Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

My best friend got married yesterday. Whoop! Before I tell you all I can about the wedding, maybe I should tell you a bit about her.

I met Wumi in Birmingham in late in 2010, at church (the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Covenant Restoration Assembly, Perry Barr). Someone had gotten his friend to invite me to church, and I remember the morning they came to get me with the church bus, I wasn’t sure I had heard a louder group. But service was great, I fell in love with the church, and Wumi and I started to chat.

I don’t know when I fell in love with her, but I did. Real? Check. No airs? Check. Daughter of God to the letter? Check. Kind? Check. Caring? Check! I could go on and on. Wumi knows me sometimes a bit more than I know myself, and she loves me like that. Just like that.

We’ve been through sick days, heartbroken days, days we were broke (like last to our last 10 pounds type of broke), happy days, excited days, plenty money type of days, we’ve been through loads of stuff together. And we’ve come out stronger. Each and every time.

Ok. Before we have a problem keeping her head in check (with all my praising), on Friday my sister, nephew and I were supposed to fly into Lagos (I’d left Lagos on Wednesday), and then Momma was supposed to come in as well (see how special Wumi is to all of us)? Coordinated the flights so we’d land about the same time. There’s a little race of life story, one in which we forgot to take identification for Boo Boo so like halfway into the trip to the airport we had to run back to the house, and then start flying back to the airport.

Timecheck when we got to the airport gate and met the queue of our lives? 9.49am. Flight time? 10am. Let’s just say we still made the flight, and I’ll spare you the details of us pleading at the counter, racing to the plane, and then finding out that our friend at the airport had actually moved from one airline to the one we were to take! Na wa! To think we were looking for people to help us board!

Got into Lagos ok, Momma landed a bit after, and off to the hotel we went. Can I say money spent on hotels in Lagos doesn’t really go far? And I will leave it like that.

Wumi and Bimbo came a bit after, and then we really got in the ‘wedding’ mood! I had to nip off to Shoprite with our cabbie to buy some items, and Momma and the gang took a stroll. Dinner over, loads of gisting after, gifts presented, it was bedtime! Was I exhausted or what!

Saturday morning, D-Day!

Rushed a shower, and went over to the room where the photo crew, makeup artists et al were already at work. And here the photos begin!

See my girl!!! Gorgeous!!

See my girl!!! Gorgeous!!

Then we milled into our cars and headed to the venue for the engagement…

Gorgeous people!! Just gorgeous!

Gorgeous people!! Just gorgeous!

No he wasn't about to kiss her, he was just 'telling her something'!! This pose was a special request from me to be honest, don't ask me why!

No he wasn’t about to kiss her, he was just ‘telling her something’…lol!! This pose was a special request from me to be honest, don’t ask me why!

Engagement over, it was time to change and head to the church. Did I mention my darling Boo Boo was ring bearer? Want to see his suit? Hotter than fire!!

Boo Boo of life and destiny!!! Dapper as!!

Boo Boo of life and destiny!!! Dapper as!!

Thank God for Beloxxi biscuit which my nephew loves and therefore can be used to get him to stand still!

Thank God for Beloxxi biscuit which my nephew loves and therefore can be used to get him to stand still!

A little side view... God finished work on my nephew walai, like there's nothing else that could have been done!

A little side view… God finished work on my nephew walai, like there’s nothing else that could have been done!

Sharing a kiss and a cuddle with Grandma! Did I mention he always mixes them up? So sometimes he calls the 'Pa', 'Ma'. Lol.. Love him to pieces!

Sharing a kiss and a cuddle with Grandma! Did I mention he always mixes them up? So sometimes he calls the ‘Pa’, ‘Ma’. Lol.. Love him to pieces!

Then, it was off to the car to be sure our super bride was ok, not needing anything, that kind of super FGS type business (he he he). Beautiful, so beautiful!

I'm definitely doing cream/ivory on my day... It's such a gorgeous color!

I’m definitely doing cream/ivory on my day… It’s such a gorgeous color!

Ahh!! Here’s the fun bit! We’d been trying to get Boo Boo to walk with a card that said “Here comes the bride”. Well, on the day it didn’t quite work. Want to know what worked? This photo of him and the little bride – cute as anything!

Two year old and one year old - something says we should stay in touch with the mom as per bride for my boy! What do you think? Baby girl had the cutest smile!

Two year old and one year old – something says we should stay in touch with the mom as per bride for my boy! What do you think? Baby girl had the cutest smile!

I managed to get a selfie with my boy inside the church – don’t even wrinkle your noses biko, anything to keep him awake, he was exhausted!

