Musing when I should be writing
Facebooking when I should be creating another character
A Story, a place a person
I have three books I add bits to every time I’m inspired
Which isn’t as often as I would like
A full time job and ideas of getting more of a social life
A book of short stories
Ideas of books, stories and writing away in a place of quiet tranquil beauty
Not hunched over a laptop as I eat a hurried evening meal
This is my blog
These are my words
by Newham Libraries
Thu 16 November 2017, 18:00 – 19:30 GMT
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In 2008, Ola Awonubi won first prize for the Words of Colour Competition with The Pink House, then going on to win the Wasafiri New writing prize for another story The Go-Slow Journey. Ola now joins Newham Word Festival for a glimpse at her most recent book I Love You Unconditionally.
This event is taking place as part of Newham Word Festival. For listings on the full programme, please visit: http://www.discover.org.uk/newhamwordfestival17/
Date and Time
Thu 16 November 2017
18:00 – 19:30 GMT
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Excerpt from my new book out on Amazon
I love you, he had said. I’m crazy about you. I’ve never felt this way about anyone else before.
Her jaw tightened. Yeah, yeah. That was before she had started behaving like a wife – before he had put a ring on it. Before having a child became the carrot dangling on the string. When all she needed was to hear him tell her that he loved her. Unconditionally. Whether she could have children or not. That he loved her first thing in the morning with all her hair standing on end. That he loved her hair natural even with the bits of grey in it. That whether she was a size 8 or 18, or could cook jollof rice like his mother, he was totally, irretrievably in love with her.
She had obviously been asking for too much. Did such a guy exist anywhere else but in her fantasises?
Deola Banjoko `Love Me Unconditionally’
Link to Amazon –
It was like being transported into this parallel universe where everything functioned in a haphazard way.
The first day at my Uncle’s house in Lagos the lights went off and everybody screamed NEPA. I asked who NEPA was. My Uncle laughed. NEPA; short for the National Electricity and Power Authority, was supposed to supply electricity but rarely did. Despite Nigeria’s famous oil reserves, the power would routinely switch off in the middle of using the electric cooker, ironing or watching football and you would hear the collective cry from the neighbours as people would shout and issue curses as if NEPA was a human, who turned the electricity on and off at whim
The rich and middle class Lagosians had generators. My father’s younger brother was an accountant but out of principle he refused to buy a generator because he said they were a symbol of all the things that were wrong about Nigeria. His wife was always nagging him to buy a generator because she couldn’t keep anything perishable in the fridge like meat or fish.
One day I read in the newspapers that a family of six had died after inhaling the fumes from a generator left on overnight. That was just everyday Lagos. People would gather around and talk about how horrible it was and then they would switch on their generators and go to bed and pray that God would take care of them.
Normal for me was cold and wet London. It was eating fish and chips dripping with vinegar wrapped up in newspaper and rushing home on Friday to watch East Enders. It was watching your breath turn to icy smoke as you stood in front of the bus top and agreed with the old dear who shook her head when you said – “Terrible weather innit.”
It was normal that we both find agreement in the weather even though we had never met before. It was normal that I would turn and comment on her dog and say how nice it was – even if it was mangy had fleas and a bad attitude.
That was the normal I knew. The normal I craved.
There was so much to learn about the country of my parents and every time I asked questions, people would answer with another question.
Why do you ask so many questions?
Why are you not married yet?
Why don’t you get this job/ drive this car/ live here or wear this.
People would just laugh and I found it uncomfortable. They laughed when I spoke; when I asked why everyone seemed so scared of policemen, why there were so many children selling things on the roadside when they should be in school or why any man needed to have more than one wife.
Despite the terrible roads, the dire transportation system and the sometimes shaky political situation, people seemed to be relatively happy.
No matter how bad it got – I understood that optimism was ingrained into the Nigerian DNA. You could see it everywhere in the children that walked miles to school chattering away happily, in the buses and lorries bearing slogans such as words ‘God Dey’ another with, ‘Only God can judge me’ and, ‘God will bless me’.
I soon learnt to respect the resourcefulness of Nigerians. Commerce in this city is not 9-5! It was in Lagos that I went to my first night market. The night was a black velvet backdrop scattered with the lights of thousands of kerosene lamps flickering from the market stalls, where women sat frying puff–puff and chin-chin.
I couldn’t believe it, despite the blackout life went on. Was their nothing Nigerians could not adjust themselves to? Coups, blackouts, hunger, poverty, fuel shortage….the atrocious cost of tomatoes!
I thought of my uncle’s resilience. He reminds me of a Nigerian version of Del Trotter. He always believes like so many other Nigerians that ‘Tomorrow go better.” I must confess that I did not always share his optimism.
Two men who would change her destiny forever – one for good and the other in the worst way possible.
One, a bad mistake that will haunt her for years to come but holds secrets about her no one must know.
The other – the keeper, the forever guy – the one she needs in her journey of life.
Which one does she go for?
