Friday, February 11, 2005

there is so much, that my guess is that Africa will always consist of first impressions - that is, it will be virtually impossibe to draw conclusions or find a definition for the 'spirit of Africa'

Lagos is teeming, chaotic, absurd - everything that Chinua Achebe shouted with such frustration passion and anger - I can see why an inhabitant might be angry with the chaos - but there is something mightily impressive with ther attempts by the mass of Lagos population (it is the second biggest city in Africa) to hold back the equally impressive forces of nature.

I think that is how I see it - after all but one evening. The heat and humidity enter every pore and eventually reach every vital internal organ of the city - the heat and humidity have entered every pore of me and today I feel slightly choleric. It could be excitement and anticipation - today I travel to Benin.. yesterday Togo declared martial law.

Lagos is completely driven, but everyhting mechanical is liable to break down or get dented. Yellow vans run everwhere as big yellow taxis. I had a driver for the evening...

but the n\millions of Lagosian vehicles have to share the creased Lagosian roads with motorbikes, lorries, and vendors - every bike carries at least one and often three pillion passengers, every lorry carries its precarious hangers on - every line of traffic is parted by a line of street vendors selling phone cards and a range of merchandise that Woolies would envy.

It's about to rain - the umbrellas by the pool, paradoxically, have to be taken down.

Samwell, my evening driver took me to the hotel. I showered changed and settled in. I ahd asked Samwell to pick me up to take me to Pat's Bar at 8.00. At 8.10 I looked for him - he came into the foyer minutes later. He had been waiting for me in the hotel compound (guarded) and had snatched a few minutes sleep. I hadn't realised he would wait for me. He waited for me at the Bar too to bring me back to the hotel. In the Uk ministers and execs have drivers who wait - my first learning insight, a driver is available for you when you want him - don't carry your western european UK attitudinal baggage around with you... Samwell (or Abby, or Bimbo, or Marian) will carry it for you.

heat and humidity - nature rusts, nature drips, nature stains and the power and resources required to clean up afterwards, or to try and predict or prevent these inexorable processes are very considerable - that from time to time the entire structure breaks down. The AC will hold back the heat and insects from your room, but the electricity will be outed while you take a shower..

But Lagos exports energy, Lagos oozes energy..

At Pat's Bar it was live bands night - Pat is from Mansfield - I told him about the changes to the Old Libray and European money building roads and leisure facilities where the coalfields used to be.
It's a bar for ex-pats and blokes (like me) to meet up, drink Heineken (mainly)and talk rugby, oil prices or life the universe and everything Lagos.

Lagos is chaotic and huge resources are deployed, not so much to impose order (though there are plenty of signs of military authority and their approach to order) but more to keep things moving. It would be virtually impossible for example to introduce the ranhe of statutes that we compliant UK subjects of HM government now take for granted... Wearing seatbelts or crash helmets are accepted behaviours now in the UK... how Nigerian authority could dissuade 4 people from riding a moped is beyond comprehension..
Learning insight no 2.

having a wonderful time (ten hours or so)