The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

How do you measure a year?

It is the end of the year 2013. A year. A measurement of time. How do you measure a year? Twelve months? Fifty-two weeks? Three hundred and sixty-five days? Eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours? Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes? I am choosing to measure mine in friendships.

Some friends visited a few days ago. They brought us flowers. White lilies, still in their buds. I put them in a vase with some water. Lilies 1Since then, they have slowly been unfurling into full bloom. They remind me of some of Jesus’ words in the famous Sermon on the Mount.

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27- 29.

I have been ruminating about friendships. When it comes to making friends, I tend to dive right in. A few interactions with someone are enough to convince me to forge ahead in pursuing a friendship with them. Sometimes, my impulsiveness pays off and deep, lasting friendships are formed. Other times, I get my fingers bitten and realise that I have been naive and presumptuous.

Friends can be gifts, filling your space with joy and energy. Like well-tended plants. But here is the thing, I am not green-fingered. Plants do not thrive in my hands. I seem to have come wired with the ability to wither the hardiest of plants. Yet, I appreciate their beauty.

Some plants are delicate and need a lot of attention, watering, weeding, pruning. Others are robust, rugged. They thrive with little or no input.

Some friendships require a little more nurturing, regular contact, phone calls, emails, texts etc. They may not die off without these but they certainly do not do as well as with them.

Then there are those friendships like climbing plants. They need a framework to grow on.  Their stems possess little ability to bear any weight yet are very tensile and have considerable strength. This kind has the tendency to weigh you down, sapping your very essence, constantly taking, hardly ever giving.

Yes, friendship is a bit like plants. Some spring up as soon as you meet. A connection is made and weathering every storm, the friendship thrives and grows stronger, irrespective of distance, space and long absences. A garden is all the more beautiful for having different kinds of plants in it.

I have been blessed by the gift of different kinds of friendship. These beautiful plants that brighten the garden of my life with bold splashes of colour.

And so, as 2013 draws to an end, here, my dear friends, here’s to you, to those who have gone ahead and to our friendship!

Seasons of Love” is a song from the Broadway musical Rent, written and composed by Jonathan Larson. This cover is from the third episode of the fifth season of Glee, The Quarterback, as a tribute to Cory Monteith and his character Finn Hudson.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Christmas eve

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Clement Clarke Moore.

Yawa don gas Part 2

“Johnny, abeg nor vex. Di story long but I nor go fit meet you today. We fit arrange for weekend?”

“Weekend ke? Di girl dey here wit me now, you dey talk weekend. Abeg nor fall my hand o!”

“Ah, you for tell me na. I tink say na just me and you go yarn today, then arrange to meet am. I no get money for trans.”

“See dis guy o! You be learner? You no get Oyster card?”

“Oh boy, nor vex na. I get, di ting just mess me up big time. How we go do with di babe? I fit talk to am for phone?”

“No o. You know as dis oyinbo people be.” Johnny come quiet small, e be like e dey tink. “Ok, drop, make I talk to am, explain the situation, see wetin she go talk. I go call you back.”

“Ok, no yawa. Thank you.”

As I drop phone, I begin waka go back house. E bin don tay when I pray but if you see di way I begin beg God say make e just help me for dis matter ehn, you go tink say na me be pastor. I begin quote Bible. Then my phone ring, na Johnny again.

“My guy, e be like say your juju strong well-well. Di babe talk say she nor even need to meet you sef, say make we arrange everything, tell am date, she go meet us for court.”

I nearly drop for phone, I nor fit believe say e go easy reach like dis. I come tell God thank you for my mind.

“Talk true.” Small-small doubt come dey enter my mind. “You sure say di girl no be 419?”

“You nor trust me? No worry, she dey ok. I go arrange everything for you. I go text you di girl bank details. She say she go take 1k upfront, then di balance after everything don complete.”

“Ah, Johnny, God go bless you well-well. Thank you o.”

“No worry na, you be my main man.”

***

Johnny send me di babe bank details. E tell me say di babe don dey rake, wan vex nor do again. E talk say di babe say unless I pay di full amount, she go waka. Me sef I begin vex, I tell Johnny say make she go, we go find anoda pesin. Johnny beg me say make I cool down. E advise me to pay the whole £1,500. Me sef, I come tink am. I don dey dis matter of kpali almost three years now. I dey live like rat. Every time I hear siren I go dey wonder whether na me dem dey find. I nor fit find better work, na only boy-boy work wey I fit do. I don dey save all dis time for opportunity like dis. Now when e don come make I no take vex spoil am. Na im I come gree for di babe tell Johnny say I go pay all di money.

