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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!

Steps

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao Tsu

Last week was a rather overwhelming one, physically. It all started when I decided to spend 11 uninterrupted hours last Saturday working on our new website- it looks simply amazing if I can say that myself! We are moving onto a new super- duper platform and iits like going to school allover again. I have been going to bed with html codes and various image editing softwares swiming in my head. Anyway, after my stint I was surprised at not feeling a huge sense of accomplishment, you know the way you’re supposd to after you have done a lot of productive work. That feeling was carried into Monday, the start of the week. At the time I thought perhaps it was because I did just one task. It was unbroken and unvaried, maybe that’s why it didn’t feel like I had done much. Nonetheless I still felt burdened as the week wore on.

On Wednesday the Lord gave me a vision. A simple picture of a person (me) walking on a mapped out path with round stone slabs. It is a winding road and there’s nothing but fresh green grass on either side. The yellow daffodils swaying in the gentle breeze are a sight to behold,  pretty. In the distance the path leads to a beautiful house on the hill, the only possible destination. I keep stopping and looking up to see how much further I need to go. That was when it hit me. Rather than taking one step at a time, I look ahead and see the seemingly insurmountable task ahead. I keep looking at the big picture and feeling discouraged because although I have come a long way- evidenced by the long path behind me- I am impatient and want to get to my destination, like right now!
Yesterday, following my boycott of the suddenly expensive Tesco, my quest led me to Lewisham in south London. Here you can get fresh vegetables and meat at much lower prices. I parked the car a distance from the shops and did quite a bit of shopping. As I walked back to the car with my purchases I longed for one of those trolleys the senior folks use. It was the bags holding yams in my right hand for the week’s planned yam peppersoup, the plantains that will go nicely with rice and stew, the pounded yam meant for monday’s efo riro and the large bag of onions. My left hand held my bags of meat- neck of lamb, goat, chicken and kidney, coconut milk, okro and spices. I looked in the distance and saw the car park so far away. I decided to look down and keep walking knowing I will eventually arrive- that’s just my coping mechanism folks. I don’t like pain or discomfort! I took my mind off the journey and planned out the rest of the day- doing my hair and eyebrows and suddenly I had arrived!
I learned some valuable lessons;

I have learned to stop to appreciate the journey. It is not a race to get ‘there’ the fastest. There is so much beauty on either side of our lives that we need to be thankful for. Yes pollen may bring you hayfever but if that’s all you choose to see, that’s all you’ll be ‘enjoying’.

Take one step at a time. There is no other way to arrive than to take it step by step. Place your vision in front of you but you have to focus on taking the next step.

Stop and relax. Yes I am a busy mum/wife/business woman but that doesn’t mean my life has to mirror a roller-coaster ride- which I think may be part of the problem- I love excitement, but it is necessary to stop to recharge, take a breath, and energize myself. Life is what happens when you are busy making plans. I certainly don’t want my life “happening away”.

So as I look forward to the start of a new week, I do so with the knowledge that I will arrive at my destination. All I need to know is what step I’ll be taking tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that…

Have a blessed week, thank you for reading!

 

Rumours & Urban Legends

Back in the DayRumours Album Sleeve

Nigerians are the world leaders when it comes to spreading rumours. Here are a few I recall;

The Sound of Music

That Gretel, the little girl died during the making of sound of Music 2. They were all jumping from the plane with parachutes and her’s failed to open.  Gretel is alive and well, living  in LA and is resuming her acting career after a long break studying. Plus there was no Sound of Music 2. Maybe it got cancelled after she died?

Bonney M

That the man was married to the lead singer, the one with braids was his sister and the fourth one was really a man who performed a sex-change operation to become a woman.

Heavy D

That he jumped from the 2nd floor of a building, and he died. Heavy D has since gone on to release more albums and is still recording. When Heavy D released his non-posthumous album, a follow up rumour said he realised his enemies thought he died so his new album had a rap on it that said “no, I’m alive”. We got our own thang!!!

Yar Adua

That the Nigerian president was dead.

Mariam Babangida

Now dead for what seems to be the second time in the space of weeks.

Bush Baby

I fell for this one hook, line and sinker. Boarding school. 1983 to 1988. Aparently a midget with a rolled up mat and a kerosene lantern walking around. If you could get a hold of that mat you’ll be wealthy for the rest of your life, but you could get killed or transformed into one of them in the process. I feared for my life during night prep, refusing to sit near the window. And it was no small commotion if someone got up too noisily from their seat as it was taken as a sign that a bush baby had been spotted. Time to flee.

Bongos Ikwe

That he had an affair with former president Bababgida’s wife- Mariam, they had a son and the song Marianna was really about her. Said son mysteriously died during her reign as first lady.