See his boy!

See his face…my boy! Ignore the sweat on mine biko…

All the formalities done, it was time to head back to the events center for the reception! But first, a few photos!

Mom and the brand new couple!

Mom and the brand new couple!

The couple and the sisters!!!

The couple and the sisters!!! My nephew was two minutes from asleep at this point!

Then it was off to the reception, where I said a few words about the cake and the couple (couple I know, cake I didn’t bake), and the food was really yummy! Tokes came too (yay), and it was really nice to see her!

Then we danced! Wow! Turn! At some point my people had to leave to catch flights back home and as soon as they were safely at the airport (Lagos traffic, sigh), I could relax. I think the number of squats I did yesterday (to pick money) has covered up for all the exercise I haven’t done in weeks!!

It was a really gorgeous day, and I’m so pleased that despite a few hitches that reared up during all the planning. we had a full, fun day. They’re married, God’s name was glorified in everything, and I’m looking forward to being a godmother to their munchkin (guys – take the hint and get to work already biko)!

Wumi and KP, I love you two to the moon and back, and I know your marriage is blessed, is fruitful, and will become an example for marriages everywhere. Success, peace, love, joy, togetherness, great intimacy, patience, I wish you both these and many more. Welcome to the best years of your lives!



So I’m in Bromsgrove, Birmingham for the weekend; it’s the 3rd installment of the Women and Leadership residency programme for us 14 African women resident in various parts of the United Kingdom.

Yeah? First off, it was great to meet up with everyone last night, see all the ladies again, catch up on what we’ve all been up to since the last time we saw each other in May, and all of that! The weekends away are an absolute blessing, a time to reflect/take care of myself, build my leadership and community interaction skills, and enjoy fabulously prepared food!

The Center is set on a sprawling estate – loads of green, peace and quiet, and because the farmers and butchers are local, all the food we’re served is fresh, organic, authentic, and so full of flavor!

So, first night we had baby potatoes and chicken wrapped in bacon and cheese. Incredible. I brought my own veg (anyone say team #FitFam), and I truly enjoyed the meal. Dessert however was toffee cake in a lovely toffee pudding (did you see my weight loss plans jump out of the window)?

Dinner over, we did an interesting exercise which was to randomly list things that influence our values on a flipchart (so things like society, environment, other people, education, religion, etc.), and then we did drawings depicting our life’s journeys and talking through them in groups. Very nice to do that, basically plot our life’s graphs and explore how different things that happened to/for/around us have shaped who we are and how we do certain things.

After all of that happened, I retired to my room to try to connect to the WIFI in the place. And then Amanda came over, and it was really nice to have a ‘catch up’ type conversation, a little more in-depth than what happened in the group. We were up till 1.20am (yes I checked) and then I went to sleep.

I woke up laughing about 5am because of some hilarious dream I was having (involving PSquare), and heavy as my eyes were, soon as my phone beeped to tell me I’d connected to the internet, I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep. We are currently expecting the same miracle for my computer.

Decided to go for a run about 7am and I was reminded that I’m such a wuss! Walked for like 7minutes, and then it dawned on me that no one knew I’d left the building. Remember the entire gist about green and farms? Here’s a look!

2014-09-21 13.31.57

Beautiful, serene… I could live here forever! (Long as they give us wifi jor…)

2014-09-21 13.32.35


And then I thought, hian! What if something/someone comes out of nowhere and grabs me? Think ‘Criminal Minds’, ‘CSI New York, Miami, Aba, Oshogbo (since it seems there’s a different CSI for every city)’, or my recent favorite, ‘Person of Interest’ (which I started watching because of something Gbenga Sesan said at a training I attended in August).

And so ladies and gentlemen, I started running, and back to the Center building! You can say what you will, laugh all you want; I’m not listening! Lol!

That’s it really. I showered, had breakfast, and joined the morning session, where I wrote this.

*Written on the 19th of September.

Thank God for strength, safety and the miraculous way He alone refreshes our bodies when we sleep! Like, I’ve never been more grateful for those three before, I’m more than grateful today!

Somehow I had a really quiet month of April, spent in Abuja, sometimes wondering if things would work out the way I had planned or not. Some days I was downcast, disillusioned, fit in any related words that start with a ‘D’ if you please.

And then May came, and I started to see some light. Started with finding someone interested in some work I want to do, the first person to be even remotely interested in over 7 months of searching. Amazing!

