25 Nov

Basia: A Childhood Memory

In my early teens, I spent some time with my great-aunt. You know the type that is revered and feared by family and friends alike. The one that everyone, the entire adugbo defers to. She was a staunch Catholic and I can only write about her now because I know she is miles away in purgatory. Or heaven.

My visit stretched longer than the one week or two it was supposed to be, during which time she felt she had worn my mother’s shoes long enough to earn her the right to change a few things about me, like the fact that I spoke English and not Yoruba.

“I have no idea why you don’t speak Yoruba, from this moment on, there shall be no English in this house.”

“Yes, ma.”

I didn’t mind, it would be a burden removed if at last I spoke fluent Yoruba like everyone around me. I understood Yoruba fairly well, my trouble was with the intonation, I struggled to get it right and was self-conscious about the fact.

She was the first health freak I met. She drank Swedish Bitters,  brewed herbal teas and concocted strange drinks. She was big on personalization too for she had her initials LYM, printed, engraved or embroidered on most items as the case may be. She had her personal printer, the way most people have a seamstress or a family doctor

We were seated at the dining table, where she strained an organic yeast tea. It stank. I had heard her lauding its healing properties to anyone who visited. Being a pretty woman even in her 70s, many offered their two cents worth on her rare beauty, sometimes attributing it to her drinking of the tea. I doubt that she regarded any of it as she was aware of the spell she placed her minions under. They’d say anything to sweeten her up. Who’d want to fall under the wrath of my great-aunt? She had a quiet laugh and her eyes twinkled when she smiled. Her speaking voice was equally quiet, deliberate and some worth threatening. She shifted about in her chair, looking first to the left, and then the right. “In my room”, she said partly to herself. Quietly.

Lọ mu basia wa. 

(Go and bring the basia.)

What the hell is a basia?

I dared not tell her I didn’t know what it meant since she’d rain down some choice words on me. With one foot placed carefully in front of the other I made my way to her bedroom.

What is a basia? Toks think, think! What on earth is a basia? Baaasiabasiiaaa… I dragged out the word slowly hoping that its translation would be squeezed out if I stretched it long enough.

Once in her room my search began for any item whose name in Yoruba I was unaware of. I spotted a large rosary, a small chair, stack of Manila folders, a photo album, statue of Mary the mother of God, 2 Cherubim. None of these items seemed like a basia I thought to myself. Could it be the name of the latest lace? She had some bundles of muted coloured lace fabric on her bed and Nigerians are known to accord their fashions exotic names.

I returned, lamb-like to the slaughter and opened my mouth to tell her I couldn’t find it. I don’t remember how the words formed themselves.

Basia bantu bantu???!!!”

I didn’t know what bantu bantu was either. She said something  unsavoury in relation to my eyes, ( I have big eyes and my eyes often became the subject of conversation when I was with adults who’d run out of clever things to say). She also spread her arms out wide to demonstrate how sizeable it was- that,  being either my eyes or the basia.
She was already impatient and this was only my first trip. My plan had been to make several trips each time presenting a different item until I got it right.

“Ooh!! Of course ma!” I feigned realisation.

I went back slowly but with a bit more confidence. What’s the largest item in her room? Besides the bed? Surely she didn’t expect me to drag her bed out did she? Or did she?  I stared at her bed, feeling very foolish yet knowing I was intelligent. I looked around some more and then wandered into her bathroom. It was the first time I’d been in there, the shiny tiles were in navy blue and being an en-suite with only a tiny window, the bathroom was quite dark. The eeriness matched the fear that was brewing inside me. I prayed for the phone to ring, to buy me some time. I retreated to the bedroom, could it be in the wardrobe? I’d have some explaining to do if she caught me in her wardrobe looking for a large basia, besides  didn’t she say it was in her room?

She is going to call my name any minute.

Another sweeping glance around the room this time grabbing chunks of courage with which I would tell her I didn’t know what a basia was. As I walked out of the bedroom I bumped into a large metal basin. I thought of the uncanny coincidence. Basia, basin..basin, basia... could it be? Or was God making fun of me? I ran out of time playing tennis with my own thoughts as she yelled my name.

With the large basin in the crook of my left arm, I steeled myself for big trouble and made my way to the dining room. With each step I reaffirmed to myself that learning to speak Yoruba fluently wasn’t worth this trouble. I didn’t miss the look of disdain on her face that said;

“What is wrong with you? I thought you said you didn’t find it the first time?”

