25 Aug

The White Party

The invitation was an intriguing sandwich with words like electric slide, plenty of time to practice, karaoke and good food. The menu was listed but is too mouth-watering to type out. There was a YouTube link. The other side of sandwich was the phrase, ‘dress code is white‘.

A lot of stuff happened between the time I read the invite and the time I was seated in her sitting room, with a bunch of cool people dressed in white.

I received an email from my landlord that the office rent will be going up threefold, the greedy people that they are. I fought and resisted and just couldn’t accept that my situation had changed. You see, my office is very plush. When suppliers or potential partners visit we are greeted with respect and awe. I throw my head back and there’s an extra spring in my step. I act as though this is how we roll and even when I tell customers we’re not open to the public, I do so without the horror that comes with your backside potentially being exposed as you blow your own cover and let them in.

Anyhow, the rent was being tripled to bring us in line with ‘market rates’. My foot. I didn’t want to move because, well, anything outside of that building and within my budget would likely be a disaster. Think EasyJet vs Virgin Atlantic. The first place I scouted went down like this;

Me to man in pointy snake-skin shoes, big belly, clearly loves himself. Coiffed hair.
” ‘xcuse me do you have the name of the landlord, the company that runs this centre?”
Fabio carries on tapping at his phone, unmoved, no answer.
“Ok, bye.”
“I’m not ignoring you, just trying to find the number.” Silence.

“Here. But I must warn you, he’s quite a difficult fella. Actually he particularly despises women, just so you know.”

I ask my friend to call him for me, he kindly obliges. He gives me feedback later about the man’s rudeness. We agree if he’s difficult before I become his tenant, he’ll be unbearable afterwards.

The next place I viewed was a stone’s throw from our current space. The price was more forgiving but the place. Hmm the place. It’s tough when you’ve been spoiled, the windows were dirty. How can they not be bothered to clean their own windows? I conveniently ignored the fact that only a few years ago my office had no window. And prior to that my business had no office. They tell me how lucky I will be to ‘snap up’ this place especially because of the view which overlooks a brick wall, a roof and some scaffolding and let’s not forget the coziness of the space, which as you and I know is a euphemism for claustrophobic.

Next I viewed a space in Croydon. I am very sorry to say but I’m not a huge fan of Croydon. It conjures up images of young adults drinking themselves into a stupor. The office was plush. But it was still Croydon! Coupled with an hour’s bus ride, that was a firm no.

Besides viewing office spaces I’ve been battling some personal issues. I woke up one morning with ominous clouds hanging over me. I faced the stark realisation that life is all about change. I had become so comfortable with my life as it is, I forgot change does happen. I went through a brief period where I was moody because of an impending doom, mostly imagined.

I was  in that mood when I read the invitation and immediately my spirit rejected the words ‘wear white‘. I hate white, it has no character. See one reference here. Plus an early memory of white was when it was forced on me by the agency, I worked as a waitress in my school days and for the most part I felt I should be the one being waited on, so no fond memories there. As a child, I got into a lot of trouble for dirtying my white dress. I was a tomboy and I loved to climb trees, white dress or no white dress.

I decided I wouldn’t wear white, after all we’re close friends and a white outfit isn’t required to prove my love to her. Her other non-close friends can knock themselves out in white. What shocked me was that hubby, who can be likened to a loveable hermit agreed to attend the party. And wear white! Friend sends another text with the words, ‘don’t forget to wear white, please.’ Ok so this is clearly important to her, I’m a close friend so white it is.

We’re in the car enroute to the party. I log on to YouTube  to learn the electric slide. No, I’m not driving, hubby is. I don’t know what the need is for that extra step back and touch left foot with right is, everything else seems easy enough. We arrive and my friend looks super glam, nothing new there. I’m glad I wore white.

One guest is late, as if that’s not bad enough, she’s wearing a red and brown top. I am so glad I’m not the one with the blended look of embarrassment and apology on her face right now. Thank God I wore white!

Another guy comes in, approaches our sitting area and proceeds to shake hands, first with one guy, skips the guy’s wife/girlfriend and shakes hubby’s hand, the only other male in our circle. A certified insecure chauvinist. I decide whatever happens from that point onwards, I will not like him. In fact I start looking for an opening to shove him in a corner where he belongs. His behaviour reminds me of Chimamanda’s speech on feminism. I imagine his wife- whom he did not permit to attend- at home doing housework and getting all dolled up for him. She doesn’t work- or maybe she does but her earnings go into his bank account. He then gives her a paltry allowance weekly which she must account for. She ‘accidentally’ became pregnant with their 5th child and he has threatened to divorce her. She has begged, and so have her family members. Letters have been written from her agbolè to his agbolè. Presently they have reached an agreement that he can sow his wild oats outside the home, but not bring any strays indoors. The wife is pleased, after all wasn’t it her fault and hers alone that she got pregnant? Plus her husband being an Otunba has a reputation to protect. And she’s grateful to God, Otunba never found out about John, her brief bit on the side. He would probably have dismembered her body, there are still whispers amongst people about how his first wife was found in a black bag. Her limbs were tied up. Otunba said she left a suicide note.

I apogise I didn’t mean take such a long stroll away from the party.

