How are we here? Where men deck women across the face in public and everyone is OK with it. How does an older man whom you assume has seen her type before, and whom should really know by now to have ignored her, get so emotionally involved in the situation that he leaps out of his chair to box her? This is what they call #chopknuckle and not in the good way. This was not friendly, this was dastardly.

And this is not the only Big Slap we've had recently either. Who remembers this phrase, ('Slep me neuw. Slep me neuw beeetch')? That's from the most recent Big Brother Africa series, where a guy slapped a girl. Again, without wishing to promote violence on this blog, I had to post the video.





This is the second example we have in recent weeks where men have beaten women in front of the camera. Again, I admit she should not have gotten all up in his face, but boy, was his response crazy. I worry now that we have a generation of people, and especially MEN, the supposedly stronger, calmer, less reactive sex who have no self-control and no restraint. Men who are so volatile that all it takes is 1 bad woman out of 100 good ones they must meet in the course of daily life to send them over the edge of violence.

It is a problem, and I don't find it funny. Seeing this stuff desensitises you to it, and I worry about the already wayward generation coming up. By the time they've seen enough of this wanton violence on TV, will they begin to think it's acceptable behaviour. Will they think it is normal? Will they start to hit girls?

Your thoughts and 2 cents are very welcome. If you have read this post and are now struggling with your definition of what's funny and what isn't, I have posted a third video for you. This is definitely funny, because the person whose expense the jokes are at is the same person who posted it on YouTube. So we are laughing with her, not at her. Start at 1:35 and watch it to the end. Enjoy...












Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bright Lights, Big City


I decided that today I would share a poem I wrote a few months ago. I plead with you not to be alarmed. I am not considering popping myself off. I wrote it in July, about 6 months after I moved back to Lagos and I was struggling with the constant noise and general stress. All I wanted was a moments peace and quiet but I couldn't get it so I decided to write a poem instead and this is what came out. It is actually meant to be funny, might I add. It is dark humour, so laugh!



Bright lights big city
Sad life, grief, pity

Lagos, unexpectedly
Saves us from tragedy
Gnarled souls who hanker
For a high speed train
Under which to end the pain

Damfoes not fast enough
No bona fide fast lanes
Butt to butt traffic,
Never ending pedestrian campaign

Third mainland is not guaranteed
The chicken driver may brake
Sapele boatmen beneath may break your fall
From a "minor slip, a mistake"

The emzor may be chalk,
And bring you round to rescue
Having dreamt of having died
Waking dry eyed to your mother's cries.

Prayer warriors loom large
Ready to do battle on your behalf
Arise arise arise!
Interrupting your peaceful demise.

*

Damn the lack of infrastructure
So restrictive in its absence
Forcing the tired to keep on trucking

In stressful, unfruitful yearning
For that last beautiful deer in the headlights terror
That finally signals the end

Bright lights, big city
Not a hope of suicide in Las Gidi.


Minjiba Cookey
3rd July 2012


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lazy Weekend.... and Inspiration


I've had the most delightful weekend - the kind I haven't had in a while. I've done precious nothing, seen precious no-one. Well actually, I haven't done nothing. I've done a lot of stuff I've been meaning to do for a while. Apart from a super quick emergency visit to Cold Stone at 10pm last night, I haven't left the house.

This afternoon, I randomly ended up on the TED Talks website watching videos, and I came across two that I really enjoyed that I would like to share with you.


The Power of Introverts - Susan Cain
The reason I find this interesting is I have always know what a part of me is actually quite introverted. And this weekend proves that. I like to retreat into my quiet corner from time to time just to think and be alive and unstimulated by external noise. I have had a series of inspiring insights and epiphanies this weekend because I've been able to have this time to myself and this is something that Susan, being an introvert herself, acknowledges. There is a place for introverts in the world because they posses qualities that the world needs for balance, yet everything in our modern world is geared to cater to extroverts and encourage extroversion as the established social norm. People disbelieve me when I say this, because they assume I am a complete social butterfly, all out there. But I'm not always. I have a few moments of being out there and then I want my equilibrium back. The irony of life is that this video found me today, confirming what I have been thinking - that I must do this me-time again more often. Anyway, let me know what you think. Are you an introvert or an extrovert, or somewhere in the middle like me? I really have a lot of respect for this lady. You can tell how awkward it was for her to get up in front of all those people. I would be bricking it.










Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself - Thandie Newton
I liked this because I understand the feeling of otherness. We all feel it in different ways, because our life experiences are different, and so are all the things that amount to inclusion in any society or group but it is the same emotion we tap into - that feeling of not being real, and not really counting. Thandie talks about being a black atheist kid in a white catholic school as the genesis of her feelings of otherness. She explains how she began dancing and performing to escape the horrible extended state of discomfiture that was her normal life, and how she found stability and meaning by losing herself in the motion and the movement. Her ideas on one's sense of self, and the need to almost shun our cognitive selves in order to plug back into our visceral consciousness that are more real may not appeal to everyone but are certainly worth thinking about. Is this just the coping strategy of a broken woman, or a valid, prescriptive way to live? You decide, but I really enjoyed this video. I've never really seen or heard her speak outside a movie and I'm really impressed with how articulate and expressive and emotionally intelligent she is. She's a very clear thinker, and an incredibly smart woman. She definitely has a new fan.






What do you think of these? What do you make of their assertions?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Dishonourable Plaque





I don’t approve of the slave trade, obviously, but I do agree with ONE of the assumptions they worked on. I’ll tell you what that is. When slave masters went out to buy new slaves, they would always inspect their purchase’s teeth and the better the teeth, the more they were willing to pay. Good dentition equaled a good buy, because it apparently it was a good health indicator.

I agree very much with this sentiment now. I mean, let’s be clear; I am not in the business of buying or selling slaves, but I do look very closely at people’s teeth, and I form opinions about them based on what I see. Who else does this? Hands up. Surely, I can’t be the only one.

This week has been particularly challenging because I have noticed, in conversation with various people, ridges of plaque wedged into their gum line. What distresses me is I have been noticing this on people whom I previously esteemed to have good personal hygiene. Being observant is a curse, and when coupled with a keen sense of smell, like it is with me, life is altogether a bit more difficult. I now know the smell of plaque a bit too well, and I wish I didn’t.

When mouths hang open in laughter over a shared joke, that high, ever so slightly tangy smell of fermentation just wafts out, and you know for absolute certain that the smell is attributable to those defiant little mounds of yellow hugging your friend’s molars. I really wish this weren’t the case because it is deeply embarrassing, on the person’s behalf.

Because it just tells me that you don’t brush your teeth very carefully. And whether you are my boss, or my friend, or a stranger I just met, I despair of you. Brushing one’s teeth is one of the most refreshing activities in the world, and I simply cannot understand why or indeed HOW people are not embarrassed to wear their dental negligence like a badge of honour.

Last time I checked, toothpaste and good, firm toothbrushes were available at all good supermarkets, and failing that, there’s always the idea of using the point of a pin to scrape the offending matter off your pearlies. Ladies and gents, please let’s do better. Inspect your teeth today and stop working so hard to remain in the ‘tufiakwa – unkissable’ category. This goes for both the ladies and the gents. If someone gets way up close and then changes their mind, then you have a fair idea why.

