Monday, September 10, 2012

A London cab driver and the Olympic spirit (guest post)

It has been an amazing few weeks- the Olympics and Paralympics have electrified London in a way that many thought impossible. Having been marginally involved in the preparation and planning from an NHS perspective, it has been exhilarating to see all the work of the last two years come to fruition. None of the nightmare scenarios that we had considered and planned for has happened. Our concerns about hospital staff unable to come into work, health facilities unable to receive their supplies, some major incident putting massive pressure on local NHS facilities: none of these came to pass. Instead we have had an amazing six weeks of sport and communal joy. I will never forget the spectacle of Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony, which set the tone for the weeks that followed. That evening, I saw so many of my British Nigerian friends tweeting and updating their status on Facebook to “Proud to be British” I had never seen that happen before, in quite the same way. In Danny Boyle’s magnificent celebration, we saw a vision of the Britain that we lived, that we were a part of that incorporated our experiences and stories. For many of us, watching national teams from all over the world, bursting into random conversations with strangers on the Tube, it was a good time to live in London.

On a personal level, the last week has also been one of much happiness. The current edition of Granta, published at the end of August, focused on Medicine, included my essay, an account of my experiences as a young Nigerian doctor working in rural Northern Nigeria. Roped in to speak at launch events at Foyle’s in Charing Cross and at the Freud Museum in Hampstead, I enjoyed speaking to vibrant London audiences who asked questions, praised and challenged some of what I had written in my essay, “People Don’t Get Depressed in Nigeria”. On Twitter and Facebook, many people got in touch to say how much they enjoyed the essay, a few sent private messages, detailing their own experiences with depression and thanking me for raising the issue.
On Saturday, I was interviewed on Monocle 24 radio, by the journalist Georgina Godwin who asked if I still considered Nigeria home. I answered that I did but that I also considered London home and thought myself extremely fortunate to live in a time when the concept of having more than one home was less challenging than perhaps any other time in history, citing the availability of Nigerian news on the internet, the access to Nigerian food and culture in London to support my answer.

Yesterday, Sunday, was a lovely day in London. The sun was out; the Paralympics were drawing to a triumphant close. I agreed to meet a friend, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, visiting from Nairobi, for lunch. He invited the British Somalian writer and artist Diriye Osman and for four hours, we sat in the sun, outside a pub in Notting Hill Gate and talked Africa, politics, music, literature, art. It was an amazing afternoon. As the evening drew close, I called a taxi to take Binyavanga to the airport to catch his flight back to Nairobi. Diriye left to catch the tube to his next appointment. I suddenly remembered that I had agreed to drop off a book for a friend visiting from Nigeria. We had agreed to meet in the West End and he had told me he would be there until 7pm. I thought of ringing him and decided against it. I thought of taking the tube but worried that I would be late. And so I dashed on to Notting Hill Gate, just outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop and scanned the horizon rapidly for a black taxi with its light on. For a few minutes, none appeared and I wondered whether I was better off trying to catch the tube instead. But I had wasted precious minutes and so thought I would stick to trying to call a cab.

I looked far into the distance and spotted the glowing orange light of an unoccupied taxi. Heaving a sigh of relief, I stretched out my arm; but well before it got to me, it swerved in to the kerbside, picked up a passenger and moved on. Fortunately, another taxi was a few minutes behind it. I put my arm out again, but as he drew near, he leaned over and switched his light off. “What a shame”, I thought, “just my luck to pick a driver who’s going on break when I’m in a hurry”. Stung by a previous incident last year, when late for church, I had run up to a black cab driver at a set of traffic lights, asked to be taken to Charing Cross and been told he was on break, only for him to pick up a white woman a few metres on, I made a note of his number and watched to see what he would do next. Sure enough, like a repeat scene from a bad film, again I saw this black cab swing into the kerb, about a hundred metres ahead and pick up a white couple. I was gobsmacked. Fortunately there was another taxi behind him who picked me up and took me off successfully to my appointment.