I am looking forward to the karaoke. The electric slide, not so much since our 10 minute drive did not give me enough time to practice. Plus our car isn’t roomy enough. A pretty, bubbly girl whose name contradicts her face and her accent volunteers to coach the likes of  Toks who did not prepare. I seem to be the only one who keeps doing the final kick and slide anticlockwise instead of clockwise. I don’t get it, I’m right-handed. Wow! Even Otunba himself is trying to get down too.

I choose an Anita Baker song for my karaoke, whilst desperately praying I don’t crash and burn in an attempt to hit her high notes. Someone else sang a Bruno Mars song which belongs in a mental institution- talks of hands being run down a knife, throats being slashed and finally being blown up by a grenade. That ‘love song’ will have me dialling 999 should any man sing that to me.
Another guest sang a decidedly threatening Beyoncé song- all of your stuff in the box to the left, to the left, you think your replacement isn’t round the corner? You must not know ’bout me. Catchy. But threatening.
Hubby of course goes for another mental institution song. Content? There are two people in my head, one pointing a gun at the other. Title? Crazy by Seal. It goes without saying that I kept a side eye on hubby for the rest of the night.

My relocation woes might be coming to an end as I may have found somewhere to move to. I’ll keep you posted, come back to find out.

PS: Happy birthday to my friend, Aji. For you, I’ll wear white, pink or green! I had a blast and your friends are cool- even Otunba, but keep him away from me sha.

PSS: To the guests who attended, no harm was intended in this post, I’m the one with issues. Pray for me.

Thank you very much!

 

24 May

Thoughts on the London Underground

First he sits down, moments later his stomach joins him- no, not on another seat but on his lap.

In my defence, it was a long train ride with no stop changes and I forgot my kindle. So I was left with no choice but to share my thoughts- every single one. With you 🙂

“How old do they have to be before you offer your seat? I don’t want to offend anyone.”

“Why did I choose to scratch my ankle at precisely this moment? If I get up I’ll certainly lift what’s left of her mini skirt right up.”

“I hope he doesn’t fart. I’d rather inhale smoke than someone else’s fart smog.”

“Dandruff on his jacket, ugh!”

“I wonder if she’s happy. Does she like her job? Maybe her boss is harassing her. Then again maybe she’s willing.”*

“A Blackberry?! People still use those?”

“Is she pregnant? I love newborns!”

“I wonder if they’re married? To each other?”

“Nice bag!”

Candy Crush? All that twitching for a game of moving jelly beans about. Big baby.”

“Jubilee line extension- you almost expect to hit a bump as the train transitions from the new section of the tracks to the old. But it’s seamless and you’ll never know!”

“Lovely dress but I’m not convinced that the coral goes with your red shoes. And army green bag. Then again what do I know?”

“Poor woman, all that effort just to get up from her seat. She’s probably going home to cook for her brood too. Lord, please give her strength.”

“I hope this RSI pain isn’t due to excessive dedicated use of my iPhone, it started in January. Funny coincidence?”

“I thought they said they now had wifi on the tubes. Someone definitely said.”

“There are so many people in employment. Just look at the crowded platforms.”

“City workers that wear trainers while dressed in skirt suits look so cool. Reminds me of Manhattan. Sadly no one ever invites me to a board meeting in the city. Or anywhere. So I won’t be able to partake in the fashion succès.”

“The Evening Standard. Must be the number one selling underground paper. Wrong Toks, it isn’t sold, it’s free. #justsaying.”

“Once upon a time only trendy people used white earphones.”

“I’ve never quite got the hang of a white jacket. It just seems so bare. Plus you have to be sooooo careful not to get dirt on it.”

“I could do with an iPad”. “Why Toks? Because the woman in the red jacket is reading from one?”

“Baker Street, yay! Only a gazillion more stops to go!”

“Woman in red jacket just sat next to me, she’s watching a movie!”

“I wonder if I can lip read. Hmm, she doesn’t seem to want to share”. Suck teeth.

“For all we know the man opposite me could be a paedophile. Or a collector of ladies fingers and toes, (he stores them in his freezer). He is wearing grey jogging bottoms and a grey hoodie. My question is why are you not dressed like the others? Look around what’s everyone wearing?’

“Cath Kidson, I love Cath Kidson. Reminds me of Mills & Boon stories. No, I have no idea why either”.

“So glad I seasoned the turkey before I left this morning.”

“Yowzers! Bright yellow trousers, you go girl! #confidencepersonified”

Three university students mosey into the carriage, chatting about their courses. “Oh to be young again! If I could go back in time, this is the moment I would march right up to my younger self and sit me down over a plate of macaroons- which I wouldn’t have discovered then. I would tell myself to stick with that business studies course which wasn’t compulsory, because I would be needing it later.”

Girl in yellow floral dress. “She’s pretty, a Caucasian version of my cousin Toyin”.

“There’s something mildly disconcerting about a man tying his cardigan around his waist. A pullover is fine but an unbuttoned cardigan that hangs down on either side like an A-line dress? Not cool.”

“No, no, no! You did not just pick up a newspaper from the bin? They are free and everywhere! Haba!!”

“Did someone say collagen? Why did you do that to yourself?” SMH.

Low battery, I’m staring daggers into the backs of everyone with a half or full battery symbol. Thank you for riding with me on my journey home 🙂

 

*Note to Women’s rights proponents:

I don’t mean she tolerates harassment, I mean she might be a willing party to a consensual relationship. Plus this is my blog. Filled with my thoughts. Random ones.

