Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Flash Fiction - I'm Leaving

My arm stopped moving in mid-air. The tea spoon clattered onto the kitchen floor, and I dropped the teapot. I heard it smash and saw the broken pieces scatter around my feet.

"You said what?"

"I love her Amy," Dave repeated. "I'm leaving you and the kids."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. As if I was paralysed, I watched Dave pick up his travelling bag and walk out, closing the front door quietly. I hated that. I wished he had slammed the door. That would have given me some sense of finality.

I crumpled in a heap.

(c) TP 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Life: My.First.Rejection.Letter

I got my first rejection letter from a publisher yesterday. It is a rite of passage for every aspiring author :) In fact I got a text from my published writer friend to say congrats! Apparently it means I am now a real writer! lol.

As far as rejection letters go, this one's not too bad actually. The publisher said "Unfortunately with the publishing industry in it's current state, I felt your novel would not be commercial enough". I want to remain positive, so I will take that to mean the novel was not completely rubbish, and her rejection is simply down to economics and timing. I've heard of editors giving some really funny reasons for rejecting a novel to the tune of "Do yourself a favour and don't give up the day job"! So FG will pick herself up and carry on. As someone else said, it can only mean I'm one step closer to meeting the right publisher.

The fear of rejection was one of the things I was so worried about when I first decided to start writing, but I think I've had to see it as one of the things that come with the business side of writing, and not take it personally. Even the most successful authors who have won long lists of awards for their writing had to face rejection at some point. Determination and resilience is an essential strength to have in this game, and a thick skin is also very useful!

On to other news:

To say a big thank you to our readers and supporters, we are running a competition and giveaway for the next three weeks on our series blog! Check it out! This is the first one and entries will close on Monday the 14th. There will be two more competitions and prizes until Christmas, so make sure you click over to the blog now and enter. You could be a winner!

Hope you enjoy the rest of the week and have a great weekend ahead.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Short Story - Boy Meets Girl

Daniel paced up and down the long corridor, his hands tucked deep into his pockets. His face was lined with worry and he had a dishevelled air about him as if he had dressed up in a hurry, which he had. His mobile phone had gone off around midnight, waking him up and confirming the moment he had been dreading. Frantic, he had grabbed the keys to his flatmates car and rushed out, hoping he wouldn’t run into trouble with the law on his way.

He had arrived at the hospital quickly and shown to the East Wing. He had now been standing outside the ward for more than forty-five minutes. The medical staff occasionally shot him a sympathetic look without breaking their stride as they walked in and out of the rooms. The corridor smelt faintly of disinfectant and medicines. He shivered with a mixture of fear and anticipation. He hated waiting, and he hated hospitals.

While he waited, he read the health information posters on the walls again. One of them was about maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index. He considered his own tall, lanky frame and decided he was in the healthy range. There were other posters about smoking, heart disease and others but he soon lost interest. He looked at his watch again. It was just past one in the morning.

A few months ago, when Sarah had first told him she was pregnant, he had been completely taken aback. He was absolutely sure that he was not ready to face this responsibility. He remembered that she called him early one evening as he was leaving the campus.

“I need to talk to you Dan” she had said. “It’s very important”
“I’ve just finished my afternoon lecture and I have football in about half an hour” he replied. “I’ll call you when I’m done”
“No, this can’t wait” She insisted. “I need you to come over to my place now”.

Something in her tone made him change his mind. When he heard the news, he had slumped onto her bed, his face ashen.

“How come this happened?” was all he could utter.
Sarah stared at him incredulously. “What do you mean ‘how come this happened?’ when we have been back together for six months?”
Daniel sighed and put his head in his hands. He didn’t need this right now. How could he be having a baby with his on-and-off girlfriend? They were not even sure of themselves yet, so how could they raise a child?
“It’s just…” he paused nervously. “It’s completely wrong timing”
“Well I’m not exactly thrilled about it either!” Sarah said, raising her voice. “Do you think I planned this to happen?”
She paused and added: Just last week, my mum said she was glad I got through high school without getting pregnant! And now this.”
“Are you sure?” he asked again.
“Yes I’m sure, I took the test three times” Sarah replied.
He looked up and asked her: “Are we going to do this?”
She nodded. “I’m not going to get an abortion”. And that was it.

Slowly the realisation had set in. After four months, Sarah put her studies on hold, left the university campus and went back home to live with her mother. His routine on campus had carried on undisturbed except for the telephone calls and occasional visit to see Sarah. They had talked and argued a lot over the past few months. She was sure they could raise a baby with the help of their parents while they continued studying. He could foresee a lot of problems, but Sarah would not have it any other way. During one of his visits, their argument had become so heated that Sarah’s mum stepped in and sent him away, asking him not to come back until the baby was born. She was the one that had rung him tonight to say Sarah was now in the hospital.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the door to Ward 256 opened, and a midwife poked her head out.
“Daniel Cooper? They are ready for you now, come in.”
He held his breath as he stepped in. The room was bright and modern, and he felt a little intimidated by the two other women there. Then his eyes took in the sight of Sarah, his girlfriend, sitting up in one of the beds, with a tiny baby wrapped in a white blanket in her arms.
“Go on” the midwife urged. “I’ll be back in a few minutes”. She stepped out of the room and shut the door.
Sarah turned her head towards him and smiled weakly. Her hair was messy, and her face was devoid of make up, making her look much younger and rather vulnerable. She looked tired and overwhelmed by the experience she had just been through. He smiled back at her as he approached the bed.
“Are you alright?” he whispered.
“Yeah, I guess” she said slowly.
Daniel shifted from one foot to the other, unsure of himself.
“How about the baby?” he asked nodding towards the bundle in her arms.
“It’s a girl” Sarah said, looking down at the little face.
Daniel moved nearer to take a closer look.
“She’s beautiful” he breathed.
“Yes she is” Sarah smiled. “Here, do you want to hold her?”
Daniel nodded and held out his arms. He felt his throat tighten as Sarah placed the warm little body in his arms.
His baby daughter looked at him with curious blue eyes and made little baby sounds.
“She looks just like you”, Daniel said, holding the baby close to himself. “She’s got your eyes”
“Hmmm” Sarah said and winced.
Daniel stared at the little girl again, and stroked her hair. He held out his little finger and the baby grabbed it and held on to it tightly. He felt his heart melt and he knew that, no matter what happened, this little person now meant the world to him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

