Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Grubby Story

When I first came to Nigeria eight months ago my skin tone was almost as white as my shirts. If I had removed my shirt you would have barely noticed a difference in shade – apart from the odd belly button and nipple! Now I am considerably browner than my shirts but they are catching up fast.
You just can’t get that whiteness any more. I have tried the usual washing powders but they just can’t tackle those ingrained stains. Nothing seems to capture that dazzling whiteness that used to make my shirts stand out on the bus. I knew I should have paid attention to the Daz challenge adverts on the telly and not dismissed so lightly that annoying git with the pasty face, white teeth and clipboard – not the Jehovah’s witness, the other one! – who called at my door before we left, inviting me to participate in a doorstep challenge – my money back if I was not satisfied with the improvement in my wash after two weeks.
Those were the days – when you could get on a bus fully confident that when you got off it hours later, your shirt would be as white as when you boarded it – no iron-coloured strap marks from the rucksack you have hoiked around all day, no impregnations from the petrol fumes which you have just spent the last two hours wreathed in, no orange dust blown in through the open windows as we drive furiously through the Kwara countryside.  And no grubby marks and smears from oily door lock that you get hooked up with when you try to board the bus or the upholstery  you have just been leaning against – including fellow passengers, or  the young children you may have engaged with.
By the time I got to the school I was heading for, I neither looked nor felt fit to address a large audience of teachers on the topic of ‘assertive discipline’. In the event I needn’t have worried on account of
1.       The room was so dark nobody would have noticed – just a strange off-white glow coming out of the gloom;
2.        Only five teachers turned up; one fell asleep after a few minutes and another got up half way through and walked out – was it something I’d said? I know that ‘discipline’ is something of an ‘elephant in the room’ topic but I hadn’t actually advised anybody to dispense with the big stick strategy of class control (yet).  
So my legendary sartorial elegance remains unchallenged – until I emerge into the bright light of day when my shirt patterning is likely to be the topic of conversation for  all on the bus home – good job I didn’t have spag bol for lunch; in fact, it was a good job I didn’t have any lunch.
I returned to the office feeling like a complete dung beetle.  In this cool, airy, bright , orderly, business-like environment,  what could I do but find a secluded PC to work from, keep my head down and catch up on my emails! I almost Googled  Daz to see if they do emergency airlifts of biological washing powder!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Reconstruction Phase

I have started the process of mental reconstruction following our recent burglary. It has taken a while, as predicted, and we still have issues re insurance claims. Anyhow, I have started rewriting notes and preparing for my next training session, which has taken my mind off it all and, just to prove I can, and to test whether they have also stolen my sense of humour, I have written a short blog and composed a few poems to fill the void. I wish we still had some music – other than the Powerful Praise choir, nice though that is.
Caroline has fallen ill – come down with the dreaded lurgy. Looks like a bout of gastro-enteritis - contracted during her recent trip to Enugu or possibly the result of something she has eaten - or i have cooked! Malaria has been ruled out, thank God! I wish i could remember the poem I wrote many years ago called ‘All Mosquitos are Bastards’  or something like that – though i don’t think it would cheer her up much!

Right! That’s it! Enough! Time to move on and deal with the important things in life.

So, does anyone know who Liverpool’s opening game of the new season will be against?!
Thanks Julie for copying some of your music onto CD for us - a lovely, thoughtful and generous gesture. You may just have saved our sanity!


I have located a file which contains some of the pomes what I wrote. They were on a memory stick which has a far superior memory than I have, buried inside a file with an obscure name - so, my fault!
In celebration i have retrieved and copied the poem I eferred to in a recent blog about the uselessness of mosquitos. Hope you like it!


