British Terrace Houses: ‘Nigerians A Step Ahead’

by Dele Oluwole

My father gave me an invaluable advice some years ago. He said ‘never step out of your door to attend a party or visit a friend without first killing your appetite for food or drink’. In order words, don’t always anticipate that food will be served at parties or wherever you’re visiting. He said ‘when you go to parties with at least a half full stomach you will be saved from unnecessarily salivating each time you anticipate to be served or when you are harassed by sumptuous aroma from the kitchen. You will be able to at least watch with rebuff and enjoy your party when some discourteous waiters deliberately pass you by without asking to serve you. You can afford to ignore whoever thinks he’s got the exclusive right to serve you whenever he deems appropriate, especially ‘Owanbe parties’. Kabba people will say ‘elu le eda tinu oni nu’. You don’t lose what is in your stomach when you stumble or fall flat on the ground. But contrary to my father’s words of wisdom I have resolved to attend parties or visit my friends in the UK who leave in terrace houses without killing my appetite.

My uncle was in the UK for a visit and was stunned to realise that he had to pass through the kitchen to get into the toilet. He wondered if this is the so-called British civilisation where there is a thin wall between where you upload and offload. He said ‘no one will ever design such houses in Nigeria’. I said ‘but Uncle they taught us architectural engineering’ and building technology. He replied ‘Aburo, forget ‘Oyibo’, when they do mistakes because of the investment they’ll always claim it’s a new design… ‘wo’ they don’t admit to error easily’ I then suddenly remembered that Nigerian houses are designed in a way that toilets and kitchens are far apart. I know we do not appreciate these two sides of our lives being too close probably because of the associated discomfort, but not the British anyway.

I remember visiting a family friend and when I requested to use what the Americans will call rest room for the big one, I excused myself, walked through the kitchen as my friend’s wife prepared some ‘Edika-hikon’ and ‘eba’. When I eventually started the launching the artilleries I was careful not to allow nature make the usual blast. I was managing meticulously until nature decided to disappoint, suddenly a very loud and heavy one that its reverberation could be likened to the 27th January 2002 Lagos bomb blast came down. I couldn’t believe the sound myself knowing fully well that whoever was in the kitchen would have heard the mismanagement. Since I am regularly on heavy carbohydrate diets – courtesy of African shops I do not need anyone to tell me that noise of blasts escape from the toilet whenever I engaged it, so I would normally take extra caution especially when not doing it at home. Some measures I take to envelope the noise include running the tap or singing praise songs at the top of my voice.

In Nigeria you don’t need to devise any measure just because you are in a toilet, you have a master bedroom or guest toilet where you can blast off the roof. Sorry, not only that, the conductors shouts of Och-uo-di, mushi Oloshaa, Agege, CMS, Oju-ele-gbaaa, hold ya chey-sssh will help to douse the blasting. Nigerians are so civilised that aside erecting wonderful edifices also make sure that toilets and kitchen are at the two extremes of their houses. Even in the popular ‘face me I face you’, you will have to walk about 10 metres from your room to use the rest room.

Aside decency it is only hygienic that the toilet and kitchen are far apart from each other as your visit to the toilet is like granting the bacteria in the toilet visa to the outside world and it is not impossible for the stubborn ones among them to seek asylum in the kitchen as you walk through. The excuse the British gives for the poor terrace design is that in the 50s the houses where built with separate toilets that had to be shared among four or five houses…oops! Were there bathrooms then? No, how then did they clean up? During winter once in a week, and in summer thrice a week soaked towel was the answer. Whereas In the 50s in Africa I remembered my Dad saying they did the big one in the bushes far from the villages and farms and bathed in moving streams and waterfalls.

Talking of discipline now, when I was growing up I dared not attempt to visit the toilet while at the dinning, if I did then I must not return to continue eating. My Dad believed it’s covetous to attempt to offload your bowel in order to make room for unfinished food. So, its either you visit the toilet to offload your bowel before joining him at the dinning or load to offload later. Unlike Nigerians who are so considerate not to clear their nostril in the public places as those around may be offended, in the UK I have seen instances in the bus or train where people openly gusted their nostrils into tissue papers or handkerchiefs. I remember two occasions in the canteen where people cleared their nostrils with heavy blasts while I enjoyed the popular fish and chips. They would have been reprimanded in motherland.

