Posts Tagged ‘writing’

When You Are Writing, You Are God & Other Lessons | A Farafina Workshop Memoir

September 15, 2016

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When you are writing, you are God.
—Aslak Sira Myhre

 

June 21 – Day One

“Tell us one thing you like and one thing you dislike?” she said. I lied. I said I liked history, art and culture. Actually I like sex, loud music and dim smokey bars. But I wasn’t ready to say that to a room full of strange Nigerians. What if they misunderstood? Or laughed? It’s not the sort of thing a Nigerian woman my age says.

If it comes easily to you, discard.
—Chimamanda Adichie

 

Diversity and Identity

Age. I try not to think about it. Not in that I’m-this-age-and-should-therefore-behave-like-this-or-be-treated-like-that” way. I hate being called ‘ma’, ‘mommy’, or ‘madam’. I feel pressured to perform age. I do not want to perform age. But I do anyway. Another loaded feminist issue? Or a race issue? Or maybe a class issue? Or an intersection of the three? Someday I will write about it.

“Please call me Lesley.”

“You remind me of a South African woman I met at my last workshop,” one of the participants says to me.

And Aslak keeps calling me Sheila.

I really wish people would get to know Lesley.

The age of the Farafina 2016 participants didn’t cross my mind till I sat down with them and looked into their faces. Most of them are young enough to be my children. Some so young that I would have a word with my sons if they brought them home.

Listening to these young people reminded me of the obvious clichés.

‘Age should be a bridge,’ I think. ‘Not a gap.’

Nevertheless, the workshop is a safe space and we are asked to suspend our judgments. We name it Sacred. We also have a young woman that escaped the 2014 Chibok abductions with us. And an undercover reporter. Young people discovering their sexuality. People constructing their identities. Living stories about surviving, healing and becoming.

Go where it hurts because then it matters.
—Aslak Srye Myhre

 

Farafina Insomniacs WhatsApp Group Chat

Someone sets up the Farafina Insomniacs group on WhatsApp. It makes group communication more relaxed and open. I’ve avoided group chats so far. The constant notifications while I’m working and the drain on my battery were not worth the poor quality of conversation and information.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

25/06/2016 12:37: Feisty: why are we starting a new group?

25/06/2016 12:37: Foxy: Touchy is in the other group

25/06/2016 12:38: Feisty: is it necessary?

25/06/2016 12:38: Missy: Feisty please it is…we don’t want to trigger her

25/06/2016 12:41: Sisi: Btw, Touchy is my friend o

25/06/2016 12:41:Sisi: She’s been so sweet all day

(12/07/2016 10:19: Squeaky: I’m realising I might never use the word ‘trigger’ again in anything I write because of you guys, and I kind of don’t mind.)

What isn’t made into narrative isn’t part of the world.
—Aslak Syre Mhyre

 

Karaoke Night Out

On Saturday night we went to a karaoke bar. Kunle sang ‘Stay’ with so much heart. I took a chance and sang the only song I really own, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I sing as if I’m a 7 year old standing on a stool, in front of the heavy dresser mirror in my parent’s bedroom singing ‘Fly Robin Fly’ into a hair brush. Or standing on the coffee table and singing along with Sony and Cher on the TV. As if no one else is there. This is how to write. Belt it out.

“You can’t pander to anyone’s expectation when writing,” she said.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

25/06/2016 23:03: Feisty: Please who is singing and killing it?

25/06/2016 23:09: Titi: It is Lesley o.

25/06/2016 23:09: Tricky: Lesley Yaaay!

25/06/2016 23:09: Tricky: Mimi be killing everybody at the Mortal Kombat game!

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi: Cocky was the bomb too.

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi Beautiful night.

25/06/2016 23:14: Titi: Can we all go back to the hotel now, please?

25/06/2016 23:14: Tricky: Yes ooo

25/06/2016 23:15: Titi: Akintunde be scattering game anyhow.

25/06/2016 23:18: Feisty: Oya come back home. I have milzed you all.

25/06/2016 23:18: Feisty: I can’t sleep. I can’t write. I can’t eat.

