Welcoming 2019

A Happy New Year! Yes, I am late, but it is better late than never. 2018 was an interesting year which happened very quickly, which I would like to reflect on.

My mother passed away three years ago, and sorting out the estate has finally come to an end. Due to inheritance tax, no Will provided by my parents and other accumulated expenses, me and my siblings have no choice but to sell the family property which has been with us for the past 38 years. It makes my heart drop each time I think about it, but I must accept this.

Whilst working with the solicitor, I decided to attend a writing course in my area to provide me with some distractions. There are seven of us which includes the tutor, and each would read out about six hundred words from our writings and give feedback.

The environment was totally outside my comfort zone and yet it felt safe and supportive. But what was more helpful, the group liked my work and were keen to hear more. Just before Christmas, all members of the group plus other members attending the classes in the college put on a performance evening which I attended. Unfortunately, I chickened out and did not want to read my work but after the readings, I met someone who was planning to hold a masterclass on appropriation and writing i.e., whether writers have the right to write or imagine experiences of people who are not of the same race or the same class as themselves.

I decided to sign up as what I was writing about involved race and included some aspects of class-ism. I also attended another writers’ group in Hackney which was just for women.

The point of attending this group was to still get out of my comfort zone and to listen to different points of views with regards to my writing. I guess when you are writing, it is a good feeling when someone says that your work is ‘nice’ but most times you want constructive criticisms, which I am always free to accept or reject. I have decided now to discontinue attending these groups as I want to get back to writing the remaining of my memoir and perhaps, I might return when the work is complete.

I celebrated my 60th birthday in 2018; my husband not only put on a surprise birthday party at a restaurant but also included a power point presentation to talk about my life! The weird thing is that I have spent most of my time supporting my family, (with no regret) but I feel the time has come, especially as the ‘kids’ have grown, for me to pursue my interests. And one of those interests is writing.

A week ago, I saw a documentary on the Black British writer Andrea Levy. I have four of her novels. I have also watched the drama Small Island and recently shown on the BBC, The Long Song. But towards the end of the documentary, I was saddened to learn that Andrea is undergoing cancer treatment. She has had cancer for some time and managed to chase it away but this time around, it has returned and is ‘incurable’.  Hence why she has not written since The Long Song was published in 2004.

She had been rightfully focusing on her health and accepted her fate. She courageously stated on camera her outcome and did not want to elaborate any further.

Andrea and I are the same age, the same generation, of West Indian descent and we are Black Britons. I felt Small Island, although applicable to my parents’ generation, spoke to me along with her other early novels, especially Never Far from Nowhere.  She told ‘our’ stories with such beauty and dignity, but they are also stories which ‘speaks’ to those who feel that the term ‘British’ can only apply to the English population.

But the other thing which really hit me whilst watching the documentary is how life can be annoyingly short when you least expect it; that life, may not start at the beginning but can begin in the ‘middle’ or what some people may consider the ‘end’ (‘Oh! You don’t want to do that now…aren’t you too old for that!!).

So, although I don’t usually carry out my resolutions, my plan for this new year is to finish writing my memoir, take up some physical activity and improve my cooking skills. I want to continue with my prayers and constantly ask for guidance and support, but I’ve now merged my prayers with meditation. I hope to increase my sense of peace and understanding of myself.

If I am to summarize 2018 with two words, it would be change and acceptance:

  • Having to sell off the property that has been with the family, since – but learning to accept the inevitable.
  • Continuing with prayers but now including meditation. Embracing who I am and know I still have a long way to go!
  • Learning that age really is a number and life is too short.
  • Even if my writing will never be a good as my favorite writers, that it does not mean I do not have the ability to write. I should be more accepting of my abilities and have belief in myself.
  • That I am responsible for my health and well-being.

I am sure there is more.  But this is what I will focus on for the time being. This new year will ‘move’ just as quickly as the previous year, but I intend to be more conscious of time, my health, my writing, and my life.

I will continue to ask for support and peace in my prayers. I also pray that for you, this year will be successful, peaceful, healthy and good.

 

Happy New Year Everyone!

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7th July ’05 to be remembered

Yesterday, I watched on Sky News the service of those who lost their lives on 7th July ’05. 52 people died and over 700 people were injured.  The survivors and relatives of victims were at a simple ceremony at Hyde Park.  It was very moving and inspirational to listen to loved ones speak of how they have coped with loss. They were very similar to the families of the massacred African-Americans who lost their lives in the Charleston church shooting on 17th June.  Their sentiments, their strength and their forgiveness for those who carried out these atrocious acts.

