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.

 

03 Dec

How to Rock the School Run

You dash out of the house cradling your coat, your brown belt, bronze lipstick and bag. You snatch #4’s coat out of his little arms as he struggles to walk with his lunch bag and rucksack. You get into the car to discover you left your phone plugged in by your bed. That’s when you nearly trip as you bound up the stairs to retrieve it. You tell #4 to put his seatbelt on, wonder why your annoying neighbour chose to shout her greeting today rather than say it, do a quick 180 degree spin of the car and leave a cloud of dust behind.

You ask #4 what lessons  he has in school today while mentally searching for the person you offended that has now cursed caused you to end up behind the Peugeot 205 that’s driving as though it’s in a parade of some sort. This appears to be a deliberate ploy to rile you. But you resist the temptation and hold on to your joy as you drive. Slowly. You grit your teeth- a mixture of irritation and relief as the car pulls to the right. Now you are left to nurse the guilt that’s rising like bile at the realisation that the driver is a pensioner. Anxious thoughts of ageing start to cloud your mind- but you push those out too. Because you know if you don’t you will begin to recall foods that cause ageing. You’ll remember the last thing you had for breakfast yesterday. Bread. You ate bread with a slab of butter and sliced mushrooms and scrambled eggs neatly arranged on like they do at Carluccio’s. Did you not say you’d stop eating gluten and dairy? You will then begin to make new vows to change your diet and start exercising again. So you refuse to think about ageing. And health. And looming changes in your appearance. You don’t imagine your mostly black hair becoming mostly grey. You choose instead to chat with #4 by answering his random question; “how does a woman know when she’s meant to have a baby?” Not so random really as you’ve just gone past the heavily pregnant mum who was due to have her baby last week, and you just exclaimed ‘the baby still hasn’t arrived!’

Your left hand rummages through your bag for your eyeliner which you are sure you threw in as you left the house, the green shoulder bag your friend Aji bought you from Spain.

You drop off #4 after a failed attempt at kissing him. He says he just doesn’t want a kiss when you ask him if he’s okay. He says it with a small smile. You remember his teacher’s words last parents evening, that he is a ‘very factual’ boy, he is not dreamy. You smile at God’s blessing as you release him from your grip and rush to the car praying the traffic warden hasn’t showed up with his oversized uniform and parking ticket paraphernalia.

Off you go for your first appointment of the day following the school run. You are accompanied by the songs of India Arie and presently being stirred up by the words;

” You inspire me the way you make me feel inside is amazing
Your honesty your artistry is engaging
You are everything I hope to be”

You take in the ‘rolling hills and glowing trees of Kent. Kent, which you love so much. Only 8 years ago you were sad to move back here. Now you love being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation.

You dither at the mini roundabout as you doubt your own right of way since bus 216 is racing down like its the one with the right to pass.
India Arie is now singing Video– you admire her sheer guts at singing the naked lyrics- sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don’t…Such courage. The song has you glued to the seat of your car as you rock from side to side singing at the top of your voice. You have arrived but you are not about to deny yourself the joy of singing. So you sing. And sing. And sing. And you knock on the door 7 minutes late.

31 Jan

Blurred Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that your husband?”

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

“Yes”

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

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

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

“I need to go again”

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

“Ok,” I nod.

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

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

 

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

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

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

“Oh no!” He exclaims quietly but urgently.

Another patient chips in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

Or

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

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

1) That he issued me with a parking ticket

and

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

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

Thank you for reading!

26 Sep

The Blooming of Madness

“Mum, can I have a sleepover at my friend’s house?”

“No”

“Please mum!!!”

“Which friend is that?”

“Charles”

“Charles. I don’t know him or his parents, let him come round after school. When I meet him and his parents I’ll consider it.”

“But mum he can’t come here since we have a birthday party and the sleepover on Friday.”

“Too bad then.”

“Please mum, here’s his address and his mum’s number, you can call her. They’re Buddhists and are peace-loving and easy going.”

(His best friend in primary school was Buddhist and I liked their family.)

I google the address. I check zoopla for house values on their street. Too high and they might do cocaine. Too low and it might be weed. I call her and get a default text message- I’ll call back, driving.

Hmm. Responsible. She doesn’t drive and text or chat. I get a missed call and a text later, explaining she was on her way home from work. She works, Looking good.

I speak to her, she is well spoken. She begins to tell me excitedly about the plans her son has carefully made, she is proud of him.
The group of 7 children will go from school to her house, then to the party, then back to her house for a sleepover. In tents. In the woods- since they’re so many. They’ll even have a fire pit. She carries on as though she cannot contain herself, Charles said they will be leaving the party at 9pm, but she thinks if it is a good party they really should leave at about 11pm (23:00 hours. 11 at night, the hour before midnight) 14-year-old boys and at least one girl. Yes, a girl amongst boys.