Fear no gree me do online transfer before somebodi go tell me say di money nor reach di account. £1.5k nor be beans. I waka go bank wit di money wey I withdraw from my branch, pay am to teller, collect receipt. After that last time wit di Oyster card, I keep di receipt for inside my wallet. I no wan hear story. I call Johnny to ask am to confirm wit di babe say she don get di payment. E say e go call am then get back to me.

Na so I wait taya, no call from Johnny. I come begin panic. When I call am, di number dey unavailable. See me, see trouble. Our people talk say, “siddon look na dog name.” Me I no be dog, na im I come decide to go Johnny house go wait am, after all agaracha must to return. When I reach di house where Johnny dey share with like eight other people, na big house sha, dem tell me say Johnny don pack comot. Cold begin catch me even though sun bin dey shine well-well.

I confuse. Dat money na all my savings since three years from all di yeye work wey I do, dey chop insult on top. I nor even know how to reach di babe as I nor get her number. I dey tink wetin I go do, I nor look as I dey cross road. Na im I hear motor as e try to brake, come feel myself dey fly for air like bird. After dat, I nor remember anything till I wake up for inside hospital bed.

As I try open eye, I hear one voice, “Oh good, you’re awake now. Are you in pain?”

Na di nurse. I try to answer am but my throat dry like sahara desert.

“Don’t try to talk. Here, drink this, the doctor will be in to see you soon.” She help me siddon for di bed, come give me tablet and water wit for inside plastic cup. Na dat time I come notice say my left leg dey inside POP.

As di nurse comot di room go call doctor, I begin look around. Four bed dey inside di ward but na only me dey occupy bed. I begin wonder how I go take pay the hospital bill on top of the money wey I don already loss.

E nor too tay when di doctor come. But no be only am follow. Two police follow, one man and one woman. Two other men wey wear suit follow too. Their suit be like something wey carpenter sew. Even if pesin dash me sef I nor go wear. Before I fit wonder wetin all of dem dey find, doctor begin explain my condition. E tell me say I dey very lucky say I nor injure pass dis. E say I break my leg and e go dey inside di POP for six weeks. Apart from that, e say na just small-small wound where my skin scratch comot as I land for di coal tar. E talk say e go discharge me the next day. E tell me say as na pesin jam me, I get to make statement to di police and say di two other men na lawyer before im waka comot leave us.

Fear dey catch me to talk to police but I understand di reason why dem come but di lawyer nko? Wetin be their own for here? Na so I begin wonder which kain trouble I don enta wey lawyer find me. Whether na di arrangee wey Johnny plan for me? Abi na Johnny nor pay di babe na im she send lawyer to find me? Na so headache begin worry me from all di question inside my head.

As I bin dey give police dem my statement, na so my voice just dey shake.

“Take your time, Mr Johnson. Tell us everything you can remember.” Dem bin dey reassure me, dem nor know di ting wey dey do me. “Whatever information you can provide will help us track down the hit-and-run driver.” Anyway I tell dem di one wey I remember. Dem give me card, ask me to call dem if I remember any other ting before dem comot.

“Mr Johnson, I’m Chris Hudson and this is my colleague, Michael Price. We’re from Injury Lawyers 4 ‘U’. We help victims of accidents get compensation on a no-win no-fee basis.”

Excitement begin bubble for my chest but I just calm make I dey sure wetin dem dey talk. “Ok?”

“If you’re happy for us to represent you, we can guarantee compensation of up to £17,000.”

As I hear that one, I nearly jump comot for di bed begin dance Azonto. I tell them say I gree make dem represent me na im dem give me form make I sign. I sign dem quick-quick. E be like say God don butter my bread back and front.

***

Two months don pass since I comot hospital. Doctor don comot di POP. Di leg dey heal small. My lawyers dem help me take my case go court. Dem warn me say insurance companies dem no like to pay out money, say dem go look for every excuse not to pay. Dem ask me whether I don commit any crime or whether police don arrest me before as that one go disqualify me. I lick my finger, point to the sky, swear to God say I never commit any crime.

Anyway, I win di case but the judge say im go give im ruling in two weeks’ time. Every day, I dey wait make the lawyers dem send me letter to tell me how much the judge award me for my compensation. Na so, this morning, letter land.

