Thursday, August 09, 2007

Back on the blog, KLM rubbish, Booker longlist and TED Global talks

I haven’t blogged in a while, not because there was nothing to blog about- what with Yaradua’s “independence” moves in Nigeria, foot and mouth scares on farms and chaos at Heathrow in the UK and the alternately infuriating and depressing news of TV star Funmi Iyanda’s brush with the “fashion police” in Lagos, there’s been more than plenty to blog about. But it seems that the sunny weather we’ve had in the last week or so has lulled me into a state of lethargy. That combined with work where lots of colleagues are on holiday making things pretty tight and the relentless march of friends, relations and friends of friends and relations of relations visiting from Nigeria has pushed blogging way down the list of priorities but anyways here I am

I read the increasingly vociferous complaints about how shoddy services at Heathrow were in the last few weeks but took it all with a pinch of salt until I had a reality check the other day. I was seeing off an uncle flying back to Nigeria. First I tried to check him in online so that we could avoid waking up at 4 am to catch the 8 50 flight. The KLM website wouldn’t let me and I finally rang up the contact telephone number only to be told that the online system was down and check in over the phone would be to Amsterdam only so he would have to retrieve his luggage in Amsterdam and check it in again to Lagos. And so we lost a potential extra hour of sleep. Then he made the mistake of not weighing his luggage and so as soon as I arrived I asked a member of BAA staff where the weighing scales were only to be sent off in completely the wrong direction. We finally arrived at KLM business class and the attitude of the staff at the check in was atrocious. The two women were engaged in an obviously-more-important-than-work chat and ignored us standing there for a while. When I finally, ostentatiously cleared my throat, one of them caught my eye and with an “I suppose I better deal with you since you’re not going away” look sauntered over to the desk and started up the computer. Just as she was about to start the check in process, she reminded us that this was the Business class check in not economy. My uncle replied that he was well aware of this, only to have her supervisor retort sharply “A lot of people make that mistake, so she was only checking” The aggression seemed so unnecessary at 6 30 in the morning and in what was supposed to be business class that I asked her to please mind her business and let us get on with checking in which obviously did not go down well…. Then there was all the drama about the security queue. You could carry a laptop as long as it was not in its case through the barrier but then it did not matter how many bags you had subsequently. So my uncle had to take his laptop out, squeeze the laptop case into his briefcase but once he was through the barriers it was fine to take it out and put the laptop back in its case- I struggled to see the rationale for this….All in all I finally saw why people were complaining- I mean I wasn’t travelling but by the time I waved him through the security barrier I was exhausted…

I’ve just finished Cuban writer Abilio Estevez’s Distant Palaces and it suddenly struck me why Havana had seemed so familiar when I visited it a few years ago. It was the echoes of the ancient quarters of Lagos Island that did it- the crumbling Italianate mansions, the strong sense of a syncretic Catholicism, the salt tinged organic breezes of Marina and the Malecon against a backdrop of decay and vibrant human living. Reading Estevez, his descriptions of Havana could have been set in Lagos Island….

On the subject of writing, Helon Habila has an interesting piece on what I had earlier suggested was an amazing year for Nigerian writers. I’m particularly interested at his classification of contemporary Nigerian writers... And the Booker Prize longlist is announced with some surprise at the brevity of it, sadly there are no Nigerians on it and although On Chesil Beach and Winnie and Wolf were on my to read list, the rest are all new to me ….

Finally, in continued pursuit of Nigerians off the beaten track, I’m pleased to read that Tayo Aluko, the Liverpool based singer and architect is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this week; and to see The Financial Times at the weekend reveals that the chef at the new fashionable London restaurant La Petite Maison is Nigerian born Raphael Duntoye

And finally Nigerian writer Chris Abani's talk at TED Global earlier this year is now available and also here . Also worth listening to are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, George Ayittey and William Kankwamba


Jaja said...

I like the easy hand with which you write.. about books

Omodudu said...

Which Nigerian would you nominate for a booker prize? I'd like to know.
Also, can you put a list of ten Nigerian authors worth reading, pretty please.

Anonymous said...

wat kind of treatment is that...i mean u and ur uncle at the airport!
"she reminded us that this was the Business class check in not economy" WTF!!!!!!!

Atutupoyoyo said...

The only airline I hate more than KLM are BA and that's saying quite a lot. If I were a bit more sensitive I would accuse them of racism.

