Monday, July 18, 2011


In Lagos, between 5.30 and 8.30 in the morning, everyone shifts from where home is to where work is. People drift out of their shacks, or their houses, onto the roadside. Many don't have cars, and wait for the innumerable yellow and white vans to stop and pick them up. The bridge between mainland and island goes on for miles. To the left, gorgeous shapes against the rising sun, elegant and curved fishing boats, most with only two men aboard, drift along the reed-strewn coast. To the right, countless shacks with corrugated roofs look damp and dishevelled after another deluge of rain last night.

This is the longest bridge in Africa. There are cars along its whole length. Horns honk all the time. Men on foot weave dangerously between the vehicles, hoping to sell a few biscuits, cigarettes, or packets of chewing gum. Men on motor bikes have either no helmet, or bizarre half-helmets that belong in a cartoon, or in a 20th century war. On the island, some cook beside the road; some carry baskets or boxes of goods on their heads; and everyone seems to be talking, laughing, arguing, shuffling for position, fighting for a part of something, where there is not so much to share around. It's a beautiful place, though. Everyone seems to have clear and healthy skin, not pasty and spotty, like the UK.

The journey takes hours. Just when you think the bridge is finishing, there is more. I am the only white person I see. I have an armoured car behind me, to protect me. I know it's necessary, but I feel overprotected, on display.

Sometime after 8.30, when my journey is done, everything will go quiet again, until the evening backflow chains its way home.