Should Piers Morgan stick to his guns?

I know what it’s like having people in your house, especially if they are not wanted or they’ve overstayed their welcome. My husband always complains that I’m inhospitable, and not accommodating! That maybe but when guests begin to sprout strong opinions about how to run your home, your kids or husband then you know it’s definitely time for them to go. But having watched CNN for the past week, shows featuring Piers Morgan talking about gun control, I have to say as someone who has lived in a country that does not always welcome ‘opinions’ from foreigners and am currently living in another country that is quick to see you as ‘foreigner’ if you step out of line, I was shocked at Piers Morgan not accommodating his guests opinions – in their own country. About some days later, he interviewed another person who supported the right to gun ownership and again, I could not believe he called the man ‘stupid’. It was toe cringing. But given the sad demise of the children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, there was something in Morgan’s passionate outburst that made me pay attention. How the innocent lost their lives due to a man who had mental problems is not something that we should be blasé about. We should all be passionate and angry about this, in Newtown, and in other places where similar shootings have taken place, whether we are from that country or not.

As for some Americans who want Morgan kicked out of their country because he said that guns in the country should be outlawed, I’m a Black Brit who grew up in the UK; I adore American music, American literature, and American humour, in general I could say that I’m quite influenced by American culture. But I’m not complaining. It adds something to the multicultural society that I’m from; it makes it an enriching and emancipating experience for its inhabitants. In the last twenty years of so, through the news agencies, we have been exposed more and more to the problems Americans encounter, whether it be cultural, fiscal or about the racial divide whether we want it not. So when something such as the shootings occurs, given the amount of awareness we have and dare I say that we can make a comparison to the low gun crime rate in the UK, we have to show our concern and our outrage alongside those Americans who are equally outraged.‘Outsiders’ should be able to state that perhaps if the Government were to introduce policies that incrementally reduced the number of guns that are widespread in the country, the number of shootings, likewise, would reduce. Piers Morgan may be a foreigner who has a big mouth but he has forced us to pay attention but I’m sorry, I just happen to agree with all he says.

Blue plaque unveiling for Bernie Grant.

Today I attended the unveiling of the plaque of Bernie Grant. A number of us stood outside what was formally the town hall and listened to key people talk about the work the man did for the community. The clocks had been put back the previous night by one hour and strangely enough the weather had dropped a few notches in temperature quite dramatically. I scolded myself for not bringing my gloves. When the speeches were over, we all took our time strolling towards the Bernie Grant Centre, waited for sometime before we were allowed into the auditorium to take our seats. I was happy to be standing near the door as I was one of the first who had entered and chose a seat, only to watch the seats fill quickly.

It was not only good seeing familiar faces from my past but once the MC finished with their introductions, seeing ‘old’ faces such as Geoff Schumann, Judith Jacobs, Carol Thompson etc – it was good to know that these guys are still around!

The choir from Gladesmore School was magical and Bernie’s old friend from George Town, Guyana, gave a sparkling anecdote that had the audience virtually falling over themselves in laughter. The poet Zita Holbourne, recited some poems; all were lyrical and very powerful, that I would have loved to have heard some more.

Bernie’s sisters got up on the stage and talked briefly about their life with their brother and that as theirs was a large family; family was considered to be always important. There would be regular family gatherings. At this point, Bernie’s sons went out onto the stage. One of them talked briefly of running his pub with his wife in Hampstead, and reiterated the importance of family and discipline. One of the sisters said that she did not want to comment on her brother’s politics but how she was impressed by his commitment to the Tottenham community and Haringey as a whole.

All in all it was a great evening and I’m sure I can speak for all those who attended: we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The only thing I would say is that I found out about this event by accident so I think it should have been promoted more widely and not to be seen as a ‘black’ event. Bernie Grant was elected as MP for everyone who lived in Tottenham and not elected just for a certain group of people. As the current MP, David Lammy, Lord Boateng and other prominent personalities were all present, it would have been good if they had stuck around with the crowd after giving their speeches but they were nowhere to be seen! Oh well, such is life.

Malcolm Wicks – MP Croydon North West (Croydon North)

Browsing through today’s British Observer I read that Malcolm Wicks, the MP for Croydon has sadly passed away. He died of cancer on 20th September.