May also brought a lot of clarity as far as my emotions are concerned. I could truly smile, pick up and move on without a certain fear that had tugged at my heartstrings since the beginning of the year/

Maybe all of this happened because this is my birth month? Maybe God in His infinite mercies smiled at me, decided to start my birthday pressies early! I’m so grateful!

As far as trips are concerned, May has been the craziest so far – truly the craziest. First it was off to Birmingham for the second weekend of the Women, Leadership, and Change residency for Diasporan women. It was an amazing weekend with the ‘Power 14’, a good time for me to catch my breath, and I’m super excited at what we’ve planned and will do with our new partnership!

Then it was off to Hinton-in-the-Hedges, somewhere in Northamptonshire to celebrate my birthday by jumping out of the sky! Whoop! Truly amazing!

Back to Abuja two days after, and in Lagos the next day for Chude Jideonwo’s book launch.

A little about the flight to Lagos shall we? I got to the airport, checked in, and for a 7pm flight, we started boarding by 6.45pm. While I was pondering about the darkening clouds, the captain, standing the doorway said we should enter quickly cos if the rain started we would be delayed by an hour. In my mind I thought, “surely if you wanted to leave early the flight should have started boarding a little earlier. SMH.” Then I looked at both my arms to see if my wings had been activated so I could fly over the other passengers to get to my seat. Tueh.

And then the voice of the announcer came on, doing the security drill and all. She was so incoherent at first I thought she was singing a traditional number and had forgotten the mic on. And then I heard, ‘HEGZIT’, and I’m sorry but I chuckled the minute I realized what she was trying to say.

50 minutes later, we touched down (thank you Lord), and it was off to a drink with a friend, and then off to spend to start a really fun weekend at my sister girl’s house! Francesca is several shades of amazing, thank you for being such an amazing host!

The end of the flight bit, so let’s ‘hegzit’ and go back to the book launch! J

Chude is a friend, boss, and someone I’m super proud of, and his book, “Are We The Turning Point Generation” is a must read! It’s a collection of essays written over seven years, and Oby Ezekwesili described it aptly in her keynote address at the event when she said, “welcome to a new Nigeria through the eyes of Chude Jideonwo”. Truly inspiring, this young man.

I actually wrote this piece on board a flight to Abuja on Monday morning, the day after the launch, for a meeting I only decided to attend that morning. Then, I ran back to Lagos that evening, and it was off to Blighty!

Got in the next morning, and it was off to The Hague, which is where this post ends, and my chronicles from The Hague begin!

*Written on the 26th of May*

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First off, growing up I always felt like I only needed to attend only one service per Sunday. Growing up as a pastor’s child? Not too easy. According to my father’s gospel, every living soul in his house was supposed to leave the house in the same car for the first service, and return in the car after the last service. When we were younger, there’d be a snack between services but that disappeared sooner than I hoped!

So, by the time I could stay for just one service, I took it. I made it a point of duty to stay for just one. Even as a church worker, somehow I would get some unique satisfaction from being able to skip a service.

Didn’t have that problem while I was in Birmingham and serving in the choir and children’s ministry of RCCG CRA Perry Barr because we had just one service. And even though the service and all my work in church meant I would be in church for as much as 5 hours in a day, I didn’t mind! It wasn’t labeled, ‘two services’.

Anyway!! Today’s all about the first service of the year at my super fabulous church, Hillsongs London! Attended first late in 2012, and the thing I’ve done most since then? I keep going back, and each service is such a blessing I know I’ve found my home! Next step is joining a unit but before then, whip out your Bibles, and let’s run through my notes from Sunday!

Pastor Robert Madu (pronounced by everyone as ‘ma-doo’ even though his father is Nigerian) was in church, his first time ever in England, and is an incredible speaker. He taught on “The formula for a great year”, and I hope these notes bless you as much as they blessed me!

He started by talking a bit about the power of the intro, referencing social scientists who talk about Estimated Relationship Potential (ERP). ERP dictates that the first five minutes determine if your audience will lean in and follow your conversation, or become distracted. How do you introduce yourself? Do you smile? Do you invite people by the way you speak, or do you chase them away?

Matthew 6:31-34

John 16:33

Genesis 1:14. How we begin things matter, not just how we end them. Martin Luther King said “he who starts late in a race must run faster to overtake or forever remain behind.

We fail at our resolutions year in year out because we run them on willpower.What we need, is real power, the same thing God used to create everything we see today. We need, ‘Word Power’.

When we’re in places where nothing seems to be working, it’s not the time to complain, but the time to praise God onto the scene because He is the only one who can make something from nothing! For His glory!

