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!

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.