…After all, that’s what Christmas is about…

Celebration - Toast

I have heard this said many times about the family jollity (or not) that surrounds, and unfolds on Christmas day. I generally love Christmas and whilst many people swear by their sun filled Christmas in some holiday destination, I love Christmas in the UK – carols blasting out of the supermarket’s PA system, the Salvation Army transforming otherwise stressful atmosphere of London Bridge Station into a heavenly bliss as their wind instruments deliver, with calm assertion, those delightful Christmas carols; lights everywhere on the streets, trees and now even the London red busses, thanks to Coca Cola!

In all our giving and receiving of presents and cards, eating, loving (and for some tolerating) we tend to forget that at the centre of it all is Continue reading

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Honouring my Fathers

Just the one man was biologically responsible for my birth, but so many fathers nurtured, affirmed, loved and held me when I felt completely helpless and sometimes confused, disorientated. They came in different shapes, sizes and colours; some even too young to conceive someone my age and some are of the age whereby if I were their natural daughter, I would almost be a retirement baby. 

One such fathers is Pa Chuck Snyder. This morning I picked up an 8-page letter that he sent me on 21 April 2000, a letter of admonition, the kind of Paul to Timothy letter.

memorial
Photo credit: http://www.chucksnyder.org

This my spiritual father certainly knows how to inspire and comfort his children because reading this letter again today stirred up my soul and sad I was when I now no longer can write another email to him saying Pa, just read your letter again, you are fabulous and I am indeed blessed to have you in my life! Pa has been resting in the Lord for over 3 years now.

 I hope on this father’s day, he gets an extra special singing session with the angels in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Pa, you were ace! You rock!

With God’s love

xxxxx

Britain Has a New Prime Minister!

Phew! At last, the markets are picking up, the pound is gaining strength, companies are backtracking from the warnings they gave and things are looking up for the British economy, all because Theresa May has been announced as our new Prime Minister and will assume office tomorrow.

Theresa-May_2508509b

Brexit threat, its economic and financial repercussions has lasted the whole of …erm… two and half weeks, but boy, it feels like a lifetime! Never have I witnessed so much happen in the life of a nation than in the last two weeks. What with the markets tumbling and the political class embroiled in so much trouble – no less the ones they caused with half hearted campaigns, false sums, project fear and trying to bully the electorate to vote one way by threatening emergency budget, what was all that about? Simple recipe for defiant votes by the electorate. Even I for a while joined the camp of those who wanted to stick one finger up and rebel against the establishment. The Question I had to ask myself in the end was, “is that wise?” and of course it wasn’t. As strong as the temptation was, it is always better to take a step back and balance one’s view.

I was not particularly afraid of us leaving the EU because I believe Britain is strong enough to establish individual relationships with various countries but I felt an alliance of nations is stronger than alliances with many nations, never mind about that now, it’s forward march from here. Mrs May, the woman to take us forward into our new nirvana, has been described as a “bloody difficult woman” and apparently if you have worked with Margaret Thatcher, you might just be fine dealing with her. It was a claim Theresa herself did not deny, and she has promised the man at the heart of the EU he will be the next to know about it. Wow, sisters are indeed doing it for themselves. Talking about sisters, Hillary Rodham Clinton has only recently demonstrated to us just how resilient and determined she is by making a comeback eight years after she first tried to become the President of the US. As a woman, I take my hats off to all of them and can only try to imitate the courage, the wisdom and dogged determination that these women have shown in raising their heads above the parapet, raising their hands and standing up to be counted as women who use their God given influence to shape the future of their countries. Here’s to hoping that Britain’s new Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Theresa Mary May will bring her influence to bear positively on the nation for unity, tolerance and prosperity.

