Small Change #1 – Drink Up

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From the 52 Small Changes Book:

Water is the driving force of nature

– Leonardo Da Vinci

Or as Fela once famously sang, water no get enemy. 

Up until a month ago, Cokes were my default drink, in all its forms – diet, regular, zero and a few non conventional forms too [mixed with all sorts of other liquids], which is why this first small chnage will need some serious getting used to.

The Plan

  1. Replace coffees with green tea. Target is to scale back to one morning coffee each day at most.

  2. Buy a 1L stainless steel water bottle and keep it topped up at my desk through work.

  3. Straight off the bat, upon waking up, I will down a cup of water to kick start my day.

Simples 🙂

Currently listening to: You Are – Colton Dixon

Goings On: The almost botched birthday edition

I suppose there are worse ways to spend your birthday than being stuck behind a desk, being one of two members of the team available from a full complement of five, praying and hoping no emergency pops up requiring you to suit up and go offshore at short notice. Thankfully that, getting sent offshore, didn’t happen; and I had the pleasure of spending Friday away from work, catching up with myself…

First up was the movie 2 Guns, to set me off on an indulgent potter around the Beach Boulevard, ending up with a super-sized rib, chicken and shrimp meal at TGIFridays, the first time I was going back there since I kicked off my latest regime of healthy, smaller sized eating. Truth be told, much improved blood pressure readings from the GP’s gave me the latitude to wolf that down, and boy did I enjoy it.

I did manage to run into an old chum – odd given this was 2pm on a Friday, when he should have been at work.  It turned out it was a colleague’s birthday and they were out celebrating.

As birthdays go, the phone calls were the highlight. The god daughter F. called and sang me my very own ‘Happy Birthday’ song, complete with hip hip hip, hurray !, as did her Mum and Dad. Mum sent the predictable bible laced SMS, complete with an instruction to read and digest Matthew 6, Sis #1 called and put her 3 year old on the line too, Sis #2 BBMed, Kid Bruv Whatsapped, with a few back and forths. Such is my life, and the variety of interactions I have with my family.

All told, it could have been worse, the key thing was the introspection this has all kicked off. Hello the Year of Living Dangerously.

The List

As I think about the future Mrs S, the list becomes more and more condensed, shrinking to what I think are the 4+1 non-negotiables. This time I thought I’d give some thought to articulating a little bit more just what each of those non-negotiables translates to in plain English.. So here goes…

  1. A passion for God, children and a balanced Judeo-Christian worldview
    • Christian, serve in church in some capacity whilst not actively looking to go the whole hog of becoming a missionary to Nepal (trust me I’ve met someone who wanted to do just that). 🙂
    • Willing to explore the more liberal expressions of Christian theology (à la Hillsong/ other interdenominational churches rather than a typically Nigerian one).
  2. The same sense of long term direction
    • Has a defined life plan with targets over the next 5+ years that I can contribute to;
    • Considers the UK, US or Canada as home in the near to medium term at least;
    • Wants to have or adopt children (2 max)
  3. Great conversation
    • Someone interested enough in me to want to stay in touch;
    • Is able to converse on a range of issues and topics including football, faith/ worldview etc
  4. An appreciation of the arts
    • Reads and appreciates reading
    • Gets CCM and can relate to quite  few of the usual suspects (Hillsong, Delirious, Switchfoot, Audio Adrenaline, Third Day, Tenth Avenue North 🙂 )
    • Not opposed to catching a play at the opera or a movie from time to time.
  5. A compatible genotype

An English man abroad… Of sorts

coffee machine

Seems like you’re having a ball for one, the ginger haired man who had seemingly popped out of nowhere said to me as I attempted to retrieve my cup of tea, and turn around at the same time.

Epic fail. I managed to do neither, very nearly tipping my life giving cup of tea over in the process. I had been waiting on our epileptic coffee maker to finish pissing a shot of hot water into my cup, passing the time by whistling to myself and looking out with longing for the clear, sunny day that was out there, just beyond my reach for the next few hours.

