Thursday, 19 January 2017

good thing

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What a time to be in right now. I often wonder how the history books will write up the last year and the days to come; whose feet will they choose to lay the Brexit blame and how will they compare President 44 to 45? Cartoonists and Exam Board Question Makers must be sharpening pencils as the political roller-coaster ride twists and turns.

As Trump's inauguration looms I've been reading about how Obama's lack of achievement and how any accomplishments will be erased by his successor anyway. Haters gonna hate and theorists are always gonna miss the lay person's view. Here's mine.

In 2016 the country where I was born and bred, educated and worked, raised my daughters and probably will end my days, has turned the other cheek and is making a hateful noise. Not everywhere, mind. I'm a Londoner, most of the time people here can handle a range of face colours, divergent accents or an assortment of religions. But still the mood has definitely changed. And then we witnessed an eruption of overt hate spewing out of our tellies during the US Presidential Campaign. I am amazed that so many people can invest so much time to so much hostility; they seem to live and breathe a continuous rage against people who don't mirror themselves.

We have been invaded by an influx of slogans saying which lives matter, people filming death on their doorsteps and which 'race' is at fault for the demise of the others happiness. All raising relevant and necessary debates because all views need their day in the sun.

For me, the way the Obamas, especially Michelle, have engaged with society has been genuine. The images that fill my FB timeline highlight the joy, the decorum and respect for their position during their time in the White House. Michelle Obama's work raising the profile of girls education has been inspirational to many and long may her work continue in the organisations she has supported. Their collective message has always been about doing better, working hard, supporting one another and the necessity for heightened gun security. Okay I don't live in the States; many policies Obama imposed don't affect me directly but as the first black family in the White House move out of the spotlight and back into their private lives I believe they were always going to be scrutinised moreso than any other Presidential family. And how refreshing that they completed their tenure without scandal or mighty blunder as we have witnessed before, imagine if this President with a Brown Face committed a socio-political crime? Like getting Twitter trigger happy or mocking the afflicted.

Many may belittle those who rejoiced in the ethnicity of the First Family but there is a truth in how it has opened doors of self belief or understanding of journeys that can be taken by people of colour - when history lessons omit sections of society, if someone in power has experienced and refers to elements of your struggle, you are referenced and therefore can take your place in the future.

In their short lives, my three mixed heritage children, have grown up with classrooms and communities that reflect a whole world; a white male followed by a white female UK Prime Minister; a black American male president - their norm is that different people attain different successes.  Maybe they're too young to realise the power of prejudice, they will learn in time but I hope their future will be one where they use their voices, their strength, their abilities to improve their world - that's a message I taken away from the Obama years. 







Monday, 16 January 2017

MLK

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Happy Martin Luther King Day!

"...the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others"

Apparently today is 'Blue Monday', the most miserable Monday in the year. After the bright lights of Christmas have been dismantled and unless you have a birthday imminent, your high street and home street are defunct of colour until Valentines. As a teacher, this week was bang in the middle of an uphill slog to the dark February half-term which would then be crammed full of the joy that is  assessment and coursework marking.

But luckily (and so immensely relevant in light of US activities this week) there is a little red, white and blue glimmer of light for this week. Today is Martin Luther King Day.

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way!

It's been a pretty muddy, rainy, cold, kids-in-the-middle-of-the-term-tired weekend so I'm looking to start the week with love and a bit of history thrown into the mix.

MLK's life and work may be taught in some schools but I'm going to add a little bonus learning to our afternoon and open up a discussion about prejudice and tolerance. I want to hear what they think (and see whether we' ve been raising 'em right!).

The 'apple' or 'egg' experiments could be a starting point and I'll let them take it from there.

Or asking them to imagine life in a time of segregation: How would it change the life they have now? What would happen to their friendships? Or family? Being mixed heritage, I imagine my 3G will be throwing some interesting questions my way.

"What matters is not how long you live...but how you live"

To avoid a 'you must talk now' moment, whilst we chat I'm hoping they're up for writing their views encompassing MLK's desires.

So a poem entitled 'I have a dream' or 'My dreams for tomorrow'.
Or filling in a template cloud with finished sentences : A dream for me, A dream for my family, A dream for my world.  Hang it up and display the wishes of your offspring...then tuck it a box ready to whip out on their 18th birthday!

