Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lost condoms, dignified exits, recent reading, prizes and an anniversary

It is early morning and as the display on the platform keeps changing, showing that the train I am hoping to get is becoming even more delayed, I soon realize I had better get out of the station and catch a taxi if I am to have any hope of catching the train out of London and making my meeting. I hail the first taxi that I see, it’s one of the old-fashioned black cabs and as I settle in, my wallet clatters to the floor. I reach for it and find tucked away at the edge of the seat, a pristine packet of Durex condoms. Perhaps it is the early hour but I can’t help thinking about how it got there. Who has dropped it, and is the consequence of their dropping it going to be an unwanted pregnancy, a nasty disease? Or did they finding themselves condomless, abstain, resisting temptation?

I can’t help but think of the nursery rhyme we used to chant, often thoughtlessly, not really understanding the words……

for want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
for want of a horse, the rider was lost,
for want of a rider, the battle was lost,
for want of a kingdom, the battle was lost

The fighting over Ettehgate continues and now sadly appears to have claimed a legislator’s life. Without going into the rights and wrongs of it, I think it’s time for Madam Speaker, Mrs Etteh to go. Her continuing presence is merely inflaming the situation, everyday I read about new brawls in the House and so in the interest of peace I think she should just go. Reading about people I had some respect for getting involved in the brawling and name-calling in the House I am appalled. Go Mrs Etteh, just go….

Perhaps Mrs Etteh should take a leaf from Sir Menzies (pronounced Minghis- yes I know!!) Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats- the small third party of the United Kingdom, who bit the bullet once his party members started murmuring and made a dignified exit….. I’m always fascinated by how when an English party deposes its leader, all other contenders have to pretend to be disinterested for a while, lest they be blamed for forcing the old leader out- even when everyone knows they are rubbing their hands in glee…

Glad to see Anne Enright win the Booker- my sympathy for the underdog and the fact that she cheerfully described her novel as bleak, plus the fact that she’s Irish ensured that. Now I’ll have to read the book…

Speaking of underdogs, England’s spectacular rise through the Rugby World Cup sees me humming Swing Low Sweet Chariot along with everyone else as I go about my duties at work….sorry South Africa but I’ll be rooting for the English on Saturday..

I’ve just finished Alan Bennett’s slim novella, The Uncommon Reader, a wittily intelligent book examining what happens when The Queen suddenly develops an appetite for reading….

Next up is The Reluctant Fundamentalist which I’ve just started- it was shortlisted for the Booker and I think I bumped into the author last week walking in central London… I share his love for London... revealed in an Evening Standard interview a while back, sadly not available online

Still on prizes, Chika Unigwe’s Fata Morgana has been shortlisted for the ANA Prize for Fiction as has Jude Dibia’s Unbridled, the follow-up to his earlier, controversial Walking in the Shadows which portrayed a gay man living a double life in Nigeria. I’ve blogged elsewhere about Chika and her talent and she’s dropped by this blog in the past…

Oh and while I was away my second bloggerversary came and went- thanks everyone for keeping faith with this inconsistent blogger and for sharing my world- I only just realized my first post was on August 25th 2005

Sites to check out:
African Writing
Viewnaija where I finally got to listen to the much talked about Yahooze
Igoni Barrett's collection of short stories- for lovers of Nigerian fiction and awuf things
Nominate that bright young Nigerian under 30 at the Future Nigeria Awards

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blogger's dilemma, facebook, football louts etc

I am suffering from the intermittent bloggers’ dilemma- the longer you stay away from blogging, waiting for the combination of something meaty enough to blog about and having enough free time to do it justice, the more things to blog about pile up. So I’ll just have a go- first things first. I finally signed up to Facebook, just to see what all the fuss is about. I haven’t been terribly excited, but perhaps I simply haven’t got into the spirit of the thing….if anyone wants to show me how to do it properly, get in touch, search for Musing Naijaman….

There have been a great many train journeys since I last posted (reminder to self- buy shares in Virgin Trains) including one in first class, courtesy of work which was sadly marred by the entire carriage being overrun by a bunch of football louts who kept the train heaving from Wolverhampton to London Euston. The British Transport Police made a brief appearance and then promptly disappeared; the Virgin Trains staff did not dare to show their faces at all. In the event I finally gave up my unbothered mien, packed up my laptop and book and moved to another carriage. Talk about feral- banging on the roof of the carriage, jumping on the seats, dancing on the tables, roaring out their football chants. They were all white and I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if a bunch of Black or Asian young men had overrun a first class carriage in a similar manner. I’d like to think that the train staff, transport police and other passengers would have been just as indulgent, but somehow I doubt it….