My sigh of relief would be heard many years later in 2015.

That wasn’t the last time I got lost in translation, there were many others, including the time I made  amala so soft, she had to eat it with a desert spoon. Hubby says I can write an entire book on the period I lived with my great-aunt, he is right. My experience spanned months and it was decades ago but the memories of what most would call a formidable woman makes an appearance every so often. I’ll be sure to invite you for a natter whenever that happens.

 

08 May

Surviving The Nigeria High Commission, London

“Madam please off your phone we don’t allow phones on.”

“Excuse me, do you not have manners? Ah ah? Who raised you? Why don’t you let me enter before you come out? Ehn?”

“Mama please e ni suru, it’s okay.”

You guessed it, I’m at the Nigeria High commission Northumberland Avenue, London. If you want to test your levels of dignity, visit the Nigeria High Commission. If you think you’ve arrived, that you, an adult cannot possibly throw tantrums and totally lose it, I dare you to go there.

nigeria-high-commisssion

There is a small crowd outside. People are just… standing. They’re standing outside the closed entrance, a heavy brown door- no different from the door of a UK government building. Some are on their phones, others simply staring. I feel compelled to join them and stand, yes, l know sheep mentality. I ask a lady in a red and blue Ankara,

“Excuse me, what’s going on?”

She looks at me like I have two heads; “Nothing.”

“Are they closed?”

“No, you just need to knock.”

“Knock?” I start to walk towards the door, my fist balled up ready to knock. People step aside as I walk up the three or four steps, they are staring at me, and you know our people can stare!

I am beginning to feel like a right idiot as I knock. I’m not sure the woman in Ankara was being sarcastic or not, she had a stern look.

I knock, gingerly. Expecting the crowd behind me to roar with laughter.

To my utter surprise, the door opens.

Yes. At the Nigeria High Commission in London, you knock like it’s a private residence and the door is opened by a man I presume to be the security guard.

An exchange about my phone needing to be switched off occurs and I quickly call my contact. I have a contact who will help me. It is common knowledge that official matters transition better when you have someone on the inside. My contact was referred to me by another contact and we’ve been conversing over the phone but it’s the first time we’ve met.

His eyes light up when I ask if he is Donatus*, “ah, Toks?” Huge smile.

I stretch out my hand to shake his, he takes my winter cold hand in him warm one and refuses to let go- even as we start to go upstairs to his office.

I hover between two minds, do I snatch my hand away and be condemned to hours in the sweltering heat? There’s a crowd and all heaters are blazing for in my country we don’t have winter. The second option will be to use style to sneeze and cover my mouth in which case he might think I’m feigning damsel in distress and he’ll attempt to catch me.

We arrive at his office. His ringtone is Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing and he lets it ring and ring until the chorus plays and plays. He switches it off. It rings again. Awkward. This happens one more time and then he answers; “I’ll meet you downstairs.”

I would have asked if he was anyone’s beau, cos as you know, I’m on the hunt for a beau for my friend, if you know anyone worth interviewing for the position, holler! – but I’m not feeling him so I don’t bother.

Finally, he returns, finishes helping me out with the forms and tells me to follow him downstairs. I was not prepared for the daggers I received mainly from women who assumed I had given him something in exchange for jumping the queue. Their stiff eyelashes chart the path we walk on and my new friend leads me to the end of the room, points to the interview room and tells me to wait, that the guy in the green check shirt will interview me.

“Ehm, w-when?”

“Soon na.”

“Ah, I have to pick my son at 3 o, I hope I can be out by 2pm”

“Haba, of course na. Maybe, maybe,” he shrugs.

There’s a young girl standing in front of me, she looks Igbo. Lovely figure with a perfectly round bum. I notice because I follow my contact’s gaze. She isn’t wearing a ring, her weave is halfway down her back and she isn’t heavily made up, but is very pretty. We strike up a conversation and I start to wonder about her accent. She hasn’t got a pure British accent but it isn’t pure Naija either. I ask her where she’s from.

“My parents are Nigerian.”

“Yeah, I guessed. What part of Nigeria are you from?”

“Ehmmmmmm ehmmmm Ijebu.” She says with a definitive nod and a smile suggesting she is proud of herself for remembering where she hails from and even pronouncing it. Her intonation is so off, an Oyibo would have done a better job of saying Ijebu.

She has a few scars on her neck and I determine she got into a fight with her ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. The pretty ones, they say tend to be the fiery ones. Plus she’s no more than 5ft and as you know short people have a temper.

