29 May

Packed Train: Thoughts on the Undergound 2

  Internal dialogue with girl on the train whose headphones have some serious audio leakage:
“Do you have any more Lauryn Hill? I’m not feeling this track, I don’t do garage music.”

Why do people going to the airports have to take the train? Can’t they just…walk?

Sloane square. I pray everyone gets off and no one gets on. Great. Everyone gets on, no one gets off.

That woman with the white hair is so irritating. Do you think the girl with the blue floral blouse has a catching disease? Move closer in Jor. It’s a packed train!

*offers seat to senior*
“No thanks I’m getting off soon”
So am I- but I don’t say that. It’ll give the impression that I only offered because I was getting off anyway. But I promise you that’s not the case. I was on my phone googling …. I didn’t see her, honest. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to hope she knows this, that I really wanted to give up my seat for her.
 
The guy next to me. His ring tone is the theme song of The Good, The Bad & The ugly. If you’re under 40 years old, just let this one go over your head and gracefully move on to the next.

One day when I have a PA, she’ll go through my inbox and delete every email. Then I’ll put my nose up, pout my lips and strut like I’ve got it going on. Okay i won’t put my nose up, I’ll just pout.

Justjoxy has finaaaaaaly written another blog post- she writes mainly about food or fiction. Exceedingly good read, always. Check out this chicken recipe.

This guy looks like a venture capitalist- the type that invests in tech startups that gross £1m in revenue in the first year and then suddenly goes bust. He will then go on to launch 2 further companies, make an undisclosed amount rumoured to be around the £2bn mark then retire to raise ducks in the countryside. 

Man in the lilac paid shirt. You must have enjoyed your lunch. I can tell you had Mediterranean sauce with your chicken salad. The issue is, if you happen to be single, and tonight you meet the girl of your dreams- you’ve probably blown it with that stain on your shirt. Next time, be sure to wear navy.

Smart & trendy guy in the grey blazer, black and white check shirt and dark denim jeans. Nice attire!

Just seen a newspaper article headline- Bank Holiday traffic will be ‘worst in 3 years’. I promise you, if there was nothing bad to report, the news will read like this;
‘This morning, everyone in the world could have died in their sleep but they didn’t. It was however, a very close shave”. They’ll then dig up some old scientist who lives behind Tesco to come and explain how there is a 0.000000000000000001% chance of a meteor wiping out life on Earth on Monday morning. 

Have you read Thoughts on the underground 1? That was on the Jubilee  line, I think my thoughts vary per tube line. Next time we’ll venture on the central line and see what happens! Thank you for reading, have a lovely long weekend!

08 May

Surviving The Nigeria High Commission, London

“Madam please off your phone we don’t allow phones on.”

“Excuse me, do you not have manners? Ah ah? Who raised you? Why don’t you let me enter before you come out? Ehn?”

“Mama please e ni suru, it’s okay.”

You guessed it, I’m at the Nigeria High commission Northumberland Avenue, London. If you want to test your levels of dignity, visit the Nigeria High Commission. If you think you’ve arrived, that you, an adult cannot possibly throw tantrums and totally lose it, I dare you to go there.

nigeria-high-commisssion

There is a small crowd outside. People are just… standing. They’re standing outside the closed entrance, a heavy brown door- no different from the door of a UK government building. Some are on their phones, others simply staring. I feel compelled to join them and stand, yes, l know sheep mentality. I ask a lady in a red and blue Ankara,

“Excuse me, what’s going on?”

She looks at me like I have two heads; “Nothing.”

“Are they closed?”

“No, you just need to knock.”

“Knock?” I start to walk towards the door, my fist balled up ready to knock. People step aside as I walk up the three or four steps, they are staring at me, and you know our people can stare!

I am beginning to feel like a right idiot as I knock. I’m not sure the woman in Ankara was being sarcastic or not, she had a stern look.

I knock, gingerly. Expecting the crowd behind me to roar with laughter.

To my utter surprise, the door opens.

Yes. At the Nigeria High Commission in London, you knock like it’s a private residence and the door is opened by a man I presume to be the security guard.

An exchange about my phone needing to be switched off occurs and I quickly call my contact. I have a contact who will help me. It is common knowledge that official matters transition better when you have someone on the inside. My contact was referred to me by another contact and we’ve been conversing over the phone but it’s the first time we’ve met.

His eyes light up when I ask if he is Donatus*, “ah, Toks?” Huge smile.

I stretch out my hand to shake his, he takes my winter cold hand in him warm one and refuses to let go- even as we start to go upstairs to his office.

I hover between two minds, do I snatch my hand away and be condemned to hours in the sweltering heat? There’s a crowd and all heaters are blazing for in my country we don’t have winter. The second option will be to use style to sneeze and cover my mouth in which case he might think I’m feigning damsel in distress and he’ll attempt to catch me.

We arrive at his office. His ringtone is Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing and he lets it ring and ring until the chorus plays and plays. He switches it off. It rings again. Awkward. This happens one more time and then he answers; “I’ll meet you downstairs.”

I would have asked if he was anyone’s beau, cos as you know, I’m on the hunt for a beau for my friend, if you know anyone worth interviewing for the position, holler! – but I’m not feeling him so I don’t bother.

Finally, he returns, finishes helping me out with the forms and tells me to follow him downstairs. I was not prepared for the daggers I received mainly from women who assumed I had given him something in exchange for jumping the queue. Their stiff eyelashes chart the path we walk on and my new friend leads me to the end of the room, points to the interview room and tells me to wait, that the guy in the green check shirt will interview me.

“Ehm, w-when?”

“Soon na.”

“Ah, I have to pick my son at 3 o, I hope I can be out by 2pm”

“Haba, of course na. Maybe, maybe,” he shrugs.

There’s a young girl standing in front of me, she looks Igbo. Lovely figure with a perfectly round bum. I notice because I follow my contact’s gaze. She isn’t wearing a ring, her weave is halfway down her back and she isn’t heavily made up, but is very pretty. We strike up a conversation and I start to wonder about her accent. She hasn’t got a pure British accent but it isn’t pure Naija either. I ask her where she’s from.

“My parents are Nigerian.”

“Yeah, I guessed. What part of Nigeria are you from?”

“Ehmmmmmm ehmmmm Ijebu.” She says with a definitive nod and a smile suggesting she is proud of herself for remembering where she hails from and even pronouncing it. Her intonation is so off, an Oyibo would have done a better job of saying Ijebu.

She has a few scars on her neck and I determine she got into a fight with her ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. The pretty ones, they say tend to be the fiery ones. Plus she’s no more than 5ft and as you know short people have a temper.

Another man joins us. His face is covered in neatly cut tribal marks.