She got to his room and knocked on the door.
The suite was all cream walls, expensive rich brown leather settees and a golden brown carpet. A big bouquet of freshly cut flowers dominated the huge glass coffee table. The news was on the large plasma TV. As she went into the room she saw that Tunde was outside on the veranda staring down at the city below him as if he owned it all.
She joined him and looked at the street below, cars and people like little stars against a black velvet sky.
“You can view Lagos from here.”
He turned and nodded. His eyes meeting hers and then sweeping over her, drinking in every atom of her appearance. “Oh. I agree. I like the view I’m seeing now.”
She stared at him silently. A myriad of thoughts going through her mind.
He turned to look at her a small smile on his face. “I wonder what is going on in that pretty head of yours?”
She folded her arms across her chest. “Can we just get on with this?”
“Hey slow down. Let’s at least get to know each other a bit more.”
She stared at him. Words were superfluous at this point in time. Her lips tightened. He wasn’t to know that she wasn’t a runs girl. A fact that he was going to find out imminently. Fear tied her stomachs into knots.
Maybe she should leave. Go back to her parents. See if they could raise the money to pay the four years rent arrears, pay her brother s school fees. Pay for her grandmothers operation…..anything but selling her soul.
She took a step back but he was standing in front of her, his warm breath tickling her neck. She could see the hunger in his eyes.
“I can’t do this. “ The blood thundered in her head. “Tunde …..”
He was smiling. It was a slow smile. It started from those compelling eyes of his and rested in the dimple at the side of his mouth. “That’s a shame. You’ve only been here for 5 minutes! Why the rush. I thought we had plans for this evening.”
“I don’t want to be part of those plans any more. I’ve changed my mind.”
His eyes were hard. “I thought we had a deal.”
“This isn’t a contract.”
He shrugged. “Have it your way. You want this job. It’s yours. You want to help out your family? Ten thousand pounds. It’s all up to you, Lola. I can have the money in your account first thing tomorrow.”
Ten thousand what …..and a job!
She hated that. She had now taken her first step into the Runs girl school of philosophy.
Well done girl. 100% over 100%
She thought of the implications of what he had discussed. Her mouth was dry.
He was looking at his watch. “So what is it to be Lola? Let’s not waste each other’s time.”
She stared at him as the meaning of her predicament sank in. “O.K”
“O.K. Is that all you have to say. “He laughed and took a step towards her taking her hands in his. “Don’t look at me like that Lola; it’s not as if you’re some rookie at this.” He whispered as his lips clamped down on hers and she stood like a statue. His hand rested lightly on her waist then moved to cover her heart.
The next day Tony sat in the car watching Ada’s house. Everything looked the same. The old lady was still on the veranda, frying yam. The young men were gathered in the front yard, playing cards and ogling a group of teenage girls who walked past. The little shop that sold soft drinks was open and a few customers milled around in front.
Tony sat in the car until evening, hoping he would see Ada, but she never came. He was relieved when he saw her roommate return, though. He waited for her to greet the old woman and let herself into the house and then he approached. Everyone looked up.
He bent his head and greeted the old woman in Yoruba.
“E kurule Ma. Good evening, Mama.”
“Good evening,” The old woman nodded. “Ko sin bi. She isn’t here.”
He understood enough Yoruba to register what she was saying, and nodded.
He walked down the corridor and knocked on her door. It opened and Liz stuck her head out.
“Gini? What do you want?”
He tried to smile. “Don’t be like that Liz. At least hear me out…”
She stared at him. “If you came to see her you are at least a day late.”
“What do you mean? Is she ok?”
“She is fine. Well, as fine as she could be in the circumstances after the way you and your family treated her.”
“That’s what I wanted to see her about. I don’t understand what is going on, but surely she should know that I’m prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt.”
Liz shrugged. “Una do well eh …you and your family. But I’m the wrong person to talk to.”“
“I’ve been in the hospital with my father. It was serious – in fact still is. It was difficult to get away. I’ve been texting Ada all night and there has been no response. Her phone has been switched off.”
“So?” Liz folded her hands over her chest.
“So what is going on?”
“As you can see she isn’t here.”
“Liz – I’m tired and have had a horrible few days. Where is she?”
“Right now. Probably in the East somewhere.”
His brows knitted together. “What do you mean in the East somewhere? Don’t you have a forwarding address for her?”
“No – and if even if I had it, I would not give it to you.”
He sighed. “Look Liz I can understand your feelings for your friend but if you really care about her you would want us to sort things out. I have really deep feelings for Ada. I realise now that I’ve messed up big time and all I want to do is to see her and apologise.”
“I’m telling you the truth – when Ada left here she was absolutely heartbroken. She went back home to see her Father and would be there for a week or so before she decided what she is going to do next.”
“What do you mean – what she is going to do next? Isn’t she coming back to Lagos for her final year?
“No. She is going to take her credits to another Uni. She told me she has spoken to someone and it can be done.”
