Thursday, 30 December 2010

An Ant in my Pant

There has been an ant invasion in our bedroom - lines of the little beggars marching across the walls, up and down the curtains andround the furniture. Swarms of them had gathered on anything that to them resembled food - a dead cockroach for exmple, being dismembered - if he had been alive he would not have been best pleased! They were threatening to invade the bed so I had to get tough. I'm afraid any Buddhist readers aren't going to like the next bit: I decimated their ranks by aerial bombardments of insecticide and when I thought I had eradicated every last one I brushed them up and literally filled a dust pan with their remains. They died instantly. I've no idea where they came from but I hope they got the message and don't mess with me again!
Late at night, watching a footy match on TV which I had rather regretted bothering to stay up for - but someone has to watch it!, an ant crawled out of my pants, up my shirt and was heading for my jugular.
No mercy was shown - he could have been a suicide ant. If they can down a cockroach the size of a Cumberland sausage, these critters are capable of anything but he had clearly underestimated the ruthlessness of  a British mopping up operation. A lone Nigerian ninja ant is no match for a Penguin paperback novel!

Talking of mopping up operations, I woke up to a flooded kitchen this morning - blocked sink, blocked overflow, dripping tap. A new platoon of ants was making its getaway under cover of semi darkness across the draining board, my theory being that they had dragged the cockroach remains into the kitchen, up the sink unit and hurled them into the sink where they clogged up the plumbing with the sappers of the ant engineering corps. I've not quite worked out yet how they got the tap on! Clearly the war is not over!
(Perhaps I've got too much time on my hands - or the sun is getting to me!!).

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Day

Awake at 4am, like most of the kids in the UK, I guess! I think my body clock is programmed to wake me up early on Christmas Day, after 58 years of practice - or maybe it was the pack of dogs howling in the distance, or the Imam in the mosque callling the faithful to prayer, or it could have been the chill of the night, enhanced by the wceiling fan whirling like the blades of a hovercraft above my head, combined with the fact that Caroilne had acquired all the bed linen and left me exposed to the elements

The early mornings are pleasantly cool at this time of year - about16 degrees I would guess. For us this is definitely T-shirt weather, but the locals muffle up and use face masks to avoid breathing in the early morning fog - probably quite wisely as, from its tang, it probably contains carcinogens from  the burning last night of plastic bags full of rubbish. It is a smell that lingers in the air, tainting your clothes and embedding itself into your nostrils or relevant receptors of the brain - probably one of the mental scarrings that I will remember Nigeria by till my dying day..

We stayed in till lunchtime and enjoyed skyping our friends and family back home -did us a lot of good and restored our spirits - as did the bottle of Merlot that Lillian kindly left for us. My chicken dinner brought back culinary memories of the fantastic kind - and there's still enough left for chicken butties well into the New Year. Hurrah!

Santa lives!

I don't think they believe in Father Christmas in Nigeria.When we tell people how this jolly, fat, white-bearded old man would, on Christmas Eve night, race across the sky in a sleigh pulled by a team of reindeer the leader of which has a shiny red nose that guides their way through the wind and snow (pause while I explain what a reindeer looks like - there are no reindeer in Nigeria, with or without red noses) and how once the sleigh lands on your roof, he clambers down your chimney (more explanation) bearing gifts, enters your bedroom and leaves your FREE stash of goodies at the foot of your bed - or else leaves them in a neat pile beneath the tree that is growing in your living room (!), and how he scoffs a mince pie and sherry before zooming off to deliver presents to every child in the world before dawn ( embarrassing pause while you try to answer the predictable question as to why he never came to them), - well, would YOU believe it?  They find it highly amusing.
Anyway, FC did spare some time from his busy schedule to drop off a pair of undies. The guards must clearly have been sleeping or they would surely have noticed and commented on the illegally parked reindeer and sleigh - then, maybe not!

So today our thoughts are very much with our girls and our grandchildren. We have promised ourselves that this is the one and only time we will not be with them. No amount of roast chicken, cheddar cheese or Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate and Heineken export could make up for not sharing Christmas day with them - even though it is getting quite difficult to fit the 13 of us round the dinner table!

To shop or not to shop?