Seated in the back of the second taxi, I tweeted directly to the Mayor of London’s Twitter account and to the Transport for London Twitter account. My tweet said “ cab driver with reg number XXXXX just refused to pick me, switching off light and then picks white couple 200m later” TFL responded an hour later, sending me a web link for a formal complaint. I haven’t heard back from the Mayor of London.

The incident was like a needle bursting the balloon of self-congratulation that I had been floating on over the last few weeks.

After the previous incident earlier last year, I had made a formal complaint to Transport for London and written to members of the London Assembly complaining about the incident. Then like now, I had managed to take down the offending cab driver’s registration number, and in addition, on that occasion had the number of the cab who picked me up, as he had witnessed what had happened. In spite of this, I received this response from Transport for London

The 'For Hire' sign displayed on black taxis requires the driver to accept a fare generally only if the taxi is at a stand or is stationary on the street other than at a signal or sign. If a taxi is stopped at a sign or traffic signal, they are deemed to be 'in motion' and so are not obliged to accept a fare if hailed. In this case, Dr Anya appeared to hail the first taxi when it was stopped at a traffic signal. Even though the 'For Hire' sign was lit, the driver was under no obligation to accept the fare at this point (although we noted that Dr Anya saw this driver later accept a fare at Notting Hill Gate Station). For this reason, we could not progress Dr Anya's complaint further. We do wish to emphasise however that we very carefully considered Dr Anya's complaint, and certainly recognise the seriousness of the allegation it contained.

Given this, I do not see that there is much point in trying to make another formal complaint.

When I shared the story of the previous incident with friends, I found the responses very interesting. Many of my white English friends were surprised, not believing this could happen; a few doubted my interpretation of the events. Many of my black friends said they had had similar experiences in the past, with one telling me how much things had improved since the 80s when after clubbing, they would get their white friends to hail a cab for them. A few black friends said they could understand the driver’s perspective, as he may have been scared of being robbed. I pointed out that a robbery was highly unlikely in the heart of central London, but admitted that I may have contributed by wearing a bright African shirt. This time, I was dressed in a suitably muted tailored English shirt (complete with cufflinks) and trousers, and so am unable to blame my attire. Another black friend, said “Serves you right, what were you doing, taking a cab anyway? You should have been cycling” Perhaps he was right.

Ike Anya is a Nigerian public health doctor and writer living in London

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Seeking directions, Pakistan writing and the Kingdom of Ife

The sun is out again today, a perfect summer day, but given the flirty (blistering hot one minute, shiveringly cold the next) weather that has been our lot since April, there’s no telling how long this reprieve will last….

I’m walking down the street admiring the neat lawns, the profusion of brightly coloured flowers cascading down the sides of the freshly painted black railings that line the park, hay-fever medicated to the hilt, when I notice her. She is standing, looking lost, at one corner of the street, from time to time consulting a piece of paper in her hand, and looking up, tentatively, at passersby. As I approach her, she walks, or perhaps, glides to me, draped in black from head to toe and asks, in English tinged with the winds of the Horn of Africa “Do you know where the big mosque is?”

I sense that she has waited to ask me because she is wary of the response from most of those who have come before me. Unfortunately I am unable to help, only being in the area for a meeting, I do not know it well. And so, having looked around for any street signs to a mosque, I shake my head and move away, leaving her to continue her sifting, trying to find a friendly face to ask….

The LibCon (Is there a clue in the Con bit?) coalition moves into its third week in office, all the drama of the immediate post-election period having subsided. It was an interesting time and I often wondered while the uncertainty and negotiations lasted, if this was what it felt like to live in historic times. On the tube, on the buses, on the streets, life continued in its mundane cycles,even if it was unclear who would be running the country….

Back home in Nigeria, it seems a rash of pugilism has broken out this week- from a so-called “royal father” beating up and burning his wife, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives nearly coming to blows with a fellow legislator. The same speaker, who not too long ago was paraded as a perfect English gentleman. As for the hopefully seen to be deposed Deji of Akure, his shamelessness knows no bounds- perhaps an argument for the dissolution of the traditional rulership institutions in Nigeria, whose role in contemporary Nigerian society is less and less clear to me, the more I examine the issue...