We need to come to a point where we implicitly believe that everything God has said concerning us must come to pass.

Genesis 1:3-5 = God said let there be light, and there was light.

Genesis 1:16-19 = Three days after he created the sun, moon, and stars. Have you wondered what had been shining for three days though?

Genesis 1:14b = So why did God bother with making the sun, moon, et al? Because He wanted us to see signs of seasons, days, and years.

The formula for success this year is trusting God regardless of the season I’m in. Living beings have seasons, we all have days in our years, but the constant is God, and ‘His Word’. Everything else changes.

Old people want to be young, young people want to be old, but the art of living life well is to trust God through and through.

Screenshot 2014-01-06 23.47.26

I put this up on Facebook a couple days ago… The seasons will not dictate my faith!

Everyday is a gift from God; what I do with that day is my gift back to Him. And I am determined that I will spoil my God with a wonderful gift every day of this year!

P:S – I love my church! And I’m mega grateful for Pastor Madu!

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Ok, a couple days ago, I ranted in the ‘Racism, sexuality, and some‘ chronicle. I’m glad to say I’m feeling a lot better! Obviously the issues still weigh heavily on my mind, but I’ll live. It is interesting to see the debates the passage of the anti-gay bill have caused on various social platforms…..the intelligent, unintelligent, and in some cases, the vile.

How are you gearing up to the weekend though? It’s almost Christmas, whoop whoop! That’s my favorite time of the year! It gets better, my bestie’s going to be here as well! I’m doing cartwheels! Plus there are loads of carols everywhere, the German Market in Birmingham makes the whole Christmas spirit more alive by the day, it’s all so exciting! Can’t wait for the day! Of course I miss Nigeria terribly, and hate that I won’t make Calabar Carnival this year. I’ve never been, and I hoped I would make it this year. Well, there’s always next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…..

One of the many trees at the City Center!

I’m also looking forward to breaking the little piggy bank I’ve been keeping for a little while now; I’ll be praying for the miracle of multiplication the day I open it, maybe multiplied by 9, 19, or 900! He he he… I wonder how people feel when they go to people who claim to be able to ‘double money’ often dressed in tatters, found in dilapidated, obscure locations. Why haven’t they improved their own circumstances from the doubling, or are they just ‘humble’? That’s talk for another day abeg.

A few more things that have caught my fancy in the last few days; recently we played around with hash tags on Twitter, this one called  #TakeMeBackToWhen. The idea was to complete the sentence with anything you had/enjoyed in the past that you don’t have access to anymore. I captured some of the tweets that interested me…

I agree, even though the greetings from guys these days should be taken with a bag (not pinch) of salt!

He he he....this one just made me laugh!

What else? So there’s a new record holder in town(read as the World) for the largest church auditorium; it’s the 100, 000 seater National Temple of The Apostolic Church Nigeria (TAC) at the international ground of the Church in Ketu, Lagos State, Nigeria. The construction of the auditorium was started over 25 years ago by one of the senior ministers in the church. Congratulations are in order (I think).

A friend sent me a link on Twitter to something he’d tagged. ‘what I want for Christmas’. The link is here, and I think it’s a pretty decent Christmas list. Issue now is to find someone to give him all he wants! The part that caught my eye, and made me laugh though, I have captured below.

Lol! Hope you could read it....

By the way, the United States Senate recently ( I think on the 1st of December) voted to legalize a bill that allows their soldiers have penetrative sex with  animals. I think it is important to note that they voted ninety-three to seven in favor of this bill. What do you even say to that kind of thing? That means sooner than later we’ll hear that instead of training a soldier was ‘getting down’ with a horse, chicken, or lion! And yes, I’m sure the Nigerian Senate will soon ban that as well, seeing as they have nothing else to do.

Finally, I stumbled on this documentary made by Wildlife films/Distilled Ideas of the production of the award-winning BBC World Service Trust radio drama ‘Story Story’ that I was privileged to work on for spits away from a year. Thought you’d like to see….

Tuned In (2010) from on Vimeo.

Enjoy the rest of the week, and visit again soon!

P:S – WordPress, thank you for bringing  Zemanta back! I missed it, and badly too!!! Zemanta is a blogging aid that works on WordPress which was recently disabled by WordPress because they had issues with ‘integration’. Me thinks it had to do with money, but I’m over the moon that it’s back! Thank you!

Did you have a nice weekend? Did too! Start from having a fabulous week; bestie came to Birmingham for a few days and we had a lot of fun! From catching up, to seeing a movie (‘In Time’ was amazing), to the workshop at Apple, to endless shopping (bet you thought I wouldn’t get here), boy did we have fun!

