I have been quite enjoying

My sparse attempts at writing have culminated into months of not writing here at all.It is not that I haven’t had anything to say, it is just that I have mostly been caught up with work,which has been more of a priority than ever before. As a result,things are going quite well and I might be moving soon, to take up a great position,working closely with a CEO I admire a great deal. There is so much I wish to say about the politics of the day for example,but having felt so downcast by the order of things,such as America’s institutional racism alongside the leniency of gun control laws ,I feel it is best to keep the faith in my heart,as opposed to getting upset over and over again.

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For now I have left a rainy Lagos for an even wetter Blighty. The haphazard gallop between the vestiges of colder months and summer, is actually a nice compromise. Lately I feel as partial towards an evening spent in good company, as I am to cosying with a beer and book,on my loveseat by the tall windows. I recently finished E.M Forster’s A Room With A View, which I believe should be one of those rite of passage books for any girl. In a somewhat related vein,I discovered that the singer Ameriie(who also happens to be a writer signed to Bloomsbury) has a YouTube channel that is a sort of book sanctuary for us bibliophiles. She has so much depth and is really smart, so I have been quite enjoying her point of view.

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Something else I have been quite enjoying is Lanka‘s Green Tea with Rose Petals. Lanka has a beautiful little shop just off Finchley road, located in Goldhurst Terrace.It is usually the perfect respite,after seeing my dentist who is located a short distance away.All their teas are purely Ceylonese and I would say that I’m averaging about 5 cups a day!

I’m not one for summer fashion,which often translates to garish and sometimes badly made garments, with a wardrobe life of only a few months, so this summer seemed to be the perfect time to alternatively invest in my mind.I enrolled for a course on collecting art at Central Saint Martins,which I am ridiculously ecstatic about. That being said,the  other day I picked up a pair of Gucci mid-heel horsebit sandals,which were the only pair left,in my size and on sale. As luck would have it, the shop manager was able to knock a further amount off the sale price and I walked away with a classic pair of sandals that will be kissing dancefloors for seasons to come.

DUBAI

In his book The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes about how our experience of a new city is often tainted with the dispositions we bring from our home cities.  This is a trait I have tried to counter. So on this trip, I found a way for my home concerns( work, further travel plans,recovering from an acute respiratory infection), to be in communion with the present. Having done that, I have loved this city very much.

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My story of Dubai is not one that involves towering hotels and floors paved with gold. This is because I generally describe myself as a paper bag princess(the kind of woman who is not above a meal of store bought ramen, accompanied by a flute of veuve cliquot,enjoyed whilst leaning against a countertop:) ).That’s just my vibe.I wanted my Dubai to have a soul and so I went looking for it. Upon arrival at the airport, I stopped by Dubai mall,where I headed to the Gucci boutique to pick up a pair of sunglasses from their new collection. The mall was rather overwhelming in the way it tries to be anything and everything.(While I was pleased to try some coffee from Tim Horton’s for example, I would rather have had that experience in Canada).

I went to my apartment which was just across the street from the mall,just off Sheikh Zayed road. A naturally bright dig with a rooftop pool that over the next few days, my best friend and I would spend hours contentedly swimming in and lounging around.

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In the following days, I spent a fair amount exploring Old Dubai.My first visit was one in which we embraced the hustle and bustle of the strictly regulated Gold Souk in Deira. After much haggling, I left with a simple gold bracelet for 1500 dirhams ( £300) and although not pictured, it was such a fun experience. Our next venture to Old Dubai was to the Al Fahidi neighbourhood,which is traditionally beautiful, due to its twisting alley ways and old buildings made of materials like gypsum,stone and sandalwood. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of its silence at times, except for birds casually chirping.

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We stumbled upon the Coffee museum, which was entirely curious,especially for a fairly new lover of coffee. After a peruse we headed to our actual destination, the XVA Art Hotel, a boutique hotel and art destination which has hosted presentations for fashion houses like Chanel,Fendi and Louis Vuitton and boasts three romantic and tranquil courtyards,one of which moonlight’s as the establishment’s vegetarian cafe.

