Friday, August 15, 2008

Storytelling, childhood memories, lunchtime reading and worrying signs from Yaradua

The young boy is sitting opposite me, his mother beside him. He is playing an interesting game, taking the Hula Hoop snacks one by one from the crinkling foil bag and adorning his fingers with them. The hoops slip down neatly and marvelling at the smallness of his fingers and looking at my stubby fingers, I think that once too my fingers were that small and the Hoops would have gone down with ease. His mother watches him half detached with that stoic look of fear, determination, hope and weariness that is often worn by many new immigrants, a look I know well, having once worn it....

A few days later I am sitting in a leafy garden at one of the parties that are de rigueur in the summer, and spy a bowl of Hula Hoops, gingered by my memory, I go and grab a handful. I find that as I thought, my fingers are too big to squeeze them on, and eating them I find I dislike the vinegary taste of them...

Poor Georgia and Georgians, to take the international community (read USA and NATO) at its word. The whole thing reminded me of the playground fights back in primary school, where one bully would goad a weaker boy to attack another bully, implying that they would back them up if bully 2 erupted. Often bully 1 would watch from the sidelines while weaker boy got mammothly thumped...

In London, the weather oscillates between bright sunny, fine days and tropical type storms with strong winds and heavy rain. one morning, I find myself drenched walking from the tube to my office, even though it is only a short walk and I have an umbrella. I spend the rest of the day slowly steaming in my drying out clothes...

Yesterday, the papers were awash again with pictures of youngsters who had achieved their A levels. The results were published yesterday and it is virtually obligatory that all the newspapers will have photographs of youngsters celebrating their results- often trying to find a group with a particular quirk- some recently arrived refugee who makes 3 As or twins or triplets who all do well. Yesterday, many of the papers focused on the Okes, quadruplets of Nigerian heritage brought up by a single mother in Woolwich. Almost inevitably, the papers also focus on the endless debate about whether the standards of the exams have fallen- this year there was a 97 per cent pass rate prompting the same arguments about whether it meant schools were doing a better job or not. Judging from my limited experience of the youngster I met last week, predicted to gain three As, but shockingly inarticulate, verbally or in writing, I wondered....

I'm reading The Hakawati by Rabi Alahmeddine, it's an ambitious sprawling book, including an almost modern version of the Arabian Nights interspersed with the story of a young boy growing up in Beirut. It's an ambitious style and I'm not always sure the switching back and forth works, but the story grips me, leaving me wanting to know more- the ultimate mark in my book of a true story teller...

Thinking of storytelling reminds me of my childhood in Nigeria where my mother and grandmothers told us Nigerian folk tales complete with songs, often every night, but on other nights, my mother would read to us the fairy tales found in the Ladybird books, of princesses and peas; and Hansel and Gretel... Reflecting on the dual heritage, I'm grateful for the richness of my memories...

I read recently and was underwhelmed by Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone, his account of his experiences in Sierra Leone during the war there, including his time spent as a child soldier. The accounts were harrowing and yet I felt that there was something lacking in the telling...it felt a bit too dry...

Other recent reading include a book abouth the infamous Kray twins, criminal lords of the East End in London in the Sixties, which I found tedious but which contained the interesting story about the Krays' attempts to set up some sort of scam involving a seaside resort apparently set in Enugu, Nigeria. Try googling Krays and Enugu for more on this...

I'm also struggling through Saul Bellow's The Dean's December, which is actually the first time I have tried reading Bellow. I'm finding it hard going- a bit too ponderous for me and I wonder how much of that is my mood at the moment- perhaps I'm so busy and stressed with work that I find it difficult to ponder deeply meaningful fiction. And yet, I think Alameddine addresses many contemporary issues adopting a suitably light approach

Another afternoon, it's lunchtime and I carry my book to the cafe where I am to have lunch, placing my order at the queue, I spot a colleague sitting on her own eating her lunch. i smile and wave to her and then struggle with whether I ought to go over and join her. In the end I decide she'd probably I didn't anyway and so I sit on my own and read my book. I wonder if she will think me aloof and I suspect this is one of those peculiarly English situations where neither party really wants to sit with the other but are forced to out of politeness. Thankfully, I'm not English and so am allowed some latitude- perhaps I don't quite understand the etiquette- an excuse that I grab with both hands...

In Nigeria, the brouhaha around the demotion of some police officers including the former boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu reeks of the typically Nigerian muddleheadedness. Some people celebrate thinking Ribadu has got his comeuppance for his arrogance and yet, although no great fan of Ribadu's I can't help but wonder if the exercise is justified. Assuming that due process had not been followed in the promotions, is demoting them the best way to address this? What about the impact on the morale of some of he officers who were actually promoted because of their good performance?
What with the appointment of various individuals of potentially questionable integrity to key posts, it appears that President Yaradua is losing the battle with the forces of negativity, meanwhile the alleged picture of his young son, toting a gun and brandishing currency notes posted on the Photo Speak section of the Sahara Reporters website adds to my sense of unease, as does this Youtube video of his wife's visit to Harlem

And to show that it isn't just Yaradua that is at issue, there is the now infamous Obama dinner, which had me shaking my head in wonder...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm the Kray twins in Enugu,lol! That I hafta to google..I feel you on yaradua man..he seems to me like Akhaten, the Pharoh who almost destroyed Eypgyt...everyone watched him head for disaster and no did nothing AT ALL!
Ah the A levels are out again? I miss london, as the news will no doubtly focus on the same debate year in and out! Bon Weekend UK

Cheetarah

Afrobabe said...

that was serious musing..

loads of topics and issues touched..

I actually feel sorry for the kids who didn't make the A levels cos of the publicity that has been given to it..

but one bbc jounalist did something that really touched me..he shared his story of how he failed his first attempt and that its not the end of the world....

I thought that was very sweet...

Emerald said...

Hello... been reading your archives for the last hour or so. I'm not really sure how I got to it. Oh yes Jeremy's blog. Anyway good stuff.
Smile @ the lunch situation. If she didn't join you she probably had the same struggle.
Kray twins in Aba- haven't googled I'm secretly hoping they are the mugus in that story.
My A levels were a pain- I felt the pressure was to oppressive. Imagine my parent's chagrin when I proudly announced acceptance with scholarship to an American University.... they didn't pressure my siblings.
Your blog sir is hilarious without meaning to be. I like a lot.

Anonymous said...

Your write up is excellent, you can meet your match on Gnaija.
http://www.gnaija.net/notes/index/show?noteKey=Aim_for_the_stars_because_the_sky_is_not_that_far.