Thank me later.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

How Arranged Marriage Can Go Very Wrong





Before you all go of on one, telling me how wrong I am for making such a blanket statement, allow me to finish, please. I have always been skeptical of arranged marriages. I plan to live long, and I just cannot bear the thought of having to spend the rest of my days with some random stranger that someone picked for me. I’m sorry. I know that in some parts of the world it is the norm, but no bueno. I need to size the guy up for myself and see whether I can deal with his wahala forever; and indeed whether he will be able to deal with mine.


For the last few months, by Grandmother (bless her cotton socks) has been on my case about this amazing young gentleman who lives in her building. She has been waxing lyrical to me about him, how respectful he is, how he always comes to greet her, how he is from a good family, how she went to school with his mother or aunty or someone, how he is ambitious, how he is well turned out, and how all his business interests are going well. She is constantly on my case, trying to get us to meet, and so far I have managed to avoid all her attempts to introduce us.

Eugh.

Shudder.

Luckily, every time I go and see her, he is out of the compound or not visiting at that time, or whatever. News has broken that recently, my poor Grandma and everyone else in her block of flats was rudely awoken at about 2am by loud banging on the gate. The generator was on, so of course it took a while for the noise to register, but once it did, it was all anyone could hear. Who comes banging on your gate at 2 o’clock in the morning, screaming, brandishing a steel rod and threatening to kill the gateman? The answer you’re thinking is what they were all thinking – armed robbers! So of course, calls started flying around and valuables were stashed away as fear and bile rose.

But how wrong you are. How wrong they were. It was not armed robbers. It was this guy – the one who appeared to be such a catch and who my Grandma thought might make a good guy for me. He had forgotten his keys, got locked out, and arrived home off his face on goodness knows what. My issue is not that he was off his face. Most people coming back home on a Friday night after a party are a little happy. No problem there. My issue is that this guy is obviously a little deranged. OK so you get locked out of your house, is that reason to threaten to kill people? He actually had to be restrained and escorted to his flat, or he would have done the poor gateman serious harm.

I don’t even want to know whether the crow bar was an impromptu tool he found on the road outside the gate, or one he keeps in his car for those choice moments when he feels like killing. I know it’s a quantum leap, but this incident got me thinking… If we lived in a society where arranged marriages were de rigeur, then I may have been signed over to this fellow by my dear Granny in a smooth little transaction. She had no reason to doubt his normalcy, but now, after this incident, it has become clear that he is very, very, unsuitable.

Can you imagine hitching your wagon to such a guy, with all his good credentials and what not. And then one day, inevitably, unintentionally you annoy him, and then you’re in a dark corner pleading for your life. Imagine you blindly married this guy because people in your family know his family from way back and he seems like a good bet. And then you wake up one day to find you’ve been beaten to a pulp with a mallet. God actually forbid.

This here is why I don’t believe in or agree with arranged marriage – the potential for too many alarming surprises. No matter how much you love me or how well you know me, you cannot instruct me to marry some dude I don’t know because you have vetted him. I will vet him myself, thank you very much. And then family and friends can chip in on why or why not. I will always listen to advice, because marriages go wrong sometimes, even when you choose your own guy, but to marry Mr X because you said so? Hahahahahah. Erm, no.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

On Chest Hair

A few months ago, we hired a new house girl. Let's call her Houdini, because apart from her ability to disappear in no time flat when she thinks no one is looking, she's a nice girl. She's bubbly and enthusiastic and helpful and if you show her something complex a couple of times, she by and large gets it. On Saturday night, we had a few people round convivially polishing off a bottle of red wine. I had told her she could close, and thanked her for her work that day, but when she caught sight of my pulling out my Magnolia Bakery Cookbook and ingredients to make a chocolate cake, she changed her mind about going to bed; she loves mixing cake batter. It was hilarious and I wasn't about to say no to someone offering to help, so I let her. Plus, I have been teaching her to bake, so that one day I'll be able to call her up from work and say 'I want Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes for dinner' and when I come home, they'll be there waiting. As she creamed the batter, I became fixated by the hairs on her chest. Now, I have seen them a thousand times. In fact I see them everyday. So ubiquitous have they become, because of her penchant for decolletage revealing tops, that I barely even notice them anymore. But it was one of those moments when you suddenly are able to go past the quotidian fact of something (i. e. the chick has a chest full of hair that some men would be proud of) to the more symbolic (the fact that she doesn't care). That's right people. This lady has a veritable patch of hair on her chest that looks like a carpet. If you were blindfolded and rubbed up against that, you'd swear it was a man. Very occasionally, she shaves it, sometimes she leaves it - but there's no running away from the fact that she is well endowed with the short and curlies. Standing there in the kitchen, looking at those hairs, I was suddenly reminded of the whole body image discourse in a different way. I thought about the bits of my body that I'm not particularly fond of and how I go to great lengths to craftily play them down, and accentuate my better features. For example, I've never been a great fan of my nose, so I play up my eyes and my lips when I'm wearing make up, so my honker is (hopefully) the last thing anyone is looking at. I thought of all my friends, and each of their body issues. There are those who hate their broad shoulders and so never wear strapless clothes, those who have been waxing their moustaches faithfully for the last 8 years, those who have such narrow hips that they have to wear cleverly tailored clothes, those whose feet are so big that they keep their toes scrunched up so they don't cantilever over the front of their dainty sandals, those who sweat so much that they have to use men's deodorant, those who are a bit bigger and have an arsenal of secret scaffolding to bear up their contours - the list is endless. Typing out these body concerns, you would imagine these ladies are a bunch of gimps and misfits, but they aren't. They are hot chicks with exciting social lives, great careers, and interesting hobbies, and on meeting them you would never ever guess that they had any serious bodily concerns to contend with. The thing is, even when one knows that no one really cares, the reason we all take such pains to hide our little bodily failures is that somehow, having them in full view of the world makes us feel a little insecure in some way. Those flaws do not fit in with how we want to present ourselves, so we mask them. But Houdini is obviously not as concerned as we are about masking her flaws. If she were, she would never wear the plunge neck, cleavage showing tops she wears because it is completely within her power to wear normal t-shirts that aren't cut so low. In any given week, she wears a normal t-shirt or top about once a week, but apart from that, she likes to wear low cut v-necks or tank tops. She rocks her chest hair like its the new in thing. On Saturday night, I learnt a lesson from her - that sometimes, it really is a drain on your energy to worry about the things you can't change. Sometimes, she shaves her chest, but more often than not, she doesn't and she doesn't stress herself out trying to hide it, even though she gets stared at. I can't say that this revelation is going to cure me of my bodily concerns overnight, but it has shown me a different way of dealing with them; a way perhaps to downgrade them from their prominence in my daily thought life. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, what difference has my nose made to the outcome of my life? None! So why stress about it? I am still sorely tempted to haul her with me to Barazahi and introduce her to every girls' best friend - a good hot wax - but while I ponder that - do you have any bodily secrets you hide? Or are you like Houdini and let them hang out? Do share...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Nike Art Gallery

Nike, the eponymous art gallery is a fantastic place to spend a few hours. This is my second visit and each time I have been blown away by their warm, welcoming approach to guests. It is easy to find; almost smack bang at the 2nd roundabout on the Lekki Expressway. The gallery is spread out on 5 floors, every inch of wall space crammed with every imaginable permutation of African art. And the floor space is not wasted either. There's furniture, relief lighting, installation pieces, sculpture, fabric, and jewellery.