I've just finished a rash of books on Pakistan, not quite planned that way, but it has been good to more or less, totally immerse myself in a society that I don't really know much about. I started with Fatima Bhutto's (grand-daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and niece of Benazir) Songs of Blood and Sword, which I found slow to get into, and not perhaps, the most lyrical or accomplished writing- but she tells a very powerful story of her family, the tragedies and intrigues that make the Borgias look tame by comparison, and succeeds in painting a very different picture of the liberal,progressive Benazir than I had been familiar with...

Then I moved on to Mohsin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, again set in 21st century Pakistan. Although I'd read and enjoyed his Booker winning The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I hadn't had the opportunity to read this earlier offering and it's well worth seeking out. It's a fascinating story of two friends from different backgrounds and how their friendship unwinds. The writing technique and the plot is not as assured as in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but the beauty of the words, the deep thinking behind the writing and the unexpected twists make for a great read reminiscent in places of The White Tiger

My final Pakistan book is Ali Sethi's The Wish Maker, which uses Pakistan from the mid eighties to the present as a backdrop for a sprawling, beautifully executed saga of the lives of two cousins coming of age in contemporary Pakistan. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if in a few places, it seemed to drag, but Sethi is certainly a writer to watch, and I'm definitely a fan...

And on the subject of writers to watch, the New Yorker released its list of 20 writers under 40 to look out for this week. With a decidedly American viewpoint, nevertheless,our own Chimamanda makes the cut. Going through the list, there were many writers on there, of whom I'd never heard. A quick googling of those on the list led me to conclude that I'd probably be more interested in reading the women on the list-judging from my experience reading Gary Shytengart, Wells Tower and Jonathan Safran Foer- but perhaps I'll be persuaded....

The excellent British Museum exhibition Kingdom of Ife closes this week with a number of events. If you haven't been to see it, the loss is yours, but you can still get the catalogue...

It seems there's been a rash of literary events in Nigeria these past few weeks from Book Jam with Sade Adeniran, Chuma Nwokolo, Chimamanda Adichie and Binyavanga Wainaina to the Nigerian Breweries/Farafina creative workshop and reading led by Adichie to Lola Shoneyin's Infusion in Abuja and now Fidelity bank is sponsoring another creative writing workshop led by Helon Habila in July. You can apply here Ten, fifteen years ago, who would have thought the Nigerian literary scene would be abuzz the way it is now. Tolu Ogunlesi does a very good summary of the last few years here

And if you're interested in Nigerian writing and looking for new books, then try these:

Lola Shoneyin's The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
Jackie Kay's Red Dust Road
Kachi Ozumba's The Shadow of a Smile
Adaobi Nwaubani's I Do Not Come to You By Chance
Sade Adeniran's Imagine This
Chika Unigwe's On Black Sisters Street

And if you're in London in July, don't miss the London Literature Festival especially the Caine Prize Reading on the 4th of July

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A question of etiquette, Dave Eggers' new offering and the sins of the son...

She comes into the shop where I often stop in on my way to work to buy a freshly squeezed juice drink. She is often dressed in the same simple black dress (or perhaps she simply owns a lot of them), and is often wearing sneakers. She is perhaps in her late twenties or early thirties, blonde and slim. Each time she orders the same drink and on more than one occasion when our visits to the shop have coincided, she is just finishing an energy bar. At least I assume that she is, because she is usually holding the wrapper and delicately inserting a finger into the space between her upper teeth and her cheek to extract what I imagine must be a lump of freshly chewed, sticky mass of energy bar. I often wonder at her lack of self-consciousness while engaged in this task, but sympathize as it is one bit of social etiquette that I am yet to work out what the appropriate answer is. How do you dislodge that lump of sticky food paste that lodges in that area (peanut butter sandwiches are a particular hazard), without employing the discreet or indiscreet use of a single digit.....answers on a postcard please