I read di letter again. I don already read am many times but I no fit believe wetin I dey see. £20,000! Na im be how much the court talk say dem go pay me for di accident. Di lawyers go collect 25% for their fees but I go still get £15k.

Come and join me sing halleluyah, Jehovah Jireh has done me well.” Na so I dey sing, dey dance for inside my flat. I begin tink of all di tings wey I go fit take di money do. I don dey plan how I go go shopping buy myself beta cloth. I don dey calculate how much I go send to my mama and brodas for Naija. My belle just dey sweet. Finally, after all di suffer wey I don suffer for dis Jand, my own dey better.

When pesin begin bang for door, I nor answer, I tink say na my panla neighbour. I continue to do dey sing and dance. Na when I hear, “Mr Johnson, open the door, it’s the police,” na im I know say wind don blow, fowl yansh don open.

I open door. I nor even fit count how many police dem dey there. All of dem wear bullet-proof.

“Mr Johnson?”

“Yes, that’s me.” Before I fit say ‘Jack Robinson’, dem jack me up, turn me around, put handcuffs for my hand, anoda one chain me for leg.

“Mr Johnson, I am arresting you for overstaying your visa and remaining in the country illegally. You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defense…” I no fit listen again. Blood rush go my head, e be like say my heart dey beat inside my ear. As dem push me go di van, I begin cry. Chei! My £15k don go be dat. Na im I know say true true, oturu beke, yawa don gas.

Yawa don gas Part 1

One early mor-mor like dis, when I don enter gear 5 for inside sleep, I begin dey dream beta dream. For di dream, I win lottery. As I dey smile, dey pose with my big 3 million pounds sterling cheque for di paparazzi dem, their camera just dey flash kpa, kpa, kpa, na im my phone come begin ring, grin-grin, grin-grin! I wake up, come realise say na dream. I vex ehn. As I look di phone, na my friend, Johnny number. Mscheew!

Na wetin make Johnny dey call me dis early morning na? I nor pick up di phone. I close eye again, whether I go fit dream di dream again. Whossai? Na so phone ring again. I pick di phone begin shout.

“Johnny, you no see di time?”

” Ah, you dey sleep?”

“Bishop burn, you dey ask whether im bia bia burn too. You no dey sleep? Wetin make you dey call me dis early mor-mor? Pesin die?”

“Na wa for you o. If no be say I like you, I for don drop since. Mscheew.”

“Na you sabi.”

“No be your fault sha. Anyway, you dey near your computer?”

“Shay na from sleep you wake me, which one you dey ask me whether I dey near computer?

“Pipe down abeg, na beta ting I wan share. I don find one babe wey ready to take only one-five for dat ting.”

As I hear “one-five”, sleep comot my eye quick-quick. “You say wetin?”

“I say dis babe go collect only one-five for dat ting. E nor go too tey for you to collect kpali. I go send you email wit all di details dem.”

As Johnny dey talk, na so all my hope begin rise. Excitement catch me sotay I tell am say make we hook up later so we go fit yarn di matter well. E don too tay when I dey try to sort out dis my matter.

As I dey baff make I go meet Johnny, na so I begin sing all di praise and worship song dem wey I remember from di time when I dey go church wit my mama when I small.

“Jesus na bigi man, Jesus na bigi man, who no know am call small boy, Jesus na bigi man, who no know am call am small boy.”

“He’s a miracle-working God, He’s a miracle-working God, He’s the Alpha and Omega, He’s a miracle-working God.”

“When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. So I say, Up, up Jesus, up, up, Jesus.”

“People dey ask me say, wetin dey me shine, I just dey tell dem say, na Jesus dey make me shine.”

Na so I sing sotay my oyinbo neighbour, dat one wey lepa like panla, wey trouser no gree stay for waist as no yansh to hold am, begin knack hand for wall dey shout, “Shut the fuck up!” I bin no even realise say my voice loud like that. Na so di happiness bin dey do me. I no answer am, which one consign agbero wit overload? I just wear my cloth waka comot house.

I reach bus stop dey wait bus 472 to meet Johnny for Woolich. Other people too dey wait for bus but me, I no look anybody face. One woman get small pikin for inside pram. I look di pikin, then I smile. Na im di pikin begin cry, dey scream. Kai, na so my face wor-wor reach? Di mama eye me well-well. E give am toy, pikin troway di toy. E give am feeding bottle, pikin no gree suck. I pity di woman but I no talk anything. I just comot face, dey mind my business jejely. Na so oyinbo people dey do for Jand. Nobody dey look anybody for face, nobody dey greet. Me sef I no send, I no kukuma like wahala. Before I go enter trouble when I dey try help person.