It is a wonderful treasure trove of discoveries and has something for everyone. It is a little bit cluttered, but not in a way that is detrimental to the experience. My arty friends are happy there and so am I, even though I usually find galleries to be a turgid combination of boring and random. Thanks to Nike, I have fallen madly, and hopelessly in love with the art of Tolu Aliki (first visit) and Peju Alatise (second visit) whose first exhibition began last Saturday. It is exciting to think that each visit brings the opportunity to be challenged and stimulated.

I don't think I can explain how huge it is that I am waxing lyrical about art. Usually when I go to a gallery, I fantasize about chucking out all the god-awful paintings and turning the space into a cosy bookshop/lounge space. I am not easily moved by art. I've been dragged round the Saatchi Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, Proud Galleries, etc, etc, and a whole bunch of others by the Sistership and the Brothership who are budding artists themselves, but I find a lot of art to be hollow. Either the artists paint the same ole thing a few different times, or they try so hard to capture the ethereal esoteric that they appear to be frankly, really rather mad. It is exhausting to be confronted with either extreme mundane or extreme demented and often in rapid succession.

When I look at a piece of art, I want it to speak to me, and I want to be able to catch the emotional jet stream that the artist is on. I want to be presented with poetry and prose depicted visually, not aesthetic pleasantries carelessly strewn on canvas. The point of all this is, I went to Nike Art Gallery expecting it to be boring, but instead I came out inspired, excited, and possessed of a strange desire to drop N400k (which i don't have) on a painting.

If you haven't been to Nike, please do go. Nike and her husband are always about; reclining on deck chairs in the front yard, or strolling round the gallery chatting to visitors. There's a real excitement about art, and Nike is only too happy to answer questions or invite you to many of the other programmes they have running throughout the year. She's generous too and has been known to surprise unsuspecting visitors with a plate of steaming hot jollof rice! Case in point, after our visit, she packed us off with a complimentary beaded key ring each, and lots of encouragement.

You can check them out further here: http://www.nikeart.com/

Friday, 23 March 2012

The 3 Baritones


I am a little late in posting this, sorry. On Sunday, I was railroaded by the Grandmothership into a trip to Muson. Although I say railroaded, I do love a bit of culture on a Sunday afternoon, especially on a Sunday like the last one where I'd spent the better part of three hours, stuffing myself silly at the Southern Sun; and was in desperate need of something to distract me from how full I was!

The 3 Baritones, Obinna Ifediora, Olumide Dada and John-Paul Ochei apparently met at a house party given by The Godfather of Lagos, Tinubu, in 2006, where they had each been invited to perform. They have been performing together since.

The concert was well curated, and gave us a chance to experience both their individual and collective sound. Ifediora, whose voice I recognised instantly from his part as the Pirate King in 'The Pirates of Penzance' which showed at Muson a couple of weeks ago, has a distinctive flair. His voice is rounded and rich, and deep but with a featherlight tenor touch that makes his singing sound effortless. His rendition of Mozart's Non Piu Andrai from The Marriage of Figaro was true to the original form but benefitted from his own interpretation too, and you can see from his expressiveness that he is in possession of a special kind of emotional intelligence. I reckon he'd make a great actor too!

Listening to Olumide Dada's versions of 'Pieta Signor' by Stradella and 'Alright, Okay, You Win' were like listening to a CD. His voice is the easy drinking red wine of the lot, and yet, technically, the truest baritone. The tension between those features creates this velvety and sonorous sound that puts you at ease enough for you to stop actively listening. You kind of come to once he's stopped singing with the feeling of having had some good thoughts but not being really alert enough to articulate them. That's a compliment! He's good, and definitely one to watch. 

John-Paul Ochei, I also recognised from his role as the head policeman in 'The Pirates of Penzance'. Those of you who saw the show will remember him as the police man with the hilarious wobbly-headed walk. He brings a wicked comic streak to his performances and his delivery of Largo Factorum by Gioacchino Rossini was no different. I especially enjoyed this performance because my relationship with this piece goes way back to my childhood. Do you know, that the piece features in a major way in the Tom & Jerry Cartoon series? I remember Tom singing it all the time and to this end, I practically know all the words. Myself and the Sistership had an awesome time singing along, despite the quizzical looks from people sitting around us. I guess the message is: cartoons aren't all bad and they may actually reinforce your kids interest in classical music. I did think on his piece from Roger and Hammerstein's South Pacific that he needs a little bit more coaching on projection, and range but all in all a good performance and his enthusiasm on stage is infectious.

Together, the 3 Baritones have an endearing sound and they have managed to find a good harmony with a mixture of pieces in Yoruba and English, ranging from Ayo Bankole to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I like the fact that they are very simply accompanied, by just a piano, the double bass, some drums and a sax. It makes for a well rounded but uncluttered sound. 

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Man with Weak Ankles

Sometimes, it feels like the written word acquires life all on its own and finds a way to come true. Last week, at an event, I was so rubbed up the wrong way by one of the performers that I bashed out a quick piece on my phone on how he irked me. Tonight, prior to the commencement of the same event, his awfulness came up in conversation and I was forced to admit to some friends that his unsavoury self had given me an enraged flash of inspiration to count the many ways in which I do not love him. The event itself is great and I wish they wouldn't let him sully it. My friends, on reading my "rage review" piece called me mean, and made various feline noises because they thought I was being catty and vindictive. They hadn't picked up on some of his less choice characteristics. Needless to say, after his repeat performance tonight, they were up and cheering, falling about in stitches. Not because his set was any good but because, with his very own mouth, he totally implicated himself and it turned out that I was RIGHT rather than mean about him.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, my flash in the pan "rage review" of a performer I have Christened, "The Man With Weak Ankles"...


The male form can be let down by the jointing of its ankles. The male form is not properly resolved unless he has good legs and good feet. The specimen who have weak ankles, with feet not squarely placed on the ground but tilting slightly outward, seemingly splayed and cursed un-parallel by awkward knees is a sign - no, a certain indication - of duplicity, misogyny, and vainglorious falibility. They are the type of men whose feet are indeed flippers, designed for treading quick sand and bearing them stealthily to all manner of destinations, except those to which they profess they have been.

Such was he, the ugly oaf like rapper who mounted the stage this Thursday evening, proselytising about a pimply 6'4" woman who was a pretty little bitch on the outside but ugly inside, how he used to be pretty inside and now, thanks to her he was now ugly inside. It was not necessary to forgive him his apparel, to give him the benefit of the doubt and ignore his badly drawn American dreams; I understood then that my diagnosis of his inferior mental state based on his roughshod skeletal infrastructure was spot on. The blame-dispensing, under-achieving, and lascivious fool.