He is worried he won’t get a passport because his birth certificate is missing. An official walks past us and he taps her;

“Sister, please. Err err my birth certificate is missing. Ma.”

“Ok, do you have your passport?”

“Err yes and no”

“Yes and no bawo? You either have it or you don’t.” She turns her nose up and raises her head slightly. She is tall, about 6ft and the man is no more than 5’6″. So when she looks down at him, she does so in every sense of the word.

“Well er, you see, the issue is this. I don’t have a Nigerian passport.”

“Ok, so what did you come to the UK with then?”

“I’m British.”

“Ok so you came to England with a British passport?” She says ‘British passport’ with a little laugh.

“No, I came with my Kenyan passport Ma”

“Oh, you’re from Kenya?”

“No, from Nigeria.”

“How did you get a Kenyan passport?”

“My uncle got it for me.”

“So you have Kenyan, British and now you want Nigerian?” She sneered.

“Y-yes” it’s almost as though the same words now proceeding from the woman’s mouth have been stripped of all confusion and now the simplicity in the meaning is laid bare. It is as though for the first time in his life, he understands himself.

She eyes him up and down. “No one will give you a Nigerian passport. You have to revoke either the Kenyan or the British one.”

“Ha?! I’ve been here since 8am! No one told me. Will I get me money back? What do I do now?” He is visibly shaken.

She leans very closely to him and whispers: “See ehn, when you enter, just don’t say anything about Kenya.” She waves her hand left and right to emphasise her point. “Don’t just mention Kenya. Just say you don’t have a Naija one, you have a britico one. Simples.”

I spot an old, old friend. I’m not sure if I should try and get his attention- he fell out with my friend’s friend and we haven’t seen him in nearly 20 years. From his teeth and his mannerisms, I know it’s him. He hasn’t changed much. Pudgier, bald, a bit darker but that’s all. It’s definitely him.

I avoid making eye contact, people are strange he may decide to take up his anger against our mutual friend on me. Eventually, We cross paths in the canteen where you go to get a signal on your phone. I call out his name. I am at peace with whatever his reaction will be.

“Ahhhh!!!! Tooooookkkkkssss!!” Big hugs, back clapping etc.

We catch up in all of three minutes all that’s happened in the last 15 years. Family, work, life. His ticket number is called and we part ways- he goes upstairs for biometrics while I await my fate.

My number is called for the interview. Seated across the table is a bespectacled woman whom you know if she were in Naija would have drivers, house helps and a gardener.

“Why are you here?” She doesn’t waste her glance on me. The contents of her handbag seem to interest her more.

“I’m applying for my Nigerian passport.” I speak slowly and deliberately, an attempt at infusing the utmost respect into my voice.

“So you don’t have one?”

It is both statement and a question so I don’t answer, one does not want to come across as insulting and thereby lose one’s place in the queue.

“You have applied under a different name.”

“Yes, my maiden name”

“Are you divorced?”

“No.”

“Separated?”

“No.”

“So why don’t you want to use your husband’s name?” She looks at me like I just crawled out from under a molue. As though I don’t realise just how privileged I am to be able to use another man’s name legally. After all, in our culture are women not meant to aspire towards becoming Mrs?

“I chose my maiden name because the only link I have to my heritage is my surname, which isn’t a typical Nigerian name, my guarantors (parents) share the same surname so I was hoping this will be smooth sailing.” Even as I speak I realise I have confused her more. a simple “because I wanted to” would have sufficed. Cost me my place in the queue, but still sufficed. Their website had called for a letter from my local government area in Nigeria to prove I was indeed Nigerian. That in itself opened another can of worms because of my surname.

“In that case, you have to start the application from scratch”

“Ok fine, married name then please.”

I have never had a conversation this long about my own names and my choice to use either.

“If you’re using your married name, you need a letter of consent from your husband as well as a copy of his passport as proof that you share the same name.”

“Not to worry,” I beam with confidence and whip out my ammunition, “I have my marriage certificate.”

“You still need a letter of consent.”

“Letter of consent?”

“Of course na, to show that he consents to you using his name, that he has permitted you.”

“Even though his name is on the marriage cert?” Here’s me thinking the maiden name would eliminate this extra drama.

She looks at me like I have no sense.

“Yes. Even. though. his. name. is. on. the. marriage. certificate. Ok please wait outside to be called for biometrics.”

I plunk I myself on the grey metal chair feeling really sorry for myself yet thankful that I have crossed one hurdle. Of course I have no idea how many more are left.

Soon after, an announcement is made for us all to go upstairs exactly 4 hours after I arrived at the high commission. I am greeted with a seated crowd of seething Nigerians. No one is smiling. Everyone stares blankly at the flat screen TV which is trying hard to broadcast what appears to be a light-hearted documentary. The presenter is clearly living her dream, it consists of holding a mic and speaking into a 30-year-old camera. I know the camera is that old because the audio and visual are so fuzzy, you’d think it was a visual and audio effect going on, I assure you that’s not the case.

My friend invites me to sit with him. My headache which started brewing an hour ago is now gathering waves. My neck aches from staring at the monitor, checking for my number. And he begins to talk. And talk and talk. He tells me about his daughter who is leading her school in the top girls netball them in the country. His son who has just won a scholarship and the youngest who just passed his 11 plus. Due to a ‘technicality’, he didn’t get into any of the schools but they have appealed and the case will be won. After all, the council are familiar with his name having won an award in the past. I had forgotten how well my old friend could brag.

He tells me about his friend who was invited to speak at W.H.O, and how the said friend’s experience in Belgium is proof that ‘the present administration is failing’. Why else will other speakers from Nigeria be late for the event? He proceeds to show me a picture of the letter headed invitation as proof. That this administration is failing. And Buhari is a fraud.

My headache is worsening.

A suave looking guy with pointy, snake-skin shoes strolls in. “Ladies and gentlemen, good and bad news. Our server is down in Abuja. This means those of you with epassports are affected, you can choose to wait, or return another day.”

Sounds of frustration begin.

“So when you say wait, how long na?” The man with a thick Igbo accent asks.

“Oga, na server na, how we go no when server go start to dey work again? No one can predict these things.”

Clusters of conversation begin to merge into one loud noise.

“This country, ehn?”

“In Nigeria it’s not even this bad.”

“Welcome to naijaaaaa!” A joker chimes in.

“This is preposterous!” The one in the suit and tie adds.

“My children haven’t eaten all day,” moans the woman with a buggy in front of her, a baby asleep in it. Her toddler’s standing a few feet away, chewing on her doll’s foot.

Me? I’m fed up. The headache has reached the level of ice-cold cloth on my head, dark room and no noise.