Bestie and I shopping!

For the weekend, I popped with my flatmate to her aunt’s for her baby’s dedication. I had promised about a month ago that I’d come to help (plus I’d bought the train ticket already) so I went. Was it a lot of work? Definitely! Did I enjoy helping out? Of course! By the way, I nearly  missed my coach but that’s another story, one you probably should have heard too many times to be excited or amused about. Two major downsides to the trip sha, I missed service at my home church, and secondly (less important) a John Grisham novel I was reading didn’t exactly end the way I thought it would. *sigh*

Anyways, so I’m on the train home after my very eventful weekend (past  8.30pm), and suddenly the peace and quiet is shattered by the entrance of five heavily made up teenagers, one of them with enormous hips (or hips that don’t lie). Apart from the fact that I was disgusted by the amount of noise the urchins whipped up, I wondered where they were headed to, at that time. ‘Maybe home’, I thought, trying desperately to ignore the ruckus and concentrate on my novel. I was sure they weren’t headed home because of the transformation two of them underwent in a few minutes of them being on the train. Hijabs (the hair and face covering Muslim ladies wear) were lost, revealing long, flowing, already styled tresses of beautiful hair, no doubt well prepared for this time. Different hues of red touched already glossy lips, and in no time they all looked ready to model blood red lipstick for Elizabeth Arden or Revlon.

The question would be, where were these ladies headed, at this time of the night? And before you ask what I was doing/where I was going, I already explained above; I was heading home after a hard, yet very pleasurable day. And yes, I gave the girls at least 10 years on their ages, and where I’m from it is not best practise to question you elders! *sticks tongue out*

I imagine they told their folks they were going to have sleep-overs at each other’s house, and knowing parents wouldn’t check, met up somewhere, and disappeared.

Not acceptable. Full stop.

Or worse, as kids in these parts are wont to do, they would have ‘battled’ their parents for the right to go out, for whatever reason. I say battled because not only do I watch episodes of their lives on TV, I was at a friend’s when her younger sister (a very beautiful 14-year-old) tried the ‘this-is-the-land-of-the-free-and-the-brave-and-children-have-the-right-to-say-whatever-they-want’ on their mom, a lady from the Western part of Nigeria. Of course it didn’t end well, and if there had been an award for the parent with the fastest reflexes, walai this mom would have gotten it! I’ve never seen a slap that fast; the way she silenced her eye-rolling, rough-necking daughter.

Makes me wonder about my own upbringing and how my husband and I will raise our children. I’ve come to understand that are God’s gifts, and we are only caretakers. And I plan to take care of my own very well I tell you!

So, #DearFutureHusband, together we will

  • Raise our champions (what my dad calls us) in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, us, and their society.
  • I don’t believe this ‘times have changed’ gist; crap, crap, mega crap. Some values are ageless, respect inclusive. Certain things will NOT be acceptable, like having our 14-year-old out in the streets/in trains with their friends at 10pm.
  • Ensure that to the best of our ability, our kids have a brilliant education. And lots of fun while they’re at it.
  • Most importantly, show them every day that we love them (to the moon and back), and that their welfare (and wellbeing) is uppermost in our hearts.

Loving you in advance,

Your Future Wife.

So I’ve been away from this blog for a bit now, concentrating on the reason I came to Birmingham, and I’ve looked forward to writing for leisure again. I just didn’t think I would start with this horrific story.

Last week, Linda Ikeji published this story on her blog; it happened on the 16th of August, 2011. Five undergraduates of Abia State University filmed themselves gang raping a female student, and they put that video online. Why? They say she insulted them. Now I would love to join the rest of the world in discussing what part of hell has been reserved for these devils, but you know that already. I’d rather we discussed the issues this unfortunate incident has thrown up.

To start with, rape is wrong, there is no argument there. It is a crime against womanhood (or manhood), and is punishable by death in some quarters, jail time in some, and the loss of the offending appendage in others. I’m sure these men were aware that they were doing wrong, abi? What is scary is the confidence with which they made the video. A Yoruba proverb says that if a small child stands by the edge of a bush and challenges an adult to a duel, there will definitely be something or someone in the bush giving him confidence.  Agree with that? So what do these boys have ‘behind’ them? Though I haven’t seen the video (and have no plans to torture myself that way), it was obviously well planned for the video to have lasted that long. Is it the thought that they’d never be caught, no thanks to the gaping holes in our policing and crime detection? Is it the thought that their parents are big enough to sway a judge if it came to that? Apart from the very active devil in them, what else was at work?

