Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bayelsa - Day 4

For some people, yesterday was the tipping point.

Some tipped to the positive, others tipped to the negative.

For me, it was a bit of both.

I started my morning with the now habitual breakfast with one of Nigeria and Bayelsa's greatest, Dr Gabriel Okara. I just must repeat my bewonderment at how lucid, articulate and witty this 89 year old man is. I almost have a crush on him. Almost.

While his niece visited with him, I completed and posted yesterday's blog, which actually felt a bit like I was being rude, hunched over my phone like Abdul. I thank my parents forever for my up-bringing. At the time we always think our parents are nagging nd 'having a go at us' but it all plants itself somewhere deep in one's psyche, and bubbles up when and where appropriate.

Anyway, eventually we were told of the breakfast plan which, involved breakfasting at 'Tourism'. I had already had and paid for mine. I emphasise the 'paid for' because my trip ws supposed to be 'all expenses paid' so far I had paid for two meals, a breakfast and drinks.
On arrival at 'Tourism,' it seemed as if the whole world had had the same idea. There was a feverish energy in the hot air. Full of tables and chairs under canopies, and a buffet laden with all sorts of goodies.
We hustled ourselves a table...and scavenged some chairs, well the guys did, while I teetered in the soft grass on my Lady Gaga's. Yes, I did!
Uti's crew were well settled in and enjoying the morning, I had a feeling of deja vu at the rambunctiousness coming from their table, which was flanked by pretty girls in shorts and pretty boys in tight tees. The previous night at the hotel restaurant had been much the same.

With the echo of my sweetheart's words in my ear 'make sure you mingle,' 'don't go into yourself'...I forced myself to go over and say a bright 'hello' followed by 'good morning' followed by 'did you sleep well'. To which Uti answered 'Not really'. I laughed. He laughed. We laughed.
In trooped Zach Orji, Lancelot, Brian Opara, Osi, Ukeje and many many more...I even took a picture with Zach, who wasn't too thrilled with my left hand self-snapping skills!

Before we left, while huddled by my door we heard a voice, a beautiful singing voice. Andrew and I immediately rolled our eyes at yet another 'attention seeker' and Stephen, the ever vigilent star-spotter called out 'Tim!!!' So that was a little preview of what was to come.
By 8pm we arrived at the AMAAs venue and did a bit of the red carpet thing. As usual, I hung back, only to be hoodwinked into giving two interviews before I could get to the door. 'Who are you wearing???' Wtf! I wasn't prepared for that! Errmmmm...

After the usual boring protocols, and monotonous soliloquys, we started seeing some stars.
AY and Ama presented as hosts. Musical artists were 'Flavour' 'Waje'. Comedy from 'Funny Bone', G-Bone. Celebs in da hizzous were RMD, Zach Orji, Chioma Chukwuka, Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikedieze,A.K.A Aki & Paw Paw, Uti Nwachukwu, Brian Opara, Alex, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Charles Novia, Charles Inojie, Clint the Drunk, Victor Osuagu Ibinabo Fiberesima (who moved around a lot)...and many many more.
As we left I passed Uti in the corridor, and he'd just finished presenting. 'Cute suit (me) thanks sis (him), big hug (us) . 'I tweeted (me)' *thumbs up* (him). Outside, 'Flavour' swept past us with a huge entourage...nearly knocked me down. Sigh.

Home, Udeme hotel never looked so good.
A sleep full of nightmares of being stranded in Bayelsa and my boo coming to rescue me. I guess I'm missing home.

But WHAT AN EXPERIENCE this week has been. A surreal one. I look forward to the next. Lessons learned Onyeka, thank you for the invitation. I enjoyed this, but let's do it better next time.


It's been swell!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Bayelsa - Day 3

Yesterday was a 'flying by the the seat of your pants' kind of day.

And started with no water in my room.

The day continued with an email from our host, Oneyka Nwelue (representing AMAA) to update us and set us up for the day. We were informed that there would be a few changes to the programme.

We did have some interesting talks. I especially enjoyed 'Fine Doctors' a panel of Writers who are doctors in the 'day jobs' and talked to us about the balancing act between their work and their art. The title was a deliberate play on the title of the book 'Fine Boys' by Eghosa Imasuan. Then Molara Wood, writer journalist and editor, and Special Advisor to the President on Documentation read a speech on the value of acclaimed authors, reading and BOOKS! She gave special mention to the late great Chinua Achebe.

After a lovely drive which kept bringing the phrase 'Down in the Delta' back to my mind, we arrived at our lunch venue, the Professor E Alagoa Library, where, after a short speech, we enjoyed some of the local delicacy like 'Keke Fiyai' (KKF) its means 'sliced food' and consists of plantain and a thick porridge. YUM! Then we had a tour of the beautifully equipped library. As an avid reader and a lover of books, this was one of my highlights on the trip so far.