My friend on the other hand who I forgot to mention, jabs at you when he’s making a point did not stop talking. “This our country, when will it change?” Jab jab jab-jab, jab jab jab jab.

I decide I can’t take any more of this. It is nearly 6pm and I’m stuck in a packed room. I go to the biometrics room where 5 men and women spend 30 mins each taking one photograph.

The woman with the baby and buggy is in there moaning about being there since 7am.

“Madam there is no way you’ve been here since 7am, no way”

“Are you saying I’m lying?”

“Habaaa madam? What’s your number?”

“233”

He starts to laugh and all the others join in. “If you were here at 7 your number will be a lot lower than that. Anyway sha, sit down I’ll see you soon.”

I can’t be bothered to tell you about the drama that erupted when an Igbo man dared to tell a Yoruba woman that she was courting favours. I won’t even go into her acidic reaction and the way the man backed down quick, quick.

I was told the 64-page passport that I applied for was out of stock, and even though when I applied online it was the other way round. I was told that the 32 was out of stock and I was forced to pay the higher price for the 64-page passport. I didn’t tell her that. I didn’t ask for the difference to be returned. I just wanted to get out.

So I did.

Tips for survival:

Go with cash- for food. There is a lovely lady that sells good food in the canteen at the back. It’s a precursor to your arrival and walking into mama Bimpe’s buka in Ikeja.

Be prepared to beg, but it might not lead anywhere.

Take some tissue and your entire makeup up purse, you will cry- real tears.

Be nice to every single official, you don’t know what side your bread is buttered.

Blank out your entire day. Sort out school runs, babysitting, dinner, everything. It really is a whole day affair.

It helps if you know someone who works there, it’ll raise your hopes up but it may not lead anywhere.

If you’re in a bad mood, it’ll only get worse. You are better off starting on a high so by the time you’re done all you’ll feel is extreme irritation and you won’t actually lose your mind. Alternatively, change your appointment date.

That said, I love Nigeria, I love Nigerians and totally love being Nigerian. Other embassies may not have you literally knocking on the door but we have got to be the coolest people God created. Bar none.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Apr

Why I ate a 120g Bar of Cadbury’s Whole Nut Chocolate.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to think that large chocolate bars were for a certain group, those with overhanging stomachs and fat cheeks that sported scraggly beards. I thought it was for those whose future lay in a reality TV show which involved very large clothes and  the title, “My 300 Lb life.”

I had just had a successful business meeting. Even the terms I was reluctant to request were offered to me on a platter.

I left their head office with a spring in my step and felt my tummy rumble- all I’d had for breakfast was lemon water. I felt sufficiently hungry- and deserving- of a decent lunch, like Wagamama’s or Nando’s. I craved sautéed vegetables and well-seasoned chicken. Or breaded prawns dipped in mayonnaise. Or fried rice with mixed meats (and the meats not cut too finely). Armed with my phone map, I pulled up directions to the nearest Wagamama and began to make my way, all the while having a debate with myself on what reaction I’d have should I walk past Nando’s. I can never have enough of their fino creamy mash. Plus I like chicken too- although I’ve switched to turkey and lamb as our meats of choice at home. Perhaps I’ve missed having chicken, maybe that’s why I was already feeling powerless against any upcoming Nando’s sign.

Wagamama had a large board advertising Ramen. The play on words said come ramen in. (Come right in). That was a problem. My mind skated back to a YouTube video I watched last year where an endoscopy was done on a person who had just eaten ramen. It apparently takes twice the time to digest as normal food does. As I type this I still don’t know if ramen is the same as noodles, I only know that hubby’s colleague is supposedly ‘nuts over ramen’ and university students ‘live on it’.

I try to peer through the cracks of the tourist family of 5 who have spread themselves in front of the menu board outside.

I scan the area for another menu board and my eyes are drawn to a large poster advertising succulent steak. Right beneath it are the words; “Lunch Special, £7.95.” My fate is sealed with that glance. Like a sheep to slaughter, I make my way into “Steak & Co.” I wait in anticipation for my meal. I’ve ordered The lunch special- Chicken on a Bed of Fries. It arrives.

Now I have a problem with sauces that match the main meal. Chicken, fries and now this white mushroom sauce are all shades of the same colour. It does nothing for my appetite. I pray fervently that it tastes good. I start by dousing my meal with black pepper and salt. I can tell by just looking at it. My fork locates a piece of chicken hiding under a thick blob of sauce. My mind immediately conjures up a picture of Chef Gordon Ramsey as he goes to those failing restaurants to revive them.

“What’s this?” He barks.

“It’s our lunch special,” the trembling waitress replies.

Chef Ramsey is known for his temper and foul mouth.

He digs into it, tastes the chicken and shouts for the manager.

“When did you buy this chicken?!”  He is now tapping his fingers on the table.

“Err 2 months ago.”

“What?!!! F;%#%”

“Chef, it’s frozen and hasn’t expired..yet..”

“Are you telling me that you, a fine-dining restaurant serves frozen chicken? It’s a wonder you’re still in business.

“This is absolutely, absolutely disgusting.” And he slams the table with his white napkin before announcing; “Right, we closing this place down”

The above scene is played out by me, except I am Chef Ramsey and I don’t actually call for the manager.

“How’s your meal madam?”

I offer a fake smile, “Not good.”

I surprise myself. Ever since hitting 40 I say what I think. It is so liberating,

“Really? Why?” The 5ft 3in waitress feigns pain.

“It’s bland, not very nice at all.” I use my fork to show her the drenched fries, the sickly sauce and the obvious puke-factor of the meal.

“The only reason I’m eating it is because I paid for it. Can I have the bill please?”

“Sure, I’m so sorry, I’ll tell…them.”

Toks, why are you eating it just because you paid? Isn’t that double jeopardy? Bad enough you’ve lost £10 now you want to create a horrible memory too? Who did you offend?

I push the food away and wistfully long for the age when I’ll be brave enough to ask for my money back.

The waitress returns with the card machine.

“So!” She starts cheerfully, “where are you off to next?”

I want to tell her I would have gone to Nando’s but it wouldn’t be fair for their waitress to mop up my mess since I’ll be projectile vomiting the Steak & Co ‘Lunch Special’ at the next place I step into.

I don’t. Instead, I say, “Home.”

“How nice!” She chirps. “Very lucky, so work is done for the day then?”

Can this heifer not see that I am pissed at their crappy food? Did she not hear when I said it wasn’t nice? And did she not say, “Sorry I’ll tell them?”

I leave the building after fighting off the urge to advise the American couple on my way out to run before their food arrives. But then again who knows? They may love it so much this might be the reason they saved thousands of dollars for a trip to London. This might be their star attraction.