That leads up to my next point; are we ready for this ‘civilization’ we are clamoring for? I mean, if the best use of social media for UNDERGRADUATES (not people in kindergarten) is the distribution of sadistic criminal content then are we sure we shouldn’t be back in the dark ages? Isn’t it their mates making groundbreaking discoveries everywhere? And to think one of the devils has been identified as studying law!

More horrifying for me is the number of ‘helpless’ people who are begging to see the video. I say helpless because from their comments you can tell they can do nothing to help this situation; either in identifying the suspects or providing any support for the lady. So what on earth do you to watch the video for? I saw a particular comment on a blog that read ‘I’ve only seen the 10mins version. Please give us the link to the full one’. And that was the only thing the person said. Are you kidding me? I mean, it is obvious our sense of decency and morality has been raptured but have we lost our sensitivity too? Like I tweeted some nights ago, rape is not porn. If you need to fill a need in your life with that kind of content, Google hasn’t stopped accepting friend requests. Google! At least that will be in the privacy of wherever you reside, not exposing your freak nature on a blog!

Let’s talk to our leadership a bit now. Two days ago the Vice Chancellor of Abia State University was quick to issue a statement absolving the school of the crime. In his words, “this did not happen in my school” On the other hand, reports from the students say that not only do they believe this happened in their school, but it’s happened before and nothing was done about it! Dear Mr. VC, are you more interested in massaging your bit-sized ego than in calling for a proper investigation into the matter?

And for the Governor of the state, Dr. Theodore Orji who said it was the work of his political detractors, it is the people who voted you into power that I blame for the tragedy of you sitting in that office. On Monday the 19th of September, the Governor said he’d asked the VC to meet with him on Monday, I’m assuming it’d be Monday the 26th. Both statements have foolishness, insensitivity,and stark illiteracy smeared all over them. To the VC and Governor now, would you wait one week if it was your daughter? Would it boil down to politics and your ‘political detractors’ (whatever the hell that over used Nigerian phrase means) if your daughter was gang raped?

Finally, where is this lady? This daughter of God who was brutally violated by our brothers, boyfriends, potential husbands and fathers. Where is she now? What support is she receiving? Do we have any centers to cater to people like her? Does anyone know how to get across to her, to comfort and be there for her and her family? Or are we waiting till she commits suicide to mount campaigns on Twitter?

Join the march against rape at ABSU on the 28th of September!

That said, I appreciate the massive campaigns that have gone on Twitter, the pot of money put together by young people as a reward for any information leading to the arrest of these devils; I am grateful for Sugabelly’s work in deciphering their names, and I’m excited about the Minister for Youth Development leading a team to the school next week. I just hope it won’t end up being a courtesy call! To everyone speaking up about this, well done! We won’t stop till we get these bastards because believe me, with this incident, our problems as a nation are bigger than Boko Haram. This cookie has crumbled.

Happy new month! It’s February, the month of love and all over the world, the focus has moved from our Herculean and sometimes plain unrealistic resolutions to Valentine’s Day, and all the activity (or drama) it brings. What are your plans?

I love the caption!

Before I veer off point, on the 1st of February 2010 I was in Abuja, working for the BBC World Service trust and I remember attending a praise service at Winners’ Chapel Durunmi before rushing to catch my flight en route Bayelsa State on assignment.

This year, I’m in Birmingham studying Social Media, and no I didn’t attend a praise service this morning. Matter of fact, it would have been a regular, uneventful Tuesday except that I bought return tickets to Warrington Quay (pronounced ‘key’ – I found out today).

So why did I buy the tickets? A colleague of mine graciously offered to ‘show me England’ so this is the first of many days in different cities. The destination for today however, is Chester Zoo, and then a little tour of the city. Forgive me in advance, there are loads of pictures in this one!

I was up  at 6am, ready to leave at 6.45am, and I must thank my newest friend, Tomi, for insisting I wear the white sweater, it looked lovely sha! I caught the 7.20am train and soon after I settles in with my mocha and bagel (thank you McDonald’s), I noticed two kids making out a couple seats away from me. I say kids because even with the makeup, both kids didn’t look a day over 15, and I wondered where their parent’s were and where they were going so early in the morning. Then I wondered (as I always do) what the motivation for the public display of affection was. I’m not talking hugs or pecks on the cheeks, it was more like fondling, a very active Saliva Exchange Program, and more! At that time of the morning? At their ages? And the gentleman in the seat in front of me who kept farting didn’t help my state of mind!

