I wrote this piece four years ago and thought that I should re-edit it for today. I am told that not only is it permissible but that at my age, I should be allowed to indulge myself in anything I want to do, within limits. I had hoped to have been able to write an ode, my late father did that for his 80th birthday and I am yet to get there slowly.
A year older and hopefully much wiser allows me to reminiscence about a wonderful life thanks to the blessings that God has showered on me. I was born in a popular place in Ghana, Accra, Ga Mashie near the Salaga Market, delivered by a lady midwife who needs to be applauded for the excellent work she did in supervising my birth and several others of my generation. I have tried today to find whether there is any mention of her on the internet but sadly cannot find any trace on the web about her midwifery practice. Then she was just called Aunty Sisi. She was Mrs Elfrida Nettey-Marbell. Perhaps the reason why I cannot get Google to trace her is that it was so long ago.
But I found this weighing card and thought that it told its own story!
Now let me try to reconstruct what must have happened. My parents lost a child before I was born, so I suspect that after the funeral rites of this sibling that I did not know, they were locked up in accordance with Ga custom, and encouraged to try for another child, a fruitful result, if I may say so myself. Born a bundle of joy to my parents but also causing a lot of anguish because my frequent bouts of illness, they must have spent a fortune those days taking me to hospital after hospital for these undiagnosed illnesses and several traditional medicine practitioners as they sought a cure for my twetweetwe.
But I was naturally nurtured; not for me the quick formulaic feeds of the present day, no Cow and Gate or SMA or Heinz played any part in my growth. The recommendation from Aunty Sisi was clear; so I suckled on breast milk for close on to 9 months, maybe longer with boiled water and graduated to other soft foods such as akasa, ablemamu, agidi, kpɔtɔnkpɔtɔ, ripe banana and pawpaw, a bit of rice and butter, and fufui. There must have been many variants of these corn-based foods at the time – ekɔegbemi, oblayoo, kpokponsu, all would have been part of the fare at the time.
As I grew older I must have started eating otin, komi or kenkey as it is known and celebrated in the diaspora. Indeed last night I had the good kenkey purchased from Labadi Kitchen, the Kenkey factory in Lewisham, where I get my weekly 5 litres of otinshinu. I departed from the tried and tested Kenkey and Kentucky and tried a version of domendo not as crisply grilled to the high standards of Adedainkpo. No sas or ŋraŋra. But growing up kenkey and light soup always did it for me.
But then I must have gone on to feed on some real good delicacies that seasoned me – adode, shialoo, waa, ŋaa, kaa, soŋ, bɛbɛo, hala and in my kKoforidua days unknowingly partaken in some kusie after a heavy bout of Olokwei’s palm wine. Thankfully despite stuffing myself with Ghanaian food, even in cold Britain, I have not added too much to my girth though I need to be more careful now that I think I have to eat lighter food.
So today because we are in a sort of lockdown, I think, it is Tier 2, I cannot plead with my son to get me my usual fare of Chow in from the Chinese man at the stall in Surrey Street Market and because it is my birthday, I will ask him to treat my dear wife and me to an Iranian or Turkish meal of my choice that is on condition that my wife to provide for me the customary birthday meal of otɔ for breakfast.
But enough of food!
Though my Sickle Cell Disease has been a part of my life since it was diagnosed almost 60 years ago, when it constantly disrupted the start of my secondary school education, I have tried to manage it and avoided hospitalisation for the past 40 years that I have lived in the UK. This may be thanks to some discipline on my part, some diligence from my doctors who I have long arguments with, and to a large measure my darling wife who keeps a check on all the stresses that could send me to hospital.
Well, as they say, it is not how long you last but what donations you make with your life, I continue to help all who need my assistance to and continue to thank my Lord and Maker for keeping me, knowing that the best years of my life are still ahead of me and that I will still have sufficient time of my hands to praise God for each little blessing. I am grateful that I was fortunate to grow up in a loving Christian home with parents who did their best to instil in me a sense of service to family and the wider community.
So today I must give thanks to the Lord for another year of my life and praise his name for keeping me through adversity and prosperity and continuing to guide me through this journey of my life and thanking all my family and friends who have indulged me at my most overbearing and to all those who will wish me a happy birthday today for keeping up with me.
So for my 70th birthday let me render the prayer I learnt at Sunday School many many years ago
Wɔ-Tsɛ ni yɔɔ ŋwɛi!
Ogbei lɛ he atse!
Omaŋtsɛyeli lɛ aba!
Afee nɔ ni osumɔɔ yɛ shikpɔŋ lɛ nɔ, taake afeɔ yɛ ŋwei lɛ!
Hã wɔ ŋmɛnɛ wɔdaa ŋmãa.
Ni okɛ wɔtɔmɔi lɛ afa wɔ, tamɔ bɔ ni wɔkɛfaa mei ni tɔɔ wɔnɔ lɛ
Ni okɛ wɔ akaya kaa mli;
Shi jiemɔ wɔ keje ɛfɔŋ lɛ mli.
Shi onɔ ji maŋtsɛyeli lɛ,
kɛ hewalɛ lɛ kɛ anuntam lɛ,