I trek out to the Riverside Studios in west London for the reading to mark the launch of the memoirs of Michael Mansfield QC, Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer. I have taken the trouble to buy a ticket online and so when I arrive, hot and sweaty, having walked briskly from the tube in the muggy September weather that we are currently enjoying, ignore the long line of punters, queuing up and march to the counter, confident that there will be a separate collection point for pre-bought tickets. Alas, there is not and so I join the queue, ten people further back than I would have if I had just meekly joined the queue in the first place and end up missing the first ten minutes of the event. It isn't a reading in the conventional sense, he does not read from the book, but is an hour and a half of a monologue, with Michael perched on what looks like a barstool and offering up random thoughts and reminiscences. It is surprisingly engaging and I find that he holds my attention to the very end, but then as I remind myself, as a barrister, that is exactly what he has spent the larger part of his life doing....

I've just finished Dave Eggers new book, Zeitoun, which is another foray by the celebrated author into the realms of oral history presented as grippingly as a novel, similar to his earlier magnificent What is the What. This time, the hero is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian American leaving in New Orleans who finds himself caught up in a Kafkaesque experience following Hurricane Katrina.

In the library, as I do from time to time, I type in the words "Nigeria" into the search box on the catalogue, just to see what new books may have been acquired. This time I am rewarded by finding The Forger's Tale:The Search for Odeziaku, in which Stephanie Newell, an English academic charts the story of John Moray Stuart Young, a wealthy English homosexual trader who was one of the wealthiest men in Onitsha in the early 20th century, building a fortune from the palm oil trade. Apparently he makes a fleeting appearance in one of the short stories in Achebe's Girls at War collection.

The recent news about the apparent rejection of the Nigerian Ambassador designate to the US, Professor Tunde Adeniran on the basis that his son was recently arrested for rape in Baltimore, appears to descend into farce, as claims are made throwing the boy's paternity into question. An aunt of mine has often argued that part of Nigeria's problem has been the fact that most of our leaders have had pretty messy personal lives, citing the numerous affairs, girlfriends, mistresses and wives attributed to most former leaders. Stories like these probably only serve to buttress her arguments...

BTW our erstwhile Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was in London to give a talk at the LSE last week, I missed it, but there's a report here

Sunday, September 13, 2009

School starts, Almodovar's return and an exposition of clay feet

Just walking into the train station, two young boys emerge, both dressed in school uniform- black blazers, a blue shirt and a tie. The older, probably about twelve or thirteen is holding on to the hand of the younger , who is maybe ten and they are obviously brothers. The younger boy's uniform is shiny and new, obviously just bought, while the older's while neat and clean, is more of a vintage. The younger boy's face is bright and earnest and he struggles to keep up with the quick steps of his brother.

As they walk along, a larger crowd of boys in the same uniforms emerge in the distance and I notice that the older surreptitiously drops the hand of the younger, as he squares his shoulders and plunges right into the centre of the crowd of old friends. As I leave them to go into the station, I notice the younger brother, slightly bewildered on the fringe of the crowd, looking lost. I flash him what I imagine is a cheering smile and enter the station, hoping he will be alright on what is obviously his first day at big school....

On the platform, there is a little boy of maybe five, curled up on the bench, dressed again in uniform, complete with cap, cuddled up to his grandfather's chest who reads to him from a large children's book ...

To the cinema to see the new Almodovar film, Broken Embraces, as I expect, it is a sensuous feast of colours, the glorious yellows and rich reds of Spain, with shots from unusual angles and a story that grabs and hold my attention till the closing scenes. The reviews I had read had suggested that the plot was labyrinthine, with a film within a film, but to me it all appears very easy to follow. The part of the plot where the secretary becomes the mistress of her wealthy boss in order to pay for her father's treatment could have come straight from Nollywood and evokes unpleasant memories of Lagos...

