I will not bore you with the details of my journey from Lagos to Calabar. The truth is, there really is little to write about it except to remind myself of the anger and irritation I felt at the flight delays that are synonymous with Christmas holidays in Lagos when people try to travel down south. The jostling, hurling of abuse - and getting sprayed in the face in the process - bribes and ... The hotel, when I finally did get to Calabar, was nice and comfy and I quickly settled in and reminded myself that there was still work to do. The sweaty nightmares I’d had in the weeks before of the heavy burden I’d be carrying on my shoulders and being forced to smile as I walked hundreds of kilometres to cheering crowds I wouldn’t dare drop dead from exhaustion in front of, were going to have their prophecy validated, or not, that night as I went to try out my costume. Oh, did I forget to mention that I was to be the king of the band I was representing, to be in direct competition with the kings of other bands in the carnival and this was to be taken oh so seriously? So seriously that I was squirreled into a secret room, sorry hall, in the basement of the hotel where there were about twenty different seamstresses hunched over their machines and spinning furiously away as though the devil himself bore down behind them with a curly hydra headed whip. There were heaps of coloured twisted nothings or should I say i-know-not-whats in the far corner of the hall as the senator, the leader of the band excitedly showed me my orb and sceptre I would be using on my throne. She also helped me decipher the different layers of the heap of leather, textile and wire by showing me what they were for; costume for the children’s band, the mermaid’s tail, drapes for the truck and so on. All this I looked at and listened to with just half an ear – all I wanted was to see what load I’d be hauling for the length of my time on the streets.
I met with Daniel, an amiable shirtless Trinidadian who had designed the throne I would be hauling about. Let me regress a little. The reason for my anxiety and trepidation was because I was told that I would be carrying my own throne that was designed in such a way that it would seem that I was sitting on it. The import of it meant that I would, while hauling that heavy contraption about for tens of miles, look like a true king, relaxed, smiling and waving at his subjects while concealing the strain and stress seething underneath the mask. I had enough reason to be worried – I take my work seriously when I am committed. If I had committed myself to being the king of the band, I was going to be a true king all the way – no short cuts or quick fixes! The first question I asked Daniel when we were introduced to one another was to be told how many kilograms I would be hauling about and he said to my utter relief, no more than ten. My heart grew even lighter when he told me that instead of carrying the weight, I would be pushing the throne while walking along. Crimson butterflylike wings spanning about twenty five feet from one end to the other were attached to both sides of the throne and I got into it and walked about in it, in the darkness of the hotel’s courtyard of course – too many spies about, testing the wind resistance of the wings.
It was a much happier and relieved man that went upstairs to have a shower, change and check out what the balmy Calabar night had to offer now that most the headache had gone away. A drink with friends, go clubbing or go seeking out local thatched out of town taverns to sample fresh palm wine and bush meat or fish were on the menu as I pulled my baseball cap over half my face as I sneaked out the hotel lobby thirty minutes later.
The rest of the story, are they not to be revealed in the weeks to come where I hope to exhaust the experiences and delights I had with different people in the wonderful city called Calabar. I also wish to, once again, apologise for the late entry of this post; I have been inundated with a backlog of work that has been waiting for me and I had to attend to them to free my brain to attend to you my good people. Welcome to a new decade and have a great week everyone!
**More pics to come! Just having problems uploading them to my laptop**