Ready for the fair

Inspiration can come from anywhere: a book, poem story. My inspiration came from a film. Yes you guessed it ‘Black Panther’ the movie. The fabrics, texture, colour, design were a feast for the eyes.

The bold colours of these soft furnishings will make any living room or bedroom light up with colour.

I added one embellishment to represent my love of flowers and buttons. The grey felt outline makes the petals of the flowers stand out against the bold print.

Days before the sale; I start to feel nervous as creativity is a risky business.

Living life in colour

Every time I see this picture, I am reminded that life is for living. This month I kissed goodbye to my forties and I stepped into uncharted territory. I spent two years anticipating it, dreading it, fearing it, but none of those feelings could prevent it from happening.

The night before my birthday I celebrated alone; knowing I am now in a different category on surveys; if I get angry about anything people will whisper: ‘she’s going through the change.’

I felt grateful because I know of so many people who didn’t reach this milestone, taken suddenly without a chance to say goodbye. So I could spend the rest of my life weeping for my lost youth, or searching for the fountain of youth. Instead I choose to embrace this new phase; take more risks; speak my mind and learn to say no.

The power of the n word

A beautiful sunny day in the Easter holiday, prompted a bike ride in the park. All around the park there was a diverse mixture of families black, white Asian all out to get that vital vitamin D.

My daughter and her cousin played on the swings and the climbing frame. My husband and I took it in turns to watch the children whilst the other cycled around the park.

As we were leaving the park a woman walked past with a large fluffy reindeer hat on the warmest day of the year (Yes she stood out!) My daughter and I stopped and waited for the stragglers. I told my daughter to move out of the way to let the strangely dressed lady pass. She looked at us both and said, ‘get out of the way n*****s. I was stunned. I tried to recall the last time I heard that word directed at me. My daughter looked at me she heard her clearly. My response somewhat pathetic was ‘That’s rude!’

But it was more than rude it added the burden of that word on my 7 year old. It wasn’t a child on the swings it was an adult aware of the hate and the power of that word. I think she had mental health problems so my muted response was probably fitting for her. When I relayed the story to my family they cried ‘you should have filmed her and sent it to the police’ and ‘you should have punched her.’ All hindsight – I was paralysed.

My daughter will hear that word more times in her life. How will she respond paralysed like me? Or will she be better equipped to deal with this word.

Windrush Generation

I was born in this country. My parents came to this country in the 1960s. Yes they stepped off the plane greeted by cold weather, cold stares and a cold reception – no blacks, no Irish and no dogs. They took it in their stride found work – low paid jobs, shabby housing and discrimination at every turn. It was dreadful but the colonialists did a splendid job of brainwashing it’s citizens into believing they must put up and shut up. A generation later and their children have endured the humiliation of being rounded up by immigration, they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their driving license and the final insult they’ve lost access to benefits and healthcare which they have spent their lives paying into. This betrayal reminds me of when my parents were forced to fill in forms to become British citizens, I thought why would they need them they were invited to this country but it seems they had experienced enough let downs from the Motherland.

They found the documentation paid their money and they were granted British citizenship which already belonged to them. Therefore you can imagine their horror to see that 50 years later the reality of those phrases of ‘go back home’ heard in playgrounds on the streets and in the workplace everyday in the 60s and 70s. The betrayal of that legal, loyal, hardworking generation played out by social media and the press. Individual stories of victims of a brutal system that overnight caused people to lose their jobs; lose their house; lose access to benefits and the NHS (which many worked in their whole lives).

I applaud the courage of David Lammy and Diane Abbott firstly, for not abstaining when this inhumane immigration bill came to parliament. Secondly for being the voice of the original settlers many of whom have passed away. Thirdly for calling those responsible to account for those failures.

Different Strokes

The older you get the longer you spend in hospital not for yourself but for your aging parents.  Since January this is the second time I have had to call an ambulance and go to A & E.  The first time my mum complained of chest pains yes very frightening but when the paramedics came they thought it was more abdominal – the chest pains could have been heartburn.  The day was long and extremely stressful but it could have been a lot worse.