Ola Ray, Thriller

That she was Nigerian, her real name is Olanrewaju and she dated Michael Jackson. Didn’t she have a secret child for him as well?

Evelyn King

Also Nigerian, can’t you see her lips?

Rafael Cameron

That he was Nigerian, his real name is Rafiu Kamoru. The music video we loved so much was shot in Port Harcourt.

Lawrence Anini

Our very own infamous superhero. That he would drop a naira note, do a spin and pick it up again all while driving at 200mph. Lawrence Anini was feared as the most notorious armed robber in Benin. Then there was Shina Rambo.

That Nigerians are the happiest, most generous and most vibrant group of people you’ll ever meet. Actually, that’s no rumour, lol!

I know there are more but I can’t recall…Thanks for stopping by!

The Nigerian Bomber Edition

I was the queue at the Department store today waiting to pay for my items when this woman a few yards away started shouting to the checkout assistants;

“Hey girl! hey girl!”

The woman in her sixties had a very strong Nigerian accent; she wore ankara with a turtle neck sweater on the inside and a long coat on the outside. Her gele was tied in a way that completely covered her ears.

“Hey you girl, hey you!” She continued very loudly. “Have you got Longjohns?!”

Pardon? The assistant had a can’t-you-see-I’m-serving others-attitude along with a why-don’t you-come-closer-so-you-don’t-have-to-shout? look.

Me? Embarrassed, but only slightly. I wavered between thoughts of directing her to Uni Qlo where thermals are sold, costing me my place in the queue and staying put, hoping she stopped her shouting. I chose the latter.  I chose the latter because thanks to Mutallab I have not been in a very patriotic mood. I have not been too keen on aligning myself with fellow Nigerians, even if it was just to offer help. I thought of ways in which I could successfully fly under the radar. From reverting to my maiden name and a first name I’m not fond of, to claiming Ghana as my motherland. At least the Ghanaians are a calmer bunch. They don’t shout, brag or do 419 (not that much anyway). I will be sad to curb my enthusiastic association with  Nollywood, Ovation magazine and designer  rice  and stew, but at least I enjoyed it when it lasted. Since I don’t attend Naija parties, I won’t be missing 40 year old bald men in tight jeans trying desperately to look 23, or the Naija-London babes with weaves down to their bums almost wearing shimmering mini-dresses. I look forward to the mouth-watering culture of Kenkey and shito, I binged on it while I was pregnant with child #4 so I’m well versed. I will also finally learn how to speak Twi, that way Suzy and I can at last gist to the exclusion of all others present.

 In the end I chose not to deny my people, instead I will face up to the fact that hailing from a country where one person chose to have  illogical idealolgies that resulted in him attempting to blow up NWA flight 243  is not the worst thing in the world. It is just one individual. Nigerians are not only shocked but dismayed and are certainly not in support of that sort of behavior. Come to think of it the population of the country is so high, the odds are there will be at least one nut-case. In fact I think we’ve done quite well 1 terrorist in every 151,319,500 people isn’t that bad, statistically speaking if the only requirement for being a terrorist was to be a Nigerian, and all the world was Nigeria, we would have a grand total of 44 terrorists in the entire world.

After paying for my goods I felt guilty that I didn’t help mama. Thankfully I found her in another part of the store and gave her very clear directions on where to find Longjohns. Not only that but I said goodbye to her with “God bless you ma” and the sweetest smile, you know how we love respect!  It felt good.

My Heart Skips a Beat

I don’t get on the trains or tubes a lot. As a matter of fact this year I’ve only been on it twice. Once on our trip to the Natural History Museumremember the post? And recently when we went to watch Sister Act. I think there was a time- yes Easter time as well on another outing.

Anyhoo, the last time I was on the train I noticed a pattern had been evolving. Whenever the ticket inspectors came around, my heart would skip a beat. There was no reason for this to happen as I always had a ticket.  After some digging, I realised that the reason I panicked was as a result of past journeys made when I didn’t have a ticket. This was as far back as when there were no ticket barriers and you could just walk right through and the ticket inspectors would wish you a pleasant rest of the day. I can’t believe I still suffer the effects of those years gone by. How much longer? I have to tell myself  that it is absolutely fine Toks, you bought a ticket, remember?

My heart skips a beat when a cop car is behind me. I start to wonder if my break lights are working correctly. What if I get pulled over because they suspected the threads on my tires are not 3mm deep? I mean do they really do that? I can’t afford any more points on my licence because I currently have 6 I think. Maybe the first 3 have expired. I trace that problem to the period I was driving without a licence. I remember how it all started too. I used to drive down to the stop on Finchley Road to catch my coach to Hatfield. One day I missed it, so I chased and overtook the coach to the next stop. Then I thought, hey I know the way, why not?

