You won’t believe it!

August 31, 2007

This month seems to have flown by. Last month, it took a week to write about my brother’s birthday. It’s taken over two to write about his wife’s. Bibi’s birthday was on 12 August. Can you believe that?

I called her … I promise! She doesn’t get to read the blog … which is probably very good. I’m really slacking.

Last week, (23rd August) would have been my mum’s 72nd birthday. It was an extraordinarily busy day, … but I didn’t forget.

Here’s the news

August 31, 2007

All right, if you live in the Lancaster area, and you’re free, there’s mission Hala. Forgive me if I don’t even know the spelling … you see, I’ve never seen a sign for this part of Lancaster. It’s fun, we’ve already done two days. I didn’t even win the quiz, but never mind. This afternoon, there’ll be some entertainment, and in the evening, a barbecue. Same thing for Saturday afternoon, but in the evening, we’ll round it all off with a praise session. It’s evangelical; if you want to find out more about Christianity, … be there.

Radio? Diversity is about to go live on FM. The gospel hour is still on, though I haven’t recorded anything in about five weeks. I’m getting to it soon. And the Premier Radio programme will be on to coincide with Sightsaver’s sight day in October. It’s looking ready now, and I’m so glad. It’s taken so long.

Watch out for something called IOA Consult.

Jesus is coming

August 31, 2007

That was the title of this year’s conference of the Overseas Fellowship of Nigerian Christians. It’s always good to meet old friends and make news ones, but the conference is also great for spiritual growth and teaching.

The main talks were given by the head of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, a man of integrity who apparently got to the top, despite the oppositionbecause he stood for confronting difficult questions which could have tarnished the good name of the Nigerian baptist Convention.

I always wondered why he had a slight Ghanaian accent, until he spoke of his time in Kumasi. He spoke forthrightly, even managing to upset some of the younger members during a public debate on cross cultural marriage. But nobody could deny that he is a spirit filled man, very wise and courageous. His voice was gentle, but his words were deep.

The interesting thing was that although the title was “Jesus is coming”, both he and all other speakers seemed to concentrate on more personal relationships – our personal relationship with God, marriage, etc. It was all done in the context of how we should live in preparedness for His coming. Jesus did say that He’d come as the bridegroom for His bride, the church. In the meantime, we should seek to spread the gospel, because it must be preached to all nations. We should always be ready because we do not know the time. We should constantly work on our relationship with God, partly as a practice for eternity in heaven, and partly our actions will affect our readiness to meet him.

So, let’s talk about this relationship thing. How should husbands treat wives, while they wait for the coming of Jesus. Actually, that was one of the seminar topics. As the only single man on the men’s side, it was fascinating to hear what men wanted their women to know about them. During the feedback session, we even got the chance to hear what women wanted us to know. And after that, the debate on cross cultural marriage. Actually, we’d been building up to that. We’d had a pastor come over. He’s a British guy who has done lots of missionary work overseas. He reminded us that even the older mostly first generation Nigerians are beginning to be slightly different from those back home … but what about their children? They may look Nigerian, but they definitely don’t speak or act Nigerian. And they’re likely to come home one day with a British date. But just before we start thinking that our Nigerians are only likely to bring in British dates, one of the panelists was a Nigerian woman who’d married a chap from the Ivorycoast.

Generally, things are improving; We had one of the shortest AGMs that I’ve ever known, even though it still ate into the sports time. For the first time, I actually got a room in the leisure homes, (caravans to you and me). It’s always pretty cramped, and there was nothing really leisurely about the accommodation. But I spent the time getting to know a really nice guy. I’ve always known dr Bola Taiwo as one of the really funny ones. He only had to open his mouth and everyone would be laughing. This time, I met a very humble man, genuinely nice.

We’ve got new officials now, they’ll be there for the next four years. But the really great news is that next conference has as its organiser, one dr Chriss Ajai. Now, this is personal, because until this conference, he was the area secretary for Lancaster. We’re one of the newest and smallest branches; yet, this weekend, I met at least three people who thought Lancaster was a very big branch. Dr Ajai is so quiet, you wonder how he achieved that. But for me, he’s taken me to places I don’t think I’d ever have gone. I was sure he was joking when he first asked me to represent Lancaster at a National Executive Council meeting. I wasn’t even an elected official in the branch. The strategy worked. When I came back from that meeting, I was so full of ideas. And he made me write them down too.

I think most people have their insecurities. One of mine is the perception of those who come in contact with me. This man exposed me to that, showed off my potential to the fellowship and showed me I could do it. I pray next year’s conference will be even more successful than this. So, start booking your places, because accommodation is a huge problem.

Around the Pond in 80 days, (Last night approaching)

August 16, 2007

Hey! We’ve now done two of the four showings of “Around the Pond in 80 Days”! If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? Don’t you want to know what happens when two frogs decide to travel around their pond?
This afternoon, we had a special guest, one half of the duo that composed the play. He was impressed. He said they’d written it for year 6 children. All right, there were five adult actors, … counting me of course. But apart from a 14 year old, every child was well under year 6. In fact, there were a whole load of 6 year olds.