I was in London when it happened but a friend of mine whose cousin’s son lost their life in the  London Underground explosion was present at today’s ceremony; and although at the time it happened, the son’s mother spoke very powerfully but today she sat, dignified and in quiet repose.  I am sorry for their loss and totally admire them for their courage and pray that the Almighty Father continues to give them strength.

Faith Bandler: May God rest her soul.

FAITH BANDLER FILE
Faith Bandler

 

Some years ago I worked in a high-end department store in West London. It was a great experience working in an environment where the customers served never seemed to blink an eyelid at the prices of items sold. The majority of the customers were famous – whether they were politicians, Hollywood actors and actresses as well as the British ones’, and then of course the musicians – whether pop stars, opera stars or divas’.  But there was one lady I served, Faith Bandler, an Aboriginal activist who campaigned against the plights and sufferings of Aboriginals in Australia. She did not tell me who she was as I  recognised her from a documentary I’d seen on TV.

Ms Bandler successfully campaigned for the indigenous Australians to be recognised as full citizens and to be given rights under the constitution. She was totally humble, warm, intelligent, passionate and possessed a quick and easy laugh She was also curious about the black community in London.  I am really happy that she will be given a full state funeral by her country.  May her soul rest in perfect peace.

Nadine Gordimer: A Great Writer!

Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer

Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer

I just learnt that Nadine Gordimer passed away yesterday. I admired her writing. Her book My Son’s Story was my introduction to South African literature. I was of the opinion that white writers could not write about black people and their experiences. But Gordimer proved me wrong. Whenever I read her novels, I’m not only overwhelmed by the accuracy in the depiction of her characters, but the truth as she sees it, no matter how cold it is! For those who supported Apartheid, her books could not have made comfortable reading. But I am happy for her presence and her immense contribution towards ending the struggle and that her soul should rest among all those other great souls who have recently passed.

In 2007 I wrote a review of Gordimer’s biography titled No Cold Kitchen. I know the author (Robert Suresh Roberts) received a lot of criticism as people were offended by it. But I do not believe that it was bad; I thought it fair and that it rightly praised Gordimer for her contribution to the removal of Apartheid in South Africa.

https://plaintain1.wordpress.com/2007/05/20/comment-on-nadine-gordimers-biography-no-cold-kitchen/

 

2014!! What will you bring Us?

Hi 2014!
Hi 2014!

Well, in the next 5 hours it will be finally over. I cannot believe how this year has travelled so quickly. I’ve not done all that I wanted but as my teachers used to say, I could have done better. There have been key moments as I’m reminded by my diary and journal – being more and more spiritually connected; reading books by Debbie Ford, Dr. Eben Alexander, Jerry and Esther Hicks (Ask and it is Given) have had a profound effect me that I know there is no turning back. There is seems to be an urgency to write more, especially about how I feel and what I want.

Resolutions I’ve not always stuck to but –

  • I look forward to reading a lot more spiritual books
  • to learn about Physics;
  • to most definitely lose weight;
  • determined to make progress with my family, with friends, with everything!

And that all in all, that the New Year will simply be great. Likewise to every one of you out there, I wish you a peaceful, prosperous New Year!

Take care!

The Great Mandela is now at peace

Mr Mandela, sadly, you have now left us. I want to thank you for all you have done for your people; for avoiding a civil war and allowing peace to reign. But I also know that if it were not for you, I would not have been allowed, as a black woman, to emigrate to South Africa in 1994. I had the pleasure of living in your beautiful country for two years, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

You will be missed and you will never be forgotten. Go and enjoy your well deserved rest and may the Almighty Father bless your wonderful soul.

Ask, and you will receive: Synchronicity

When I was in London, I went to see my life coach, Pat.  She has clairvoyant abilities but does not believe in telling you the future, so to speak; as she believes that by integrating her coaching methods and intuition, that it is a more practical way of helping you with your problems.

We chatted about our families and she talked about how she’d successfully landed a role in a production in the West End, plus she had written a play that was seriously being considered by one of the popular TV networks. As Pat talked, I glanced over to her loaded bookshelf and noticed a particular book. It was the only one that was standing with its back against the shelf and title in full view, whilst the other books lay flat, leaving you to wonder what their stories were. The other thing was its colour. It was a striking, deep purple and its title was in a large font dressed in silver. It said: Ask and it is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks. My attention was taken by Pat who suddenly stopped talking about herself and began to ask me about my problems.

‘You know…’ I said to her, ‘…it’s the same ole, same ole.  Am I on track, what is my purpose?’

‘You know I don’t tell fortunes…’ Pat scolded politely, ‘…but all you have to do is ask! Ask for what is your purpose. Ask if you are on track. Your problem is that you don’t ask!’  She said with emphasis.