Feisty stayed in to work on her assignment. It was the best at the next reading. Should I have stayed in too? Writing is always rewriting. Most of the assignments I submit are rewritten once or not at all.

“I know I can do better if I could just rewrite it again,” I think to myself each time I submit an assignment. The lure of the night life kept my performance average most of my life. Because excellence is about going the extra mile.

“How many times did you rewrite Half of A Yellow Sun?” I ask her.

“Seven times.’

To make it art, you have to rewrite.
—Chimamanda Adichie

 

How A Short Film Got Made by Farafina 2016

We talked about serial kissers, serial quitters and serial killers a lot. We even wondered if all the talk about serial killers might trigger the serial killers among us. You never know what baggage the people you meet carry. Nigeria’s first serial killer thriller is still waiting to be written.

 

WhatsApp Group Chat –

26/06/2016 10:26: Lofty: So guys, Aoiri wants us to shoot a movie.

26/06/2016 10:29: Lofty: “Let’s use the energy!” He said.

26/06/2016 10:30: Feisty Will there be blood? Can I shoot a gun or just kill someone?

26/06/2016 10:31: Feisty: Oya o. Ideas for script or we have a script?

26/06/2016 10:33: Ducky: If there’s blood, or a stabbing, count me in!

26/06/2016 10:44: Lofty: Keep in mind that we’re not making an epic. The fewer scenes and locations the better “energy” is limited…

26/06/2016 10:46: Mimi: Suggestion: why don’t we pick a ’round’ story or two of ours that we’ve written as assignments and work it into a script?

26/06/2016 10:47: Foxy: Maybe we could all suggest stories to act out during lunch

26/06/2016 10:47: Mimi: A story that’s short but powerful

26/06/2016 10:48: Foxy: So we can go through all that we’ve done so far since Umar mailed them to us. And suggest what to act at Lunch

26/06/2016 10:49: Foxy: But nothing too triggering sha

“Kuku Kill Me” an iconic two-minute Naija Indie blockbuster starred Ifeoluwa Nihinlola, Kunle Ologunro, Miracle Adebayo, Aisha Abiri, Abimbola Ige and Chika Jones. It was directed by Umar Turaki, written by Chika, Aisha, Miracle, and Umar, filmed by Aoiri Obaigbo and screened for a select audience after our last dinner together.

 

Kenyan Writer Binyavanga Wainana Was There

He introduced us to Kenya-American artist Wangechi Mutu. Wangechi explores the similarities between misogyny and race, and the hierarchy of race and gender through surreal collages and installations reminiscent of Picasso’s cubism. Her visual art inspired some of our most creative work.

Facebook Status: Akintunde Aiki June 27 · 

#Farafina2016 – Binyavanga does this to you: brings out the beast in your writing. The Final Ceremony.

“Technically the story is perfect, but I don’t feel her,” he says to me about Chidimma, protagonist of ‘Sunrise Hotel’, a short story I spent months writing. The same story Chimamanda enjoyed so much she invited me for this workshop. He tells me about a character he used to write when he was still in the closet. ‘Am I in the closet?’ I wonder. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

“You’re still hiding.’ he says.

Twitter @MzAgams Jun 27: When Binyavanga thinks about our submissions before commenting, he moves his lips & jaw like he’s chewing the words we wrote – #Farafina2016

Write what you know.
—Binyavanga Wainaina

 

That Bridge

In between writing assignments I sit at the upper deck of the Bush Bar of our hotel overlooking the lagoon, drinking coffee in the morning and beer at night. Feeling the ocean. And watching That Bridge. Watching people moving on That Bridge. On foot, in cars, on bikes.

Facebook Status: Lesley Agams June 30 

I took a walk on that bridge.

All the way till I could see my hotel then I turned around.

I do not jog. Who wan die.

As usual I found my self wondering about these people jogging on the bridge in the early morning.

I’m disappointed. The people I see up close didn’t look nearly as good as they looked from a distance. Their eyes are wary and cunning. Their expressions shielded. People drive from all over Lagos to jog on that bridge.

