Monthly Archives: July 2014

What or Who Was I in My Past Lives?

I was reading a book this weekend just gone and the main character had hypnosis to remember her childhood. This reminded me of the popular BBC day time show which put celebrities through ‘regression’ and re-enacted their past memories to try and establish who these celebrities were in their past lives. Before I write down my thoughts, I have a disclaimer. I do not belief in reincarnation and living multiple lives. Sometimes I think it would be rather nice to have another chance to do it all over again but then again, if you come back into a worse situation what is the point? One life is long enough for me, thank you very much.

I figure the biggest clues to what or who I might have been comes from the things I love instinctively. So first of all, I love physical contact. As a child, I would literally drape myself all over my mama whenever she was seating down. I also loved to climb and sit in tree tops. I was light on my feet and despite many falls, never broke a bone. I have always loved hugs and being stroked particularly on my back. Remind you of anything? That’s right: a cat. I remember loving the Jungle Boy, the film adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Book and my favourite thing was when Mowgli came face to face with ‘Shere Khan’ the fierce tiger and stared him down. Since then, I have loved big cats as well as the domestic ones we kept and tried unsuccessfully to keep safe from our dogs. I loved seeing the white lions and tigers at The Safari Park and I know that if I could choose to return as an animal, my 2nd choice would be as a lioness.

My 1st choice animal would be a horse. My granddad has a farm and when my mama moved back to Yola, I was less than a year old. She was the farm manager in those days so being a baby, I naturally spent a lot of time on the farm with her. The stables were full to bursting with mostly polo horses in those days and my mum likes to recount that I learnt to ride before I could walk. What she means is that I loved the horses and whenever there was a stable hand with any spare time, I would be popped onto the back of a gentle mare and walked around. I never had proper lessons but I watched my uncles play polo and I always knew I wanted to ride horses. When I was old enough, it came as naturally as breathing for me to be on the back of a horse. Of course in those days, I couldn’t handle the frisky younger polo horses but there was 1 in particular called Sofia that I favoured and every chance I got, I rode her.

So why do I love horses so much? I think they are absolutely gorgeous creatures. I love their soft velvety noses especially when they brush it across your palm as they take sugar cubes from your hand. I love their large teeth and long lean faces. I love their beautiful manes especially when they are shaved and plaited before polo matches. I love the deep brown of their eyes and their ridiculously long eyelashes. When they look at me, I feel like they can see into my soul and read my thoughts. They whiney at exactly the right moments in a tale. I love their foals with their ungainly long legs and how they skip around and play as their mums graze. I love watching them breastfeed then lean contentedly into their mums’ flanks. I love watching the adults gallop and seeing their muscles ripple under their glossy warm coat. I love to brush them down after a ride and watch the shine on their coat. I love their smell which lingers on my jeans for days after I have had a ride. As I have got older then moved away to England, I don’t get as much opportunities but I still go back to the farm and ride when I visit.

Fulanis are cow people and nomadic in origin. Beef is in general loved universally by the Fulanis and the more, the merrier. There is nothing my granddad loves more than firing up the clay barbeque pit and roasting beef straight from the abattoir. My sister is also a big meat eater and could eat meat all day every day. I on the other hand, like my mama, prefer seafood. I would eat seafood all day every day. I love it all except slimy oysters and odd mussels. The other love that goes hand in hand with seafood is being by the sea. I cannot recall ever being stressed at the seaside. Not even when I thought I was going to drown once. Not even in a little speedboat in the middle of a turbulent ocean when I can barely float in the shallow end of a swimming pool. I honestly feel the happiest when I am by the sea, hearing the waves crash onto shore, having brine sprayed onto my face and burrowing my bare feet into fine sand. Maybe in another life, I was an islander.

There are some smells I love with an intensity I cannot explain. I love the smell of coffee and did so from a very early age despite hating the taste (my granddad was addicted to it so I naturally I stole a taste). I used to add a pinch to my black tea so that I could smell coffee without its taste. Every time I walk past a coffee shop, I want to go in and sit just so every breath I inhale, I am immersed in the smell of coffee. Yet I can go months without drinking a cup of coffee. I also love the smell of freshly baked bread, particularly baguette and tiger bread. In comparison to coffee, with bread, I cannot wait to tear into the loaf and devour the piece. I do not even need butter or jam. Just fresh bread is enough for me. This makes me think of Belle in the little market town street in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. That fact in addition to the relative ease with which I navigate French makes me think that perhaps in a former life, I might have been a French girl.

Lastly, I wonder about my love for certain tastes. Sweet and sour fruits are a particular love for me. I especially love tamarind which I started eating when I was about 4 years and over the years, that love has never waned. And since then, I have found many other fruits with the same sweet and sour nature. Sour sop (or guanabana), mangoes, chappulle and mboye (found in north-eastern Nigeria), agbalumo (found in Central to South-western Nigeria) and tsamiyan biri all over the north. When I couldn’t find something to satiate the hunger for sweet and sour, I would cut one lime into 2 halves and dip the top of each half into a plate of sugar, allowing it to soak up the sweetness then suck on it. I can feel my taste buds tingle now as I remember the sweetness giving way to sharp tanginess that made me tingle all over and screw up my face even as I revelled in the taste sensation. The other taste I love is chilli pepper. There is rarely a time when I feel that no chilli is a good idea. Sometimes I crave the heat of scotch bonnet peppers so badly that I get up and cook up a scotch bonnet chutney. This chutney is so fierce that just opening the jar I store it in makes my eyes water and draws an unexpected sneeze from me. I must have 5 or 6 different chilli containers in my spice shelf yet every time I see a different form of chilli, I am tempted to buy it. This all despite the fact that my gut has decided that it is rather sensitive to chilli and the older I get, the less tolerant it gets. However, I am so passionate about chilli that I could not live without them. That combination of loves to me brings in mind Thai food…which means I could have been Thai in another life.