On Life: When the Bible is Silent

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and He has put in there guiding principles for me to live my life by. I’m often amazed at how God uses the Bible to speak to me concerning a situation I’m dealing with, or a choice I have to make. Sometimes it’s a direct commandment, sometimes it’s a guiding principle, sometimes I have to discern what to do from the examples of other people’s lives recorded in the bible, sometimes it’s not my choice but my motives that I am reminded to examine. Several times I might have even made a decision and I just read the Bible to know if God approves or not.

But sometimes I know we face choices that the Bible is silent on. Perhaps it’s a situation that is peculiar to our modern society that did not exist in biblical times. Sometimes it’s a cultural thing, something that the Jewish people did not agree with, but it’s acceptable in our own culture. Sometimes the Bible doesn’t always give us the answers in black and white and we have to find other means of arriving at our own conclusions.

The other day, I was watching a TV programme about space travel. The scientists on the programme were talking about how much time and money has been spent by the US government on the Space Programme and how Russia, China and some other countries were also dedicating mind-boggling sums of money to space exploration so that they can claim territories on the moon and other planets. There was an argument afterwards as to why we human beings have not finished solving the problems we have on Earth, but we are going to space. Someone mentioned that if we dedicated a fraction of the amount of money we have spent on space travel to humanitarian causes, we can end world hunger and world poverty. So where does the bible stand on this? Should we be exploring other frontiers, or should we solve one problem before we go and look for more?

I was listening to the radio a few days ago and the speaker was talking about the choice between burial and cremation. Apparently some Christians have been torn between buying expensive land for burials and choosing cremation as a cheaper option. The bible is silent on this topic, but in biblical times, the Jews placed a big importance on burial. Meanwhile the Greeks, Romans and other cultures cremated their dead. The speaker was saying that if we were faced with such a choice today, will the Bible be a conclusive reference? Should we go by the Jewish culture or should we ignore that, especially now that the world is a crowded place and burial land is now at a premium?

Then there are other personal issues like whether or not to have children. The bible does say that we should “go forth and multiply” but nowadays there are more and more couples that make the decision not to have children for valid reasons. Should we say they are wrong? What about the genotype of your future partner, if you find out that you and your fiancée are both sickle-cell carriers? What about the choice between keeping a pregnancy that resulted from abuse or getting rid of it? What about the issue of a choice between staying in a bad marriage and opting for a divorce? What about culture versus Christianity on the issue of polygamy? (Yes there are some Christians that defend polygamy. I was shocked when I found some books and resources where some people argued that many of the great men in the bible were polygamous and God still blessed them). So if that was not God’s plan, why is the bible silent on such a major topic?

Sometimes the issue is not even that the bible is silent, but it seems to contradict itself. There are many passages that suggest the exact opposite of each other. We then have people split into factions, each side quoting the bible to support their stand. Many churches have been split up over issues that the bible does not have a clear answer, for example: female church leaders, polygamy, eating certain foods, what to do with church leaders that sin, and many more. These generate countless questions that we can debate for hours and years but ultimately we have to come to our own conclusions.

I feel that if I come across a question or a choice that the bible does not adequately address, I have to then go to God directly and ask Him what to do and what to believe. I know don’t have all the answers, I don’t have the full picture and I certainly can’t solve all of the world’s problems. I have one way of knowing if I’m taking the right step: peace. If I feel at peace with my decision, then I’m confident that I’m in God’s will. Now it’s not my place to impose my own view or my own choices on other people for what works for me is not necessarily what will work for everybody. Only God sees all and knows all. I’ll let Him be the judge.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Short Story - Lunch Break

Joan was walking along the High Street during her lunch break. It was a lovely day, summer was finally on its way after the grey and dreary winter and a wet spring season. She was in a good mood this afternoon. She was a month into her new job as the fashion buyer for one of her favourite high street fashion stores, and she was enjoying every minute of it.

Earlier, she had held a meeting with four up and coming designers who were desperate to get their clothes into her store. The designers had brought the best picks of the new summer collection into her office and she got to pick and choose which items her store would stock. She loved the power it gave her. It meant the designers were willing to give her tons of free outfits if she could get their clothes to the shop floor.

She walked past the café where she usually bought her lunch and paused outside for a second. She decided to try something different today. A new sandwich and salad bar had just opened at the end of the street. She quickened her pace and crossed the road.

The bar was buzzing with the usual media and fashion crowd on their lunch break. She went up to the counter to see what they had to offer. As she was scanning the menu, she heard a voice that made her freeze.


It was Alex, her ex-boyfriend. He was her ex-fiancé actually. Of all the things that could happen to ruin her day, this ranked among the worst.