You either have to know a lot more or imagine a lot better.
—Binyavanga Wainaina

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At The Closing Ceremony

As she gives me my certificate Chimamanda tells the world she will be the first one to buy my book. “Odogwu Nwanyi” she calls me. My only regret is I didn’t ask someone to take a picture of me with her on stage. And I didn’t bother to struggle for a vantage position during the group photograph so I got pushed to the back. If you don’t look well, you won’t see me. And in some pictures, at some angles, you don’t. That’s how I always got the bottom pot of the jollof rice in secondary school.

I’ve been writing since I was 10: journals, diaries, memoirs, poems, short stories, plays, movie scripts, essays, and cheeky articles like the ones in EsquirePlayboy and Cosmopolitan. I remember tapping out stories on my father’s old manual Olympian typewriter. I was even a reporter and women’s editor for a local newspaper once. As I collected the certificate, I knew in my heart this was the first day of the rest of my life.

The first rule of writing: to be a writer, you have to write.
—Aslak Syre Mhyre

 

That Was Just The Beginning.The Conversations Continued After We Left.

WhatsApp Group Chat –

06/07/2016 08:37: Lofty: The conversation in this group is like a stage play with different acts and different characters at any given time.

06/07/2016 11:55: Tricky: Phew. This is one group you want to read through the “one million unread messages”.

Drama isn’t just people talking.
—Eghosa Imasuen

 

The Heat Is On

06/07/2016 18:13: Bubbly: Meanwhile, Guys. Do you all feel pressured now? Like the writing community expects your texts to be top notch now that Adichie has taught you herself? Like is it just me. So many book clubs want me as “guest” and I am like why? One even said they will send a Limo. I just feel like the expectation and attention is overwhelming and I don’t really deserve it! What do you guys think?

Insecurity is very important for a writer.
—Eghosa Imasuen

 

Metaphor Is the Palm Oil We Eat Words With

WhatsApp Group Chat –

09/07/2016 09:10: Cheeky: Lol. My entire Farafina experience is down to music. A team reminds me of Nnamdi, Ama and the Karaoke Night. Strange songs remind me of Lesley. Panda reminds me of Aisha and Naza.

09/07/2016 09:10: Cheeky: Igbo songs remind me of Nwa Nsukka’s dance steps

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: Metaphors are how I make sense of this world.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: Some one hiding is pulling a Chisom.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: A funny and curious person is pulling a Pamela.

12/07/2016 08:33: Ducky: A Lofty person is pulling an Umar.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: Someone writing stories populated by fantastic characters is pulling an Aoiri.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: An Nnamdi is self-explanatory.

12/07/2016 08:34: Ducky: Someone who likes money more than life is pulling a Chika.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: An aspirational person wants to be like Monye, wants to cook with stove.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: A prim and proper person is trying to be Muna.

12/07/2016 08:35: Ducky: We all know the Kunles in our lives.

12/07/2016 08:36: Ducky: Bestfren bestfren and Ama enters your life.

12/07/2016 08:36: Ducky: Someone who wants all the good men in a group for herself is obviously a Mimi.

12/07/2016 08:37: Ducky: Like snapchat and smile a lot and you are defined sharply.

12/07/2016 08:41: Ducky: All I’m saying is, I’m always making judgements, ascribing attributes to people. It’s dishonest to pretend like I don’t.

12/07/2016 08:46: Feisty Fierce as fuck, I think describes Lesley

12/07/2016 08:46: Cocky: Fierce as fuck

12/07/2016 09:03: Me: Ife is the Barb of Ogbomosho of No Internet

12/07/2016 09:05: Cocky: Aisha the goddess of Iwale

If you overdo metaphor, it suggests a lack of confidence. 
—Chimamanda Adichie

The Conversation Has All The Elements of a Good Story: Drama, Intrigue And Humor

WhatsApp Group Chat –

11/07/2016 21:14: Shady: We can call it CHIPAM Investigation Services

11/07/2016 21:14: Shady: Or maybe even CHIPAMA if Ama is down

11/07/2016 21:16: Squeaky: Please I want to join. Let’s make it CHIPAMABIM

11/07/2016 21:17: Lofty: I’ve registered.