"The time is always right to do what is right"

Then to the conjuring up the atmosphere of MLK's time - well the good bits anyway - the music and the food. My lot are used to hearing an eclectic mix of music at Twickers Towers and today will be no exception. 1963 Soul can ease our way into dinner time. This may not bode well for the 3G but I'll keep them busy with the cooking and enjoy some solo-boogieing!

Tonight will be a dinner that has been alleged to be MLK's favourite Southern Soul Food : fried chicken, sweet potato, green beans and mac & cheese.  This is definitely food to warm the greyness out of a grizzly Monday.

"I have decided to stick with love. 
Hate is too great a burden to bear"

And finally, forgiveness. Many of MLK's words reflect on the power of forgiveness. Something that can be hard but required during all our lives. Who and why should we forgive? What might happen to us if we don't learn to forgive others?

I'm not one for heaping my political opinions onto my children - they read therefore they will find their way - but the messages here are about being a good human. That is one rule in our home that they must abide by.

"Our lives begin to end the day 
we become silent about the things that matter"

Thursday, 12 January 2017

on my radio

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Up until a couple of years ago, I think I'd forgotten the joy of radio. It had become the soundtrack to my solo car journey on the work run, once the nursery rhymes had been switched off after drop off or before pick up. I didn't really pay attention to who was wittering into my box of wheels and more often than not I would switch off in favour of CD of choice. Dance in the summer, funk in the winter, Eurovision in the spring, down for whatever in the autumn.  

When my days took a different shape, writing alone all day I was suddenly surrounded by silence. Although music would always kickstart my words (writing a chapter that was set in 1950s Caribbean  meant a backdrop of vintage soca), until the 3G finished school it was rare for me to hear a single conversation.

Until I found, in particular, two dials on the radio. I say dials, I am aware of DAB radio but the phrase pushing buttons bring the Sugababes in all their damp lyrical glory to mind.

So yeah, two dials. Vanessa Feltz at BBC Radio London and Women's Hour on Radio 4. My goodness. People this is radio heaven. If, like me, you love a good yell at the telly then roll over to radio shows where people share opinions! 

Since Ms Feltz has shifted to an earlier time I have lost some listening hours of London's vocal brigade kicking down the airwaves with their left wing, right wing, sashaying down the middle liberal  views. I just about manage to squeeze an issue or two during breakfast. I don't think I've ever been persuaded to switch off in a humph but there have been some toe-curling caller moments where they have been taken to task over a throw away comment. If you can't back up your argument, don't call in.  When will they learn?

And for something a little more sedate, as I clear emails and trawl social media with a mid-morning coffee, there is Women's Hour.  A radio programme where I have been educated and inspired and astounded at some awesome individuals creating their way in the world. I mean, Radio 4 has opened up a new world to me. The campaigns and the experiences that have been brought to light in just one episode are simply eye-opening.

I've also trawled Desert Island Discs and listened to, literally, all of my sheroes. I've discovered radio plays that have cover a scope of topics, which in turn encourage me to find stories from wherever and whatever I can.

I can't have the radio on all day, I have learnt to embrace the silence to help me concentrate but without the water cooler or the canteen moments I had when I was at work, the voices in my radio bring the world into me.

And it also means I don't turn on the evil telly!


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

the way we were

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The older I get, the more I throw a rose-coloured spectacled glance back to my childhood. The 3G are always having a shared chuckle when I regale them of 'the good old days'. 

"Do you mean in the olden days?" they ask behind youth and cheek.

Well, maybe they are, since they are also the days before the internet, mobile phones, electric cars and a gazillion TV channels. But these are also the days from whence tradition comes.

When I initially considered a tradition I'd like to see carried on I contemplated my childhood Christmas - the day of the Long Road To Opening Presents. Christmas in my house would actually start with the soaking of Christmas Cake Fruits in March before the baking of said fruits at the crack of a December dawn.  The kitchen would swell with the baking of Christmas Eve bread, including the special plaited bread (!) and a bun with our initials on. No amount of protest would move the Christmas morning any faster as the ritual of opening presents did not begin until we had finished every scrap of saltfish and bakes, fried plantain and cocoa tea and then washed every speckle of every plate. It would seriously feel like Christmas Day had disappeared before even the first shred of wrapping paper came off.

