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!

31 Jan

Blurred Lines

I arrived at 11:30am to discover that the hospital car park was full and street parking limited to permit holders only until noon. I had 30 mins to wait out the ticket warden who was behind me a minute ago and is now possibly crouching low behind the red Nissan Micra ahead on the left side of the road.  Poor guy. He’ll have a long wait cos this chick ain’t leaving one minute before noon.

At 12:03 I exit the car and look around for Kofi and he is nowhere to be seen. I consider taking a photo of the windscreen of my car as proof that I didn’t have a ticket at 12:03, don’t laugh, I’ve heard stories and I know there is no limit to what the council will do to ensure you get a parking ticket. I’m talking drawing double yellow lines after you’ve parked and even recalibration of the GMT so that what’s 12:03 to you is actually 11:53 to them.

At the X-Ray department all seats are occupied. One becomes vacant as Mr Goddard is called in, I replace his behind on the soft red chair. Now I am seated next to a woman who is Romanian. Or Albanian. Or Latvian, you can tell a lot by accents these days right? She informs me that she needs to dash to the toilet, and can I please let the radiographer know she’s only a minute away if he calls her name, “Sofia?” I oblige.

She returns barely a minute later. I inform her of the obvious, that she hasn’t been called yet.
“Oh thank you. Because my bladder was very full”, she says thankfully with a smile.
Since I don’t know how to respond to that, I smile back and nod.

The woman on my right is being shouted at by a man, presumably her husband.

“…and you are very stupid”, he ends his tirade and lumbers off.

I am inclined to say something since fate, in cohorts with our sitting arrangement has shoved me to the front of the line of aghast onlookers.

“Is that your husband?”

Her shame is now overflowing and has drenched a part of my heart.

“Yes”

Men come in all sorts of species…”, I begin with a sigh.

She nods slowly, going ahead to soak in the words I’m about to say.

Now at the start of my sentence there was a clever and encouraging ending. That ending has now abandoned me mid-sentence and I don’t have a replacement. My attempt at being supportive is crumbling as the incomplete sentence may have suggested that ‘all men are dogs’, which I don’t subscribe to, or, ‘your man is a dog’, suggesting that mine isn’t. Either way, she doesn’t win and neither do I.

“I need to go again”

I wonder how I turned into Sofia’s pre-school teacher.

“Ok,” I nod.

Another 56 seconds passes and she’s back. I am baffled at her speed. She is wearing a tight pair of buttoned, zippered and belted jeans. She has to walk to the loo, wherever it is, yet she comes back so quickly all zippered, buttoned and belted up.

“Phew! I was told to keep it empty but not too empty. But I always feel I need to empty my bladder, and I was desperate. The last time I was here they couldn’t do the scan because it was too empty.”

 

I love being a woman. We share an unspoken bond that erases the lines of separateness. As strangers, we can hold full dialogues with each other about men- well most can- and we can talk about body parts. But I’m just not feeling this bladder talk. Because each time she says she needs to keep it slightly empty, my mind tries to figure out exactly how many teaspoonsful of yellow pee we’re talking about here.

A woman in a red coat waddles out of the X-ray room.

“It’s broken”, she says to her husband who gets up to meet her.

“Oh no!” He exclaims quietly but urgently.

Another patient chips in.

“It’s broken?” He is in dismay, just as I am, we’re clearly both wondering how long she has walked on her broken foot for.

“Yes, they told me it’s broken.” She responds directly to him, glancing at her foot no doubt waiting for some common human sympathy.

“Oh your foot is broken!” He breaks into a broad smile, chuckling as he explains he thought she meant the X-ray machine was broken. He doesn’t hide his relief as he returns to reading his paper.

“Mrs A.”
A cheerful Asian man calls my name and summons me with a smile into the x-ray room.

“Please take off your bra and leave just your blouse on, once you’re done meet me in this room.”

Did he just cross the line? Into our territory? There is something not quite right about that. I have always perceived Asian men as being conservative and I’m mildly surprised he even knows what a bra is, let alone allow that heathenish word to proceed from his lips. “Disengage any undergarments” seems more like his thing.

Or

“Disrobe, please madam, leaving just your outer garment.”

Or

Undo any paraphernalia that may or may not be fully connected to your upper body”. That covers the strapped and the strapless variety.

