The quote was taken from the character Jean Slater (Gillian Wright), EastEnders, who leaves a devastating message for her family about her decision against having treatment for cancer.
Yesterday evening, my husband along with my son and daughter, were eating our meal while the soap drama, EastEnders was playing on TV in the background. As I ate and momentarily glimpsed at the program, I said how strange it was that when the first episode came out in 1985, I was intrigued by the character ‘Dirty Den’ to the point I could never miss an episode but after some months, I lost interest in the program. We went on to talk generally about the other soaps. Coronation Street was one I recalled, when we used to live in Manchester in the late 80s, seeing one of the actors enter the department store, Kendals in Deansgate. I remembered the staff and the way they greeted the actress with excitement.
As I continued talking, I noticed the character Patrick Trueman (played by the actor Rudolph Walker) appeared in a scene where he is hospital, looking quite ill. I wondered what was going on. Then in the next scene was another character, Jean Slater, doing a video call. The volume was not too low as I was able to listen to the family and the TV.
I was very moved to the point I was no longer listening to my talkative family as Jean, in a restrained and yet powerful monologue, expressed her concerns about her cancer returning and how she could not bear to go through treatment again. But what really locked my attention was her conclusion: ‘all we really have is today.’
Last week on Disney Plus, we watched the newly released animated movie called Soul. Without spoiling for those of you who have not seen the film, I would just say it was entertaining and heartwarming but again, the take-away message which remained in my mind: that life is meant to be lived as opposed to waiting for it to begin. Again, you only have today, it seemed to be saying.
This morning, I got up late (9:30 am…late for what?). My daughter promptly came into my room and said her father was upset.
‘Upset? Why?’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’
She took a deep breath and looked away from me as if suddenly there was something interesting happening in the garden. ‘You know Daddy’s friend….’ She mentioned his name. ‘…he’s passed away…’
‘Noooo! That cannot be true! He spoke to him just a few days ago…. why didn’t he wake me up…?’ I was about to put on my dressing gown when my husband walked in, we stared at each other in silence.
My daughter and I sat on the bed whilst my husband sat in the chair opposite. His head was gripped by his hands. He talked and kept talking about his surprise and could not believe how Covid had ‘destroyed’ his friend. I was also speechless. I was aware that our friend was ill, but as he refused to name the illness when asked, we decided that he must have contracted the virus. The last time my husband spoke to him, two days ago, he sounded as though it was an effort for him to talk. My husband wanted to ask more questions about his illness but left it, telling himself he would call him again – which would have been today.
As we spoke of this friend and his connection to us as a family, Jean Slater’s shattering video message in EastEnders came rushing in my mind, as did the Walt Disney movie Soul.
It is something I must be mindful for the rest of this new year: there is a difference between having a life and living your life. I am aware of having this fantastic opportunity of being alive, yet I have been living it as though I still expect it to start!! I need to really know, that all I have is today. As my life reveals itself in the present, I must not allow it to disappear by allowing time to past right by, screwing away precious seconds of my life worrying about the future. Life must be lived, right now!
Yesterday was the first day of the new year. I can write all about my hopes and dreams for 2021 but instead, I want to focus on what a year 2020 was!! We had and still have Covid, the build up to Brexit, (where we have now officially left Europe), the ‘live’ murder of George Floyd… where we have talked, dissected and tried to reassemble without satisfaction.
But not all has been bad. The key things for me during this year has been settling into a new home; doing various courses online via Zoom and Blue Jeans; having an essay accepted and included in an online anthology. Although I’m entering a later phase in my life, I cannot help but think that this is just the beginning…. It’s a bit of dilemma because how can things ‘begin’ to happen when we’re told constantly of how life ‘will never be the same again?’ How will the ‘new normal’ will appear? I’ve decided not to dwell on this as each time I think about it, I get into a loop where I cannot remove myself from so it’s best to leave it.