Going Solo

lonely-boat-on-big-ocean-1378034I recently came back from a holiday and I had quite a lot of beautiful pictures to show friends and acquaintances. Having had the time of my life on the trip, (the latter part of it anyway, I was recovering from flu the first few days and had it not been cheap and non refundable, I would have cancelled the holiday altogether!) I was in high spirit but it was quickly dampened when an acquaintance, after looking at the pictures and complimenting them said, “I was wondering, where are the friends you went on holiday with, why are they not in the pictures?”  She said it as such casual probe that I was thrown aback and found myself on the defensive. “Do I have to go with someone?” “What if I don’t have any friends?” And the truth is I really do not have friends I go on holidays with. Continue reading

Light of the Season

ThinkstockPhotos-492550260.jpgTo say 2015 has been a year of challenges is not an understatement. We have faced personal, regional, national and global challenges. My prayers go out to the people of Cumbria, many of whom are spending Christmas in temporary accommodation.

We were gripped by the terror that unfolded in Paris in November and for the second time this year. They are our nearest neighbours on the continent and we never forget that Paris is not alone in all these, most of the tourists killed in Tunisia in June were Britons. In every corner of the earth terrorism is battling hard and the world leaders appear sometimes at a loss at how to defeat it, despite their rhetoric.

We are however not without hope. In the Queens Christmas message, she spoke of the Hope that we have even in those moments of darkness. She quoted from the Bible in John chapter 1 verse 5 that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. Darkness has no substance in itself; it is just the absence of light. So when light is shone, it eliminates the darkness.

This hope for me was reflected in the response to the various attacks in Paris when the world’s heads of state together with millions of people united to march against Terror in marches républicaines. Hope never fails, that light continues to shine on. I was watching various carols yesterday – Hillsong Church carol event, the midnight mass from St Georges Cathedral in Southwark. It is a Cathedral that holds a fond memory for me because it was in there that I was presented with my award of MSc degree, many years ago. In both services there were strong multicultural elements. Prayers were said in several languages at St George’s Cathedral – Yoruba, Hindu, Spanish, English, and several others that I could not even recognise the names of. This to me speaks of the recognition of our natural differences and yet the unity that we share in faith in Jesus, who is the reason for the season.

I have faced my own personal challenges and they came powerful and strong; there was the death of my dad, which threw me into a small whirl of emotional turbulence, this is amongst others that I may share in future. But it is that hope that I have that has seen me through them all and now on this special day I can look back with gratitude and look forward with hope for the future that all will be well.

Even as the world continues to grapple with the aftermath of wars and displacement, we can be comforted in the faith that we profess and receive the gift of hope for the future from it. I was deeply moved by Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message where, Abdulah Kurdi, the father of the Syrian refugee boy who died on his way to Europe said he would like to help children because they know nothing only to laugh and play, this coming from a man who lost his wife and two sons together at sea. What hope!

Merry Christmas from me to you and have a great and blessed year ahead full of all the good things your heart desires.

 Ayomide Adeniola

Colours of Autumn

_20151102_222639September 2005, I drove into Lyme Street and a bright spectrum of orange colours greeted me as I looked ahead towards the west, over the roof of the houses on the upward slopping street and straight into the glorious sunset of the evening.

My destination was just round the corner, two streets away on the suburban street of Bath but even if it hadn’t been, I would in all probability still have done exactly the same thing. I slowed my car right down and ruminated on the beauty of the early autumn evening.

“I might as well just pull in … why not?” I put in an encouraging thought to myself.

I sat there in the car for what seemed an age, but in fact it was only five minutes, as I recalled the travel brochure I had read the week before boasting of all the beauties of fall in Boston Massachusetts. Boston in America is a long way from Bath in England and the adventure seeking me would love to travel there. The brochure had made a dazzling show of beautiful shades of red, orange and golden yellow coloured leaves of trees and shrubs all around New England. It made no small do of the Japanese maple trees.

It was not onlVLUU L200  / Samsung L200y Boston that boasts of fiery autumn colours, they were in Bath too
if only I would slow myself down and make some room in my mind to notice them.

At 32, I knew I was right in the summer of my life, enjoying friendships, progress at work, a vibrant Church life and every blessing that comes with it. Summer of life is definitely a great ‘feel good’ time. What I was also aware of in the so deep recess of my mind (that it would take some rummaging to bring it out) was that autumn of life would knock on my door one day. “Autumn is beautiful” I said softly as I started my car and rolled it slowly round into my street.