God being merciful, I got into Warrington safely (phew), met up with Andy, and we drove to Chester; beautiful sights, lovely conversation, Lagbaja in the background, bright sunny day, what else could I ask for? Andy......trying to take a picture, he got his picture taken!

Fast forward to the magnificent elephants at the zoo. Last time I was in a zoo it was June 2010, the Limbe Wildlife Conservatory in Cameroon. That’s (in my words), an orphanage where animals rescued from poachers, extreme conditions, and ailing parents are nursed/raised. It’s a really beautiful place, you can see pictures from my visit here: Limbe Wildlife Center. For all of that, they didn’t have elephants!

They are so huddled together Andy thinks they could pass for a boy band! I'm thinking JLS.....

Do you know how to tell if an elephant is preggers?  From their poop! Their keepers take several samples of their poop and can tell from the amount of hormones in it if the elephant is horny, pregnant or about to give birth! Just from their poop! That’s jut amazing!

This one was eating twigs, that's not even a proper meal!

From there we went into the butterfly world and believe me I’ve never seen so many butterflies at the same time! They all looked gorgeous, but for some silly reason, I couldn’t get any of them to perch on my hand!
Next we saw the ‘lazy giraffes’, they are so tall! I know you must be thinking, “duh, they’re giraffes” but you know what? That’s how I felt so whateverrrrr! Also, I can bet one of them was fluttering their eyelids at me!

Moving on, I felt the spirit of the jaguar! I was awed watching the jaguar move around in its recreated home. I was just awed……that’s all I’ll say about that… 

Lazy Jaguar!

At the Realm of the Apes (the biggest orangutan enclosure in Europe), I saw a baby! Of course I meant an ape; from the time I brought out my phone to take a picture of it, it wouldn’t stop looking at me! And don’t even say what you’re thinking!

Outside the Realm of the Apes!

Baby kept looking at me!

We saw a couple  snakes too, and a big funny type of lizard that was shedding its skin and then we were off to see the penguins.

Happy Feet anyone?

Flamingos are just beautiful, and looking at all the animals I just think God is amazing. Walahi He is!

A ha! How could I forget? So we saw a tiger tearing at flesh (it was lunch time), and while we were trying to get a good shot of it some school girls amble to where we were and were talking, giggling, and (in my opinion) trying to get the tigers attention (Olorun maje)!

Good afternoon your highness?

I ignored them till one of them said

School Girl 1: what’s the tiger eating?

School Girl 2: it is eating meat

School Girl 1: oh really?

And I turned around, looked at her, and thought, “no darling, it’s eating cheerios”! With all the bone cracking sounds?

Anyways, so we moved on and saw some ostriches but I’m sure the ones at Abuja’s Wonderland Amusement Park are bigger, cleaner, and more healthy looking. I was so disappointed in the one I saw I didn’t take a picture!

We saw Red Pandas too, show offs! They are really cute though, and I love the varying degrees of brown they wear as skin.

Little cute things......

The parrots were gorgeous too, so much color!

Absolutely gorgeous!

Still on birds, I HATE bats! #thatisall

We saw cheetahs too, that picture reminded me of the parts of Lion King with Mufasa and then Simba on Pride Rock. Nice…..

*now singing, it's the circle of life*

There’s not much to say about the lions because they didn’t do anything other than mope, the male was falling in and out of sleep, and the female was just staring.

Sleeping at 1pm? Shame for me

So much for being lions; whatever happened to a little activity?

Not very clear but you should get the idea!

The animal above is called a tapir. They are special in the sense that urine is as important to them as poop is to elephants. Using the Jacobson’s organ in their mouths, they can tell from urine whether their females are ready to mate. They also use their urine as a tracking tool in the forests to tell if their mates have passed a particular area. Funny but their urine is also used as a defense mechanism. When a tapir is scared (or angry), it will pee, and the urine travels for metres. And even though their urine isn’t poisonous, it stinks to high heavens!

By the way, I learnt something today. Chester is an old Roman town, as evidenced by it’s name.

Feeding a statue a snickers bar in the Roman gardens in the zoo!

One way to tell which towns/cities in the UK were built by the Romans is they end in either chester, cester, or caster. Examples would be Lancaster, Manchester, Leicester, get the drift? Thank me later!

Ok, so that’s it from the spirit of the jaguar, also known as the Chester Zoological Gardens! We’re off, next stop? Chester City, and Jabula!

P:S – all the pictures from the Zoo are here: The Zoo and more….some of the animals were not striking enough for this chronicle!