But I do however, want to focus on making sure that 2021 will be the year of completion and forgiveness. To finish writing my memoir – which has been going on, ever since! To repair certain relationships, especially within the family. I was not speaking to one of my siblings for an entire year, it is only just last month that we decided to speak to one another. I believe this was due to people we knew within the community, who have died. It had effect on me, knowing and growing up with these people – arguing with them, ignoring them, and then eventually embracing them years later. But I was shocked and moved on receiving WhatsApp photographs of these people which carried no comment, name, or caption but I automatically knew what it meant. Just before the lockdown, I was able to to travel to London, to attend the funeral of one of these people. The simple lesson from this is – life is too short to be holding on to tantrums and grudges!
But there have also been people who I thought were friends and for whatever reason, no longer see me or want me as a friend. I dug deep within to figure what I had done wrong . Years ago, I would have been disheartened at this but now, I don’t feel any offence and look at the experience as a form of ‘shedding’, i.e, removing those who no longer serve any purpose, perhaps. But what is interesting, these ‘friends’ have been replaced with people who have come into my life who are interested, who care: school mates who I have not seen for years suddenly turning up. The same applies to a friend I met years ago but unfortunately lost her contact details. Just last week, after Christmas day she called, telling me that she ‘hunted’ me down and was determined to make contact with me. I was so pleased. This also means on my own part, to respect and nurture these friendships and not take them for granted.
I really hope and want 2021 to be positive not just for myself but for all. To be able to realise our dreams, to achieve our goals and to be okay with ourselves and realise, we can only do what we can do, without beating ourselves up when we’re disappointed. I raise my glass to you all and pray that all will be well.
Happy New Year to you All.
As always, I’m late with my greetings. But before anything, I wish to wish you all a belated Happy New Year and hope that 2020 will be just as fulfilling and even more so, than the previous year.
I don’t know where to begin with 2019. The year moved quickly but it was eventful, busy, enlightening and for once my usual ongoing negativity turned its head and decided to be positive. If there was a downside, it was leaving the family home, which was in our possession for 38 years. A grand home in North London my late parents bought just as I was leaving for university. It welcomed me in between term times, it accommodated me here and there when my own family lived in numerous cities and countries, it took us in again, just before we moved into our home in South London and this was repeated again when we rented out our home and stayed at this house before emigrating to South Africa.
It’s also uncanny that I spent just a year living in this home before starting university and then I spent a final year (2019) in it, before putting the property up for sale.
It housed all the items – whether they belonged to my parents or us – we had from year dot until present. And most of the items I felt, were so sentimental, I could not throw them away so instead, they were either donated to charity shops or, items concerning our parents which I felt had ‘historical’ value were gifted or loaned to the local museum. Such as receipts belonging to my father for payment of rent, when he rented a room in 1955; my mother’s certificate received from the Home Office in 1958, granting her legal right of stay in the UK (this would show that not all those from the Windrush generation misplaced their documents) and also a 1957 diary belonging to my father showing the entry date my mother went to hospital to deliver me!
I discovered my primary and secondary school exercise books, a program of when my parents went to see the Broadway musical hit, Sweet Charity; a black and white photo taken during the 70s of myself and a classmate on a school trip to Amsterdam. The weird thing is prior to finding this photo, l learned from another classmate just a week ago, that the other girl in the photo had passed away! I found other similar belongings to my siblings as well my own children (there was a time, where we used to live in South London when my son’s nursery had abruptly closed for some months, so my son was sent to his grandparent’s home and they took him to a local nursery until I was able to find another nursery for him). It is by going through my parent’s wardrobes and drawers (the last time I did this, I had to be about ten years old – they never changed their bedroom suite – where I got a good hiding!) that besides keeping their own things, they also kept items belonging to their children and grandchildren.
My father had a number of books to do with his profession, carpentry. There were no first editions but there were other editions dated from the turn of the 20th Century which he had in his possession. I got in touch with an apprentice Trades College, who agreed to ‘adopt’ the books and put them in their library but also, they want me to write a short biography of my father, focusing on his connection to carpentry. I told them I’d be happy to do this.