I was able to shut out the soccer louts’ antics for as long as I did as I was deeply engrossed in What is the What, Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng’s stunning tour de force of a novel. I’m not sure if it’s a biography or what, because it’s called a novel and it’s by Eggers- an account of the life of Deng, a Sudanese “Lost Boy” who ends up in the United States- it is equal parts sociology text, history text, novel and utterly unbelievable and unputdownable and heart wrenching. And you must read it, if only to understand What is the What….

I’ve also been reading Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition, where he skilfully uses the notes from a retrospective exhibition to recreate the life of an artist on the Cornish coast exploring her family’s past and present relationships in a calm understated way that I found very attractive….

And to politics- so Gordon Brown’s liver failed him. One minute he was at the top of the opinion polls, with Cameron destined for the dust heap and the next he was struggling for dear life after Cameron made what the press told us was one amazing thumper of a speech. I was more interested in the quick switch- I assume most people like me had not watched the speech, so what was the sudden switch based on? The pledge to reduce the number of people liable to pay inheritance tax? Or the deal to tax non-domiciled City fat cats 25 000 pounds a year in lieu of tax ? Whatever it was, and I suspect it’s a bit of a mystery to the Cameron camp as well, Old Gordon was forced to swallow all talk of a snap election. It’ll be interesting to see what the next few weeks bring, but I was left musing on the power of the media to frame narratives….

In Nigeria, the furore over the Speaker continued with each newspaper virtually guaranteed to have an article on the latest of Speakergate. The usual tritenesses were being wheeled out- is she the first; it’s all the work of disgruntled elements and so on. All probably true but why do we always have to resort to the age old refrain “Everyone does it”

I was more bemused by the story of Judith Burdin Asuni, or as Thisday put it “The Spy who loved us” Is she really a spy or are there other issues at stake. The murkiness of the dealings in the Niger Delta and Nigeria’s oil industry remain a source of fascination for me. Would that there were some good investigative journalists to piece all the stories together. Who bunkers? Who owns licences to drill for oil? Who imports the petroleum that Nigeria uses? So many unanswered questions and yet the answers float in mansions in Lagos and Abuja and Port Harcourt and London and Maryland and elsewhere….

Monday, October 01, 2007

Time, Atonement and a Happy Independence day

Standing in church I see the little boy toddle towards his mother who is singing in the choir, he is bemused as his father cuddles him up just before he reaches his target. I remember vividly, the gentle swelling week on week of his mother’s belly, her disappearance from the choir and then her reappearance proudly carrying a bundle of white clothing. Now seemingly weeks later, he is running around and trying to climb into the choir stall, where did the time go, I wonder….

To the cinema, for the first time in a long time to see the film version of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I have overheard a discussion of it on the radio, driving somewhere and I am interested that the two discussants are split in their assessment of the film. In any event I am left underwhelmed, particularly by a seemingly endless scene on the beaches of Dunkirk which I am later told is to highlight a cinematic technique. Considering that one of the newspaper reviews had referred to it as the thinking person’s Titanic, I try to work out which of the target groups I have failed to fit in to….Not even Keira Knightley’s winsome loveliness can draw more than a flicker of interest….

To dinner or perhaps early supper on Sunday. Our hostess has outdone herself with a spicy carrot and coriander soup, salmon parcels stuffed with ricotta and spinach and a crisp lemon sorbet with fresh fruit. She offers apologetically that it is all store bought, but I don’t see what she’s apologising for- the food is great….

It is Nigeria’s Independence Day today, forty seven years on, and I can’t help thinking that in country terms, we are really still quite young. Perhaps that’s another sign of aging- ten years ago, I was ranting at how little we had achieved at 37, now I am slightly more patient.

Thinking about Independence Day takes me back to childhood and the school children’s march past. We would practice for weeks beforehand and the worst students would be weeded out. Then the day before the parade we had to bring in our uniforms to be inspected so as not to disgrace the school. Then on the day itself to the field where the state governor would appear on a dais ready to take the salute. At the command “Eeeeeyyesss riiiiight!” we would swivel our tiny necks by 180 degrees to pay homage to the governor as we marched past the dais…..

I still remember a song that some of the children used to sing

“Nigeria is a great country,
Africa is a large continent
We are marching on
To take awa place among all the (other?)
Nations of di worl’

And remembering it now I am oddly moved….

As my great grandmother used to say "happy independa!"