‘The best things in life are free…’ (well sort of): 5 things I am thankful for during Lockdown

It has been a crazy time in the world of late. As if we are seemingly moving from one pandemic to another. First COVID-19, then racism (an accumulation of hundreds of years of racial injustice, but in this present season, triggered by the death of George Floyd in the States). Who knows just what is next?

Earlier this week, the UK government announced the next phase re. emerging out of lockdown in England. And as we move further away from quarantine, I am reminded of what a beautiful yet challenging time it was. Challenging for obvious reasons- the restrictions, the uncertainty, the sickness and death all around.

Beautiful because it felt like we were in a ‘Selah’ moment, like a holy pause button was pressed on the world, affording us the opportunity to step out of our normal treadmill existence, and focus on what really matters.

I know this would not have been the case for all.

Emergency service workers and essential  workers were working harder than ever before. Many people continued to work through the pandemic, probably working more hours than when they are in the office. Many struggled to balance childcare and work, others lost their jobs altogether. Many struggled to heat their homes and feed their families and there were those, are those, living in what can only be described as hell – with a significant increase in domestic violence incidents being reported worldwide during this period. Others still were mourning the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19 further compounded by the inability to say goodbye properly – either at the hospital and / or at funeral due to restrictions…

All of this serves as a reminder to count our blessings. And counting them is just what I am about to do. Here are 5 things I am supremely grateful for during this time especially:

Family – Even though we could not be together, I appreciated the marathon phone calls, Facetime catch ups and doorstep conversations with those shielding. I also loved having catch ups with various relatives including my oldest family members – my grandmothers and my great Aunt. Times like this make you appreciate them more than ever before, to love and honour them and to glean from their life experiences whilst they are still here.

Friends – I am richly blessed with wonderful friends across different phases of life. From secondary school to 6th form, from my original church family to my current spiritual ‘home’, this time was full of rich and meaningful catch ups. We scheduled in weekly zoom calls, many with babies in tow, had various WhatsApp groups to either share our concerns, jokes (as a means of stress relief) to deal with the stress or just to simply check in. We also celebrated the arrival of several babies birthed in the pandemic (such warrior women), had zoom birthday gatherings but also grieved with those struggling with sickness and loss. True friends are worth their weight in gold.

Faith– During this time, I was more intentional about reading the Bible, worshiping through song (on my little out of tune keyboard) and just spending time sitting with God. When lockdown began, I thought it would be time to ‘do’ lots of things for God alongside my already busy workload (10-15 hours days, 6-7 days week). But God simply wanted me to spend time with Him, without an agenda, to park the checklist – no matter how spiritual or good these items are. It was a time to pause and go deeper still. What a gift.

Fitness – I started running as part of my lockdown fitness routine. It has been a few years since I have run and being newly post op (6 months) I was nervous to begin with but so glad I persevered. I used the NHS Couch to 5K app which was brilliant for motivation and can now run for 3-5K nonstop which is a big deal! I live near a beautiful park / woodlands with many dog walkers present in the morning. Inevitably, you end up seeing the same people and building a rapport with them – moving from a sheepish grin to a full on conversation. These encounters were beautiful.

I committed to 3 mornings a week – twice in the week before work and once on the weekend. This was an enjoyable time, listening to 80’s and 90’s soul, sprinkled with a little bit of garage and jungle music for a boost. Running is a good stress reliever and a great way to improve overall well being (mind, body and soul).Healthy bodies are a gift from God, and this season really brought this home. The least I could do was to look after it, as an act of worship and thanksgiving to Him.

It was also a great time to commune with God through nature, which I like to do already but was particularly heightened because there is little else I could go out and do! Listening to the different birds singing, looking at the beauty and variety of trees and plants, it’s hard not be in awe of all His wonderful creation.

Food –  When the lockdown was announced, mass panic buying ensued, which made it difficult to get hold of some essentials (I missed pasta so much!). However, I am blessed to have good local shops nearby and well enough to go out buy what I needed and also go shopping for others who were shielding. Never have I felt so grateful for food, a home and a stove to cook it off.

Lockdown was also a time to get creative. I baked a flapjack (which came out surprisingly nice), tried to make Jollof (didn’t turn out great) and other dishes.  I also purchased a few great quality products online. This included the delivery of fantastic fruit and veg from Africa and the Caribbean by a company called Windrush Bay.

I normally buy plantain from my local shop, 3 for £1.20 but when lockdown kicked in they tried to raise the price to 2 for £1.20 for two tired looking plantain. No Sir. Plantain was included in my Windrush Bay order and it didn’t disappoint – in value and quality.  I also purchased an Aloe Vera leaf (never used it before!) which I used in smoothies but also to make homemade hair butter for the first time.