As we dey wait bus, na im police car come stop in front of di bus stop. I no know wetin make dem stop for there but na so my heart come begin beat fast like drum, even Ekpo Calabar for nor fit dance to di beat. Di kain fear wey catch me ehn, I nearly piss for pant. As di police dem come dey approach di bus stop, I begin call Blood of Jesus! for inside my mind, outside I dey form cool. I wan begin tear race, before one guy wey bin dey stand near me begin run, di police dem begin chase am. Kai! No be me dem bin dey find. I nearly begin dance Kukere, I just hold myself, I nor wan do crase man for bus stop. E no too tay before di bus come arrive.

As I enter bus, I wave my Oyster card for the machine. Di machine nor beep. I wave am again. No way. I try am again, whossai, nothing happen. Na im di passenger dem wey dey for my back begin complain. I shift make dem pass. When everybodi don climb enter finish, I try di Oyster again. No show. Na im driver tell me say either I pay di fare wit cash or I come down from di bus. I never see dis kain embarrassment before. I no hold any cash so I get to drop from di bus. Di other passengers just dey look me, some dey pity me, others just dey laugh. Kai, I don suffer.

I stand for di bus stop dey tink how manage di card nor gree work. Something wen I top up with £10 just two days before and I never use am since then. I tink am o but I no fit imagine how di money don finish. Di only way to find out na to go back to di corner shop for where I do di top up.

As I begin waka, na im rain begin fall. I nor hold umbrella. Rain wey never fall for London since sotay gofment declare hose pipe ban, na today e decide to fall. Di rain sef, nor be even dat one wey dem dey call ‘light showers’. Dis one na original thunder storm with lightning and heavy breeze. By the time I reach di corner shop, I be like someting wey cat reject.

I enter di shop come tell di shop assistant say my Oyster card wey I top up for here two days ago nor gree work. E ask me whether I get receipt. I tell am say I nor get di receipt but na here I dey always top up. E say nothing e fit do unless I bring receipt as proof say na here I buy am. We come begin dey argue. Na so our two dey shout before e talk say if I nor comot di shop e go call police. As soon as e talk dat one, e be like say pesin pour me cold water for bodi. Di vex wey I bin dey vex just evaporate. I run comot, nor be sake of £10 I go enter police trouble. Nor be di shop keeper fault, na condition na im make crayfish bend.

By dis time, rain don stop. Sun dey shine sef. Dis London ehn, e be like say di weather get schizophrenia. One minute, rain go dey fall like no tomorrow, di next minute, sun go begin shine. Na wa. As no way for me to take trans go meet Johnny, I call am to try arrange anoda day.

“My guy, I dey here dey wait you. Wetin happen na?”

A quick trip to the Supermarket – First world problems

I made what I planned would be a quick stop at the supermarket this morning to pick up two items, Ribena and some ham. Tesco-LogoAs the automatic doors of my local Tesco Extra swung open ushering me into the world of retail excess, I remembered that we are on our last tube of toothpaste. Since I had not written a list, I chanted the three items in my head over and over again so I would not forget any.

Three small items do not require a trolley but I was feeling lazy and could not be bothered to carry a basket. So I grabbed a trolley and went into the store. I usually have a knack for picking out trolleys with wobbly wheels which make me look like I am trying to steer a 10-tonne articulated lorry. But this trolley worked like a charm, it actually went in the direction I pushed it.

Heading to the oral hygiene aisle, I spotted the greeting card aisle. The following occurred to me in this order;

  • today, the 20th of November is exactly a month to Christmas day.
  • the boys will want to give their teachers Christmas cards.
  • there is usually a shortage of teacher Christmas cards in the run-up to the end of term.
  • now would be a good time to grab them and avoid the disappointment of not finding any later.

So I made a quick detour and searched for the cards. I saw cards for mums, dads, grandparents, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, boyfriends, girlfriends and several others but none for teachers. I walked up and down the aisle but still could not find them. I asked a member of staff who was stacking the shelves with birthday cards if they had any Christmas greeting cards for teachers. She took me to where she remembered seeing some but could not find any. She apologised for their absence. I told her not to worry I would come back another time. So much for beating the rush to the teacher greeting cards.

