Sunday, 25 November 2007

Just like riding a bike..... ish

I am in pain. Severe pain. The sort of pain women complain about during childbirth. Only I do not have access to an epidural. Or a doctor. no. It's just me and good ole Paracetamol. See this is what happens when vanity and ego overtake common sense. Some weeks ago we had the pleasure of having Laspapi round for dinner during which he casually mentioned that he played five - a- side football every Friday. He looked fit and well and I took this as a good sign that the Friday kickabout was doing him good.

Since then we have exchanged emails and I have made enquiries about the game stating categorically that:
- I have not played in at least five years

- My current fitness leaves something to be desired

- Constant travelling does not help

- My advancing years could be an issue etc etc.

I feel that I gave him enough clues for him to be able to say. Toksie you are absolutely right. You continue to stay at home of a Saturday evening eating spring rolls and sipping on fruit cocktails. Sure, make the occasional trip to LaCasa to "work out" and all will be well. But no. The mails came thick and fast. Oh everything will be alright. We are all old men. None of us is fully fit. You will fit right in. We will play at the right pace.

And so it was that I donned my trainers (white of course) and headed off to the Astro turf pitch last night. The first clue that all was not well was that there was no sign of my "mentor". Maybe he is running late I thought to myself as I watched a bunch of fit Arabs\ Lebanese blast the ball about the pitch. Thank God I am not playing with these guys. He'll be here any minute now with the rest of the geriatrics, I try to convince myself, and we can get on with it. It wil be more about skill than speed.

Seconds turn into minutes and thirty of those later I found myself being fitted into an orange jersey and lining up with nine other players - none of whom was a day past 30. Some of them looked fit and muscular enough to play in the Premiership. Unfortunately there was no hiding place. This was five a side. There were nine of them and well you don't have to be a scientist.

For those of you not familiar with this brutal sport here is how it works. Unlike regular football, there are only five players per side, normally there are plenty of subs to allow players to rest, it is played on a smaller pitch than the standard which is normally Astro Turf. Oh and the game tends to move very quickly indeed. Especially if you are forty something and your knees are shot and your groin muscles are em tight. (Bill Cosby to David Letterman. I pulled a groin muscle last night. Dave to Bill. Was it yours? Classic). Anyways.

I look over and notice there are no subs, and no Laspapi, on the bench. I am run ragged. My breath, when it comes, is coming from somewhere near my ankles. I can tell because I am bent over double on my knees and can feel and hear the blood pumping through my veins. From my toes. We are three minutes into the game. I have already dispatched a bottle of water and now realise the foolishness of quaffing that bowl of jollof rice and efo stew earlier in the afternoon to "beef" up my energies.

I rain curses on my tor"mentor"'s head as the ball continues to whizz past me like the okada men on the Lekki Expressway. I eye the referee so ferociously urging him to blow his whistle for half time he must think I am trying to pick him up. Eventually there is only one thing for it. My turn to be the keeper. I wheeze as I stumble towards the post, my vision blurred from sweat and light headedness.

The keeper is none too pleased as he later confides that he is suffering from the excesses of the previous night. Too many drinks, too many women, dusk turns into dawn etc. Damn those were the days I think to myself... as the ball whizzes past me into the net. Note to self. Concentrate. And er stand up. I use the post to leverage myself into a standing position and then miraculously feel my second, or is it fourth wind, appearing. I decide to go for it and call back the fairly grateful keeper and I make my way on to the wings where I give a display of left sided play those young whipper snappers will propably not see again for some time ( I reckon it will take at least two weeks for me to feel my knees and toes again).

Much to my relief the referee finally blows. I muster all my strength to run to the drinks cabinet, give high fives to one and all and make for my departure until I am told it is only halftime. We still have another half to go. Has it just been fifteen minutes?

From the look on their faces I am pretty sure those guys had never seen a grown man cry like that before. Wait till I get my hands on that Laspapi who never did show up. He won't even be able to whisper to the girls when I finish with him.

Oh and by the way we lost. By one point. And I saved four goals. Let in three. Scored none. Came close though. Twice. So there.
I'm off to rest.

Moments with Moe

I arrive home to find Moe wandering around the garden. In his hand is a two way radio. Finally it has arrived after two months of waiting. Finally they can communicate with their HQ and their armed patrols if we ever come under attack. But why is he wandering around the garden? " Moe, which one you dey do? Why the wandering?" Moe tells me he is looking for a signal for the radio. Say what? Moe believes the radio to be like a mobile phone and that he needs to find a sweet spot from which he can make his emergency transmissions should the unexpected ever happen. So you plan to be running around the garden looking for a signal if we are ever attacked? "Oga, it is for the best." I break it to him gently that a good radio in working order should be able to pick up a signal from any part of the compound. He does not seem convinced. I leave him to it and only pray that should anything happen they will at least grant him the courtesy of time for him to run to the magic spot in order to make the distress call.