I made the hair butter using Aloe Vera gel, Almond oil, Lavender essential oil (Neal’s Yard) and raw shea butter from Akoma Skincare (fantastic quality and price, also hooked on their African Black Soap). My hair seemed to enjoy it, so will do this more.

As we emerge from Lockdown, I don’t want to forget the beauty of ‘simple’ living, investing in relationships, being creative like a child and just slowing down to really engage and experience life and the beautiful people God’s placed in it. This season will end, but I want to be intentional about taking the lessons I have learned and applying this moving forward.

What have you been grateful in this time?

“I’ve had enough” – part-time precarious work, poverty and the London experience

christopher-rusev-WYPXKxCfH_I-unsplashI recently had my hair braided at an ‘Aunty’s’ house. The woman who does it is comfortably into her late 50s, possibly older and I call her Aunty by default. We are not related but, as is customary in West African cultures, I would never dare address her on first name terms so Aunty it is because what would swiftly follow is  –‘I am not your age mate’.

As she braids my hair, we watch numerous Nollywood movies – commenting on all the scandalous storylines and characters, me, enjoying her witty one-line words of wisdom drawn from decades of life experience.

But through all our small talk I couldn’t get over what had happened just moments before. This woman lives in privately rented shared accommodation with others from a similar background. There is a shared bathroom on the ground floor which is an outhouse reminiscent of the Victorian era. The place is so rundown and dilapidated it’s probably not seen a lick of paint in 2 decades. Her room is cold and filled to the brim with her belongings.

‘I’ve had enough’ she said just moments before sitting on her bed. Aunty had just an argument with one of the other tenants in the house over something seemingly trivial. I could hear her shouting in her native tongue with the other tenant – her response feeling disproportionately heavy-handed compared to this single occurrence. But it wasn’t a single issue – it was a build up of multiple issues – from the irritating (dirty bathroom) to the dangerous (gas cooker being accidentally left on).

This was just too much for her. 9 years on – this type of living was no longer for her. But unfortunately, as an older woman, with low paying insecure work she can’t afford much else and this is the best that money can provide in the private rent sector in London.

Aunty had been on the local council’s waiting list for years and was putting pressure them to find her somewhere to live. But as we all know, even though she is an older person with minor health conditions, she is not a priority. She has gone through the bidding process but with little success. I am not privy to the intricacies of her specific situation, but I know enough to know this is not right.

Our public / social housing sector is in crisis with so many people in accommodation that is not suitable for them. Families are packed into 1-bedroom flats or single rooms in hostels waiting for bigger places. Whilst some people are drowning in properties they no longer need, but because of recent government reforms – where lifelong tenancies have been replaced with assured short hold tenancies (threatening their sense of stability / security)  they have stayed put – preferring to bite the bullet and pay the penalty in the form of the bedroom tax. Many I know in this position would happily downsize but the assured short hold tenancies – where their contracts could be evaluated every 2-5 years – makes this, not only an unattractive prospect but a distressing one, especially if the eligibility criteria fluctuates depending on who is in government.

She finishes my hair and I promise to pray for her. As I make the hour plus journey home – the scenario before running through my mind– there’s a woman having a conversation on the bus with her child at her side. She sounds frustrated. Trying not to be nosy, her volume and the content makes it hard to ignore. Long story short, she is a single parent, doing low paid agency work in schools. She’s just been told that the school she has been working no longer needs her services.  The hours were already a struggle because of childcare but made it work with the help of friends– now she is back to square one. Obviously, I can hear only her side of the story, but this scenario I have heard many times. Then the lady mentions the problems she’s currently having with Universal Credit but I have to get off the bus before she goes into detail. The irony is, less than two weeks ago, the DWP announced there would be further delays to rolling out Universal Credit costing £500 million pounds.

These stories are all to familiar and they are painful. The issues are complex as are the solutions.

It would be all to easy to blame the Government or go the other way and blame the individuals. Neither of these positions are helpful, though in some situations, like Universal Credit, it is glaringly obvious where the blame lies.

We all have a responsibility and role to play- individually and collectively in the well being of others and of society’s potentially most vulnerable. Business has a role to play, faith communities have a role to play, there’s so much to say…

All I know is that this – an elderly woman reduced to living in rundown accommodation or a  young single, working parent balancing insecure work and childcare– both trapped – caught between a rock and a hard place yet trying to find a way of escape- are problems that can and should be solvable.

These two situations say a lot about the state of our society – our housing system and welfare state (both of which are inherently wonderful) but under considerable strain. There are many other sectors which are providing a safety net for the most vulnerable but are at breaking point, just like some of the fragile people caught in it. What can we do? How do we move forward? Can we move forward?