“Er, hi Alex” she managed to say with a forced smile.

“Fancy bumping into you here!” he said, confidently walking towards her.

“Yes, I just came to get some lunch”

“That’s great” he said. He was close now; close enough for her to smell his aftershave. It was so familiar, she felt drawn to it. But she took a step back. This was Alex after all, the guy she had spent the last five months crying over. Their break-up had been messy and just when she thought she had finally gotten over him, they had bumped into each other two weeks ago at a friend’s party. She did not know whether it was the alcohol or something else, but Joan had lost her senses that night and fallen for Alex again. All she remembered was, she woke up in his bed the next morning. Hating herself more than she hated him, she had hurriedly scribbled a note for him and fled his flat in panic.

Seeing his face again brought all the humiliation and pain back. Then she realised he had asked her a question.


“I asked if you worked nearby” he said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes I do” she said, trying to keep her voice level. It seemed to have morphed into a high-pitched squeak. “What about you?”

“Oh I work nearby too” he smiled smugly, like he had won an argument. “I actually own this place”

“Oh” Joan said, the words catching her by surprise. “Well…”

“I’m glad you could drop by” he interrupted her. “Perhaps you’ll have lunch here everyday? You could win a date with the owner, you know?” Then he gave her a wink and a wicked smile.

Hearing those words, Joan’s stomach twisted into a knot. She shook her head and ran out of the bar. The afternoon’s brightness did nothing to cheer her up as she ran back to her office, trying to hold back her tears.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Life: I Like Being Me

She was my friend, from way back in secondary school. Back then I was an awkward, insecure teenager not sure of who I was. She was the pretty and popular one, the confident one, the one with all the social skills. Everyone liked her – from the principal, to the staff and to the students. Everyone wanted to be her friend. I was the painfully shy and quiet one that hardly ventured out of my shell and the few close friends I had. I used to wish I was like her, I wished I had some of her beauty and her popularity. Fortunately, I wasn’t jealous of her and she was a very nice girl, so we got on brilliantly in spite of our obvious different personalities. We were very close friends throughout secondary school days; we had secret codes that only two of us could understand. She was the only person I could willingly allow to read my diary, which is saying a lot as I was quite a guarded person back then.

We remained friends after secondary school. We even went to college together, becoming friends with another girl and together the three of us formed a close knit group. After college I came to the UK to study and she remained in Nigeria, but we still kept in touch. The distance was never a problem, she came over once a year and a simple phone call was all it took for us to resume our friendship where we left off.

Okay, fast forward to last week. I logged onto yahoo messenger and she was online so we started chatting. We had been talking about normal girly stuff for a bit when I mentioned that I cut my hair off cos I wanted to start over and that’s when the conversation changed.

She said: “I don’t have the courage to do half of the things you do”

I was like “What? What things?”

She said: “You do brave things. Like cutting your hair and starting over. I could never do that”

I said: It wasn’t a big deal. I just didn’t like my permed hair anymore”

She said: “It’s not just that. You travel a lot, you eat all kinds of foods when you travel, and you quit your job to become a writer”

I said: “lol, that’s just me becoming more adventurous”

She said: “I wish I was like that. You’re my role model”

I can’t remember what I typed next cos in my mind I was like “REALLY!”

Thinking about our conversation later, something interesting struck me. I couldn’t believe that I had spent a lot time when I was younger wishing I was more like her, but all the while she was wishing she was more like me! It was quite a revelation to me that she could even think of me as her role model, something I had never even imagined myself to be, except maybe to my little sisters.

I’m glad I’m no longer that awkward, insecure teenager. I am now secure in who I am. It’s such a blessing to realise that I am the best person to be. God made me, ME for a reason and I’m not meant to be trying to be anyone else. It’s when I stop trying to be someone else that I appreciate who I am. And that’s when I find out other people want to be like me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On Life: My Summer Break

Hubby and I have been travelling to some cities in Europe, then we've had family and friends coming and going because of the summer holidays, there have also been places to go, people to see, four weddings, two birthday parties and all the other social events that increase when the weather is nice. I never thought I would say this, but I really can't wait until the holidays are over and things get back to normal so I can resume my usual routine.

The travelling has been fun though! I've definitely enjoyed lots of quality time for hubby and I to reconnect, away from the pressures of work and everything else. We've been to Eindhoven, Bremen and Paris in the past three weeks, and the lovely memories will last a life time. I finally went on the Eurostar that I had been hearing so much about, finally got to see the Eiffel Tower. Sorry I'm feeling too lazy to sort through the photos and upload them.

When I've had some downtime, I've been catching up on my reading, which is good cos I need to keep myself inspired. I've recently read two fiction novels, The Pirate's Daughter and The Outcast, and two non-fiction books: Love and Respect and One Love, Two Colours (this one I particularly enjoyed cos it was very personal but also thought provoking). It was great to be reading again. In the busyness of everyday I sometimes forget how much I love reading, how good it feels to be so absorbed in a good book that you lose track of time, how much books have the power to change your mind and even challenge your beliefs. I used to enjoy reading books, magazines or newspapers on the commute but now I have to remind myself to pick up a book occasionally.

Have a great weekend and remain favoured.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Short Story - Wrong Blogger Connection

Her blog was one of the first blogs I came across soon after I joined blogspot in 2006. She came to my blog to leave a "Welcome to Blogville!" comment, so I decided to pay her blog a visit. I enjoyed reading her archives so much that I immediately bookmarked the link. She came across as a very down-to-earth, fun-loving and intelligent person, with a great sense of humour. I started visiting her blog regularly, leaving comments and urging her to update.

