Sunday, 18 November 2018

Dreamscape: An excursion to the factory of dreams

I can think it
When I consider it, I probably have lots of inspiration, much from unlikely things like thoughts, events, observations and circumstances.
The engine room of ideas and machinations in the cranial crenellations that provides the obverse of identity in my visage is constantly scheming position and opposition, purpose and dispute, decision and indecision, a battleground of conflict and agreement, it is a wonder it is not projected on the world as a deafening cacophony.
I often dream it
When it comes to the dream world, I have to be careful of what inspires the incredulous, my vivid dreams have an impossible script which if written may have the author immediately certifiable in the first act. I have dreamt dreams Joseph would not dare to go to sleep for.
It is not the haunting that gets to me, it is the remembrance, the fact that it gets to a point that I so many dream worlds deep, it is like my dreams are having their own dreams within dreams, my waking up is a series of wakeful episodes within dreams before I finally come awake.
This is most evident in dreams where I find myself needing to switch on the lights, my flicking the light switch yields no result and something in my subconscious tells my dream, you are in a dream, you need to wake up. I wake up and realise I am still in a dark room, so, I flick the switch again, where I am reminded by the central director of dreams, you are still in a dream.
Then I escape it
The process repeats itself until I come awake and aware. As I always sleep with the lights on, I wake into the light and then begin to ponder the dream I have just had. I cannot consider my dreams nightmares, though other people who dream my kind of dreams who probably be having nightmares.
In the stranger dreams, I have had are seeming recurrent chapters of the same people, events, circumstances and awesome architecture that has the capacity to drawf you into an insignificant Lilliputian. Thankfully, I am never lost in the corridors of those vast edifices, rather, I find myself a burrower attempting to traverse spaces and tunnels too small or narrow for my frame that I contract dreamy claustrophobia.
Now, that for me is terrifying that I wish I had an instant tap out or an Italian Job event where with the relief of freedom to a large expanse of space and untrammelled access, the stroke of luck allows me to express gratitude in those famous words, 'You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!'.
Yet, I love it
I love my dreams, for the impossible is effortless, the unthinkable is mundane, the insurmountable is rudimentary, the undefeatable is vanquished, the enemy never gets the better of me, for there are tools I could never have conceived or imagined that I wondrously adept at deploying. There is blood and gore, the macabre and the mediaeval, it is primal and primaeval, yet a magical fantasy of ability and capability you can only find in dreams, for which a reality can be conceived to extricate oneself from sticky situations.
The disputes I have been given the wisdom to resolve in dreams becomes manifest in circumstances where I would never have had the first inkling to resolve. Dreams are good, for, in all that, there is beauty, there is vision, there is achievement, there is hope, there is faith and there is love. It harbours a timeless landscape where all memories converge from all times with people of blessed memory and those to come.
The mind is a factory of unique and bespoke dreams.


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Ikoyi London - Bring a full wallet to an amazing experience