Valuable lessons on thrifty living from my mama

Happy New Year and decade! It has been such a long time since I have blogged here but I felt inspired to after spending some time at my mother’s house.

Over the last month, I have been recovering from major surgery so needed to stay with my mum until I am strong enough to take care of myself. This time has been a source of unexpected joy and deep healing in more ways than one. One of the things that has provided endless entertainment during this period is realising just how funny and thrifty my mum is! And also how much I love her!

Growing up, my mum has always been very resourceful but experiencing it as an adult has been inspiring and humorous on another level!

Here are just a few of the little lessons on thrifty living I’ve learnt during my stay:

  1. Do not waste water – I have my own method of washing up and my mum has her own. For me, washing up is a quasi-therapeutic, multi-sensory experience so I can be quite liberal (not excessive) in my water usage. I like the sound of the tap quietly running in the background, immersing my hands in the soapy water, and if time permits, really take the time to wash the dishes until they are sparkling clean. But to my mum, the ongoing running water is a monumental waste; it’s best to have one tub of soapy water to wash the dishes, and then do a similar thing re. rinsing them out apart from cups / glasses (which need to be rinsed in fresh water). And if I fail to fall in line, mum is quick to remind me that if I paid my own water bill in full, I would be more economical – ouch! So whilst I am at her house, I have been mindful to use less water, especially since mum has a sixth sense when it comes to water and energy wastage. I swear she can hear the sound of running water at long distances – from the other side of the house – even with the doors shut and TV on. (This must come with decades of being a parent?!). You may even be asking the question – ‘why don’t we have a dishwasher?’ The answer is simple: my mum is old school and still doesn’t believe they wash dishes properly!
  2. Ration washing up liquid – it’s been a while since I have seen washing up liquid diluted in a bottle as standard practice. Most people only resort to this if they are running a little low and need to make it stretch for a short while. However, this is the norm at my mum’s. Apparently some people don’t have the ability to regulate their usage so my mum just wants to help them out! I remember when one of my housemates tried to do this a while ago so that we’d be more economical. This didn’t last long; seeing that we are all adults -living independently of our parents -hopefully we have some ability to manage our usage!
  3. Turn off the lights – I am pretty good with turning off the lights if they are not in use, but my mum is a supremo. Before you’ve barely left the room the lights must be off or she is following closely behind like a ninja to turn them off if she happens to be doing a round of ‘inspections’. And this also goes for household electrical appliances. There is a nightly ritual at mum’s – partly motivated by fire safety and also a commitment to energy efficiency – where all appliances must be turned off at the mains to reduce energy wastage apart from the fridge etc.
  4.  Re-use margarine containers and jars for storage – I have written about this before but coming back to my mum’s home, I saw margarine containers used as tupperware; old coffee glass jars creatively transformed into containers for dried goods and other random plastic containers take on a new lease of life as bowls. In my mum’s own words ‘why should I pay money for these things when I can get them for free?’
  5.  Don’t pay for convenience – Mum and I went to a local franchise of a big supermarket chain. Mum wanted coffee from the store but when she saw the price – almost had a meltdown. “This is half the size of the one at the bigger stores yet almost the same price. No, I am not paying that much for a small jar.” I replied “But Mum, I will buy it for you, don’t worry about it.” My mum retorts: ” No, that’s not the point. I don’t want you spending this amount for this size – it’s the principle. Why should it be so expensive? I’ll go to the bigger store later tonight so I can get the one I normally buy. It’s a rip off. I can’t believe it.’‘ I laughed so much because this instance reminded me of numerous times as a child, when my mum would go to another shop – 10 mins away – to buy the same product which might be 20p cheaper because of ‘principle’.  At that moment, I had an epiphany; my mum is the original Thrifty Afropolitan. I can drop off from time to time- but she is the real deal when it comes to adopting a resourceful, frugal lifestyle influenced by her West African heritage.

On reflection, perhaps God brought me home as a reminder and a challenge to do better re. managing my finances in the new decade ahead…

What lifestyle / household hacks do you remember parents doing to save money? Share them in the comments section below.

Here are a few of the recycled jars in my mum’s kitchen!

Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa: 21 years on

I’d been following the story of nine activists who were days away from death over what seemed to be the duration of one week; I was ten years old. Before the days when the Internet was widely available, the News and my parents’ conversations were my sole sources of information fuelling my hungry, little mind.

I will never forget watching the live coverage, 21 years ago this month, knowing that within just a few minutes one man and his fellow activists were to be hanged. I wept and shouted at the TV whilst my mum sat static with horror.

This news story played out in my conscience repeatedly for days, months, years later in a way like no other had. At the time, I couldn’t fully articulate the depths of what I felt, but in retrospect, it was significant because it was one my earliest recollections of evil operating at an institutional ( global ) level.

