Awkward conversations, proxy wars and the end of an era

In that productivity black hole that is the half hour before lunch – where the energy and the gusto from an early start have been steadily eroded by the mundanity of work and the insistent prattle of phone calls, emails and the odd buzz-word infested meeting – I stroll for the umpteenth time into the restroom, almost colliding with a man who is fiddling with the zipper on his fly. I least expect to find someone just inside the door, even though this time of the day is one where the restroom shuffle, coffee room trips and huddles of two and three in the hallway are time honoured strategies for the keen time waster.

Although he is as surprised as I am, he collects his wits much quicker than I do, explaining through a stutter that his zipper has somehow come unravelled. In the five-ish minutes I spend using the urinal and washing up my hands he struggles to restore the integrity of his fly with a safety pin. Just how he manages to have a safety pin in hand and to the rescue escapes me – something tells me that he’s had the safety pin in place for more than just this trip to the loo. I leave before he resolves his little problem thankful for the chance to escape the awkwardness engendered by restroom small talk.

el Madre, never one to shirk the opportunity to launch into a full frontal assault, appears to be learning in middle age that some subtlety – especially when it is related to her quietly stubborn brood – is the more likely weapon of choice for maximum impact. After the sustained attack that was the first half of 2011, she and I managed to have civil conversations through the back end of the year; ones which were largely successful in  avoiding the elephant in the room  – my perceived lack of application in resolving her grand child conundrum. In truth the attentions of a doting son in law, and a grand daughter who is quickly learning the tricks of playing adults against each other helped to keep her mollified. In tandem with her withdrawal, my uncle F has ratcheted up his interest, and he calls me one Monday morning lunch time to remonstrate with the newest prodigal in town. He is the one Uncle who has black sheep credentials, ones which he continually uses to press the case for a change of heart from yours truly.

On to Facebook on Monday night – boredom meeting a pining for just any conversation – and I end up talking with one of the lads from my class of 2009. He’s due out of the UK for good in a week’s time, his inability to get a sponsoring company putting paid to any furtherance of the dreams he once had. It turns out in the few months I haven’t been in touch with them three more of the lads have upped and headed back to Nigeria, one has acquired a Polish bride keen to enjoy the services of her black stud and one more has bitten the bullet and headed to Canada to reinvent his career. It is perhaps a testament to the harsh climes and how quickly time has passed by that my class of 2009 is light on the ground; with the bulk of us either back in Nigeria or weighing up Nigerian moves. It truly is becoming the end of an era, our era.

12 thoughts on “Awkward conversations, proxy wars and the end of an era

  1. hmmm, most Nigerians who finished from my school went back home. As for me..staying back is no do or die affair. I'm sure this romance with Western climes will soon be over 🙂

    p.s. You didnt offer to help him with the zipper .. awkward much?


  2. Sponsoring companies, do those even exist anymore? The have a recital catch- phrase these days called 'sorry', I'd love to go back home, when I do, I just don't wanna start back again where I began.


    1. I suspect it is a bad situation made worse by the changes – both proposed and already implemented. There has always been a reticence to take on fresh talent because they have to be trained up and will commit more than a few *faux paus* along the way. The smaller, service companies in my industry have historically being more lilely to hire younger people, who are increasingly more likely to be non- British in the science and engineering disciplines. They are the same ones who have been hit most by the reductions in the ability to sponsor people. As an aside, of the 40 plus people in the group I work in I am the youngest by six years – and I am definitely no spring chicken.

      A return to the organised bedlam that is Nigeria would be ideal – lower taxes, better pay (at least in my industry), the comfort of having friends, family and *hangers-on* around in copious numbers, and gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes – would make it a no-brainer nine times out of ten. However, if there is one thing I have learnt over the past eight-ish years, it is that the social context within which work occurs is nearly as important as the corporate culture that seeks to direct it. I suspect that the sort of responsibility – and autonomy – I have at work now might never have been handed to me if I'd remained in my Nigerian job. There were peculiar reasons that made that particularly so, one of which was the corporate need to justify having an expatriate-heavy technical organisation and a centralised engineering function from out of Houston. The Nigerian thing for respect and kow towing to the 'powers that be'
      allied with the corporate policy of placing too much power (in my opinion)

      in the hands of the first line supervisor meant that often people who

      prioritised technical excellence over ar*se kissing skills often found

      themselves with decidely sh**ty performance reviews.

      If you get the dream Nigerian job – I'd recommend it.. There'll always be a

      global market for skills… 🙂


      1. I graduated in 07 as an international student. Most of my African classmates and I thought it was really difficult to get a sponsor for work. Infact, every sorry response to a job application further cemented that belief. After 12 months of graduating, at least 80% of us were able to secure employment with work permits. Little did we know that those were the good years. Those were the years before the points based university sponsorship for visa applications, the good years before the economic recession, the good labour party years before the conservatives got into power. Now, I really don't know why people bother to come to the UK to spend all that money on education without the opportunity to have on the job experiences. A degree is as good as the paper its on. It's the work experience that turns that paper to a meaningful tool. Now that the UK government has taken away post study work opportunities, its only wise that prospective international students start to look elsewhere where all that education money will bring in good returns on investment


  3. aaah… I have missed your musings… let the bright lights not fool. a different shade of grass doesn't mean better, it just means different.


  4. First, why didn't you offer to help him with his safety pin? LMAO!!! Nice post oh. I don't think coming back to Naija is such a bad thing. There are actually lots of opportunities here and it's such a new market…if the security (among a million things) is resolved


    1. LOL.. One thought of the headlines in the Daily Mail with my name splashed across them when the next bloke through the door discovers my attempt to help is more than enough to put paid to any such humanitarian thoughts I might have had.. 🙂


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