And that’s why I bought and ate a 120g of Cadbury’s Whole Nut at Victoria station. To erase the taste and the memory of the steak co, and to pacify myself after the loss of £10 and 35 mins.

03 Dec

How to Rock the School Run

You dash out of the house cradling your coat, your brown belt, bronze lipstick and bag. You snatch #4’s coat out of his little arms as he struggles to walk with his lunch bag and rucksack. You get into the car to discover you left your phone plugged in by your bed. That’s when you nearly trip as you bound up the stairs to retrieve it. You tell #4 to put his seatbelt on, wonder why your annoying neighbour chose to shout her greeting today rather than say it, do a quick 180 degree spin of the car and leave a cloud of dust behind.

You ask #4 what lessons  he has in school today while mentally searching for the person you offended that has now cursed caused you to end up behind the Peugeot 205 that’s driving as though it’s in a parade of some sort. This appears to be a deliberate ploy to rile you. But you resist the temptation and hold on to your joy as you drive. Slowly. You grit your teeth- a mixture of irritation and relief as the car pulls to the right. Now you are left to nurse the guilt that’s rising like bile at the realisation that the driver is a pensioner. Anxious thoughts of ageing start to cloud your mind- but you push those out too. Because you know if you don’t you will begin to recall foods that cause ageing. You’ll remember the last thing you had for breakfast yesterday. Bread. You ate bread with a slab of butter and sliced mushrooms and scrambled eggs neatly arranged on like they do at Carluccio’s. Did you not say you’d stop eating gluten and dairy? You will then begin to make new vows to change your diet and start exercising again. So you refuse to think about ageing. And health. And looming changes in your appearance. You don’t imagine your mostly black hair becoming mostly grey. You choose instead to chat with #4 by answering his random question; “how does a woman know when she’s meant to have a baby?” Not so random really as you’ve just gone past the heavily pregnant mum who was due to have her baby last week, and you just exclaimed ‘the baby still hasn’t arrived!’

Your left hand rummages through your bag for your eyeliner which you are sure you threw in as you left the house, the green shoulder bag your friend Aji bought you from Spain.

You drop off #4 after a failed attempt at kissing him. He says he just doesn’t want a kiss when you ask him if he’s okay. He says it with a small smile. You remember his teacher’s words last parents evening, that he is a ‘very factual’ boy, he is not dreamy. You smile at God’s blessing as you release him from your grip and rush to the car praying the traffic warden hasn’t showed up with his oversized uniform and parking ticket paraphernalia.

Off you go for your first appointment of the day following the school run. You are accompanied by the songs of India Arie and presently being stirred up by the words;

” You inspire me the way you make me feel inside is amazing
Your honesty your artistry is engaging
You are everything I hope to be”

You take in the ‘rolling hills and glowing trees of Kent. Kent, which you love so much. Only 8 years ago you were sad to move back here. Now you love being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation.

You dither at the mini roundabout as you doubt your own right of way since bus 216 is racing down like its the one with the right to pass.
India Arie is now singing Video– you admire her sheer guts at singing the naked lyrics- sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don’t…Such courage. The song has you glued to the seat of your car as you rock from side to side singing at the top of your voice. You have arrived but you are not about to deny yourself the joy of singing. So you sing. And sing. And sing. And you knock on the door 7 minutes late.

10 Oct

Toks goes to Downing Street

First you touch your hair after receiving the invitation. Like most black women, my confidence is unevenly distributed and linked to my hair. So you touch your hair as you wonder if it is Downing Street worthy. Next you mentally scan your wardrobe and the department store occasion wear section all in the space of one minute.  Then you wonder what you’d say in conversation? My extent of global politics begins and ends at ‘should I do the laundry now or wait till the kids get back from school, that way they have an extra clean shirt for the week?’ Or ‘Did I remember to take out the chicken for the freezer before I left to do even more grocery shopping?’ I wonder what clumsy spirit will take hold of me. After all wasn’t it me who spilled water on a news anchor’s shoes at a posh event at The Waldorf? Will I sneeze and stuff fly onto the lapel of the  prime minister’s Saville row suit? Or will I drop my plate of canapés on the ridiculously expensive yet muted coloured carpet of the Prime Minister’s drawing-room? And when that happens do I wait for the staff to pick it up or do I do so myself? If I choose to clear the mess will I not be viewed as subservient? Won’t it cause all black people to be seen as so low that we automatically switch to servant mode when the opportunity presents itself? And if I decide to leave it to the servants, what do I do during that eternal minute before they arrive?

The night before.

Since you don’t want to appear ignorant you find yourself reading the genealogy of the Prime Minister and his wife. You were meant to only read about their parents and children, so you have an emotional platform for conversation but the spirit of Wikipedia possesses you and takes you six generations off course. You discover they both come from influential, wealthy families. That’s also when you learn that as at the last election we no longer had a deputy PM. You conclude that a commoner cannot possibly become PM as they all seem to come from very good stock. You wonder what juju Obama used to get into office and if Jeremy Corbyn has at yet been introduced to the same babalawo.

How about the journey there?

Do you simply walk up to the door, no 10 Downing Street,  the black door flanked by two policemen as we see on the news- do you just walk up there like I walk up to Suzy’s house and… knock?

Enroute and I begin to wonder if RSVPing twice was such a good idea after all. What if the second email cancelled out the first? Thankfully I’ve kept the news quiet so it’s only about four people that will be made aware of my klutzness (Hubby’s word of the month) should I arrive and I’m denied entry. But really what would I do? How would I wear the shame on my face? Will I smile it away or just cry it out? I decide I should cry. Crying is a better option in this case because years from now as the story is told about the Nigerian girl who couldn’t even RSVP to an invitation from the Prime Minister, it wouldn’t end with ‘would you belive she was smiling sheepishly when they denied her entry?’ Tears it will be. My confidence picks up once that dilemma is settled.

The man sitting behind me on the train is on the phone ordering 4kg of dry ice and a large block of ice. He is very insistent and stresses the urgency of the dry ice. What do ordinary people use dry ice for? I want to ask him why. Oh wait, he’s giving out his phone number. Should I call that number and ask him what he wants the dry ice for?

Mum just called. She’s screaming with joy. ‘Is it true my daughter? You are going to see the Prime Minister? Ehen! God is great o!!!’ The phone suddenly dies, and then autotune-like  sounds start to emanate instead of my mummy’s voice. I knew it. The thought that I was being bugged did cross my mind, after all wouldn’t they have checked me out and ‘swept’ my house and phone to make sure I had no links with Boko Haram? or Jeremy Corbyn?  At this point I’m so glad I don’t allow negative words on my Facebook page. Imagine if I was one of those who curse out the PM and his cabinet regularly? Can you imagine if I chomped on the hand that will be feeding me canapés, ( I later find out) today?

