The Gospel According To Lesley: Talking About Beauty, SLEEP WELL O


Sleep covers a multitude of sins. Take my word for it. Have you ever recovered from an illness and someone says “Ah, you look so well”? Sleep and rest are linked to all sorts of good outcomes. I used to sleep three four hours a night. If I slept a long time I slept 6 hours. And no matter what time I went to bed I couldn’t sleep beyond 9am. My conscience would have me out of bed and running around like a headless chicken after an all night binge that ended at 7am.

“Work hard and play harder.” I famously said once. “Not on two hours of sleep” the Universe replied and hit me with thyrotoxicosis.

Now I get my uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep every night.  If I go to bed late, I wake up late. If I have a sleep deficit I make up for it real quick. Next night where ever possible. And I sleep late on Sundays. Every Sunday. Just lounge around in bed reading, napping and ringing the bell for service.  If god could rest one day out of seven then so can I god damn it. Its my definition of ‘Keeping The Sabbath.’ No other rules apply.

Oil painting by Oresegun Olumide

In Nigeria I can bloody well do that too because everything runs on ‘African Time’ anyway. Even the Mexicans know about it. When we plan events and we want the event to start by 6pm we never put that on the invitation. We put noon on the invitation hoping the guests will start to arrive by 6pm. And start at midnight anyway. Go figure. Anyway its part of our planning process, African Time is. I know all you Nigerians in abroad find it infuriating. Kpele.

Depending on the power dynamics I can arbitrarily reschedule a 9am appointment or even not inform you that its been rescheduled at all if I need a couple hours of extra sleep. You’re probably late anyway. My sleep is more important than your good will.

It wasn’t easy putting my needs first, at first. My ‘oyibo’ conscience would scream at me and burden me to get to the meeting and I would convince myself that 3 hours of sleep was okay because I felt just fine.  Margeret Tatcher famously slept 4 hours a night. She had Alziemers or dementia or something when she died. So did my late mother in law who also had sleep problems.

I don’t play with my sleep o.

My bedroom is the nicest room in the house, airy, comfy and soothing. Music, yes. television, no. No television in bed. Only a couple of books on the night stand. My boudoir. I try to fall asleep and wake up feeling happy to be alive.

I also know how to sleep rough. Catching as many or as few hours as possible in the most uncomfortable conditions. Because  sometimes even where you sleep is determined by power dynamics and you sleep and wake up with uncertainty. And maybe work hard to escape and create a personal sense of security. Or status. Or dignity. Refusing to give in to those forces. Or giving in.

Don’t compromise where you sleep o and – as my friend used to say – who you sleep with it. And why.

Till soon.




Introducing The Gospel According To Lesley – Talking About Beauty

Sisi Eko, Digital Art by David Osagie Dot Com


I just turned 51. I’ve been told often enough that I do not look my age and asked just as often how do I do it. I shrug it off, blame it on gene’s or one way or the other avoid the topic. I feel uncomfortable talking about it. A lot of women are. Even Chimamanda used to be.

The other day I was talking to a young woman about how I protected my skin from dryness during the UK winter. I described abhyanga, ayurvedic oil massage for her. I always used an oil massage before a shower during the winter never soap. And when I soaked (once a week maybe less) I dumped a bottle of Johnson’s baby oil in the tub with the bubble bath.

“So after using that sisal brush on your skin you took time and used oil to give yourself a massage? Hmm. You dey pamper yourself.”

I guess you could say so. (I’ve used a sisal brush to dry brush the skin before bathing in the every morning for more than ten years. Read about it in Vogue back in the day.)

“I’m just trying to keep my skin supple. I’ll always been obsessive about my skin even as a child. What was  an unhealthy obsession then is just what I need now. ”

I’ve also used Boots ‘Glycerin and Rosewater Tonicto clean my face everyday for over 20 years. Never soap and water. It suddenly occurs to me. I’ve had a very sophisticated beauty regimen all my life. I do pamper myself and take care of myself. No small thanks to My Evil Step Mother who tried to make a lady out of me. And curb my vanity. Was she successful?

In the tropical heat I always use a loofah and a gentle soap or shower gel. Currently using PH balanced Sebamed. And last last I will use Dove or Pears. Gone are the skin punishing days in the village when Dad bought me Tetmosol or Dettol soap. And Vaseline. And I would run around at high noon like one of my dark skinned brethren. My Father tried to make a revolutionary ought of me. And curb my vanity. Was he successful?

I’ve also used a body scrub at least two three times a week for well over 20 years. St.Ives Apricot Scrub used to be a favourite. It was always available in the market sha. At reasonable price too. Then I when I started to travel plenty I got into Soap & Glory. Now I am in love with Lizzy Ab’s All Natural Sugar Body Scrub. All natural ingredients. Leaves the skin feeling baby soft and smooth. It even taste’s good. I really take time when I’m scrubbing. I put all the attention into it I once put into bathing my new born babies.

