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On hair

Like the thickest of forests parted only by a sharp axe, these coils spring from my scalp. Deep and dense as the congo basin; my crown is a testament to its African roots.

But it wasn’t always so. Twelve seasons ago, my tree was uprooted in the most abrupt manner.

I’m ashamed, though  I will admit, the deforestation of these indigenous roots came from my black hands. I plucked and smoked these roots until they were no more. And when they finally bloomed again I mutilated them some more. I bathed them in a fertiliser so inorganic that I felt genetically altered, but as my tree became GMO I believed I discovered myself. A Caribbean queen like myself deserved a palm tree with bowing branches.

Thus when my palms descended downwards I felt a laden ease. I knew my branches must have been agitated for now they were relaxed, smooth and fine. They abided with my changing winds, unlike the crop that preceded them. How could I return? Suffer, at the stubborn spikes of a cactus bush.

I pruned it well, this palm tree. Tended to it too frequently, with far too little care. But when these bowing branches began to shed, I was certain of the spring that would follow this fall. Of the rebirth of those fallen leaves – I’d never seen a naked palm tree. Thus they grew, these branches, limply, but still: they grew.

Until they fell again.

Tumbling carelessly.  whence my bountiful basin resembled the Sahara I couldn’t take any more.

So I returned to my prickly cactus, the simple shrub that sustains itself. And though I still long to flatten its pines I am contented. For, these prickles cover my scalp. Deep and dense as they may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Mum Friends

I’m not a loner you know. I’ve got friends. Tall ones, short ones, large ones, small ones. Mostly Brown brilliant friends.

They’re great, my friends. Fabulous even, but they all have a common flaw; to date, they’re all childless. Yes, the whole lot of them! Selfish fiends. You see, my fabulous collective of friends are busy 20-somethings career-building around the globe. So whilst they are over-active, I’m afraid their wombs are not. Nor should they be- they have things to do. (Yes you, you know who you are).

In fact, I think having children is the only area in life in which I have arrived earlier than my friends (I, too, am afflicted by melanin-induced lateness syndrome).

Thus,  I am a mummy with friends but no mum friends.

A mummy no mates.

But fear not dear readers, for my perpetual problem has a technological solution. An App!

Yup, one clever digital mama named Michelle Kennedy has created a tinder style app to help mamas like me find mum friends.

Peanut is a free app designed to “build friendships” between mums in a modern, accessible format. You just create a profile, choose three badges to describe yourself and then swipe away for the mum friends of your dreams!

Actually, I’m not sure how I feel about this digitised method of gaining friends. On the one hand, my inner fogie is admonishing the app’s impersonal nature, chastising it’s ‘swipe right’ feature for allowing mums to callously reject one another. The 90s baby in me is also recalling my in-school talks on meeting people from the interweb, is peanut really safe?

Yet, I have firsthand knowledge of how hard it can be to make friends at playgroup, how the conversations end at “see you next week” and playdates become lofty ideals.

All in all, for some, Peanut and similar apps may be the way forward. For me, the jury’s still out…

 

 

 

It all falls down…

I cried during the video. A strange move for me, to cry in public- and in school of all places. But that day I did shed a tear or two. The raw emotion of families touching the Berlin wall as it came down disrupted a teenage apathy I had come to admire, it erupted volcanic emotions from me, even in front of my peers. As strange as it may sound, it wasn’t the presence of the wall, nor the harm that it had caused that ignited my adverse reaction. It was the year. 1989 the year of my eldest sister’s birth, the year of the internet. As late as 1989 the German lives were fractured by intense political conflict solidified by a 3 metre wall.

And as with all past tragedies, their poignancy compels us to restate: “it should never happen again.”  (Though history seems to ignore the realities of such atrocities in the West Bank).

So, it seems to be with great ignorance that less than 20 years later my unlearned foe Donald Trump is attempting to divide the US from Mexico.

