The Brick versus The Mortar




Fikayo Bamishingbin had had a long day at the office processing fund transfers on the basis interface. It was ten minutes to the hour of five and her blood began to boil. Her brain had for the most part shut down, and so she had to postpone her planned run to Tesco for Walburtons bread for the next day’s breakfast sandwiches.  She logged off her Microsoft office account and ran to the printer to check for more fund transfers to process. Luckily there was none; she wouldn’t have to stay over time.


She walked to the kitchen and while she washed her jollof rice stained plastic bowl, Fikayo daydreamed of the hot shower she would take when she got home. Hopefully, none of her uncle’s kids would distract her with incredible stories of their day at school. Or hopefully, her brain would not totally erase this plan from her memory as she staggered to bed knackered, barely cleaning off her makeup, as she had done for two consecutive days. Hopefully not.


Washed and dried, she loaded her plastic bowl into the maroon bag she had gotten from Ebele’s wedding. It came in handy as it pacified Aunty Mope,  who complained that Fikayo’s using Tesco bags to hold her lunch was mauvais goût- in poor taste.


Fikayo trudged up the basement staircase of Columbia Bank, greeted her favourite security guard and made her way to the Oxford Circus underground station, which was about seven minutes from her place of work.


A whole year in London had not prepared her for the insidious cold weather that had started since September. With every day, the weather got colder by one degree. She had carefully worn her gloves and tucked  both hands into the left pocket of her winter jacket, only because the zipper of the right one was stuck.


She was too cold and tired to enjoy the awesome wonder of nearby Topshop and Miss Selfridge this time. Maybe tomorrow, she would pop in for some quality window shopping.


At the staircase leading to the Oxford circus underground tunnel, Fikayo was greeted with the Evening Standard shoved into her face by a volunteer vendor. She didn’t mind at all, as she had picked up on voracious reading; The Economist, Financial Times, NME, Stylist and just about any other free magazine she could lay her hands on or subscribe to online. Today, the Evening Standard was to be her companion on her incredibly long journey to Enfield.


Christmas was already in the air, and Marks and Spencer had gotten in its groove, advertising appealing Christmas dessert on Standard’s cover page. Fikayo’s eyes rolled down to the bottom of the page and noticed it’s year of establishment: 1884, older than The Economist’s by two years. Stella Artois’ was 1366 as far as she knew.


Fikayo remembered when Sholape her friend in undergraduate philosophy and logic class maintained that institutions were more important than the people passing through them. The brick was more important than the mortar. The brick being institutions and the mortar being people. People pass through institutions but those institutions would always remain- other things being equal, Sholape said, unflinchingly.


Amidst her fatigue, Fikayo’s mind, immediately ran back to her beloved country, Nigeria. How many companies could it boast of with  such old establishment dates. Did her people still have the patience to start from scratch? Did they have the tenacity to build institutions future generations would enjoy?


Those were the thoughts that ran through Fikayo’s mind on her long train ride home.


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