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I can confirm that the cafe’s mint lemonade is just as described,legendary. Between us we shared a veggie thali and a beetroot rosti with sweet potato chips,accompanied by a carrot hummus dip that was delectable.

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When planning my trip, I had contemplated spending a full day in Abu Dhabi,because it is the emirate with the most rapidly evolving art scene. Both the Louvre and Guggenheim,currently have building projects in the works there.However, I was fairly disappointed that their opening dates have been elusive and subject to change,which meant I could not visit. I did however find something of much character at the XVA,which was the Iranian artist Morteza Zahedi’s Toy Story exhibition. An exhibit in which every piece metaphorically alludes to childhood memories.For me personally,it was reminiscent of Walt Disney’s 1940s film Fantasia,which is the most beautiful blend of dark and eerie animation,accompanied by classical music.For this reason I concluded that the exhibition was the perfect ode to the peter-pan disposition in all of us.

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Le couer est belle, qu’est-ce  que tu penses?

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I should mention that this teddy is not a part of the exhibit, but was found at the neighbouring gallery of Make Art Cafe, Al Serkal’s Heritage House.

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When I researched the best destination for coffee in Dubai, Espresso Lab was the synonymous choice, both from hearsay and online.Located on the ground floor of the serene Hundred Wellness Center in Dubai,  a haven of shady trees,where sunshine sneakily kisses one’s skin, it was the ideal environment to be schooled on their coffee and the brand’s integrity. We both had an 8 ounce of Costa Rica, which translates as a latte made from Costa Rican coffee beans,which can be stirred for a softer effect on the palate.

Espresso Lab also has a policy of no milk alternatives and sugar,preferring to guide the customer through a genuine coffee experience.It was by far the best coffee I have ever had. We befriended the barista Freddie, who had such delicious tales about his passion for coffee, spanning from his home of Uganda, coffee fields in Ethiopia and currently Dubai. We were reluctant to leave. Such experience felt like inhaling precious air and holding it in…..not quite wanting to let it go.

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And so there is my Dubai. Patches of serenity in the bustling desert. Many fantastic meals on the patio of Cafe Bateel( two of those instances are simultaneously  pictured above). A late night at the standard hangout Reem Al-Bawadi, red wine and good music at Tribeca, a subpar lunch at Tom & Serg.

Speaking of Tom&Serg(pictured below),I found the Shakashuka delicious,although the accompanying bread was rock hard.That would have been forgivable, if the tacos weren’t also inconsistent due to their finicky assemblage and prawns nestled in a sponge of oily batter.In addition,the industrial space felt too contrived,thus failing to deliver the cool ambience I had hoped for.The addressing system in Dubai is quite a challenge, so leaving your part of town in search of good food should come with an honest word-of-mouth.

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All that being said, I have much to be grateful for. I am pondering just that,as I watch the sunset from my balcony and contemplate walking over to Dubai Mall to watch the fountains (which I find beautiful and emotional in equal measure) and pick up a thing or two from a gallery I spotted. I am lucky and I cannot wait to be back in a few months, for the most beautiful wedding.

london in february

February is in transit to March.

Sunny days deceptively mask the bitter cold here in London.Within a month I have lived so much and here I am to write all that comes to mind.When everyday felt like simultaneously jumping through a furnace, I promised myself that I would still trust life. And even when it felt like my soul had been squeezed of every ounce of faith,I continued to hope on.

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I gave up on a love that wasn’t lovin’. It turns out that a verb is ineffectual without action.

I made several leaps career wise and although I wouldn’t exactly say that they were smooth sailing,I didn’t land on my bum.I cannot wait to try again.

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My curiosity about horology was amplified when I bought an 18 carat yellow gold and steel Cartier Tank Francaise,which felt terribly grown up and deserving.I had previously worn a Gucci timepiece that was aesthetically beautiful and had been a present to myself after my advanced law degree 6 years ago.So it was a move from a purely aesthetic brand,in terms of luxury watches, to one with historical craftsmanship. What I adore most about the concept of time, is that it is a journey through knowledge,the same reason why I love books and story telling.I not only adore the noble luxury of Cartier,but also how the Santos watches were revolutionary,by deviating from pocket-styled timepieces. And how the Tank watches introduced a square look to timepieces,influenced by the Renault Army Tanks of World War I.My experience at Cartier in Selfridges was indulgent and Sylvie who assisted me (and gave me a complimentary jewellery pouch for travel) has become a friend.

