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!"


Waffarian said...

Well, I'll tell you now, yours truly was a very proud "banner holder" oh the banner! the white gloves! For three years, I was a banner holder, infact I was the best banner holder that school ever produced.

We used to have the "march past" in Oreorokpe. I remember the man o war, red cross, police, army etc. For me it was always a struggle to choose which group I should march for, my school or brownies? I always marched for my school, but would always regret it as soon as I saw my fellow brownies eating biscuits and having fun, while my school provided us with one miserable "sardine" sandwich. Every year it was the same.

Oracle said...

Naija is 47.
We're moving but i think we should move faster.


Happy Birthday to you and of course, Nigeria!!!!

Make sure you vote for your favorite message in the Speak Up Nigeria campaign at

Ekoakete said...

Yes, time does fly by. Soon that kid will be as tall as you are... Haven't read Atonement but I've heard a fair bit about it. I've generally found that movie adaptations of books, more often than not, fail to meet up to expectations.

I cannot get excited about Nigerian independence day. I just feel Nigeria, with the right government could have been so, so much more than it is today. I used to be intolerant of the excuse that Nigeria is young, after so many years of independence, but like you said one learns to be patient.

Bitchy said...

How funny - your grandmother I mean. I never quite understood why "march past" was such a huge deal when I was in school. Even in primary school, so much effort was made by our teachers on sports day, even though their students, aged 4 to 9, repeatedly failed to grasp the concept of the straight line! I can't stop laughing now, remembering how exasperated they would get when the lines of blue, yellow and red would collide into one another, and then completely disintegrate!

Oh Lordie - thank you so much for this memory Yukay, I have laughed to my heart's content.

Re: Hawksmoor, I wish you had spoken sooner :-( Act 2 of Bitchy's globe-trot begins on Thursday. Xxx

P.S. I saw Atonement a week ago, never having read the book. My pickle was with the 5-minute romp that supposedly spurned an unwavering love affair (despite the phenomenal distance) which put Romeo and Juliet to shame.

January said...

You are a writer at large. Anytime I visit your blog, i'm always impressed by your literary views on life and other matters.I always feel i'm reading a novel that takes me to somewhere nostalgic and familiar even though I have not yet been there. Regarding our nation's independence, we're not yet there, but we'll get there despite the challenges along the way. People must learn to be patient and criticise constructively.

Abuja Walkabout said...

Happy Independenda! Haha - cute. Had a couple of phone calls from my Nigerian friends on the First of Oct. They went right ahead with what they wanted to discuss with me. I greeted both of them Happy Indenpendence Day and they were like, "Oh,okay. Happy Independence day too." Some people didn't notice, did they?

stuck in my throat o said...

i like this your post.
Ian Mcewan is an excellent writer.I have read the book, but i am sure it is excellent.
I love the way you described time...birth...and growth...

Dennis Gassner said...

first of all you really need to read the book (which I must say is captivating) to get the full value of that film. That film directed by Joe Wright is a master piece. As someone who has studied film and understands the the concept of film production I can tell you that the techniques that are used in almost every scene in that movie are done so with a great amount of thought and reason. Each cinematic technique used in that film has been used to evoke what ever sentiment necessary that I'm sure only people with a critically creative eye would appreciate. The scene in dunkirk was achieved using a steadycam single. Actually very challenging considering the scope and context of the shot.

uknaija said...

@waffarian- to hol banner no easy o! I prayed and prayed that I'd be chosen one year, but whosai
@oracle- sofri sofri o
@solomonsydelle- thank you
@ekoakete- it's called aging :-)
@bitchy- you're welcome, enjoy your waka
@january- thanks for the compliments :-)
@abuja walkabout- people in Abuja forgot???
@stuck in my throat o- thank you, I see you're Adaure's friend. She was one of the first bloggers I stimbled across
@denis gassner- i have read the book, even though I did not say so and I enjoyed the book more than the film, probably because I knew the plot. And I'm no technical guru and so can't challenge what you say about the cinematic achievement. I was just giving my uninformed layman's perspective, and surely that's valid?

Jaja said...

I didnt even know the movie was out.
I sort of feel bad I wont be able to see it as it s showing in most places..

There s no Cinema yet in Port harcourt.

Nice post, as always

Dotun said...

I never made any of the march past.....i wasn't good enough. Probably bcos of my leg...or becos I have the tendency of turning right when everyone is turning left. Shame really

Snuffleupagus said...

January is impressed with your literary genius. I am still thinking about how those condoms got into that cab...

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

actually it is...
Nigeria awa own nation
Africa awa own continent
we are marching on.....