One month later I discovered just how terrible it could be when I was waiting in a hospital corridor trying to take in the devastating news (‘it looks like you father has had a stroke, unfortunately we didn’t catch it in a four-hour window so there’s very little we can do’).

The phone call came at 9.00am after I’d eaten my porridge and drank my coffee, settling down to plan some lessons for the rest of the day. ‘Your dad’s ill:  he can’t stand up; he’s vomiting and he’s incoherent.  You need to leave work now!’  No time to set cover, just enough time to tell my line manager and exit the building.

My movements that morning were like a dream, I drove to the house on autopilot  fearful of what I was going to discover.  I turned the key in the lock; I stepped tentatively into the hallway and walked into the living room.  At first I thought what’s the fuss dad was sitting in his usual chair fully dressed he even had on his shoes, however on closer inspection there was a huge bowl on the floor.  A frantic Agnes (the carer) attempted to tell me what happened.  I listened but it was like I was watching someone else.  I called the ambulance reluctantly because I knew this one was serious.  I can’t believe how much contact I’ve had with Paramedics all lovely people excellent at delivering bad news.

Days like these make me question what’s going to happen in the future? Dad’s 88 years old now a Stroke victim and mum’s 74 with PSP, to echo mum, ‘when it rains it pours.

Eventually we are moved from the corridor to a bay.  I sit and wait, staring at the white and grey wall; the yellow ‘caution cleaning in progress’ sign on the floor listening to constant beep of machines.  Nurses and doctors come and go speaking in that calm, (meant to be) reassuring voices.  They shine torches in his eyes, order him to touch his nose then touch their finger, check his blood pressure, check his blood and questions, questions, and more questions.

Nothing happens quickly with the NHS so I continue to sit and stare at this tiny, frightened old man fighting to maintain his dignity as he struggles to move himself up the bed.  Every time a nurse or doctor speaks to him he makes a joke to hide his fear.  He can’t swallow a drop of water without coughing violently.

After a 7 hour wait he was moved to a ward.  Surprisingly within a week he has regained his speech and his ability to swallow.  He said, ‘not yet my friend, not yet.’


Father’s Day


By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day on this ridiculously cold March day I thought I’d share one of my favourite poems; it reminded me of the distance I felt from my family when I went away to study in Lancaster. Also in celebration of my Great Grandfather an Irish man living in Jamaica.

My father was a builder, they called him Stonewall Jackson because he could work incredibly long hours without taking breaks. He would work outside building loft conversions across Bradford. In the evenings he would ask me or my sister to write out his estimates and invoices – it took hours to decipher his terrible handwriting and spelling.

When it came to working on his own house there was no meticulous planning. One day he decided he wanted to make two rooms into one; no dust cloths; no removal of electrical goods, no clearing away of young children. One minute we were watching television the next minute thud, thud, thud there was a hole in the wall. On the other side of the wall was my dad with a sledge hammer. I don’t know if it was pressure from my mum, or just life in general but within two days we had a beautiful living room.

When it came to his garden he could make anything grow, in spring we’d plant the potatoes, onions and garlic, a little later we’d plant the radishes, tomatoes and lettuce. We all had our own area in the garden and when the Harvest came we’d love eating the food we’d grown ourselves. His recent illness has cut him off from his planting and sowing.

All these childhood experiences have been extremely influential in my life when things go wrong in my own house I have a range of skills he taught me such as how to unblock the toilet; putting up shelves or even changing a fuse. When I’m trying to grow something in my garden I seek his advice.

My dad’s brothers and sisters are great storytellers, the punchline never made any sense to me but the drama and the entertainment in telling the story was enough. Both my mum and dad taught me how it’s possible to make something out of nothing. When they were young they didn’t have the same opportunities to explore their creativity, their life in England was back-breaking hard work followed by extreme exhaustion.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

A Raisin in the sun – Race

In the play ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ Race and Racism play an important role in developing the plot, characters and themes. Hansberry has been radical in that she has put a black ordinary American family on stage and she has presented their everyday struggles using everyday language in an ordinary setting. Hansberry has challenged the stereotypical presentations of black life she has seen in mainstream media. She has been didactic in her presentation of her views in order to promote her revolutionary ideas about inequality in Southside Chicago and the USA in general.