I politely allow my reluctance to show, you know how sensitive women can be. One octave too high and she’ll site harassment or conclude that I think I’m better than her. An octave too low and I would have just called her a bad mother. She goes on to explain her parenting style as being liberal. She tells me she gives her son lots of freedom. Since he is responsible. She believes it is the giving of that freedom that has made him ‘a responsible young man.’ I ask if she has any other kids. I am surprised when she says ‘no.’ I nearly say in my naija accent; ‘and you’re being -what was the word- liberal, with him?’ If I did, I would have yodeled  the ‘him’ to the tune of ehn-hen?

I don’t explain to her that there is a reason you won’t hear about us being trapped under layers of snow in the Himalayas. Or being hacked to death by a psycho in the woods. I don’t tell her that I don’t plan to one day sit in front of a TV crew crying and appealing for ‘justice to be brought to those evil people’. Or that he is unlikely to become paralysed from using a malfunctioning bungee jumping harness, having leapt from a 2 engine plane over the Kenyan jungle.

I simply tell her I’ll speak with my husband and let her know- that the day I let my 14 year old son attend a party to go home at 11pm at night, 23:00 hours, the hour before midnight, and then let him sleep in a tent in the woods on an autumn night without adult supervision is the day madness would have reached full bloom.

09 Sep

The Flight

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At the airport, I am surprisingly on the ball. I am quick, not wasting time. I’m enroute to see my beautiful family. I have missed them. A lot. Cannes is stunning, no one can ever deny it’s beauty or audacious wealth, but even the horn of plenty cannot compare with my own home. I realise I love my life, even with it’s challenges and there isn’t a lot I will change.

For the second time on my trip my mind flashes back to the pack of three pairs of colourful earplugs I saw at the counter in the pharmacy. I was staring at them while paying for my goods, wondering what circumstance would force one to wear them. Now I am being subjected to Norwegian airline’s pop music grating it’s way across my brain. The airline clearly thinks this is entertaining. We started boarding at 9:57am for a 10am flight. It is 10:39 and my line of vision remains interrupted by the tail of another marooned airplane.

A Norwegian flight attendant stumbles through the first paragraph of his script, welcoming us aboard the flight. He connects his sentences with a lot of erms and umms. In the middle of his speech, while uttering an erm, the English captain cuts in as if to show off his own ability to speak without struggle. He whizzes through the same speech in a flawless accent and in clipped tones. It is clear that had the Norwegian man carried on speaking, he would presently be stuck at an umm.

The captain decides to undress his crew member further by explaining in fluent English, no less, that there was a delay leaving Gatwick. Immediately I realise that my concern should not have been their tardiness. Was it terrorists? The terror alert in the UK was raised to ‘serious’ before I left for France. “No”, he answers my telepathic question. “It was fog”. This time he is speaking with ‘errs‘ between each sentence, but his carry a weight of certainty.

If God placed before us a buffet table laden with an assortment of world famous punctualities, I will pick Germany’s. I’m off to Germany in 3 days and I know if my flight says 10:31:33, it will lift into the aerosphere at 10:31:33. I also know that I won’t eat my words. The Germans are like machines, I know that because my best suppliers are Germans. We were once asked to design and source a nursery in 4 days. Our nurseries take 8 to 12 weeks on average. We could have chosen the Italians for the unique style and beauty of their furniture, but we chose the Germans, because we knew we could rely on them to be on time and not a millisecond late.

I sleep for half an hour and read for the second half. At a point the English pilot announces ‘for those who care’ that we are currently flying over the city of Paris and we can see it if we look to the left of the aircraft. The Norwegian is verbally absent, it appears he has been relegated to a non-oratorical task. The next time we hear him is when he is forced to make the “welcome to London” announcement. He is the natural choice since the descent onto the runway is as bumpy as his sentences. It’s the type that would have left you tasting your own blood, if the tip of your tongue wandered too close to the gap between your top and bottom rows of teeth.

I can’t wait to tell you all about my trip to the South of France, carried out in celebration of Shade’s birthday. In true Toks fashion, I share the gist in reverse.

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!

27 Aug

Midnight Post

Beautiful and crazy in a good way. That’s how I was described last week. This week so far I have heard Petite– that’s a first. The beautiful and crazy definition is also a first.  I’ve had my fair share of adjectives used to describe me, each time I get a new one I search to find Toks in it, (or it in Toks)

The crazy part I can’t argue with, I have an imaginary husband-to-be, Chief Bello. I remind hubby I’ll leave him for Chief whenever he gets on my nerves. Please note that chief Bello exists only in my mind, but he does exist.