And whilst I try and keep as much of those traditions as I can with my own family, it gets a little harder when you are also part of someone else's family therefore sharing in someone else's family traditions. Throw in a little cultural diversity and things can get a little busy. We cope by amalgamating and creating new rituals which can sometimes result in customs getting lost or feelings being hurt.

So I thought of a tradition transcending all the branches of my family tree which, by its very nature, will grow and blossom with each generation and it cannot be remain the same or cast in stone.

I bring you the family 'do'.

Sitting free of seatbelts in our orange Vauxhall Viva, I would excitedly watch the 1980s London - in all its greyness - cascade around me until the our arrival at one of three West London estates would thrust my parents back into the warmth of who they once were and us into this strange yet pleasurable temporary existence.  Enveloped in the beat of Lovers Rock, any attempt to conceal my lanky presence in the kitchen would fail miserably as West Indian fingers, fresh from cooking pig trotter sous, would pinch my cheeks forcing me to extrapolate myself and disappear into the melee of cousins.  The rumble and explosion of  West Indian laughs above tales of 'he and she' or the thumps of dominoes on the tiniest table ever made linger in my veins and the strains of the reggae forever remain.

My girls may not be submerged into the sounds and smells of my yesterday but  they have experienced what will be their versions of  family do's across the country; from the rolling hills of the North East to Midland dales to coastal towns to Caribbean villages to city dwellings and one thing is constant; the welcome.

Other constants follow swiftly: the hugs, the food, the laughter. And still more: the new recruits (babies or lovers), the music, the little ones getting taller, the older ones getting greyer. We exchange seats at the table as our generation mourns the loss of those ahead and welcome those who follow behind.

There was a time in my teens when it seemed family dos didn't happen or maybe they did and we just weren't there. The splinters from this time have healed in some branches, not so in others, so I am thankful of the dos that remain and those that we are welcomed to join. And I relish those moments when aging fingers pinch the cheeks of my girls making them scurry for the safety of cousins across the country.

This post is in response to a Post40Bloggers: Writing Prompt No.103 : a tradition you would like to see carried on 

Friday, 6 January 2017

start me up

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Wait...what...it's the sixth of the month already? Where has the year gone? Do the years really pass by at Lewis Hamilton speed or do we fill our time and days even more the older we get? Whether with families or pets or sports or hobbies or the dreaded d-i-y, is every minute being consumed with lists of things to do?

Now I love a good list, I do, only this morning I planned my writing month; all colour coded, naturally. And to summon the glorious Nina Simone - I'm feeeeeling gooood. This is complete 180 from last week, when burdened with the weight of selection boxes (chocolates, biscuits, crackers, cheese - you get the idea) and lack of creativity, I stumbled out of 2016 and welcomed in the new year with the realization that I hadn't ordered new diary re-fills or a weekly planner pad. Cue panic.

On the other side of a fully planned January, it seems that routine is queen. Maybe after two decades of teaching, the hourly ringing of a bell to tell me where I should be has had a lasting effect. I am happiest when I know what's coming next... as long as it was planned of course.

Yet in order to relish the beauty of calendared life, I happily embrace the chaos of Christmas past. December begins my month of abandonment - exercise mornings, planned dinners, the bi-weekly glass of wine, bedtime routines and any shred of style...*hoists Christmas jumper aloft*. The house is decorated in so much sparkle and glitter our glow can be seen from the I.S.S floating by. In between meals chomping of much chocolate is a bare necessity and vats of mulled wine bubble contentedly on the hob.

But as with all excesses, things must come to a bitter end. Struggling to zip up jeans is not a favourite past-time of mine and I have better things to do that hunt amongst the January jumble sales. So off to the recycling with the choc-cracker-biscuit-sugarylove stuff and back to reality. The trainers have been donned for morning jumping and flailing about. Dinner menus are back in situ. Normal service has been resumed.

 *Turns to January page in diary* 

Today's colour codes are pink, purple and red. Lots to do.

And in the words of my gorgeous likkle niece...Happy Noo Yoo.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

more than words

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I wonder what you think of when you hear the word poetry? More often than not when I've introduced the topic to a class of teenagers there follows a collective slumping of shoulders.

And for a while, even in adulthood, I may have been inclined to agree. But just as I balk at the absurd suggestion when I'm told that someone doesn't like books - they just haven't found the right one for them yet - I have come to the same conclusion with poetry.

There is a poem (and poet) for everyone. And I reckon you need to start with the subject. What is it you're interested in, what experiences have you had and what in this world sparks your emotions?

