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.

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.

 

 

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.

image via

The Paris Review with Nabokov

P1120380“Nobody can decide if I am a middle-aged American writer or an old Russian writer—or an ageless international freak.” -Vladimir Nabokov,The Paris Review(1967)

A while back, I discovered Herbert Gold’s 1967 interview with Vladimir Nabokov for The Paris Review.The interview is everything!It starts off romantic(did you know Nabokov and his wife had a penchant for butterfly hunting?! or rather,did you know that butterfly hunting even existed? I sure as hell did not!)

It also answers all those questions you’ve always wanted to know about Lolita’s author(like if he is a pervert like Humbert Humbert and what his writing process is like).

From the interview I got the feeling that Nabokov must be a terrible person to be close to, but a great one to have  frustratingly witty conversations with.

An endless sum of things

P1110721I’m afraid that the cocktail pictured above(from an afternoon lounging poolside)is the only photographic evidence of my month in Lagos.On most days I would wake up at 6 in the morning and have the most delicious bowl of papaya,sprinkled with lemon juice(and a side of eggs) for breakfast. I wish all mornings had a fairly similar start,irrespective of my city. Besides a lot of exciting meetings, I enjoyed spending time with my two childhood friends.I feel as though they have both grown in the same direction,while I’ve found myself creating adventures as I go, defiant of any kind of cultural precedent.

P1110822Last week I saw Richard Linklater’s latest film Boyhood at the Everyman.In the opening scene, the 6 year old lead character is riding his bike around his neighbourhood,while Coldplay’s Yellow is playing. That scene was is so definitive of sweet nostalgia.It invoked thoughts of when my cousin taught me how to ride my bike at a similar age and also when my older sister Sara and I became obsessed with Coldplay as young teenagers. Linklater was so clever to create a film that is a visual imagery of time’s essence. I’ve fallen back in love with Coldplay’s old stuff,but have also discovered the Cape Town based band,Beatenberg. They have a pretty sweet song called Pluto that makes me incredibly happy.Just imagine if Passion Pit released a song with a  Soweto beat-that’s how insanely great they sound.

day 1Shortly after my return to London,I experienced a racial attack which I haven’t really spoken about,except with close family members.Besides losing my mother,it is the singular most horrible thing I have ever experienced.What made it worse is that I had no control over what went on and even the process of deciding whether or not to pursue legal action, makes me feel sick.I only started to feel better when I read Marina Keegan’s book The Opposite of Loneliness. Marina’s short life was rather incredible(she died in a car crash at 22) and reading her essays and stories felt like an unfolding-it created a distance between my emotions and what had occurred.I am now back to loving life and spending lazy evenings at cool new places. Opso(pictured above), is one of my favourite places right now. The restaurant’s concept of  creating Greek social food is darn fantastic and the largely wooden and brass interior of the establishment shows a luxurious attention to detail. Having tried a good deal of the menu with  Andreas(who is a co-founder),I would say that the cod fish,nestled in a squid ink bun with tomato jam is my favourite.I shall also be appearing in  pictures on the restaurant’s website in the near future, I believe :).

P1110815Still on the topic of food, lately I have been more inclined towards simple foods with a highbrow vibe and Souli nails this concept to the T. The gourmet shop seats about a dozen people and the most luxurious menu item is the world’s most coveted,Sant ‘Eustachio Roman coffee.I quite fancy the fig chutney in their sandwiches,as well as their unique pairings of freshly juiced fruits( think I had raspberry, apple and mint last week). Having these new spots dotted around my hood,makes working over late lunches relaxing and productive,as I work best in restaurants and coffee-shops.

P1110810P1110849Feeling an extra little burst of self-confidence these days,I’m not nonchalantly putting on my summer uniform of dungarees and instead I’ve been wearing a chambray skirt and linen shirts with little heeled sandals for lunch and supper dates. When I’m lugging my camera around(which is less often these days), my keyhole Sophie Hulme tote is my favoured accessory. I love the industrial/paper bag shape,accentuated by the strong gold hardware. The interior is made from a luscious suede leather that smells so delicious-so in sync with my style these days.

I suppose that’s all I wish to write at this point in time.It oddly feels like I have been holding a long breath and have let it out.

The books I read (April-June)

April

May

June

The books of the second quarter were a little lacklustre in comparison to most of the books that I had read in the first quarter.Falling slightly short of reading an ideal of 15 books(I read 14) is a reflection  in part of reading much longer books and others that were so heavy that I needed a breather once in a while.Having read a total of 30 books in the first half of the year,I have reached exactly half of my goal of 60 books.

For the average pieces of literature,I found some form of redemption when I walked into Daunt Books in Marylebone almost 3 weeks ago and discovered that my favourite art historian Alastair Sooke, had written a book on Matisse,in conjunction with the Tate’s current exhibition on the artist(which I had already seen).Isn’t the paperback stunning? I suspect that the design is an homage to the artist’s blue nudes.

From reading Chomsky,I’ve developed a lot of respect for him,akin to my adoration of Arundathi Roy. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is impeccably written and made me a little teary for us underdogs,who appreciate art and culture in quiet ways.I was astounded by the humility that comes with Murakami’s genuis,Mindy Kaling is so cool and smart and Matisse taught me that any day of our lives can suddenly feel like the very first-we are never too old to discover an enlightenment.

and I shall end with one of several bookmarked quotes,found through the course of my reading.

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain Beauty. When you speak, or read, or write, you can tell if you’ve spoken or read or written a fine sentence. You can recognise a well-tuned phrase or an elegant style. But when you are applying the rules of grammar skilfully, you ascend to another level of the beauty of language. When you use grammar you peel back the layers, to see how it is all put together, to see it quite naked, in a way.”- Muriel Barbery

Books I read (January- March)

 

I had been meaning to share a comprehensive list of the books I have read thus far this year.

I set myself the challenge of reading at least 60 books this year and the first quarter turned out to be rather successful.I aimed for 5 books per month,but slightly surpassed that in the first month.

 

January

  1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  2. Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
  3. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  5. The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  6. Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson.

 

February

  1. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  2. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  3. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (re-read)
  4. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
  5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

 

March

  1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  2. The Examined Life(How We Lose and Find Ourselves) by Stephen Grosz
  3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  4. Books v. Cigarettes by George Orwell
  5. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

 

Tips for reading more

Read  anywhere and everywhere. Block out the noise of public transport by focusing your  mental energies on a book.

Read with a theme in mind. In January I focused on books written by female writers and discovered the genius that is Cheryl Strayed. After reading George Orwell’s  superb collection of essays,Books v.Cigarettes,I’m now more interested in anthological style publications.

End a book if you don’t find that reading it is pleasurable or interesting.Two months ago, I found myself ploughing through an old copy of Catcher in the Rye with great difficulty. I expected to enjoy this book as much as the renowned literary critics had claimed that anybody would.I simply could not relate and therefore moved on to something that aroused my imagination and intellect.

Get a Kindle. When you’re uninterested in the books you see on bookshelves and want a varied collection of literature, your kindle will not disappoint. When you want to read something chunky/heavy and wordy like The Goldfinch or Murakami’s IQ84, your  kindle is your best friend.

Count the length of pages of a book beforehand. The point of setting a reading goal,is in part to succeed at it. Some weeks permit more reading than others. Smaller books suffice for short journeys for example and lengthier books will see you through a week long holiday.