With baited breath my family and I watched the News that evening hopeful of a last minute reprieve. It didn’t come. Despite outrage from the ‘international’ community, the Nigerian government remained defiant; death by hanging, an effective deterrent to any potential ‘upstarts’ seeking to challenge the status quo.

The murdered activists were known as the Ogoni nine; the leader, Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa.

His death had a profound personal impact for a number of reasons beyond the obvious injustice. It was the first time I had publicly witnessed, in my own lifetime, someone (previously alive) possess an ideal for which they were literally prepared to die and did. It also resonated due to its proximity; despite being geographically thousands of miles away from our London home, my mother’s family originate from the very region it all happened – the Niger Delta.

Weeks after the execution, I had to write a piece at primary school about my hero. I had no hesitation in writing about Mr Saro-Wiwa. I remember passionately scribbling down my thoughts, raw emotion, etched on paper. I have no recollection of what I wrote except that it resonated with my peers and my teacher. Today, 21 years later, he still remains one of my ‘heroes’ –  a term I do not use lightly. And like then, today I write this piece in remembrance of him.

For years the oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, had been extracting oil from the Niger Delta – profiting millions if not billions of pounds to the detriment of local communities.

Spillages were commonplace causing irreversible damage to the local environment and ecosystems. Rivers were poisoned for profit – destroying the main source of livelihood for many of the Ogoni people. Thousands have been harmed both directly and indirectly; death, a common consequence of their operations.

The full extent of the damage caused will never be fully known but there is sufficient evidence to show serious human rights abuses occurred.

Mr Saro-Wiwa was one of, if not, the most prominent voice drawing the world’s attention to the environmental crisis in his native Ogoniland. And clearly to great effect; such that he, along with members of the Ogoni leadership (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People) and many other ordinary citizens, were subjected to a horrific campaign of harassment, murder and intimidation.

Last year Shell promised to pay out £55million pounds in an out-of- court settlement to communities affected by the oil spills in the Delta region. They have also since publicly acknowledged the human right abuses caused… its a sort of ‘progress’ I suppose.

The story is far from finished but there are encouraging developments demonstrating Mr Saro-Wiwa’s sacrifice was not in vain, nor the countless other victims, whose blood cries out from the Niger Delta soil.

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‘I can take the cold weather but I can’t take cold hearts’ – Tom

It was a crisp, autumnal morning and the skies were slightly overcast, threatening rain. The day started off seemingly uneventful; the usual morning commute comprising a leisurely stroll to the office – providing necessary thinking time – whilst also drinking in the scenery of this beautifully historic part of London.

But as I walked through the little church courtyard, I came across a homeless man sleeping on a bench. Not unusual but what happened next was. Out of habit, I said good morning – looking him directly in the eyes and ensuring my body language conveyed an openness to conversation. He replied good morning. I asked how he was doing, expecting a simple one word reply. Instead he spoke about how much he’d enjoyed last night’s sleep noting it was ‘one of the best nights in a while’.

In his fifties, white and of fair appearance, what struck me most about his obviously dishevelled exterior was the blue rosary around his neck.This would normally be my cue to say ‘God bless’ upon departure but the words froze in my mouth. And as if he were a mindreader, he looked me straight in the eyes and said the very words I couldn’t utter. ‘God bless you.’ I replied sheepishly- surely I should not have been afraid to say something to him?

The next morning, I saw him, Tom, again and we had similar conversation but this time with a little more detail. Someone had given him coffee and it said it made him feel alive and warm. I promised to bring him some tomorrow if he would like? Yes please he responded.

I didn’t buy the coffee. It rained so heavily the next morning that I knew I wouldn’t see him. Eventually I did see Tom, the day after, and came equipped with a mini snack pack of pastries, coke and a banana for energy. This time we spoke for a little longer. Tom told me some of his story; he had an alcohol addiction and wanted to be rid of it. Tom also spoke of his faith – he believed in God – and how thankful he was to the faith- based charity which was currently supporting him.

What struck me most about our conversations was how grateful Tom was just to talk to someone. He said so many times people would walk right past as though he didn’t exist, even when he’d say hello. To make matters worse, Tom does not beg, he is not interested in people’s money or pity. Tom just wanted to be acknowledged and his inherent dignity and worth respected as any other human being would.

We both agreed some people are just plain rude, whilst others are simply oblivious to those around them, especially in London with all it’s hustle and bustle. Tom was from up north originally and because I have family based up there too, we noted that, generally speaking, northerners were a tad bit more warm, open and friendly compared to us southerners. What he said next touched me in a way I can’t express: ‘I can take the cold weather but I can’t take cold hearts’. Looking me deep in the eyes.