He takes the X-ray tells me to go back and change. I go back, stuff the ‘undergarment’ in my bag, put on my cardigan and coat and pray it doesn’t fall at the feet of a good-looking doctor when he asks me for my business card. I pray I might bump into him on my way out, he will inform me that his wife is expecting and they would need to buy some expensive baby furniture.
No such luck. My luck is more the type where I reach into my bag to retrieve my car keys and the offending undergarment falls at the feet of Kofi,  born in Accra under very interesting circumstances- another story. He will then burst out laughing through his gappy teeth at his two-fold fortune:

1) That he issued me with a parking ticket

and

2) That a bra landed on his size 11 work boots in the middle of the day on Croydon Road.

Thankfully I am spared all of that, because I stayed in my car for three whole minutes after the clock struck 12:00, to make sure I did not violate the parking rules. I drive off happily, leaving behind Sofia the bladder woman, the poor lady with the irate elk for a husband and of course, the Asian (possibly muslim) radiographer who dared to cross the lines of haram by mentioning an unmentionable.

Thank you for reading!

01 Jan

It’s a New Dawn…Roll on 2015!

Happy new 2015!

I started the morning just how I love to, journaling in my kitchen with soothing music and the single flame of my salted caramel scented candle for company.

Like billions of people around the world, I’ve been in a reflective place, thinking about 2014. It’s a challenge to sum it up. I feel completely overwhelmed with all that happened- good, bad & ugly yet I can hand on heart say it was a fantastic year. I have no regrets and I’ll do it all again if I was forced to. I wouldn’t choose to though because like all girls, I love new things. Plus I’m excited about 2015. I believe life isn’t so long that we have to repeat experiences.

I read various status updates on social media, from the mournful, ‘glad 2014 is over, it was a hard year for me. I fell in love with my boss, I lost my job and now I hate my mother’, to the euphorically spiritual, “2015 is the year of victorious victory, the one we’ve all been waiting for, the tears will end this year.” I had to hold back from saying, no it will not end. Tears are a part of life, challenges are very normal and are in fact, needed for growth, a good place to start if you are setting your new year resolutions, ha ha!

The reason I am able to rejoice at all that took place in my life last year is not because 2014 was devoid of challenges, trust me, they showed up nice and early with a smile. Rather it is due to the fact that there are treasures in dark places. If you’ve spent some time around me or read my blogs you would have been bombarded by that mantra. This knowledge frees us to walk with boldness throughout the year, believing God has lined up all that we need, to become who we are meant to be. On that path there are obstacles that strengthen us as we overcome them, successes that increase our faith and people or experiences to refresh and restore when we become weary. In 2014, I learned to reluctantly embrace all because even my mistakes and obstacles served as lesson teachers.

I learned that the Tao saying; ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ holds very true. I will even go as far as saying we are surrounded by teachers, but because we are not ready, we don’t recognise that they have been assigned to us. 2014 was about getting me ready, and the previous years were trying to tell me I was in fact, a student 😀

The word ‘Authenticity’ was my buzzword for 2014. You’ll understand why I questioned its entrance into my life. Each year I celebrate the setting of new goals as I review the old. Sometimes I rush to squeeze some unfinished tasks into the last few days of the year just so I can end on an egoistic high and join the ranks of those whose missions were accomplished. At the end of 2013, instead of a list of goals, I was bestowed with that single word, and being a girl of many words I wasn’t exactly eager with anticipation for what seemed like the stirrings of a quiet, lonely lesson. Still, I was curious and opened my heart to welcome this new word and adopt it into my life. What happened over the course of that year will most certainly end up between the pages of a book, someday. In a nutshell, as I lived my life through the lens of authenticity, I learned that I am the best Toks for the job that Toks was created to do here on earth, and I’ll be doing myself and the world a huge disservice if I try to act like or be anyone else.

I am thankful that God introduced some dynamic people to me, which was a surprise since I have so many awesome people in my life already, I’ll forever be indebted to every single one. I understand the importance of having friends and family that genuinely root for you and desire your success as much as they desire theirs. This revelation has been humbling, it is near impossible to completely express my gratitude to you- you know who you are!

I became reacquainted with change. I got a stark reminder that as the days progress, so does life. Each day draws us closer to our day of death. I am thankful that a health scare in my family remained a scare, and then retreated to wherever it came from.