The last three months of remaining in the house were spent removing, delivering, transporting, visiting neighbours and friends in the street to collect email addresses. When I finally closed the front door for the last time, I went to spend a few nights with a friend who lived on a road (in the same area), where our family also used to live. Her house was five houses away from our former house. Isn’t life strange? The plan was that as there were still things to do, in the area, my friend was happy for me to stay as long as I wanted before on to stay with my daughter, outside of London.
But whilst all this was happening, I felt I should not give up on my writing, so I went to a weekly writing group in the area. Looking back at my ‘Welcome 2019’ I wrote about attending this class. I was just two weeks into it but I’m happy to say that I went to each class – for ten weeks! The group was mainly a feedback group, where we would read an extract from something a body of work we are working on, or something we’ve specifically prepared. The piece would be read out before everyone else and in return, we would receive feedback. I found this helpful and supportive. I was hesitant initially, taking issues about racism to an all-white group but instead, I was surprised that the topics aired, were discussed and debated, with not too much friction or irritation. I was left with the feeling that the members felt they had gained more understanding of race issues than they did before. I was so happy I attended; it was one of the best decisions I had made.
Continuing with the writing theme, the other major thing I did was to attend a creative writing retreat for women. It was held outside of London, at a University where the students were on break, so accommodation was available. It was for three days where there were numerous workshops and short courses for you to attend. In addition, there were surgery slots, giving you the opportunity to meet literary agents, book doctors, authors, tutors, personal experience talks, panel discussions, an expert to show you how to talk in front of the microphone and to an audience and also, when the sessions were over, there was always the opportunity of meeting other ‘writer’s and just having conversations, well…about writing! Again, I was so glad I went.
I was away from my immediate family and it did place a strain on my marriage but as the probate was coming to an end and the sale of the property was the final thing which had to take place, as one of the administrators, it was something I had to do. This meant leaving my own home to stay with my siblings in my parent’s home. My parent’s home is some distance from my house. There was lots of running around and every day was a busy day. This went on for a year but the end came quickly and I’m happy to say that I’m reinstated back in my own home with my family, relieved
For 2020, I hope to continue with my writing, and if possible, publish my book. I also hope to lose weight, be more prayerful and meditate. I also really hope that as Britain is now single, she’s able to handle her divorce with dignity and not lose sight of all her children, as well as her step-children.
A Happy late New Year!
Here’s hoping that 2020 will be fulfilling, prosperous, bright, healthy and may a light guide you all to a positive destination.
Just goes to show how it’s important to keep up with the news here in the UK. Fed up with politicians’ indecisiveness over Brexit or/and Trump’s refusal to accept how he is responsible for stoking up right-wing hatred towards people of colour and different faiths, so I find myself these days reading books and watching too much TV. But today I decided I should check out The Guardian online to read the cultural section and I see a photo of Toni Morrison. It was just her face I saw but I was unable to see the caption under the photo. I repeatedly press the keys to scroll down but my laptop is so stupidly slow but eventually I get there and my worst suspicions are confirmed.
I discovered Toni’s books some thirty-odd years ago, in a popular black book shop in Tottenham. The first one I bought was Tar Baby. I must have been fourteen when I got this book; I have to be honest and say that I didn’t understand the deeper meanings but I felt it spoke to me in a way other literature did not such as, hair straightening, skin colour (being light skin or dark-skinned) and the ‘friendships’ between black and whites – whether they could ever be real? Issues which I experienced and wondered about, in my life.
But what was strange – Toni was writing about African Americans in America and yet some of the themes in the book I bought, resonated even though I was of West Indian parentage, born in London. I thought from the little I understood, how audacious and brave of Toni to write about our issues. Some years later I picked up the book Tar Baby again and just opened to a page to where the narrator explains the protagonist Jardine’s love for Son;
Gradually she came to feel unorphaned. He cherished and safeguarded her.
Reading this is similar to drinking my favourite drink, then pausing to savour every moment.
The second book I read was The Bluest Eye. Now, this book, I was able to understand. It was so beautiful in its brutal honesty; making it clear to me it was not my fault I had an inferiority complex and that as a result, I disassociated myself from me. I understood clearly it had been imposed on me with neither my consent or permission! I found the book very moving and disturbing in how she was able to say, what was considered, the unthinkable, with ease.