It echoes a similar episode in ‘Overrated‘, written by an American Korean called Pastor Eugene Cho, who I heard speak at the London School of Theology’s annual Deo Gloria lecture a few years ago. In the book (which I would highly recommend reading) Pastor Eugene shares his experience of playing a homeless person in a play at high school. Noticing his inability to get into character, his drama teacher challenges him to be ‘homeless’ for a day, in the hope that it would improve (by his own admission) his abysmal acting skills.

Rising to the occasion, Eugene noticed people would give, in some instances, throw money at him but completely avoid eye contact or any sort of meaningful interaction.

All he wanted was to be acknowledged and known, yet, in his own words, he felt utterly invisible. It was this – not the tiredness, the lack of sanitation, privacy, absence of a peaceful night’s sleep or place to rest – that most affected him. Tom was saying something similar.

We spoke some more but ever conscious of being late for work, I weakly attempted an exit, but how could I leave knowing full well Tom wanted to continue the conversation? Eventually another gentleman passed by who he knew. They greeted one including shaking hands. At this point I acknowledged the substantial amount of dirt under his finger nails, like talons. I would be lying if the sight of it and the prospect of a handshake, didn’t make me flinch momentarily. But as if by divine prompting, I knew that this is exactly what was going to happen next.

As I said goodbye, and that I hoped to see him next week (although really hoping he would be in a shelter rather than outside) I told Tom I would pray for him even if I didn’t see him. He wished me all the best for the day, favour with my manager but more than this, he did the very thing I knew he would. Tom took my hand, shook it and then did something beyond beautiful. He kissed my hand and said “I wanted to treat you like the lady you deserve to be treated. God bless and thank you.”
To this day, this act of kindness overwhelms me, even with all he was going through.

I have had several divine encounters like this with homeless people who have such a deep sense of spirituality. I can’t help but wonder- could we be entertaining angels without knowing it?

The winter chill has settled in and as I reluctantly reach for my winter coat, admitting defeat that summer is dead and gone, I can’t help but remember those who don’t have a roof over their heads.

There are plenty of ways to get involved and support those experiencing homelessness including volunteering at your local homeless shelter (The Robes Project, ASLAN, Brixton Soup Kitchen); volunteering over Christmas – through Crisis; donating money or supplies to a homeless project; buying a hot meal for someone or a bed for the night (there are several initiatives which allow you to do this); give money if you feel compelled to (there is huge debate about this- trust your gut) or supplies (personal hygiene packs, jumpers, jackets, socks etc)- these are some of the most obvious practical things to do.

One of my favourite initiatives, Wrap Up London, is a three day campaign by Hands On London, where they collect coats from the public to give to those who need it – including people who are on low incomes and homeless people. This year’s collection is taking place in various locations across London between 7th – 9th November- check them out if you have any coats spare!

But whether you do this or not – one of the simplest and most effective things I have learnt is to show kindness; look a (homeless) person in the eyes, smile (if appropriate) and just say hello- open to conversation and simply recognising they are also made in in His image too.

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Thrifty Afropolitan in Berlin

Earlier this year, I visited Germany’s capital city on a whim. It seemed everyone I knew had been or was planning to go so being the naturally curious kitten that I am, I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about.  And it didn’t disappoint.

Travelling solo is good for the soul and forces you to come out of your comfort zone which is a necessary thing to do from time to time. I have travelled alone before, but it is the first time I have visited a place where I couldn’t speak the main language.  Similarly, and rather selfishly, I also decided to travel solo because I just wanted to disappear, immersing myself into another culture without having to compromise – just a straightforward, disappear and do-what- I-want sort of holiday.

The trip was so enriching in many ways; East Berlin is incredibly vibrant with a very youthful and creative energy.  A friend of mine described it as ‘painfully edgy’ comparable to Shoreditch, East London.

Berlin is a relatively multicultural city including a huge Turkish population and is also varied architecturally with some truly beautiful buildings to behold.

Berlin was ridiculously affordable (compared to London) from dining out to the range of touristy activities on offer, many of which were free. I had a whole host of recommendations from friends (thank you) but only managed to do a few things given that it was a short break. I planned one thing a day and then left the rest open to whatever opportunities presented themselves.

“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”

Most people I met were friendly with almost all being able to speak English. However I really wish I’d made an effort to learn a few German phrases. I am not fond of the incredibly arrogant way of travelling and assuming everyone speaks English which unfortunately I did on this occasion. Also not speaking the language meant I missed opportunities for meaningful interactions with German natives.

