Have you ever had the dubious pleasure of spending an entire day with the Nouveau rich or a self proclaimed bourgeoisie? Had to endure going shopping with them and all? Kwaasi the Cunning Linguist finds that with many of his “friends” now working for the banks and oil companies, hanging out with them now means trying to keep up with a schedule of activities designed to let the world know who just joined the Joneses.
Money Swine-/muhn-ee swahyn /n/(derog offensive) – Nouveau Riche, a man or woman previously belonging to a lower social or economic class but due to the (often sudden and unexpected) acquisition of new money, has moved up in status and now wishes to announce his or her arrival by splashing that new money waa waa.
Credit: The Official Ghanaian Haters Dictionary
DROP THE KIDS AT GIS
I don’t plan to have kids any time soon, but even I know education ranks supreme (Just ask Nana Addo and President Mahama). I was with a friend the other day at an overpriced café and he was going on and on about how he had moved his kids from Christ the King to Galaxy International, to give them the needed quality education. I thought Christ the King, where he and all his siblings had gone to, was a pretty good school. Indeed I hoped, if I ever had any rugrats of my own, to send them there. He then told me how much the move was going to cost him – to me, it was like the English Premiership football transfer – crazy expensive. I almost choked on my cappuccino and made a firm resolve to definitely not have kids any time soon. Most of the so-called “good primary schools’ that I knew when I was growing up seemed to be on the decline – at least so my friends with kids would like me to believe.
The other day, I was literally dragged to watch a friend’s child from Ghana International School (the original GIS) perform in a musical at the National Theater, called “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dreamcoat” . It was superbly produced and took me back to my primary school days when we acted the same play almost every year – either “the birth of Christ“or one particular Ananse story.
Check list one: I’m so taking my kids to GIS when I get rich and not so famous.
GO TO THE GYM
(These gyms are joined not for the equipment or quality of workouts, but to see and be seen by other social climbers and prominent figures)
I have a friend who works at a bank. She was with me the other day when she randomly announced that she was going to check her BMI (body mass index), to know whether or not she was overweight. I smiled to myself because, I could have saved her a trip. She was astonished to find out she was considered obese. I feigned shock. “What? How?That’s impossible?” The truth is, when she sits in my car and my hands keep brushing against her amorphous legs, I wonder whether she thinks it’s deliberate and that I remotely enjoy the contact? For Christ sake, she virtually sits on my hand brake. She and a group of her rotund friends, making way more money than I do, and thus eating far more than they really ought to, decided to stop the cheaper way of exercising like, jogging and brisk walking and opted for hitting the gym.. When my friends told me the prices some of these wicked gyms charge you to sweat, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, with the dum-sor (power cuts) in my office every other day, I sweat for free. She mentioned a popular gym and sang it’s praises, whilst dropping names of a host of celebrities who visit it, to drive home her point about how awesome the gym was. I dropped her off the other day at said gym and saw this super fine girl on the treadmill;
Check list 2: I’m so hitting this gym at Ringway estates, when I get rich
MUST GO TO THE MECHANIC’S SOON
(2nd hand Mercedes is @ 200,000km next week)
My friend asked me to drop him at Silver Star, his car had hit 200,000km and he had to service it. I almost fainted when I saw the bill – the equivalent of servicing my jalopy for the entire year. I had always secretly coveted his Silver Warb but now I looked at him with a mixture of pity and respect. I don’t even remember the mileage on my car, all I know is when I started driving it some commuter of the sort had driven it on every major road in the USA and when it was finally rear ended, it came to me here in Ghana. I bought it “home used” (the Commuter dog am but me I spec am) and loved it forever. The mileage said 80,000, only for my mechanic to tell me it was miles not Km. My friend is always fretting about his mileage and the next appointment to the “mechanics”. I call mine “fitters” and they are good at what they do, save for the occasional bolts which find themselves dancing aimlessly on my car seats instead of holding or fastening something in the car.