I've now finished Chika Unigwe's On Black Sisters' Street. a tale of four African women working in the red-light district of Antwerp. It reflected the thorough research that she had done on the subject, and the story was engaging, if slightly implausible in parts. It is a sympathetic look at the lives of women whose voices are often not heard and well worth reading. Jonathan Cape have also recently published Ghanaian Nii Ayikwei Parkes "African whodunnit "novel, Tail of the Blue Bird and Malawian Samson Kambalu's The Jive Talker, subtitled How to Get a British Passport ( that title alone should guarantee it does well in Nigeria :-) and also published Segun Afolabi's Goodbye Lucille. I hope it means someone at Jonathan Cape is building an African writer's list....I've ordered all three to show my "moral support"

It's quite a year for new offerings from writers of Nigerian extraction, what with Chika's new book, Chimamanda's collection of short stories and new offerings from Helen Oyeyemi (White is for Witching) and Diana Evans (The Wonder)....

It's always a pleasant surprise to stumble across an established writer that I've never read, and even better when my second dip into their oeuvre is as captivating as the first. So it has been with the writer, TC Boyle, also known as T. Coraghessan Boyle. The unusual second name, captured my attention, when at a loose end one Saturday in the library. I then took out and read The Inner Circle, his novel about the sex researcher Professor Kinsey, narrated by one of his early acolytes. I enjoyed it so much that I have now just finished The Women, his account of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright's life, again seen through the eyes of a protege. He writes beautifully and does a brilliant job of exposing the clay feet of the two "gods"...

Last night to dinner with a friend to celebrate his elevation at work, he had cooked a kedgeree- (think jollof rice with hardboiled eggs and smoked fish), served with a delicious dal and yoghurt. The kedgeree reminded me in many ways of the jollof rice my grandmother used to cook, using palm oil instead of groundnut oil and any odds and ends she found in her kitchen...

Finally, the death of acclaimed Nigerian lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi last week after a dogged fight with lung cancer was sad. Not surprisingly, acres were written about his achievements and his principled commitment to improving the lot of the Nigerian masses and yet, when the man stood for President a few years ago, very few, if any of us came out to support or vote for him...perhaps because of the joke that said even if elected as president, he would organize protests against himself...

Seriously, we are the poorer for his loss

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lost bloggers, Yinka Shonibare and a not-by-chance offering

I suppose I only have myself to blame, but coming back to blogville after a long time away, it seems so many of my favourite bloggers, have like me, fallen silent, many of them leaving the same kind of cryptic messages that I left when I disappeared. Glad to see that Jeremy's Naijablog is still going strong , as are Talatu Carmen's Abubuwan da nake tunani, Ore's Notes and Kpakpando. Solomonsydelle and Ms Catwalq remain faithful, but visiting the blogs of many of my fellow contributors to the 14th and Serenity project is a sad and desoalte experience, the last posts, weeks or even months old, spawning a strange and inexplicable sadness. Singto seems to have disappeared on a love-fuelled quest and while Chxta and Toksie continue to blog after relocating home to Nigeria, the hilarious Atutupoyoyo , Adaure and art activist Molara Wood seem to have been swallowd up in the feverish hecticness that is Lagos

And where or where have Jaja, Nkem and Mr Fineboy gone?

Ah well, I suppose it is the way of the virtual world, here today and gone tomorrow...

The plan was to visit the High Line, New York's latest outdoor space, widely touted as the best thing since sliced bread, and so at a loose end on an afternoon, I headed for what I thought would be the entrance, clutching the review from the Financial Times which had what I thought was a useful map. In the event I found myself on the banks of the Hudson, dodging traffic, feet aching and with no way of entry to the nouveau nirvana.....Apparently it's a one-way entrance. Beaten I wandered under the bridge trying to make my way back to the nearest subway station, when a poster for Yinka Shonibare MBE's exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum caught my eye. I made a detour and emerging into the sunshine of Brooklyn spent a delightful couple of hours admiring his exquisite reinterpretations of Western art classics in his signature Dutch wax prints..

