1. Lidl: because no one is paying £3 at Tesco for a pack of prawns that you can get for £1 plus
2. Alpro yoghurt: because I developed primary lactose intolerance, but still love to put yoghurt in my smoothies
3. Soya and Almond milk: Because I never appreciated it when my mum made soya milk for me as a child….but I can still get my vitamin D and calcium despite the fact that I don’t consume dairy (see 2)
4. Allergy tablets before my run on cold day after I’ve fallen off the wagon: because of the increased blood flow during running, blood capillaries closest to your skin collapse (when you have fallen off the wagon) and your brain interprets this as an allergic reaction and causes an itch. I cheat this by popping a pill 20 minutes before my run especially when it’s cold.
5. My daughter’s 100% warm FireTrap coat: because she didn’t want it so I took it. Its a total windbreaker; It’s a size 10 so fits me properly. Winter has never felt warmer!
6. Calvin Klein Curvy girl jeans: because I have an African backside and my figure doesn’t always conform to regular jeans….these ones are marvellous for the typical African backside….
7. Moisturising my hair with body cream: because I saw this on a YouTube video. The lady said she did it as a student. I tried it and it was an instant pass! Means I only need to pack one type of moisturiser in my holiday bag!
8. Bulgur Wheat: because we are tired of couscous
9. OluOlu plantain crisps: because we need fast food and these are low in salt and sugar and not high in saturated fat either. Plus they are super duper tasty. Buy a box of 24 for 14 squids and thank me later!
10. Food Smart App: because you’ve gotta know how much salt, sugar and Satfat your food contains. It’s so easy to use; just scan the barcode!
11. Netflix: because there are loadsa things to watch. I have the app on my mobile phone too. Please don’t judge!
12. 8Fit App: because high intensity interval training is where it’s at. Quick calorie burn and effective cardio in 8-20 minutes right from your living room
13. Fresh parsley: because I only used it for fishpies but discovered that I could use them in my salads and smoothies. It adds a certain freshness to food!
14. DeepHeat: because when those aches and pains set in, there’s no shame in my game. A good massage with this banishes all aches and pains. Smelling like a grandma never felt so sexy! It’s the new sexy!
When I was a child, I learnt a nursery rhyme about an old lady who swallowed a fly. No one knew why she swallowed a fly, but then she swallowed a spider to catch the fly. Then she had to swallow a bird to catch the spider because she didn’t like how the spider ‘wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her’. She swallowed a whole catalogue of animals to catch the previous animal before it. In the end, she swallowed a horse and the writer of the rhyme declared ‘….she’s dead of course’.
I found myself in a similar sort of conundrum recently. I have always been a shameless pill popper. If there is a pill to fix my headache, I take the pill. No questions asked. I cannot understand people whose stance is to ‘wait for the body to wake up and do its thing’ when there is a fully licensed pill that can stop whatever ails them a lot quicker. Especially when no one is handing out medals for bravery or longsuffering!
I visited my doctor sometime ago as I wanted to review my method of contraception. I got sold the idea of a Mirena coil. Which sounded fantastic. Almost too good to be true (as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is). Once inserted, it lasts for 5 years. In the five years, your periods become incredibly light (a plus), and sometimes, they could stop altogether (plus plus). I was told that I would experience some irregular bleeding until the coil ‘settled’. The leaflet that came with it said that a small percentage of women experienced prolonged, irregular spotting. Turns out that I was one of that ‘small percentage’. Mine was prolonged alright. 8 months worth of ‘prolonged’. And not strictly irregular either. It was more like every single day.
I went to see my doctor, I went for a scan. Nothing was wrong. She felt I had a hormonal imbalance and put me on the combined oral contraceptive pill for a month and a half to balance out my hormones. Which would have been fine; but the combined pill also had some side effects. A small percentage of women also suffer nausea with the combined pill. Yours truly also happened to be in that small percentage! What are the chances, ey?
I went back to my doctor. And of course there is a pill that can also counteract the effect of the nausea. I began to feel like the old lady who swallowed a fly. But I put my foot down. I could keep popping the pills like the old lady swallowing her various animals. In the rhyme, she swallowed a cat to catch the bird, then a dog to catch the cat, then a goat to catch the dog. The writer of the rhyme gasps in horror ‘what a throat to swallow a goat’. It seemed that as she swallowed more and more animals, the original issue of swallowing a teeny weeny little fly got lost in the increasing size and complexities of the new animals she swallowed.
I think that as our lives get more and more complex, we grow new issues and develop new ways of dealing with them; and often times, the new ways come with their own challenges and a brand new facet of issues.
