Archive for April, 2013

The Boston Bombings and SpiderMan

April 23, 2013

You remember the scene in Spiderman where Peter Parker doesn’t stop the thief saying its none of his business and the theif shoots his uncle outside in the street? Kinda reminds me of the FBI response to Russia’s request for assistance on the Boston Marathon Bomber.

 

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England Travels – From Guest Writer Maxwell Marshall

April 10, 2013

‘THIS TRAIN IS FOR COCKFOSTERS!’ This is the terse declaration of the scrolling digital display in the first train I ride in from Heathrow Airport. Perhaps it is unremarkable to the long-time train users (who huddle in the cold, struggling to avoid making eye contact with those seated in their field of vision),but it strikes me as a brutal unrelenting truth!

The display repeats its silent mantra over and over as we proceed from one stop to the next, as if  intent on bludgeoning its passengers with that truth; no matter what happens, no matter what you believe, this train is for Cockfosters! Beyond debate; beyond reproach.

I can actually feel the smugness, the confidence the train exudes. It KNOWS that there will be no power failure to halt it in its tracks; KNOWS that it is too well maintained to suffer a technical failure; KNOWS that its operators know their onions and that the route managers are too efficient to allow any incidents that may cause delays.

I am infected- I KNOW it too! This train IS FOR FUCKING COCKFOSTERS, whatever exotic location it may be. I didn’t get quite that far myself, but I stepped off that metal snake KNOWING that if I EVER need to get to Cockfosters, I had better step right back into it.

It’s a nice feeling, this assuredness; one I will have a hard time letting go off when I return to Lagos. I mean, there are no trains like this of course, but it would be nice to have a bus or aeroplane that batters you with the certainty that it will get to its designated destination at all, not to mention on time. Mind you, I cannot lay much blame on these poor creatures- who and what can they rely on to foster such confidence? Availability of fuel? Properly managed routes? Trained and responsible operators? Adequate maintenance?

In fact, if I could, I would suggest a working holiday for each and every one of them, allowing them to spend a month in London, plug into the system there and proudly wear their digital badges, if only for a short time, just to know what it feels like to be assured, confident in their environment, sure that if every other aspect of their lives lies in ruin, a system exists that they can depend on, align with and exploit without worry. Without worry.

I’m glad to get that chance for 10 days myself.

England Travels – Observing the Natives on Brighton Pier

April 9, 2013
Brighton Pier - where the natives bring the whole family for entertainment

Brighton Pier – where the natives bring the whole family for entertainment

 

The English love gambling and everyone tall enough to reach the levers was at it. My conservative Nigerian psyche was outraged. Wait a minute...since when did I become conservative? Come one now, grab a hand full of coins little one. This could be your moment

The English love gambling and everyone tall enough to reach the levers was at it. My conservative Nigerian psyche was outraged. Wait a minute…since when did I become conservative? Come one now, grab a hand full of coins little one. This could be your moment

 

If you win a few hundred quid at the slot machine you could pop over and tie the knot with the lady that brought you luck. Victoria's Bar on Brighton Pier is fully licensed to conduct weddings. You can take cheesy photographs right after

If you win a few hundred quid at the slot machine you could pop over and tie the knot with the lady that brought you luck. Victoria’s Bar on Brighton Pier is fully licensed to conduct weddings. You can take cheesy photographs right after

Great little hotel just next door. I wonder if they have a 'Honeymoon Suite'?

Great little hotel just next door. I wonder if they have a ‘Honeymoon Suite’?

Or maybe you'd prefer to pop over and see Ivor before tying the knot. He should be able  to tell you whether the stars are right for your nuptial bliss. But I couldn't help wondering if he was as good as his signs say why he was hanging out in a wagon on Brighton Pier.

Or maybe you’d prefer to pop over and see Ivor before tying the knot. He should be able to tell you whether the stars are right for your nuptial bliss. But I couldn’t help wondering if he was as good as his signs say why he was hanging out in a wagon on Brighton Pier.

Interesting specie, the British

The domestic British are rather interesting creatures, totally different from the ones that live and work in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buses Around the World

April 7, 2013

I can’t remember the last time I took a bus. Actually I can, it was sometime post the June 12 protests in Lagos. It was the only means of transport available. Nigerian buses are smelly, crowded, randomly timed (buses don’t move till they are full) and high risk modes of transportation because you never know whether the driver is actually licensed as he hurtles down bad roads at 120 kilometers per hour.

The mad rush for a molue captured quite eloquently by an artist unknown

The mad rush for a molue captured quite eloquently by an artist unknown

The English bus service is as civilized as the British of course, on time, clean, and only crowded during rush hour when the natives commute to and from work and they are generally happy to stand in orderly queues to board the bus and are sure that there will be another one coming if they miss the first one. The UK bus service is geared towards a structured economy, while I think the Nigerian bus services have always reflected and serviced our super entrepreneurial hustle economy.