Thank you so much for sticking with my inconsistent updates on Pawpaw & Mango, I am really excited about 2015, not in a flighty, girly way but in a more sedate, mature way. I expect some instances of change, which might be uncomfortable, but unlike the past I’m not afraid of what may occur. I look forward to sharing my journey with you, and learning more about you. I hope and pray that I’ll be a blessing even in a minute way to every single person that crosses my path either physically or virtually.

Need some inspiration? Visit and subscribe to my other blog! Check it out at www.letsbrunch.co.uk

What single big lesson did you learn last year?

 

24 Dec

Pot Pourri

This post is dedicated to the beautiful Ugochi Obijuru, you rock!!

I just completed a three-week stint working behind the scenes in customer relations for a luxury British brand. The type that serves the world’s most self-important shoppers.

The lessons I  learned if bottled, will sell for a princely sum in the business world, and the life lessons? His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama would be proud. While it will take years to fully master them all, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity and will share snippets between this blog and ‘the other one.’

The most intriguing part of the job were the customers. Friend, I discovered that God created different species of humans. If you lean towards sticking with your own kind, I implore you to clutch fervently at any opportunity to exercise bravery by visiting other planets. I dealt with customers who cried at their Christmas order not being delivered on time to the ones who had palpitations as they described the ‘agony, the sheer & utter disgrace’ at the phone wait times.

My first Naija customer was a hoot. I asked if she had an account with us as we always do, it saves having to request information we already hold. She replied; “Yes! Of course, I do! I shop there allllll the time.”
My thought? The Nigerians have come.
This same question, when offered to my non-Naija callers was answered with a simple ‘yes’ or a simple ‘no’, then they’d await the next question.
She wanted to order some biscuits to be delivered directly to a friend, I asked if it was for a Mr David who we had on file.

“No o! That’s my immigration lawyer.”

My gasp came out backwards as I tried to swallow it before it left my mouth.

“The first three biscuits are for my personal trainer, she has been training me for free and now I want to say thank you. In my country, we give gifts a lot. It’s nothing to us. When I started working out my stomach was so big, I was too embarrassed to show it. Now, if you see me ehn? Even my arms look like a boxer’s arms. But she’s going to train now as… what do you call those people who build their bodies and then show off on TV?”

“Bodybuilders?”

“Yes! She’s going to be a bodybuilder so she’s on a restricted diet. I feel sorry for her that’s why I’m getting her some biscuits.
Ok the next few items are mine, don’t laugh o, I like biscuits, kee hee hee!”

“Alright what’s the first item please?”

“Hmm… I’m looking at one on your website, it looks nice, how about lemon thins?”

“How many please?”

“Ehn? How many? One of course! You people are expensive! Do you even do sale?”

“Err.. not really”

“You see! And you want me to buy more than one pack. Last time this biscuit was £5 now it’s £7!
Ok please add the silver sprinkles one, how much is that?”

She goes on to add about 7 more tins of luxe biscuits, each time chuckling with delight at what I suspect may have been the thought of relishing them.

“Please tell me how much it has come to.”

“£88.”

“Wow! You people are not cheap. I bought some of these biscuits for my co-worker last year, he was so shocked. Everyone in the office was shocked. He was the only one who helped me with my project when I didn’t know what I was doing, you know how everyone else wants you to fail?”

“Yes.”

“Well, he was the only one who wanted me to do well. Now I carry out my job with so much confidence. There’s another woman in the same department who came up to me and asked where her biscuits were. Do you know what I told her?”

“No.”

“I told her you’re not a nice person. So no gifts for you.”

“Really? You said that to her?”

“Yes now! I believe in telling the truth. In my country, we believe in giving gifts but we’re not stupid. The gift I gave my co-worker was only N30,000 in value, nobody brags about that amount in Nigeria. Let’s add one more Scottish shortbread to the list, how much is that now?”

“£92.95. Are you from Delta?”

“Ehn? How did you know!?”

“I grew up in Benin.”

“Ewese oooo! You’re Nigerian? Koyoooo!”

“I don’t speak Bini.”

“Ah ah, why now?!”

“I’m from Lagos.”

“Ehn now, I understand Yoruba, bawo ni?”

“A dupe.”

“Ehennnn!!! Hee hee kee kee kee!”

“Your total comes to £96.95 including delivery.”