There was a time I used to live in Croydon and had a problem with the headmistress of a school in the area.  My son who attended the school was wrongly accused of stealing and the head was not particularly helpful or supportive. After ringing social services, legal people etc I eventually contacted Mr. Wicks.  When I wrote the letter to Mr. Wicks, the cynical part of me was feeling it was a waste of time. Would he actually respond? About three days later I received a phone call from his secretary inviting me to meet with Mr. Wicks.  I was surprised.  I went to his office and what immediately came to mind when I met him was his genuine caring attitude. He listened to what I had to say and then apologized for what had happened and said he would write a letter to the education department to follow-up my complaint. I was really surprised.  Was this an actual MP? He completely went against the grain of what one would expect of an MP! A week following that meeting I received a letter from the educational department who said that after investigating the matter it was found that my son was wrongfully accused and apologized for the error. I wrote to Mr. Wicks thanking him for his time and effort and how we all appreciated what he had done.

My time with Mr. Wicks was short but from what I saw, he was sincere, compassionate and considerate, and he will not be forgotten.  My condolences go out to his family.

Out Of The Ashes by David Lammy: Review


I’m almost coming to the end of Out of the Ashes, the book written by the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy.  Firstly I have to say that I am surprised, really surprised. But why should I be you may ask? Is he not Harvard educated? Or have I been totally bowled over by the rumours that the man is a ‘sell out?’ The truth of the matter is that David can write and the man is passionate about his area. On concluding this book he has made me to realize that, like most things, it’s so easy, sometimes too easy to be dismissive as Lammy is not just some mere simpleton. His style is lucid, sensitive and accessible, and when needs be, he is still able to serve up hard statistical facts which does not interfere with the style of his writing. You believe that he cares about his constituency and his constituents and that no matter what is said of him or has been said about him, he is for Tottenham. Like myself, who was born in Tottenham, grew up in Tottenham and luckily educated by the borough, I’m aware that there are lots of cynics who say: Well! After all he is a politician, what do you expect him to say? That maybe, but one can also argue that the ‘riots’ gave Lammy the opportunity to dispel the rumours that he’s just a ‘careerist’ and the opportunity to get his hands dirty, for once.  Lammy and Clegg in Tottenham

I managed to get hold of the second edition that came out July of this year where in the book he answers all those questions that were ringing in my head: he wrote the book so quick after the riots (that’s because he was already writing the book and then the riots took place); he did it so that he could make some money (any profit from the book will be donated to charities connected to Tottenham).  So the book talks about the riots, immigration, and reform.  It explains how the underclass in Britain came about and what should be done about it.  Lammy places his argument within a context; he goes at length to explain his case cogently but he does not lecture or preach. He looks at the root causes but knows what should be done regarding the symptoms. And although I was overjoyed that he has all these incredible ideas, I couldn’t help but feel his hands are strongly tied by the forces that tower over him.  This is shown in a tiny instance when Lammy was Minister of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills and Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.  Brown requested meetings with the ministers.  Lammy complained to Brown about the increase of knife crime in Tottenham and how it was a regular complaint from the mother’s who attended Lammy’s surgeries. They wanted something done about it!  Brown listened then said the solution to the problem was ‘tax credits’ and then asked Lammy if there was anything else he wished to discuss!

Lammy also manages to weave in some touching biographical details i.e., his fear that he could end up in prison and how some family members also lived in Broadwater Farm; how his father abandoned the family and left for the US and Lammy’s success in winning a chorister scholarship at a cathedral school. It just goes to show that not all is bad in Tottenham.

Although I enjoyed reading this book, I hope it goes some way in putting away the rumours that Lammy is not really interested in the area. If there are truths in the rumours, then I hope he uses this opportunity to show that he is for Tottenham and I don’t mean just being vocal on the betting shops invading Tottenham High Road but making sure he constantly touches base with his constituents and that it’s done with concern and sincerity.


Week 8. And so finally…

I have finally gone through Week 8; it has been moving, frustrating, trying, freeing. The Artist’s Date?  I’m now in London to spend the Easter with my mother.  Right now, the time is 11.55pm and I’m typing this and at the same time watching the riviting Law & Order (the US one).  The weather fluctuates between really warm and a miserable cold.  And the cold is so cold that my left knee has quickly begun to react by throbbing a dull ache.  Annoying!  I’ve dug up my thermals and thick tights, telling myself I have to wear these daily, even if the sun unexpectedly begins to shine.  I didn’t do the MP’s today but tomorrow I will read Week 9 and start my MP’s on Monday.  Have a good week!

The Artist’s Way – Week 8: Does this ‘Week’ know me? Has it ever met me?

