Do Angels Smoke Pipes?
Some years ago Pauline and I were on a visit to Nigeria. I have a rule: don’t carry too much cash. We had £30.00 between us. We had flown into Lagos from Accra, Ghana. We presented ourselves at passport control and one of the officers said, “I need to see the £200.00 that you will change into Naira as you enter the country.” I explained that between us we only had £30.00, but I had a credit card.
This made no difference whatsoever, he insisted that I was lying and demanded to see the £200.00 or, he said, “We will return you to where you came from.” What could I do? The answer to this question was made for me by the officer; he lifted his rifle, stuck it in my ribs, and marched me and Pauline down the long corridor back to the aeroplane on which we had arrived. It had taken a long time to queue to get to passport control and our incoming plane had already departed. The soldier then decided that I would have to go to prison and, he said, “Your wife will go to the women’s prison.” Neither Pauline or I were impressed with this idea so I said, “can I try something?” He looked at me suspiciously, pushed the gun a little harder into my ribs, and growled “what are you going to try?” “Well,” I said, “I thought I might ask someone to give me some money.” He pulled the gun out of my ribs and slung it up onto his shoulder, looked at me steely eyed and said, “are you mad?”
“Not really,” I replied, “but anything is better than going to prison, so will you let me try?” “Who will you ask?” he said. I looked around for a friendly face in the myriads of people waiting to fly out, which is what Pauline wanted to do right there and then. I spotted a man leaning against a wall smoking a pipe, I said to my gun totting guard, “him over there.” He shrugged and said, “this should be fun, I am coming with you.” Our party of three made their way over to the pipe smoker. I opened the conversation, “excuse me do you speak English?” The man replied, “Just a little.” I explained that the gun wielding soldier was inclined to put me in prison as I did not have the required £200.00 to change into Naira, could he help. Much to my guard’s amazement the man said, “of course, I will go to the bank outside and get it for you.” A few moments later he was back with £200.00 Stirling. “There you are,” he said. I thanked him profusely and said, “I need to pay you back, when I get back to the UK where should I send it?” He laughed and at my insistence wrote something on a piece of paper which I carefully stowed in my wallet. We said our farewells and my now, somewhat quieter, guard escorted us back to passport control.
At the counter he announced, “They have the £200.00!” “Oh they’ve found it have they!” The man in the booth responded. “No,” the guard said, “I have just seen the most amazing thing; a man gave them the money”. I chipped in, “Well I did pray to God before I spoke to him.” A hush descended, they stamped our passports, and we were waved through.
There is more to this story which maybe I will save to my next blog, however, while in Nigeria, I took many the names, addresses and business cards of many people, all of which I tucked into the same place that I had put pipe-smoking-man’s piece of paper. My intention was to write to everyone on my return to the UK including writing to and repaying Mr Pipe-smoker. On my return to the UK every piece of paper was still safely stowed, and I started and succeeded in writing to every person, all except Mr Pipe-smoker. His piece of paper was missing, and even though I turned out my wallet and luggage, it was nowhere to be found. All the other address details were there.
I wanted to pay back my friend, but as his details had disappeared I was not able to do this. Who was he, where is he, why he gave me the money I have no idea. Perhaps if he reads this, he will let me know. My thoughts about it, perhaps, maybe, it was no ordinary man. How extraordinary that he gave me £200.00 very quickly, very easily, without any argument, debate, and with very little forethought. At the time, because I was so stressed, I did not think these elements through. If angels smoke pipes I want to say thank you to God for sending that particular pipe-smoker at the perfect moment.
Edited by Edited by Technicolour text