Happy Friyay! Last Saturday morning, I found myself outside Brother’s Bakery waiting to set off on a walk with FJ, who’s the subject of today’s blog. Why Brothers bakery? Well it was the early hours of the day, FJ LOVES a coffee and a coffee would certainly go a long way to waking me up. Why FJ? Well, despite FJ hating labels, I view him as a creative. A magician with the camera, FJ has a portfolio of some of his work on Folajuo.com. One project that resonated with me immediately was coffee-with. This project combined two passions for FJ, quality time with friends and coffee! So now having begun my own blog, I have been keen to emulate coffee with in one way or another, and so I’ve chosen ‘Drinks With’. I want to use this feature of the blog to speak with and learn about interesting people of different backgrounds so, who better to start with than the catalyst.
Let’s talk coffee. FJ ordered a Flat White with oat milk from Brothers, whilst I ordered a Chai latte. FJ was quick to share his contempt with the baristas and myself at my choice of hot drink, who then quickly turned to remind him he had exceeded his weekly coffee limit. Having read his coffee with project, his drink selection was a surprise to me. Throughout the series he had been an avid latte drinker, only changing twice. Once for a macchiato and the other a flat white. As we began our walk, having been berated for my drink choice and passing another coffee shop, I was curious about what constituted a good coffee and café to FJ.
FJ’s top tips for selecting a café/coffee shop:
Do they have their own brand on their cups (that’s a solid foundation)
Look at their beans, are they a generic brand (if so, don’t expect to be blown away)
Their milk provider (for Oat milk, Oatly is recommended)
Do the staff have the ‘look’ (barristas preferred with a tattoo and piercings)
Does the shop sell home making coffee apparatus?
As we continue to stroll, I quizzed FJ about what prompted these walks. He explains to me that it was a consequence of lockdown. Whilst he is a big fan of his own company, like most of us, having to remain in the same environment had begun to wear on him, and these walks offered ‘escape’. Not only for him, but friends who had joined him too. As we’re talking FJ pauses and quickly whips out his phone and snaps a picture of a pattern on a van; his eye for a picture is always active. This leads me to ask him: how did he master taking pictures and how does he identify them, especially so fast. FJ explains that he’s put in his 10,000 hours as can be evidenced by his 20,000+ pictures alongside the identification that’s implicitly comes with repetition. This also bought up a pet peeve of his, people asking him what camera he uses. While he doesn’t mind telling people they shouldn’t expect the same results as they are missing the point. You’re not going to use the same racket as Naomi Osaka and become a pro tennis player tomorrow.
The first time I remember meeting FJ was on a family trip to Dubai in 2013 to see my brother. FJ is one of my brother’s closest friends, so I got to know him better over the course of the trip. During this time FJ did his first international coffee with. This is where I discovered the project and started to follow it closely as a lot of the people being profiled were basically big brothers to myself. Back in the present day, I asked what had inspired the project. FJ explained that following graduation, his coffee intake was increasing but his free time was decreasing. This was preventing him and his people from catching up, so this offered a solution of sorts. The other key driver to the project was the passing of a friend, who he would’ve certainly profiled. Prior to his friend’s passing they had both wanted to meet up but the busyness of life got in the way. That acted as a catalyst for him not to take time with those closest to him for granted.
Another project I was keen to find out more about was his 30th birthday gift to my brother. The gift to him was an Instagram page: friendsofokus. Looking at it now, it can be considered an e-card but a much more personal and in-depth one. I’m sure we’ve all had to send e-cards over the last 17 months for obvious reasons. I was intrigued to find out what made FJ go with this choice of gift, and he responded with a question, “what do you give someone who has everything?” That did make me ponder, my brother really is a pain to shop for! He went on to tell me that my brother cherishes his relationships. Despite him having relocated to Dubai several years ago, everyone continues to speak highly of him. So, this gift could show him the impact his relationships have had on the people around him. FJ explained that he drew inspiration from Humans of New York when designing this gift. From a project delivery perspective, hearing about the logistics for this project made me really appreciate the stakeholder management skills needed for it. Not only were people based all over London, they were also based abroad, in Nigeria and Dubai and some were complete strangers to him, the amount of careful co-ordination that FJ did was crazy!