My heart skips a beat when I get a call from Nigeria. Can’t trace the root of that one except that in all the ethnic books I read, when someone comes all the way from ‘home’ it is to break bad news in person.

My heart skips a beat when  one of my boys give a blood curdling yell. I instantly think A&E, broken bones or worse.

My heart skips a beat when a friend says to me “we need to talk” I fear I have done something to offend them. These days I don’t get too bothered about that. I have over a hundred contacts on Facebook, never mind that I haven’t spoken to more than half of them in ages. I may just be able to live without you- just kidding! Seriously I hate being the cause of annoyance to people. I love to be a source of joy.

When hubby says “we need to talk” my heart skips a beat.  I immediately rehearse my lines on why the bank balance has shrunk to zero. But then he only does that to tell me that he loves me. Then my heart skips a beat again.

I’m Miffed with Balloon Boy’s Father

In case you missed the news coverage of “Balloon Boy”, I’ll recap. The Heene family are an adventurous bunch, you know the outdoors sort:  storm-chasing, UFO-believing, experiment loving type. Think  “Honey I shrunk the Kids” but up in the mountains somewhere. They’ve even starred in a reality show, not that it matters- the T.V stations are doing the rounds so if you haven’t had your’s it’ll be soon I’m sure. I hear they have so far covered half the world.  So the Heenes had this home-made helium balloon and their 6-year-old son was “seen” climbing into it by his brother just before it wafted up, up and away. Crossing over 2 counties and covering 50  miles, we watched live as we feared for his life. I stopped all I was doing to pray as I imagined how terrified the poor child must feel and of course the very real possibility of death. An army, police , helicopter, ground-all-flights-from-nearby airports-rescue operation later, the boy was found to be safe and well “hiding” in the attic.

It was only when CNN interviewed the family and asked why the boy didn’t come out- actually the father asked him: “why did you not come out when I called you Falcon?”  The innocent child replied, “But you said it was for a show!” Hmm! Come and see the mother trembling and shaking her head saying “No, no Falcon, we didn’t say that” desperately trying not to raise her voice even a fraction of an octave to keep up the charade. Father nko? You could hear him gulp as he stammered, praying no one heard Falcon while he repeated the question.

Enter the body language experts who analysed his deep sigh, and every move they made and they concluded it was a hoax.

If only they had been smart enough to leave the children out of the press interviews. Where I come from, that child won’t even have the guts to look the camera man in the camera not to mention answering the questions asked. If like Falcon he decided to answer, there’ll be sure to be a serious butt-wooping when he got home. And who names their child Falcon anyway? I guess it was planned from birth, but they forgot to tell CNN that he was born to fly.

Dear Mr Heene,

If you want to further your career please don’t use the kids. There’s absolutely no need to put a black mark of fraud on their innocent young lives. And yes, it can be frustrating when you are tying to break into your field and become recognised for your expertise.  Now they have dug up your past records of assault and vandalism which when compared to today’s criminal activities can hardly be described as horrific. The hoax has magnified the old charges. Mr Heene, Mr Heene! How many times did I call you? See what you’ve done to yourself? Ehn? My advice, if you must create a hoax, for Pete’s sake have a briefing first or leave the kids out if they are too young to learn their lines. Plus I’m mad at you it’s not like I had no one left to pray for that I had to deviate to pray for your son. {Insert long drawn hiss}.

Success at any cost?

I work very hard on the business, not because I want it to generate an income, rather I want it to be hugely successful.

A while ago the boys and I visited my cousin who had just flown into London from Chicago. While we chit-chatted with his host -a really nice man, the said host suddenly appeared on TV. He was being interviewed, something that regularly occurs because of the nature of his job. I pointed him out to the boys, It was hilarious the way their big eyes darted first to the T.V and then back at the man, over and over again, mouths wide open as they peered to make sure it realy was him. Perhaps they didn’t believe me. Perhaps they wondered how he could be in their midst, in a house and at the same time on the T.V?

This man is a human rights activist so needless to say our conversation turned to the “plight” in Gambia. First of all I didn’t even know Gambia had a “plight” I tried hard to feign interest while all I really cared about was getting PP on TV. “How, oh how do I bring up my concerns about exposure of my business purely for profit making while we discussed the exposure of the atrocious Gambian president- without branding myself as insensitive?”

I left really pleased about my education on Gambia, Nigeria and other African countries and what Amnesty international is doing to help. I left considering my own selfishness in my own little world and how we all have a part to play in assisting the other man or woman beside us. I was also glad that my quest for success had not yet seared any feelings of benevolence and that it was not too late to start.

Lord I thank you for the many gifts that you have placed within me. I pray that I use them selflessly to glorify you and to bless the people around me, for the gifts are not mine to keep, but to pass on. Amen.