Monday, 19 December 2011

The weekend away.

I should apologise that it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, but that would be hugely inadequate. So I’ll say pardon my absence, I was undertaking an intense period of research that concluded in... no tangible findings, but some good (and happy) stories. And getting destroyed by work, but that is a rant for a different time.

I was fortunate enough to go on a proper weekend away. When I say proper, I mean one that was organised as a surprise by the significant other (a story for another day). You see, as a girl who has always wanted to be able to say ‘I went away this weekend with ...’, I tended to do all the organising and the ... did the turning up. But this time was different. I was whisked from my abode late on a Friday evening, having packed almost everything I own and nothing I could wear (in rain, and near freezing temperatures) and taken to my rest station for the night. We departed bright and early (ish) and 2 hours of tarmac and lingala later, checked into a lovely little hotel by a lovely river, having held hands the whole way. This is a really long time when one is driving a manual car.

Then it struck me...there’s something about being away that makes you want to be exceptionally deviant. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps the idea that no one in that town knows who you are, or is likely to ever see you again, or perhaps you feel like it’s a new reinvention of the person even if it’s only for a weekend. Either way, the deviance began before I’d left home, and it involved buying suggestive clothing off a website adorned purely in fuscia and black. I was harbouring less than honourable thoughts and making adequate preparations to fulfil them.

This, coupled with ridiculously high heels, an extravagant candlelit dinner and a bottle of champagne should have made for a very rewarding evening for the significant other. It was going swimmingly. We were holding hands at dinner, doing that annoying ‘we’ll take up the whole pavement as we walk because we are holding hands’ thing that inspires one to commit grievous bodily harm, stealing glances over a shared dessert and rehashing intimate stories. Hearts fluttered somewhere in the distance, and the nearby church bells chimed in rehearsal for a wedding the next day. It could not have been more perfect. Except it could...

It appears that this ‘deviant behaviour’ extended into sleeping habits as well. We got back to the hotel where a rose lay near a box of chocolates on quite a large bed (we made quite an impression at check-in). I decided to test the pillows, you know, assess them for comfort. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the pillows in hotels are always obscenely comfortable. Exactly five minutes later (it could have been only two, who knows), I had passed out, mouth wide open, winter coat wrapped around me, arms flung every which way and the occasional snort intermingled with my rather heavy breathing. I have to say that even I was quite impressed by this feat. It was only midnight...that would be the starting point of most of my Saturday nights out. Needless to say, I had a lot of explaining/making up to do the next morning, especially when I woke up half falling off the bed, still in my coat and a rather distant man underneath the duvets not quite beside me. He had this pained expression suggesting I had robbed him, and to be honest, myself, of a tasty tryst. For shame. For shame. For shame.

I’ve just bought the Christmas gift that I hope will be the perfect atonement for my misdeed but it remains thin ice at the moment... I have the feeling that normal service has resumed, and I will have to organise all further 'weekends away'. So much for change.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


I spent the last couple of weeks on holiday, back home in Nairobi, hence my blogging hiatus. True to form, the city offered up more temptations than I knew what to do with. In fact, I am still reeling and not quite back down to earth.

Temptations aren’t always a bad thing. I’ve been reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, and if ever you needed justification for any hedonistic and utterly extravagant desires, this is the book for you. At least the first few chapters are. One of the protagonists argues that the only way to rid oneself of a temptation is to yield to it. I’m not so sure that’s ridding oneself of the temptation or rather, the power it has over you. You can get back the hours you spend endlessly thinking about ‘what it would be like’. He also argues that in order to become young again, one should remember great errors of youth, and do them all over again. This will in the very least save one from death due to a creeping common sense, and aid the realisation that one never really regrets their mistakes. So in essence, give into temptation to remain young. I like it.

So this holiday, I did just that. I gave into temptation. I met new people, something that I am not particularly famed for. And guess what, I liked it. I spent time with old friends, and again, I really liked it. I allowed old flames to be re-ignited, and that my friends, along with stolen kisses, a fleeting romance, a wandering hand and a lustful eye, I really really liked. [Also, just so you know, there’s nothing quite as enticing as a 19th century lustful quote off to start the day. Tell me something naughty in Shakespearean English and... Shakespeare and his boys were very naughty.]

