Exonerated Five

I have seen many injustices in my life that have caused me to sit and wonder but when I watched the Netflix Series ‘When they see us’, could I fully see the reality of being a young black man in a system set up to destroy dreams and hopes for the future. I read a few articles about the ‘Central Five’ and I understood there was a miscarriage of justice but I could not imagine the scale.

The series was very uncomfortable viewing, at times I had to turn away from the screen; the level of violence inflicted on the boys was intense and brutal. In the final episode devoted to Kory there was an astonishing performance from Jharell Jerome unflinchingly real in that claustrophobic, oppressive and dark cell. How did he survive?

I thought I’d experienced every emotion watching the series until I watched the Oprah Winfrey interview with the Exonerated Five. Most of them tried to be philosophical about their experiences but one of the five said he felt ‘damaged’ by the experience. Those words have haunted me – no apologies, no criminal investigations.

Some people have compared this drama to ‘Roots’; I fully agree – it changes you. Perhaps, it confirms what you already know; or it shines a light on dark places you would rather not see either way you’ll never be the same.

Summer in Paris

Travelling to Europe has become as natural as breathing don’t know how much it will change in the future. Anyway the journey on the Eurostar was pretty straight forward. We were moved through the queues quickly. First delay with security. Struggling to understand what degree of undress is expected. Once through passport control not a seat in sight.

Three generations of one family on a train mum, two sons, two daughter in laws and two grandchildren. Surprisingly we all arrived on time.

Seats sorted time to distribute food, banana cake, sandwiches – cheese, ham and tomato even time to season with pepper.

The landscape from the train is pretty spartan once through the tunnel it’s a good opportunity to catch up on well needed sleep.

The sun is shining brightly and the temperature is now a mild 27 degrees.

On arrival at Gare du Nord the challenge of finding toilets and left luggage – signs leading to nowhere. The change machine was broken getting 9 euros in coins from the shops proved difficult – success on the tthird attempt.

The plan was to tour Paris before checking in to the hotel. It’s always best to plan ahead because travelling around Paris is neither cheap or easy. We used the Metro lots of stops and no one to help. At the Arc de Triomphe we decided to ride the tour bus on the Blue Line. With limited time the children needed to see the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa.

It was easy to get iconic photos of the Eiffel Tower without making the climb to the top. However seeing the Mona Lisa was like a search for the Holy Grail. We joined a long queue snaking from the entrance to the top of the stairs.

The Mona Lisa is cased and guarded but after the long climb you are given less than a minute to gaze on her beauty then you’re ushered out for the next crowd. Was it worth it? Yes! but it is always smaller than expected.

That was our day of culture now onwards to Euro Disney the hotel was based on a Wild West theme – barrels, wagons, horses etc. Our bedroom used the colours from Toy Story.

My daughter was overwhelmed by all things Disney Aurora’s Castle; Cinder ella’s Castle all the sets from her favourite Disney movies. At 8 years old she could ride the white knuckle rides Hyperspace Mountain, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Roller Coaster. Her verdict ‘best holiday ever!’.

Myeloma UK June 2019

My dad died from multiple Myeloma September 2018. He would have celebrated his 90th birthday this month. I’ve made a decision to support the charity by raising awareness and raising money. Before dad was diagnosed with Myeloma I knew of three different people with the disease; one woman in her 30s; another woman in her 50s and a man in his 70s.

All three had treatment and made a reasonable recovery, however when it came to my dad he was 88 and too weak to undergo chemotherapy. After reading about Myeloma, I discovered it mostly affected African Caribbean men over 60. It is a silent killer as it disguises itself as anemia, diabetes, arthritis etc.

There is no cure, but research has shown there are ways of relieving the symptoms.

I sent for my pack and I’m preparing to make cupcakes, a table top sale and putting together a poetry anthology.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Carmen-Jackson-mcken1?utm_source=whatsapp

Lizzy’s Lip Gloss

‘Do not despise small beginnings.’  Zechariah 4:10

There is something very satisfying about learning a new skill.  Our Friday evenings used to consist of buying ingredients after school to make cupcakes or to make another failed attempt at millionaire shortbread.  This Friday was different we decided to make lip gloss with the many ingredients I had gathered for such a product.  Where do we begin?  My daughter suggested YouTube a genius idea.

The first recipe we found was just Petroleum Jelly,  Coconut Oil. Vitamin E Oil, Peppermint Essential Oil and Lipstick.  The consistency was good and the colour was amazing.  We convinced family to be our guinea pigs and waited for feedback.  List of things to change:

  • The jar was too large
  • The gloss was too runny
  • It didn’t produce a consistent shine

We did some research on Pinterest one essential ingredient we had left out was cosmetic grade beeswax.  It made such a difference the lip gloss consistency suddenly it looked so professional.

