Friday, February 09, 2007

Blast from the past, snowy rituals, Niger Delta musings, adoption & the amazing British Library

Two days ago, getting off a train at Euston station, I bumped into an old acquaintance from childhood whom I shall call X. I hadn't seen him in maybe twenty years- we'd grown up together and went to the same primary school. Back then he was the quintessential black sheep- missing pencils, books and toys always somehow seemed to find their way into X's schoolbag. He was an adept liar, skilled at glibly explaining away to the teacher how these items had got there and he told tall tales that even to our young ears sounded a bit too tall to be true - how his uncle was a cowboy film star and that sort of thing. There was some plausibility because he had been born abroad (the UK or the US- can't remember now) and had the photographs to prove it so we were forced to let him be the authority on all things foreign. Anyway, I bumped into him on the platform dressed in a long expensive looking coat, a rich burgundy silken scarf with a cowboy hat perched on his head jauntily and wearing cowboy boots (obviously the cowboy theme was still running) and reintroduced my self. After we'd exchanged pleasantries, I asked what he was up to these days ( a no-no normally when you meet fellow Nigerians in London but because he was looking so flashily prosperous I thought it was ok). Oh, he replies, this and that, I'm into a bit of IT, some tourism and import export businesses, travelling between the US, the UK and Nigeria, in fact I'm just off to meet with some business partners in Mayfair....and so on. He's still as glib as ever and I couldn't help wondering whether a peek into his smart leather briefcase would still reveal other people's property that had wandered in there....as he left having handed me his engraved card and an exhortation to meet up soon for lunch, I couldn't help marvelling at how little people change....

On the subject of change,in the few years that I've lived here, there's a little ritual that plays itself out every winter. First the media is full of warnings of heavy snow predictions from the Met Office. Then the snow falls, as it did, heavily and gloriously yesterday, then trains are halted, planes cancelled, schools closed. Then the next day the media is full of articles about how rubbish the UK authorities are, letting a little snow disrupt everything, when in Sweden and Canada and Norway they manage to keep their trains running, etc etc And then all goes quiet until the next time. Every single winter I've spent here it's been the same story and I can't help wondering why they bother....

Suddenly the Niger Delta is in the news- from Vanity Fair to CNN to Atiku's allegations that 2 billion dollars have been earmarked for an assault on the militants, to Asari Dokubo's outburst in court last week, there's something singularly unpleasant brewing. Yesterday the Thisday columnist Segun Adeniyi also mentions the rumour in some circles that Obasanjo is hoping for an explosion in the Delta to derail the elections in April
http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=70000 and of course the Vanity Fair article mentioned rumours that the militants were planning to blow up the Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Bonny. Now I'm no conspiracy theorist but I can't help but wonder - hmmm, what's going on here..

On the news this morning, we learn that two parents have been found guilty of the most horrendous abuse of their daughter who suffered from cerebral palsy. Among other horrors,she had boiling water poured on her, and was forced to eat her own faeces. These were her biological parents and in the light of the recent brouhaha here about gay adoption, I wonder if she would not have been better off with a loving gay adoptive couple...

I'm really enjoying AM Homes This Book Will Save Your Life with its wry subtle, humorous and philosophical take on Los Angeles life. I've never read any of her work but even though I'm only halfway through this one, I suspect I'll soon be hunting out the others. Funnily enough, in the light of the previous paragraph, it turns out she's adopted and has written a memoir- The Mistress' Daughter about her experience

Finally the Costa Prize went to The Tenderness of Wolves, a first novel set in Canada and written by a woman who suffers from agoraphobia and who therefore had never been to Canada. She had done all her research in the British Library, an institution that I have much personal fondness for from my postgraduate student days... especially after I found a pamphlet on the history of my village self-published by a retired headmaster from my village there. How it got there I have no idea....

12 comments:

Calabar Gal said...