Another man joins us. His face is covered in neatly cut tribal marks.

He is worried he won’t get a passport because his birth certificate is missing. An official walks past us and he taps her;

“Sister, please. Err err my birth certificate is missing. Ma.”

“Ok, do you have your passport?”

“Err yes and no”

“Yes and no bawo? You either have it or you don’t.” She turns her nose up and raises her head slightly. She is tall, about 6ft and the man is no more than 5’6″. So when she looks down at him, she does so in every sense of the word.

“Well er, you see, the issue is this. I don’t have a Nigerian passport.”

“Ok, so what did you come to the UK with then?”

“I’m British.”

“Ok so you came to England with a British passport?” She says ‘British passport’ with a little laugh.

“No, I came with my Kenyan passport Ma”

“Oh, you’re from Kenya?”

“No, from Nigeria.”

“How did you get a Kenyan passport?”

“My uncle got it for me.”

“So you have Kenyan, British and now you want Nigerian?” She sneered.

“Y-yes” it’s almost as though the same words now proceeding from the woman’s mouth have been stripped of all confusion and now the simplicity in the meaning is laid bare. It is as though for the first time in his life, he understands himself.

She eyes him up and down. “No one will give you a Nigerian passport. You have to revoke either the Kenyan or the British one.”

“Ha?! I’ve been here since 8am! No one told me. Will I get me money back? What do I do now?” He is visibly shaken.

She leans very closely to him and whispers: “See ehn, when you enter, just don’t say anything about Kenya.” She waves her hand left and right to emphasise her point. “Don’t just mention Kenya. Just say you don’t have a Naija one, you have a britico one. Simples.”

I spot an old, old friend. I’m not sure if I should try and get his attention- he fell out with my friend’s friend and we haven’t seen him in nearly 20 years. From his teeth and his mannerisms, I know it’s him. He hasn’t changed much. Pudgier, bald, a bit darker but that’s all. It’s definitely him.

I avoid making eye contact, people are strange he may decide to take up his anger against our mutual friend on me. Eventually, We cross paths in the canteen where you go to get a signal on your phone. I call out his name. I am at peace with whatever his reaction will be.

“Ahhhh!!!! Tooooookkkkkssss!!” Big hugs, back clapping etc.

We catch up in all of three minutes all that’s happened in the last 15 years. Family, work, life. His ticket number is called and we part ways- he goes upstairs for biometrics while I await my fate.

My number is called for the interview. Seated across the table is a bespectacled woman whom you know if she were in Naija would have drivers, house helps and a gardener.

“Why are you here?” She doesn’t waste her glance on me. The contents of her handbag seem to interest her more.

“I’m applying for my Nigerian passport.” I speak slowly and deliberately, an attempt at infusing the utmost respect into my voice.

“So you don’t have one?”

It is both statement and a question so I don’t answer, one does not want to come across as insulting and thereby lose one’s place in the queue.

“You have applied under a different name.”

“Yes, my maiden name”

“Are you divorced?”

“No.”

“Separated?”

“No.”

“So why don’t you want to use your husband’s name?” She looks at me like I just crawled out from under a molue. As though I don’t realise just how privileged I am to be able to use another man’s name legally. After all, in our culture are women not meant to aspire towards becoming Mrs?

“I chose my maiden name because the only link I have to my heritage is my surname, which isn’t a typical Nigerian name, my guarantors (parents) share the same surname so I was hoping this will be smooth sailing.” Even as I speak I realise I have confused her more. a simple “because I wanted to” would have sufficed. Cost me my place in the queue, but still sufficed. Their website had called for a letter from my local government area in Nigeria to prove I was indeed Nigerian. That in itself opened another can of worms because of my surname.

“In that case, you have to start the application from scratch”

“Ok fine, married name then please.”

I have never had a conversation this long about my own names and my choice to use either.

“If you’re using your married name, you need a letter of consent from your husband as well as a copy of his passport as proof that you share the same name.”

“Not to worry,” I beam with confidence and whip out my ammunition, “I have my marriage certificate.”

“You still need a letter of consent.”

“Letter of consent?”

“Of course na, to show that he consents to you using his name, that he has permitted you.”

“Even though his name is on the marriage cert?” Here’s me thinking the maiden name would eliminate this extra drama.

She looks at me like I have no sense.

“Yes. Even. though. his. name. is. on. the. marriage. certificate. Ok please wait outside to be called for biometrics.”