His dishonesty is all too obvious to me, if not to everyone else. His claim to musical prowess lies in his pre-fabricated rapper persona; and yet his most damning revelation is nestled in his inadvertent admission that he gets used and abused by questionable, gargantuan women who have no beauty or skin care regimen to speak of. I wager that he also gets dismissed by the gorgeous, tall, leggy ladies, who don't acknowledge his being alive because he is so far removed from even the most elemntary levels of human accomplishment.

The disdain tonic he has brewed on account of said women (neither of whom want him) he now sweats out with malarial intensity, strained and rebottled with extra spices for an unsuspecting audience whom he tricked into believing they'd be getting some genuine creativity and music.

My message to the man with weak ankles is this: 'Oh ye with your cap back to front at your age, poor you, shame, you are inconsequential and lame.'

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bad Casting

I'd like to have a quick word with whoever is in charge of outdoor marketing for Mango's Nigerian operation. As I got to the mall yesterday, I was assaulted by the image of Kate Moss bearing down on me from a great height, looking decidedly edgy and defiant from the billboard on the building. Nothing against ole Kate, I just found her being here jarring. She looked so out of place. It put me in mind of watching a good movie with an actor/ actress one really likes, but having to admit that they were badly cast for the role.

Why, in the middle of sweltering Lagos do we have Kate Moss dressed in black leather flogging us clothes? Surely there are myriad Nigerian (and at a push, even African) models, celebrities, fashionistas, etc who would have embodied the Mango ethos and made it more relevant to this market.

I find Kate an odd choice for Mango in the first place as she has positioned herself in recent years, mostly via the Topshop and Rimmel campaigns as being the ultimate custodian of 'The London Look'. She is not the person whose style comes to mind when you think Mango. Furthermore, for Nigeria, I would have thought they'd go for someone with more of a diverse, international feel.

Of course, I must admit that my argument rests on the assumption that Mango would want to tailor their marketing campaign to the Nigerian market because as a former practitioner, my approach to all outgoing communications is still very geared toward delivering relevant and tailor made messages to each group of stakeholders. My initial tack would have been to get a Miss Nigeria, or a Nigerian Miss World up there. An Oluchi, or an Agbani Darego or a Tiwa Savage or an Eku Edewor.

But maybe that isn't their strategy at all. Maybe they are trying to be 'aspirational' and do the opposite of what I've said which is to amp up their status as a foreign, imported and therefore superior brand, which only a select few with Euro-centric sensibilities can relate to. It could be that rather than trying to Nigerianise their brand, they are trying to Mangofy Nigeria.

On a purely commercial level, I understand why they might want to do the latter of course. In retail terms, it creates justification for nice fat margins which they can slash once a year during the 'sales' and make customers feel special for buying a slinky little top at 150% markup, instead of the usual 300%; I get that. However, I do think that it is crucial for consumers to be able to identify, even just a little it, with the images they see on marketing campaigns aimed at them and I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. It is the reason why brands like Guinness don't have a bunch of Irish guys in their Nigerian campaigns, they have a bunch of Naija guys, hanging out after work. It is this crucial stage of mirroring the audience that I think Mango have missed out.

A final thought occurs to me, and though I find it unpalatable I must share it. What if prior to commencing operations in Nigeria, they carried out all the marketing due diligence one would expect and found out that for ready to wear / pret a porter fashion, Nigerians respond better to non-Nigrian images? It would not surprise me one bit; it is possible, think about it. I truly hope this is not the case as that would be very sad indeed, but one can never rule these things out. There is no point exploring the whys and wherefores of that particular possibility, but if that unfortunate possibility does have some truth to it, then I think it is safe to assume that it is bedfellwows with the category of reasons Nigerian women are so ardent in their pursuit of all the hair in the world, that is, all except their own. But I digress. The fake hair problem is a discussion for another day.

In any case, even from an aesthetic point of view, Kate stands out on that billboard at the Palms and it isn't the successful kind of standing out. Neeeeext!

The Cous Cous Coup

Another colossal waste of time I encountered this week is the infamous Cous cous. I can't believe I used to enjoy this stuff. I used to think it was a beautifully versatile little accompaniment to almost anything. When I made my chickpea, cous cous, roast pepper and cucumber salad, it looked like the sort of meal that would usually be right up my street. But as I chewed, those infuriating little grains, which previously whispered sweet nothings of wholesomeness to my palette, began to feel like little serrated ball bearings on assignment to rouse my temper.


They were just there, EVERYWHERE. Dietary shrapnel, seemingly reproducing like grainy amoeba on crack in my mouth; jamming the spaces between my teeth, obstructing my natural chewing pattern and making the area under my tongue feel an abrasive carpet. I am still puzzled as to how this happened. Did something snap in my head? Did a neural anti-cous cous pathway just sprout in my brain, or did the pro-cous cous neural pathway just get zapped suddenyl? One day I loved the stuff; and the next day I didn't. T


Now, the way I see it, you may as well try to eat the stamen of a hibiscus plant, or the bleached/deodorised droppings of a really small rodent.

Eugh. Never again. So long cous cous; it was good while it lasted.

Good night.

Colossal Waste of Time

I decided last night that following a fairly gruelling day, I deserved to tuck myself into bed with a movie. Now, I am in no way a film buff. My criteria is this: I like a good Romcom or Drama or Action Thriller with just enough intrigue to keep me engaged, but not enough weirdness to get the real film buffs excited (that is the point where I fall asleep).

Also, if I am to watch anything, my preference is for it to be from the comfort of my sofa at home. I don't understand why anyone would want to sit in a dark room with hundreds of strangers, very many of whom are unsavoury, and all of whom are potential obstacles blocking you from the fire exit, should you ever need to use it in an emergency. I do however love popcorn and have been known to buy the popcorn and skip the movie. This is not to say that I never go to the cinema; just that it is not my favourite place in the whole wide world to be. I prefer to watch stuff at home, where the possibility of smug, fat rats scuttling up the walls isn't at 80% and I don't have to wonder about the virulent bacteria that proliferate in places like cinemas that shun the occasional, redeeming light of day.

But now at least you understand how I don't turn to film by default the way some people do, and how I despise going to the cinema. So the opportunity cost is huge for me if I decide that I will watch a film, rather than read the ever growing pile of books I am eager to get through.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I watched Karate Kid (with the little Smith boy) for the first time yesterday. Is this really what people have been raving about? Glad I didn't pay to see that in the cinema!

Oh what poorly rendered characters. How simplistic and underdeveloped they were. Why was the mother so stereotypically African American, whoopin' and hollerin' every other minute? Why did the kid have to be called 'Dre AND have such a foul personality? And how insulting that they would have us believe that his great internal discipline was learnt by being made to pick his jacket up a few times by the random Kung Fu gentle giant down the road. It was an inadequate acknowledgement of the need to break his obstinacy, and the transformation of his character was no where near sincere enough. How immature the pen that wrote the script; where 'Dre's eulogistic glory came from winning the very first tournament he ever competed in. I mean really? We all know his character needed to have been broken a few more times, defined by a few more challenges.