Aquafresh plainI carried on to get some toothpaste. On the oral hygiene aisle, I went to get our usual brand of toothpaste, Aquafresh, plain and simple Aquafresh, the original fresh and minty flavour but I could not find any. There were various other flavours promising heaven and earth but none of the one I wanted including;

Aquafresh

  • Aquafresh Extreme for pure breath
  • Aquafresh Active for fresh breath
  • Aquafresh High Definition White (High Definition? Is it a television?)
  • Aquafresh Triple Protection for cavity protection. Cleans with calcium*
  • Aquafresh Multi Active, Antibacterial Action

How very exhausting and frustrating! In the end I gave up and left for the cooked meats aisle. I found the ham without much ado and moved on to get some Ribena. This is where things went downhill. My quick stop turned into a major shop and my steely resolve against retail advertising strategy crumbled into helpless capitulation. You see, between the cooked meats and squash aisles are many other aisles lined with shelves laden with items I somehow managed to convince myself that I absolutely needed.

Shower gel, chicken legs, frozen spinach, frozen mixed veg, chips, chicken stock cubes, milk, spaghetti, rice, mushrooms, bell peppers, apples. Slowly but surely, the trolley filled up. By the time I picked up the Ribena and paid, the trolley looked like this. A-supermarket-trolley-ful-001-480x288

I left the store with a full trolley, a dent in my wallet, a determination to do better next time and a lesson learned.

Though I learned this lesson at a great cost, I will share it with you, free of charge because I am generous, because I care deeply and because I do not wish to help enrich Tesco and similar retailers any more than absolutely necessary. So here are a few tips to save you from making the same mistake;

  • Always make a list.
  • Stick to it.
  • Do not be taken by the tempting offers if you do not need the items on offer e.g buy one, get one free, buy two, get one free etc.
  • Take a basket not a trolley, if you are planning to buy only a few items. If you take a trolley, chances are you will fill it. It is a law of nature to want to fill up a vacuum. If you do not believe me, see this – The Law of The Vacuum states that all material forces of the universe abhor the vacuum and rush to fill each hole, opening, void, blank page, field of clarity or empty moment with image, garbage, sound and fury, often signifying nothing so precious as the original voidness. Tesco and all big retail corporations knows this law too well.
  • If you must take a trolley, choose one with wobbly wheels. The frustration of trying to steer it aright but knocking down displays and getting glares from the shoppers you bump into will make you curb any temptation to do any unnecessary shopping.
  • Finally and most importantly, avoid eye contact with any items not on your list. Eye contact equals emotional connection. You are less likely to pick them up if you do not feel an emotional connection to them.

I hope this helps. Happy savvy shopping Open-mouthed smile

 

Coach trip and catfish

I’m taking a coach ride with a group of 7 – 9 year olds. S is working on her Times Tables using a Hundred Square. I ask her a few questions and she struggles a bit but eventually works out the answers. 100squareF pipes up that she can do hers without the Hundred Square so I start to quiz her. True to her word, she does and gets every question right with nary a delay.

Two of the boys, G and O, ask me when the television was invented. I don’t know so I tell them exactly that. Then they ask when colour TV was invented. Again, I’m not sure of this and tell them as much. They tell me that the reason they ask is because they want to know when the first Bond movie was made. That I know so I tell them it was the very early 1960s. Knowing this makes me feel positively ancient.

They tell me that they love James Bond, name the movies they’ve watched and why they like each. We talk about some of the scenes in the movies. I have a hard time remembering which scene is in which movie but they have no such problem. We take a break from our conversation as we arrive at our destination.

As the children queue to get back on the coach, O sidles up to me and asks if he can sit next to me again. I am touched. I smile and tell him of course he can. We talk about other movies we like. I tell him I love animation. I discover that we both share a love for Despicable Me. O tells me he also enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph. I tell him that the characters in the movie are all from computer games, some of which I played as a child. M nods excitedly and tells me her mum used to play Pac-Man as a child and has it on her iPad now. O is intrigued. Then he says he’ll download Sugar Rush to his mum’s iPad when he gets home.

Eventually the conversation comes round to books. O tells me he has about 200 books, half of which are fact books and the other, ‘chapter’ books. I ask him to share some interesting facts from some of his books. He cannot remember any. So I prompt him by asking if he knows any fun facts about fish. He immediately perks up and tells me that catfish are poisonous. I gulp. I think about the catfish thawing on my worktop at home right at that moment. The same catfish I intend to marinate in spices, steam and then introduce to a pot of Afang soup. So I tell him I don’t think all catfish are poisonous, that I eat them. His eyes pop out, you eat them? he asks. I nod. He looks like he’s unsure whether to take me seriously or not. Before he can probe further, he gets distracted by the excited chatter of the other kids. We are nearing our final destination.