What use is a mozzie?
Well, food for the birds
But there’s too many of them
Its really absurd;
They seek out the locals
And strangers alike
Whether reading a book
Or out on a hike
Coz mosquitos are bastards
They zing through the air
They hide in your room
And pretend they’re not there.
But during the day
They’ll be having a kip
Waiting for nightfall
The time to let rip.
They spy out the tourist
With white skin and blotches
Then tighten their belts
By a couple of notches
They aim for the bare skin
Of uncovered Brits
And leave them by morning
All covered in zits.
They zoom in like Spitfires,
An airborne assault
Honing in on their target
Though it isn’t our fault
That our blood is so tasty,
Our flesh is so sweet
Our complexion so pasty
In this tropical heat.
We've been trying to spot them
For several hours
Certain they’re hiding
In each vase of flowers.
So you quietly creep over
With swatter and spray
But the mozzie's too quick
And is getting away.
And you’re standing with aerosol
Getting irate
While he’s laughing his socks off
With one of his mates.
So you climb into bed
And you turn out the lights
Then they whine in your ear
For the rest of the night.
There’s no more you can do
Except sleep under nets
To avoid being eaten
By these troublesome gets.
You tie them down firmly
But give ‘em their due
There’s always one little bugger
Gets through.
As you drift off to sleep
The bastard comes back
With a sharpened proboscis
And new plan of attack.
You’ve plastered yourself
With gallons of DEET
Hoping the mozzies
Fall dead at your feet.
This should give protection
For ages, by right
But you still wake for breakfast
Just plastered in bites.
And they’ve got in the bed clothes,
They’ve got in your hair;
They’ve bitten your privates -
They really don’t care.
Your face is a war zone
Of craters and lumps;
Your neck’s been invaded
Like an attack of the mumps;
You’re scratching your pustules
For most of the day
Coz the stinging and itching
Just won’t go away.
You dab on more lotion
To relieve the pain
Even knowing that soon
They’ll be at it again.
So, what’s the solution,
I hear you all saying?
Sprays are no good
You just gotta start praying
That now they’ll move on
To some other poor sod
And have him for their brekkie
Not you
Please God!


