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.

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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.

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The Gospel According To Lesley: Talking About Beauty II

Last month I wrote about some of the stuff I’ve done over the years in the name of ‘beauty’ and promised to fill you in after I think about it some more.

For many many years I tried to prove that I was just as hardy as the Natives. Because the natives always told me I was soft because I was half white. They said we are not strong like them. So I used to run around under the sun at noon and otherwise look very hardy during the hottest time of the day and all day till the sun went down. We got up and went to bed with the sun.

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Sun Hustle by David Osagie, Digital Artist

They were right. I was wrong. I am not as hardy as the natives. All that running around in the sun just over heated me and made me sick. So nowadays I follow oyibo advice – I stay out of the sun. My friends tease me because I use these uber cute and kitschy sun umbrellas and hats if I’m even 2 minutes in the sun.

I avoid  being outside between 10am and 5pm. If I could get away with it I would only come out between 7pm and 7am but they might call me a vampire. The natives are very superstitious. They go to bed early. There will be no one to do business with at that time of the night anyway. The ones that stay awake may not make good business partners.

Nigeria proves the stereotype that only bad  things happen at night.

I used to eat a lot of garlic. I still eat garlic but not so much. My ayurveda diagnosis does not recommend it. I eat just enough to prove I am not a vampire and to keep real vampires at bay. Beware the ones that go “Hmm. You eat garlic.”  Like its an accusation of witch craft.

The most common age related damage I seen on Nigerian women is sun damage.  Even in the ones that are not so yellow.  We live almost at the equator, with only gods knows what type of environmental ozone and atmospheric damage making us super vulnerable to the worst of the sun’s radiation.

SPF just doesn’t cut it for me. It also made me sweat too profusely so I dont use it. I just don’t go out during the hottest part of the day. Oyibo is deceiving you to buy sunscreen. The smart oyibo’s are the ones in Spain and Greece. The ones that close all business and take siesta during the hottest part of the day. Americans like to  suffer. Always busy. You understand why Nigerians of the Igbo extraction like them so well? By the way you can read a short history of the tan here.

I don’t want or need a tan. Nor do I need to worship the sun. I’m pretty sure it will rise tomorrow, that I’ll have roughly the same number of hours of sunshine and that I will get some living in Abuja. Imagine what it must be like where they have 24 hours of night or 24 hours of day for a season?

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Dark Side by David Osagie, Digital Artist

The changing lengths of  the days in London, Moscow and St. Pete’s freaked me out good enough. After four months of cold short days cooped up indoors I almost rushed out to worship the sun too.

Around here we tend to worship the rain storms, thunder, lightning, the earth that yields food, water, rivers, oceans, creeks and springs. My skin loves the rainy season when the air is heavy with moisture. In Nigeria we have real rain storms. The rain in England is civilised. You can walk for hours and not get wet. In Naija you are soaked within seconds by just one gust.

Avoid the heat too. In the absence of air-conditioning in the village I found that generous applications of nzu, a chalk like mud from the river beds, when left to dry on the skin, would cool the body and leave the skin wonderfully moisturised. I would lounge on a mat under the mango tree in white chalk and a wrapper reading or listening to music on the radio. Of course the natives thought I was crazy. What do they know. Suffer head people. Running around in the sun. Perspiring. Smelling funky.

Avoid the sun joor. Apu na anwu.

Chao bella

 

 

Memories of the English Country Side

The morning dew on my feet as I stroll through the grass, the endless horse shit along the bridle ways, butterflies chasing one another, the gurgling pond on the grounds of the Manor.  Walking along the South Downs buffeted by the wind, exploring the many footpaths through Streat and Ditchling, driving through the Sussex country side exploring old castles, coming upon a field of red poppies, these are some of the fond memories of England I go away with.

Bramber Castle Entrance
Bramber Castle Entrance

I think to myself – I am a city girl. We city dwellers are taught to distrust the country and nature. We expect something to jump out at us from behind every tree and every bush but as I stand in the early morning sun on my last day there is no menace apparent, just the majestic silhouette of the tall trees burnished by the soft glow of dawn against the sky and the rustle of life in the undergrowth.

St. Martins Church in Westmeston
St. Martins Church in Westmeston

I have said my poignant goodbyes to Westmeston and to all the friendly natives that I met. The folks down at the local pub that remembered my name and had fun with me exploring the many ales of Sussex, the little old lady that keeps the church at Westmeston, Jacob who tends the local shop for his uncle David the post master on Sundays, Oliver the old chappy upstairs that’s always got a few minutes to pause and chat.

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I drink in the sounds as I lay down in the grass staring into the deep blue sky. Planes fly overhead leaving a thick white trail behind them; I espy a couple of Para gliders riding the air currents. The birds sing an orchestra, in the distance the mooing of cows, the baaing of sheep, the rustle of the wind in the trees. I met squirrels, and foxes and even a couple of deer. I am so grateful to this place that welcomed me and cosseted me through my darkest hours.

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Memories that will last a life time. I wonder if I will ever come back this way again.  I certainly hope so. I am ready now, rejuvenated and strengthened for my return to city life. Moscow here I come!

 

Lesley’s Day Out in Cold Cold Brighton

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!

Death IV

There was a lot to celebrate at the den that day. He had gotten his bullet proof vest and one of his boys had bought his first car. Every new acquisition was celebrated with the procurer buying drinks and food for everyone. If you could afford to buy a car you could afford to buy drinks for all your friends and you were expected to, that’s the way it was.  Otherwise they might go and pray for you to have a ghastly accident in your brand new car.

The beer was plentiful and the proprietress kept a steady supply of  fresh hot cow tail and cow leg  pepper soup coming out of the kitchen. The men were happy and rambunctious, the easy women that kept them company at the beer parlor that was their den were happy. They knew they would make good money that night and eat and drink all they could. Wives never ever came to such establishments except to reclaim erring husbands.

The boys envied their Chairman his new acquisition, they too had heard of the bullet proof vests that their ancestors had used. City living meant most of them had lost touch with the rural folk that practiced the ancient art of making them. The practitioners that lived in the city were rarely so powerful as the rural ones, city living had corrupted them and diminished their authority to persuade men and spirits.

Chairman was in an expansive mood enhanced by a bottle of whisky that sat on the low rough hewn bench that served as a table in front of him. Their den, the beer parlor was little more than a shack made of planks and metal sheets. It was stifling hot and as the drinks flowed and the sun moved across the sky more and more of the revelers took off their tunics which they hung on nails stuck in the walls  and wore only singlet’s.

Under the influence of the alcohol Chairman couldn’t help boasting about his newly acquired armor. Imagine, he said to them, I will never be afraid of any bullet penetrating my body ever again. Taju his best friend and confidant slapped the Chairman’s shoulders in a hearty congratulation.

“Well done my friend!” he said good naturedly “but are you sure that it works?”

Chairman thought of everything he had gone through in the forest with the old man. He had experienced and participated in things that made him, a hardened veteran of bloody, brutal ghetto warfare and tribal politics queasy. He had no doubt that it worked. It had to work!

“My friend what do you mean? O course it works! Do you want to see? Who has a gun there?” he bellowed loudly to the assembly.

One of his boys quickly brought out a locally made pistol and gave it to him.

“Here, Taju. Shoot! I say shoot me!!” he shouted as he stood up abruptly, pressed the pistol into his friends hand, flung his arms wide like Jesus on the cross, threw his head back and stuck out his singlet covered chest.

The gathered assembly shouted their encouragement at Taju to shoot, others hailed the Chairman with his many praise names of bravery and courage. The uproar could be heard at the end of the street and covered the sound of the pistol going off.