A Question of Happiness

Between bites of peri-peri chicken and sips of Coke Zero, my friend Des asked me if I was happy. She – amongst all my long term friends – complains the least about my propensity to wall them off from the reality that is in my head, but from time to time she insists we meet to ‘catch up’. These meetings haven’t happened a lot recently – thanks to her juggling a return to full time employment with an energetic three year old, and travelling. Skipping merrily through town,  as she is wont to these days, she asked if I was up for a bite and a drink, which I accepted. We ordered the usual – a platter to share, bottomless drinks and sides of rice and settled in to talk about the minutiae of life, and all the quotidian pleasures we have enjoyed in the year so far. Then – out of the blue – she asked if I was happy. I suspect I managed to side track her question by rolling out my usual spiel about life being what it was – normal and mundane without anything out of the ordinary.

Mulling over that conversation again, I realised that on this one occasion, I had probably been as truthful as I possibly could. Most of the time life has either dealt me hands that have made me deliriously happy, or left me bogged down in the deep, dark depths of despair.

For the first time in a long time, though I know I am not deliriously happy there is a measure of contentment at how much progress has been made. Given the way the year’s panned out, I reckon that is enough to be thankful for…

On women (Or a somewhat concise history of the women I have worked with)

Note: If a few of the following characterizations seem stereotyped and larger than life, they probably are. Others more intelligent than I have chalked it up to Time, and how it conflates memory and reflection into a blended – often distorted – whole.

Given the marked paucity of females in my sector of the industry, I was amazed a few days ago by just how many women have left their marks – both in positive and negative ways – on my career till date. I am coming up to what would have been the eighth anniversary of my resuming at my first job – if I had not packed my bags one November morning, deciding I had had enough. In the main, I find that five women stand out from that phase of my life:

  • The Mother figure: The first job was as a trainee rustgeek somewhere in the bowels of the Niger-Delta. Hired straight off our NYSC year, four young lads and I – our ages ranged from 21 to 23 – found ourselves up-rooted from friends and family and thrust into what, was to put it mildly, the deep end. We were hardly prepared for the sea change and the pressure that came with earning way more money than we had bargained for, plus the culture of the company was very party-ish [legend had it that the more senior blokes hosted parties every weekend for a full year – needless to say, the young women in the Universities nearby bore the brunt of these escapades. Madam Emem our Departmental Secretary (she could only have been thirty-something at the time, but we called her Madam) would prove to be the steadying influence from that era. She ensured we got our monthly provisions for tea and biscuits, signed on for all the trainings we were required to attend, and was never shy to pull us up by the ears if she over heard from the bosses that one of us wasn’t pulling our weight. In perhaps one of the fondest memories from that era, when G-Man, the first of our lot to get married got hitched to a girl from the area, she performed a dance so intricate in its execution that a few of us lads suspected she had had a hand in helping to snag the young man – unfortunately we were never able to either prove not disprove that assertion.
  • The Delectable Intern: My distrust of dengerferous ChemE’s was never more validated than by the antics of a certain intern. She was of mixed Itsekiri and Ibo progeny and allied a luscious, golden-toned skin to well proportioned – for want of a better word – body parts. In the second of my five years there, Ebere – if my memory serves me right that was her name – was thrust into our office space; one filled with virile young men both single and married with wives half way around the country. For the six months and two weeks she spent in our midst, I suspect that precious little work got done. She, like all women used to attention, milked us to great effect – playing one against the other, giving and taking attention on whims and got quite a few of the lads to sign her IT log books whilst she lived it up in town. Needess to say, us lads at the bottom of the food chain never got any action. Rumour had it that she spent the last month living out of our friend Ayo’s house. Ayo, however swears till this day that nothing went down.
  • The Mentor-ess: In January of 2005, Engineering HQ sent out a Welding Engineer to assist with our development into competent rust geeks. She was in her fifties at the time, had a PhD in Metallurgy and Materials and had lectured for seven years before packing up to join the industry. Something about yours truly must have piqued her interest as she went way out of her way to delegate work assignments to me that aided me in my development. Every time I get asked who/what has been the biggest influence in my career, I do not to hesitate to point to the three years I spent shadowing her. We’ve stayed in touch since then, and when I was looking for references for the job I currently am in, she wrote so glowingly that even I was concerned she’d over hyped my abilities.
  • The Bitchy Boss: One of my less memorable performance reviews was conducted by the woman we would grow to refer to as the Bitchy Boss. She arrived with a huge history – word around the company was that she was on the fast track to greatness, and that the Nigerian assignment was a chance to get her to see the operations side of things. Besides having absolutely no clue of the esoteric subject we practised, she managed to spend so much time travelling outside the country that it was a wonder she was able to comment on what any of us had achieved within that year. The one thing she did pass across to me was formula one racing as a metaphor for contributions at work. According to her, my mediocre, mid level ranking was not so much a reflection on my poor performance as a reflection of the quality of the opposition. Thankfully, she stayed only one year before she got her next move back to Houston.
  • The Girly Girl: It might be something to do with the (non-technical) nature of her job but one of my office mate lives a totally glammed up life (at least to my untrained eye). Colour cordinated toe nails, fingers nails and clutch, silver coloured Audi A1, and impossible heels on dress down fridays are a few of the stunts she pulls off seemingly effortlessly. How she manages to keep it all up baffles me, but eye candy never did a bloke any harm I reckon.
  • The Martin-Solomon-lite: The other office mate is my Irish buddy Siobhan. As our ages are similar, and we share an office, we do tend to get along famously.  She’s smart, funny, can handle conversations on subjects as diverse as stress corrosion cracking of duplex stainless steels and opera. The one quirk of character she does have is an uncanny ability to swear like a sailor – which she elevates to the level of an art form. Thanks to her I am looking forward to the office xmas party this year; I’m keen to see how proficient her tongue will be once loosened by alcohol.

