3 AUGUST 1991, Page 42

New life

Saved by the gong

Zenga Longmore

Athe reader may or may not remem- ber from last week, we left Uncle Bisi gloating over the contents of my Jamaican friend Mrs Starman's shopping bag. Unknown to Mrs Starman, who had merely left her bag to be collected later, he was intent on discovering what West Indian people like to eat, with a view of selling them the same.

`Good!' he exclaimed, when I had laid out the last baked bean tin on the kitchen table. 'I have made a complete list, and my, ah, market research is making great progress. Soon I can supply Caribbean as well as West African food in my wholesale premises.'

I was about to put all the stuff back in Mrs Starman's bag, when Olumba arrived with Omalara riding piggy-back.

`The man is not here yet to record my drum-playing,' he said anxiously. We were both on tenterhooks as the Nigerian owner of a small record company had promised to call in his car 'that afternoon' to waft Olumba away to his studio. My intercom bell was not working, so we were taking turns at looking out for him at road level. Now it was my turn to go down. As 1 left I heard Uncle Bisi rasp out to Olumba, `Cook food! I am hungered!'

Three-quarters of an hour later, the record studio man finally turned up, greet- ing me with a roguish, gap-toothed smile. He wore a green dashiki, a purple fez and what I would call a devil-may-care mous- tache. Regretting that I could not play a slit-gong and so lacked an excuse to follow this peacock vision to his studio, I pelted back to the lift to fetch Olumba. Rich cooking smells assailed the nostrils as I opened the door of my flat.

`I just finish cooking-o in time,' gasped Olumba, rushing liftward in turn, ike slit- gong under his arm.

`That's funny, where did Olumba get all that food from?' I asked, seeing Uncle Bisi happily settled before a steaming mountain of rice, yams and spiced meats. His eyes gleamed as he began to feast.

Suddenly I had a terrible feeling, the sort of feeling you get when someone has trust- ingly left their shopping at your flat and an Uncle is about to eat it all.

`Uncle Bisi!' I screamed, as loud as I dared, 'You are eating Mrs Starman's shopping! It had to last her all week!'

`Too late to uncook,' announced the unconcerned Uncle. `It is regrettable that my consumer research has been, ah, con- sumed.' With a smug chuckle, he popped a dainty morsel of okra into his mouth.

From the corridor came a melodious song — `Blessed Assurance'. I opened the door and in sailed the Evangelist Starman, serene in the blessed assurance of receiving her shopping bag. Before I could break the news that she could have her shopping bag but not her shopping, she had sat down heavily and begun to pray.

`Oh Lord, I thank you for giving me such true friends, friends that I can trust to take care of me shopping for me. . . '

Uncle Bisi's eyes met mine. Even he looked guilt-ridden.

But the confession of guilt was nullified by the unexpected arrival of my brisk sister Boko. Quickly taking command of the situ- ation, she drove both Mrs Starman and Uncle Bisi to the latter's grocery whole- saler's. There Mrs Starman filled her bag at Uncle Bisi's expense. Surprisingly enough, Uncle Bisi was pleased about this, so Boko later reported, as Mrs Starman's choice of food afforded him useful material for more market research.