Thursday, August 25, 2005

Welcome to my world

It's a sunny but chilly day in this part of the UK and I'm looking out onto a square beautifully laid out with old Georgian townhouses and shaded by tall trees. Sounds like paradise but there's a catch because there are a couple of homeless people sitting on the benches on the square and there are two policemen talking to them trying to move them on. They are clutching large plastic bottles of cider- the homeless men not the police- and don't look like they are quite ready to move on yet.... The streets around us have just been designated a no street drinking zone hence the police. But I can't help but wonder what happens to those who are moved on- do they go on to plague some other street, some other square? Probably.

I'm not really sure how this blogging thing will go, but I'm hoping it will kick start my writing which has increasingly been sidelined by the day job which pays the bills. Maybe I can post my various works in progress and maybe, just maybe someone will give me good feedback and keep me going.

Other times maybe I'll just talk about the various things going on in my life at the moment- some boring, some humorous- a bit like life I guess- just getting on with it.

So what can you expect from my blog? Lots of talk about writing, especially Nigerian and African writing which I'm passionate about; some stuff about what it's like to negotiate your way through a culture different to that in which you were born and brought up; some stuff about growing up in Nigeria; perhaps some politics and current affairs which almost invariably I can't help but be passionate about; some stuff about great meals I've had and places I've been.

Eclectic really, so here goes.....

Keeping time

When I first started work here, I was always late, almost invariably for meetings. Until one day someone made some snide comment about African time. It was one of those -you know the type- Englishmen who have lived in "Africa" and know all about "Africa" and life there. When he joked about African time, I grit my teeth and slipped into my chair and that day vowed never again to be late for a meeting. And I haven't done too badly. Even though it meant that I permanently set my watch fifteen minutes fast. I know, I know it's weird but it works for me even though I know I set it ahead myself.

Anyway these days I find myself exasperated when people turn up late for meetings or appointments. And right now I'm pissed at someone who's just done that. I wrote him asking for a meeting (work stuff) and gave him a whole raft of dates to pick from. Two weeks later he replied saying he could do only one particular day- today as he was going away on holiday thereafter. So I cancel/shift my other appointments (this meeting is really important- like the rate-limiting step on the project on which I'm working at the moment) and pencil him in for today. Ten minutes after our agreed time he's nowhere to be seen. Now, even I have learnt that if you're running late, it's acceptable to ring and say so, so I ask my secretary if he's called. No way. I phone reception, no way. Should I ring him? Is it acceptable by English standards? I don't want it to seem like I'm hounding him. Anyway I ring him and he says "Oooh something came up! " Then he says he can't meet today and not any other day till three weeks time. I am so exasperated it must have wafted down the phone line, so now he agrees to meet later today.....if he does turn up!!!

From Rwanda to Tony Blair's lip quivering intensity

I'm just reading Lt General Romeo Dallaire's book, Shake Hands with the Devil. It's about his time serving as commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda and it makes for riveting reading. The tragic conflict in Rwanda has always fascinated and bemused me, maybe because I come from a country with over two hundred ethnic groups and so often wonder what makes a man or woman or child wake up and slash his long-time neighbour to ribbons. How do you stop seeing that person as your friend, your neighbour, your colleague,your priest or indeed a member of your congreagtion and start seeing them simply as "the other"

Perhaps I'm also fascinated because I currently live in a country where many people see me as the other, and as anti-immigrant rhetoric is whipped up, I wonder if it will ever get to a point where my friends and colleagues here see me as immigrant first before anything else.....

I felt it particularly during the elections in May when the Tories put out their billboards with the noxious slogan "Are you thinking what we're's not racist to impose limits on immigration". Thankfully the majority of the UK population wasn't, even though it meant that the slimy Tony Bliar got re elected. I used to be a fan , back home in Nigeria but over the last few years, I've lost all sympathy for him. It's his inconsistency, the lying and the spin what's done for me.

A few months ago, Michael Howard (whom I can't stand) attacked him during Prime Minister's Questions with what I think sums Blair up best. I can't remember what the debate was about, but Howard's response summarized why I fell out with Tony. He said ".....And the Prime Minister stood there and with all the lip-quivering intensity for which he has become famous...."

It's that lip quivering intensity of his that I can't stand now. Whether he's clasping the hand of a pensioner or assuring that there were WMDs in Iraq, it's all done with a lip quivering intensity that just doesn't ring true....