18 May

Urgent Nollywood Appeal

I have tried very hard to keep this under wraps, it isn’t exactly the sort of information you broadcast, especially when described by one’s own husband with terms like actress or worse, alata, which means pepper-seller. In Africa no one grows up wanting to be a pepper-seller and if by some misfortune they fall onto that path, they would not broadcast the fact either. Sadly, my mum and brothers are on the same bandwagon and have even dragged my innocent sons, kicking and screaming onto it to join them. They think I’m an actress and may have missed my calling. The only one who insists on seeing me as I am, a dignified, ambitious woman is my precious father.

So here it is, I need a connection into Nollywood

Starring in a Nollywood movie isn’t number one on my bucket list but it is there nonetheless. And since I’ve never deluded myself into thinking I’m Ms Organised, I won’t explain why I’m not addressing my list in chronological order. Plus of course being me, chronological order does not mean in order of importance. It just happens to be the order in which the thought  forced itself on me.

Why Nollywood? I can’t tell you why because I don’t know. I only watch the occasional movie and those occasions are very few and very far between. Like many people I became fed up of the cliffhanger annoying endings signalled by the words ‘To God be the Glory‘, followed by credits to the many Chief and Chief Mrs Okonkwos and Otunba Babatundes.

Still, I want the opportunity to ‘side-eye’ people up and down to the cham-cham, kpas-kpas sounds of my chewing gum.  I want the Nollywood style makeup that not only transforms your face, but changes your accent while you’re wearing it. I want to play the part of that wicked madam who treats her minions as though she is only just coming to terms with the bitter truth that they breathe the same air, or maybe even play the role of the secretary that’s so rude even the mice shudder. I want to be able to gist with my friends and say; ‘Gurrl!! Can you imagine? Ehnn!?‘ complete with appropriate hand gestures. I want to say I’ve got my ‘international passport‘  That one baffles me, is there a local or national type?

I’m not keen on the role of being the bit on the side with whom  chief belts out his dirty sexy laugh; and he puts his arm around her shoulders saying ‘Come here my dear, he he heh!!’

So will you hook me up? Bear in mind I do  have a reputation to protect. I don’t want the ones where every character including the vulcaniser has an American accent. I also don’t want any movies with a car accident scene- they just don’t work. Especially when the doctor has the task of breaking the sad news of  death to a worried relative. Although he has been instructed by the scriptwriter to ‘break… gently’ he chooses instead to jab the pre-wailing character with these exact words (every time); ”sorry, she’s dead. No need to cry, no need to cry, be a man!”

My friends and I went to watch Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun a couple of weeks ago, which by the way in case you’re not familiar does not fall under the Nollywood umbrella. First we had dinner and then the movie. We were very surprised to see a red carpet and a bevy of  beautiful Nigerian folks dressed to the nines all milling around. There were 8 inch heels, weaves down past their bums, make up that I swear changed them on the inside as well as the outside and tons of backs. Chocolate-coloured backs, yellow backs, bleached backs. I’m thinking the dress code was backless dresses. Thankfully I took some pictures- otherwise you would not have believed that there really was a man dressed in a gold shirt with gold accessories. And a white waistcoat. And a white fedora hat. I spotted an acquaintance on the red carpet, sashaying about as the cameras took her pictures. She is fairly well-known on the entertainment scene. She told me it was the premiere for a movie which raised awareness for cervical cancer. My brothers and sisters, there was no indication of cervical cancer awareness anywhere.  There were backdrops, camera men, photographers, actresses and actors, but nothing about cervical cancer. Just hair, make-up, dresses and gold outfits. And backs.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not looking to make a name for myself, go backless on a red carpet or hang out with gold-shirted men. I just want to cross one line off my bucket list.

Thank you for reading, do write something in the box below, I’m desperate for comments I would love to know your thoughts. It’s been a while.

 

2014-05-02 23.11.52

Gold Shirt Tinz

2014-05-02 23.12.36

Backs & Weaves

Raising Awareness.

Raising Awareness…







 

 

 

 

07 Mar

Stalking is a Strong Word…

On my way home from the school run I saw what looked like a cat being walked. On a leash.

I whipped out my phone to take a picture, but couldn’t quite get a good shot of it.

The dog that thinks its a cat

The dog that thinks its a cat

The owners are an older couple. They’re walking their dog which appears to be dressed up as a cat. I drive slowly behind them to try to get a clearer shot. The blasted trees are getting in the way, thankfully no cars are behind me. They keep walking, I drive up some more, now we are near the junction and I don’t know if they’ll be turning left or right. So I slow down to a crawl. I reluctantly admit to myself that I may have stalking tendencies. Then again don’t we all? I say a silent prayer that they turn left since that’s the direction of my house. They turn right. I turn right too. Now this road is one if those thoughtlessly constructed ones where the trees separate the sidewalk from drivers trying to get a good view. It’s even harder to take a pic unless I come out of the car and walk behind them. But I can’t find a parking spot. Eventually I find one far ahead which means I have to wait for them to go past. I pull up, starting to get rather annoyed with this couple. You’d think they knew I was stalking following them because now they are deliberately being difficult.