Modern British buses have retained the character of their older predecessors. This is an old 'route master'

Modern British buses have retained the character of their older predecessors. This is an old ‘route master’

In Nigeria we have the molue, the danfo and the luxurious. In the good old days of my misspent youth the ‘luxury’ buses were called by their company names – like The Young and Chidiebere.  They usually had quaint philosophical anecdotes written on the side like “At all, at all Na em bad Pass”.  In the UK you have coaches, with free newspapers, free wifi and lots of advertising.

There is a philosophy lesson  on every Lagos bus (and once upon a time on most other commercial vehicles too)

There is a philosophy lesson on every Lagos bus (and once upon a time on most other commercial vehicles too)

I came across a site that calls itself Buses Around the World, not a single one of the more than 20 galleries featured buses from Africa (South Africa does not count here right now for inexplicable reasons). I googled ‘buses around Africa’ – all I got back were bus schedules for – did you guess right?- yes, South Africa. Apparently they are the only African country with scheduled bus routes online.

There is barely any mention of the quaint buses of Dakar, brightly colored and more than just a means of transportation, they are little works of art themselves. Perhaps a photographic project for the future ‘Buses Around Africa’. Or is it too late already? Have we forgotten them in our mad rush for sleek modernity and copy cat western inspired progress and development?

Bright colored buses certainly takes the drudgery out of bus travel in Senegal. They are called demm dikk - coming and going

Bright colored buses certainly takes the drudgery out of bus travel in Senegal. They are called demm dikk – coming and going

I wouldn’t say anyone bus is better than the other by the way, I enjoy the diversity. I would like to say that in Nigeria specifically and in Africa more generally we should do more to preserve the unique nature of what is ours. Lagos BRT buses are so soulless and without character, but I guess Lagosians are just happy they get them to their destination on time and in one piece I hear, and I get it.

Of course like all Nigerians I’ve been slightly embarrassed by the molue and the danfo in the past. It’s not clean or standardized or meet any of the other standards of oyibo and western life and living.  I guess it reflects our general unhealthy embarrassment with things African and ancient. It took a trip to the UK to make me see that? Let’s hear it for the molue, even though I shall probably never get on one.

Diseye Tantua a talented Nigerian artist has made the molue the subject of a series of  delightful 'African pop art' paintings.

Diseye Tantua a talented Nigerian artist has made the molue the subject of a series of delightful ‘African pop art’ paintings.

The International Real Ale Festival 2013 in Brighton

April 5, 2013

 

No better way to discover a city than to have a walk-about. Most assuredly it is best to have a walk-about on a warm day but imagine the things one would miss if one only went out when it’s warm! Like the Spring International Real Ale Festival at a pub named Bright Helm in Brighton City Center. It was a freezing day and I was thinking of where to stop for a drink when I saw it.

I walked in, asked around and was given a long list of tasting notes for over 50 ales that are supposed to be displayed over the 19 days of the festival. Talk about paralysis! What to choose? Which ones to try? Even my infamous capacity for alcoholic beverages would not dent a tenth of 50 pints. Problem solved, there were only 5 on display and I could try 3 for the price of a pint. Lovely!

I picked 3 local Sussex brews, the Black Swallow (a black IPA with a 6% ABV) and the Triple XXX brewed by Langham and the Ruby Mild brewed by Turners. IPA stands for Indian pale ale, it used to be brewed extra strong to survive transportation to India in colonial days where the colonists thirstily waited for their pint of brew! How’s that for a history lesson!

The Black Swallow was by far the best; rich, deep, sharp and bitter. I could get used to this. I found the Triple XXX a bit bland, like most pornography I must say. The Turners wasn’t too bad but wouldn’t be drinking it again. Nigerian beer gives you a taste for strong beer with lots of flavor. Festival continues till April 21 and I intend become a regular in order to try out the 50 ales that will be available.

At the festival I learnt about an organization called CAMRA. CAMRA stands for ‘Campaign for Real Ale’. Hear, hear! I dig it! They are campaigning for pub goers and beer drinkers (that’s me, count me in). Their flyer says “It’s important that CAMRA members enjoy real ale, pubs and great membership benefits”. Sign me up.  Check out all their campaigns here.

Brewing ales is an entire sub culture I have found out and one that I look forward to supporting and exploring. Eight international brewers were invited by the organizers JD Wetherspoons to come and brew specifically for the festival, they came from USA, Canada, Russia, Greece, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and down under. Here is a blog from New Zealand brewer Kelly Ryan.

