My name is Bisi Abiola. I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle. It is my life. The good news? I have published three books, and running a magazine, on health and fitness. Most importantly, I have enjoyed the benefits of healthy living – great stamina, youthful look and feel - for over thirty years. I believe there is no short cut to wellbeing. You have to eat well and exercise. This blog shares my experience and perception on how you can feel and look great for life.
In the autumn of
1987, I made the decision to take six months sabbatical off my postgraduate
programme. I had no money to pay my rent, hardly enough for food, stationeries,
transportation, etc. To make matters worse, my childhood friend, Ronke, in
Boston, Mass, needed a loan of $2,000 from me, to add to what she has saved,
for an urgent life-changing operation.
call came through at 5:00am
British time, about 11:00pm
American time. I came out of a very scary dream to hear the phone ringing. I
struggled to pick the receiver, still under my duvet. I had turned off the
central heating before going to bed so it was chilly in the room.
evening, oh, I mean, good morning Sade, it’s me Ronke.’ She was always in the
habit of getting her greetings wrong because of the time difference.
morning accepted, how are you? Are you ok?’ I hated getting calls very early in
the morning. It scared me stiff that I was about to get bad news.
fine, but I need your help. Remember the operation I told you about? Well, I
have to look for a balance of $2,000 to complete total medical bill. You know
how urgent and important it is.’
I know. But you’re aware things are tough here, too. Don’t worry I will see
what I can do. Let me think about it and call you back, okay?’
said goodbye. Of course, I couldn’t go back to sleep.
Almighty, what am I going to do? I’m already overdrawn at Barclays by £100. Who
do I turn to for help now? Different thoughts were raging in my head. I decided
to try my luck with the bank manager, Alan, who seemed to have a crush on me,
hoping he would approve a £1000 loan. I was aware of the usual question banks
ask, ‘How are you going to repay?’I saw
my chances of getting a loan as rather dim. A student with no job, already overdrawn,
but hang on, if I could get a part time job…
was when the thought of going to Aberdeen hit me. I could go back to Aberdeen
and get a job for six months. I should be able to save enough money to pay back
the £1000 for Ronke’s operation, and still have enough left to take care of
other personal needs. I got excited, not because of going to Scotland, a very cold
place, but because I could see a way out of my money problems.
put a call through to my good old friend, Andrew, the manager of a private golf
Andrew, it’s me, Sade.’
how are you? Quite a long time. How’s London?’
But I need a place to work for six months. Can you give me my old summer job
problem, Sade. We miss you. You’re welcome back here anytime. When are you
be there next week.’
we’ll be expecting you.’
Annie still with you?’ I asked
she’ll be thrilled to hear you’re coming to Aberdeen.’
a 55-year-old Scottish lady, came from Strathclyde. She worked as a bar manager
at the golf club. I met her years back as an undergraduate when I took my first
summer job as a barmaid. We hit it off straight away because she once fell in
love with an Afro-American man, and they both wanted to marry. But somehow it
did not turn out that way, and she had remained single since. Perhaps my being
an African was a reminder of her old lost love. I guessed she kind of shifted
the love, for her Afro-American, to me. Annie took great delight in taking care
of me, watching my back all the time.
made another call to Annie to tell her I was on my way to Aberdeen, and asked
if I could stay with her. She was elated, and said she could do with my
company.In any case, it would reduce
her weekly bills, since I would be sharing expenses – accommodation rent,
electricity, gas, and food. She lived in the city, about 10 miles from the
countryside golf club. Another benefit of staying with Annie was the reduction
in my transport fare since I would be able to get a ride in Annie’s red Morris
minor, except when we had different shifts.
worked out a clearer solution to my money problem, I went to see Alan for a
loan. Apart from the fact that he was a young white English man, about 30
years, attracted to me, he admired my quiet student life, while we both enjoyed
jogging. He was an ardent jogger, and sometimes we went hiking several miles.
Alan eventually approved the £1,000 loan, when I told him it was for my
friend’s operation, and agreed I would repay a weekly sum of £50 pounds. I was
relieved and advised the bank to transfer the money speedily to Ronke in
having been done, I packed my bags for Aberdeen to work off the loan. The night
coach was the cheapest means of getting there. It was about twelve hours’
journey with a one hour stop-over at one of the motorways restaurant for a leg
stretch, meals, and relief.The coach
arrived in the early morning and I made my way to Annie’s flat. She lived in
one of the council flats in the city, not too far from Kings College,
was pleased to see me. We exchange pleasantries, asked about each other’s
family, talked about exciting things in our lives and so on. Since her flat was
a one-bedroom apartment, she gave up her bedroom, while she opted to sleep on
the sofa bed in the living room. Initially I insisted she shouldn’t give up her
bedroom for me, as I did not mind the living room one bit. But she disagreed.
no, Sade. You have the bed. In any case, I love sleeping on the living room sofa
while I watch my favourite soap operas—Emmerdale Farm and Coronation Street.’
room was very small, but comfortable and tidy. I was actually pleased to take
the bedroom since I could then snuggle under the duvet. I found it a bit drafty
in the living room anyway, as we had to cut down on the heating to save cost.