The most I could do for a reply, given how startled by his sudden appearance I was, was to mumble something about TGIF counting for something at least, at which we both smiled.

It had been a relatively quiet Friday up until then – Fridays in the summer months tend to be like that on this current work gig as half the team takes alternate Fridays off. Thanks to the sunshine I had slipped into a reverie of sorts, mentally gearing myself up for a long and lazy weekend – hence my whistling – until said ginger haired man popped up and ruined my little party.

We ended up at the coffee table, I leafing through the Times Sports pages and he the Press and Journal. That was the little accident of happenstance that led to him asking me what part of Africa I was from.

Nigeria, I replied to which he flashed a satisfied, slightly smug – I thought – smile.

I very nearly guessed that! You seemed to have the two things I’ve come to expect from Nigerians – a great, happy personality and good English.

I laughed at that – pointing out that having to learn an official language does wonders for your ability, more so if it is the formal language of discourse between people from 252+ ethnic groups.

He nodded. Must be something having to manage all those ethnicities in a country that size.

I nodded in agreement, mentioning that in my home state of Edo, there were at least seven fairly distinct ethnic groups with numerous language and custom delineations within them.

It turned out that he’d never worked in Nigeria, despite having worked across the African oil patch from Algeria’s Hassi R’Mel, via a number of stints in Libya, Egypt and Angola to Esso’s Doba development across the border in Chad.

Missed opportunity pal! I told him. His response was a smile and then a slip into a slightly more reflective mood.

Nigeria never did work out for me. Had a few opportunities to work out of Calabar and Warri. Pay was great but the wife never was comfortable with the security situation.

We were quiet for a few minutes. Until he interjected, again.

I did work with a Nigerian bloke once – offshore Angola.

I looked up as he proceeds to reel off a tale about some bloke called Boma. They’d been drilling offshore Angola back in 2003 – Boma the drilling engineer aboard had shown up to a morning meeting late one day. The drilling supervisor had had a few choice words to say about him in his absence but Boma, ever the jovial, friendly chap had shrugged it off.

The drilling supervisor wouldn’t let up, leaving Boma with no choice but to pull a sheaf of papers from the side pocket on his coveralls.

You know, if I hadn’t stayed up late correcting your English, he told the drilling supervisor, I would have been here earlier. The man across the table from me swears the report was riddled with red ink. That definitely shut the drilling supervisor up for good he swears, to everyone else’s satisfaction. Said Supervisor had a reputation for being a right twat, apparently.

We fell silent for a few more minutes with only the rustling of the turning pages breaking our moment of introspection. After a while, he stood up, stretched and yawned.

Have to run off mate.

He extended his hand for a handshake as I made to leave also.

Iqbal’s the name. Yours is?

Seni, I replied, taking his outstretched hand. He must have spotted my furrowed brow as I tried to process the unspoken question – how did a very English man have a Muslim name, and live and work in Scotland.

Long story, mate. Short version is  I’m English and Muslim, the wife is Tunisian.

I nod as it finally sunk in. That might just have explained why after all his interest in African oil, he did not make a pit stop in Nigeria.

Of Journeys and returns

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London was warm, a tad too warm if the truth must be told. And dry – well, except for that wretched Saturday evening, which in keeping with my rotten luck with these things, was the one day I decided to be out and about into the wee hours of the morning. Other than that, the contrast with the ‘Deen couldn’t have been starker – wet, barely nudging 19 degree weather and warm, dry, 26 degree weather and sunshine, separated by the small matter of sixty five minutes of flying.