“Here are my card details…”

Let me know if you want to hear the one that cried about her foie gras, it’ll have to be an audio blog because it involves a very English, upper-class accent.

19 Nov

How do you Deal with Unwanted Folks?

How do you deal with people trying to sell you something you’re not interested in? We all buy from salespeople but most of us don’t buy what we don’t want, right? However, I find myself racked first with guilt and then pity when I turn them down, ever since my experience with the Kirby Salesman– and of course due to my people-pleasing issues.

This week so far I have had three episodes and guilt would not let me tell them I wasn’t interested.

The first incident happened on Tuesday evening, she was a smallish lady from Fresh Foods. As soon as I  set eyes on her, a story wrote itself about her life, from her leaving the rice fields of India to trawling through the UK’s immigration system, being betrayed by her fiance and now living with her uncle, as a blemished non-bride. The plot carried on right through her many jobs from McDonalds on Oxford Street to how she came to be standing at my doorstep in Bromley. I understand that there are often different levels of commissions for sales people. Getting an appointment for example might be 1 tier, gaining a one-off sale takes you to tier 2 and obtaining a 12 month subscription catapults you to level 3 as a books or in this case Fresh Food sales guru.

I usually let them speak to me because although I know I would not be fast-tracking them to level one, I can at least be the bearer of warm feelings of acceptance by not shutting the door on them. So I listened to Bharti, I was weary from a long day at work and I was cooking dinner. My ears were tired from #4’s incessant chatting- a new skill he picked up is to paint himself as a martyr while he relates every episode of  play and fight that occurred that day at school.  
The woman activated her script mode.

“Do you like food?”

(Why don’t you just ask if I eat, to which I will answer ‘yes I do’?)
“Yes, I do.”

“Good!!! have you heard of Fresh foods?”

“Yes.. I think so”

“So fresh foods is….”

I honestly didn’t hear a word she said as I was straining my ears to pick up crackling sounds from my pot of rice, I didn’t want it to get burned.

I deduced from a few words I picked up that the company possibly sold cooked foods.

“I cook my own food, I don’t buy cooked food”, I protested.

“Well, blah, blah, blah…”

I zoned out again this time to check on the stew and returned almost immediately.

“I only cook Nigerian food. ” I dared her to offer a comeback. Would she now tell me Fresh Foods offer pounded yam and okra as well?

“Our founder travels all over the world and brings different cuisines, you and your lovely children ( yeah right!) would be able to sample some of the best dishes in the world.”

I know the word ‘sample’ came from the script. It’s a simple enough word, but it typically doesn’t make its way into ethnic-food related sentences.

I realised at this point that not only was I punishing myself, I was also falsely misleading her which will do her more harm than good. So much for my saving humanity.

I told her I was sorry, it was a bad time for me and I wouldn’t be buying.

“Why?”

(Here I am trying to help and you’re throwing it in my face!)

“I can’t afford it.”

“Thanks and have a lovely evening.”

 

Today it was an American salesman calling the London number on a business-related issue, also known as advertising in a magazine. Before he even called I knew the answer would be ‘no’. In fact before I was born I knew the answer would be ‘no’. The trouble was I felt really sorry for him. He was breathing heavily, and I pictured him an overweight, southern man just trying to make ends meet. He is wearing a khaki coloured suit and the tie is skewed to the left because of his protruding stomach. He smokes 10 a day and finds walking, no matter the distance to be laborious. His home is furnished in ’80s furniture, his wife is fed up of his ‘ways’- whatever they are. His boss is on his case constantly threatening him…I’ll stop now.

Anyway I felt very sorry for him.  So I let him carry on. While he was speaking I thought of a nice and easy but final way to get rid of him. I decided to tell him the truth, but not all of it. That I was making some major changes to the business which will last well into 2015. We dialogued about it back and forth, and finally ended the conversation. I don’t tell him I will not buy advertising from them, nothing personal but advertising costs money.

However, I wish I could go back in time to Monday morning, I was at the bank when someone called and left a message for me.

“Please call Dave at (posh sounding double-barrelled name estate agency), we have a project for you”.

Instantly I picture this stunning house, a mansion, where the owners are just desperate for some design work to be carried out by moi.

I put on my business mindset and call him back, carefully choosing the right voice for this auspicious conversation about to take place.

“Hi Toks, yes I have a project you’ll be interested in, you left your information at our office”

“Yes, I did, how are you Dave?”