For you to remain warm, you had to be fully clothed with your thick socks on,
and a hot water bottle.
about four months, things went on smoothly for me; my routine the same everyday
and hitch free. I worked shifts, six days a week with one day off, helping out
in the golf club administrative office as a secretary between 9:00am-3:00pm,
thereafter I resumed duty in the bar from 6:00pm-11:00pm.During the hours of 3:00pm-6:00pm, I would take out my electric
typewriter and work on my draft doctorate thesis. I was communicating with Peter,
my thesis supervisor, from Aberdeen. He was not aware of my job though. He
believed I just wanted six months to work on my thesis, which I was doing in
any case. By the end of the four months I had a complete draft of the seven
chapters, which I bound and mailed to him for assessment.
waiting for Peter to respond to my draft, a terrible accident happened. Annie
slipped on the icy snow, landed on her left hip and broke it. She was rushed to
the hospital, and for the next few days she went through the most excruciating
pain. She was in tears all the time. She looked so pale and fragile, my heart
went to her. The doctors operated, put steel pins to hold her hip together. Annie
had to remain in the hospital for five weeks after the operation, because her
healing pace was slow. Friends and family visited bringing flowers, food, gifts
and anything that would cheer her spirits.When she was finally discharged from the hospital, she still had to use
crutches, which she found difficult because of the pain. She lost so much
weight and I became a nurse overnight, fending for her hand and foot. She was
totally dependent on me to take her to the bathroom, to help her bathe, to lead
her to the living room, do her laundry and cook. Sitting on the loo was painful,
sitting down on the couch was painful, and standing up was painful. It was
pain, pain, pain, tears and more tears.
shifted her back into the bedroom for warmth, while I moved to the living room.
Taking care of Annie was not an easy task, but I learnt two things:
perseverance and compassion. I stopped being self-centred for once and forced
myself to put Annie first in the scheme of things. There were days I got tired
from consoling, tidying after her, cleaning her vomit (she just vomited uncontrollably
when in too much pain), but then I remembered her unselfishness: giving up her
warm bed, giving me shelter and love, and I felt guilty at my selfishness.
I knew it, six months was done. My draft had a good review. I had paid my loan
to the bank, and had enough money saved to take care of my needs in London. Annie
was getting better: at least the bad pain was gone, and she had become quite
dexterous with the crutches, but was still unable to get back to work. When I
told her of my intention to return to London, she broke down and slipped back
into mild depression.My promise to keep
in touch from London did not help. She was used to having me around and could
not bear being alone again. I decided to stay extra two weeks to allow her get
her spirits back. More so, I could not leave her at Christmas. She was over the
was when the thought to give Annie a surprise party at the golf club hit me.
She loved to be loved and was at her best when surrounded by loved ones. I
decided to organise with few of her friends, some nieces and nephews and staff;
who all thought the idea of a party was good. I really cannot tell you
precisely why I wanted a party for Annie at the time. It was just an intuition,
I think.I know Annie was very emotional
about Christmas and was one of her best times, so what better way to say ‘thank
you’ to my friend than being part of a group of people planning a memorable
Christmas for her.
got to work, called people that were close to Annie. We decided to contribute £10
each into a fund pool. At the end of the day we collected a total of £300 towards
the party, from which we bought Christmas gifts for everybody and a special one
for Annie. Andrew chipped in by giving us the restaurant free to hold the
party, while the chefs volunteered to make mince pies, Christmas cake, pudding,
and prepare other traditional Christmas delights: stuffed turkey, roast
potatoes, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, glazed carrots, sweet red cabbage
and pudding. There was still enough money left to buy decorations, juices,
wine, Stella Artois, Heineken, shandy (beer and lemonade), and of course,
Scottish whisky. I managed to keep all the arrangements away from Annie. She
did not suspect a thing, all the while, except when I reminded her about our
usual Christmas Eve party.
don’t forget our party on Christmas Eve. We need to get you a cool number (cute
dress) for it.’
aye. I hope I can walk in without these damn crutches.’
worry about the crutches, we will wrap them in green, gold and red Christmas
paper, so you will look like an ageing, but rich, rock star.’
with all my millions stashed in the Royal Bank of Scotland,’ she laughed.
was nice to see Annie laugh and joke with me again. The months I spent nursing Annie
had been challenging for both of us. You never know what to expect from Annie
each day. One day she was happy, next day she was weepy, another she remained
morning of Christmas Eve was freezing, as we had snow the day before. I
struggled up from my sitting room sofa, robbed my hands together to keep them
warm, and rushed to the bathroom for a hot shower. I dressed quickly, with
thick socks and my knee length boots, pulled on my thick woolly coat and neck
scarf, gave Annie a quick peck on the cheeks.