The characters in the play need to be African American because Hansberry wants to ask the question – What is a true American?

MAMA Son – I come from five generations of people who was slaves and sharecroppers – but ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor. (Raising her eyes and looking at him) We ain’t never been that – dead inside. (3.1.97)

Hansberry makes the point that generations of black people have suffered and made sacrifices to build America, they have a right to be there and they should have access to the American Dream without having to sell their dignity, identity and self-worth.

Mama and Big Walter lived in a time when segregation was lawful and lynching was still a serious threat in order to remind Walter and Beneatha that they are fortunate not to live in those times. Mama reminds Walter of the daily humiliations which they had to endure in order to survive – ‘sitting at the back of the bus’; ‘stay alive’ and maintain ‘dignity’.

I believe Walter blames his race for his misfortunes because he is yet to encounter Mr Lindner and his casual racism to fully understand how difficult it is to fight against institutional racism. He believes his family are not aspirational they don’t encourage any of his attempts to break away from stereotypical jobs assigned to the black community.

Beneatha appears to be Hansberry’s mouthpiece on race, she uses the term assimilationist to describe George Murchison. She rejects American values and chooses to seek African culture as a means of finding an identity, strength and purpose. Beneatha is educated to a higher level than the rest of her family, whilst studying she has encountered some revolutionary ideas and when she shares them with her family she feels alienated because they can’t understand her. She can’t accept George Murchison as her life partner despite his riches and his social status because she realises he will never make her happy as he doesn’t support her desire to be a doctor.

The term assimilation could also be applied to Walter’s attempts to extract money from Mr Lindner. He shows his family the performance in advance which is horrifying to the female characters and the audience. The only way Mama can prevent this heart breaking and humiliating performance is to force him to show his son how to behave in order to get on in this world.

At this point in the play Hansberry redeems Walter’s character making him the hero of the story – the realisation that a dream is empty without the love and support of family.

14 Key Quotations on Race

1. What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

2. ASAGAI …You came up to me and you said… “Mr. Asagai – I want very much to talk with you. About Africa. You see, Mr. Asagai, I am looking for my identity!” (He laughs)

3. WALTER Mama – sometimes when I’m downtown and I pass them cool-quiet-looking restaurants where them white boys are sitting back and talking ‘bout things…sitting there turning deals worth millions of dollars…sometimes I see guys don’t look much older than me.

4. MAMA Them houses they put up for colored in them areas way out all seem to cost twice as much as other houses. I did the best I could.

5. BENEATHA [Assimilationist] means someone who is willing to give up his own culture and submerge himself completely in the dominant, and in this case oppressive culture!

6. WALTER Why? You want to know why? ‘Cause we all tied up in a race of people that don’t know how to do nothing but moan, pray and have babies!

7. LINDNER (Turning a little to her and then returning the main force to WALTER) Well – it’s what you might call a sort of welcoming committee, I guess. I mean they, we – I’m the chairman of the committee – go around and see the new people who move into the neighborhood and sort of give them the lowdown on the way we do things out in Clybourne Park. BENEATHA (With appreciation of the two meanings, which escape RUTH and WALTER) Un-huh.

8. LINDNER …. I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities.

9. LINDNER (Looking around at the hostile faces and reaching and assembling his hat and briefcase) Well – I don’t understand why you people are reacting this way. What do you think you are going to gain by moving into a neighborhood where you just aren’t wanted and where some elements – well – people can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened.

10. WALTER …Mama, you know it’s all divided up. Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and the “tooken.” (He laughs) I’ve figured it out finally…People like Willy Harris, they don’t never get “tooken.” And you know why the rest of us do? ‘Cause we all mixed up. Mixed up bad. We get to looking ‘round for the right and the wrong; and we worry about it and cry about it and stay up nights trying to figure out ‘bout the wrong and the right of things all the time… And all the time, man, them takers is out there operating, just taking and taking.