The next project was the container, these containers were smaller, they had a screw lid and they protected the lip gloss from the elements.

Spring

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616

Sonnet 98

From you have I been absent in the spring,

When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,

Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,

That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,

Yet not the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell

Of different flowers in odor and in hue,

Could make me any summer’s story tell,

Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.

Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,

Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;

They were but sweet, but figures of delight,

Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.

Yet seemed it winter still, and you away,

As you with your shadow I with these did play.

I took this picture at the beginning of April. I’ve always loved spring everything comes alive, bare trees show signs of life sprouting leaves and blossom. This year it feels very different; in winter you can hide away behind dark nights and closed curtains but the brighter days and longer nights force you to face the absence of loved ones in the stark reality of them never returning.

The birds sing away on the trees oblivious to your lack of desire to sing without a care.

Like the blossoms on the trees that bloom, grow and fade; grief will lose its intensity and colour will return to life again.

Jamaican Fruit Cake

Good Friday 2019 has brought back so many memories of mum and dad. I didn’t have fried fish and bun and cheese but I decided to bake. I wanted to capture all the aromas of my childhood. Strangely enough I wasnt a fan of fruit cake as a child, it was always in the house. I suppose I didn’t appreciate the time and skill that it took to make these little pieces of heaven. Mum never shared her recipes but she never weighed anything it was all intuitive. So here’s my version.Ingredients500g Stork Margerine500g Dark Brown Sugar500g Self Raising Flour5 Large Eggs1 bottle of Port1kg Mixed Fruit5 tsp Baking Powder5 tsp Cinnamon5 tsp Mixed Spice2 tsp Nutmeg5 tsp Vanilla EssenceMethodPreheat the oven 180cBlend mixed fruit and portBlend sugar and butter.Add 5 eggs slowly.Add blended fruit, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg to the sugar, margerine and eggs.Add flour and stir until all ingredients are folded together until the spoon stands up in the mixture.Divide the mixture into cake tins. 2 10 inch tins and 2 9 inches.Bake for 50 mins until firm to touch.

10 Reasons to try bereavement counselling

Bereavement Counselling! Why Bother?

  1. You need to take time for yourself.

After all the hospital appointments: registering the death; collecting the death certificate and the funeral arrangements you realise you haven’t had a minute to think.

2. It’s good to have someone who allows you to talk.

It might seem a tad self indulgent but it’s an opportunity to talk without being interrupted or diverted to another subject.

3. It takes the pressure off your family

When things get on top of you, you have a safe place to explore your emotions.

4. It’s great to be listened to.

In this world of blah blah blah; Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter etc. You can speak to someone face to face who gives you empathetic nods; sharp intakes of breath – nothing beats that human touch.

5. It helps you to help others.

You are in a better place to help others going through bereavement. You have experience of articulating that indescribable pain.

6. Can be more effective than taking medication

Some doctors if you mention depression they are offering sleeping tablets or anti depressants (which are fine if you need them) but I have found talking about my loss more effective.

7. Helps you to deal with the loss

Helps you to realise that you can take baby steps during the healing process. There are no quick fixes; just time and patience to get back to feeling normal.

8. Freedom to be honest

You don’t need to perform; you can let the mask slip that hides the unbearable pain inside.

9. Focus on the present and the future

Where are you now? Where do you want to be? Counselling allows you set yourself goals both short term and long term. Take a class; take up a hobby; change jobs; go travelling, all these ideas can be explored.

10. You don’t have to face the grief alone

Taking one hour out of your busy week to talk about your grief removes the feeling of isolation. You can begin to untangle the complex feelings that come from losing a loved one in a safe space.

Upcycle Ikea

I love the brightly coloured fabrics in IKEA. The colours are so vibrant and excellent for children’s soft furnishings especially if you want to avoid the stereotypical blue and pink.

Level of difficulty – Simple

Time to make – 1 hour

Materials

2 reasonably priced double quilts

5 metres of lightweight wedding.

Sewing machine

How to make a cot quilt

  1. Divide each quilt into 4 equal rectangles
  2. Turn the fabric inside out and attach the wadding to the fabric on the sewing machine.
  3. Leave a wide enough space in one seam to turn the fabric on the right side.
  4. Use an embroidery stitch to edge the quilt.
  5. To add more detail to the quilt embroider around the flowers.

Great gift for baby showers, birthdays and Christmas.

Mother’s Day

2019 will be the year of many firsts. Around the corner will be the first Mother’s Day without my mum. In the shops there are adverts for meals, presents and cards.

The day started with a visit to the cemetery. Looking around at the bewildered relatives trying to make sense of their loss.

Gathering at the graveside I reflect on Mother’s Days in the past. One year we bought mum cooking utensils. She thanked us kindly and she said next time buy me something for myself. Every year after that perfume or flowers, but her favourite gift was money. Strangely enough she was a shopaholic and a saver.