“Good thanks. We are in the process of producing a brochure, and we would like you to come on board.”

Oh, not that type of project, exciting still. I think about my beautiful, high quality, well-designed brochure which I previously left in their office. They must want me to design one for them. I decide I will not in my excitement discuss price until I have all the facts. There are many ways to make money and folks, I just became a graphic designer!

“It will be seen in every home in the area.”

Hold on a minute, this guy is selling to me. I thought he had a job for me and I just wasted my greeting, mindset and voice on him!

“Err..” was all I could muster as I searched for my original voice and normal state of mind.

“When next are you in the area?”

I’m trying to remain professional.

“I’ll be near you later on today actually.”

“Great! We usually take a deposit before hand, the balance is not due until early next year, bring your credit card. I presume you are the decision maker right?”

It was in a state of shock, mouth agape that I staggered out of the bank. I, of course did not attend his meeting, and when he called the next morning, I explained I typically do not make business decisions like advertising while standing on the line in the bank. He responded by saying it was a shame he couldn’t help me. Imagine?

But now I feel I should have hammered him. How dare he presume he successfully sold me something I don’t want? He didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me how much they were charging.

How do you deal with unwanted sales people?

PS: Please vote for Pawpaw and Mango by clicking this link, we’ve been nominated for the UK Blog Awards!

14 Nov

We’ve Been Nominated!

In what can only be described as a bizarre turn of events, Pawpaw & Mango (yes, the one you’re reading) has been nominated for a blog award.

So the first thing I did when I got the email was to go to their website to fish out the mago-mago, (fraud).  They have some  household names which gives it a bit of clout, and nothing untoward turned up.

I went to plan B which as you know was to google UK Blog Awards Scam. I was surprised when no ‘beware scam’ results came up, it appeared legit.

Plan C was to go through a list of my ‘haters’, those who pulled this together just to gain access into my family history and pull out any skeletons under our floorboards. My list is empty- apart from Chief who doesn’t have the intelligence or digital acumen to pull this off. Chief is angry because I refused to change my name to Silifa. Another post, another day.

You will understand my cynicism. This past summer found my friend Aji and I attending a couple of scam-type events. These are the ones that charge you an arm and a leg, promise heaven on earth and end up delivering hell. The last one was particularly bad. It was a sham of an affair held on a boat. There are no words to describe just how dire it was. All I’ll say is beware of boat or cruise type dos, because once you’re on and the boat leaves the dock, you don enter be dat! (You are done for).

I have to say a big thank you to the person that nominated my blog, I hope I get to find out who you are. I am however a tad bit worried that you saw it fit to enter it into the ‘Lifestyle’ category. Anyone who uses this platform as a template for their life is doomed. To each his own sha.

So it is with pent-up excitement and hope that I write this post. Please vote for Pawpaw and Mango by clicking this link, it’s the first time she’s been asked out 🙂

Thank you!

26 Oct

All Men are Dogs…

I’ve been thinking about the danger of the printed word. When words are handwritten it carries personality with it, and if you know the writer you either respect or scoff at the words.

Quotation
Printed words however carry a bit more authority. They are certified, or so it seems and they are more easily perceived as truth.
There is a pervasiveness of quotes and sayings across the internet and I have come across some damaging ones. There are those that feed your fear, some encourage hatred, while others are more subtle.

It is important to know the source of these viewpoints, not just the person but the sentiment behind their words. Are they coming from a place of negativity or triumph? Are they self-serving so that in the end they look like a hero and you, a victim? Or are they genuinely sharing a new lesson they just learnt?

One of such quotes- all men are dogs– is used so often it has become a part of the nomenclature of our time. It may have been started by and is now echoed by women who were mistreated by men. There are also degrading quotes about women that are making the rounds, again started by low-spirited men. I have found (sadly) that hurting people spew out hurtful words. The pain is sometimes in such abundance that it glazes everything they say and those words are carried straight into our hearts.

Another genre which led to my unfollowing an old friend on Facebook is Haters gonna hate and all the other related ‘haters’ quotes. Call me a Pollyanna but growing up in an environment of love, very little attention was given to hatred or negativity in my home. We didn’t talk about people who were hated- if there were any. Everybody’s been hurt by one person or another but we are not to hold on to the pain. It becomes heavier as hurt attracts more hurt until you are bent so low, you can’t see straight ahead.