10 years on, early last month in October, I looked around my street and wondered VLUU L200  / Samsung L200where the colours of autumn were. I’m not sure I had paid much attention to them in the intervening years since that  September evening in Bath, other than a few pictures taken in Windsor Great Park in 2009. Even then, it wasn’t with any philosophical musing as it had been four years prior.

Autumn was not about to disappoint me; I was on my way home from working at Heathrow two Thursdays ago, when my eye caught bright red, golden and orange colours on the rolling hills next to the M25 as I drove anticlockwise towards junction 7.

“There they are!” excited and relieved at my discovery.

In as much as I strive not to let the female side down by getting stuck into as much multitasking as I could muster, taking a picture on the motorway is practically impossible, unless you are a passenger in a car and taking a picture while driving on any road is illegal at best and dangerous in reality. I had to be content with just my sighting and find some consolation for the inability to capture it. The autumn colours on my road have since blossomed, albeit they may not be as dazzling as those in Boston MA but they are just as much a reminder that autumn is a beautiful time if only we will pause every now and then and make some room in our minds to notice the beauty of autumn.DSC_0717

The beginning

Excerpt  from Me, My Mother, My Life

Chapterfront cover 8 – The Beginning

“Mummy, Mummy, see, E is for Elephant!”

I ran from the living room, where I had knelt on the blue and white carpet on all fours as Olalekan guided me through the colourful book of alphabets. I went to show Mum my latest knowledge acquisition. She was outside having a chat to the neighbour and another woman—one of her colleagues, who happened to have been passing by the house.

“That is great, very good,” Mum said, and turned to face her friends. I did not feel satisfied with the response; it did not feel quite enthusiastic enough. I told her I was going back to learn some more. She sent me on my way and resumed her discussion. I went back and continued working my way through the book.

That is not the earliest of my childhood memories. I seem to have a gift for remembering the odd moments and my memory once freaked Ibidun out. A lot of the memories of my childhood are as clear as watching a replay of the events. Some memories once in a while come to me like a flash of light that turns into a flicker. It sometimes glimmers as I struggle to put pieces of past events together. At other times it grows into a bright flame and the memories come rushing in.

Growing up in Ilesa, I was in every way a lastborn. I did not have any sense of suffering or not being cared for. My feelings when I was young were ones of being pampered. I was not aware of much of my relationship with my mother; I think she was quite a busy woman working as a nurse in the big hospital at the end of our road. Naturally, I spent more time with house helps and aunties, when they spent the summer holidays with us.

We lived in a house that was comprised of four apartments within a walled compound containing two buildings. At the time, the buildings seemed rather enormous. Our apartment was on the ground floor of the one that faced the road. We were renting and the owner lived in the house right at the back. The orange and fire brick red colour made the two-storey block quite distinct, particularly as all the houses on the mini estate on the opposite side of the road were white in colour.

Our house was about the last house on the road before getting to the General Hospital with its manned gates. The gates turned the rather wide, partly and thinly tarred road into a cul-de-sac.

Centred steps straddling the two ground floor apartments rose gracefully from the downward sloping, concreted front yard to our front door and those of the next door neighbour. I sometimes sat on the steps and played with my friends, the landlord’s daughters, Bolanle and Fola, and Titilayo, another girl who lived in the apartment right above ours. Hanging out with the other girls was my favourite pastime. Once Mum was out of the door in the morning, I would have my shower and settle down to breakfast. Having half eaten my breakfast I was always ready to go out to play with the other three girls, with the encouragement of the usually bright and sunny Nigeria days, when the sun extended a warm, tender touch towards us as its rays fell on our faces and the back of our bare necks. Its warmth gradually transitioned into intense heat as the afternoon approached and the hard concrete steps would get too hot. We would scramble to get the prime position in other spots under the shade where we could sit down without our bums feeling the burning heat of the exposed concrete steps.

“Bolanle, move. I need to sit there; I can still feel the sunrays on my arms.” If it was not Fola and her sister arguing about who sat where, it would be Titilayo and I wanting to protect ourselves from direct sunlight.

