26 Sep

The Blooming of Madness

“Mum, can I have a sleepover at my friend’s house?”

“No”

“Please mum!!!”

“Which friend is that?”

“Charles”

“Charles. I don’t know him or his parents, let him come round after school. When I meet him and his parents I’ll consider it.”

“But mum he can’t come here since we have a birthday party and the sleepover on Friday.”

“Too bad then.”

“Please mum, here’s his address and his mum’s number, you can call her. They’re Buddhists and are peace-loving and easy going.”

(His best friend in primary school was Buddhist and I liked their family.)

I google the address. I check zoopla for house values on their street. Too high and they might do cocaine. Too low and it might be weed. I call her and get a default text message- I’ll call back, driving.

Hmm. Responsible. She doesn’t drive and text or chat. I get a missed call and a text later, explaining she was on her way home from work. She works, Looking good.

I speak to her, she is well spoken. She begins to tell me excitedly about the plans her son has carefully made, she is proud of him.
The group of 7 children will go from school to her house, then to the party, then back to her house for a sleepover. In tents. In the woods- since they’re so many. They’ll even have a fire pit. She carries on as though she cannot contain herself, Charles said they will be leaving the party at 9pm, but she thinks if it is a good party they really should leave at about 11pm (23:00 hours. 11 at night, the hour before midnight) 14-year-old boys and at least one girl. Yes, a girl amongst boys.

I politely allow my reluctance to show, you know how sensitive women can be. One octave too high and she’ll site harassment or conclude that I think I’m better than her. An octave too low and I would have just called her a bad mother. She goes on to explain her parenting style as being liberal. She tells me she gives her son lots of freedom. Since he is responsible. She believes it is the giving of that freedom that has made him ‘a responsible young man.’ I ask if she has any other kids. I am surprised when she says ‘no.’ I nearly say in my naija accent; ‘and you’re being -what was the word- liberal, with him?’ If I did, I would have yodeled  the ‘him’ to the tune of ehn-hen?

I don’t explain to her that there is a reason you won’t hear about us being trapped under layers of snow in the Himalayas. Or being hacked to death by a psycho in the woods. I don’t tell her that I don’t plan to one day sit in front of a TV crew crying and appealing for ‘justice to be brought to those evil people’. Or that he is unlikely to become paralysed from using a malfunctioning bungee jumping harness, having leapt from a 2 engine plane over the Kenyan jungle.

I simply tell her I’ll speak with my husband and let her know- that the day I let my 14 year old son attend a party to go home at 11pm at night, 23:00 hours, the hour before midnight, and then let him sleep in a tent in the woods on an autumn night without adult supervision is the day madness would have reached full bloom.

09 Sep

The Flight

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At the airport, I am surprisingly on the ball. I am quick, not wasting time. I’m enroute to see my beautiful family. I have missed them. A lot. Cannes is stunning, no one can ever deny it’s beauty or audacious wealth, but even the horn of plenty cannot compare with my own home. I realise I love my life, even with it’s challenges and there isn’t a lot I will change.

For the second time on my trip my mind flashes back to the pack of three pairs of colourful earplugs I saw at the counter in the pharmacy. I was staring at them while paying for my goods, wondering what circumstance would force one to wear them. Now I am being subjected to Norwegian airline’s pop music grating it’s way across my brain. The airline clearly thinks this is entertaining. We started boarding at 9:57am for a 10am flight. It is 10:39 and my line of vision remains interrupted by the tail of another marooned airplane.

A Norwegian flight attendant stumbles through the first paragraph of his script, welcoming us aboard the flight. He connects his sentences with a lot of erms and umms. In the middle of his speech, while uttering an erm, the English captain cuts in as if to show off his own ability to speak without struggle. He whizzes through the same speech in a flawless accent and in clipped tones. It is clear that had the Norwegian man carried on speaking, he would presently be stuck at an umm.

The captain decides to undress his crew member further by explaining in fluent English, no less, that there was a delay leaving Gatwick. Immediately I realise that my concern should not have been their tardiness. Was it terrorists? The terror alert in the UK was raised to ‘serious’ before I left for France. “No”, he answers my telepathic question. “It was fog”. This time he is speaking with ‘errs‘ between each sentence, but his carry a weight of certainty.

If God placed before us a buffet table laden with an assortment of world famous punctualities, I will pick Germany’s. I’m off to Germany in 3 days and I know if my flight says 10:31:33, it will lift into the aerosphere at 10:31:33. I also know that I won’t eat my words. The Germans are like machines, I know that because my best suppliers are Germans. We were once asked to design and source a nursery in 4 days. Our nurseries take 8 to 12 weeks on average. We could have chosen the Italians for the unique style and beauty of their furniture, but we chose the Germans, because we knew we could rely on them to be on time and not a millisecond late.

I sleep for half an hour and read for the second half. At a point the English pilot announces ‘for those who care’ that we are currently flying over the city of Paris and we can see it if we look to the left of the aircraft. The Norwegian is verbally absent, it appears he has been relegated to a non-oratorical task. The next time we hear him is when he is forced to make the “welcome to London” announcement. He is the natural choice since the descent onto the runway is as bumpy as his sentences. It’s the type that would have left you tasting your own blood, if the tip of your tongue wandered too close to the gap between your top and bottom rows of teeth.

I can’t wait to tell you all about my trip to the South of France, carried out in celebration of Shade’s birthday. In true Toks fashion, I share the gist in reverse.