Well, you should have known better than to ask ur friend what kind of job he's doing these days. Nobody ever asks that kind of question in the diaspora nowadays. U simply mind ur business!!

firsttimefather said...

The Niger Delta is 'sexy' at the moment for war porn voyeurs. Read this: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2007/winter/ghazvinian-curse-of-oil/

The author has a book called 'The curse of oil' coming out soon. Something we know all about, sadly...

kulutempa said...

i haven't changed much either; i still find "pelumi" to be as much fun to pronounce as i did when i was four.

i wish nigerians would stop sacrificing themselves for monetary/political gain. what's happening in the Delta is even more of a travesty than it was a decade ago, simply because we've had a whole effing decade to turn things around! i'm gonna leave it alone...

Waffarian said...

The problems in the NigerDelta is really getting out of hand!Since I was bruoght up there, I still have family and friends there.The situation there is critical and living there now requires great survival skills.Infact, I was just informed that our former mechanic, Solo, is apparently now a "soldier" for an ijaw militant group and now spends his time fighting in the seas and islands of the Niger Delta. He resurfaces once in a while to do some small jobs and then off he goes again! Imagine! Apparently, he is now a Lt! Chineke!

PG said...

Gosh Naijaman, you truly are Rennaissance man. I love AM Homes. There is an excerpt from The Mistress's Daughter in the latest Granta (War Zones), a very revealing passage about the relationship between Homes and her biological father, written very creatively in the form of a trial deposition. It is marvellous.

My Talking Beginnings said...

So many issues touched upon!
Didn't know you were not supposed to ask what people where doing "now" when you met them again in london, explains a lot. How naive you get when you dont live in london!
Wasn't so bad all over the country...re: the snow. It fell the hardest (methinks) in wales/cardiff but i still went to work and uni and stuff. Trains were still running and it all seemed ok. Perhaps trully, all happens in d london!!
Oh the whole Niger delta thing will blow over shortly, we've seen this fascination before. Did anyone see the article in thisday refuting jeff koinange's report on the Niger delta as stage managed? Of course, the vanity fair article is hardly an authority on the issue (which i find surprising) as i the article was incredibly faulty and one sided!
With refernce to your gay adoption play on words, i hold my comment!!!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

I share your sentiments about the Delta, there is definitely something going on. My friends and I discussed that very issue this weekend. All the 'chatter' surrounding Nigeria is reminiscent of the chatter that was the prelude to other incidents that are permanently implanted on my memory in recent years (e.g. Iraq). The pieces make sense, but I'm still trying to fit them into the puzzle.

Anyway, I hope that this will blow over, but am quite sure that it won't and that a storm is coming.
nigeriancuriosity.blogspot.com

Pilgrimage to Self said...

Hahaha!! Another Naija who's 'into' IT, huh? Told ya - you always get that response. :)

And just out of curiousity - how many books do you go through in a month?

Uzo said...

Very very well done. I hadnt heard the story about the abused little girl with cerebral palsy. What on earth did she ever do to them? Such inhuman treatment/....

t said...

Researching "in a library": thank you for reminding me of such an idea.

uknaija said...

@calabar gal- I thot it was okay since he was looking so flash..
@firstimefather- but why sexy just now
@Kulu Yes, pelumi is actually fun to pronounce at any age...and we've had more than a decade
@waffarian- na wa o!
@pg- I will look for Granta
@mtb- it's not a London thing o! Even in the US and Europe you wait for the person to volunteer what they are up to- you don't know if your lawyer or doctor in naija is now stacking plates in Mickey D's
@solomonsydelle- i hope so too
@ptb- Dunno- depends how busy I am with work, and how many train or plane journeys I make- maybe six to ten?
@uzo- Help me ask o
@t- yeah libraries are great- no?

Feyikogbon said...

I actually have had a different experience to you. I am amazed at how some of the guys I knew in Uni have changed. It reminds me of what they say about the A students becoming Academics and the B grades would end up working for the Cs.