So I come out of the car, it occurs to me it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a shot from the front as well as the back. But we’re the only ones in the area and it’ll be hard to conceal taking a photo of them. I also have on red loafers, I ditched the boots to get spring to hurry up and come. Do you know anyone who hasn’t had enough of winter? Even those in tropical countries are just about done with it. At this very moment I ask myself how exactly I got to this juncture in my life. That I am chasing an old couple and their dog? I start to contemplate simply asking for a photo of their cat dog. But what if they say ‘no’? I know there’s no way I could live with myself after taking a long detour and risking arrest for stalking while dealing with a migraine- if I don’t come away with my picture.

They’re getting closer.

Deep breath! I put on my “trust me I’m harmless voice” it comes out a bit higher pitched than I intended.

“Your dog is so cute! What’s his name?” Dumb question Toks, that’s the question you reserve for strangers’ babies.

”Cindy”

”Wow!!! What sort of dog is she?” Again too enthusiastic, tone it down sister. I suspect she’s a corgi, but just in case I feign ignorance. Telepathically I inform them she is so pretty she looks better than whatever her actual breed is which is why I don’t recognise it.

”An American corgi.”

”So adorable!” Wrong answer again Toks, get with it.

”What sort of dog do you have?”

”I don’t have one yet, but my children want one, however I grew up with dogs” I announce proudly, to let them know I belonged in their circle. That  I too, was a dog owner. In the past.

I quickly go back in time to Benin City where we had Scooby, Scrappy and Snowy. I don’t know what sort of dogs they were because in Benin they just call them dogs, except they are German shepherds or Alsatians which I know quite well that ours weren’t. I hope they don’t ask, I can’t just say local dogs now, can I?

They advise me that this dog who used to be a show dog is quite difficult to maintain and requires 2 hours of coat brushing daily. So to think twice before I get one for the boys.

“Can I have a picture?” I blurt out. ”Of your dog?” Bated breath. She looks surprised- or is that suspicion? She looks at her husband, he looks puzzled, or is that pride that their precious dog is so beautiful that strangers want a picture?

Meanwhile I’m wondering, why the hesitation? it’s only a dog! I understand the dangers of babies pictures circulated on the internet, could they also share that apprehension?

”Of course you can, sit Cindy”!

Cindy.  Former Show Dog

Cindy.
Former Show Dog

Isn’t she beautiful?

But now we have a problem. Because the whole thing that got me embroiled in this malarkey started with what Cindy looked like from behind. And I still don’t have that picture. I find myself at another crossroad for the second time this morning. I realise I can still save myself. I have a good life. Besides the weirdness that comes with being a parent, some may even say my life is perfect. Why would I destroy what was once beautiful? How would I explain myself to my dear parents who worked hard all their lives to give my brothers and I the best life they could afford? I can hear people discussing my ‘plight’; ‘And she seemed ok o, we heard she became a dog chaser, stalking old people in her neighbourhood”. I could see myself on TV and in the Voice newspaper.

With that I got in my car, turned around and headed home.

Now what dog do you suggest I get for the boys? And please don’t say a local dog.

04 Mar

A Brief Report About Nothing

I first awoke at 5:36am. Some days I wake up twice. And I don’t mean postpone waking up by 5 or 10 minutes with the snooze button. No. I actually go back to sleep, the sort of sleep you embark on at 11pm, having left home at 4am to go to work in a factory with faulty machinery. That sort of sleep.