It appears that the last 6 months I’d started to die of a creeping seriousness, as Oscar Wilde would put it. This break was necessary, if not to save me from my tedious self, then to remind me that sometimes, being young means being a little clueless (very occasionally reckless, within reason of course), and embracing the unknown. Hmm... now I’m not so sure reading this book again is good for me, from a moral point of view.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The anatomy of phobias.

The learning theory states that phobias become ingrained due to conditioning experiences, you know, like Pavlov’s dog. A bell was rung and the dog was given food. The dog associated the bell with food. This was continually reinforced, till the dog began to anticipate the food. Each time the bell rang, the dog began to salivate. It learnt the association. This is one of the myriad of theories that tries to explain how we develop phobias. A case in point...I am scared of spiders. When I was about 19, a spider put its little spidery leg in my mouth as I slept. It took a few seconds for me to wake up, but I never forgot the absolute horror I felt at almost swallowing a stupid spider. Oh, it wasn’t a daddy-long legs, it was one those more robust beasts, slightly hairy too. An association started to form, and what followed was a state of research...I googled all circumstances in which spiders had killed people. I re-watched arachnophobia, and then I became hyper-vigilant. I would spot spiders that were running away from me, trying to hide. I would chase them down into dark tunnels and deserted rooms, just so I could point out the spider. And then I would be scared. I would return to hiding, shaking in a corner, because I had spotted a spider. I graduated from this ‘vigilante’ state to an avoidance state. So if I had spotted a spider somewhere innocuous at any point in the past, it would be an excuse not to go to that place. I would avoid rooms in the house, certain shoes that looked like they could hide spiders (don’t ask me what that looks like; you’ll know it when you see it) and generally putting my feet on the floor. My simple fear was starting to resemble a phobia. It’s better now, though I still occasionally conjure up spidery images...and scare myself silly though there’s nothing there.

The whole point of this pre-amble is that I started to think that perhaps there are some phobias that we need to learn, for example, the phobia of the arsehole. That guy or girl that uses you for even less than your worth, and then tosses you away like a bit of 1 ply toilet paper, not even recyclable. You need to make a point to remember these people, to research their characters and whatever the hell it is that attracts you to that damage and then become hyper-vigilant, looking for said associations (character and behaviour). Then you need to develop the old avoidance techniques. Run like the plague is chasing you after lopping off Bolt’s pins and attaching them to its own body. Run very very very fast in the opposite compass direction. Keep running till the person is now a dot behind you, and then run some more.

If it works, you’ll become phobic of rubbish, and might spare yourself quite a lot of nonsense. I’ll let you know how it works for me. At first glance though, I feel its failsafe. In fact, I feel I might be able to extrapolate this to my fear of Facebook, limited intelligence, rubbish jobs etc. I am getting really excited about the prospects now...

In other news, I’ll be home in like 5 days. There is a God after all.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Life is too damn short.

What in this world can prepare you for death? I mean, what difference would it make if someone told you that you would die in the next 45 minutes?

It’s September 11th, a day that holds a lot of memories, most of them traumatic, for a great deal of people. 10 years ago, tragedy hit New York and suddenly, people questioned the value of human life, questioned each other’s belief in the sanctity of breath, and became doubtful of anyone that bore any slight difference to themselves. A decade later, and here we are, with people in worlds far afield, still paying the price for an intangible immeasurable threat, a testament to the greatest loss of all, a tolerant society and the value of human life. But that’s a rant for another day.

Today I’m sad because someone close to me died. It’s all fuckery when someone tells you that you’ll have time to prepare for death. Hell, it’s all fuckery when I say it to my patients that are facing the end of their lives. Do I believe it? Well I’ve known my cousin was dying for 3 years, and yet every time I saw her, she looked better than the last. So I never once said goodbye, never acknowledged that I might be away and she might die, and I might never hold her once more. The warning was there, and yet, it’s not natural to prepare to deal with loss.