‘Ask? But I do!’ I responded, hoping that it didn’t seem like we were having an argument. ‘I meditate and pray constantly and with that I ask but…I don’t know.’

She lowered her head in thought then looked up at me. ‘Have you heard of synchronicity?’

‘Synchrowhat?’  I gushed.  Something to do with swimming I thought but did not dare say it.

Pat smiled and gave me an explanation. She ended by saying that I should believe when I pray and mentally state some affirmations towards the end of my meditation. My time was up but as I left, she told me not to worry.  It will all work out. Hmm, I thought.

About an hour later in another part of London, I was in a bookshop, looking for a book on Physics for my daughter.  Walking towards where the science books were kept, I abruptly stopped as there was a book staring right at me from the spiritual section titled Ask and it is Given.  I went and picked up a copy, opened to the intro, read two or three paragraphs and said yes, I must get this!

I’m half way through the book and clearly, I understand synchronicity and realize this is how the Almighty/the Universe communicates.  Synchronicity is when either, ‘a single event or chain of events’ produces a ‘meaningful coincidence’. An example of this is early this year, I found myself constantly thinking about an old school friend, someone I used to move around with in the early 90s. A month later, as I was driving to the supermarket, I spotted her ex-boyfriend, who also I had not seen in a while. I quickly stopped and parked the car, and chased after him. Wheezing out of breath when I caught up, he instantly recognized me, stretched out his arms and gave me a hug. About ten minutes into our conversation, I asked him about our mutual friend. He removed his mobile from his back pocket, scrolled through the names and when he had found her number, he gave it to me.  That evening I called her and we agreed to meet at her house the next weekend.

You ‘ask’ for something and you receive answers in a manner that you do not expect. It could be in the form of an ad in a magazine, or the ad on a bus, a bill board or a comment from an actor in a movie, a sentence in an article or a conclusion in a documentary.  Likewise, seeing the book on Pat’s shelf and then seeing it again in the bookshop, it’s clear that this book ‘came’ to me, making me to realize that I will find my answers there.

Now, for those of you who read my piece on Debbie Ford’s book (The Dark Side of the Light Chasers) will say I’ve spoken about this before, so what’s the big deal?  But please, spare me. How was I to know that this was synchronicity? The point is, I’m learning.  Again within a few chapters I’ve realised that ‘asking’ is not only just believing or placing a pair of hands together to pray. But I have to ‘desire’ it, believe that I’ve already received it and to act as if ‘it’ is already in my life. In the case of my long-lost friend, my thinking or constant thoughts of her, wanting to see her played a part in me actually reuniting with her.

Negativity does not play any part in this. In fact, if I ‘desire’ something but in the next second fill my head with a lot of doubt by saying ‘Nah! It’s not for me. I can’t have this’ then the thing is now cancelled as instead of being eager for ‘it’, I’m asking for the lack of it, which is exactly what I’ll will receive, if you get my meaning. If you want to know more about this, then please get yourself a copy of this book to get a deep simplified explanation.

As I said, I’m halfway through. The first part I’m reading gives a thorough explanation of how it works. Some reviewers complain that there is a lot of repetition. Perhaps there is. But how I look at it is that sometimes to make a point loud and clear, you have to keep hammering it home.  The second half, I’ve not looked at but it is composed of exercises which I can’t wait to do. I will keep you posted.

 

If you can imagine it, you can create it.  If you dream it, you can become it. 

William Arthur Ward

 

 

 

Embracing shadows: Debbie Ford

A dear friend of mine told me that everything that comes into my life means something.  Nothing is by coincidence or accident. Each day may seem the same but each day is different, it rewards us with a brand new gift whether that gift is an understanding, a friendship or a disappointment.  But if we are engulfed by fear and darkness then it makes it difficult for us to recognize those gifts, difficult to recognize whether or not it is an actual ‘coincidence’.  Normally such talk passes through one ear and out through the other but of recent one or two things have happened to make me to stop and consider what this friend said to me.

November last year I was in another part of the country, to attend a conference. Having arrived some hours earlier and already bored with watching TV in the hotel room I decided to go to the shops just to whittle away time. I walked past each shop as they didn’t hold any interest for me until I saw this interesting second-hand book shop. I went in and took my time going through the different categories until I came across the self-help section. Then I saw this book, in fact I was struck by its title; I read the back cover, the foreword and the first two paragraphs of the first chapter and wondered if I wanted this book. I checked by my purse, I had enough cash for just essentials so I headed back to my hotel room, Googled the author and read some interesting things about her and then as usually is the case, I forgot about the book and looked forward to my evening meal.