I plunk I myself on the grey metal chair feeling really sorry for myself yet thankful that I have crossed one hurdle. Of course I have no idea how many more are left.

Soon after, an announcement is made for us all to go upstairs exactly 4 hours after I arrived at the high commission. I am greeted with a seated crowd of seething Nigerians. No one is smiling. Everyone stares blankly at the flat screen TV which is trying hard to broadcast what appears to be a light-hearted documentary. The presenter is clearly living her dream, it consists of holding a mic and speaking into a 30-year-old camera. I know the camera is that old because the audio and visual are so fuzzy, you’d think it was a visual and audio effect going on, I assure you that’s not the case.

My friend invites me to sit with him. My headache which started brewing an hour ago is now gathering waves. My neck aches from staring at the monitor, checking for my number. And he begins to talk. And talk and talk. He tells me about his daughter who is leading her school in the top girls netball them in the country. His son who has just won a scholarship and the youngest who just passed his 11 plus. Due to a ‘technicality’, he didn’t get into any of the schools but they have appealed and the case will be won. After all, the council are familiar with his name having won an award in the past. I had forgotten how well my old friend could brag.

He tells me about his friend who was invited to speak at W.H.O, and how the said friend’s experience in Belgium is proof that ‘the present administration is failing’. Why else will other speakers from Nigeria be late for the event? He proceeds to show me a picture of the letter headed invitation as proof. That this administration is failing. And Buhari is a fraud.

My headache is worsening.

A suave looking guy with pointy, snake-skin shoes strolls in. “Ladies and gentlemen, good and bad news. Our server is down in Abuja. This means those of you with epassports are affected, you can choose to wait, or return another day.”

Sounds of frustration begin.

“So when you say wait, how long na?” The man with a thick Igbo accent asks.

“Oga, na server na, how we go no when server go start to dey work again? No one can predict these things.”

Clusters of conversation begin to merge into one loud noise.

“This country, ehn?”

“In Nigeria it’s not even this bad.”

“Welcome to naijaaaaa!” A joker chimes in.

“This is preposterous!” The one in the suit and tie adds.

“My children haven’t eaten all day,” moans the woman with a buggy in front of her, a baby asleep in it. Her toddler’s standing a few feet away, chewing on her doll’s foot.

Me? I’m fed up. The headache has reached the level of ice-cold cloth on my head, dark room and no noise.

My friend on the other hand who I forgot to mention, jabs at you when he’s making a point did not stop talking. “This our country, when will it change?” Jab jab jab-jab, jab jab jab jab.

I decide I can’t take any more of this. It is nearly 6pm and I’m stuck in a packed room. I go to the biometrics room where 5 men and women spend 30 mins each taking one photograph.

The woman with the baby and buggy is in there moaning about being there since 7am.

“Madam there is no way you’ve been here since 7am, no way”

“Are you saying I’m lying?”

“Habaaa madam? What’s your number?”

“233”

He starts to laugh and all the others join in. “If you were here at 7 your number will be a lot lower than that. Anyway sha, sit down I’ll see you soon.”

I can’t be bothered to tell you about the drama that erupted when an Igbo man dared to tell a Yoruba woman that she was courting favours. I won’t even go into her acidic reaction and the way the man backed down quick, quick.

I was told the 64-page passport that I applied for was out of stock, and even though when I applied online it was the other way round. I was told that the 32 was out of stock and I was forced to pay the higher price for the 64-page passport. I didn’t tell her that. I didn’t ask for the difference to be returned. I just wanted to get out.

So I did.

Tips for survival:

Go with cash- for food. There is a lovely lady that sells good food in the canteen at the back. It’s a precursor to your arrival and walking into mama Bimpe’s buka in Ikeja.

Be prepared to beg, but it might not lead anywhere.

Take some tissue and your entire makeup up purse, you will cry- real tears.

Be nice to every single official, you don’t know what side your bread is buttered.

Blank out your entire day. Sort out school runs, babysitting, dinner, everything. It really is a whole day affair.

It helps if you know someone who works there, it’ll raise your hopes up but it may not lead anywhere.

If you’re in a bad mood, it’ll only get worse. You are better off starting on a high so by the time you’re done all you’ll feel is extreme irritation and you won’t actually lose your mind. Alternatively, change your appointment date.

That said, I love Nigeria, I love Nigerians and totally love being Nigerian. Other embassies may not have you literally knocking on the door but we have got to be the coolest people God created. Bar none.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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.