If anyone wanted me back in our apartment, they either shouted my name so loud that it could be heard all over the compound or they would come looking for me in my hideouts.

“Ayo! You need to come in now, we are going out,” Aunty Bolaji would shout whenever she needed to run an errand for Mum, and I would go in and get ready to go. On our way back we would walk through the primary school down the road from the house. The school was one of the state schools with some of the classroom’s external walls left un-rendered.

There was dust everywhere, especially when there had been no rain for a few days. You could see the dust settling on the houses as their colours take on an element of brown. There were very few trees around the neighbouring houses and you could see tiny bushes by the way side. Other forms of vegetation were scarce except for a little forest that could be seen from the lower end of the school. The forest extended to the rear of our compound before opening up on the land beyond the house and further past the side of the hospital, spreading afar into the distance, clear of what the eyes could see.

One day—during a holiday—there was a naming ceremony happening in one of the classrooms as we went past the school. The naming ceremony party sang, “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices . . .” and so on. At first I couldn’t make out the words of the song, but Aunty Bolaji helped me and I sang the few lines she taught me for days after. A few weeks later we sang the same song in our church. We didn’t get to go to church often but Mum took us at every opportunity she had.

During Christmas 1977, as was Mum’s usual practice, we went to Ibadan to do some Christmas shopping. Christmas in Nigeria was the time when children got special clothes; a lot of parents would save up to buy new clothes for their children. I’m not sure it would have mattered to the children if they only got new clothes at Christmas. Mum had travelled to Osogbo before our trip to Ibadan to buy us some outfits for the celebrations. Ibadan and Osogbo were bigger trade centres than Ilesa and Mum preferred to travel to either or both places for the annual festive shopping.

At Ibadan, we went sightseeing and had a great time at Leventis stores. I was full of excitement going up the escalator to get the train to Father Christmas’s grotto. The train was an open top, rather low train that was only large enough to take children. One of the younger girls was crying, afraid of riding the train without her mother. It made me rather proud of my confidence as I thought to myself, I’m not scared. At four years old, I had found a new level of self-assurance since I started nursery school about three months earlier. At this time we lived alone with Mum. Dad was still in England trying to complete his studies. Mum had chosen to return to Nigeria with me and my siblings after she finished her own studies several years ahead of Dad.

Then one afternoon, Mum came back from work and took a letter out of the side pocket of her thick light blue uniform. The most exciting time of the day was when Mum got back home from work. It was even more exciting on this occasion as the letter was from Dad. It was already opened, but she read it again and revealed some of the content to us. Dad was fine; he asked after us. And he would soon be returning home to Nigeria.

Despite getting excited about the letters from abroad, I did not know the man who wrote  them and so inevitably found the thoughts of him entering our family unit difficult.

“He is not my Dad,” I claimed.

Ibidun stepped in to do the diligent older sister duty.

“Yes, he is your Dad.”

  Is he really coming back? I thought to myself. It seemed unreal.

“How is he going to come?” I asked Mum.

“He will fly in an aeroplane,” was the answer.

“Where will he live when he comes? Where will his home be?”

“Here, of course,” was Mum’s reply.

As curious as I was to hear more about his impending arrival, I still could not fathom how he came to be my father, a man it seemed I had never met. I was only a baby when we had left him in England. If he stood in a line with other men, I would not have been able to identify him. Mum and Ibidun told me more about Dad in an effort to stir my imagination and help me reach the essential acceptance of this man, of whom I was a part. I argued with them. I told them my Dad was in Ife, which was only half an hour’s drive away from Ilesa. But I was, in fact, referring to Granddaddy, seeing as I was not aware at the time that Granddaddy lived in Modakeke, not Ife, and that Modakeke and Ife were two separate towns.

Mum tried to explain.

“Granddaddy is my daddy; your daddy is in England, see, he has written to us. He will be coming back soon.”

I was not prepared to buy their story. It did not sound true. I couldn’t picture him in my mind, therefore, as far as I was concerned he simply didn’t exist. I told Ibidun it was her daddy that was in England, not mine. That was my way of getting back at her for what felt to me like verbal abuse. How dare she tell me my daddy is in England? My daddy is in Ife; whoever it is that they are expecting from England is their own business, not mine.