Bit of a long one this – you may want to make a cup of tea!
‘Leave it for a week’, the police officer advised,’then look on the stalls and in the shops where they sell stolen laptops, cameras and phones(!) Pretend  you are a customer and ask to see. If you see yours, ask them to save it while you get money. You come to us and we make arrest’. Elementary, my dear Watson!
So in other words, if I want any of my stolen property back, I’m going to have to look for it myself. OK!
This advice was offered as a parting comment having spent much of the day in the local nick reporting a break-in the night before. They took it seriously and sent a young plain clothes (well, she wore quite a pretty frock actually – brown and yellow floral pattern on a cream background, not that i notice these things!) officer who looked more like a kindergarten teacher than a strict officer of the law. She viewed the break-in site, where the burglar had sawn through one of the security bars in one of the vacant bedrooms, inspected inside from where my stuff had been taken, obliterated any possible forensic evidence from the tools abandoned at the scene or from the shoe print left in the mud outside the window, commandeered a neighbour’s  vehicle from the compound, plus neighbour, and got him to drive us round to the workplace of Izi the electrician and his apprentice – the last people to work on our house and thereby the police’s’prime suspects’.  They were taken back to the station to help with our enquiries, where Izi was given a grilling by the deputy somethingorother:
‘Do you know anything about the burglary at the oyibo house?'
‘OK. What’s in your bag?’
Izi tipped out the contents of his work bag – a rather basic set of electrician’s tools.
‘Are these your tools as well?’ showing Izi the tools from theburglary.
‘So you know nothing of the burglary?’
Interview over.
We then all ‘followed’ (ie accompanied) Izi in the neighbours car – with neighbour-  to inspect the house of the primsry suspect which was miles away. The neighbour had to refuel first –at his own expense!
When we arrived I was invited to search his wardrobe to try to find a pair of black pin-striped trousers to match the jacket that the burglar had abandoned in his haste to make a getaway. I am not persuaded that a cat burglar would choose a black pin-striped suit as his uniform of choice for his night prowls and I doubt he would even have possessed such garments, but I suppose you have to follow all avenues; I found nothing – nor any sign of the laptop, camera, mobile phone, hard drive, wrist watch, i-pod or cash stolen during the night – neither in his wardrobe, bedroom nor in those of the woman alseep in the next room, who was mildly surprised to find a police officer, her husband (presumably), our neighbour, two drivers, two colleagues who were there to translate and give moral support, four spectator children and an oyibo – all standing round and peering into her personal effects; she rolled over and went back to sleep.
We returned to the police station. I was told to make an official  statement, ‘but we have no official forms – you will have to provide your own stationery’. As I was also fresh out of police incident report forms myself, i asked a colleague to go and buy an exercise book and biro. While we awaited his return the young officer laid herself out on a bench and dozed off. As if we had requested some form of entertainment in the interim, a street hawking woman came in selling washing-up liquid – she only had the one bottle!  My colleague, Funmii, had had a gut-ful by now and started to make clear his views on how things were proceeding – his disgust that we had  to provide our own stationery, especially. Washing-up-liquid-lady joined in the debate which was rapidly coming to the boil. Funmii told her to shut up every time she attempted to interject. She eventually got a word in and told him not to speak to police officers like that and to be a good Nigerian. I thought Funmii was going to be arrested himself. In the end washing-up lady shrugged and got up, and both she and Funmii burst out laughing as she left the room.  The police officer by now having recovered from her nap, we set about filling in the ‘form’.
Izi has been known to Esspin for many years - a highly reliable and a very pleasant, likeable, mild-mannered man. He has worked in all the homes of expats in Ilorin; it was he who fixed my self-electrocuting kitchen appliances and who installed our generator recently. My main concern was that neither he nor his apprectice would be detained any longer than necessary and that they would not be mistreated. I was told they may have to be put in custody for 1 to 4 days depending on the progress made in police investigations, (which could mean considerably longer) but I could have them released if i wrote and signed a ‘withdrawal of complaint letter addressed to the chief police officer – using my own stationery, of course! This I did, but then learned that they could not be released without payment of bail – this is the free bail enshrined in federal law! Against my principles and secretly, i told Funmii I would pay it to ensure a quick release without maltreatment. 500 Naira should do it – about £2. For some reason my money was rejected! (Why? Is my money not as good as the next man’s?) I think they were anxious that everything should be seen to be being carried out according to the law as a white person was involved. Izi was being collected by a friend – not easy for him to arrange as they had confiscated his mobile phone and were reluctant to return it to him but they conceded that it would speed things up  if they did so.
The next morning Izi and his apprentice were at our property again, fixing new fuse boxes and meters – the burglars had taken them too!
In time I will no doubt come to terms with the loss of my laptop, phone, camera etc, my sense of invaded privacy, my feelings of wanting to pack up and go home. One way or another they will be resolved. What will take a lot longer to get over is the loss of all the poems i have written over many years, a large number here in Nigeria. These have built up over the decades into a sort of autobiography of my life and thoughts. Hard copy does not exist for the vast bulk of it.
I was told by my VSO friend Julie about the mandala created by Tibetan monks. On large round boards they create the most fantastic and intricate patterns out of different coloured sands, delivered through hollow straws. Having spent many many hours designing and ‘building’ these patterns, on completing them, the monks carry them to a nearby river or lake and just toss the sand into the breeze. Something that once was has now been lost, never to be re-created, except perhaps fleetingly in memory’s imperfect vision. Although the analogy of the transcience of things and life in general is clear, I don’t feel sufficiently spiritually enlightened just yet to accept this – I don’t need this sort of challenge just now. I still feel as though giving someone a well-aimed kick where it hurts would do me a lot more good.
When I consider things more dispassionately though, I can sort of rationalise the event in terms of 'here is a guy down on his luck, probably hungry, which is why he stole a bottle of groundnuts, possibly with sick children which is why he took Caroline's anti-malaria tablets, unemployed with mouths to feed, and basically quite desperate'.
Nope, it hasn't worked! He had a bottle of gin and a packet of fags in his jacket pocket, and he'd clearly done this before - often; no excuse - I still feel like giving him a good kicking!  

Thursday, 23 June 2011


From the balcony this evening , I have been watching a storm cloud approaching. It started off looking like Rolf Harris in profile, mutated into John Denver, including glasses, morphed into Animal from Sesame Street, merged into Bob Geldof after a particularly bad night and finally the Crab Nebula.
For many years  I have photographed rock outcrops which to me look like the profiles of faces. They are everywhere once you start looking - and providing there are rocks! The coastal cliffs of County Durham and North Yorkshire are particularly rich in them - 'ancient heads', I call them. They often resemble mythical characters, warriors, spirits or  guardians of the land, looking out to sea, up to the heavens or towards the lowlands watching out for the threat of invasion.
I have not evolved this into a cloud-watching experience, but as I look now I see a cloud the shape of the Ardnamurchan peninsula and another resembling the coastline of Western Australia, blue-grey against a peach coloured sky -  I can easily work out where Perth and Freemantle would be. I would have taken a photo of them but my camera has been nicked.
Perhaps I've been out in the sun too long - or I may have been reading too much Ben Okri - I have definitely not been on the ale - I wish!!