From her posts, I got to know more about her. We seemed to have a lot of things in common. We were about the same age, she was a Christian like me, we had similar hobbies and interests. I found out that she lived in Lagos, had just finished her service year and was working in one of the new banks. She was single and looking to meet Mr Right. Her many tales of disastrous dates she went on kept her readers hooked. Sometimes, she wrote inspiring and encouraging posts that everyone could identify with. Her blog became very popular in blogville and I even forwarded her link to some of my friends who were not bloggers to read.

One day I wrote a sad post and she sent me an email after reading it to cheer me up. I was very grateful and soon we started corresponding by email and we became blog-pals. Then one day I got a Facebook friend request from a name I didn't recognise. I ignored it, until the same person sent me a message, and it was my blog pal! Somehow she had tracked me down and discovered my identity. I didn't mind at all, and I was actually flattered that she took the trouble to search for me on Facebook, and that she was willing to reveal her own identity too. I accepted her friend request at once, and we became Facebook pals as well. I went through her albums and I saw that she was really pretty. It turned out we even had a mutual friend who had gone to the same university as she did. We kept in touch regularly, writing on each other's walls and leaving comments on each other's photos and stuff.

Then towards the end of last year, I sent her an email:

"Hey girl, guess what? I'll be coming to Lagos for the Christmas and New Year break! I should be around for three weeks. Do you want to meet up?"

I got a reply a few hours later. She sounded excited and her reply was:

"Wow girl that's great! We must definitely see o. Let me know exactly when you'll be landing. I can't believe I'll soon meet you, gosh it feels like I've known you for ages already. My number is xxxxxxx. Give me a call when you land in my town."

I looked forward to meeting her, as I thought it would be one of the highlights of my trip.

I arrived in Lagos one Wednesday morning and was met by my aunt and uncle I would be staying with. Immediately I could, I got a sim card and bought credit to inform my friends, including blog-pal that I was in town. I had so many people to see, places to go and things to do in the three weeks I would be staying for. My aunt was also planning to celebrate her 50th birthday party on Boxing Day. She wanted it to be a grand affair so I joined her and my cousins with the running around and preparations.

After a few days, I noticed that my aunt and her husband were not on very good terms. They seemed to be either snapping at each other half the time, or ignoring each other completely.

I asked my cousin about it, one afternoon, when we were in the car together.
"Kemi, what's going on with your mum and dad?"
She looked at me and I could see she wasn't keen to explain. "Well they are having some problems."
"I noticed. What kind of problems?"
She concentrated on the road ahead of us.
"I can't explain right now" she said. "I'll give you the full gist later."
I was curious but I could sense her reluctance and I decided to let it go, hoping that my aunt and uncle would work their problems out.

Meanwhile I had been speaking to my blog-pal regularly and we finally arranged a time and place to hook up. We decided to meet at the Silverbird Galleria. I was so excited to meet her that I got my cousin to drop me there an hour early. While I waited for her to arrive, I browsed the media store, bought some books and a magazine. Then I went to the top floor, bought some popcorn and browsed the mag to while away the time. Soon I got a text from her and I texted back, telling her to meet me at the top.I recognised her immediately I saw her from her facebook profile. She was even prettier in person. We greeted each other like we were long-lost friends, which in a funny way, we were. Soon we were chatting away about this and that over lunch. We got on so well that no one observing us would guess that we were just meeting each other for the first time. I took some photos with my camera and I promised to put them on Facebook later. After the meal, we saw a movie and afterwards, she had to leave as she had a long journey back home. I wanted to meet her again if it was possible.

As we walked down the stairs, I asked her, "Are you free on Boxing Day?"
"Uhm, let me see, I've got a wedding, one of my colleagues from work. Why?"
"My aunt is celebrating her 50th birthday that day."
"Oh I see, whereabouts is the party happeneing?"
I told her the venue of the hall we were using.
"Oh that's not too far from the reception venue. I'll see if I can leave the reception early to come for the party, but I'll let you know."
"It would be great if you could make it." I said.
Outside the galleria, we hugged each other goodbye and then she got into a cab, while I waited for my cousin to come and pick me up.

On the day of my aunt's party, my cousins and I were so busy helping to set up everything and attending to guests, that I almost forgot my blog-pal sid she might come. I did notice that my aunt and uncle seemed to have put their problems aside, at least for the benefit of the guests. They were smiling and posing for the cameras throughout the party and my uncle didn't leave his wife's side for one minute. They even looked the part, when they were on the dance floor together.

While I was busy serving a particularly fussy woman, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and I saw my blog-pal smiling at me. I was so glad she could make it.
"Hi girl!" I said. "Please take a seat, I'll join you shortly."
But then she said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't stay. I have to go now."
I was surprised and I said "Ah ah, you've just come now. Wait for me I'm coming."
She shook her head and took my arm. "I can't stay, I'm in a hurry. I just came to see you."
I asked a steward to attend to the woman I was serving and walked outside the hall with her. She looked uncomfortable as we made our way out of the hall. I was slightly disappointed that she couldn't stay, but I said okay and I saw her off to the exit . She waved at me and promised "I'll call you tomorrow!"
So I hugged her and waved goodbye.