As we are finishing off our discussion there is a high pitched wailing on the radio. It is a female voice and is clearly in some distress. We both stare at the device in his hands waiting for the next transmission. It is not long in coming. The next thing we hear is the chorus to the Rihanna song, Umbrella. It turns out that the damsel in distress was actually singing (or screeching). On a two way security radio. I wonder how the armed response responded to that?

Scene 2. Moe approaches me in his usual manner which is from the side. Regardless of which way I turn he meanders around to try and stay out of my line of vision even though he is trying to engage me in conversation. It is like something out of Miami Vice (the TV series not the film). Those old enough will remember that Castillo (the Head of the Dept.) would always be facing the wall, the door, or gazing into the far distance as he had conversations with Crockett and Stubbs. Anyway, finally we get ourselves into a position where I am staring off into the far distance (damn if only I had been prepared and had put on my linen suit and white shoes)and he begins to talk.

Moe -Oga, em I just want tell you say there was shooting in the area four days ago.
Me- oh really?
Moe- Yes as a matter of fact it was very close by. Even sef the other security man wanted to run to the back of the house.
Me - the back of the house?
Moe- yes, you know that place on the other side of the front of the house wey you been tell us about? (okay I deserved that.)
Me - oh yes. That back of the house. Why would he run there?
Moe - Because he dey afraid.
Me - but if persons enter the house will they not also go to the back of the house?
Moe - na so I tell him before he come calm down. Then I pushed the panic button and the armed response came.
Me- ok. How long did it take?
Moe - about 20 mins. They then said that they would charge me, that is you, for false alarm.
Me - but why if there was shooting? I beg please press the alarm anytime something like that dey happen close to the house. You have it with you now?
Moe- No it is in the security shed on the shelf.
Me - How do you plan to press it from there if something happens?
Moe -I will run to get it.
Me- Before or after you run to the garden to radio for help?

It goes right over his head of course.He looks at me , once , twice and then shuffles away.
And so it goes.

And yes I am taking my prayers more seriously.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

History repeating itself??

Have just returned from a week in Abuja (after a week in Uganda which I will blog about later) where I continue to notice a decline in what was once a very beatific and civilised part of Nigeria. I cannot recall the total number of near misses I saw but do recall seeing some very serious accidents one of them which looked particularly nasty. It would seem that the bad driving habits in Lagos are now making their presence felt in Abuja. When I first visited Abuja about 6 years ago I was gobsmacked that such a contrast existed to Lagos within Nigeria. Over the years I have started to notice the deterioration in the public facilities (what has happened to the street lights and traffic lights?) as well as a rise in the type of crude, rude, aggressive behaviours one had learned to associate only with Lagos. Even something as simple as entering the gates of the Transcorp Hilton is now laden with threats, swearing, aggression and fisticuffs as traffic from three or four different directions all want to squeeze into the single lane entrance. Some of these cars are bearing the elected "leaders" of our great society who continue to set a great example for one and all.

Speaking of which my spirit has been high and my morale boosted after weeks in the doldrums. Promised myself I would not comment until it was over but never expected to have to wait this long. The stress was unimaginable. I called it a cancer on the soul and Iyawo labelled it a darkness of the heart. I of course refer to the case of the vile Etteh(gate). Every morning I would wake up and rush to the TV to see if she had resigned or been sacked or something just to show the world that there was a modicum of sanity in this country. I found it absurd that the dispute was around due process rather than the fact that someone was prepared to spend between N500 -N650m to"refurbish" a couple of houses. F*** due process. Charge her with obscenity. Charge her with idiocy. Charge her with greed and stupidity. Insolence and alacrity. Whatever.

In the meantime it is repeated to me several times by different people that her pursuers are not doing it for moral reasons but more for the fact that they were either not cut in on the action or that they want to send a message to someone. Apparently the money issue is nether here nor there. After all, they say, what is N500m? £2m?? Oh please. A lot of them would not get out of their beds for that sort of loose change. If that is the case I plan to start my campaign for election very shortly. Watch this space. I already have a slogan - Toksie for Speaker of the House. He promises to only spend a miserly N100m refurbishing his house. (and then in small print - "every three months"). He will also not waste your money on a body massage machine as he already has one called Iyawo. Instead that N98m will therefore be spent responsibly on something that will benefit all members if his constituency - a bullet proof Range Rover with Tinted Winders and 23 inch spinning alloys, with satellite navigation and a 10 CD changer. To be used for Official business only. Catchy eh?

To cap it all I had a meeting with a mole. Let's call him deep throat. He tells me that all is not well with our democracy. Gee, really? Go figure. Apparently the powers that were still feel that they are the powers that are and the powers that are, are much too reserved to take full control and unless something happens shortly then it could all fall apart and we could end up where we always end up historically if you get my meaning. He tells me however that all is not lost yet and there are moves underway to re-balance the situation and blow me down with a feather if I did not see a headline the next morning confirming one of those moves.

Will history repeat itself? I hope not but this is Nigeria.

Please do not forget to cast your vote for the next Speaker of the House of Representa Thieves.