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 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.

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.