Decisions in flux
We had planned to meet on Monday evening without any clear plans as I decided to spend stay over in London. We have been friends on Twitter for years and she was coming to Europe for a number of necessary #MeToo events.
I was unsure of what we would do, but when she said we should meet to have more than a drink but to get to know each other, this, I thought, could only be done over a meal. As I do not live in London, I could not suggest a favourite place, but Pitanga was on my mind, however, they open at inconvenient hours closing at 5:00 PM every day except for Friday and Saturday when they are open until 11:00 PM. They are closed on Mondays.
I floated a few other alternatives whilst seeking ideas, Ikoyi London, by interest and by reputation came to the fore and we decided on that.
Impressing impressions
I was greeted at Ikoyi London by a waiter ready to take my coat and my hat, I was then given a check-in ticket, a card, the 8 of clubs. Any restaurant that without prompting defrocks you and knows what to do with your hat has had staff see the four walls of a finishing school.
Making my way to our table by the window where my friend was already seated, embraced with kisses on the cheeks before contemplating what was to come before us. Starting with drinks, we took the non-alcoholic cocktail of Ikoyi Chapman – a concoction of hibiscus, guava and sour passionfruit, it was a tasty shade of pink that lasted through the seating.
Ikoyi London only serves a fixed tasting menu of 7 courses for dinner, which made it difficult to decide on the wine, so, we took on the wine pairing that came in from the third course. Ikoyi London does not follow the good rule of the skirt that any seamstress has learnt from the very first day, that it should be long enough to cover the detail and short enough to keep the interest. The courses were small enough to keep the interest but hardly big enough to sate the hunger – that is for another conversation.
You don’t say
The first course arrived which in terms was a new look on plantain and stew, my two Nigerian grandmothers of blessed memory would have been spinning in their states of repose, but this is an exercise in open-mindedness, where familiarity is dispensed for the whimsical. Authenticity gives way to the uniquely original and surprise. It went down a treat.
[Plantain and a scotch bonnet dip]
Little did I know that I had entered a West African version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, I was living the lines of Ikoyi London saying to me, “Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination.” The course had more plate like a tree trying to be a forest, a burnt pepper and a sprinkling of dust with something related to cassava in the narrative. This was a long way from Eba and stew, the ship of our common reality had sailed.
Within 4 visits from crockery to buccal cavity, we were done.
[Burnt pepper and cassava]
Exciting the taste buds
Mackerel is not necessarily fish you will find on the plate of the bourgeoisie, but we were told the next serving was caught today, strips of seemingly poached mackerel on a bed of banga fish paste with vegetables. It was savoury and comfortingly feeling like home cooking. The paired wine only seemed to assume any character in taste after we had tasted the dish. Though I would be honest, all the pairings were lifeless at first taste and not entirely exciting afterwards.
[Mackerel and a banga sauce]
By the fourth course, we had pumpkin and that was a revelation. I had to ask, could you really do this to pumpkin? By now, we were sold on this visit, it was one to write home about.
[Pumpkin]
Jollof the duck
The fifth course was, in fact, two courses, the duck arrived first and then a steaming bowl of smoked jollof rice, both of which were a titillation of a different kind, filling with excitement and a screaming desire for more. Oliver Twist would have died for the lust of the more that cried for.
[Duck and malt bread]
[Smoked Jollof Rice]
You can wish for death
By then, we have the table next to us occupied, in that group of four of probably Europeans or North Africans, the light or my eyes were dim was one Nigerian who was unaware he was being brought to Ikoyi London. The look of amazement, despair and incredulity at what was presented to him could easily have had someone of a different disposition toss the tables and walk out in disgust.
As soon as I ascertained he was Yoruba, I began in a language that would communicate the experience was to be cherished as the difference for which there would be stories to tell about a place called Ikoyi London. It was not about pretensions but innovation, the challenge to open one’s mind and consider that what we once knew does not have to be sacred and impervious to design, artistry and review. That is what Ikoyi London is about.
It’s a lot more wonderful
He asked if the restaurant was one to visit regularly, I could not say that would be wise, but for the whimsy and the occasion, a conversation and gastronomic banter, Ikoyi London would come ahead of many a restaurant. It is the deconstruction of the mundane and typical to create a new essence. This is bold and hardly experimental, it works.
The dessert was a rice ice cream with a biscuit I cannot remember the name of, paired with a cider. One sip had me reaching for my old cocktail. I do not have a palate for lager, beer, ale or cider. It was a miss for me.
[Rice Ice Cream]
It is easy to forget that dinner is a tasting menu and not a meal, which suggests the portions are for tasting as opposed to filling. We had a wonderful time before walking down Jermyn Street and taking a picture with the statue of Beau Brummell.
Ikoyi London is a variation, an exploration, an interpretation and an experience, you will lose more weight in your wallet than you’ll probably gain in ingested food, that is the nature of the location, the standard of service and daring proposition the proprietors have decided to unleash on its adventurous clientele.
There is a discretionary charge and I suppose we rarely exercise the discretion to refuse the charge. The service was top class, the waiters gorgeous and interesting. The restaurant was full by the time we left. Ikoyi London is what is possible if we decide that excellence matters above all else.


Friday, 2 November 2018

Thankful for the privilege my parents created for me


As Pharaoh.