My second wave of sleep was accompanied by a dream in which I was driving. In India. Ladies and gentlemen I’ll have you know that the only time I’ve been to India was in conversation with my friend Tanya who makes Luxury Leather Fairtrade bags there.
I haven’t got ‘go to India‘ on my bucket list. I haven’t even got ‘perhaps go to India‘ on the list.
I woke up again at 9:32am, and thankfully remembered #4 had a birthday party to attend  exactly 18 minutes from that moment. I had my day planned out- and it didn’t include hanging out waiting for him at a party. I wanted to read, blog and do some outstanding work  that’s been outstanding. The double emphasis is not an error. The single good thing about that party is that it was in the shopping centre that housed my favourite cafe.
I arrive looking like the coolest mum in town, no one knows what’s happening underneath; that my insides are carefully knitting themselves back together again, the way it does after you’ve done something as drastic as getting yourself ready and out of the door in 18 minutes, with #4, the one who has Mafia mannerisms, not the one who has a story for every word. That’ll be #3.
I say ‘Hi‘ to the other mums and will forever remain baffled yet stand respectfully in awe of those supreme women who choose 20 or more children, over their own company.
Why would I? When I can go for a Chocolate Viennese and toasted baguette all by myself? The Chocolate Viennese is a steaming mug of chocolate drink topped with a generous swirl of whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. I barely finish taking off #4’s coat and escape from the scene like I’m being pursued.
I make my way to the cafe and place my order. I scope out the joint to find my favourite table, the one by the window. That spot is perfect for observing. It is from that seat that I will later swing effortlessly and in perfect rhythm between guilt and justification, as I watch mother after mother arrive for a special time of breakfast with their children . While Toks ran away left hers behind so she could be by herself. That feeling will occur in due course, because like my sleep, I arrive at the cafe twice. Meanwhile I go to pay. My wallet isn’t there. Yes Toks, how can your wallet be there when it’s in your other bag?
I brace myself as I prepare the speech for the security guys as to why I can’t pay for my ticket. At that point I remember a few years ago when I lost my parking ticket . It was the second time in as many days. So I buzzed the help button at the exit barrier to let them know I needed their kind assistance to please let me out. OK I didn’t quite put it like that. They were not ecstatic.
”Madam, did you not use the same excuse just yesterday?”
”Yes I did. Because I actually lost my ticket”
”Sorry madam, but you have to pay a lost ticket fine of £10”
”Ok, but how do I do so when I don’t have my wallet on me?”
By this time a long line of cars had started to form behind me. Some drivers were already craning their necks to see who was holding up traffic.
”Well there’s nothing I can do, I offered. No ticket, no wallet.”
Defiance was starting to set in . Life for me was hard so some drama to punctuate my sadness was welcome.
”I’ll come down to sort it out”.
The security guard sounded like he couldn’t wait to let this woman out. I was wrong. I think what he really said was I’ll sort you out. He came for a fight. He proceeded to erect a temporary barrier behind me and direct traffic to exit on the oncoming lane, effectively locking me between the exit barrier and the makeshift one.
I switched off my engine and got on the phone to hubby. After a few unsuccessful minutes of role-playing as a traffic warden,  he let me through. Hubby’s concern was more for my emotional well-being as I had become rather forgetful and distracted, and it was starting to look like a ‘pattern’.
Thankfully on this occasion I was treated with grace and sympathy and was immediately allowed out without any drama.
My drive home to get my wallet was uneventful, besides nearly running through a red light. I am later seated with my mug and baguette, by the window where I pick up a rhythm; observe, guilty; observe, guilty. 
I picked #4 up from the party, this is #4 who never has enough of parties. This time there were no mild tantrums about leaving. Instead he had a look on his face like something was bothering him.
”Mum, can I ask you a question?”
”Of course sweetie!”
”Are we vegetarian?”
I laugh in amazement at his perfect pronunciation of a word (I think) he has never heard before.
”No darling we’re not. Why do..”
”Oh crumbs! I think we have a big problem mama!”
”Why?”
”I was asked and said we were and I was given chicken nuggets for vegetarians!”
He sounded like being classed wrongly as one meant certain doom for he and his family. Like he had unknowingly initiated us into some kind of cult. I assured him that we were both vegetarian and not vegetarian, we ate everything. I confused him more I think.
I went on to explain that vegetarians didn’t eat anything that was once alive, like chickens or cows.
The next day and I decided to buy some fish, I rarely eat fish but I decided some grilled fish and roast plantains sounded exotic and yummy so fish it was. I had them gutted and cleaned but according to Mustapha ‘we don’t fillet fish here’. And yes he may or may not be called Mustapha.
I showed the whole, gutted, headless fish to #4 and he promptly asked; ”Is it dead? Why did they kill it?”

About now I’m blinking rapidly, wondering if I’m prepared for what might come next. I have never imagined living the vegetarian lifestyle- nothing against them but you can almost say it’s against my religion not to eat meat.

I think I may have created my first vegetarian. And since it’s this particular child, we’re all in trouble. Big trouble.

Do share some words of support. Please!

08 Feb

All Stations to London Euston

After a week of full-English breakfast debauchery at the Hampton Hilton in Birmingham I return home to my beautiful family. They all seem so normal- compared to what, I don’t know. I walk indoors thankful for my spacious kitchen- staying in a hotel room for a week will do that to you.

The sun showed up as soon as I stepped into the taxi, almost as though the city was glad to see me leave. Hadn’t it rained non stop for the entire 4.5 days I’d been there? Even last night when I went searching for Afro-Caribbean food, I stood outside in the rain for 15 minutes, OK maybe 10. Still that was 20 minutes after they were to have opened. Another man came and stood next to me and asked if that was the Caribbean restaurant. I wanted to draw him into the heated discussion I was having with myself, about the state of affairs in our community and how were we supposed to get ahead if we didn’t even stick to our own opening times. But I couldn’t tell if he was Black or Asian. So I hushed up.

I chat with Ahmed, the cab driver. No he doesn’t tell me his name but he looks like an Ahmed. I double-check with him about Birmingham’s ‘city centre’. I don’t hide the incredulity  that laces my question; ‘Is the city centre by the station really the city centre of Birmingham?’ A part of me wants him to say yes, so that I can have one more thing to be thankful for, that I don’t live there. The other part hopes for his own sake that there’s a real centre, I just didn’t see it during my stay. As if he can read my thoughts he says ‘I don’t live in Birmingham , I live in Dudley. And yes, this is the city centre’. He explains to me that the city is fraught with a network of canals. At the mention of the word ‘canals’ I drift off to Venice where my head becomes filled with a network of idyllic images of passionate love and romance. It occurs to me that if I were to be asked about the size of my city centre, for example,  I would not be able to descend into its history or topography. I think that’s a bit sad and needs to be rectified. Oh to come from a beautiful city that has a network of canals, like Venice! Or Birmingham.

He tries to tell me my fare is £6, when I know fully well that it’s £5. I don’t prepare to argue. I simply tell him its £5. He mumbles an apologetic explanation as to how he forgot that ‘customers like you get a discount’. A feeble attempt to erase the brief shame you feel when you’re caught doing something infantile and silly- not silly enough to be told off, yet the silliness is what embarrasses you and not the being caught or the telling-off.