I turned back to go into the hall and as I was taking the stairs at the entrance, I saw my cousin walking towards me as fast as her tight Ankara skirt and high heels would let her. She had a very angry and disgusted look on her face.
"What are you doing with that girl?" she demanded. "Where do you know her from?"
I told her that blog-pal was a good friend and a very nice girl.
My cousin looked as if she was about to slap my face.
"That girl is my dad's girlfriend!" she shouted. "She's the one causing problems in their marriage! How dare you invite her to my mum's party?"
I stared at her in shock. I could not reconcile the words she was saying with the lovely person I had just said goodbye to.
"Wh-what do you mean?" I managed to stammer.
"I said she's my dad's mistress! And you're telling me she's your friend?"
"I'm so sorry, I-I didn't know."
"You better hope my mum didn't see both of you together." My cousin hissed and turned her back to me, walking away.

I stood there, still reeling from the information I had just heard. It just didn't make sense. I couldn't believe that the girl I had been reading her blog for months, become virtual friends with, and hung out with a few days ago, was the same person dating my uncle and threatening my aunt's marriage.

I had the feeling that I wouldn't be hearing from her again.

(c) TP

Friday, August 07, 2009

Poem - Reflection

I look up into the sky
I see a dark blanket
Twinkling with hundreds of white dots
I also see the moon
Glowing silently but with pride
Knowing that even though
It has got
No light of its own
It reflects the light of one
Brighter that it
With this reflected light
It rules the night sky
Not even the stars can compete
It makes me pause and think
I have no glory of my own
I cannot shine by myself
But if I allow my emptiness
To be filled with God’s grace
My weakness
To be replaced with His strength
And my struggles
Be replaced with His ability
I would start to shine
Not of my own
But as a reflection of Him

(c) 2010 Tolulope Popoola

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Life: I Need a Wife

Yes I'm female and I'm married to a guy, excuse the tongue-in-cheek title. I've got so many things going on in my mind and I couldn't decide what to talk about. So I just decided to write whatever popped into my head today.

One day I popped into my local WHSmith and picked up a writers magazine. In it there was an article talking about how writers face time management issues with structuring their work around other daily activities, especially if they are full time writers and don't have the structure of the 9 - 5 routine. The article included a survey of writers, a mixture of both men and women, and the responses they gave. The majority of the male writers said that they had no time management problems as such, they just got up from bed in the morning, had breakfast and then went to their study to get on with work. The female writers seemed to have a more complicated day however. One of them said she has to get up, make breakfast for everyone, get the kids bathed, dressed and ready for school, go and drop the kids off, come back home, clear away the breakfast plates, do the washing up, sort out the laundry, and plan what to cook for lunch before she starts her writing for the day. She might need to also do some shopping to stock up the fridge. In the afternoon, she has to prepare lunch, pick the kids up from school, feed them, supervise them and play with them, or find something to engage them while she works. When dinner time comes around, she has to cook for the family and clear up before returning to her work. It's much harder for a female to work from home where there are a myriad of tasks that keep distracting her from her work.

The writer of the article commented that it must be nice to be a man and have a woman in your life to do all the domestic stuff for you while you just get on with your job. Somebody has to look after the home whether one or both parties are working. Nowadays there are some men who don't mind helping the woman out in the home sometimes, but it's still not automatically a shared responsibility. That got me daydreaming about how nice it must be to have someone who looks after me while I spend hours in my study writing.

(Daydreaming) I would like to wake up in the morning and my breakfast is ready for me on the table. My study has been cleaned, my clothes are washed, ironed and ready for me to wear to work. After breakfast I disappear into my study to write for hours on end and I don't come out until lunch time. When I finish working for the day, my dinner is on the table and I can just relax and watch TV. The children are tucked into bed and I go to wish them goodnight. My own bed is neatly laid when I go to sleep and when I wake up in the morning, the cycle continues. (End of daydream).

Friday, May 15, 2009

On Writing: The Blank Page

You know the one.

When you pick up your pen to write in your notebook. Or open a new Microsoft Word document and you are faced with a white, blank sheet of paper.

Some days when I pick up my pen to write, the words come tumbling out, the ideas keep flowing, I'm on a roll and my arm aches to catch up with the speed at which my brain is churning out words. But that's actually the exception. Most other days, I spend ages staring at the blank sheet of paper, willing something to happen. Sometimes I manage to scrape a few sentences together, but sometimes I give up after a few torturous hours.

Someone asked me recently, "do you schedule some time to write each day, or do you wait for the inspiration to come and then write when you feel like it?"

Good question. If I had to wait for inspiration all the time, then I would hardly ever get anything done. So most times I have to grit my teeth and force myself to write something, anything.

Or to put it another way, as I read in the "Writing a Novel and Getting Published for Dummies" book (paraphrased):

As a writer, you must realise that the blank page is not your friend. The blank page is scary, and it is your enemy. Cover your pages with words. If you force yourself to write 1000 words everyday, in a month you would have written 30,000 words. Words which you can edit and correct later. Remember, you cannot edit a blank page.

That's a lesson for Favoured Girl.

Have a great weekend all!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Short Story - Valerie

Valerie desperately tried to choke back the lump in her throat. She could feel her face growing warm and her eyes were beginning to sting. She managed to stammer "Thank you" to the judges as she bowed her head and shuffled out with her shoulders slumped. Outside the studio, she leaned against the wall and took a gulp of air. She breathed slowly, to calm her racing heartbeat.

She thought about the audition and what the judges said. They had slated her performance without mercy. At the end, the casting director told her that she was too tall and her face was "not quite right" for the role. She imagined that she would have to repeat those words to her agent and it pained her all the more."I'm so sorry, I didn't get the part," she would say, and he would express his disappointment like he always did. She had failed three auditions in the last month alone. He was patient enough, but had high hopes for this part. "I've found you a part with your name written on it" he had said cheerfully. She felt the tears rolling down her cheeks and hunted in her bag for tissues. She decided to go and see her agent now before he called her, eager to hear some good news.