11/07/2016 21:18: Ducky: I can see where this naming thing is going, and it’s not good.

11/07/2016 21:18: Ducky: Let Chisom and Pamela just have their company jejely.

11/07/2016 21:19: Snoopy: Bimbo why must you join everything?!!!

11/07/2016 21:20: Snoopy : Chisom I’m down for CHIPAMA lool

11/07/2016 21:20: Cheeky: CHIPAMABIMCHI

11/07/2016 21:21: Mimi: CHIPAMABIMCHIMIM

11/07/2016 21:21: Ducky: This is beginning to sound like a company of chipmunks created to form a monopoly out of nuts.

Comedy: an absurd unexpected outcome.
—Eghosa Imasuen

 

Bloopers Happen Too

WhatsApp Group Chat –

13/07/2016 12:21: Crusty: Les, of the fierce fuck

13/07/2016 12:24: Me: ‘fierce fuck’???? How would you know?

13/07/2016 12:35: Crusty: Nnamdi gave you the title na.

13/07/2016 12:36: Me: I don’t think he used it in quite the same way

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: Please o

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: I said ‘Fierce as fuck’

13/07/2016 12:42: Cocky: I’m innocent o

13/07/2016 13:39: Me: Thanks Nnamdi. Kinda like he said ‘children turn him on.’

Words are powerful. You need to be careful using words.
—Chimamanda Adichie

 

 

There are no rules if you can get away with it.
—Eghosa Imasuen

Originally published by Brittle Paper on 2016/08/15

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All About Chidimma #Wivesonstrikebcos

April 8, 2016

There is a hotel in the Village on the way to the stream; at least it calls itself a hotel. It’s a small concrete bungalow with a tin roof and a concrete courtyard.  An dented oil drum sits at the corner of the building to catch rain water. Dingy curtains cover the open windows and doors. Outside a big signboard says ‘Sunrise Hotel’ above badly painted pictures of green beer bottles and a goat head. At night red and blue light bulbs glow surreally in the surrounding darkness like Christmas lights.

Chidimma passes the hotel on her way to the stream every day. It looks modern and inviting in a village of mud huts and colonial buildings.  She wants to go in and maybe stay in one of their rooms. The hotel rooms she sees in Drum magazine have nice beds with head boards, closets and bedside lamps, not like the iron bed she sleeps on in a stuffy room with clothes hanging on pegs in the wall lit only by a dim kerosene lamp.

She asks her half-sister Eunice if they can stay there.

(You can read the rest here. And please drop a comment. Help me win The Wink Challenge. 😉 )

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On Writing (I)

April 15, 2014

Its cool in side the bar. Outside the sun blazes with all the intensity that one would imagine appropriate to the desert. The Sahara desert or the Nevada desert or the Kalahari desert. Or the desert sands of the Arabian peninsula. We call it the Middle East now. The Theatre of War and Strife, perpetually dominating the evening news whether you live in America or Nigeria. But this isn’t the desert. Its central Nigeria, Abuja, the shiny bright new Federal Capital City. Except its not new anymore. Its beginning to look shabby and frayed around the edges . The paint gradually fading on the imposing federal buildings and private residences in the twenty years that I have lived here.

 

The condenser of the industrial fridge kicks in with a roar intruding into my reverie.  I look up and notice that the power is back on. It is 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The hottest part of the day despite what the geography books tell you. The heat has accumulated by 2 o’clock by 4 o’clock every body should be wilting in the shade but the natives never stop moving, bustling around, hustling. There are only so many hours in the day no matter how hot it may get. The desperate don’t rest and don’t wait for the sun to go down like the few of us lazy ones. The natives don’t like to go out at night. The dark has always held terror for them. Everyone wants to be back home or as close to his or her house as soon as possible after the sun goes down. Only the fool hardy elite and their sidekicks risk the malevolent night spirits to roam the numerous pubs and drinking parlors scattered in the dwindling green spaces left in the concrete city of wide bitumen roads.

