Seasons of discontent, a Nigerian wedding and other musings


Although it is only September, there has been a certain nippiness to the last few Aberdonian mornings. If I believed the weather app on my phone – and the state of my ears when my brisk twenty minute walk ends with my bum at my office desk suggests that this is the case  – it has barely been warmer than 7 deg C on each of the last few mornings I have walked in to work. Besides the early morning chill, fall has remained frustratingly true to type; too warm to warrant breaking out the full shebang of a knee length winter coat, but yet too cold to be out and about with only a wind breaker for protection. If how many people already sport winter coats is anything to go by, I’m up there in the upper 10% in the hardiness stakes. When it slips out in an unguarded moment of banter with my mother, she thinks it is silly. I suspect all it will take to prove her right is coming down with the flu, if history is any judge, a clogged nose awaits me in the not too distant future.

One of those days, on my way back from work, I make a detour to the Co-op on Union to grab some mid-week groceries and end up running into an old acquaintance from a previous work project who has since moved on to other things. Hands filled with bags of fruit and all the other things a culinarily challenged single bloke stuffs himself with on a Thursday night, we stand just outside The Monkey House and chat. We eventually end up talking work, the people changes in my current neck of the woods and the prospects of pastures new further afield, and with almost his last words before he hops off in pursuit of his bus, he leaves me with a statement which is both true and depressing in equal measure; more depressing because a few weeks earlier a departing member of my work team – and there have been quite a few over this summer of discontent  – had said something similar in pretty much the same words.

Saturday brings some respite from the fall weather, and the sun peeks out long enough to brings some cheer and warmth. Encouraged by that, and enticed by the opportunity to eyeball dolled up bridesmaids, free food and hang with the lads, I make my way to the Music Hall to attend a wedding reception. The lad signing away his freedom is a friend from work, and if what we’ve heard is true, it promises to be a pretty massive celebration in the Egba tradition. After a close to two hour wait, we eventually gain access to the reception venue and find out I have the ‘misfortune’ of being sat at a table between my friend O, his friend K and two very married women with children. The closest thing to eye candy is a full table away, and is involved in a very animated conversation with a dapper bloke in a black suit and a bow-tie. When the party gets started it doesn’t disappoint. Each dignitary and family member introduced is led to the ‘high table’ with a song and a dance – the mother of the groom dances in from a side entrance to the rear of the hall before dancing all the way back up front and then onto her seat, flanked by her not inconsiderable entourage.  The bride and the groom dance in too, eventually, sashaying to a selection of songs topped off by the apt, if the worldview implications do not rile your sensibilities that is, P Square song  Chop my Moni. The rest of us with severely limited dancing abilities watch from afar and applaud the contortions and the agility with which they are performed, in what precious little space the various photographers and an iPad wielding family member afford us.

Food and drinks arrive in due course – catfish pepper soup chased down with apple juice and then a buffet of epic proportions containing rice in all shades and forms and – rumour had it – pounded yam and egusi soup for those in the know. The best man might have had a little too much to drink because when he kicks off the toasting his ramble segues into decidedly dodgy territory, the groom’s prior relationships and liaisons taking centre stage. He does recover gracefully though and completes the toast without spilling any salacious details.

It is a few minutes past seven pm when I nod my goodbyes to the people I have shared a table with, collect my things and head out on to the still relatively busy streets. There is a slight chill beginning to descend as sunset approaches and I stuff my hands in my pockets to keep them warm; my choice of a simple blazer proving not quite as wise as I’d thought at first. As I walk briskly down Union towards my simple lodgings, the one thought I have been trying to retrieve from the dark parts of my memory finally surfaces – it’s almost a year to the day since, running into today’s groom at a house warming party, he’d excitedly mentioned he’d met the One. As I recall, I had smirked inwardly at the time.

Breakfast (or a crappy ode to coffee)

For the prompt Breakfast at the Magpie Tales

Leger, Fernand breakfast-1921

Breakfast, 1921, Fernand Leger


hold your head-
steady between your hands;
bow your head
as though in supplication-
and let the strong,
sweet scent
slowly wafting up-
hit you.

see your face-
faint silhouette,
three day stubble,
matted hair-
and tired eyes
reflected in the cup
and bow in reverence
to its quickening

wrap your hands
around its base
and feel the warmth.
drink deep, swirl it’s dregs
in your mouth’s
and let the waves
of unfettered joy
course through your veins

give in –
and kneel
in full surrender
to the joy
of your dark,
black cup.

J. Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

WHEN MY MOTHER was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib’

So begins Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography, a meditation of sorts on growing up adopted and the descent into dystopia that was her childhood; spent growing up in a Pentecostal home being groomed to be a missionary. It is a childhood that is quintessentially evangelical, replete with very regular church meetings, Biblical literalism, corporeal punishment and a feening for the apocalyptic dawn of the next world to the detriment of the enjoyment of this one. Looming large in that phase of growing up is the image of her adoptive mother, a controlling creature, intensely fundamentalist and addicted to her cigarettes, who both in her quiet moments and in her moments of rage ruled the roost,with the young Jeanette and her adoptive father as collateral damage.  Being adopted, and the uncertainties this brings to family relations is a recurring motif in the book, and her successful search to find her birth mother takes us through an emotional wringer.

A few choice quotes:

On the waves of Pakistani immigration to the North West of England:

Then, as now, nobody talked about the legacy of Empire. Britain had colonised, owned, occupied or interfered with half the world. We had carved up some countries and created others. When some of the world we had made by force wanted something in return, we were outraged.

On forgiveness:

Happy endings are only a pause. There are three kinds of big endings: Revenge. Tragedy. Forgiveness. Revenge and Tragedy often happen together. Forgiveness redeems the past. Forgiveness unblocks the future.

On writing:

It took me a long time to realise that there are two kinds of writing; the one you write and the one that writes you. The one that writes you is dangerous. You go where you don’t want to go. You look where you don’t want to look.

In the end, she evolves into perhaps the antithesis of an evangelical missionary – she falls in love with a woman –  which prompts the statement from her mother which becomes the title of the book.

Listen to the Radio Open Source interview here.

Weekends of debauchery, blasts from the past and a return to a home of sorts

dominion theatre

Three quarters of the way through the year, I find I still have just under three weeks of holidays left – and that does not include the productivity black-hole that is the last week of December when all and sundry truly grinds to a halt. Once again, in spite of my plans to not be in this situation, I have ended up hoarding holidays again, the plan being to use them as a make weight in lieu of notice as my plan to swap cold, windy, Aberdeen for the slightly warmer, but more rural climes that are Kirkland Lake. The BossMan has made it clear there will be no carry overs this year, and he has made sure to ping the appropriate warning email in my direction  in addition to the automated ones sent by our holiday tracking software. All told after one too many reminders, I log on to Teamseer and fire off holiday requests for an extended weekend.

Newcastle, for all the right reasons, (NCLC, landmarks, relatively low costs and the friends I still have left there) usually comes up trumps whenever I have a few days to kill but the prospect of attending a buddy’s night out ends up being the final push that swings the pendulum firmly in favour of London. That, and the chance to catch Hillsong London for the first time since my all too brief appearance at the 10th year anniversary in 2010. With the luxury of a week to plan, I promise myself the mistakes from last time won’t be repeated. I book a flight to Heathrow with plenty of time to spare, and get a hotel in the Heathrow area to make sure I am well rested and primed up by the time the party gets swinging by 10pm. What I don’t bargain for is my topsy-turvy relationship with milky weak tea landing a sucker punch, one where I ended up passing so much gas I am doubled over in bed by 8pm, running to the loo every so often. Needless to say, all thoughts of partying fade to a distant memory as I try to wait out the diarrhoea. I wake up the next morning fully rested with a faint rumbling the only relic of my night of pain consoling myself at missing what arguably was the core reason for heading to London with the prospect of catching Hillsong London at the Dominion Theatre. Morning ablutions done and dusted, I plot my route on google maps and commence my eighty minute rigmarole via foot, bus and tube to Tottenham Court Road.

Hillsong – I arrive at 11.20am, shake hands with one of the welcome team dressed in black with dreads and a hint of an East African accent in the greeting he lobs in my direction through a plastered on smile and make my way up the flight of stairs to the back row where the remaining seats are. The kids are just heading off to children’s church and I squeeze myself past two women chatting excitedly oblivious of the goings on in front before I plod down besides them. The service is all I remember and have missed – rockish music, lights, great visual effects, MacBooks and iPads proudly displayed and jeans and t-shirts all round. Glyn Barrett from Manchester’s Audacious church brought the message on The Promise of God, somehow managing to throw in an anecdote from City’s sensational title win from last May and kissing a stranger’s sweaty, bald head.

Post Hillsong, I call up my friend O, and we arrange to meet up in the vicinity of the O2 Arena – another poignant place as it was here that the Hillsong 10th Anniversary was held. We grab lunch – I am famished and nearly dead on my feet – and watch Arsenal rip Liverpool to shreds  at Anfield in the league. Again, not since Newcastle have I watched a game in a pub.


I never got to see the buddy on whose account I came to London in the first place, but a bonus was running into one of the guys from my old Nigerian job. We got to swap stories about who was still with the company or not and all the shenanigans and hassles of being the Corrosion Engineer in a firm whose primary focus is producing oil and gas.


It is only a quick two day break, but the joys of no dishes, chillaxing and chocolate fudge cake have no compare, at least in my opinion.