Now I could go on, and type great theses on the insidious irony of Trump- a migrant to the US- seeking to exclude indigenous peoples from free movement in their own terrain. I could even adduce evidence to support my view that this jingoism is both illogical and menacing. But not today. Because today’s post is not a history lesson.

It is simply a grave realisation, that  for Trump, the lessons of the past have not been learnt.

 

Obama, farewell

I remember listening to Obama’s inaugural speech.  Back then, his message of “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict” was far more dazzling than the insipid CGP books increasingly gaining dust on my shelves. Even all the way across the pond. And the man himself was something of a marvel. That he, a young, black senator emerged on my TV screen as the leader of the ‘free’ world enchanted me. For I knew dreams were shared between his and my father, and I was certain his father was black like me.

I am not ashamed to say, Obama’s blackness motivated me. But even more, his universal message of hope inspired me. So when Obama declared “Yes we can” I believed we could- I believed, Obama would become the Marcus Garvey of my generation!

And with this bold, blind hope, on the 20th of January 2009, I joyfully devoured his inauguration speech and ball.  I watched every step of that inauguration, transfixed by Barack with all his unwavering coolness, although  I was slightly perturbed by his decision to let Beyonce, and not the late great Etta James, sing  At last. (Calm down Beyhive- age over popularity). Yet I realise now, that in choosing Beyonce over Etta, Barack cleverly reaffirmed his position as the voice of the youth – the voice of the identity-seeking millennials desperate for change.

Like myself, 66% of young voters bought into Obamaism, emphatically chanting our mantra of Yes We Can. Until we found out that he couldn’t. Or maybe he just didn’t. And for that Mr Obama, I am so incredibly bereft. My heart crumbled as I witnessed the audacity of hopelessness laden throughout Obama’s two terms.Still, as harsh as it sounds, I know I am not alone in my view that Obama has failed Black people.

However, I am conscious of the systemic political and racial barriers Obama faced as the first black president of the united states. Although this understanding has enabled me to expunge Obama of the heaps of blame I initially placed in his hands, it has not lessened my heartache. I now find myself in the inimical position of a teenage lover (no, not in a literal sense #NoMonicaLewinsky), saddened that my crush amounted to less than I had hoped, but also reluctant to see the back of him. Because, in the infamous words of Olivia Pope, Obama was “our boy.” So while I accept Dr Umar Johnson’s assessment that for the progression of African Americans, it is high time our boy leaves the nest, I am nursing my sorrow as he goes through the door. Leaving with as much style and grace as he came.

So here I stand, an incredibly conflicted but resolutely loyal Obamite; disappointed by his presidency, but inspired by it too. And I can’t think of more fitting words to manage this internal conflict than those penned by the man himself:

For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”

So for you Obama, for my son, and of course for myself- I dedicate my life to bringing about positive changes for all.

And guess what- yes I can.

What’s Up Doc?

I took my son to the doctor today, for probably the 30th time in his nearly two Years of life. (Bloody tummy bug kmt.) He’s not sickly don’t panic! I’ve just settled into that inescapable maternal mania that afflicts all first-time mums, but runs riot in me. That incessant transformative anxiety where every spot is chicken pox and every sneeze pediatric ebolese swine-flu.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, motherhood isn’t solely to blame for these melodramatic misdiagnoses. Long before my son I frequented NHS Choices; Net Doctor and Web MD to allocate myself a virus or two. In fact, my family’s ) favourite joke of all time is that I should have studied medicine (since I diagnose everybody anyway). Their jokes are dry. They’re dry too, but you’ll come to see that for yourselves.

 

Yet, despite these unending diagnoses, I conscientiously objected to visiting my GP. Or rather, every time I deigned to call the surgery; to listen to the crappy lift music whilst I eagerly awaited my rightful place at “position one in the queue,” one of life’s greatest existential ponderings crept into my head: “fi wah?” I would ask myself.

 

What

The

Ass

For?