The weekend of debauchery (that wasn’t)

It was supposed to be the weekend that banished my 2011 troubles from memory and got me to let my hair down – something I admittedly do not do often enough. There was the small matter of needing to send in my passport to Mama Charlie’s lackeys for an extension to my residence permit, as well as navigating a week of water survival training (given my well documented aversion for large water bodies).

The plan was simple – jump on a flight to London and party hard. There was to be a surfeit of beautiful, intelligent women, pepper soup and music from back in the day. Surely nothing much could go wrong with the MO? Unfortunately everything did.

First off – uncharacteristically – I failed to get all the relevant details about the venue before leaving and ended up having to make frantic phone calls at Heathrow trying to locate the bus stop. This left me feeling drained by the time I arrived at the venue.

Secondly, my shocking inability to dance left me hugging my seat for dear life, meaning all the wonderful fabulous women around were left hugging the floor by themselves.

There are lessons to be learned.. My social skills need an upgrade, if the girl sized gap in the five year plan will be closed out. From the looks of it, my dancing skills (or more strictly the lack of them) needs reviewing ASAP.

#16 – The Sense of an Ending

I finally completed Julian Barnes’ 2011 Man Booker Prize winning book – The Sense of an Ending. Considering I felt both previous Booker Prize winners I read earlier in the year – The Finkler Question and Midnight’s Children were not easy reads, I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked this one. In addition to it being ‘readable’ [and that was the subject of a furore which threatened to engulf this year’s awards] I suspect I liked it because it explored the conflation of memory and reflection, a genre of books I’ve been drawn to since I read Teju Cole’s Open City.

My favourite passage is a reflection on time and how it paints the past in a different, less sure light.

… how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them.

Time … give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical..

Deconstructing the Dalglish Conjecture

The following was instigated by a discussion on Twitter with @Sir Fariku on the case for football as a compelling metaphor for a bloke’s dating life and the Brothers With No Game series on Which Footballer Are You?

In the 1997 movie ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding‘ directed by P.J. Hogan, Julianne Potter (played by Julia Roberts) finds herself facing a conundrum of sorts. Her long term friend, Michael O’Neil (played by Dermot Mulroney) informs her a few days short of her own 28th birthday of his impending marriage to Kimberly (played by Cameron Diaz). This should be great news, except for the small matter of a pact between Julianne and Michael where they had agreed that if they remained single till they turned 28, they would get married to each other. She also believes (rightly or wrongly) that Kimberly is the wrong person for him to get married to.

This conundrum is eerily similar to the situation which faced a certain Mr Kenneth Dalglish in the summer of 2010. Rafa Benitez, had just led Liverpool football club to an utterly deflating 7th place finish in the Premiership against a sordid back story of boardroom unrest, player dissatisfaction and an overall feeling of malaise. Messers Hicks and Gillet, our very own American shysters, seemed intent on running the club aground, not helped by the millstone of money owed to a certain nationalised bank. When Rafa Benitez was moved on, what was a bad situation became life threatening when a shortlist of replacements was revealed – a certain Mr Roy Hodgson was being promoted by the English paper as a safe pair of hands to guide the club through what were truly dark times. Legend has it, that Kenny was so dissapointed by the shortlist that he immediately offered his services as manager as he felt he could do a much better job than those being considered.