On one occasion I was sat on a train making my way to a friend’s church on the other side of Berlin.  This guy, who looked slightly rough in appearance, kept staring at me. I wasn’t offended or scared as I sensed he was harmless – more intrigued than hostile. Eventually I offered him a sweet just to break up the intense staring.  He refused politely then proceeded to speak in German. I couldn’t answer back and he seemed a little disappointed by it but kept staring at me until I got off. I would love to have known what thoughts lie beneath…

As usual on the arrival I had a slight panic. What am I doing in this city, where I don’t know anyone and I don’t speak the language? But then I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I am a grown woman, only 1.5 hours away from ‘home’ and that the whole point of the trip was to explore, be patient with myself and come out of the ‘known’.

In all honesty I was concerned about experiencing racism (historically Germany has a track record) and not having the language or wherewithal to respond. I was also worried about my inability to speak German. To appease the panic I returned to the familiar and sat in a local McDonald’s for Wifi and for comfort.
With a shortage of tables, a white woman, middle-aged, friendly faced asked to sit down across from me. I said yes and then she began to talk in German to which I couldn’t reply. For the duration of her lunch, she sat and looked at me, my face and hair in particular – with a semi smile resting on her face.

When God just hooks you up

I stayed in a lovely combination hostel and hotel called Plus Berlin which I would highly recommend due to its location (not far from the Eastside Gallery), amenities and affordability. I absolutely love staying in hostels for short city breaks because of the instant community and the potential to meet different people from around the world.

The first of the serendipitous moments happened when I arrived at the hostel. There was a concert I wanted to go to, part of the reason I came to Berlin, but I didn’t book any advance tickets.  Through a chance conversation with the receptionist, one of his colleagues was planning to go and invited me along.  However I did end up going on my own (and met him there)  but I also met some other wonderful people including a young American female drummer and a fellow Nigerian creative (journalist, dancer & curator) who I immediately clicked with. We all swapped notes on the cost of living in our respective cities and what it means to be Nigerian in our various lands (UK and Germany respectively) as well as hopes for the future etc.

I danced the night away and as if things couldn’t get any better, because of these newly forged friendships, I got to meet the legend and Afrobeat pioneer, Mr Tony Allen (Fela’s drummer), who was incredibly gracious and warm. He even tried to talk to me in Yoruba (my father’s native tongue) when I told him my name but unfortunately ( no thanks to my parents but I still love you) I can’t speak the language! Golden opportunity missed.

Awestruck: Sir Tony Allen, Afrobeat legend and I

Awestruck: Sir Tony Allen, Afrobeat legend and I

Some of the other highlights of my short trip included:

Walking tour – Everyone I knew recommended the walking tour and it was brilliant. Different companies offer them – I went with Original Berlin Tours. The tours are free (although it’s courteous to tip the guide at the end) and lasted for 2.5 hours.  Our tour guide was a young, Irish guy who was passionate and knowledgeable about modern European history so the tour was very well informed.

Walking tours are a good way to meet people if you are travelling solo and I happened to meet some wonderful people including a young woman from London who began solo travelling for much the same reasons as I (the freedom and differing ideas of what constitutes a good holiday compared to her friends.)

The walk covered most of the major landmarks including Checkpoint Charlie, remains of the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust memorial, the Brandenburg gate, the location of Hitler’s bunker and other weird, wonderful and sobering locations.  Towards the end of the tour I stumbled across the Room of Silence– powerful and thought provoking which I would highly recommend even if just to escape the frenzied tourist activity.

Tiergarten – a refreshing oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle – Tiergarten is the equivalent of London’s Hyde Park – a beautiful sprawling space includes a beer garden, statutes of famous German composers (including one of my favourites Uncle Beethoven) and is surrounded by important landmarks such as the Bundestag and the Brandeburg Gate.

Tasting Turkish food There are lots of Turkish food places with a significant number located near Kotbusser Strasse. I visited several during my short stay the food was that delicious and affordable. I do also recommend trying some German cuisine- a friend of mine who was raised in Berlin but lives in London, recommended I taste a Currywurst- a sausage covered in curry sauce which was quite tasty.

Tempelhof– Formerly an airport, I visited this quirky and wonderful park by accident. It was a hive of activity when I went with numerous sunbathers, cyclists and people having BBQs.  Lovely space and worth visiting to see how the space is being used.

People watching / Bottle collecting – I know it is an odd one ( I promise I am no voyeur)  but on several occasions I noticed grown men picking glass bottles out of bins so asked my friend why this was the case. He mentioned that bottle collecting was common amongst some, usually older people, as a means of supplementing their income. Essentially they can earn extra money if returned to a supermarket as part of a deposit scheme.

Eastside Gallery – you just have to go just because it is so culturally and historically important.

Bundestag– I visited the German parliament building at night and it was spectacular especially the panoramic views from the rooftop. It’s free and really worth going to see especially if you are into architectural design.