 

I stare out of the glass wall into the parking lot. The bar isn’t open, I come here to work in the daytime till the proprietor my friend comes in at 6 pm to open for the evening customers parched from the heat and sun. Cold beer at the end of a hot day is the only slice of heaven they can afford. Its a neighborhood bar. A bit too upscale for the area its in. The customers are few but loyal. I pace around the small space like a caged lion or tiger.  Or maybe like a panther, a black panther. I always liked the black panther best. I pace a lot when I’m thinking something through, when I’m looking for a way out or a way in, whats the difference I wonder to myself.

 

I turn and stare at the Macbook Air sitting open on the table. Its bright screen stares back at me reproachfully. The light slowly fades as the power saver turns off the screen. Stories and ideas run around in my head but refuse to stand still long enough for me to capture them. Writing at the speed of thought is impossible and so is going back over the road I came. Rewriting is torturous. I don’t want to go back but I must. I stare back at the now black screen and resolutely turn it back on. The short story I have spent three months struggling over sits on my desk top.  I am not satisfied with it but I ignore it. Start something new.  Go somewhere else, in a different direction.

 

Sometimes I wish I could plug in a cable and down load all the stuff in my head, have someone transcribe it for me and read it 20 years from now. My writing always seems better after the passage of time. I’m never happy with anything I just wrote. Sometimes I forget a piece for weeks, months, years and when I come across it and read it again I look to see who wrote it. Was that me? Not bad.

 

Its hard to decide what to do. Work on my novel or work on that job application. I want to lose myself in my writing but I have to get a job. Paid employment is a necessity right now even though it is a luxury. Without an income life is drab and boring and monotonous. There are no options no choices no action only an endless pause. Like a car stranded in the middle of no where with no gas.  Or like a movie that has been paused. It will continue from the very place it stopped but the wait is interminable, agonizing to my restless spirit.

 

I decide to write. I just had a good interview.  They will let me know. The next application can wait till tomorrow.

 

I can never write fast enough, the words tumble out in a rush, incomprehensible without a rewrite and an edit. I will stick to it and let the words pour out. I may have a thousand stories echoing in my head but to retrieve just one would bring satisfaction, a single legacy that I can leave on my demise to say, hey I was here and this is my story.

 

Selfie

Selfie

 

The Chronicles of Alice – Day Dreams & Nightmares (II)

October 17, 2013

Charlie doesn’t propose. He just starts calling Chidimma his wife every time he sees her. Soon everyone is calling her his wife too and she almost starts to believe them. He is a handsome and popular student at the only high school in the village. It is for boys only so Chidimma can’t attend and father can’t afford to send her to a boarding school. The way Charlie looks at her and smiles makes her squirm but he doesn’t pinch her breasts or try to kiss her when no one is looking like the old men in the village.

Charlie has 3 brothers that live in the village. Every day they wait for Chidimma on the way to the stream and accompany her and her sisters the rest of the way and back. Afterwards they come and visit her older brothers who are Charlie’s friends. Chidimma’s brothers send her to buy cigarettes and beer and then make her sit with them. Her brother Anayo a bus conductor tells wild stories of life and people in the towns he has been to. Sometimes Chidimma wishes she could be a bus conductor too.

Sometimes Charlie sits next to Chidimma and holds her hand. One day her father chases him away with a machete. He threatens to kill her brothers too but they all escape through the window. Chidimma doesn’t run and Father beats her. She falls sick and can’t go to the stream or to the market for a very long time. Her mother died when Chidimma was born so there is no one to cook for her and her brothers when she is sick. Father’s new wife doesn’t like them very much and won’t cook for them.

Early one morning Father gets very angry. Someone stole his money. He shouts a lot and threatens to call the police. Chidimma saw Marcel one of her brothers counting money behind the house yesterday. He hid it when he saw her watching him. When no one is home he brings out his penis and makes her sit on it. He says he will tell father she stole the money if she doesn’t. She cries and begs but he doesn’t listen. He doesn’t put it inside her just rubs her bare ass against it till he shudders and she feels a warm wetness.

