I chalk it up to the much vaunted persistence of vendors, when T. insists on coming into the office to drop off documents that require my assent rather than pop them in the mail. Part of me is more than mildly irritated at his insistence, given how much I have got on my plate at the moment – and the hour or so I will have to carve out of my day to attend to him. He comes bearing gifts, two large, sturdy umbrellas with alternating green and white panels; splashed with a large copy of his company logo. That does little to mollify me, but I manage to be courteous enough to make small talk and have a quick whiz through the documents I need to sign off. Just before he leaves, he enquires about the potential for future work, a subject I am unwilling to discuss given the state of the industry. When it is time to go home later that day, I leave the umbrella, that decision my nod to its unwantedness.

A few days later, the bright lunch time sunshine – deceptively sunny is how we choose to describe these days, given how one is always only a misstep into the shadows of wincing at the bitter cold – morphs into a deluge. In three or so hours, it rains enough to flood the street; the drains overpowered by the burst of rain. I still insist on leaving my umbrella, believing that my wind breaker and hood would do me just fine, until just before I step out of the back door a fresh gust of rain convinces me otherwise. That makes up my mind for me, as I grudgingly walk all the way back in to pick up my unwanted umbrella.

That unlikely sequence of events – a vendor visit, the gift of an unwanted umbrella which I leave at work and a fresh gust of rain just when I am about to leave – is what leads to me standing next to a petite woman who is wet to the skin at the corner of East North Street, waiting for the lights at the pedestrian crossing to change. I catch her eye, and seeing how wet she is offer her the cover of my umbrella. She accepts, and I end up walking the short distance until she has to turn off to her house with her.

Just before we split up, she asks if I am Nigerian, when I hesitate, she adds that the green -white-green umbrella is what makes her ask. I confirm I am, but explain that the umbrella was a gift, an unwanted one at that and that if the rain hadn’t had chosen the exact moment I was heading out of work to dump a fresh load, we might not have had an umbrella to share.

Just how fortuitous it all is is not lost on her, I suspect I feel the same way.

A Year of Living Earnestly…




Three chance occurrences over the space of the last month have done a lot more to unsettle me than anything else in the year so far. Not in a bad way by any chance, but in an ask-myself-hard-questions way. Of the myriad of questions bobbing around in my mind, ones that relate to authenticity, passion and faith and how these can be melded into a coherent practice have come to the fore, inspired by how the people in question are doing life in their real worlds, leaving marks in ways I can only aspire to at this stage.

The first of these was stumbling on @IntensivEpicure‘s spiel for the WA Awards Video in which she talked about a range of issues affecting perceptions of successful women. That chance click led to another and then Google from where a truly fascinating story unfolded; one that took in UNILAG, Harvard, ten years and then a return to the bedlam of Nigeria.

A few days later, a chance conversation with a friend of a friend somehow segued into a critique of life in our corner of the world and our lack of viable love interests. Somewhere in all that, a name popped up, of someone who now lived down south in a corner of England my traipsing had yet to lead me to. Egged on by curiosity, I ended up on Google again, from where I ended up on a church pod-cast site, listening spell bound to this message on singleness. Well worth a listen – it opens in a new window – if I say so myself.

And then there was Jürgen Klopp, whose arrival on Merseyside has us Liverpool fans – real, arm chair or pretend ones – buzzing again. The press conference at which he was unveiled, was a tour de force of hope, joy and anticipation. He does of course have pedigree, having delivered success on what was comparatively a shoe string budget at Dortmund, but peppering his answers with words like intensity, emotion and passion did his image no harm at all.

One of the things I have struggled most with over the past year is regaining the sense of focus that defined my early years, which is perhaps why reading and listening to people such as those I stumbled on over the past few weeks – and I would add Louie Giglio, John Piper and Francis Chan to that list – puts these questions front and centre in my mind. That some of the most important influences in my life from growing up are people who were incredibly passionate about what they did; such as G & H from children’s Sunday school, DEL and MK from work, has only served to reinforce the sense that I am missing something by simply coasting along.

No where at the moment is the lack of passion and earnestness more visible in my life at the moment than in my spiritual practice. Although ebbs and flows here have been part and parcel of my experience, in my quiet moments there is a deep dissatisfaction with where things are – and have been for far longer than I’d care to admit.

I’d like a year of tearing everything up and beginning again, of focus – of living earnestly and intentionally, one which includes more praying, more meditating, more reading and more engaging with the thorny issues bobbing about in my head. Like Francis Chan puts it:

I want to fight, I want to know that I am battling and doing something with my life. There’s a joy of a soldier walking out of a battle all bloodied up and cut up because he went and did something. This Christian life is very difficult sometimes, but even in that suffering, it’s something we desire, that we want to rescue, that we want to be part of this battle.


In chess:

a situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage.

In real life:

a situation in which one realises that life is speeding by in a state of unstable equilibrium with all the possible moves only likely to lead to more instability, or possibly a catastrophic event…

The solution? To stop, tear everything up and begin again… Maybe..

Letter from St John’s – The wrap


The view from 26F as we descended towards St John’s International was great, not particularly dissimilar to what one might see at a similar stage of the journey towards Aberdeen, the West Coast of Scotland or Ireland; which must now be a travel objective for me over the next few years.