He came all the way from London, where he teaches musical instruments and writes plays. He said he’d been around many schools, and there didn’t seem to be any new plays. Everyone was doing “Oliver” and such. Actually, he should have been here two years ago, when we performed “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch” another new play. See, Whirlwind is breaking ground all the time.

He told us that the play is a musical adaptation of “Around the World in 80 days” and that several of the characters are the same, apart from the fact that we’re frogs in this one, and our task is to go around the pond. I suppose to a frog, the pond might be as big as the whole world to you and me.

Did I say our task? I meant their task. I play Fink, the one who has an interest in preventing them from making the trip.When the adult cast met for a week, to prepare for the children, Alisdair asked us to imagine how a frog would think. Very hard for me. You see, I’ve never much liked things Ihave no control over. As for animals, I can only cope with a dog and much larger animals. Others are much too uncontrollable. I once had a cat sit down to dinner with me, totally uninvited. Then, a rabbit jumped on me and made me jump when I went visiting some friends. Oh how they laughed.

When I go around and people tell me to touch a bird or any other thing, I usually approach with trepidation. They just don’t warn you when they’re about to do something. I remember my brother showed me a frog when I was about 10. If I remember rightly, this one was remarkably still, but so was I. I’ve heard that they jump, and I can tell you that I like the sound they make when croaking together. I wonder why nobody else does, it’s so musical. But apart from admiring them from afar, I don’t know anything else about frogs.

Something I can’t get over is how remarkably well behaved the children are. They’re usually quite good, except for a few, but this year, I think they’ve been exceptional. Green stickers are flying all over the place. That’s what we give them for being good, in a huge ceremony, every morning. Already, there’s a huge competition for the winner. It’s unbelievable, some people actually have 9 green stickers, and we’re only in day 14.

True, many have been here before, and they do say how good they feel when they perform. Maybe that’s part of the motivation. And we’ve also learned from previous years. More childcare staff, even more adult actors, … everything just makes it feel so good.

Yesterday, the adult actors, childcare staff, stage manager and the musicians who had arrived from London the day before, had our evening out. After the meal (which took ages to arrive) I took some of them round town. Saskya, the stage manager remarked that this is becoming an annual thing, the trip round town. So, if you’re joining us as an actor, musician, childcare staff, or anything else next year, Wednesday night is our night.

Now, I have to rush. Evening performance beckons. Tomorrow is the last performance, the day to expect tearful farewells, amidst excited talk of holiday plans in caravans, Spain, or elsewhere. Not too many teenagers this year. Still, we wait to see. Actually, I hear there’s a party on Saturday.

Don’t forget, if you’re anywhere near Lancaster, come to King’s House, 6.30 this evening and tomorrow. Of course you haven’t forgotten that I’m dancing. I think I’m a little more comfortable with that now, … not too sure of my lines though, I always freeze. I can’t multitask, singing and dancing are two tasks.

Around the Pond in 80 Days

August 8, 2007

on Monday 30 July, the doors opened to nearly 40 children, who would be transformed from novices to actors in 3 weeks. Actually, I tell a lie here, some of them have been through the process, so I can’t exactly call them novices.

It’s great to see the children back. I’ve always loved the project, even if I’ve never been sure of my own acting abilities. Every other actor is a professional, who does this everyday. They’re bound to be much better than I could ever dream of.

I can’t believe it, the children have achieved so much. By Friday, we’d done the entire play. Yesterday, they were asked to stand still, and I stood there amazed at total silence – in one week! We’ve learned a lot over the years, and every year things get better. But some of the children have been here. They know what’s expected, and crucially, they know how it feels to put on a good show. One of the girls said that when she was asked to tell all the children about her expectations.

It’s just as well, because this is a more ambitious programme than previous years. For one thing, we have the largest number of adult actors since 2004’s “Toad of Toad Hall”. Three actors joined Kyle Oram. Myette who has acted in the past two years is a director, because Alisdair, who now runs a drama school in Exeter can’t be with us all the time. He’s now at the Edinburgh Festival with some students. We’ll be joined next week by some musicians from some famous Westend musicals. I’m looking forward to seeing them, though I’ve been banned from showing them round town. And that’s not because I might get them lost on the way to ASDA. If you really want to know why, I wrote about it last year.

Even more ambitious, I’ve been asked to dance. Now, those who know me will understand the seriousness of this situation. I normally dance only when I’m alone, or when the music has taken me away, but never deliberately in public. It’s worth seeing.