One day father’s half-sister Ahuekwe comes from Aba and takes Chidimma away with her. Ahuekwe promises Father she will send Chidimma to school and look after her like her own daughter. Aba is a big town with wide roads and electric lights. There are many houses finer than Sunrise Hotel. Ahuekwe rents two rooms and a bucket toilet in a big old building where she lives with her teenage son and daughter and runs a beer parlor. It is lit with red and blue light bulbs like Sunrise Hotel. At night her customers come with beautiful painted women that smell good and wear short dresses and Chidimma serves them beer and pepper soup.

drum 4

The Chronicles of Alice – Day Dreams & Nightmares(I)

October 12, 2013

There is a hotel in the village on the way to the stream; at least it calls itself a hotel. It’s a small concrete bungalow with a tin roof and a paved courtyard.  An old oil drum sits at the corner of the building to catch rain water. Dingy curtains cover the open windows and doors. Outside a big signboard says ‘Sunrise Hotel’ above badly painted pictures of green beer bottles and a goat head. At night red and blue light bulbs glow surreally in the surrounding darkness like Christmas lights,

Chidimma passes the hotel on her way to the stream every day. It looks modern and inviting in a village of mud huts and colonial buildings.  She wants to go in and maybe stay in one of their rooms. The hotel rooms she sees in Drum magazine have nice beds with head boards, closets and bedside lamps, not like the iron bed she sleeps on in a stuffy room with clothes hanging on pegs in the wall lit only by a dim kerosene lamp.

She asks her half sister Eunice if they can stay there ‘only prostitutes stay there’ Eunice answers disdainfully. Chidimma read about prostitutes in the Bible, they are bad women that make men do bad things and go to hell.  She doesn’t understand what they do but she understands that they are paid to do it and they do it with lots of different men and that was really really bad. Good women only do it with one man, they marry him and they never get paid for it.

drum 3

Chidimma doesn’t want to get married. Married women always look unhappy. They talk different when their husband is around and they behave different too.  They look wary, like children trying to behave well in front of adults. And when they don’t behave well they get beaten or punished just like children too. Chidimma can’t wait to grow up, she doesn’t want to be a child and she doesn’t want to be a wife.  She doesn’t want to be a good woman.

Good women get up before sunrise to fetch water or strain cassava meal at the stream, sweep the compound, feed the men and children, weed the yam farms or go to the market to buy and sell with babies strapped to their backs or sucking their naked breasts. At sunset they come back to feed the men and children again and put everyone to bed. Sometimes there is a wedding or a burial to attend to break the tedium.

Chidimma feels a familiar wave of darkness threaten her as she thinks of a lifetime of soul crushing monotony and thankless drudgery.  The darkness comes more frequently now.  She day dreams of life as a prostitute in Sunrise Hotel instead, of wearing nice clothes, of men who will love her, of sleeping in a proper bed, of having electricity every night, of watching television and having a drum full of water in front of the house.  She’s just 11.

Characterization – Dr. Amataobinnaya

September 11, 2013

 

 

He came back from abroad to much jubilation and celebration, if the villagers noticed that he came back with only his briefcase they chose to ignore it. Maybe he told them that his things were yet to arrive, maybe he told them that they got lost on the high seas. He never told him the problems he had with the American government or that he never finished his doctorate degree due to the disruption. They still affectionately called him ‘Doc’.

They were happy to see him; he had been gone for fourteen years. They remembered the young man that had fought for the rights of the women and the underdogs of the village. They remembered the young man that had resisted colonial rule and the white man’s cultural dominance, who had joined the youth resistance and gone into the big forest for initiation into the cult of warriors. He had been a fearless and audacious young man.

He was no longer the boy that did the domestic work in his elder brother’s household in the city. He was no longer the motherless child that had to look on with envy and hunger as other children ate dinner in their mother’s hut each night while he made do with the leftovers they tossed at him. He was no longer the deprived youth that didn’t get his first brand new school uniform till the age of 15.

He had persisted in school when most of his older brothers and sisters had dropped out; he was smart and quickly learnt the letters of the white man and how to read their books. He wasn’t a conscientious student, he would frequently disagree and fight with his teachers and the headmaster and disappear from school for weeks but he managed to complete his qualifying exams and get a university scholarship abroad.