Of course I have many other likes that make perfect sense. Like peppermint. My mama’s main craving whilst pregnant with me was Trebor peppermint so I think her blood had high levels which became the norm to me. As far back as I can remember I have always loved Trebor peppermints and buttermints which are still ever present in my home to this day. I love all small animals and people and for me, the smaller the better. But who can resist a small helpless creature with massive Irises and total innocence? I also love vanilla ice-cream but only in an ice-cream cone. Without a cone, the experience just isn’t the same. I think it is the contrast in texture between crunchy and soft creamy ice-cream and the contrast of room temp cone with freezing cold ice cream. I love pancakes, thick and fluffy as the Americans make them. I love pies with mash, mushy peas and gravy. I love the colour red. I love elephants and camels and riding them. What I am trying to say is, even with a long list of likes and dislikes, there are some irrational ones that make me think for a second: what if I like them now because I loved them in another life and it is the leftover memories making me feeling the love? I wonder…


Philosophy 101

My best friend did a BSc in Sociology and Philosophy at Uni whilst I studied Medicine. She would come home and tell me what they had discussed in Philosophy and we would have debates about the issues they raised. I cannot remember what exactly we were talking about that day but we got to talking about gravity and the world being a sphere. We ended up making our brains work overtime and we had to stop imagining after a while because our heads literally hurt at the concept we were trying to grasp.

First we imagined being a giant, as in being bigger than the planet Earth. So we looked at it from his perspective (this giant is male for some reason). We imagined if he came across the Earth which would be like a large alien ball to him, what would he see and feel if he examined it closely? Maybe examined it under a giant microscope? First of all, there is the atmosphere which we think is nothing concrete so we thought maybe the 1st thing he would see/feel would be the clouds, wispy inconsequential bits of fluff to Giant. Maybe the clouds would feel like a wet wipe, cool and moist.

Next, would he feel the highest mountain peaks as hard sharp jagged spikes? Looking at them, maybe they would be the size of massive zits. The highest building and towers may feel bendier than the mountains and maybe look like black heads in comparison to the mountains. How about the oceans? Would they be like squishy jelly to him because we imagined he would stick his fingers in the Arctic ocean and think ‘cold jelly’ then into the Indian Ocean and think warmer. Looking at the oceans must be like looking at an abstract painting with the shifting blues, greens, indigoes and even corals of the oceans and seas. Active volcanoes would give Giant an impression of hot spots and to look at little cones discharging puffs of grey smoke with hot red goo in their centres. Forests would feel soft with bristle underneath and look like broccoli and herb gardens to Giant. Deserts would feel like grit and look like fine brown powder. Huge waterfalls like Niagara and Iguaçu falls would look like steaming water dripping off the sides of the heads of broccoli onto the stalk.

Then it got harder for our brains to imagine. Would anything else really be significant to Giant? Would houses and roads and lakes be large enough to make an impression on him? We certainly didn’t think humans would attract much notice. Elephants and blue whales he would probably be able to appreciate under the microscope but humans would be like tiny ants and would only make a mark if there were thousands gathered in a demonstration or large arena concerts. Large birds would be like butterflies or even flies. Anything smaller would be a mere irritation to feel and he certainly wouldn’t see them.

We had to stop imagining there because the scaling down was scrambling our brains. The other things we thought is, although many of the structures/features of the world we have imagined above are either mobile or fluid, because of the effect of gravity, it is all held to the surface of the ball that is the Earth. This must mean that if Giant were to hold up Earth with Africa on the top, Britain would be on its side and it would look like Ben Nevis was horizontal and not vertical as we know it is. Also if he were able to see humans, still holding the Earth in this position, we would all like little particles, all stuck onto the surface of the Earth.

So now I have re-imagined all of this, I wonder about the microscopic world. When I look at lichen that looks like it is stuck to the ground, is it really stuck to the ground? Or is it just so lightweight that the gravitational pull to the center of the Earth is too strong to allow a mere mortal like me to see that it is actually mobile? I mean, it must be mobile at least to begin with because when the pavement was put in place, there was no lichen and years later, there is lichen that has come from somewhere else. As are the ringworms/warts that must be living in baths so that you unsuspectingly step on them and ‘catch’ ringworm or warts which you only find out about weeks later when you get the rash of ringworm or feel the pain of a verruca. There is so much we do not know about because we cannot see or feel them but all the same it doesn’t mean that they are not there. That is why I say, we never know what else is out there (aliens etcetera) because how could we when we don’t fully know what is living right here on Earth with us. Maybe right under your feet, right now as you sit and read this. Boggles my little brain!!!

Here but for the Grace of God

lightI was 6 years old. It was the rainy season in Yola and the rains had come in and come in hard. In Yola, rain tended to fall predictably. Mostly heavy rain was late evening into the night and could last all night with thunder and lightning punctuating the pitch black night. There was always a power cut when those thunderstorms came but we didn’t mind because it cooled down so much that we reached for blankets and hot drinks. When it rained in the day, it was usually a slow build up. We all watched the pregnant clouds gathering. There would be no wind; the still before the storm. Then there would be a lovely light breeze which would quickly whip up steam and turn into strong winds. At this point, everyone would run out and grab all the clothes hanging out to dry, put away their food, crockery, shoes, livestock and whatever else was outdoors. All windows would be closed and latched. The humidity would build and everyone would sweat. Every bucket in the house was gathered, ready to be placed under the roof of the veranda after the first rain to catch some cold pure rainwater for drinking. Our dogs would sense the storm approaching and would go into barking fits. We would hear chicken flapping and squawking from the neighbours and children letting out excited shrieks.

Then as we all withdrew and watched from the window, the gusts would pick up the sands in little whirlwinds. The leaves would be shaken off the trees and the large Neem and Baobab tree branches would sway wildly in the wind. Then the huge drops of water would begin to fall and the children would dance around with their mouths open and pointing up to catch the first drops on their tongues before the downpour. Until the mothers noticed and pulled them back and latching the door shut too.

This particular morning, we woke up to the smell of rain. The sky was overcast but as yet there were no cloud to be seen. My sister, A’i (a cousin) and I decided to chance going to A’i’s father’s house. We thought it would be the usual slow build up and we would be back well before the action began. His house was a good 30 minutes away so off we went. As we walked, the clouds began to gather and by the time we got to his house, the sky was grey and the breeze was starting up. We stayed about 30 minutes then decided we couldn’t risk staying any longer because the downpour would start and we wouldn’t be able to get home for hours, maybe even all day and night or worse, we would get caught in it. They had no phone (not everyone had a landline those days) so we couldn’t call home to warn them where we were and that we would come back after the rain. As we didn’t want them to worry, we decided going back was the best option.

