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.

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.

In perspective

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The weekend has never been more welcoming. Last night I met a friend at Idle Time Books, where we browsed volumes on the floors, sharing out favourites with each other. I finally got Virgina Woolf’s  A Room of One’s Own, then dug into the free bookmarks bin they had and snagged the coolest bookmark in the bin, which even the shop assistant commented on.

P1080806Afterwards, we walked to Meze and shared seafood platters over watermelon mojito and some tea. We laughed from our bellies, my heart felt full and I sang along to the Spice Girls’ ‘Viva Forever’ when it oddly was played in the resto/bar.

For the past few months, I’ve felt very defensive about what I am entitled to from life. Granted I was having a very hard time in general,but I’m gradually learning to curb my anxiety and put life in perspective. This morning, I was further brought back to earth, when I found out that a primary school classmate, that had previously had cancer and had been given the all clear, just found out that cancerous cells had been found in her body once again. This made me terribly sad,but it is a reminder to be more grateful.

Where is your place?

One most always have a place. It can be wherever you like,seeing as we all differ. The only rule is that is must be a place for you to escape daily pressures and feel most like yourself.Perhaps your happiest self.A place to mentally and even emotionally refuel. In London, that place is Daunt Books for me. In Paris,it was my apartment and also Publicis at le Champs Elysées, which I was introduced to by my sweet Mathilde(Publicis is a ‘ luxury drugstore’ where you can buy an array of  things from foreign food to Marc Jacobs handbags) . In Atlanta, it was an antique shop at the Highlands and in D.C, I have most recently found my place in Le Pain Quotidien,just off I street NW.

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There are many reasons why this place chose me(I felt so naturally drawn). It is reminiscent of a hybrid of my second most favourite London high street(Marylebone, which also has a branch)and Paris, because  this branch in particular is frequented by the French professionals working downtown and you are likely to hear more French than English. In less than 2 weeks, the waiters have all befriended me and without asking, know that avec mon petit déjeuner, I will always have a café au lait and for my lunch, la soupe du jour.

P1080394The interior is rustic,clean and bright, the menu great and uncomplicated and in the words of the Cheers theme song, ‘You wanna be where everybody knows your name….’