I've never been a fan of the long and breezy poem that meanders with floral contortions over hill and dale. Nah. A couple of my earliest poet loves were Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. Two men who appeared on kid's telly with humourous rhymes I could relate to (and in the case of Rosen - the most hilarious facial expressions; us kids were glued).  Moving through secondary school and coming to understand the term ' ethnic minority' I devoured the words of Jackie Kay who in just one poem summed up my high school experience (go to page 13)

You see it didn't matter whether these poems rhymed or not, used fancy words or slang; I got them because they got me.

And so I continue onto my womanhood, mix in a little higher education, love and lust and loss and a whole heap of black women...well now...let me just rest while I cool myself with this here fan...Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, ntozake shange, Valerie Bloom, Jean Binta Breeze.

Poetry has power. I connected with the words which lead me to search for poems that would reach out and make sense to the closed ears in my classrooms. To do this I leant back to the poets I loved because then my enthusiasm for the poems I read out loud would be infused in each line. Luckily the exam board I taught thrust the likes of Simon Armitage and John Agard onto the curriculum so I dragged students and staff out to see them...LIVE!  Being a busy working mum of three my nights grooving at gigs may well and truly bitten the dust but here I was cheering and brap, brap, brapping with a bunch of year 11s at these two blokes who picked their words off the page and kicked them off the stage into a raucous crowd.  But you see, these kids...they got it.

We have come full circle in my house of poetry as I read Michael Rosen's poetry that makes my daughters double up in hysterics.

And so have I.  My teenage angst was penned across years and pages and whilst I may cringe a little, I have learnt to celebrate the me from then. And the me from now has re-discovered my love for my own poetry once again. Words and phrases seem to flow, just now, borne from an image in a photograph, sensation from a song, memory from my past, a face in my present, wishes in my future. All in all I am wrapped up in my poetry.

So that's what I'm writing these days.

This post i in response to the What I'm Writing linky week98




more than words

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I wonder what you think of when you hear the word poetry? More often than not when I've introduced the topic to a class of teenagers there follows a collective slumping of shoulders.

And for a while, even in adulthood, I may have been inclined to agree. But just as I balk at the absurd suggestion when I'm told that someone doesn't like books - they just haven't found the right one for them yet - I have come to the same conclusion with poetry.

There is a poem (and poet) for everyone. And I reckon you need to start with the subject. What is it you're interested in, what experiences have you had and what in this world sparks your emotions?

I've never been a fan of the long and breezy poem that meanders with floral contortions over hill and dale. Nah. A couple of my earliest poet loves were Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. Two men who appeared on kid's telly with humourous rhymes I could relate to (and in the case of Rosen - the most hilarious facial expressions; us kids were glued).  Moving through secondary school and coming to understand the term ' ethnic minority' I devoured the words of Jackie Kay who in just one poem summed up my high school experience (go to page 13)

You see it didn't matter whether these poems rhymed or not, used fancy words or slang; I got them because they got me.

And so I continue onto my womanhood, mix in a little higher education, love and lust and loss and a whole heap of black women...well now...let me just rest while I cool myself with this here fan...Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, ntozake shange, Valerie Bloom, Jean Binta Breeze.

Poetry has power. I connected with the words which lead me to search for poems that would reach out and make sense to the closed ears in my classrooms. To do this I leant back to the poets I loved because then my enthusiasm for the poems I read out loud would be infused in each line. Luckily the exam board I taught thrust the likes of Simon Armitage and John Agard onto the curriculum so I dragged students and staff out to see them...LIVE!  Being a busy working mum of three my nights grooving at gigs may well and truly bitten the dust but here I was cheering and brap, brap, brapping with a bunch of year 11s at these two blokes who picked their words off the page and kicked them off the stage into a raucous crowd.  But you see, these kids...they got it.

We have come full circle in my house of poetry as I read Michael Rosen's poetry that makes my daughters double up in hysterics.

And so have I.  My teenage angst was penned across years and pages and whilst I may cringe a little, I have learnt to celebrate the me from then. And the me from now has re-discovered my love for my own poetry once again. Words and phrases seem to flow, just now, borne from an image in a photograph, sensation from a song, memory from my past, a face in my present, wishes in my future. All in all I am wrapped up in my poetry.

So that's what I'm writing these days.

This post i in response to the What I'm Writing linky week98