Dad was a foreigner in my world.

I loved Granddaddy, we saw him often enough; he was good enough for me as daddy. In any case he was daddy, the fact that there was a “grand” prefixing that daddy made no difference to my little mind. I was always fascinated by his big house—the pale pink, three-storey building that he lived in at the time—and the vibrancy that the house exuded with my aunts and uncles usually happily bantering away. I would shout, “We are now in Ife,” when we got to the junction of the house, although we would have already entered Ife several kilometres back.

As Dad’s arrival drew near, we moved houses. I wasn’t sure why we had to move, because the new three-bedroom apartment was just as big as the old one. The compound within which we now lived was a lot more compact and the buildings sat closer together. The first building had two apartments; ours was on the ground floor, and the landlord and his family lived upstairs. There was also a smaller block to the side, which formed an extension to the landlord’s apartment on the first floor and was linked to it by a balcony. On the ground floor of the smaller block lived a young family of four. Their first child was a girl named Moji, who was two years younger than me while their other child, another girl, was still a baby at the time. I formed new friendships with Moji, and with Iyabo and Ranti, the landlord’s youngest daughters.

The space between the smaller building and our apartment, on the ground floor, formed a courtyard where the residents sometimes congregated in the evening to relax. The smell of palm oil stew and burning firewood wafted into the courtyard when the landlord’s wife cooked on an open fire downstairs in the back of the house.

The road outside was busy and dusty. Its dust would rise up like puffs of smoke when a vehicle drove by and we had to cover our mouths and noses from its fumes: that acrid smell and the harsh, gritty taste. The road led westward to one of the town’s main roads, which in turn led to the hospital next to where we used to live. In the eastward direction, it led into the town centre and onwards to Osu and then Ife, both in the southwest direction.

Once we unpacked our belongings into our new home, the countdown to Dad’s arrival began. It was a month, then weeks, then days. The strange thing was, as the days drew closer to his arrival, my excitement grew and I couldn’t wait to meet him. I was a different child to the one who had argued that her father was in Ife. When I saw him at the airport, my excitement knew no bounds.

We arrived at the Ikeja airport, having travelled to Lagos the day before to spend the night with our cousins. Dad’s flight arrived late in the evening. I must have slept in the car; I heard Mum’s voice calling, “Ayo, we are now at the airport.”

After we had pulled into a space in the car park, we all stepped out and went to watch some planes as they took off and landed before we headed into the terminal. I felt overwhelmed by the size of the planes and the thundering of their engines at the same time as I felt a great fascination for them. The evening breeze swept coolly across my face and felt quite refreshing. It carried a distinct smell of the various water bodies around Lagos—the lagoon, the ocean and perhaps the various rivers running into them. After about fifteen minutes outside we made our way into the terminal building. The passengers had started to come through. My neck was stretched as far as it would go, asking which one was Daddy, and Ibidun was standing on tiptoe, trying to see over the heads of the small crowd blocking her view. Mum was reassuring us that we would see him when he came through. I was so focused on the family business of the night that nothing else at the airport mattered to me. I was no longer aware who else was there with us apart from Ibidun and Mum, who were actively involved in my mission to identify Dad. Olalekan and one or two extended family members that travelled to the airport with us had disappeared from my line of sight and merged with the crowd there.

I, of course, did not recognise Dad when he came through, but Ibidun, in her own excitement, and Mum pointed him out. The picture of him standing at the airport counter waving intermittently, calmly and with poise as his travel documents were being checked, is permanently imprinted on my mind. He wore a dark suit and looked very tall and smart. He was beaming with smiles and kept wiping sweat from his forehead.

“That is daddy, that is daddy!” I cried out. Anyone seeing me would have thought Dad and I had been very close before he went on the journey he was now returning from.

“Daddy, daddy,” I called out to him as Mum lifted me up to get a better view. It probably would have been difficult to believe that I had only recognised him for the first time that evening.