Monday, 20 June 2011

A Difficult Day

Not sure what to make of today’s school visit. My early morning training was reduced to 30 minutes owing to traffic chaos in town and the fact that the school janitor had forgotten to unlock the classroom where I was to deliver my training.
The training seemed to go OK until lunch time (ie noon BST – not a time to eat!) when I met a teacher who said she had understood nothing and neither had her friends. After a short conversation it seems she /they did not know what I meant by objectives, self-evaluation or child-centred learning – though she has been to most of my previous trainings. Perhaps they have all understood nothing!  In this instance I performed a brief bit of remedial work and left for my office. On the way I spoke to another teacher concerning  my next training which will be on the subject of discipline. She expressed her  dislike of the use of corporal punishment, which I was delighted to hear.
I made it to my office and started to prepare some notes. A short time later there was a kerfuffle outside. The whole of JSS@ was lining up outside my office – which just happens to be in the heart of the punishment zone (you may guess what’s coming). An emergency assembly had been called. The entire cohort of girls – about 400 of them, were lined up and told ‘not to talk, not to pass any comment whatsoever , nor maker any noise and to keep you mouths…..’
‘Shut!’, replied the 400, with military precision.
The assembly had been called because an example had to be set. This was the worst behaved group of girls EVER and things were going to change as from that moment. Did they understand?
Five girls were led forward along the raised path outside my office so as to be visible to the rest of the assembly. A mobile phone had been stolen. Two girls had been apprehended and would be punished. The other three were the victim and two friends who had left the premises and gone in search of a ‘herbalist’ (witchdoctor to you and me) to arrange for some bad ju-ju to befall those who had stolen the phone. The offenders would be visited with some grievous misfortune, they hoped. In the event grievous misfortune befell all of them. An example had to be set so that others might learn. The punishment would be carried out by... Mr S. (gasp of horror from the assembly). Mr S.  is a big guy and a lashing from him would be felt well and truly. He is Head of PE. My heart was pounding and I was starting to feel queasy. I considered what I should do. I could storm out and make a very public display of my view of this treatment, but that may have repercussions for any future dealings with this school and its management. I could go and stand outside and watch, but I would be watched and possibly my attendance would be interpreted as condoning what was going on.  I decided to sit it out – just three feet away on the other side of the office wall.  I could feel the power behind each of the six to eight lashes that each girl received. I noticed that the management team were not in attendance – two of them were in my office.
Then I realised that the person who was conducting the event was the same person I had been discussing corporal punishment with earlier that morning.
Coincidence? I don’t know.
The girls have been suspended for the rest of the year and their parents summoned. No doubt they will be in for another beating and will be the shame of their family for weeks to come.
Counselling is not an option, I have been told – there aren’t any.
What about the role of form teachers and heads of year?
They are not trained in these matters and they are here to teach. They have other things to do.
What, like sleep on tables, purchase food products from on-site hawkers?
Leaving a class does not seem to be a big deal so why not engage a teacher with their form to effect some lasting behavioural improvement?
I was given a lift home by two senior managers. We did not speak on the way back. I think they know why!
Next week’s training should be interesting.

A Sign of Madness

As the stone was removed from behind the front wheel, we rolled gently backwards  while the driver attempted to fire the ignition, and, only one hour since I boarded the bus, we were off – to Offa again. Forty miles and two bruised vertebrae later, we were approaching the town when I noticed a sign which read “Fat Jim – livestock feed”. Such was the degree of boredom, I pondered the possibilities:
a) Was Jim fat because he ate his merchandise;
b)  Was he fat as a result of living the good life on the back of his livestock feed sales, and therefore;
c)  Was he bragging;
d)  Was  said livestock feed actually named after Fat Jim himself; or
e)  Was he just a self-effacing fat guy?
f)  Is this an essential nugget of information for the Startship Enterprize Commander from Mr Spock?
I guess we’ll never know.
Barely had I exhausted my thoughts on this, than we passed another sign – “JIMLAD – cabinet maker”. This could only have been improved upon if his first name had actually started with an ‘R’. And I would only have been mildly disappointed if his carpentry skills had not provided him with ample storage for all the gold doubloons acquired  from his alternative career. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
Perhaps Fat Jim and Jimlad are one and the same – the livestock feed sales being a front for the far more rewarding pursuit of highway piracy!
Walking through Offa, I noticed a huge smiling poster – the newly elected politician thanking the voters for having confidence in him. Beneath the picture was the slogan “It’s all about image!” which basically says it all! I thought it was all about policy, commitment, service etc; obviously not!
On the same theme, I saw a shop front sign on Taiwo Road : ‘John Major – expert in handsets and communications’.  I thought he had been keeping a low profile in recent years,  but  I hadn’t realized he was in such dire straits – I thought communication was one of his basic problems anyway!
       Finally, I also saw a poster recommending the use of cocoa as a cure for all sorts of ailments    
      including heartburn, breast cancer, hypertension, migraine, renal failure,  memory  loss and
      … I forget the rest.  Apparently only ten cups a day are required! I wonder of you can get
      cocoa on the NHS!