She wiped her eyes and ignored the curious glances of passers-by, as she walked towards the bus stop. A bus arrived shortly and she got on it, walking to the back. She slumped into a corner and rested her head against the window."What am I doing wrong in my auditions?" she thought. Maybe the judges just didn't like her. Maybe she was not a good actress after all.

"But I want to be an actress, that' what I know how to do", she said to herself. Ever since she could remember, she had dreamt of becoming a famous actress. When she was a little girl, she used to amuse and entertain her parents and their guests, acting little plays. She loved watching movies, memorising her favourite lines and imitating the actors later when no one was looking. In school, she had been an active member of the Drama club and acted in every talent show or drama the club put on. She remembered that both her drama teachers had been impressed with her talent. One of them even promised her "a brilliant career in acting" if she worked hard and stayed focused.

The bus arrived at her stop, jolting her out of her thoughts. She got off, crossed the road and started walking slowly. Then she heard quick footsteps behind her and moved out of the way to allow whoever it was to walk past. But the footsteps seemed to stop behind her and she was startled when a female voice said, "Excuse me?"

Valerie turned around and stepped back when she saw the lady standing in front of her, carrying a folder and a huge handbag. She was fashionably dressed and she looked polished and confident, which only made Valerie feel like shrinking away from her.

"Hello, my name is Marie", the lady said brightly. "I'm a scout for Storm"
"Wha- I'm sorry?" Valerie stammered.
"Storm, the biggest modelling agency in the UK" Marie explained.
Valerie blinked in confusion, wondering if she was imagining things.
Marie was still talking. "We are holding a search to find new models for our new campaign". She stepped closer to Valerie. "I think you are perfect for us, you've got a striking face and a graceful walk"
Valerie was stunned. The only thing she could say was "Oh?"
"Definitely" Marie said. "Have you ever considered modelling? You've got the figure and the look"
"Em... really?"
"Sure" Marie said breezily. She fished a card from her handbag and handed it to Valerie. "I would love it if you gave me a call tomorrow". And with that she walked off in her high heels.

Valerie stood stunned for a moment, gasping and staring at Marie as she disappeared. Then she looked at the card in her had. Slowly the realisation sank in that a model scout had just spotted her! After all the rejections in the last three months, she was finally picked for something! She wanted to scream with pure elation and excitement. She found her mobile phone and made a quick call to her mum as she ran to her agent's office.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Life: Death and After

Today I am reminded just how unpredictable this life is. Most of us hope and expect that we would live long enough to see our children and grandchildren. We think we can always count on there being another day called 'tomorrow'. But who really knows how long we are here for? Who can estimate how much time we've got left to spend on earth?

Case in point: Mr X woke up this morning, he had breakfast, said goodbye to his wife and kids, went to work as normal, and suddenly his wife gets a phone call, "Mrs X? I'm afraid your husband has been involved in a fatal accident...." and things never remain the same. Even if it is not an accident, it could be an illness. Right now I can mention two people who have been battling cancer and the doctors have told them that there is nothing more they can do.

Some weeks ago I read a book called "The Shock of Your Life" by Adrian Holloway, about three teenagers who died in an accident. The story follows each of them on an imaginary journey of what happens to them after they are dead. Reading this book made me think about death in a different way. When somebody dies, we grieve, we make preparations for a funeral, we bury them, pray that they rest in peace and carry on with our lives. But what happens to the dead person? The book attempts to cover some of these questions and you can read more on their website.

As a Christian, I believe that death is not the end, it is a separation from earth and current relationships, but there's more. I believe that Jesus Christ conquered death on the cross, and I have accepted Him into my life, then I am sure that after I die, I will see Him again. I will go to heaven and live with Him there for eternity. It doesn't mean that the prospect of death is not scary but I have this confidence that I have a far more wonderful experience after I leave earth.

Being conscious of what happens when I die means I am now more aware of how I live. If this world is all there is to life, then we can do whatever we like, live our lives without any obligations to anybody, satisfy ourselves with all the pleasures we can think of, etc. But if I know that my choices and actions here on earth will determine where I spend eternity, then it's up to me to ensure that I live right, according to God's principles. And I am ready to face Him, even if my life ends today.

So if I asked you: where would you be after you die, what would your answer be?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Poem - Time is Ticking

We seem to think that time stands still

Because we hardly notice when it passes

We sometimes forget that every minute counts

Even the minutes spent busying ourselves doing nothing

We only notice time in huge leaps –

In days, months and years

We overlook the fact that those days, months, years

Are made up of those seconds and minutes

That ticked by when we were not looking

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On Life: More Lessons

I've learnt to appreciate the peace of mind that comes from God.
I've learnt that other people deserve to be forgiven when they upset me.

I've learnt not to let the sun go down on my anger.

I've learnt that what matters is not really my comfort, but what I have been called to do.

I've learnt that I need to let go of my pride.

I've learnt that I need to be more patient.

I've learnt that I cannot expect to live without God's strength.

I've learnt that money is good, but it should not be abused.

I've learnt that I am inherently selfish and I need God to help me deal with that.

I've learn that I can't or shouldn't even try to hide from God.

I've learnt that even when I don't understand the situations I find myself, God is still in control.

I've learnt that I need God's grace to carry out the tasks ahead of me.

I've learnt that I have been called to serve others, not the other way round.

I've learnt that God is never late, He's always on time.