A thankfulness reappraised
Sometimes, I just want to appreciate and be thankful for some of the things that have become the stories of my life.
In a life filled with privilege, opportunity, good fortune and blessings, or is it sheer luck, you can only be grateful. I was watching a programme on television yesterday title Rich House, Poor House on Channel 5 which is a documentary-style reality television programme that follows two families from opposites ends of class and wealth divides swapping their homes and lives for a week to experience what the other side lives.
On an abstract level, it was just entertainment, but it was also a social anthropological study to which one can begin to relate and understand the broad spectrum of society, the depth of empathy, the ability to reflect and the willingness to adapt.
Money helps but there is more
In yesterday’s show, you saw the amazing dynamic of community and neighbourliness in what one might call the deprived, yet the absence of means did not define them as lacking in humanity, love or the sense of belonging. The lack of money is not necessarily being bereft of happiness.
On the other side, where there was hardly any neighbours and a weekly spending kitty ten times what their counterparts in the exchange had to live on, the father of the house had cut down on life as an executive for health reasons and his wife reflected on how he could have worked himself to the death and whether life would have been worth it to be a rich widow. It is not all about money.
Yet, I could see privilege and opportunity in different guises in both families, the aspirational in terms of exposure and the inspiration in terms of experience ministered to me as lessons in life.
The lessons outside classes
What amazing luxuries that accompanied my early education in an international setting of races from all ends of the world in Nigeria, I born in a foreign land and those, not of Nigerian parentage born in Nigeria, we all equal and the same without one being favoured over the other.
The daughter of the headmistress once pinched me and when I returned home to tell my parents, my dad said I should never let anyone take advantage of me, I should retaliate. So, the bully who was older and bigger came again and I did to her what she did to me, she went crying to her parents. Her father was the head of the company where my dad was a middle manager.
A conversation ensued between her mother and my father, they settled on the fact that she was the bully and I refused to be bullied. She never tormented me after that and we became friends. The lasting effect of that encounter cannot be discounted.
Of privilege and access
My extra-curricular activities after school like being driven to art classes and my sister to ballet classes or when I was Pharaoh in our school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, exemplified the richness of education unquantifiable in examination scores but trenchant in character building, self-affirmation and confidence bordering on exuberance. You find the ability to express yourself in places where normally others would be tongue-tied.
The parental quest to toughen me up and give me a sense of my cultural roots was sending me off to boarding school hundreds of miles away from home. In some ways, it was a hellish experience for the first few years, but I adapted.
I had other classmates who travelled by train from the north of Nigeria alone, catered for by strangers until they made it to school and they endured the same on their return home. I was put on a plane, there was someone to pick me up and ensure I was delivered safe and sound to the care of the housemaster. I also had relatives close by for the short holidays as well of visitors who when they came to visit their wards made it a duty to see me too.
Knowing who you are
I was raised in a bubble of sorts, an idyllic existence in Rayfield, Jos and in Tudun Wada, Kaduna, desperately shielded from many influences, though some were unavoidable due to proximity or circumstance, they became defining moments of exposure to sexual abuse, morbid fear, extreme religiosity, encounters with fetish priests and much else. All this is part of the narrative that has become my story.
In many ways, I have retained the accoutrements of privilege which have given me the various instances where I have been able to seize upon opportunities. It does not mean that I have not been visited by failure, infirmity, incapacity or misfortune, but they are not definitive of who I am, rather they are parts of the journey of life for which I have been grateful to traverse, survive and thrive.
I owe the grit and the suppleness to the exceptional upbringing I had and one more thing I would never repudiate is that I have been a child of privilege, not necessarily born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but given the tools and the means to navigate wealth and class in having both or neither without losing the quality of the person that I am. I have my wonderful parents to thank for that and I am always grateful to them.
Other members of the cast including me at different times in the musical play.



Note: All the pictures were taken of our performance of the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Sacred Heart Primary School, Kaduna in December 1975. I was Pharaoh of All Egypt.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Like swallowing a poison pill