30 Aug

The Scoop on Otunba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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…







 

 

 

 

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!

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!

14 Dec

Eavesdropping

EavesdroppingLast night found me at the hospital with child #4. He suddenly developed severe pain in both legs and couldn’t stand, let alone walk. I wasn’t in the least bit bothered as #2 had that right after a bout of cold when he was 2. At the same time one must not take chances. Off we went to the GP who looked perplexed (she was young and inexperienced) and she panicked, calling the hospital ahead to expect me; she sent me off with a letter to the children’s A+E explaining her ‘concerns over this odd turn of events’ I tried to reassure her that it wasn’t serious, then I realised I had unwittingly swapped roles with her and stopped.

At the hospital we had to endure a 4 hour wait, a situation that wasn’t helped by new patients arriving and then leaving before us. I decided to make time pass by eavesdropping on every diagnosis my itchy ears could pick up. Then my attention turned to the young mother of a newborn, no more than 3 months old. She was having a slightly heated conversation with the police, about 4 of them were with her. Then she disappeared into a room presumably with the doctors while the cops gathered outside the door of the waiting room where Toks was strategically positioned for more gist. They talked amongst themselves and I heard them say ”16 times in the last x weeks”. And I heard the phrase  Munchausen’s By proxy.  I vaguely remembered a nurse in the news about 10 years ago so I whipped out my phone to check on Wiki. Between the great Wiki and my hyperactive imagination, we concluded that this young woman had brought her baby to the hospital 16 times in the last 3 months, trying to convince the doctors that the baby was ill. When she was sent home again and again with no diagnosis she possibly deliberately harmed the baby- at least that’s what the police determined. It is a psychiatric disorder and the mum needs help- if this is the case. An hour later she left crying with her mother- but without the baby. The nurses where stifling their tears. The atmosphere in paediatric A+E was very heavy and sombre. For a moment the only noises were the mother’s cries and the bleeping of the monitors. The machines appeared to be busy minding their own business, yet silently conversing amongst themselves about how crazy the humans were with their strange problems. And how glad they were not to be humans.

About 20 mins later another woman left cradling the baby while receiving instructions from the police  She was either the foster mum or the social worker. My heart was heavy and I felt so sad for that woman. Of course I began to wonder how they determined that she was an unfit mother. What triggered the hospital to call the police? I took my first son to the hospital many times and even once took a carrier bag of  dirty nappies filled with green poo. That’s normal for a first time mum right?  Whatever! to you if you’re busy shaking your head! And what if they were wrong about her? I wondered if there were any false signals I gave out that would lead them to think I had some unpronounceable syndrome. The first time I brought #4 to the hospital I couldn’t remember his date of birth. We tried 3 different dates, all of them wrong and had to call hubby who found it hilarious; he comforted me by telling me I had a lot on my plate. 4 children plus him and running a business wasn’t an easy brew to swallow daily.

Later as I chit-chatted with the doctor, she asked the ages of my other children. Wahala. #1 just turned 13 but I’m still used to saying 12, so I said 12- er.. 13! Long and short of it I muddled up all their ages., I wondered if they’ll see that as a sign of a syndrome. I decided from now on, if I am mistaken with their ages, I’ll stick with my first story. They might be keeping a tab. I can just see it;

  • Appears uncertain about ages of her children- Frequently changes their dates of birth.
  • Takes bag of dirty nappies to hospital and forces senior doctor to look at each one.’
  • Doesn’t cry when child goes camping for a week. Evidence here
  • Uses unconventional threats to discipline children, see tongue-cutting episode and cancer story.

I said a prayer for that mum and had to drag myself out of the feelings of despair that overwhelmed me, there’s just too much pain in this world!

Thankfully we were sent home after a few hours. Earlier when I left for the hospital I was grumpy. I had a sore throat, most of the folks in my house were either dealing with or recovering from the flu or cold. I was unhappy about the icy cold weather. I was tired and felt drained from countless nights waking up to administer cough medicine, rubbing menthol on their chests, and forcing calpol down reluctant throats. But as we drove back home, I did so with joy and thankfulness. Joy that I had a home to return to, and I’m blessed with a sizeable family that’s mine. And of course that I don’t have any syndromes named after foreign Doctors or professors. There really is nothing quite like good physical health and soundness of mind, for that I am thankful to God. No doubt you are too.

Thank you for reading, do come back!