That’s it for now – just off to buy some cocoa and take out a few shares in Cadbury’s!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Rainy Day Thoughts

I love watching the rain, watching the cloud banks build during the early afternoon to enormous heights, growing darker and taking over the sky. Then there is the cool wind that precedes the storm, blowing through our home, making the yellow curtains billow like sails.
The first tremendous clap of thunder wakes up the day and almost immediately the first few cooling drops spatter in the dust. Within seconds there are puddles everywhere, the streets all but empty of people, cars and goats – just the odd okada buzzing along with a passenger holding up an open umbrella. Gallons of water pour out of the sky, battering the roofs and blowing into windows. With no light, it feels as though it is mid-evening yet it is only mid-afternoon.
Thunder bursts all around Sabo-Oke then rumbles off into the distance. The rain continues to teem down, getting louder, pouring like a waterfall off the gutterless houses. It feels safe inside, looking out. Where have all the lizards gone – and the goats and the fluffy pink chicks?
It’s as if God is rewarding us for putting up with the constant sweating, the dust and the fumes, being baked alive every time we trek out.
A lizard has appeared on the outside mesh, trying to get in, no doubt. It looks grey, as if camouflaged against the sky – it’s not working, fella – I just spotted you! The dense cloud seems to rob the world of its vibrancy and reduce everything to matt greyness – not reflecting, nor absorbing – just being, just relaxing, getting wet – just nice.
I retrieve my trainers from a puddle that is starting to form on the veranda floor and listen to the thunder – or is it next door’s generator?
The storm eventually passes and we can see clearly the four great minarets of the new mosque near the Emir’s palace on the far side of the city. Human voices start to emerge, calling, squealing, crying, as the rain dies away and life resumes. Someone’s voice, sounding dangerously like Celine Dion drifts from a nearby stereo. Reverie over – now I know I am back in the real world!
 The air is clear and fresh, the gutters swept of their foulness, at least temporarily, and we actually feel like trekking – until we inadvertently step into a pot-hole.
The sky lightens and the rain takes on a more ‘English’ patter, but this is warm rain; this we can predict will be over  by nightfall and by morning there will be little evidence that the storm ever happened.
Spare a thought, however,  for our neighbours in the slums where most windows have no glass or mesh, roofs leak  and, being below the road level, the ground floor, often only earth, gets inundated as soon as the street gutters fill up. It must be miserable inside, with little to do and no light to do it in. We trekked past the family where the barefoot children always run out to greet us as we pass. They were there, standing under the eaves, watching the rain, but unlike me, just waiting for the sun; they all ran out to greet us, as usual, even the babies being carried out by older children, into the pouring rain and the running stream where their road used to be – simply to greet us! 


When I got in tonight, I was just stroking my hair into place (it doesn’t take long!) when I became aware of the heat rising out of my head. I had had the usual trek back in the sun but always wear my cap (Result Headwear RC69 Safari cap in taupe, from Amazon, £ 9.99).  Anyway, the heat  was immense – hot enough to roast a monkey’s bum in fact. I could still feel the heat halo with my hand 3 or 4 cm above my head. I must be a human solar-powered reactor – pity I don’t have an internal battery facility for storage and use when NEPA goes off! I could attach electrodes to my scalp and fire up the fridge, make a brew, or supply cheap lighting to the good people of Sabo-Oke for the cost of  a meat pie – and chips, of course!