I don’t let my skin feel tight. If it feels tight I know I need a moisturiser.  I use coconut oil daily right after a bath or shower and Jergen’s Ultra Healing lotion during the dry months. I apply as often as necessary in between to relieve the tightness. And drink more water. Till I am peeing every hour or two. Dry skin has to be attacked from the inside too. I eat right and take my vitamins. 

I take care of my skin because I figure clothes are disposable but I got to live in my own skin for my whole life. So I might as well keep it healthy and looking great. I mean if you can do it for those Blue Suede Shoes you can do it for your skin right? It just another piece of leather. Just that its still ‘alive.’ Can you relate? No?

Don’t worry about it.

I treat my feet well too. Notice how the feet do so much work? Show them some appreciation. Give them a massage with the nicest smelling richest cream or lotion you can afford. Pamper your feet. Wash and pamper them when you come home from the market square. Appreciate the work they do. The intricate engineering that keeps you upright all day long.

Say ‘Thank you.’

A proper pedicure once in a while would do. Not the road side kind. I swear I judge a person by the state of their feet.

And how they smell.

I get complimented a lot that I smell good. Thank you. I appreciate the effort that goes into smelling good. I make a lot of effort to smell good. My revulsion at unpleasant smells is primal. I think its evil to assail your fellow human beings with funky body smells. Or any other kind of unpleasant smells. Like cheap perfume. Cheap perfume smells cheap. I do not use it. I’d rather withdraw from polite society.

I  frequently do.

Let’s see. What else do I do to stay healthy and strong? Let me think about it and get back to you.

Chao bella

Chimamanda, Digital Art by David Osagie


The Average Women is a Size 16 & the Average Man Will Marry Her

Like most women I’ve been obsessed with weight since I was 5 years old. I was never thin enough not even when I was a size 6. As I have grown older (and wider) I have tried to be more accepting of my body size, reassuring myself that I am indeed still beautiful at a size US14/UK16. Size UK16 is after all the size for average every day women in the US and in the UK (see link below). 

I guess thats why celebrities and the super rich alpha males only date and marry waifs and mannequins because , well, they are not ‘average guys’ and they don’t want average women, do they? Average doesn’t stand out which I guess is why the women that are still size 6 and even size 0 will continue to attract and get all the male attention including your average Joe of a husbands attention even as he reassures you he loves you just the way you are. Anyway.

body image 2

But! Before you go for that second helping of cheese cake, they also saying size 16 is NOT healthy! Don’t over do it. Get regular exercise, eat healthy and according to the experts stay in a US12/UK14 dress size.  So we got one dress size to drop.

I’m loving  all those full bodied curves regardless. They look like wimmin!  I look like a woman! I feel like a woman too!  I’ve often wondered if my earlier desire to look like Twiggy had something to do with my fear of being a woman?  And the  anxiety created by social expectation of a woman.

Meanwhile, I can’t wait to get into that bikini I ordered online that’s arriving today! 


Herstory: Health Care, Self Care, Prayer, Miracles, Animists & Atheists

I have been sick the past few days. I’m in bed and can therefore afford to indulge in the luxury of a long rambling post. I hope you can indulge in the luxury of reading a rather long rambling post. Sickness makes me feel vulnerable on so many levels.

If you have a job you and your family have health care. If you don’t have a job you have to buy you own. The cheapest reliable individual health insurance plan is NGN100,000. Per annum. Is there any really good coverage for NGN50,000?
I wonder what happens if you have a pre-existing condition?

Anyway good health care is bloody expensive in Nigeria and you can’t get it in a public hospital. I can’t remember the last time I was at a public hospital. For treatment that is. I was at the National Hospital the day the UN Building in Abuja was bombed with Lola and Elnathan. .

In my fathers village they say only the dying go to the big hospitals. The pall of death was everywhere that day. Emergency vehicles rushing in and out. Distressed relatives looking for kith and kin. I could imagine dying of self pity in such a miserable unkempt depressing place. All the staff were surly too.

The UN evacuated ALL their injured staff to SA within a couple days. An indictment on health care facilities here. Can’t blame them of course. They were probably treated by Nigerian doctors in SA the best of who have all left the country.

One of my biggest regrets was not continuing the health plan I had with Ashoka. They let me choose my plan. When I joined Oxfam they imposed their plan and provider. I lost 3 years of insurance history. Now I got no coverage again. I wonder can I pick up my old plan?

And I’m one of the ‘privileged’ top 10% percentile! My old plan included air ambulance evacuation. Just in case I’m in a car accident. My friends dad was put in a mortuary after a road accident. He woke up 2 days later. He was a retired Ambassador. Privilege doesn’t always protect.

An Ashoka fellow is paraplegic because it took 3 days for the National Hospital to figure out she had a spinal cord injury. She’s a nurse. She was eventually flown to Ghana. National Hospital are immune from prosecution or something. So don’t call me paranoid.

And stop asking why we pray a lot in Nigeria. Can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t have a God and a church and a priest or pastor to reassure us that we will make it through the night? The nights in Nigeria are pretty dark and scary. You’re never sure whether that light is the end of the tunnel or an on coming train.