My friend thanked me profusely, for taking time off my low paying job and driving him to his mechanic. He promised me drinks at a bar in Osu and we agreed to meet there in a few hours. My friend called me 3 hours later, by then I was sweating, my sleeves rolled up, my bonnet opened and trying to understand (not for the first time) why my car was overheating. I need to ditch this car and buy a showroom car soon so that I can go to the mechanic when my car hits 10,000km, when I’m rich of course.
Checklist 3: Buy a showroom car soonest or better still get my own Silver Merc from abroad.
MUST DO LUNCH AT SOME OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE PLACE WITH KWAME (WHERE I WILL RUN INTO “BIG MEN”)
My friend Kwame told me I am not making much progress in life! I keep wondering whether I left my pay slip in his car and he realized that I don’t earn so much or it just randomly came up. “Kwaasi, you need to rebrand yourself”, I nodded sheepishly (after all he was buying drinks, if he said I was Mother Theresa who was I to complain?) Kwame went on: “you need to hang out at cool places where you can connect socially”. The list of cool places naturally featured places I could not afford. Didn’t the idiot see how much I was making? Kwame and I went to the same schools,we used to be very close until he landed a good job a few years ago. Now he earns a shite load of money and is apparently a lot smarter too (school records say otherwise). According to Kwame my fortunes could drastically change if I ate at X or Y place where I could run into Mr. A or Mr. B who was “a big man”. By now my Green Label was almost all gone; I wouldn’t take this crap from anyone!
“By the way what are you doing Thursday lunch time?” Kwame asked, I wanted to scream “the same thing I do every lunch time: Eat my hot Kofi brokeman in my office and flip through the dailies” but instead I said, “nothing concrete, Kwame.” “Let’s do lunch, say 1pm” he suggested.
Thursday Kwame and I metup at this fancy shmancy place, he was with the kids of some big men. They wanted property in Labone, apparently for an office. I told them that I could hook them up. Out came the expensive looking business cards from leather case holders. I had half a dozen of my cheap looking cards, which looked like printed them out myself, in my pockets. I lied that I had left my cards in the office. I saw Kwame look at me like I had broken a sacred code. Three months later I made a sale thanks to that meeting. Was down to my last GhC200.000 and by then lunching on Kofi (plantain) without the Brokeman (groundnuts), that huge check was extremely timely and I have to say, begrudgingly, that I was grateful to my snotty friend for that meeting.
Check list 4: Must do lunch at that expensive restaurant again… ASAP
MUST PICK UP SUITS AT THAT VERY EXPENSIVE TAILOR’s …OOPS FASHION DESIGNER’S
(Must put distance between myself and ‘By the Grace of God Fitting’, Opera Square where my Dad used to have his suits made in his hey days)
I met a guy the other day, he said he was a prophet looking for a place to build a church, “The Church of the Disciples of the Holy One” or something along those lines. He acted and spoke as if he was Moses and had just come down from Mount Sinai with his own version of the Ten Commandments. He mentioned his name three times every minute; I realized he was supposed to be well known. He is in the same league with some of the, well very (in)famous pastors we often hear on radio. His suit was very unique! Very flashy… Very shiny and it looked bullet proof as well as water proof. His shoes were in their own right, mirrors in which slightly distorted images of myself frowned back at me. I saw him off to his Nissan Armada which had taken up my entire car park. I decided that day that I needed new suits, not bullet proof ones like the pastor/prophet but definitely decent new ones.
I called a few friends to get some opinions. “Get them from China they are cheaper,” “No, you want to go to Quarshie Taylors, Dan Morton etc…
I made a few rounds and cancelled about half of those from my list. I wanted new suits not to die of a heart attack. All my friends led me from one expensive tailor to another (or designers as they like to refer to themselves). Forget about the material, it’s the sewing that kills it. They don’t even care that you have your own material!
I ended up calling my dad, a real practical man, who worked hard to make his money (definitely not in Monnie Swine fashion!) but who was a real dandy in his days. He had no number for his tailor; didn’t need to in those days.
