A Faithful Servant

My beautiful father at the age of 89 made his journey from life to death on Friday 7th September 2018 surrounded by his family. He was a man who always said he didn’t want a fuss but he was secretly happy when we did for his birthday or Christmas.

He took the scripture that there is life and death in the power of the tongue by never saying a bad word about anyone (no matter how much they deserved it). He chose to give life through encouragement and positivity – rather than the easy route of mocking or condemning anybody or anything slightly different.

In his last days he was in excruciating pain but he could still make me laugh through a facial expression or a reaction to a green concoction that I blended to force him to eat some vegetables.

I loved him so much, his treatment of others from a baby to his peers was unique, it was hard to be angry in his presence because he was always so calm.

When he died their was an overwhelming outpouring of grief not just from family but from his neighbours, church, community and friends. One former Sunday school student said her happiest times were spent in the church van, Sunday school and youth club surrounded by positive forward looking people. A friend said he was always a true gentleman.

Dad used to say ‘it is appointed to man once to die and after that the judgement.’ Well I think people will judge him as a good man; a man who tried under difficult circumstances to remain faithful to GOD.

Holiday Reads

The Longest Holiday

I took this book on holiday not really expecting much from it. However from the first paragraph I was gripped.

The main protagonist cried a lot throughout each chapter to be honest these type of characters put me off because they come across as weak and insipid but surprisingly I immediately connected with her. Sometimes it depends on the stage in life that you’re at. There are days when I feel like crying and I’m afraid to in case it never stops.

Back to the story each chapter is well structured to keep the reader turning the page. The main relationship in the story takes a long time to get going. I would describe it as Shirley Valentine in Miami.

There are a number of twists and surprises in what is quite a simple plotline. I found it hilarious when she describes her friend falling in love on holiday and leaving her at the airport to face disappointed parents. It reminded me of my one and only venture to Kavos a girl at the airport still high saying she didn’t want to go home.

Towards the end of the novel – the reader becomes caught up in the protagonists dilemma. Which man will she choose? Does she have the capacity to forgive?

Black History Month Reading

Elmina’s Kitchen

A harrowing drama about two generations of black men dealing with what it means to be black and British. The language is strong but it is a good attempt to capture the authenticity of spoken language in the area. The characters in the play are imprisoned in a world of crime and violence they struggle to avoid being sucked into the dark underworld. Love and respect are powerful themes that significantly challenge the traditional father son relationship in the drama.

There is a noted absence of female characters in the play which on the whole allows many sexist and misogynistic comments to go unchecked. The huge portrait of Elmina Deli’s mother watches over the action but she is helpless to prevent the dark criminal underworld encroaching on her family.

The antagonist Digger is an ever present malignant force but at times reveals a vulnerability. He is aware he is an outsider as his friendship with Deli is based on fear and intimidation. Digger successfully grooms Ashley into his criminal and violent activities with money and expensive gifts which eventually makes him choose where to place his loyalty.

The play opens with the song Sufferer by Bounty Killer – the song captures the many years of injustice and racism endured by the characters in the play. There are choices presented about how you deal with the injustice, through: crime and violence; hard work and self determination, wider reading and education. Ashley’s dumping of his school books in the bin is symbolic of him choosing the fast route to ‘success’ regardless of the consequences.

The writer also presents the values and beliefs of the older generation through Bayjee and Clifton. Bayer never married but he is prepared to take advantage of any woman on his rounds as a travelling salesman. Whereas Clifton was married to Delie’s mother Elmina but left her for another woman. There are no happy marriages/rela

The ending of the play shows how the values and belief systems of the early West Indian pioneers have been distorted through the character of Ashley.

A summer of pointless stabbings across London of young black men adds poignancy to the themes and ideas in the play – now a prophetic voice warning of the bloodshed on the streets.

New Term

Summer’s over, days are shorter and much colder. Time to.start taking notice of those back to school signs that have been in your face since the beginning of the summer holidays.

A time of transition for many; start of primary school, secondary school, sixth form, university etc. An anxious time for parents experiencing separation of varying degrees. Will they be Happy? Will they fit in? Will they be safe?

The obligatory photograph at the doorway in pristine uniform circulated on social media hoping for likes and comments like, ‘really! Where has the time gone?