I read Week 8 then stopped.  I could not believe what I was reading. Did Ms. Cameron specifically write this for me? As ‘it’ seemed to be so apt: talking to me, knowing exactly where I was in my life and what my problems were?  It knew why I felt the need to blame someone, anyone; why I was hiding and therefore procrastinating on what I was meant to do. The conclusion drawn: fear was the driving force and I allowed it to dominate me.

But nevertheless I still need to read it again just to make sure I have not missed anything. Well in fact I have!  I must read it again because I really didn’t have enough time to do the tasks and exercises which as any TAW follower, is a must! But I am finding this book to be thought-provoking, even to the point of being slightly disturbing.  Will keep you posted!

I know it’s a bit late but Happy New Year everyone!

I am running late. Just got back from a trip in Ghana, and whoa, it really was a busy and enjoyable experience. From going to Cape Castle, to Aburi botanical gardens and how could I forget Kakum National Park. The firework display on New Year’s Eve, at the hotel, was spectacular. I think just as good the one witnessed in Dubai.

Now back to everyday. One or two resolutions that I hope that I don’t break and that is to do The Artist’s Way without stopping or ‘breaking’. I started this book before and just got up to week 5 and then I stopped! Can’t remember why but I never got back to it again. Now I’ve restarted (just completed Week One), I try to make myself be more conscious of what I have to do. There are some principles that the author (Julia Cameron) wants you to follow, so I have to do that. Let see how it goes.

The second resolution is to lose weight. Gosh, how many times have I promised myself this?? I’ve lost count. But I just hate how my body shape seems to have settled down and refusing to accept change, aided and abetted by myself of course! But I will try my hardest to lose this weight.

2011 was a tense ridden year for me; from problems that involve loved ones to problems with the State. But as my Pastor constantly tells me: The Almighty Father never gives us challenges that we cannot overcome. I guess there must some truth in that as I’m still here!

I hope and pray for a more positive time, to be more forgiving and understanding to others and for peace to be given more of a chance.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Yes, what did become of those girls who bullied me: Kate Middleton at Downe House School

Duchess of Cambridge

Petronella Wyatt in her article in the Daily Mail wrote about her experiences of bullying at a private school and how she identifies with the similar experiences Kate Middleton endured when she was at Downe House. Wyatt goes on to say that she wanted to leave but her father chose to keep her at the school as he felt that life, unfortunately, is made up of ‘unpleasant people’ and that you have to find a way dealing with it/them. This article took me down memory lane forcing me to remember my own experiences. The school I went to was a rough comprehensive school, and when I finally left, it was such a relief. I liken my experience to a soldier returning from war with all the wounds and some permanent scars; I left school I felt, in a similar fashion. The experience definitely made me strong but I found it difficult to trust people and whatever relationships I had with them was never long-term. But just as Wyatt had asked the question which I always scolded myself for even thinking, and that was – what ever happened to those bullies? Did they do well in life?

Bullying for me was either being physically pushed around, ignored, called names and all the time trying very hard not to end up in tears. In those days you couldn’t complain to your parents (they just told me to get on with it), and you certainly didn’t have Esther Rantzen’s helpline to call and the teachers simply got fed up of punishing the bullies. I had a few friends but their loyalty was inconsistent because they felt it safer to stay on the side of the bullies.

I wasn’t aware of it but I was told that I had an ‘air’ about me and took a studious approach to school work that the other girls didn’t understand and did not like. The irony about this is that some of those girls were cleverer than me and most times performed better than me in exams, but they didn’t appreciate what they had and could not appreciate that I had to work to be ‘intelligent’. It did not help that I was attractive to the guys and the most attractive of them wanted to date me. It also didn’t help that I had parents who made sure my eye was always on that ball. My parents were oblivious to comments like they were behaving above their station or they were being ‘too ambitious’ as they were simply unconcerned about what other people thought. They pushed me like crazy to do the piano lessons, violin lessons, tap and ballet lessons, saxophone lessons to pass the entrance exam to a college of music and years later to get into University. When everyone was going to disco’s, having illicit relationships with boys and a quick fag in the toilets, I was at home seething with anger as my parents insisted that I should get on and continue either playing those scales or learning my Shakespeare! The number of medals, certificates and performing on stage (and being mentioned in the local paper) did not endear me to these girls, it just further alienated me from them and as a result, life was a constant misery without anyone having any idea that it was happening.

I married some years ago and my partner has become a successful banker. We have managed to live in seven cities, two countries, and at the same time have an interesting lifestyle. No doubt. But as for those who gave me hell, when I go back to my parents home I see them, or they see me and quickly cross over the road. I also see they’ve been burdened with having to look after a family from a young age or a few of them have gotten into lifestyles that can only make me take my breath away. I try not to give this too much thought otherwise I feel guilty of smugness.