Two months ago, I had to go back to that city to attend a business meeting. Again, I ventured towards the bookshop to look for a magazine, and as usual, my attention was quickly taken by the books and some new titles. I suddenly remembered the book I looked at some months ago although I could not remember the title or the author’s name but remembered being intrigued by what it set out to do for the reader.  I found my way towards the ‘self-help’ section and there it was a single copy. I snatched it up, bought it then left.

After reading the first chapter I decided to Google the author again and only to find out that she died early this year from cancer. I was taken aback. Of course I realize people die but in my mind she was young (57), beautiful, still had so much before her; it just seemed weird that she had passed away and even more strangely, that I had just been introduced to her and her works. Her books have been praised by Deepak and Neale Donald and Oprah and other prominent spiritual mentors.

The author was Debbie Ford and her book – The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. I’m so sorry that Debbie is no longer with us but spirit directed me to her book at a time when fear and confusion has taken ahold. Ford explains how the various facets of ourselves which we reject or try to shun away only lead to more confusion and resentment.  Instead, we should embrace the negative parts of ourselves with love and understanding. It is only until we have done this can we reclaim our wholeness and be on track towards our purpose. When I see my friend again, I will have to tell her she was right.

Review of The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland

I’ve just finished reading The Gospel according to Cane by Courttia Newland. A heartrending story about a woman, called Beverley Cottrell of West Indian parentage who has her son taken from her some twenty years ago. She is educated, previously married and taught English in a prestigious private school, a woman who seemed to have everything but as a result of this tragic action, the experience leaves her damaged, single and withdrawn. We meet her presently living in a house alone, teaching kids at an after school club and attending therapy sessions until one day, a young man comes knocking at her door claiming to be her son. She receives this son named Wills gladly but does it repair the damage done to her, to Wills?  The Gospel According to Cane

The prose is mature and juxtaposes nicely with the street slang spoken by her son, and the children she teaches. The characters whether it is the protagonist or secondary characters, are nicely drawn. In fact one of the characters, Ida jumps to my mind. She is so real. A woman of a certain age who probably was born after the second world war; she is happy to entertain Beverley in her home, happy to bake her a cake but is still ambivalent about the black ‘youth’ and black people and  when there is a kerfuffle on the landing between Beverley, Wills her sister Jackie and her husband Frank, she remains hidden behind the ‘blankness’ of her front door and retreats into her reserve. Then there is Frank. We don’t see him too much but when he appears with his dominant and bitter wife, Jackie, you like that he is there, acting as a go-between between the two sisters, attempting to play down the tension which exists between them. Also Newland subtly establishes the fact there are segments of the black community that are middle class i.e, they are aware of Arnica and they shop at up market supermarkets and are concerned about speaking English, properly. This is shown through Beverley, who finds badly spoken English irritating.

Newland deftly handles writing of woman in a very convincing way; it simply shows how sensitive and how understanding he is of women. The book has no chapters but initially it is interspersed by descriptions of pain although from the middle of the book to the end you see no more of these descriptions. Throughout the story, these small explanations on pain make us realize that it is, almost a facet of life. We can experience sometimes, all sorts and levels of pain and realize how time can be a proper anesthetic. In the main character Beverley, this is clearly shown. She journals regularly, as a way of expelling the pain and in return, she achieves some cathartic moments. It’s funny. Prior to me buying this book, my husband purchased the  book Singularity is here by Ray Kurzweil. It is about how our intelligence will one day become ‘trillions’ more intelligent and increasingly non-biological. On top of that, time, whether the past, the present, the future, will become one. Singular. Then reading Newland’s book I come across this paragraph, thoughts of  Beverley :-

People say time is relative, a point with which I agree. …the nature of time as experienced by human beings is the amazing ability to occur simultaneously in the past, present and future. Everything on the planet, from the tiniest amoeba to humankind, has been is being and is also becoming. That we exist cocooned within an unseen element shifting faster than we can comprehend, that no sooner than we enter the present it is already the past and we are always, without pause, speeding full throttle towards the future. Ponder this, if I lift my finger and touch the end of my nose, I am touching my nose in the present, have touched my nose in the past and about to lower my finger from my nose in the future. All exist at once.

I don’t know if Courttia was/is conscious of this concept whilst writing his novel but it is profound and in keeping with all things to do with Singularity.  Overall, this was an interesting read: I loved the beautiful prose, the descriptions of the characters but if I have to make one criticism it would be the ending. However, Newland is definitely a chronicler of the Black British experience; I believe this is the fourth book I’ve read by this author and trust that he can write our experiences honestly, with maturity and with sensitivity. I can’t wait to read his next book.

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.