Since I came to Birmingham at the end of September I’ve been amused and fascinated with the town, it’s people, and their cultures. Forget the old ladies I saw this morning wagging their fingers and mouthing off expletives at the young female driver who refused to wait for them to cross the road; it amused me in a sad way (still laughed though) but that’s not the point.

Something else that fascinated me (and still does) is the difference in perception between the British and people from outside Europe. I remember talking to daveharte about CCTV here and how it gives me an added sense of security; turns out in Birmingham surveillance cameras are becoming an issue with organizations like BigBrotherWatch, Liberty, No-CCTV etc. mobilizing and calling for the cameras to be pulled down. I’ve talked this over with a few people since then, and the verdict is the same, surveillance cameras are slowly but surely becoming an  infringement on their rights to privacy.

Truth is I don’t blame them, they have a right to be paranoid when cameras are installed in High School toilets without notifying the children or their parents (even when the school says the cameras were placed only by the sinks), or when there are now devices that can capture audio and direct the cameras towards suspicious sounds on the streets. The plan of all of this is to nip violence in the bud but people are having none of it, claiming that it is part of the plan to turn Britain into a surveillance society.

Having said all that, I must say the recent attraction for me is Open Data, its opportunities, complexities, and how it fits in nicely with the idea of the Intelligent Community first step of which is getting Britain online by 2012.

I first heard of Open Data at the Hyper Local Government Camp event, but I didn’t really understand it then. I thought it was only about the government making public their spending data, and using information put out by government agencies to bully them (the government) into doing their jobs (a la Will Perrin and the ‘crackavan story’). Nothing could be farther from the truth!

I’ve since come to learn that Open Data does have to with sharing of information (both by the government and its citizens) but it’s a lot more than that. Dwelling on examples from the United States, acclaimed world leaders in data sharing, this presentation sums up the benefits of open government data using the most real to life examples of how even regular organizations achieved success by sharing information on what they couldn’t do on their own!

Wikipedia defines Open Data in relation to governments as “holding that the business of government and state administration should be opened at all levels to effective public scrutiny and oversight”. It is worthy of note that Wikipedia is a product of worldwide collaboration and information sharing which is  one of the aims of information being put out there and is Charles Leadbeater’s biggest argument for participation rather than mere production and consumption in the creation of the future society.

At the Beyond 2010 event, it was great listening to Kate Sahota from Warwickshire Council explain what Open Data is using a popular film, and then tell of how it has helped

·         Efficiency because more minds on an issue make for an easier workload for the authorities, the people can mash and reuse the data to solve problems of their own;

·         Transparency, because people are less tempted to pilfer when specifics of their actions are available for public scrutiny;

·         Accuracy and data quality because everyone becomes a moderator for what is put up.

All she said just re-enforced what David Miller, the Mayor of Toronto said, still on the benefits of Open data, “when you open up data there’s no limit to what people can do. It engages the imagination of citizens in building the city”.

Even scholars are realizing the need for Open Access to their work (yay), and quoting Dr. Arianna Betti , a researcher in the field of history of logic, “Right now, we still must choose between Open Access and prestige. Let’s keep our copyright. Let’s put our publications online available in repositories……The future is Open Access”. She was speaking at the Open Access Week, now in its fourth year.

As with every other bright looking idea, there are challenges and obstacles to Open Data, first of which is digital exclusion; whether because of the lack of infrastructure or because the people are not just interested in using computers. Open Data also raises questions like how much of public data should the government release, how high is the risk of inaccurate information (which is worse than no information at all); Kate Sahota said something about councils worrying about how they can make money off the data they release, and then there’s the Ordnance Survey (which I still can’t wrap my head around)!

Adding credence to Warwickshire’s concerns about selling their data, Charles Leadbeater said, “……..That culture of sharing also makes the web difficult for governments to control and hard for corporations to make money from”.

FutureGov  asked officials in South Korea, Singapore, the UK and the Netherlands whether they feel that the benefits of open government data outweigh the costs, their responses are here

It’s very exciting for me, this Open Data thing; makes me feel like developing countries without regular internet (or with more pressing problems than digital inclusion) have a looooooong, long way to go in becoming intelligent, in saving some money (in these days of recession), in empowering their citizens to make informed decisions for themselves, and in truth, and in not being excluded from the rest of the world.

I’m thinking of Nigeria and saying, “if only we knew……..”



P: S – please don’t forget I’m still receiving comments and suggestions on the Two Books a Month (TBAM) project. It’s just a click away Thank you!!!