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!