Monday 25 January 2016

Lagos, Nigeria 1973. A moment in time, captured on film

I've noticed a trend very recently of people changing their profile pictures on facebook to photos of themselves as children. It's lovely to see, and it has got me to thinking.

When we were kids, our dad always had the camera handy, and as a result our childhoods are well documented. I love looking back at the old photos, and it is absolutely true that they prompt memories, so that with some photos, I can actually remember the circumstances at the time of the photo.

Fast forward to my twenties and thirties, from which I have practically no photos. There's probably a good twenty years of my life which went undocumented. Sometimes when I look back at diairies, I see the names of people who I can't even remember any more. They have come and gone, leaving no trace.

A large factor in this was a huge reluctance to be photographed myself. I always looked awful, like a gurning rabbit caught in the headlights. Plenty of chins but no eyes. And the more photos I saw like this, the less I wanted to be photographed. At weddings, I'd stand at the back in the group photos, behind all the tall men.

But I regret it now. I wish I had photos of those people who have been part of my life. I wish I had photos of me, no matter how awful, because they are the doors to the memories.
A case in point; the first photo on this post was my original facebook profile picture. I can tell you that it was taken in 1973 at Tarqua Bay, an island paradise, just off Lagos, Nigeria, only accessible by boat.

I was six years old and that day I was captured in the middle of building a massive sandcastle, a very impressive monument with doors and windows and shell decorations to make it pretty. I was sat just outside the clubhouse, down the stairs to the right, and the water I kept putting in the moat, kept disappearing into the sand. My dad said 'smile' and this is what he got, for his troubles.
Once my father interrupted me, I decided it was a good time to enquire about a snack. He was definitely the softer touch. Look, success. Mr Crispy no less! They were good crisps and are a still a weakness of mine. Chocolate I can take or leave, but crisps? Stand aside, I'm approaching the buffet table at a pace.

Tarqua Bay was a regular gig for us. Every Sunday, we would wait on the jetty at the Ambassador's residence in Ikoyi, Lagos. Eventually a little banana boat would arrive and we would get on board, put on our life jackets and set sail across the lagoon for the beach. We would end up in the bay at Tarqua. There we would disembark in the water, wade to the shore and then walk all the way up to the wooden clubhouse, where there were surfboards, refreshments and sun loungers. 

Once at the clubhouse, we would grab a surfboard, walk down to the beach, and, provided there were no red flags, get in and do a bit of body surfing. The waves in Nigeria are pretty impressive, matched only by the jelly fish. Most weeks you'd come out pink from the stings and feeling slightly radioactive, but it would wear off eventually.
Same day. This is a picture of my sister, she's talking to one of the older girls and is just about to blow a bubble with her gum.

Here I am with my mum. I approached her saying 'Muuuuum.....Muuuuumy'. Her response, which I remember very clearly, was: 'The grown ups are talking, you'll have to wait a minute.' Which I was happy to do, because I rather enjoyed listening in on grown up conversations, and then when she was ready to speak to me, she said, 'what do you want?' I didn't actually have anything to say, because all I'd wanted was a bit of attention, so I carried on munching my Mr Crispys :)
I'm so happy that I have the pictures to match my memories, and I guess the point I'm making is that despite struggling with the whole idea of selfies and the negative connotations attached, I don't want to lose any more years or memories. I don't want to get to 70 and not know what I was doing, what I looked like or who I spent time with at 40 or 50 or 60. If the means of remembering is to take photos of myself posing around in frocks, I guess I'm going to have to swallow my misgivings and gurn and bear it.

Anyway, to come back to those photos of kids on facebook, have you got any great photos with stories attached? I'd love to hear them or even better, how about doing a blog post? Who fancies joining in?

ps: fun fact. Wings recorded their Band on the Run album in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973. I'm still waiting for that to come up in a pub quiz.

pps: I'll be round to see what you've all been up to soon.


Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

Lovely photos of you!

I'd be up for it (childhood photos and associated memories) but I'm assuming I'd have to scan my old photos and I have a problem linking my scanner/printer to my Chrome Book (must sort that out) but I need to experiment with it anyway....

Actually, come to think of it, there are very few photos of us as children. We had a box brownie camera for a while but it was never replaced when it broke. I need to go and look in our old photo album to see how many or how few there are!

I'll get back to you.....


Anonymous said...

Mr Crispy, my boyfriend of old! There are few pleasures as great as looking at old photos and remembering the events and people in them,
I know what you mean about having an enormous gap in photos at important stages of life,
Love the photos of you and Fiona xx

Fiona said...

Count me in...I have loads of hideous pics of me lookin like a gurning rabbit blinking in the headlights. You were a lovely littley. Lagos...not a hostie's favourite destination nowadays but I bet it was wonderful back then. X

Connie said...

Oh my gosh. You have ALWAYS been adorable. I love that smiley photo. And I love hearing about your childhood. I'm heading up north to my childhood home for a family wedding this summer and I can't wait to dive into the old family photos. It is so interesting when you know someone as an adult and you see a childhood photo of them and you get that much more insight into their character. Just like you there are many many years of my life that are completely undocumented. Well, let's play catch up starting now.