He is twice thrice my age, pot-bellied and semi-illiterate. He also has 3 wives and I’ll be the fourth. His educated wife to show-off to the rest of the villagers. On a good day I remind hubby that I dumped John Legend for him- yes, I have a healthy crush on John Legend. And Denzel Washington. And I kind of like Lionel Richie, my favourite song is Three times a lady.

Petite. I was skinny as a child and consequently gathered some unsavoury nicknames. Now I’ve got some meat on me and I am sooo happy! I unashamedly stare at  shop mirrors when I walk past- just to make sure it’s all still there. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that I’m arrogant, or that I suffer from of kryptonic levels of self-esteem, wrong, but forgiven. So I refuse to agree with the petite part- even if it has any truth to it.

I love music. Music transports me into a world I can’t physically get to, but can arrive at in every other way. The downside of this is that once I start listening to songs that have a nostalgic effect on me, I could go on for hours. So I understand my dearest friend Iluobe’s pain when she lost hundreds of tracks some years back. I can only hope she is completely healed.

My favourite meal remains Rice, Fried Plantains and Stew. I think it’s a waste to have tasty stew and perfectly cooked rice without fried plantains. However I’m on a mission to improve my meal choices, swapping good, tasty foods for crap, so-called ‘acquired taste’ ones. I can’t quite fathom people who have cold green salads for lunch on a winter’s day. But they have said I will eventually acquire the taste. Let’s see.

I had a happy childhood which included growing up with pets- dogs and cats usually, but once had a monkey, an anteater and a crocodile. See explanation here. I want my children’s experiences to be even better- if that were possible. Unfortunately I’ve grown into an irritatingly protective mother and want to shield them from the pain of losing a beloved pet. It happened to me way too often as a child. Then again I’m torn between protecting them from pain, and  preparing them for pain, as life will dish out its fair share.

The only reason I’m blogging at 00:36 hrs is to avoid tackling work that’s staring at me menacingly from the other nine tabs opened on either side of this page. And I’m avoiding work because I refuse to accept that the Bank Holiday is over, so we’re err… trying to stretch it. It also explains the rather lame title (and content) of this post.

I hope you had a lovely long weekend.

Do come back, I promise I’ll have a more substantial post next time!

26 Dec

The Personality Test

Storyteller. Just one of the words the personality test result chose to describe me with. It also said I was friendly, impulsive, boisterous, cheerfully optimistic,  confident, a lover of people and chronically late. In addition I have a habit of repeating stories- which means this is only the first in a non-consecutive series of blog posts that would tell you I’m a Sanguine. This is what I discovered after taking a test to identify my temperament following my last post on Frenemies. I like the word. I’m glad I’m not a phlegmatic- simply because it’s one of the four temperaments that gets its name from ‘phlegm’. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I turned out to be one because hubby is, and I love him just as he is. Okay even if it was a problem, what could have been done?

Back to me. Sanguine. We talk about ourselves quite a bit and love to be the centre of attention. The word, for some reason fills my mind with images of a chocolate-skinned, beautiful, young lady wearing a floaty yellow sun dress, a red hibiscus tucked into her  hair. She’s twirling around happily on a beach in Anguilla. The sun sets in the distance turning the horizon into a bloody-red backdrop. She is completely carefree and filled with pure joy. She is me.

For me, Sanguine evokes tropical associations. As tropical as a glass of fruit flavoured cocktail with an umbrella and a slice of lemon. Not the astringent type that goes straight to the head. The type that is sweet and tart and makes you feel good on the inside.

I suspect #3 and #4 are sanguines. I will not make them take the test as they are young and I don’t want to define and lock them in a box for life, but they are talkative to the nth degree! Yes that’s a trait of us sanguines we can talk. It’s really odd as I was very shy and quiet as a child. I read a lot. Storybooks mainly. I have lived life as a white upper-class school girl, I lived as a black slave woman in the 1800s  and as a fairy with magical powers- all through the soul of books, but I don’t remember talking a lot. Then again maybe I did, I can’t remember, who cares?

The test is by no means absolute. If it was, the results would have told you more. Like the fact that I am so proud and thankful for my brown skin. And I worry sometimes that my favourite lip gloss, Oh baby by MAC will eventually be discontinued. Or that I long for the day that I’ll be able to pull off my dream hairstyle, cropped afro and blonde. It would have told you that the year Kenny G’s Breathless was released featured one of my best summers ever. It was also the year I must have started falling in love as J and I spent a lot of time together.  It would have informed you that I am an eclectic and can swing effortlessly from one topic to another in a single sentence, without stopping for air. My friend Justjoxy will attest to that.