 

I knew from their automated service they didn’t really want to answer any calls, and I knew I ought to book the appointment online. But most importantly,  I knew and you know more time calling the GP is waste of time, becah, seeing the GP is a waste of time.

 

See I was raised by herbalists, and when I say that I don’t mean my parents went around bunnin weed. I mean, I was raised on natural medicine: food, plants and ting. Therefore, by now, a big hardback like myself knows there is a tea for everything, and that most of my illnesses stem from being mash up and run down. Really, I rarely need the doctor. (Yay me!)

 

That is until my boy came along. Now I need Dr Can’tBeArsed like a fat kid needs cake because I cannot take risks with my baby, my sweet, sweet boy. So I visit my GP, even out of hours on weekends at the earliest evidence of illness. Not because I want their western medicine or tautologies, but I crave their reassurance. Their flippant time-pressured glances over his body and speedily checked checklist of symptoms, that lead to their assessment: he’s going to be OK. My baby’s going to be OK.

 

So I leave, kiss my teeth and rant about jobsworth Dr so and so, safe in the knowledge that today’s greatest gripe is the NHS.
But my boy, my baby, he’s gonna be OK.

 

Photo credit: Brackenbury clinic

‘Appy New Year

Alas, 2017 has finally come around! 

And in continuation of my 2016 habits (and the traditions of my ancestors) my new year post is of course- late.

But better late than never, ayy?

Despite my untimeliness I for one am happy to see the advent of 2017, or rather overjoyed to see the back of 2016. Judging by key statistics and trends garnered from popular culture (memes), so are all of you. It’s universal, 2016 was a terrible year for all and sundry: the year when Trumps and Tramps felt empowered enough to scale the top of the social ladder; when folks revelled in asinine occurrences such as the first Black Kardashian but overlooked the second female British PM; the year when far too many brilliant people died!  The. year. when (yuh haffi say that part in slo-mo for effect. Please an tank yuh!)  the political world was kicked off its axis by shock results like Brexit and Eediat (Trump), but we all knew what episode of the Simpsons had predicted it all.

The year where consciousness collided with blissless ignorance. The year when we saw the car swerve but willed ourselves to believe it wouldn’t crash. But it did.  And boy do I have so much to say about it. About everything really- as per uze. See last year I was busy, and this year I’ll probably be busy again. But this year, for the first time in years: I have a New Year’s Resolution. And a tripartite one at that.

No, not “fabulous fit me” (no offence guys) just BBB.

My Boy: books and blogging.

So 2017,

Wagwan….

NW

 

I was born in NW10. Central Middlesex Hospital to be precise. And I’ve loved Zadie Smith ever since my sister and I watched white teeth in her bedroom long after mum banished us upstairs because it was a “big people programme.” So you can imagine my glee when I saw NW was on the TV. I have to admit recently, I’ve become one of those people. You know the ones that watch first read later (how common!) But nevertheless, I was excited to see another Zadie epic, in my almost ends.

Then I watched it. Now, I have to reiterate I have not read the book so I won’t slate it neither will I proclaim that all of my issues lie with the TV adaption.

What I will say, which you’ve probably gathered- I was grossly unimpressed. Then I was irritated. Then I was unimpressed again.

Where do I begin…

My initial thoughts were to be expected: We’ve got the Black female coconut and urban white saviour as friends. So we have class roles subverted- woopie. However, the more I watched; the more irritated I became. Not only was the white girl – Leah- much more likeable than her snooty bredrin Natalie (formerly Keisha) she was increasingly more likeable than any of the other black characters. Except for Felix (the former drug dealer) and his motivational girlfriend, all the black characters were aggressively underdeveloped and profoundly stereotypical.

But don’t take my word for it, let’s list them:

Chay: light-skinned junkie teef (thief) with abusive boyfriend.

Chay’s abusive boyfriend (whose name I can’t even remember – if it was mentioned at all): the 30+ badman who dressed and spoke like a year 9 roadman, had a permanent screwface and ‘shanked’ someone for asking him to ask his friend to take his feet off the tube.