Mim said...

I don't think I'd put photos of myself as a kid up on Facebook as I wasn't a happy child, but I do wish I had more photos from my university days. It must be lovely to have some from 70s Nigeria, a time and place so far away.

(Without photos I can kid myself into thinking it was all much more glamorous than it really was, so there are some advantages to not having any!)

Ivy Black said...

You little cutie you! I have si,ilar 'smile' photos. In fact my bitch face began from five years old I think!
It does look so beautiful in Lagos and they are great photos. I like the one of you and your mum.
With you on the crisps. I've been known to barge people out of the way at a buffet to get to the crisp

Miss Magpie said...

Hmm I think I have always hated having my picture taken and avoided it if at all possible, but having said that there are still some good photo memories of my childhood, all at my Mum's house though.

There is one magnificent photo of me at my birthday party no less throwing the mother of all diva strops, arms folded the works and why? Because my mother made me wear pink!! Yup I hated back then too.

Sue said...

I love photos, and the older the better. You are so right how the bring memories flooding back of good and sometimes bad times. I love your black and whites!! I always take photos of me, my family, well anyone and anything really, you've seen the proof. I think this is because when a friend of mines older brother dies at 16, we were 14, all his family had was a school photo. That always stayed with me how that was the only record of him at the time of his life. SO, embrace your smiling or maybe not smiling self and snap away!!!

Lally said...

What a great post. I love seeing peoples old photographs and hearing the memories attached to them. That one of you with your mum is so sweet, and totally reminds me of that 'mummmmmmyyyy please give me some attention' method, which I employed readily. I too have a big weakness for crips. My choice In Ireland being Mr Tato - I still have such a soft spot for them now. I'd definitely love to do a post like this... watch this space. XXX

Lynn Holland said...

I've had more photos taken of me since I reached 60 last August than I've had in the rest of my life.
Yours are fabulous, your dad really got some great shots of you.
My hubby Philip lived and worked in Lagos in the late 70's early 80's before I met him. I'll have to dig out his photos
Lynn x

Vix said...

You were such a little cutie, crisps and all!
Nigeria. How fantastic. The beach looks magnificent and waiting for the ambassador's boat to transport you to the club house sounds like a scene from a bond film.
I know what you mean. I've hardly any photos from the age of 18 until my 30s. Before digital photography getting films developed cost a fortune and I never had the cash to do it. Hooray for technology. xxxx

Curtise said...

Ahh, look at you, you little gurning beauty! Such fabulous pics, Tan, and great memories to go with them. We don't have tons of us as kids, it was so expensive to get film developed, and my mum was the worst photographer, cutting off heads with a frightening regularity. I sometimes wonder if the photos that do exist ARE my memories - that I only recall certain places and events because there is photographic evidence. Like so many others, I was camera-avoidant for years, have very few images from my teens, and never felt very comfortable having my photo taken, and often hating the result. But blogging has been some sort of therapy for that - just stick your hand on your hip and smile, and hope for the best! And look at us all now, plastering the Internet with images of ourselves!
What a lovely post - sorry it's taken me such an age to comment on it. Life... Gets busy, doesn't it? Xxx

Julia said...

Oh my! Came across your blog by chance and I lived in Nigeria in 1973! We too went to that beach every Sunday - we picked up the Bank boat from Victoria Island. We lived in Ikoyi, firstly near the creek and then opposite St. Christopher's School where my sister went - we went to boarding school in England eventually. We then moved to Kano. The pictures are amazing! Thank-you!

freckleface said...

Hi Julia

So lovely to hear from you! Isn't that an amazing coincidence?! We also lived in Ikoyi, although I couldn't tell you where, and went to Saint Saviour's school, but of course we also went to boarding school in England once we were old enough, although by that time we were living in the Sudan.

Did you go to the Ikoyi club? A very exciting thing for us was a trip over to Maryland to UTC! Gosh, they had coloured pens and everything! We once nearly got drowned at Bar beach, so Tarqua was definitely preferential.

Are you UK based now? Do you have a blog?

Julia said...

Hi - I meant St Saviours, of course! Silly me! Practically lived at the Ikoyi Club - they sold frozen Mars Bars at the pool bar! And my parents were golfers so when it was the nanny's day off we were dragged around 9 holes - put me off golf for ever! Loved UTC as well - smelt better than Leventis! I don't have a blog - maybe one day! I live in Royal Wootton Bassett. Left Lagos in 1975 and went up to Kano where we were until I was 17. My father worked for Barclays Bank International. How I remember the dreaded jelly fish - came screaming out of the sea one Sunday whilst belly boarding with turquoise jelly running down my arm and said arm felt on fire - poor Mum wiped it off with her thumb and was treated to the same agony! My sister squished one between her legs! Do you remember the long, disused railway track that led to what I think was Bar Beach? My sister was born in 1965 so closer to your age than me. Could reminisce for ever - fascinating.

freckleface said...

Julia - send me your email address, there's so much to say! My elder sister was born in 1965 and was also at Saint Saviours, so they must have been in the same class!! There's no way our paths didn't cross. Xx