On A Return to the Reassurance of Routine

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

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In the early hours of the holiday season, it looked like I would spend the bulk of it virtually, the hours a blur of Zoom and WhatsApp video calls. Sometime on the 26th though, my luck changed. I woke up to the persistent sound of my door buzzer. I was half minded to not answer it, given multiple experiences with the gardening folk looking for more work. The door ringer wouldn’t leave and I needed to return to sleep so I dragged myself downstairs to the door. A pleasant surprise greeted me there; the neighbour from a street over stood there with a tub of fried rice and a bottle of wine – of the non-alcoholic kind of course. As it turns out, he remembered there was a lone Nigerian dude across the road with no family nearby and thought to extend some Christmas cheer my way. The rice and meat were wolfed down over the course of the day, saving me the hassle of wondering what to have on the day. Two more invites came my way over the next few days, resulting in my wolfing down some pounded yam and afang soup (the first time since my Eket days) and some pepper soup and snails on the other day. For all my quibbles with being a prodigal Nigerian, and being around Nigerians, moments like these remind me that redemption lurks in there somewhere. My experiences of fellow prodigals have been overwhelmingly positive. I wonder though, if they are a self-selecting group.

The three or so days of downtime ensured my year in reading has gotten off to a steady start. Last year was the first time since 2011 that I cracked the 20 book barrier, most definitely an upside to being out of work for three months, and the lock down. Adam Gopnik’s A Thousand Small Sanities, a stirring defence of big L Liberalism is done whilst I have David Olusoga’s Black &British, A Forgotten History and Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Big Country on the go.

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Nothing jolts one back to reality like a 4.30am alarm on the day you return to work though. As I scrambled through my morning routine – a quick 5k, setting up my day in Notion, morning ablutions and then jumping on to the bus, it seemed like I was another person watching me go through the motion. Only when I had reset my password, downed two cups of tea and properly positioned my bag of wipes did it feel like I was properly at home at my own desk again. Who knew that the familiarity or routine could soothe the mind?

Recent Finds

  • Talking to yourself is not half bad. I knew I was on to something!
  • I’ve been catching up on my Desert Island Disc backlog. I found Cliff Richard’s one particularly interesting
  • The dearth of British Asian footballers in English football is a recurring motif which I suppose prompted the BBC to research the story of Jimmy Carter. This resonated particularly, I suspect, because I have reading David Olusoga’s book which includes stories of the Black British Victorians such as Francis Barber whose descendants may or may not know of their Black heritage. The accompanying BBC Series is on iPlayer for another 5 months it seems.

21. Routine


Two mornings during a typical work week, I make a pit stop at the Starbucks in Union Square.

Over the course of the last year, it has become apparent that quite a few people have a similar routine. I now recognise — and share the odd nod with — an older gentleman who usually arrives at the same time I do and unfailingly buys an espresso machiato which he proceeds to nurse for all of thirty minutes before shooting off to what I assume must be work.

On most days, three young gents also make an appearance, often laughing as they arrive then ordering a mix of venti lattes and then having a natter. I imagine they work around the corner from Union Square; they fit the profile of young, upwardly mobile Engineering-affiliated folk.

A mix of characters makes an appearance now and again, folk nursing drinks whilst waiting to catch a train from the station next door or others killing time before meetings I assume. On my part, I am usually nursing a large black americano in a to-go cup, the to-go cup allowing me the flexibility to leave when I feel like I have arrived at my optimum state.

I’d like to think that these morning pitstops are my little rage against the machine of work, a small ritual of cleansing that allows me get some me time for catching my breath and clearing my head before popping into the hurly-burly of work.

A routine, or a ritual? Is there even a distinction between both? I suspect I couldn’t care less, all that matters to me is that I arrive at work clear headed, ready to face whatever it is gets thrown in my direction on the day.