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My sister tuned 29 and we celebrated by drinking champagne and shopping at Chanel.We saw The Book of Mormon which was hilarious and a little uncomfortable(I am religious after all). A little group of us had supper at Hakkasan and read amusing Chinese New Years messages that were strung on the walls of the restaurant.We ended the night with coffee patron shots and a lot of dancing to Diana King 🙂

On an afternoon that was deceptively spring like, a darling friend and I had some wine and pizza at a really chic Italian place off Kings Road. A prelude to champagne at Harrods with some boisterous men.

And as persistent faith would have it,I got the last ticket to see the Painting of The Modern Garden exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts last night(what luck! because I leave for Lagos tomorrow night). It was breathtaking. Monet’s work has always been ‘other wordly’, to me.I also discovered artists I wasn’t familiar with,like Santiago Rusinol and Emil Nolde.

What were perpetual daydreams are now within my grasp.

a measurement of intangible things

We certainly gain perspective when we gaily skip towards an unfortunate and unprecedented moment. The kind of moment that sees  our proverbial umbrella yanked from above our heads,leaving us absolutely soaking wet.

My life in Paris felt like a painting,but I eventually had to grow up.I applied for a position at just one place-an ex-American president’s NGO.  A Southern democrat with a passion for Women’s rights. There’s always this consensus that building one’s career begins at a painstakingly slow pace,but my experience counters that.Two months later, I got a call from the NGO offering me an opportunity, and so I temporarily moved to Atlanta,Georgia.Within a year,I had worked hard enough to start forecasting conflicts in Washington DC,amusingly for someone I had seen debating on the Al-jazzera news channel and had swiftly contacted and demanded a job with(he thought I was smart but a little crazy ). Life was good.My local sushi place gave me free sashimi several evenings a week and I felt happily overwhelmed by the 17 or so Smithsonian museums.That is until my mother quite suddenly died and this particular career path had to be postponed without a return date.

It felt like a fall and a loss of pride. I had been so strongly defined my academic intelligence and very little else. I missed the euphoria of my former life. Protests in front of the White House, getting first dibs on an insurgent movement in the Congo and meeting people who had revolutionized their country’s politics.I was now dutifully working for my family,within a profession that I had given up after a bout of depression,triggered by many things,including my disdain for said profession (ah the practicalities of law!)

But in the throes of mourning and as most things changed form,one thing did not. My love of books and reading.

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Being influenced by George Orwell’s essay Books v Cigarettes(this is a great read btw in relation to the essay), I one day decided to record just how many books I would/could read each year,to feel a sense of personal accomplishment once again. It was the spring of 2014 and I challenged myself to read 60 books by the end of the year, which I was successful at. With career projects in the works last year, I aimed for only 35 books and managed to read 36. Then I noticed something. My friends began to read along. I read so extensively that those who weren’t particularly bibliophiles knew they could get a recommendation from me to suit their restrictive dispositions. I would get a midnight text about some kind of emotional ailment for which I would prescribe a book.

“If you really feel like shit,perhaps some Maya Angelou will feel like a stiff drink(the kind of  black single mother that danced to Tchaikovsky and read Tolstoy whilst she breastfed her son at the age of 17) .”

“Do you want a life well lived? Do check out William Boyd’s Any Human Heart.

“Why did it take me so long to read Steig Larsons’s Millenium trilogy. Don’t deny yourself the bad ass feminist pleasure of knowing Lisbeth Salander.”

“Instead of Pamuk, Elif Shafak is just as great, because she is honest about the Armenian Genocide and does Ottoman Empire fantasy like a gifted witch.’

And so I became a reference library and there’s so much grace in finding confidence in something that is essentially a part of me and therefore, can never be taken away. Maybe we can think of every single book ever written as an infinite anthology on living or even an elusive map. By no means will the pages of our books jump out and exclaim that we must go left or right or do this or that,but their function is quiet and affirming.We read that in everything we must learn and that after some time painful things will pass. And even if they don’t,there will be some beauty in that breakdown and many good things will come.