Let’s not forget the inverse motivational quotes: people think that they can bring me down, all they’re doing is setting me up for success. #cantpullmedown #Fthehaters

Question: Why are you so concerned with people who don’t wish you well? How about giving some attention to those who support and help you? Some people live in the marinade of several negative life experiences so when they hand out their two cents of wisdom, it comes out as seeds coated with pessimism.

Why do we retweet or share such updates on social media? Perhaps it’s because we can sometimes identify with the hurt and the feelings are familiar. But just because we can identify with a verbalised or written hurt does not mean we should pull out our old placards and join in the protest.

My concern is primarily for young, innocent men and women with fertile minds looking to glean some fruit from paths that are already overgrown with weeds. How about we make a pact right here right now to share only healthy, wholesome information?
Maybe if there are enough lightbulbs we will eventually drive out the darkness. Maybe.

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.

30 Aug

The Scoop on Otunba

Following last Sunday’s White Party, I did some digging and you will not believe what I found out about Otunba. It turns out that his issues run quite deep. I will tell you exactly as they gisted me. A bit long but stay with me..

His father was well-respected in the community as the Pastor of the local Thunder by Fire Ministries International, headquartered in Ijebu Ode with branches all over Ogun state. There were rumours that he dabbled in the occult. The day he
addressed those rumours in front of his congregation will never be forgotten. He confirmed that juju, in fact, played a substantial role in the delivery of his eloquent sermons, and went on to explain why. No one understood fully but it was something to do with a white cloth and candle given to him when he turned 21. The silence could be heard for miles. All rumours ceased from that moment.

When Otunba was 16, he visited Lagos for the first time and was amazed that there was a world outside their little village, Ipoti. He vowed to return and one day marry a woman as yellow as Fausat, the pepper seller.

His plan, fueled by thoughts of Iya Beji, his step-mother who often fed him Eba without soup, came together when he had saved enough money. He didn’t feel guilty about leaving his father but knew one day he will return to present a set of Peugeot 504 keys to him, never mind that the old man, who had just one functioning eye, couldn’t even ride a bicycle.

Otunba picked his way through the bushes and finally arrived. He had been squatting in an abandoned house for two weeks when he realised he wasn’t in Lagos, he was in Fiditi.

The people of Fiditi were warm and friendly. It was there Otunba met Yodi, who had big plans to move to London and become a big shot at something, anything. Yodi was fascinated with stamps and their ability to carry letters around the world. It would be 3 years before Yodi would illegally enter the UK and land a job at the Royal Mail sorting office in Vauxhall using the alias, Alex. Of course at this point, he didn’t know that. He simply busied himself selling dodo ikire and courting his neighbour’s daughter, Bola, who was Fiditi’s only seamstress. Her stall was constantly overflowing with angry customers demanding a refund for dresses that did not fit. Otunba and Yodi struck a friendship and he continued on his journey to Lagos. He had been there for an entire month before he accepted the fact that he was actually in Lagos.

His first job was as a mechanic. He knew nothing about cars except that they killed people who wandered in front of them. Fatai was very helpful and showed him the ropes. He loved his new life, but there was something missing. A wife. A yellow, buxom wife that would call him ‘daddy’.

Wife #1
Sikira had just completed her law degree in LASU and wanted to move to London or the USA to practice as a human rights lawyer. She didn’t exactly know what that meant but her favourite actor, Wesley Snipes, had played the role of one and it sounded like a cross between sombre and important. On this fateful morning which will forever remain cursed by her entire agbole, she dropped her car off for repairs at Wole Auto Repairs. There was a new guy- pudgy, short and nervous.

‘I hope you won’t damage my car o!’ she hissed impatiently.’

Otunba smiled and gave thanks to God. His mother was clearly watching over him. He felt it in his spririt that she was the one. The sign was there when he awoke that morning, the dark clouds interrupted by brief glimpses of warm sunshine meant someone new was about to step into his life.

Her large eyes were guarded with eyelashes as stiff as nails. Her thick lips were further bulked-up with two or three slabs of rich, red paste. He fought the urge to release her ears from the gravitational pull they were under due to the weight of her gold earrings.

‘Hello, my name is Musco, I’m new here.’ Otunba didn’t know where ‘Musco’ came from. His name was Muyiwa, and he was nicknamed Otunba by his mother’s brother, the only person who truly cared for him. Most people called him Muyi.