There is an immaculately dressed, older woman making her way quickly towards the station entrance, she tries to force me to confirm that she is scurrying in the right direction of the entrance, I nod with little certainty. It would appear the architects of Birmingham New Street Station made a grave error; it never occurred to them to put the entrance closer to her, knowing this day would come. I say a silent prayer of thanks because for once in my life and in what might actually be the first time, I’m not rushing. I have a whole 45 mins before my train departs. It is with this newfound calm and dignity I go to pick up my tickets- prepaid, I might add. I meet the older lady there, snapping at the ticket machine; ”it’s no point, I’ve probably missed my train, this is so ridiculous’‘. Her tone doesn’t go with her appearance, funny how the external can mask what’s going on inside. I realise I have been on the receiving end of a casual observer  many a time. I decide I prefer to be the observer and not the observed.

I sit in a waiting area and chat with my friend on the phone. A woman comes in with her guide dog, a beautiful cuddly, friendly thing. She snaps at her friend ‘sit down, please’, ‘please‘ is uttered with more force than ‘sit‘ and ‘down‘ and the dog quietly obeys. I think this must have been how Adam told off the animals in Eden. Soon my platform is announced, I make my way there where I am gifted once again with a feeling of superiority as I arrive on the platform to wait for my train. Usually trains wait for me, then change their minds as I arrive at the door huffing and puffing.

This one is a slow train, the type that makes up stations as it goes along just so it can stop at them. Our first stop is Stetchworth. Yes. And people clearly live there for a few passengers get on the train. Even more surprising, some people alight. A woman comes in with her 2 gorgeous little daughters. They look about the ages of 4 and 2, the kids look Nigerian but their mum looks err.. not Nigerian but she can pass for one. One daughter seats opposite me and the other stays on the other side of the aisle with her mum. Before long they’re skipping and whizzing around, and starting to irritate passengers. My eyes unintentionally lock with another passenger’s and she gives the polite British smile that says ”control your kids”. I smile back hoping my smile conveys to her; ”they’re not mine”.

The train stops at Rugby. It is standing room only and ‘my daughter’ is seating on her mother’s lap. A friendly passenger settles into the now vacant seat opposite me. Before long she is speaking French to the girls, ooh-la-la-ing with them, It’s a rare and beautiful sight. A complete stranger choosing to converse with 2 little girls. In French. The same girls that a few minutes prior I didn’t want mistaken as mine. The older girl smiles broadly and asks, ‘you speak French?’ Suddenly I feel jealousy creeping up . I want to be associated with these girls who speak French. I want to speak French too. I wonder if I can conjure up a reverse smile that does the opposite of denying them. I try to find the woman I need to offer this smile to, she’s gone. La zut! Ce qui est très triste!!!

Thank you for reading!

Partagez votre opinion ou être à jamais condamnée. (Translation: Share your thoughts or be forever doomed!)

18 Jan

A World Away

I’m sitting with Ian, he’s driving. My ears are being held hostage by the radio. The song’s chorus goes; ”every time I think about you I touch myself”. Uncomfortable does not describe how I feel. Nothing does. So I do what I do best, I start to chat.

He studied Eastern European History. I don’t ask why, even though I really want to know why he chose to dedicate his future to the past of a group of people who thankfully have stolen the spotlight from Nigerians in the UK. He is Welsh, born of Welsh parents and raised on Welsh soil. I ask him what sort of career path he’ll be taking, he doesn’t know. Perhaps my question isn’t clear. So I rephrase. His answer remains unchanged.

I leave Ian in mid-sentence and mentally teleport myself to West Africa, where I arrive in the sitting room of an average Nigerian family. They’ve just finished dinner and father asks son to repeat what he just told him. Then he holds up his hand signalling to the son, to ‘hold that thought’… he calls mother  to come and hear what her son is saying. Then turns back to son;

”Oya, tell us again what you want to study at University, the university that I’ll be paying for. With my own money”.

The rest of the scene is a blur so I take my leave and return to the car, we’re nearly at our destination but there’s time to chat some more. He tells me he’ll be leaving his job in 15 days to travel to South America. I ask where- eager to add my tuppence worth. I have Brazilian roots and I’m buzzing with the newfound knowledge that my ancestors first arrived on Nigerian soil exactly 100 years before I was born. My dad is our genealogy tzar. I’m blessed.
He tells me he’ll be travelling everywhere. I probe deeper. When will he be back? Because in my world people come back when they travel- usually within two weeks, four weeks tops if you’ve gone to bury a relative who had a chieftaincy title and lived long. Any more than that they’ll consider you as having emigrated. His answer reminds me he’s not from my world; for he’ll be gone for a year, maybe even two.
He did the same thing two years ago, quit his job and went travelling. Again I ask where.

”Oh you know, the standard. India, USA, Turkey”.

Standard?

I shut the heyall up. He carries on humming to the song. I don’t make the comment that’s been slowly making its way down to my mouth from my head.

Yesterday I met another one. I needed to buy a mobile broadband dongle, she looked and sounded like she would rather be in bed. The 21-year-old proceeded to take my details.

Ms or Mrs?

Mrs.

She replied in her sleepy voice, ”oh! You’re sooo lucky!”