Give me Jesus for my peace of mind! Without him most of us wouldn’t be able to step out of the door in the morning. We don’t pray because we’re good. We pray cause we bad. Really really bad. And we know our selves.

I wonder what that young man over there would say?

‘You mean there is no Jesus?’


‘And there is no God?’


‘And there is no heaven?’


‘And no hell?’

‘That’s right!’

‘You’re sure?’



‘What you do that for?’

‘Because I can.’

‘Well I don’t have to turn the other cheek! Come here!’

You must be a privileged white man to remain an atheist in Nigeria. Not only are we surviving against the most incredible odds. Population is booming! We’re all supposed to be dead already. Everyday past the day you were born is a miracle in Nigeria!

And you know what? We do get a whole lot of miracles too. Its a miracle the maternal mortality isn’t higher than it is. As a kid in my fathers village I regularly met women in their 70s who had 10 children and lost 9 in infancy. We’re down to losing 2 out of 10. In 50 years. That’s progress.

Even if the people don’t actually need religion how else can the elite keep the people from rising up and bitch slapping them across the room for their bad leadership and provocative displays of ill gotten wealth?

In the rural villages the only folks that look well fed and healthy are the priests and the folks that work for the church. I wonder why? They’re always wining and dining with the rich and famous. And bitch slapping the natives! On camera!

I was born in Moscow during the Soviet Era. So I wasn’t baptized. In the US Lilia took me to Orthodox mass sometimes. I like Russian Orthodox churches. The iconic art.. The priests medieval garb. The candles. The incense. The hushed tones. Its a time warp. A cocoon. A haven. I had no idea what they said but I felt it deeply.

In my fathers village in the 70s the Catholic Church reigned supreme before the rise of the evangelical churches. The parish priest came to lunch every Sunday after talking hours and hours during sermon to debate its finer points with my father and uncle. I listened.

My father got Nile River fever when I was 12. He relied on traditional health care. I’m not sure it helped but he had more confidence in it than in western medicine. Unlike me. I’m at the hospital demanding an MRI and CAT scan if I have a headache. It could be a tumour. Why do you think our life expectancy is so low?

I read the Bible when I was 8, I thought it had cool stories and I started a search for a personal God. The Pope kept getting in the way though. Always had something ill informed to say about family planning, condoms, marriage, divorce and premarital sex. The Bible explained all about hypocrites.

My father died at the age of 72 without health insurance of complications caused by diabetes after serving his state and his beloved ‘people’ for over 25 years. The Catholic priest said he wouldn’t officiate his burial because he hadn’t paid church dues in over 25 years.

Mind you its not only the arbitrary violence of nature to our health and wealth we pray against. This is Africa. Nigeria. Every body is into some dark voodoo shit and you got to protect yourself from the forces and principalities of the Dark Lord too. The squeamish go to church instead of a shrine.

If only we taxed the church we could list prayer warriors as our next biggest export earner after oil. The western conservatives seem to like our particular brand of fire and brimstone. I wonder why? It reminds me of the Inquisition.

Many attempts were made to exorcise me of the many witches and demons I was told afflicted me by bogus shamans and prophets. There was the demon of the river, the demon of the forest, the demon of single women, and the demon of talking back at your elders, the demon of stubbornness.

At 14 I watched The Exorcist. I thought I might end up like that poor little girl. I was terrified of the Catholic church, God, Beelzebub and Lucifer for a long time after that. I ran away screaming when ever the prayer warriors came near me. They said it confirmed I was possessed. (And I think some of them still think I’m possessed)

My father did try to protect me from the worst of the natives ignorance. But when someone told me when I was expecting my last child that if its a girl child they would circumcise her without my knowledge I prayed and prayed for another son. I got another son.

I’ve been to the hospital. Resting at home now. Feeling better already. I’m not going to die just yet. Saved once again by modern medicine. Or was it? My son Eddy took away my laptop to help me rest. He’s into yoga, meditation and mind over matter. When he tried to pry away my Black Berry I growled ferociously and he let it be.

I’m getting better at self care. It takes on a whole new relevance in Naija. You don’t want to rely on the health care system. Even the best and most expensive is unreliable. Why else would a Vice President travel abroad for a sprained ankle. Or was it his knee? Pity it wasn’t his neck.

I’ve got all these little self care rituals going on. Like twitter free Sunday, TV free Monday, morning yoga, evening walks, chillaxing days, no work days, long and short travel getaways. Even God was in need of rest on the seventh day who am I not to take a day off? I’m a type A personality. Self care is tough. And vital.

So were you wondering? Did I find a personal relationship with God? That is so personal! I rather be judged by what I do than whether I believe in a God or not and what name I might be calling her. Or him.

I dare you to be sick in the presense of a playful, joyful puppy! Its a miracle! I am healed!

I dare you to be sick in the presense of a playful, joyful puppy! Its a miracle! I am healed!

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.