5 minutes into the journey, the whirlwinds started to pick up and we had sand in our eyes. Eyes streaming, we had a short debate about whether we should turn back. In our young minds, we would rather be home for the rain and not out visiting so we decided to continue with more haste. In another 5 minutes, the sky opened and torrents of rain lashed down on us. We were soaked instantly and getting colder by the minute. The roads immediately began to flood and soon we were wading through muddy water and getting slower as we went. Before long, there was so much rain that we could barely see each other or where to place our feet. Despite our best efforts to stay together, we kept getting separated as the elements pushed us around.

I was a tiny little thing, very lightweight so when I placed a wayward foot into the unseen ditch by the side of the road, I was immediately swept away by the current of muddy water. I spluttered and shivered and tried to find my feet but I couldn’t withstand the power of the water. Several times, I was tumbled by the water so I was immersed in it and swallowed disgusting mouthfuls. I remember thinking I was going to die and panicking. A’i was skinny like me so she couldn’t be of much help. All she could do was shout my name and I shouted back, only we could hardly hear or see each other. My sister was bigger, taller and stronger so somehow, she made her way to me and she eventually caught me several hundreds of meters down the road. She clutched me to her side and A’i drew closer to her other side. In this fashion, we dragged each other all the way home.

It must have taken nearly an hour to get home. I remember how numb I was all over. I couldn’t feel my hands and feet. I had painful goosebumps all over my skin. I was filthy. I was trembling like a leaf. I couldn’t speak for trembling. We were stripped off as soon as we collapsed into the house and put in the bath where warm water was poured over us until we regained some life. Then we were all wrapped up in large blankets and given hot sweet chocolate. As I sat there, still shivering and feeling like I would never again feel warm, I felt my eyes fill with tears and I thought ‘I am alive’. When my head was under water and I couldn’t see or breathe, I was certain I was a goner. My limbs were stiff with cold and fear and I would have surely drowned. Yet again, my sister was my hero! If she hadn’t been there…

Woman in Bloom

I love that term: in bloom. Normally I would use it when talking about beautiful spring flowers but this time, I am talking about myself. This was my 23rd year of life. I was in the penultimate year of medical school and to be honest, I didn’t particularly feel ‘in bloom’. That year, I had moved into my uncle’s house to save money on rent so that I could pay for my elective in Malaysia. My sister had quit her job in Lincoln and moved down to Birmingham to look for a job after graduation. It was during the economic crisis so jobs were hard to come by and money was tight generally. I had been single 2 years at this stage (I won’t count one date and a lot of light flirting the year before). I had a great 2 months in Malaysia and Thailand then flew straight home to Nigeria afterwards.

I think it may have been something in the Malay/Thai food, water or air. It didn’t take a long time after I got to Nigeria for the first proposal. In fact, I wasn’t even in Nigeria yet. I was on the plane to Lagos. My first flight on Virgin Nigeria. I was pleased that after the disastrous end of Nigerian Airways, here was a semi-Nigerian option. All of the flight staff except 1 pilot were Nigerian. My section in economy was served by 2 strapping Nigerian young men. I remember thinking ‘wow, I wouldn’t have thought this was the obvious career choice for these 2’. But there they were and they seemed very happy in their job. Polite and friendly, 2 qualities that are not in abundant supply when it comes to the Nigerian Service Industry. One of the stewards waited until after the inboard meal was served and cleared away to come and sit in the empty seat by me. I noticed of course and I reluctantly removed my nose from the book it was buried in. He started with chitchat (which made me cringe in those days) then went straight into compliments and then ended with saying that he was interested in a ‘serious relationship’ and slipping me a piece of paper with his details. I took it with a murmur of appreciation, tucked it into book and promptly tried to forget whilst ignoring the knowing looks from the passengers listening intently.

Next, I went to Kano City with my sister and her boyfriend (let’s call him Ahmed). We were all invited to dinner with an aunty and uncle. Ahmed’s friend, who we had known for 5 years, decided he wanted to come say hi at dinner and popped in unannounced. Ahmed must have told him where we were, not imagining he would turn up uninvited. He (who I will call Hassan) was a twin, the extroverted ladies’ man in comparison to his less confident twin. He was very charming and always had us in stitches with his funny anecdotes. He seemed to come across the funniest people and situations so his tales of everyday life would keep us all entertained every time we hung out with him. Hassan was Ahmed’s age, 11 years older than I was. So he always treated me with fondness like Ahmed did. As a little sister I thought. My uncle and aunty were gracious and insisted he joined us for dinner. He didn’t need inviting twice. He sat next to me and did what he did best, entertained us. We were all in stitches. Then, unexpectedly he turned to me and announced that he wanted to marry me. In front of my aunty and uncle!!! I was mortified. As a Fulani girl, that is probably as embarrassing as being seen naked by my uncle and aunty. Thank God for brown skin because I would have been beetroot red had I been fairer skinned. I tried to laugh it off but he was persistent and oblivious to my discomfort. My uncle and aunty were good sports and pretended this was an everyday occurrence. My sister smirked at me and appeared to be entertained. When it became really uncomfortable for me, I pretended I needed the loo and left the table. I stood outside to cool off and was wondering how long I could politely be away for when Hassan found me. He launched into why it would be an ideal marriage and how beautiful our children would be. Really? After a few polite ‘No’s’ I fell back on a lie. I announced that actually, it would never work because I had a boyfriend back in England who I loved dearly. Give the guy an A for persistence. It didn’t faze him one bit. He reckoned that if I gave him a chance, I would come to realise that he was a better match for me than my fictional boyfriend. Everyone who knows me knows I am a terrible liar. I was starting to crack when Ahmed came to my rescue. He draped a protective arm around me. Hassan immediately looked for support from him. He asked Ahmed ‘is it true she is in love with a guy in England?’ Without blinking, Ahmed say ‘yes’. It was said so matter-of-factly that Hassan bought it and backed off. I clearly don’t lie convincingly. I could have kissed Ahmed in that moment. I was very impressed!

Still in Kano, the very next day in fact, I got another marriage proposal. This time from another unlikely source. I was visiting an aunty who happened to be a judge. This means that she gets state security in the form of policemen on patrol at her house. I walked a friend to the gate of the house and when I turned around to go back in, there he was. I instinctively stepped back and with a quick greeting, tried to go around him. ‘Hold on’ he says in Hausa. ‘Can I ask you something?’ Basically, I seemed like a ‘nice girl’ and he would like to marry me. As he was on duty and shouldn’t have been trying to pick up girls, I didn’t hesitate to say no thank you and leave.