All teachers up and down the country have wasted their last week counting down the days before their return to the classroom. What’s on my timetable? I hope I have my own classroom. I should have written that scheme of work earlier.

Prepare for that sleepless night tossing and turning having anxiety dreams, about clothes, teeth and falling – all perfectly normal. You are entering an extreme sport where you are challenged on a daily basis to entertain, challenge and get results. Like a gladiator you must enter the arena and battle with the mobile phone, the hat, the coat and the disengagement.

How many weeks to Christmas?

50 book titles that reflect my life

1. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

2. The Color Purple Alice Walker

3. Far From the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy

4. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

5. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

6. A Thousand Splendid Sons Khaled Hosseini

7. The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy

8. Bridget Jones Diary Helen Fielding

9. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

10. Persuasion Jane Austen

11. Mansfield Park Jane Austen

12. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

13. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

14. I know why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou

15. The Bluest Eyes Toni Morrison

16. A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens

17. Pygmalion G.B. Shaw

18. Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller

19. A View from the Bridge Arthur Miller

20. King Lear William Shakespeare

21. Hamlet William Shakespeare

22. Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare

23. A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen

24. Look Back in Anger John Osbourne

25. Educating Rita Willy Russell

26. Angela’s Ashes Frank McCourt

27. Miss Smilla’s feeling for Snow Peter Hoeg

28. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

29. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

30. Regeneration Pat Barker

31. Journey’s End R.S Sherrif

32. The Color Purple Alice Walker

33. The Third Life of Grange Copeland Alice Walker

34. Freaky Friday Mary Rogers

35. Welcome Home Jelly bean Marlene Shyer

36. Red Sky in the Morning Elizabeth Laird

37. 1984 George Orwell

38. Animal Farm George Orwell

39. Why I’m no longer talking about race.

40. Small Island Andrea Levy

41. White Teeth Zadie Smith

42. A Raisin in the Sun Lorraine Hansberry

43. Catcher in the Rye J.D Sallinger

44. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

45. Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman

46. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

47. Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry Mildred D. Taylor

48. Waiting to Exhale Terry McMillan

49. After you’d gone Maggie O’Farrell

50. Ethan Frome Edith Wharton

Radioactive Eggs

Growing up with Jamaican parents you get used to recycled magerine and ice-cream tubs etc. Many times you run to the freezer to fetch a tub of rum and raisin ice cream only to be bitterly disappointed when faced with frozen rice and peas.

So when you challenge an unsuspecting babysitter with providing a meal for five hungry children – you can only get a tale of the unexpected.

The meal she chose to prepare was scrambled eggs beans and toast. What could go wrong?

Close to hand was a full bottle of oil so she started to feed these hungry children. She poured the oil into the frying pan and added the whipped up eggs. The eggs were a magnificent yellow contrasting nicely with the orange beans. She commented on the brightness of the eggs and assumed they must be free range eggs.

She proudly presented her creation to the children in her care, cautiously they scooped the eggs onto their forks. The eldest strongly rejected the glowing eggs only to be told: ‘Eat it!’ After all why should she start this meal again when the bright sun was calling these children out to play.

The eldest decided it was time to investigate to his horror; he remembered observing the transference of washing up liquid into a sunflower oil bottle (no time to question the reasons why). He rushed into the dining room ‘don’t eat it it’s not cooking oil! It’s washing up liquid!’

An overwhelming sense of relief flooded the remaining children – they wouldn’t need ready brek to glow on their way to school.

Long Summer Days

The four girls looked across the lake, they saw the deep blue mirror lake reflecting clear sky and trees. Ducks slice through the lake sending ripples to dry land.

The clouds lazily hang high in the sky as the rats scurry and rustle in the undergrowth. Above their heads prehistoric creatures fly claiming the sky as their own.

Leaves whisper and flutter in a light breeze. Time stands still in the awe of this majestic view.

Fish swim close to the shore through plastic bags, one use bottles and crisp packets abandoned by their owners.

Behind them, small dogs sniffing and snuffling on the ground, forcing their loving owners to meander along the path. Children cycle, skate, scoot and run unrestrained. Unlike child refugees and asylum seekers, imprisoned trapped by indifferent red tape.

These days won’t last forever; soon life will change their outlook but for now they stare out across the lake unhindered, unrestricted and unburdened.