A few years before he died, my dad bought some land in nigeria, in an area called alagbado - a few hours' drive north of ikorodu, where my mum's family is based. i don't know why he chose this area, not somewhere closer to the city, or at least closer to where his family is here. but he did. he intended to build a home for us out here, but wasn't able to before he died 6½ years ago. one thing i learnt, growing up first generation in london, with parents with both feet still firmly planted in nigeria - they always want to go back home, but doing it remotely takes an age, especially as other things take over.
so along with other things, my mum inherited my dad's dream, to build a family house out here for all of us - partly for us to have somewhere of our own to stay when we visit, but partly in that eternal hope that one day at least one of us (me and my siblings) will want to move 'back home'.
today i came to the house for the first time in almost 6 years. the last time i saw it, it was still at the foundation stage, as far as i can remember. coming through the gates, i saw the place my mum refers to, to me and my siblings, as 'your house'. i don't know what i was expecting, exactly, but in my mind, i think i still imagined it to be a dusty building site, rods sticking out of the ground, and blocks piled up, waiting to be used. instead, there was a beautiful low building, with a warm red roof, just sitting, waiting for us.
inside was finished, but still bore the signs of the builders - everywhere full of dust and splashes of paint and cement. we spent a good couple of hours cleaning - thrashing each room with long traditional brooms, endless buckets of omo-foamed water, and more elbow grease than i ever could have believed i possessed. the neighbours (actually tenants, living in the other half of the semi-detached house) came over to help - they were amazing, and stuck with us until we could walk barefoot across each newly shiny tiled floor.
i walked through the house in semi-darkness, some lights not yet installed, others just not working, and felt like a little kid, exploring some new found treasure, delighted by things like the kitchen's walk-in store cupboard, the smaller bedroom's en suite, and just how shiny the floors are. and i imagined how happy my dad would have been to be here, to see this. and i can't wait to get back to london to tell him about it.