I decided to draw the line. There is no magic cure and there is no need popping pill after pill to counteract effects of the previous pill. Science says ‘You have a headache? Here take paracetamol for it. But not too much or your liver will suffer’
I think in truth, my decision from the beginning should have been to get rid of the Mirena and to explore other options instead of trying to plug new holes in my leaking bucket! Why did I opt for Mirena? Perhaps I need to fix that. Whatever I do, I am determined not to be the archetypal old lady who swallowed a fly….
Almost 20 years ago, my friend came visiting with her older cousin. We had a great time talking, eating, and laughing until tears streamed down our faces. Her cousin Em, had great stories, and told them with such humour! Cousin Em was a lot older than us. She was in her forties, very well traveled, very well spoken and extremely down to earth. She felt at home in our student flat and ate whatever we gave her in our chipped mismatched student plates and enjoyed it too! It was such a shame when she had to go home; we wanted to freeze the moment and keep her with us forever! We asked her to spend the night. See, in my student days my flat was the flat to which everyone came and went and spent endless nights. I was so sure that it was a given that my friend’s cousin would spend the night.
But she turned us down: ‘I have all sorts of soaps and potions for different parts of my body. I couldn’t possibly spend the night away from home without my various soaps, potions and elixirs’
That was her reason. It was funny and we all laughed. I wanted to offer her my cocoa butter and Superdrug brand face wash, but suddenly, I knew they were inadequate. It was a shame to see her leave in the wee hours of the morning, but still, we have the memories.
Fast forward to twenty years later. Me.
This morning as I get ready for work, I’m startled by my rich array of creams and potions. The bathroom counter is spilling over with all sorts: hair creams, hair sprays, body creams, face creams, blemish removal creams, hair removal creams, hair growth creams….all sorts! I have never really classed myself as vain, but recently I bought a cream that promised to rid me of the stretch marks that I acquired in my teen years. I have no idea why I bought it because I never believed for a second that it could do what it promised to do on the jar. But I guess I thought I had nothing to lose. The magic ingredient in this particular potion is snail slime. Yes, I know.
Whatever you think, trust me when I say that my mother’s voice in my head has said it to me; not once, not twice. And it has also said worse. Snail slime. And I really ought to know better too. And I promise that I do know better. But, I bought it, so I am using it. It has an accompanying soap. Yes it’s made out of snail slime as well, but surprisingly they smell really good. The soap has a really rich lather and is actually quite refreshing. The body cream is not heavy; it is kind of light for a moisturiser but I mix it with other thicker moisturisers.
These snail slime products claim to heal all: wrinkles, stretch marks and all sorts of blemishes; well, unless you’re allergic to snail slime and then you’re really buggered!
The next question on your mind of course is ‘how do you know if you’re allergic to snail slime?’ I mean it’s not like people routinely find snails and rub their slime on their bodies….your guess is as good as mine!
Well, I’ve been using it for about 3 weeks now. And of course the marks are still there. But I’m still shovelling it onto my skin and smelling like it everywhere I go. On the train this morning, a guy attempted to flirt and said ‘you smell nice’. I had to bite my tongue because I almost replied ‘Yes, it’s snail slime’. He was lucky I was wearing my snakeskin shoes instead of my snake hair oil. Because if he thought snail slime smelt nice, he would have been bagging a real winner with snake oil! I mean, he’d have been mesmerised. He was as slimy as actual snail slime too, so instead, I smiled and kept walking down the platform. Wouldn’t want him to have smelt the macadamia oil in my hair, because that actually smells pretty good!
I am not sure what compels me to buy this stuff. Most of it doesn’t even work. But I am guessing that it is the human spirit of hope. We all need hope just to get out of bed and look at ourselves in the mirror each morning. I know that my hope is being geared towards having perfect skin (which in reality will never really happen), but it is hope nevertheless.
I celebrate my vanity, I celebrate my hope, I celebrate getting older….and I celebrate the fact that I will be saving a few pennies when I stop looking for the magic potion when I’m 200.
The truth is, I don’t necessarily want to live until I’m 200; but if I do, I’d rather not look like it!
It is a hot summer afternoon in London. The kind of heat that keeps your throat perpetually dry. I am not sure if it is just the heat or the heat combined with the high pollen count that has zapped my last shreds of energy, but I am feeling more than mildly irritated because I am also stuck southbound on the A12 trying desperately to leave London via the Blackwall tunnel.
London is one of the cities that seems to suck you in and refuses to spit you out. It always seems to take twice as long trying to get out of the city than commuting around it. I am trying to go to Kent but have opted to go via the A12 and then the A2, rather than the M25 orbital.