Next, I went to Kaduna to visit the aunties and uncles there. I had made no arrangements to get back to Abuja and was just going to hop into a public car the next day. My cousin and I were hanging out with her then boyfriend and his friend. She brought up the topic and the friend ‘Omar’ said actually I have to go to Abuja to meet with a client so I could give you a lift. My cousin and I went with him and he dropped us off. He was friendly and a great talker so naturally I got on with him and thought we were just mates. Until he said he was considering breaking up with his fiancée to be with me. Whaaaat?! 1. He had a fiancée and 2. He was in love with me. I was shocked. I was firm in my refusal. My feelings were definitely friendship and no more.

Finally, I was in Yola with my family and thought the craziness would have to stop because no Yola boy had ever approached me before (discounting the one at 13, less said about him the better). Wrong again. As I tend to be, I was my mama’s constant companion during the Yola trip and we went to visit one of her work colleagues. He was brilliant. Probably about 10 years older than me but he was well-educated, well-spoken and had achieved so much at his age. I was impressed that here was a Fulani man I could potentially get on with on many levels. But that was where it stopped. I admired him but didn’t even consider I could fancy him because he was my mama’s (young) friend. He told my mama he wanted to marry me. ‘Crazy man!’ she said. He was already married with a child on the way. Why would her baby want to be any man’s seconds?

I remember looking in the mirror and studying myself. I wasn’t any different from the previous year. I had no more curves than the year before. I was still too skinny for my liking. My hair was its normal self. I wasn’t dressing to impress. I wasn’t on the hunt for a man. I was happily single. So the only conclusion I could draw was that maybe I was in bloom and I couldn’t appreciate it. Whatever it was, it certainly was a major ego boost for a girl who looked in the mirror and saw skinny instead of slim, gawky instead of elegant, cute instead of beautiful. What an amazing summer!

WoMD – Not in My Name Please!

I will start with a small apology for anyone who is reading this to get away from all the doom and gloom in the media these days. This story is about now. About Boko Haram and the Nigerian Government’s failings that have led to an unstable Northern Nigeria which threatens to destabilise not only the whole of Nigeria but all of West Africa. About poor Malaysia being caught up in Putin’s plot to regain USSR glory days. About the Israeli who are fighting darts with spears. About the US blindly refusing to do what is right in favour of protecting their own skin and financial interests. About the UK which though slow in its condemnation of  some of the atrocities on our (British) doorstep, has finally started to show some balls but are dragging their heels anyway so that by the time they respond, it will be too little too late.

I have signed several petitions to force the UK Government to discuss a response to Israel and Russia. I have added Tesco and Sainsbury’s to the list of boycotted companies/institutions which fuel much of the instability with the profits from my shopping. And fortunately, my husband (from a Christian Zimbabwean background) is supporting me to stand by my principle. My principle is simple. I do not sanction murder. In any shape or form. I hate weapons of mass destruction (WoMD): guns, mines and bombs (atomic or nuclear) and I really wish oil was not so intrinsically linked to murder. I always say if I were to be made King of All, my first task would be to gather all of those weapons created specifically with the intent to kill and burn them all.

Despite my efforts not to get too politically involved and give myself a coronary, I have had this debate several times. First of all, it tends to be traditional men with a misguided sense of masculinity who think weapons of mass destruction are good. Because they can be used in self-defence. Right. My take on that is: if I was angry with my neighbour and in a moment of blind fury rushed over and slapped her, the likely response is for her to slap me too. Maybe harder, maybe multiple times but I am likely to be alive at the end of it all. So she might be high on narcotics and shove me hard, causing me to fall, crack my head open and die instantly. Chances of that are slim though because majority of neighbours are not on narcotics. Now lets imagine I have a gun for self-defense and she does too because we all want to protect ourselves. I might in that moment of blind fury grab my gun and because I am blinded, shoot randomly and get her in the leg. She goes to hospital and when she comes back, she is out for revenge. More importantly, she wants to teach me and other neighbours the lesson that I cant shoot her and get away with it, so she plots and comes over when she knows I will be defenceless and shoots me straight in the heart and I die instantly. Then all my neighbours freak out and rush out to buy guns. The vicious cycle has started with no end in sight except ever-spiralling obsession with protecting oneself.

The argument then turns to ‘but the Armed Forces have to have guns so that the law can be enforced’. I agree. Why not use weapons of control instead of murder? Why not give them all tasers instead to incapacitate criminals and lock them up until they undergo trial for their crimes? Why not resort to using pepper spray and tear gas? If we are so intent on killing everyone we perceive to be criminal, what was the point of the fight to ban death by guillotine/hanging/firing squads/lethal injection etc? Because lets face it, who really thinks a mass murderer, serial killer/torturer or serial rapist is going to be rehabilitated by a stint in jail? Rehabilitated enough that you would be happy to live next to them and allow your children to play out of your sight. I confess I don’t believe people who premeditate murder, torture or rape will ever get to the point where if they had the chance, they wouldn’t murder, torture or rape again. I would never knowingly/willingly live in the same street or even same neighbourhood as an ex-con like the Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright or more recently Ian Huntley who could be up for parole in about 15 years.

To those farmers/land owners who want to protect their animals/land and so have to own a gun, it is the same argument for me. Why not use a tranquiliser gun that is used on Safari to guard against wild animals turning, well, wild? And come to think of it, use the same tranquilisers on those who try to rustle your cows. My point is if nobody had guns, then nobody would need a gun to defend their person or property. I know this is a pipe dream though because lets face it, who is going to make me king? I am a girl. I have no royal lineage (well nothing that would make me big enough to ban WoMD) and I am anti-establishment most of the time. Better not!

I could write a whole book on why WoMD are evil but I think you get the gist. I hate them. And most normal people would agree. So why are we all so quiet in the face of irresponsible gun-loving idiots we have allowed to govern us leading us into war? I mean, the UK for the first time saw through the faked dossiers on WoMD in Iraq/Tony Blair/Bush conspiracy to invade the Middle East and get at the oil. The numbers at the anti-war demonstration were unprecedented and this was before the war began. I marched in London with my mom. I was 17 at the time and I could foresee the carnage we see today in the Middle east and the instability throughout the West as a result of their involvement. How could Tony Blair and Bush  with all their ‘intel’ not foresee it? How was it legal for the UK to go to war despite the fact that more people demonstrated against it than voted for the government. And what makes me laugh (because if I don’t laugh, I will cry for the shame of being British) is that Tony Blair now has the audacity to pose as the UN Peace Envoy for the Middle East. No wonder the ceasefire farce fell through! What a hypocrite!