A Change of Socks

My feet and ankles are getting seriously bitten so I am seriously thinking of changing my socks! Eight months in Nigeria is a long time to go without doing so. These British ‘George’ ones are just not up to the job.  Most Nigerians wear sockless sandals or flip-flops for everyday use so why they have not been devoured up to the knee caps I don’t know!
I thought the tiled kitchen floor felt unusually cool this morning, even before I trod in something squidgy and unpleasant which at first I thought was a cockroach but it didn’t crunchI  - it was only a soggy tea bag from last night. I examined the soles of my socks to discover there weren’t any – worn through to the skin. I peeled them off my feet and changed  into my ‘England’ socks – only to discover they had suffered the same plight – more holes than a Scottish defence; big holes, tied together with a few nylon threads . I am now on my fourth pair and frankly am not bothered  that they are an actual pair or a ‘pick and mix’ – as long as they offer some protection against the creeping , flying, biting beasties and today’s bus ride.
So on my next visit to the UK I will be looking for pairs of socks that are waterproof, mosquito proof, termite proof and bus-proof, that don’t induce DVT and do allow the feet to breathe. If mum were around she would knit me a pair – but they would come with a weird neckline, uneven sleeves and shrink instantly at the first sign of moisture.
Maybe plastic ASDA bags are the answer – like those Spanish students wore on West Kirby beach – long story!


Riotous Assembly

 I may have inadvertently fuelled a minor riot today – and it’s not everybody who can say that!
I was minding everybody else’s business, looking out of an upstairs window at a raucous assembly of students demonstrating outside the admin building at Oro College. I had been delivering a presentation about VSO and the new ERC to a group of lecturers and senior management. Suddenly they got up from their seats, some went towards the window while others made for the stairs. I know my presentation wasn’t riveting stuff, but hey guys, I’m doing this for nothing – give me a break! Actually,  I didn’t think my presentation was so bad – not so bad that delegates would be drawn to throwing themselves out of upstairs windows or over balconies, so it was a little disconcerting to say the least. As my voice petered out I realized something was going on below. There was a lot of chanting and waving of branches torn from nearby trees. I have seen this before. Why do people think they are going to get their voice heard more effectively by ripping a branch from a tree and waving it about? One of the branches was dead ie, it was a stick, basically, whereas most had little clusters of leaves on the end that made the waving activity look almost cute and friendly. 
I crossed the room to the window and decided it would be a good idea to take a photo of the scene below. Why, I do not know! Anyway, I must have been observed by some members of the swelling crowd - Ooops! Seconds later a stone crashed through the window inches above my head and loads more started to rain down on the roof above where I was standing – presumably because they missed the window. The gathering seemed to increase in density and in volume and by now,  senior managers were out of sight.
I considered it unlikely my presentation would resume so packed my bag and awaited guidance. Then one lecturer came back in and said we would continue, so in mild surprise I unpacked my bag and stuck my flip charts up again. Then it was decided we would be safer off the premises after all. Our driver, like a knight in shining KIA,  was at that very moment,  making his way towards our ambushed building to rescue us. Like a Barcelona supporter running the gauntlet of a crowd of Man U fans, I emerged from the building and half ran towards our rescue vehicle and the relative safety of the Oro – Ilorin road.
The question is, was I perceived by the students to be ‘on the side’ of management and therefore somebody against whom they may have a grievance, now or in the future? No doubt I shall find out when next I visit.
In fact, I have great sympathy with the students’ anger. Their lecturers have gone on strike again - refusing to supervise forthcoming exams or mark answer papers –  over a pay issue that has been smouldering for the past couple of months but which had been damped down during the election period, now reigniting with the appointment of a new government. Surely it would have been wise for the union advice to recommend waiting for the new administration to actually get a cabinet in place, or at least put some shelves up, get their bums on seats and be given the chance to mediate in the dispute rather than attempt to force the issue in a way in which all involved will suffer – including me and my now somewhat tired-looking flip charts.    