Most average Nigerians at least can afford flats with master bedroom, but since my sojourn in Europe aside hotel rooms I have only seen master bed room twice. I guess Nigerians have overtaken their western counterparts in this aspect, I wonder if we can overtake them in most other facets of our lives especially politics and technology.

My friend who was a manager in an IT firm in Port Harcourt had a well furnished and air conditioned three-bed room flat with a master bed room only to arrive in London where he had to share a two-bedroom flat with five other guys and a lady. They take their turn to use the single toilet and bathroom, so to hear blasts from the toilet when cooking in the kitchen became a way of life. He said for the first 3 months it was difficult for him to cope with the fact that toilet and kitchen are together. Recently he moved out of the terrace house and moved into another one where he stays with his wife and kids as he no longer sees anything wrong with it. I am sure he will not build or rent anything like a terrace house when he returns to Nigeria.

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ronke abuah June 13, 2008 - 1:21 pm

dele, thanks alot for this article,i know you understand what i mean.

Kunle Olabode May 7, 2008 - 4:24 pm

This is fantastic, I can’t help but laugh……Infact I laugh myself finish.

Tootsie June 17, 2007 - 5:21 pm

So hilarious! I agree that the kitchen and the bathroom should be far apart like two poles apart. It will be really gross to mess up a nice, savory aroma with a stinky, foul smell. eeewwww!!!!!!

By Owena June 13, 2007 - 8:04 am

To Annoyed!

Abeg O! You can't think that everyone in London lives like your host does do you? An individual living with 6 other non-family members with just one toilet and one set of washing facilities surely does not reflect the lifestyles of all those who live in London. And as for the roads then obviously you didn't have a chance to go on the motorways and stayed down town instead where it is not worth driving unless say u be bus driver wey sabi drive anyhow and no go waste time clear person wey get small moto like me commot for road. I myself only like driving on the motorway sha!

The article was funny anyway Olu. One of my friend just buy house for East London and the toilet dey upstairs while the bath, shower plus sink for washing hand dey for downstairs. Now bearing in mind say most of us our like to clean hand after we off load, dat one mean say we go dump load for upstairs then we go carry our soiled hands run go downstairs, pass parlour and kitchen to wash dem. Na wa-o! Needless to say my friend no wan waste time put plumbing for upstairs but the headache still dey.

Anonymous June 1, 2007 - 2:30 pm

To Comment #1:When You gotta go, you gotta go, Mate! LOL

Rosie June 1, 2007 - 2:28 pm

I have never experienced someone discussing such sensitive issues with such humor. Speaking of rest rooms, why do public restrooms in the U.S. have "stalls"? It is like one big restroom with four or five toilets divided by barriers that cover you up to your ankles. You can hear and smell what the person in the next stall is doing. I find it discomforting and strange.

annoyed June 1, 2007 - 1:13 pm

That was hilarious, i almost fell off the chair, i recently came back from London and vow never to live there, america is good enough for me, my bathroom is on the opposite side of my kitchen and i thank the Lord for it. My host has to share the house with 6 other people with only one bathroom and you have to be on a roster to take a shower, even the hot water was not working when i got there, he had to boil water for me to use, since it was in the middle of winter and very cold. abeg maybe the only difference living in london compared to naija is just constant electricity and nothing more. their roads are nothing to write home about, tiny roads and tiny cars, you can't drive on a bus lane or from one zone to the other, otherwise you pay etc. abeg me go tanda for america jeje.

Anonymous June 1, 2007 - 9:39 am


Nice piece as usual …. are you posting part two?

Anonymous June 1, 2007 - 9:01 am

Forget the proximity between the kitchen and toilet – why are you even doing a No. 2 at someone else's house as a visitor??? I see you in a totally different light now, lol


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