These politicians, they all are hypocrites. They are not there to serve the people or improve what is already there. They are all blinded by their power and the need to serve their gigantic egos and leave a legacy in the world. And we sanction it by our inaction. By buying good from companies we know are sending a proportion of all their profits to places like Russia, Ukraine, Palestine, Nigeria, Israel etc. Those places that are already unstable and whose downfall might  benefit some rich or powerful little man in the West (and increasingly in the East). We sanction them by voting for them (I know we have no real choice anyway in the UK). We sanction them by paying our taxes and then silently watching our money being spent on murder of helpless civilians whilst our needs (NHS, utilities, education) are being neglected. What a farce! May we all wake up to the harsh realities and wield the enormous power we have. What we have is the power in numbers. A weapon of taking back control (WoTBC)*. I know which I prefer between WoMD and WoTBC!


*This is not a real phrase. It is my creation and no government has sanctioned its use. It in no way represents the views of the UK or Nigerian leadership.

Puppy Love

Growing up, we always had dogs. Yes, dogs. Plural. At one point, it all got out of hand and we had 11 dogs. Long story. This story is about the special dogs that were part of the fabric of my childhood. My family loves animals. My granddad is a farmer (amongst other things, more on the legend later) and so his farm was like a private zoo. He has had over the years: cows of different varieties (of course he is Fulani so cows are more like family), sheep, goats, horses (which I am half in love with), dogs, rabbits, geese, chicken, ducks, cats and more besides. He also always had dogs in his house so naturally, when my mum had her own place in Yola, she got a dog.

Our first dog was inherited from uncle no 1. She was a beautiful golden retriever called Sly. Gorgeous dog that my sister claims was given to her. I don’t know about that but she was lovely. Always up for running around aimlessly, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as she worked up a sweat chasing my sister and me around. She would let us wrestle with her and lick us hello every time we went to visit during the day. She had lovely warm eyes that always seemed to sparkle with pleasure when she saw me and her mouth seemed to smile 24/7. She never barked unless there was a trespasser on our grounds and she never bit anyone all her life even if teased. She lived until she was 13 years old…in dog years that is like a century old or something. Unfortunately, she went a little demented towards the end and ran rampant in the hut with sheep that was meant to supply the entire extended family for Eid. The vets had to put her down. We weren’t told until it was done. We cried for her and she occupies a special place in our hearts because she was our first. RIP lady!

The most special of all to me was Whiskey. A gorgeous brown-eyed German shepherd husky mix. Or as I would have called it when I was younger, a police dog. Apparently, he was brought for me when I was a toddler which must be true because I do not remember not having Whiskey or Sly around. I don’t know where the name comes from either because he was more black and grey coat but maybe he had more of a whiskey hue as a pup. He was less playful than Sly – he was more elegant and exuded restrained strength. Where I would want to run around with Sly, I remember just sitting with my arms around him, stroking his head and talking to him. Above everything, he made me feel safe so when my temper got out of hand or I was upset and wanted to hide it, I often found him and he sat with me happily. Everyone (but my mama, sister and I) was nervous around him when he was fully grown and most were outright scared. He looked ferocious and when goaded, he would lower his head, peel his upper lip back and growl low and deep in his throat. Despite never feeling threatened by him, even I would jump when he barked. It was a truly fearsome bark. The neighbours called him a ‘dog of Satan’ because they were so petrified by the sight of him. I loved him the best and he lived to the grand age of 12. I was off at Boarding school when he tried to get out of the dog house and got caught by a bit of wire mesh. He was found the next morning. I came home at the end of term and as soon as I put my stuff down, made a beeline for the dog house. I looked around eagerly. Killer, Baby, Bush and Mimi were there but no Whiskey. I ran back in and asked my mama. She broke the news and till this day, I get misty-eyed when I see a German shepherd husky. What a dog!

Killer was next in and she was a Dachshund – which apparently means ‘badger dog’ in German. She bore more puppies than Sly so when I think of her, it is mostly in the contest of birthing puppies. She and her newborn puppies nearly came to a sticky end once when she decided to have her babies in one of the deepest holes they ever dug to escape the Yola heat. The hole was under a tree so there were roots in the way and unluckily for her, whilst she laboured in the middle of the night, there was a heavy downpour of rain and she got stuck. The other dogs made such a dean that we woke up and went to investigate. We peered out the window and as we didn’t see any strange men lurking, we knew something else was up. My mama was roused and we all trooped out in the rain and quickly realised Killer and her babies were stuck. Between the hole filling up with water and the scared new mum Killer, it was hard work to get them out but we did eventually get them all out, all unhurt and I remember they were so cold, we broke the no dogs inside rule and brought her and the puppies in. My mama even used one of our towels to dry them and we found blankets and a box for the puppies. Out of that litter, we kept Baby who was a lovable rogue. A large brown mix of Killer and Whiskey.

Then there was Bush (named after George Bush the 1st who wasn’t much liked in our circles). He was Beagle-shaped but pure black, small with much shorter legs than all the rest. I think he was a Dachshund and black Labrador mix. What he lacked in size, he made up in mischief. He suffered from classic ‘small dog syndrome’ and would flare up into temper when teased. He was always full of zip, ran around like a loon and was hyper-excitable. He was the deadliest when it came to attacking unsuspecting neighbours. He never tried to bite anyone living in the house but anyone not resident was fair game to him. He was very sly in his approach. He would approach from the back or side silently then just before he got to his victim’s feet, he would give his high-pitched bark and nip at their heels. He didn’t succeed mostly because the bark was a giveaway. He did bite a poor old distant aunty/granny once. She came to visit, bearing a bag of fresh oranges for us and Bush had got out of the dog house. He especially loved black bags so when he spotted this, he attacked and she was too slow to react so he bit her on the calf. She had to go to hospital for a rabies shot and for years after, she would open the gate and peer in. She didn’t come into the house unescorted for a long time and even when we checked to make sure he was safely in the dog house, she was nervous every time she came. Naughty Bush!