I ended up in front of a small shop at Opera Square that should certainly have collapsed by now if it was as big as the infamous Melcom building (that once stood at Achimota), and ordered about three very affordable suits. I kept wondering why people didn’t come to this humble, good and cheap tailor. I loved his old-fashioned triangular chalk he used to mark up the material; his place smelt like a tailor’s shop. I almost hugged him when he told me the price of all three suits. I saw the shiny material that I had previously seen on the Prophet and wondered if he came here, too. As I looked at it my tailor asked, “do you want a fusion suit?” Ah, so that’s what they called them.
I run into a friend 3 weeks later, wearing my bespoke suit from “By the Grace of God fitting” and feeling good (save for the turn-ups I didn’t want). “Nice suit,” he said, feeling them up in way that made me feel a tad uncomfortable. “Where did you sew them, Dan Morton’s?”
I hate to say it I but I’m human and sometimes I can’t help but want to be part of that Money Swine Class, so I smiled like I had been found out.
He shook his head. “Don’t like them anymore. Ghana designers can’t get things right and who does 3 buttons these days? (I secretly rejoiced that he did not comment about the large turn-ups.) Sarah is off to London in 2 weeks let me have your measurement, I usually get mine from Saville Row.’
“How much that would cost me,” I croaked in very real fear.
He told me the price.
“The equivalent of 50 suits,” I mumbled to myself as I shuffled back to my car.
MUST TAKE THE KIDS TO BALLET AND PIANO AT 3PM
(They have to be prodigies even though Akua is flat footed and fat like a hippo)
Okay, I don’t have kids but that does not make me insensitive to their plights. After all, I treat the kids of all my friends as my nieces and nephews. So imagine my dismay, when I saw my friend taking her daughter who, forgive me, is rather on the high end of chubby, for ballet lessons! The kid is flat footed and can’t even turn 90 degrees without falling.
“Why not shot put?” I proffered.
“What is the relevance of shot put?” my friend asked testily. What is ballet to a baby hippo I wondered, in the deep recess of my ever wicked mind.
Her daughter was in the backseat looking miserable, I guess the ballet lessons were a torture session for her, but my friend was using her own rose tinted glasses and bent on giving her daughter all the opportunities in life, probably after watching the movie Black Swan (did she not see the frame of Natalie Portman?)
The following week, another friend was taking his two sons for soccer practice.
‘It reminds you of our soccer days, no? We should have gone pro” he said excitedly in a way that just irked me.
It reminded me of nothing like my soccer days. Those days it was Chilensa. (that hard plastic football) How many of us had Case 5s and certainly not Adidas Jabulani plus my dad NEVER EVER took me for soccer practice. What is that animal? It was gutter to gutter, abatay, small poles and playing on any available space you could find. I looked at the two boys wearing their jerseys with their names and numbers on their backs and their soccer boots. Couldn’t their dad remember it took us 3 years to get a soccer boot (and we saved for it forfeiting poki, skippy, alewa, zoee , adunley and other unhealthy foods that will kill the small brats where they stood), and I used one boot and gave the other to a left legged player. I kicked the ball very hard to one of my “nephews” who instinctively kicked the ball back, going in an awry angle to the great dismay of my friend and my even greater delight. “He isn’t going to be an Essien,” I muttered to my friend as if I was a world-class football scout.
In fact Nouveau Riche parents should look at their kids objectively and stop taking them from one class to the other, in their bid to make them supermen and wonder women of the future. Let the kids wake up, take a walk in the park and figure out what they want to do. Two days ago I heard my friend’s daughter play a rendition of Mozart on the piano. She was so good, even I clapped. Maybe the idea of people paying for things I did for free puts me off. After that Mozart I heard, I’m so taking my future unborn daughter to that expensive piano school. If she ends up years later in the Julliard School in New York, all the best and if she doesn’t, she can always play the organ at my Presby Church.
Checklist 5: Taking my future daughter for piano lessons!!!
MUST PICK UP A CAKE AT THAT EXPENSIVE HOTEL
(Cake tastes like crap but smile, Mrs Morton bought one for her mom)
The inability of the Nouveau Riche to think is sickening. Araba bought a cake from X and so I also need to buy a cake from X, even though my aunt is a baker and makes great cakes we used to eat as kids. Ok true, Aunt Jane cannot make a Spiderman cake, granted, but why go buy a random cake that tastes like crap just because all the people you hobnob with buy from there. At a friend’s one year old kid’s party, I was drinking some cold beers and in the middle of a group of chirping mothers and the hostess. I was a little bit irritated at them for crowding my space, and not allowing me to be the bushman that I am and burp to my heart’s content. The conversation went something like this;
“So where did you get the cake?’