Maybe it could have worked as a silent film for spastics (very basic plot, inconsequential dialogue and one dimensional characters) but not really my cup of tea, thanks.
What a colossal waste of time and it wasn't at all worth the ache in my neck and arm from propping myself up in bed to watch it. That's two hours of my life I won't ever get back.

Jackie Chan my dear, the despairing, tortured character thing isn't really your style. Here is one situation in which you need to #staywithinyourcomfortzone. I like you much better when you're doing happy kung fu! And the little Smith boy has a ways to go before he is ready to be a convincing actor.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Yesterday was Charles Dickens' 200th Birthday. There have been lots of celestial birthdays recently. For example, we recently remembered my paternal Grandfathership on what would have been his 98th birthday. In celebration, there was lots of Handel and Dvorak and Debussy all round. But I digress... It was so great to see Dickens so fondly remembered decades after the time he inhabited, by other authors, the general public, and even the clergy of Westminster Abbey where he is buried.

Apparently he had asked to be buried in the yard of a sweet little village church somewhere, a place he associated with serenity and rest, but his eminence at the time of his death was such that he was instead upgraded to the rather more fancy Westminster Abbey. He is therefore now posthumous flat mates with the likes of Charles Darwin; not because he asked for it but because the honour was conferred on him by virtue of his contribution to society.

For me, Charles Dickens will always be the author who got to grips with the metropolitan/cosmopolitan subculture way before it was deemed so achingly cool to do so. His documentation of Victorian London is second to none. His ability to evoke the putrid smells, the pungent squalor, his keen observation of social disparities, and the sheer mastery of human motive make for great reading every time. And he is still very much alive in modern Literature.

About 5 years ago, I had to read the first Harry Potter book for one of my Creative Writing seminars (I do not subscribe to Pottermania so I treated it as a transactional exchange of sorts, a bit like taking cough mixture). It struck me then, that the old Dickens appeared to be reaching through the ages and signing off on fiction with his trademark flourish. I'll explain. Now I don't know whether JK Rowling esteems him as one of her inspirations, but there seemed (to me anyway) to be a certain Dickensian rendering of names going on. What I mean is that Dickens' characters names are generally fantastically onomatopaeic and Rowling captured this in names like 'Voldemort' for instance, who was the big bad deathly baddie, and 'Hermione' the goody goody gosh goody two shoes, etc etc. Not to say that every onomatopaeic name is attributable to Dickensian influence, but you know what I mean.

So hey ho for old Dickens. Thanks for all the inspiration and hilarity, and I hope that in these disgraceful times where young people are unable to read or digest any information over 140 characters long, that the work of great authors like him will not pale into obscurity.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Happy New Year

It is my one month Las Gidi anniversary today. Alright, it was two days ago; but taking various internet connectivity issues into consideration, that's semantics really. I have almost finished unpacking my ten suitcases. It is strange to think that all my worldly possessions fit into a few cases and I thank Virgin Atlantic from the bottom of my heart for having the most admirable, equitable, cost-effective, and efficient extra luggage charge policy in all the sky.

You will notice that the last time I blogged properly was 2007. We won't go just yet into the why's and wherefore's of my downward blogging spiral, but I promised myself that I would get back on it from January and I thought what better time than a month into my new life in Nigeria.

Decisions are funny things, and like investments, you only know after time has elapsed whether they are sound or not. From where I stand, moving home is one of the best decisions I have ever made and though some people have warned me that it'll soon wear off, I know for certain that it will not. Not least because I have seen more of my family in these 30 days than I have ever done in the last 7 years combined. For some people that might be reason enough to call it quits and flee, but I cannot think of anything more delightful.

People ask me all the time why I moved back and how I am finding it. I have noticed that those questions fall into two distinct camps. Those who are asking as part of conversation and those who are gagging for an opportunity to infer some of their unfortunate colo-mentality ideas onto your life.

Person A: How are you finding it?
Person B: How are you FINDING it?

Person B always asks the question with a slight look of puzzlement as though 'it' i. e. moving back to Nigeria is the most preposterous idea in the world. Ergo, if I were you I would have stayed there, sha. I have met other Person Bs who have themselves recently moved back, and who roll their eyes and complain a lot. They carry on like they are moments away from being conferred some sort of national honour for bravery and long-suffering. They annoy me.

Person B often goes on to ask how I am coping with the mosquitoes, the weather and the food. It is as though I am expected to play up the part of the wilting ajebo who is prone to fainting spells and indisposed to eating pepper. Someone asked me if I took anti-malaria medication in preparation for my arrival here and so I busied myself with swallowing saliva so I wouldn't tell her just what I thought of her little question.

It tickles me no end because I would be ashamed of myself if I ever became one of those people with airs and graces who has to pretend to be too good for their own natural environment. Was I not born and raised here before I moved away? Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of good food, whatever the cuisine. There is a place in my heart reserved for certain Michelin Star chefs, and I am even prone to whipping up my own something-fancy-a-la-this-or-that; but in bread terms, I would rather a loaf of freshly baked Agege bread than Brioche any day. And at the Radisson's Christmas Day lunch, I shunned the salmon (plenty of that where I came from) had eight giant peppered snails instead. There, I said it. Bite me.

The only real thing I miss about the UK is my contract phone - knowing that I had a huge monthly allowance which was paid for by direct debit - and I didn't even have to think about it. I despise having to top up my credit and I live in perpetual fear of running out. I know I can get a post paid line, but since Airtel has shown me that their main order of business is to suddenly and randomly deduct arbitrary amounts of credit from your line (I'm talking N1600, people) whether or not you have made any calls that day, the last thing I want is to be post paid because then they may decide that they can slap me with a series of imaginary numbers and I will be forced to pay. So Pay as You Go is my only complaint.

Largely, it has been incredible fun, and so emotionally enriching too. Last weekend, as I listened to the Fathership and an Uncleship in hot debate over something or other, it dawned on me that I have missed out over the years on this fount of collective wisdom. Wisdom! There are threads of understanding that I have encountered through conversation and through observation; I have seen the import of things I previously dismissed, and vice versa. I am beginning to feel my perspectives on life become more informed, better resolved, and more optimistic than they ever were.

I am so happy to be home, and I look forward to striding out into the rest of life from this vantage point.

I wish you all the best of God's blessings as we set to work on this much awaited 2012.

Lots of love,
Emz
xx

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

I Came and Saw

I gave. The gore, I tempered;
dissecting precisely,
ten blade and scalpel
liberating caramel

I framed, discussed, conjectured
bleeping mental jigsaw
with pieces where they should go
Not where they are

Dammit, not where they are

I flailed, I thought, I pondered
rationalised and aware
chose the should-and-surely-must-be,
despite the fact-of-what-is-and-therefore-IS


*


Dear Glenn Lewis,

It is always too late
I will wait.
For it is lost already.

This love:
I came and saw, that no one can conquer.

Goodbye

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Bitter Chocolate and Business


I just finished reading Bitter Chocolate by Lesley Lokko, who is one of my favourite authors of the moment. I read Sundowners, on the recommendation of my sister, and loved it so much that I know I will be reading her books for as long as she continues to write them.