Church– I was meant to visit Mauer park, a popular Sunday hangout (again highly recommended) but ended up going to my friend’s church instead. The church was very multicultural – with an American pastor, lovely and welcoming.  After the service, a group of us visited a Latvian restaurant for lunch providing an excellent opportunity to get know them properly.  The group consisted mainly of international students from Ecuador, Canada, Latvia, Brazil and England all developing their German language skills and making the most of the study abroad experience.  I couldn’t help feeling inspired by their experiences- I didn’t study abroad as part of my degree- which I regret, but I do believe it is never to late to cease the opportunity to travel and live abroad (even if for a little while) if that is what your heart desires.

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Can’t be all good, can it?
In terms of travel, Berlin has a good, organised and affordable transport system. It is also a cyclist’s city, so refreshing to see people of all ages cycling around as a way of life. I made a few faux pas during the trip mainly getting confused between the S-Bahn (the  overground trains) and the U-Bahn ( like the London Underground) which led to some frustrating episodes- like missing trains but they were fairly frequent so an easy problem to rectify.

The only down side to my trip was on the third night when the new roommate arrived. A lovely and friendly older woman when awake but a terrifyingly loud chronic snorer by night (resembling the sound of a small freight train) making sleep for the last two nights somewhat elusive. Thankfully I only had two nights of left but at one point wondered if this was part of the hostel’s conspiracy to get guests to upgrade to a hotel room!

In terms of costs I bought cheap return flights for £40 through Easyjet.  My accommodation for 4 nights worked out at approximately 85 euros (£70) which included a shared en suite bathroom. (These prices were pre- Brexit decision) so could be subject to change. And I took a fair amount of spending money but still ended up with a considerable amount left.

In a nutshell:  great city+ great people+ great value = Berlin.

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Don’t give me tat!

Having spent numerous afternoons sorting through donations in a charity shop as a child, I was always amazed by the things people would give ranging from high quality goods to pure junk.

Last summer I was sifting through items to be sent to refugees in Calais, France along with some other volunteers. Many useful things such as clothing, camping kit, practical shoes and non-perishable food were generously donated by the public but on the odd occasion I’d stumble across what can only be described as  ludicrously impractical.

The collection had taken place in a relatively affluent part of London so good quality donations were to be expected. But designer Hugo Boss suits? Dinner dresses and stiletto heels? For refugees who have fled terror and war currently living in squalid conditions? Utterly unbelievable.

Perhaps if the clothing had been donated as part of a resettlement project, providing refugees with smart suits for job interviews for example, then this would make sense. But these items were stupidly inappropriate.


The donors were clearly having a spring clean and wanted to contribute their unwanted wares to a ‘worthy’ cause, but their ‘charitable’ deeds were completely misguided. And herein lies the problem; Rather than acting primarily out of a genuine desire to help those in need, they were spurred on by a range of questionable motives; namely to appease their conscience, ‘legitimise’ their affluence and ultimately, make themselves feel better.

This also extends the other way, to those individuals who donate absolute tat which belong in one place- the bin. Soiled trousers, torn tops and weather beaten, worn- out shoes; surely if it is not good enough for you, why should it be for someone else?

I truly believe this is what happens when we operate from wrong motives – a sort of disembodied faux compassion. When we fail to fully see people as they should be, as fellow human beings, to be afforded the same dignity we would expect in turn.

There are other circumstances where this could apply such as donating unwanted food to a local food bank. Let’s be honest, how many times have you been tempted to give those unwanted tins, lurking in the kitchen cupboard since time immemorial, to your local food bank? Surely somebody would want that unidentified tinned fruit / vegetables, random pulse or such like, which even you haven’t gotten round to eating despite those bare cupboard / broke days. In all honesty, we would sooner find something else to eat, so why do we insist on giving food that we ourselves would not want? (This piece sums it up perfectly – excuse the naughty language.)


Another related bug bear of mine, is the assumption homeless people will want things – food specifically- without considering their preferences. Its the equivalent of giving a homeless person who is vegetarian – due to deeply held personal beliefs – a ham sandwich and insisting they eat and be grateful. Just because they are homeless, we assume beggars shouldn’t be choosers. And although there is a modicum of truth entailed in this statement, (if you are desperately in need, you will pretty much take what you are given), irrespective of a person’s status – homeless, refugee, food bank user or someone whose simply fallen on hard times (which most of us have or will at some point) our response should be the same; We see the person, respond to their needs, respecting their being, preferences and desires, and where possible accommodate these accordingly.

May I hasten to add that I am not saying acquiesce to ridiculous requests; a Byron burger when perhaps you can only afford Burger King or a posh sandwich from Selfridges food hall when a similar sandwich from M&S or Tesco will suffice. (Disclaimer: If you can afford to and want to then absolutely respond with radical generosity. But I suspect most people who are in need would be content with a fairly standard version of the said item.)