She watched his face fall as she said this. To give him credit he did not look himself. He had not shaved and was dressed in rough jeans and a shirt that had not seen an iron. He also looked as if he had lost a lot of weight.
Serve him right. Like most men he did not know a good thing until it was taken from him.
“She did leave something for you though …she said you might turn up soon.” She went back into the room and came out with a couple of books which she handed over to him.
“What is this?”
“The books you lent her.”
Tony scratched his head as he stared at the copies of Persuasion and No Longer at Ease. “Liz…in the name of God give me any information you have on where she can be reached. I love her.”
She looked at him and saw the tears in his eyes. Chei! – Only Ada could make a big man cry like this. Na wa o. She shook her head. “Sorry. I cannot help you. Goodbye.” She put her hand on the door handle.
Tony walked down the corridor, like a man in a trance.
Click below to buy on Amazon
Alicia eyed the water chute warily.
“I don’t know.”
” Come on girl…..where’s your sense of adventure?” She could hear people shrieking and see them waving their arms in the air as they slid down the channel chute.
She shook her head.
He laughed. “Do you think I brought you all the way here to sit and watch me have fun?”
She shrugged. “Maybe I’m not a water chute person.”
His eyes mocked. ” How will you know what you like unless you give it a try?”
“I’m not sure.”
” So give it a try…..you never know. You might get a pleasant surprise – actually enjoy yourself for once.” He took her by the hand and faced the attendant,” Two tickets please.”
It’s not too late girl. You can still say no. Chicken. Coward. What are you scared of? The water chute. Hmmm. Getting my hair wet. This hair must not get wet. It must not get wet. This hair must NOT GET WET! She had said it three times and he still wasn’t listening because the words never left her lips!
They took their seats and were strapped in …..
She had stopped shaking and Anton was helping her out. Her legs felt like spaghetti and she was clinging to him.
She could his heart beating.
He tried to steady her, his hand on her back. “Are you ok?”
She shook her head and stepped away from him. ” I should never have listened to you.”
“Didn’t you find that exciting? The wind blowing in our hands. The shouts and the shrieks?”
She put up a hand to her damp hair. It had probably gone all fuzzy and would take hours to blow dry.
His eyes went to her hair. “It’s a warm day – let’s walk around, should dry soon.”
She tried to tie it back with a hair band.
“Leave it down.”
She stared at him.” What’s it to you? ”
” It would dry quicker.” She knew he was right and managed a smile.
“Where do you want to go next?”
Home. Did she really say that? Obviously not because he was still smiling. He was being nice and trying so hard to please. Was she being terribly ungrateful, uncharitable and an absolute pain in the rear?
“Would you like something to eat?” She smiled trying hard to remember her manners.
He smiled back. “That’s better. I hardly recognise you.”
Despite herself she felt her lips curve into a smile and then a chuckle. He spun round and stared into her face.
“Was that a laugh or was I dreaming? ”
“ I do laugh sometimes you know.”
” I like it. It suits you.” They were walking through the crowds and some woman charged into her with her buggy. His hand slipped into hers as he dragged her out of the way of the Mother and Chariot, but he wouldn’t let her hand go.
“Thanks.” she grinned.
“Two smiles in one day and a laugh.” He commented. “I must be doing something right.”
She was silent as she soaked in the sun, the ambience of the day, the happy families and lovey dovey couples, the hum of the crowds. He was still holding her hand and he nodded in the direction of an elderly couple sitting on a park bench. Hands entwined, just enjoying the day and a lifetime of loving each other.
“That’s what I want one day you know.”
She laughed. ” You don’t strike me as the sort that wants marriage and 2.2 kids and a little house on the Prairie.” The elderly couple were engrossed in each other but looked up and smiled to them as they walked past.
Anton turned to her. ” What would it take to make you look at me like that? ”
Alicia looked at him and suddenly everything went quiet. He drew her closer to him, so close that his lips were closer to hers. This guy is going to kiss me. In front of everyone in this park. This guy is going to kiss me….. and I don’t even like him. Isn’t he the office flirt? Tales of what had happened after the last Christmas party were still circulating.
She felt her stomach tighten as she snatched her hand away from his. Then she heard her name and turned round to find herself looking into the surprised eyes of her Head of Department at Church. Her husband and children were straggling behind.
” Hello.” It was a big smile as he reached out and shook Sister Susan’s hand. ” My name is Anton. Anton Walker.” Sister Susan looked at Alicia. Alicia looked at Anton and Anton just kept on smiling.
She had known Pat since they were in Form One. They had gone their separate ways afterwards but ended up working in the same school. The first time she saw her again she had marvelled at how Patricia, whose body used to be tattooed with eczema had now metamorphosed into this sophisticated beauty. She wore the latest clothes and had a rich Banker boyfriend who according to him, was unhappily married, with two children.
She had asked whether his wife minded.
Pat had just laughed. “How long have you been living in Lagos?”
“About six months.”
“Stick around. You will soon understand what life is about.