My mum said her kids seem to be doing fine. But she’s from a stoic generation, where emotions had their place, which was most definitely not public. I don’t know how they feel, but given that I had a much better understanding of her illness (from an emotionally detached place) and yet could not feel prepared and don’t feel fine, I’m inclined to think that is not the case.

Nothing prepares you for death. Even watching someone dying, over weeks and months, nothing prepares you for that moment of loss. Nothing prepares you for the fact that you will cry in the middle of the street when a memory comes back to you. Nothing prepares you to face not saying goodbye. Nothing. 

R.I.P. R.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

365 days....minus 7

One of my biggest fears is looking back on any period of time and realising that I did nothing. This is the reason I hate being hangover, wake up at 5am, read on trains and often have lunch while at my desk. Life rushes past all of us, and we all try to stop and smell the roses blah blah, but sometimes, I think that’s just an excuse for laziness extraordinaire. The greatest link to memory is the sense of smell, which suggests that the rosy scent won’t be forgotten any time soon, ergo, no need for constant stopping and smelling.

Either way, it was my birthday last week. I woke up with the dreaded ‘what the hell will I wear’ thought. You know, the perfect outfit that says ‘year older, but still effortlessly cool’. Then I was gripped with fear that there would be a lot of time in the last year that would remain unaccounted. So I did what I do best, I made a list on the train to work:

I got me a job, so I can say on the train to work. This whole post hinged on that line (well not really, but for theatrics’ sake, we’ll pretend it did).

I learnt how to cook a good paella, a new amazing risotto, la bandiera, rare steak, and developed an appreciation for black coffee.

I have read 13 books this year. Two about India, two about Nigeria, three about heart break and love, one about the human psyche, 2 classics, 1 about politics, 1 about economics, and the one that can only be classed as putting Danielle Steele raunch in a nunnery.

I made new friends. People that I would never have met, and yet add oodles to my life (I started saying oodles, and I will stop...all within the same 12 month period). I learnt that acquaintances are alright.

I lived through riots (really really tenuously kind of).

I became an aunt. Three times. Four in fact.

I had my heart sort of broken, and put back together before it hit the ground. I’m in limbo, but it’s currently a really good place to be.

I started a blog, which while not being particularly good, made me read other people’s blogs, and that my friends, has been fantastic.

I learnt to smile, not because I had a reason to, but because once I did, the reason showed itself.

You make of life what you want it to be. I learnt to believe in the veracity of that statement, and I am so much better and wiser for it.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Riddle me this...

I was walking in a shopping mall exactly 12 hours after I had moved to the wonderful city of London, when this man walked up to me and said hi. You must understand a few things about me... I don’t have a reputation of being very patient with strangers. I took my mother’s advice to give them a wide berth, and before social networking, a boy/man/girl had to know someone I knew for us to have any chance of any sort of relationship. Yes, even I am not sure that my relationships did not have a touch of the incestuous about them (ß is not a confession). But moving on...

He introduced himself...he had a rather unmemorable name. I smiled thinking he was about to ask for directions, and I was already preparing the half-smile and dismissive ‘don’t know the area well, sorry’ line. Instead, he launched into the most heart-felt bullshit I’ve ever heard. I actually stopped and listened. He opened with ‘my friends and I were having a conversation about what we would do if we ever so a beautiful woman on the street’. Vanity is a strange bedfellow; it creeps up on you, throws out your contraceptive pill and ravages you without so much as an introduction. There I was, inflated with its child, smiling at this total stranger (who could have had a gun, a knife, been an undercover reporter. I will be dealing with my stranger danger sense, or lack thereof later), waiting for his next line. ‘We’re all in our mid-thirties, recently single and searching, and we figured that the best thing to do would be to walk up to the girl and tell her how we felt’. I took a deep breath in and waited... ‘I saw you and I thought, there’s a pretty girl I’d like to get to know, so here I am. Am I in any luck?’ I looked around and a hoard of tourists had stopped to observe this Shakespearean scene. I took on the air of a thespian and dramatically told him that were I not in a committed relationship, I would most certainly jump at the chance of having coffee with a delightful young man such as himself. He had grey eyes; I am still not sure how I resisted the urge to ask him out for dinner instead. He then asked me for a breakdown of his courtship tactics, and after about 10 minutes of hapless advice, we parted ways; me, blushing furiously and him walking very fast in the opposite direction.