I will be back at six in the evening to take you to the golf club.’
out to make sure things went smoothly.
God for good people, as I need not have bothered. The food looked delicious,
turkey already in the oven, sauces, pies, cakes, and other Christmas goodies were
ready, tables had been set and the decorations were up. I was so overcome with
emotion I just started crying.
what is the matter Sade, have we done anything wrong?’ Someone asked.
the contrary my dear friends, everything is right. Don’t mind me, I cry when I
was even a country band set to play for Annie. I asked if we could afford the
band. I was told not to worry; nothing was too much for Annie. Annie loved
country music, especially ‘You’re My Best Friend’ by Don Williams.
instructing the lead singer of the band to usher Annie in with that song, I
went home to help her get dressed. She got a shock of her life when I brought
out a dress she’d sighted at House of Frasers before her accident. At the time,
she had kept going back to try the dress on, knowing she could not afford it
and reluctant to use her credit card. It was a purple chiffon dress, trimmed
with satin loaded with sequins at the neck and shoulder, with a price tag of
£150. Annie kept hoping it would go on sale for half the price, but it never
did. We arranged to pay for it. It was her first surprise.
could not hold back the tears at the sight of the dress. She could not believe
it. I helped her put it on.
you like a glove. The dress was made with you in mind, Annie’, I said.
you. Thank you, I can’t believe it’, she kept saying.
deserve nothing less, Annie, and we love you very much.’
of our friends had agreed to do Annie’s hair and make-up her face at home.By the time Annie was ready, she looked like
a star indeed. She refused the crutches for that night, so we helped her into
the car and out. We arrived at the golf club right on time, and just took her
to the restaurant. At the door, I asked her to close her eyes, led her gently inside
the restaurant and told her to open them. We almost had a casualty on our
hands, because Annie slumped, and I had to hold her up. I felt her miss another
step and her voice started to shake when she opened her mouth to speak. She was
completely amazed when about thirty people on their feet, raised their glasses
and said, ‘Merry Christmas, Annie!’ The room sparkled with all the decorations,
the buffet table was a delight to behold, and the band cranked out Annie’s
favourite country song.
had never seen Annie so happy. I took her to her special seat, gave her a mock
salute and said, ‘Mi lady, what will please you Ma’am?’
give over, Sade,’ she raised her hand to brush my comment aside, and said
lovingly ‘please give me scotch with soda and ice.’
had a ball, and her cheeks were rosier than I had seen them in a long time.She kept blushing with excitement. We all had
a good time, with lots of good food and the best of wine. We shared gifts and
the band was a thrill. The party went on till midnight. The roads were really
icy, so we had to take a taxi home. Annie fell into bed straight away and
snored so loudly, I could hear her in the living room.
woke up Annie on Christmas morning with a breakfast of grilled bacon, Irish
sausages, scrambled eggs and toasted potato cakes (her favourite) with fresh
butter, homemade jam and a pot of hot coffee with cream and fresh orange juice.
She ate ravenously. I got her out of bed for a shower and helped her dress up.
It was a lovely Christmas morning, crispy fresh air, everywhere white with snow
and really Christmas-ish. Annie and I then decided to continue the celebration
by having our Christmas lunch outside, to share the joys of the yuletide with
people rather than be on our own. We chose the Caledonian hotel, a popular
hotel on Union Street, known for its sumptuous traditional Christmas lunch.
was an emotional lunch, knowing I really had to go back to London after Boxing
Day.Both of us reminisced over old
times: the good old funny nights, when we were very tired from working late but
still had time to sit down, after all the customers were gone, for a drink and
gossip with the other barmaids. By the time we left the Caledonian, it was late
afternoon, we asked the taxi to drop us at the national park. We sat down near the
river and took in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. We fed the pigeons
dried bread together, but felt it was time we went back when I noticed Annie looking
pale and struggling with her breathing.
is getting colder, so I think we should call it a day,’ I said
feel strangely tired, and sickly. Yes, let’s go.’
quickly flagged down a taxi that took us back to the flat. I tucked her into
bed. I went back to the kitchen to fill a hot water bottle, and slipped it
inside the sheets to keep her warm. I touched her cheeks, they were practically
should I call the doctor? Can I make you hot Ovaltine?’
I am alright. All the excitement of the last two days got to me.’I said goodnight to let her rest. I switched off
the main light but left her bedside light on.
I should have stayed with her, because Annie never woke up the next morning.
She died peacefully in her sleep. Strangely, I did not cry. I was happy because
we gave her the time of her life and we were there when she needed us most.
That is still the lesson for me. Do not postpone love till tomorrow or try to
show, or say it, only when it is convenient for you. Give love today when it matters most. Tomorrow
may be too late. Mother Teresa once said
‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us
begin’…to show love.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons Story Credit: Waving in the Wind by Bisi Abiola, 2014