Four years ago, I bought my daughter God Help the Child and she loved it, as she felt it was so pertinent to Black women and in particular to young Black women.
So, thank you, Toni, for all that you have done and helping to put the struggle out there and thanks, for being unapologetic because you have dedicated your talent and commitment to writing about Black people. I know your soul will rest in perfect peace.
So Liam Neeson has made headlines. We have seen and heard what he has said so there will be no point in repeating it. But what struck me was his question: What colour were they? As usual, if you read things, I’ve written you would know that incidents such as these remind me of similar incidents that happened in my past.
Growing up in North London, during the 60s, I had an English childminder, who conveniently lived next door to us. I believed I was ‘handed’ over to her when I was zero years old and I stopped being looked after when I turned 13. She was seen as a member of the family and to a certain extent, I considered her to be a second mother. I also believe that as she did not have children of her own, she saw me as a daughter.
When my parents decided to move and settle into a house, in the same area but quarter a mile away from the childminder’s home, she would visit on a weekly basis, and continued to visit and be a part of our lives right up until she passed away.
But I do recall numerous conversations we had, especially about incidents between people, or a fight had taken place where somebody was arrested, her immediate question would always be – what colour were they? As a young child, it was difficult to work out what exactly she meant but I sensed there was something wrong with the question. So much so, this line of questioning became a part of my own psychology. So, if there were incidents that I read about or discussed on the news, I would wonder, what race were they? Praying and hoping that the participants were not black. And my reasons would be that yet again, the black community is being demonized and blamed. In the same way, I’m imagining that Liam Neeson instinctively felt he had to ask that question because somewhere deep in his subconscious, black men constantly go out and do these things!
If anything good came out of this, at least he was honest about the way he felt. But I hope that I don’t have to worry about my son or nephews going out and coming across prospective Oscar-nominated, elderly white men, possessing a special set of skills (holding a cosh!) looking to ‘kill’ black men.
Mr. Neeson may not be a racist, but he needs to do more to set the record straight if he wants fans (or customers) to continue to patronize him.
A Happy New Year! Yes, I am late, but it is better late than never. 2018 was an interesting year which happened very quickly, which I would like to reflect on.
My mother passed away three years ago, and sorting out the estate has finally come to an end. Due to inheritance tax, no Will provided by my parents and other accumulated expenses, me and my siblings have no choice but to sell the family property which has been with us for the past 38 years. It makes my heart drop each time I think about it, but I must accept this.
Whilst working with the solicitor, I decided to attend a writing course in my area to provide me with some distractions. There are seven of us which includes the tutor, and each would read out about six hundred words from our writings and give feedback.
The environment was totally outside my comfort zone and yet it felt safe and supportive. But what was more helpful, the group liked my work and were keen to hear more. Just before Christmas, all members of the group plus other members attending the classes in the college put on a performance evening which I attended. Unfortunately, I chickened out and did not want to read my work but after the readings, I met someone who was planning to hold a masterclass on appropriation and writing i.e., whether writers have the right to write or imagine experiences of people who are not of the same race or the same class as themselves.
I decided to sign up as what I was writing about involved race and included some aspects of class-ism. I also attended another writers’ group in Hackney which was just for women.
The point of attending this group was to still get out of my comfort zone and to listen to different points of views with regards to my writing. I guess when you are writing, it is a good feeling when someone says that your work is ‘nice’ but most times you want constructive criticisms, which I am always free to accept or reject. I have decided now to discontinue attending these groups as I want to get back to writing the remaining of my memoir and perhaps, I might return when the work is complete.
I celebrated my 60th birthday in 2018; my husband not only put on a surprise birthday party at a restaurant but also included a power point presentation to talk about my life! The weird thing is that I have spent most of my time supporting my family, (with no regret) but I feel the time has come, especially as the ‘kids’ have grown, for me to pursue my interests. And one of those interests is writing.