Close Encounters

Another close encounter of the worst kind – as usual, on the bus from Offa; I’m beginning to suspect that this stretch of road has been cursed – it has certainly not seen any maintenance on it, probably in living memory.
I was the last person to board the bus so we would soon be on our way – or so I thought. Silly me, I should have known. I might have been passenger number 15 to board a fifteen seater  vehicle, but I had underestimated the determination of the driver to shoehorn another nine people in . I was so tightly wedged into the back seat with another five people , I couldn’t get the bus fare out of my pocket – couldn’t even work out where my pocket was. I was sure my water bottle was about to burst and soak my netbook. I hadn’t actually noticed the absence of a passenger door until the driver thoughtfully lifted one into place, hit it to ensure a close fit and our safety thereby,  and removing  the rock that was preventing us from  rolling backwards,  twisted the wires to fire the engine. Off we went, windows rattling and exhaust spluttering like an old man with a coughing fit. A toddler in the row in front gazed at me with huge eyes and a cute smile until she decided  I was to strange  after all and started to shriek.   Mum promptly whipped out a breast which shut her up for a while till she fell asleep in mid-gulp and missed the rest of the afternoon entertainment.
Half way back to Ilorin and the bus started to  stray across to the opposite side of the road – not unusual I can hear you say, given the frequent need to avoid huge craters and occasional burnt out or broken down vehicles in the road. It soon became apparent to all on board, except the sleeping toddler, that the driver was falling asleep. The guy next to him simultaneously yelled in his ear and gave him a sharp dig in the ribs (who said guys can't do two things at the same time - depends on the degree of urgency, that's all!),which had the desired effect of waking the driver, but sent us into ‘Oh my God, we’re going to hit something’ mode.  He regained control of the vehicle and his senses just in time to take evasive action as a police convoy can screaming out of the dust, sirens blaring, from the opposite direction heading for Offa. ‘What’s the rush,’ I thought. ‘Is there something about Offa that I have missed – or is somebody offering free snacks for ‘the boys’?’ Okadas, taxis, private cars and busses alike are clearly expected to scatter  - which we did – like a fright of lizards, onto the hard shoulder. Our bus tilted alarmingly as we careered off the road and bounced along through the undergrowth that sloped away from the road and then equally alarmingly back onto the road again when the convoy had passed.
Police convoys do this – I have witnessed it before – giving no time for other road users to take sensible action and putting many lives including pedestrians, at risk. Nigerian police went down in my estimated by yet another notch!
I then noticed a rather acrid and nauseating smell coming from one of my co-passengers. The chap next to me had been looking decidedly ‘peaky’ and now had vomit on his shirt front. My stomach started to churn but I knew I would be OK as I had not eaten or drank for ten hours.
Nearing our destination, our driver decided not to let us get out at our usual terminus, but, at the request of a friend on board, carried on for another half mile to drop her at a more convenient location – while the rest of us had to walk back. I did so hurriedly as my fellow sufferers were just about ready to lynch this guy.
By the time I got back to the Esspin office for a cold blast of air-con, I felt like a chewed rag,  a  mangled vest ,  a sumo wrestlers jock strap  -all three in fact ( I must admit I have not had a lot of experience with sumo wrestlers jock straps, but I can imagine!).

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Generation Games

Maybe I've become a tad hypersensitive or maybe I'm just growing old, but I seem to be developing a noise intolerance. Laying comments on Celine Dion to one side for the moment, I'm sure the ambient noise level in Sabo-Oke has gone up a few decibels in recent days - and it can't all be due to the euphoria of Man U losing to Barcelona, or to all the post-election celebrations, surely.
TheTobi bakery generator is firing on all cylinders, so no change there. They do seem to have invested in a guard dog - a huge fluffy thing with a big bark but looks as theatening as Sooty. Incidentally, Tobi means 'big' or 'great', which adequately describes the noise it produces, if not its bread, which is very very sweet, having been laced with butter during manufacture - saves you the effort I suppose, if you are late in the morning.
The flat upstairs seems to have grown tired of Celine Dion, at last, but has taken to Bryan Adams - just the one song - and Big Jim Reeves, in between distorted TV episodes of 'African Magic' - a sort of Nigerian 'Crossroads' but without the class acting.
The churches are still belting out their choral messages and the car repair facility never seems to be short of business -not a surprise really! There was a police van in for repair last week - probably the result of ramming everything out of their way on a death-defying run to Offa.
So most things seem normal. It is the industrial strength generator belonging to the bank manager in the flat next door that is to blame. He doesn't need such a beast just to fire up a few lights, ceiling fans and the fridge, so what is it for? As it roars into life as soon as NEPA has deserted us, rattling our windows and causing the air to throb, it sends drifts of carbon monoxide through our mesh - all night long. We wake up, providing we first get some sleep, with headaches and sore throats. We have taken to sliding our windows shut but in so doing condemn ourselves to hot, sticky, sleepless nights. I reckon he is printing his own counterfeit notes - in order to pay for the massive fuel bill he must be running up! We have considered getting a generator of our own and positioning it right outside his bedroom window, having removed the silencer and anything resembling a catalytic converter and attaching to the exhaust outlet a hose that we push through a hole we have cut in his mesh! - but then we are probably making another rod for our own back.
I think I prefer the all night, Church of Christ the Redeemer gospel choir at 120db  - but definitely not Celine Dion!