The walls in the hallway are mustard. Very mustardy, and there are massive portraits of predecessors long dead pressed onto the walls. The lady in that picture looks familiar- it’s The Queen! In black and white? I wonder why. Such a natural looking picture of her majesty. Up the second flight of stairs and into the drawing room. Canapés. Juices. Wine. No wine for me, wine is what causes me to spill drinks on people’s shoes or start talking about my Brazilian ancestry when asked the meaning of my Nigerian name. Wine might cause me to start referring to the PM as Dave or DC or even’D’. So no wine, just juice. I look around and feel very chuffed at the company I’m in. I chat with a few friends and acquaintances and meet some new folks. I start a conversation with a woman who introduces herself to me with her first and last name. She does it the way it’s done when someone tells you their first name and they don’t get a roaring applause, then they add their last name so that recognition first dawns on you, then shame overwhelms you as you realize that in your own stupidity you didn’t recognize them. Only in my case I really don’t know her.

Off I go to chat with another lady, a solicitor. She notices a closed door with flashing lights coming out of the gaps and we decide our man Dave must have landed. We saunter towards the door. Sure enough, he appears. Skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom. So soft you want to stroke his cheek. Taller than I imagined too and very warm, personable and friendly. He makes his way around the room and eventually reaches me. Power is good o! See everyone calling him ‘Sir’. A firm handshake and a smile. ‘So where do you fit into all of this then?’ He asks what I do. I tell him my profession and there’s a hint of the surprise I see in most people’s faces when they find out for the first time what I do. But his hint is so controlled it’s almost not there. A fleeting shadow if you will. This room is packed with the who’s who of entertainment, sports and business. And there’s me. Toks. Oswald Boateng needs to eat a bit more I think, but I don’t tell him that.

David Cameron gives a speech and immediately afterwards I find myself talking to a lovely guy-  I begin to court him mentally for my bestie. I start to get annoyed in advance should she tell me ‘she isn’t feeling him,’ he’s not the one or there’s just no chemistry. My anger dissipates slowly seconds after I discover he is married. I want to ask him if all is well in his marriage, but I change my mind. He’s an ex-Royal Navy officer and I’m sure he knows just what nerve to pinch and finish me off. The phrase ‘all the good ones are taken’ snakes its way around my mind, I shake off that thought and keep my eye out for an available suitor.

I spend the second half of the evening chatting with my new friend and catching up with a few others. It’s time to go home. More than half the folks are gone, but here I am still basking in the very shocking fact that I am in the PM’s residence, and leaving to go home would erase the truth. It’s not like they’ll let us back in if we stepped outside and changed our minds to come back in. The security and process to come in was like going through Stansted airport without the loud Ibiza holiday-clubbing crew. As I leave, I know I’ll be back someday for something, I just don’t know when. Down the stairs, I retrieve my phone which they took from us and I get my coat.

On the train, I gist with Joxy and Suzy. The train is packed and the guy standing in front of me has such thick beautiful hair, it’s egging me on to grab a fistful just to confirm its real. When you’ve been to number 10 you start to think anything goes, even grabbing strangers’ hair on the 19:18 train to Orpington.

My key fits into the lock of number 17 and I am met with reality as my number 3 greets me with; “Hi mum, I think I need a doctor, I hurt my foot whilst playing football.”

 

08 Jun

The Mother-in-Law ‘saves the day’

It isn’t often one receives a phone call at 00:40, the very early hours of Monday.

imageI needed to do some thinking and get rid of some negative energy. One way I do so is by writing. Another is by cleaning, my choice if it’s heavy stuff. I chose cleaning. I felt there were aspects of my life I had left unattended to and now the chickens were coming home to roost. Cleaning and decluttering my kitchen wasn’t just expending the bad energy, it was symbolic too. As I tossed one old newspaper or expired birthday greeting card, I was removing old information and expired viewpoints. The icing on the cake would be using the scented solution I just happened on to wash the kitchen floor, hmm!!

Imagine my surprise when the home phone rang. At 00:40. I stared at it, I didn’t have my glasses on so couldn’t see the number display from where I stood. I said a quick prayer as my mind flew to my parents in Nigeria.

It was a UK mobile phone, a familiar number that I’ve refused to memorise. I picked it up.

“Toks!”

“Yes mum, are you ok?”

“They say a cosmic wave is coming. Don’t sleep with your mobile phone next to you. It will happen tonight between 12 midnight and 3am.”

“Mum?” I know she’s ok physically, I’m now wondering about her mental state. She was fine when I spoke to her this morning so where is this coming from?

“Yes, did you hear me? Don’t put your phone near your body tonight even if it’s off, cosmic waves are being released and it is very dangerous. I just got the text.” She delivers that last sentence with an air of importance, the type that’s used when one has been privy to classified government information.

My mind instantly becomes a war zone. Should I enjoy the pleasure of telling mother-in-law that she is seriously mistaken? That this is a hoax that’s been going around- I later find out- for a year? Or should I give her the pleasure of knowing she saved our lives by feigning relief and gratitude that she delivered us from death by planetary explosion?

I decide to try a third unrehearsed route;

“Mum! You scared me, I thought something had happened!” That way I come across like the caring daughter-in-law

“Is this not something? This is the something that has happened now! You don’t think this is serious enough?” She has now taken on a condescending tone, but carries on; “Do you think I should call your sister-in-law to warn her?”

“No, no, no”, I toss in a chuckle. “Don’t mum, you can tell her tomorrow”

“But it’s happening tonight! That’s what I’m trying to tell you Toks, the cosmic waves are coming tonight.”

“Mum it’s not real, these things are circulated often, it’s a hoax.”

“Anyway please go round to all the boys” (like there are 10 of them) “and check their phones, you hear?”

“Yes mum.”

She didn’t hear that part, she’d already hung up.

There are several reasons why this is worrying. If the hoax creators have taken to spreading their messages by text, then they have just discovered their PR candidate. This means there’ll be many more middle of the night phone calls.

And it’s not like I can switch off the phones in case there’s a real emergency.

On the one hand I want to set her straight in case she falls for a riskier scam, but on the other hand why take away the feeling of martyrdom that swaddles her as she saves our lives, one hoax after another?

Tell me, what should I do?

09 May

Allow me to Reintroduce Myself

meetI had a bit of a tussle as to where this post should go. It fits in more with my Let’s Brunch blog, yet sometimes I feel there isn’t much to take away from Pawpaw & Mango, since all that happens is I press play and you sit down and watch what’s behind the scenes in my household.

