Weekends are quite long and drawn and mostly spent in front of the TV or roaming the city taking pictures.
This weekend, I am watching a recorded show today titled UK border force and it is a documentary that shows the activities of the UK border agency staff nabbing illegal immigrants and the continuous tussle between the watchman and the thief. Unfortunately, most of the people on parade on tonight’s show are Nigerians. I shake my head in pity as I see all manner of scheming Nigerians do to get here. Most grieving for me, was their irresponsible utterances. I’d rather keep my mouth shut and look the other way but where it affects me is that these people present a very wrong impression of Nigeria to the world in a bid to gain sympathy. Unfortunately what they do not realize is that they diminish me and themselves. Just like the news has already succeeded in doing with programs like “Welcome to Lagos”, which I learnt was a hit here and unfortunately is the average UK residents’ opinion of Lagos and Nigeria. Ironically, the mirror of bias as through TV viewed, reflects in both directions. The same way “Welcome to Lagos” tells people here that Nigeria is a huge slum, is the same way having watched serials like 24 makes me feel uncomfortable on trains, planes and subways; or when I see anyone with a beard and a white soutane, or a black kid with braided hair with his hands in the pockets of his black hoodie. You never know where the next bomb will go off or when the little guy is going to point a gun at you (something that never felt real to me till I traveled out of the country). These virtual images we have formed, as improbable as they might be, unfortunately form our primary basis for judging societies. Shame on TV for that.
As I heard one of the Nigerians nabbed by the UKBA go on his knees crying “Please help me, I do not want to go back to Nigeria, they will kill me there. They have killed my mother and father and I am the only one remaining in my family please let me stay….” I just smiled. the man, about 30 something from his looks claimed he was fifteen as he probably knew that UK laws would try him as a minor. After series of interrogations, he was put in a custody home while the UKBA verified his age scientifically. The Bagga simply took off one day while in custody and has since then remained at large. Talk about loopholes in the system, I still did not know why they didn’t put him on the next container back to Nigeria when from his face you could see he was not fifteen. It will be a study to see a 90 year old man tell the same lie and watch what the UKBAs decision will be.
As I write this, I know I have broken all the rules of reporting with my extremely judgmental stance. Maybe I have not walked a mile in the poor man (sorry) boy’s, moccasins. But Naija can’t be that bad. It can’t be. Watching them reminded me of something I did as a young boy and which I regret anytime I remember. My parents had gone out to the market on a weekend just like this one, and we had gone to play at the neighbours where they were eating yam and butter (I can’t get the picture off my head). So in order to gain sympathy to eat the much alluring yam and butter, I lied to our neighbour that my parents left the house having not fed us, and that we (my brother and I), are always hungry. So the Good Samaritan does well to serve us some of the yam and a ladle of butter and also did well to ‘talk to’ my parents when they got back on why they ought to feed us well. I sold my birthrights that day for yam and butter. My furious mum beat me to pulp and denied me any food till dusk because I had caused her an embarrassment with my stupidity. She probably won’t remember but I still do.
That aside, I make my way into town to buy some of the things I need and it amazes me how expensive the buses are. A trip is the equivalent of about 400 bucks back home and that is only one-way. If I wanted a day- ticket, it was like 900 bucks. Every time I buy something or ask for the price, I do my mental conversion (which by now is quite impressive for someone like me who is poor in math) and I see how expensive things are here. 15 pounds for one hair cut? I simply bought a clipper and DIYed. Still I had to walk long distances as I still was not familiar with the routes. My back is already hot from walking too long and what is worse, the British orientation of direction and mine are literarily poles apart. “Walk down this lane, take a left turn, another left turn, then the second right turn, that is the place you are looking for”. I take a left turn, for me to find that there is no other left turn. So I ask another person and she tells me something else. I finally concluded it had to be our differences that kept me from understanding directions or come to think of it, maybe I don’t hear what they are saying and I was just pretending to (Laughing out Loud).
The desire for beauty in the British DNA impresses me. The houses have beautiful flowers, well tended hedges, the architecture is a conscious effort to make the observer stare in awe. Beautiful things were simply made for the mere pleasure of it. My hostel is beautiful – rugged lobbies and stainless steel balustrades with recessed lights and satin walls. The post office is a sight to behold with red leather seats, spotless floors and warm cushions, you will almost want to sleep there. The library has a floral assembly right opposite it that is the most beautiful I have seen yet. My opinion is that these people have evolved above the realm of want and therefore can afford to do things just for the fun of it.
The bank branches are unlike anything in Naija. Not big buildings, just corner shops with the sign plate of the bank denoting it. Shopping arcades are everywhere and crowds milling in and out of shops with diverse architectural signatures but one thing in common – unique and beautiful.
Night time is exciting, as it seems to be the time when people come out. Tonight we had a Salsa party and I kept staring at the crowd as they followed the song in perfect tandem and passionate servitude to the music. Men and women danced like they were going to be rated for it. It was so much fun watching the electricity in the twists and turns. I am certainly going to be dancing Salsa before I leave here but wait a moment, £4 for a one hour session? That is 1k….I must give it a second thought.
Sundays are very different from back home. No Aso ebi, ankaras or post-wedding outfits. Nobody wearing Agbada on Okadas to make the 9 o clock service. It is almost like Sundays is the day of rest like God did back then, everyone in their homes resting. If you see any black folk on their way to church, chances are 8 out of 10 they are Nigerian. Does this mean that these people are antitheistic (my word for ‘against God’) while we are more theophilistic? I will not go into the religious debate as the Vibhuti left by the Pope’s visit is still in the air and Britain cannot get any holier than it is now, so I will stick to observations. I remember visiting the town square yesterday and being accosted by some Yoga-ist who wanted to give me free Yoga practice sessions. I first said the Lords prayer before sitting down (as I like to try new things). Then we went into the whole new-age thing of summoning the powers of mother earth to excite our Chakra to its own energy and free us of all guilt and impurities until the condolinium starts to blow off the top of our heads… What the? …. Anyway I sit there closing my eyes and just relaxing my over-walked limbs as I listen to the voice of the winds. After that, I find a good spot at the town square to observe, as I always do. The ball game is certainly different here. Individualism is a marked feature everywhere I look. People doing their own things. Dressed their own way and making and breaking their own laws. Lovers kissing and smooching in the bus stops, children with piercings, girls with such skimpy stuff, I am tempted to look for the hundredth time, young chaps jumping off heights and rolling on the floor for reasons I can not seem to fathom. So long as you did not break the laws of the police, carry go.
It will be an invidious observation however, if I end on this note because if you look closely, you will notice that some of the elderly and even some younger folks abhor the ‘me-ism’ and prevalent fadish lifestyles. Last week, a Chinese girl walked past our bus stop with lemon-green and red hair, piercings all over and thick black gothic make-up with a black skirt that barely covered her crotch and a fuschia pink tube. The disdain in the air was encouraging (at least from a Black boy’s point of view). It was the same reaction I percieved when a tall gay Indian in a tight fitting sari queued behind us as we waited for our bus, I could feel that same silent revolt. I noticed this same revulsion for these ‘de-culturising’ influences, getting to know my flat mate Barney, whom I’ll introduce to you in the next episode – Meet Barney.