I haven’t blogged in a while, not because there was nothing to blog about- what with Yaradua’s “independence” moves in Nigeria, foot and mouth scares on farms and chaos at Heathrow in the UK and the alternately infuriating and depressing news of TV star Funmi Iyanda’s brush with the “fashion police” in Lagos, there’s been more than plenty to blog about. But it seems that the sunny weather we’ve had in the last week or so has lulled me into a state of lethargy. That combined with work where lots of colleagues are on holiday making things pretty tight and the relentless march of friends, relations and friends of friends and relations of relations visiting from Nigeria has pushed blogging way down the list of priorities but anyways here I am
I read the increasingly vociferous complaints about how shoddy services at Heathrow were in the last few weeks but took it all with a pinch of salt until I had a reality check the other day. I was seeing off an uncle flying back to Nigeria. First I tried to check him in online so that we could avoid waking up at 4 am to catch the 8 50 flight. The KLM website wouldn’t let me and I finally rang up the contact telephone number only to be told that the online system was down and check in over the phone would be to Amsterdam only so he would have to retrieve his luggage in Amsterdam and check it in again to Lagos. And so we lost a potential extra hour of sleep. Then he made the mistake of not weighing his luggage and so as soon as I arrived I asked a member of BAA staff where the weighing scales were only to be sent off in completely the wrong direction. We finally arrived at KLM business class and the attitude of the staff at the check in was atrocious. The two women were engaged in an obviously-more-important-than-work chat and ignored us standing there for a while. When I finally, ostentatiously cleared my throat, one of them caught my eye and with an “I suppose I better deal with you since you’re not going away” look sauntered over to the desk and started up the computer. Just as she was about to start the check in process, she reminded us that this was the Business class check in not economy. My uncle replied that he was well aware of this, only to have her supervisor retort sharply “A lot of people make that mistake, so she was only checking” The aggression seemed so unnecessary at 6 30 in the morning and in what was supposed to be business class that I asked her to please mind her business and let us get on with checking in which obviously did not go down well…. Then there was all the drama about the security queue. You could carry a laptop as long as it was not in its case through the barrier but then it did not matter how many bags you had subsequently. So my uncle had to take his laptop out, squeeze the laptop case into his briefcase but once he was through the barriers it was fine to take it out and put the laptop back in its case- I struggled to see the rationale for this….All in all I finally saw why people were complaining- I mean I wasn’t travelling but by the time I waved him through the security barrier I was exhausted…
I’ve just finished Cuban writer Abilio Estevez’s Distant Palaces and it suddenly struck me why Havana had seemed so familiar when I visited it a few years ago. It was the echoes of the ancient quarters of Lagos Island that did it- the crumbling Italianate mansions, the strong sense of a syncretic Catholicism, the salt tinged organic breezes of Marina and the Malecon against a backdrop of decay and vibrant human living. Reading Estevez, his descriptions of Havana could have been set in Lagos Island….
On the subject of writing, Helon Habila has an interesting piece on what I had earlier suggested was an amazing year for Nigerian writers. I’m particularly interested at his classification of contemporary Nigerian writers... And the Booker Prize longlist is announced with some surprise at the brevity of it, sadly there are no Nigerians on it and although On Chesil Beach and Winnie and Wolf were on my to read list, the rest are all new to me ….
Finally, in continued pursuit of Nigerians off the beaten track, I’m pleased to read that Tayo Aluko, the Liverpool based singer and architect is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this week; and to see The Financial Times at the weekend reveals that the chef at the new fashionable London restaurant La Petite Maison is Nigerian born Raphael Duntoye
And finally Nigerian writer Chris Abani's talk at TED Global earlier this year is now available and also here . Also worth listening to are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, George Ayittey and William Kankwamba