A week ago, I saw a documentary on the Black British writer Andrea Levy. I have four of her novels. I have also watched the drama Small Island and recently shown on the BBC, The Long Song. But towards the end of the documentary, I was saddened to learn that Andrea is undergoing cancer treatment. She has had cancer for some time and managed to chase it away but this time around, it has returned and is ‘incurable’. Hence why she has not written since The Long Song was published in 2004.
She had been rightfully focusing on her health and accepted her fate. She courageously stated on camera her outcome and did not want to elaborate any further.
Andrea and I are the same age, the same generation, of West Indian descent and we are Black Britons. I felt Small Island, although applicable to my parents’ generation, spoke to me along with her other early novels, especially Never Far from Nowhere. She told ‘our’ stories with such beauty and dignity, but they are also stories which ‘speaks’ to those who feel that the term ‘British’ can only apply to the English population.
But the other thing which really hit me whilst watching the documentary is how life can be annoyingly short when you least expect it; that life, may not start at the beginning but can begin in the ‘middle’ or what some people may consider the ‘end’ (‘Oh! You don’t want to do that now…aren’t you too old for that!!).
So, although I don’t usually carry out my resolutions, my plan for this new year is to finish writing my memoir, take up some physical activity and improve my cooking skills. I want to continue with my prayers and constantly ask for guidance and support, but I’ve now merged my prayers with meditation. I hope to increase my sense of peace and understanding of myself.
If I am to summarize 2018 with two words, it would be change and acceptance:
- Having to sell off the property that has been with the family, since – but learning to accept the inevitable.
- Continuing with prayers but now including meditation. Embracing who I am and know I still have a long way to go!
- Learning that age really is a number and life is too short.
- Even if my writing will never be a good as my favorite writers, that it does not mean I do not have the ability to write. I should be more accepting of my abilities and have belief in myself.
- That I am responsible for my health and well-being.
I am sure there is more. But this is what I will focus on for the time being. This new year will ‘move’ just as quickly as the previous year, but I intend to be more conscious of time, my health, my writing, and my life.
I will continue to ask for support and peace in my prayers. I also pray that for you, this year will be successful, peaceful, healthy and good.
Happy New Year Everyone!
I’ve finished watching the last of the documentaries on celebrating ‘Nelson Mandela, One Hundred‘; I thought I knew all I needed to know about the man, about the country, about Apartheid, the tortures and the atrocities, but I was wrong.
This time around I realise just how close he was to all the saints we know and that probably (although not in my life time), he’ll be made a saint. I also learnt that my other idol, Maya Angelou died not too long after Mandela. I wondered if when she wrote the poem His Day is Done that some six months later, it would also apply somewhat, to herself.
His benevolence, tolerance and altruism reminded me that I still need to be more forgiving, to be a much better listener and more importantly, that it’s ok to have high standards, just as long as I realise to temper those standards when applying to people and situations.
What Mandela’s freedom did for me could almost be equated with being cleansed by the blood of Christ. If not for Mandela’s victory election, as a black person I would not have been able to live in South Africa and had all those incredible experiences. I am so grateful Nelson. Happy 100th and you should know, that we will never forget you.
I have just finished reading an obituary of Joe Jackson, father of The Jackson Five in The Guardian newspaper. But it is expected that such a monstrous article would focus on Joe’s lack of compassion and concentrate instead, on the cruelties he inflicted upon his ten children. Of course it would ignore that Joe had to feed his family on a paltry wage he received from working as a crane worker at a steel plant in Gary, Indiana; it would also ignore the everlasting poverty, the racism that was always there ready to inflict its hatred on anything which tried to be successful.
I guess what is probably frustrating for the author is how Joe was totally unapologetic and neither ashamed of his parenting methods. He was hard and unrelenting but as crude as he might have been, he basically did what he had to do.
I can understand Joe Jackson. If MJ were still alive, he would have been the same age as myself. My parents, in particular my father, was incredibly ambitious and persistent. He refused to accept that as he left the sugar plantation estate in the West Indies cutting cane, he did not leave for the UK so that I could become a typist or my brothers would be bus drivers. To him, education was the be-all and end-all. I was not allowed to go to parties, have boyfriends, my head had to be buried in books at all times. I can remember, gazing at my father with astonishment as he declared that he wanted me to go to University. Go to University? Was he for real?
