Wednesday, December 9, 2009
There was the usual shock of recognition as we disembarked from the plane last night in Accra. The temperatures were up near 30 degrees, the humidity was around 70 % and everyone on the plane had been pulling off their UK winter gear to reveal short sleeved shirts and tee shirts or blouses. Being Christmas, the customs was in eagle-eyed form, insisting that returning Ghanaians open their many suitcases. There are spoils to be had. Some returners have as many as five cases per head so the extra costs must be phenomenal. I was waved through with my paltry one big case and computer hand luggage.
Today I sit in my shorts, acclimatising and working in my office. We don’t have air conditioning here as we feel it is not green. Instead we use mosquito netting without window glass. As I have said before, this means the noise from outside is louder and slight breezes flow across the rooms. Fans help augment the need for moving air. It is all a far cry from Bradford, Leeds and London where a mass mania seemed to have clutched the hearts of the population and the shoppers were out gathering their Christmas gifts as though no recession had ever existed. And this was during a week day. In Leeds I went into a coffee house in order to avoid further slaloming along the high street. It was called Caffe Latino. For some reason, probably as a result of my need for constant enquiries about the composition of food and drink, here in Ghana, I said I’d like cream. We don’t sell cream. Then I’d like full fat milk. We only sell skimmed milk. This is a specialist coffee shop! I don’t think that the company have the nation’s health in their mission statement. Does anyone complain? No. The British will take their coffee the way it comes, it appears. Meanwhile I will only drink coffee with cream, believing that my active life style more than compensates for cholesterol. Actually, I also believe that it is GOOD cholesterol….
Meanwhile, like the curious ex-pat that I suddenly am, I came across a rather wonderful performer (on television) who has come to the fore in the last two years and, therefore, since I left those island shores. Michael McIntire seems to me an exceptional talent and the HALF MILLION attendees at his national tour events obviously agree with me. He is that brand of comic who homes in on the absurdities of the every day. The ones that all of us are prone to and hardly think about until it is illuminated for us by a satirical mind. His thesis on the art of hovering made me cry, particularly as he mimed focusing on an alien object on the floor and accelerated the vacuum cleaner towards it rather than picking it up to protect the machine’s innards. His rendition of the cleaner’s gasp of pleasure at the change of noise as the nail is sucked inside was blissfully funny. On the plane back I found another recording of his oeuvre. I suspect he could go through the events of any day, impromptu, and find bizarre behaviour in the population at every turn.
Like all my fellow (!) Ghanaians, I did some shopping for my children and grand children while I was in London. I must admit feeling a bit let down by Hamley’s on Regent Street. I haven’t been since my sons were kiddos but it was all a bit brash, pop musicky and technological. The innocent mysteries appear to have disappeared with terms of endearment such as wizard, super and champion. Did I just write that? Have I become a boring old fart? Probably, though it doesn’t feel that way. I am certainly not a Roger Scruton (he who recently did a programme about how the UK had become ugly in its aesthetics). There is beauty everywhere, if you could only open your eyes. But that is my Zen bent of mind and It didn’t appear to be in operation when I was in Hamleys.