My good friends are back, including my friend from Easter. He’s never been to a summer production. I’m waiting to see how he copes. So, if you want to know what happens to a couple of frogs who decide to leave the security of their lillypads in Amphibia and travel around the pond … to places where no other frogs have been … in defiance of advice, ten come and see us at King’s from Wednesday 15 to Friday 17. This year, there’s even a matinee on Thursday afternoon.


August 8, 2007

On Sunday, Ope returned to Nigeria. It was great to have him spend about a fortnight in Lancaster. We’ve been friends since my primary school days at the Pacelli school. He hasn’t totally lost his sight, but he doesn’t see very much in the dark.

The highlight of his visit was probably Wednesday 25 July. I’d promised to take him to the shops to buy some things for his friends back home, but because of commitments with Whirlwind, I couldn’t make it during normal shopping hours. So, at 9.30 PM, we left home, heading for 24 hour ASDA. Remember I said he doesn’t see very well in the dark?

Everyone remarks on how well I know Lancaster. In 17 years, I haven’t really got lost here. In fact, sometimes, I even direct people round the city. There’s only one way that really gives me trouble. It’s an underpass in Skerton; you go under the Greyhound bridge and emerge onto a cycle path that takes you straight to ASDA and then onto Morecambe. Problem is the underpass is sometimes difficult to locate, except of course if you can see it.

When I started to think it was proving too difficult for the evening, I decided that we’d better retrace our steps and take another route. First mistake. We’d spent a few minutes wandering, and I was anxious to get home quickly. So I rushed us into a few wrong turns.

Actually, it was looking good till I went under the railway bridge. That’s not usually a problem, but I noticed that this crossing point was quite unfamiliar. But we bravely walked on till we got to a bus stop. When the bus arrived, the driver told us where we were; we were on Torrisholme road, parallel to the road we were supposed to be on, Morecambe road. At least we knew where we were; the driver dropped us at a bus stop where we could catch a connecting road, but he warned us that there were roadworks.

Maybe I should have asked him to take us somewhere else, but I didn’t. I duely turned onto the road which was due to connect us with Morecambe road, but the roadworks confused me. By the time I finally found Morecambe road, I expected to find traffic lights, but there were none. Undaunted, we crossed the road, hoping to finally rejoin the cycle path. But we couldn’t find it, so we just kept walking … and walking. We finally found a roundabout, and that was where total confusion set in. We spent the next two hours totally lost.

Remarkably, we spent that time between two roundabouts. I just had no clue where we were, because I don’t normally walk past ASDA. We did the most dangerous things; crossed at unauthorised points, found ourselves on grass verges instead of pavements, heard traffic moving past at unhealthy speeds. I think each of us had secret worries; mine was that we had two bad possibilities. One was that at 6 AM the next morning, we’d still be walking, and the other was … well let’s not think of the consequences of crossing those roads.

When we finally thought it was really late, (I didn’t want to check my watch) we planned a most interesting strategy. We decided that the quiet road we were on was leading away from civilisation, and our one chance was to head back towards town. So, we’d stop and count the cars heading in each direction; when we were satisfied we knew where more cars were heading, we’d follow them. Sometimes, it involved crossing roads. We learned the art of stopping, then dashing across the road.

I can only say that God is good. I suddenly remembered that I had at least one other option, so I said a silent prayer. Shortly after, someone came round. Ken is someone I’d known for well over a decade. He usually walks round Lancaster with a doberman. I first met him when I used to go to the Pan Celtic on a Monday evening at the Yorkshire House, a pub close to the centre of town. I’d see him in town, and we’d talk for a few minutes, or I might board his taxi, and we’d chat on the way to my destination. I can’t say we were that close. But then, a van stopped, I heard a dog bark and a familiar voice said “Ife what are you doing here”.

Remarkably, we were only a minute or two by car away from ASDA. I’d overshot and kept walking. Ken dropped us off at ASDA, and we did the shopping. at about 12.30 AM, we decided to go back. I told Ope that now, there were no buses home from ASDA and the taxis charged more after midnight. Would he like us to call a cab or walk home? Ope said he didn’t mind walking, so we did. This time, the journey was hitchfree, but I was intrigued, so I asked him why he still allowed me to lead him home, despite my most dramatic failure to get him to ASDA. He said there were two reasons; first, we’d achieved our object, so it didnt matter, but secondly, he was sure it would do my confidence a power of good to show him the way home. How perceptive?

He was right on that one. It wasn’t just that I felt responsible and I’d failed, I think I wasn’t even sure if I could find my way round Lancaster. After wandering totally lost between two roundabouts for 2 hours, you start to feel that way.

So, where are we all? I’m writing this blog, and Ope is safely back in Nigeria. As for Ken, I thought I wouldn’t see him for a while, but I did, last Friday. It was raining, and he’d stopped near some field to walk his dog, before going home and picking the taxi. Ken’s a star, he saw me and gave me a lift home. Do you know, in all this time, I didn’t know he lived on the Rylands estate? That’s less than 5 minutes walk from my house!