My last dog was Mimi. He was the best looking of all. He was a hybrid of all above dogs probably. He looked a little like a collie but tall like Whiskey with a hint of Labrador. He was white with a few large brown spots and brown patches over his eyes. He was in Killer’s last litter. At this stage, we had 8 grown dogs plus 2 grey hounds we were watching for my uncle. We all knew we shouldn’t keep any of the new litter but that was all out of the window when I woke up to find Killer’s six babies. They were the fluffiest, cutest round little puppies. I fell in love with Mimi at first and I was determined to have him. I named him despite my mama’s discouragement. My sister too had designs on another so a 2nd was named. When they were 4 days old, one of the puppies fell ill and died in a day or 2. Over the next 2 weeks, 4 died. Killer and my sister and I were beside ourselves with grief. The best looking litter and they were dying one after the other. Prior to this, I don’t remember ever losing a puppy. Mimi and a girl puppy promised to my mama’s friend survived. My mama didn’t have the heart to take him after all the tears shed over the other puppies so he stayed. He was full of life and he grew rapidly. He was very boisterous and playful, restless like me so we were inseparable until he was old enough to move into the dog house. He would lick me wherever he could reach and race me. And he was always begging for a rub. He ate whatever I was eating and drank whatever I drank. He was the most loyal of all.

Sad ending to this love story: when we moved to England, my mama asked a neighbour to look after them and gave them money for food. I don’t know the full details of it but it was 2 years before we went back. By then, they were all gone. Presumably they all died. I felt bad then and still feel bad now. I suspect they pined to death because all the love was taken away and the house stood empty. I really hope their ends were quick and painless because they were true friends growing up. I like to believe that all dogs go to heaven. Because let’s face it, why wouldn’t they?

My Big Sis Loves Me

Dedicated to my adda manga (big sister to non-fulfulde speakers) who was there through thick and thin.

 Cue ‘of course she does’, ‘why wouldn’t she? You are so lovable’ and ‘so?’

Well, first of all, as you read my stories you will come to realise that I was a mass of contradiction as a child and not always so lovable. Secondly, it wasn’t always obvious to me that my sister loved me. Because as sisters do, we had our share of fights. More of that in the future. Finally, the so what. The realisation was beautiful and taught me a great life lesson…the people you love and who love you can be mean or make you cry sometimes but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

It all happened in the setting of Qur’anic school. I think I was 5 or 6 years old. My sister and I toddled off to Qur’anic school on this fateful Saturday morning, no doubt grumbling about having to wake up early on a Saturday after insisting on staying up because it was the weekend. Every weekend, we conveniently ‘forgot’ and grumbled afresh. My mama turned a deaf ear to all the moaning and off we went, generally the stragglers on the weekends.

The morning started out normal. Our Mallum (Fulfulde word for teacher) must have been called away for something important because she disappeared. We, the children, all continued to practise reading our Qur’anic passages but as the minutes ticked away, we grew restless and wooden slates were propped aside. Soon, none of us was studying anymore and a few even got up and started to play. Being the restless sort, up I popped. I was in a pretty white dress – I wonder why white looking back because I was always up to mischief. I needed the loo so I left the group to go to the back of the house. Traditional toilets in Northern Nigeria tend to be literally named ‘the back of the house or room’ in the many languages. In Hausa, it is called ‘bayan daki’ meaning back of the room. In Fulfulde, it is called ‘gada suudu’ also meaning back of the room.

I did my business into the pit (yes, it was old school) and instead of walking out like you’d expect, I decided to sprint out. Unfortunately, the door to the gada suudu made up of steel sheets stapled to a wooden frame had a bit of twisted ragged steel pointing out and in my haste, I didn’t see it. As I sprinted out, my knee was caught by this steel and it took a small chunk out of me. It didn’t hurt then but I knew it was bad because bright red blood started to stream down my leg. I put a hand over it and ran straight to my sister. She took one look, whipped off her headscarf and tied it around the gash as all the kids excitedly looked on. Without a word to anyone, she swept me onto her back and told me to hang on. Then she ran the 20 minute journey home, across the busy main street in Yola without pause. She didn’t stop until she found my mum and deposited me in her arms.

I remember my whole thinking was transformed. I looked at her worried face and how she ran around the whole day, not letting me move my dressed wounded knee. I was amazed at how she knew exactly what to do when I hadn’t a clue. Amazed by the stamina as she ran with me on her back all the way home. Amazed that she, who would always try to order me around, was running around doing things for me even after my mama took care of the wound and said I would be ok. I looked at my sister and I swear I saw a halo round her. She must be some sort of angel I thought. That is love! My eyes misted at this realisation and it still does today, 23 years later as I recall the day. Every time I look at the scar just above my knee, I think ‘my sister loves me’. And I can forgive her anything because she does.

A Baby Boy

Dedicated to Fareeda Rasheed – an aunty-in-law and a dear friend taken too soon! 

I am one of 2 girls and for most of my childhood my mama was a single mom so my house was a boy-free zone mostly. No one peed standing up so we didn’t have the toilet-seat-left-up issue or the bits of wee that missed their mark and ended up outside the toilet ball with the associated whiff. No one with boy bits so walking around naked was never awkward outside of ‘visiting hours’. Nor was accidentally opening the toilet door when someone was on the toilet. We were all the same so it was a quick sorry and everyone forgot about it minutes later. As a result, whenever I pictured being older, getting married and having babies, my babies were girls. And to tease me, my sister would say you will have only boys and I would react either with a strident ‘God forbid’ or ‘I hope not’ or ‘please God don’t do that to me’ or similar save me somebody phrases.

 My uncle’s first baby was a boy, who we nicknamed Baby A. His mother was lovely so we became fast friends after the wedding. I was 12 years old. She turned up unexpectedly for one visiting day at my boarding school when I was in JSS1 (first year of secondary school) with a baby bump and I got so excited! This was going to be my first cousin within reach (I have 2 cousins in faraway America). I prayed hard that it would be a girl so I could dress her up and play with her hair. We spent the summer with my aunty and the baby was due the week before we went back to boarding school. We hoped and hoped it would arrive before we had to leave but as these things tend to happen, there was not a peep from the baby. We said our disappointment goodbyes, patted the bump one last time and left.

 2 weeks later, he arrived with great fanfare but I wasn’t to meet him until the end of term. He was 10 weeks old when I first met him and at that stage, he was cute but didn’t do very much. He just fed and slept and I couldn’t even dress him up in cute pink dresses and hair bands. I was pleased but not bowled over. This all changed 5 months later. It was the summer holidays and his mom had decided to relocate to my hometown Yola to learn Fulfulde (the Fulani language), do a HND in Law and generally learn the ways of her husband’s people.