Mothering Sunday was always special it was a time to say thank you mum loved cards with lots of words telling her how amazing she was.

Everyone called her mum whether they knew her or not. If anyone was having problems with their parents, husband, wife, friends mum took them in and gave them sound advice to help them move forward.

She loved to cook; nothing gave her greater pleasure than feeding someone who’s hungry and offering more.

It was always the Saturday before Mother’s day we’d ask dad ‘have you bought anything for mum?’ The response was always the same. ‘Arrr..no.’ We would have to take him to the florist or to Boots to save the hysteria from mum.

Back to a cold day in March you’ve moved from your warm armchair to a cold grave. Dead flowers are removed replaced with fresh ones. Sleep on beloved, sleep on.

Cheese and onion crisps

20170825_160256.jpgWhat would you give a packet of cheese and onion crisps? Well my brother was willing to risk his life. Every year my mum would buy a big box of crisps for Christmas. Well mum realised that they wouldn’t last so she hid them in a high cupboard above the stairs.

My brother didn’t let that stop him; he rested one foot on the banister and the other one on the post. He managed to release the catch and open the door to a blue and white box holding hidden treasure. His younger siblings stood below in eager anticipation of those rustling packets. He was their hero.

As Christmas approached; he did not let his conscience bother him he continued his escapade.

Judgement day came Christmas morning – ‘bring down the box of crisps!’ The opened box rustled with its much depleted contents. Mum peered inside to see two lonely packets of crisps.

‘Who ate them?’

‘We did,’ the youngest confessed.

She was pushed and shoved in the back and called ‘supergrass’.

Looking back she must have known she cleaned the house and emptied the bins.

Homemade Friday

Put down the gadgets and start to create. I don’t work on Fridays but I need to be creative or I feel the day has been wasted. Whilst scrolling through Pinterest I saw lots of recipes for homemade lip gloss. I’m always buying the ingredients but I never found the time to make it.This Friday was different I had my beautiful assistant my daughter to motivate me. We gathered the ingredients, petroleum jelly, coconut oil, peppermint oil and lipstick.Ingredients

  • Coconut Oil
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Pink or Red lipstick
  • Glass/plastic container with a lid

Method

  1. Melt the Coconut Oil in the microwave for 30seconds.
  2. Add the Petroleum Jelly stir the ingredients together until both are liquid ready to pour.
  3. Add pure essential oil – I chose Peppermint Oil.
  4. Add the lipstick to add colour and stir vigorously to make sure there are no lumps.
  5. Pour the lip balm into glass container with a lid.
  6. Place in the fridge for half an hour and voila you have home made lip gloss.

Lip Gloss Second AttemptIngredients1 tbsp Coconut Oil1 tbsp Shea Butter1/2 tbsp Beeswax Granules10 drops vitamin E oilLipstick for colourStrawberry jelly crystals (for scent)Method

  1. Melt Coconut Oil, Shea Butter and Beeswax until they become a clear liquid.
  2. Add Vitamin E to melted oils.
  3. Add lipstick for colour stir until melted in the oil. Reheat to get rid of lumps.
  4. Add jelly crystals.
  5. Pour into metal containers
  6. Cool in fridge or freezer the mixture should be solid.
  7. Place the lids on the containers.

Great gifts for friends and family.

Bereavement Counselling

My first session exploring the loss of mum and dad. I sat in the car for 5 minutes running through my head. Where do I start to unravel the pain of loss of both parents. I walked up to the gates and pressed the buzzer. ‘Hi, I have an appointment at 6pm.’ The gate buzzed and I was inside. ‘Take a seat. Would you like water?’

I took a seat in the waiting area surrounded by red and beige sofas. Out came my counsellor same height and full of life who led me into a small room.

As soon as I started talking the tears started to flow. I found myself firstly talking about the illness that took my mum’s life. The same questions were foremost in my mind was the cruelty and unfairness of PSP. It’s bad enough that old age takes away your youth and vitality but this disease takes away the essential building blocks to life – mobility, speech and independence. She asked me ‘Are you angry?’ I was shocked because of all the emotions I’ve experienced, guilt, self pity, loss etc. But anger it didn’t make sense until I remembered mum’s refusal to have the operation that could have sustained her life. I begged and pleaded with her to try and when it didn’t work I had to go outside to the car park because the full weight of its significance struck me. We were at the end of all the struggles against this merciless disease.

I shared stories from my childhood and when I thought about mum and dad as a team I couldn’t help but smile. They were both so stubborn and they rarely admitted that they could be wrong.

The time went so quickly my younger self would have called it ‘self indulgent’ but age is telling me it’s a necessity. Anyway after an hour of releasing my ‘anger’ I was ushered out into the waiting room to be greeted by more wounded soldiers anticipating their opportunity to be listened to – a precious commodity in this busy world.