We have decided/had the decision made for us, not to buy each other prezzies this year. Instead we have bought some food items which we would not normally buy on account of their extortionate price:
a big chunk of Cheddar cheese set us back £8. Its expiry date was ten months ago, but what the hell! Also a large bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk (Fruit and Nut variety) which we hope has not melted and re-set too frequently since its importation.
I did see and was sorely tempted by a copy on sale of the Argos Winter catalogue for 2008/9. I realise that this would be a rare acquisition to the book collection of the most discerning bibliophile but at about £8 I decided that this was one Christmas luxury I would regrettably have to forgo. I was almosr persuaded by its shrink wrapping and unthumbed corners, its uncreased spine. Nevertheless despite its mint condtion I passed it by - realising  that in effect Argos probably don't accept phone or internet service from Nigeria and certainly won't have a home delivery service. Of such things Nigerians can only dream!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Preamble

Christmas Preamble
As we amble towards Christmas the bleakness of not being able to spend time with our wonderful family gets harder to contemplate. We are the only ones in the office now – everyone else has gone ’travelling’ ie has returned to their village to be with their relatives.
Apart from not having our passports, we couldn’t return to our village if we wanted to,  given the Big Freeze conditions back home which have grounded most of the flights.
Earlier this week we were taken to a local carol concert in another part of Ilorin. Katherine is in the choir and was eager that we should accompany her –  which was fine, but after three hours in a cushion-free zone, my bum was definitely complaining.
There were several choirs, based on age/ experience, who sang a medley of familiar carols as well as ones we had not heard before including some in Yoruba and Igbo languages.   Ashamedly, we had to stifle the odd giggle at some of the performances, but with others the harmonies and rhythms were emotionally quite powerful. It still seemed odd to be singing ‘While shepherds watched etc’ with the temperature in the high 20s; every bit of me is still expecting  the days to get cold and dark some time soon (they won’t!) 
Nobody could accuse the Nigerians of over-commercialising the festive season. Even in the church the decorations were plain and simple – long drapes of colourful cloth reaching across the air space and down the walls, and some fairy lights around the altar – that was it!
The shops are almost completely devoid of Christmas cheer except for a few ‘department stores’ that often have the gaudiest of decorations around the front door – huge singing plastic Father Christmases who could be heard  several blocks away. No reindeers though, red-nosed or otherwise! Santa doesn’t even have a sleigh during his quick visit to Nigeria - because he has so little to carry, I would guess. The locals find our description of a jolly fat man climbing down chimneys to drop off gifts into stockings and pillow cases, partaking of a mince pie and a glass of sherry before zooming off next door, highly amusing.
The only presents that are commonly given here are small ‘washing baskets’ of groceries that are presented to the household. You see them outside the larger shops - a bit like hampers, wrapped up in cellophane and tied with a ribbon.
And yet everyone, Christians certainly, are looking forward to Christmas because of what it means to them in terms of the birth of Jesus and also the chance to greet their families again – often after many months of being away.  They are excited far more about these things than by the receiving of gifts, over-indulgence and hours spent in front of the TV. Hmmmm!
So while we watch an ice-bound Britain struggling to make preparations for the festive season on Sky News, we try to deflect our thoughts by working, at least until Christmas Day, and vainly attempting to convince ourselves that we would rather be smothering ourselves with sun-cream than  Vick’s decongestant!
P.S.  The goat population does not seem to have diminished yet – nevertheless we are preparing ourselves for an evening or two of sorrowful bleating! 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Holy Smoke!

Walking past the old cemetery today, it was hard not to notice that someone had set fire to the rubbish that forms a mini mountain over the gravestones - keeps the overall height of the heap down I suppose but envelopes the area in unpleasant grey smoke with aroma of burning plastic. ' Holy smoke', I thought. On top of the mountain was a goat - possibly a mountain goat -picking his way through the ashes and presumably avoiding walking over hot coals. I wonder if smoked goat will be on the menu over Christmas!
Later on I saw a dog - poor wretched little thing, walking down the street with the head of a goat in his mouth - perhaps he got there first!! Actually, I don't think it was the same goat - its head had been severed with a clean cut, it seemed to me, and I haven't yet seen any axe-wielding dogs in the neighbourhood!

Not much happening at school this week - it is exam time. In all subjects children answer about 30 multiple choice questions followed by two extended answer questions. On the basis of their answers they progress into the next class up or stay where they are and repeat the year. The pupils are eager to do well and those I have spoken to have literally memorised their whole exercise books.
After the exams are over it seems that the term fizzles out, though I understand that activities are put on to encourage the pupils to keep attending - not unlike home, really.