The afternoon didn't pan out as the programme panels were first amended, then replaced with others. I was disappointed and a tad relieved, but mostly disappointed. By the time we were hustled up 3 flights of spiral stairs (us, included the amazing and sprightly 89 year old Poet/Writer Dr Gabriel Okara) we were promised a film, which I was hoping would be 'Mammy Water' by another new friend Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, but alas they couldn't locate any speakers so that didn't happen either.
A hurried panel of writers was convened instead. Another new friend got to talk about her book, and that's never a bad thing for an author.

Back at the busy hotel, we spent the evening in the restaurant. Uti Nwachukwu and his noisy crew at the table across from ours. But what a lovely man! When an altercation broke out, he intervened to calm everyone down.
More new friends to gulp at the fact that I have a 21 year old daughter, and beg for her hand...were: Rebel chuck, Uche (Williams), the beautiful cat-eyed Doris(she didn't beg), Kosara, Eromo (the columnist who doesn't like his name called out loud in a room crowded with Nollywood stars whom he has recently ripped to shreads in his column).

We took reams of photos, including some with a random Scotsman who's name escapes me, but who 'did his Masters in London, is 61 and takes money from the oil companies' for a living.

A good night was had by all.

As for today? I'm having breakfast with Mr Gabriel Okara OON, third morning in a row! WOOP!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Bayelsa - Day 2

Yesterday was a whirlwind!

My first treat was at breakfast, where we were joined by Mr Gabriel Okara, who happened to be staying in the same hotel. And yes, he sat next to ME giving me the opportunity to chat to him about all his awards, poems and his rich, rich life. This gentle spoken and articulate 89 year old was someone I would have loved to be in a room with for a whole day, just to be able to absorb his stories. He explained the meaning behind his favourite poem 'The Voice' and we discussed past and present societal influence on change. It was food for the soul

After breakfast we left for the venue. The stars had started to arrive, and I was mildly amused to hear that Dudley O'Shaugnessey
Had been kept waiting at the airport for 2 hours upon arrival, and had threatened to get on the next flight back home. Now, if you have been through Port Harcourt recently I won't have to explain this, but for those who haven't, let me tell you how uncomfortable it presently is, while under refurbishment, there is nowhere to sit down. Its reminiscent of how Lagos International used to be 15 years back. We were waiting 5 hours after arrival. Sufferance. But we were happy enough just getting to know one another, so I guess poor Dudley couldn't amuse himself as easily. Also being a 6 Foot black man with blonde hair, not a blendable mix.

The day went smoothly, with my new friend Peter drafted in as MC and doing a great job, the first panel of wise old men including Elechi Amadi and Gabriel Okara, reading from Chinau Achebe's latest book 'There Was a Country' which chronicles a person history of Biafra. It was moving and rich in context. I was glued. Also writer and friend Sabine Jell-Bahlsen was invited to read a section.

Then followed some musical interludes withe performances from KC and SSV, while the rain thumped down outside the venue.

During lunch a funny two funny things happened. The panelists came in a little late and of course, as usual the 'youngsters' had rushed to get the best tables, only to be embarrassed upon the arrival of the troupe of stately gentlemen. Secondly, I was chastised for not 'finishing my meat'. I'm mean REALLY TOLD OFF. The last lash of the whip was 'Where Are You From?' I could have answered this in 3 ways. 1. England 2. Caribbean or 3. Lagos...I sensed only 'England' would satisfy, so that's what I gave her. She sniffed, looked down her nose, and left with my plate.

The afternoon plan didn't pan out, and we ended the evening poolside at my hotel. More new friends: Marjolein from France a beautiful blonde, Tobenna from Enugu, an intelligent, sharp and hilariously university student who, I found out, is the nephew of one of my oldest friends. His face went pale as he did the Math! 'So, you're nearly my mother's age? Hahaha! Not quite..but I'm certainly a lot older than YOU. I learned about the inner workings of 'Opus Dei' and how he stopped drinking completely after he became an alcoholic. We enjoyed the banter, the friendly insults flung back and forth between Onyeka and his friends...the last one was to Tobenna from Onyeka accusing his father (Tobenna's) of 'ugliness'. This prompted Tobenna to take me through the slide presentation of his parents 25th wedding anniversary montage. Indeed his father is. And always was an attractive man. Case closed.

