#54 – Sated

#54-food-union

We meet up – at the third time of trying – at the only place there is of note, Union Square. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we settle for TGIF, the steak, rib and shrimp meal the  perfect counterpoint to the 46 days of minimal feeding we have gotten through. There is a lot to catch up on – work, women and all the other things single, semi-bored Aberdonian chaps whine about. When we agree to head our separate ways at 9.30pm, it is having been fully sated, all caught up on nine month worth of life, and with an agreement in principle to make this a monthly affair..

#CaughtUp

#13 – 25 kids, 25 years

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Sometime in the late 80’s/ early 90’s.. The place: a University in Ekpoma, Nigeria.. The people: kids and teachers from the Chapel’s Children’s Sunday School, a few of whom I still remember by name – all grown up now. A few dead people (RIP Gracie, GB, ‘Lena and Harold), one fairly famous (Nigerian) fashion designer (M) and seven kids who made it into engineering with a further six involved in other STEM subjects.

Less than a quarter of those in the picture still live and work in Nigeria, but I suppose the bigger question is where did all that time, life and living go?

#LifeHappened

 

About Town – Conversations, Nandos and Catching Up on Reading

Somehow last Friday, I found myself at Nandos. Somehow doesn’t quite tell the full story given it had more than a hint of conscious effort to it, and my history with the darned place. I suspect it had more to do with a sense of longing than anything else seeing as the last time I was here was in early July. Then, the closest thing to the distinctly autumnal chill I now felt was the distant memory of spring’s tail as she ambled past, urged on by our nearly – but not quite summery  – summer.  I managed to score my regular table, number 11, proceeding to order the self-same meal I have ordered on each of the 100 + times since May 2012 that I’ve been here – half a chicken in lemon and herb, and a mixed leaf salad.

Extra hot sauce and cutlery in hand, I managed to navigate the maze of tables and chairs to my seat before that odd feeling of being watched compelled me to look up, upon which I caught the eye of an old friend I hadn’t seen since his short sojourn in Norway back in 2010. Dropping all, I made my way to the table he was sat at, where his wife and children were digging into a bowl of olives waiting for their own order.We shared a chest bump, to the consternation of more than a few onlookers.

This man! You still dey do this your Voltron moves abi? It was a reference to my gift of invisibility. Enquiries with more than a few mutual friends had failed to turn up my current whereabouts. In my defense, the one friend who might have known was offshore, and had been for the better part of three weeks already. We made small talk – interspersed with regular rather loud handshakes – during which it transpired he had been in town for a couple of weeks already, holidaying with his family, taking the opportunity to escape from the bedlam that is Nigeria, most especially the old motherlode I used to work at. In the space of five minutes or so, I’d caught up on a lot – a steady stream of exits form the old mother lode, which expatriate was back in the country as a contract consultant and what high flier had earned a move to Houston, and of course the developing Ebola story.

The Scottish referendum – I am as yet still undecided – came up too. In theory, I’m in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote, but neither argument has been put forward particularly compellingly enough to me so far. His take was a cautionary tale – based on his experience of Norway – about high taxes, and the North Sea oil numbers which depending on who you talk to might not be so secure after all. That the SNP which has made a big song and dance of protecting the NHS actually has underfunded it, or so the fact checkers say, hardly builds any confidence me that they’ve got a clue. All done and dusted, we swap phone numbers with a promise to catch up properly before he heads off to Nigeria, leaving me to reflect on my way home on just how small margins of coincidence can be. Nandos does have a reputation for being the defacto Nigerian embassy in Aberdeen, at least so says Tolu Ogunlesi. One suspects he should know, even though some would disagree.

The theme of running into old acquaintances continues over the weekend. Sorting out my groceries at my local ASDA after my Saturday morning gym session, and the movies to go see Into the Storm, I run into another old chum – this time an old school mate from Nigeria. He wants to chat a bit more and offer commiserations, aisles at the mall chock full of people are hardly the place for that, and I am neither keen nor remotely interested in being dragged all the way back so I speed him up and move on with a promise of a phone call to catch up properly.

By the time I am headed home, my weekend has pretty much ended. All that is left is for me to settle in with my copy of Gay Talese’s Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, and while away what is left of the Saturday. By and large, it is pretty much back to regular programming at mine, not quite perfect but an ever more stable, new normal.

House Warming…

09.july.2013-house warming

I was the first person in, just before 4.00pm. I had no choice but to RSVP in the affirmative when my friend O.’s invite to his house warming party finally arrived, largely because I had harassed encouraged him strongly into putting it together. He had just bought a house on the other side of town, and starved of hanging out time, I’d seized upon that as an excuse to badger him into setting something up.

Pumping his hand, as I kicked off my shoes and stepped onto his lush persian rug, I could just make out the silhouette of his daughter and her two friends playing in the back garden whilst their mothers put the finishing touches to the cow leg pepper-soup that would be our starter. The room was already infused with the smell of lemon grass and suya spice as the large cauldron of pepper soup just about began to simmer.

F., Uncle Seni’s here…. O. hollered  as I made my way to the back garden. I had to duck as an inflated rubber ball, a felele, bounced up in the air in my direction. The kids had been starved of attention before my appearance and seemed very keen to engage me in a game of football. I had to oblige, alternating between playing the goal keeper and the penalty taker as we ran up a small sweat in the back yard.

So engrossed was I that I didn’t know for how long the other woman helping with the cooking had stood in the doorway watching us play. She did clear her throat to get my attention eventually, simmering plate of pepper soup in tow for a first bite of the evening. At that time it was just past 4.45pm, and I was still the only guest around for a party that was meant to have kicked off at 4.00pm.

The next guests to arrive were N. and his wife, strolling in at ten minutes past five, a bottle of red wine in tow as their contribution to the festivities. Cork popped, and glasses passed we all stood round the kitchen table chatting and catching up on all things that we’d all missed in our corner of the world. Soon after, another young couple arrived with their rambunctious toddler in tow; sometime after that the first big plates of fried rice had begun to wing their way for us to dig in and savour; proper Nigerian fare.

Sometime after 7.00pm, we had a full complement , as with all things Nigerians, the men had somehow drifted away into a small huddle as did the women. The bottles of beer might have had something to do with the loudness of the conversation, the virtual table banging and the wrought emotions as the conversation segued into the murky waters of the intractability of the Nigerian problem, corruption and all the other safe topics fairly well-off people in the diaspora moan about their home country.

I found the noise a little too much for me, ending up in the extension to the living room, next to the garden. A few minutes later, baby K. sauntered in, extending her arms wanting to be carried. I obliged, just before she promptly fell asleep on my lap.

I may have fallen asleep myself because the next thing I remembered was Mrs N. plumping into the seat next to me. She, ever the gracious seeker of introverted partiers, had noticed I wasn’t amongst the guys talking loudly and gesturing wildly, and had taken it upon herself to find me.

She relieved me of baby K, laying her to sleep in her cot nearby and then returned to converse. I’d been itching to have a conversation with Mrs N. about B. the current cause of my latest phase of over-thinking :”>. She obliged, listening graciously as I moaned about her penchant for not responding to text messages in a timely manner or her extreme attention to work (she’s the one person I can safely say is more of a workaholic than I am, no mean feat).

It was past 9.00pm when the crowd began to thin out. Baby K. was still asleep, peacefully oblivious of the ruckus we’d kicked up. As I dropped off what must have been my third plate of fried rice, I remember being thankful that I would have no part in the clean up after the storm.