Nor do I want discourage genuine acts of kindness – even if the outcome is slightly questionable! We may not always be in a position to give people what they want – whether it is due to time, finances or other constraints, but hopefully operating from a place of true compassion and common sense will minimise potential faux pas aka stilettos and Hugo Boss suits.

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Random Afropolitan Childhood memories

Sometimes I am random and to celebrate this I would like to share a silly selection of childhood Afropolitan memories:

  1. Rice stored in the margarine container in the fridge rather than tupperware.
  2. School pack lunch placed in an ice cream tub, much to your embarrassment, whilst all your other friends had nice, child friendly tupperware.  To be fair, this only lasted for a short period of time (thanks Dad for the intervention).
  3. Sandwich fillings – when your mum decides to make your packed lunch for a school trip and  includes sardines, mackerel, boiled eggs- basically the smelliest fillings she can find deliberately designed to embarrass you. Meanwhile all your friends are eating Dairylea and cheese and ham.
  4. Old clothes used as floor rags.
  5. Always had a tin of ‘African milk’- condensed milk in the cupboard just in case.
  6. Old tights being used as a bedtime scarf.
  7. Mum styled your hair in threads because it grows your hair quickly but really it’s just an invitation for ridicule.
  8. Parents generous with their wisdom and their backhands too.
  9. You had to ask before you could help yourself to a snack at home.
  10. Saturday morning was spent food shopping and the dreaded visit to the market.
  11. You remember using the ‘broom’ even though you had a Hoover that worked perfectly fine.
  12. Having to do chores on Saturday before going out to play and feeling like you are missing out even though eventually the parents would let you- FREEDOM!
  13. Child of the 80’s living in London, I guarantee your front room had one of the following; brick wall paper, beaded curtains or a random cocktail bar.
  14. Visiting that one relative on the weekend when you really didn’t want to but had no choice. Felt like temporary imprisonment /punishment when all your friends were out playing and you were made to go against your will. Worst of all that person’s home was so BORING- nothing remotely child friendly about that environment but you had to suck it up!
  15. The ice cream van in the summer- 50p- screwballs/ Feast or the 99 – ice cream with the strawberry sauce and chocolate flake – brought many a smile to my face as a child!

What random childhood memories do you have? Would love to hear them x

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Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Nigerian party gifts

We Nigerians are a generous bunch; whether it is a wedding or a funeral, we enjoy giving gifts to our guests. Our generosity is legendary simply because the range of commemorative goodies given at parties range from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous.

My uncle and I recently spoke about the most memorable random gifts we have received, some of which are featured in the list below. So in this vein, welcome to the weird, wonderful and sometimes, extravagant world of Nigerian party favours! How many items on the list have you been given?

Commemorative Tupperware– I have countless childhood memories of stumbling across new Tupperware in the kitchen. It usually had the face of some random Aunty or Uncle emblazoned on it along with a message ‘In loving memory of ‘ or ‘Happy 50th Birthday’. These gifts are usually given to be practical- you can take food away with you from a party, but are also useful much later on.

A mug– complete with a mug-shot (get it) of the celebrant.
A Calendar– As much as I love people, I can’t help thinking – ‘why would I want to stare at your face, everyday, for the whole year?!’
A keyring– cheap, cheerful and useful- #YesPlease.
A watch– this is more likely to be given at an  ‘upmarket affair’. I once went to a party where I was accidentally given this, but had to be returned unfortunately as it was gift for the men.
A bubble bath set– this was a gift for all the women at the same party. Some might call it sexist / gender stereotyping but I quite liked it. #smellinglikeroses
A box of salt– I know, I know but on the plus side salt has many uses like cooking, cleaning, preserving etc.
A bottle of washing up liquid– Again, don’t judge this is a very practical gift and probably one appreciated by the older women- my grandma included.
A mini clothes rack complete with pegs– again, interesting choice of gift, wrong demographic (another one for the aunties methinks).
A pen– this has to be one of my favourite gifts. Why? Because the last time I received this as a present (which was a few years ago), it was no ordinary pen; it was a GIANT one which I still use! Practical, cool and quirky, this has to be one of my favs.
Packets of noodles– You hit the jackpot if you got Indomie.
A tray– this is one of the most common and traditional gifts you will receive- again very useful.
A bottle opener– practical for popping open those bottles of Supermalt or Nigerian Guinness.
A Fridge magnet– everyone loves a fridge magnet right?
Perfume –Oh yes please.

It is customary for families and friends of the celebrant to donate gifts and put their name on it where possible. Some might consider this egotistical – (why couldn’t it have been anonymously?) but that is not how Nigerians work. We want you to know, in no uncertain terms, who is responsible for this public gesture of generosity.

What has been the most ridiculous gift you have ever received?



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