I really marvel at the ravenous appetite you have for books. I wish I had the time these days. Although I suppose you would argue that one has to make the time. I was a bit surprised to see On Chesil Beach on the longlist if I'm honest. The quality of the book is not in question but it is not a full length novel. Anyway McEwan is my favourite writer and a further addition to his solitary win ten years ago would be no bad thing.

I have read only two others on that list and I think you should definitely add What Was Lost to your list. It is a detective story of sorts with some very dark undertones.

The Gift of Rain is also deserving of it's place. It is one of the most moving accounts of colonialism's ravaging effects on a country's identity that you will ever read. It is set in Malaya but you could easily apply the setting to any colonial country.

I think most would agree that Adichie was the overwhelming Nigerian candidate for the Booker this year. However I must say that based on the quality of the above three alone, she might have been a bit hard pressed to edge past them. Her time though will certainly come.

Bitchy said...

It's a terrible shame about the KLM staff. Nigerians en route to Lagos are treated like shit, no matter what class they're flying. When I've gone Club to other destinations in the world, I have been gobsmacked at the difference in the service!! It's ridiculous when you consider that Lagos-London is THE most profitable route for an airline like B.A. for example, after London-New York. Until our govt makes some demands though, I can't see the situation changing.

Perhaps this is something Yardie will address? Somehow me thinks he has more imporant things on his mind :-) Xxx

P.S. I'm racing to Nu Metro to look for On Chesil Beach tomorrow. EVERYONE's talking about it!

Ekoakete said...

I've had no end of trouble flying stop-over airlines to Nigeria. Alitalia and Air France being the worst. Tend to stick to BA these days, although the way they treat Nigerians leaves a lot to be desired.

Waffarian said...

Hmmmmm, I have only read about 4 books on that list and like Omodudu, I'd like to know who your nominee (Nigerian) would have been.

I always travel with Lufthansa and never through London and I regret to say that their treatment of Nigerians leaves much to be desired. I have no idea why there are always problems with the avaibility of seats (overbooked, or families not together or people who have requested certain seats not given the right ones, etc), it makes no sense to me! This ofcourse causes the usual expected commotion with mothers getting erratic, old people getting impatient, children screaming, which in turn leads to a "white person" making a comment, which then leads to accuasations of racism.........and so get it! Sometimes, I think the airlines just provide certain conditions for aggression so they can all look at each other and say "you see, Nigerians". The thing is, put any group of people under such conditions and the same will happen, but they never do, do they?

uknaija said...

@jaja- Thank you. I hope I'll learn to apply the same easy hand to other subjects:-)
@omodudu-Adichie, Habila, Oyeyemi,Bandele,Atta, Abani to name a few are all capable of Booker prize winning writing. Ten Nigerian authors worth reading:

To that I'd add Ada Udechukwu,EC Osondu, Afam Akeh, Uwem Akpan and a few others
@pinksatin- I had to hold myself very very well
@atutu- Thanks for the headsup. You are exceedingly well read..
@bitchy- No yardie has ore important stuff and rightly too. Let me know how you find On Chesil...
@ekoakete- They are all the same jo
@waffarian- interesting point, but you must admit both sides are to blame. Imagine my people turning up with 40 kilo suitcases when the limit is 32kilos and not wanting to pay a penny in extra luggage charges

catwalq said...

love ur blog jare
tell the oyinbo attendants to go kiss your beautiful BLACK derriere.

U said Tayo Aluko is an architect cum singer. Na wah o. I am an architect in training too... *sigh*. i can't explain what I need to.

Jaja said...

ah Uknaija.. I meant it well..
No one here has Talked of Virgn Atlantic. they r cool.. the ve got lovely airhostesses.. i am telling you

chika said...

on helon's piece: "These writers focus on Nigeria in theme and setting, and are very comfortable with the term “Nigerian writer”. "
I don't agree that you have to write about Nigeria to be comfortable with the term "Nigerian writer." Documenting our experiences as Nigerians in Europe or wherever does not make us any less comfy with being labelled Nigerians.

Kachifo (Muhtar bakare and team) are doing a great job. My debut novel De Feniks (The Phoenix) comes out in Naija in December

Emz said...

Speaking of the Booker long list, I recommend The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid - an exquisite book. The prose is so accomplished and superior, I loved it and was very glad that it made it onto the short list. About Ian McEwan, I respect what he doeas but I'm not a massive fan of his, so won't be tripping over myself to buy On Chesil Beach. But I will be rushing to the cinema excitedly when Atonement comes out though. I think it'll be amazing to hee how it translates to film.