Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy New Year

I am a few minutes from the train station swaddled in the several layers that the now-icy weather has forced me to adopt when I hear the heart stopping shriek. Like many other commuters, busily burrowing our way to work, my head swivels in the direction of the noise. There are three teenage girls, all black, dressed in school uniform, stopping on their way to school, and the shrieking is apparently, merely an expression of their exuberance. At first I cringe, wondering why we are so noisy, a thought guiltily repressed as I remember a poem by an African American poet from the thirties I once read in which the poet mocked high class “Negroes” bitching about low-class “Negroes” and their shaming ways. As I reflect guiltily on this, I board my train and soon another bunch of giggling teenagers, this time white, indulge in their own hilarity and banish my casual stereotyping..….

Christmas Day in London was a revelation- the empty streets, the silence, was strangely quite soul-warming. Christmas lunch with my British Nigerian friend and his extended family meant a first course of turkey and stuffing, with all the trimmings (produced by my friend’s wife) and then later a course of pepper soup, jollof rice, moimoi and plantain produced by his mother and sister.

On Christmas Eve I was silly enough to agree to meet a friend who was on his way back to Nigeria at John Lewis on Oxford Street. Emerging from the Underground, I found that I could not walk but had to let the crush of bodies which had enfolded me propel me along until it spat me out on a pavement on the other side of the road. My progress was not helped by the crowds of gawkers stopping to stare in shop windows and I wished that there could be two lanes- one for those of us with appointments to keep, and another for those who had come to admire the window displays and the Christmas lights….such an unseasonal thought

Going back to work- chatting to a couple of our female senior executives and enquiring after their exertions, I was struck by how, for all the talk of equal rights, ultimately the task of ensuring a happy family Christmas is still a female job...as evidenced by my own experience... 

So much has happened while I have been away from blogging- Kenya, Obama, Benazir, Ribadu, and trying to capture my thoughts on these will be too difficult. The lowest point for me though, was Kenya. Sitting at a dinner party on New Year’s Eve, I vainly tried to argue that what was happening in Kenya was no general descent of savage Africans into tribal killing and mayhem. As I listened to the smug interpolations from various other guests, I thought to myself, “Why do our leaders do this to us?” If Kibaki and Odinga and all the others realized what damage they were doing to the African cause worldwide with their antics, perhaps they’d be a little bit more conciliatory in their utterances and actions. In the end I resorted to Binyavanga Wainaina’s exhortation to remember that the oldest African country is barely more than fifty years old..

The break was a good time for reading- I finished off The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Hamid Mohsin, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. There was plenty to reflect on in the pages of that slim book, especially for an immigrant from a developing country to the West… I also read Cathy Flynn’s What Was Lost, surprise winner of the Costa Fiction Prize and Anne Enright’s The Gathering which won the Booker- Flynn I enjoyed in its bare description of a gritty shopping centre which reminded me of a centre near where I used to live, but found Enright a bit less gripping than I had expected. Perhaps, stereotyping again I had expected the Irish gift of the gab to unravel in a richly woven story, and the elements and language were there but I felt I could have stopped reading it at any time and not missed it…

Happy New Year to all the faithful and passing readers of this blog....you literally keep me going :-)

13 comments:

Abuja Walkabout said...

Happy New Year.
You have been, as we say in Nigeria, scarce.

Cheetarah said...

Point of correction Uk its not our leaders, its us. We kill ourselves, freely and willing my brother, I have seen it and I hear the seeds being sown everyday.

Happy new year

Frances Uku said...

happy new year my role model - shall be faithfully following all your waka-about in 2008.

winnie said...

happy new year- wishing you a successful year 2008 and already eagerly awaiting your next entry

Atutupoyoyo said...

Welcome back UK. Welcome back to the real world.

On groups of teenage girls: I tend to approach this particular species with more fear and trepidation than I would a group of hooded black youths on a dark night in Hackney. They reall are a scary bunch. I cringe whenever I am in a fifty yard vicinity.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you too. I have just discovered your site, and I enjoy reading what you have to say, from p.t. Australia.

Rayo said...

Happy New Year.

Funny enough I always catch myself acting "bougie" (as they call it) when I see young blacks acting foolish...then I see white kids doing the same thing and I'm reassured that most of the time, behavior isn't characterized by race but by experience and environment.

Christie Watson said...

Hey
I'm enjoying your blog.
I'm a london based writer. The email link is not working. Is there any way I can get in touch with you? I was hoping to ask a few questions.
Thanks
csbwatson@yahoo.co.uk

CONSCIOUSNESS said...

yes star!!

...Hoping the new year brings you and yours all the niceties you deserve...your modesty is extremely humbling...for the converse is true - you keep us going fam'...in a world where mediocrity is celebrated your posts provide a healing balm for the thinking man...again we charge our glasses to a top man...uknaija we salute your efforts...!

...Sharing your every sentiment on Kenya...if only that was ever the case...our leaders sparing a thought for the gross embarrassment their ill-conceived ideas cast upon one...

...accolades for a collage of well-penned posts!!

peeeaaacceee!!
C!!

Jaja said...

Wecome back bro...

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Ah, an update. wonderful. Happy new year.

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

I am with Cheetarah but I will add that the leaders who appoint themselves as such (because so far, I have not had a say in who governs my people), do not set an example for others to follow to stop the conflicts between us. We were never one people and i always say that each African country that was previously colonised was a consolidation of trade ports/ markets...thus forcing all these diverse people, some with histories of war between them under one banner was bound to lead to some kind of wahala.
That's where the leaders ought to come in and set examples...but they are too busy setting themselves up.

And happy new year

laspapi said...

saw an ad for an African music channel which shows 2 black girls get into a bus and chat animatedly at the top of their voices until they get down. The other black folks in the bus do not look at them and do not seem to hear anything.

Until they get down, still chatting, the passengers are unperturbed. And then the bus goes its way. The legend is then written on the screen, "You have to be African to get it".
I think so too.