October 5th, 2015


Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Aisha and Halima told her what they wanted—General Tso’s Chicken Very Spicy, Chicken Wings, Orange Chicken—with the quick ease of people saying what they said every day.
You need to know more about Nigeria. It is the seventh most populous country in the world (after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan) and is becoming a middle-income country (wealth per capita a little ahead of Moldova, a little behind Armenia). It has the largest population and the largest economy in Africa, the 20th largest GDP in the world (just behind Australia, just ahead of Thailand). One in six Africans is Nigerian, and soon it will be one in five.

I went to Nigeria for 48 hours in July, and a couple of colleagues strongly recommended this book to me as a pathway to understanding the country. It was a good recommendation on their part. There are three major themes to the book: exile, race and hair. As an expatriate migrant myself, I have thought a lot about exile and distance from the country where you grew up, and the sense of betrayal at leaving it behind. Adichie's protagonist Ifemelu eventually returns home voluntarily from the USA; her lost love Odinze is humiliatingly deported from the UK; and both find that while you can never completely leave, you can never completely go back either.

The book is sharpest in contrasting American (and to a lesser extent British) attitudes to race with the experience of people who have grown up in societies where it simply isn't an issue because there are no (or hardly any) white people. Ifemelu achieves (slightly anonymous) fame as a blogger on race, with the rise of Obama as political backdrop to her years in America. She shocks her black friends as well as her white friends and colleagues in a very good way. She shocks me as well.

As for the hair question: I had no idea. Really.

Excellent book. Go and get it.
doctor who

At the controls: the inside of the Tardis

Whose hand is steering the Tardis?

The frightening truth: an unqualified driver is at the helm:

To explain. I have a cousin who works here:

And the weekend before last, he very kindly took a group of relatives around the studios, including me. I can't say much about what we saw, but we were allowed to take pictures of the interior of the Tardis itself (positioned right next to a square in ancient Athens for the forthcoming Midsummer Night's Dream).

It's a really big space. The set has the full 360° walls, which can be opened up if necessary, but fundamentally it's a very large circular room on several levels (and scary drops between them). The lights were not on, so all pictures are illustrated by my iPhone flash (apart from the first two in this post, which were taken more professionally by an uncle). But here's a view of the console from the gallery, my mother and most of an aunt dimly visible behind:

Down below the console is a further floor level, with the Tardis innards spilling out:

I was fascinated by the console itself, which is as elaborate as you would hope:

But even more fascinated by the gallery, whose elaborate designs are barely hinted at on-screen. What does the Doctor listen to and read on his travels?

What memories does he carry of past adventures?

And what is to come?