beautiful living

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I did not choose life in Lagos. My heart has always been firmly implanted in London. Nevertheless, lately I’ve been thinking that it isn’t so terrible of fate to have chosen this city for me.

Alex and I, and two of his friends,left the overwhelming hustle of the city, for the quietude of fauna and the sea. We stayed in a tree house cabin, where we watched ships dock from afar, as we drank beers and wine into the evening. We supped on grilled corn, mozzarella and cherry tomato salad, a potato salad and a fish bought at the market by the dock. We played card games and I lost in succession. We showered outside in the dark of the night,scrubbing our bodies fast, to get out of sight, feeling refreshed by the cool air and water.

Alex and I walked to a secluded beach late in the evening and early the next morning, before grilling some bread, garlic and aubergine for breakfast. Just walking, being intrinsic with the landscape was sublime. And yet we were spectators who watched crabs burrowing in the sand, stray animals grazing and shipwreck debris floating. I can report that observing nature remains as elusively numinous as it has always felt.


I have not written here in 9 weeks. That period of time was spent meeting and dating Alex and growing my personal art collection. I also received a fantastic job offer within the art world, which I rejected,because the timing was not ideal and I want to grow in my present position, just a bit longer. Nevertheless,seeds of confidence were planted within me and thankfully that window of opportunity remains ajar.

The boy spent 3 weeks in Paris, The Hague and Barcelona. It seemed the perfect time to replace the pleasure of his company with my great love,literature. I especially enjoyed reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Rebecca Solnit’s Women Explain Things to Me,The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel(a little haphazard and too ambitious) and Big Little Lies (despite the somewhat pathetic ‘desperate housewives’ story line). I had been craving prose and poetry and reading Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey in one sitting, was just what I needed last week.

Vegas and life after

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Time moves so speedily, I almost cannot fathom that I was in Las Vegas 3 weeks ago.

Vegas was laid-back, which is exactly how we wanted it. We saw JLO’s All I Have show at Planet Hollywood, and kicked off our evenings with glasses of fizz in our penthouse.(we stayed at the Aria). I stocked up on all the luscious smelling things at LUSH and luxuriated in relaxing baths in our jacuzzi tub.Other things I savored were afternoons spent by the pool (a can of corona in hand),or sitting and reading in my little nook in my room, overlooking a dynamic view of the Vegas Strip.

Two restaurants were noteworthy this time around. Andrea’s,Steve Wynn’s latest restaurant had the most mouth watering kumamoto oysters and is evocatively designed with a pop art installation of Wynn’s wife, Andrea’s eyes. Herbs and Rye was quite far off the strip but certainly lived up to its best bar in America accolade. The lobster tail with garlic mash was also a great choice on my part.

I’m back to navigating Lagos life and boy does it have its challenges! I have been feeling low-spirited and in a cul-de-sac. When I get the blues I often guilt trip myself by actively expressing  gratitude but that has so far proven futile.

All has not been bleak to be honest. I’ve been more adept at seeking any kind of cultural stimulation, directly or indirectly. For instance, I’ve finally seen the films Moonlight, Julieta(been so long since I watched a film by Almodóvar),Beasts of No Nation and Captain Fantastic, all of which I thoroughly recommend.

Reading wise, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is the most intelligent and crucial thing I have read recently.  Alain de Botton’s Art as Therapy,although quite different and somewhat controversial (the discourse is weak and ruminates blindly in parts), comes a close second.

An amazing thing that has happened to me, is meeting a really kind,sweet and interesting man. I don’t know what he will mean to me long term, but last Sunday we had a date, which we spent sitting on a bench in a room at an art gallery chatting, oblivious to time slipping by….finally leaving 6 hours later! I’m almost okay with not quite knowing what the future holds and enjoying the moments we spend in each other’s company.

The past few weeks (part 2)

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The word nesting harbors imaginings of warmth and coziness, often ascribed to winter. But I wish to paint an alternate picture. One of  late afternoons at Gail’s, spent reading  a book,over freshly brewed iced berry tea with rose and pistachio cake. Sometimes I’ll have the oat,pecan and cranberry cookie,which is one of my favourite things to eat in the world.