I am in my black Mini Cooper listening to Pharrell Williams’ song, Happy. I’m nodding my head and willing myself desperately to feel the sentiment of the song but I’m hot and frustrated. Not happy. Still, they say that if you repeat something enough times, your brain starts to believe it and then it eventually becomes true. For instance, if you fake a smile, your brain can be fooled into believing that you are happy so that it eventually produces feel good chemicals that actually make you smile for real. Well, it doesn’t seem to be working today because I’m still thirsty, hot, and frustrated. I switch off the air conditioning and open up the window because I feel that the air filter in my car is clogged with pollen and petrol fumes.
‘This city is going to kill me one day’. I say out loud. Then I notice something from the corner of my eye: it is insignificant at first. An old plain blue, Honda Prelude with an ‘I love Bradford’ sticker on the lower right corner of the back windscreen.
‘Bradford? Really?’ I think. ‘Still, I suppose there are worse places to love; after all I have been in this city for twenty years!’ I laugh out loudly as I realise that I have now become a true Londoner who views other cities with disdain. As I laugh at myself, it occurs to me that perhaps Pharrell Williams’ song actually is working.
I level up with the Bradford Prelude. We are both going the same direction on the A12. I’m on the inner lane but going just as slowly. The traffic news comes on. There are emergency road repairs on the A12 which means that journeys are taking almost three times as long. It looks like we are going nowhere fast. A Robbie Williams song comes on and I’m wondering why the DJ is playing Millenium when this is 2014! I think I’m grumpy as well, and back to being frustrated and hot. I wind up my window and turn the air conditioning on again. I’m going to die of something one of these days, if it’s from hayfever or asthma brought on by London traffic fumes, at least I will die in relative comfort. It is better to be cool and frustrated than hot and frustrated.
I feel like I’m being watched. Not the same kind of feeling of being perpetually watched that you get living in London. I mean really being watched. Scrutinised even. I look to my left. And then I see her.
A pair of strong hazel eyes piercing through my skin from underneath a niqab. The glare is so strong that I temporarily take leave of my senses and almost forget where I am. I am mesmerised for a moment and I forget that the eyes belong to an actual human being. The car behind me honks and I immediately come to and step on the accelerator to move my car another three feet before I am forced to stop by the solid traffic. She is temporarily out of my gaze, but then the Bradford Prelude reappears as it catches up and is side by side with my Mini and I can see her again. She’s still looking at me. The driver of the Bradford Prelude looks at me, then looks at her, and she immediately lowers her gaze and looks into her hands. He glares back at me with irritation. The spell is broken again temporarily. I inhale sharply and try to assess the bizarreness of the situation. The Bradford Prelude driver is an Asian male from the Indian subcontinent. From the looks of it, he is a devout Sunni Muslim. He has a full beard and is wearing a white kaftan and a white circular cap. The front seat passenger with hazel eyes is looking at me again. She has jet black skin. The kind of skin that my West African friends refer to as five-to-midnight. Five-to-midnight because that is presumably the darkest part of the night. I cannot see her features but from what I do see, she is African in origin. Like me, only much darker. I can see the bridge of her nose; it is wide. I can make out the outline of her nostrils from underneath the niqab; it is wide. She is definitely African.
She is looking at me again. There is something in her eyes that I’m trying to read. She’s not gazing into my eyes. She is looking into my life. She’s looking at my car, at my clothes, at my hands on the wheel. She is gazing into my life; a snap shot of my life. The Bradford Prelude driver looks at her again and catches her staring. He jabs her sharply with his left elbow. She lowers her gaze and stares down at her palms on her lap. I cannot make out any rings or henna, just really jet-black skin from the back of her hands and lower right arm.
The traffic is moving again and the Bradford Prelude driver is indicating right. I allow him move into the gap ahead of me, then I indicate left and move left so that I am where he used to be and he is now in my space. It also means that I can get a better view of his passenger with hazel eyes.
I’m now side by side with the Bradford Prelude and side by side with Hazel Eyes. Traffic is at a standstill again. She’s looking into my eyes and looking straight into my soul. For a split second, I feel sadness in her heart, it seems to be asking me ‘when could I ever be like you?’
I’m staring back at her and willing her to telepathically speak to me.
‘Who are you? Where are you going? What is your story?’
Beads of sweat are forming on her forehead. I’m not sure if a tear is forming in her left eye or if I’m having a sensation of swimming in it!
The Bradford Prelude driver catches her staring. But this time, she does not avert her gaze. She keeps looking at me. I see what looks like a smile. It is hard to tell under her niqab, but I think it is a smile. I smile back. The Bradford Prelude driver is saying something, he’s straining his voice but I cannot hear what he is saying as their windows are wound all the way up. He’s jabbing her but she’s still looking at me. I have no idea if she speaks English or not, but I mouth the words ‘Be strong, follow your dreams’, and smile again. The Bradford Prelude driver is getting more and more animated as he shouts. He’s not jabbing her anymore. He raises his left hand as if to slap her but traffic is moving again and the man behind him is honking his horn loudly, so he is forced to lower his hand and change gears in order to move. He glares at me and immediately starts indicating left.
