Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Our new flat is in East Legon, in northeast Accra. It’s the first, and probably last, time I will live in a city’s trendiest quarter.

You can tell it’s trendy because the taxi drivers ask Hannah and me for double the normal city fares – even on top of their standard obroni tax. We can usually haggle them down, but one or two have got very irate when they felt they hadn’t ripped us off sufficiently. Another refused to take us for less than 10 cedis (for what should be a 3-cedi journey), arguing, “I will then have to turn round to come back”. True, perhaps, but failing to grasp one of the key aspects of taxi driving.

Dzorwulu, our old quarter, was a suburb for wealthy Ghanaians, but East Legon is a suburb aimed at young middle-class Ghanaians and expats, who are spilling out here now the smartest districts, Airport Residential and Cantonments, are full. Flashy new restaurants line Lagos Avenue and Freetown Avenue, with many more being built. New houses and flats are also going up, their grey concrete skeletons springing up on every spare bit of land.

The lesser-spotted air-conditioning repair man
Our own flat is new. It’s bright, shiny, and suitably trendy for East Legon, with white leather sofas and a flat-screen TV. But pick away at the mahogany-finish, stuck-on surface and the cracks quickly appear. The list of faults is too long and dull to list, but is epitomised by the front door. Strong, sturdy and shiny … but put on back to front. So the lock is on the outside, and you have to put your shoulder to it to close it properly. A new one is being shipped from China (everything is imported from China). The other problems will be fixed tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow.

The back of our flat overlooks one of Accra’s few rivers. It’s not quite a Ghanaian equivalent of Wind in the Willows; you are more likely to see a chicken pecking about in the sludgy trickle than a water rat in a rowing boat. Unfortunately, like most waterways in the city, it’s used as a rubbish dump. And as there is nowhere else to dump it, where else should it go? Our security guards set fire to the pile when it gets too high.

The river does, though, provide a green and leafy view, with trees lining either side. As I approach middle age, I can justify keeping a bird watching book by my desk, which overlooks the river. And my new binoculars help to determine whether that flash of red and yellow is a Barbary shrike or a Shoprite carrier bag blowing in the wind.

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