As the walk continued, we started to come across the scenic parts of the route, FJ said aloud what I was thinking, this has great date potential. This led us into the topic of dating; FJ and I had rather contrasting views on sliding into DMs #ShootersShoot. Whilst I advocated for it, FJ was strongly against shooting his shot that way. we did agree though that it is always easier to build rapport in person. I raised a tweet I’d taken issue with, “there’s nothing different to do in London”. We both strongly disagreed with this as even with food and drinks there are a range of different cuisines and bars to visit. If you’re failing to branch out, try new things or remain in comfortable situations, of course there’s nothing different. When looking for a partner, it’s essential that you’re friends too and that your partner is open minded and accepting of you for you. A fun topic on twitter last week was guys preferring the company of their friends to their partners, and one explanation is that they’re able to be themselves without judgement. Some of the issues we’ve both experienced in dating was dealing with partners who’s interests were for conventional dates. One suggestion is of our shared interest, galleries. There have been lots of interesting exhibitions this year, which offer something different and inexpensive for people to do.
With this being a shared interest, I was keen to pick FJ’s mind on how he approaches galleries and exhibitions. I’m still new in going to galleries and I can’t help but wonder if I’m taking in the art properly. He said not to overthink it; there doesn’t have to be a strict sequencing in how you view the art. When he goes solo he goes in with music, usually jazz, and proceeds to let the art lead him. He reminded me that art is subjective and not every piece of art will resonate and that your mood will also impact how you take in the art. Since then I have read a Tate blog slow looking and have added Abstract to my watch list on Netflix. I prodded FJ about when to expect to see his art in an exhibition and he pleasantly surprised me saying it’s in the works. It will act as a sequel to his predecessor exhibition Nostalgia. In that exhibition he didn’t name the art, leaving people to interpret it freely. Nostalgia was an exhibition that acted as a reminder to FJ that he has always been a creative, something even today he can grapple with.
“I like comics, cartoons, brunching and galleries” these are some of FJ’s self-described hobbies. For a long time some of these hobbies weren’t popularly associated with black boys or men. The associations were more aligned with sports and music. With those alternative interests, reactions of shock tends to follow as if to suggest those shouldn’t be his interests. Those reactions don’t phase FJ though because as he put it; “I live my life to the beat of my own drum.” FJ and I are the youngest siblings of our families, with high achieving older siblings. We thus share the woes that those lofty expectations can present, and this is where the struggle with being a creative stems from. Coming from a Nigerian background, our parents can often see things in black and white and creativity is literally the spectrum of colours. As he has gotten older, being true to himself has become a non-negotiable to him and following his 1st class in Software Engineering he’s broken away from what his parents wanted him to be. With FJ being the youngest in his family, it’s no surprise to me that he has such a creative spirit. It was his sister giving him a point and shoot camera that bought back the colour into his lens, having not acted on it for a while.
FJ is a big proponent of self love, and with that he’s keen not to remain content in himself. He loves to challenge himself and not fall complacent; his current challenge is working out twice a day! Throughout our conversation, FJ has remained in good spirit and he lets me know that not only is his physical health good, so is his mental. In years past this has not always been the case, and originally he tried to plaster over that by throwing himself into his work, partying and retail therapy. Eventually, he reached a point where these weren’t effective tools for managing his mental health so he sought therapy. The experience was a positive one; he described therapy as the opportunity to evaluate scenarios with his therapist effectively acting as Waze/Maps. Offering guidance on how to navigate the negative mindset that those scenarios bought on, he was able to reach a point where he could effectively navigate those scenarios independently. The same way Waze/Maps won’t need to be used for frequently travelled destinations as you’ve learnt the routes.
As the walk was concluding, we got another coffee, this time 2 Oat Flat whites at 15 Grams Coffee House. Whilst we waited for our drinks FJ pointed out the features that made this café great (their cups were branded, they sold coffee making apparatus, the baristas had the look and they had their own imported beans). I hope everyone will be enjoying their bank holiday weekend. There’s sadly no Notting Hill Carnival this year so instead I will follow FJ’s suggestion and start the Abstract series on Netflix. To see some better photography check out FJ's instagram -Folajuo. I’ll be posting on weekly on Mondays from now on, even if it doesn’t quite have that happy Friyay ring to it. Quick note for FJ here, I was wooed into signing up to that charity on my way to the gym following the end of our walk 😉 and thank you! I see how this walk offers not only you but those who’ve joined you on it that escape.