Afang with catfishI have just finished a bowl of my soup and I’m still here. Proof that catfish aren’t poisonous. Perhaps the next time I see O, I will tell him I had catfish for dinner. Or not. Open-mouthed smile

Be careful what you wish for

You know how sometimes you wish for something others have even though you know it’s not necessarily a good thing, you still wish you could have it? Well, I used to wish for food poisoning. Stupid, I know but I quite fancied the idea of quick weight loss with minimum effort. I used to envy friends with a weak constitution and delicate tummy. Their propensity to be affected and plagued by food poisoning was something I wished my strong-as-an-ox tummy would adopt. We would all eat the same things only for them to later tell me that they’d been sick while I would have not so much as had a twinge. Admittedly, I usually took pride in my food poisoning-resistant constitution but every now and again wished that I, too, could have the ‘pleasure’ of the experience and consequent weight loss.Kfoodpoisioning

However, that fanciful and foolish pining was before I became intimate with the reality and horror that is food poisoning. The griping spasms and stomach cramps; the churning and turning, gurgling and bubbling, my stomach erupting with gases and finally ejecting its contents. That was before I found myself  an unwitting participant in a sprint to the the loo every few minutes, dreading what led me there but welcoming the respite and relief I found there. It was before I could determine which end to stick down the toilet bowl as the force of the volcanic eruption threatened to come out from both head and tail. That was before nausea roiled around my abdomen like tidal waves crashing against the shores of my stomach walls causing debilitating pain. That was before even fluids couldn’t find a home in my intestines for more than a few minutes before being tossed out. My body mimicked a straw, whatever went in one end came out the other so even though it was the one thing that could help, I was loath to drink fluids. That uninformed envy of food poisoning sufferers was before all of the above left me dizzy and weak.

What trauma my poor body went through attempting to evict the foreign body, the illegal alien that brought such discomfort. The battle so fierce, white blood cells unleashing antibodies to squash the life out of the offending bacteria. As they battled it out, my body was left so weak from the effort. It felt like my insides had been put through a fast spin cycle.

You would think the fact that this condition has ‘poison’ in its name should have been a dead giveaway as to the severity of its nature but no, that flew right over my head. Perhaps if I had paid more attention in my Health Science classes instead of reading a novel hidden between the pages of my text book, I might have understood how debilitating this affliction truly is. Alas, I paid the price for my refusal to pick up the not-so-subtle signals.

As my body battles to rid itself of the vestiges of this vile intruder, I am so thankful to be on the road to recovery. Needless to say, I now know better to be careful what I wish for as I just might get it.


All in a day’s life: Lost and found

It is a fairly innocuous start to the day. The overcast sky promises rain and the wind causes a slight chill but I ignore them. Instead I choose to put my trust in the meteorologists’ forecast for sunshine and dress myself and my boys in shorts and light t-shirts. Hours later, my choice is vindicated as the sun comes out in all its brilliance.

The drive is smooth. Metal and tar maintain a healthy respect for each other, both playing their part and working in perfect harmony as cars drive along miles of motorway. The satellite navigation system, determined to guide me via the fastest route, keeps advising an alternative route. After resisting for several junctions and staying my course, I allow myself be seduced by its mellifluous tones and turn off the motorway. When I see the ‘Road Ahead Closed’ sign, I am reminded how I have become so dependent on computers. I sigh and make a U-turn, the 10 miles I thought I would shave off our travel time have actually doubled making the journey even longer. The boys start to fret. Is their day at the theme park over before it has even started? I reassure them that it is ok. I will retrace my steps and get us back on track.

I breathe a sigh of relief as I pull into the car park. This SatNav will not be the death of me. Laden with bags of nourishment, enough to feed three large families for a few days, we walk towards the entrance. A mule would be hard pressed to carry as much as we are lugging around but I will not be caught out by the exploitative over-priced food at such places. I am already regretting packing so much, perhaps I went a bit overboard.  But there is no time for self-recrimination, what’s done is done and I get on with it. We meet up with friends. The load is distributed around, though not evenly, I don’t complain. I am just thankful for a bit of help carrying those bags which have become increasingly heavier with each step.

Several roller-coaster rides, lunch, snack and toilet breaks later, we are all spent. It has been fun; it is time to go home. But not before a quick stop at the shop to buy the swords I promised the boys.