Once safely parked and disembarked – to 19°C weather – my first impressions of the airport were of how hastily put together it all seemed, with construction continuing in various parts. That lent a rustic, uncomplicated – perhaps even idyllic – air to everything, the sort of chilled, back water one might go to escape the lures of technology.  Before travelling I had searched extensively for a duty free shop at YYT, walking the short distance to the arrivals terminal made the reasons for my futile googling apparent.

As my flight was only an A319, and a barely half full one at that, the line in to the immigration and customs desk was not particularly long. With no distinction between Canadian passport holders, permanent residents and international visa arrivals like myself, things moved fairly quickly and it soon became my turn to approach the desks and have my passports looked at. Upon presenting my passport the officer at the desk asked a few questions; why I was in town (to see my brother), what did he do (studied previously but now works), where he studied and what I did myself.  The atmosphere was one of civil discourse, a far cry from the tense, emotionally charged one around passport control at Heathrow. How much of that was due to the much talked about mild temperament of Newfoundlanders or the smaller volume of passengers the airport handles remains to be seen, but what I realised – and made a mental note of for next time – is that sticking with the simple ‘Engineer’ answer when asked what I did was far more sensible than going for the full fat, tongue twister – Corrosion and Materials Engineer which is usually my standard answer.


St John’s appeared to be a city in bloom – at least to my first time visitor eyes. In addition to work on the airport, whole new blocks of housing have sprung up over the past few years, with a lot more construction ongoing. That much was visible as we sped away from the airport towards the corner of the city in which my brother lives. The similarities with Aberdeen bear repeating – in many senses both are historical fishing outposts that have grown and diversified off the back of offshore oil and gas. For St John’s the future looks even brighter, if the noises coming out of an independent review of the offshore acreage is to be believed. In addition to the flagship developments of Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova, recent estimates indicate volumes in the region of a further 12 billion barrels of oil to be extracted, certainly one to keep an eye on for my next move if I decide I have had enough of treading water in the North Sea.


The next day, belonged to the water front. After a few frantic google searches to find the lowest priced boat tour, we finally settled on Iceberg tours and booked a ride for two. It was too late in the tour season to be guaranteed a whale or puffin sighting or an iceberg for that matter but we decided to do it anyway for the sights of the city we would get from the sea. At the front desk, whilst chatting with the chap in the booth, I asked about getting screeched – from which it transpired he was/is originally from England. He promised to ask before we board if an official ceremony could be organised whilst we are out at sea. As we boarded, the Captain, gave his spiel – with great wit and sarcasm – about the safety features and what to expect. Having boarded and as final preparations progressed, I cast my eye across the motley crew of people assembled – all largely in good spirits and up for the adventure, save for a young woman who appeared unwell. It turned out much later that she had had too much fun on George Street the night before, her apparent unease the remains of a most monumental hangover.

The weather was great, blue skies a rarity for this time of the year, the Captain mentioned as he rambled on with his narrative piece, the complement to the visuals we were taking in. Much like Aberdeen, St John’s is a supply base for the offshore industry, which was why as we pulled out of the harbour, we passed a number of supply boats bearing the Maersk imprint in various stages of loading and unloading. Just before we slipped out finally, we got a good wave from Mr Pearcy as we passed his place on the outer battery. Over the course of the next two hours we passed a number of other landmarks; Signal Hill (where Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal), Cape Spear, Dead Man’s Cove to name a few. I did get screeched, an ‘official’ certificate welcoming me from the Royal Order of Newfoundland Screechers proof of the pudding.

On Sunday we popped into P.’s church, a small but rapidly expanding one on Peet Street. Largely African, the enthusiasm and joy were obvious as always, as was their commitment to engaging their local community. Being the anniversary of their first service added to the atmosphere of gaiety and celebration. After church I got to meet a slew of P.’s friends which reassured me he was in safe, good hands, and that his existence was not as banal as mine on the other side of the Atlantic.


Over the course of the next few days we took in visits to the University’s Botanical Gardens, the Geo Centre with its models of Hibernia and the Titanic story, walked (a short section of) the Signal Hill trail  where we got to pretend to fire the cannons and wrapped up everything by attending a small reception in honour of J and C’s marriage.

All told, it was a great time to be in St John’s with good weather on most of the days – dry and sunny with temperatures between 5°C and 10°C degrees but with a number of days with temperatures in the high ‘teens and even a 24°C day. The people I met seemed chilled, and friendly enough, as evidenced by the number of people who nodded as we passed them or who came over and said hi as we passed each other in parking lots.

The facts are what they are – my ten day sojourn in this corner of the world is over, gone with only the memories to hold on to. I never got to see Bell Island, but given what I have heard, it will probably make a lot more sense as part of a larger group. George Street, and the prospect of a proper Irish pub – I hear Shamrock Cafe is a must do – are delights I didn’t get to explore this time out. Between the missing bits of the experience I need to fill and the bright future for oil and gas, I suspect I will be here again many times over the next few years. Who knows, maybe even semi permanently, if the stars (and the opportunities) align.