Anyway, what I love most about her books is the way she weaves such intricate storylines. She takes seemingly unconnected characters and brings them together through deliciously unpredictable twists and turns. She is always surprising and believable at the same time. My favourite thing though, is that the heroines always have their fair share of woe. They get taken down to rock bottom, and we journey with them as they fight their way up to triumph.

I am trying to channel that fighting spirit now as I get ready to launch a new business idea I’m working on…I’m really hoping it catches on as it’s to do with food (and who doesn’t love food?). I will be launching a separate blog for it (soonish) and will let you know when it’s up and running. Wish me luck!!

P. S. My sister (who loves to read but is mortally afraid of bookshops, bookselling websites like Amazon and anything to do with buying books) goes to the shops and buys Lesley Lokko’s books. Doesn’t that say something? That someone who would rather maim herself than face what she thinks is the sensory overloaded world of book-buying would leave her house, get on a bus, enter a bookshop and endure the experience until the chip and pin machine has confirmed that her transaction is OK?

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Weddings, Sun and Fun by the Sea

I've just got back from my godmother's wedding. It was a success on all levels - she and her new hubby are so happy, and I am so happy for them. It was a wonderful ceremony. Also, my pre-event diet was successful. Ten days before the event, my zip wouldn't go up. Yesterday, after just over a week of nothing but bran flakes, salads, fruit and lean grilled meat, I fit into it perfectly.

Somehow I managed not to botch my speech. I was asked to give the toast. I was so nervous beforehand that I bit into the corner of my nail and drew blood without noticing. But apparently it went well...The last thing one wants to do is let the couple down at a long-awaited wedding!

Anyway, to top it all off, one of the guests, paid for a room and then had to leave. Guess who enjoyed one free night in a fabulous suite in a five star hotel by the sea? Muahahahaha.

Had wanted to do a nice little write up, but am now too tired. Maybe later.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Behaviour of Crumbs


Sitting in the sofa eating toast, savouring the sheer comfort of it as you bite into it; warm buttery goodness hitting your tongue, the crunch filling your ears, crumbs sticking to your lips and yet more crumbs bungee jumping off the plate, descending determinedly into all the places that will annoy you later because you can’t reach properly – the corners of the sofa, the ends of your hair, behind the scatter cushions, beneath your breasts.

Has it ever occurred to you that this is how we are? We bite into life, into the things we want, the people we think we need, and we undo ourselves. Our fragments tumble off into those annoying hidden places that we are only aware of in loneliness, in inebriation, and in the split second before we die.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Sisters in Law



In my personality, there are two extremes. There's the slick me who likes things plush and luxurious and then there's the grungy me who likes things slightly messy and unpolished. I alternate unpredictably between the two, but this weekend, I've been very much in a grungy phase. Imagine how delighted I was on Saturday afternoon when I remembered I was due to attend a film screening in the headquarters of all things arty and disheveled - Shoreditch!

Feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because of the lovely weather, I headed down there with my partner in crime and was utterly pleased to find that the venue, Charlie Wrights International Bar, was as Shoreditch as they come. Ecclectic mismatched furniture, scuffed floors, odd stuff on the walls, the faint smell of disinfectant and all sorts of other elements of shabby insousiance...

The screening was put on by a group called Screening Africa, run by my friend Joseph. Once every two months, they show a thought provoking film of African interest accompanied by some delicious African (on this occassion, Nigerian) food.

Sisters in Law, directed by Kim Longinotto is an award-winning and uplifting documentary film focusing on justice in the village of Kumba Town, Cameroon. The town is overseen by the progressive female partnership of a prosecutor and court president, who together help women to speak out and fight back against entrenched roles in society.

While we were spared the gory details, we got to meet a whole group of women and children who had been raped, abused, and beaten to within an inch of their lives by the men in their communities. We saw their pain, and watched them fight victoriously for their rights even amid pressure to drop the case by society.

Far from being a depresseing film though, there were elements of humour to be found in the direct no-frills justice of the legal professionals and the lousy excuses given by all the convicted criminals: 'Please have mercy on me. I am an orphan and I have no one. Punish me but please don't punish me too harshly...'. Puh-lease!

It's a brilliant piece of work a) because it's enlighteneing and b) because it confronts difficult issues head-on without painting Africa in a bad light, which many of these documentaries seem to do. It emphasised hope and progress and liberty rather than injustice, backwardness and ignorance which I imagine is what made it a favourite at worldwide film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival and took it to the last 15 of the Oscar Best Documentary shorlist.

Unfortunately the director couldn't make it or I would have tried to bag an interview. If you'd like to watch it, I believe you can do so via this link

Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

I Want You Back




One of the first things you learn about being a grown-up, is that a deal is a deal. Contracts are binding. Try wriggling out of your mobile phone contract, or telling your estate agent that you'd like to move out before your agreed tenancy is up. Try telling your internet service provider that you don't want their services anymore; or next time you're at an auction, place a bid on something and then when it comes time to cough up, tell them you've changed your mind and see what happens.

What happens is YOU PAY! Yes, it will cost you in the long run if you try to back out of a contract once it's been signed.

It appears that the nature of our dear darling Michael Jackson's blissful oblivion to the usual rights of passage into adulthood is much larger than previously thought. After signing a deal with Julien's Auctions and allowing hardcore fans to salivate over the prospect of owning his sequined socks, say, or gaming machines from Neverland or artworks by himself and friend Macaulay Culkin...after all the excitement and hype, Michael has decided that actually, he wants all his stuff back. Yes he does now, ooh ooh baby!

Sorry MJ, but that's the shakes. Especially when the auction house has incurred production and marketing costs. Whether you just genuinely changed your mind, or whether you fancied yourself a bit of a smooth criminal who could pull off a pretend auction as a publicity stunt, the fact is you signed on the dotted line. Let your stuff be auctioned and Give in to it! It's not as though you're not on a mission to regain you billionaire status. Think of how that money money money will make you feel...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Back, and Here to Stay

How long has it been? A year and a coupla months it would seem, since November 2007 and it has been the longest and most tortuous writers drought of my life. I'm glad it's over though. I am in love with words again. We are no longer dealing each other violent blows. I am pleased to report that I have started writing again and am beginning to repent of my reclusive writerly ways. See you here (or else where) soon...

Please celebrate with me...as of today, the 5th day of February 2009, The Half Inch Fount is open again.

Welcome, everyone!

Love,
Emz

Monday, 12 November 2007

Eugh...

If men have ceased to be men, do we blame the state of society as a whole, or do we blame modern parenting skills (or evidently, the lack thereof).



About three Saturday’s ago, we had a house warming party to break in my new flat. We invited 30 people and ended up with just over 60. The poor little flat was packed tight. I can’t complain though. It turned out to be a damn good party; our party ROCKED! Of course we asked people to arrive for 8pm, so they would turn up sometime before midnight. We had the small chops laid out nicely, a clear punch and a dark punch, and neat little cubes of Tanqueray jelly.



