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


Unknown said...

1. The naija consciousness is such that we rather accept an outlandish idea about why certain things are happening to a more realistic one. That is why, when you spill hot water, it's not that your grip on the kettle was not firm or that you did not use enough insulation to hold the metal handle but that someone somewhere had risen up to "get" you out of spite. Like you, I just nod and change the subject.

2. Office plans. Right now, I would love to be working in an office. Thanks to recession, I am still searching. With regards to office layouts, it's a myth that a lack of walls means a lack of walls. As someone with a design background, there are so many ways to demacate and barrier spaces without something physical in the way.

3. Thai food for lunch...errr no.

Wences said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ayoke said...

Your description of food always leaves one hungry. You should certainly combine your love of books and food into a recipe book or maybe a book critiquing places to eat. It will definitely sell!

Anonymous said...

welcome back. you are the best blogger.

uknaija said...

@catwalq- I refer you to a quote borrowed from Ochi Dabiri by way of Pius Adesanmi

"Driving under influence in Nigeria is another thing altogether. Whenever one visits the village, on the day of departure, they will prepare lots of poundo, then bring in several kegs of fresh palmwine along with odeku, to mix it with. You were expected to fill up with poundo and drown it with the foamy stuff "so that you can see the road clearly"! The next day, you would hear that the man drove into a tree, and it was not caused by the drink but by his father's third wife! I miss home." - Ochi Dabari

Thai food for lunch is great- have you never enjoyed rice beans and dodo with sumptuous tomatoey peppery beef stew for lunch?and btw work will come

@ayoke- how now, long time? How are the wintry wastelands of the north? Thanks for your kind comments but writing a recipe book I assume requires a far more extensive knowledge of cooking than I can boast-sadly my forte is more in the consumption than the preparation
@ anon, thank you for your flattery, ever considered working as a PA to a Nigerian politician?

Shona Vixen said...

I've also just finished reading An Elegy for Easterly and loved Petina's work.

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