I've learnt again, that God is faithful even when I'm not.

I've learnt that God is absolutely crazy about me!

Friday, January 30, 2009

On Life: 10 Things About Me

Overwhelmed tagged me in this meme, so I thought I should put up this post:

So here are 10 things about me. I don't think I am particularly weird. Even if you think I am weird, I'll call it being special. He he he.

1) I process information for days and weeks. For example, I could watch a movie on Monday, and still be analysing every scene a week later. Or I could read a book and still be thinking of an alternative ending to the story 2 months after I read it. Or ruminating over some gist my friend told me a week later.

2) I'm such a keeper. I hold on to emails, letters, text messages and birthday cards for as long as possible. I still have letters my friends wrote to me when we were in secondary school. And I still have my 13th birthday cards. And my diaries from 1998. Hubby recently tried to get me to throw some things away but I wasn't having it.

3) It just dawned on me recently that the world existed long before I was born. I know that sounds daft, but it was such a profound revelation to me.

4) I would rather spend my money on experiences like travelling, enjoying good food and wine, going to see plays and shows, visiting museums and art galleries, having massages, etc than buying stuff. I think life is for living to the fullest, not for accumulating material things that only depreciate.

5) But if I must spend money on buying things for myself, well........ I prefer to spend my money on expensive creams, lotions, potions and make up. Most of my friends prefer to spend money on clothes, shoes and accesories. I get bored with clothes easily. After all, fashion changes every season.

6) I like laughing. People who know me say I laugh a lot. I can't help it, maybe I just find lots of things funny.

7) I can hear a song twice and learn all the lyrics off by heart. Sometimes this is good, because my family and friends are soooo impressed when I know the latest songs off by heart already. Sometimes it is annoying because I pick up songs that I don't even want to.

8) I was a virgin until my wedding night. Not because I didn't have any offers (lol), but I made a conscious decision to wait when I was 13. It was hard, but sooo worth it!

9) I try to avoid getting addicted to anything. When I realise I have started liking something too much, I stop doing it immediately. This applies to everything except chocolates.

10) Following on from point 9 above... I have a terrible sweet tooth. But I don't like some things. I don't like biscuits, cookies, and things like that. But things like ice-cream, chocolates, yoghurt hmmmm.... Never put me and cake in the same room.

Hey this was fun! Maybe I'll do it again somethime....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Life: Trip to Ghana

I finally got round to writing this post, after procrastinating for weeks. It's been sitting around in my drafts for a while, but I must warn you though, it's quite a long post.
When my dad suggested to my sisters and I that we should visit Ghana during our holidays, we were all really excited and up for it. I thought it was a great idea because I hadn’t visited any other African country before, and it would give me a chance to meet up with my friend from uni, who was also home in Accra for the Christmas break. Initially, I thought we were going to fly, but my dad suggested we should take the car instead. After some persuasion, I thought it would be fun. The whole journey took us about 12 hours – going from Lagos to Accra, and then another couple of hours to get to Elmina, a historical town along the coast. We stayed in Elmina for two nights and then spent another night in Accra.

Our journey began early in the morning at 7.00am. We wanted to set out of Lagos early so that we could get to Ghana before night. Our first stop was at a petrol station to fill our tank to the brim, then we headed towards Badagry. It took us about two hours to get to Seme, which is the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. The border was bustling with people, as travellers mingled with traders and hawkers. There was also a brisk trade in currency exchange going on, as people needed different currencies to trade between borders. Crossing the border was relatively smooth. We had to get some documents to take the car out of the country, then customs officials asked to check our luggage and made a few other checks and within thirty minutes, we passed through “no man’s land” (which is the small space between the two official borders) and crossed into Benin Republic.
It was my first time entering another African country and I was curious so I paid attention as the car drove into Cotonou. The first thing I noticed was that there didn’t seem to be as many flashy cars on the road in Benin, compared with Lagos. All the cars we saw were small or moderate cars. We saw the usual mobile phone networks – Glo, MTN and the like – had a big presence in Benin too, with recharge cards sold at road sides. We were surprised when we saw ladies riding bikes! But our driver explained that in Benin, bikes are not just for public transport, people also used motorbikes as their means of private transportation.

The public riders wear a visibility vest to distinguish them from private riders. They also have a lane for bikes on their roads which is really useful, so they don’t run into the path of cars, like the riders do in Lagos. Apart from that, the only other notable difference was the French language. I could take a photo in Cotonou and if you didn’t know, you would not be able to tell that I was outside Nigeria.

We journeyed on, passing through Cotonou and driving towards the other side of the country. We passed a number of small towns and villages on the way. Our journey through Benin was relatively uneventful, we ate snacks we bought at the border and watched the countryside as we drove by. The next border we had to cross was the Benin-Togo border. Again, we had to go through the documentation checks, the driver had to fill out paperwork for the car and so on. While we were waiting, I started to take photos, but I was told that it was illegal to take photos at the border and if an official saw me, my camera would be seized! I promptly put my camera and snap-happy finger away until we had crossed into Togo. Here are some photos I managed to take:
Togo is quite a small country and it took us less than an hour to get across it. We drove mostly along the coastline and we could see the Atlantic ocean and the nice beaches.

We soon got to the Togo-Ghana border and again had to go through a time-consuming process of getting paperwork for the car, then customs checked our luggage again. Eventually we were clear to go and we got into the border town of Aflao. The road was a bit rough for a few miles but it was under constriction so we soon left the bad bit behind and enjoyed a smooth ride into Accra. We passed by several police and customs check points on the way, checking that we had the right documentations, and checking our luggage time and time again. I have to say though, that I thought the police in Ghana had a friendly attitude that Nigerian ones don’t have!