“ The bouncy castle?”
“Who is doing the kids painting?”
“I will get the numbers”
I just couldn’t relate, can’t they bake, can’t they paint (get the right paint and do it) and don’t they all own phones with cameras. Christ help us!!!
I knew I was going to get sick when I moved to the table of men and there they were, drinking coke and talking about the same thing – unfugging believable!
Did I leave? Hell no, I’m too polite, I drunk three more Guinness stouts, burped and scrambled for the door.
DAMN! I NEED TO ARRANGE A MEETING WITH AKUA AND KOFI’S SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
(FYI – Principal=Headmaster without the cane)
These days my friends have an annoying habit of going to see the principal or the class mistress (I forget the exact fancy name) to sit and plan their kid’s life forever. Look, PTA meetings are vital, but this one on one meeting with the principal is alien to me. The headmaster’s office, when I was a kid, was a place you went to when you got into trouble. He lashed you and that was it. These days this Parent Principal Arrangement (PPA) makes me sick… lash the kid already. The rod is spared, Mom and Principal make an appointment, and the talk starts about how the kid has a promising future then the bombshell about the bad things come…You call it ADHD, I call it an unruly kid. This candy coated treatment is time-wasting and unproductive. I am all for discipline (not necessarily caning mind you). The Mother’s blast the kids on the way home, but before they reach their destination they pull in to KFC for treats and buy a burger or some chicken nuggets for the little pip squeaks. I miss the good old days when we were less sophisticated and a whole lot smarter.
GOT TO GO TO THE RIGHT CHURCH
(Last week I even sat next to…)
Many of my friends, all now hoity toity, are recently going to these “fancy” places of worship. They never tell me what the word was, that is, what they learnt. It is all about who drove what, who they sat next to, who had a new Prada bag and a host of things far removed from developing spiritually. I love my church by the way, my Ga is not top-notch, but in my Presby Church I follow the sermon and the men’s fellowship is great. Till date no one has laughed at my Jalopy and many men scramble into the back for a lift including the rotund women who come for choir practice (hmm that could be why I am having problems with my shocks lately). Last week I was invited to one of those high and mighty Churches. I was feeling a little rich having recently come into some little money. I sat on a pew and got angry stares from some ladies.. I figured I must have usurped their positions. I looked frantically for my friend to no avail. After communion, I found myself seatless! I stared at the good Christian ladies who had found an artful way of displacing me, like a game of musical chairs. I stared at them perplexed and a little confused. They looked intently into their hymn books as they sung, without so much as a glance in my direction. I was grateful to find a space next to a little boy who kept “booting” me and laughing throughout the sermon. After Church I made my protestations known to my friend. Without blinking an eye, she said “next time come sit on the left side of the organist. That is my sitting place, a few seats behind Harry.”
“Harry?” I asked
“Yes, Harry Zakour”
The next week I went back to my old church.
MUST GO TO A HOUSEWARMING PARTY AT WEST LAND BOULEVARD
I recently moved to Dansoman to be close to my office and invited two of my old friends for banku at Dela’s. One of my friends now a manager at a prominent bank, looked at his exquisite Patek Phillipe watch, shook his head and said “sorry, mate but Mandy is having a house-warming party at West Land Boulevard.” The other talked of a prior commitment for that same housewarming. I knew Mandy and since she had not invited me because she had lost my number (so Kofi and Ato said) I decided to come along. I had the sinking feeling on the way there that my friends had crossed that dark side and were now officially money swines. I wondered what they had to do to join that class. Parallel parking my smoking Toyota Corolla 2002 model, between Mandy’s Toyota Venza and Kofi’s Mercedes benz C230, that night at West Land Boulevard, I made a strong resolve: Must move out of my flood prone ghetto ass neighbourhood.