He came back determined to change the village where he had grown up and he refused to live in the city where he quickly got a job with the civil service, preferring to commute every day. He styled himself as a socialist revolutionary, wore safari suits and drove a Volkswagen Beetle. He remained with the civil service the rest of his working life. He boasted that he never took a kobo from the people’s patrimony managed by the government he worked for.

That did not endear him to his work colleagues or even to the village people he claimed to live his life for. At work he was regularly side lined when juicy appointments and opportunities for graft were available because everyone knew that he would not make ‘returns’ and he would  be scornful of those that did.  At home his kinsmen felt cheated that he did not bring back the national cake to share with them and spurned him at village meetings to which he reacted with rage.

He was always quarrelling with his kinsmen, they didn’t like him very much because he looked down on them as illiterates and was always trying to tell them what to do and how. He didn’t like them because they wouldn’t listen to him even though he was a very well read, well-travelled man that could confidently debate politics, economics and philosophy with just about anyone even though his doctorate had been interrupted.

He was a man with a lot of rage in him. It was a mystery where all the rage came from. Some said he inherited it from his grandfather who had been famous for his rages and could make lighting and thunder strike any person he was angry with. His grandfather had been a great wizard and magician and very rich and important in their little village in the jungles of west Africa. Doc didn’t need thunder and lightning, he used his fists and his words instead and he never forgot a slight, he could nurse a grudge for years.

After work he would have a late lunch prepared for him by one of his sister in laws (he lived in his late father’s old compound) and then ride off on his white horse bicycle to visit one of his girlfriend’s where he would stay late into the night. He didn’t marry for a long time and he preferred older women, divorcees and widows that doted on him and were grateful for his attention, demanding little from him in return.

When eventually he did get married he terrorized his wife and children. He expected them to agree with everything he said just like he expected it of the villagers and when they didn’t he was cruel and remorseless in his retribution. He died sick sad and alone in a fetid stinking hole, a bitter old man surrounded by shattered dreams but even in death he stubbornly refused to admit any remorse or gratitude.

 

Narcissus by Caravaggio 1590

Narcissus by Caravaggio 1590

Working It, Working Out, Working

August 10, 2013

When I’m involved in a project it seems counter intuitive to take time out to work out but the feeling, the rush, the inspiration even is amazing. Just spent an hour at the gym in the park. No membership fees and an an hour walk to and fro. Damn do I need it with all  the good food constantly tempting me to have second helpings.

So play time is over, a quick shower and then back to work, got to knock out those 2000 words before bedtime. I’m still on UK/Naija time hope I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight. need to be up bright and early tomorrow, last day of sunshine this week and I want to make another visit to my mamushka. The forecast for next week is rain rain and more rain. Can’t be hanging out in cemeteries in the rain.

What was your day like folks?

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The Child I Was

August 9, 2013

Wilful. Precocious. Annoying. My father tried to beat it out of me. Didn’t make things any better. Matter of fact made it worse. Made me resentful, vindictive and rebellious. I would look at him with an evil eye as he hit me. In my mind I knew some day I would grow up and would exact a terrible revenge on him. And I did.

I would wish something bad would happen to me so he would be really sorry.  Whenever I walked away from home I wished I would never have to go back to him. So he would be sorry. He was never sorry. Not even till the day he died. But nothing bad ever happened to me no matter how much I wished it so I went away a little bit at a time. Now I have to recall all those little bits that went away to play.

He destroyed any chance of a healthy relationship with him. I don’t think I was really sorry when he died but I pretended to be. I only miss him when I have a question about the family history. My relationship with my father was completely self-centered. Still I was told this was ‘bad’ so I tried to, you know, love him.

My curiosity was unbridled and I didn’t respect boundaries. My risk taking was reckless and frequently dangerous. I never asked for anything. I just took what I wanted. Got me into trouble more than once till I learnt to respect boundaries and  eventually even authority.