Life is a school in which we don’t necessarily get an A,B or C grade to validate our efforts at living.Instead we get something more affirming.We get more life.

Une étrangère

Being a certain type of foreigner is an idyllic thing. When I think of my own brand of foreign, I think along the lines of the infamous Sting song, Englishman in New York.A window seat in a pretentiously elusive restaurant. Thinking about  James Baldwin‘s  Giovanni’s Room as one walks down a cobbled road in Le Quartier Latin.Tea over coffee,a peacoat and pointy Italian shoes. Amusingly I still feel very much a foreigner in many places that are home,in part because of the hybrid of cultures I’ve been influenced by. Recently I was thinking about how I only think of certain things in French,rather than English.Also,my accent is lost in translation between a  West African and Central Londoner. I fully embrace these things, as well as the questions about where I am from(as long as it doesn’t hint at a xenophobic persuasion).

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By all means the imagination can be such a vivid gift and when its time to see a new city, it is quite possible to create the kind of experiences that are in essence dream like. Fells Point is a neighbourhood in Baltimore that is characteristically nautical as well as easy on the eyes.When we visited,we chose to try out the most popular eating establishment in the area, Blue Moon Cafe.  From there we got glorious gelato at Pitango(pistachio and espresso were our flavours of choice), covered the many corners of ARHAUS and indulged in a late evening treat at Anthropologie. It was all quite fun and most of all discerning of the realisation that there is only one way to see a city.And that is however you wish.

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Wintering

I feel as though I have been up to everything and nothing at all.I have been exercising that beautiful sounding ‘verb’ called wintering, by indulging in the ritualistic mundane.I have been staying cosy in bed and watching episodes of First Dates(A British tv show where a restaurant overlooking St Paul’s cathedral is filled with customers,all on blind dates). When I watch this particular show,I think of the messy maudlin heap we call the human heart and just how much courage it takes to show up and risk love.

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In a similar vein, I recently finished reading Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance and I think he’s quite the jam! Between the insightful research on dating within a plethora of cultures, to some 90s hip-hop references, Aziz is straight up gangstaa (this is where I insert a really cool emoji in my head)!

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Seasonally inclined, there have been many a glass of good ol’ Marks and Spencer mulled wine,which my family has a tradition of bringing all the way from London to anywhere in the world we are spending the holidays. And when we are tired of that,we open a simple bottle of red while a candle from Voluspa burns( Incognito is my favorite scent,because it is warm, a little masculine and sexy).

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With regards to food, I’ve been quite pessimistic(after several meals on the subpar to downright disgusting spectrum),sticking to what I know is top-notch and locally sourced and that is Woodberry Kitchen.My sister and I have made several trips there since my initial visit and I think I can confidently say that the most masterful dish on Spike Gjerde’s menu, is the fried Oysters. They honestly are divine! The restaurant’s space is quite decadent and chic at this time of year.

I suppose this is a fairly concise catch up.I anticipate good and fun things to come and good words to write.

Not my place but nevertheless…

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Baltimore is not my place and I say that with almost as much conviction as I know my name.

In her e-mail,my never-met -friend Akadia described the city as broken in parts but she also faithfully added that there are people who work with love to make the city better.

The first thing I noticed about Baltimore was this perplexing marriage between wealth and grit. Neither can escape the other, although they don’t gel well. Too many neighborhoods look like they’ve been hit by something terrible, but such thoughts seem a mirage when less than  a mile away, you find yourself smack bang in the throes of an antipodean lifestyle.

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I sensed that juxtaposition as I rode in the car to Woodberry Kitchen for brunch. Late last night I had googled ‘the best restaurant in Baltimore’ and that’s how I found myself there. The kind of place that honored my 12:33 am request for a non communal table, in their beautifully restored factory space. I had something with crab and although the name eludes me,it was very delicious.

I suppose that there will always be places we seek, not because we are searching for a part of ourselves, but because we want to understand.