I have been within 2 miles of the tunnel for the last hour and a half. Traffic is moving faster now. I think we may have passed the bottleneck. A song by The Spice Girls is playing on the radio.
‘Not today!’ I say out loud as I switch the radio off.
The Bradford Prelude driver is still side by side with me and still indicating. I can see the entrance to the tunnel. I’m having mixed emotions. I am happy to be escaping the traffic, but I’m also left feeling heavy about Hazel Eyes. I allow The Bradford Prelude driver to pull up ahead of me, then I gently manoeuvre my Mini into the right lane. I know what he is doing, and he knows what I’m doing too. He immediately starts to indicate right but we are at the entrance of the tunnel. This is my city, I know that everyone stays in their lanes in traffic congestion inside the tunnel. He will have to drive side by side with me for the approximately four thousand feet we would need to cover to clear the tunnel. I smile contentedly. It looks like he is cursing. Hazel eyes is no longer looking up. She’s looking at her hands. Her shoulders are hunched and she has that resigned look on her face. It’s the same kind of look that I had when I was shouted down by my boss. It’s not pretty. I’m feeling hot again but I switch off the air conditioning and keep my windows wound up because I’m now in the tunnel and my paranoia of breathing gas fumes from the tunnel is more compelling than the heat I’m feeling.
I drive side by side with the Bradford Prelude through the tunnel. I neither look at Hazel eyes nor the driver and I don’t feel the burn of Hazel eyes’ glare on my skin anymore.
Just as we are exiting the tunnel, the Bradford Prelude accelerates. In a split second, Hazel Eyes looks up at me, smiles and waves her left hand, and the Bradford Prelude is gone. It disappears just as suddenly as it appeared. I’m not hot anymore, nor am I irritated; I’m driving my mini almost transfixed in the moment. I have more questions than answers but what burns strongest at the forefront of my mind are those hazel eyes and a simple question: who is she?
I look at the prayer beads hanging on my rear view mirror, pull my scarf down over my ears and say a prayer for her: Bismillahir rahmanir rahim……
I sigh loudly and sniff into my daisy handkerchief. The receptionist looks up at me then quickly picks up the phone. I can hear her trying not to sound exasperated even though she is almost as frustrated as I am.
In the final third of last year, I got drawn into the Gratitude Challenge by a friend on Facebook.
It entailed listing three things I was grateful for, everyday for 1 week. And then challenging three different friends to take it up everyday.
The idea behind it was that people would find things to be grateful for where they hadn’t noticed previously. I think it worked for me. In fact, it worked so well that I decided to live everyday with an attitude of gratitude.
People are not born lucky; it is your positivity that draws people your way. People bring with them opportunities, and your positivity in turn compels you to take on new opportunities.
This is my excerpt from day 7:
So today is day 7, the final day of my gratitude challenge. During the day, I made a mental note of all the things I wanted to be grateful for but I’ve forgotten most of them now. So I think I will have a bonus day of gratitude tomorrow.
But for the ones I can remember, I’m grateful for
1. My resilience: I had very difficult years during my early adulthood and had struggled with depression since my teen years. I’m not sure at what stage I rose above it, but I had to decide to choose happiness each day in order to. Nowadays making that choice comes very easily but I’m aware that not everyone is able to bounce back. I had a friend who committed suicide some years ago due to depression amongst other things. I still miss him terribly but I’m glad that I’m able to be a part of his son’s life, but more so that I am able help people bounce back. The human spirit is indomitable and resilient but each person needs to recognise that in himself.
2. The sound of laughter in my house: I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal but I love that we can all laugh at ourselves and amongst our selves. My nine year old was a bit of a cry baby when she was a lot younger. It wasn’t until she was 4 that she developed a great sense of humour. My 6 year old was born laughing and has always had a ‘wikid’ sense of humour. It makes life soooo much more pleasurable.
3. My father in law: I went to school in Abuja where’s there’s a 725m monolith called Zuma Rock. It’s just after the northern edge of the city but visible from just about every part of it. My father in law is a bit like that. Not as foreboding, but constant, solid and always there. Kinda like a compass that always tells you where you are and where your true north is. I had a few struggles with various in laws (and outlaws) in the first 6years of getting wed; but my father in law kinda came through and always made it right. Not that he ever got involved in the madness, in fact he never really did. He rose above most of it and just showed the way.