How does my house-warming relate to parenting, gallantry and men? It goes like this: a friend of mine, proving to be a weak man of the worst kind, removed himself from the party and sat on the staircase shaking his head. He said he was exhausted and reeling slightly and that he just needed to breathe a while. He refused my offers of coffee, tea, ginger ale, water, anything that would re-hydrate him and flush out the alcohol. He didn’t look very bad, and we were even chatting/catching up on old times. I asked if he felt better, and he said slightly, so I said OK, come inside and rest for a sec, then wake up and join the party.



He lay himself down on my nice, new white linen, which I splashed out on just that week as a present to myself, and went to sleep. About half an hour later, I went in to check on him and he sat up and said, ‘Emz, I puked.’



Just like that. Emz I puked. As though he were a baby, reporting himself with glee: Mummy, I poo-pooed in my nappy!



Then I lost it. He didn’t even try to get to the toilet and puke there. Nooooo. What did he do? He lay there, wallowing in his own bile, like a freak. Needless to say, it soaked through the bedclothes to the mattress, dripped onto the carpet, splattered on my chest of drawers, and studded my sister and her flatmates' pull-along cases. Can you imagine? When I went to the window to get some air and calm down, his friends tried to get dramatic, like “ooh, don’t jump out of the window because you’re angry, calm down”. I was thinking, jump ke? Why would I dream of jumping, when all I can think of is pushing you out of it right here and right now?



I was like, oh boy, can’t you hold yourself? Haba! All the rice he ate that day, was spread out on my beige carpet and the room smelled putrid. With all the cleaning we did, we still need professional cleaners to come in and get rid of the stain. The quote: £50. Not the end of the world...



Can you imagine, I didn’t get an apology until the Wednesday, and even that was a text. You desecrate my room, and all you can do is text? Then on Friday I got an apologetic phone call, in which he presumed to tell me that he knew I had already found space in my heart to forgive him, and that he was too embarrassed to phone on Weds, which is why he texted. Whatever.



Now, here’s a question for you. Do I blame his upbringing for not teaching him that when you ruin something in someone’s house, you fix it? Or do I blame him, for allowing the laissez-faire approach to modern manners to emasculate his sense of duty?



If I puked all over your carpet a) I’d clean it up myself, out of sheer shame and b) I’d handle the cleaning and new linen linen bill so fast, you wouldn't know what happened. If you break a worthless, I dunno, side plate you say sorry and let it fly. If you break crystal or special china, you get on the phone and order up a replacement, even after you've apologised profusely! If you borrow a friend's top and burn cigarette holes in it, you buy her a new one, if you puke on the carpet, you get it cleaned. Basically if you wreak havoc on someone's house/belongings, you go ahead and get it fixed, unless you're specifically asked not to sweat it. But really, it wouldn't bug me if he broke something. I really wouldn't care. The reason I'm so upset is that this is vomit we're talking about. Gut juice. Vomit. Eugh. Of all the yucky fluids capable of leaving the human body, vomit is the one that grosses me out the most, and it's hard to accept that my space has been tainted with it.



The puke-maester said he’d come round on Sunday to sort things out. Have I heard from him since? No.



Without wanting to seem like a mean person, he's taking the piss. What bugs me, on principle, is his lack of remorse, his lack of awareness, that he has a social obligation to make things right. If he offered to handle it, he would have given me the opportunity to say you know what, it’s alright, don’t worry about it, but don’t you EVER do that again. But his brazen “I know you’ve already forgiven me” line…Brother, which oracle are you consulting? I haven’t forgiven nuttin’!



What annoys me the most I think, is there I am, being Little Miss Nurturing and Benevolent again, and what do I get for it? I get puked on. Insult of the highest order! And I haven’t been able to sleep in my room since…

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Another Gem of a Book


First of all, huge apologies for not updating! This is me grovelling, rubbing my palms together…

E jo
Emabinu
Iweliwe o!


And now that we’re cool…






I’ve just finished reading Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. What a book! Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m behind. It’s been around since 1988 and I’m only just getting to it. Well, to use a cliché…actually, I won’t use a cliché! I find it weird though, the pattern that my reading seems to have taken on in the last couple of months, since I started working in Publishing. I’m either going way back to read the all-important, groundbreaking books I’ve always wanted to read, and have never quite got round to, or I’m reading way, way, way ahead, to titles that won’t be out until March/April next year. Kinda cool, huh.

On my retro book menu, still waiting to be devoured, are Perfume by Patrick Suskind and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. The old skool greats I’ve just read and come to love are The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah and Nervous Conditions.

Back to Nervous Conditions…what a book! For something that was written over 18 years ago, I’m amazed at how aptly it captures things, how advanced and perceptive its treatment of the cultural miscellany of the individuals in a colonised country are. Those are issues that are still being faced now. Whether that means nothing has changed since 1988 (which is very worrying indeed) or that Dangarembga saw so well to the heart of the matter all those years ago (which is a sure sign that it’s the truth) I feel I’ve discovered a gem of a book. Rather than being polemic, it’s an exploration of the cultural identity and displacement in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

The characters were all so alive, and the language was just…mmm…I don’t know…juicy. You could tell it was in direct translation from a native dialect, and that gave it a weighty, sincere, beautiful dynamic. I loved Tambudzai’s lightening sharp mind, and the hunger, deep down in her belly, to better herself and overcome her disadvantaged beginnings so she could take care of her little siblings. I loved Nyasha’s intellectual enquiry, and how her being slightly avant-garde made her question many of the native traditions of her parents’ people, and how at the same time, quite unpredictably, she championed the causes of local practises, when it seemed the western ones (brought in by missionaries) were just thinly veiled ways of manipulating her people. Babamukuru, the benevolent but grumpy, patriarch, who said “Er” before everything, and his wife Maiguru, who worshipped her husband, called him her "daddy-sweet" and pretended to be stupid even though she had a Masters in Philosophy just so he wouldn’t think she was undermining his authority; the four of them, placed side by side, created a robust framework in which the theme of the book could operate.

Nyasha’s character posed the most thought provoking questions of all. Will the day ever come when the worldwide model of civilisation is not built solely on Western paradigms? Will the levels of personal development to which we aspire ever be independent of a desire to, for instance, a)sound more and more anglicised b)own a foreign passport c) know the intricacies of the Battle of Waterloo but nothing about the Benin Empire?

Or has the standard been set? Is it damage control from here on in? There’s a song called Beautiful Struggle by Talib Kweli. This is what Nyasha encapsulates in the pastoral setting of 1960s Rhodesia. The only problem is, as beautiful as the struggle was, as noble as her intentions were, the oxymoron of being a Westernised Local was at the very core of her existence. The book ended with Nyasha going mad….

Is there an answer to cultural miscellany?


Many times, I felt like getting a pencil and underlining whole chapters, because the observations were so clear eyed and so damn right, but my mind overruled. Besides, Auntie Jackie says it’s wrong to scribble in books! The humour was there, but controlled. The kind that made you do a knowing smile and shake your head. The kind that made me stop reading for a while on the train to work, think about what I had just read, agree with what I had just read, identify with what I had just read. It was expertly rendered humour, because it wasn’t far out or fantastic – it was uncluttered, simple, the wryness of everyday life.