The Bright Helm meanwhile is itself full of history and gets its name from the old Saxon name for Brighton. Brighton was a Saxon village in the 5th century, (that’s like 1500 years ago) before King George V made it a popular resort. I will be returning here frequently, after all I have  only 15 days to sample 50 beers, that’s three and a half ales a day.

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Lesley’s Day Out in Cold Cold Brighton

April 5, 2013

Armed with an all day bus pass and a map I went exploring Brighton city yesterday. Essentially the all day pass lets you ride the bus all day to anywhere within the city all for the grand price of GBP4.40 (roughly NGN1000).  A great way to discover the city, acquaint you with the bus routes and generally orient yourself. In Moscow I rode the subway (or underground as the Brits call it) for the same reason.

We drove through tidy little neighborhoods on narrow streets that I was sure the driver couldn’t squeeze a big ass bus through but he did. I discovered  there is going to be a fireworks display on Saturday night and the bus stops directly in front of all the ‘super stores’ as the bigger supermarket outlets are called.

I told the bus driver that I was exploring and he very kindly gave me a map of the city’s bus routes. While my friends here seem to think otherwise I find the natives friendly. I am open about being little more than a tourist in their fascinating city and they respond warmly. Of course friendly in Britain is a nod and the barest hint of a smile, except you’re in a pub of course.  English reticence is so charming.

After a couple hours riding around I stopped at Churchill Square near Brighton City Center and took a walk about. Booming commercialism! Cheesy souvenirs everywhere; tea shops, bars, delis and restaurants offering free jugs of wine if you spend GBP40 or more, 2 for 1 fish and chips, 3 for 2 packaged meals and ‘social hour’ cocktails as an alternative to ‘happy hour’.

Shop windows announced clearance sales on winter goods as chains optimistically displayed spring stock, bikinis and flip flops, despite the 1oC temperature. I probably could have gotten some warm underwear at rock bottom prices (sic) but resisted the urge to spend.  I know my weaknesses. When I decide to shop and spend, I shop and spend.

In the course of my walk about I came upon the International Real Ale Festival 2013 at a pub called Bright Helm. Now those of you that know, know that I love beer and know that I love sampling beer during my travels so what could have been better? Three ales for the price of a festival pint! Lovely! I didn’t have to risk intoxication to taste more than one! In the interest of brevity that  shall the subject of my next post.

From the beer festival I strolled down to the Brighton Pier. Actually I walked briskly, there is no strolling in the cold! More cheesy commercialism! Loved it! This too is another post, with pictures!  In the end I was bitterly cold and stiff despite  wearing 4 layers AND a jacket and I gladly ended the day with hot yoga at Bikram Brighton, despite my  ayurveda healers advice against it, yet another post at my other blog, Healing Body and Mind.

It was a good day!

I Actually Went to Church on Easter

April 3, 2013

No. I have not suddenly become religious, I went because of an incredible sense of history that St. Martin’s the local church in Westmeston provided. Parts of it were built during Norman times in the 11th century, that is almost 1000 years ago.  One  thousand years of piety and prayer and an atrocity or two I’m sure. Still one  just has to feel, you know, like you’re in the presence of something holy and beautiful and special.

Of course in Nigeria I always refused to enter any church at all. I used to irreverently say it was because i feared i would burst into flames the moment I walked through the doors. And I must admit churches in Nigeria did give me the heebie jeebies. Then again every time I did enter a church as a youth in Imo State someone always tried to ‘exorcise’ my many demons.  To the natives my high yellow color apparently ensured some level of demonic possession or other. I never did find out why.

Of course religion and spirituality is not about any of the many misconceptions of Nigerian and English churches to me but that’s another post entirely.

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I Am So Glad that I am Not in London Right Now

April 1, 2013

 

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I have just had the most amazing night at a very very English pub in the English country side. There was folk music  that sounded very Irish and there was amazing beer that sounds very English. Local beer. The first I tried was ‘Curious Brew’ by Chapel Down in Kent.

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Then I had the ‘Blonde’ by Hepworth  Co in Sussex. You have to try the local brews to know that you have been to the local pubs.  Then I had the ‘Yakima Red’ by Meantime Beer.

 

Being the evil person that I an I also had to try the whiskey that they had on offer. Single malt no less; once you have had a single there is no going back, it is so  different from those blends that one has become used to drinking in Nigeria. Ewwwww.

 

Taste the real McCoy. ‘Laphroaig an Islay single malt 10 years old and ‘Glenmoragnie’ a Highland Single Scotch Whiskey. Na wa o, We dey suffer for Naija sha. So three beers and two scotch whiskeys later I bid you a good night.

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