I had barely managed to catch my flight to London this time, ending up forgetting my Oyster card as I frantically tossed jeans, t-shirts, shoes and my trusty MacBookAir into my holdall after falling asleep in a state of turmoil. For the umpteenth time, an attempt to get a sit-down with S. failed collosally – it is slowly beginning to sink in that I may be barking up a wrong tree here. Five missed calls and two voice mails from my friend J., didn’t help soothe my mind either. I ended up soaking wet, at 7.20am, having walked the mile between my house and the train station to drop off a package for him. That early start also meant I skipped breakfast, which was why my first action after scaling baggage reclaim at Heathrow was to head off to the Giraffe for a coke and a sandwich. An hour later, I was seated on the Piccadilly line for Cockfosters, hoping to get off at Kings Cross

Across from me, a man sat, hunched forward, headphones in, swaying almost imperceptibly from side to side to whatever music he was listening to. His face had that calm, meditative mien of one at peace with the world and himself, his sandals, shorts and a simple t-shirt with ‘Chicago’ sprawled over the front somehow adding to the image of quiet, simple, acceptance. On the other side from him, an Indian woman sat, hands folded in her lap, eye shut as though fast asleep.

By the time we were past the Hatton Cross station, our carriage was standing room only. A woman and her daughter – she had on the most garish eye lash extensions I have ever seen – had joined the carriage, a family of five – a man, a woman, two teenage sons and a young daughter who could not have been more than seven or eight.

The heat wave had been all over the news – which had prepared me somewhat – leaving images of shirtless, pot-bellied hairy men on the underground seared deeply on my memory. As I hauled my stuff off at the Old Street underground station having switched over at King’s Cross, I was inwardly thankful for having avoided anything that dramatic.

hillsong_final

The main driver for London on this occasion was the Hillsong Europe Conference, and given how much anticipation I had had prior to actually flying, it didn’t fail to deliver. Making my way across the Northern line to London Bridge and then the Jubilee line to North Greenwich, there were dots of people clearly excited about what was coming. The sense of anticipation only heightened the closer one got to North Greenwich at which point just outside the O2 the lines had begun to form even before the scheduled 5.50pm front door opening.

Upon arrival, I joined the back of one of the lines as it inched slowly towards the doors where we were meant to swap our electronic tickets for wrist bands. Somewhere in between, I fell into conversation with a bloke who introduced himself as P. His story, as it spilled out, was one of deep desperation and sadness – apparently he was broke and needed a tenner to sort out a few bills. I ended up parting with £20. In retrospect, given how many names he dropped in the seven minutes or so we spoke for – including a few Nigerian ones – I may have been had; not that I minded much given how pumped up I was.

The conference itself was fab – Brian Houston’s call to embrace Holy Mystery rang very true with the stirring I’d been having about learning to not make everything about my ability to plan and anticipate problems. Judah Smith was funny as always, repeated a few of the jokes I’d heard since I’d committed to preparing for conference by listening to his church podcast but managed to place The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard  in a new light for me. Louie was Louie. #NuffSaid.  All told, it was well worth the money, time and energy expended, that I may have made a couple of new friends was a great bonus to tack on.

The one complaint my friends south of the border usually have is that I don’t come down as often as they might wish. Each trip thus tends to morph into an exercise in optimisation; trying to cram as many meetups into a weekend as possible.

I ended up not meeting Si. A combination of bad planning on my part and having to sort my bags out on Sunday morning at the Dominion meant the little window we had vanished quickly.

I did get to catch E. at Nandos on Friday, at the back end of the conference. And she was great company for what it was worth, at 11pm on a Friday night, clearly knackered from what had been a busy week for her.

My friend K. has always been my one counter cultural, rebel, overly liberal acquaintance – and when it was certain I would be in London long enough to meet up, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to. For starters we argued about where we’d meet – a Starbucks for coffee or a pub for drinks. We ended up at a pub somewhere around Old Street. We got on famously, no issues there,; I ended up accompanying her in the piddling rain as she burnt through three fags in the 2 hours and some we’d spent.

These jaunts are usually incomplete without the obligatory airline gaffe. This time, my flight from Heathrow ended up delayed by an hour and thirty minutes. The culprit, a stuck partition between first class and economy.

SMH.