Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Guest Post - Not a Different World by Keith Anthony - Bookish World Cup - Nigeria

It had felt strange in Heathrow, handing over my boarding card at the gate the previous evening.  I was used to flying to Frankfurt, New York even, but here the screen showed "Lagos".  The other passengers seemed matter of fact about this, but I was stepping into the unknown.  Seven hours later, as I emerged from the terminal at Murtala Mohammed airport, it appeared a different world. 
 I was with a colleague and we had already met our driver.  Now, amidst the chaos, they were going in one direction and a sea of people pulled me in another.  I fought back against the current, finally reaching the Land Rover that was to take us to our hotel.  I had just had my first taste of Nigeria.  It was a twenty mile ride to Victoria Island, much of it over long flyovers across the lagoon.  The road was crazily congested, cars and people everywhere, and the Land Rover fought for every inch of progress.  We had a security guard, though rumour had it their firearm had once gone off inside the armoured vehicle, the bullet bouncing around its interior... an old wives' tale to tease nervous visitors perhaps, but in Nigeria anything felt possible.

At one stage we looked out on an enormous market.  It seemed to spread endlessly into the distance, an ocean of stalls and an infinity of people to whom this extraordinary morning was perfectly ordinary.  I felt small, cosseted.  Finally, the vehicle reached the centre of town and our hotel, the reception of which was covered but still open to the elements, without significant walls.  I guess in Nigeria there is rarely a chill wind.  It felt warm and exotic.  It felt not England.

Our work there was dull (something to do with a project), but nothing else about Nigeria was boring as, for a few days, we shuttled between the comfort of our hotel and the safety of our office.  All my life I had known there were people with tougher lives than me, but on this commute I finally really knew it: yellow minibuses crammed beyond any cosy western safety standards; barefoot primary school aged children hawking their wares in the street; workmen slaving in a heat in which we briefly sought to play tennis, but which in truth made us wilt stepping between the air conditioning of car and office.  Yet it was colourful, full of life, and the Atlantic rollers crashed onto beaches which, in a parallel universe, were full of tourists laughing at those who only made it as far as Spain, but which in this one were empty.
bought two small paintings from an artist.  They capture Nigeria.  Having watched us play pool, he said he wanted to teach us a traditional Nigerian game the next day.  Sure enough he was waiting for us, but my colleague walked past him.  I wanted to stop but somehow couldn't, just acknowledging him instead as I continued on, thereby losing an opportunity, because the artist seemed kind and as full of Nigerian life as I felt of western feebleness.  Yet, Lagos was a disorienting place: fires burned in streets where only the potholes seemed familiar; the hotel phone rang in the night and strangers asked for me by name; one man said his sister wanted to "greet me" and half a dozen women surrounded me when I entered a bar, leaving me to fight my way straight out again, almost dragging them clinging to me as I went.  None of this ever happens in England.

Work done, after a few days we raced back against the traffic to the airport, reaching it in thirty minutes.  Sitting on the plane I felt safe, but Nigeria had confused me.  I was ashamed at the poverty I had now seen, one which left the very old and the very young working beneath the same (only hotter) sun which shines on me when I buy a car or a new TV; a sun which now reminds me how, like a satellite, it can simultaneously see these two distant points of this same world, even if we can't see each other.  Nigeria, a country where there is no messing about in life,  whose people fight to survive but retain faith and humour, and whom I left admiring more than I myself felt deserving of admiration, especially from the artist whose pictures still grace my wall.  Personal lessons I would have missed had I been flying to Frankfurt.

Thank you so much for this insightful look into Nigeria, I've never visited myself but my luggasge has!

Ten years after his daughter Justine's death, an anxious Fergus embarks on a cruise with his wife.  On board, he meets a myriad of characters and is entranced by some, irritated by others and disgusted by one.  These turbulent feelings, combined with a sequence of bizarre events, only lead to his increased anxiety.
In a series of flashbacks, Justine enjoys an ultimately short romance, a woman concludes she killed her and an investigating police officer is drawn into her idyllic world.  Fergus, haunted by poignant memories, withdraws in search of answers.
Back on the cruise, Fergus reaches breaking point, fearing he has done something terrible.  By the time the ship returns, his world has changed forever.
"Times and Places" spans Atlantic islands, the Chiltern countryside, Cornish coasts and rural Slovenia, all of which provide spectacular backdrops to a humorous and moving tale of quiet spirituality.
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Author Bio –

Keith was born and brought up in the Chilterns, to where he returned after studying French at university in Aberystwyth and a subsequent spell living in west London.  He has a love of nature, both in his native Buckinghamshire countryside, but also in Cornwall and wherever there is a wild sea. 
Keith has been lucky enough to spend time living in France, Spain, Belgium, Serbia and Croatia, as well as being a regular visitor to Germany, and languages were the only thing he was ever half good at in school.  Since graduating he has worked in government departments, but between 2005 and 2008 he was seconded to the European Commission in Brussels and, thanks to a friend from Ljubljana he met there, has travelled regularly to Slovenia, getting to know that country well. 
Keith's other great love is music and he plays classical and finger picking blues guitar, though with persistently limited success.  He has always enjoyed writing, including attempts at children's fiction, and in 2016 he began work on his first full book with “Times and Places" the end result: an accessible, observational story, mixing quiet spirituality with humour, pathos and gothic horror, and setting it against a rich backdrop of the natural world.


  1. Really interesting post and insights in a culture few of us will experience. One of my sons spent nearly a year in Kenya and told us many similar stories.

  2. This was fascinating. I've always wanted to go to Nigeria. Thank you!


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