I decide she needs some advice. A slap upside the head. A wake up call. Kick up the backside. So I ask how long she’s worked for Carphone Warehouse. ”one year”, she manages to offer. As though an additional word would send her over the edge and into Alice’s wonderland, which is precisely where she doesn’t want to go- in my opinion she’s halfway there.

So what do you plan on doing? I’m sure you don’t want to work for Carphone Warehouse forever?

No, I want to travel. Afterwards I want to finish my final year of degree.

Oh that’s nice! Where are you off to?

Australia.

What’s your degree course in?

Criminal psychology.

Sounds exciting!

Everybody says that.

She drags out ‘everybody’ so much so that the poor thing is unwillingly turned into a seven syllable word. I pay for my dongle, and as I leave, I wish her well on her travels.
Oh it’s not for a while, I have to save first. I don’t even know when I’m going.

I start to tell her where the nearest Starbucks is, so she can grab a coffee. then I change my mind. It’s only 10am. I don’t need this. Besides they may not drink coffee in her world.

Joanne says I attract odd people. Like those gypsies. Did I share about the day they came to the office? And puked in the toilet? It was no small matter. Another day! Now you have to come back!

Thank you for reading!

05 Jan

A Fiery Start to 2014

The first time I saw Chinese lanterns was in a movie. The second time I saw them was in another movie. I had never seen one in person until New Year’s day, 12:27 am precisely. We attended the watch night service at church and part of the festivities to ring in the New Year included lighting Chinese lanterns and releasing them up into the sky. I was as excited about it as the boys were. Their exuberance was expected considering the fact that the reason there is an unsightly burn mark on the top left corner of my bathroom window is due to their worrying obsession healthy curiosity with fire. Did I ever share about the day they made a rocket? It wasn’t from a rocket kit from the toy shop. No. These boys chose to make one from scratch since their mother isn’t ‘in the habit of buying toys willy-nilly’

So they gathered all their components together. A single A4 paper and Vaseline. They made a paper airplane, smeared the tail with Vaseline, yes petroleum jelly. In case there is a non-greasy type I’ll point out that they used the greasy one. Placed a large blob of the jelly on the nose of the plane, set fire to it and yes, attempted to fly it out of the window upstairs. I’m guessing they went upstairs to give themselves a head start into space.

Back to the lanterns. The wet weather prevented us from lighting our lanterns at church, so we took them home. Of course the weather has never been known to hinder my boys’ determination for adventure so straight to the garden we went. After a few false starts we had success. The challenge then became how to get it to lift up in a straight vertical manner just like the movies. Wasn’t it supposed to just float upwards until it became as tiny as a star?? Eventually #3’s lantern lifted up, we stared in excitement, barely able to contain ourselves that this was really happening. As if on cue the lantern decided to change course and chart a horizontal path towards our neighbour’s garden. It carried on past their’s to hover over the second garden and then began it’s desent, all the while staring at us in a mocking fashion. It was still alight. For all we knew they had gas cylinders on their patio- they were the heavy barbecuing type- but the lantern didn’t care and the patio was precisely where the lantern made a bee line for. The swift change from excitement to mad panic deserves a place in the Guinness book of world records. I’ll point out too that the mad panic was neither experienced nor displayed by the boys.

I flew in my high heels to their home and knocked on the door. No one peeked out of the window to see who was knocking at that ungodly hour.  There was no shuffling of feet or  tinkling of keys. All I got was pitch blackness and silence. By this time I could hear the sirens of the fire brigade coming to douse the flames of an entire house, while the residents whispered in small circles about the woman with the four sons who was bent on burning down their quiet street. And how certain people really should be certified sane before being allowed to move into the borough of Bromley.

I ran back into my house where I told the boys to get ready to climb over two lots of fences. From our garden I could see the orange glow of the flames in the darkness which told me trouble wasn’t looming, it had successfully loomed and doomed.

I  dashed back outside, this time to my next door neighbour rambling on about fire, cylinders and the Chinese. I think it was out of fear for the safety of his future that he let me in.  I brushed past him, tore through the house to their garden to climb over their fence. Thankfully the fire was out and the lantern was smouldering. I then had to do the walk of shame in front of his family who had gathered on either side of the hallway to see how someone who didn’t even know their name was now tearing around the house like she lived there.

As I walked I tried to talk away the shame, focusing on safety and lanterns and all the right things I thought they’d want to hear.

Needless to say our experience with Chinese lanterns shall remain confined to movies. We have a large screen, what more do we want?

BTW it turned out that the ‘orange glow’ was only their garden light. Phew!

01 Jan

Good enough!

My new year resolutions for 2014 can be distilled into one buzz word, authenticity.

Not that I have gone out of my way to be pretentious or fake, but after some reflection in the last few months of 2013, I realised and faced up to the fact that there have been times when I haven’t been entirely comfortable with who I am. I love myself to bits- I don’t want to be anyone else, I don’t wish I was Michelle Obama, but still I noticed that I have struggled to be myself in certain situations, especially when outside my comfort zone.