It has been good for me, taking the test. At least now I know why  I’m the only one who thinks my wedding videographer is telling the truth. That he still has my video and just hasn’t gotten down to editing it- after 16 years. We are gullible and easily fooled.

And now I remember to hold my tongue when my friends call me for a chat, when they need a listening ear. I know to hold my tongue because I have a natural disposition towards ‘one-upping’ other people’s stories. I know.

It has helped me become more forbearing towards a certain relative, I won’t judge her for bringing so much attention-deficient issues to the table again.

I won’t be forcing hubby to get super excited about a gift I bought him or a new piece of information I found. Those poor dears don’t get excited over much, they are not like us. They are a peaceful bunch. Bless.

This isn’t my end of year spill. Sanguines like to have the last word so I’ll be back with my 2012 thankful list! Amen.

Here’s where I did the temperament test, there are four main temperaments andeveryone falls into one, or sometimes two. What’s yours? Do share!

25 Nov

The Gist. And the winner is…

Waldorf Hotel London

Thoughts running through my mind as I make my way to the awards ceremony.

I love my new hairdo, it totally rocks! I could live like this (uber chic) every day. Perhaps not, there’ll be nothing to look forward to. I wonder if I’ll win. I hope I do. Zack’s party is today isn’t it? Only one child for hubby to pick up from school today. Glad I got the size 7 shoes not 71/2. I hope I come back with an award. What does it matter? I was happy before & I’ll be happy after. Yes even though they’d have ruined my life by nominating me in the first place. No my life is not ruined. It is blessed.

Pause to have mindless conversation with a guy hitting on me ‘you are looking gorgeous, where are you going? What’s ‘the’ name please?’ (dead give away of his nationality) I tell him the name. ‘That’s a gorgeous name’- clearly needs to acquaint himself with more adjectives- ‘Can I have your number please?’

I respond. ‘I’m married I don’t give my number to guys, sorry’.

‘Then I can give you mine, please, just to be friends, please, blah, blah, blah…’

I tune him out auditorily and physically and rush to catch up with my thoughts- after wondering why I don’t attract  Denzel Washington type gentlemen. Where were we?

At the event, the hotel is a stunning, stunning piece of art in bricks and mortar. The Waldorf speaks of opulence like it wants me to become familiar with it. One day. Today. I am friends with opulence and breathing rarefied air- deep breath, hold, exhale! hmmm!

I meet Angelina. She. talks. a. lot. She hates people who arrive late for events and she can feel there’ll be late-comers  She turns the corners of her mouth down as she spits out that hateful two-word phrase like the very mention of it disgusts her. Which it does. She hates to toot her own horn during conversations and doesn’t like to bring up the big shot celebrity that she helped launch into stardom. So she mentions his name. Two more people join us and we all chatter happily. Angelina again doesn’t like to mention her big shot client so she does again (remember the newcomers were not there the first time)
We sit down to eat. The lady next to me is vegetarian. I spend 2.5 minutes feeling awfully sorry for her- even though she looks perfectly happy with her life. Dessert is served and I wonder aloud what a knob of butter is doing on my plate. I’m told its clotted cream, my bad! Don’t worry I didn’t disgrace the family name. There’s pride in confidently admitting to not knowing some things.

The awards are now being called out. Can you hear my heart beating? I recognise a few celebs and newscasters. Okay I didn’t know the one now giving a speech was a newscaster. I spilt water on her shoes earlier while asking her what she did for a living. Another post that belongs under the title, ‘major cringe factor’. Eventually my category is called out and the winner is…. Not Toks! How come, did the judges not do their research well? Why not me? My tantrum lasts for 49 seconds as I hear story after story of inspiring women, challenges, loss, even HIV. I feel humbled and blessed to be in the company of these leading ladies, I realise that it is truly an honour to have been shortlisted along with this calibre of women.

I have a fantastic time networking and meet some very exciting business women, all successful in their own rights. They balk when I reveal I have 4 kids. They sputter on their champagne when they learn I don’t have kids, I have boys. We end on a happy note and I make my way out with one of them. I walk on the cobbled streets of Covent Garden, and stop at my favourite designer’s store- Michael Kors. That’s favourite fashion label but I don’t own a thing of his (yet). I think I blend in with the other shoppers seamlessly. My feet are now painfully sore. I learn a new thing about myself- I will not compromise comfort over style. I look around the station and become green with envy; my eyes shooting daggers at every woman wearing trainers. On the train I squeeze myself into the seat between two men who don’t want to share their space, I will fight them if needed, it isn’t needed. Hubby picks me from the station, I’m still all glammed-up, then I walk indoors. All glamour disappears. Life back to normal, far, far away from the Hilton.

Thank you for reading, do come back!

Read my other blog for Christ-Centred Inspiration- InspireMe