Swords chosen, shields, not part of the original deal, have somehow wound their way into the shopping basket. I am about to protest but I am loath to be responsible for wiping off the looks of delight on their small faces. The shields stay.

“I need the toilet, Mummy. I’m bursting.”

“But just five minutes ago, you said you didn’t need the toilet.”

“I didn’t then, I do now.”

This is not the time for my spiel about ‘going to the toilet when I ask you to’. I hand his little brother over to my friend and then make a dash for the toilet. He is seven years old. He feels he is old enough to go to the Men’s toilet. I am not comfortable with that. I have heard and read about terrible things happening to children in toilets. I do not want my child to become one of those statistics. I know I cannot protect him forever but for now, it is the Ladies’ where I can go in with him. Today, there is a queue snaking out the door of the Ladies’. And he is desperate.

There is no queue at the Men’s. He is starting to hop from foot to foot as if he is playing hopscotch. I shelve my apprehension and send him to the Men’s. It is just a Number One, he will be in and out in no time. As he runs in, I go as close to the entrance as I possibly can without actually going in, ignoring the pointed looks of some of the men going in. While waiting, I whip my phone out of my pocket. I haven’t managed to catch up on social media all day. I tap the screen to get the phone out of sleep mode. It does not respond. My battery is dead. Shaking my head, I sigh at the fickleness of these newfangled phones designed to be all things to all men – but without the battery power to sustain all those functions.

I put the phone back in my pocket and begin to wonder why he is taking so long. I cannot go into the Men’s toilet to check up on him. This is why I prefer him going to the Ladies’. My heart skips a beat. I take a deep breath and caution myself not to panic. This is just a minor misunderstanding which will soon be cleared up. I move even closer to the door and call out his name. The loud humming of several hand dryers drowns out my calls. I yell even louder and listen out for a response. There is none. None except strange stares from men exiting the toilet. I stop a man going in with his kids and ask him to please look for my son. I tell him his name. And then I wait.

He comes out soon after to tell me that having checked all stalls, there is no sign of my child. Now, my heart beat really races. Blood rushes to my head and for a moment my vision blurs. I blink several times to clear my vision. Enough with propriety already! I walk in, hardly noticing the startled looks of men doing their business in urinals. When calling out his name a few more times yields no response, I could swear my heart drops to the bottom of my belly.

Exiting the toilet, my mind is churning. I remember that it was just a few days ago I had a chat with him and his brother about keeping safe. They had run off from me at a large supermarket. Yet again. When we got back in the car, I painstakingly explained to them about the many dangers of not staying close to me while out. I told them that not everyone has a good heart and some want to harm children. I told them about the little girl who had disappeared from her parents’ side at a similar supermarket; how they raised the alarm, how the staff looked everywhere in the store, how she was eventually found in the toilets, head shorn by her would-be kidnappers in order to disguise her appearance and take her out unnoticed.

My mind shifts back to the present. Is this now what is happening to me? The thoughts are so confusing, my head hurts. Where could he be? Is there a back door? Could someone have dragged him out through there? What do I do next? Alert the authorities? As the questions and different scenarios tumble around my head, I look around hoping to spy him in the sea of humans milling around. Instead all I see are eyes. Eyes of other parents, looking at me.

In those few seconds, I read the emotions they can barely hide in their eyes. Pity, empathy, censure, relief. As they clutch their own children, holding them close, their tactile gestures giving double assurance that their own offspring are safe, their eyes tell me that they feel my pain. They tell me they can appreciate what I must be going through, that they cannot tell me how sorry they are that this has happened to me. They don’t want to tell me that they are relieved it happened to me and not them, but their eyes cannot hide how they really feel. Finally, I see the censure, the unspoken questions. How could I have been so careless? Why didn’t I take him to the Ladies’? Why let him go into the Men’s on his own?

I want to tell them that I am not that parent. Not me. No. I am not that parent whose child goes missing. I want to tell them how many times I have read these kinds of stories and, like them, I too wondered what the parent was doing when their child went missing. I want to say to them that I too have asked how it was possible for a child to go missing under the watchful eye of its parent? I want to tell them that I always insist my boys go to the Ladies’ for precisely this reason. I want to tell them all of this. But I have bigger fish to fry. I cannot find my son.

I make my way to the Information booth to report him missing. I take out my phone to call my friend and let her know what is going on. The battery is still dead. My throat hurts from unshed tears. I want to scream about the injustice of this situation in which I find myself. I drink in deep breaths to keep myself from falling in a heap on the ground and wailing.