I love to garner lessons from experiences, it’s probably the one constant in my everyday life. Each night as I lie down to sleep I replay the day’s events. Throughout the day I would have come across lessons, selected some and tossed them into a basket to attend to later. Occasionally though I pick up a lesson that slows me to a stop, I bring out my phone or journal- depending on my proximity to either- and quickly make a note of the profound lesson. My family and friends are then left bear the brunt of that pause, for I don’t stop talking about it. I press it into them the way you’d press flower petals into your skin to transfer its colour- organic tattoos people? Last year, however, I reached an understanding of the Tao saying; when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. We are constantly at different stages of readiness for various lessons. It is pointless teaching a 16-year-old on the cusp of her youth about the challenges of motherhood. She isn’t quite there yet. Hopefully.

I’ll pause to share what I’m listening to as I type this- Anita Baker is my favourite singer and that is another thing about me that is yet to change- My favourite song is Priceless. It has been from the days when my music collection was all of three albums on  tape. The album, Giving you the Best that I got has seen me through the best and worst times. Rapture, is another favourite.  Rapture is the one song that convinces me I’m a great singer, all others- not so much lol!!

Back to my thoughts.  A lesson I learned recently is this: People Change.

I got confirmation of this when I spoke to my precious dad about the Nigerian elections, he said Buhari had been a dictator and all, but people change. He happened to say those words at the exact time I was coming to the realisation that people indeed change., plus of course with his wisdom, when my dad speaks, you listen! 

When I was about to get married, my mechanic gave me a piece of advice. He said don’t discuss your marital problems with people because when you’ve moved on from the problem, other people don’t move on from where they last saw you. Of course, I froze at the word ‘problems’. I hadn’t said ‘I do’ yet and considered backing off, I don’t like problems. His words ring true in every facet of life. Have you defined yourself with words that are no longer the case, but people still see you in that light- not because they stubbornly refuse to move on, but because they believed you the first time you said it? Now I’m learning that perhaps it is better to be defined by your actions than your words because words carry on ringing true even when the actions are silenced.

Then again, I may be wrong. I have a friend who has displayed some unsavoury behaviour in the past. I had the opportunity to have some one on one time with her recently and dare I say, she has changed. I think. I did, however, approach her with that ominous feeling, barricading my emotions and going ahead to ensure any acidic words will not hit their target. You know how the CIA sweep an area for weeks prior to the President arriving? Yes, I sweep my immediate space before I meet with certain people and set up bomb deterrents just in case.

That said, I am enjoying the new me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m now in my forties or not but this decade is already proving to be my best one yet- so if you’re not there yet, never fear it’ll be awesome!

My friend suggested to me a while back to combine all my blogs- I have three- and write from one platform. I snickered as I thought about how clueless she was. I was dogmatic about keeping my multiple personalities away from each other, just in case they didn’t get along. To my surprise, it is already happening. As you know (like I have regular readers) last year was all about authenticity. Now I have swallowed the pill marked with the words, ‘not everyone will dig you’. And that’s fine.  I find myself moving slowly towards a new season where I’m getting more comfortable with merging the three blogs. For starters, I won’t have that confused stare when I meet people who say; ‘Toks, great to meet you, I love your blog!’ My response is always, ‘Nice!!! Thank you so much for reading, err, which blog?’

On that note, please visit my other blog,  LetsBrunch.co.uk. It’s an inspirational space that leans more towards Christian values but you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it. Blog number 3, well that’s a different matter entirely. I’ll share that in due course.

Perhaps I should have titled this post Never say Never, but I don’t think those words ever made the cut of best opening lines of a rap song.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read,  go away and come back to read again. I cherish every comment- offline and online and literally get goosebumps when I get a thumbs up for my posts. And that isn’t just my ego speaking.

Enjoy Ms Baker’s ‘Priceless‘ with me and have a fantastic weekend!

 

 

 

 

02 May

Own Clothes’ Day and other Developments

I don’t think it’s fair that I share how my day went with you, but you don’t tell me about yours. Tell me what you’ve been up to in the comments box at the end of the post 😉

It’s ok Toks, breathe. You look like you’ve got it all together, you run a business and have a husband and four sons all adorable in every sense of the word. Your boys look well looked after, no one can tell that you scream at them like a mad woman indoors, you can handle this.

This was my pep talk as I made my way to #4’s school for the second time this morning. Now I know why when we first arrived, the headteacher looked at him until he disappeared into the school gates, but never looked back at me to smile as she usually does. Every child was in yellow. Every. Except mine. Yes, it was yellow own clothes day for Alzheimer’s or whooping cough- or some disease. I started to mentally go through his drawer as I drove back home for a yellow top. Nada. Then I went through each of his brothers wardrobes and recalled #3 used to have a yellow T-shirt which I hated. Did I toss it? Did hubby? That man! Always tossing stuff!!!

I arrive home and find a black shirt with orange stripes. I look at it from every angle each time convincing myself it would pass for yellow, it simply depends on how much of a fault-finder you are. I find a black cap with a bit of yellow threading. I contemplate rushing to Primark for a yellow t-shirt, but I don’t see the time logic in that.

Back in the car, I slowly déjàvu myself down Elm road to his school. I draw comfort from the fact that at least the school hasn’t called me, I noticed first. It could have been worse. I could have remained oblivious to the glaring yellow dresses and shirts, but I didn’t. Surely observation and swift action must score me some points?  A quick glance at my phone reveals 2 missed calls. One is from my tradesman who keeps calling me Tosk, and the other is from the school. The voice message denies me any sense of pride as it tells me #4 is crying, he told his teacher it was because he bumped his head on Chloe’s, but the teacher just knows it’s because he’s not wearing yellow. And can I please bring him something if I’m not far? That last ‘please’ concocts 2 emotions in me.

1) Renewed love for the school he attends. They care so much for the kids and play the role of mummy very well.

2) I’m the mummy here, why does this voicemail make me feel like they’re doing a better job at being mum than I am?

I walk into the school dragging behind me the carcass of my dignity and rehearse my nonchalant speech as to why for the second time in as many weeks I forgot own clothes day. I survive the knowing smiles they offer me.

The mother in law has had minor surgery on her foot and is at my home, she would like to go back to her house today, she announced yesterday and again this morning. As I make my way back home I contemplate my options. I have a busy day ahead and driving through the overcrowded streets of South London is absent from my list. Each morning when I arrive at work I do the most dreaded task first. It’s called eating the frog. The drive to my mother-in-law’s house is my frog. Should I give the juiciest part of my day to frog eating & get it out of the way or keep the pulsating creature in full view to address it at the end of the day? I decide I don’t want it breathing heavily over my mind all day so off we go.