Over the course of summer, I read a succession of great literature.While at Daunt Books on Haverstock Hill some weeks ago, I found myself holding pleasant conversation with a well read Canadian man. We found out that we shared a mutual love of James Baldwin and so he fished around the bookshop to find me the last copy of Baldwin’s Another Country,which I purchased in a blink. It was no Giovanni’s Room,but it was uncomfortable and genius.

During my trip to Oxford last month, my sister took me to Blackwell’s where I purchased a hardcover copy of Alain de Botton’s The Course of Love. I had read his somewhat prequel to the book On Love some months back, which I found to be beautifully philosophical, albeit a grim take on first love. The Course of Love felt like a maturation and practical understanding of human interaction. I still find myself picking up the book and feeling absolutely breathless by how this man puts words together.

Two evenings ago I devoured the last pages of Chogozie Obioma’s The Fishermen. Obioma’s strength lies in offering quite a varied narrative of Nigeria, than the international literary world is used to.He also plays this magic trick of conjuring up such strong and beautiful metaphors.

It is how past 5am and I am certain that the morning light will meet me here,if I write some minutes longer .I am however  glad that I have briefly covered the solid few books that will keep on living in my head.

 

 

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.

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.

found in Istanbul

The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit. Change places, and handy dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Everyone who has mixed on equal terms with the poor knows this quite well. But the trouble is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might be expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor. For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty?” -George Orwell(Down and out in London and Paris).

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Besides shopping at Istinye Park(which was rather successful and such fun!) I very much anticipated visiting a certain bookshop in Istanbul’s Beyoglu neighbourhood. Robinson Crusoe 389 has been countlessly reviewed as the best bookshop for English language titles in Istanbul.Unfortunately due to our limited diction,lots of snow and lacking the holy grail-GOOGLE MAPS! our attempts to find the bookshop were futile.

But we weren’t quite out of luck. A random traipse in one of the European neighbourhoods led us to a bookshop with a small English literature/translation section. The selection was limited but so freaking good! Shakespeare,Camus,Voltaire,Murakami,Orwell(which I bought for myself…and a penguin edition!) and Adichie(which I got as a feminist sovenir for my sweet friends).I was especially proud to see Adichie’s short essay(which is based upon her TED talk) nestled on the shelves with literary heavy weights.

The books I read October-December 2014

P1110659October

Not That Kind of Girl– Lena Dunham

The Thing Around Your Neck-Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie

Wild-Cheryl Strayed

Interpreter of Maladies– Jhumpa Lahiri

Gather Together in My Name– Maya Angelou

I Do Not Come To You By Chance-Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Maybe Someday-Colleen Hoover

 

November

Slammed -Colleen Hoover

The Invention of Wings– Sue Monk Kidd

Any Human Heart– William Boyd

Funny Girl– Nick Hornby

 

December

The Misremembered Man-Christina McKenna

All The Light We Cannot See-Anthony Doerr

Unaccustomed Earth-Jhumpa Lahiri

 

October was a fantastic month,reading wise.I read books by strong female writers and penned my first ‘fangirl’ letter  ever- the recipient being Cheryl Strayed. Her books Dear Sugar and Wild  were deeply affecting and very encouraging throughout the past distressing year. I also discovered Jhumpa Lahiri and wished oftentimes that I could write as beautiful words as she does, but within the context of my hybrid of cultures.

Another notable mention would be William Boyd. He writes so fantastically and intelligently that I seamlessly dove into Any Human Heart,practically inhaling the very many pages word for word. Its the most philosophical piece of fiction,that tells the story of a well-lived and interesting life.

And so I was successful at my goal of reading 60 books in 2014.

Books have never ceased to be my salvation and in a year when I lost so much,I gained words a’ plenty.Wisdom written between pages,perfect alliterations, witty dialogues- a way to escape.

I’m keeping things much simpler this new year and I’m aiming for about 40 books,as there are areas of my life that quite frankly need more hours of my day.Besides that,I look forward to enjoying podcasts (thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Serial!!!), as well as a trip to Istanbul next month,which I aim to journal on here,as I take my Charlie(camera) out once again.

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