I am sitting in a train carriage on my way out of London for work. Opposite me is a fifty-something year old American man who keeps applying and reapplying some kind of lip salve that makes his lips a funny white colour. Perhaps he has burnt his lips in the sun or has some sort of medical condition. He is wearing tortoiseshell glasses and a blue shirt with braces (the sort that Nigerian banking whiz kids rocked in the 90s before the finance houses collapsed) and throughout the journey he keeps up a monotonous conversation with various vassals and minions. “Who ordered the report on the India outsourcing? Have the clients been properly billed?” he drawls. The person at the other end barely has time to answer before he barks “Yes but I want to be sure that it’s billed to the right cost centre, is that clear?” He clicks his mobile shut and dials another number and the conversations continue. Nothing stops him, when the train passes through a tunnel and he loses his connection, he immediately dials again. Just listening to him and the way the tone of voice changes, it’s obvious that some minions are doing better than others. He even smiles once while talking to one. I think to myself, is this what it feels like to be Master of the Universe….I tried to see if I could pick up some trade secrets, maybe some hot investment tips but no way. I’ve heard some strange conversations on trains in my time but that’s a whole other blog.
It’s been raining most of this week, payback for the few days of summer that we’ve had I guess. At the weekend looking at all my colourful summer shirts I realized that I’ve hardly worn them this year. Shorts I’ve worn maybe twice, if that. Oh well….
My rusty economics has been receiving quite a stretch this week, what with stock markets plunging worldwide and Soludo at the Nigerian Central Bank announcing that from next year, he’ll be slashing two zeros off the naira. Expert opinions on both developments abound are so many and varied as to be useless. I wonder what it feels like to live through a Crash. Did people wake up in 1929 one morning to discover the markets had crashed, or was it a more gradual process? Were there warning signs that the smart ones picked up on, and the majority ignored? How will we know when the next one comes? Answers on the back of a postcard please.
Saw an interesting comment in one of the papers about how the denizens of the free market in the world’s financial centres were quite happy to receive a massive injection of public funds to shore up the stumbling market. So government intervention isn’t so bad then.
I’m reading Let Me Eat Cake by Paul Arnott, a kind of account of his growing up focusing on his love for cakes and sweet things. It reminds me a bit of Nigel Slater’s Toast in its evocation of a different Britain but isn’t as good. Earlier, I finished another collection of short stories, this time by a Chinese author. Yi Yun Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers which won the Guardian First Book Prize was great reading- capturing different facets of contemporary China in beautiful language and engaging plots.
What on earth is happening in Port Harcourt, our Garden City? I had e mails from friends there yesterday talking about bombardment by helicopter gun ships as the army tried to corral the gangs that have been terrorizing the city. Scary stuff it sounded like. Hope Jaja’s keeping safe- we need that magnum opus.