Unfortunately, myself and my brothers experienced either lashings via the leather belt or had a copy of The Yellow Pages crashing down on our skulls! This happened several times to me and I decided that it was not going to happen again so I did what he wanted.
Yes, at the time I considered my father to be an unforgiving brute! He was aggressive towards my mother and his sisters. He did not suffer fools, whether they were as dark as he or any other colour. He was not scared. When the infamous Notting Hill riots took place some months after I was born, he participated. Clearly, depending on one’s point of view or politics, my Dad was far from perfect.
As a result of failing my exams and being really fed up of the whole thing, I mustered up the courage to confront my father and tell him that I wanted to go to work. My father was angry but accepted if I wanted this, then so be it but…whilst I lived under his roof and worked, he never gave up in continuously reminding me of the mistake I was making.
After a year of working at a job I found locally, I remember feeling bored, feeling how mundane and repetitive the job was. It was then, it occurred to me that if this was work or my future with regards to work, I did not want this. It was then, that my father’s ambition became my own. So while I worked I went to three evening classes per week. I did this for a year before applying as a mature student to a University. I never heard a whisper from my father again, instead I received his blessings and respect while I lived at the family house. And as for my mother, she played the ‘good cop’ to my father’s ‘bad cop’; she supported and loved his ambition and respected him as a good caretaker.
For those who want to crucify Joe Jackson for how he brought up his family, one thing that cannot be ignored, if Joe Jackson was not the parent he was, no matter how bad (Bad – such a great track) we most certainly would not have had the Jackson 5, we couldn’t have known Michael Jackson, and the latest Janet Jackson CD, the fantastic Unbreakable simply would not have existed.
I doff my cap to Mr Jackson, for his strength, his endurance, for his determination and ambition. It is clear that if he did not possess these qualities, the world would never have witnessed such a phenomenon as the Jackson Five which was and still is, the first of a kind.
I’m not likely to watch the forthcoming royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, this weekend as I’ll be celebrating my birthday with a party. For once, I’ll be away from the TV, preparing my speech, ironing out the creases from my special dress, satisfied that friends and family have all been notified and will turn up. My husband is responsible for the organising so I’m confident he will have everything down to a tee.
But given what I’m reading in the press about this wedding, do I want to watch this event slowly unfold into a fiasco? With step-sister Samantha Grant really laying her bitterness into Meghan, stating she (Grant) cannot be censored and refuses to be censored; Meghan’s step brother Thomas, in this statements say how Meghan is ‘conceited’ and ‘jaded’.
There are other estranged members who believe Meghan owes them and therefore deserve to be invited to the wedding. But then, there’s the father, Mr Markle. He has been accused of faking photos of himself being measured up for suits, constantly running to the media outlet TMZ saying he will walk his daughter down the aisle, then changing his mind, then changing his mind again. The latest now is that he is scheduled for a heart operation meaning that he will not be able to attend to his daughter’s wedding. The whole thing is turning into a more than tacky reality show.
The Queen is said to be angry and you can’t blame her. Although according to the feminist Germaine Greer, the royals do not want Mr Markle to be there, hoping he will be so overwhelmed by the mere idea of walking down the aisle with over a billion people watching, that he’ll pull out. But she doesn’t say why the royals may not want Mr. Markle to attend.
The journalist and interviewer Piers Morgan wonders why the palace has not sent someone to Mr Markle to speak to him about procedures and protocol, or invite Markle to the UK where he can take part in rehearsals enabling him to feel confident on the day. I feel bad for Meghan. She must be totally mortified and pressurised under her new family’s watchful eye.
I’m confident that my day will go well, that friends and family will turn up and that on this occasion where I can celebrate reaching a milestone, it will be a day to remember. For as long as I can remember, royal weddings have always been a treasure to watch. They are meticulously planned, with incredible music, the bride and bridegroom dressed to perfection. I really hope that Harry and Meghan have their day, uninterrupted.