 On weekdays, my sister and I were on babysitting duty from the morning until she came home from Legal studies as the college was called. Being adolescents on holiday, we stayed up late every night and then had a lie in each morning. There was nothing much to do apart from visiting friends and going to buy sweets or drinks from the one main road where all the shops were situated. Sadly, we were by then too old for playing sand games or climbing trees. We were young ladies. Haha.

So back to Baby A, his mom would wake up bright and early, feed him and bring him round to our house. Then, rather than wake us up (which was an impossible task) she would place him on the blanket between my sister and I and sneak out. My sister was the better sleeper so I was generally the one to wake up. The first thing I would notice as I stirred was that the blanket wasn’t moving with me. Then I would feel like I was being watched. Eventually, I would be awake enough to crack open one eye and scope out the situation. Each morning, Baby A would sit patiently and wait for the eye to pop open. Then his face would break into the most disarming irresistable grin. My heart would melt and instead of the usual grumpy awakening, I would pop up and give him a cuddle, drawing from him happy chortling. My sister was soon up in the face of all the merriment. We spent nearly 3 months in this idyllic way.

 We would compete over who would feed him, who would carry him, who would burp him and even who would change his diapers. He was the sunniest baby. Hardly ever cried. Always smiling or laughing. We were there when he mastered how to sit without support and there as he started to crawl and then pull up to stand. By the end of the summer, he was standing and even attempting to take a step. It was with a heavy heart we said our goodbyes when it was time to back to boarding school. This was the beginning of my boy baby love.

 We relocated to London so I missed the infancy of the next boy cousin to be born. Then, when I was in medical school, the news came that my other aunty (wife to uncle no 2) was expecting a baby and he was due during Easter holidays. His grandmother is Egyptian so his mom went to Cairo in preparation for his arrival. My grandmother (her mother-n-law) was also going to be there so I saved up money for flights and I flew to Cairo. He was due the first week of my 4 week holiday. Her tummy was so huge it looked like it would burst and everyone predicted that he would be early being the second baby. Despite her busy upping and downing with the hope of inducing natural labour, she ended up having a caesarean section as there were safety concerns.

 I was much more excited to meet this little boy and he was gorgeous. All black curly hair and very Fulani features. I spent 2 weeks with Modi (that’s his Fulani name) then had to come back. I didn’t see him again until he was 11 months old and I had a 3 month summer holiday. I spent most of it in Kaduna in their home getting to know him. I was his constant companion. Imagine my joy when his first proper word (after da-da and ma-ma and ba-ba) was Diya! I was chuffed. We all went to Abuja together when it was time for me to head back to Birmingham. I was off the next evening. In Abuja, I stayed at my grandparents whilst they stayed at their Abuja home. I went over the morning of departure and spent a few hours saying goodbye to my little sidekick.

 As I got into the car to go back to my grandfather’s and get ready for my flight, he came running out as fast as his little legs could carry him. He bent forward with chubby hands on his thighs and screamed my name as loud as he could. I heard him through the closed windows and slid the window open. His tears broke my heart and I felt myself welling up. I was going to stay a little longer but his mom said ‘no go! I will get changed and bring him over before you go so you can say a final goodbye’. She lifted him to the window and I gave him a quick kiss then detangled him and we drove off. She never did bring him. Looking back, I am glad because I would have made him cry a second time and made it even harder to say goodbye. It was 2 years before I saw him again.

Baby A and Modi were the best convincer for me to be happy with whichever sex baby I may have in the future. Now I look to the near future as a married woman wanting children and all that I pray for is a healthy boy or girl.

Close Call with a Ram

It was late afternoon, probably a Thursday or Friday since we were not at Qur’anic school. It was one of those rare occasions where my sister and I were home with no friends over and we chose to play at home. Normally, we would be round to a neighbour’s house, climbing their guava trees or picking mangoes or just playing with other kids.

On this late afternoon, it was warm as Yola is generally and we were bored. I don’t know which of us had the bright idea but we both thought it was brilliant. We decided to climb onto the wall around the perimeter of our house and run around the whole house. I must have been around 5 or 6 years old and my sister was 8 or 9. My mother’s cousin (around 20 years of age) was in the house somewhere and hadn’t a clue what we were up to. We conferred for a moment as the wall was too high for either of us to climb onto unaided. ‘I know’ I said to my sister. ‘We could get up there by climbing onto the A/C steel cage by Mama’s room’. I was a right little monkey all through my childhood days so if there was anything solid I could climb, I was all over it. This was why I knew that the steel cage around the air-conditioning unit poking out the back of my mama’s room was perfectly positioned for us to get up on the roof and then onto the wall, our destination.

We both got onto the wall safely using the A/C cage and the roof. So far, so good. Then we ran around the house once and I remember enjoying that so much we started a 2nd circuit. As we got to the back right corner of the wall, I looked down and my eyes met with the next-door neighbour’s who I had never clapped eyes on. I was so startled; I jumped back and fell off the wall.

Why was I so startled? Well I’ll tell you. This neighbour was an old lady who never left her little hut which was surrounded by a crooked wall of rusted steel sheets. The children of the neighbourhood never saw her. She was never visited by any relatives. She never left to go to the market for food. She was strange because in old Yola town, no one lived alone. No one was completely visitor-less. Everyone went to the market or sent the younger person living with them to the market for food. So, being children we decided she must be a witch. You know like a witch in the fairy tales of old who were always old women, living alone, doing strange things behind closed doors. The kind of stereotype that is damaging and we all know now is so wrong. But the older kids (the adolescents) used this stereotype to scare us the little kids. We were threatened with being taken to ‘her’ whenever we were naughty and we were scared stiff so it worked a treat. This is why my first sight of her was so startling.

So I fell back into my house and I wasn’t hurt. I think I had a graze or 2 but basically, I was ok. So no harm done, right? Wrong. It was the month leading up to Eid-el-kabir, the big Eid and the Eid that was the Muslim equivalent to Christmas in terms of significance. It was the Eid you were encouraged to slaughter a ram as per Muslim tradition if you could afford it. The idea was to have a 2 day feast with some of the meat and to share the fresh meat and grain with family, friends and neighbours. I digress. What I was leading up to is that we had a ram sequestered in that left back corner of our house, delivered from our granddad’s farm, awaiting Eid day. He was a beautiful animal. Large and white with black spots and long fierce-looking curly horns with sharp tips. And he was bored, kept in captivity on his own.