Michael: Leah’s French husband always looking for a come up, presumably why he married her, who gets beaten up by the roadmen for standing up for his ooman.

Beggarman: Football hopeful turned beggar, now an accessory to badman (listed above) murder.

Felix’s dad: Rastaman from Garvey house, loves white women, plays reggae non-stop, seemingly unable to function with life- let alone put a T-shirt over his string vest (Kilburn is cold yunuh).

You get the picture.

Natalie/Keisha’s mother and mentor seem ite, but overall no tropes disturbed in this portrayal.

At least until we see Keisha tun swinger and engage in various orgies.

Yes big married barrister going on apps to get some.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m neither naïve nor prudish, I understand people do these things. But what dumbfounds me is her brazenness. She gets filmed having sex, despite her job, stature or even shame. And of course, this video is seen by her gorgeous mixed husband, (who gets his wealth from his Italian side) because barristers can’t lock their ipads! Not one scene passes between Keisha’s Kim K escapades to her husband’s shock discovery. No suspense, no dramatization just orgy to liquor to blow up.

Things do escalate quickly as Keisha goes from bunning a spliff with the local beggar, a former crush of hers, to contemplating suicide. Of course, old girl doesn’t take the plunge- her bravery is reserved to the bedroom.

Leah is also a troubling character. After trying for a baby with her husband, she discovers  she longer wants a baby when she is pregnant. Leah decides to have an abortion alone without discussing with her husband. This scene actually was directed incredibly well. Now, I firmly support the right to choose- but in the context her silence over her decision seemed bizarre. Surely she would have to tell her husband some day?

Or perhaps, it seemed bizarre because the story behind them trying for a baby, her desires for children and even her choice not to have children were not explored within the movie. Keisha had a lovely flashback to her crushing on beggarman in the 1907s, the TV adaptation did not give Leah the same privilege.

And therein lies my greatest issue with the whole film: it was simply unbelievable. Now I know many, if not all,  of these situations are true and happen often enough, but there is a great difference between truth and belief. The adaptation did not explore these themes or even characters so that even where other sides of their character arcs were displayed, they were not believable. The characters had limited depth though Smith clearly constructed them to be multi-faceted. And the result was a number of stereotypical tropes being poorly demonstrated within a few characters.

The closing scene is probably the best evidence of this. After her suicide attempt, Keisha calms down and pens a confession of sorts to her distressed husband. He refuses to read this letter with the epic line: “all confessions are self-serving” (I must find a way to use that) and leaves the room. Keisha’s melancholy is disrupted by a phone call from Michael – Leah’s husband- that his wife is beholden to a hammock. Keisha promptly goes to see Leah- whose emotional needs she’s been ignoring the whole movie in favour of her sleeping tablets and swinging seshs- to talk her out of the hammock. Keisha confesses her marriage is over – but fails to disclose why- and Leah confirms she does not want kids.

There on the hammock, the two friends from Kilburn contemplate life and Keisha realises her beggar beau may be involved in the local murder (of poor Felix). She reclaims her ghetto roots, puts on a bourgeois urban voice and tells the police “she’s got summfin to tell em” – end of movie.

I know right, talk about anti-climactic.

I sat and pondered for some time after this, trying to figure out what the ass I had just watched: Barristers bruck out; marriages bruck down; shanks; dead dogs; and suicide attempts all perpetrated by black protagonists.

Zadie/BBC you tek it too far.

Haii

Friends, Jamaicans, Englishmen,

Welcome to the madness that is Vistra Says!

I promise to polarise opinions with my tactile but truthful commentaries on life. I will explore key issues in society, such as race; gender and politics all in a polished, playful tone doused with patois and idioms. I will refer to bashment, dancehall and soca songs regularly to critique any and everything and of course I most certainly will gush about my son.

So grab your pens, paper and cotton buds and get ready to listen to

What Vistra Says!