I didn’t like school and never tried too hard. I thought the teachers were silly and fake. They accused me of lying a couple times and I never lied, not really. My grades weren’t impressive. I only went to university because my father insisted. If he hadn’t I would have been happy making babies, making art, reading, writing stories, travelling, gardening. That sort of stuff. Creative stuff.

I preferred hanging out in the woods or just roaming around till I knew everywhere within walking range.  I wasn’t scared of the forests or anywhere else for that matter but I was wary of people. Best job I had was working with the Nigerian National Parks running around in the bush. Better than the Ashoka job which came second.

My best friend was a cat. My other friends were never of the most popular in school ilk. My friendships with people were pretty superficial.  And selfish I must admit. I didn’t make too much effort to stay in touch. Maybe I ddin’t care. Maybe I’m just too scared to care. Who knows. Does it matter? Maybe I’ll try a little harder. Why? Cause I should? Or cause I want to? Gee.

When my cat ran away to get pregnant I cried for days. Cried as hard as when I realized I wasn’t going to see my Babushka or my Mama again, I never cried like that over anyone or anything again. Not even when my son died. Not even when my mama died. Certainly not when my Papa died. I loved him when I was a little girl. I never cried when he hit me. Not really. I don’t cry much anymore. Not really. And when I do you can just see me holding it back.

I been holding in the shit and producing a whole lot of it too! I have been telling the narrative as if I was the angel, the victim, the innocent one, the misunderstood, the golden child. I was probably more like Denise the Menace really.  I was what the natives called an ‘obanje’ child – difficult. My father despite his 15 year sojourn in the west and his 5 degress was after all said and done ‘a native’.

I must have perplexed and challenged him. Perhaps that was why he insisted that my hair not be cut and never wanted it cut. A spirit child his people called children like me. What I never did understand was that spirit children were usually indulged, beating me seemed to be the very thing he shouldn’t have done.

Memories of the English Country Side

August 3, 2013

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!

 

Feminism is A Verb – The Self Proclaimed Feminist Boyfriend

July 27, 2013

 

They claim to be feminists and cook almost as often as you do. Sometimes even more than you do because you have the eating habits of a bird and can peck your way through the day. He has mastered one or two basic dishes, like instant noodles or rice and stew or egusi soup but after cooking forgets to clean the mess in the kitchen. It could be there for days, an eye sore and an affront to your OCD fueled need for order if you don’t do it.

Ask him to vacuum or sweep while you’re tidying up the house and he whines how he hates to sweep or vacuum. You ask – What’s that got to do with it? You think I derive joy from it? He says he rather pick up all the visible specks off the floor than bring out the vacuum. But you hate the feeling dust and sand under your feet so sooner or later you reluctantly bring out the vacuum.

He says he gets feminism and women’s rights but his work takes priority over yours in sly little ways like when he interrupts you to google the train schedule for him. He says – I can take care of myself but doesn’t lift a finger to help around the house when you’re around or makes snide passive aggressive remarks about the coffee mugs having coffee stains in them or the sheets needing changing. When he reads your writing his criticism whether right or wrong has a sting.

Compare him to the self-proclaimed alpha male chauvinist who doesn’t bitch when there’s no dinner on the table, or when the dishes are piling up in the sink, or when there is a ring around the tub, or the carpet is covered in white fluff. He just takes care of it. He looks at you slogging away at your laptop and orders pizza saying  – Baby you look tired don’t bother cooking  tonight.  When you cook he’s generous with his praise and thanks.

He does dishes, cleans the bathroom, buys groceries, makes a mean pot roast, folds the laundry and even vacuums the floor. And you never hear a word about it. He is more OCD than you.  If you never did a moment of house work the house would still be spotless and if you didn’t cook you would eat takeaway every day or his special rib eye steak.

He lets you travel to your heart’s content. He never tries to insert himself into your travel plans simply because he is feeling insecure. He doesn’t worry about who you’re having drinks or dinner with. He’s confident enough to know you’re coming home to him. He lets you pursue your work. He says it’s the best stuff he ever read. He stays out of your way while you’re struggling over that article and never says ‘Hey leave that a minute and get me some sex or beer or a snack from the kitchen’

Feminism, like love, is a verb.

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