When I fell into his enclosure, I didn’t notice where I was at first. My sister who had kept her head and feet firmly on the wall spotted him. Her shout alerted me to turn and I looked straight into his eyes. OMG! He pawed the ground (do rams do that?) and my sister and I knew he was about to charge. I had no cover and the wall was too high. My sister was dancing in place, clearly anxious. She reached down with one hand and I stretched up and grabbed her hand with both hands. She tried to pull me up but couldn’t. I looked into her eyes and she looked back at me and I know the panic I felt was what I saw reflected in her eyes. I remember my heart pounding so hard that I couldn’t hear my sister’s instructions. As the ram charged, we braced ourselves and just before his horns made contact with me, she pulled and I jumped. His horns rammed into the wall with a loud crash, narrowly missing my legs which I had curled up and tucked under my chin. As my sister’s grip started to slip, he wheeled around the opposite end of the enclosure and prepared to charge again. I was back on the ground, looking to my sister for guidance. We repeated the grip and hoist, again timed to perfection so he just missed me. My memory makes it seem like we must have done that action several times but thinking back, I think we gripped and hoisted twice and somehow, on the 3rd attempt, my sister heroically hoisted me back onto the wall.

My hero! We sat on the wall, looking at this ram that had nearly gored me and was now looking at us with intent. After we got back our breaths, we got shakily back to our feet, walked back to the roof and got off the wall. By tacit agreement, we didn’t tell anyone what had happened. However, we were so uncharacteristically quiet, I remember someone asking if we were both ok. We must have been convincing enough that we weren’t pressed. We never got back on the wall, bored or not.


*not her real name      

I was sitting on my praying mat, having a quiet moment of doing nothing when I spotted my old Quran and thought of Na’ima, wondering how she was. Just the week before, someone had forwarded a piece via Whats App talking about the significance of ‘Attahiya’, the passage we muslims recite whilst sitting after  every 2 raka’as of prayers (sallat). Again, I thought of Na’ima and what she was up to. Then an hour ago, she facebook messaged me to ask if I would be in Nigeria at the same time as she. I regretfully said no. So we wont be seeing each other anytime soon. But I have not forgotten…

We met in 1996…10 year olds in brand new uniforms in JSS1, the beginning of our secondary school career. In the 1st year, we talked mostly in Hausa language or IRS classes.  Funny thing about school, ‘someone’ decided quite early who your ‘bestfriend’ was and us girls felt compelled to hang out with this best friend even if we had more to say to some other people. Anyway, we were only 10 years old so we obeyed the unwritten rule.     

Fast forward one year. We were now in JSS2 – no longer babies. 11 years old. Subconsciously, that rule was bent then broken. Somehow, Na’ima and I started to spend most of our time outside of classes together. We didn’t share a seat so we could only sit together in the optional classes Hausa and IRS. Our friendship was on.

She was to become my 1st true friend. The first friend to know my flaws and my strengths and love me for it. Before that, my sister was probably the only 1 to be privy to the real me. I dont remember how this all came to be but there are instances I recall with clarity.

One of the many things I didn’t like about boarding school was the food. I would have breakfast maybe 3 days a week. Lunch and dinner, I ate more of but I hated amala so atleast 3 meals a week, I had biscuits in place of a meal. Naima was a day girl so when she realised this was happening, she offered to buy me snacks from Mr Biggs (sausage roll or meatpie plus scotch eggs were my favourites). I would give her money the day before an amala meal and she would faithfully buy my snacks and deliver each time. She never let me down.

I was praying one day and realised I didnt know how to recite the ‘Attahiya’ properly. I think I knew the first and last couple of phrases with alot of nonsense in between. Who did I turn to? Na’ima. The next time I saw her, I took her aside and with some embarassment admitted I didn’t know how to recite the ‘Attahiya’ properly and would she teach me? Of course she would. She recited the correct words and the next day, she slipped me a piece of paper with the words on it. I asked, she gave.

She got me a Quran from the Sudanese embassy where her dad worked at the time. I think I was inspired by MSS to read the Quran for myself so I mentioned to her that this was my intention. Some time later, she placed a brand new shiny Quran with english translation in my hands…this is the same Quran that seats on my prayer mat today.
My most lasting memory though is break times with Naima throughout JSS2. We looked forward to every break time with the excitement a footballer would look forward to the World Cup. We had sooo much fun every weekday. As soon as the last lesson before break was over and the teacher had stepped out of class, we would stuff our books into our lockers, shoulder our backpacks and race towards the tuckshop. Tuckshop was what we called the group of small wooden shack shops and tables all selling a variety of snacks aimed at satisfying 10-18 year olds. Naima and I would decide what drink we wanted (pepsi/mirinda/7up was sold in a different shop to coke/fanta/sprite to limca/something orange). I preferred Limca and Naima was a coke girl so we did Limca shop 1 day and coke shop another. We would also decide on meatpie, sausage roll or samosa. All this as we hurried towards tuckshop to try and beat the crowds. Inevitably, there would be lots who made it there before us (how did they do it?) so we had to divide and conquer. I would take the drink shop and she would tackle the pastry shop. We would squeeze into the front of the queue and return in minutes triumphantly holding out our goodies. Then we would each buy a dolly (3cm square plastic tub of chocolate to be eaten with tiny plastic spoon) and dodo (small bag of squeeshy plantain chips) and find the corner inhabited by JSS2y girls (our class, even here we stuck together). We would have our drinks and pastry between chitchat, making sure we had 5 minutes to spare before the end of break.
We would wander off to the huge fallen tree trunk we nicknamed dolly station where just the 2 of us would sit and savour every morsel of our dolly. Without fail, as we jumped up and walked to rejoin the other girls all going back to class, something would set us off laughing. I remember a few girls coming over to join us at dolly station but they never came long-term because they got bored of us sitting in silence, observing our dolly ritual. 1 or 2 asked us why we always laughed on our way back to class. I remember Naima’s and my eyes met when the question was 1st put to us. Our response was to dissolve into more laughter. Those girls walked away confused. Naima and I did ask each other ‘why do we laugh here?’ Neither of us ever had an answer. It didn’t matter.

Looking back, 17 years later I think it was because we were happy. Happy to have found a friend we could sit with in silence, a friend who would always be there to teach you things she knew better, who wouldn’t judge you for your failings, who would listen when you had something to say, who would laugh because you were laughing. A true friend.