‘Ehen, you’re new? And so? I should start dancing abi?”

Eight months later Sikira stood in front of a church full of people, mostly strangers, and pledged her vows to the man she loved. Even as she said ‘I do’, she remained baffled at the inability to remember the events that led up to that moment. She had no recollection of ever dating or even falling in love with the mechanic from Ipoti yet here she was, against her better judgement pledging to cook for him for the rest of her life. Was this man worth being disowned by her family? Clearly not but she could not explain the dichotomous thoughts wrestling within her.

Otunba on the other hand couldn’t believe his good fortune. That in 10 months of being in lagos, he had not only bought a house and a car, he was even getting married to the wife of his dreams. He shoved the ring past her blackened knuckles until it sat secure against yellow skin. Baba Ijale’s juju was so powerful and effective, the man deserved his own television show.

There isn’t enough time in the world to tell you all that transpired between the time they stood at the altar exchanging vows and the time Otunba woke up from what he described to Woli as a trance, his hands dripping with blood and a stuffed black bag a stone’s throw from him. Let’s just say it involved Sikira working as a care assistant (she couldn’t land a job in the UK as a lawyer with her forged degree certificate and her cousin’s NI number), there was a lot of money from overtime and Otunba repeatedly feeling disrespected by her.

 
Woli
Woli was law-graduate-turned-prayer-man and knew the law, he told people, ‘like the back of his hand’. He ended every other sentence with ”Ho-o-o-ly Michael!” He looked around at his lavish surroundings and said a quick prayer of thanks for his unexpected source of income. The last 10 months had been nothing short of a blessing, all his bills except his council tax were covered under the new ‘arrangement’ with his latest victim client. He had been planning his stint for a week now, what he needed was an opening. Someone on the inside who needed him and whom he could in turn be of service to. It was a shame the last job ended the way it did, that hadn’t been his plan. But he wasn’t the one who had blood on his hands.

Wife #2
Feyi, Sikira’s best friend moved in days after her friend’s apparent suicide. The first few months of married life was bliss. She was the envy of her friends, after all why else did they gossip about her husband’s source of income? Not that she hadn’t wandered about it too, but her mother raised her well and taught her not to side-eye the hand that fed her.
She had enough on her plate, it was bad enough her husband thought Omokiya was his son. Thank God for bleaching creams, the boy’s light complexion was never questioned, even with Otunba being as dark as Amala that had been left out too long.

Feyi couldn’t recall exactly when the problems started but Otunba found every excuse to argue with her. He called her lazy, a show-off, and the one that upset her the most was ashawo. Now, yes she had had an affair, ok two, but that’s not enough to be called an ashawo. She didn’t do it for money- except that time with Chief. But that was only once.
She looked back wistfully at each of the naming ceremonies of her four children. Otunba couldn’t be have been prouder, although the exuberance did dwindle with the arrival of each child. After their third child was born, he told her there were to be no more babies as people in London had a maximum of three children. That irritated her, him acting as though she wasn’t the one who brought him to London. His British-Ipoti accent got on her nerves even more. If it wasn’t for her dear friends Helen and Funke, life would have been unbearable. Helen was the CEO of a world-renowned jewellery brand, she dined with presidents and the likes. Funke was a distributor of luxury shoes and was known across the Atlantic. And then there was her. She was supposed to be working in a top law firm but her enemies won that round in the ring. They had all met at university and have remained close friends since their first year.

This fifth pregnancy was harder than the others, money had become a problem for Feyi since Otunba took all her earnings and claimed he was investing in their future. He no longer allowed her to attend parties. Last week he claimed he was going to a barbecue and told her to stay home. This evening, he says he is going to one Aji’s party- a white party. At first she wondered when he started having oyinbo friends. The penny only dropped when he brought out his white buba and sokoto, his white shoes and white laptop bag.

Sikira looked at the piece of paper Funke gave her, her friend’s words rang in her ear- ‘there is no problem Woli can’t solve…’ She picked up her phone and dialled.

Thank you to my friends- Ibiyomi who gave me the town Ipoti, Helen, Alex, Funke Bola and Aji. Thanks to Woli who is a real person but doesn’t want his cover blown. You all are my inspiration!

Disclaimer
Most characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.