Tag Archives: Manual Work

Mathilda Mason

Any minute now. Her peace won‘t last. Someone is going to approach her, ask, and the sequence will unfold. Whenever Mathilda attends a posh event, she has to brace herself for the sequence.

She’s used to it, has a bouquet of answers ready. She’ll shoot the right one back, her voice steady, her posture and gaze confident. She’s good at this. Lots of practice. She’ll pretend not to notice the discomfort she’s causing and fill the lag time with her little lecture.

Doesn‘t mean Mathilda doesn‘t hate the sequence. She’d so love the people attending this kind of event to be… different. Easier to handle. Broadened, horizon-wise. More modern.

It‘s just the yearly Great Gulf of Guinea get together, Mathilda reminds herself. She has been in attendance a dozen times. She always managed, well. She will manage, again. She won‘t let some know nothing idiot ruin what is, in principle, a very good night out.

The event is traditionally celebrated on the Moremi Ajasoro, a former cruise liner, nowadays part museum, part event location. A splendid place, even by Mathilda’s standards, and she does like to reward herself with the odd bit of luxury around the house. What’s the point, of making loads, if not a nice and stylish sofa in a cosy living room, to rest her tired butt after a hard day’s work?

Smiling at no one in particular, to delay the sequence some more, Mathilda savours to be in attendance. This is a big honor, for anyone, regardless of their career.

According to local lore, the first edition of the Great Gulf of Guinea get together wasn‘t even intended for its current purpose. Some rich kids, names long forgotten, had chartered the Moremi Ajasoro to celebrate their engagement. Months of planning, no expenses spared, they were sure to make the front pages. But fate would beg to differ. On the big day, early in the morning, the Gulf of Guinea region was declared to have finally, after years of near misses, overtaken the Shen Kong area to make global number one for wealth, health and joy of living. To spare their event the insult of being treated as other news, the rich kids put out a press release announcing they would celebrate the top spot by getting engaged. This allowed them to make the front page after all, under the header ‚Great Gulf of Guinea’, and the tradition was born.

Mathilda isn’t into legends. Seventy years on, layers of myth have been wrapped around a tiny factual core. The Gulf of Guinea region is number one, yes, and this achievement is being celebrated every year, to keep everyone everywhere else envying, yes again. But all the rest is storytelling, a marketing plot to boost the aforementioned joy of living even higher.

Knowing about metropolitan myth doesn’t make Mathilda less proud to be here. Making it in the Gulf of Guinea, to the point of being invited to this event, that‘s a huge achievement, for any professional, whatever her or his trade.

Shen Kong might still pretend to compete in large series manufacturing, but only just. Whereas for anything digital or design, big or small, hard or soft, fleeting or durable, edible or decorative, the must be place is either Lagos proper, for those who fancy a bustling city life, or anywhere neat and green between Accra and Libreville, for those who don’t, as in too old to have fun.

Every aspiring soul in the proverbial rest of the world longs to stand where Mathilda stands. What’s not lo like? The sequence.

The Lagos state governoress walks by, barely looking up from her exchange with the Indonesian ambassador to wink a greeting in Mathilda’s direction. Same for that elderly chap with hair as white as his festive robes. Mathilda vagely recalls them having been introduced on a prior occasion, but no details. Might be a banker, they’re very much into traditional outfits.

And here he comes, the encounter Mathilda has been bracing herself for. Very young, thirty at most, rather more like twenty five, very dressed up for the occasion, most probably his first go at a big event. Very eager, very clueless, and on the hunt for an interview.

„Madam, an honor to meet you. Would you mind answering a couple of questions, for the Flip?“

At this point, politeness suggests the need for a pause, to give the interviewee a chance to react, but that’s not how this works. Mathilda draws a deep breath, to brace herself. She doesn’t even try to stop what has been proven unstoppable on prior occasions. The kid proceeds:

„First of all, madam, your profession, if you please? Something digital, I presume? But on which side of the aisle, madam? Games or robotics? You look like a hands-on person, who might be into something solid, like personalized service robots, always a market for that, right? And who’d be better at making those just the right kind of pliable, not to say servile, than a lady? Ha, ha, just joking, no offense intended, sexism so out. Now seriously, madam, which kind of digital is it?“

Mathilda draws one more deep breath and takes the plunge:

“Something solid, good guess. Doesn’t get much more solid than a house, right? I’m a mason, as in bricks and mortar, which, believe it or not, are still used alongside 3D printed components, to deliver that unique touch of artisanal ambiance…”

Mathilda keeps going, flashing her professional smile at the kid’s disgusted disbelief.

This is a very young journalist, not much of a poker face yet. Very traditional upper middle class, very respect for brain work only. Not even the hint of an aspiration to pretend to be as class blind as modern expectations would dictate. Knows how to hide his doubts around female achievers under a joke. Plausibly pretends not to notice the very light skin of the folks serving the drinks. But trust him to consider artisans, and farmers, barely human, and to show it.

Mathilda’s dad was right. The true revolution is yet to come. The last one managed to get proud craftspeople like them invited to this kind of event. The next one will deliver respect. Impertinent nuisances like the one she’s smiling at will be made to write Words or code will neither feed nor house me. Ten thousand times per day. Otherwise no supper, no bed.

Mathilda is still lecturing. Her smile is no longer fake.