This is scary stuff
When I opened the packet of my new medication just over three weeks ago, reading through the medical notes was an experience in itself. Then, I had to tear off a “Patient Alert Card”, to which I wrote in my doctor’s details and was at all times to carry the card with me.
If I were to have a hypersensitive reaction, I was not to ingest any more of the medicine as I risked a life-threatening lowering of my blood pressure or even death. Before I took the medication for the first time, I already had the severe side-effect of a psychological upset.
Having done my research of the options, it is fair to say that the documented side-effects are a compendium of misery, it is no wonder that it is reported that the attrition rate of switching back to old formulary is close to 50%.
I needed another review
I kept a diary of the side-effects I suffered over a period of 16 days before our first review that was to completely switch me fully to the new medication for the next 6 months before another consultation. I did not think 16 days was long enough to make that decision, as adjusting to new medication would normally take longer and I would rather we had an assessment to ascertain the efficacy of the new regime than to discover a treatment failure 6 months hence.
The side-effects included insomnia, a tingling skin rash, a feeling of constipation, joint ache and flatulence amongst other minor complaints and two episodes of vivid dreams as nightmares that left me unable to sleep for the rest of the night.
At the review, I was asked why I made the switch as I was seeing another medical personnel who did not know that I had been nagged by the department to consider a switch for almost two years. My understanding was the switch was necessary because this new line of drugs had lesser side-effects and obviously they cost less.
What kind of a pill is this?
I was comfortable with the medication I have been on for over 8 years, the issues I had with my memory were well compensated for, I would not have considered a switch for the kinds of side-effects that I have recently suffered. Bloods were drawn and we agreed to meet in three weeks for a second review.
Meanwhile, I am taking my pills 2 hours earlier than before with no change to many of the side-effects, especially insomnia. I am also keeping my diary as a documented trail of how I feel, which is not helped by my realising that I am gaining weight – apparently, this is one of the other side-effects and no new medication is worthwhile if psychologically you are left bothered by a negative body image, the danger of sudden death and much else.
Have I decided on a poison pill?


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Thought Picnic: Responsibility is enlivening

Then I saw
I have come to the conclusion or more to the realisation that people require the weight of responsibility to gain focus and find perspective in the things of life.
Without responsibility, the purpose is ill-defined or non-existent and what gathers within the daily existence is lasciviousness, the absence of restraint or moderation and a careering down the road of self-destruction, sometimes at full speed or even at a slow pace, but the direction is evident.
Champions unsung
Some have the capacity to take initiative and assume responsibility, shouldering superhuman sense of duty and command of authority in spheres of influence directly under one’s control and well beyond, drawing in resources that they never knew they had and in perseverance and in fortitude they do not buckle under the pressure.
For each in that situation, their story is probably hardly known or told, they are pillars and columns of support that gives such hope and redemption in our humanity.
Then some
Others, however, for all sorts of reasons cannot assume responsibility, shirk it or have not been put in the circumstances where much is demanded of them, so they have no supply when required. The inability to assume responsibility might be due to incapacity, infirmity or handicap, to them, we owe the generosity of spirit to hold up strong in the face of their struggles, to give support, to give hope, to give purpose and to give love, and if there is much more to give, we do give more.
Those who are able, but shirk it need to be sifted out that they do not consume the finite resources that we strive to provide to those more needful of it. To them, some tough love and talking is required along with making them assume some of their personal responsibilities. To them, one two words are of import. Shape up!
Alive and learning
The others probably need guidance and mentoring, the education and example that can give them the impetus to find purpose and goals, that would inspire them to seek radical change. Those with a teachable spirit ready to learn and improve themselves regardless of where they are in life.
Sometimes, responsibility is maintaining a can-do youthfulness, the ability to reflect, to relearn and to rein in exuberance. Such a scene is what I saw on the Channel 4 television show titled, Old People's Home for 4-Year-Olds. An old people’s home of octogenarians to a centenarian of 102 were visited by 4-year old pre-schoolers over a period of 12 weeks and we watched the transformation of each person in both groups.
Responsibility reviewed
The pre-schoolers making friends of people who could easily be their great-grandparents and by that gaining social skills, building trust and confidence, whilst the usually sedentary and retiring old people were engaging, active, revived and even daring. It was a tear-jerking spectacle of the innate life-giving force of our humanity when a diverse pool of people interacts.
The shared responsibility of caring and befriending each other enforced engagement and more participation, but more tellingly, it showed why inter-generational conversation and activity is beneficial to all concerned. Responsibility, whether explicitly known or innately acted out, is simply bringing something, yourself, your enthusiasm and your willingness to be involved in a community and by that, value is created in people, in place and in participation.
Responsibility is striving to live the best you can be to yourself and to others.