Adaobi Nwaubani does not come to us by chance. She has pulled off a stunning feat in her debut novel I Do Not Come to You By Chance, taking the phenomenon of the 419 trade and exposing the flipside in a witty, unnervingly accurate depiction of the milieu that shapes and drives those emails that waft into our inboxes on a regular basis. There are many laugh out loud moments and I urge you to go now and grab a copy of this first offering from the first Nigerian based author to emerge on the international literary scene in a long time....There has been such a harvest of African writing this year, and I imagine it is time I revised my Nigerian/African reading list

It's literally the end of summer and as the weather turns, the leaves begin to flutter down, driven by strong gusts of wind that seemingly appear from nowhere. It's that strange time when it's too early to carry a coat or a jumper and yet, wearing my light cotton shirts, on occasion, I find a gust of ice creeping between the cloth and my skin raising gooseflesh...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Spiritual attacks, Thai lunch and the Voice of Zimbabwe

I am sitting at my desk in our new open plan office, it has been decreed that open plan will break us out of our silos. Funnily enough, all the bosses seem to have ended up with desks right by the windows, with good views. So much for the "democratization of the open plan office" we were promised.

I hold the phone away from my ear as the person at the other end prattles on about "pushbacks" and "dependencies", I wonder where they pick these phrases from. Why is it unacceptabel to speak simple plain English in a business context? As I put the phone down, gently rubbing my ear, my mobile phone buzzes in my pocket. I've had it on permanent vibrate mode ever since the embarassing mobile phone going off during eminent professor's lecture incident in my early years in London. But that's another story.

I glance at the screen and see that it is one of my favourite aunts from Nigeria. She has been unwell and I had sent her some CDs of religious choral music (that old favourite of the aspirational Nigerians of my parents' generation,Handel's Messiah and some psalms) that she had requested, together with the inevitable "little" something. As it's nearly lunch time, I slip discreetly into an empty meeting room to take the call. As I look out onto the bustle of central London, the cars locked in a seemingly purposeless circling, our conversation begins

"Auntie, Good afternoon, how are you?"

" I thank God my son, thank you so much for the things you sent- and you even put in some money"

"Ah, auntie, it's nothing, what's this about you not being well, what's the matter?

"Hmm, Naijaman, it was not easy, for months I felt like there was a sharp pobject bearing down between my shoulder blades.I couldn't sleep, I could hardly turn my neck..."

"Ah, that sounds serious, did you see a doctor at the teaching hospital?"

"Yes I did, I saw several..."

"And what did they say?"

"Well, they couldn't find anything wrong, not even after all their tests, and that's when I realized it was a spiritual attack. They were trying to get my brother and because they have been told that I'm a prayer warrior with a ring of fire around him, they decided to get me away first. But they have the Glory of God"

There are a million possible responses to all of this- I could ask who "they" are, I could ask why her brother needs to be got, and so on, but I stay silent, murmur soothing sounds, marvelling at the incongruity of the worlds I inhabit and slowly, pressing the end button, head for lunch

Lunch is at my favourite Thai restaurant a stonethrow from the office. They do a fabulous 3 course lunch. I nearly always have the same thing, crispy wontons the crisp pastry bursting with the juicy prawn filling, then the Pad Krae Prow (pork in a basil and chilli stir fry sauce) and then the banana fritters served with a small scoop of vanilla icecream- the hot fritters and fozen ice cream meeting in the mouth to create a sensation....

As I eat, I read Petina Gappah's amazing new collection, An Elegy for Easterly, which lays bare the various facets of contemporary Zimbabwe. I do not know Zimbabwe, have never been there, and yet reading these stories, I feel that I know it so well that I could recognize the characters in it if I met them on the street. And the wit, the delicious humour, almost Wildean is stunning. Petina has visited this blog in the past and I'm pleased that she's produced an excellent first offering. Watch out for her, coming soon to a bookshop near you! My favourite quote (not from the book but from an interview) was (I paraphrase) "The publishers came with this blurb, it read, she is the Voice of Zimbabwe and I said, take it off, the Voice of Zimbabwe is a radio station"

In any case it appears her publishers won and there is a blurb saying she is the voice of Zimbabwe

Saturday, August 22, 2009

As I was saying....

The sunlight streams through the slightly chilly breeze and I make my way up the steps through the ornate carved doorway into the church. As I move forward, I notice the dreadlocked ma, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt of doubtful cleanliness, standing just within the portico, outside the door, who grins and says "Morning brother"in a patois tinged tone, as he clasps his hand in front of him in a mock- approximation of what Presidents do, while listening to their peers at a bilateral press conference.