Case in point the new blog issue. I wanted to start a new blog that would appeal to my clients, none of whom I live like or look nothing like. So I struggled with a blog name and content. The plan was to write as this personality that fit in with the quintessential Brit. A lady who lunches. I was to visit places and appreciate the sort of art I normally don’t care for, then write about it (in a genteel tone) as though it was normal for hubby and the boys to go to Lords Cricket Ground, while I had afternoon teas with the Windsors. Don’t get me wrong I do love the finer things in life and appreciate art and beauty, but your girl wanted to take it to another level so she could fit in.

After struggling for a while I pushed the  idea to the back of my mind. But the comments you kindly share on this blog, the email responses I get from friends and in conversation with my friends, I tend to get two main descriptive phrases that resonate deeply. One of them is being authentic.

I have come to the conclusion that the best personality I can portray is mine. I cannot successfully try to be someone else. The fear of not being accepted in a different social circle is gone, because God made me with a personality that cannot be replicated. So who I am is unique and beautiful as it is, I don’t need to alter me. This is not to say I won’t try to improve on areas that need improving on, I believe in education outside the classroom and life-long learning, and I will still go out to expose the boys to the epicurean lifestyle, but I will do so while remaining authentic. I love my name and totally love my skin colour and I’m comfortable in it.

I have also come to the conclusion that excellence can only be achieved when you’re being yourself. Because that’s what you were pre-wired to be. Imagine a car trying to be a boat? Or an apple hoping to taste like an orange? You get the picture!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2014, filled with the confidence to be you! Thank you so much for being in my life and sharing my journey with me!

I’d love to hear your buzz word for 2014.

PS:

On the blog note, I have decided to step out and create a separate page on the business blog, complete with my photograph and sharing my life and loves, the real one, not the imagined one, it’s a big step for me and I’m VERY excited!

11 Dec

Crazy, Ditzy, Cool

©Cinnamon Kitchen

Crazy

I owe The Wordsmythe an apology- and that’s putting it mildly. I stole her fiance. In the dream she was getting ready for her traditional wedding. There wasn’t going to be a white one, she was marrying  Chief Muyiwa, a semi- illiterate man. I don’t know how and where my obsession with illiterate old men came from to the point that I have now started to dream of stealing someone else’s own. Nkem, forgive me, I’m baffled myself. Anyway, in the dream I positioned myself for a hostile takeover of her husband-to-be but pulled back just in time. Needless to say her aunties were not pleased. I have no idea how I got from the village to Kent but I’m glad I did.

Today I’ll be explaining Apartheid to #4. That’ll be a challenge as I don’t want him looking strangely at our caucasian friends and questioning if they have any desire to rule over his family. He is likely to do that. The thing is he would start his sentence with ‘my mother said…”

Hubby, I have had to ban from grocery shopping. In a bid to cut down on my workload I shifted the weekly shopping responsibility to him. The man buys premium everything. I walked in to find a pack of Andrex-quilted-scented-premium-luxury-limited-edition tissues in the kitchen. I had one question. ‘Why?

However there are some things I won’t compromise on, like cotton buds. It has to be Johnson’s. Add cotton wool to the list too as the last one I bought appears to be polyester instead of cotton- completely useless at removing nail polish. It glides all over my fingernail as though the polish is the one trying to take the cotton wool off.

Talking about nail varnish, I am currently obsessed with glitter polish. I used one the other day and referred to it as glitter burgundy. My friend asked; ‘Is that burgundy? It was a simple question yet I spent the remaining part of the week staring at my nails  asking chanting; ‘burgundy or purple? burgundy or purple?

Ditzy

I was invited to the launch of BMW’s first electric car. It was a very posh event. Posh because of the canapes and ‘very’ because of their size. Seriously. The whole evening was spent trying to figure out how on earth the canapes were made. Even with tweezers it would have been quite a task to layer one itsy-bitsy shred of slow-roasted beef over a crouton piece of pastry drenched in half a drop of sauce. Every so often a waiter would show up with a teeny wooden platter and 8 pretty ones perfectly arranged for presumably 8 people. He would begin the spill; This is french Pain de mie with slow roasted pheasant and a single dried olive dipped briefly in a 200 year old rice vinegar, drizzled with  olive oil and a hint of mild Japanese black pepper’. By the time he finished I’d have popped two or 3 in my mouth. How some people were able to bite into them is beyond me. I didn’t want to appear any less dignified than I already did by also taking a photo with my blackberry, but they were the size of #4’s thumbnail. Then there was the small matter of the verbal faux pas. When a representative told me the staff each had a company BMW Toks of course forgot herself and asked if they had vacancies. Half jokingly, half serious. He looked at me quizzically, no doubt wondering why one who couldn’t drop £100k for a car was doing in their Park Lane, Mayfair showroom. We were looking at the i8 due out later this year. I noticed Helen take 2 steps away from me, denying that she even knew me. 

We’ve had some big changes on the business side. Very exciting indeed. Now I go to the website and spend about 5 mins smiling in sheer admiration. And another 5 wishing I had spent that time working instead. I’ll be writing a book on our business experiences. Crazy customers featuring will include the one that told me he wasn’t excited about the pregnancy since his wife had STDs.

Cool

I have been invited to speak at a major event at the NEC in Birmingham. This is huge. So understandably I spent the first 2 weeks waiting for the email to tell me they were sorry- it was sent to me in error. Consequently I haven’t prepared yet. And mild panic is starting to set in.

On that note I’ll stop for now. What have you been up to?  I’ve missed you!