In the car, she informs me that ‘the corpse’ of her club secretary is being flown back to Nigeria. She says ‘corpse’ at the exact moment I shove a sausage roll into my mouth. I manage to swallow the unbroken bits hurriedly. Why do Nigerians talk like that? Couldn’t she simply have simply said he was flown home? Or even the body was taken home? As if that isn’t enough she goes on to explain how the corpse was ‘butchered’, read has stab wounds, and the viewing won’t be done during the wake keeping since it is unsightly. This part of the conversation happens while I’m swallowing a mouthful of pineapple juice. My mind, insistent as it is, conjures up neat, even cuts like you see on grilled tilapia- with yellow liquid oozing out. I swallow my juice, which tastes like blood and make a mental note not to eat and drive with her in the car again.

The Nigerian elections got me super excited, I was on a roll and I apologise to the friends I kept texting even in the middle of the night. The highlight for me was when the Rivers state election results were being read by the guy who introduced himself with several titles. Add to that the sign language interpreter whose actions bore a striking resemblance to that of the Mandela funeral interpreter’s. Then there were the memes that followed:

jegaThis one was in reference to the cool and calm manner displayed by the INEC chairman following another bit of drama.

#4 has advanced in many ways but sadly has regressed in others. The last 4 nights have had him creeping into our bed in the middle of the night. If he curled up on a spot and remained quiet through the night I wouldn’t say a word. I’ll simply cuddle him and enjoy the last few years of having a pre-tween. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. He fights and argues in his sleep. Snatching toys or whatever it is from his brothers. He holds full conversations. I hope it isn’t the watching of too much TV that’s got his mind wide awake at 2am while his body sleeps. I have reduced his TV time sha and he isn’t happy. But I don’t care, I just want to sleep. And raise a sane and successful child. And remember when it’s yellow, red or green t-shirt day.

How about you, what have you been up to?

04 Mar

Conversations at the Hairdressers’

“We don’t mind who gets elected, our prayer is that anyone who does not better our country will surely die!”

“Amen!!!”

My day started at the hairdressers and I was wise enough to be in no hurry. It takes 5 hours for the fastest braider to complete my hair so I usually block out my calendar for the day. The shop was only just starting to welcome its clients when I arrived, consequently I was rewarded with the most comfortable chair- an armchair that was once fully upholstered in faux crocodile skin. After hearty exchanges of greetings- there were five hairdressers and three clients- the topic swung over from the Nigerian elections to men. Conversations in black hair salons have this distinction about them. Questions and comments are typically not directed to anyone in particular and the obligation to answer is equally shared by all.

One of the ladies recently moved ‘to outside London’ and she was full of gist.

“Has your husband found work yet?”

“No o, not yet even though it was his idea that we move away from London.”

“Ah ah! How about you now? What were you expected to do with your business?”

“My sister you know men, all they care about is themselves, the woman doesn’t count. We don’t matter.”
Nods and glances are passed around; “it’s true, it’s true.”

“My main concern was my daughter, thankfully she’s fine and has settled in nicely at school.”

“I hear schools in outside London are good?”

“Yes o! Didn’t you know?” Interrupts a previously uninterested customer.

“My daughter’s class has 30 kids”, Beatrice continues. I wait for the clause, don’t all state schools have about 30 children?
“In her London school there were 30 kids and only 4 were oyinbo. She used to come home speaking Yoruba to me.”

The shop breaks for a burst of laughter. Loving the effect she has on her clients she carries on;

“One day I went swimming and I met one white man. He asked me, can I be your friend? I said sure. The truth is I wanted to befriend him for my friend who’s looking for a husband.”

“Ezeoku?”(really?)

“Yes o. But my friend said that’s not the type of oyinbo she wants.”

“Which type does she want now?”

“She wanted the real one, not the Woolwich one that is practically Naija.”

“Isn’t a man a man? Does she or does she not want to marry?”

“A man is a man”, chorused 2 women in unison.

“True. Their balls are carved with the same knife.”
Another laughter break.

“It’s true, she carries on, if you pick out all the possible traits of men, good and bad you’ll discover that they all make up the same character. Men are all the same.”
Everyone nods, I can only offer half a nod because as I hear this I am struggling to make sense of that last sentence, weighty with philosophy but scanty on clarity. A new customer comes in, and the same cheerful greetings are exchanged.

“Aunty do you have a small child?” Asks Kate, the one doing my hair.

“Yes, she’s 5 now,” beams the proud mother.

“Ah, were celebrating my daughter’s birthday, please bring your daughter it’s in 2 weeks.”

“Ok. Where?”

“Behind Iceland, there is a hall there.”

“Oh I know that hall, I’ve been for a party there before.”

“So has your friend found a husband yet?” The one in a beanie hat can’t let it go.

“No o, she’s believing God.”

“She will wait forever! The dark hairdresser who had been deathly quiet chips in.”
All heads turn towards her in collective accusation.
She launches into defence mode; “Why is she choosy? Man no be man?” (Isn’t a man a man?)
They withdraw their accusation by turning away from her, a sign that she makes a valid point but she won’t be so easily forgiven for wishing evil on another woman.

“Maybe she wants a rich man.” The yellow, pretty one adds.

Beatrice shrugs, “as for me I can’t follow a man for money.”

“What if it’s real money?”

“Even real money. There is nothing a man can offer me that I need.”

“How about children?”

“You all don’t understand,” she snaps, “What I mean is that I did not have a need, even for children that made me follow a man. I married my husband for love, not need.” She spits out ‘not need’ with venom which instantly lowers the energy levels in the shop, allowing everyone to collect their thoughts and reorder their words. No one speaks for a whole minute.

“We’re having a birthday, please bring your boys o, Aunty.” Kate prods me as she speaks.

“Ok, I will, I lie.

“Have you seen Mama Iyabo lately?” Beanie hat gets the conversation flowing again.

“That one? We have nothing in common.”

“Ah ah! you people haven’t settled your quarrel? It’s not good to fight, you know we’re Christians.”

“Ehen? You people fought? What happened?”

“Hmmm.”

And that was how Kate took us all on a journey of how Mama Iyabo did her 419. And how the wicked woman took money from her and didn’t pay back. And how she has done it to other women so much so she is now known. Her sister had warned her but she didn’t listen. Thank God it could have been worse, but for God who didn’t let Satan win. At this point she lets go of my hair and raises both hands up before breaking into a song;

What shall I say onto the Lor-o-o-d,? All we have to say is thank you Lord!”
At least 4 hairdressers & clients join in exactly like backup singers without missing a beat;

Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, all we have to say is thank you Lord

This brief praise session is accompanied by the swaying of large hips and the pointing of combs towards the ceiling. Just as suddenly the singing stops, the ladies return to doing their clients’ hair and the gist saunters into the naked truth of Beatrice’s father-in-law having 12 wives- this of course qualifies him to dispense sound marital advice to his son;

“A man who stays in the kitchen with his wife will make her stew taste good.”