I pause at the doorway to collect the Order of Srvice from a grinning usher and just then hear some commotion at the door behind me. An African family have just arrived and Dreadlocks, my friend is objecting loudly to the teenage son entering the church with as he puts it "his trousers around his ankles". The parents stride ahead pretending they have nothing to do with the boy, and the boy tries to do the same, but Dreads is having none of it, he chases after him, up the aisle, almost into the main body of the church, and finally, the boy, defeated, pulls up his trousers, sparing the congregation the sight of his striped boxers, while his sisters titter and the first bars of the opening hymn ring out.....

News that the londonpaper is to close fills me with a sense of glee, perhaps, now the other free evening paper, London Lite which seemed to have been set up in direct competition to thelondonpaper will also now close and all our train carriages, stations and streets will be the cleaner for it. Besides it will be good to enter a station on the way from work without first having to run the gauntlet of vendors pressing the rival papers insistently on you.... I do feel sad for the vendors, who mostly appeared to be from the Indian sub-continent or African-whether this was a planned recruitment strategy or merely the function of relatively poor pay, I never knew. Now they will have to find new arduous immigrant work in the straitened economic times. I wonder if it will also affect the cleaners as there will be a lot less rubbish to pick up...

In Nigeria, the ripples from the closure of some of the 5 biggest banks continue. In the Financial Times this morning, I read that the EFCC is now to go after the internal and external auditors of the banks in question. Will this be the Nigerian Enron? Hardly, knowing how my beloved country operates. It will probably all fizzle out in a few weeks, but the reactions, predictably are amusing- there are the usual insinuations about ethnic sentiment on the part of the Central Bank Governor. So he, northern prince of Kano that he is, is for instance, accused of a vendetta against Southern banks. Yet of the 25 banks left standing, only 1 could at best be described as a Northern bank. So isn't it inevitable that the numbers of those culled would reflect this? Then there are the "It is the work of my jealous enemies" group, insisting that they shall be vindicated, seeing as they are holy people. Reading some of the comments on the scoop breaking NEXTwebsite, I reimagine the crash of Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock and co, this time with the bankers insisting divine justfication and their manicured wives holding nightlong prayer and fasting sessions in their plush 5th Avenue apartments....

I've just finished Sarah Waters book, The Night watch, longlisted for the Booker Prize this year. I enjoyed it, as it was brilliantly evocative of a pivotal era in British history, the immediate post-war period with the decay of many large estates and families. Although it is billed as a ghost story, I didn't find it scary at all, but then that's often the case with me- somehow, a horror film can evoke the sense of fear where a book can't. And yet, I'm often transported to different worlds by books, so there must be something about the failure of my literary imagination.

Next up on my list, a clutch of recent African writing, which to my shame, I have been too busy before now to read. But I have gone to Daunt's and ordered them and this morning will be picking up, in no particular order, Petina Gappah's An Elegy for Easterly a collection of what I am told are jewel-like stories, polished and glittering, set in contemporary Zimbabwe, Chika Unigwe's On Black Sisters Street following 4 Nigerian prostitutes in Belgium, Adaobi Nwaubani's I Do Not Come to You By Chance, probably the first novel on the 419 phenomenon and Brian Chikwava's Harare North, detailing the lives of Zimbabwean immigrants in London, which apparently they call Harare North... By the way, where are the new Nigerian male writers? There's Adichie, Atta, Unigwe,Nwaubani, Shoneyin,Agary on the female side....have we men been rendered voiceless?

Meanwhile across the ocean, poor Brother Barack is under fire as millions of uninsured Americans vociferously attack his plans to give them cover (I read that somehwere, can't remember where, and it made me chuckle. But seriously, the whole debate lays bare the difference in culture between the US and Europe, especially the throwing around of the word "socialist" as if it were a particularly slimy and dangerous thing to be....

So the plan is to resume blogging, once a week, every week, without fail......hope it works, or rather, the demands of the day job permit