It suddenly occurs to me to check the shop first. He might have come out, slipped past me unnoticed and headed straight for the shop where his newly acquired sword and shield awaited him. I quickly change course and jog to the shop. The sight of him wielding his ‘weapons’ renders me immobile with gratitude. A silent prayer of thanksgiving escapes my lips just before I bear down on him. My relief and gratitude come out as a tirade, berating him for running off without me. Lips trembling, he apologises. Like a pin prick deflates a balloon, the apology dispels my anger. I pull him to me and envelope him in a hug. I tell him it is ok, Mummy was just worried he was missing that’s why she yelled. I remind him not to ever run off again, that it could prove dangerous.

Drained, physically and emotionally, we head for home. The boys doze off in the back and I mull over the day. My thoughts are drawn to how easily this day could have ended differently, how a different sequence of events could have brought about a tragedy of immense proportions. I think back to how I felt in those few minutes when I couldn’t find my son. How utterly helpless and small in the huge machine of life. I think of all the other emotions I experienced simultaneously; guilt, anger, frustration. I think how easily my family could have been devastated and how the trajectory of our lives could have been irretrievably altered. I think of all the families that have been in this situation, how it didn’t necessarily end up the way mind did. As I think, I experience a greater appreciation for the blessings I have been conferred with. Things could so easily have been different. So tragically different.

School’s out: A lie-in, a lie.

The last few weeks have dragged on languorously. Temperatures on migration from the tropics have made a brief stop in the UK. Sweltering hot days and muggy humid nights. Our cries for respite from an unending winter have been heard. But we are unsure whether to grumble or be grateful. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as none of it.

Holiday. A welcome break. No school runs. No early mornings. No more after-school activities. Days out and trips away. Expectations of fun and laughter.

Day 1. Hopes for a lie-in dashed by whispered questions, are we going out today?, can I play your Kindle Fire?, when are you coming downstairs, Mama? Hopes for a day out at the splash park dashed by overcast skies. The sun peeps through heavy clouds, shy, reticent and non-committal.

Yet the boundless resilience of childhood will not be put off. That unquenchable thirst for adventure. 20130725_143603The buoyancy of childlike imagination kicks in. A living room is turned into a movie theatre, complete with drawn blinds, sound effects and popcorn. A back garden becomes an enchanted forest and they, dragon-slaying knights. Shrieks of merriment rent the air.

Read more…

They call me Mummy

Throbbing feet. Languid, aching bones. I feel the start of a headache coming on. But I won’t stop until it’s all done. The cooking. The cleaning. The picking up and putting away of little clothes, shoes, toys and books. The laundry. And all the other chores that make the home appear to run seamlessly.

Wincing in pain, I reach into the medicine cupboard and pop two analgesics into my mouth. I’m exhausted beyond words. I long for my bed. Or even a sofa. And a stool to prop my feet up and take a load off. Downtime. I’m almost there. The light at the end of tunnel is getting brighter. Just a couple more chores.

Super mumI stand back and survey the works of my hands. I take in the clean kitchen, tidy living room, bedrooms with made beds and everything in its place. Finally. I’m done. Dear sofa, here I come. As I make to lower myself into the waiting arms of the sofa and the stool sends my feet a ‘come hither’ look, “Mummy, please can we go to the park?”

Two tiny voices. Two earnest facial expressions. Doe-eyed, hopeful, expectant, barely concealed anticipation. “Please, Mama, we really, really, really want to.” One with hands clasped, the other tugs on my skirt. “We’ll be good, we promise. Please.”

I look at my sofa. With longing. I turn to the boys. They look at me. With longing. My aching bones creak in protest. My throbbing feet feel like my heart has relocated from my rib cage and made its new home there. That onset of a headache is now a full-blown splitting one. Everything in me is kicking against considering this request, much less granting it. On the tip of my tongue are a thousand and one reasons to say no. I quash them.

“Ok but we won’t stay very long…” Their screams of joy drown out the rest of my words. ‘I’m tired’ doesn’t get heard much less acknowledged. They are already putting on their shoes and arming themselves with all the paraphernalia that make for a successful park outing. Footballs, frisbees and food. Now dancing at the front door, giggling in excitement, waiting to be let out.

I look at the sofa again. Its forlorn gaze meets mine. But it understands. I am a mum. And this is what mums do. Tired is nothing when you have children.

At the lakes

 

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