Tag Archives: Household

Saturday mornings in an ‘old school’ Afropolitan household

Saturday mornings as a child were not what I considered ‘fun’ although looking back it wasn’t mean to be! Yes we had cereal and watched cartoons but I mainly remember the obligatory Saturday morning routine of cleaning, polishing and going food shopping with my parents.

Captain Planet: 'By the Powers combined...'

Captain Planet: ‘By the Powers combined…’

I remember one Saturday morning – that I didn’t want to participate in the normal routine- I wanted to ‘sleep in’. Now to be clear, in our household on Saturday morning everyone knows the deal. My dad was a soldier in the Nigerian Army and ran our household on a fairly tight schedule; you get up, eat breakfast and relax for a short while then you better go and strip the bedding and get assigned your duties for the day. Washing up, polishing, hovering take your pick but everyone has to fall into line. However, on this occasion I continued to ‘sleep’ even though I could hear full well the loud conversations and various activities happening around me and boy did I get a rude awakening!

After our chores, followed by getting washed and dressed, we (my siblings and I) would then have to go food shopping with my mum. The journey was a twenty minute walk to the local shopping area, complete with the shopping trolley and market (aka Ghana must go) bags in tow.

Going shopping with my mum was an experience- entertaining, frustrating and very educational. My mum is a BARGAIN shopper- thrifty Afropolitan defined. She will literally go from shop to shop, stall to stall checking for the best price for items. An item may vary by 10p between two shops within a ten minute walking distance but know that my mum will walk back to the shop where the item is cheapest because – in her own words- ‘It’s the principle’. Similarly don’t ever try to short change my mum- if an item is £1.99- you’d better give her back that penny do not ‘assume’ you don’t have to because she will ask you ‘out of principle’. It’s only a penny- adds up over time!

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

First stop was the market- to the fruit and veg stall, to the man selling fresh eggs and then to the African Caribbean shops to buy what my Caribbean friends would call ‘hard food’; the yams, sack of rice, Gari (ground Cassava) and plantain (who remember the days of when you could buy five or even six for a £1?).

For the occasional treat we might pop into the local clothes shop. But woe to any store that gets into my mum’s bad books! I recall on one occasion, she bought an item of clothing which ended up being faulty when she got home. But because of the returns policy they wouldn’t acknowledge this nor exchange the item despite her loyal custom. So my mum the campaigner (her mantra-‘know your rights’), stands outside the shop- on a busy Saturday- telling people to boycott the shop (so embarrassing!). Shortly afterwards, they call her inside and settle the matter. The next week everything returns to normal as if nothing has happened- best friends again!

My mum's favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

My mum’s favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

Next stop was the Butchers, which I am not a fan of for obvious reasons (body parts and the stench of blood not for me), but found it fascinating because of the banter, the haggling along with the percussive sounds of meat being manually and mechanically chopped.

The Look: No it's not one of love it's the 'have you lost your mind' look

The Look: No it’s not one of love it’s the ‘I am going to count to ten, you better take that out of the basket before I do something’ look

The trip always ended at the big supermarket. And if you were lucky enough to be selected to accompany mum to push the trolley – thumbs up. But to be clear- you are literally just pushing the trolley. Don’t ever for one second think this entitles you to select items from the shelf to put to into the trolley because you will be greeted with the speechless stare communicating the  ‘have you lost your mind’ message;  the lecture- ‘So you have money?’ ‘You go to work?’ ‘Whose paying for this?’ (Word to the wise, it’s a rhetorical question DO NOT ANSWER!) ’. Or worse still- the lecture PLUS the walk of shame where you are made to take the item back to the exact place where you took it from. My mum has a shopping list and best believe we are not veering off course. She has accounted for every single penny and nothing over what she has put on that piece of paper is going into the trolley unless she authorises it.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be selected for the supermarket sweep it felt like an eternity of waiting at the set of chairs by the tills lumbered with the market shopping. Why? Because you know approaching early afternoon- it’s prime time for playing out with friends and you are ‘missing out’ (whatever that means). What seems like hours later but probably no more than one, mum would finally emerge at one of the checkouts.

But before you start getting excited, you are not home and dry yet because now comes the ‘packing’ issue. If your mum is anything like mine it’s never just straightforward packing- there is a strategy. My default position is to always help with packing because if you don’t you get in trouble, but as soon as you help for every bag you have arranged my mum is there rearranging- so why bother!?

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping.

More often not, we would get a cab home or dad would come and collect us. But if my mum is feeling particularly thrifty and she doesn’t ‘think’ there is much to carry be prepared to walk it!
How many of you can relate? What is your favourite childhood memories of Saturday morning shopping with the family?

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Even if you live in the West, an Afropolitan’s African roots will never cease. I was born in London as was my mother but there is no denying our heritage even down to the smallest household items. There are just certain things you will find in every West African home irrespective of social class. These are ten timeless items you will find in any Afropolitan’s bathroom.  And even if you don’t have African roots I am sure you would be familiar with some of these products if you ever visited an Afropolitan’s home! Do you have any of these lying around? What else should have made the list?


1. Robb-Forget Vicks, every person of West African descent would have had Robb in their bathroom cabinet. Cheaper and more effective, this multi-purpose bad boy is great for colds, flus and is also useful for massaging into achy limbs.image

2. Bucket- Everyone with roots in Africa or the Caribbean knows about the bucket bath. And it seems even though we have no need for the bucket (thank you power shower)- we still seem to have a bucket lurking around in the house somewhere.

3. ‘Blue Magic’ hair cream– More like blue gunk- yet no black person’s hair collection would be complete without this classic hair grease. Its questionable as to how effective it is as a hair cream as it doesn’t really moisturise or do much good (who knows about the clogged up hair follicles?) but it does give  hair a nice and shiny appearance, especially in the hair partings after freshly cornrowed hair.image

4. African mesh wash cloth– It may look dubious, but the mesh wash cloth is a fantastic cleanser and is also kind on the skin.  Its also very inexpensive.

5. Astral– Not an obvious choice, but this has had to make it on to the list. One of the fondest memories I have is of visiting my grandmother’s house a child and just seeing huge tubs of it in her bedroom and bathroom. I use to confuse it with Nivea because of its wonderful smell, rich moisturising texture and blue coloured tub. I actually think it’s better than Nivea and it’s also marginally cheaper too.

image6. Black soap– Dudu Osun is probably one of the most famous brands, but this is a classic soap that every West African would have had in their bathroom at some point.

7. A tub of Vaseline/ petroleum jelly– The official cure for ashy elbows and knee caps-  everyone had a mammoth sized tub of this multipurpose grease in their home- yes EVERYONE.vaseline

8. Dettol- Every household I remember visiting as child seemed to have big sized bottle of Dettol. For laundry, for household cleaning or as an antiseptic- this is an essential product.

9. Afro pick comb– Fear and dread use to fill me every Sunday evening when mum would take that comb and hair grease and plait my hair for the week. That comb and I were not friends but it is an essential item in every Afropolitan household.

cocoa butter 10. Cocoa Butter– No African Caribbean household would be complete without it. I have fond memories of leaving the house, just before I am about to go to school, and my mum enthusiastically rubbing cocoa butter on my face making it look like a round, shiny, chocolate button. Funnily enough my dad was once the cocoa butter kid for an advertising campaign in the 1960s back in Nigeria!

Ten items you will find in an Afropolitan’s bathroom!

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