While the women are debating that pearl of wisdom and citing examples that support or oppose it, I am stuck at ’12 wives’ doing some calculations. I drag my mind back to the shop and hand Kate some more hair. This is the part of hair braiding hair I hate. Your hands are not free to write or read, you have to pass bits of hair every minute or so. You also have to hope your chair ends up near a power point so you can keep your phone charged. Occasionally there will be the loud mouthed customer who feels her opinions are more valid than those of everyone else’s, like the Sierra Leonean woman who maintains there is no such thing as Ebola, it was concocted in the mind of an angry white man in an American laboratory. She was the one whom Mark Twain had in mind when he said ‘it is better to be quiet and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.’

Four more ladies squeeze in, led by an Aunty Funmi who announces she has brought them more customers like she always does. Gratitude from the hairdressers flow freely.

“We’re not busy at all aunties, una welcome.” Kate addresses them as though they can’t see with their own eyes that every hairdresser is occupied with a client’s hair and there are others waiting. “Please find somewhere to sit, there is space here.”

As if by some sci-fi doing, smaller seats start being birthed from the occupied chairs and the four women get themselves comfortable.

The buzz in the shop ebbs and flows throughout the day and there is never a dull moment. It is entertaining and therapeutic all at once. Women come to get advice about their men, or support for the decision they have boldly made, yet are uncertain about remaining in it. Others drop in to complain about the unforgivable actions of mutual friends and how ‘everyone’ should be careful in dealing with the said friend.

I enjoy coming to this salon because it is like a little piece of my home country on a big plot of England. Before long I’ll step out of Lagos and into Bromley, where people walk in a straight line and don’t rock side to side when they laugh. Where they speak in measured tones and don’t punctuate their sentences with Church songs. Where the only invitees to a child’s birthday party are a handful of classroom friends whom the celebrant (small boy who knows nothing) has selected for his party, the party that you must RSVP to before attending else you face being turned back at the door. The door that leads back outside into polite England. But for now I’ll enjoy the gist of these happy, content people who don’t ask for much in life but a dingy shop where they can plait their customers’ hair and enjoy the freedom to speak Pidgin English at the top of their voices.

What’s the most ridiculous gist you have overheard at the salon or barbershop? I am curious to know, do share in the comments box.

 

16 Feb

Girlfriends

It did not surprise me that it was a gruelling week. I knew it was going to be a tough one but there wasn’t much I could do to quell the brewing storm.

On the Tuesday I had afternoon tea in lush surroundings with my dearest friend, but it only served to postpone Wednesday’s pain.

Wednesday found me at a business meeting which I had worked myself into a frenzy about. It started out well but at the end I felt beaten and downtrodden. All I wanted to do was crawl into my bed and look forward to the following day. But I had to rush home to do the school run, and then take #4 into London for his first audition- a food commercial. Hubby met us there. The boy refused to smile. All the had to do was look happy. The producers did all they could, silly faces (don’t ask, I know for a 7-year-old right?) dancing etc but the boy just refused to corporate. Hubby and I were called in.

“We’re trying to get him to give a hearty smile”, they wailed, “can you get him to laugh please?”

I screw up my face and lean downwards towards him. “#4 why aren’t you laughing?”

“Because nothing is funny.” He said it in the most serious, honest voice. I’m aware we’re in a roomful of TV crew members. With a rolling camera. And lights. So I force a sweet smile and fake a concerned look;

“I won’t be able to get you the treat I promised you”

“Fine then.”

Hubby steps in:

“#4”, again he is mindful of the cameras.

“Smile. Happily.”

Nada.

We ended up looking like kidnappers turned newly adoptive parents of a 7-year-old who were yet to figure out his personality. Hubby leaves the room feeling defeated.

“Are you an actress?”

“Me?” I feign reluctance.

“No, but I’ve been called one as a put down.”

“Can you say a few lines in front of the camera please?”

You know how people on the edge of sudden death say their lives flash before their eyes? It was my future that flashed before mine. What if this changes my career completely? What if I go from business woman to weather girl? Talk show host? Actress? Am I, like, in the process of being err… discovered?

“Yes, sure!” I respond with a shrug as though I’m only tying to help save the production company from certain disaster.

“Ok, so your son has baked you a cake, you’ve just walked through the door and are surprised. Act surprised, what do you say? and… Action!”

Wahala. You see with my children I over exaggerate my affection towards them. In fact my communications with them especially seeing them after a long day can best be described as crazy-dramatic. I have always done that, it started as a joke and I still do it even to the 15 yo. I animate my face and my voice and act like they’re the best thing that’s happened to me. It used to make them laugh as babies but I forgot to stop as they grew older. So I do the crazy-mummy-animated “oh num-ber 4!! Is this for meee???” in a sing-song voice with mad hand actions.

“Hmm.. Not bad, not bad”, nods all around.” English people are so polite. Africans would have burst out laughing.

Later that evening I told the older boys about my day. When I got to the part about being instructed to say a few lines, #2 said “Mum, please don’t tell me you did the crazy ” did you bake this for meeee in a song-song voice?”

And just as suddenly my acting career was stillborn. I haven’t heard back (yet).

I started out this post to pay homage to some of the wonderful women in my life, I’ll have to do that in another post as there are several. I have always been an independent person, the typical I’ll do it myself personality. However, it is a blessing to have wonderful women in my life who help to pull me up when I’m too heavy to lift my own weight. Suzy called in the evening and asked how my day went. Without skipping a beat I told her it was horrible. She encouraged me in her own down to earth blend of words. She helped me come away from the self-pity I was indulging in and kick started my happiness again. Later that night I spoke to Helen whose blend is very different from Suzy’s, yet she uplifted me and got me smiling again.

The following day was a lot better, I spent it working for 9 hours the only break being the school run and by the weekend I had my mojo back.

On Friday the whole family was invited to film a commercial in Hertfordshire. Let’s just say I’m glad my acting career did not blossom. We must have had over 50 takes of the same scene. Hubby kept moaning, what exactly are they looking for? We agreed it was perfection. It was a great day out for our household and what started out as a would-be hellish week turned the corner and I felt blessed at the end.

My lesson last week? I need my friends around me. I am far from being independent. It takes a village to raise this girl and I’m glad I’m in the right one. Next time I will be proactive and gather my people around me before the storm starts to brew. Meanwhile #4 has been told by hubby there shall be no more acting for him. His response? “Fine then,” with a shrug of his tiny little shoulders.

Thank you for reading, do come back!