We took a short break before we entered into Accra, stopping at a filling station to stretch our feet and buy a few snacks from the small supermarket. My sister had an MTN sim card, and we had been told it would work in Ghana so we had loaded it with enough credit before we left home. We were glad and surprised to realise that it cost less to call Nigeria from Ghana, than making calls within Nigeria!

Around 7pm we got into Accra, just before it started getting dark. We drove past Accra Mall (the equivalent of Palms Mall in Lagos), the Presidential residence, a busy market (I can’t remember the name) and a few other places of interest. I noticed that the traffic was orderly, the streets of Accra were very clean, all the traffic lights worked, and there were very few bikes on the roads. We didn’t stop because we still had a journey of almost 130 kilometres to cover before we get to Elmina. Some photos of Accra:

We arrived at Elmina around 9pm, by this time it was already dark so we couldn't see much of the coastal town. We went straight to our hotel, where we checked in. We were given the family suite which was really nice. We all had a shower and ordered dinner from the restaurant. The menu was good – we had fried rice with a really nice chicken and vegetable stew, as well as beans and fried plantain. After dinner, my sisters and I started watching a Nollywood movie but before long, we turned it off and went to bed.

The next morning, we got up bright and early and had breakfast in a nice chalet by the beach, which was part of the resort we were staying in. Some photos of the resort:

We left the resort with my dad’s friend who is a tour operator, to see the main attraction in this part of Ghana which is Elmina Castle. It’s one of the many forts built by the Portuguese when they first came to Africa to establish trade links. But in the 17th century it became a depot for the transatlantic slave trade and its dungeons housed many slaves captured from all over West Africa to be shipped to the Americas. (You can read more about the castle and it's history here).

We were taken round the castle by a tour guide. The tour included a history of the castle and its links with the slave trade. It was a very informative experience for me personally because although I had heard a lot about the slave trade, seeing the castle and images in the museum really brought it to life. It seemed almost impossible to believe that such things actually happened but the evidence was right there for us to see.

After the tour at Elmina, we went to the museum to see some of the items and exhibits of the town and the slave trade era. We left Elmina Castle, and took a short drive to Cape Coast to see Cape Coast Castle too. This castle was also purpose built for the slave trade and one fact that the tour guide pointed out to us was that the castle had dungeons for male slaves on one level and a church right above it! In those days, the slave masters still attended church services and called themselves Christians. I was wondering what they did to silence their conscience and perpetuate such wicked acts against their fellow human beings. I spent quite a long time in the museum at Cape Coast castle digesting a lot of information about the slave trade and its impact on Africa and history. There was a lot more information and artifacts at Cape Coast than Elmina Castle, but if anyone is interested in the history, I would recommend a tour of both. Here are some pics I took at Cape Coast:

I won't bore you with all the other grisly details that I saw and heard about during the tour of both castles, but its a trip I would recommend to everyone who wants to know more about Black history. At the end of that day, my sister mentioned that it made her appreciate the presidency of Barack Obama even more.
The rest of our holiday went well, the next day we visited Fort St. Jago before we left Elmina and went to Accra. We had fun in Accra, hanging out with two of our friends who took us to lunch, a short tour of the city and chilled out in a nice bar afterwards. By the time we got back to our hotel it was very late. And because we had to get up early in the morning, we decided to call it a night.
The next morning, we packed our stuff into the car and began the long drive back to Lagos. In all, it was a lovely experience and I would definitely visit Ghana again, but next time I'll fly!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On This Day....

... I watched, along with millions of people around the world as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

I was glued to CNN all day, from about five hours before the inauguration was due to begin. I watched as the crowds gathered and the mood was jubilant, people were talking about witnessing a historic moment, the CNN reporters were saying they had never seen anything like it, Americans from all over the country, all colours, all ages, rich and poor had come to see their new president take the oath of office. Several people had also come from all over the world - from the UK, Europe, even as far as Australia and the Middle East.

I agree it has been a really great day in history. Obama has made history. For generations to come, thousands of school children will read about him in their history books. College students will research his campaign and quote his speeches in essays. He will be remembered as the first African American to take the position of President of the United States. People will point to him and say "I can achieve the impossible".

For now, we wait and see how his administration will unfold. Personally, I don't envy him one bit. The weight of expectations on his shoulders is immense. He is carrying the hopes of his country and far beyond. He will be scrutinised and criticised at every turn. Already people are saying they were disappointed with his inaugural speech. No doubt he is a strong leader, but at the end of the day, he can't please everyone so some people will be disappointed. I'm not an American, but even I am crossing my fingers for him, willing him to succeed and exceed the expectations of the American people. Tonight the party continues, but tomorrow, Obama and his team will have to roll up their sleeves and get to work, delivering on all those promises he made. But I can bet that the next four years will be anything but dull.

In all this, commentators are saying Obama won because he was able to capture the hearts and minds of the younger generation. He was able to inspire people to trust him for the change they desperately wanted. I'm praying that such a leader will rise in Nigeria too. Obama has taught us that we can expect a whole lot more from our leaders. We should now see that we need leaders who can inspire a whole nation. We need leaders that we can believe in. We need leaders to change the old ways of doing things. And we need leaders who will lead with the interests of their followers at heart. God help us...

So as a new day dawns for the world, I say to everyone witnessing it - congrats! Hope we all take some lessons from these events, from the man and from the moment.