I walked on to my destination, a little cafe round the corner, berating myself for perhaps being a little too dismissive. I’d even got to the point where I was muttering under my breath that this might explain why I was so very single, and occasionally lonely. I ordered a large coffee and retreated behind my computer to tweet, and illegally download F1 when I spotted the same gentleman about 2 feet away from me. For a woman he considered beautiful, I was suprisingly ‘inconspicuous’. He walked straight past me, and just as I was about to tap him on his shoulder and make a stalker joke, he stopped at a nearby table where another lonely girl sat, also on the internet, probably on twitter, and issued another corny chat up line, bits of which included ‘I don’t understand how someone quite so pretty could be sat here alone and none of the men are yet to pounce. Unless you’re with friends of course...’  She obviously wasn’t, and he sat down and they had coffee, and I presume a relationship, either of carnal or intimate nature ensued.

I sat there, very bemused and feet firmly back down to earth. I had just almost acquiesced to a date with a stranger, who also happened to be of loose morals, and God forbid, a smooth criminal. Somebody, riddle me this. Please.

[Next week, the chronicle of that very same evening shall ensue. There will be a lot to judge me for, so in your anticipation, I hope you find it within you to forgive the recent lack of tales.]

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The perfect distance apart.

So apparently I don’t talk about work. This is novel for’s like finding out that I am not as whiney as I sometimes think I sound. Either way, I started my new job as a doctor this week. I haven’t saved a life yet, haven’t done anything magical. In fact, all I’ve done is realised that I’m going to have to be one shit hot secretary for the next 6 months. You know...make sure everyone gets whatever it is they want when they want it, including thinking about when they’ll want to pee and informing them of the fact (my superiors are really nice, I’m just being facetious). Tomorrow will be exciting...I will see my first real patients, probably panic at the thought in the middle of dealing with them, and run squealing like the little coward I am.

Anyway, so in the midst of a very fascinating talk on the importance of governance security, and the need to vary the location of capital letters in passwords (I tried to stay awake, I really did...), my phone beeped signalling an email. I opened it expecting it to be some horrendous news, like further delay to my internet or cancellation of my credit cards. All the email said was ‘hey’. Then I scrawled back up and read the sender.  4. (link 1 link 2 ). He was the one that I ended things with (link 3) because it was the right thing to do (and because he was averse to communication and I talked too much) thought that email would suffice as an apology. I laughed a little, which lightened the mood of the seminar, then replied with a curt ‘you’re alive.’

Ten minutes later and my phone buzzed again. This time the lecturer went silent and looked around the room. I feigned a coughing fit, excused myself, and departed to find a corner in which to construct a hideously rude reply (the kind that make you blush when you’re done sending it). His email read: ‘Paris next week, cross the channel?’

[Side bar: Paris is exactly like you see on TV (if you go to the right places), and because there is free-flowing wine, chocolate, shoe shopping, cheese and pastries, endorphins run high and people really do feel in love. At least I do. My only visit had me flirting with dogs in the street, dreaming of unicorns and chipping my toenails as I tried to draw maps in concrete. My return to reality was painful and cold, but the moment....momentous]

Now, I am quite the resilient person. If I decide to be nice, I usually stick to my guns, and same goes for if I decide to be rude. But I was floundering here. How does one reply to ‘meet me in the city of love’? And anyway, what kind of intellectual compromise on his part leads to such behaviour?! This clown was selfish enough not to care that I’d graduated from university (despite my own valiant attempts at the contrary), got a house and a job. Not so much as a congratulatory message; people I barely knew had cared so much more. Why would he think that ‘meet me in Paris’ would mean ‘I’m sorry’? Surely that's what he was trying to say?! Honest truth, probably not.

So I really don't know what was the right thing to do, what with clouded emotions and revisited wounds. But I replied with ‘I think we are currently the perfect distance apart’, because really, we are.