Any football fan of some pedigree would recognise the parallels here. Just like Julianne and Michael, ‘King’ Kenny and Liverpool had a long and distinguished connection, one that made him feel compelled to throw his hat into the ring to ‘save’ the club. Both the King and Julianne Potter, fell prey to what I describe as the Dalglish Conjecture – the (right or wrong) belief that there is a duty owed to a close friend to intervene in their affairs to prevent the occurence of a fatal mistake. At its core is a commendable, if not entirely altruistic, sense of loyalty that somehow concludes that the greater good is served by the sacrifice of ones independence on the altar of loyalty to a friend.

In the more general case, I find that this conjecture occurs fairly regularly between guys and girls who are long term friends and have developed an understanding that seems to be lacking in the various potential mates they fall in with. One party often concludes that given the inefficiences in the various hook ups they get into, it would make a lot more sense to step into the breach and offer their ‘services’ as a potential dating partner.

Given the foregoing, I therefore present to you the Dalglish conjecture:

Given any interaction universe U, populated with elements ei, each having a unique time-dependent intrinsic spin function Si(t); for any two elements with identical but opposite spin frequencies in a state of mutually non-intrusive interaction, if the near field intrusive interaction coefficient ku is less than 1, the optimum interaction state of both elements is a mutually intrusive one.

Unfortunately, this is only a conjecture and is unproven. Any implementation of this in a real life dating situation is entirely at the users’ risk.

How He Met My Mother


One Sunday in December of ’76 as the dry, dusty harmattan winds dumped a fine layer of dust on a sleepy village, two best friends who had not seen each other for the better part of three years were meeting up under the shade of a kola nut tree, squarely placed in the centre of the court yard of the unpainted cement building that housed one of the ruling families in a little village nestled underneath the overhanging rocks of the Somorika mountains.

The men in question had been partners in crime, as they painted the small village red a few years before. Forming a fearsome central defensive partnership, they had been the foundation of the all-conquering village football team. Women (and free kai-kai at the local drinking spots) were a few of the trappings this revered status brought them, and like all full blooded thirty-something males, they had milked their lofty status to the maximum. They also had the fortune in those days to have parents with some education, and thus had been pushed and prodded until they had completed their A-levels and gone on to University – Ai to UNILAG, and Og to UI.

Something though had happened in between – Ai had somehow acquired a worldview shattering transformation two years into his UNILAG experience, and had become rabidly spiritual, complete with speaking in tongues and the other trappings of militant charismatism. Og on the other hand had fallen in with the folks at the Student Union and had become a radical of his own, only with a more political slant.

Underneath the tree, the animated conversation slowly segued into an attempt to unpack the changes that had happened in their individual lives in the period they had not seen each other. Og was incredulous, and perhaps a little dismissive of the fact that a full blooded young man could suddenly become able to resist the lure of free women, beer, and a reputation for playing the town. Ai tried his best to explain the spiritual changes that had happened in his life, to little effect.

That innocuous conversation underneath a tree was the first step in a chain of events that would bring Ai in contact with a delectable lass from the village next door. Whilst visiting cousins in the village next door, Og was told about someone who had shattered academic records all her life, and was attending the University of Ife on a Federal scholarship. She also had a reputation for being a hard nosed SU member. The next time Og was in town, he asked to meet her, and when his missive was repelled with a stirring master class in evangelism, he mentioned he knew just the right bloke with enough spiritual fervour to match the young woman’s potency.

Two years later, Ai and said lass would get married in the local Anglican Church amid much pomp and pageantry- she swears the marriage register was signed at 11:36am; all he remembers is saying the I-do’s and whisking her off to a whole new life.

33 years, four children (less the one who the genes took), multiple quarrels (including at least one week where one party packed out of the house), and six academic degrees between them later, they are still together, reasonably happy and still share a laugh at Og’s antics. Somewhere in between they would become my parents.

The evening before…

The evening before the morning I am due to fly, I stay awake till the wee hours of the morning tossing and turning on my bed. There is the reality of the unfinished business between TheB and I that needs sorting out one way or the other; and that thought, scary as it is, leaves my mind accelerating into overdrive. These could potentially be game changing events I am about to unleash, if I grow the balls to go through with it. History suggests that it will be yet another dumb squib.. One way or the other, there has to be some clarity I reckon