I was determined that once I had kids and because I would hate for them to experience what I went through, my husband and I decided that our daughter would go to a boarding school and obviously it is a big welcome that there are now such things as anti-bullying policies and an awareness of how young people feel . Well before the story emerged about Kate Middleton’s time at Downe House, I selected this school and a few others as possible potentials. A beautiful school, a friendly Head, posh but serious-minded and intelligent girls. As to whether it was possible to detect that any bullying went on, it was difficult to say as the girls looked really happy. But we selected another school instead and so far, our daughter seems to be enjoying herself, as well as working hard!

From following all these media stories about Kate Middleton, I take it that it is more the media speculating as opposed to knowing what actually happened to Kate. We do not know what she experienced at Downe House but I do feel that whatever her experiences, she has been forced her to develop a thick skin: not really caring what people say or think. Kate speaks for all us who have played the role of Cinderella surrounded by so many ugly jealous sisters where we have emerged to marry our ‘prince’. May sound cheesy but I say well done to her and well done to the rest of us.

Stephen Kelman; Pigeon English – More like Broken English and broken spirits

Well I have read Stephen Kelman’s book – Pigeon English and noticed that it has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.  Maybe I’m just a jealous frustrated writer or maybe I need to get real and see some of the themes he writes about of my community instead of me trying to write the decent things that do exist in places like Tottenham.  But instead, this is a book that even before you get to the end you know damn well there is not going to be good ending.

Pigeon English is about a young boy who arrives from Ghana settles in an estate that could be Broadwater Farm; a story which features black Brit-on-black African crime, a story that makes you think about the murder of Damilola Taylor, a story which makes you think what it is to be young and black in modern day London. A story about parents/adults who are not engaged with the kids.

I guess my usual moan is what would a white middle aged man know about black youth?  Okay, so the author grew up in a council estate but does that mean he has understanding of what it is like to be black/Ghanaian?  It almost seems as if there is an idiot’s guide to black people that is available somewhere that writers of a different race and colour can imagine and write what they think it must be like to be black! I wonder if I could get away with as much.

But my really biggest moan is the ending. How dare Kelman conclude the story in such a way which suggests that for the black/ethnic youth there is no hope? The actions of the looters in the recent riots in England, already tell us that a lot of the youth are not engaged in their environments so I don’t think it helps to have literature that affirms that. Instead, the book could show how overcoming ‘adversity builds character,and character in turn builds hope’.  I just wonder if a young person from a certain background were supposed to read this book, if they wouldn’t find it despondent, because I certainly did.


41 Days after the Tottenham Riot: the day of Mark Duggan’s funeral.

I made my way to the post office this morning so that I could use the cash machine.  It must have about 10.00am.  The weather was quite cloudy and yet it was warm.  There was an eerie quietness: the usually packed launderette was empty, the post office was empty and corner shop that sold burgers and kebab was still closed.

This was written 21 days after the riot. Note the building in the background

As I joined the queue and waited to withdraw the cash, I overheard an elderly woman standing across the road at the junction where Mount Pleasant Road meets The Avenue waiting for the W4 bus. She said she had waited for more than thirty minutes for a bus, and now she was sure it wasn’t coming because of the funeral…

Was today the funeral I asked myself.  As soon as I withdrew the cash, I asked a passerby if the funeral was taking place today.  He said yes, then checked his watch and added that around 11.00am the cortege would pass through The Avenue then onto the High road. Instead of turning to go back to the house, I walked toward the burger and kebab shop and noticed people waiting outside the corner shop on the opposite side; I turned left into the avenue and my attention was focused on the young dread who shouted out at a group of photographers, asking to show ‘respec’.  As I got closer to them, they were chatting and smiling, totally disconnected to the surroundings but they stopped, placed their equipment into their vehicles and left. I continued walking to Broadwater Farm.  It was ominously quiet except for some people dressed in black heading perhaps to Duggan’s family home.  More cars were moving up and down the street, the drivers stopping for half a second chat with each other and then were on their way.

After a while I left.  I had to finish packing my suitcase for my journey to Nigeria. Whilst I was in London, a bomb went off in the UN building in Abuja killing 23 people and injuring many other. The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility.  Prior to leaving Nigeria in July, the police headquarters also in Abuja was hit by a bomb. Both buildings are not too far away from my office.  As one Nigerian woman joked which will it be, Boko Haram or the riots in England.  Is there anywhere, in the world, that is safe?