Guest Post: 7 Reasons To Live In Lagos
Elbowing us out of the way and lounging on our sofa this week is photographer and all round nice gal, Sarah Ansell. Having lived and worked in Lagos between 1995-98 who better to tell us why to live there? Well, maybe someone who lives there right now, but we don’t know any of those. Obviously these reasons are based on her experiences of life there a few years ago and so they may not be an accurate reflection of life there in 2010. But no one is really bothered about that are they? You can view Sarah’s showcase of work over at SarahCanterbury.com. It is well worth the visit.
1. A greater tolerance of the M25. Once you’ve cleared the joy that is Murtala Mohammed International Airport, the first thing that strikes you about Lagos is the driving. And I use that word in its very loosest sense. Go-Slows (their wonderful name for traffic jams) are the norm and as for adhering to something akin to a Highway Code, pah! No such thing! It’s each man (or in my case, woman) for him(her)self. Don’t worry about the direction the traffic is meant to be facing – see a space, take it! Add to this all sorts of delights: habitual fuel shortages; attempting to drive through black fumes churned out by ancient vehicles liable to shed exhaust pipes at any moment (MOTs? Hahaha!); avoiding rust heaps abandoned at the side of the road; passengers leaping on and off buses; road sellers trying to talk you in to that must-have plastic toilet seat purchase; beggars on skateboards; and the occasional dead body (sadly I kid you not). As if this wasn’t enough, all is accompanied by the din of a thousand car horns. The M25 is a doddle after this.
2. Communing with nature. For lovers of wildlife, Lagos is a quite marvellous place to get up close and personal with creatures in a manner you could only dream of back home in Britain. There’s nothing quite like opening your pencil drawer at work and seeing a frantic scurrying of cockroaches to sharpen your hand-eye coordination and speed up those reflexes. Ditto the reaction time on seeing a rat run across your sitting room to hide behind the bookcase when you’re home alone at 10.30 on a Friday night. Or any night for that matter. Also, where else could you have a real live gecko as a wall ornament in your dining room? Lagos is also an excellent place in which to overcome silly phobias – no longer do I run shrieking from teeny tiny spiders (or even the big ones), but embrace them with equanimity. Well, not literally embrace them or they would get squashed and I’d suffer from spider murdering guilt. I should pay homage here, too, to the humble mosquito. Ah, the fun of being awakened from your slumbers by that distinctive whiny noise and having to go into full on Rambo attack mode with a rolled-up newspaper while you’re still half asleep. That’s assuming, of course, that you can locate the bugger.
3. An appreciation of the finer things in life. Baths with clear water in which you are not perched on grains of brown rust doubling as a makeshift mat. Electricity that works (for electricity substitute telephones, lifts, pretty much anything really) and the knowledge that the power isn’t suddenly going to cut out just as Nasser Hussain faces Curtley Ambrose with 2 runs needed off the last ball. PAH! Hairdressers: I never quite summoned up the courage to have my hair cut there, so trips back to the UK every 6 months always began with a hat wearing trip to the hairdressers – a maximum of 30 minutes after arriving home. I have the fondest memories of the subsequent sheer joy of sporting a “do” for the next six weeks that didn’t make me resemble Hair Bear (Google the Hair Bear Bunch if you’re too young to remember him!). Croquet played on the lawn during a weekend trip to the High Commissioner’s residence in Ibadan. I felt very posh. And mushrooms. Oh how I missed mushrooms.
4. The thrill of living on the edge. I appreciate that living on the edge is not exclusive to Lagos, but it is the only place I’ve lived where the excitement of a Friday night trip downtown included being caught up inadvertently in an exhilarating car chase complete with gunfire. Mercifully I wasn’t driving! A G&T in The Red Lion has always seemed a little tame in comparison since. Then there’s living in a compound surrounded by razor wire & patrolled by gate guards; negotiating army & police roadblocks in bulletproof glassed cars (“have you got something for my Easter?”); being bussed to work with an armed policeman and accompanying security vehicle because the office was in a dodgy part of town; and the very real danger of a potential car-jack. All a little removed from nipping out to Sainbury’s on a Tuesday afternoon in February. Just call me Lara Croft!
5. The ability to reinvent yourself. Fed up with your mundane existence? Then change it! You can be whoever you want to be. Just pop along to any street corner and pick yourself a fresh identity, complete with sparkly new passport & a full set of supporting documents. You’ll also be well placed to learn from the finest scammers in the world.
6. A reminder that there’s always someone worse off than you. Lagosians are truly inspiring and I do mean that sincerely – their faith & resilience in the face of adversity is astonishing. Plus they have lots of fab names like Patience, Charity & Blessing and give uplifting names to their businesses. Buying your tin of beans in Goodness & Mercy Enterprises or God’s Favour Enterprises seems so much more edifying than in a store with a name like Lidl (not that I have anything against names like Lidl – I am just using artistic license, you understand). Also, having never lived somewhere before where it took no less than 5 men to drill a hole, I appreciate their inventiveness when it comes to job creation.
7. The lack of snow. It has to be said that it’s highly unlikely you will be bothered by a preponderance of snow in Lagos. That’s a good enough reason all by itself to live there. Though it can get a bit wet at times.