Ok, now, having sorted out my water which is now running, I must jump in the shower and start my day. My sessions with Uti, Dudley and Chris and Denrele are today. Let's see who show up. I know I'll be there!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Bayelsa is Beautiful! 
We arrived at our hotel after midnight last night and 'woke' the restaurant staff to give us dinner. My new friends:
'Writer Peter' from Abuja and 'Journalist Abdul' from Kano joined me for a late late supper, all exhausted by the length of the journey and the 3 hour wait for all participants to arrive at Port Harcourt airport, Abdul promptly fell asleep at the table, and Sabrina went straight to sleep, after all, she'd started her journey from Germany.
We had already established what we have in common and whom our common friends are: some names (apart for Onyeka of course) that came up were ''Eljo', Carmen McCain, Felix Obi and Lola Shoneyin...the ALS and AWF. 
Sabrina has SUCH an interesting story! She was here in the 80's and told us of the times when Lagos was so dangerous that if you went clubbing, you'd have to sleep in the club! Also her water journeys in the Delta! She's back! She's excited to join the book fair as one of the panelists and experience the AMAA awards with us.
Peter told me so many things that left my jaw on the ground...just one was that I shouldn't be surprised if I 'hear that he DIED'! Peter works for the same boss as my friend Ebere, and is super-intelligent. He has plans later to join the Nigerian Secret Service...ssshhh! Don't tell anyone!! He has so many talents...I can already imagine what he will achieve in his life.
Abdul is ALWAYS on his phone. But then, as a Journalist, who won't allow me to call myslef a writer even though I am twice published (newspaper and online magazine, but hell, published is published) he's probably doing some useful journalistic thing when hunched over his iphone/ipad or lappy. Abdul denies he's an academic, but I still think he thinks like one...analysing everything I say carefully, and asking deep questions. A sign of a true thinker!  
Today I woke to an exciting email from Onyeka welcoming us and telling us about all the activities planned for today.

It feels a bit like I'm in the Tim Burton version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, except Onyeka Nwelue is 'Willy Wonka' haha! 
I'm here, I'm loving it, and I'm not going to to miss a thing! 
I'd better go, breakfast is calling.

Here's the programme (which is subject to change), if you look carefully, you'll see my name where I'll moderate 2 sessions under 'Fame and Personal Entanglements' and 'Goldie'.
What am I MOST looking forward to? Meeting Denrele, the REALEST TV Personality in Nigeria! 

Friday, 1 March 2013

You Walk Alone

You walk alone

You pretend you have people, and things and dreams.  But really, you walk alone.
Don't kid yourself that 'you're in that thing together', it is not a partnership, but a choice.
When the wind blows otherwise, or gets cold, or dry or turn to the side of you
and it's only you.

We walk alone

We make plans, to do things, go places join in. But where is it all written? How do we know? Why are we sure?
Don't be foolish or blinkered in our vision, we are only us, only I only you.
Those things are coming from one place, within one person, us.

I walk alone

Say you love me, SAY IT! It means nothing to me.  When I seek to take it, cash it in, a void replies.
My echo is me, I.
These hollow eyes stare back at this vacant face. Replete.

I /We/You
Walk alone.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Inside Out

It's coming up to that time of year again. It's almost as if Valentine's Day is meant to lift one out of the doldroms of January and February's, post-holidayfreeze, you can understand that either in terms of weather, or finances, depending on where you live in the world.  I wrote this 3 years ago, and it always returns to my thoughts sometime in the week before the 'DAY OF LOVE.' My feelings towards which never change, regardless of my relationship status is at the time.  Here goes...

'Inside out'

Happy Val's Day! February 2010. Reminding me that right now no-one loves me enough to go through the motions.
The motions begin.....
Flowers, chocolates, dinner etc, etc...etcetera...etcetera here in affluent Nigeria even references to luxury hampers, designer dresses, jewellry and CARS.

2010, this time last year I had just broken up with my first, post-seperation boyfriend.

The year before that, February 14th was the day after my ex husband's cousins wedding. The one where he ignored me the whole day, while simultaneously being preoccupied with his phone. The day after the wedding, I made him a big Sunday breakfast then sat with him in our Ikoyi residence, while he flicked between CNN and Sky Sports. When the boredom started to set in, and I retired to the bedroom to log onto Facebook. He came in and made a fuss of it: "you're always on that thing". I was speechless. Well not quite...we fought. The ensuing row resulted in me being abandoned to find my way to Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos- in a 'cabo cabo' non- air conditioned taxi, alone, unaided, loaded down with bags and depressing thoughts. He didn't even see me to the door. I remember feeling embarrassed at the staff's pitying glances as I struggled alone into the cab. The entry in my journal for that day: This time next year, I need to have left him.

1 May 2009 I left.

Back to February 14th 2010. I recall dropping into my local Abuja supermarket to pick up some milk; and feeling irritated at being accosted by red roses, discounted chocolates, rotund hanging hearts, and Barry White on the supermarket radio, "Girrrrrl, it's just you and me...." Then on the drive home, on the car radio driving home, DJ Tilly talking about the many club parties planned for the evening.
I clearly remember thinking 'give me a break' Newly broken up and depressed, having stashed the GIANT Valentine's card I'd bought for Charlie, because I thought we'd make up...I decided to join friends for dinner, and drinks.

In fact, as far back as I can remember, I've not had a positive St Valentines experience. So here's the thing:
I don't believe in it.
I feel loved by those who love me, EVERYday. In fact the irony of it is that I feel 'less' loved on 14th February than the days before or after.

I know I'm not the only one to have this epiphany, and opt out of the tide of cliché- commercialised-pseudo-romanticism. For many, this is easier to float with than to swim against the tide. Romanticism versus love. Romance for the outside, love for the heart.

Conclusion reached: St Valentine has it all inside out.

D.Edwards (copyright)
Feb 14th, 2010