On a lighter note, I’m really fascinated by sadza, which is what the characters ate a lot of in the book. I really want to try it so if anyone knows a good place in London to try Zimbabwean food, please let me know.

If you don’t already own a copy of Nervous Conditions, please I beg you, sort yourself out!

And Tsitsi Dangarembga you’re a star.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Blogging in a Hurry

I've had a very busy two weeks. Not only have I not had time to blog, but I haven't had time to do anything worth blogging about. Anyway, inspired by feelings of guilt, I've decided to post something quickly. This is something I wrote back in April. It's not new material, but it's material, and after my lofty promises of renewing commitment to the blog, I figure old is beter than nothing, so see what you think. Another reason for the rush is that I need to catch some shut eye, otherwise I'll be a zombie at work tomorrow.

Actually, that's a lie.

The reason I'm blogging in a hurry is that Grey's Anatomy Season 4 is out, and the sun rises and sets out of that show, as I'm sure y'all understand. So, toodles for now. Enjoy the little poem!

Smooches,
Emz



Charades

Who is in full possession of their own heart
Should let me know
That it doesn’t skip for a love of the past
Or a dashing prospect that’s refusing to show.

In what direction does a mind move
Within the tremours of an ache
Defiant smiling pictures can not quite prove
That all your daydreams aren’t at stake.

An inbuilt governance of statstics
Multiplies your desire to get out there
Creating an image, manipulating logistics
You swear there’s luck in the atmosphere

On the smokey web and in steamy clubs
You keenly play charades
Looking for love is openly snubbed
Til the night sky begins to change shades

Thursday, 11 October 2007

True Friendship: None of tha Sissy Crap!

I ABHOR FORWARDS. I DO. BUT THIS ONE CRACKED ME UP. AND I'M GENEROUS. SO HERE YOU GO.



"True" Friendship: None of that Sissy Crap

Are you tired of those sissy "friendship" poems that always sound good, But never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true

1. When you are sad –
I will help you get drunk and
plot revenge against
the fu*king bastard who made you sad.

2. When you are blue -- I will try to
dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile -- I will know you
got laid.

4. When you are scared -- I will take
the piss out of you about it, every
chance I get.

5. When you are worried -- I will tell
you horrible stories about how
much worse it could be until you
quit whinging.

6. When you are confused -- I will
use little words.

7. When you are sick -- Stay away
from me until you are well again. I
don't want whatever you have.

8. When you fall -- I will point and
laugh at your clumsy ass.

9. This is my oath.... I pledge it to
the end. "Why?" you may ask;
"because you are my friend".

Friendship is like peeing
your pants, everyone
can see it, but only you
can feel the true
warmth.

Send this to 10 of your closest friends, then get depressed because you can only think of 4…

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Aretha says: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The month of October is dedicated to something called Black History Month. Hmm. I have conflicting thoughts about the concept. Sometimes, I think it's a laudable pursuit, at other times, I feel like it's totally pointless. In all the time I've been here, I've always consciously refrained from taking part in any of the festivities, but this year, in the vane of trying new things etc, I thought I'd go along to a spoken word/poetry slam at the Museum of London. It ended up being very good, even though there wasn't masses of eye candy to feast on (tee hee!!). Why are all the men born short these days? Anyway, moving right along...


Breis, who works in English and Yoruba, both accompanied and accapella, was an amazing performance poet. He had this song where he pieced together snippets of 80s children's TV (kind of like a retrospective), but it was set to real high life music. It was like rapping to a Fela/Sonny Ade/Lagbaja/Black eyed Peas sound track. Hard to explain, but very entertaining. It's also quite funny, because America (the new flatmate) and I owe him a fiver each. We didn't have any cash on us, because queueing at the cash point would have made us late for the show, and we didn't think we'd be buying anything, anyway. But by the time he was done, we had to have his CD, so he gave us a copy each and said we could pay him back whenever his next gig is. We were like, are you sure? And he was like, are you sure, cos it's you owing me! So now we have fivers sewn into the lining of our handbags, so that if we spot him from a mile off, we can mow him down and pay. God forbid that we should be those two chicks who scammed some dude unintentionally!


Then there was Xena Edwards, who sang in Xosa and shared a new poem she's been working on. You could feel her through her work. With her looking like she was on the verge of tears, it was a very moving experience to watch her baring her soul. And she had this funny little instrument as well, which mesmerised you as she played.


Kat Francois made us all laugh with her parodies of the tube in rush hour. Her poems were accessible and funny, and she did these really cool voice manipulations to give life to her performance. She was funny, and I loved, loved, loved her work, but some stuff she did got me thinking. Or as Carrie Bradshaw would say, I couldn't help but wonder...


The only thing that I find a bit naff about all these Black History Month things, is the predictable way in which people use it as a license to level insult at other cultures. There were many anit-white jibes thrown out from the stage, which let's be honest, if the tables were turned, and a white person threw out those kind of jokes, we'd be calling them racist and boycotting their services. Granted, they were jokes, and they were funny, but I'm not sure that it's right to eat our cake and have it, in the respect game. We can't get people to walk on eggshells around us, and then the moment we get a chance, insult them with things that we wouldn't be willing to accept. D'you see what I mean? Only last week, that lady in the Tory party was sacked for a racist comment someone made about her picture. If a white comedian joked about a black person, it would be the world's greatest catastrophe. Yet, our comedians take the mick out of white people all the time, as she did at this event.


Without meaning to sound like I have my priorities screwed up (which I don't), I think it's something that needs to be adressed. Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you...Yes, we have different cultures, and by virtue of that, I know there are things we'll never understand about each other. There are ways in which we have different opinions about things. There are ways in which every group thinks their society/community is slightly superior to others. No one's denying that. My darling Canadian flatmates never got why I had to oil my scalp in the winter. They thought it was gross, whereas, for my tropical body, it was the only thing I could to to make sure I survived a dry minus 40C winter with a strand of hair left in my head, but there you go! I never got why they called their parents friends or tutors by their first name and not aunty/uncle or Mr/Miss/Mrs - I thought it was the height of rudeness, but like I said, there you go! Sure, we're different and all, but if we can't take disrespect, then we shouldn't be so quick to give it! Does anyone else feel like this, or is it just me?



So anyway, while we're on the subject of poetry, here is a poem by someone whose work I love. She's a good friend, and she just captures the meaning of things so well. You can visit her blog to see more. Enjoy!



And Almost At Peace

Don't wonder about me.
Don't mystify your mind with
the dark smoke of my psyche.
And should you decide to take
a swim in the deep dark water
of my personality at dawn,
you will drown, happily,
in the seduction of my melancholy.
But beware, here be sunshine
reflecting off this cavern's gleaming depths.
The energy of happy serenity is a fix I crave.
I waive the right to inhabit this place.
But it's warm and it's home
And every terrible moment is nontheless
comforting in its familiarity.
The question quickly comes: Am I
a single star in this place,
or another dark and glittering diamond?
Deep shit I know, this desire for expression
always verges on the dramatic.
In my cavern, it's silent.
I live, alone. And almost at peace.



See? Told you it was wonderful! Xx

 
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